We Must Go Now. At Least I Must.

Prince Caspian
C.S. Lewis

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods.  “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others.  But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy.  “You don’t mean it was?  How could I – I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I?  Don’t look at me like that…oh well, I suppose I could.  Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you.  But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow?  But how?  Please, Aslan!  Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan.  “No.  Nobody is ever told that.”

“Oh dear,” said Lucy.

“But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan.  “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen?  There is only one way of finding out.”

“Do you mean that is what you want me to do?” gasped Lucy.

“Yes, little one,” said Aslan.

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.

“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan.  “Later on, it depends.”

“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Lucy.  “And I was so pleased at finding you again.  And I thought you’d let me stay.  And I thought you’d come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away – like last time.  And now everything is going to be horrid.”

“It is hard for you, little one,” said Aslan.  “But things never happen the same way twice.  It has been hard for us all in Narnia before now.”

Lucy buried her head in his mane to hide from his face.  But there must have been magic in his mane.  She could feel lion-strength going into her.  Quite suddenly she sat up.

“I’m sorry, Aslan,” she said.  “I’m ready now.”

“Now you are a lioness,” said Aslan.  “And now all Narnia will be renewed.  But come.  We have no time to lose.”…

“Now, child” said Aslan, when they had left the trees behind them, “I will wait here.  Go and wake the others and tell them to follow.  If they will not, then you at least must follow me alone.”

It is a terrible thing to have to wake four people, all older than yourself and all very tired, for the purpose of telling them something they probably won’t believe and making them do something they certainly won’t like.  “I mustn’t think about it, I must just do it,” thought Lucy.

She went to Peter first and shook him.  “Peter,” she whispered in his ear, “wake up.  Quick.  Aslan is here.  He says we’ve got to follow him at once.”

“Certainly, Lu.  Whatever you like,” said Peter unexpectedly.  This was encouraging, but as Peter instantly rolled round and went to sleep again it wasn’t much use.

Then she tried Susan.  Susan did really wake up, but only to say in her most annoying grown-up voice, “You’ve been dreaming, Lucy.  Go to sleep again.”

She tackled Edmund next.  It was very difficult to wake him, but when at least she had done it he was really awake and sat up.

“Eh?” he said in a grumpy voice.  “What are you talking about?”

She said it all over again.  This was one of the worst parts of her job, for each time she said it, it sounded less convincing.

“Aslan!” said Edmund, jumping up.  “Hurray!  Where?”

Lucy turned back to where she could see the Lion waiting, his patient eyes fixed upon her.  “There,” she said, pointing.

“Where?” asked Edmund again.

“There.  There.  Don’t you see?  Just this side of the trees.”

Edmund stared hard for a while and then said, “No.  There’s nothing there.  You’ve got dazzled and muddled with the moonlight.  One does, you know.  I thought I saw something for a moment myself.  It’s only an optical what-do-you-call-it.”

“I can see him all the time,” said Lucy.  “He’s looking straight at us.”

“Then why can’t I see him?”

“He said you mightn’t be able to.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know.  That’s what he said.”

“Oh, bother it all,” said Edmund.  “I do wish you wouldn’t keep on seeing things. But I suppose we’ll have to wake the others.”

When the whole party was finally awake Lucy had to tell her story for the fourth time.  The blank silence which followed it was as discouraging as anything could be.

“I can’t see anything,” said Peter after he had stared his eyes sore.  “Can you, Susan?”

“No, of course I can’t,” snapped Susan.  “Because there isn’t anything to see.  She’s been dreaming.  Do lie down and go to sleep Lucy.”

“And I do hope,” said Lucy in a tremulous voice, “that you will all come with me.  Because – because I’ll have to go with him whether anyone else does or not.”

“Don’t talk nonsense, Lucy,” said Susan.  “Of course you can’t go off on your own.  Don’t let her, Peter.  She’s being downright naughty.”

“I’ll go with her, if she must go,” said Edmund.  “She’s been right before.”

“I know she has,” said Peter.  “And she may have been right this morning.  We certainly had no luck going down the gorge.  Still – at this hour of the night.  And why should Aslan be invisible to us?  He never used to be.  It’s not like him.  What does the D.L.F. say?”

“Oh, I say nothing at all,” answered the Dwarf.  “If you all go, of course I’ll go with you; and if your party splits up, I’ll go with the High King.  That’s my duty to him and King Caspian.  But, if you ask my private opinion, I’m a plain dwarf who doesn’t think there’s much chance of finding a road by night where you couldn’t find one by day.  And I have no use for magic lions which are talking lions and don’t talk, and friendly lions though they don’t do us any good, and whopping big lions though nobody can see them.  It’s all bilge and beanstalks as far as I can see.”

“He’s beating his paw on the ground for us to hurry,” said Lucy.  “We must go now.  At least I must.”

“You’ve no right to try to force the rest of us like that.  It’s four to one and you’re the youngest,” said Susan.

“Oh, come on,” growled Edmund.  “We’ve got to go.  There’ll be no peace till we do.”  He fully intended to back Lucy up, but he was annoyed at losing his night’s sleep and was making up for it by doing everything as sulkily as possible.

“On the march, then,” said Peter, wearily fitting his arm into his shield-strap and putting his helmet on.  At any other time he would have said something nice to Lucy, who was his favorite sister, for he know how wretched she must be feeling, and he knew that, whatever had happened, it was not her fault.  But he couldn’t help being a little annoyed with her all the same.

Susan was the worst.  “Supposing I started behaving like Lucy,” she said.  “I might threaten to stay here whether the rest of you went on or not.  I jolly well think I shall.”

“Obey the High King, your Majesty,” said Trumpkin, “and let’s be off.  If I’m not to be allowed to sleep, I’d as soon march as stand here talking.”

And so at last they got on the move.  Lucy went first, biting her lip and trying not to say all the things she thought of saying to Susan.  But she forgot them when she fixed her eyes on Aslan.  He turned and walked at a slow pace about thirty yards ahead of them.  The others had only Lucy’s directions to guide them, for Aslan was not only invisible to them but silent as well.  His big cat-like paws made no noise on the grass.

He led them to the right of the dancing trees – whether they were still dancing nobody knew, for Lucy had her eyes on the Lion and the rest had their eyes on Lucy – and nearer the edge of the gorge.  “Cobbles and kettledrums!” thought Trumpkin.  “I hope this madness isn’t going to end in a moonlight climb and broken necks.”

“Lucy,” said Susan in a very small voice.

“Yes?” said Lucy.

“I see him now.  I’m sorry.”

“That’s all right.”

“But I’ve been far worse than you know.  I really believed it was him – he, I mean – yesterday.  When he warned us not to go down to the fir wood.  And I really believed it was him tonight, when you woke us up.  I mean, deep down inside.  Or I could have, if I’d let myself.  But I just wanted to get out of the woods and – and – oh, I don’t know.  And what ever am I to say to him?”

“Perhaps you won’t need to say much,” suggested Lucy. 

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“Life” Over “Choice”

3.12.2007

I’ve heard and read a lot of arguments for and against abortion.

It appears that the issue boils down to whether an unborn baby’s right to live or a woman’s right to choose is more important. In my opinion, the Bible seems pretty clear that “life” is more important than “choice.” The implications of this statement are pretty crazy though.

When people say that a woman’s right to choose is important, this means she should be able to choose how her future plays out. An unwanted/unplanned pregnancy has serious social and economic implications. The social stigma of being a young, unwed mother is not a light thing, nor is the idea of supporting and nurturing a human life. Having a child at an early age will likely prevent someone from getting a college degree or pursuing whatever career they dream of because they must provide for their child. Then there’s always the knowledge that the child of an unprepared mother or a child sent through the system of foster homes and adoption will have a very difficult life.

Christians may say that many women are choosing convenience or their love of themselves (which includes their comfort, futures, and lifestyles) over the life of another. To a large extent I believe that is true. But make no mistake, we ask these women to do a very, very difficult thing. In order to care for this life, we essentially ask people to give up their own. And we have no right to ask this of them if we are not willing to sacrifice our own futures and comfort for the lives of others.

Christians often have a very clear stance on the issue of abortion. But the implications of our argument (“life” over “choice”) extend far beyond this one issue. We’re simply inconsistent when we ignore how the value of life ought to shape our daily choices. Even though we may not have had to deal with the issue of abortion personally, we would be foolish to believe we don’t struggle with the dilemma of “life” versus “choice”.

By the way we use our money, time, and energy we proclaim to the world whether we value “life” or “choice.” We value the choice to have financial stability, social status, and comfortable and convenient lives. Due to our exaggerated sense of entitlement, we believe our right to such privileges outweighs the value of one, ten, hundreds of lives in the third world.

To be “pro-life,” we don’t have to change the way we live at all. Maybe we’ll get a new bumper sticker for our car (though some do live out their convictions by adopting or supporting the cause). But to value “life” over “choice,” everything we do comes into question. What we do with the resources God has given us (money, education, talent) becomes a very serious thing because as we waste, others die.

Are we willing to give up our expensive toys, our financial stability, or perhaps even the hours we would otherwise spend on ourselves for the sake of life? Will we be outraged for the unborn and dismiss the millions who have been born and are suffering?

So often “outreach” and “social justice” are simply minor side issues we dabble in now and again to relieve our guilty consciences. Among university students, it has become trendy to be socially and politically aware. Yet our knowledge is rarely used for anything other than yelling at people who don’t know as many depressing statistics as we do. We speak so loud and accomplish so little.

The heart of the issue is this. We love very little. We simply don’t love enough to make a difference.  Now we can’t force ourselves to love, but we can acknowledge our tragic lack and ask God to give us new hearts. We can refuse to be self-satisfied, thinking ourselves noble, compassionate people for the one hour a week we “sacrifice.”

I don’t intend to guilt or discourage people. Good works fueled by anything other than love are not only hypocritical but ineffective. And being depressed at our humanness is entirely unnecessary because God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. He chose us because we are weak so that we would rely upon Him and identify with the downtrodden all over the world. We rejoice in our weakness because everything depends on the One who cares deeply about social justice and is strong enough to bring forth the kingdom.

But in order to be used, we have to acknowledge the true state of this world, our hearts, and the church. My hope is that you and I will wake up to what’s outside of our bubble. The world is dying and we cling to “choice.” May we finally admit that we are selfish to the core, so we can call upon our amazing God to change the world and change us so that we might be used for the flourishing of human life.

The need, as always, is great and our lack, as always, is great. Our God, as always, is greater.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

2 Samuel 5:1-5

[1] Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. [2] In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” [3] So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. [4] David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. [5] At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

As a sophomore in college, I was already eager to graduate.  This was partially because I was eager to work and make money and partially because I thought I would then be done with school forever (God is funny in His providence).  In my naiveté, I imagined graduation would be the time when I finally “made it” and I could reap the benefits of my labor.  It was all very self-centered.

In our passage this morning, David is finally experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promises to him.  David is to be king and prince over Israel.  The time of running for his life and living in caves is (presumably) over!  Now David can enjoy a life of power, prestige, and wealth.  But is that all?

See, David is not only called to be prince but he is also called to be shepherd.  Jesus tells us in John 10:11 that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  David’s blessings are not meant to benefit him alone, but they are given for the sake of the sheep.  David ascends to the throne, he enjoys a lengthy and prosperous reign, and he is favored by God, not for the sake of his own legacy but that he might be a greater blessing to the people of Israel.

Not only does success equip David for his shepherding ministry, but also hardship.  The many years of wandering and waiting gave David a compassionate heart.  He was a man who knew what a shepherd was meant to be – one who would give rest, lead, and comfort the sheep (Psalm 23).

So often we see success and hardship only in regards to how it benefits us.  The noblest way we interpret our circumstances is how they are maturing us or drawing us nearer to God.  Of course, we were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but it rarely occurs to us that God may be shaping and reshaping us that we might be more effective at loving and caring for others.

A Singular Purpose

Ephesians 4:11–12

[11] And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, [12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…

These verses introduce us to many different people with a variety of roles and strengths who all have a singular goal: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

Sometimes, the church is described as a hospital.  On the one hand, this is true.  The church is filled with people who are not well and far from perfect.  But think about the goal of a hospital.  A hospital aims to heal all of its patients so that the patients can get on with their lives as mothers, engineers, students, etc.

If the church is only a hospital, then the purpose of the church is to deal with our sins, weaknesses, and wounds so that we can get on with our lives and pursue our personal dreams and goals.

A body is very different.  Each part of the body has a different function: teeth are for chewing, eyes are for seeing, and feet are for walking and smelling bad.  Yet, all the parts of the body are working together for one larger purpose.  The body as a whole is fulfilling a singular purpose and each of its members contributes to that larger purpose.

In a similar way, each member of the church may have a different function.  Some are prophets and others are teachers or evangelists, etc.  But all are building up the body.

This is something we can conceptually understand but find hard to accept as it is the opposite of what our culture tells us is important.  The world says that what’s really important is what makes us different, but this is not true.

The Apostle Paul understands what is important in life.  In Ephesians 4:1 he speaks of how he is a prisoner for the Lord.  The Lord that He serves is worth going to prison for, worth giving his life for and it is for this Jesus that he urges us to walk in love, maintain the unity of the Spirit, and build up the body.

And while we may bristle at the idea of living for something that millions of saints and angels throughout history have lived for, there is something to be said about living for something that a single human life could not possibly accomplish or overshadow.  Our unique contributions may not be remembered clearly but the One for whom we live will be remembered and worshiped for all of eternity.  It is our privilege to live for the One who is greater than all other people, causes, and events that could ever be conceived.

 

Not Just Inside the Mind

Talking God and Dostoevsky in Vietnam
Anonymous

My friend, a recent graduate from a Hanoi university, has digested many of the French and Russian classics. Most of the former set found their way into Vietnamese during the early part of the last century, while the bulk of the latter accompanied an increasing Soviet influence, which marked the end of French occupation in 1954.

As we sat across from each other in the cafe booth, sipping an iced blend of espresso and sweetened condensed milk, he reflected on three of his favorite Western authors, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Hugo. He isn’t a believer, but I asked about the composite picture of Christianity these writers had supplied him.

Thinking, he rubbed his chin with one finger and then began, “I like Crime and Punishment because it’s a story of a madman, Raskolnikov, who becomes one of the best guys in the book at the end. And a young prostitute saw his soul and wanted to help him.”

He paused and squinted, continuing on a little quicker than before, “But God only fights inside the mind. With Tolstoy, it’s also like this, but God doesn’t have much power to influence the character of a person. For example . . . ”

He tapped the bit of glass tabletop beside his cup, scouring his mind for a name. I waited attentively and urged on his search with my fixed eyes and nodding head, excited at any mention of Dostoevsky, my favorite novelist. Once retrieved, the name filled in the empty space. “. . . Pierre, from War and Peace, dreams of many big things, like Raskolnikov, but he didn’t do anything big for anyone else. He only married Natasha. I think their faith is not as strong as Victor Hugo. In Les Miserables, Jean Valjean believes God did everything for him, and he becomes a tool of God.”

Link: Complete Blog Post

Love Justice

2 Samuel 4:8b-11 (ESV)

And they said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.” [9] But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, [10] when one told me, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. [11] How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?”

A couple years ago, my motionless car was hit by another car in a parking lot.  The other driver apologized profusely and it was clear to all involved that she was at fault.  Later, I was shocked to find out through my insurance agent that she claimed I hit her.  I was outraged.  How dare she lie so blatantly!  Her teenage son was in the car, too.  What kind of morals was she teaching him?  Oh the injustice!  Avenge me, oh God!

Now, I definitely got worked up about the whole situation, but was my passion for justice or for myself?  To be honest, I was mostly worried about what this might do to my insurance payments and how much hassle it would be to lose my car for a couple weeks.  The righteous justice of God was not really the fuel to my indignation.

David, on the other hand, had a genuine appreciation for justice.  Rechab and Baanah essentially tell him, “You are now the king of Israel!” but David is far more concerned about justice.  His personal situation calls for joy and thanksgiving, but David zeroes in on the fact that “wicked men have killed a righteous man.”  David must have known that Ish-bosheth’s death or exile was the only way he could become king.  Yet he would rather stand on the side of justice than ascend to the throne through injustice.

Are we concerned with justice whether it benefits us or not?  What if justice actually runs counter to our comforts and concerns?  As we consider building up our bank accounts, advancing in our careers, or succeeding academically, are we concerned more about justice and fairness or whether we come out on top?  May we love justice and hate evil even if it is costly.

The Limits of Tolerance

The Limits of Tolerance: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at 50
Zack Boren

I believe the book’s main theme is tolerance. Racial tolerance in 1930s Alabama is the most famous example. But that’s just one application of the theme. Atticus also teaches his children that they need to tolerate racist whites—the hard-working kind (the Cunningham clan), the elderly (Mrs. Dubose), and even the lazy, indignant, dishonest types (Bob Ewell and most of his progeny). In every case, Atticus invokes the logic of the same “cracker-barrel epigram” to inculcate his strain of tolerance to his kids: You can’t really understand someone else until you “consider things from his point of view”—in other words, “climb into his skin and walk around in it.” …

After the trial of Tom Robinson, the evil Bob Ewell approaches Atticus, spits in his face, and tells the lawyer he’ll get him if it takes the rest of his life. Atticus dismisses Ewell as nothing to worry about. Even after Ewell threatens a defenseless widow and attempts to burglarize the judge’s house, Atticus still sees no threat. He ultimately fails to understand the danger posed to his children by a coward with a knife, a grudge, and a little alcohol. As a result, his children are nearly murdered. No one else is fooled by Ewell. The sheriff understands Ewell’s cowardly nature perfectly. The judge sits reading with a shotgun on his lap. With a few stinging threats, Mr. Dias runs Ewell off from threatening the widow. Even Aunt Alexandra, by no means the most prescient of characters, predicts that he will try to pay off his grudge. It is only Atticus, adrift in his world of unimpeachable lawyering, who fails to see Ewell for who he is, proclaiming in the novel’s denouement that he can’t conceive of a man who’d try to kill children. He should have seen it coming. Atticus’s attitude illustrates the limits of moral tolerance and the courage required to stand up to evil, demonstrated by Boo Radley.

For all that we can learn from the book about godly tolerance, To Kill a Mockingbird warns the church to beware tolerating evil…

Many people read To Kill A Mockingbird as the story of a Christ-figure who suffered unjust oppression because of his moral stand. But tolerance can go too far. The book is really about the ultimate failure of a good man to stand up to evil because he underestimated evil.

Link: Complete Blog Post

The Value of a Clear Conscience

2 Samuel 3:26-29 (ESV)

[26] When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it. [27] And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. [28] Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the LORD for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. [29] May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!”

During a mission trip, I met a young man who had traveled to Southeast Asia to do humanitarian work.  While he was doing some good, he cut corners, made some immoral decisions, and had a poor working relationship with the local government.  Perhaps, he felt like the ends justified the means.  

At times, we all feel like we have to take matters into our own hands.  But when things are up to us and God is not part of the equation, we can find ourselves in morally questionable positions.

In our passage this morning, David is still waiting to take his rightful place as king of Israel.  While David is concerned about his integrity before God, those around him are busy trying to control the unfolding of events.

Abner is the military commander of Ish-bosheth, David’s rival.  He had been taking advantage of the conflict between David and Ish-bosheth and was accumulating power.  When challenged by Ish-bosheth, Abner switches allegiances and supports David.  Motivated by a desire for power and position, Abner gives little thought to the honor of God even when he does the right thing and supports God’s chosen king.

Joab, David’s military commander, is motivated by a more noble cause.  His desire is to avenge the death of his brother Asahel.  Joab feels the need to personally ensure “justice” is done, and he is willing to commit murder in order to do so.  Neither Abner nor Joab is concerned about holiness.  Sin is justified as long as it serves a “greater purpose.”

As the rightful king, David has the most at stake in how the events unfold.  He must have had many opportunities to involve himself in intrigue and strategies but instead contented himself with waiting on the Lord.  This trust in God freed David to focus entirely on honoring and obeying Him.  David knew that when he became king, he wanted to do so with a clear conscience.