Think of the Good We Could Do!

The Last Battle
C.S. Lewis

“You look wonderful, wonderful,” said the Ape.  “If anyone saw you now, they’d think you were Aslan, the Great Lion, himself.”

“That would be dreadful,” said Puzzle.

“No it wouldn’t,” said Shift. “Everyone would do whatever you told them.”

“But I don’t want to tell them anything.”

“But you think of the good we could do!” said Shift.  “You’d have me to advise you, you know.  I’d think of sensible orders for you to give.  And everyone would have to obey us, even the King himself.  We would set everything right in Narnia.”


Not Just Inside the Mind

Talking God and Dostoevsky in Vietnam

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

Prayer Changes Things

Does Prayer Change Things?
R.C. Sproul

  • By prayer, Esau’s heart was changed toward Jacob, so that they met in a friendly, rather than hostile, manner (Gen. 32).
  • By the prayer of Moses, God brought the plagues upon Egypt and then removed them again (Ex. 7-11).
  • By prayer, Joshua made the sun stand still (Josh. 10).
  • By prayer, when Samson was ready to perish with thirst, God brought water out of a hollow place for his sustenance (Judg. 15).
  • By prayer, the strength of Samson was restored. He pulled down the temple of Dagon on the Philistines, so that those whom he killed as he died were more than all he had killed in his life (Judg. 16).
  • By prayer, Elijah held back the rains for three and a half years. Then by prayer, he caused it to rain again (1 Kings 17-18).
  • By the prayer of Hezekiah, God sent an angel and killed in one night 185,000 men in Sennacherib’s army (2 Kings 19).
  • By the prayer of Asa, God confounded the army of Zerah (2 Chron. 14).

Dominion Lost

Genesis 1:28

[28] And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Originally, man was meant to have dominion over the earth.  We are uncomfortable with words like subdue and dominion because it sounds like humans are meant to be oppressive dictators over the rest of creation.

However, Adam was not to be a dictator, but a steward.  He had no authority that had not been given to him.  He could not do whatever he pleased with God’s creation.  With God’s intention in mind, we realize that in the beginning Adam was not called to be a gardener but a protector.  His original call was to defend the creation, his wife, and the honor of God by defeating the serpent.  Instead, he did nothing as the serpent deceived his wife.  Adam did not destroy the serpent but agreed with him and joined forces with him against God, opening the door to sin and death.

After the fall, mankind would still like to believe that we are in charge.  My children are convinced that they are in charge of our house.  No one had to teach them this and it is with great difficulty that we teach them that they are not.  We are born this way.

And that is especially sad because we are not in charge.  We are not in charge of when we are born or when we will die.  We are not in charge of what will happen to us or how exactly our children will turn out.  In fact, we are not even in charge of ourselves.

Romans 7:18b-19

…For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

Man was to have dominion over all creatures and even the earth itself.  Now, we have dominion over nothing.  We are not masters but slaves to our passions and circumstances.  This is bad news, but when we can admit that this is true, the Gospel becomes very good news.

John 8:36

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The Word Does Something

[1] The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. [2] And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. [3] And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” [4] Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD…

[7] So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. [8] And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. [9] Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” [10] So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. 

– Ezekiel 37:1-4, 7-10

The Spirit of the Lord sends Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones.  God asks Ezekiel if the bones can live.  Unsure of what to say, Ezekiel gives the only safe answer – “O Lord GOD, you know.”  God then commands Ezekiel to prophesy and he does.  At this time, Ezekiel does not believe in himself or his words, but he believes in the God who tells him to open up his mouth and speak.  As Ezekiel obeys, he finds that through the Word of the Lord, God raises the dead.

The Word of God is not simply information.  It is also power.  The Word does something.  We understand that even human words can create.  For example, when a bride and groom say, “I do,” they are not just communicating information.  Something actually happens.  A marriage that did not exist before comes into being.  Their lives are now tangibly and permanently different than they were.

In a similar way, the Word of God does something.  By His Word, God creates the world, makes everlasting promises, conveys actual blessing, reveals Jesus Christ, and raises the dead.  The Word tangibly transforms.

In light of this, the question becomes, “do I want to be transformed?”  If I do, I will sit at Jesus’s feet and listen.

The Impassible God Who “Cried”

Amos Winarto Oei

If it is true that human beings can have a relationship with God which is both just and caring, then God must be capable of entering into our pain. In order words, it is all about compassion and “empathy.” However, it is not merely the understanding of pain per se, but the overcoming of it is what all sufferers really want. The analogy of a doctor and a patient capture this well. We indeed do not want a doctor who is only capable of sleeping in the bed next to his patients, and then mourns and groans with them. Rather, we need a doctor who understands our pain and then is able to take action in curing it. The incarnation and the resurrection of Christ reveal God’s compassion and solution for human sufferings and pains.

Link: Complete Article

“I am he.”

[1] When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. [2] Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. [3] So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. [4] Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” [5] They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. [6] When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 

– John 18:1-6

In verse one, Jesus and his disciples enter the garden of Gethsemane.  Judas, one of Jesus’s disciples, intends to betray Jesus.  Judas understands that Jesus has power.  He has seen Jesus walk on water, calm a storm, and raise the dead.  So Judas, comes “prepared.”  Judas has Roman soldiers, superior numbers, and the element of surprise (v. 3).  And Judas is completely ridiculous.  He is going to try to strong arm the Creator of the Universe.  He actually thinks that Jesus can be forced to do something against His will.

A couple of years ago, a college student in New Jersey sued her parents for college tuition.  They were willing to pay in-state tuition, but not out-of-state, so she sued them.  If my children ever sue me, it will be a tragedy…for them, because I have no money.  Of course, the greater tragedy will be that our relationship has degenerated into a business transaction.

Now we will not try to sue God, but we can be tempted to imagine it is His duty to extend grace to us.  We can attempt to twist His arm, reminding Him that it’s His job to love us.  The sad thing is we would settle for a business relationship with God, where we are obligated to be fairly good people and He owes us a happy life.  Fortunately for us, this is not the offer on the table.

What does a righteous judge owe a convicted criminal?  What does a holy king owe to a rebel who has tried to overthrow him?  Nothing.  We have no leverage, no entitlement with God.  Yet Jesus chooses to give His life for us.

jesusarrested-tissotJudas has lanterns and torches, but Jesus is not hiding.  He has soldiers and weapons, but Jesus is not resisting (v. 3).  Jesus is not surprised.  He knows what is going to happen and He confronts those who would torture and kill Him.  Jesus asks who they are seeking and when they say “Jesus of Nazareth,” he says “I am he” and everyone falls on the ground before His majesty.

Jesus cannot be forced into anything.  While we may be content with a God obligated to be good to us, who grudgingly blesses us, we find a free and sovereign God who chooses against all reason to love sinners who deserve nothing.

God does not love you reluctantly.  It is not an obligation He has to keep.  Jesus sees your sin, your doubt, your fickle love for Him, and He goes willingly to the cross that you might belong to Him.  Jesus, the Son of God chooses death.

Despising Glory and Fear and Death

For no one trusted in Socrates so as to die for this doctrine, but in Christ, who was partially known even by Socrates (for He was and is the Word who is in every man, and who foretold the things that were to come to pass both through the prophets and in His own person when He was made of like passions, and taught these things), not only philosophers and scholars believed, but also artisans and people entirely uneducated, despising both glory, and fear, and death; since He is a power of the ineffable Father, not the mere instrument of human reason.

– Justin Martyr