Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Review: From the Library of C.S. Lewis

I love words, and using them to express the characteristics of God by using words to paint pictures. I enjoy the writings of C.S. Lewis, because he was a master word painter. Although I don't agree with all his theology, I have been deeply affected by some of his rich expressions of the attributes of God. I wanted to see what was behind a man who said things like, "A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him, than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell (*The Problem of Pain*);" and “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (*The Weight of Glory*). C.S. Lewis was a great writer because he was a great reader. Books in his library were authored by people like Augustine, William Wordsworth, John Donne, Martin Luther, Tolkien, Brother Lawrence, and John Calvin, to name a few. "*Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners*", Luther's "*Table Talk*", and the Confessions of Augustine gave Lewis a rich and deep knowledge of God's glory and grace. He read poetry, science fiction, and deep theological writings from the early church fathers and the Puritans. He was a very diverse and yet particular bibliophile. When I received the book "*From the Library of C.S. Lewis*, I dove right in. Page after page full of excerpts from one profound thinker after another. It was overwhelming! So I have decided to use this tome as more of a devotional type book. The book is divided into eighteen sections, including "Follow After Agape", "Constant Dying", "The Eyes of Your Heart", and "Borne on the Gusts of Genius". Each section has a number of different selections from various authors, most one or two pages in length. I find these perfect for reading in the morning or at lunch, to give my mind something to chew on throughout each day. Here are a few "choice morsels" I have feasted on recently: "For He alone, the Lord of Hosts, does wonders; He preserves His sheep in the midst of wolves, and Himself so afflicts them, that we plainly see our faith consists not in the power of human wisdom, but in the power of God, for although Christ permit one of His sheep to be devoured, yet he sends ten or more others in his place." p. 32 "...even the enlightened person remains what he is, and is never more than his own limited ego before the One who dwells in him, whose form has no knowable boundaries, who encompasses him on all sides, fathomless as the abysms of the earth and as vast as the sky." p. 123 These are most excellent word pictures of God! We in this age of shallow thought and base pleasures would do well to come often to this book, to ponder the God we find there, and make Him the supreme treasure of our hearts. I appreciate James Stuart Bell's effort in bringing us the food of Lewis' thought life. It is most tasty and fulfilling. I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review. I was not required to give a favorable review.

Friday, June 22, 2012

In Who's Image?

In Who's Image? "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'" (Genesis 1:26) The infinite God of the Universe made humans in His image. This God merely spoke, and out of nothing came everything. He breathes out stars, He holds creation in His hand, and lives in His people at the same time. There is nothing He cannot do (Matthew 19:26); He knows all thoughts and words before they are thought or spoken (Psalm 139:4); He knows where everyone is at all times (Psalm 139:2-3). God’s attributes are amazing, and He made us in His image. But does that mean that God is like us? Take a look in a mirror. What do you see? You see a reflection of your image. You aren't looking at your actual self. Your image does not smell like you; it’s not three dimensional; it doesn’t represent all of you, only the parts that are being reflected. It doesn’t represent your thoughts, ideas, emotions, character, or fears; it does not reflect your entire life; it represents nothing of your future. Your image is like you, but not completely you. Made in God’s image, we are like Him. God, however, is not like us. God's ways are not our ways, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…" (Is 55:8). God's mind is not like our minds. "No one knows the mind of God." (Rom 11:34). We are like dust (Ps 104:14), but God is a rock (Ps 18:2). He can do things that we could never do (Job 39-41). God is sovereign in all things – that means that everything that happens is caused by God. Joseph knew that in Genesis. His brothers sold him into slavery, he was falsely accused and imprisoned for years. In the end, Joseph said that his brothers, “…meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Gen 50:20). He doesn’t say God “used” it for good, but that He “meant” it for good. In other words, God caused Joseph’s circumstances for His purpose. In our society, we would consider the things that happened to Joseph to be evil. It was unjust, tragic and malicious. If we did those things, we would be evil. So is God evil? Of course not! God is holy and perfect. We are not. He is not the “man upstairs”. Our finite minds cannot comprehend God. We barely scratch the surface of the knowledge of God. But He is knowable! He wants us to know Him. In fact, Jesus said that eternal life is knowing God (John 17:3). That’s what the Bible is all about. It’s not a self-help book, giving us 12 steps to happiness, 7 steps to our best life, or the ABC’s of parenting. It’s God’s letter to us, telling us all that our minds can fathom about Him. We will never be God. He is perfect, we are sinners. Carl Jung wrote, "...even the enlightened person remains what he is, and is never more than his own limited ego before the One who dwells in him, whose form has no knowable boundaries, who encompasses him on all sides, fathomless as the abysms of the earth and as vast as the sky." Because of this ego, this self-centeredness, God works out our sanctification as a process - He is conforming us into the image and likeness of His Son Jesus (Rom 8:29). He is changing us to look more and more like Him, to possess more of His nature and character. When that process is completed, we will be privileged to finally see God face to face and live, and spend eternity scratching the surface of the knowledge of God.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Excellent excerpt from an excellent book. Wish more Christians would get this idea!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

7 Random Things About Me

My friend Lauren has a blog, and she has awarded me with the Versatile Blogger Award. Quite an honor, to be sure! It is now my duty to post 7 random facts about myself on my blog, so here goes: 1. I have been to 33 of the 50 states 2. I have written 4 Christian fairy tales 3. I love classical music 4. I sang a solo part from Handel's Messiah in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City when I was in college 5. My favorite book in the Bible is Philippians 6. My favorite drink is water with an orange slice 7. I do not like beets So there it is...7 randoms about me that I bet you never knew!

Book Review - To Heaven and Back

An Angel of Light Book review of To Heaven and Back, by Mary Neal, MD I remember several years ago when my family and I took a summer trip to the Grand Canyon. The mountains were the tallest I’d ever seen, and the remoteness of the area made us feel like pioneers blazing a trail where no one had ever gone before. And then there was the time we went to see Niagara Falls. There was an abundance of cactus covering the landscape, and the scorpions and coyotes were things to be feared. How much more would I need to write before you, the reader, would question my experiences, and eventually discard what I’ve written as worthless? There are no mountains at the Grand Canyon, nor cacti, nor desert creatures that live near Niagara Falls. You would know that my narrative doesn’t match up with the reality of those places. You’ve probably seen pictures, read about, or possibly even seen them firsthand. My statements are easily disputable by anyone who knows the truth. The same is true regarding Dr. Neal’s description of her death experience. We have Scripture to teach us about Heaven, including the eyewitness experience of John, who was given an extensive glimpse into Heaven and wrote about it in the book of the Revelation. The apostle Paul also wrote about his experience when he was “caught up to the third heaven” in 2 Corinthians chapter twelve. Interestingly, after Paul’s experience, he did not feel compelled to write a best seller, but rather realized that his experience could cause him to become boastful, so God gave him a thorn in his flesh to keep him humble. In this day of religion and spirituality, there are many who claim to have had near death experiences. They describe seeing their loved ones, angels, gardens, etc. The thing I find to be most curious, is that the focus of those experiences is never on Jesus. Paul says that to be “absent from the body” is to be “present with the Lord’. Based on his statements about Heaven, combined with the totality of Scripture, I believe that Heaven is Heaven because Jesus is there. We’ve become so focused on our “Mansion just over the hilltop” that we’ve lost the real treasure of Heaven – Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who left His throne in glory to take on the form of man, humble Himself in obedience to His Father and die on a cross to ransom His people from the certainty of spending eternity apart from God. These are the statements that are sorely lacking in a book about Heaven. I have no doubt that Dr. Neal nearly lost her life during her kayaking trip in Chile. I have no doubt that it took a miracle for her to survive oxygen deprivation, shock and injury during the arduous trek back to civilization, and ultimately back to her home. Those circumstances were real, verifiable and overwhelming. My knowledge of Scripture, however, has taught me that our minds and our hearts are easily deceived. To quote the apostle Paul once again, “…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Cor 11:14). Why would Satan give a woman an experience that she attributes to God and Heaven? Maybe you should chew on that question yourself for a bit! Other statements made throughout the book made me question the “god” of Dr. Neal’s experience. For example: “Thankfully, God is patient and God is faithful. He sits in the back seat just waiting for our invitation to move up to the front so that He can steer and press the pedals. If we give Him the car keys, He will take us on an unbelievable ride.” (p 25) That is not the God of the Bible. The true God “changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things;” (Dan 2:21). He “shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb…’ He “commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place…” (Job 38). He “knows when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar…Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me.” (Ps 139) Ours is not some wimpy God hoping that we’ll give Him the keys and let Him drive a while! “’It was a good example of how easily things come together when one is moving in the direction of God’s will. It has taken many years to truly learn that when everything seems difficult and feels as though you are swimming upstream, it is usually because you are not following the direction of God’s will. When you are doing God’s will, everything seems to happen without much effort or many obstacles.” (p 12) Perhaps you can think of a few Biblical folks who might disagree with that idea. A few that jump into my mind are Moses, Joseph, Paul, and Jesus. They were right smack in the middle of doing God’s will, and they were pursued by an army, sold into slavery and unjustly imprisoned, stoned and crucified respectively. It’s a good thing they didn’t use her qualifications for reassuring themselves that they were doing God’s will! Speaking of her son, Dr. Neal wrote, “Given his very young age, I believe he still remembered God’s world, which seemed to give him an understanding of the spiritual aspect of my experience and what I was going through.” (p 114). Dr. Neal mentions this idea a few other times in her book. In other words, all of us are eternal beings whose lives began in Heaven, until we were to be born as fleshly beings. This is an unbiblical teaching that is embraced by Mormons, and other cults. My review of this book is lengthy. I could go on, but I am hopeful that what I have written will serve as a warning to those considering reading this book. I do not believe it has any basis in truth, apart from the description of her accident. Perhaps her visions were dreams, or notions sent to her from Satan to deceive the masses. I take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus “is able to keep you from stumbling…” (Jude 24). Don’t be deceived. If you want to know about Heaven, read about it in the Book written by the One who made the Heavens and the earth, because “Every word of God proves true.” (Proverbs 30:5) I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review. Obviously, I was not required to write a positive recommendation of this book.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Long time, no blog...

...but I'm still here, and still reading others' blogs. I guess the whole "no news is good news" statement applies right now. Apart from kidney stones, no new health problems, and as far as I know, still cancer-free. Not that cancer is a bad thing! Because of cancer, I've had the opportunity to share God's cool story in my life not only in my church, but in two others as well. Cancer has made me much more bold to speak to people about how God is sovereign in all of life, and how things that we normally consider bad can actually be good in His grand scheme of things. If not for cancer, a lot of things in my life might be "better" - I'd be less scarred and we'd have much fewer medical bills! But I'd know a lot less about God than I've learned in the past two years. I wouldn't have read some of the awesome books I've read, I wouldn't have gotten to know some of the people I know, and I wouldn't have cancer in common with so many people. Having cancer in common with people immediately puts us on even ground - it's almost like being a Christian. As a Christian, I meet other Christians and it's like "hey, we're family in Christ!" As a cancer survivor, I meet other cancer survivors or patients, and there's an instant kindred spirit that happens. I've seen it at my oncologist's office, at the radiology facility, at my workplace, just about everywhere. And having such a noticeable scar is often an in-road to meeting other cancer-family members as well. I pray that as my life continues to morph into what God has planned for me, I will seek His name and His glory. And when the end of my life comes, if I am still seeking Him and glorifying Him, it will only be because of His grace.