I don’t understand why, but many of us enjoy seeing others become frightened. Some of the funniest videos I’ve seen are of grown men getting scared and screaming like little girls.
It may be fun to see others get scared, but living in fear is nothing to laugh about.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been an Online Missionary for Global Media Outreach for ten years. Last week, I received the following message from a woman overseas:
Comment/Question: “Please pray for me. I’m going through anxiety, fear of the unknown.”
Research shows that fear is triggered by a loss of control or feeling powerless. With the pandemic, social unrest, and the economic meltdown, the world is seemingly spinning out of control. There are many living in fear because they feel a loss of control and a sense of powerlessness. Since the start of the pandemic, sales of anti-anxiety drugs have risen by 34%. This is on top of the increase of those self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
Thankfully, I didn’t resort to drugs or alcohol, but I remember the fear and anxiety that Mary and I battled when I was diagnosed with ALS so many years ago. Like many today, our whole world was turned upside down. Voices of fear echoed in our minds throughout many sleepless nights. Fear fights hard to destroy our faith and steal our joy, peace, and hope.
When going through difficult times, surrendering to our fears is the greatest temptation we’ll face. If we are followers of Christ, by definition, He is in control, and we are never powerless! That said, we still have our part to play in this war against fear.
I don’t mean to sound like a braggart, but, physically speaking, I don’t know of anyone who is as powerless or has less control than me. But, regardless of our physical condition, most of us will eventually battle those voices of fear and anxiety. Here are a few things I’ve learned about fear and anxiety that might help you fight.
Faith and fear are polar opposites: “And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
To strengthen our faith, we need to surround ourselves with faith-filled people and God’s word: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17).
Fear is a spirit, but it doesn’t come from God: “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7).
The goal of this spirit of fear is to enslave us in a dark pit of depression: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15).
“God is love,” and fear is punishment: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18).
God will fight with us: “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?” (Psalm 27:1).
God will strengthen and uphold us: “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10).
When battling anxiety, pray and recount the things you’re thankful for: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Fear is a relentless enemy, the battle might be a protracted one, but you will be delivered: “I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4).
I’ve never counted, but I read somewhere that there are 365 verses telling us not to give in to fear. If there is a “don’t fear” verse for every day of the year, I’m thinking it’s a message God wants us to get.
It’s the things of this world, the visible, the temporary, the “shakable” things that cause us fear and anxiety. Our job, our home, our health, the economy, and so much more. For the follower of Christ, the things of this world are just things. It’s at times like this that we see that things are not deserving of our hopes. The road to unshakable hope is a very shaky one, but you’ll have Jesus with you to hold you up. This narrow road leads to a Kingdom which cannot be shaken! (Hebrews 12:27-28).
If you have not committed to following Christ, what are you waiting for?
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27).
Has it got any of you committing to giving something up for forty days?
I know some that fast from chocolate or crisps, others from social media or electrical devices.
With all this talk about quitting for Lent, it got me thinking a lot about when we fast or try to give up something, whether it’s for a period of time or permanently. We need to be wise about the choices we make around said forbidden fruit.
For example, if we are giving up chocolate we are not gonna go camp out in Tesco biscuit aisle, or if we are stopping smoking we are going to stop going to the smoking area at break time. If it’s alcohol, we are gonna avoid the pub, gambling we are gonna avoid the bookies, and the list goes on and on.
I remember when I first made a faith decision. I was so surprised that some of my bad habits didn’t instantly disappear, like there was loads of old Terri stuffed into a new heart. It took me a LOT, and I mean a lot, of dancing the two camp tango to get my head and heart in line with Jesus and, because I hadn’t wrapped my head fully around the grace of God, I would often live under a heavy cloak of shame and regret about my Bad choices and mistakes. That would create a distance between God and me and give the enemy space to creep in and convince me of his lies. I also didn’t have the wisdom to guard myself against temptation or wrongdoing. I was silly enough to believe I could still live my life the way I always had and expect a different outcome.
Well, a few years down the line now, I feel that, through an adequate amount of playing with fire and getting burnt, I’ve come to realise, Hey Einstein, that doesn’t work! And guess what, you don’t have to be a Nobel prize winner to figure it out.
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. … ” Galatians 5:22-23 MSG
You can’t do what you have always done and expect a different outcome, especially when it comes to changing lengthy, well-established habits. I found this most difficult when it was stuff that I loved but stuff that was damaging. For example, every time I went out with the girls on a Saturday night, I would overindulge, behave like a bit of a fool, be loud and potty-mouthed; not to mention the killer hangover and stinky breath that had me avoiding church, and then the shame and horror would kick in when I was the greeter to, a first-timer walking into church, who”d recognised me from a few weeks before in the pub, getting on like an idiot. I really felt I could live my old and new life simultaneously, but I couldn’t. We can’t cling on to the old and still expect to live in the new.
In our walk with Jesus, we are going to have to make some choices in order to change. Yes, while God does most definitely work on our heart and the desires of our heart will change a great deal, there will be hard decisions and a need for more wisdom.
“And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,” Titus 2:12 NLT
Today, can I encourage you to take some time to think about the choices and lifestyle you lead? Does it align with the heart of Jesus? Do you find yourself repeatedly getting into situations you are not proud of? Is there an area of your life you are desperate to leave behind, but struggle to say no? are you playing with fire and expecting not to get burnt?
Can I encourage you to invite the Lord in
Ask him if something needs to change.
What do you need to start saying no to?
Who should you stop hanging out with? Alone maybe?
What do you need to delete from your phone?
My friend has this really cool phase, it’s I can’t be the queen of No… Can I suggest, should you ever feel you’re in a position where you are having to be the queen of no, like the only one saying no to bad decisions or temptation. You need to not be in that situation anymore. There are only so many times you can say no before you get tired and say yes, just because it’s easier.
Be wise about what you do, where you do it, and with whom you do it!!
“A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” Proverbs 25:28 NLT
Abanindranath Tagore, Journey’s End, tempera on paper, 1913.
By Jill Carattini
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Frodo, the young hobbit, has been given the burden of bearing the one ring of power. It is a ring that has the potential to put all of Middle Earth under terror and shadow, and the darkness is already spreading. With a fellowship of friends, Frodo determines he must start the long, dark journey to destroy the ring by throwing it into the volcano from which it was forged. It is a journey that will take him on fearful paths through enemy territory and overwhelming temptation to the ends of himself. Seeing the road ahead of him, he laments to Gandalf the Wise that the burden of the ring should have come to him in the first place.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”(1)
A fan of Tolkien’s epic fantasy once wrote the author to say that he preferred to read The Lord of the Rings particularly during the season of Lent. Though I don’t know all this reader had in mind with such a statement, Tolkien’s portrayal of a journey into darkness with the weight of a great burden and a motley fellowship of companions certainly holds similarities to the journey of the church toward the cross. The forty-day period that leads to Easter is both an invitation and a quest for any who would be willing, albeit a difficult one. The deliberate and wearisome journey with Christ to the cross is a crushing burden, even with the jarring recognition that we are not the one carrying it. On the path to Holy Week, the fellowship of the church far and wide is given time to focus in detail on what it means that Jesus came into this world that he might go the fearful way of the Cross. It is time set apart for pilgrimage and preparation, forty days with which we decide what to do with the time that is given us.
In fact, Christian scriptures attach special meaning to the forty-day journey. Considered the number of days marking a devout encounter with God, we find the occurrence of forty-day journeys throughout the stories of the prophets and the people of God. For forty days Noah and his family waited on the arc as God washed away and revived the earth. Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai, where he received the Law of God to share with the Israelites. Later, he spent forty days on the mountain prostrate before the LORD after the sin of the golden calf. Elijah was given food in the wilderness, which gave him strength for the forty-day journey to Horeb, the Mount of God. Jonah reluctantly accepted forty days in Nineveh where the people, heeding his warning, repented before God with fasting, sackcloths, and ashes. For forty days the prophet Ezekiel laid on his right side to symbolize the forty years of Judah’s transgression. And finally, for forty days Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. As Mark reports: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”
It is with this same Spirit that any are invited to take the forty-day journey into the shadows and difficulties of Lent. In every forty-day (or forty year) journey described in Scripture, the temptations are real, the waiting is difficult, and the call to listen or to look, to obey or deny is wearying. But there is something about the journey itself to which God moves the journeyer. Jesus himself was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days, while Moses, Ezekiel, Noah, and even Jonah were each instructed to set out on the journeys that brought them closer to the heart of God, whether they were able to accept it or not.
Similarly today, the forty days that lead to Easter Sunday are not without burden or cost. “The Cross of Lent,” as Augustine referred to it, is one to bear year round, but one we learn to bear all the more intensely along the way to the cross during Lent. Here, the church invites the journeyer to remember that we are dust, that we follow Jesus to his death, that we recollect the acts of God to be near us, and we let go of the things that keep us from holding the Son who saves us. Of course, these are burdens that none will never bear alone. But each day we are given is one we decide what to do with. Jesus has given one option:
“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”(2)
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994), 51.
(2) Luke 9:23-24.
George Washington has long been credited with instituting the tradition of concluding the oath of office with the phrase, “So help me God,” at his presidential inauguration in 1789. This profound event has helped shape and influence our nation. Washington’s love for God and country has served as an example for all American history. We have the most unique country in the world. We have the most blessed country in the world. God’s good hand is on it. With the great freedom we have been given, comes great responsibility. People who truly know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour are responsible for what no one else is responsible for in our country. Our religious liberty is a gift from God, not from the state; therefore, we answer to God for this liberty.
Read 1 Timothy 2:1-8 and notice that it is God’s desire that “all men…come unto the knowledge of truth.” Like Timothy, we have been taught certain truths. We know that God is real. We know that heaven and hell are real. We know that there is a certain judgment. We know that Jesus Christ is coming again. We know that evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse. We know that men for money, power, or other reasons may soil their conscience. And we know that when men soil their conscience, it will surely cause their lives to shipwreck. What are we to do with the truth we have been given? How can we use the truth to impact our nation for Christ?
We Are to Speak to God About Our Country
The Bible says in I Timothy 2:1-2, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” All of us would like to live that quiet and peaceable life, but that quiet and peaceable life according to the Word of God does not begin by marching in the streets or protesting in some town square. It begins first of all with speaking to God about our nation.
The ultimate outcome of the struggle in our nation rests in the hands of God. Our first responsibility is to call on God. I want us to stop just for a moment, and ask ourselves, “How many times have we complained without praying? How many times have we griped about something we didn’t like but we didn’t pray about it?” We must speak to God first.
We Are to Speak to Our Country About God
The first thing is speaking to God for our country. The second thing is to speak to our country about God. The Bible says in I Timothy 2:3-6, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” We meet many people who have not come to “the knowledge of the truth.” How will they ever know the Creator God? It is our responsibility in our country to take advantage of every freedom we enjoy, to open our mouths and proclaim with our whole heart that our God is the true God, the Creator God, and all truth proceeds from Him because He is before all things.
Instead of sitting down, twiddling our thumbs, and having debates about every opportunity we do not have, we need to take advantage of every opportunity we do have. We need to begin speaking to our friends, neighbors, and co-workers about God. This is what our country needs.
We Are to Allow God to Speak to Us
and Obey Him
Thirdly, we are to always allow God to speak to us and obey Him. I Timothy 2:7-8 says, “Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” Notice the parenthetical phrase in verse seven, “I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not.” This is given to us by the Lord in the Word of God so that the reader better understands the author. When we write something in parentheses, that gives a little more earnestness or clarity.
The Word of God says in Psalm 134:1-2, “Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.” In other words, “God, see into my heart. This is all for the Lord. It is all for His glory. I am coming to God with a clean heart and giving it to Him.”
Our responsibility is to pray for individuals, for leaders, for authorities; to speak to God about our nation; to speak to our nation in humility and boldness about the truth; and to confront them about Christ. Do you know the Lord Jesus as your Saviour? There is only one way to heaven. Do not be fooled and die and go to hell forever. Do not just live on religion. You must know the true God. That is why we are here.
We have the greatest work in this world to do: being His witnesses and His intercessors, and He will enable us for this work if we keep our own hearts right with Him.
Problems in marriage are inevitable. Even chronic. And so, at times, is unhappiness. There are three key ways to handle an unhappy marriage.
After studying 645 couples where one spouse rated their marriage as unhappy, a research study from a team of family scholars found that two-thirds of the couples who chose to stick it out together reported a significantly happier marriage five years later.
So what makes the difference if you choose not to divorce?
The marriages that got happier fell into three broad approaches: the marital work ethic, the marital endurance ethic and the personal happiness epic.
In the marital work ethic, spouses actively work to solve problems, change behavior or improve communication. When the problem is solved, the marriage gets happier. Strategies for improving marriages range from arranging dates or other ways to spend more time together, to enlisting the help and advice of relatives or in-laws, consulting clergy or secular counselors, or even threatening divorce and consulting divorce attorneys.
In the marital endurance ethic, by contrast, spouses don’t solve problems with concerted action on the part of either spouse. Stated another way, you don’t “work” on an unhappy marriage; instead, you endure it. “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other” because with the passage of time, things get better. Job situations improve, children get older or better, or chronic ongoing problems get put into new perspective.
Finally, in the personal happiness epic, marriage problems don’t seem to change that much. Instead, you find alternative ways to improve your own happiness and build a good and happy life despite a mediocre marriage. This often contains elements of both the marital work ethic and the marital endurance ethic approaches as well.
Marriage as a Shared Story
Creating a happy marriage depends on more than just your interactions with your spouse; it also depends on how you view marriage in general.
Marriage is not just the sum of the personal interactions that you find either satisfying or distressing. Marriage is a social status and a shared ideal—a story you have about your own life, your family, your spouse and your love.
The attitudes and values that people and societies have about marriage and divorce affect how satisfying people find being married. In communities where marriage is highly valued, husbands and wives get more from marriage than they would in a community where marriage is seen as a merely private matter.
People who are deeply committed to marriage as a lifelong vow have happier marriages not only because of what they do in their relationships, but because of what they think about being married in general. Read that sentence again.
Stated another way: The happiness you get from any role in life—being a parent, holding a job, being married—depends in part on how satisfying you find the day-to-day interactions and tasks. But it also depends on whether you see the role itself as important and valuable.
In general, we have many goals for our own marriages, and those of others: We want marriage to last, we want children to enjoy living with their own two married parents, we want these marriages to be happy, and we don’t want unhappily married people trapped in miserable lives.
Over the past 40 years, these goals have seemed to be in conflict: If we discourage divorce we create lasting marriages at the high cost of individual misery—almost certainly for adults and often for the children. We need to find ways how to handle conflict.
Based on the findings of this study, this conventional wisdom is untrue.
Does divorce typically make unhappily married people happier than staying married? No.
Does a firm commitment to staying married, even though unhappy, typically condemn adults to lifelong misery? No.
So, is divorce always wrong and staying married always right? The answer’s not so simple.
Both divorce and marriage initiate complex chains of events whose outcomes cannot be predicted with certainty at the outset.
But know this…marriages are not happy or unhappy—spouses are.
And with the passage of time, the feelings of people about their marriages can and do change.
A bad marriage and a good marriage is not always a fixed opposite, but the same marriage at two different points in time (or in the eyes of two different spouses).
Divorce may make an unhappy spouse happier, but there is no guarantee (and much doubt) that it will.
Marriage is no panacea, but neither is divorce.
To sum all this up: People and marriages are going to be happier in communities with a strong commitment to marital permanence. While some marriages are so destructive that divorce or separation maybe an outcome, marriages are more likely to be both happy and stable when marriage is highly valued.
Surround yourself with other married couples who value marriage as well.
Stick it out through the tough times.
And live life together with others.
It makes the ride so much more enjoyable along the way.
1. It didn’t start with the divorce of Henry VIII.
Actually, it started in the very first centuries of Christianity when Romans settled Britain and Christians came as soldiers, administrators and traders. The first mention we have of English Christianity comes from Tertullian who wrote in 200 AD that “parts of England were conquered by Christ.”
Very soon, Christians in Britain developed their own way of worshiping the triune God, involving attention to the beauty of the created world and missions. The Celtic church in England differed with Rome over many points of worship, and in the fourteenth century Oxford priest, John Wycliffe, called the pope “a poisonous weed” and denied transubstantiation. All of these differences with the Roman church were centuries before Henry VIII.
2. By the fourteenth Century, England had developed a distinctive spirituality.
It was rooted in the synthesis of doctrine and prayer taught by two Christian greats: Augustine of Hippo—the great theologian whose Confessions are an extended prayer—and Benedict of Nursia, whose monasteries modeled the Christian life as work amidst liturgical prayer. By the fourteenth century, English Christianity had long been influenced by both Augustine’s “pessimistic” emphasis on sin and Benedict’s “optimistic” stress on joy in common life.
3. Anglicanism is not just for the English or for Americans.
Today the majority of Anglicans are in Africa and other regions of the Global South. Each province uses its own culture to worship God with the Book of Common Prayer and the orthodoxy of the Thirty-Nine Articles.
4. There are more Anglicans in church on Sunday morning in Nigeria than in all the British Isles and North America combined.
5. With a membership of about 85 million, Anglicanism is the third-largest Christian communion in the world, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.
6. Anglicans consider their way to be a via media.
This means the “middle way” between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. They think they have the best of both—the worship of the catholic tradition of the undivided Church of the first millennium, plus the emphasis on preaching and justification by faith from the Reformation.
7. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer is widely regarded as the most beautiful worship in the English language.
The “sombrely magnificent prose” (Eamon Duffy) of the Book of Common Prayer has attracted legions of admirers all around the world. It reflects the liturgical genius of Thomas Cranmer, but it also provides moderns access to the worship of the early church. Cranmer, and the many other hands that produced the Book of Common Prayer, were adapting a basic catholic pattern of worship derived from the first few centuries of the Church that then developed over the course of the Middle Ages.
8. Anglicans worship not only with liturgy (ordered prayer that changes every Sunday of the seasons of the church year), but also with sacraments.
These are the two Dominical (commanded by the Dominus, or Lord, of the Church, Jesus) sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, and the five “sacraments of the church”—confirmation, Holy Orders, marriage, absolution, and healing of the sick.
9. Anglicans believe that in the Eucharist, they receive the real body and blood of the risen Christ.
This differs with the Catholic view of transubstantiation, which holds that the substance of the bread and wine are changed so that they are no longer bread and wine. Anglicans believe the bread and wine remain as bread and wine, but that in a mysterious way, the body and blood of Christ are also conveyed through the sacrament.
10. While Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) was the English Reformation’s greatest liturgist, Richard Hooker (1554-1600) is widely regarded as its greatest theologian.
His Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity are a comprehensive treatment of life and worship on the via media.
God is always at work. By looking at revivals in the past, we can learn how He desires to make Himself known during desperate times. In recent days, my attention has been captured by the events leading up to the Third Great Awakening, and the New York businessman, Jeremiah Lanphier, who was used of God to remind our nation to pray.
As Jeremiah Lanphier sought the Lord for revival in his land, he became convinced that if the men and women of his city would join him in prayer, God would open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing. Lanphier passed out thousands of flyers inviting people to pray with him at noon each day. On September 23, 1857, only a handful of businessmen trickled into the little room he had rented on Fulton Street. Not one of them could have imagined how God would multiply their efforts in the coming days.
They continued to meet for prayer at noon each day, and their group grew to a few dozen. But when financial disaster struck on October 10, 1857, everything changed. People lost jobs, money, and investments. Hopelessness filled the hearts of those who had days before felt no need of spiritual things. God used this dark period to turn the hearts of people to Himself. Thousands of desperate people rushed to churches to pray and seek God. A prayer revival broke out and many churches across America began hosting noon prayer meetings like the one started by Lanphier.
Can it be that God will use this moment, this time of fear, uncertainty, and questions, to draw His people unto Himself? Could a great prayer revival happen in our day amidst the turmoil brought about by the Coronavirus?
God is trying to speak to His people through this crisis. We must prepare our hearts to hear from Him by setting aside a special time of earnest prayer. My church family is joining with me by praying in their homes at noon. We are not interested in a movement or a fad. We truly desire to see what God may do in this time. Will you join me in praying at noon?
Nearly 50 years after his death, his books continue to sell a million copies a year.His name was Clive Staples Lewis, born NOVEMBER 29, 1898.
At age 19, he fought in the trenches in World War I.After the War, C.S. Lewis taught at Magdalen College, Oxford, 1925-54; and was professor of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University, 1954-1963.
Originally an agnostic, C.S. Lewis credited his Catholic colleague at Oxford, J.R.R. Tolkien, whom he met in 1926, as being instrumental in his coming to faith in Jesus Christ.J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, 1937, and Lord of the Rings, 1937-1949, which is one of the best-selling novels ever written–with over 150 million copies sold.
C.S. Lewis’ writing style was influenced by George MacDonald, a writer and Christian minister.MacDonald’s fantasy literature pioneered an entire genre, influencing Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865; L. Frank Baum, who wrote The Wizard of Oz, 1900; J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, 1937.
C.S. Lewis regarded MacDonald as a “master,” stating:”Picking up a copy of Phantastes (1858) one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later, I knew that I had crossed a great frontier.”
G. K. Chesterton cited George MacDonald’sThe Princess and the Goblin (1872) as a book that had “made a difference to my whole existence.”
George MacDonald wrote:
“There are things that must be done in faith, else they never have being.”
“Faith is that which, knowing the Lord’s will, goes and does it; or, not knowing it, stands and waits, content in ignorance as in knowledge, because God wills – neither pressing into the hidden future, nor careless of the knowledge which opens the path of action.”
“Doubts are the messengers of the Living One to the honest. They are the first knock at our door of things that are not yet, but have to be, understood … Doubts must precede every deeper assurance; for uncertainties are what we first see when we look into a region hitherto unknown, unexplored, unannexed.”
“The principle part of faith is patience.”
“A perfect faith would lift us absolutely above fear.”
“All about us, in earth and air, wherever the eye or ear can reach, there is a power ever breathing itself forth in signs, now in daisy, now in a wind-waft, a cloud, a sunset; a power that holds constant and sweetest relation with the dark and silent world within us. The same God who is in us, and upon whose tree we are the buds, if not yet the flowers, also is all about us- inside, the Spirit; outside, the Word. And the two are ever trying to meet in us.”
“If we do not die to ourselves, we cannot live to God, and he that does not live to God, is dead.”
“Any faith in Him, however small, is better than any belief about Him, however great.”
C.S. Lewis was also influenced by Gilbert Keith Chesterton’s book, The Everlasting Man (1925), written in rebuttal of H.G. Wells’The Outline of History.
Lewis explained:”The best popular defense of the full Christian position I know is G.K. Chesterton’sThe Everlasting Man.”
Chesterton wrote in The Everlasting Man, 1925:“Nobody can imagine how nothing could turn into something . Nobody can get an inch nearer to it by explaining how something could turn into something else.It is really far more logical to start by saying ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth’ even ifyou only mean ‘In the beginning some unthinkable power began some unthinkable process.’For God is by its nature a name of mystery, and nobody ever supposed that man could imagine how a world was created any more than he could create one.But evolution really is mistaken for explanation. It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else.”
He continued:”I do not believe that the past is most truly pictured as a thing in which humanity merely fades away into nature, or civilization merely fades away into barbarism, or religion fades away into mythology, or our own religion fades away into the religions of the world.In short I do not believe that the best way to produce an outline of history is to rub out the lines.”
G.K. Chesterton wrote in The Everlasting Man, 1925:“If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic.A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy.As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.”
He added:“As for the general view that the Church was discredited by the War — they might as well say that the Ark was discredited by the Flood.When the world goes wrong, it proves rather that the Church is right.The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do.”
G.K. Chesterton continued:“Christendom has had a series of revolutions and in each one of them Christianity has died.Christianity has died many times and risen again; for it had a God who knew the way out of the grave.”
C.S. Lewis described in Surprised by Joy, 1955, how he resisted believing, “kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.”Finally, in 1929, he came to believe in God:”You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen (College, Oxford) night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet.
… That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me.In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”
In 1931, after a late-night discussion with J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson,Lewis described his deepening spiritual journey in Surprised by Joy:
“I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken.I was driven to Whipsnade zoo one sunny morning.When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached to zoo I did.Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought.Nor in great emotion. ‘Emotional’ is perhaps the last word we can apply to some of the most important events.It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.
… And it was, like that moment on top of the bus, ambiguous.Freedom, or necessity? Or do they differ at their maximum? At that maximum a man is what he does; there is nothing of him left over or outside the act.As for what we commonly call ‘Will,’ and what we commonly call ‘Emotion,’ I fancy these usually talk too loud, protest too much, to be quite believed, and we have a secret suspicion that the great passion or the iron resolution is partly a put-up job.
… They have spoiled Whipsnade since then.Wallaby Wood, with the birds singing overhead and the blue-bells underfoot and the Wallabies hopping all round one, was almost Eden come again.”
Among C.S. Lewis’ most notable books are:
The Problem of Pain,1940;
The Screwtape Letters,1942;
Abolition of Man, 1943;
The Chronicles of Narnia, 1950-1956, which includes: The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe.
Lewis stated in The Oxford Socratic Club (1944. pp. 154-165):”If … I swallow the scientific cosmology as a whole, then not only can I not fit in Christianity, but I cannot even fit science.If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on bio-chemistry, and bio-chemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of atoms,I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.”
In The Problem of Pain,Lewis wrote:”The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it.Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil.Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt …God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world …No doubt pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion.But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment, it removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of the rebel soul …Suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God …… If tribulation is a necessary element in redemption, we must anticipate that it will never cease till God sees the world to be either redeemed or no further redeemable.”
In Mere Christianity, 1952, C.S. Lewis wrote:”All that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
Lewis expressed in Mere Christianity, 1952:”I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’That is the one thing we must not say.A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
… You must make your choice.Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher.He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
In The Screwtape Letters, 1942, Lewis wrote:“The safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
In the final chapter of The Abolition of Man, 1943, Lewis warned:”I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently.”
C.S. Lewis wrote:
“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.'”
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”
“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.”
Lewis wrote:”Christianity … is a religion you could not have guessed … ‘It is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up.It has just that queer twist about it that real things have.”
He wrote in Mere Christianity, 1952:”The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus in a woman’s body.”
In Mere Christianity,C.S. Lewis wrote:”God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion.God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing”–Read as PDF … C.S. Lewis “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one”
The defeat is not yet final, but Christ has dealt the decisive blow.
The contention of this series of articles is that the Bible is set in the land of wild things. That is, the Bible is more fantastical—beautiful, dangerous and strange—than we give it credit for. What we incorrectly call the natural and the supernatural, as if they are distinct and isolated realms, are actually part of a single, fascinating, and intertwined world. In the Bible, heaven and earth constantly interact and are alive with all kinds of creatures, forces, and powers—both seen and unseen.
What are these powers? What do they do in the world? How do they operate? How do they relate to God, to humans, and to the story of rescue and redemption the Bible tells? It’s past time we re-engage the Bible’s overlooked story of the powers.
* I am especially indebted to G.B. Caird’s small book Principalities and Powers for the main outline of this series (based on his Chancellor’s Lectures in 1954 at Queen’s University).
RECLAIMING THE WORLD
On the very first Sabbath day in the history of the world, God rested. In the ancient world, when a deity “rested” it meant they took up residence within their temple and began to rule:
“For the LORD has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
‘This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.’”
— Psalm 132
But it wasn’t long before God had to start working again, for the fallen powers and principalities and even his own wayward image-bearers had immediately begun disrupting the life and flourishing of his cosmic temple.
God’s new work was to pursue re-creation—the restoration and renewal of all he’d intended from the beginning. But this labor proves to be harder and slower than the first time around, due to the recalcitrants now impeding his plans.
The world rulers of this darkness seeking only to steal, kill and destroy.
Divine image-bearers strangely refusing to image the divine.
So when the Father sends the Son into the world to redeem the world, the Son continues the divine striving. When Jesus is accused of healing a man (i.e., working) on the Sabbath he says, “Yes, of course I’m working on this day. I work every single day! And my Father is working too!” This is the creational endeavor of rebuilding and recovery. This is the storyline of the Bible: God working to undo the work of those seeking to undo his own good work in the creation.
The life and ministry of Jesus is the culmination of God’s great undertaking: to win back the world.
GOD AT WAR
Read a Gospel, any Gospel. What do you find? A great battle between the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God.
We need to rethink what we’ve supposed the good news of Jesus to be all about. Again, as with so many elements of the biblical story, we’ve minimized and narrowed (he came to save me) what is big and comprehensive (he came to defeat sin and death and reclaim the creation—which includes me). Again and again in the stories about Jesus we find confrontation with evil and with evil ones. Jesus announces and is advancing a kingdom, a reign, a new authority.
Mark tells us that Jesus begins his entire ministry in the wilderness “with the wild animals” to be tested by the Accuser. Jesus immediately goes out to where the wild things are to face down the malicious spiritual forces that have been running the world. His initial victory here launches him into a public ministry in Israel that is both invitational and combative at the same time. His mission is a rescue operation, fighting spiritual oppressors and freeing slaves.
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The authority of Satan as the ruler of this age is seen in physical disease (“a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has kept bound for 18 long years”), in demon possession, in false teaching, in moral failure, and preeminently in the murder of Jesus on the cross (“this is your hour, and the dominion of darkness”). Jesus exorcises and teaches and heals to overpower the Strong Man, with the goal of releasing and restoring those people who’ve been suffering under the Dark Lord.
This battle the Messiah is fighting is not the battle Israel was expecting. The reorientation is hard to understand, even for the Twelve:
Who is this that commands unclean spirits? Who is this that can calm the wild, uncontrollable seas of chaos? Who is this that can heal and restore with a touch, or even a word? Who is this that is overpowering the powers?
Just as Palestine was a territory controlled by a Roman legion, so Jesus takes on the Legion of spiritual powers and authorities destroying the people of God. He is the Son of Man—that is, the truly human one come to reclaim the human vocation of image-bearing and ruling. Yes, it is the reign of God that he brings, but God has always wanted to rule in and through his designated agents. It is the seed of the woman that will crush the serpent (Gen. 3). It is the Son of Man that will put all things in subjection under his feet (Ps. 8; Dan. 7).
So Jesus teaches his disciples to pray a battle prayer, demanding that God bring victory in this contest. (Boldly, the verbs here are all imperatives, i.e., telling God what to do.) It is time for God to make his name known throughout the world, for God’s rule to extend to the earth. This prayer is about a new day coming and the bread of a New Exodus being given. Debtors must be released and the power of sin must be broken. It is an urgent appeal for God to protect his people from the Evil One and save them from the time of trial.
This clash comes to its climax when Jesus enters Jerusalem on a wild, unbroken colt, demonstrating that he really is king of the city and ruler over the powers. Jesus directly confronts the false and corrupt rulers of his people, both Jewish and Roman.
But then ha Satan enters one of the Twelve and drives him to betrayal. The powers intend the worst for Jesus, this disruptive human one that has been pushing them back and reclaiming creation for the Creator.
They know he is the Holy One of God, as we hear them shriek when he casts them out. But they also know he is vulnerable, flesh, able to die.
So the powers do what they know, do what they’ve always done. They steal, kill and destroy once more.
THE SECRET WISDOM OF GOD IN CHRIST
The Gospels narrate the story. The letters of the apostles clarify the implications. Paul explains to us what has happened:
“We do, however, speak wisdom among the mature. But this isn’t a wisdom of this present world, or of the rulers of this present world—those same rulers who are being done away with. No: we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery. This is the wisdom God prepared ahead of time, before the world began, for our glory.
“None of the rulers of this present age knew about this wisdom. If they had, you see, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory.” — 1 Corinthians 2
The powers were blinded by their own lust for control, their thirst for destruction. They didn’t understand God’s deeper wisdom in Christ. Working through their human allies, they thought they could simply eliminate the Stronger One who had come into the world.
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Though they couldn’t see it coming, the tables were being turned. What they thought was their moment of greatest triumph was precisely their moment of utter defeat.
The weakness of God in Christ was more powerful than the strength of the powers.
The paradox of God’s work in Christ—losing to win, dying to live—was incomprehensible to those obsessed with their own lust for dominance and carnage.
New Testament scholar G.B. Caird* identifies the specific threefold victory of the Messiah over the world rulers of the darkness:
1. The powers had a hold over the human race because of their successful accusations of our own pervasive wrongdoing. But Christ decisively dealt with the charges against us:
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” — Colossians 2
2. The powers operate at a high level of organization. Their pernicious effects are nested into the structures of society: institutions, economic systems and governments. They are intertwined with the essential frameworks of a fallen cosmos. Defeating them requires giving humans a new option for corporate identification and action. This is what Christ and the renewed family of God provide. The Messiah is a new or second Adam, affording humanity a new basis for unity and taking away a crucial tool of the powers.
3. Finally, Jesus destroys the deceptions and falsehoods at the heart of the kingdom of corruption. Paul writes that the god of this age has blinded the minds of all those who worship what is not God. This spiritual veil compels people to give their allegiance to imposters. Jesus has shown us the truth about the world and about who God is. The light of revelation that Christ brings evaporates the lies that empower so much of the success of the false rulers.
This definitive victory of Israel’s Messiah and world’s true Lord on the cross was confirmed and demonstrated by his powerful resurrection and ascension. Jesus came and did God’s work. He came and fought God’s fight. Therefore his death was reversed, his claim to be king was vindicated, and he was raised up to his rightful position over all things.
The powers have met their match. Their defeat is not yet final, but the decisive blow has been dealt.
The secret wisdom of God in Christ is the dawning of a new day for the world. People are being liberated. The creation itself will soon be set free.
So our final question must turn back to us. What do we do now? How do we take up our own roles in the ongoing defeat of the world rulers of this darkness?