Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Ryle on Peter's Death Foretold by Jesus

Caravaggio, The Crucifixion of Saint Peter. Oil on canvas, circa 1600.

J. C. Ryle has some really great comments on John 21.  As for Jesus' foretelling of Peter's future, he writes, 

"We learn, for one thing, from these verses, that the future history of Christians, both in life and death, is foreknown by Christ. The Lord tells Simon Peter, “When thou art old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” These words, without controversy, were a prediction of the manner of the Apostle’s death. ...

The truth before us is eminently full of comfort to a true believer ... it is an unspeakable consolation to remember, that our whole future is known and forearranged by Christ. There is no such thing as luck, chance, or accident, in the journey of our life. Everything from beginning to end is foreseen,—arranged by One who is too wise to err, and too loving to do us harm.

Let us store up this truth in our minds, and use it diligently in all the days of darkness through which we may yet have to pass. In such days we should lean back on the thought, “Christ knows this, and knew it when He called me to be His disciple.” It is foolish to repine and murmur over the troubles of those whom we love. We should rather fall back on the thought that all is well done. It is useless to fret and be rebellious, when we ourselves have bitter cups to drink. We should rather say, “This also is from the Lord: He foresaw it, and would have prevented it, if it had not been for my good.” Happy are those who can enter into the spirit of that old saint, who said, “I have made a covenant with my Lord, that I will never take amiss anything that He does to me.” We may have to walk sometimes through rough places, on our way to heaven. But surely it is a resting, soothing reflection, “Every step of my journey was foreknown by Christ.”

What is the most important thing about God that helps you when you are tempted to fret?  Do you have any questions about this post?  Why not share that in the comments below.  I look forward to hearing from you.  

Friday, March 25, 2016


Notes on Wendel Berry's ​ Whitefoot: A Story from the Center of the World.

She is a creature who knows her place and how to live.  She goes about the unfinished task of staying alive (p. 60), taking - hour by hour - the opportunity to live (p. 56).  To that end, she does her work in the only world she knows, the only world she has to live in: her acre.

But our little lives are still lived in a wide world and there are storms in this world.  And these storms can move us and change our circumstances.  They can lead us into strange places; challenging places.

How does she take these storms?  By simply staying alive where she is.
She went on a trip - unwillingly via the storm - into the wide world - far from her familiar acre - and at certain points on the way, she was actually quite unaware of what all was going on in world.  For she ate and slept, which was her nature as she continued to live in the littleness of the world immediately around her.

A bit of a summary:
The story is an example of how the storms of life can bring all manner of change, but there will be some things that do not change and our own world is still for us the center.  Our center is our focus and it is enough for us to deal with ("enough" is a key principle).  We can let a lot of stuff go by, because it is beyond us anyway.  We are doing what we need to do in our own acre of the wide world.  And when we go to sleep at night, we do so like Whitefoot: "Her sleep was an act of faith and a giving of thanks."

​I Thessalonians 4:
1 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;
2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
9 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;
10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;
11 that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,
12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.​

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

We Must Forgive

The Lord's Prayer is a pattern prayer for all our praying, but it is also a lesson for us in forgiveness: we must forgive. 

In Matthew 6, the petition, "and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us" is the one petition that the Lord emphasizes above all others.  It's almost as if Jesus is saying that this is the main reason for giving us the prayer in the first place!  He no more says "Amen" and then he says, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

This makes perfectly good sense.  It's a matter of justice, isn't it.  It's not fair for us to ask God to forgive us our enormous offenses against him, if we will not forgive the offenses people have committed against us.  That doesn't make it easy, but it is the fair thing.

And think of it this way: How can God forgive the sins of someone who refuses to let go of his own sins?  Bitterness and resentment are sins.  If you won't let go of your resentment toward someone, you are hanging onto a sin and, as David says in the Psalms, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me."  I like the way Michael Green puts it in his commentary on Matthew: "For if we are to open our hands to receive his gracious pardon, we cannot keep our fists tightly clenched against those who have wronged us.  So often our prayers are nullified because there is someone we think we cannot forgive" (p. 101).

The Lord's Prayer is a model prayer for us because it reminds us that there can be conditions for God's blessings in our lives.  Our salvation is ultimately all of God's grace, but within that grace, there is a place for our own responsibility, and here it is.  If we want to walk at peace with God with a clean conscience, with our sins forgiven, we have to seek the grace from him and be determined to be forgiving ourselves.

It can be very, very difficult to forgive sometimes, but we absolutely must.  And we may have to forgive someone over and over again, every time we remember what happened.  But each time we do, we know we are doing the right thing.  We also know we are doing what is good for our own souls.  Plus, our friends, our families, our churches, the whole world need our prayers.  It's worth giving up our foolish bitterness so we can keep the channel of prayer open.  There are so many battles left to fight.

[Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.]

Monday, February 29, 2016

Should you desire more for yourself?

Lewis looking at the inspiring scenery out his window
at The Kilns in 1963.  (Photo by permission of Walter Hooper)
If we have read the New Testament, we know that Christians are not to be selfish, i.e. self-seeking, putting one's self above others.  The example that Jesus gives his followers is one of self-sacrifice, of giving up of one's self for the sake of others. Yet he tells us in Mark 8 to follow him that we might save ourselves:

34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

C. S. Lewis, in his sermon The Weight of Glory, brings up the point that this does seem rather mercenary or self-seeking.  We are to follow Jesus to save ourselves; not other people or some general idea of "humanity," but our own necks.  Is this being "selfish?"

I love how Lewis can turn things on their own heads.  His answer is that not only is this not selfish, we don't desire enough for ourselves!  How can he say this?

He has his own reasons, but let's look at it this way.

First of all, though fallen, we are still God's "good" creatures.  Out of respect for the image of God in other people, we recognize that we should be good to them.  But you and I are in God's image as well.  If it makes sense to be good to other people because they still have God's image, then it makes sense to be good to ourselves. 

It is always a good thing to do good to what is good.  God himself seeks his own good, because he is good, and it's a good thing to seek the benefit of what is good.  God is good to himself and he calls us to be good to ourselves by following his Son.

Our problem, of course, is our fallenness.  That's where the cross comes in.  The best thing we can do for ourselves initially is to die to our sinful selfishness, to die to a life of self-seeking in rebellion against God's goodness.  We then make this denial a daily practice - the daily cross.  But once we do that, we can go on - forever! - doing good for ourselves by growing in the grace and knowledge and love and everything else that is so wonderful about Christ.

So desire something absolutely amazing for yourself: lose your life so you can save your life and live forever, sharing in the glory of God! 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Letters to Malcolm Study @ HOP

I will be leading a discussion of Lewis' book Letters to Malcolm at the Chattanooga House of Prayer, 11 & 12 March.  Here's the Facebook event page - hope you can join us!

That's me leading a discussion of Letters to Malcolm at The Kilns, home of C. S. Lewis, in Oxford last year.

United with Beauty

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ec/Veil_nebula.jpg
In The Weight of Glory, Lewis says we are meant to get into the Beauty we see in the universe around us; to be united with it.

Our literature often depicts beings that reflect what is seen in Nature as the sphere of their existence, both ontologically (it comprises the nature of their being) and circumstantially.  We write stories like that because we want to be able to step into that world (overcoming exclusion) and we like the idea of beings so closely connected, united, to the beauty we see in Nature.  It's the kind of stuff Tolkien dreamed of when he created his elves. 

Nature reflects the objective reality of the thing that our desires point to, but as mere distant echoes.  If we are in Christ, we will endure after Nature is gone and enter into that which Nature has reflected in this age.  

He has redeemed us to become what we were meant to be as human beings, and being one with his Beauty is part of that vocation.  Like our Saviour, we too will shine as the stars, but with an even greater glory. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

FAQ for All Saints - 6, How Do I Know I am a Saint?

A very important question.  Only those who are God’s people, united with Christ, will live with him in the new world to come. 

I answer the simple question with another simple question:  What did Jesus say?  "All who come unto me, I will in no wise cast out.  Whoever believes in me has everlasting life and I will raise him up at the last day."  If we have put all our trust for all we need to be a saint in Jesus Christ and all He has done for us and all he does for us and all he will do for us - if we have put all our trust in Him as the trustworthy God who cannot lie - then we have all the assurance we need. 

If we have not so believed in Him, then we are in grave danger.  We are not saints.  God has done everything that needs to be done to make us saints through His Son.  The ball is now in our court.  Will we have Him as our King and Saviour?  If so, we have but to receive Him.  If we do, we may rejoice in our union with the blessed company of all faithful people, and we may know the peace and hope that is the special possession of the saints of God.