New, Now Ditch the Old

New, Now Ditch the Old! (An exegeis of Ephesians 4:17-5:2)

To be a follower of Christ is to do more than make an internal decision to believe. The writers of the New Testament consistently implore new believers to put off certain behaviors and put on the character of Christ. The inward decision to be a follower of Christ should be apparent by our outward behaviors. Becoming a follower of Christ is a deliberate decision to no longer be what we once were, and to purposely pursue Christ. In this section of Ephesians, the author urges the audience to put off the life they once lived and put on a new life. It provides the imagery of taking off dirty, spoiled rags and putting on new clothes and then takes it another step in saying to get rid of those dirty rags: do not keep them any longer. The author encourages the reader by not only telling them what not to do, but provides clear guidelines of what they should do instead. Ephesians is a very actionable letter full of direct application and it is these actionable steps that makes it cross-cultural and timeless.

The author of the letter of Ephesians has come under debate in the last century. Many consider it to be written by Paul while he was in prison in Rome (Snodgrass, 1996, p. 23-24), and disregard the various contestations as irrelevant. William MacDonald, in the Believer’s Bible commentary, defends that there are several external and internal evidences to support Paul as the writer of Ephesians (1989, p. 1903): it has an early and continuous stream of witnesses, twice the author states he is Paul, and the tone of the letter fits Paul’s other letters. It is also likely that Paul would have written to the church in Ephesus as Acts testifies that the church was dear to Paul as he had spent almost three years with them teaching (Acts 19:10). (Bates, 2017)

The audience for the letter of Ephesians was most likely aimed at a geographic area centralizing around the city of Ephesus (Snodgrass, p. 21). During this time, Christians gathered in home churches throughout cities and regions rather than in large congregations as we see in present day. Letters “provided a way for early Christian leaders to express their views and minister from a distance” (Duvall & Hays, 2012, p. 253). The letters were intended to be passed around and read aloud by many. The famous Silk Road, a great trade route, ended at the port of Ephesus making the city central to trade. The temple of Artemis, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, was in Ephesus as well (Bucknell, n.d.). With Ephesus being a central location of trade and culture for the region, it was a prime area to infuse with the gospel so that believers could readily spread the message of salvation across the world rapidly. When sharing a religion that claims to be different than all others, it is vital that one’s testimony show that you are indeed different, and that is the implication of the letter: be different.

Looking just before and just after this section of scripture we can see a gradual progression of specificity. Immediately prior, the author is speaking broadly of principles in the unity of the body of believers, in this section of scripture the author begins to be more specific in the behaviors of believers while still speaking generally to all believers. Just after this section of scripture, the author specifically emphasizes the behaviors of individual groups of believers such as husbands, wives, children, and slaves. It is a smooth progression that pulls the audience in and connects them individually with each other. One body; many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12).

Using the literary technique referred to as inclusio, the author bookends this section of scripture with the same command: be like God! In Ephesians 4:17, the author implores his readers to “no longer live as the Gentiles do” (NIV) and in Ephesians 5:2 he follows his pattern of offering the alternative by saying “live a life of love.” Everything in between these two verses is a pattern of don’t do this, do this instead.

The author opens this section of scripture by focusing on the way gentiles think. He uses strong, emotional words such as futility, darkened, separated, ignorance, hardening, and lost to convey the thought that this manner of thinking leads down a dark path that you do not want to travel. It is a path that Christians should be continuously grateful for being off. The author compares the thoughts of the unbeliever to that of the believer in verse 23 “to be made new in the attitude of your minds” and then proceeds to give examples of behaviors that are influenced by our minds. This concept of inside first, outside second is reinforced throughout scripture. Luke 6:45 states that “the good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

The use of the word however in verse 20 causes a shift in the tone and initiates the onslaught of do’s and do not’s that follows. The author shifts from painting a dark picture of the unbeliever, and instead takes on a brighter tone for the believer using words like surely, taught, created, true righteousness and holiness. With his tone and word choice, he encourages the believer and reminds them that they are better than this. They are not pigs in the mud, but rather clean individuals walking a sure path.

An interesting note, in verses 23 and 24 the author uses the word new twice, but the word new is used in two slightly different ways. In verse 23 the word new is from the Greek word neos, which gives the impression of beginning again or renewing. When paired with the action verb made, it exemplifies the idea of starting all over again with a clean slate, which is what happens when we become Christians. In verse 24 the word new is from the Greek word kainos and is use throughout scripture to imply that it’s object of reference is something that was previously unknown (Kohlenberger, 2015). The new self in Ephesians 4:24 is not something the believer had previously.

The verbs in this passage, after the initial comparison of the unbeliever and the believer, are all present tense. Speak, give, share, or rid are all actions that the author tells the audience to do – now! As a present-day reader, these verbs make the letter feel less historical, more current, and we can connect with both the audience and the author.

Klyne Snodgrass, in his commentary on Ephesians, summarizes this section of scripture as the seven motivators (1996, p. 248-249). “We are all members of one body” (vs. 25), “do not give the devil a foothold” (vs. 27), “have something to share with those in need” (vs. 28) and use speech that is beneficial for all (vs. 29) all focus on the body of Christ and community. The three motivators at the end “urges Christians to treat others the way God has treated them” (Snodgrass, p. 249): “as God in Christ forgave you” (vs. 32), “as children of God” (5:1), and “as Christ loved us” (5:2). The central motivator found in Ephesians 4:30, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit” serves as the motivator for all the commands.

The Greek word interpreted grieve is lypeo and is understood to mean to cause sorrow. The author is imploring believers to do what is right, to change our thinking and therefor our behavior, because to do otherwise is to make the Holy Spirit sad. Just as disobedient children cause a parent to be disappointed or sad, so do we make the Holy Spirit sad and grieved when we choose not to do what is right in the eyes of God. Children naturally want to make their parents proud, and do not like seeing disappointment on their parents’ faces. With God as our father, we should long to see Him be proud of us too.

As far as lists go, the author of Ephesians gives to short impressive ones at the end of the fourth chapter. First a list of things to get rid of: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice. He follows with a shorter list to replace those behaviors with: kind, compassionate, forgiving, and loving. The first list, the things to remove, all demonstrate a lack of control and a focus on the self; whereas, the second list, the things to exemplify, all demonstrate self-control and a focus on others. When living in community, to be part of the community and for the community to thrive, each individual needs to focus more on others than on themselves. This is one of the key differences between believers and unbelievers; our focus on others and how to give rather than receive.

In chapter five verse one we are admonished to “be imitators of God” or in a more recent translation “follow God’s example”. The difference between the use of the verb imitate and the verb follow is small, if you know which definition of the word follow one is using. In the English language, the word follow is used many ways, while the word imitate is used less frequently and therefor has a narrower understanding. To imitate is generally understood to mean to copy; whereas, the word follow often means to walk behind or walk in the way of someone or something. The translators paired the word example with follow to offer clarity, but the use of the word imitator is more concise. Either way, the author intends that we, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit within us, work towards being more like God. As God is, so should we be.

Personal application and community application of the principles presented in this section of scripture are very straightforward. The bridge to cross to get from there to here is very short. As Christians we need to speak truth to one another, not just in our Christian communities but with all man. God gave us all emotions for the benefit of His glory, any emotion can cause us to sin but none more so than anger. We can be angry, but what we do with that anger is what makes it sin or not. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23) and is exemplified when we become angry but do not sin in that anger. We are all to be helpful to others. When we lend a helping hand it is a moment of sharing Christ in our actions. Whether this be a person on the side of the road with a flat tire, a person short a bit at the check-out line, or lending a helping hand to a neighbor by helping them mow their yard or wash windows, we have many opportunities every day to lend a helping hand and show Christ in our actions by putting another’s needs before our own.

We can do all that Paul commands of us because we have Christ within us. If we choose to allow the Holy Spirit to work within us, we will not grieve the Holy Spirit and we will be Christlike in all that we do. From the inside out, Christ changes us. Get rid of the old and embrace the new, this kind of change really is much better.

References

Bates, J.R. (2017). Ancient times New York City. Unpublished manuscript, Colorado Christian University.

Bucknell, P.J. (n.d.). A survey of the book of Ephesians. Retrieved from http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/References/NT/Pauline/Ephesians/Ephesians0/Ephesians0_Survey.html

Duvall, J.S. & Hays, J.D. (2018). Grasping God’s word: a hands-on approach to reading, interpreting, and applying the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Kohlenberger III, J. R. (2015). The NIV exhaustive Bible concordance. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MacDonald, W. (1989). Believer’s Bible commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Snodgrass, K. (1996). The NIV application commentary: Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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Ancient Times New York City

Ancient Times New York City: Ephesus

It is helpful sometimes to visualize something familiar to better understand something unfamiliar, or something that is so far in the distant past that seeing it is not quite possible. Upon reading about Ephesus, the first thing that came to mind was an ancient version of the modern-day New York City. Ephesus, like New York City, was a place where all cultures and beliefs seem to meet and exist in one place. It was a city central to trade, with the famous Silk Road ending at its port. As a main focal point of the city, it possessed one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the great temple of Artemis (Bucknell, n.d.). Acts 19:23-27 tells us that the area was deeply dependent on the many worshipers travelling to the great temple. Ephesus was a central hub of trade and culture for the region, a perfect place to share the gospel where it could readily be received by so many from distant lands who could then take the message home and thus spread the Word even faster.

Another aspect to keep in mind when thinking of the letter Ephesians is who the author was writing to.  The author was writing to the church, but not the church as we think of it today. It is easy to think that many believers equal a mega church: however, this was not the case. It was more common to find that the church was indeed a series of many smaller home churches (Bucknell, n.d.). With this in mind, the authors letter was not aimed at one specific group of believers but rather the believers in the region. There are some scholars who say the letter was not written specifically to Ephesus as some manuscripts do not have Ephesus listed. Using our earlier comparison of New York City, if one were to write to a group of home churches in New York City, it would not take long before copies of the letter dropped or added the phrase New York City depending on what part of New York City was receiving the letter. It is possible a similar occurrence happened with the letter to Ephesus.

The author of the letter of Ephesians has come under debate in the last century. Many consider it to be written by Paul while he was in prison in Rome (Snodgrass, 1996, p. 23-24), and disregard the various contestations as irrelevant. William MacDonald, in the Believer’s Bible commentary, defends that there are several external and internal evidences to support Paul as the writer of Ephesians (1989, p. 1903): it has an early and continuous stream of witnesses, twice the author states he is Paul, and the tone of the letter fits Paul’s other letters. It is also likely that Paul would have written to the church in Ephesus as Acts testifies that the church was dear to Paul as he had spent almost three years with them teaching (Acts 19:10).

The general style of the letter of Ephesians is one of love and encouragement, one can’t help but feel loved when one reads the letter (Smith, 2000, p. 270). When Paul meets with the elders of Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem, he is tearful and prophesies that they will not see him again (Acts 20:25). The elders as well as Paul are upset on this, and it shows how deep their relationship was, how close to the heart the church of Ephesus was to Paul. This emotion, this strong relationship, is felt when one reads the letter to the Ephesians.  Paul’s love for the church is almost tangible, so much that we can feel it ourselves as we read it.

We know that the letter was written while Paul was in prison (Ephesians 4:1), it is unclear which imprisonment it was. Ultimately it really doesn’t matter which imprisonment it was except to further narrow down the possible dates for when the letter was written. Working with the Roman imprisonment, the letter would date around 60 A.D., which would be most believable considering that the letter to the Colossians is very similar to that of Ephesians and it was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome and it too was delivered by Tychicus.

Ephesus was a city and a region that was full of historical purpose and a great launch pad for the Gospel.

References

Duvall, J.S. & Hays, J.D. (2018). Grasping God’s word: a hands-on approach to reading, interpreting, and applying the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

MacDonald, W. (1989). Believer’s Bible commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Smith, C. (2000). The ultimate guide to the Bible. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour Publishing.

Snodgrass, K. (1996). The NIV application commentary: Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Bucknell, P.J. (n.d.). A survey of the book of Ephesians. Retrieved from http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/References/NT/Pauline/Ephesians/Ephesians0/Ephesians0_Survey.html

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Mere Christianity:Spanning Generations

Relatable and Applicable

Mere Christianity, written by C.S. Lewis, is a basic Christian apologetics course that lays the groundwork for the gospel or introduces the new believer to the basic beliefs of Christianity (McGrath, 2013, p.208). His book, created from a series of radio talks he performed during World War II, impacts every reader differently and much as a person’s testimony of salvation lends credence and curiosity to the Bible, so does a person’s testimony of how important this book, Mere Christianity, was to their own decision to follow Christ. C.S. Lewis, through his gifts, talents, and willingness to be used by God, has managed to write a text that is cross-cultural, multi-generational, and non-denominational.

In the preface of Mere Christianity, Lewis gives an analogy that really resonated with me as I began to read.  It was his analogy of a house with a hallway and many doors leading to rooms within the house. The house represented Christianity, the hallway represented the fundamental beliefs that all Christians believe, and the various doors led to the numerous denominations within the church. He wanted his book to present the hallway portion in layman’s terminology so Christians could better understand the basics, and therefore move on with more confidence towards the door that was most true as they understood the Bible to say (Lewis, 2015, p.xv-xvi). This analogy greatly assisted in understanding Lewis’ intent and purpose in writing Mere Christianity.

Lewis introduces the topic of the Law of Human Nature, or Moral Law, in chapters two through five of his first section regarding right and wrong. He gives an example that sets moral law apart from the herd, or cultural, instinct when he says that “feeling a desire to help is quite different from feeling that you ought to help whether you want to or not” (Lewis, p.9). “The Law of Human Nature…[is] a real law which we did not invent and which we know we ought to obey” (Lewis, p.21). This moral law that all seem to be aware of is mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans when he say’s “they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness” (Romans 2:15a, NIV). This law resides within each of us because we are created in the image of God, and as such we have an innate sense of what life is supposed to be like (Moreland, 2009). The search for what is true and right ends only “after you realize that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law” (Lewis, p.31).

I appreciated Lewis’ approach to marriage and his discussion on the importance of keeping a sacred vow. He points out that often people divorce because the feeling of being in love and the sexual attraction they felt for their spouse has waned and they want to find another to be with.  But Lewis points out that “the duty of keeping that promise has no special connection with sexual [attraction]: it is in the same position as any other promise” (p. 106). Lewis regards the vows spoken at the marriage ceremony to be binding and very serious, and I agree. This foundational principle of marriage resonates through to the 21st century as the church reinforces the concept of a covenant, not contractual, marriage. Additionally, Lewis reminds us that “a promise must be about things that [one] can do, about actions” (p. 107). Marriage vows are all about actions, not sharing emotions. The profusion of emotion is what prompts the proposal, the marriage ceremony is what solidifies the union and gives it something concrete to build on.

The concept of headship and submission within a marriage are addressed later in the chapter. Lewis brings up several valid arguments that support the biblical principle of the husband being the head of the family, and the wife submitting to his leadership. He points out that “in a council of two there can be no majority” (p. 113) and therefore someone must be in the position to make the tie casting vote. Some would say that a marriage is made up of three, the third person being God. If you take this concept and apply it, God would be the deciding vote, and since He says in the bible that the husband is to lead, then His vote would naturally go with the husband.  Either way, the husband has the final say. Lewis also points out that the husband and wife discuss things and are generally in agreement. He doesn’t suggest that a husband rule over his wife in a dictatorial manner, he implies that there is teamwork and a sharing of ideas that takes place prior to the husband having a final say when an agreement cannot be reached. This idea is very controversial in our current cultural climate, but I think the controversy comes from the various ways one can interpret the word submit. Lewis avoids this problem by not using the word, and instead focusing on the biblical mandate that the husband is to lead. It is a well laid argument that applies to all marriages, regardless of one’s race, nationality, or generation.

An aspect of Christ that Lewis emphasizes that is sometimes overlooked, although somewhat acknowledged, is the act of Christ forgiving everyone. We often look at this as Christ forgave me for my sins or Christ forgave you for your sins. But we overlook the fact that Christ “told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured” (p.51). In Luke, when Jesus is anointed by a woman who had led a sinful life, he tells her that her sins are forgiven and that her faith has saved her (Luke 7:36-50), he doesn’t ask permission he simply forgives. To apply it today, Jesus forgives the person who commits sexual assault or murder without ever asking the victim if it’s okay with them that their perpetrator be forgiven. It’s a hard lesson to accept, especially when we have been wronged by someone. But it is healing when we can turn that hurt over to Christ and see everyone as Christ sees them: a reflection of God who is valuable regardless of the number or severity of their sins. Jesus has already forgiven them; how can we do any less?

C.S. Lewis started out his idea of mere Christianity with the hope to encourage and help others on their walk with Christ. He wanted to help establish Christians in their faith. His ability to take complex topics like theology, ethics, or philosophy and transform them into topics more readily understood by the common man by using everyday vocabulary and imagery is what has helped his book be successful long after the time period in which he wrote. Mere Christianity would be great in a new believer’s class at a local church. In such a setting, the facilitator could help participants overcome some of the more off-putting characteristics of the book; such as some of the verbiage, or some of the rather sexist comments made throughout. Lewis’ book continues to span generations and cultures because of the impact it has on others. As new believers give testimony to how his book helped them accept Christ, more people open the book to see what all the fuss is about. As long as Mere Christianity is impacting lives, it will continue to be passed on and recommended to others.

References

Lewis, C.S. (2015). Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins.

McGrath, A. (2013). C. S. Lewis: A life – Eccentric genius, reluctant prophet. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House.

Moreland, J.P. (2009, April 17). What is Natural Moral Law. Retrieved from http://www.equip.org/article/what-is-natural-moral-law/

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Meek not Tame

Meek not TameLion

It is often assumed that that which is good is also safe, and that which is safe is always good.  However, when one looks at the definitions of both safe and good, it is easy to see that the two do not always go hand in hand. Safe is easily defined as being free from harm or risk (Safe, n.d.), and good in reference to describing someone as having favorable character (Good, n.d.). In The Chronicles of Narnia: The lion the witch and the wardrobe, Mr. Beaver tells the Pevensie children, “Course [Aslan] isn’t safe. But he’s good” (Lewis, 1978, p. 86). By this I believe that Mr. Beaver is telling the children that Aslan’s character is good and trustworthy, but he is still powerful and to be respected.

Alister McGrath, in his biography C. S. Lewis: A life – Eccentric genius, reluctant prophet, points out that some of the main characteristics of Aslan that C.S. Lewis worked to portray in his novels were those of awe, wonder, and a sense of a wild – not tame – lion (2013, p.288). Lewis’ goal, which I feel he achieves, is to make the reader envision a lion that is under control but definitely no pet. Aslan is not your buddy, he is controlled power with absolute authority. When the children meet Aslan at the tent, and the following meeting with the witch at the same tent shows how Aslan is both good and unsafe. He is kind to the children in his greeting and his voice brings them comfort. Later with his meeting with the witch he shows how he is trustworthy when he bargains for Edmond’s life, and as the witch is leaving Aslan shows a glimpse of his power when he roars mightily and sends the witch scampering away in fear. Aslan is both good in his character and unsafe in his ability to lose his power and cause damage if he wished.

Aslan is the Christ of Narnia. He is not so much a type of Christ as much as he is the Christ of Narnia if a place such as Narnia existed. As such, Aslan has many of the qualities of Christ, but being a character created by man rather than the Son of God as man, Aslan falls a little short in the Christ department. That aside, I think as a representative of Christ – the parallel’s fit.

One of my favorite bible verses is Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (NIV). Reading through the bible, one comes across the phrase “fear the Lord” often. The word fear refers to a sense of terror, respect, reverence and awe in reference to the Lord (How is the fear…, n.d.). Jesus is God, though in the New Testament he is now revered as God until after he rises from the dead. We catch glimpses of the disciples fearing Jesus’ power such as the moment when Jesus calms the storm in Mark chapter 4. Knowing that Jesus is God gives us more insight into who he is and what he is capable of.  Jesus is good, his character is trustworthy. Jesus, being God, has the complete power of God at his disposal and yet chooses not to unleash it when any sensible human who isn’t also fully God surly would have: on the cross.

C.S. Lewis took a lot of time to work in a lot of parallels between Christ and Aslan in order to help one imagine and connect the two together within the world of Narnia. Both were powerful, yet gentle. They were both able to inspire awe and terror simultaneously. Aslan was the Son of the Great Emperor who lived beyond the great sea, Christ is the Son of God who resides in Heaven.  Both Christ and Aslan gave themselves up willingly as an innocent sacrifice in the place of another who had done wrong. And the big finish – both were raised from the dead, conquering evil and defeating death. The major defining characteristics of Christ are aptly described and displayed in the character of Aslan.

While Aslan is not a type of Christ, he is a visual representation of who Christ may look like in a world like Narnia if a world such as Narnia did in fact exist. Aslan gives us a way to view the character of Christ in a way that may make it more tangible. Aslan is not tame, nor is Christ weak.  They are both, however, meek.

References

Good (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/good

“How is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom?” (n.d.). Retrieved [September 25, 2017], from https://www.gotquestions.org/fear-Lord-beginning-wisdom.html

Lewis, C.S. (2001). The lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. New York: HarperCollins.

McGrath, A. (2013). C. S. Lewis: A life – Eccentric genius, reluctant prophet. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House.

Safe (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/safe

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Prevailing Fire

Prevailing Fireheart

Fire. It is a necessity of life. Vital for survival. Is it no wonder then that love in all its forms is described with words attributed to fire? Burning. Consuming. Encompassing. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians tells us that without love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). “Love…is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit” (Lewis, 2015, p.109), it is an action and actions are choices. In his chapter on Christian marriage, Lewis talks a lot about love and these same principles of love easily roll over in application to our walk with God. Love is a choice: love is an action.

Lewis begins by pointing out that the fundamental principles of Christian marriage are widely unpopular. There are four unpopular points discussed. The first being that sexual intercourse is reserved for married people only, and exclusively for the couple. Extramarital affairs are not allowed. The second principle is that marriage is for life. It’s a vow not to be broken under any circumstances. A third principle is that marriage is based on love; the action kind, not the feeling. The final principle discussed is regarding the headship of the husband. In a council of two there can be no majority vote, so in the event of a disagreement someone must have the deciding vote and that person is the husband. These principles of Christian marriage are true today, and their unpopularity continues.

Throughout his entire chapter, Lewis talks a lot about love. He talks about the difference between the feeling of being in love, and the actionable choice to love someone whether you feel it or not. A feeling cannot be taught, actions and habits can. In Titus 2:4 Paul teaches that older women should “train the younger women to love their husbands and children.” You cannot train someone to feel something, but you can train them to do something. Lewis does not discount the feeling of love as he points out that the feeling of love is the explosion that starts the marriage union, and it is the actions of love that the marriage endures.

One aspect in his discussion that I did not appreciate, though I understood his reasoning, was regarding his statement that “if people do not believe in permanent marriage, it is perhaps better that they should live together unmarried than that they should make vows they do not mean to keep” (Lewis, p. 106). As he explains further, “unchastity is not improved by adding perjury” (p. 107).  While I agree that it is not good to compound one sin by adding another to it, I also do not agree that it is better for someone to cohabitate just because they don’t want to commit to marriage. Lewis shares that cohabitation is wrong, but his statement quoted above is not accurate and rather frustrating to me.

In our Christian walk, there are hills and valleys. Our Christian walk, just like our marriages, cannot survive on feelings alone. They are dependent upon a commitment by all parties to remain true to each other, through the low and high points and everything in between. The love between a husband and wife, just as our love with Christ, must be a prevailing fire: one that burns steady, endures trials, enjoys successes, and ultimately celebrates victory when the entire race of life has been won. It is possible, and it is very encouraging. In my marriage, and in my walk with Christ, I look forward to finishing life and saying, like Paul in his letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

References

Lewis, C.S. (2015). Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins.

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Reading Guide for The Screwtape Letters

Reading Guide for The Screwtape Letters

  1. In the very first letter between Screwtape and Wormwood, Screwtape advises that “Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church” (Lewis, p.1). Have you ever found yourself in a debate over something only to find that you agree with the other person, you just chose to interpret a word differently? How important, then, is it to take the time, particularly regarding faith, to define key words before discussing an issue further?

 

  1. A key theme of discussion throughout The Screwtape Letters is one of pulling the patient back to their old patterns and habits. Upon salvation, these habits remain. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells believers to “put off your old self… and put on the new self” (Ephesians 4:22-24). As a believer, have you ever found yourself reverting back to an old self sin, even when it had been years since you were saved? In hindsight, did you see a slippery slope that caused you to end up back where you started? In preparation for the future, what safeguards can you put in place to prevent that from happening again?

 

  1. One idea that presents itself multiple times in the book is the idea of focusing on the present versus thinking of the past or the future. In the sixth letter, Screwtape tells Wormwood that their job “is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them” (p.25) and in the fifteenth letter, Screwtape further explains the reasoning behind keeping a future focus as it is “least like eternity” (p.76). Can you think of a place in scripture where the bible addresses how we are to treat or think about the future?

 

  1. Once the patient in the letters becomes a Christian, Screwtape’s letters to Wormwood are full of suggestions on how to pull the patient away from God. To tempt him away. It is suggested that the little sins are those which will pull them away more efficiently. Do you find this to be the case elsewhere in life? Where it’s the little baby steps, the little compromises that cause the greatest problems?

 

  1. A recurring mention in the book is that of actions versus words or thoughts. How important is it to put into action what we commit to in our minds? Is it enough to just believe the right things if our actions do not show that belief? If we fail to show with our actions what we believe, do you think we actually believe it?

 

  1. Humility and humbleness are some of the most misunderstood words or character qualities in the English language. What do you believe them to mean and how do you see them being demonstrated? Which definition did you more closely align with originally when reading the fourteenth letter?

 

  1. In the eighteenth letter, we see Screwtape changing subtly what God says about marriage. Screwtape tells Wormwood what God did and did not say regarding marriage and that they “can make the humans ignore” what God didn’t say or rather the fact that He didn’t say it. Satan seems to be really good at causing us to add to what God said, much like the garden of Eden when Satan’s questions causes Eve to add to what God said by saying that “God said…and you must not touch it” (Genesis 3:3). How important is it then that we memorize God’s word and not just the general idea of what He is saying in His word?

 

  1. In the twenty-first letter, Screwtape addresses time. Prior to reading this letter, would you have looked at time as something that is entirely God’s? Christians are often advised to begin each day asking God what He would have them do with their time that day. By applying the principle that it is actually God’s time, not ours – how much different would that prayer be if first thing in the morning we asked God, “The time I have today is a gift from you. It is your time, how would you like me to spend it?”

 

  1. King David had a very real sense of who possessed everything on Earth. In Psalm 24:1 he wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (NIV). Do you think that if we reminded ourselves daily that nothing is ours, that we may be more generous and charitable to others?  If we remember that the money in our pocket is not ours, the place we live is not ours, the car we legally own is still not ours. Would we be more giving?

 

  1. “We do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over into their political life, for the establishment of anything like a really just society would be a major disaster” (p.126). Do you believe that this would be the case? Do you believe that it would even be possible? Not just in the United States, but in any country.

 

  1. The overreaching theme throughout the entire book is one of temptation. Where does temptation come from? In James chapter 1, we are reminded that “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:13b-14, NIV). It is helpful to be reminded that God does not tempt us. So anytime we find ourselves facing temptation, we can know that the devil is at work but that God is close at hand ready and able to assist us in fleeing should we but ask.

References

Lewis, C.S. (2001). Screwtape letters. New York: HarperCollins.

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Legacy of Love

Today we held a memorial service for my mother-in-law who passed away last week.

I met this wonderful lady in the summer of 1998, two weeks after I met SSPX0132my husband. I remember addressing her as Mrs. Bates and received the immediate reply, “Call me Linda or call me mom.”  Seeing as how I was 15 years old at the time… mom it was because there was no way I was addressing an adult by their first name.

Linda was a giver. She always gave of whatever she had: time, money, food, possessions, love. She loved caring for others. If someone had a need, she would take care of it if she could.

When Ken and I found ourselves stranded in Idaho in the process of moving from Oregon to Wyoming due to a hotel billing error… she wired us the funds to get us to Casper.

When I was six months pregnant, low on funds, and my nightgowns not fitting anymore… she went shopping and surprised me with nightgowns that fit.

Whenever a birthday, anniversary, or holiday rolled around I knew that whatever I was short on or unable to buy at the time… she would find out and take care of.  I have a full set of towels, bed sheets, kitchen towels, kitchen utensils, tablecloths, and cookie cutters because of her generosity.

When the girls had a fundraiser and they needed just one more to reach their goal… Grandma Linda always pulled through.

When our air conditioner broke and we had resolved ourselves to the heat until we could save up for a new one… she went out and bought one so her granddaughters would be more comfortable in the house.

When I was in labor with Rachel… Linda sat in the hospital with me when Ken needed to walk.  She always said she was just being available because she said she didn’t like hospitals. When I was in labor with Galatia, she and Mara Lee slept at the apartment with me and almost ended up delivering Galatia in the bathtub! She waited in the waiting room for Corinthia.  But she was always there, ready.

As she lost her eyesight in more recent years, I had the privilege of spending time with her and returning the favor by helping her.  I loved taking her shopping for groceries, arguing with her at the checkout line over who was paying for the few things I grabbed for myself at the store, and playing who could hide the money best.

One weekend in late August, Ken, my girls, and I went over to her house to help her clean up her front and back yards.  She sat in the front on her bench and supervised while the rest of use mowed, ran the weed eater, swept the sidewalks, and straightened the bricks. Afterwards, she surprised us with dinner out.

Over Labor Day weekend, we stopped after one of Rachel’s games so Rachel could show her grandma her uniform.  We helped her move beds and rearrange the bedrooms.  She showed off the new paint and the girls played with Molly. There was a lot of laughter and lots of hugs and kisses good-bye.  It was the last time the girls would see their grandma. It was the last time I would see her healthy.

I told her several times how thankful I was to her for raising such a fine man as Ken to be my husband. She took him to church when he was little.  If it was not for her taking him to church he would not have become a Christian.  Had he not become a Christian, I would never have met him at church. Had I not met him at church, we would never have had children or got married.  Because she took him to church – I have a wonderful husband, three beautiful daughters, and a legacy of faith to continue to pass down for generations to come.

At the services today, my husband summed up her life with three words: Live, Laugh, Love. They are words that aptly describe my mother-in-law and I am incredibly blessed to have known her for 19 years. I will miss her dearly.

*The picture is from around 2007 with Rachel and Galatia. They thought it was so cool that their Grandma got to ride the school bus every day as an adult.

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