A Mighty Weapon In The Devil’s Arsenal (A False Sense Of Security)

If you know me, or read my blog occasionally, you know that I am a huge C.S. Lewis fan. One of the books that C.S. Lewis wrote is called the Screwtape Letters. It is a fictional account of a high ranking demon, Screwtape, communicating with a junior ranking demon, wormwood. The gist of their conversation is all about how they can get Christians to give into temptation and to become ineffective in the service of God. Or, how they can keep people from ever becoming Christians in the first place. I have written a piece before about how Satan tries to get Christians distracted by politics. You can see that post HERE.

The motivation for this blog comes specifically from Romans 2:17-29 (which I will be preaching from this coming Sunday). Romans 2:17-29 is a passage that is primarily about how easy it is for people to have a false sense of security when it comes to being a Christian. So here we go…

Screwtape: I have been working on a new spiritual weapon that is showing signs of keeping the lost sons and daughters of our adversary from converting to the other side. In fact, it is so successful that I am getting more of our personnel, like you, involved in this mission.

Wormwood: Tell me more.

Screwtape: To be honest, which I hate to do, this strategy is really is not new at all. Back in the days when the son of the adversary walked the earth we tried this tactic with tremendous success. The cursed Apostle Paul wrote the book of Romans, in part, to stop our conspiracy against the king. This strategy has many names, but it has to do with giving people a false sense of spiritual security. Imagine this for a moment. People live most of their lives falsely believing that they have left our kingdom and are in the kingdom of light. I’m not sure how well educated you are, but approximately two thousand years ago years we were able to get large segments of the Jewish people to believe that their salvation was secure if they obeyed the law and were circumcised.

Wormwood: I have heard many stories about how this cost millions of people their eternal lives.

Screwtape: You are correct. We have been working hard in America to roll out a new version of this strategy. Of course keeping the law and circumcision mean nothing to religious people in the States. So we need to give them something else, besides the son of the adversary, to put their trust in.

Wormwood: So, what will we give to people that will give them a false sense of security?

Screwtape: I was just getting to that. The first one is to give them the idea that if they are good enough, or better than other people they know, that they are actual Christians. Humans have this wonderful habit of thinking that their good works are sufficient merit for entering the into the enemy’s kingdom.

The second one is religion. Yes, religion. If we can get people to think that church attendance and going through the religious motions is enough our battle is nearly won. A part of the religious strategy is get them to think that because they said a prayer when they were young that they are spiritually secure. Another tactic is to get them to think that because they were baptized that their name has therefore been written in the Book of Life. You and I know the Scriptures quite well and the enemy never indicates that a person is converted by baptism, yet they fall for this time after time. We have kids growing up watching their parents live compromised lives and concluding that Christianity is something they can leave behind once they get to college or out of the house.

Wormwood: I love it. I am more than happy to enlist my services for this mission. What will the result be if we are effective?

Screwtape: Great question. There are three primary devastating results that come from getting people to buy into these lies.

One, apathy. These people live lives with very little passion for the enemy. Sure, they go to church twice a month, but they love the same things that the world loves. They try to do some good things. They stay out of trouble for the most part. But there is very little zeal and excitement about the adversary’s son and the work he is doing on earth.

Two, the church is powerless. We are slowly filling up churches with goats, not sheep. The result is that churches in America are happy just doing the same old thing. They don’t want to hear about sacrifice. They don’t want to hear about living as missionaries. Instead, they have become ripe for the prosperity gospel and living a life of comfort and ease.

Three, the world looks at the church as irrelevant and hypocritical. The world sees that the people who go to church and claim the name of the enemy live just like them. The world is concluding that there is no meaningful difference between a Christian and anyone else in their culture.

5 Mistakes We Make When Going Through Difficult Times

What if instead of trying to quickly getting through the trial that may be experiencing we stopped and considered that God is trying to do something in our lives? What if instead of running or escaping the pain we stopped and listened to what God was trying to communicate to us?

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. 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.” -C.S. Lewis

Recently God has been challenging me through his Word to consider how he is trying to speak to me, grow me, and reveal his love to me through the trials of life. So can I share with you a few of my thoughts regarding the role of trials in our lives?

  1. We forget that God wants to use our trials to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. I would NOT choose suffering or trials as the instrument whereby I become more like Christ. Instead, I would choose reading the Bible while drinking coffee. I try to shield myself from pain in every conceivable way. Usually it is to my spiritual detriment. Yet if I am going to be honest with what I read in Scripture I must conclude that God uses my pain for redemptive purposes.  For they (earthly fathers) disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he (heavenly Father) disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. -Hebrews 12:10
  2. We think our joy and happiness depends on our circumstances getting better. Are we merely waiting for the hard times to pass before we think we can experience joy again? The story of the apostle Paul teaches us that our contentment and joy does not need to be rooted in how well life is turning out for us. “I rejoiced greatly that you have revived your concern for me and that you were concerned, but you had no opportunity. Not that I speak of being in need. For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound in any and every circumstance. I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:10-13
  3. We miss out on how we can be a blessing to others because we become focused in like a laser on our circumstances. Don’t get me wrong. There is a time to grieve. There is a time to slow down and allow God to minister to us. But if we always wait for life to go the way that we want before we love and serve others we will find that life has passed us by and we have missed far too many ministry opportunities. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” -2 Corinthians 1:3–5
  4. We lose sight of the truth that trials are one of the ways that God is revealing his love and affection for us. This is the one point that probably stands out to me most at this time in my life. I am tempted to give into discouragement when I am dealing with my spiritual and emotional battles. They seem to be never-ending. But the writer of Hebrews tells us something shocking, God is revealing his love for us when he causes us to walk through a difficult season. He is pruning us. He is molding us. Instead of the trial being a sign of God’s indifference or harshness it is an indication that he loves us enough to seek our growth and transformation. “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” -Hebrews 12:5-6
  5. We isolate ourselves from others in the church. Too often, I believe, we end up making life harder because we disengage and distance ourselves from others when we are struggling. Trust me, I get why people do this! It feels so right to draw back and seek a safe place to lick our wounds. The problem is that God has perfectly designed the body of Jesus Christ (the church) to walk with us and help carry our burdens. As Christians we were never meant to try to get through life on our own. Whether we recognize it or not we desperately need the relationships that are found in the church.  “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” -1 Corinthians 12:21

Questioning Christianity: Dealing with tough questions about the faith

questioning christianityOn Sunday, September 9th I am going to begin a sermon series entitled “Questioning Christianity: Dealing with tough questions about the faith.” It will be six weeks long. Here are the questions we will be asking and answering:

• Science Clearly Contradicts Christianity. Why Believe It?
• Can We Really Trust The Bible?
• How Could A Good God Allow Suffering?
• I’m A Good Person. Why Would I Need God?
• Why Believe In Christianity When So Many Christians Are Hypocrites?
• How Can You Say Jesus Is The Only Way?

I plan on sharing my main points from each sermon here on this blog over the next 6 weeks. During my first sermon (Sep 9th) I will briefly share details about the reluctant conversion of one of Christianity’s greatest writers. Here is a clip from a movie that reconstructs what a conversation between C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien might have looked like. In case you did not know, C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien were good friends in real life. They were also part of a group called the Inklings. You can read more about that group HERE. It is fascinating to think about the impact this group of writers had on the world.

If you want to learn more about Christianity, here are some resources for you to check out:

I would be happy to read through any of these books with you and discuss them. As long as I get to drink coffee at the same time! Another book you may want to check out is all about C.S. Lewis’ story of coming to believe in Jesus, “Surprised by Joy.”

I hope you will come back over the next six weeks as we continue to discuss the questions that many people have regarding Christianity!

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The above picture is of C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien while they were at Oxford University. Picture is taken from gospelheralddotcom.

The Devil and Politics

It’s good for Christians to speak their mind and to be involved with politics. But when does it go too far? I want to argue that it is possible to lose sight of our mission (Great Commission) as a church because we have been swept up in the political and cultural wars of our day.

C.S. Lewis is one of my all-time favorite writers. So much so that my oldest son is named after him (Justice Clive Wallenmeyer.) The following is from me, I just borrowed the idea from The Screwtape Letters. If you are not familiar with The Screwtape Letters it is important to know that it is an allegory. Screwtape is the devil and Wormwood is one of the devil’s demonic servants.

My dear Wormwood,

First of all I want to begin with sincere congratulations. You have exceeded my wildest expectations. One look at social media today makes it very clear that the followers of our enemy have given up the Great Commission so that they can be a part of a large number of “movements”. These Christians have figured out that the Great Commission is hard, tedious work. There is nothing flashy or sexy about it. Instead of spending time getting to know people in their neighborhoods and city they are trying to advance the enemy’s kingdom with hashtags and Facebook rants. Brilliant!  As you know by now, the key is to keep the hearts and minds of our enemies filled with deep angst. Cause them to focus on being right and winning arguments. Give them the delusion that the work they are now doing is a new expression of love.

You, my dear Wormwood, are due for a significant promotion.

In his grip,

Screwtape

 

The Ecclesiastes Moment In The Movie “Boyhood”

movie boyhood
As soon as I saw the trailer for the movie “Boyhood” I wanted to watch it. I am a highly nostalgic person and look back on the days of my youth with a mixture of wonder and regret. If you want to know why the movie is Rated R you can take a look at Christianity Today’s review of the film. I enjoyed the movie but as a father with three young kids I fully realize that this film is not age-appropriate for them.

The movie, as far as I can tell, is one-of-a-kind in the sense that it is filmed over the course of 12 years. It is amazing to watch everyone in the movie grow old right before your eyes.
movie boyhood 1

If you are looking for explosions, car chase scenes, and lots of action you will be incredibly disappointed. The plot is very simply the day-to-day happenings of one family. The simplicity, to me, is the beauty of the film. When you think about it, each one of us has a pretty amazing story played out through everyday life. The film’s star and primary character is Mason played by Ellar Coltrane. The father is played by Ethan Hawke (Mason Sr), the mother (Olivia) by Patricia Arquette.

Throughout the movie you get to watch the highs and lows of Mason’s family. Mason’s mother has an uncanny knack for marrying men with anger issues and serious drinking problems. This leads Mason’s family to continually pack up, move on and keep looking for a better life. One of the things I keenly sensed in the movie is a restlessness. All of the characters seemed to be looking for fulfillment, meaning, a place where they belong. Because of the fact that Mason is such a free-spirited boy at one point in the movie one of his teachers asks him, “What do you want to be Mason? What do you want to do?” Important questions for all of us.

The Ecclesiastes Moment is towards the very end of the movie. Mason is about to head off to college and Olivia completely breaks down, cries, and makes the haunting statement (paraphrased), “I just thought there would be more to life.” Olivia has been through two terrible marriages, worked hard to get back on her feet, earned her Master’s degree and becomes a fairly successful college professor. Yet, as she sees her son head off to college she is left with a nagging feeling that there should be more to life. Life has happened and it was not what she had dreamed it would be. Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, worked harder than most people at finding fulfillment in knowledge, pleasure, wealth and at the end of it all he wrote this…

And what ever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure…Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:10, 11

I think it is fair to say that we all have a deep restlessness and we are longing to find purpose and fulfillment from the stories of our lives. Even as followers of Jesus Christ we can fall into the trap of thinking that we can find happiness in the stuff of this world.

The tragedy is that the ache we all live with can lead us to destroy ourselves as we recklessly pursue the next buzz that we hope will keep us going. Could it be that this ache is a good thing? Perhaps we should acknowledge this craving in our soul for what it truly is, a sacred gift* that has been given to us to point us towards the only one who can truly satisfy us. We find the only source of true fulfillment towards the end of Ecclesiastes…

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth… Ecclesiastes 12:1


*Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. -CS Lewis, Mere Christianity