C.S. Lewis: Fraud or Faithful

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C.S. Lewis: Fraud or Faithful

For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. 1 Thessalonians 2:5

“The fact that you are giving money to a charity does not mean that you need not try to find out whether that charity is a fraud or not.”

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity (Quebec: Samizdat University Press, 2014) 45. I could mine the writings and letters of C.S. Lewis for a lifetime. I think this will be the last such post for now. In the final three months of the year, I will return to the theme of ‘compassion’ in the writings of saints.

Tomorrow we enter the fourth quarter of 2020. It’s the season when most charitable giving happens in the USA. At this time and throughout the year, look for organizations that have the ECFA seal. It means they follow seven standards of responsible stewardship, and their faithfulness is verified with peer accountability.

There are many charlatans out there. They say they are doing one thing and yet, it is a “cloak for covetousness.” Seriously, look up their 990 nonprofit tax files using Guidestar or some other service to see what the top executives are paid. Ask the charities you support to see their financials to know where the money is going.

Once you have done this, then give generously. Invest as a partner. Increase your giving to match your capacity. And reach out to the CEO with a word of encouragment. Take it from me. He or she would appreciate it. Do it because these are challenging times.

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C.S. Lewis: Escape

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

“It is one of the evils of rapid diffusion of news that the sorrows of all the world come to us every morning. I think each village was meant to feel pity for its own sick and poor whom it can help and I doubt if it is the duty of any private person to fix his mind on ills which he cannot help. (This may even become an escape from the works of charity we really can do to those we know.)

A great many people (not you) do now seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don’t think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we’re doing it, I think we’re meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds’ song, and the frosty sunrise.

About the distant, so about the future. It is very dark: but there’s usually light enough for the next step or so. Pray for me always.”

C.S. Lewis in “Letter to Bede Griffiths” dated 20 December 1946 in Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis (New York: Harper One, 2008) 119.

It is not a secret. Anyone who knows me knows that we do not have the news pumped into our home. We have no satellite or cable TV either. With Lewis, I think each of us should serve the needs of those we know and those with whom we work.

Imagine if everyone did this? What if every Christ follower felt pity for the needy around them?

I think Lewis is spot on with his comment about how the news becomes “an escape from the works of charity we really can do to those we know.” The ‘what ifs’ scenarios of life tempt us to hoard instead of help. What if that horrible story I saw on the news happened to me? It leads us to save what we have instead of sharing it. All from watching the news.

Are their threats of civil war? Might another riot break own? Who will win the election?

When we focus on these questions from the news, it causes us to miss the opportunity to laugh and love with those around us, to extend works of charity with generosity. So, here’s an assignment. Take it or leave it. It might be hard for some of you. Turn off the news this week. It’s an escape from service. Instead, give your life in service to others in some way.

And meditate on the Psalms in the process. Read them at the divine hours if necessary to detox from news (6am, 9am, 12noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm and either after 9pm or before 6am). It just might change the rest of your life. For sure, it will give you just enough light to take the next few steps.

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C.S. Lewis: Giving a Chance

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 2 Peter 3:8-10

“Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? is it dial He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. i do not suppose you and i would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade.

But i wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else — something it never entered your head to conceive — comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left?

For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. it will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. it will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity (Quebec: Samizdat University Press, 2014) 38-39.

For further biblical reading on the Day of the Lord, see Joel 2 and Acts 2. While we await that Day, we need to give people a chance like God gave each of us a chance. Our generosity comes into view as extending the grace and truth of Jesus to a broken and hurting world.

That might, practically speaking, take shape as loving our neighbor as ourselves and getting to know people in our neighborhood. Or, it might reach our community or parts of the world where God has us working. When we live this way we join “the secret society” that aims to spread love to the world.

Meditate on the biblical texts mentioned above. Perhaps get outside and do it in a beautiful place like this vineyard in Palisade, Colorado. In so doing, ask God to bring to your mind 3-5 people who still need a chance. Pray for them by name. Fast (skip a meal) each week. The Day of the Lord has never been closer than now.

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C.S. Lewis: Christian Colours

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16

“Mr. Wirt: How can we foster the encounter of people with Jesus Christ?

C.S. Lewis: You can’t lay down any pattern for God. There are many different ways of bringing people into His Kingdom, even some ways that I specially dislike! I have therefore learned to be cautious in my judgment. But we can block it in many ways. As Christians we are tempted to make unnecessary concessions to those outside the faith.

We give in too much. Now, I don’t mean that we should run the risk of making a nuisance of ourselves by witnessing at improper times, but there comes a time when we must show that we disagree. We must show our Christian colours, if we are to be true to Jesus Christ. We cannot remain silent or concede everything away.

C.S. Lewis in “Cross Examination,” in God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998) 262.

Generosity in a world filled with trouble is being salt and light. It’s being useful. People should see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. Notice the Scripture does not say, people will hear our good words.

With Lewis, I think we must avoid “making a nuisance of ourselves.” We do this when our words and works don’t match. Generosity is showing our Christian colours and remaining true to Jesus Christ. We need to remind ourselves that He is watching!

Generosity is helping people encounter Jesus in a manner that is humble and beautiful. It does not remain silent and does not concede everything as morality declines. Instead, it does intentional activities that point people to God.

This comes into view not as telling people what is right and wrong but showing them what is right. To do this at the proper times means to respond when asked. We don’t push our faith on others. Generosity is living rightly and sharing readily.

Rather than sitting around and talking about how bad things are, what if you used what you have for good. Then, when asked, tell people why you are doing it and invite them to join you. Allow your saltiness and shining to point people to the Father in dark times.

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C.S. Lewis: Give Honor to God

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

“But the most obvious fact about praise — whether of God or anything — strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it..”

C.S. Lewis in The Joyful Christian (New York: Macmillan, 1977) 118.

Many don’t think of generosity as flowing out of enjoyment, but track with me (and Lewis) on this. I think it could be an area to make God shine in challenging times.

Most people see enjoyment as an end. Take the pursuit of wine for example. Jesus himself enjoyed it with friends as a gift from God! But, many make the enjoyment of wine an end. It becomes an addiction that does not satisfy and leaves people empty.

If, alternatively, giving glory to God is our aim, we can enjoy things like wine or anything else as a gift from God. In our enjoyment, we celebrate God’s goodness and provision with praise. When we do this, our generosity emerges as a healthy example to the world and praise going to only appropriate place.

Let us give glory to God in our enjoyment. Let’s also remember those who are having hard times. Our enjoyment in moderation positions us to have margin for generous sharing.

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C.S. Lewis: Better Kind of Goodness

Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Luke 18:24

“If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. “Why drag God into it?” you may ask. A certain level of good conduct comes fairly easy to you. You are not one of those wretched creatures who are always being tripped up by sex, or dipsomania, or nervousness, or bad temper. Everyone says you are a nice chap and (between ourselves) you agree with them.

You are quite likely to believe that all this niceness is your own doing: and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought out to recognize their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are “rich” in this sense to enter the Kingdom.”

C.S. Lewis in “Nice People or New Men” in C.S. Lewis: Readings for Meditation and Reflection, edited by Walter Hooper (New York: Harper One, 1992) 138. Shot the new header photo yesterday afternoon. It’s the moon rising over the aspens in fall colors in Vail.

We don’t often think of people who have privileges like health or wealth to be at a disadvantage. Lewis shines the light on the reality that the rich often live like they have everything sorted and don’t need a “better kind of goodness.”

And we don’t help the cause if we call such people “nice chaps.” In reality, we should present ourselves as broken and remind them that all of us are and that natural goodness won’t get us anywhere. This is how Jesus spoke to rich people. We should do likewise.

How should we treat those who are rich in intelligence and popularity, who have status and creature comforts? We must treat them like everyone else and urge them to recognize the need for the better kind of goodness that only comes from Christ.

Quoting Jesus does not hurt too, but it only sticks if our words match the lifestyle we are living. Remind them that letting go of these things is hard, really hard. But what wins the day is testifying to the matchless gain that is only found in Christ.

 

 

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C.S. Lewis: Reward

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:33-34

“The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he [or she] no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love. It must work towards its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous. The hour when we can say “They need me no longer” should be our reward.”

C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1960) 76.

We should serve those who need our help like we launch children: leading them from a place of dependency to discipleship.

For a time, they depend on us. We help them. Then we become superfluous. The reward is that we have reproduced ourselves.

This is God’s design. Regardless of what others are doing, use what you have to build up recipients, so they do the same for others.

This is not about giving a hand-outs but about giving hand-up. And there are eternal implications to this. We can anticipate an unfailing reward.

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C.S. Lewis: Daily Support

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

“Don’t worry (you may of course pray) about being brave over merely possible evils in the future. In the old battles it was usually the reserve, who had to watch the carnage, not the troops who were in it, whose nerve broke first. Similarly, I think you in America feel much more anxiety about atomic bombs than we do: because you are further from the danger. If and when a horror turns up you will then be given grace to help you. I don’t think one is usually given it in advance. “Give us our daily bread” (not an annuity for life) applies to spiritual gifts too; the little daily support for the daily trial. Life has to be taken day by day and hour by hour.”

C.S. Lewis in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950 – 1963 (New York: HarperOne, 2007) 348.

I am convinced that a leading hindrance to generosity is the “annuity for life” mentality. This way of thinking tries to secure one’s future with some flow of money. It is rooted in fear of “possible evils in the future” and avoiding them by stockpiling money. Worst of all, it shuns the biblical mandate of relying upon God.

In this letter, Lewis reminds an American, far from the frontlines of military battle, that the grace to face challenges is daily support from God. We don’t locate peace through worry. We only find it by prayer. And it is certainly not secured through assuring some level of income.

If we are worried about the future, we are focused on the wrong realm. The future is in God’s hands and not ours to try to control or worry about. Instead, we must live life “day by day and hour by hour.” So, what do you worry about? It is an important question to ask yourself.

Every possible horror in life has only one antidote. It is the grace of God. The more we sit back and watch life happening around us the more anxiety we will feel. Don’t let that be you. Don’t let fear immobilize you or hinder your generosity. Live life generously day by day by faith.

 

 

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C.S. Lewis: The Magician’s Bargain

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36

“It is the magician’s bargain: give up our soul, get power in return. but once our souls, that is, ourselves, have been given up, the power thus conferred will not belong to us. We shall in fact be the slaves and puppets of that to which we have given our souls.”

C.S. Lewis in The Abolition of Man (Quebec: Samizdat University Press, 2014) 36.

When it comes to the human pursuit of power, pleasure, and possessions, we become slaves and puppets to whatever we think conquer with competitive aggression. I have found this to be true in my life. Perhaps you would concur?

Lewis calls it “the Magician’s Bargain” because it we get fooled. No one is immune to this. In a materialistic society, we are owned by things or possessions we possess. For those who collect a ‘bucket list’ of experiences, the same is true. As they tick off the items on the list, each gives less satisfaction than anticipated. The quest consumes them. And for the person who endlessly pursues knowledge (admittedly I am such a person), Solomon’s words ring too true. The pursuit is exhausting.

Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Ecclesiastes 12:12

So, how should we relate to power, pleasure, and possessions? With Lewis, I would argue, see them neither as bad (to be avoided) or good (to be collected), but tools (to be useful). Only when used rightly do they help us accomplish our purpose. That is, in the words of Milton, “to know God and out of that knowledge to love and imitate Him.” How have you been fooled by the Magician’s bargain? It’s not too late choose another course. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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C.S. Lewis: Rifle, Hospital, and Some Advice

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

“My feeling about people in whose conversation I have been allowed to play a part is always mixed with awe and even fear: such as a boy might feel on being first allowed to fire a rifle. The disproportion between his puny finger on the trigger and the thunder and lightning which follow is alarming. And the seriousness with which the other party takes my words always raises the doubt whether I have taken them seriously enough myself. By writing the things I write, you see, one especially qualifies for being hereafter “condemned out of own’s own mouth.” Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier could give some advice”

C.S. Lewis in “Letter to Sheldon Vanauken” dated 22 April 1953 in A Severe Mercy (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1977) 134.

I got to shoot a long-range rifle last week in South Dakota at a friend’s ranch. The target was 450 yards away. I was simultaneously excited and scared to pull the trigger.

Imagine the extremes. That’s what Lewis is trying to get us to grasp.

God is giving me perspective on life and work. He is calling me to a deeper place of humility. It’s hard to describe which is why I identify with how Lewis uses the rifle and hospital motifs.

As kindness was my word last year and compassion this year, it interesting that humility is often coupled with these traits. Perhaps that will be my word for next year? Undoubtedly, these traits are interconnected.

Lest our words and actions condemn us, we need to pause to discern how we ourselves are clothed.

As we start another week, I want to remind us all that if we are generous or help others grow, we must avoid thinking to less or too much of ourselves. We are not the message but only His messengers.

And if we do offer advice, let’s do it like this: “Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier could give some advice”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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