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Aslan Is on The Move

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Are you watching a lot of movies these days while you are asked to stay home?  Many (if not most) likely said, “Yes.”  My husband and I love movies as well and have been looking through our own collection as well as what we have available online. The choices are many, but we are discovering that the movies we are looking for are those that encourage our hearts with great stories of courage. That includes the three Narnia movies made some years ago that played well to children of all ages as well as The Lord of the Rings series.

 

Who better to encourage our hearts than J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis whose words were penned during another hard time in this world? Both men served in WW I and their stories were born out of how they grappled with the evil and challenges they lived through on the battlefield and beyond.

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Why do they attract us and what can they say to us now?

 

Joseph Loconte wrote an excellent book entitled A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War that opens a great deal of insight into the answers to those very questions.

 

“The characters in their imaginative works are continually tested by the choices set before them. Each is involved in a great moral contest, a struggle against forces that would devour their souls.”

 

We too are being tested as everything about our way of life just a few weeks ago has been altered. It may seem like choices have been taken away from us whether we are ill or healthy, but on either side, there are choices.

 

We have a choice of whether we are consumed by the noise of the media of all types giving us information that is often tainted by the need for a headline. If we are, then we can find fear and concern being fueled and we can begin to believe we have no choice at all because we do not hear hope or how long our current state will last, how long we must endure.

 

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We long for rescue and a quick end to all this. So did the characters in these stories, but their rescue did not always come or come when and how they hoped. Aslan appeared to rescue Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in one way as they were untested and had never known him before. It was only the beavers that told them about him or that he was on the move before they even met him.

 

The second story, Prince Caspian, results in these same characters plus a few new ones caught up in another battle because Narnia had been lost to those who did not follow Aslan. They wanted Aslan to move because now they knew he could, but Aslan did not move in the same way. And he was waiting on them to use what they already knew to show the character he had developed in them.

 

That truth reminds me of Paul writing in Romans:

 

“1-2 By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

3-5 There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”

Romans 5: 1-5 (MSG)

 

So, we have a choice in what we allow to guide us, be our focus, and sustain us through a crisis of an undetermined length. Tokien and Lewis had no idea how long the ravages of war would last when they fought in the midst of the Battle of the Somme.

 

The works of Tolkien and Lewis both depict wars and epic battles with seen and unseen forces of evil. Their stories remind us of a war we often miss when our calendars are filled, and we are busy going to and fro.

 

“The most influential Christian writers of the twentieth century believed that every human soul was caught up in a very great story: a fearsome war against a Shadow of Evil that has invaded the world to enslave the sons and daughters of Adam. Yet those who resist the Shadow are assured they will not be left alone; they will be given the gift of friendship amid their struggle and grief. Even more, they will find grace and strength to persevere, to play their part in the story, however long it endures and wherever it may lead them.”

Joseph Loconte

 

These two men had a choice to make not only on the battlefield, but when they came home. Look at the example they offer each of us now:

 

“After returning to England from the front, Tolkien and Lewis might easily have joined the ranks of the rootless and disbelieving. Instead, they became convinced there was only one truth, one singular event, that could help the weary and brokenhearted find their way home: the Return of the King.”

Joseph Loconte.

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Are You Following the Breadcrumbs?

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Some of you may recall the well-known German children’s fairytale about two children named Hansel and Gretel who went walking in the deep woods leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way back home. Sadly, it didn’t work out very well for them because the breadcrumbs are eaten by various animals and they are lured into a trap by a wicked witch in a house made of gingerbread and candy.

 

Most of us would never trust a trail made of breadcrumbs and in the modern era we would be pulling out our phones to GPS our way into the woods and back home again.

 

The image of a breadcrumb trail also can be a metaphor of how we follow a path little-by-little without being clear of the direction it will sometimes take us to lead us to the place we are to go.

 

Eric and Kristen Hill use that metaphor in their powerful book, The First Breakfast, to describe how Jesus, the Bread of Life, led his disciples little by little along a path to deepen their understanding of who He really was as well as show them who they really were.

 

In this Lenten season when our attention it being pulled to stories of pandemic and economic collapse, is it possible that we have forgotten He is leading us through this time as He led them through those last days and hours to show us more of who He is as well as who we are?

 

It was a time of testing for the disciples of Jesus during those last precious days and hours as He talked intimately with them, shared a meal with them, prayed with them, and gently told them who they would show themselves to be in the terrible hours of his arrest and crucifixion.

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Photo by Renato Abati from Pexels

 

This is a time of testing for us even as it was for the disciples then that will reveal who He is and how we relate to Him, if we not only know about Him but enjoy an intimate relationship with Him. Some of us might already be discovering our words spoken so assuredly just weeks ago when life was easier fall silent now. Deep inside we may wonder if we will pass this test or like Peter, proclaim without question that we will do so.

 

So much is written about Peter during those last hours before the cross. Much of what is said is negative because it appears, he failed the test. But when you think of those passages, take another look. In the midst of a large group of soldiers armed to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where the odds were not in Peter’s favor, he was willing to take up a sword against all caution to try to defend Jesus. You might say he was impulsive and perhaps he was, but he also displayed courage.

 

It was also Peter of all the disciples who followed after Jesus to where He would be questioned and beaten. Peter came as close as he could be to be near Jesus. I have no doubt the words Jesus had spoken to him about denying him were long forgotten until after the rooster crowed.

 

It is at that moment that Peter can also look across the courtyard as Jesus is being led away and for this last time Jesus looks directly into Peter’s eyes according to Luke 22:60-62.

 

What must that have been like for him?

 

In The First Breakfast Eric and Kristen Hill write that the Greek word used to describe the look between them is one that means an “earnest look that penetrates the heart.”  “It is to look in a sustained, concentrated way, with special ‘interest, love, or concern’.” It is also the same word used in John 1:42 when Jesus first called Peter and Andrew to follow Him.

 

So how could Peter deny Him?

 

Was he simply a coward when he had not given that impression as he traveled for three years with Jesus?

 

Eric and Kristen Hill posit a different perspective to consider:

 

“…underneath his denial is a current of pain and confusion, and a deep desire for the script to be different. Maybe his mind was filled with thoughts like, “No! This isn’t how It is supposed to be! He’s God! I’ve seen it with my own eyes! And he’s just giving up? I guess He isn’t who I thought He was at all. He winningly gave Himself over to be arrested, beaten, and spit on – I don’t know that man at all.”

 

We cannot say what the truth is, but when I consider the words of these writers it is not hard to imagine given my own life experience of how I respond to someone doing something so different than what I believe they would ever do.

 

This part of the gospel story is poignant for so many reasons, but during this troubling time in our own world we may yet be surprised at our own response to and about the Lord. If we do not respond as we think we might or hope we would, there is also another image in this story we must not miss.

 

Both times Jesus looked at Peter, there was only love in his eyes

 

How can that be? Wouldn’t He have been disappointed even though Jesus knew what Peter would say and do?

 

That’s where the stunning truth shines clearly:

 

“But in the eyes of Jesus, there is only love. The gaze of Jesus holds forgiveness for sin. He sees us not as we are, but as we are in Him.”

Eric and Kristen Hill

 

“38 So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. 39 There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”

Romans 8:38-39 (TPT)

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Are You A Game Changer?

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I can almost hear you saying, “Who me?” as you read this title. Then after the question comes those other things so many of us say – “I am just a …” or “I am not…” But if we say that (I can be tempted too.), we are missing the big picture truth.

 

Today as I was reading a note in my study Bible, I read this fabulous sentence:

 

“…everyday faithfulness by ordinary people can, by God’s grace, change history forever.”

 

The note was connected to 1 Samuel 1 and the example was Hannah (future mother of Samuel, the prophet) who was just a wife and a woman dealing with the agony of barrenness crying out to God in the midst of her situation not once or twice but repeatedly.

 

If you know the story at all you know that God answered and gave her a baby boy, Samuel, who would be a major prophet in Israel and anoint its first two kings, Saul and David. Can you imagine waiting for a child and then dedicating that child back to the Lord after he was weaned? I am sad to say I cannot. Her faithfulness and God’s response results in her taking Samuel to minister in the Lord’s Temple for the rest of his life.

 

That faithfulness is then rewarded with more children – three sons and two daughters.

 

Hannah is not the first person you might think of when you reflect on stories in the Bible, but she was a game changer for sure. Her faithfulness changed the course of history. So did the choices of Rahab despite not being a member of the tribe of Israel. She too became a game changer and her life was spared as a result.

 

It doesn’t take a long time in reading the Bible to discover a lot of the game changers that altered history are not all the big-name folks that immediately come to mind.

 

Why is that important?

 

As the world around us is reeling and fear seeks to overwhelm us, sending us shrinking into a corner until this crisis passes, the Lord is looking for ordinary people whose “everyday faithfulness” change history right now. That may not be on the world stage and may receive no accolades, but it matters to the Lord and also to what He may lead you to be during this time.

 

I know you are hearing many ideas being offered about this very thing and they are good. Even so, that place of “everyday faithfulness” you may be called to might look quite different. Right now, we are scattered rather than together in one place or another and that opens endless possibilities to the Lord and can help us keep our perspective in alignment.

 

One small light in a dark place can create an incredible amount of light.

 

“Everyday faithfulness by ordinary people can, by God’s grace, change history forever.”

 

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An Ancient Struggle Returns

 

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Few things aggravate most of us as much as being told “no” that we cannot do something we want to do or believe we should be able to do. We delude ourselves into believing we are not selfish and demanding until we face that big little word “no.” Even though we ascribe it as an issue for toddlers, the truth is that it remains an issue for us and right now in this season of crisis around the world we can see it more clearly.

 

Whatever corner of the world we live in, we are being asked to cease doing much of what we do routinely even if we are currently healthy and well. And to make it harder, we are being told that it could be for longer than a few days or even weeks. Each of us is faced with what we choose to do if we are still in a place where the choice is ours.

 

In some cases, leaders are learning from history. They look at how cities, towns, and countries responded to the great pandemic of Spanish Flu that circled the globe in 1918-1919. What they discover is that those who took more radical steps to curtail social exposure had fewer deaths. A great comparison is looking up the difference between St. Louis, MO, and Philadelphia, PA, during that time.

 

Humankind has never liked the word “no” as it is sown into our DNA. Our oldest relatives, Adam and Eve, set us up for this when they could not accept “no” about only one tree in the beautiful Garden of Eden so long ago. Their rebellion haunts us and lingers in us to varying degrees.

 

We can be lulled into living as if all we have will always be readily available whenever we want it or need it, paying little heed to knowing we each receive life one day, one moment at a time.       person-pouring-milk-in-highball-glass-1435706

 

We also don’t do well preparing for things we do not have experience with at the moment. How many laughed and mocked Noah when he built an ark instructed by the Lord when humankind had never seen rain, rainstorms or any kind of flood before?

 

Too many among us don’t like to study history but fail to realize the gifts it offers us to help us living in the now.

 

The current crisis will be weathered best by those who trust in the One who only has told us “no” when it was for our own good and by those who submit to the authorities over them seeking to help us before we fall prey to a worsening situation.

 

Fear knocks on the doors of many hearts, minds, and spirits, but fear will defeat us if we ignore what biblical and world history teaches us. Foolishness will also defeat us if we ignore what fear is reminding us to take heed of.

 

As Dr. Dan Allender and Dr. Tremper Longman III wrote in 1994 in Cry of the Soul, our emotions reveal our deepest questions about God. As they write about the emotion of fear, here are some key points they offer:

 

“Different people fear different things with different levels of intensity, but all of us fear what we cannot control.”

 

 “Fear is provoked when the threat of danger (physical or relational) exposes our inability to preserve what we cherish most deeply.”

 

 No one would likely argue with either of these statements, but consider what else they wrote about fear:

 

IMG_3591“Fear can function as a warning light when danger is near. It can function to keep ourselves from harm.”

 

Some of us are blessed right now to have warning lights going off. We are not ill as yet and we can give up on our stubborn desires to go about life as though nothing is happening and say “no” to restrictions, or we can see those warning lights of caution as a gift of love for our protection.

 

John Eldredge recently released a new free app (Pause) in conjunction with his newly released book, Get Your Life Back. The app allows you to practice a pause to reflect – first for just one minute at times you set each day and then to increase to three, five, and ten minutes. The one-minute pause shows a beautiful mountain waterfall with beautiful music in the background as John speaks these words we could all use at present:

 

“Jesus – I give everyone and everything to you.

I give everyone and everything to you, God.

I give myself to you, Jesus,

For union with you.

I am created for union with you, God.

I give everything in me for union with you, Lord.

I need more of you, God.

Fill me with more of you.”

 

When everything in us wants to shout “no”, may we submit to Him and say “yes.”

 

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How Well Do We Know God’s Character?

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In the fast-paced “get ahead” culture of the day, I sometimes wonder if the old-fashioned virtue of character has been left at the side of the road as we race ahead. It was once taught not only in churches, but homes and schools as well. It was a time when a person’s word was their bond and deals were sealed with a handshake instead of pages and pages of a contract written in legalese.

 

Perhaps one of our problems is that we have diluted and individualized our definition of character. We may feel our actions or words are totally appropriate but condemn those of someone we disagree with when they exhibit the same ones.

 

But it isn’t just the character of our fellow human beings we fail to understand or recognize. It is difficult to be sure of whether or not we recognize and understand the character of God. And if we do not, then how can we truly have faith?

 

“Biblical faith rests on the character of God.”

Debbie Wilson in Little Faith, Big God

 

Too often from Old Testament days to the present his character has been based on whether we see Him as benevolent or doing those things that we most want from Him. To do so can easily leave us in “no man’s land” because it is tainted with our own selfish motives.

 

Gaining a deeper understanding of God’s character can be found by seeing how Jesus portrayed Him as He walked the earth and by more than random reading of the Bible to have a more comprehensive view of the consistency of that character from Genesis to Revelation. If we fail to look at the full scope, we will be much like the story of the blind man and the elephant – describing Him only as whatever part we touched versus the whole of Him.

 

“When God seems narrow, it’s safe to say we’re looking at the situation from the wrong perspective. Maybe it’s better to say He is precise. He knows what works and what doesn’t.” – Debbie Wilson

 

One of the ways we demonstrate we fail to understand God’s character is how we respond when we mess up. Do we behave more like Adam and Eve – hiding and trying to avoid Him?  Or do we run to the safety and grace found in his arms?

 

If it is the latter answer we can see that we have understood the character of God that sent Jesus to earth to show us who He is and eliminate the impact of those tragic missteps in the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve. We understand He wants to not only be with us throughout eternity, but in the day-to-day living where we so often trip up.

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I love how Debbie Wilson puts this in Little Faith, Big God:

 

“God does not weigh our good deeds against our bad ones. He weighs our sin by whether we’ve trusted or rejected Jesus.”

 

Maybe our struggle is worse because He gave us the freedom to choose the path we take. With that gift of freedom also comes the burden of responsibility and when we are honest, taking responsibility for poor choices is not an area we are especially good at most of the time. Not only do we miss how it can and will impact us, but also how it impacts others.

 

It doesn’t take too many pages in Genesis to see how the decisions or choices of Adam and Eve and a long list of others resulted in consequences we are living with today.

 

Sometimes we believe we know the character of a person only to discover we missed something later. That happens because we can only truly know the character of someone by spending a great deal of time in relationship with them. God invites that intimate level of relationship with Him so we can rest in the truth of his character, but do we really invest the time needed for that to happen?

 

It’s walking with someone, spending time with them through good times and bad, that we come to really know his or her character. That is how the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 came to know and understand the character of God. That list of “heroes” messed up and evidenced more than a few flaws…just like we are.

 

“His Covenant is greater than our commitment.”

Eric and Kristin Hill

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