The more you tighten your grip, Satan …

Love the CS Lewis quote used in this blog. “Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.” Happy reading.

God in this life and the next

The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

Just in case you don’t recognize it, the quote above is from Princess Leia in Star Wars.

The title – that’s from me.

Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.

And that line is from C. S. Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters.  If you’re not familiar with it, it’s Screwtape (a devil) talking to his nephew (a devil in training) about how God uses the low points in people’s lives.  And how God’s special people seem to go through longer and deeper troughs than most.

Suffering for Being a Christian

1Pe 4:12 Dear friends, do not be…

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Bizarre Pastor Story

201401120251pastor_imageJohn Shuck, a Presbyterian pastor, doesn’t believe in the God of the Bible. And yet, he claims to be a Christian. Which makes me wonder, “What is a Christian?”

He wrote on an atheist website what he does believe. It goes like this, in his words:

  • “Religion is a human construct
  • The symbols of faith are products of human cultural evolution
  • Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend
  • God is a symbol of myth-making and not credible as a supernatural being or force
  • The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being
  • Human consciousness is the result of natural selection, so there’s no afterlife”

OK, everyone has a right to their own beliefs. But, if you don’t believe in the Bible, or God, or Jesus or an afterlife, why would you want to be a pastor? Why would you want to be called a Christian? I don’t get it. Besides, this would take ALL the fun out of the Bible Stories. The Bible is just… boring fake stories then. He goes on to write:

“In short, I regard the symbols of Christianity from a non-supernatural point of view. And yet, even though I hold those beliefs, I am still a proud minister. But I don’t appreciate being told that I’m not truly a Christian.”

I like writing Bizarre Bible Stories much more than Bizarre Pastor Stories.

John Calvin, of Presbyterian fame, must be rolling over in his grave. But no, there IS an afterlife.

Could John be shouting obscenities down from heaven? Is that allowed? No?

Curiosity being what it is, I wondered what a normal Sunday service must be like at the church where he is pastor. What do they read if the Bible is only a legend? It seems like any “good book” would do. What do they sing about if there is no Amazing Grace? Personally, I’d miss Bohemian Rhapsody – my assumption it’s banned since it’s about the afterlife. But we don’t sing Queen often in our church anyway. Back on topic – they are active in social reforms, and there is still an operation to oversee, so they must have an offering. Is that what makes it “Christian?” I sure hope not. He gives a hint what his church is like when he writes,

“Someone quipped that my congregation is BYOG: Bring Your Own God. I use that and invite people to “bring their own God” — or none at all. While the symbol “God” is part of our cultural tradition, you can take it or leave it or redefine it to your liking. That permission to be theological do-it-yourselfers is at the heart of belief-less Christianity.”

The thing is, it isn’t belief-less. It’s belief-different. Not believing in an afterlife means you believe there are no eternal rewards or justice for your actions. Not believing in a divine authority means you believe you are your own authority. My kids would have loved that.

Bring Your Own God is curiously close to the lie the serpent told Eve, “You will be like God.”

Same preaching, different preacher.

It’s the same lie. Spread it if you want – shoot most of the planet probably agrees – but why from the pulpit of a Presbyterian church?

That word “Christian.” I do not think it means what you think it means.


Unbroken: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

unbrokenThe Good: This is easily the best biography I’ve ever read. Time named it the “top nonfiction book of the year.” Laura describes events as if you are watching them – living them. In this real life Series of Unfortunate Events, there is surprising inspiration. If you read one book this year, you won’t go wrong choosing Unbroken.

The Bad: When my wife JO first gave me the book, I read a chapter and gave up. I’m an extremely lazy reader, and it just didn’t grab me. Then we went to the movie against my objections, and I decided to give it another shot. Once in a few chapters I couldn’t put it down – no more skimming, I wanted every word.

BTW, reading the book AFTER watching them move worked out better for me. The book is much darker in the bad times, and much brighter in the good. I’d have been disappointed if I’d watched the movie after reading the book, but this way I enjoyed both.

The Ugly: A note about the movie. Before seeing it, I had read that much was left out from the end of the book. Somehow that was suppose to make the movie lousy. I watched the movie, loved it, and thought they were wrong.

Then I read the book.

They were right.

As much as I loved the movie, after reading Unbroken, looking back on the movie it seemed flat. It’s black-and-white in my memory in comparison. The worst of it is that the movie misses the main point of the book. The movie leaves one with the impression that the end of the war was the redemption the Japanese POWs needed to start a new life. Nothing could be further from the truth. For most of the captives, the end of the war was the beginning of a new hell back in the states as they strove to start a new life without dignity and with PTSD. So, in a sense, the movie, as good as it was, leaves you with a lie. The book continues through the hell of hatred, flashbacks and resentment to true redemption. Don’t miss it.

My favorite quotes in the book weren’t written by Laura Hillenbrand, but are the quotes she chooses record. Here are a few of them:
• “Darkness doesn’t hide the eyes of God” – Billy Graham, p.380
• Louie’s letter to Matsuhiro Wantanabe is worth the price of the book alone. I won’t put it in so as to spoil the book, but it comes on pages 404-405. These words of Louie are the binding of the entire book – the reason the rest of his story is worth telling. It is a shame they left it out of the movie completely. These words have no great meaning without his previous life story, but his story has no meaning without these words.
Resentment… “nails every one of us onto the cross of his ruined past.” – Jean Amery