Alternatives to pride

‘Yes, I know one doesn’t even want to be cured of one’s pride because it gives pleasure. But the pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want to scratch: but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither, but have everything else (God, our fellow-humans, animals, the garden and the sky) instead.’

From The Collected Letters of C S Lewis Volume III

Look for Christ

Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

Don’t be ashamed to wear your crown


“I hate when I look in my closet and find clothes instead of Narnia.”  H.B. Bolton

The song GOLD by Britt Nicole carries a great message for her audience. In summary: for all the girls and boys all over the world, it doesn’t matter what you’ve been told, you are worth more than gold. In fact, you’re a king, a queen, inside and out. Don’t be afraid to hold your head up high and wear your crown. (Full lyrics and a great film clip are below)

I can’t help thinking that this is the very same message C.S.Lewis brings to children (of all ages) in his adventures to Narnia. In Aslan’s realm, the children are crowned as rulers over the kingdom, with special gifts and talents given them. They are afforded great power and respect from all creatures.

“To the glistening eastern sea, I give you Queen Lucy the Valiant. To the great western woods, King Edmund the Just. To the radiant southern sun, Queen Susan the Gentle. And to the clear northern skies, I give you King Peter the Magnificent. Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia. May your wisdom grace us until the stars rain down from the heavens.” C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Yet back through the wardrobe, back in ‘reality’ they are simply children, children who should be seen and not heard. In this reality we adult humans can see ourselves in this way, as very ordinary people, accidents of biology, mere vapours. We can be despondent about our very existence, and become dependent on the affirmations of others. We can think we must impress others to ‘justify our own existence’. (Have you seen that awful bumper sticker?) We need to remember the reality of the spiritual realm, of God, and the intent God had for us, for the creatures he made in his own image. We were designed to be his image-bearers, designed to give glory to him as we display his character for all to see. (If you are not yet convinced of the existence of a Creator and the spiritual realm, check out this book – “Rumours of another world” – Max Lucado)

The Lord has crowned us as rulers over creation:
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.”
(Hebrews 2:6-8)

He has Crowned us as co-heirs with Christ, if we are in Christ. We are stunningly individual and unique people who all play a vital role within His Body here on planet earth (see 1 Corinthians 12).

We are to shine like stars as witnesses to those in the heavenly realms:
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing,so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16)

As Britt Nicole would say, we shouldn’t be ashamed to wear our crown. Don’t wait for the world to affirm your existence. God made you, for a reason.

GOLD crown

Oh, oh, oh, oh Oh, oh, oh, oh

You were walking on the moon, now you’re feeling low
What they said wasn’t true, you’re beautiful
Sticks and stones break your bones, I know what you’re feeling
Words like those won’t steal your glow, you’re one in a million years

This is for all the girls, boys all over the world
Whatever you’ve been told, you’re worth more than gold
So hold your head up high, it’s your time to shine
From the inside out it shows, you’re worth more than gold (Gold gold, you’re gold)
You’re worth more than gold (Gold gold you’re gold)

Well everybody keeps score, afraid you’re gonna lose
Just ignore they don’t know the real you
All the rain in the sky can’t put out your fire all the stars out tonight, you shine brighter

So don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not loved
And don’t let anybody tell you that you’re not enough
Yeah there are days when we all feel like we’re messed up
But the truth is that we’re all diamonds in the rough
So don’t be ashamed to wear your crown
You’re a king you’re a queen inside and out
You glow like the moon, you shine like the stars
This is for you, wherever you are

So don’t be ashamed to wear your crown You’re a king you’re a queen inside and out

You may also like Britt Nicole’s STAND

And these other posts:

Jesus wants me for a sunbeam – or maybe a firework                     It’s always a good time
shineImage created by Sarah Danaher with a Canon EOS 5D MkII

The Bible’s Songbook

I’vpsalmiste been thinking lately about the way many churches (including mine) have let the practice of Psalm-singing slip away. I also wonder why. Why do we neglect singing from the Bible’s songbook together? Surely there is much to be gained by singing directly from God’s word, especially when it is written in the form of song. So I’ve decided to embark on an epic journey to find some great arrangements of Psalms with a more with contemporary style. (I would LOVE to hear your suggestions! Please comment if you know some.) In the meantime, consider some of these thoughts on the Psalms from MERE INKLING’s robstroud:

 . .  . the Psalms are the foundation and epitome of worship music for Jews and Christians alike. One could read a Psalm each day and since there are one hundred and fifty, when you returned to the first psalm five months after beginning, it would be utterly fresh. C.S. Lewis enjoyed the Psalms. The following passage comes from a letter written in 1940.

“My enjoyment of the Psalms has been greatly increased lately. The point has been made before, but let me make it again: what an admirable thing it is in the divine economy that the sacred literature of the world should have been entrusted to a people whose poetry, depending largely on parallelism, should remain poetry in any language you translate it into. And glorious poetry it is. The beauty of the songs extends far beyond the family “Lord is my shepherd . . .” And yet, it would be impossible to comprehend the number of grieving souls that have been comforted with the words “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Most Christian traditions greatly value the Psalms, and many include them as a portion of the regular service or liturgy. And individuals who include them in the personal devotions are never disappointed. C.S. Lewis included them in his prayer and devotion. In fact, he enjoyed the Psalms so much that in 1958 he wrote a book entitled Reflections on the Psalms. There he proclaims, “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God which made David dance.”

The Church has added an immense repertoire to the Psalms during the past two millennia, but they will never be replaced. In fact, many inspired songs owe a major debt to the Psalms themselves. This includes the Odes of Solomon, the first (post-Psalms) Christian hymnal (composed circa 100 A.D.). Speaking of the Odes, I wrote a thesis on them many years ago, and have been considering writing a book about these treasures. Perhaps I’ll share more about them in the future. (Nb. The lovely window pictured above is from a church in Fringford, England. David was likely a bit younger when most of the psalms he composed were written.)

You may also enjoy:

C.S.Lewis on Musical Taste and Grace                                Oh for a humble attitude to church
music tasteWorship_War_Thumb

Praising God makes our joy complete

made-to-praise_tWe all know that self-praise is no praise at all – and seeking the praise of others is even worse. Nothing sounds so bad as someone describing or complaining about all their great efforts and actions simply so we can praise them for it!

So why then does God so eagerly and perhaps egotistically command us to praise Him? The pages of Scripture (which are in fact ‘God-breathed’ – 2Tim3:16) constantly direct and urge us to praise God. So basically he is asking for it. He created us for His pleasure and he does delight in our praise. Yet he doesn’t need our praise, surely? He is not insecure like us!  On the other hand, yes he does deserve praise, so why shouldn’t we praise Him?

Perhaps the short answer to this dilemma is that praising God is good for us! God knows this, so directs us to praise Him. But let me direct you to some relevant discussion from C.S Lewis and John Piper to explain:

“Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” . . . The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. . . I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. . .  If we were not allowed to speak of what we value and celebrate what we love and praise what we admire, our joy could not be full.”
(C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms)

“So if God loves us enough to make our joy full, he must not only give us himself; he must also win from us the praise of our hearts — not because he needs to shore up some weakness in himself or compensate for some deficiency, but because he loves us and seeks the fullness of our joy that can be found only in knowing and praising him, the most magnificent of all beings. . . . God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking his own praise is the ultimately loving act. For him, self-exaltation is the highest virtue. When he does all things “for the praise of his glory,” he preserves for us and offers to us the only thing in all the world that can satisfy our longings.”
(John Piper. Desiring God, pages 48–49)

So praising God completes our joyful experience of his good and gracious character. How important it is then to see our music ministry as providing an opportunity to do just that – to bring people to praise God, even when they don’t “feel” like it or sing with trepidation because they sing ‘out of tune’.
People need to praise God. Praising God not only completes our joyful experience of his love, it also takes our eyes from ourselves and our problems to the One who holds us together, who has moved towards us with compassion in Christ.
Let’s keep doing all we can to bring people to the place of praise!

(And this may be the topic for another blog post but I’ll mention it anyway: God sings over us!
“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 – almost a Three Sixteen!))

You may also like:

Why is it so Critical that we Sing Together (from the Blazing Center)

Working for those moments of Joy                                     You are our Song from Age to Age
Age to Age - Sovereign Grace Musicgrow music


New Mercy, just like the first time

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
(Lamentations 3:22-24)

Screwtape Letters Chapter 2 (C.S. Lewis)
“Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy (God) allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour. . . It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing. The Enemy takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His “free” lovers and servants-“sons” . . . Desiring their freedom, He therefore refuses to carry them, by their mere affections and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves them to do it on their own.”

There are few Christians who do not feel some loss of their ‘first love’ for Christ. When our eyes are first opened to the truth of who God is, who we are in relation to him and what trusting in Christ’s death means, our lives and our thinking are radically changed! Even if you grow up in a Christian or church-going family there is a time where faith becomes your own. At first the blessings and presence of God are so tangible. We feel like our love and our passion will never grow cold. . . But then there is passing time, then there is the pressure of the everyday, the kids, the mortgage, the settling in to what is acceptable or expected. And we can lose that first love, that deep appreciation for the things of God. (In fact this is one of Christ’s complaints of the church at Ephesus: “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” Revelation 2:4.)

MercyMe_-_The_Hurt_And_The_HealerIt is comforting to know that in C.S. Lewis’ opinion (Screwtape Letters) there is some element of God’s design in this. To grow our faith he allows us to experience the disappointment that comes in every aspect of life, once the shiny and exciting veneer of “new” has worn off. God grows us as he deepens our reliance on Him. We come to know His grace more as we see our failings. And for these failings His mercy comes, new every morning. Each day the opportunity is there for us to appreciate anew the reality of God’s love for us in Christ. His grace and mercy pours to us through His Word and His Spirit in us. We also have His body, His people, and we can gather together in Him. We can serve, and in serving, receive encouragement!

The band Mercy Me has captured something of this new deep appreciation of God’s mercy which comes as we mature in the faith. (Watch and read the lyrics below: “The First Time”). As we go through the ups and downs of life we realise the unfathomable depth of God’s love. We realise the worthlessness of our own attempts at self-righteousness, and cast ourselves on Him. This is the grace we rest in, and are refreshed by, each day.

The First Time (by Mercy Me)

“Day after day, I try to explain you, like I can contain you in so many words
You are the ocean, I’m on the shoreline, thinking I know you, like you could be learned
It’s so amazing, that you’d ever save me . . .

I thought I knew your face, I thought I tasted grace
But I have never felt anything close to this.

Just when I’d seen it all, new mercy breaks the door.
With eyes open wide, it feels like the first time, first time.
it feels
like the first time, first time.

After all of my searching, all of my reaching,
I’m left with nothing, nothing of worth.
You treasure the broken, over and over,
And give me a hope that can never be earned.
It’s still amazing, that you’d ever save me.

And your beauty no eye has seen, Your majesty overwhelming
You love for me is healing, O God!

I thought I knew your face, I thought I tasted grace
But it was nothing like this.
Just when I’d seen it all, new mercy breaks the door.
With my eyes open wide, I feel alive for the first time, first time.
Just like the first time, first time.
I can see like the first time.

2012 – Songwriters: Muckala, Daniel John / Millard, Bart / Bryson, Jim / Cochran, Nathan / Graul, Barry E / Scheuchzer, Mike / Shaffer, Robby / Ingram, Jason David 

You may also like:
More great grace songs                                             The Unexpected Timing of God’s Grace

When our ‘good taste’ overrides our grace towards others

coffee heartThe other day I turned my nose up at an instant coffee made for me from a jar of Nescafe 43. I thought I could justify this ungracious response by defending my ‘good taste’ in coffee, but apparently not, according to C.S. Lewis.

“(Humans) . . .  are best turned into gluttons with the help of their vanity. They ought to be made to think themselves very knowing about food, to pique themselves on having found the only restaurant in town whether the steaks are really “properly” cooked. What begins as vanity can then be gradually turned into habit. But however you approach it, the great thing is to bring him into the state in which the denial of any one indulgence “puts him out”, for then his charity, justice and obedience are all at your mercy.  Mere excess in food is much less valuable than delicacy.”  (Letter 16: Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, 1942).

Ouch!  If you have never read the Screwtape Letters I would encourage you to rush out and get a copy (or download). The Letters record fictional (but strangely believable) correspondence between a Senior and Junior devil. The uncle instructs his nephew on how to keep his ‘patient’ (a new convert to Christianity) from getting too close to the Enemyscrewtape (for them the Enemy is, of course, God).  In the section above Uncle Screwtape explains how to get at his patient, to annoy him, by encouraging the unbearably fussy eating of his mother and her delicate tastes.  If he can make her insist on having her food served in a particular, apparently simple way he will have some delightful amusements. It is also designed to keep her deluded in selfishness and pride.

Here Lewis makes an insightful connection between the “god of the stomach” and pride in our own good taste. This is a much more dangerous distraction from godliness than simply overeating. What I find most interesting here is that he wrote on such matters long before our addiction to both reality TV cooking shows and the great variety of good foods we enjoy in the West (thanks to globalisation). Lewis’ words also come before ‘coffee culture’ swept our world and people became ‘coffee snobs’ – who insist on having their particular bean roasted a particular way on a particular machine in a particular shop, or their own kitchen. I have met people who will rave for hours about having the best taste in coffee and the most knowledge of how to make it – properly! How gracious are they when offered inferior coffee? (How gracious was I?) And it’s not just coffee. Our egos can be fed and mislead by thinking we have the best taste in food and the best skills in how cook it, to create amazing dishes and impress others.

I suppose I am not that far behind the people that I call coffee snobs! I do prefer real coffee from a coffee shop (though not A particular shop) and I do think I have better taste than others in many ways (doesn’t that just sound awful in print)!  The more I think such proud thoughts, the more I train myself to respond to others with less grace, less charity, less justice and kindness. Let’s measure our “own good taste” against God’s measure, of perfect grace, humility, charity and kindness to others. We are more likely to display the fruits of the spirit to others when our hearts are not bent on satisfying our own ‘good tastes’, and proving our superiority in such matters. I’ll keep working on this!

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Living under the power of grace                           Fullness of grace in man’s human frailty
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