in-everything-give-thanks-fall-printable-744x1024Thanksgiving can be a fun and stomach-filling holiday but having a Thankful Heart is a central Christian virtue to be continuously “fed.”

Here are some great quotes to ruminate on – so to speak!

“The worst moment for an atheist is when he has a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.” ~Dante Gabriel Rosetti

“We ought to give thanks for all fortune (circumstances): if it is “good,” because it is good, if “bad” because it works in us patience, humility, and… the hope of our eternal country.”  ~C.S. Lewis

“To believe in Jesus Christ means to become thankful!” ~K. Barth

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~G.K. Chesterton

“The mark of mature spirituality Is Gratitude. The root of ‘thankful’ is ‘thought’” ~Kathleen Norris

“Joy is a heart full and a mind purified by gratitude.” ~Marietta McCarty

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”  ~William Arthur Ward

“Being a Christian doesn’t in any way lesson suffering; but rather enables us to face it, take it, work through it, and eventually to convert it.” ~Terry Waite (Anglican envoy who was held hostage for 4 years in Lebanon)

“The Holy Spirit is in the business of transforming circumstances into character.”

“Glory to God for all things.” ~John Chrysostom, last words

The recent sermon on the “Giving Thanks” disciplne is available here. 

“Giving thanks honors God, builds character and overflows in generosity.”

screwtapes-desktopMy son, Stephen, recently told me of a friend who is doing his doctorate on “The Happiness of God!” I thought of this as I was reading Psalm 16. It ends with a beautiful expression of the locus of true pleasure and happiness.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11, ESV)

With this Psalm obviously in mind, C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, has the senior devil writing to his understudy, bemoaning the “unfair advantage” that God (his ‘Enemy’) has over the devils as they do their dark, inverted work:

He (God) is a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a façade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures for evermore’. Ugh! I don’t think He has the least inkling of that high and austere mystery to which we rise in the ‘Miserific’ Vision. He’s vulgar, Wormwood… He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least—sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working, Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us. We fight under cruel disadvantages. Nothing is naturally on our side.

There’s no real pleasure on ‘the dark side!’

Q – Are you believing any devilish lies about pleasure?

wendell_berry-247x300 copyWendell Berry is one of my favorite poets. For 35 years he has been writing what he calls Sabbath Poems. They are crafted mostly outdoors; on-foot walking his beloved Kentucky hill farm on Sundays. He has published some of these in different poetry volumes, the first of which was A Timbered Choir (1979-97). Now, he has two new poetry collections, one this dayof which is dedicated solely to his Sabbath poems. It’s titled This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems.

The introduction is a beautiful essay on the importance of Sabbath.

I deeply enjoyed reading it on my ‘sabbath’ today:

Here is his description of practicing sabbath, and what can happen there – though not automatically, and not without attention and intention.

In such places, on the best of these sabbath days, I experience a lovely freedom from expectations – other people’s and also my own. I go free from the tasks and intentions of my workdays, and so my mind becomes hospitable to unintended thoughts: to what I am very willing to call inspiration. The poems come incidentally or they do not come at all. If the Muse leaves me alone, I leave her alone. To be quiet, even wordless, in a good place is a better gift than poetry.

On those days and other days also, the idea of the sabbath has been on my mind. It is as rich and demanding an idea as any I know. The sabbath is the day, and the successive days honoring the day when God rested after finishing the work of creation. This work was not finished, I think, in the sense of once and for all. It was finished by being given the power to exist and to continue, even to repair itself as it is now doing on the reforested hillsides of my home country. 

We are to rest on the sabbath also, I have supposed, in order to understand that the providence or the productivity of the living world, the most essential work, continues while we rest. This work is entirely independent of our work, and is far more complex and wonderful than any work we have ever done or will ever do. It is more complex and wonderful than we will ever understand. (p. xxi-xxii)

Are you making space for ‘Sabbath time?’

cslI want to draw your attention to a recent conference with outstanding presentations around the life and work of C.S. Lewis. Speakers included several great Lewis scholars, pastors and theologians covering a variety of important topics.

The conference was titled The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Immagination in the Work of C.S. Lewis. 

Connect here to listen to any of the presentations.


_ Myth Wars: C.S. Lewis vs. Scientism, N.D. Wilson

_ The Friendship of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, Colin Duriez

_ C.S. Lewis and the Care of Souls, Lyle Dorsett

_ Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles, Joe Rigney

_ C.S. Lewis, Romantic Rationalist: How His Paths to Christ Shaped His Life and Ministry, John Piper

_ C.S. Lewis on Holy Scripture, Phillip Ryken

_ Undragoned: C.S. Lewis on the Gift of Salvation, Douglas Wilson

_ In Bright Shadow: C.S. Lewis on the Imagination for Theology and Discipleship, Kevin Vanhoozer

_ C.S. Lewis on Heaven and the New Earth: God’s Eternal REmedy to the Problem of Evil and Suffering, Randy Alcorn

_ What God Made is Good – and Must be Sanctified: C. S. Lewis and St. Paul on the Use of Creation, John Piper,

compassion imageI have strongly advocated that “Tolerance” is really useless as the central public virtue it has been lifted up to be. I can “tolerate” you without showing any neighbor love to you! Civility and Compassion with Convictions is the better alternative. (see a previous post on “Loving Like Jesus in Public”)

Krista Tippett, host of On Being and the designer of the Civil Conversations Project, has spoken about both the importance of Civility and the resurrection of the true meaning of Compassion in our language and culture. Her presentation at The Charter for Compassion has been picked up as a TED talk. Though I can’t agree with all the assumptions of this particular movement, I would say that it is tapping into the essential biblical truth that love must be visible. As the apostle John wrote, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18, ESV) Tippett calls compassion a “spiritual technology” – more essential to the world than mere scientific knowledge.

As a church, we were led to describe our mission: “to build compassionate Christian communities that transform lives and bring hope to the world.” Compassion is Christ’s self-sacrificing love in action! It also resonates with the Imago Dei (Image of God) that is embedded in each of us. And therefore it is also a natural bridge for people everywhere to connect with the Good News as they see it in practice. This kind of compassion often naturally leads to the question from the watching world, “Why are you doing this?” Deeds of compassion in the spirit of civility with the conviction of Jesus’ name!

Here is Krista Tippitt’s talk. Also see the earlier post, “Atheist testimony and our legacy of compassion.”

scrollIn my Biblical Thought course today, I taught on the meaning of the Law (Torah = teaching or guidance from God.) We distinguish between the Moral Law of the Ten Commandments (which reflect the character and values of God) and the Civil and Ceremonial Law in the 5 books of Moses.

Our tendency is to ignore or pass over the laws in Leviticus and other books as irrelevant or hard to understand. I want to recommend a wonderful article I shared today by Christopher Wright from a recent issue of Christianity Today called, Learning to Love Leviticus. Here is an excerpt. I encourage you to read the whole article. It’s the best thing I’ve ever read on principles for interpreting this part of the Old Testament.

Before we get the Ten Commandments, we get the story of Creation, the brokenness of our sin and rebellion, and the wonder of God’s redemption, displayed in the Exodus of the Israelites. So the law was given to a people who not only knew that story, and knew the God who stands behind it, but who had lived it as well. God gave his law to people who had already experienced his grace, his love and faithfulness, his great act of salvation. Obeying the law was never a way to earn God’s salvation, but the right way for redeemed people to respond to God’s salvation when they had experienced it (Ex. 19:3–6; Deut. 6:20–25).

And God gave Israel his law in order to shape them into a society that would reflect God’s character and values in the midst of the nations—what we might call a missional motivation (Lev. 18:3–4; Deut. 4:6–8). The Israelites were to be distinctive by living in God’s way, the ways of personal integrity, economic and social justice, and community compassion. The law was not a set of arbitrary rules to keep God happy. It was a way of life, a way of being human, a culture in a particular time and place, to show what a redeemed people under God looks like.

To imagine that “living biblically” means trying to keep as many ancient rules as possible just because they are in the Bible misses the point of the law in the first place. Old Testament law was not just about rules but also about relationship with God, founded on God’s grace and redemption, and motivated by the mission of living as the people of God in the world, so that the world should come to know the living God.


The best way to derive principles from the Old Testament law is to ask questions. All laws in all human societies are made for a purpose. Laws happen because people want to change society, to achieve some social goal, to foster certain interests, or to prevent some social evil. So when we look at any particular law or group of biblical laws, we can ask, “What could be the purpose behind this law?” To be more specific:

● What kind of situation was this law intended to promote or to prevent?

● What change in society would this law achieve if it were followed?

● What kind of situation made this law necessary or desirable?

● What kind of person would benefit from this law, by assistance or protection?

● What kind of person would be restrained or restricted by this law, and why?

● What values are given priority in this law? Whose needs or rights are upheld?

● In what way does this law reflect what we know from elsewhere in the Bible about the character of God and his plans for human life?

● What principle or principles does this law embody…?

Now we won’t always be able to answer these questions with much detail or insight. Some laws are just plain puzzling. But asking questions like these leads us to a much broader and deeper grasp of what Old Testament laws were all about: forming the kind of society God wanted to create.

Then, having done that homework as best we can, we step out of the Old Testament world and back into our own. Ask the same kind of questions about the society we live in and the kind of people we need to be, and the kind of personal and societal objectives we need to aim for in order to be in any sense “biblical.”

In this way, biblical law can function sharply as a paradigm or model for our personal and social ethics in all kinds of areas: economic, familial, political, judicial, sexual, and so on. We are not “keeping it” in a literalist way like a list of rules. But more important, we are not ignoring it in defiance of what Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16–17. We are studying and using it as guidance, light for the path, in the joyful way of Psalms 1, 19, and 119.    READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE.

dinnerWe’ve all heard the stats – that 60-90+ percent of our communication is non-verbal! Actual words are only a part of the message we send.  Certainly Jesus relied on more than the spoken message, as vital and powerful as his teaching was!

Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom’s arrival – in many ways. People were healed of disease; demons were cast out and defeated; he chose 12 to be his messengers. AND he did something else. He ate with tax collectors and “sinners.” His body talked.  In our series, “I am a Disciple,” Mark 2:13-17 tells the story of Jesus calling Levi (later ‘Matthew’) to follow Him. We called the sermon, “The Eating Habits of a Disciple.

We need to see ourselves in this story in two ways:
First, we are all radically INCLUDED SINNERS. Jesus came to save sinners – like you and me! (1 Timothy 1:12-17) The religious teachers of Jesus’ day excluded most of humanity and most of their fellow Jews with their heavy load of man-made laws smothering the heart of God’s Law. So they couldn’t handle Jesus consistent choice of dinner companions. But they got it all wrong! Jesus wasn’t being soft on sin – he was strong on true repentance and healing. Jesus was the holy physician, shouting with bold compassion that “holiness is not fragile – but powerful” to transform and change broken, sinful people into his very likeness and image.

Second, Like Levi throwing a party for his tax collector buddies, we are called to be radically INCLUSIVE DISCIPLES. “Imitate me,” Jesus says to us. Make a statement by who you hang out with. I agree with Larry Crabb that the Church should be “The Safest Place on Earth” – to meet Christ and spiritual friends who help us grow from where we are, to where we are meant to be.

There is room for every kind of background and past sinful experience among members of Christ’s flock as we learn the way of repentance and renewed lives, for “Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified (made whole), you were justified (made righteous) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  (2 Corinthians 6:11)  This is true inclusivity.

Richard Bewes, All Souls Church, London (in Washed and Waiting p. 44)

Are there people Jesus would love to invite to dinner – who you would rather not? If so, who is in greater need of repentance?