Thursday, February 24, 2011

A fresh start

A while back I got fed up with all the junk on my home computer. I suspect I had several viruses, and needed to do something about the “infection”. Programs were slowing down, and I was getting lots of “error” messages. Scandisk wasn’t working. It was a mess. So I backed up my important files, and did a radical restore function, returning my PC to the mint condition it was in when I first bought it several years ago. I got a fresh start.

I thought how we all could use such a refreshing reboot. In a way, we do so through confession and the reassurance of God’s forgiveness. Ideally, we could begin every day with such a new beginning. But there’s our cluttered memory, those hidden files, the viruses we hold onto. We put up with the condition of our inner computer far too long before considering something repentance.

A Christian is not someone who never does wrong. We are instead, models of God’s grace. We’re not sinless, though we try to sin less. When we fall, we get up and (hopefully) learn from the experience; we may even help keep others from stumbling. We admit our failures to God and to ourselves (and maybe also a trusted friend). We go on, with God’s help. When we encounter a system failure, we trust the Lord to clean us up and remove all the “junk” we’ve been accumulating.

The author of Hebrews counsels us to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress” (12:1). We fight against sin, which isn’t easy. We are born swimming in polluted waters. Our environment is thoroughly secular and filled with ungodly influences that call to us, enticing us. Non-Christian worldviews clamor for our attention. If we’re not careful, we can easily become infected by false thinking. But then there are the “weights”. These are the things that, while not sinful, can burden us. They impede our progress. They become excess baggage. Like a computer with insufficient memory, we find we can’t handle much more, often because we’re too encumbered with stuff. We may have to carefully appraise what we should delete and send to the recycle bin.

After performing a system analysis (appraising the demands placed on us) we unload the items that are keeping us from being effective. We don’t merely eliminate stuff; we add positive activities that will enrich us. Just like we may want to free memory on your PC by getting rid of some mindless games so you can load some Bible software, we can reprogram our thinking by getting into God’s word and taking time to pray. We can let the System Manager, the Webmaster of our soul maximize our effectiveness in life.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Defiant Gratitude

Defiant Joy by Kevin Belmonte is both biography and literary analysis, much like the biographies written by Chesterton himself: a view of the man and his thinking from an admirer. I’d read Belmonte’s excellent biography of William Wilberforce and was eager to learn about “G.K.C.” Belmonte clearly christens him as the forerunner of C.S. Lewis. And while a convert to Catholicism, Chesterton is depicted as a Christian first, and a Catholic second. As such, and because of his apologetics (and awesome quotes) he is a favorite of Protestants, a guilty pleasure some of us are hesitant to admit to.

I think the title is a bit off; Belmonte clearly and repeatedly states that it was gratitude, not joy, that foremost defined Chesterton and that led to his becoming a Christian. Joy is the attribute we ascribe to Lewis. Also I would have preferred more biography. I now know Chesterton’s writings better, but I would like to know more about the man. His day-job as a journalist is briefly noted, but I wanted to know more about that, and more on his personal life. As Belmonte is Protestant, perhaps he could have also spent some pages talking about Chesterton’s appeal to Protestants (he does record Phil Yancey’s admiration, and it is because of Yancey that I read Orthodoxy). Now I am eager to read more of Chesterton’s books, particularly The Man Who Was Thursday.

In an age which Deborah Tannen has described as “the argument culture”, we need more witty and winsome debaters like Chesterton, who are endearing even (and especially) to their opponents. That may be the biggest “take-away” from Defiant Joy.

Just as Chesterton caused a revival of interest in Charles Dickens, I hope Belmonte’s new bio will inspire a Chesterton revival.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Are you surprised?

From D.A. Carson's book, How Long, O Lord? -reflections on suffering & evil:

"Christians undergoing pain and suffering will be well served by contemplating the Bible's story line and meditating on the price of sin. We live in an age where everyone is concerned about their 'rights'. But there is a profound sense in which our 'rights' before God have been sacrificed by our sin...if we see suffering as the result of living in a fallen world, the consequence of evil in which we ourselves all too frequently indulge, then however much we may grieve when we suffer, we will not be taken by surprise" (pp. 44-45).