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Posts Tagged ‘cs lewis’

This week: some powerful words on criticism and lust, an (un) review of Tree of Life, and the enemy next door.

Sometimes Criticism is Love in Disguise (by David Dorr, The Resurgence)

In C.S. Lewis’s, The Horse and His Boy, two horses and their riders are racing back to Archenland to warn the king of their enemies, who are arriving unaware. Although they are going fast, the horses are not quite running as fast as they could. Suddenly, a lion jumps out of the thicket and begins to pursue the horses, who find that they could actually run faster. Later, we learn the lion was Aslan himself, scaring the horses to run at their true speed as they needed to go faster because of the pursuing army.

Mammon, Lust, and Hell (by Toby Sumpter, Credenda/Agenda)

In other words, the sin of lust is the sin of an evil eye. It is the sin of greed, of Mammon, of idolatry. It is the sin of hatred and oppression and injustice in seed form in the heart. And this sin necessarily grows up into tyranny and oppression and manipulation in actions, in words, in thoughts, and it fills homes with curses.

The Tree of Life: An (un) Review (by Gregory Alan Thornbury, TGC)

Today, there can be no doubt that the high priests, priests, and acolytes of our culture are the producers, directors, writers, and actors. As film increasingly presents people with opportunities to replicate certain aspects of religious experience, we must pause to reflect upon the growing reality of “theater as temple.”

The Enemy Next Door (by Tim Challies)

I truly believe, after many years of reflection, that the heart of the problem in these churches was in their attitude towards the unbeliever. The person next door was the enemy; he was a person to be feared for what he might do to the family, and the children in particular; he was someone to be regarded with distrust and suspicion rather than with love and sympathy.

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There are a load of decent films coming out on DVD in March and April. Be aware that the release date is the date you can purchase the film and may not correspond to when the film is released on Netflix or Redbox.

UPDATE (3/9/11)

127 Hours (March 1)

This is the story of the climber in Colorado who had to cut off his own hand (on which a boulder was sitting) and then trek back over 127 hours. I have heard a lot of good things about this movie and I really like James Franco as an actor (City by the Sea is one of my favorites) so I’ll likely give this a shot on DVD. It’s rated R for language and gruesomeness.

UPDATE (5/5/11)

I finally saw this film and Franco is amazing. I appreciate the direction that Danny Boyle takes with this movie and how Franco just executes it to perfection. I felt the duration and desperation with him. Definitely pretty gruesome but it’s in there because you have to understand the pain and fight to live. 

Hereafter (March 15)

This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, is currently pretty low on the Tomato Meter but I think this film is worth the view. Don’t look for this film to provide hope in the afterlife, instead look at it from the perspective of each of the main characters’ loneliness and let yourself ache with them. Then read my other thoughts.

The Fighter (March 15)

This is a film that I have not seen and have heard mixed reviews from friends. The consensus: Christian Bale is phenomenal as Wahlberg’s drug addicted brother and trainer. Be aware of a ton of crude language and inferred sex scenes.

UPDATE (3/9/11)

I saw this movie in the theater last week and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The language is poor and there is one not completely nude scene that it could do without (easy to fast forward through) but if you can handle the language, it’s worth checking out on DVD. Bale is simply incredible. Parts of the movie have a documentary feel corresponding to the doc made about crack addiction that included Dicky and Bale is so believable. He draws out such ache for his character as well as anger. His two key moments of brokenness over sin hit me hard and were worth the view.

I love the imperfection in how these true life people are portrayed. It’s a great story of turnaround but it’s not easy and always tainted. You want certain characters to change and repent and they never fully do. But I loved how these 2 brothers stick with each other no matter what. It made me miss my brother and my first thought walking out of the movie was to send him a quick note. I love how they respect their mom even when she doesn’t deserve it, at times when I wanted her to get a nice upper cut. I wished Micky were less passive. I wished Dicky were less selfish. But isn’t that life? The impact of the sin of each character is not diminished but their love for each other isn’t either. Love covers a multitude of sins. Change happens when justification and acceptance in your family isn’t questioned. That isn’t the gospel but it’s certainly an illustration of our place in Christ.

Skyline (March 22)

I have not seen this film and only mention it for one reason: the consensus is that this is an awful film. It takes a true piece of trash to get only a 21% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and friends have all said stay away from this one.

Tangled (March 29)

Friends that have seen this all seem to have enjoyed it. It still looks borderline for kids though, at least the age of my kids (6 and under).

Tron Legacy (April 5)

I still haven’t even seen the original Tron from ‘80s and this one looks just as predictable but with much cooler effects. See James Harleman’s thoughts on this film for a good analysis.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader (April 8th)

Yes, it veers away from C.S. Lewis’ classic and, yes, they add a significant plotline that was not in the book but my wife and I still enjoyed it for what it is. The end is worth the movie and Will Poulter as Eustace was incredible. I wanted to see more of Eustace and I will be thoroughly stoked for The Silver Chair if Poulter reprises his role.

Harry Potter – Deathly Hallows Part 1 (April 15)

This movie is what it is. If you’ve read the series you’ll likely see the movie. People have complained about the pace of the movie but those folks probably haven’t read the book. The pace is one of the things that makes this movie great – it supposed to make you ache for the end. I wanted to write more on this whole series but I’m saving it until the last film is released this summer.

The King’s Speech (April 19)

This is the best film of the year period. I don’t care how it ends up doing at the Oscars (measured against 2010 films). It’s well acted, well paced, emotionally engaging, and it glorifies good things. Read my review and watch this film.

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CS Lewis has some potent thoughts for us on our value, individualism, collectivism, and finding yourself in “Membership,” a sermon included in the book, The Weight of Glory.

If value is taken in a worldly sense – if we mean that all men are equally useful or beautiful or good or entertaining – then it is nonsense. If it means that all are of equal value as immortal souls, then I think it conceals a dangerous error. The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine. God did not die for man because of some value He perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered simply in itself, out of relation to God, is zero. As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners. He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is love. It may be that He loves all equally – He certainly loved all to the death – and I am not certain what the expression means. If there is equality, it is in His love, not in us.

Our value is not some cultural notion of equality but in the fact that God demonstrated His own love for me on Cross. My value is not found within but in God Himself.

It was not for societies or states that Christ died, but for men. In that sense Christianity must seem to secular collectivists to involve an almost frantic assertion of individuality. But then it is not the individual as such who will share Christ’s victory over death. We shall share the victory by being in the Victor. A rejection, or in Scripture’s strong language, a crucifixion of the natural self is the passport to everlasting life. Nothing that has not died will be resurrected. That is just how Christianity cuts across the antithesis between individualism and collectivism. There lies the maddening ambiguity of our faith as it must appear to outsiders. It sets its face relentlessly against our natural individualism; on the other hand, it gives back to those who abandon individualism an eternal possession of their own personal being, even of their bodies. As mere biological entities, each with its separate will to live and to expand, we are apparently of no account; we are cross-fodder. But as organs in the Body of Christ, as stones and pillars in the temple, we are assured of our eternal self-identity and shall live to remember the galaxies as an old tale.

CS Lewis presents the paradox of how we find ourselves in Christ. Christ died for me personally but also made me a part of the Body of Christ. This is not a middle ground between individualism and collectivism but a whole different thing.

There is no question of finding for him a place in the living temple which will do justice to his inherent value and give scope to his natural idiosyncrasy. The place was there first. The man was created for it. He will not be himself till he is there.

Our value is found in God’s eyes through the sacrifice of God’s own son while our true selves are found in Christ and becoming a part of His Body. The more we are given over to Him, the more we become and are revealed to be who God made us to be.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV)

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Books I briefly review in this post (click to jump to a specific book):

My Top 6

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

Future Men by Douglas Wilson

CrossTalk by Michael Emlet

The Cure of Melancholy by Richard Baxter

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Dracula by Bram Stoker


Other Interesting Reads

ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Tipping Point/Blink/Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis


Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

Give me priests. Give me men with feathers in their hair or tall domed hats, female oracles in caves, servants of the python, smoking weed and reading palms. A gypsy fortune-teller with a foot-pedal Ouija board and a gold fishbowl for a crystal ball knows more about the world than many of the great thinkers of the West.

What more can I say about this book than what I’ve said in this post? This is easily the best book I’ve read all year, a profound read that has impacted my theology, how I view creation, how I trust God in hard circumstances, and the very vocabulary I use now. Wilson’s book is an absolute must-read that has blown away everyone I know who has read it.

Future Men by Douglas Wilson

Great lessons can be acquired by small boys in a small garden. A rich farmer was once rebuked for having his sons work in the fields when they didn’t have to. His reply was apropos to this discussion. He wasn’t raising corn, he explained, he was raising boys. Boys therefore should be learning to be patient, careful, and hard-working.

Doug Wilson, N.D. Wilson’s father, has tremendous thoughts here for dads of sons, as well as daughters. Wilson’s wit always cracks me up and it’s always directed with a purpose. I appreciated the amount that he has to say here but also how well Wilson simplifies things and doesn’t merely give a recipe. Wilson is centered on the gospel and the centrality of God’s glory and it taints all his writing here about guiding sons into becoming men.

The point of discipline with boys is to channel and direct their energy into an obedient response to the cultural mandate. It is not to squash that energy, destroying it or making it sullen.

CrossTalk by Michael Emlet

We confess that all of Scripture is helpful for all of life, but that’s not the way the Bible actually functions in our lives and ministries. The challenge is not just in moving from present-day problems to the Scriptures. Many modern-day struggles and problems don’t seem to be addressed in the Scriptures.

I’ve already written a review here but I’ll just say again not to be intimidated by a book that seems to be more geared towards being an effective counselor for others. The first 6 chapters are extremely helpful in understanding and studying the Bible and see the Word with new eyes.

The Cure of Melancholy by Richard Baxter

And so, if he[Satan] can cast you into melancholy, he can easily tempt you to overmuch sorrow and fear, and to distracting doubts and thoughts, and to murmur against God, and to despair, and still think that you are undone, undone;

This is an excellent book, written in the 1682, by Richard Baxter, in which Baxter shows remarkable understanding of depression and deep discouragement. Read my thoughts here and here.

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

What a fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking Dungeon, when I may as well walk at Liberty. I have a Key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any Lock in Doubting Castle.

I finally got around to reading this classic this past summer and I was not disappointed. Bunyan wrote the book in the mid 1600s and, through the help of John Owen, it was published in 1678. It is still one of the bestselling books of all time, second only to the Bible! Yes, the English is old and it starts a bit slow but give it a shot and you will find yourself encouraged by it. When you read it, remember that Bunyan likely wrote it while languishing in prison for 12 years because he refused to stop sharing the gospel.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

My friends, this is much, it is a terrible task that we undertake, and there may be consequence to make the brave shudder. For if we fail in this our fight he must surely win, and then where end we? Life is nothings, I heed him not. But to fail here, is not mere life or death. It is that we become as him, that we henceforward become foul things of the night like him, without heart or conscience, preying on the bodies and the souls of those we love best. To us forever are the gates of heaven shut, for who shall open them to us again? We go on for all time abhorred by all, a blot on the face of God’s sunshine, an arrow in the side of Him who died for man. But we are face to face with duty, and in such case must we shrink?

I wrote about this book not long ago here and here and I’ll say it again: I loved this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, loved the thrill, the characters and their love for one another, the masculinity and femininity displayed, Van Helsing, and theme of the sovereignty of God grounding everything. The last quarter of the book is such a ride.

Other Interesting Reads

ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses. Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses, and your strategic plans as strategic guesses. Now you can stop worrying about them as much. They just aren’t worth the stress.

I read this book most recently out of any of the books on this list and I’m still processing the paradigm shift Fried and Hansson present here. I don’t like most business philosophy “most effective people” leadership type books but I enjoyed and was stirred up by this one. From their thoughts on professionalism to changes in the workplace to trusting employees to encouraging inspiration, you will not be disappointed in taking the time to read this. I started reading this on a Friday afternoon and finished it about 24 hours later!

What is it about growth and business? Why is expansion always the goal? What’s the attraction of big besides ego? (You’ll need a better answer than “economies scale.”) What’s wrong with finding the right size and staying there?

The Tipping Point/Blink/Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Out of the Gladwell triumvirate, my favorite was Blink. Gladwell’s writing is very easy to read and the research he chooses to pull together is very fascinating. Why did I like “Blink?” The best thing that I took from this book is how we can transform our involuntary responses by training and by what we think about. This book is a demonstration of Romans 12:2 and power of our minds. We cannot overcome sin apart from the Holy Spirit’s power working in our hearts but the Holy Spirit will not work against us – we need to be diligent.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

Could I really call this an enjoyable read? Not really, but I both identified with CS Lewis in how his grief is displayed as well as many places where his grief seems wholly his own. That’s why this book is so valuable and worth reading – CS Lewis’ processing of the death of his wife displays what a fog grief can be, how it is truly different for everyone and yet how there are commonalities for all of us who have deeply grieved. If grief is relatively foreign to you, read this book and immerse yourself in the chaos and process that Lewis goes through and so vulnerably displays. If grief is fresh for you, read this book and let Lewis help you walk through it.


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Here are 11 of my favorite books of all time. I base my choices on 2 main criteria. First, was it a paradigm shift for me when I read it? Did God use it to redirect me in a significant way? Second, how much of this book has stuck with me? Was its impact on my life short-lived or do I still think back to it? Here there in alphabetical order by author:


To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson (Published in 1956)

An engrossing read about the life and tribulations of the first American missionary, Adoniram Judson. I first heard of his life through this sermon and, soon after, roughly 5 years ago, this book fell into my hands. This man is one of my heroes. His story stirs me and moves me to tears when I get into it. From rejecting the faith of his pastor father in college to how God pursues him and restores him to an authentic radical faith to many deaths he suffered taking the gospel to the Burmese people that rejected him so many times, God speaks to me through Judson’s life. I want to be like this man and I want to imitate his faith. I want to be a missionary like he was. The other part of this story that moves me is his relationship with his brother. It’s a minimal piece of the book but what is there and how God uses their relationship just pierces my heart.

The fact was, any inhabitant of Burma – even of a border of a seaport such as Rangoon – lived at mercy of a despotic governor. Everything depended on his whim. Officialdom was unspeakably corrupt. Treaties meant nothing. The Burmese had no conception of trade, and only contempt for foreigners. Missionaries would have to live like rats in holes, unable to teach the Gospel, exposed to arbitrary torture or execution if discovered. For a man, life would be difficult; for a woman, impossible… Let them go back to America, or anywhere else in the world – but forget Burma.

Judson did not forget Burma in 1813 and he suffered everything that was predicted and worse. But he thought all of it worth it for the sake of the glory of God and the Gospel. The fruit of this man’s life is roughly 2 million adherents within the Baptist Convention today.


Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T.Anderson (Published in 1990)

Many Christians are living under half a gospel… For some unknown reason, we have left the Resurrection out of the gospel presentation. Consequently, we end up with forgiven sinners instead of redeemed saints.

This book helped me a ton early in my walk in the mid 90’s. It helped me to start to grasp what it means to have freedom in Christ, what it means to have a Christ centered confidence, and the power that God has given me in Christ over the power of sin. Anderson can be a bit psychological at times, but he’s pretty grounded in the Bible and his main purpose is to help you understand who you are in Christ. My theology and leanings are very different than when I read this book but it was such a help to me at that point as a young believer trying to figure out this walk with Jesus thing. This book very much aligns with a series of talks called “The Meaning of Fatherhood and The Difference Dads Make” given by Mark Darling.


Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby (Published in 1994)

You will never be satisfied just to know about God. Really knowing God only comes through experience as He reveals Himself to you.

Like Victory Over the Darkness above, this was another book I read very early on after I came to Jesus. This book covers numerous areas of our walk with Christ but the biggest help to me was in understanding how personal God truly is. God is not far off and wants to speak to us through prayer and through His Word. This was a major concept for me to get as a young believer.


The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Published in 1880)

Why have You come now to hinder us? And why do You look silently and searchingly at me with Your mild eyes? Be angry. I don’t want Your love, for I love You not. And what use is it for me to hide anything from You? Don’t I know to Whom I have been speaking? All that I can say is known to You already. And is it for me to conceal from You our mystery? Perhaps it is Your will to hear it from my lips. Listen, then. We are not working with You but with him – that is our mystery.

Considered one of the greatest novels of all time by many, it is special to me because of the circumstances in which I read it. I first read this great work while in my senior year of high school. I did not know Jesus. I did not see any of the Gospel in this book. I was apathetic and the Gospel was just words and foolishness to me. I came to Christ less than a year after reading this book and proceeded to read it again a few years later. I was dumbfounded by how pervasive the Gospel is on these pages. Dostoevsky had to know Jesus to write what he writes. This is a man who wrestled with the depth of sin as well as the unending extent of God’s redemption. Alexei, Dmitry, Ivan, and Smerdyakov are living characters because they are us. To even name the depraved, foolish, disengaged father after himself is quite troubling. It’s meant to be. This book is about all of our wrestling with God and who He is and who we are. Writing this makes me want to pick this book up yet again! I love Dostoevsky. His fiction is second only to CS Lewis in its impact on me. Brothers Karamazov stands out to me as a testament to the change that God has worked in my life. I can pick it up and think back to the blindness that I had. God had to intervene to remove it in order for me to see Him and for the Gospel to be more than just foolishness to me. I read this and I know, without a doubt, that I was blind and now I see. This is a long book but well worth the time it will take you to engage with it. I don’t know anyone who knows Jesus who writes like this today.


Living By the Book by Howard Hendricks (Published in 1991)

This book is the gold standard in how to read and study and engage with the Bible. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything else come out that is better. This book will encourage you as well as overwhelm you because of all the training and tools he gives you. The workbook that you can get with this book is fantastic and worth purchasing as well. Don’t be intimidated by the table of contents and let Hendricks teach you how to trust God for more when you approach His Word. Hendricks essentially teaches you how to read in this masterpiece.

The Bible was written not to satisfy your curiosity but to help you conform to Christ’s image. Not to make you a smarter sinner but to make you like the Savior. Not to fill your head with a collection of biblical facts but to transform your life.


Perelandra by CS Lewis (Published in 1943)

I love CS Lewis’ fiction more than I love the rest of his writings. His depth of thinking about our walk with God and genius in communicating it through story stirs my heart. Perelandra is the second book in Lewis’ Space Trilogy. In the series, Lewis uses the question of “What if there were life on other planets?” to illustrate and draw out Gospel themes. Perelandra takes place on a Venus where creation has not yet fallen and where the first Adam and Eve have just been given life. They get separated and the battle for Eve’s heart begins. Two individuals are sent from Earth: Ransom, the main character, representing God and Weston, a representative of Satan. It moves from there. From the unfallen world Lewis imagines to the dialog and Satan’s path of deception, this is well worth the read.

I almost included Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” but I had to narrow it down. Perelandra is better but the audio dramatization of The Screwtape Letters from Focus on the Family is very well done and extremely enjoyable.


The Great Divorce by CS Lewis (Published in 1945)

Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.

This is probably my favorite fiction book ever. It’s a short read, easy to get through in one sitting. Even now, I’m not quite sure how to describe this book without doing justice to its depth. Lewis uses a main plot about a journey from hell to heaven to dig into what matters to us. What is our one thing? How does that one thing hold us back from pursuing joy in God? Can we let go of it? I’ve read it once or twice every year since college (10 years) and it simply gets better every time I pick it up.


Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Volume 1 by Josh McDowell (Published in 1972)

This first apologetics book that I was exposed to and given to me by a very good friend (his short note in the cover still encourages me today). It’s more of a reference book but it is a very thorough reference book regarding the validity of the New Testament and the evidence that Jesus truly did rise from the dead. McDowell actually wrote this book in his own journey to believe in Christ. A must have reference book in any Christian’s library. There are a million books demonstrating evidence and arguments to believe in God but not too many like this one which details references and notes, building his argument for the resurrection of Jesus so simply and conclusively.


Mortification of Sin by John Owen (Published in 1656)

This is the most recent read of any of the books on list but quite likely the biggest paradigm shift I’ve had in how I approach my battle with sin and what it means to grow spiritually. This is a book I wish I had read 15 years ago instead of just 2 years ago. This book is a must read for any believer. Owen effectively nukes every method you ever had for fighting sin and directs you Biblical to how to kill sin and push to victory. Sounds fun but reading this book the first or second time through is like having Owen do open heart surgery on you without any anesthesia. Also, be forewarned, this book is not about some simple step by step method to fighting sin. Owen does not yield to recipe theology here and you will be forced to wrestle with your own sin and how to see it rightly.

The basic characteristic of an unmortified course is the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart. He who is able to swallow and digest daily sins in his life without conviction in the heart is at the very brink of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.


Desiring God by John Piper (Published in 1986)

The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Honestly, the book did not impact so much as this one sermon that explains the main message of the book! The concept of “Christian Hedonism” was an idea that blew my mind and put the pieces of the Bible together like nothing I’d ever heard before. If you read one book on this list, read this one. Once you get the vision that Piper is attempting to help you connect with, your perception of the way things are will change. Listening to that sermon, and understanding the main points of Desiring God, rerouted almost my entire theology. That is no understatement; ask anyone who is close to me.

This is the great business of life – to “put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God.


Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr & Mrs. Howard Taylor (Published in 1932)

Never shall I forget the feeling that came over me then. Words could not describe it. I felt I was in the presence of God, entering into a covenant with the Almighty. I felt as though I wished to withdraw my promise but could not. Something seemed to say, “Your prayer is answered; your conditions are accepted.” And from that time the conviction has never left me that I was called to China.

This is the first missionary biography that I read not long after I came to know Jesus and right in the midst of spending a summer in China back in 1997. It impacted me deeply. I wanted to be a missionary and still do and this book got me fired up to go. I ended up taking a year off of school in 1998-1999 to go back and I think this book was a piece of what stirred me up in zeal for pioneer missions. I love his life and the unbelievable sacrifices he made and the faith that he demonstrated over and over again.

My Top 3?

My top 3 out of this list would have to be Mortification of Sin, Desiring God, and The Great Divorce but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by any of these books.

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