Praising God In The Troughs

Some people mistakenly think that the maturity of a Christian is a steady climb, and anything short of that is not God-honoring. They feel the graph has to always be moving up and to the right. In reality—if we zoom in—we will see lots of peaks and troughs that are in the climb. 

For instance, we read the worship leader of Psalm 42 saying, “By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life,” and we think, “Yeah, that’s what I expect from a saintly psalmist!” 

But let’s get the context. In the opening verses, this same worship leader talks about his profound thirst, his tears, and the taunts of his enemies. Twice in this psalm, he laments, “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” 

Many people have gone through what has been called “the dark night of the soul.” I doubt anyone has ever given thanks because of those dark times, but they have learned to give thanks during those dark times.

Consider David’s beautiful words in Psalm 23. He points out that the Good Shepherd leads us into green pastures AND into dark valleys, beside quiet waters AND into the presence of enemies. 

But notice this: the Shepherd of our soul provides what we need in both daytime AND nighttime. He pours out blessings in the presence of our enemies, and as my grandfather wrote in the margin of his Bible next to verse 4, “Where there is shadow there must be light.” 

Consider the example of Paul who wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4). He wrote this to the church that was birthed by Paul’s miraculous deliverance from prison, while Paul and Silas were doing just that: Praying and singing hymns to God! 

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis gives us insight into how the demons view the temptation of Christians. Uncle Screwtape wrote to his nephew, “It may surprise you to learn that in God’s efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. … It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that the human is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best.” 

A mark of a maturing saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! 

Don’t feel like you need to praise God FOR your troughs, but you can and should praise Him BECAUSE of His presence even in your driest, darkest trough. God is doing something in this trough time that He could accomplish in no other way. As David said, our Good Shepherd leads us in both sunlit and dark paths “for His name’s sake”—He will be glorified and you will be rewarded! 

Be sure to follow along on this series Thankful In The Night.

The World’s Last Night (book review)

I am a huge C.S. Lewis fan! His perspective on the spiritual world is unequaled in any other author I have read. In The World’s Last Night, Lewis shares seven essays ranging from how our prayers really impact things, to life on other planets, to the end of our world as we know it.

The title of this book (and the title of the concluding chapter) are taken from a question by John Donne: “What if this present were the world’s last night?” So all of Lewis’ essays are written from that perspective. If this is the world’s last night, why should we keep praying? If demons knew this was the world’s last night, why would they keep on tempting? If atheists knew this was the world’s last night, would they keep arguing the same way?

As with all of his writings, C.S. Lewis has a unique knack of giving his readers a perspective that is totally original. His skills in philosophy, literature, and understanding the human heart are unparalleled! If you are ready to have your horizons expanded, these essays will not disappoint!

(And for any fans of The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape himself makes a special appearance as he gives a toast in hell that is sure to evoke both smiles and chagrins.)

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“Authority never comes from you, but from God through you, therefore let God introduce or withhold as He chooses.” —Oswald Chambers

“The best of men are men at best; and, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, and the power of divine grace, hell itself does not contain greater monsters than you and I might become.” —Charles Spurgeon

“The Bible is the grand repository … It is the complete system of divine truth, to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken, with impunity. Every attempt to disguise or soften any branch of this truth, in order to accommodate it to the prevailing taste around us, either to avoid the displeasure, or to court the favor, of our fellow mortals, must be an affront to the majesty of God, and an act of treachery to men.” —John Newton

“Seeking the Kingdom of God is not a matter of doing first things first. Seeking the Kingdom is not just the first thing on the Christian’s daily to-do list. Seeking the Kingdom is a first things always proposition, so that whatever is on our to-do list on any given day, seeking the Kingdom is the first things pursuit which defines and directs everything else we do.” —T.M. Moore

Eric Metaxas said, “Children are being sexually abused in Afghanistan, and our soldiers are being told to turn a blind eye. That’s got to stop.” Read more in his commentary Their Custom, Our Complicity.

In the style of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, Burk Parsons writes a letter to pastors.

A thought-provoking piece from Nancy Pearcey, in light of the Kim Davis situation and the Obergefell decision: The Bait-and-Switch Over Same-Sex ‘Marriage.’

Seth Godin points out, “Thinking of one’s self as a failure is not the same as failing.” Read more from On Feeling Like A Failure.

C.S. Lewis On The Scarcity Mindset

C.S. Lewis at his deskWhen C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, he wrote as an experienced demon giving advice to his young, protege demon. In this writing, when he refers to the “the Enemy” he’s talking about God, and “our Father” is the devil.

“The Enemy’s demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s first great victory, we have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few centuries, we have been closing up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually shortlived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding. This idea is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy. The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition.’” —C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Jesus came that we might have life in abundance; the devil wants to leave you competing for scarcity after he steals, kills and destroys. Choose God’s way. Choose abundance! Choose life!

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In The Screwtape Letters, in which an older demon is writing to an apprentice demon, the ‘Enemy’ is God, and the ‘Father’ is the devil. “The Enemy’s demand on humans takes the form of a dilemma; either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy. Ever since our Father’s first great victory, we have rendered the former very difficult to them. The latter, for the last few centuries, we have been closing up as a way of escape. We have done this through the poets and novelists by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually shortlived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding. This idea is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy. The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition.’” —C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters

“Commend me to the Christian who says, ‘I bless God I am saved; now what can I do for others?’ The first thing in the morning he prays, ‘God help me to say a word to some soul this day.’ During the day, wherever he may be, he is watching his opportunity, and will do good if he can. He is concerned about his children: it sometimes breaks his heart to think that they are not saved. If he happens to have an ungodly wife, it is his daily burden, ‘O God, save my wife!’ When he goes to a place of worship he does not expect the minister to make sermons always on purpose for him, but he says, ‘I shall sit here and pray God to bless the word,’ and if he looks round the chapel and sees one that he loves, he prays for him, ‘God send the word home to him.’ When service is over, a man of this kind will waylay the unconverted, and try to get a personal word with them, and see if he cannot discover some beginnings of grace in their souls. This is how earnest Christians live; and let me tell you, as a rule, though they have the griefs of other men’s souls to carry, they do not have much grief about their own; they are watering others and they are watered themselves also. May this be your work and mine!” —Charles Spurgeon

“Paul wrote to the Ephesians about the true character of a healthy, growing church. He said nothing about numbers of people, size of budget, variety of programs and facilities, or whether or not it had a great worship band. He emphasized two characteristics—unity and maturity—which are in short supply in America’s churches today (Ephesians 4:11-16).” —T.M. Moore

Dr. George O. Wood says, “If even the angels do not know, and Jesus did not know, why do we have so many ‘date-setters’ even today? You can research and discover that there have been numerous false prophecies in the past centuries where authors and so-called prophets set a date for the return of Christ. Date-setters will always be wrong; you can count on it.” Read the rest of his post about Christ’s return here.

I like this: 5 reasons the church should embrace science.

Fight The New Drug asks: Is there a difference between pornography and prostitution?

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Who are the happiest people in the world? These precious people!

“The sense of ownership in general is always to be encouraged. The humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell and we must keep them doing so.” —C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters

“There are ten thousand actions good in themselves, which it might not be right for me to choose as my vocation in life. … Our prayer should be, ‘Show me what Thou wouldst have me to do’—have me to do in particular; not what is generally right, but what is particularly right for me to do.” ―Charles Spurgeon

J. Warner Wallace gives an important reminder to Christian apologists: The Evidence For Christianity Doesn’t “Tell” Us Anything.

[VIDEO] Here is another helpful reminder for Christian apologists on textual variants―

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In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has one demon giving advice to his young protege demon. This is profound wisdom: “You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” —C.S. Lewis

Two surveys seem to be related: First, “Fifty-four percent of U.S. teens 15-to-17-years-old do not live in a home with their married mother and father.” Read more in this post. (2) Lee Strobel reports on some findings from a Barna Group survey he commissioned: “Two findings emerged in a new national poll that I commissioned on fatherhood and faith: the younger the generation, the more people report having difficult relationships with their fathers. At the same time, the younger generation reports the highest percentage of people who are struggling with belief in God.” You can read Lee’s thoughts on this in Fathers & Faith.

Frank Viola shared this great story—In light of their doctrinal disagreements, someone once asked George Whitefield if he thought he’d see John Wesley in heaven. Whitefield replied, “I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him.”

“Grace is simply another word for God’s tumbling, rumbling reservoir of strength and protection. Grace comes to us not occasionally or miserly but constantly and aggressively, wave upon wave. We’ve barely regained our balance from one breaker, and then, bam, here comes another.” Read more in Max Lucado’s post Grace—A Never Ending Supply.

Astronomers are perplexed by the size of a black hole. Apparently it is challenging their views on the origins of the universe. Perhaps there is a better explanation….

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Some good reading and watching from today…

“I set you down as nearer akin to a devil than to a saint, if you can go your way and look into the face of your friend or child, and know him to be on the downward road, and yet never pray for him nor use any means for his conversion.” —Charles Spurgeon

Truth: 5 reasons why church is good for your marriage.

“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.” —C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters

When doctors given expectant parents about a health issue for their baby, that information may be misleading.

…but there is no mistaking this abortionist’s vile confession: “we let babies born alive ‘expire.’

“A person morally incapable of doing evil would be, by the same token, morally incapable of doing good. A free human will is necessary to the concept of morality.” —A.W. Tozer

Yet again climatologists’ “models” of so-called global warming are destroyed.

I love Pastor Chilly’s list: 66 Expressions Of Love.

[VIDEO] John Piper on what it means to be Gospel-centered…

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Some good reading & watching from today…

“James has in his mind a picture of people who use prayer to try to get from God something they desire more than God [James 4:2-4]. He calls these people—men and women—‘adulteresses.’ Why? Because in his mind God is like our Husband who is jealous to be our highest delight. If we then try to make prayer a means of getting from Him something we want more then we want Him, we are like a wife who asks her husband for money to visit another lover.” —John Piper

“The greatest outward troubles and calamities that we meet with…must needs appear very little things to the misery which we have deserved.” —Jonathan Edwards

“Our Enemy is a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. 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! 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 a bourgeois mind. 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.” —C.S. Lewis, Screwtape writing to Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters. (In case you didn’t know, The Screwtape Letters are letters from an older demon [Screwtape] to his young apprentice demon [Wormwood]. So the “Enemy” in their correspondence is God.) 

Since I just reviewed Beyond IQ, I have been reading more about the workings of the human brain. This post—How To Rewire Your Brain For Greater Happiness—is interesting. Even though they are quoting scientific findings, everything they have “discovered” was already in the Bible!

Philip Nation has a great list of how God reveals Himself in every book of the Bible.

I love John Piper’s latest project called Look At The Book, which shows Piper teaching the Scripture. Check out this video—

10 Quotes From “C.S. Lewis In A Time Of War”

In A Time Of WarI loved C.S. Lewis In A Time Of War by Justin Phillips! It appealed to my interests in World War II history, old-time radio, and one of my favorite authors: C.S. Lewis. You can read my book review by clicking here. Below are 10 quotes from this book which will give you a little of the flavor of this work.

“In a time of uncertainty and questioning it is the responsibility of the church—and of religious broadcasting as one of its most powerful voices—to declare the truth about God and His relation to man. It has to expound the Christian faith in terms that can be easily understood by ordinary men and women, and to examine the ways in which that faith can be applied to present-day society during these difficult times.” —James Welch, the BBC director of religious broadcasting responsible for getting C.S. Lewis on the air

“It seems to me that the New Testament, by preaching repentance and forgiveness, always assumes an audience who already believe in the law of nature and know they have disobeyed it. In modern England we cannot at present assume this, and therefore most apologetic begins a stage too far on. The first step is to create, or recover, the sense of guilt. Hence if I gave a series of talks, I should mention Christianity only at the end, and would prefer not to unmask my battery till then.” —C.S. Lewis

“Having seen more of his original manuscripts than probably anybody else, Walter Hooper observes that there is next to no evidence of rewriting or of copious changes. The manuscript of The Screwtape Letters is a case in point. There was only the one draft.” —Justin Phillips

“A charitable trust was set up called The Agape Fund, using the Greek word for love. Until his marriage in 1957, two-thirds of all Lewis’s royalties went into this fund to help those in need—normally under the cover of anonymity.” —Justin Phillips

“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” —C.S. Lewis

“Walter Hooper had discovered a calculation made by Warnie [Lewis] in 1967, described in his diary some four years after Jack’s [C.S. Lewis] death, that by the time the typewriter was finally packed up Warnie must have written at least 12,000 letters on it on his brother’s behalf.” —Justin Phillips

“Any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people’s minds under the cover of romance without them knowing it.” —C.S. Lewis 

“But if you will go to God just as you are, fully admitting that you care about Him very little, and put yourself in His hands, if you’re even ready to be made to care and leave Him to work, He’ll do the rest.” —C.S. Lewis

“All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that’s my job. And I am prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legends or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I’ve read a great many novels and I know a few amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff. They are absolutely full of the sort of things that don’t come into legends. Take one simple example. The passage in which Our Lord is scribbling in the dust before He gives His answer about the woman taken in adultery. Nothing whatever comes of it, no doctrine has ever been based on it, it has no point at all; there’s no conceivable reason why anyone should ever have written it down, unless he’s seen it happening. From first to last the things strike me as records of fact. And, in my opinion, the people who think that any of the episodes in the Gospels are imaginary are the people who have no imagination themselves and have never understood what imaginative story-telling is.” —C.S. Lewis

“Numbers vary, but in the year 2000 some estimates put worldwide sales of Lewis’ books at over 200 million copies in more than thirty languages.” —Justin Phillips

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