Thursday, December 29, 2016


A great many people (not you) do now seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don’t think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we’re doing it, I think we’re meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds’ song and the frosty sunrise.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II

Monday, December 05, 2016

Discovering creativity

And she added: ‘Of one thing you can be sure: if you are a creator in any particular medium, you will end by discovering the fact. Nothing can prevent the genuine creator from creating, or from creating in his own proper medium.’ She expressed the hope that if he decided to specialise in mathematics or science he would also keep up with the humanities: ‘Scientists in these days tend to work in isolation from the general body of thought ... I believe there will be a reaction, in the next few generations, to a synthesis of science and philosophy, which will help to correct the present disjunction of the two activities.’

From Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul, by Barbara Reynolds - in a letter written to her son. 

Simple Gospel?

"So few parsons are really trained in the use of words ... The result is that when the trained writer restates an old dogma in a new form of words, the reader mistakes it for a bright new idea of the writer’s own. I spend half my time and a lot of stamps telling people that I have not been giving them a fancy doctrine of my own ... Typical of this is a woman who writes to say: ‘I can’t agree with you that Christ is the same person as God the Creator’. One can only say: ‘It isn’t a question of agreeing with me. I have expressed no opinion. That is the opinion of the official Church, which you will find plainly stated in the Nicene Creed, whether or not you and I agree with it.’"

She considered the teaching and preaching of the Church inadequate. The result was that people were bewildered and ‘in a nightmare of muddle out of which [they] have to be hauled by passing detective novelists in a hurry and with no proper tackle’. Preachers will not define terms or say what the doctrine is. 

In September she was invited to attend a meeting of clerics and laity at the B.B.C., ‘who were trying to work out plans for some sort of "call to religion" with musical and dramatic accompaniments’. She was not enamoured of what she called ‘propaganda art-forms’ and considered that it would be better to begin by making a work of art for its own sake and let the moral emerge from it, not the other way round. She came away from the meeting very depressed. To Canon Cockin, a member of the committee, she wrote, ‘It sent me out in a mood for a stiff gin-and-tonic and the robust company of my heathen friends.’ She wrote at length about it to Father Kelly: 

"The wretched pacifist question boiled up at once, and these people always contrive to put one into an awkward position, as though one was completely corrupted by Caesar, while they sit loftily on the Mount with Christ and Mr Gandhi. And the clergy, who were not pacifist, but showed a great reluctance to fight the issue, all seemed disposed to believe that it was the chief business of the Church to advocate socialism and economic reform. It’s so easy to say ‘Let’s have the simple Gospel and consider what Christ would have done.’ But what is the ‘simple Gospel? And whatever Christ ‘would have done’, there’s one thing He would have resolutely refused to do, viz. to sit on committees and argue about politics ... Perhaps the people who sit on B.B.C. committees are the wrong kind of clergymen. They don’t seem to be able to keep the Law and the Gospel distinct in their minds. 

"They all made me feel very gloomy, including the Socialist parsons, who all seem to think that the difficulties of labour will be smoothed away by getting wages right, never mind what happens to the work. I tried to suggest to them (along the lines of the little section on Work in ‘Creed or Chaos?’) that it was necessary, along with the wages question, to get a right attitude to the work. They thought this very novel and constructive ... which shows how hopelessly we have all got wound up into the ‘economic theory’ of society." 

They babbled, she went on, about European Federation, which in her opinion is no more likely to work than the League of Nations or the temporal sovereignty of Rome. The one Federation that does work — i.e. the British Commonwealth — they have no use for.’ [Interesting in the light of the recent Brexit vote...!]

From Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul,  by Barbara Reynolds

Saturday, December 03, 2016

High in the Night Sky

One of the great sins, according to the Scriptures, is the sin of complaining. We tend to overlook this this, thinking that complaining is just an ordinary, garden-variety sin. Everybody complains, right?

But in Scripture it is one of the big ones. The children of Israel in the wilderness incurred the anger of God more than once through their murmuring and complaining (e.g. Ex. 16:2). God had given them amazing provisions in that wilderness, and yet they were blind to it all—their glass was perpetually half empty, not full and overflowing as it had been when they were slaves in Egypt.  The contrast between an unbelieving people and believers is strikingly seen in just this.

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14–15).
It doesn’t much matter what you are murmuring about. The content of the dispute is entirely ignored by the apostle. The merits of your particular case are passed by entirely.

He doesn’t say no murmuring or disputing unless your boss doesn’t understand you, or unless your wife is not being difficult. He doesn’t say that murmuring is only allowed when nameless others are not letting you have your way. He doesn’t say that murmuring is a good way of letting other people know you have high standards and that other people are aggrieving you because of them.

No, you shine as lights in the world when you do all things without murmuring or disputing. The Israelites murmured about their food and drink, but there are a host of things you can complain about if you want to blend right in with our crooked and perverse nation. There is the weather, the traffic, the housekeeping, the cooking, the music, the pay, the recognition, and the weather again.

This is not a complicated issue. Grumbling is the black night sky. Contentment is a shining star, high in the night sky.

From Douglas Wilson's blog, Blog&Mablog, 26th Nov, 2016: High in the Night Sky

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The unity of Christians

TO FATHER PETER MILWARD, SJ: On the evil of Christian disunity; and on prayer and cooperation in works of charity as the means of reunion.

6 May 1963

Dear Padre,

You ask me in effect why I am not a Roman Catholic. If it comes to that, why am I not—and why are you not—a Presbyterian, a Quaker, a Mohammedan, a Hindu, or a Confucianist? After how prolonged and sympathetic study and on what grounds have we rejected these religions? I think those who press a man to desert the religion in which he has been bred and in which he believes he has found the means of Grace ought to produce positive reasons for the change—not demand from him reasons against all other religions. It would have to be all, wouldn’t it?

Our Lord prayed that we all might be one ‘as He and His Father are one’ [John 17:21]. But He and His Father are not one in virtue of both accepting a (third) monarchical sovereign.

That unity of rule, or even of credenda [things to be believed], does not necessarily produce unity of charity is apparent from the history of every Church, every religious order, and every parish.

Schism is a very great evil. But if reunion is ever to come, it will in my opinion come from increasing charity. And this, under pressure from the increasing strength and hostility of unbelief, is perhaps beginning: we no longer, thank God, speak of one another as we did over 100 years ago. A single act of even such limited co-operation as is now possible does more towards ultimate reunion than any amount of discussion.

The historical causes of the ‘Reformation’ that actually occurred were (1.) The cruelties and commercialism of the Papacy (2.) The lust and greed of Henry VIII. (3.) The exploitation of both by politicians. (4.) The fatal insouciance of the mere rabble on both sides. The spiritual drive behind the Reformation that ought to have occurred was a deep re-experience of the Pauline experience.

Memo: a great many of my closest friends are your co- religionists, some of them priests. If I am to embark on a disputation—which could not be a short one, I would much sooner do it with them than by correspondence.

We can do much more to heal the schism by our prayers than by a controversy. It is a daily subject of mine.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A little slumber

The worst of sluggards only ask for a little slumber; they would be indignant if they were accused of thorough idleness. A little folding of the hands to sleep is all they crave, and they have a crowd of reasons to show that this indulgence is a very proper one. Yet by these littles the day ebbs out, and the time for labour is all gone, and the field is grown over with thorns.

It is by little procrastinations that men ruin their souls. They have no intention to delay for years--a few months will bring the more convenient season--to-morrow if you will, they will attend to serious things; but the present hour is so occupied and altogether so unsuitable, that they beg to be excused. Like sands from an hour-glass, time passes, life is wasted by driblets, and seasons of grace lost by little slumbers. Oh, to be wise, to catch the flying hour, to use the moments on the wing!

May the Lord teach us this sacred wisdom, for otherwise a poverty of the worst sort awaits us, eternal poverty which shall want even a drop of water, and beg for it in vain. Like a traveller steadily pursuing his journey, poverty overtakes the slothful, and ruin overthrows the undecided: each hour brings the dreaded pursuer nearer; he pauses not by the way, for he is on his master's business and must not tarry. As an armed man enters with authority and power, so shall want come to the idle, and death to the impenitent, and there will be no escape.

O that men were wise be-times, and would seek diligently unto the Lord Jesus, or ere the solemn day shall dawn when it will be too late to plough and to sow, too late to repent and believe. In harvest, it is vain to lament that the seed time was neglected. As yet, faith and holy decision are timely. May we obtain them this night.

From Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening Devotional, for the 24th November. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Waiting time

I hope no reader will suppose that ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions. . . . . It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted.

But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable. It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.

When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house.

And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling. In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?’

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.

From Mere Christianity by C S Lewis

Friday, November 11, 2016

The right reader for the right book

I have had ‘Miss Bodle’s colleague’ in my daily prayers for a long time now: is that the same young man you mention in your letter of July 3rd, or do I now say ‘colleagues’? Yes: don’t bother him with my books if an aunt (it somehow would be an aunt—though I must add that most of my aunts were delightful) has been ramming them down his throat.

You know, The Pilgrim’s Progress is not, I find (to my surprise) everyone’s book. I know several people who are both Christians and lovers of literature who can’t bear it. I doubt if they were made to read it as children. Indeed, I rather wonder whether that ‘being made to read it’ has spoiled so many books as is supposed. I suspect that all the people who tell me they were ‘put off’ Scott by having Ivanhoe as a holiday task are people who would never have liked Scott anyway.

I don’t believe anything will keep the right reader and the right book apart. But our literary loves are as diverse as our human! You couldn’t make me like Henry James or dislike Jane Austen whatever you did. By the bye did Chesterton’s Everlasting Man (I’m sure I advised you to read it) succeed or fail with you?

From The Collected Letters of C S Lewis, Vol III

Wednesday, November 02, 2016


Praise should always follow answered prayer; as the mist of earth's gratitude rises when the sun of heaven's love warms the ground. Hath the Lord been gracious to thee, and inclined his ear to the voice of thy supplication? Then praise him as long as thou livest. Let the ripe fruit drop upon the fertile soil from which it drew its life. Deny not a song to him who hath answered thy prayer and given thee the desire of thy heart.

To be silent over God's mercies is to incur the guilt of ingratitude; it is to act as basely as the nine lepers, who after they had been cured of their leprosy, returned not to give thanks unto the healing Lord. To forget to praise God is to refuse to benefit ourselves; for praise, like prayer, is one great means of promoting the growth of the spiritual life. It helps to remove our burdens, to excite our hope, to increase our faith. It is a healthful and invigorating exercise which quickens the pulse of the believer, and nerves him for fresh enterprises in his Master's service.

To bless God for mercies received is also the way to benefit our fellow-men; "the humble shall hear thereof and be glad." Others who have been in like circumstances shall take comfort if we can say, "Oh! magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together; this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him." Weak hearts will be strengthened, and drooping saints will be revived as they listen to our "songs of deliverance." Their doubts and fears will be rebuked, as we teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. They too shall "sing in the ways of the Lord," when they hear us magnify his holy name.

Praise is the most heavenly of Christian duties. The angels pray not, but they cease not to praise both day and night; and the redeemed, clothed in white robes, with palm-branches in their hands, are never weary of singing the new song, "Worthy is the Lamb."

From Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening: entry for 30th October. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016


I think one may be quite rid of the old haunting suspicion—which raises its head in every temptation—that there is something else than God—some other country . . . into which He forbids us to trespass—some kind of delight which He “doesn’t appreciate” or just chooses to forbid, but which would be real delight if only we were allowed to get it.

The thing just isn’t there. Whatever we desire is either what God is trying to give us as quickly as He can, or else a false picture of what He is trying to give us—a false picture which would not attract us for a moment if we saw the real thing. Therefore God does really in a sense contain evil—i.e., contains what is the real motive power behind all our evil desires. He knows what we want, even in our vilest acts: He is longing to give it to us. He is not looking on from the outside at some new “taste” or “separate desire of our own.” Only because He has laid up real goods for us to desire are we able to go wrong by snatching at them in greedy, misdirected ways. The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. That is why I say there can be good without evil, but no evil without good. You know what the biologists mean by a parasite—an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.

Thus you may well feel that God understands our temptations—understands them a great deal more than we do. But don’t forget Macdonald again—“Only God understands evil and hates it.” Only the dog’s master knows how useless it is to try to get on with the lead knotted round the lamp-post. This is why we must be prepared to find God implacably and immovably forbidding what may seem to us very small and trivial things. But He knows whether they are really small and trivial. How small some of the things that doctors forbid would seem to an ignoramus.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II

Friday, October 28, 2016

Two extracts from Imagining the Kingdom

Quite simply, there is no formation without repetition. There is no habituation without being immersed in a practice over and over again… So it is precisely our allergy to repetition in worship that has undercut the counterformative power of Christian worship—because all kinds of secular liturgies shamelessly affirm the good of repetition. We’ve let the devil, so to speak, have all the repetition. And we, as liturgical animals, are only too happy to find our rhythms in such repetition. Unless Christian worship eschews the cult of novelty and embraces the good of faithful repetition, we will constantly be ceding habituation to secular liturgies.  


We need stories like we need food and water: we're built for narrative, nourished by stories, not just as distractions or diversions or entertainments but because we constitute our world narratively. It is from stories that we receive our "character," and those stories in turn become part of our background, the horizons within which we constitute our world and engage in action. I cannot answer the question, what do I love? without (at least implicitly) answering the question what story do I believe? We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
James K.A. Smith, Imagining The Kingdom: How Worship Works

Ongoing patience

The Lord Jesus loves his people so much, that every day he is still doing for them much that is analogous to washing their soiled feet. Their poorest actions he accepts; their deepest sorrow he feels; their slenderest wish he hears, and their every transgression he forgives. He is still their servant as well as their Friend and Master. He not only performs majestic deeds for them, as wearing the mitre on his brow, and the precious jewels glittering on his breastplate, and standing up to plead for them, but humbly, patiently, he yet goes about among his people with the basin and the towel.

He does this when he puts away from us day by day our constant infirmities and sins. Last night, when you bowed the knee, you mournfully confessed that much of your conduct was not worthy of your profession; and even tonight, you must mourn afresh that you have fallen again into the selfsame folly and sin from which special grace delivered you long ago; and yet Jesus will have great patience with you; he will hear your confession of sin; he will say, "I will, be thou clean"; he will again apply the blood of sprinkling, and speak peace to your conscience, and remove every spot. It is a great act of eternal love when Christ once for all absolves the sinner, and puts him into the family of God; but what condescending patience there is when the Saviour with much long-suffering bears the oft recurring follies of his wayward disciple; day by day, and hour by hour, washing away the multiplied transgressions of his erring but yet beloved child!

To dry up a flood of rebellion is something marvellous, but to endure the constant dropping of repeated offences--to bear with a perpetual trying of patience, this is divine indeed! While we find comfort and peace in our Lord's daily cleansing, its legitimate influence upon us will be to increase our watchfulness, and quicken our desire for holiness. Is it so?

From Charles Spurgeon's Evening by Evening, the reading for October the 24th. 

Friday, October 07, 2016

The unmorality of art

The theory of the unmorality of art has established itself firmly in the strictly artistic classes. They are free to produce anything they like. They are free to write a "Paradise Lost" in which Satan shall conquer God. They are free to write a "Divine Comedy" in which heaven shall be under the floor of hell. And what have they done? Have they produced in their universality anything grander or more beautiful than the things uttered by the fierce Ghibbeline Catholic, by the rigid Puritan schoolmaster? We know that they have produced only a few roundels. Milton does not merely beat them at his piety, he beats them at their own irreverence. In all their little books of verse you will not find a finer defiance of God than Satan's. Nor will you find the grandeur of paganism felt as that fiery Christian felt it who described Faranata lifting his head as in disdain of hell. And the reason is very obvious. Blasphemy is an artistic effect, because blasphemy depends upon a philosophical conviction. Blasphemy depends upon belief and is fading with it. If any one doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor. I think his family will find him at the end of the day in a state of some exhaustion.

G K Chesterton: Heretics

Friday, September 30, 2016

Good and evil people

Remember that, as I said, the right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping. You can see mistakes in arithmetic when your mind is working properly: while you are making them you cannot see them. You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.

From Mere Christianity by C S Lewis

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dinner party

I wish you well. May your table be graced with lovely women and good men. May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity. May your men wear their weight with pride, secure in the knowledge that they have at last become considerable. May they rejoice that they will never again be taken for callow, black-haired boys. And your women? Ah! Women are like cheese strudels. When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own. May you relish them indeed. May we all sit long enough for reserved to give way to ribaldry and for gallantry to grow upon us. May there be singing at our table before the night is done, and old, broad jokes to fling at the stars and tell them we are men.
We are great, my friend; we shall not be saved for trampling that greatness under foot. Ecce tu pulcher es, dilecte mi, et decorus. Lectulus noster floridus. Tigna domorum nostrarum cedrina, laquearia nostra cypressina. Ecce iste venit, saliens in montibus, transilens colles. [Behold, you are beautiful, my love, and fair. Our bed is blooming. The beams of our house are cedar, the ceiling is cypress. Behold, he is coming, leaping over the mountains, jumping across the hills. [From the Song of Solomon) -- Ed]

Come then; leap upon these mountains, skip upon these hills and heights of earth. The road to Heaven does not run from the world, but through it. The longest Session of all is no discontinuation of these sessions here, but a lifting of them all by priestly love. It is a place for men, not ghosts — for the risen gorgeousness of the New Earth and for the glorious earthiness of the True Jerusalem. Eat well then. Between our love and His Priesthood, He makes all things new, Our Last Home will be home indeed.

From Robert Capon's The Supper of the Lamb, in the chapter on staging a dinner party.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The presence of God

And of course the presence of God is not the same as the sense of the presence of God. The latter may be due to imagination; the former may be attended with no “sensible consolation.” The Father was not really absent from the Son when He said “Why hast thou forsaken me?” You see God Himself, as man, submitted to man’s sense of being abandoned. The real parallel on the natural level is one which seems odd for a bachelor to write to a lady, but too illuminating not to be used. The act which engenders a child ought to be, and usually is attended by pleasure. But it is not the pleasure that produces the child. Where there is pleasure there may be sterility: where there is no pleasure the act may be fertile. And in the spiritual marriage of God and the soul it is the same. It is the actual presence, not the sensation of the presence, of the Holy Ghost which begets Christ in us. The sense of the presence is a super-added gift for which we give thanks when it comes, and that’s all about it.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The supreme vice

If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.

From Mere Christianity by C S Lewis

Monday, August 08, 2016

Living in the present

Jesus said,] "But now tell me, where do you spend most of your time in your mind, in your imagination: in the present, in the past, or in the future?”

Mack thought for a moment before answering. “I suppose I would have to say that I spend very little time in the present. I spend a big piece in the past, but most of the rest of the time, I am trying to figure out the future.” 

“Not unlike most people. When I dwell with you, I do so in the present—I live in the present. Not the past, although much can be remembered and learned by looking back, but only for a visit, not an extended stay. And for sure, I do not dwell in the future you visualize or imagine. Mack, do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?” 

Again Mack stopped and thought. It was true. He spent a lot of time fretting and worrying about the future, and in his imagination it was usually pretty gloomy and depressing, if not outright horrible. And Jesus was also correct in saying that in Mack’s thoughts of the future, God was always absent. “Why do I do that?” asked Mack. 

“It is your desperate attempt to get some control over something you can’t. It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn’t even real, nor will it ever be real. You try to play God, imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality, and then you try to make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear.”

From The Shack, by William P Young

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Remember the signs

But long before she had got anywhere near the edge, the voice behind her said, “Stand still. In a moment I will blow. But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs.

And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind.

And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters. And now, daughter of Eve, farewell—”

From The Silver Chair by C S Lewis

Friday, July 29, 2016

Rejoicing over answered prayer

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE: On rejoicing over answered prayer; and on our prayers being God’s prayers.

C. S. Lewis

6 November 1953

Oh I am glad, I am glad. And here’s a thing worth recording. Of course I have been praying for you daily, as always, but latterly have found myself doing so with much more concern and especially about 2 nights ago, with such a strong feeling how very nice it would be, if God willed, to get a letter from you with good news. And then, as if by magic (indeed it is the whitest magic in the world) the letter comes to-day. Not (lest I should indulge in folly) that your relief had not in fact occurred before my prayer, but as if, in tenderness for my puny faith, God moved me to pray with especial earnestness just before He was going to give me the thing. How true that our prayers are really His prayers: He speaks to Himself through us.

I am also most moved at hearing how you were supported through the period of anxiety. For one is sometimes tempted to think that if He wanted us to be as un-anxious as the lilies of the field He really might have given us a constitution more like theirs! But then when the need comes He carries out in us His otherwise impossible instructions. In fact He always has to do all the things—all the prayers, all the virtues. No new doctrine, but newly come home to me.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Speaking of sin

Neither the language of medicine nor of law is adequate substitute for the language of [sin]. Contrary to the medical model, we are not entirely at the mercy of our maladies. The choice is to enter into the practice of repentance. Contrary to the legal model, the essence of sin is not [primarily] the violation of laws but a wrecked relationship with God, one another, and the whole created order. ‘All sins are attempts to fill voids,’ wrote Simone Weil. Because we cannot stand the God-shaped hole inside of us, we try stuffing it full of all sorts of things, but only God may fill [it.] 

Barbara Brown Taylor in Speaking of Sin: the lost language of salvation, pp 57-67

Sunday, June 26, 2016

What temptation means

You may remember I said that the first step towards humility was to realise that one is proud. I want to add now that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practise the Christian virtues. A week is not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week. Try six weeks. By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.

We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.

From Mere Christianity, by C S Lewis

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why keep swimming

Why do the majority of Christians doubt the literal existence of the Devil? We’re affected by the pervasive skepticism and disenchantment of our “secular age,” but it’s not just that we’re passively affected by our culture. A lot of us are actively searching for an intellectually honest and respectable faith, a faith that prizes scientific knowledge and literacy. From cutting-edge cosmology to genetics to evolutionary theory to particle physics to neuroscience, Christians want to investigate and enjoy the findings of science and integrate them with faith. But this pursuit, one I heartily approve of as a social scientist, can create tensions and raise hard and difficult questions: How does evolution fit with the book of Genesis? Or neuroscience with the belief in an immortal soul? The pursuit of a scientifically literate faith can move you deeper into doubt and increase the pressures of disenchantment.
Many scientifically literate Christians find it hard to believe in ghosts, and this skepticism affects their beliefs in other supernatural beings— angels, demons, and the Devil. Even belief in God is affected. Across the board in this secular age, doubt haunts belief, which is why many believers are drifting toward agnosticism and atheism. The tide of disenchantment is simply too strong, and faith is swept away. 

Consequently, a large part of being a scientifically engaged and literate Christian is swimming against this tide of doubt and disenchantment, and that’s exhausting. Some days it seems like it would just be easier to stop struggling, to let the tide of disenchantment take you and drift into unbelief. 

So why keep swimming? 

Because the secular age isn’t wholly characterized by disenchantment. Here and there in the secular, we encounter the transcendent, the holy, and the sacred. We encounter beauty and ugliness, love and meaning. We are skeptics, but we are also haunted by the sense that there is something more. 

As [Charles] Taylor describes it, the secular age is characterized by two cross-pressures. On the one hand is the downward pressure of skepticism and disenchantment, where the enchanted world is emptied out and all that is left is the flat, horizontal drama of human action and interaction. This is the trajectory of a Scooby-Doo episode, the journey to discover that, in the end, there are no ghosts or gods or devils. In the final analysis, at the end of the thirty-minute adventure, there are only human beings. 

But here and there in this secular age we also experience updrafts of transcendence, a pull toward the heavens. We’re interrupted by wonder and awe. We’re surprised by joy. We experience a deep-seated ache and yearning, a feeling of restlessness, a longing for home. Even in an age of particle physics and brain scans, we still bump into the magic from time to time, still experience the enchantment of the world. We’re skeptical and scientific people, yes, but we’re also haunted by the suspicion that the universe is more than the sum of its subatomic parts. 

Doubting and disenchanted Christians live at the center of these cross-pressures. We are skeptics, but we are also haunted in ways that agnostics or atheists are not. And that haunting keeps us swimming against the tide of disenchantment, keeps us tethered to faith through a restlessness and dissatisfaction with a thoroughly disenchanted world, a world ruled by the iron and deterministic laws of cause-and-effect.

From Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted, by Richard Beck. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

If God had willed it....

If God had willed it, each of us might have entered heaven at the moment of conversion. It was not absolutely necessary for our preparation for immortality that we should tarry here. It is possible for a man to be taken to heaven, and to be found meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light, though he has but just believed in Jesus.

It is true that our sanctification is a long and continued process, and we shall not be perfected till we lay aside our bodies and enter within the veil; but nevertheless, had the Lord so willed it, he might have changed us from imperfection to perfection, and have taken us to heaven at once. Why then are we here? Would God keep his children out of paradise a single moment longer than was necessary? Why is the army of the living God still on the battle-field when one charge might give them the victory? Why are his children still wandering hither and thither through a maze, when a solitary word from his lips would bring them into the centre of their hopes in heaven?

The answer is--they are here that they may "live unto the Lord," and may bring others to know his love. We remain on earth as sowers to scatter good seed; as ploughmen to break up the fallow ground; as heralds publishing salvation. We are here as the "salt of the earth," to be a blessing to the world. We are here to glorify Christ in our daily life. We are here as workers for him, and as "workers together with him." Let us see that our life answereth its end. Let us live earnest, useful, holy lives, to "the praise of the glory of his grace." Meanwhile we long to be with him, and daily sing--

"My heart is with him on his throne,
And ill can brook delay;
Each moment listening for the voice,
Rise up, and come away.'"

Charles Spurgeon in Morning and Evening, from the June 10th Morning entry

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Birthday cards from God

It is quite right that you should feel that “something terrific” has happened to you (It has) and be “all glowy.” Accept these sensations with thankfulness as birthday cards from God, but remember that they are only greetings, not the real gift. I mean, it is not the sensations that are the real thing. The real thing is the gift of the Holy Spirit which can’t usually be—perhaps not ever—experienced as a sensation or emotion. The sensations are merely the response of your nervous system. Don’t depend on them. Otherwise when they go and you are once more emotionally flat (as you certainly will be quite soon), you might think that the real thing had gone too. But it won’t. It will be there when you can’t feel it. May even be most operative when you can feel it least.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Grief and fear

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man’s life. I was happy before I ever met H. I’ve plenty of what are called ‘resources.’ People get over these things. Come, I shan’t do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this ‘commonsense’ vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.

From A Grief Observed by C S Lewis

Friday, May 13, 2016

Where the road passes over the rim of our world

I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world. No one’s eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people’s eyes can see further than mine.

From Mere Christianity by C S Lewis

Sunday, April 24, 2016

God is alive...

It is always shocking to meet life where we thought we were alone. “Look out!” we cry, “it’s alive.” And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back—I would have done so myself if I could—and proceed no further with Christianity. An “impersonal God”—well and good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads—better still. A formless life- force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap—best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at an infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband—that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (“Man’s search for God”!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us!

From Miracles by C S Lewis

Saturday, April 23, 2016

'It is a dreadful truth...'

6 December 1955

C. S. Lewis

I was most distressed by the news in your letter of Dec 2nd . . . And I can’t help you, because under the modern laws I’m not allowed to send money to America. (What a barbarous system we live under. I knew a man who had to risk prison in order to smuggle a little money to his own sister, widowed in the U.S.A.) By the way, we mustn’t be too sure there was any irony about your just having refused that other job. There may have been a snag about it which God knew and you didn’t.

I feel it almost impossible to say anything (in my comfort and security—apparent security, for real security is in Heaven and thus earth affords only imitations) which would not sound horribly false and facile. Also, you know it all better than I do. I should in your place be (I have in similar places been) far more panic-stricken and even perhaps rebellious.

For it is a dreadful truth that the state of (as you say) ‘having to depend solely on God’ is what we all dread most. And of course that just shows how very much, how almost exclusively, we have been depending on things. That trouble goes so far back in our lives and is now so deeply ingrained, we will not turn to Him as long as He leaves us anything else to turn to. I suppose all one can say is that it was bound to come. In the hour of death and the day of judgement, what else shall we have? Perhaps when those moments come, they will feel happiest who have been forced (however unwillingly) to begin practising it here on earth. It is good of Him to force us: but dear me, how hard to feel that it is good at the time....

All’s well—I’m half ashamed it should be—with me. God bless and keep you. You shall be constantly in my prayers by day and night.

[My italics in the third paragraph]

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Forgiveness versus being excused

I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to do something quite different. I am asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology, I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.” But excusing says “I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it, you weren’t really to blame.”. . .

Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it.

From The Weight of Glory by C S Lewis

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Made for it stitch by stitch

But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it—made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.

From The Problem of Pain, by C S Lewis.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

God stoops to our fears

On preaching 1 Samuel 16:1-13

...don’t you see what point II [God stoops to our fears] tells you about God? These little, scrawny verses, this mere conversation between God and his prophet? See how God takes notice of and addresses Samuel’s fears? He does not mock or ridicule him or tell him he’d never make a decent rugby player. He doesn’t jeer at him for trembling before Saul’s sword (cf. Psalm 103:14). Is he not the same God with us? Does he not understand what terrifies us? Perhaps the fear that we’ll not be saved at the last because we have no assurance of salvation now? Or are you alone in the world and wonder who is going to care for you when darker days come? Though you are one of Christ’s flock, do you have a terror of dying? Have you a spouse who is abandoning you and you can’t imagine how you will get on? Do you see Samuel’s God? He does not despise you in your fears but stoops down to meet you in them.

Dale Ralph Davis in The Word Made Fresh, page 124

Wednesday, April 06, 2016


[And this brings me to] the other sense of glory—glory as brightness, splendour, luminosity. We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star. I think I begin to see what it means. In one way, of course, God has given us the Morning Star already: you can go and enjoy the gift on many fine mornings if you get up early enough. What more, you may ask, do we want?

Ah, but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses and nymphs and elves—that, though we cannot, yet these projections can enjoy in themselves that beauty, grace, and power of which Nature is the image.

That is why the poets tell us such lovely falsehoods. They talk as if the west wind could really sweep into a human soul; but it can’t. They tell us that “beauty born of murmuring sound” will pass into a human face; but it won’t. Or not yet. For if we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy.

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of he door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.

From The Weight of Glory, by C S Lewis

Tuesday, April 05, 2016


Discussing applying Scripture to our relation to Elisha' s words in 2 Kings 4: Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress, and Yahweh has hidden it from me and has not told me.

We could also focus on Elisha's situation as analogous to ours. We are not prophets like Elisha was. (At least I'm not - I don't receive direct divine revelation as he did.) But simply in our non-technical position as the Lord's servants, don't we know something of the same limitations? Aren't there scores of times when folks seek us out for advice in their dilemmas, and we have to so much as say, 'The Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me'? I hate being so deficient in wisdom, so baffled about what to make of people's twisted problems, but Elisha's situation is a comfort to me. Does it not suggest that I don't have to give 'the answer' to everyone's perplexity? I don't have to take on the impossible burden of playing God and tell people what 'God is doing' or 'saying' in their trouble. God has not called me - nor gifted me - to have the solution for everyone's quandaries. What a relief it is finally to realize that. What a weight it lifts from ministry! In fact, we get in trouble when we fail to see our limitations.

From The Word Became Fresh, by Ralph Dale Davis, pages 107-8

Sunday, April 03, 2016


...when the apostle Paul comes forward to proclaim the will of God, he says it is not by the crushing of the body, but by the sanctification of the body: “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In this my Christian brethren, there is one of the deepest of all truths. Does a man feel himself the slave and the victim of his lower passions? Let not that man hope to subdue them merely by struggling against them. Let him not by fasting, by austerity, by any earthly rule that he can conceive, expect to subdue the flesh. The more he thinks of his vile and lower feelings, the more will they be brought into distinctness, and therefore into power; the more hopelessly will he become their victim. The only way in which a man can subdue the flesh, is not by the extinction of those feelings, but by the elevation of their character. Let there be added to that character, sublimity of aim, purity of affection; let there be given grandeur, spiritual nobleness; and then, just as the strengthening of the whole constitution of the body makes any particular and local affection disappear, so by degrees, by the raising of the character, do these lower affections become, not extinguished or destroyed by excision, but ennobled by a new and loftier spirit breathed through them. This is the account given by the apostle. He speaks of the conflict between the flesh and the spirit. And his remedy is to give vigour to the higher, rather than to struggle with the lower. “This I say then, Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”

...We hear of man's invention, of man's increase of knowledge; and it would seem in all this, as if man were necessarily becoming better. Brethren, it always must be the case in that state in which God is looked upon as the Supreme Being merely, where the intellect of man is supposed to be the chief thing—that which makes him most kindred to his Maker. The doctrine of Christianity is this—that unity of all this discord must be made. Man is to be made one with God, not by soaring intellect, but by lowly love. It is the Spirit which guides him to all truth; not merely by rendering more acute the reasoning powers, but by convincing of sin, by humbling the man. It is the graces of the Spirit which harmonize the man, and make him one; and that is the end, and aim, and object of all the Gospel: the entireness of sanctification to produce a perfectly developed man. Most of us in this world are monsters, with some part of our being bearing the development of a giant, and others showing the proportions of a dwarf: a feeble, dwarfish will—mighty, full-blown passions; and therefore it is that there is to be visible through the Trinity in us, a noble manifold unity; and when the triune power of God shall so have done its work on the entireness of our Humanity, that the body, soul, and spirit have been sanctified, then shall there be exhibited, and only then, a perfect affection in man to his Maker, and body, soul, and spirit shall exhibit a Trinity in unity.

Frederick William Robertson. Sermons Preached at Brighton / Third Series Chapter 4. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016


The symbols under which Heaven is presented to us are (a) a dinner party, (b) a wedding, (c) a city, and (d) a concert. It would be grotesque to suppose that the guests or citizens or members of the choir didn’t know one another. And how can love of one another be commanded in this life if it is to be cut short at death?

Think of yourself just as a seed patiently waiting in the earth: waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time, up into the real world, the real waking. I suppose that our whole present life, looked back on from there, will seem only a drowsy half- waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But cock-crow is coming.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Twice as fast as aspirin

To Joshua's "I and my house" [the Israelites] add their "we too." But then Joshua does something no decision-loving evangelist should ever do. To Israel's "we too" he opposes his "you cannot." If Israel gives herself to Yahweh it must be in a cautious commitment.

Joshua's is a shocking refusal. "You cannot serve Yahweh, for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not go on forgiving your rebellion and your sins." If you desert him, he will consume you. Don't lightly mouth your profession of faith, Joshua is saying. Don't you realise the sort of God you are dealing with? He is a holy, jealous God. You didn't dare come to him thinking, "though it makes him sad to see the way we live, he'll always say, 'I forgive.'" Yahweh is not a soft, cuddly Santa in the sky who drools over easy decisions during invitation hymns. Joshua seeks to put down that blathering self-confidence that makes emotional commitments rather than shutting its mouth and counting the cost.

"You cannot serve Yahweh." Neither Israel nor the church could hear a more beneficial word than that.

It was precisely when the Jesus bandwagon was going great guns (Luke 14:25) that Jesus emphasized who "cannot be my disciple." Rather, one must carefully "count the cost" before yielding allegiance to Jesus. The church should note this. Too frequently, the Jesus we present is some variety of prepackaged joy, peace and provision that works twice as fast as aspirin. He is our cellophane Christ. We should not sell Christ like that but warn people about him! Our task is not to bait people into saying, "I will lay down my life for you" (John 13:37), but to get them (and ourselves) to squirm under his searching, "Do you love me?" (John 21: 15-19). Too many of us perjure ourselves before a holy Judge as we sing, "I surrender all," or "My Jesus, I love thee." There are stanzas in some hymns that I dare not sing.

One of the healthiest things a Christian can do is to doubt and question his easy expressions of commitment. One of the ordination vows my denomination asks of me is:
Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public, and to endeavour by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer?
I would not touch that with the proverbial ten-foot pole. It asks too much of a proud, angry, lustful, covetous man. I affirm it only because there is that clause, "by the grace of God," in it. Otherwise, I would have to turn away, for it would be too much to promise. Baptismal, membership and marriage vows should receive the same scrutiny.

Dale Ralph Davis in No Falling Words, expositions on the Book of Joshua, pages 201-2

Saturday, March 05, 2016


The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water.

Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness. If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are. Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let "Christ and him crucified" be your ever recurring theme.

Charles Spurgeon, in Morning and Evening, for March 2nd. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Dissecting the recipe instead of feeding the family

From a footnote in Dale Ralph Davis' No Falling Words, page 167. 

Simplicity is, in my book, a plus; the more complicated an explanatory critical theory becomes, the less probability it holds of being correct, since every additional element inserts new (frequently uncheckable) variables into the problem. Multiplying the variables in a theory multiplies the uncertainty of their (all) describing the true course of events. Whether for a book or a chapter, the customary critical proposals inspire less confidence than a naive one. For chapter 22 [of Joshua], someone will hold we have a Gilgal tradition and a Shiloh tradition - these may have been in conflict originally. Of course, a Deuteronomic editor contributes his material, and a Priestly hand adds his touches - nor must we forget another post-exilic redactor (cf. the commentaries by Gray and Soggin on Joshua 22), Someone else will speculate differently. There are no controls; it is sheer guesswork. What's more, it seldom makes any difference (except to place question marks after the reliability of Scripture).

The real problem with such bloodless speculation is that, after having done it, its practitioners strangely enough do not bother to tell us what their literary monstrosity has to say to the flock of God. The problem with most commentaries of such genre is that they can in no way nourish the church in godliness. Do they provide technical help - linguistic, archaeological? Yes. But to them the Scripture is not warm. It is an artifact from the past, not an oracle from God. Nor should they wonder if the church finds all their furrow-browed, pin-the-tail-on-the-tradition-centre activity next to useless.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Change for change's sake

What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And’. You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.

The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively. To experience much of it, therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must experience change. And since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at heart) has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating pleasurable. But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme. He gives them in His Church a spiritual year; they change from a fast to a feast, but it is the same feast as before.

C S Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters (for those who don't know the book, it's 'written' by an arch-devil to his apprentice, and so things are twisted to seem to be the reverse of the truth; the 'Enemy' is God himself.)

The irrepressible Dale Ralph Davis

A few extracts from Dale Ralph Davis' commentary on Joshua: No Falling Words. 

I do not want to get caught in soupy spiritualization here. However, it may be proper to point out that this remains one of God's patterns with his people. God's power still works among us (cf. Phil 2:13), not necessarily in quick flashes but over a long time, which calls for simple, durable fidelity over such time. Even though God is at work, many days still consist of washing your face, brushing your teeth, taking out garbage, and attending class. That is why 'you have need of endurance.' (Heb 10:36) Page 100. 

In verses 10-11 [of chapter 14] Caleb reveals the perspective of faith: 'And now, look how Yahweh has kept me alive, as he promises, these forty-five years...and now look how I am today eighty-five years old, yet I remain as strong today as the day when Moses sent me off; my strength is the same now as then for war and for going out and coming in.' This is the way of biblical faith - it remembers what Yahweh has done, and remembers in gratitude. So Caleb, as he builds to his punchline in verse
12, remembers Yahweh's goodness to date. Yahweh had kept him alive through the last forty-five years, (cf. Psalm 33:18-19). This was no small bounty, since it was through war and wilderness. And Yahweh was still blessing him with strength and stamina, old as he was. This is the way faith looks at things: faith is always looking into the past, seeing God's goodness there, dragging it into the present, pondering it, praising for it, and so going on from strength to strength. The perspective of faith takes in God's goodness, responds in gratitude, and finds grace for God's next call. Pages 118-9

The God of the Bible tends to be concrete, his gifts tangible and visible. The inheritance he bequeaths is not an idea but boundaries, not thoughts but towns; in a word, real estate. Yahweh has always been this way - and his enfleshment is the great witness to the fact (John 1: 1, 14). We western Christians probably need to get a hard grip on this; we need to rediscover the earthiness of God. We must realize that even enjoying the grand act of the kingdom of God will not mean floating as a beeping soul in some sort of spiritual ether but walking around with a resurrection body in new heavens and a new earth (cf. Isaiah 65-66, Rev 21-22).
So perhaps we can say that Israel's concrete and tangible inheritance in Canaan is a foreshadowing of our own. Our full possession is in new heavens and a new earth, not in some earthless, fleshless void. Our full expectation ought not to be in dying and going to heaven, as the usual cliche has it. The New Testament language is that believers, when they die, are 'with the Lord'. But the New Testament always lifts our eyes and fixes our minds upon the fullness of our hope, the redemption of our bodies on resurrection day at the return of our Lord. Pages 125-7