God on Trial

What C.S. Lewis Said about Our View of God and Sin

Who does God think he is? What right does he have to tell you and me what to do, or to send us to hell if we break his rules? — Such is the thinking, or at least the attitude, of many people in our time. We act as if God is on trial.

God_On_Trial

One of the things that I enjoy most about the holiday season is that I have more time for reading than I do the rest of the year. In addition, when my family exchanges gifts as part of our Christmas tradition, I am usually given some interesting books as Christmas presents. This year, one of the books I was happy to receive was God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics by C.S. Lewis.

God in the Dock

In the essay which bears the same title as the book, “God in the Dock,” Lewis speaks to the mindset and attitude that I referenced above.  He makes some keen observations about modern people’s view of God and sin and Christian preaching.

I believe what he says is as relevant today as it was when he first said it, which is why I want to share it with you. He write,

“The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews, Metuentes or Pagans, a sense of guilt. . . . Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, The Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.”

This statement resonates as true with me. It seems to me that there needs to be a different starting place for Christian witness now, in this generation, than there did with early Christian preachers.

Bringing an ‘Unwelcome Diagnosis’

What jumps out at me as most relevant is that last sentence: “We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.”

Lewis continues to say,

“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: If God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God is in the Dock.”

For many living in our time, including many young adults and university students, this is still the case. Man has put himself in the position of judge and God is on trial.

This is backwards thinking. In reality, God is the judge and we are the ones who will be judged (Hebrews 9:27, Isaiah 33:22, James 4:12). Yet, understanding the thinking of those in the culture, no matter how faulty it is, will serve to orient us as we seek to engage in Gospel conversations.

Question: How do you go about bringing the ‘unwelcome diagnosis’ to this generation, in a way that leads to understanding and hunger for the solution? How can we help others care about cure for sin that we offer in Christ? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why You Should Plan Your Summer

For many people, summer brings changes in schedules along with warmer weather. This is particularly true for students and those who work with students, such as teachers, professors, and campus ministry leaders. This change of schedule is usually met with rejoicing by all, but summer goes quickly. To make the most of it, you should plan your summer.

Plan Your Summer

When I was in elementary school the summertime felt like an eternity. To be honest, there were days when I actually felt bored. (I know, that sounds shocking, right?!) That was a long time ago! I don’t think I’ve experienced the sensation of boredom in at least twenty years—in the summertime or at any other time. Of course, I have much more responsibility now than I did then, which actually brings me to my point. More responsibility, in combination with less structure, necessitates greater individual planning and responsibility.

Why You Should Plan Your Summer

Though the summertime may be, for many, a change of pace and a change of schedule, it will go by faster than you think. In order to get the most out of it (not just work, but relaxation too) you should plan your summer. Some people balk at this kind of suggestion, as if planning will kill any opportunity for real relaxation, or as if planning will somehow quench a Spirit-led lifestyle, but I believe it does just the opposite. By thoughtful planning, we can be freed, both from anxiety that we should be working when we are resting and from the bondage of overworking when we should be resting.

Include Both Work and Rest in Your Summer Plan

I know, “summer work” may sound like an oxymoron to some, but it’s not. Even though it’s summer, let’s face it, there is still work to be done. If you are a student on break from school, you probably need to be looking for a summer job, or studying hard to take a standardized test for grad school. If you are a campus minister, you probably have a lot of planning and preparing for the year ahead, some support to raise, and maybe even a mission trip or a summer project to lead. Plan out when you are going to do these things and stick to the plan! Work hard when it’s time to work (even in the summer).

You would also be wise to plan for some rest. Do some fun things that you can’t do during other times of the year. Grill out, go swimming, walk around your neighborhood. If at all possible, try to take a few days or even a week for a vacation. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or far away, such as a trip to Walt Disney World, so long as it is refreshing and a break from the regular routine of work. Many studies have shown that if you take time to be refreshed you will be more effective in your work. Rest will help to keep your priorities in alignment and can help you to strengthen important relationships in your life, with family members or close friends.

Be Willing to Adjust Your Plan

As important as it is to plan well, things happen. Sickness can delay plans, work can take longer than anticipated, and bad weather can sidetrack plans to go to the beach. When things happen to throw your plans off track, don’t throw you hands up in defeat and give up. Don’t throw the plan away completely. Revisit the plan and make adjustments. Without some level of real thought and commitment a plan doesn’t really exist, but plans can be changed and adjusted when they need to be. Be willing to adjust your plans to meet your summer goals.

Question: What goals do you have for this summer? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Pace Yourself to Finish Well

If you are passionate about your ministry vision, it’s wise to work hard. College ministry is not a place for slackers. Steve Murrell said it well in a recent article, “If you want an easy job, don’t do ministry.” This truth should be taken to heart by all those considering stepping into full time ministry, and is a daily reality for those already serving in ministry. Yet, as we work hard, we also need wisdom to finish well. To finish well you should pace yourself.

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Recently, I ran out of fuel — literally. The house we are currently renting is heated by oil. Unlike heating systems run by gas or electric, oil must be purchased in advance and stored in a tank at our house, where it’s then used to heat the house. I had reasoned that since we are now midway through the month of April we likely wouldn’t need much more heat this year. After all, where I live, winter officially ended over two weeks ago.

Well, wouldn’t you know the temperature took a dip that week and just as we were preparing to go to bed one evening, my wife told me that the heater wasn’t working. This was not what I wanted to hear. After trying to assess and the source of the problem (and fix it quickly), I realized that we had run out of oil. So there we were, left with no heat on a night when the temperature dropped below freezing. In the end, though it wasn’t the most comfortable night of sleep, we all survived. But it did get me thinking I need to allow for more oil reserves, even in April.

Pace Yourself

If we aren’t careful we can do the same kind of thing in our ministry work. We can push too hard for too long, without resting and refilling our mental, emotional and spiritual reserves and find ourselves running on empty. Then, when something doesn’t go just like we planned, we can find ourselves in a bad place, struggling to honor our commitments. We need to pace ourselves.

Lean In During Crucial Seasons of Ministry

In many kinds of work there are time periods during the year that require greater attention and activity than others; there are seasons that require more work than others. Ministry leaders need to recognize when they are in such a time and devote the necessary time and energy accordingly.

In The Fuel and The Flame, Steve Shadrach applies this principle to college student ministry. He notes that “the first thirty days . . . can make or break you for the school year.” Proverbs 10:5 also addresses this need for increased work during some seasons: “He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.”

Don’t Allow an Intense Season of Ministry to Turn into an Unsustainable Habit

Here’s the problem. If you’re like me, the sense of urgency to reach others with the Gospel is a constant. It’s unceasing. It doesn’t turn off after the end of the “work week.” It doesn’t end after I turn the page on a calendar. That first thirty days of pushing at 110% can easily turn into months or even years of grinding. Just as I finish one key event, there is another thing to schedule, plan, or prepare for. There have been times when I’ve allowed this to go on for longer periods of time than I probably should have. Pushing at an unsustainable pace can be maintianed for a while, but eventually your effectiveness suffers.

I’ve learned that if I’m not careful I can end up underestimating how much fuel is left in the tank and “run out of gas.” Though I’m still full of vision and a hard worker, I’ve tried to learn how to pace myself a little bit better.

There are times to push forward, but there needs to be a balance as well to go the distance. In the long run I think this approach actually benefits everyone. When I’m not running on fumes, I’m a happier person, a better husband, and a more effective leader.

Question: How do you lean in during an intense ministry season without developing an unhealthy or unsustainable habit?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.