Take & Possess: Canaanites, Weeds, & Driving Out Enemies (Part I)

Pulling Weeds

Weeds don’t take no for an answer. The Canaanites would dwell in the land. To take is not the same as to possess.

So how can you drive out the enemy and truly possess the land?

How Persistent These Weeds

My proud, melancholic temperament turned up again Thursday. It might have looked like low-spirits, sickly, and weak.

And as much as I’d like to think it was because our family is weary of fighting off Covid-19 and because layers of a loved one’s harmful stronghold keep unfolding. I’d like to think it was those—those “tough life circumstances.”

But if I search my heart, hard as those are, the real trigger is my sin within, my bad habits, my mental weeds. Self-pity is one. Comparing gifts—I’ll call it what it is, coveting—is another. These joy-killing natives in the land—these godless -ites—have have dwelt so long in my life that they dislike being dislodged.

They’re stubborn. The roots are deep. They go way back.

Back to the dejected five year-old hiding in Grandma Wustmann’s dark coat closet because she felt slighted by an aunt. Back to the eight year-old crying bitter tears because my up-north cousins go to Grandma Considine’s overnight grandma parties and again when my best friend Jane got a pool. Way back.

My sins are ever before me. They tell me that I need to be satisfied in God, that I need salvation’s joy restored (Psalm 51:10-12). But why should these enemies, these weeds, leave their dwelling-place?

After all, like the Canaanites in Promised Land- they were in the land first.

What Are Your Evil -ITES?

Do you know about the evil -ites? They’re the natives in the land; the enemies God’s people faced when they finally entered the Promised Land. God made it clear that Joshua was to destroy them and drive them out.

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Deuteronomy 7:1-2

Why so severe?

God made that clear too. Because coexisting with Canaanites leads to compromise, “for that shall be a snare to you” (Deut. 7:16, also 7:17-26). That’s why this Canaanite must be conquered. The Canaanites were real godless people who lived in a real godless place. They were not an ignorant, innocent people.

To escape the evil, corrupting Canaanite influence, God told the Israelites to destroy them and drive them out.

But I think the -ites also represent our besetting sins, the sins that “cling so closely.” I mentioned a couple of my evil -ites, coveting and sullen self-pity.

They’re pesky and persistent—these “Canaanites.”

This Canaanite Must Be Conquered

But God commands us to deal with them the same way he commanded the Israelites to deal with the evil, godless -ites. “Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies…For sin shall not have dominion over you,” wrote the Apostle Paul.

Do you see how the imperative—let not sin reign— is grounded on the indicative—for sin shall not have dominion. This means that when God gives us a command to do, it’s rooted in what He has already done.

Christ has already set us free from sin’s ruling power (Romans 6:2,14,22). His death on the cross has already disarmed evil rulers (Colossians 2:13-15). What’s more, the Holy Spirit is ready to war against the sinful desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:17).

Which means, “The hasty temper [or the self-pitying, melancholic temper] may be natural to you: but seeing that your position is Christ is supernatural, this Canaanite must be conquered,” F.B. Meyer declares. “Talk no more of these Canaanites who would stay in the land; but say of the blessed Spirit, ‘He is well able to drive them out.‘”

If, by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the body, we will live (Romans 8:13). We are well able to drive them out, to uproot our weeds.

Weeds—and -ITES—Have No Rights

Sometimes, at the beginning of our Christian life, we make a feeble effort against them, and hope to cast them out; but they stubbornly resist, says Meyer. If conscience strikes, we reply, “Do not find fault; we couldn’t help it. These Canaanites are self-willed and persistent, they would dwell in the land.”

Meyer is referring to Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land, the land west of the Jordan. I just read about that in the book of Joshua and the start of Judges.

The book of Joshua opens with these words,

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

The book of Joshua is about how God was with Joshua on those conquests, gave victory over enemies, and gave Israel the Promised Land.

The Earth Is The LORD’S

Which means that their enemies had no right there. The rightful owner of the land, the Creator of the heavens and earth, had promised it to his people way, way back. In fact, hundreds and hundreds of years even before the Israelites were slaves in Egypt God promised this very land to Abraham.

For, “the earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). Which means the wicked -ites had no rights—no right to dwell in or to possess the Promised Land.

So too, our bad habits, our besetting sins, have no right to persist in our lives. We walk in newness of life.

These weeds have no right to grow in our united-with-Christ lives (Romans 6:1-11).

All Came To Pass

Because God keeps his promises. And He promised us his overcoming power. Remember 1 John 4:4, Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world?

God is greater than the enemy -ites. And He said if we obey, he’d drive out our enemies; and none of God’s good promises fail.

Not one.

These next few verses come near the end of the book of Joshua,

Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:43-45

It is ours to obey, and not to make peace with the enemy (See Judges 2:2). The whole soil of our hearts has been made over to the Son of God, Meyer writes, and there should be no part left to weeds.

Where “COEXIST” Cannot Exist

Whatever you might think of the bumper sticker, it was impossible for Israel to coexist with the Canaanites and thrive. And it is impossible for known, unrepented sin to coexist with righteousness (Romans 6:15-23).

There can be no peace between you and Christ, C.H. Spurgeon said, while there is peace between you and sin.

Which means that I had to do some fighting with my self-pity, whose roots were deep in coveting a life and I don’t have, and deeper still in discontentment.

There can be no peace between you and Christ while there is peace between you and sin

C.H. Spurgeon

I must wield the sword of the Sprit—real gospel truth—against these Canaanites. Truth like, The vinedresser prunes branches that bear fruit and the Lord disciplines those he loves. Like, in everything give thanks and be content with what you have.

Because we cannot possess what we do not first dispossess. We cannot possess what someone else controls. If coveting rules my heart, the peace of Christ won’t. Those two can’t possibly coexist. Don’t you know, James asked, that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?

The Israelites could not possess that part of the land where they coexisted with the Canaanites, even if they “kept” Canaanites as slaves. Instead of destroying or driving them out as God had commanded, the Israelites allowed them to live in their midst.

But if they had the power to enslave the enemy, they had the power to drive them out. (More on that in Part II.)

Living With The Canaanites

Judges chapter one gives an account of the successes and failures of the Israelite tribes in “possessing” what had been “taken” under Joshua. Judah did okay, but the other tribes did not.

At first, the Canaanites are dwelling among the Israelites (1:21), but soon after we read that the Israelites were dwelling among the Canaanites (1:32-33).

Do you hear the difference?

In the beginning of the account in Judges 1, the Israelites are driving out the Canaanites while a few pesky Canaanites lived among them. Even the finest manicured lawns have a few, isolated bursts of April dandelion bloom.

But eventually the Israelites are either using the Canaanites as forced labor—trying to put sin to work for them—or even worse, living among the Canaanites. That’s the yard so emblazoned with dandelion weed, you barely see green.

Dandelions And Grass

Here’s the progression from a few dandelions in a sea of green to a splash of grass in a field of dandelions.

It’s in Judges chapter one,

27 Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages[…]for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 28 When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.

29 And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them.

30 Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor.

31 Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco, or the inhabitants of Sidon or of Ahlab or of Achzib or of Helbah or of Aphik or of Rehob, 32 so the Asherites lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out.

33 Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land…

34 The Amorites pressed the people of Dan back into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the plain.

The tribe of Dan didn’t even make it out of the hills. And so Israel failed to possess the land.

Not To Conquer Is To Be Conquered

Not to conquer your spiritual foes is to be conquered by them, A.R. Fausset warns. They will push the first advantage you give them over you, until step by step you are brought down from being their master, to become their dependent vassal.

We have all unconquered ‘Canaanites’ in our hearts. And friendship with the world is enmity toward God. We must be alert to our inward foes, whom we imagine we have “under control,” and so treat them leniently. Soul-foes like nursing a grudge, throwing a pity party, or maybe just “blowing off steam.”

But no. We can’t all just get along. These can’t righteously coexist.

Partial Obedience = Incomplete Victory = More Weeds

This was not a complete victory for God’s people. Despite the promise God made to give them the land and give the enemies into their hand, this is not that story. God had said to drive out these Canaanites. Israel was to get rid of them and then to dwell where they had dwelt. The tribes failed to drive them out.

There are things that God has told us to drive out of our lives. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” In other words, fight your sin with urgency.

If your eye causes you to see, don’t look. If your foot causes you to sin, don’t go. If your hand causes you to sin, don’t do.

JOHN STOTT

Irish Pastor David Legge warns, Do not flirt with it! Do not allow it to take root! You see, if you do not obey God completely, only in a partial obedience, you will be conquered. If you do not conquer that sin, that sin will conquer you! 

I drive out the -ites in my mind. Sin has roots in thoughts. I must go deep to pull out weeds and plant that place with the excellent and praiseworthy.

Because gratitude and self-pity don’t coexist. Joyfully pressing on doesn’t dwell with discontentment. So I fought hard. I wrote thank you notes and sent I-care texts, and I thought on what is true. That’s how I took back the land.

Keep Up The Good Fight

I know I will have to keep up the fight because the Canaanites are persistent. But day by day, moment by moment, I can push them back. Because Christ died and rose again to give us His power to overcome.

So don’t make peace with sin. Don’t let the enemy possess the land. If you know it’s a sin, drive it out.

Don’t let the Canaanites dwell in your land.

When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land.

Judges 2:6

*Look for Part II of TAKE & POSSESS coming soon.

If: What Do You Know of Calvary Love?

gong, without love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

From Subtle Love of Softening Things…Deliver Me

I “met” Amy Carmichael in my teens one summer afternoon in a cramped trailer home that housed a Christian library I so loved. Amy wasn’t soft. Read her poems—like Make Me Your Fuel, Flame of God— and you’ll see it.

As a missionary serving woman and children in India she didn’t cow to the elite who wanted their temple slaves back. Nor did Amy pull no her punches when it came to teaching converts to follow Christ.

Amy wasn’t soft, but she was loving. And not soft-pedal-the-truth loving, but holding-out-truth-in-love loving. I ran into her poem IF, last week, in my Bread And Wine reading for Lent. And one of my JoyPrO goals is to share with you what strengthens me.

Amy’s “If’s” do. But her if’s are not meant to be read one after another. In her introduction to the book simply titled, “If,” Amy Carmichael writes,

Perhaps only one “If” will have the needed word.

But if one does, I say, then run with the one. Feel the conviction, let Christ’s love control you.

And if you’re like me and 21 “ifs” ring true, well then, back to the cross. He came, He died, He rose for these.

If

If I have not compassion on my fellow)servant even as my Lord had
pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak
in a casual way even of a child’s misdoings, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I find myself half-carelessly taking lapses for granted, “Oh, that’s
what they always do,” “Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like
that,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight
another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If, in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and
slip from under the burden, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot bear to be like the father who did not soften the rigors of
the far country; if, in this sense, I refuse to allow the law of God (the
way of transgressors is hard) to take effect, because of the distress it
causes me to see that law in operation, then I know nothing of Calvary
love.

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed
me; if I say, “Just what I expected,” if a fall occurs, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I cast up a confessed, repented, and forsaken sin against another, and
allow my remembrance of that sin to color my thinking and feed my
suspicions, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I have not the patience of my Saviour with souls who grow slowly; if
I know little of travail (a sharp and painful thing) till Christ be fully
formed in them, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot keep silence over a disappointing soul (unless for the sake of
that soul’s good or for the good of others it be necessary to speak),
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can hurt another by speaking faithfully without much preparation of
spirit, and without hurting myself far more than I hurt that other, then
I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one
concerned should say, “You do not understand,” or because I fear to
lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the
other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying “Peace, peace,” where is
no peace; if I forget the poignant word “Let love be without
dissimulation” and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things
but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I fear to hold another to the highest goal because it is so much easier
to avoid doing so, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into the vice of self-pity and
self-sympathy; if I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself; if I
am so occupied with myself I rarely have “a heart at leisure from itself,”
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

IF, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my
threshold, I do not shut the door, and in the power of Him who works
in us to will and to do, keep that door shut, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth);
if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not give a friend “the benefit of the doubt,” but put the worst
construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool
unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If a sudden jar can cause me to speak an impatient, unloving word,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.*
*For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter
water however suddenly jolted.

If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not,
forgetting that my Sinless Saviour trod this path to the end, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitterly towards those who condemn me, as it seems to me,
unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would
condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I say, “Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,” as though the God who
twice day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could
not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If interruptions annoy me, and private cares make me impatient; if I
shadow the souls about me because I myself am shadowed, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of
discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I become entangled in any “inordinate affection”; if things or places
or people hold me back from obedience to my Lord, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If something I am asked to do for another feels burdensome; if,
yielding to an inward unwillingness, I avoid doing it, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of man elates me and his blame depresses me; if I cannot
rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be
loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If I want to be known as the doer of something that has proved the
right thing, or as the one who suggested that it should be done, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never
crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given a moment’s room there;
if the cup of spiritual flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing
of Calvary love.

If it be not simple and a natural thing to say, “Enviest thou for my sake?
Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets,” then I know
nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that
others are feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw
others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself
the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my
own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and
their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that
it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and
cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows
hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of
Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I
know nothing of Calvary love.

THAT WHICH I KNOW NOT, TEACH THOU ME, O LORD, MY GOD.

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;

And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.…

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

A Man’s Man: The Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Goodly Fere, Caravaggio Painting, Christ Expulses Money Changers
 Christ Expulses Money Changers. Cecco del Caravaggio. (Public Domain).

I slammed into this poem a few months ago as I was researching for my meek book. I made a note then to share it with you during Holy Week.

Here we are. So here it is: The Ballad of the Goodly Fere, by Ezra Pound.

Ballad of the Goodly Fere

Simon the Zealot speaks somewhile after the Crucifixion; where fere = mate, companion.

HA’ we lost the goodliest fere o’ all1
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O’ ships and the open sea.
 
When they came wi’ a host to take Our Man 5
His smile was good to see,
“First let these go!” quo’ our Goodly Fere,John 18:8
“Or I’ll see ye damned,” says he.
 
Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears 10
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,      
“Why took ye not me when I walked aboutMark 14:49
Alone in the town?” says he.
 
Oh we drank his “Hale” in the good red wine 15
When we last made company.Mark 14:25
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere,       
But a man o’ men was he.
 
I ha’ seen him drive a hundred men20
Wi’ a bundle o’ cords swung free,Matthew 21:12
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.        
 
They’ll no’ get him a’ in a book, I think,25
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.
 
If they think they ha’ snared our Goodly Fere30 
They are fools to the last degree.
“I’ll go to the feast,” quo’ our Goodly Fere,Matthew 20:18
“Though I go to the gallows tree.”
 
“Ye ha’ seen me heal the lame and blind,35
And wake the dead,” says he. Matthew 21:14
“Ye shall see one thing to master all:
’Tis how a brave man dies on the tree.”
 
A son of God was the Goodly Fere 40
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men.       
I have seen him upon the tree.
 
He cried no cry when they drave the nails45
And the blood gushed hot and free.
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue,
But never a cry cried he. (No: Matthew 27:46, 50)
 
I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men50
On the hills o’ Galilee.
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi’ his eyes like the gray o’ the sea.
 
Like the sea that brooks no voyaging, 55
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at GenseretLuke 8:22-25
Wi’ twey words spoke suddently.
 
A master of men was the Goodly Fere,60
A mate of the wind and sea.     
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.
Jesus Appears on the Shore of the Sea of Galilee, James Jacques Tissot. (Public Domain)

Ezra Pound: Donkey?

But in case you know about Pound and in the event a Good Friday poem by an unholy man like Pound is off putting— for he lived not like a saint—please read this quick bit by Matthew Melema,

God often shares his truth through unlikely sources. Nebuchadnezzar was cursed to live like a beast because of his hubris. But he later wrote one of the humblest tributes to God’s grandeur in the Old Testament. Paul was the “chief of sinners” before becoming Christ’s chosen vessel. Balaam’s donkey was, well, a donkey before God used it to berate an oblivious prophet.

That’s how I view Pound in the “Ballad of the Goodly Fere”: a donkey. Sure he’s hard-headed, brutish, and even bestial. But when his culture had grown dull, thinking of Jesus as a mere teacher of platitudes, Pound was there. He reminds us of the vitality, the loyalty, the gospel-strangeness of the Son of God.

Our King Jesus was a man’s man and a gentleman. He is the Lion and the Lamb. He is the Mighty King of Meekness. His strength was tenderly harnessed, his anger was ever righteous, and his love for his mates, to the end.

The Greatest Drama Ever Staged

I opened with Pound’s poem but I’ll close with Sayers’ prose. Both make the same point: Jesus was not the least bit dull, nor for a second is the Passion Story.

[T]he tale of the time when God was the under-dog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men he had made, and the men he had made broke him and killed him. This is the dogma we find so dull – this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero.

If this is dull, then what, in Heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore – on the contrary; they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him “meek and mild,” and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.

To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggested a milk-and-water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand. True, he was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before Heaven; but he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites; he referred to King Herod as “that fox”; he went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a “gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners”; Christ assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the temple; he drove a coach-and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations; he cured diseases by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people’s pigs and property; he showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps, he displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and he retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb. He was emphatically not a dull man in his human lifetime, and if he was God, there can be nothing dull about God either. But he had “a daily beauty in his life that made us ugly,” and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness […]

Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. That God should play the tyrant over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed […]

Perhaps the drama is played out now, and Jesus is safely dead and buried. Perhaps. It is ironical and entertaining to consider that once at least in the world’s history those words might have been spoken with complete conviction, and that was upon the eve of the resurrection.

From, “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged Is the Official Creed of Christendom,” which first appeared in the London Sunday Times two weeks before Easter 1938. Reprinted here from Letters to a Diminished Church, by Dorothy L. Sayers.

We are here again friends, on the eve of the resurrection. And I hope that with me, you’re more smitten with the master of men now than you’ve ever been.

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

Luke 23:46-49

.What Our Savior Saw from the Cross, painting by James Jacques Tissot

What Our Savior Saw from the Cross, James Jacques Tissot. (Public Domain)

On Influence & A Good Influence Named Linda

Two women smiling, Linda and author, influence

You cannot be profoundly influenced by what you do not know.

Let’s talk about influence.

Dr. Pepper seltzer, Tim Hawkins, the ragged copy of My Utmost in her WC twenty years ago that led to one in mine; the elegance of Hedgehog and Goudge and countless other good books, whole cream in coffee, radish slices not Ruffles, and those flexible plastic cutting boards. Oh, those blessed chopping mats!

How could possibly forget that legendary Swiss vinaigrette, something like this but on the exact recipe, I’ve vowed secrecy.

Those things are not the half of it. They’re only a fraction of the ways Linda has influenced me.

On Linda’s Influence

You went to Peoria again last weekend? my friends ask. Why’d you go down this time?

It’s alway the same reason: Linda. Linda and John, and their five vibrant kids—remember that long, non-looping trip?— and their beloved “urban family” who have become our friends too.

And Linda. Linda is my husband’s sister, my sister-in-law. But more, she is my friend.

Turns out, my first memory of Linda is my first memory of my husband Jim. I was 14 when my family spent two August weeks at their grandparents’ campground. Jim and Linda would bound and bounce around the deck then spring into that little Meadowlark Acres pool. Vivacious, friendly, bright—I loved the life in them. Thirty-one years after we met at the pool, I still do.

Linda is a good influence—a joyful, faithful, cheerful influence. But you cannot be profoundly influenced by what you do not know.

Linda and her crew are why we go to Peoria. Because we want to know them more. I want them to influence me.

Think About These Things

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7

What do you think about when your mind is “resting”? Because the teacher wrote, as you think, so you are.

Lovely people think about lovely things, Alistair Begg said in a message on Philippians 4:8. By extension, truthful people think true thoughts, pure people think pure thoughts, and just people think just thoughts.

But the only way we can get those good thoughts a-thinkin’ is to place ourselves with them in the first place. That means we seek out good influences—influences that build our strength, our faith, our joy.

Do you see why all the three-hour drives to Peoria and all the time spent in the Word? In a word: influence.

Because thoughts stick around. For better and worse, they loop.

I heard there’s a sign on a gravel road in Alaska that reads, Choose your rut carefully. You will be in it for the next 25 miles. We have a say in what tracks we choose.

The Christian is to choose an excellent and praiseworthy groove. Which means I must intentionally choose my influencers wisely. I must set the Lord always before me.

There Are No Ordinary People (So Be A Good Influence)

God created us to be influenced. Over and over, Scripture calls us to imitate, to be influenced for good. First, by the Spirit applying God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But then by the fellow image-bearers with whom we rub shoulders.

But God also created us as influencers.

This bit from Lewis is oft-quoted, and for good reason. Because we are all in process. We are heading one direction or the other. We all are influenced and influence.

It is a serious thing […] to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations -these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. 

From The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis. Lewis delivered this sermon at Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, on June 8, 1941.

All day long we are influencing each other in one direction or another. Influence is never neutral.

You are not what you think you are. But what you think, you are.

We are influenced—for good or for ill—by what we know. Who and what we know directly impacts our thoughts. As we think, so we are.

Which brings us back to the top. Get to know some good influences. Latch on to a Linda. And set the Lord always before you.

Because you cannot be profoundly influenced by that which you do not know.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4:8