A discussion on mythology between two professors may not seem like a recipe for changing the literary world. Add a few more academics and you have The Inklings, which might have kept the world from experiencing J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings but for his friendship with C.S. Lewis.

The Inklings were Oxford dons, including the aforementioned pair and Hugo Dyson among others, meeting regularly to discuss their work and other topics. Dyson railed profanely about Tolkien’s elves and refused to hear readings about them. But Lewis encouraged him to continue, and Tolkien cited Lewis for giving him perseverance for the monumental work. Perhaps this was turnabout, for years earlier, Tolkien’s quiet logic had encouraged Lewis to abandon his atheism for the joy of Christian faith, without which we would never have met Aslan, the king who was not safe, but good (The Chronicles of Narnia). Actually Dyson also helped persuade Lewis about Christ, so this was a tale of sincere friends, shared lives.

It’s too bad that you may not realize the value of friends until you need them. Sometimes the need is just to be heard, and assured that you aren’t the unlikeable failure you quite imagine. You come to trust such friends, which is why disloyalty hurts (Ps. 41:9). But show me friends who have weathered storms of adversity between them, and I’ll show you a stronger, more honest relationship. We’re so quick to throw things away, including people. Don’t.

The story of Job, perhaps the oldest book in the Bible, was about God dealing with a man who had friends who were well-intentioned but sometimes unhelpful. Here’s to the friend who is wise enough to know when to shut up and listen! And consider carefully what comes out of his mouth next.

In today’s culture coffee houses compete with pubs as a place “where everybody knows your name” (que ‘Cheers’ theme song!). They call out your delectable selection by name, a friendly touch. We just want to be known. We yearn for friends because an anonymous life is starved of the sustenance of relationship, of knowing and being known. Ultimately that yearning is fulfilled in relationship with God. Surprisingly, He has made himself available as a “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Pr. 18:24). Jesus, God the Son, called his followers “friends” (Jn. 15:15). He lived life with them, served them, and lay down his life for them.

Friends Tolkien and Lewis might have changed the literary world by advancing mythology as a genre, but a far more profoundly world-changing event was God appearing in the flesh to reveal himself as a Friend, available to all comers. By faith Father Abraham became “God’s Friend” (Is. 41:8). Are you?


C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

Some of the stories in the news these days about people identifying differently than the way they were born are confusing.  We all wear labels whether we realize it or not, and for the most part they help our friends and acquaintances know who we are.

C.S. Lewis could be somewhat crass, but never cruel; silly but not sacrilegious.  He supposed Jesus could be considered either as crazy as a man who says he is a poached egg, or as deceitful as the Devil of Hell.  Perhaps you’ve heard his argument that given how Jesus self-identified, he was either a lunatic, a liar, or Lord.  He summarized this way: “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.”

So how did Jesus identify himself?  Just within the confines of the gospel of John we find a trove of claims.  He told the woman at the well, “I who speak to you am (the Messiah).”  Isaiah tells us the Messiah would be Almighty God and Everlasting Father and Jesus knew that.

Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”  People clearly understood that he equated himself with God and were incensed about it.  When He said, “I am the bread of life” and “I am the living water,” He declared that the deepest, most basic, and most enduring human need can only be met by knowing and believing him.

He said, “I am the light of the world” as he made the blind man see.  “I am the door of the sheep…if anyone enters through Me he will be saved.” “I am the good shepherd” that lays down His life for the sheep.

Over and over he says, “I am.”  But probably my favorite is when Jesus enraged an argumentative bunch with, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  Here he claimed the very name of God as revealed to Moses at the burning bush.  Shocking!  Lunatic, liar, or Lord?

Skeptics don’t think the ‘LLL’ argument is very strong because to them we can’t be sure what Jesus actually claimed.  They would dismiss the gospel of John as a fabrication of his followers.  If so, skeptics need also explain why his followers who walked with him, knowing it to be a lie, would suffer persecution for a myth of their own making.

I’m convinced of John’s narrative of how Jesus self-identified as God the Son.  “I Am,” he said, and he still is.  Identify with him, believe him, and live!

Real Manhood

MetaxasI spoke recently with a man who spent some time as a jailer.  He concluded that most men are in jail because they never learned how to control themselves.  They might be tough guys, but that doesn’t make them real men. 

 In his book, Seven Men, Eric Metaxas refers to the C.S. Lewis essay, “Men Without Chests” to explain that real men have heart.  By that he means “the courage to be God’s idea of a real man and to give of yourself for others when it costs you to do so, and when everything tells you to look out for yourself first.”  He presents biographies of such real men, each of which sacrificed something important for the benefit of others. 

 After the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army wanted to install George Washington as American King George I.  They lost confidence in the Continental Congress over back pay.  Believing this exposed the weakness of the republic form of government, they circulated the Nicola and Armstrong letters which advocated military rule.  Washington summoned his officers and in a speech that moved many to tears, appealed to their honor and patriotism to never overthrow the newly-won American liberties.  In refusing their overtures, he gave up power and fortune for the good of his fellow citizens.  King George of England declared that if the man that defeated the most powerful army on earth stepped down, he would be “the greatest man in the world.” 

 Perhaps you saw the 2007 movie, “Amazing Grace” about William Wilberforce.  He was elected to the British Parliament at 20 years old.  He became politically powerful and quite popular in London society.  Early in his career, he vacationed with Isaac Milner on the French Riviera.  The young politician was moved as Milner talked about faith.  Given that high society took offense with anyone serious about God, it was no small matter when this political prodigy converted to Christ.  His old friend John Newton, the former slave trader and author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” encouraged him.  So he took up the cause against slave trading and slave holding, which meant reforming culture itself.  What did he give up?  He could have been Prime Minister, but he spent his political capital elsewhere.  He could have remained in high society, but chose the cause of the lowly instead.  After decades of personal sacrifice, days before his death he learned that his cause was finally successful. 

 These are but two of the biographies Metaxas collected, but to what end?  He writes, “I hope you would want to study these lives – and not just study them but emulate them.  It is my prayer that those who read this book would be inspired to become real heroes, to become great men in their own generation.”  May more Real Men step forward. 

Unlikely Converts

 A person does not become a Christian in a usual place, service, or prayer. There is no typical convert. In fact, if you get a group of believers together to tell their stories, all would be different and some would seem unlikely. 


Ana Marie Cox

 John Stonestreet (Colson Center for Christian Worldview) was on the radio a while back discussing Ana Marie Cox, a writer, editor, and political pundit. She describes herself as “progressive, feminist, tattooed,” not exactly convert material. Yet she recently ‘came out’ as a Christian in a Daily Beast article. On Morning Joe she explained, “I have grace offered to me no matter who I am or what I’ve done. No matter if I’m liberal or conservative or I’ve bone bad things in the past. It’s not that I think you should believe like I do. I have found something incredibly precious, and it’s too precious not to share with others.” 


Dr. Rosaria Butterfield

 Dr. Rosaria Butterfield, a tenured university professor, was clearly on the far left and quite anti-Christian. After she bashed Promise Keepers in an article, a pastor approached her, encouraging her to look deeper. It was his persistent, engaging way that led her to the Bible. Her friends noticed a change as she considered the words of Jesus. “I fought with everything I had. I did not want this. I did not ask for this,” she admitted. Then one ordinary day, she believed. “The voice of God sang a sanguine love song in the rubble of my world.” Now she has a husband, a Christian pastor, and she’s living a redeemed life. 


Kirsten Powers

 Kirsten Powers is sometimes on a ‘fair and balanced’ cable news channel. Earlier in her life she wavered between atheism and agnosticism. Though stridently irreligious, she broke her personal rule not to date a religious guy, and began attending church with him. She began to think that the evidence favored Christianity. Then she had a memorable dream about Jesus that compelled her to join a home Bible study looking for answers. She became convinced. “Of all people surprised that I became an evangelical Christian, I’m the most surprised. The Hound of Heaven had pursued me and caught me – whether I like it or not,” she confessed. 

 C.S. Lewis tried to remain atheist but, “I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” Saul was a persecutor of the early church who was changed by Jesus on that Damascus Road. And the list of seemingly improbable converts goes on. 

 But are these really unlikely conversions? Don’t underestimate the power of truth! Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good or good people better; he came to give life, something everyone needs. In that sense, we all start from the same place, so if anyone is an unlikely convert, we all are.