The Don: The Archetype

“Even our sexuality should be regarded as the transposition into a minor key of that creative joy which in Him is unceasing and irresistible. Grammatically the things we say of Him are ‘metaphorical’: but in a deeper sense it is our physical and psychic energies that are mere ‘metaphors’ of the real Life which is God. Divine Sonship is, so to speak, the solid of which biological sonship is merely a diagrammatic representation on the flat.” —C.S. Lewis, Miracles, (HarperCollins, 2001), pp. 146

Swollen Rivers Subside (Jeremiah 46:1–28)

"About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah...

Who is this, rising like the Nile, 
     like rivers whose waters surge? 
Egypt rises like the Nile, 
     like rivers whose waters surge. 
He said, 'I will rise, I will cover the earth, 
     I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.'"

—Jeremiah 46:2, 7–8

With Assyria on the wane, Babylon waxes strong while Egypt enjoys something of a resurgence. Pridefully, Egypt swells like her Nile, ambitious to flood the lands around her. Assyria had acted as a buffer between Egypt and Babylon; so it is no surprise that Egypt heads north to aid Assyria. It was en route to do so that Pharaoh Neco was intercepted by King Josiah. Eventually Neco sets up his base at Carchemish. The two rising world powers of the age are set to clash. The Battle of Carchemish would prove a critical turning point in history.

The Nile’s resurgence proves to be due to nothing other than a flash flood. The waters will subside as quickly as they rose. All human glory, even that of nations, of superpowers, all of it fades. Their flow of glory can never surpass the ebb caused by God’s judgment. The nations can never rise so far as to mitigate their fall. It is futile for them to spread miles in hopes of keeping even a few inches. There can be no advance of human glory.

Humanity should remain humble before the Holy one, and this includes collected humanity as well. The Tower of Babel was not preserved despite man’s unified strength. The greatest judgements fall where pride is concentrated. Man’s collected power doesn’t dampen the blow; it intensifies it. So hear the Lord’s admonition in Jeremiah 9:23–26 afresh:

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh— Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart’” (emphasis mine).

Hear this admonition and resolve as Paul did to boast in nothing but “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to [you], and [you] to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:14–15). And having been crucified to the world, rejoice, even when you see superpowers fall. Even when it seems as though the world is being flipped upside down, rejoice knowing that it is being prepared to be flipped right-side up in Jesus. Remember, you are a citizen of heaven. When all the nations of this earth are manifestly put under Jesus feet, then heaven will come down, all things will be made new, and the citizens of the kingdom will humbly serve their Lord with joy forevermore.

The Don: The Hole in Empirical Evidence

“[T]he question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we always shall say. What we learn from experience depends on the kind of philosophy we bring to experience. It is therefore useless to appeal to experience before we have settled, as well as we can, the philosophical question.” —C.S. Lewis, Miracles

God Always Has the Everlasting Word (Jeremiah 44–45)

“This shall be the sign to you, declares the LORD, that I will punish you in this place, in order that you may know that my words will surely stand against you for harm…” —Jeremiah 44:29

With the forty-fourth chapter of Jeremiah, you come to the prophet’s last recorded words to the Judeans. Chapters 46–51, known as the “oracles against the nations,” are from an earlier date, actually the same date as chapter 45, the fourth year of Jehoiakim. In Jeremiah 25:13, Yahweh says, “I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations” (emphasis mine). Chapters 46–51are this book as the opening verses (46:1–2) make clear. Beyond these, we only have chapter 52, which is a kind of a postscript. As far as recorded revelation is concerned, this is Jeremiah’s last sermon.

Jeremiah’s long and faithful ministry is drawing to a close. He’s now preaching in a new location, but it seems as though he’s dusting off all his old sermons, marking out “Jerusalem” and inserting “Egypt.” Deal is, he’s still preaching to the same church. Jeremiah isn’t finishing lazy, recycling old material. The people of God are repeating the same old sins.

Jeremiah ends where he began, rebuking their idolatry and warning of judgment. Further, Jeremiah’s ministry ends where it all began. The people of God, redeemed out of Egypt, are now rejected in Egypt. This time, instead of leaving Egypt blessed, they return cursed. In Egypt, the people began, being delivered by judgment. Now, back in Egypt, they will end, being destroyed by judgment. They have returned back to the beginning for the end.

The remnant refuses to heed this word, saying they will keep their vows to the queen of heaven. God then vows that they will no longer make vows in His name, for they are and will be cut off. What this last word boils down to is a contest of who will have the last word. The Judeans resolve to keep their vows to the queen of heaven. Yahweh resolves to judge their idolatry. Whose word will stand? Jeremiah’s last words were everlasting words, for they were the words of the everlasting God. God doesn’t simply have the last Word, His is always the everlasting Word. His word, both of judgment and grace, will forever stand.

The Don: New Math

“If the laws of Nature are necessary truths, no miracle can break them: but then no miracle needs to break them. It is with them as with the laws of arithmetic. If I put six pennies into a drawer on Monday and six more on Tuesday, the laws decree that—other things being equal—I shall find twelve pennies there on Wednesday. But if the drawer has been robbed I may in fact find only two. Something will have been broken (the lock of the drawer or the laws of England) but the laws of arithmetic will not have been broken. The new situation created by the thief will illustrate the laws of arithmetic just as well as the original situation. But if God comes to work miracles, He comes “like a thief in the night.” Miracle is, from the point of view of the scientist, a form of doctoring, tampering, (if you like) cheating. It introduces a new factor into the situation, namely supernatural force, which the scientist had not reckoned on. He calculates what will happen, or what must have happened on a past occasion, in the belief that the situation, at that point of space and time, is or was A. But if supernatural force has been added, then the situation really is or was AB. And no one knows better than the scientist that AB cannot yield the same result as A. The necessary truth of the laws, far from making it impossible that miracles should occur, makes it certain that if the Supernatural is operating they must occur. For if the natural situation by itself, and the natural situation plus something else, yielded only the same result, it would be then that we should be faced with a lawless and unsystematic universe. The better you know that two and two make four, the better you know that two and three don’t.” —C.S. Lewis, Miracles

Don’t Settle for Falling in Love

Originally posted February 22, 2012. Lightly edited October 12, 2020

Don’t settle for “falling in love.” Stand back up. Get your balance. There is so much more to love. The problem with falling in love is that it says too little about love. It relegates love to one specific aspect of our being, namely, the emotions. I remember watching a special with Bethany about how those who are twitterpated are actually measurably stupider. Their euphoric emotional high resulted in lower test scores and decreased their ability to reason and think logically. While on such an emotional high, one is loving their beloved with less of their being. Dear newlywed, turn to your beloved and tell them not to  worry. Soon Cupid’s toxins will wear off and you’ll come to my senses and love them more.

Some overreact against such an Epicurean smelling concept of love and go Stoic. They relegate love to the faculty of the will. Love is a choice they say. Well, yes and no. They are as equally reductionist as the person who makes love to reside wholly in the affections. But we are whole beings, and true love, the deepest love, engages the whole of us. Stoic “lovers” (a genuine contradiction) may cite Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 as a defense, but notice two things. First, one can choose (an act to the will) to give away all they have, and make the ultimate self-sacrifice by giving their body to be burned and not have love (1 Corinthians 13:3). Pure will and act alone do not constitute love, something is missing. Second, love rejoices in the truth. Love has affectional as well as volitional aspects.

I am called to love God will all of my being, none of me is exempt (Deuteronomy  6:4-6). So in a very real sense, you must “fall out of love” to really love someone, to love them with more of who you are. And this means discovering deeper, truer, and stronger affections as part of that love.

But let me offer this last caution in regard to loving God: this does not put a governor on how high the affections may soar. In loving God my heart, mind, and will need not be at odds. Yahweh is infinitely glorious so my mind is never disengaged; and if I truly perceive Him in my mind, my affections, no matter how intense, are never an overreaction; and when guided by truth and motivated by joy my actions can never be too radical. In other words, loving God with all of our being does not mean that any capacity (emotional, mental, or volitional) is limited, but rather liberated to soar to infinite heights.

Don’t settle for a honeymoon “falling in love” with God either. And when the euphoria fades, don’t thinking you’re necessarily forgetting your first love. Perhaps, you’re falling deeper into a mature kind of love, like that of the couple who sits in the pew across from you that just celebrated their golden anniversary.

Failing the Hearing Test (Jeremiah 42–43)

“The LORD has said to you, O remnant of Judah, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Know for a certainty that I have warned you this day that you have gone astray at the cost of your lives. For you sent me to the LORD your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the LORD our God, and whatever the LORD our God says, declare to us and we will do it.’ And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. Now therefore know for a certainty that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go to live.” —Jeremiah 49:19–22

With the fall of Jerusalem in chapter 39 of Jeremiah, you’re left asking “What’s next?” Chapters 40–41 begin to answer that question and chapters 42–42 begin to tell you why behind the what. What’s next is judgment and why is their failure to listen. Roughly a decade before the city fell, Yahweh told Jeremiah that the people who would remain in the land would be like very bad figs, whereas those taken into exile would be regarded as very good figs. Here you see how bad the bad figs are. But you can’t initially see it from the outside. This is the kind of produce that passes the eye and nose test only for you to cut into it at home and find things rotten to the core. God puts pressure on His people, and once squeezed, the rottenness comes out.

Expecting reprisal from Babylon for Ishmael’s murder of Gedaliah and the Chaldean soldiers, the remnant plans to seek refuge in Egypt. But before they do so they pull over to ask for directions. It will become clear that they have no intention to heed any directions, they just want to be seen as they humble type who asks for them. They can’t imagine anything other than a green light for Egypt, so it’s therefore safe to ask. They’re like the child who only asks when their certain they’ll receive a yes. This gives them the appearance of being submissive. If such a child expects a “no” then he’ll try and play ignorant and innocent after the fact. But the remnant will soon learn they’re not so cute and God is not so naive.

This remnant isn’t seeking the word of Yahweh, but a word from Yahweh. This is why they speak piously but listen wickedly. They speak well hoping to get the answer they want, ergo, they are prepped to listen rebelliously should they hearing anything otherwise. To speak well is nothing if we do not hear well. Hard ears reveal the wickedness of a smooth tongue. The people sing pretty but their heart isn’t in it, and in this instance, the beat is more important than the words. They’ve got the right lyrics, but God listens for the beat of their heart, and it’s way off.

What’s next is judgment. The why is their failure to listen. The present trial is to make plain who they are so that when God trashes the figs, everyone understands His justice in doing so—they were bad, really bad. The only kind of ripe they were was ripe for destruction. This world is headed for judgment and salvation and the test laid before us everyday as to which destination we will find is a simple hearing test.

“Thus says the LORD: ‘As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,” so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of my mountains; my chosen shall possess it, and my servants shall dwell there. Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me. But you who forsake the LORD, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in’ ” (Isaiah 68:8–12, emphasis mine).

Don’t. Run. (Jeremiah 39:1–18)

“You shall not escape from his hand but shall surely be captured and delivered into his hand. You shall see the king of Babylon eye to eye and speak with him face to face. And you shall go to Babylon.” —Jeremiah 34:3

“When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king’s garden through the gate between the two walls; and they went toward the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. And when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath; and he passed sentence on him. The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon.” —Jeremiah 39:4–7

In adventure thrillers, especially those involving dinosaurs, there’s always that companion, who, when the composed expert whispers “Don’t. Run.”, they inevitably run. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah told Zedekiah that should he run, though his teeth would not slay him, his claws would maim him. Despite Babylon coming, as Yahweh had said, despite Babylon returning, as Yahweh had said, despite the walls being breached, as Yahweh had said, still the king runs. God has promised A, B, C, and D. Now, though A, B, and C have come to pass, Zedekiah still things he can out run D.  

Don’t. Run. You cannot sin smartly, but sin always smarts. When we sin swiftly, we must remember we live on a globe. Run from God’s throne and you’ll come right back to it exhausted, with a heavier burden of guilt, and filthy with sin. Yahweh is both omnipresent and omnipotent. Wherever you may run, you’re running in a circle. Anywhere you go, there He is and there He is with all power. Neither is stealth an option. He is omniscient. He knows. You cannot sneak by him. Earthly lions sleep some twenty hours a day, but the Lion of heaven is never even drowsy. Tiptoeing is no more effective than running.

If you are thinking that his anger must somehow be satiated because he has swallowed kingdoms whole, you are mistaken. When God pours out His wrath on a people over there, don’t think a person might escape it over here. Only the blood of Christ can placate His just wrath. The boiling pot of God’s holy judgment hangs over the heads of sinners (Jeremiah 1:13–15; Ephesians 2:3). The pot may be slow in tipping, but once it does, you cannot outrun it. Every sin will be judged. Your only hope is that one big enough and gracious enough would stand between you and the flow and bear it Himself in your place. Don’t. Run. Bow before the crucified and risen Christ.

The Don: Seeing with a Myriad of Eyes

“Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. I regret that the brutes cannot write books. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or a bee; more gladly still would I perceive the olfactory world charged with all the information and emotion it carries for a dog.

But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”

—C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, (Cambridge University Press, 1961), pp. 140–141

Red Rover, Red Rover Let God Come on Over (Jeremiah 38:1–28)

Then the officials said to the king, “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.”

—Jeremiah 38:4

Jeremiah was persecuted by the cult of positivity. Yes, the smily Joel Osteen prophets of peace have it in them to toss you into a muck filled cistern and leave you for dead. Listen to Osteenesque prophets of positivity today, and note how frequently they tell you not to listen to negative voices. Wed the religion of positivity to political power, then threaten it, and start your stopwatch to see how long it is before they get negative on your existence.

If you aren’t encouraging people in their dreams, you’re harmful, even if their dream is to play Red Rover on the interstate with oncoming traffic. Man would rather hear positive lies than negative truth. This is why when you tell Timmy that he cannot be Sally, you’re accused of hate speech. The world is building a tower to reach the heavens and if you tell them that it can’t be done, they will either roll their eyes, or, if you’re threatening enough, they’ll mortar the bricks with your blood.

Positive and negative are not akin to the Biblical categories of righteousness and evil. If a glass has arsenic in it, why argue whether it is half-full or half-empty? It is good to be positive about righteousness and negative about sin. Being down on sin is a major upper. Being up on sin is a major downer.

This isn’t a t-ball game. Judah is the JV team up against the pros. Far worse, Babylon is simply a bat in Yahweh’s omnipotent hands. What this world wants is prophets who will say that sin will be successful. You can’t be optimistic about taking on the Omnipotent. Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in God. Repent and bow to Christ the Lord.

This message doesn’t weaken your hands. Your hands are weak. It is any delusion otherwise that is truly harmful. If all humanity joins hands in defiance and invites God to “come on over,” this isn’t a game man has any hope of winning. Limbs will be severed.

The only thing God’s truth harms is your pride and your flesh. Make no mistake, bow to God’s truth, and you’ll die, but you only die to death. God harms to heal. On the other side, there is resurrection and new creation.