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.

The Don: Loving More by Loving Less

annie-spratt-eAZEAMhn1Y0-unsplash.jpg“We find thus by experience that there is no good applying to Heaven for earthly comfort. Heaven can give heavenly comfort; no other kind. And earth cannot give earthly comfort either. There is no earthly comfort in the long run.

For the dream of finding our end, the thing we were made for, in a Heaven of purely human love could not be true unless our whole Faith were wrong. We were made for God. Only by being in some respect like Him, only by being a manifestation of His beauty, lovingkindness, wisdom or goodness, has any earthly Beloved excited our love. It is not that we have loved them too much, but that we did not quite understand what we were loving. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dearly familiar, to a Stranger. When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a party to, has made, sustained and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more his than ours, and ours only because His. In Heaven there will be no anguish and no duty of turning away from our earthly Beloveds. First, because we shall have turned already; from the portraits to the Original, from the rivulets to the Fountain, from the creatures He made lovable to Love Himself. But secondly, because we shall find them all in Him. By loving Him more than them we shall love them more than we now do.” —C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, (Harcourt, 1988) p. 131

You Can Burn the Paper but You Can’t Burn the Word (Jeremiah 36:1–32)

“It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. Yet neither the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words was afraid, nor did they tear their garments. Even when Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them” (Jeremiah 36:22–25).

In 1820 Thomas Jefferson completed a work he titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. The title tells all. Jesus’ life, not his death or resurrection, is the concern. The significance of this is further brought out by the word “morals.” It isn’t that Jesus teaching doesn’t concern morality, but that He is merely put on the level of other great moral philosophers. And though Jesus was from Nazareth, here this functions as the identifier of His person, rather than that He was from Heaven, the eternal Son of God.

In 2005 Christian Smith, a sociology professor at Notre Dame, described American religious belief as “moralistic therapeutic deism.” We are a young nation. It was a short journey. With Jefferson, you can see that the seeds for much of this were sown as early as the Revolution. Scratch out “therapeutic” and you’ve got Jefferson’s religion—moralistic deism.

books-4733993_1280.jpgWhat I haven’t told you yet, but what you may well be aware of, is that Jefferson didn’t write one word of this book. It was a cut and paste project. Jefferson literally took knife and glue to New Testament, purging the miraculous and the supernatural. The work is commonly known as the “Jefferson Bible” and is held by the Smithsonian Institute. Jefferson didn’t burn the Bible as a whole, he simply relegated the parts he didn’t like to the wastebasket. Neither was his act a public one as Jehoiakim’s. It was made and kept for his own private use. One can understand why he didn’t broadcast what he had done in that era. Still, though his actions were less violent and more reasoned, they were just as wicked and blasphemous.

Liberal theology of the 19th century replicated the Jeffersonian method, searching for the historical Jesus. They didn’t use a physical knife, but with the knife of the tongue they told us what parts of the Bible could not be true and gave explanations for how the Jesus myth grew. On the other side of their little project, like Jefferson, what was left was a kind of moralism labeled the “social gospel.”

While the evangelical church held firm against the intellectual elite’s attack on the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, she compromised to the masses regarding the sufficiency of Scripture. Though the Bible is so revered and never subjected to scissors or fire, it is instead left to be buried under the collected dust of neglect. The Bible, in many churches, is little more than a prop. When it is referenced, it’s only to prop up our own ideas. Say what we will about Jefferson and liberal theologians—at least they rigorously read and studied the Bible. That’s much more than can be said for a great swath of Evangelicalism today. We may believe in the miraculous, but like Jefferson, we like our Bible’s cut and pasted. We fool ourselves that we’re not as vile as Jehoiakim, throwing the parts we don’t care for into a fire of oblivion. 

Evangelicalism says she’s friends with the Bible, but you sense she’s embarrassed. She wants her friend present but silent. When Scripture is allowed to speak freely and fully, it’s given the cold shoulder, or what we might call a soft burn. But like Jehoiakim, she’ll find all her efforts futile. She tries to burn the word with pyrotechnics. But her light show is only impressive in the dark. When the Sun blazes, no one will ooh and ahh. She tries to pin the Word with a wrestling show. This is like one imagining they’ve pinned a rhinoceros who happened to be sleeping; the illusion won’t last long. She waters down the word and juices up the music; but her tunes will run dry and she’ll be made to drink of the cup of God’s judgment, undiluted.

God’s words come out the fire unscathed every time. Man can burn some paper; that is all. Fear Him who is able to destroy body and soul in hell. Tremble at His word.

“A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:6–8).

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 36:1–32 || Writing And Reading || Josh King

The Don: Jolly Beggars

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“For this tangled absurdity of a Need, even a Need-love, which never fully acknowledges its own neediness, Grace substitutes a full, childlike and delighted acceptance of our Need, a joy in total dependence. We become ‘jolly beggars.’ The good man is sorry for the sins which have increased his Need. He is not entirely sorry for the fresh Need they have produced. And he is not sorry at all for the innocent Need that is inherent in his creaturely condition. For all the time this illusion to which nature clings as her last treasure, this pretence that we have anything of our own or could for one hour retain by our own strength any goodness that God may pour into us, has kept us from being happy. We have been like bathers who want to keep their feet—or one foot—or one toe—on the bottom, when to lose that foothold would be to surrender themselves to a glorious tumble in the surf.” —C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, (Harcourt, 1988) p. 131

Obedience School (Jeremiah 35:1–19)

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Go and say to the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words? declares the LORD. The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father’s command. I have spoken to you persistently, but you have not listened to me. I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, ‘Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.’ But you did not incline your ear or listen to me. The sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have kept the command that their father gave them, but this people has not obeyed me” (Jeremiah 35:13–16).

We live in an age where a child spouting a four-letter word is not so much regarded as disobedience as obedience is regarded as a four-letter word. When I say the “o” word, what sort of image pops into your noggin? Whatever the image, is it more along the lines of an ugly tyrant demanding obedience, or a beautiful child offering obedience? I’d venture that the collective moral imagination of society today leans heavily toward thinking of “obedience” as something the villain demands. The heroine of the story is the one who defies authority to live freely. Disney much?

True, there are tyrants to be defied; but how often is the authority an outright tyrant? How rarely is obedience to a good authority praised? Our age may believe it has progressed a great deal so that stories of “courageous disobedience” are delighted in, but the plot is an ancient one. It repeats the very lie told to our mother in the garden. We have been dying, literally dying to believe it ever since.

dachshund-672780_1280.jpgC.S. Lewis, in his preface for Milton’s Paradise Lost, wrote, “Everything except God has some natural superior; everything except unformed matter has some natural inferior. The goodness, happiness, and dignity of every being consists in obeying its natural superior and ruling its natural inferiors.” Our goodness, happiness, and dignity are to be found in obedience. The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the duty which God requireth of man?” The answer, “The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.” That answer is not only true, it is good and beautiful.

When God says, “Places everyone!” we should not only know our place, we should know that our place is the best place for us to be. We believe it is a good thing that the sun keeps its course, but when it comes to our own course, we’d like to think we know better. We don’t want to know our place, we want to make it. We don’t want to be a stage hand, we want to own the stage. We don’t want to shine the spotlight, we want to be in it.

Of course a fish cannot be happy on land, but, surely man must be happier outside the ethical orbit he was made to live in. Man is evolving. This is why one man thinks he will be happier if he were a woman. With this, what man is saying is that he would be happier if he were God and God were man. He would rather make God in His image than be made in the image of God. The former seems so freeing; the latter constraining. When a child doesn’t obey their parents, they demonstrate that they’d really rather not have parents. They’d like big people who coddle them and commend them, but not command them. One reason children do this to their parents is that their parents model it before them—this is how mom and dad relate to God. The parent planets cannot get out of orbit without carrying their little moons into an irregular orbit with them. Yet, because the parents think they are god, they can’t imagine why little Timmy would behave as though he were. The only real solution is for everyone to assume their places as told and delight in them.

God planted man in a garden of delight, and if man would have obeyed, he would have stayed. As a result of disobedience, man was driven from the garden to live out his days on this cursed crust. It is this cosmic story that is played out in microcosm with Judah.

The story of the Rechabites recalibrates our consciences according to truth so that we see obedience for the virtue that it is. If the Rechabites obeyed a fallible earthly father, should we not listen to our infallible heavenly Lord? Jonadab spoke and died. Our Lord lives and speaks. Jonadab offered a probability of wisdom should they obey. The Lord speaks sure and certain promises should we obey.

But rather than obey God, whose law is true and whose promises are sure, we turn to do our shopping from shady pop-ups making lifetime guarantees but which only deliver fall-apart knockoffs made in China. We not only ignore God’s commands, we ignore His promises. Or, perhaps we think we can disregard his commands and still gain the promises. Worse yet, like Eve, we think we can get even more than God has promised by disobedience. How foolish of us to trust the hiss of the serpent and disbelieve the roar of the Lion. It is God we should fear and God we should trust. 

Obedience is true, because He is true. Obedience is good, because He is good. Obedience is beautiful, because He is beautiful.

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 35:1–19 || Listen And Obey || Josh King

The Don: How Would You Describe Your Church’s Leaders?

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Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish. If we do, we may live, and such a return might have one minor advantage. If we believed in the absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes, we should value those who solicit our votes by other standards than have recently been in fashion. While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as ‘vision’, ‘dynamism’, ‘creativity’, and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial—virtue, knowledge, diligence and skill. ‘Vision’ is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job. —C.S. Lewis, “The Poison of Subjectivism” in C.S. Lewis Essay Collection & Other Short Pieces (HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), p. 665

Using the Right Hammer Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Smack Your Thumb (Jeremiah 33:1–22)

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3)

A critical rule in Biblical hermeneutics (the art of interpreting a text), is that Scripture interprets Scripture. But there is a perversion of this rule that can go horridly wrong. When one uses a bad interpretation of one Scripture to interpret another two negatives don’t make a positive. Interpretation works more like addition than multiplication here. Applying a good rule poorly doesn’t fix or justify incompetence. Using the right tool is not the same as using the tool rightly.

hammer-1629587_1280.jpgIf one is assembling a table from Ikea, misidentifying one piece may lead to misidentifying another. The first instance may seem to work, and so you’re oblivious that anything is amiss. With the second part you may recognize a problem. Hammering harder isn’t the solution; repentance, that is, disassembling and starting over is. But sometimes a man is so deep in and his pride so great, that hammer away we do.

A self-intoxicated interpretation of Jeremiah 29:11 is bad enough, but mix it with Jeremiah 33:3, and you’ve got some stout poison. “God has great plans for you. Call out to Him and He will reveal them.” Now a mystical element has been added. In the first, you make God to be your concierge. In the second, you become a prophet. This is why, unlike the prophets of old, all the revelation you “receive” from God centers on you. These hidden things are indeed identical to the future and hope of Jeremiah 29, the problem is, when A = B, if A ≠ 2, though you say it does, then B ≠ 2 either. Erase your work. Start over.

Deuteronomy 29:11 tells us that the secret things belong to God, whereas the revealed things belong to the people fo God that they may do them. John is worried about whether he should marry Jill or Jane, so he cries out to God. But what John should worry about are the revealed things. If neither Jill nor Jane is a Christian, or if he is dating them both at the same time, then it is not marriage, but repentance that is God’s will. No mystical speculation is needed. Obedience is. God has shouted in His word, but we’re crying out for whispers.

Sometimes what is hidden is revealed. Sometimes God makes his plans known. But such revelation concerns the major plot line, not minor characters like ourselves, at least not directly. Rather than the shout, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,” we’d rather hear a whisper about what career would be most fulfilling and blessed.

The great and hidden things here concern revelation. They concern the redemption and restoration of God’s people. They concern the righteous Branch springing up from David. They concern the “coming days.” They concern the new covenant. These hidden things are the mystery that Paul says has not been revealed to the church (Ephesians 3:1–12; Colossians 1:25–27; 2:2–3).

God’s revelation is always mediated. He raises up apostles and prophets. But we want God to speak to us and about us. God, in mercy, speaks far better. He spoke to the prophets and the apostles about Jesus for us.

The proper appropriation of the command given to Jeremiah then is secondary and derivative. It isn’t unmediated revelation of great and hidden things that we should seek, but illumination of the prophetic and apostolic word—the mystery that has reached its fulfillment in Christ.

“But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:7–16).

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 33:1–26 || Great and Hidden Things in the Righteous Branch || Josh King

To Mask or Not to Mask?

“I feel a strong desire to tell you—and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me—which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.” —C.S. Lewis

anshu-a-yAXbfq1wI7I-unsplash.jpgTo mask or not to mask? This is not the question we should be zealous to answer. To be charitable or to condemn, that is the question. In the first instance, God has not spoken; wisdom is called for. In the second, an authoritative answer is readily available—show charity.

“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:1–12).

Concerning days and meat, Paul laid down guidance elsewhere in his letters to guide the weak in conscience into maturity. Still, Paul was zealous not to cause a brother to sin against their conscience in such matters where there is liberty. Now if Paul did this, in areas where God’s truth does give guidance, how much more charity should we display in an area where God has not spoken.

Wisdom and lies can be found on both sides of the question we are not asking. Who is sufficient to answer that question? Let each soul research for himself. May each soul feel liberty to do so without condemnation. What is not sin should not be judged as such. If either side thinks itself superior, they have assumed a God-like omniscience. Our father Adam may have eaten from the tree of knowledge, but he thereby plunged us into ignorance. He desired to be like God, but the apple fell far from the tree. Let us not add sin to sin by thinking the eating had its desired effect. We are far from perfect knowledge.

Even more concerning, is that by seeking to bind your brother’s conscience to your own, you have established yourself as the standard by which to judge. We crooked twigs shouldn’t try to play as though we were the official and standard yardstick by which all measurements will henceforth be made. We should not even advocate for a particular collective twig position as though that were the standard. If every ruler in the world were shaved down to eleven and a half inches, a foot would still be twelve. We don’t measure up. And concerning masks, God gave no measurement. Be your head masked or not, your nose shouldn’t be upturned toward your brother, but bowed before your Maker.

Feel free to point out how you believe the government is making a totalitarian play and warn of the dangers of being a lemming. Feel free to speak of how concern for your brother and respect for the established authorities are strong grounds for wearing a mask (where masks have been mandated, a separate conversation is necessary). But above all of these, wherever you may land, eschew demonizing your brother and prioritize charity. And farther up still, shout loudest about that which is most worth joyfully shouting—the gospel of Christ. And though one brother do so with a mask, and another without, may both do so praying for one another. Though these brothers may socially distance themselves out of respect, may they be spiritually united, longing that the good news prove graciously contagious, for therein lies the ultimate cure for all that ails us.


*Mere Christianity, (HarperCollins, 2001) p. 186