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: 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

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

Offline Church

internet-3471739_1280.pngLet’s begin with some qualifications, that is, my presuppositions. I’m not wanting to miff everyone at the same time. This particular argument (meant in the old sense of setting forth reasons) is intended for those friends with whom I agree more. It’s worth recalling Chesterton’s observation that, “People generally quarrel because they cannot argue.”

Many pastors, and many of them better than I, have satellite campuses where the sermon is taken in by video. Some refer to these campuses collectively as a church. On a lesser but related level, others live stream their services so that those not present can participate in church. I am not a fan of multisite, multiservice, or multimedia for the purpose of virtual participation as a way of doing “church.” I think these multis contrary to nature of what it means for the church to gather as the church. So before I go on to miff others, to my multiple friends who do multi-church, to you with whom I agree less on this topic, I am not arguing with you here. I want to argue with those with whom I agree more. If you don’t think my premises valid, there’s no point in me pressing you with my conclusion.

Perhaps this quarantine has me itching to make less friends, but I don’t believe that to be my true intent. I don’t want to make less friends; I want to make better friends and I hope my friends will return the favor and seek to make better of me. Lord knows I need it. So then, for you who share my quibbles with the multis, I want to give a word of caution concerning “online church.”

When a father wields the rod, his children shouldn’t stuff their pants. When God disciplines His children, we shouldn’t try to mitigate the pain. In years past, when the saints were incapable of meeting, they sharply felt the loss. Such privation should drive us deeper into lamentation, contrition, and petition for mercy. If God has acted so that the assembly cannot assemble, let us not fool ourselves that we are. Instead, let us feel profoundly the sting.

Dear brothers, with whom I agree more, if you don’t believe church can be done by means of the interwebs, don’t try now. I don’t doubt many of you are better shepherds than I and that your motives are sound and your hearts full of love, but words matter. Use technology to shepherd your flock, but not to redefine. Offer supplements, but not substitutes. If you, as a shepherd, offer something to your scattered flock, don’t give them the impression that they are assembling when they are not. Don’t call non-church “church.”

As there is no substitute this side of glory for the assembly that will then take place, so there is no substitute for the foretaste of it in special work and presence of our Lord when the saints assemble in covenant faithfulness to receive the grace of God by His ordained means of word and sacrament. Corporate worship is a promised anticipation of this future glory. Bonhoeffer realized the glory of this and that it is a glory that some saints longingly go without.

“So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Chris­tians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this bless­ ing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing. They re­member, as the Psalmist did, how they went ‘with the multitude… to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday’ (Ps. 42:4). But they remain alone in far countries, a scattered seed ac­cording to God’s will. Yet what is denied them as an actual experience they seize upon more fervently in faith.”*

The darkness is meant to create a longing for the light. While it is dark, let us long. When the sun rises, let us sing. In all things, let us express gratitude. Yes, the mature can receive even the rod with thanksgiving, knowing it it the rod of our perfect heavenly Father.

In closing, know this post is intended from one shepherd to other shepherds; but for those sheep listening in, a word of caution: better to submit to your elder across the street than rebel with another across the country. He’s likely a far better shepherd than I. If your conscience is bound as mine is, respectfully and lovingly let him know, and then watch with the acknowledgement that whatever you’re doing, you’re not doing church.


*Bonhoeffer, D. (1978). Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (pp. 18–19). Harper Collins.

The Don: There is Bread

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“Do what they will, then, we remain conscious of a desire which no natural happiness will satisfy. But is there any reason to suppose that reality offers any satisfaction to it? ‘Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread.’ But I think it may be urged that this misses the point. A man’s physical hunger does not prove that that man will get any bread; he may die of starvation on a raft in the Atlantic. But surely a man’s hunger does prove that he comes of a race which repairs its body by eating and inhabits a world where eatable substances exist. In the same way, though I do not believe (I wish I did) that my desire for Paradise proves that I shall enjoy it, I think it a pretty good indication that such a thing exists and that some men will. A man may love a woman and not win her; but it would be very odd if the phenomenon called ‘falling in love’ occurred in a sexless world.” —C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

The Don: The Proper Reward

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“If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self- denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.” —C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

When Trees Feel Like Wheat (Jeremiah 11:18–12:6)

“The LORD made it known to me and I knew;
then you showed me their deeds.
But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
I did not know it was against me
they devised schemes, saying,
‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
that his name be remembered no more.’
But, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously,
who tests the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you have I committed my cause.” —Jeremiah 11:18–20

field-1971873_1280.jpgDavid said that the righteous man, who delights in the law and meditates on it day and night, is like a tree plated by streams of water. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away (Psalm 1:2–4). Sometimes though, trees feel like chaff and the chaff appears as solid as a redwood (Jeremiah 12:1–2).

The saints, this side of the curse, lament the suffering of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked, but it is easy for their lament to give way to doubt and despair. Such despair is rooted in ignorance and unbelief.

We’re ignorant. We forget that we’re not home yet. We’re exiles and enemies surround us. We’re on their turf. Many are not wise to the world because they’re worldly-wise. We remain ignorant because we’ve enrolled in their school. The church has opted into the program. Nice and naive—that’s how they raise us. We’re still led like sheep to the slaughter, but with a dumb look on our face. We’re children taking suckers from the strangers of this world when our Father has taught us better. Then we accuse our Father when those suckers are poisonous. We need to keep the innocence and lose the ignorance.

We don’t believe. Our Father has spoken but we’re all Romans 14 and no imprecatory psalms. We disbelieve one portion of God’s Word by pitting it against another. There are times to shake off the dust from our shoes as well as times to bless those who curse us. Let the reader understand. When Paul exhorted us to “repay no one evil for evil” and to “never avenge yourself” it was with the truth that vengeance is God’s. This is exactly what Jeremiah prays for here. David was able to extend mercy to his enemies because he trusted God would avenge.

Do not be ignorant of the wicked. Believe in the righteousness of God. Then you’ll see that it’s not that the ship of the church is sinking, but that the ocean is in such turbulence because it is being drained. In the midst of the tempest, faith knows that the ship remains solid, while it is the world that is fading away. We’ve got the wrong reference point. The wicked only appear to be rooted, because they are rooted in this world that is fading away. When our eyes are on the Son, we’ll see that it’s not that we’re being blown away, but that this present world is, and the wicked along with it.

Sometimes Not Sharing Is a Good Thing

Scan“In recent days the pro-life, anti-abortion movement has become divided and distracted.

That is why, in my capacity as president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), I am hoping to lead our churches toward unifying around two policy measures that would protect life, with the intent of ending abortion in Oklahoma.” (emphasis mine) —Blake Gideon, “Protecting the Life of the Unborn, Ending Abortion” in the August 1st, 2019 edition of The Baptist Messenger

[DISCLAIMER: The “you” addressed below isn’t merely Blake Gideon in particular but the leadership of the BGCO in general. In some of this I’m reading between the lines, but I think I’m doing so with great warrant and am open to reproof if I’m wrong.]

Remember that childhood friend that when it was your toy they spoke of the virtues of you sharing, but when it was their toy they spoke of the evils of your selfishness? Is something like that going on here? Why is it that when you like the bill we should be unified, but when we like the bill and raise concerns over your disapproval of it, we’re being divisive?

A bill that would have ended abortion altogether in our state was spoken against. Now we’re to be gung-ho about a couple of bills that would still allow for abortion (the first in the case of children younger than approximately 6 weeks, the second under the vague category of “the health of the mother”). Pardon? If I speak for abolition, against your recommendation, I’m being divisive. If I don’t wholly support the bills you endorse, I’m being divisive. Am I missing something?

toothbrushes-1424728-1599x1123.jpgLet’s say that it is me who is sowing division, the real question is should I be? Rather than hash things out on the level of accusations of not sharing or being selfish (meaning unity and divisiveness), let’s talk about what may be and what shouldn’t be shared. Toothbrushes shouldn’t be shared; candy, necessitating said toothbrushes, may be shared. Rather than calls for unity, let’s find out if we’re unified. Yes, we all agree abortion is evil. Yes, if we can run the ball down the field for five more yards I’m ok with that so long as you’re playing to win (and a gain of about five yards is the most I’d expect from such a play). But I’m left wondering if you really want to win this game or just run the clock into overtime again and again so as to pull in more at the concessions.

Forgive me, I do believe the BGCO has good intentions, but I am scratching my noggin trying to figure out how that is so. The reasons for not supporting a bill to end abortion coupled with the reasons for supporting bills that limit abortion don’t add up in my mind. Let’s have the conversation there. If at the end of the debate we disagree, that will prove illuminating and helpful.

Instead of shouting “Share!” when it’s convenient for your toy and “Selfishness!” when it’s ours, let’s vigorously argue for when we should share and when we’re being selfish. Paul and Barnabas departed ways over John Mark. Who was right? I don’t think there was a “right,” but it was ok for them to amiably part ways. Concerning abortion, we’re not dealing with something so innocuous. If Paul and Barnabas could argue and part over Mark, then we should certainly be able to do so concerning abortion. I believe there is a clear right and wrong here. Calls for unity are then a call for silence; a call for one party to sear their conscience. I’m not eager for a parting, but I would like a conversation (here you’ll find a series of posts with questions I’d like answers to). If we can’t come to an agreement, we might not be able to play together anymore, but we can walk away from each other like men.