Fifty-two (Russell)

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O hush your boasting, Lentil-lover’s son,
And keep your razor-forkèd tongue shut up
That no more lies may issue destruction
And serve falsehood’s strong cup!

Like Ozymandias from time’s reverse
The righteous ones will mock your fatal fall:
“Here lies the one who when God he did curse
To wealth for his aid called.”

Though fleeing for my life, I trust the love
Of Him whose Name all praise transcends
And flourish like an olive tree He dug
To last beyond world’s end.

11-22-2017

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Where Could I Go But to the Lord?

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I’ve been journaling my meditations on the Psalms (in the wonderful journal from IJM we got from the Gettys’ Sing! conference), and Psalms 47-48 over the last two days have proven remarkably apt for current events.

On Psalm 47:

It is better—it is joy—to submit to Yahweh the Most High than to anyone or anything else. Every other king, every other candidate, every other official, every other party, everything else can and will fail and fall before Him.

It is better—it is wisdom—to submit to the Triune throne. It is wisdom if for nothing else than because it is true; wisdom accepts reality and lives accordingly. It is wise to see the reality of the greatness of God and praise Him for it. It is wise to see our own limitations and the frailties of our heroes and leaders, so that we may only stand on the Solid Rock.

Our allegiance must lie with the triune God over and above every other. Our other allegiances must be judged in light of our allegiance to Him: is His cause furthered? Is His name honored? Are His people protected? Are sinners welcomed to receive forgiveness?

On Psalm 48:

The result is joy and gladness (48:11), not fear or cowering. Zion’s inhabitants are not bunkered, shivering in dread of the carnage awaiting them. They’re celebrating the famed justice of God and their salvation consonant with it!

O that we would rest in the fortress of Zion, forsaking the vain hope of politicians and policies and armies and laws. Why rely on dust and drops when the Mountain-Weigher and Star-Surveyor [Isaiah 40:12] loves to redeem those who simply trust Him? Why let our joy dribble out of a rusty, clogged spicket when there is a river whose streams delight the city of God [Psalm 46:4]?

Where laws fail, His right hand is filled with justice.

Where princes fail, He is the great King known as a stronghold.

Where men fail, generations line up to witness and testify to His faithfulness.

“Do not trust in nobles,
in a son of man, who cannot save.
When his breath leaves him,
he returns to the ground;
on that day his plans die” (Psalm 146:3-4 CSB).

Or, to borrow from Luther’s musical exposition of Psalm 46,

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill,
God’s truth abideth still:
His Kingdom is forever.

Logs of sin are never made specks—or vice versa—because of (R) or (D) after someone’s name. If the letter after someone’s name is more important than the Name above all names, politics is the least of our worries and the least of our problems.

Book Review: A Lying Spirit by Joshua Torrey

Note: I was provided a complimentary advance copy of the second edition of this book without coercion toward a positive review. Unless, of course, I was deceived…

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Amazon (Paperback)

The occasion of this book is the backlash against David Daleiden and his organization’s release of undercover videos documenting the monstrous practices of Planned Parenthood. How can the deception involved in undercover work be justifiable for Christians and believers?

Torrey’s outline builds the foundation for his ultimate argument by looking at God’s relationship to deception (chapter 1), man’s use of deception (chapter 2), a brief survey of deception in Genesis (chapter 3), and the penultimate chapter deals with the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, who deceived Pharaoh in defense of Hebrew baby boys (chapter 4). The final chapter addresses objections.

Torrey seeks to distinguish between lying and deception; he further distinguishes between sinful and holy deception. Holy deception is “any form of deception that subverts injustice in support of righteous judgment of God” (Foreword).

It’s an interesting distinction, and one I haven’t thought of nor heard taught before. As defined above and explained in the following chapters, it seems to be a useful definition. It’s specific enough to be testable; it actually has boundaries beyond Justice Breyer’s “know it when I see it” vagueness.

The question of Rahab’s deception of the King of Jericho’s Brute Squad is one I have been asked before, and at that point, I answered in line with the objectors to holy deception: the lie was sin, but God used it for His purposes nonetheless. However, I feel the weight of the argument presented here: she’s commended for her righteousness, and the deception is a necessary component of that righteousness. She could not have spared the spies without it.

One possible rejoinder to this argument would be that Hebrews 11 speaks from the perspective of justification, not the reality of the moment. What we see in Hebrews 11 is the way Jesus views justified sinners, not a commentary on particular, discrete acts in the moment. Even justified sinners’ obedience is still tainted by sin until we reach the full measure of Christlikeness for which we have been saved. In that case, the lie would be forgiven, and all that remains to be seen in Rahab, now that she’s justified, is her faith in the promises of God.

Chapter 4 addresses the direct parallel to our times: the Hebrew midwives, represented by Shiphrah and Puah, defy Pharaoh’s decree to murder Hebrew baby boys and lie to defend themselves. (Interestingly, not only do they lie, but they also take a cheap shot at the weakness of Egyptian women.) It’s a powerful chapter.

Chapter 5 seeks to answer some common objections, namely, isn’t deception antithetical to God’s nature? Isn’t it lying and therefore prohibited by the eighth commandment? Isn’t it basically situational ethics (ends justifying the means)?

Brevity is a feature of the book, not a bug, so my desire for further discussion about the objections doesn’t fall within the scope of the author’s intent. I’d definitely like to probe the parallel between sleep as non-natural and non-sinful and deception as the same. I don’t necessarily disagree, but I would absolutely be interested in diving deeper.

This line from the final chapter was particularly important for not only the objection it answers but also the concept as a whole: “holy deception is not defined by the ends or conclusion. It is defined by what it glorifies and defends” (32).

A Lying Spirit is a well-thought, thought-provoking look at a fascinating and immediately applicable subject. My thanks to Joshua Torrey and Torrey Publishing for the review text, and may we all receive double portions of the Spirit of Shiphrah and Puah to defend children against the Pharaohs and Herods of our day.

Be sure to check out Torrey Gazette, and We Believe, whose beautiful foreword Joshua wrote.

Forty-Six (Shakespearean Sonnet)

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Incendiary darts from clouds so bleak:
Exposed, we now a mighty castle spy
And refuge ‘hind its rocky ramparts seek.
The Warrior there for fear will never fly.

Well-watered are the castle grounds, and fair;
The melody of gladness echoes strong.
The confidence of vict’ry fills the air:
Dawn’s pyrotechnics complement the song.

The Warrior wields His sword to vanquish war,
Especially the strife against Himself.
All weapons dulled, the shafts will fly no more
There will be peace, and all things shall be well.

No iron portcullis bars the entrance there:
The Castle-Warrior’s presence gladly shared.

11-10-2017

Ebenezer

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Image Credit: British Library

Grendel’s arm hangs dripping in the Heorot-hall
Built upon the Petrine slab:
The gruesome grasp of Hell’s lapdog
Gripped by the bands of one stronger than he.

Danish eyes once clouded by streams,
ears stopped with wailings’ wax:
Now freed to look upward at the lifeless limb
That once held them locked.

Whenever eye or ear would dim or heart despair anew,
The Danes need only upward look
To see, to remember, to embrace, to celebrate
The Geat’s victory on their behalf.

Whether Hrothgar or Unferth, noble or scoundrel,
No Dane could cleanse the hall.
Had not Hygelac’s heir willed to come
The golden hall would be ashes.

Do not look to Danish materiel: spear, javelin, shield
Fit no better than unused royal armor.
Look to the Geatish hand that wounded Grendel
And feast with meat and mead on his benches.

10-26-2017

Rest

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Our lives are spent striving for wind-full gain
We chase after vanity
Our breathing is labored, our muscles strain
To no longer be empty

And you say

Come unto Me for rest
Come lay down at My feet
Come unto Me for rest, O soul,
Lie down and sleep in peace.

We shout and we dance around in the hope
That our own pride may be fed
We long to be noticed, long to be known
We long to be loved instead

And you say

Come unto Me for rest
Come lay down at My feet
Come unto Me for rest, O soul,
Lie down and sleep in peace.

10-3-2017

Jesus is Not Zeus

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I’ve been reading through Richmond Lattimore’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey. I first read the Odyssey in high school, but it’s interesting to me to read it now that high school is twenty years gone (!).

One of the things that stands out to me throughout the Odyssey is how awful the Olympian gods are. Odysseus is caught in the middle of Poseidon’s grudge, Zeus’ sadism, and Athene’s favoritism. He is frequently called “son of Laertes, seed of Zeus,” yet Zeus shows a decided lack of fatherly affection (or even concern) for his offspring.

Odysseus is left to the mercy of vengeful, petty, distractable, and promiscuous deities.

Jesus is not Zeus.

The Trinity is not Zeus.

And that makes all the difference in the world!

Compare the vindictiveness and pettiness of Zeus and Poseidon with the true, living God:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 CSB).

“I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me” (John 17:23 CSB).

Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen (Jude 24-25).

The LORD your God is among you, a warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with gladness. He will be quiet in his love. He will delight in you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17 CSB).

We are not God’s playthings. He does not toy with us out of pleasure in jerking us around. He does not delight in judgment but mercy; His pleasure is in forgiveness, not damnation.

So often, though, we think and believe the opposite. We think, “I have to be good so God will give me enough money for the bills this month.” “I better read two chapters of the Bible today, since I didn’t read anything yesterday.” “I need to be really obedient these next few days so God will be happy enough with me to give me the promotion I’m applying for at work.” “That didn’t work out because God was getting back at me for sinning so bad yesterday.”

In Christ, we are loved, not left; we are delighted in, not dramatized; we are endeared to God, not His entertainment.

Never-Failing Treasure

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Apart from him you should never desire even to breathe. For he is my hope, he is my boast, he is my never-failing wealth.

— Pseudo-Ignatius, Ephesians, 11:2.

What would I gain to have the whole world
To be king of silver and of gold
But at the cost of losing You
Getting wealth in exchange for my soul?

You are my hope
You are my boast
You are my never-failing treasure

Why would I long to live in a tent
When room in Your house is kept for me?
Why would I keep failing, frailing dust
When a body like Yours I’ll receive?

You are my hope
You are my boast
You are my never-failing treasure

Why would I drink from empty bottles
That can never quench my thirsty heart?
Why waste my time on deadly shadows
That will only drive us further apart?

You are my hope
You are my boast
You are my never-failing treasure

5-25-2017