Trickle up from Our Knees

I read three national news items last week that I wish were fictional. First, I read that Planned Parenthood aborts a baby every 94 seconds. Second, I read that the White House has prohibited anyone who has ever said anything against homosexuality (who hasn’t repented) from praying at the upcoming inauguration. Third, I read that former President Bill Clinton has been chosen by The National Father’s Day Council as the 2013 Father of the Year.

How should we respond to these true stories? In order of the stories, we should defend the rights of the unborn (in application of Proverbs 31:9). We should pray; they can’t stop us in our churches or in our homes, not yet. And we should laugh. But there’s more. How did we get here? It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen against our national will.

We ought to repent from our sins. We can’t take responsibility for the sins of others in the same way. But abortion is murder and Jesus taught that the seed of murder is anger. When we blow up at our kids we plant the same seed that, when fully grown, brings the bitter fruit of killing the inconvenient. Homosexuality is lust gone wild. Jesus also taught that to look at some website URLs is to commit adultery in our hearts. To allow the weed to grow among us leads to the government choking our public prayers. And what of the plaques for absentee fathers? Do not many dads wish that they could be praised for their laziness? If we can give a guy like him an award, maybe our families will at least give us a break.

Our culture is an expression of our cultus, our worship. If we allow sin to go un-confessed, it will eventually grow up and be unhindered. Culture doesn’t only trickle down, it trickles up. May our culture trickle up from our knees as we confess our sins.

The Food We Serve

We serve others by the food we serve. This is only said with the intention to raise the standard the right way. A modest meal prepared with lavish honor on the guests is good. A rich meal prepared to steal attention honors no one. But with full hearts and the usual resources we can bless those who sit down with us by what we offer them.

From the sitter-downers perspective, gratitude is always on order. When we’re invited to enjoy the preparations of another, that isn’t the time to grumble. Even if the meal is small but the hands giving it are large, our thanksgiving should be commensurate.

The things mentioned so far should be common-denominator. These are truths that I take as more self-evident than mysterious. If that’s the case, then why do we treat this the Lord’s Table so differently?

Do we honor the host who, at great cost to Himself, has provided food that endures to eternal life? Do we lift Him up by our sad little nibbles? Do we exalt His gift by fasting before the full spread? Do we make much of this loaf and cup of blessing when we grumble at the other guests?

Let us receive what He has given. Let us rejoice that He has paid it all. Let us lift up His deep love for us. Let us receive the treasure on the table before us.

Big Minds Make Big Changes

Wise people are willing to change their minds. A man who won’t ever change his mind, no matter what, will end up a fool.

Education is not confined to gathering information. Yes, we do learn by exploring unread pages and turning them upside down until a new (to us) truth falls out. We do learn by interrogating teachers until they open the doors of their knowledge store. In one sense, our brains are like baskets that can hold many apple facts. We should shake as many bushels of apples as we can from songs and sermons and science sound-offs. God created many things for us to know and enjoy. But collection is not the only path to education for students.

Part of the reason why hunting and gathering isn’t the only way to catch an education is because our minds are not straight arrows. We are image-bearers but, because we are in Adam’s family, we are bent. Even when we are aimed to hit the broad side of the truth barn, we often drift into the bushes. G.K. Chesterton once remarked that our minds are like open mouths and meant to close on something. Because of sin, we will swallow garbage as long as we have something to chew. We may throw up, but at least we’re not hungry.

To summarize: far too often, in pursuit of learning, we end up in the bushes chewing our own vomit. And we ask the band to start playing Pomp and Circumstance.

The Bible describes the character who won’t admit when he’s in a mess as one who is “wise in his own eyes.” Solomon wrote, “Be not wise in your own eyes / fear the LORD, and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:7). The opposite of being wise in one’s own eyes is fearing the LORD. The wise-in-his-own-eyes-guy, or “wise guy” for short (note that we do not use this as compliment) has a worship problem; he worships himself. He sets himself up as the standard. His knowledge is the end all. Solomon also said, “turn away from evil.” This is not simply a generic exhortation to righteousness. It’s saying wise men change course.

A fool is convinced that he knows where he is going and that he’s right. He never asks for directions. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15). The wise student has his ears open so that he can change his way if necessary.

I recently read an observation that Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, shared with another company.

He said people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds. (at 37signals)

He wasn’t saying that we ought to change our minds about everything all the time. Mr. Bezos does not want Amazon customers changing their minds about what online business they shop. As Christians, we do not question bedrock “Thus says the Lord” truths. Jesus is God. Salvation is through faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone. Evangel Classical School exists because the evangel, the good news, is true for eternal life. We are not allowed to change our minds about it.

At the same time, Evangel Classical School also exists because many of us have changed our minds about many things.

For example, I’ve spent most of my life being wrong about the usefulness of fiction. I thought all fiction was bad or, at best, a distraction for younger or weaker minds. Now I think that bad fiction is bad and that good fiction is marrow for the bones. A man who isn’t reading good stories will have brittle bones.

I have also realized in the last few years that I was wrong about the worth of Christian schools. They seemed to me to be wastes of time, offering half-pint truth collection on gun-free campuses used by panicky parents trying to protect their kids from bad things “out there.” Students may not bring guns to school but they always bring their hearts. That means that they still bring enough bad things. I now believe that Christian schooling done faithfully is one of the best ways to equip battle-minded worshipers, which includes equipping them in Christ for killing sin in their souls.

Even in the last couple months I’ve changed my mind about whether students should learn printing or cursive first. I’ve done a 180 degree turn on the value of individual school desks. A maturing person not only recognizes how much he doesn’t know, but also how wrong he’s been. People who are right a lot don’t just fill their minds, they change their minds. A lot.

You may need to change your mind about comma placements and crayon color choices. Don’t question the addition answers, but don’t be a diva acting as if you know everything about how to go through your fact cards or the best system to store them. You will be tempted to act as if you know more than you do. That will not only be proud, it will make you a stupid student because you won’t be able to learn anything.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” In other words, sticking to your guns no matter what is a sure way of shooting yourself in the foot. May ECS be a place of big minds, minds that change as often as necessary for growth in true education.


The above exhortation was given at the ECS assembly earlier today.

Not with Contempt

Imagine a close friend who one day sinned against you and broke fellowship. Imagine that you pursued him (or her) with no success. You communicated Your hurt, you expressed your desire to forgive and receive them back, and it all went south.

Now imagine that months pass. Perhaps the sting of the hurt has lifted a little but the pain still isn’t gone. Then your friend drops by. He (or she) has a different spirit. Without hesitation he asks for forgiveness, acknowledges his sin, knowing that there may be ongoing consequences but knowing that he was wrong. What you thought was impossible has come about.

How would you respond? More specifically, would you be irritated or glad? I’m not talking about glad gloating over the vindication of your right-ness. I mean, wouldn’t you rejoice that a lost friend returned, that a broken friendship was restored?

Then why do many Christians tend to believe that God looks on them with contempt? Our Father rejoices when we confess our sin against Him, when we seek His forgiveness. We may have wandered for years, or a week, or our account with Him may be measured by minutes. Jesus told the Pharisees and Scribes, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). If He rejoices when sinners repent, how much more His sons?

One of the most important moments in our Lord’s day liturgy, and probably my favorite part, is the declaration from differnet parts of Scripture that God gladly forgives. If He marked iniquities, none could stand. But He forgives that He might draw us closer in worship.

Honoring the Son of Man

Jesus asked the man born blind if he believed in the Son of Man (John 9:35). Previously in John’s Gospel, Jesus told Nicodemus that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14). This is a reference to His death on the cross (John 12:32-33) and the outcome was “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:15). The Son of Man gives life.

The Son of Man also gives sight. This is the work of God in John 9. More than opening eyes to color and light, Jesus opened the man’s eyes to see Himself as the Messiah, the Savior. He could see his need and the forgiveness offered by the Son of Man.

The Son of Man also gives food that never perishes. Jesus told the crowd on the other side of the sea, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (John 6:27). Jesus satisfies the soul in a way that no bread can.

He gives life. He gives sight. He satisfies the soul. But only for those who believe in Him. Only to those who identify with His sacrifice for their sin. “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).

As we come to the communion table set with His body and blood, we come because there is no other Savior (Acts 4:12). We come because we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9). We come because we were blind but now can see (John 9:25). We come to be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). In all of this the Son of Man will be lifted up in honor because He was lifted up on the cross.

Another Sort of Sight

I recently heard someone say that there are two types of people in the world: those who divide the world into two types of people and those who get tired of the other group. I’m going to do it right now, but I’m also going to give a third option, so that will be different.

There are two types of people in the world: those who know that they sin and those who argue that they don’t. There are people who refuse to use the word sin or wannabe atheists who disagree in principle that sin is possible. Their blindness is more sad than ironic. Churchgoers, on the other hand, usually either confess their sin in humility or they confess the systematic truth that men are sinners, though that doesn’t apply to them at the moment. Religious blindness isn’t another sort of sight.

We should always keep in mind that Christ came to save men who sin. Whether you are considering resolutions for the New Year, whether you are in a spat with your spouse, or whether you’re waiting for a broken relationship to mend itself, the only savior is Jesus and He saves men who confess their sin. He doesn’t save those who confess the correct theology of sin. He doesn’t save those who make promises to do better. He doesn’t save those who shift the blame for their sin. He doesn’t save those who depend on time to pass. He saves those who depend on Him.

It is dangerous to argue that we do not sin. That argument is usually found in the mouths of blind men, deceived men, religious men. When we see the sin of those around us much clearer than our own, that may not be because their sin is so much more obvious, it may be because sin trains our eyes to look away. Christ came to do something about the log in our eyes first.

We Don’t Have It

In the middle of many exhortations, Paul told the Romans to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

The beginning of the chapter swings on quite a hinge. The letter moves from the glorious gospel of righteousness by faith alone through the invincible love that won’t let us be separated from God in Christ Jesusto the powerful work of righteousness by grace. The orthodoxy–straight doctrine, leads to orthopraxy–straight practice. Generally, we are sacrifices that live worshipfully rather than those who are conformed to the world’s mold (Romans 12:1-2).

Part of that transformed life includes sympathy according to verse 15. We weep with those who weep. We do not blow off or mock the pain and hurt of others. We do not push away to protect our hearts from feeling the same sorrow in their suffering. Transformed Christians share a common cry.

In some ways, weeping with weepers may be easier because we do not have to go home with their problems. We can keep their troubles in an off-site compassion compartment. We can go home to our better situation and breath easier that we don’t have it like them.

But a good test of our transformation comes when we don’t have it like them and they have it better than us. Can we rejoice with those who rejoice? Can we share the joy of their win or their promotion or their profit? Can we enjoy the blessings that they’ve received, especially if they are the blessings we’ve been hoping or working for? Can we do it without being jealous or bitter?

It’s interesting that the next door neighbor exhortation in Romans 12:16 is to live in harmony with one another. We won’t if we are always being tightfisted with compassion and grabby for blessing.

Into This World

Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world and Pilate didn’t get it. He asked Jesus if this meant that He was a king. Jesus answered:

“You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37, ESV)

Pilate’s famous question, “What is truth?” proved that he wasn’t listening. But for those who do have ears to hear, let us consider why Jesus said He was born. He left His Father in heaven and took on flesh in Bethlehem in order “to bear witness to the truth.” What truth? If Pilate had asked “What truth?” instead of “What is truth?” he would have been in a much better position.

The answer is, Jesus was born to bear witness to all truth. That’s a lot, but at least we can say that it includes the truth of His identity. Jesus is the Savior King. We know it from the earliest chapters in the Christmas story. Gabriel told Mary,

you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31–33, ESV)

Gabriel told Joseph that Mary would “bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The angel announced to the shepherds, “Unto us is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). When the wise men arrived sometime later, they asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2)

Jesus was born to bear witness to the truth, the truth of who He is and the truth of what we need. When we come to the Lord’s table in faith, we also bear witness to the truth that we were born in sin needing a Savior, born as enemies rebelling against the King, and that we trust His death to bring us life.

The Hardest Part

The hardest part about Christmas is not shaking off the lingering effects of tryptophan at 2 AM while shopping on Black Friday. The hardest part is not squeezing SUVs into compact parking spaces at the mall or outjoying cranky checkout clerks. The hardest part is not choosing the perfect (and budget fitting) gift for the picky person in your life. The hardest part is not securing the tree straight in the stand. The hardest part is not troubleshooting strands of dead lights or even dealing with deadbeats around the dinner table. The hardest part is not paying off all the credit card bills by May. The hardest part about Christmas is caring.

No sentiment from a Hallmark holiday movie or lick from a thick peppermint stick can guarantee to get your heart in the mood. No matter how much the thirsty needles on your tree smell like they might burst into flame, no decorated indoor fir can catch your heart on fire. Celebrating the first coming of Christ and letting that party push us to wait even more eagerly for His next coming is hard heart work.

The liturgy of the season is an advantage to us if we repent and believe. As is true of our worship every Lord’s day, confessing and communing, offering and singing, praying and receiving the Word challenge us to be renewed in love for Christ. So setting up trees and giving gifts, baking ham and greeting family, all provide cover for cold hearts or provide discipline to melt them.

Is your preparation for the 25th increasing your anticipation of the great day? Are you pursuing holiness more these days, not only so that you’ll be ready for righteous rejoicing on Christmas, but also so that you’ll be ready for Christ’s return? If not, now is a great time to confess the sin that strangles sanctification and hope so that we can enjoy more of both on Tuesday.

Rabbits with Greek Names

*We finish our Omnibus class discussion on The Histories: The Landmark Herodotus in the morning. The long intestines of Herodotus measure more than 700 pages followed by 21 appendices and a hundred more pages of indeces. The rabbit trails in this book get more attention than the timeline, but I don’t want to split hares. At least most of the rabbits had Greek names.

I did not read the whole thing. I listened to Books 4-7 in this audio version which is neither the same translation as the hard copy I have nor did it shake the typical ennui that chaperones dates between audio books and me. It was free. Also, the audio edition has no maps. I will admit that somewhere around Book 9 I actually started paying attention to the maps which also meant that they no longer helped me skip forward in my reading. Such is learning. By now I even have an opinion on whether the Battle of Marathon or the Battle of Thermopylae was more important. Who’da thunk it?

There are many things that could be said about this book; I’m sure of it, whatever they are. That said, here’s one threatening riddle from Book 6 that has kept me thinking for a couple weeks.

Now Miltiades was highly respected by Croesus the Lydian, and when Croesus learned what had happened to him, he sent a declaration to the Lampsacenes commanding them to release Miltiades, threatening that if they did not do so, he would wipe them out as if they were a pine tree. The Lampsacenes who tried to interpret this message were at first belwildered as to why Croeses would use the phrase “wipe them out like a pine tree” in his threat, but then, after much hard thinking, one of the elders came to the realization of its true significance: the pine alone of all trees does not produce any new shoot once it has been chopped down, but is utterly destroyed and gone forever. (442)

Part of the reason that we started a school, and part of the reason that we’re paddling the river of Western Civilation with Omnibus oars, including the one supplied by Herodotus, is that we want our students to come back even when we’re “cut down,” whenever and however that might happen. If Christians reproduce true disciples, then our disciples will live and grow and bear much fruit even when we die. By God’s grace we won’t be wiped out like pine trees, instead we’ll keep popping up like irrepressible bamboo shoots.1


  1. Credit for the bamboo analogy goes to our school Headmaster. I texted him this question: “What kind of tree/plant is virtually impossible to kill, even if you chop it down?” He immediately replied that it was a good question and gave four answers, a few from personal experience. He also thinks Herodotus is fantastic. That’s why he’s the right person for the job, and the teacher of our Omnibus class.