The Fountainhead of Antithesis

Across the front of many communion tables is the phrase, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Jesus told His disciples on the night of His betrayal to keep eating the bread and drinking the cup as a memorial until He comes.

The fall of man in Genesis 3 provides the first backdrop and the fountainhead of antithesis for remembering what Christ did in His incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. To compare and contrast is a profitable mental appetizer to the meal.

Adam betrayed God by taking food. Christ became food by being betrayed.

Adam ruined man by taking fruit down from a tree. Christ redeemed men by being lifted up on a tree.

Adam wasn’t thankful, he disobeyed, and then he died, bringing death to all sons. Christ gave thanks before He obeyed to death, bringing life to all His sons.

Adam became a judge of God’s Word in his sin. Christ bore the judgment of God’s Word against sinners.

Adam grabbed at being like God and was shamed. Christ did not count equality with God as something to be grasped and was exalted.

Adam had full fellowship with God that he turned away from. Christ was God and yet His Father turned away.

Adam did what was unthinkable in choosing to disobey; that is, man defied the sovereign God. Christ chose, in obedience, to do what is unthinkable; that is, God died for sinful man.

All that is good for us is in Christ alone.

Passing Our Lusts Through Spell-Check

We are all amateur philologists. Philology is the study of language, and we use language to talk about everything. We type, text, speak, sing, and scratch out our words. Words are the materials that shape our relationships and responsibilities.

There are many weird and wonderful aspects of our relationship with words. One of those is how we relate to the Dictionary. Some days we submit to it. We know a word but cannot recall exactly how to spell it. The Dictionary reveals the canonical order of letters. There are other times when we read or hear a word that we’re not familiar with. We open the Dictionary to search out the lawful use. It’s almost a religious ritual, seeking meaning from the oracle of the printed page. We trust Webster Almighty.

But annually a committee of our philological priests makes sacrifices and bring offerings. Old words are laid to rest and invented words brought before the glossary gods. One moment a word servant, the next a word judge. Language evolves or devolves by the stroke of our word clergy.

Deep in the heart of every sinful man is the desire to write his own dictionary. We can’t help but use words because we are made by words and in the image of The Word. But when Eve and Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they took authority that wasn’t theirs. With help from Father Falsehood, they came up with a new list; what was evil was not being like God. What was good was not submitting to God’s declaration.

When we muddle nouns like “man” and “woman” and “marriage” we are attempting to (re)define our lives. Our culture has been selling tickets to rides at the fair of vanity for a while. We glamorize bleeding-edge dictionary workers on glossy magazine covers, at least after applying a liberal dump truck of make-up and hiring a team of Photoshop jockeys to fake the rest. This is the new definition of “courage.”

Our confession as Christians, our homologeo, “saying the same” as God, is an act of submission, honor, and truthfulness. Let us not cover our sin by lies or by appeals to the word committee to pass our lusts get through the spell-check.

It’s a Big Estate

Because Adam sinned we are all born guilty. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism answers for question 17, Adam’s “fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.” Every man didn’t eat the forbidden fruit but, because our representative did it, all mankind is guilty in him. “One trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:18). “[B]y the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). The sin of one became the sin of all. We bear the sin of someone else.

We also bear generational iniquities. The sins of our fathers are our sins, not in the same sense at the same time, but they are still sins we have learned, that we experience consequences from, and that we need to repent from. “Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness” (Psalms 106:6, see also Nehemiah 9:2; Lamentations 5:7). Likewise, we are part of a nation that will not submit to the Lord Jesus Christ. We experience judgment together; the IRS doesn’t appropriate less taxes according to personal righteousness. The Church, too, is the household of God. As part of the same household, the faithful kids don’t get to stay in their bedroom while the parents are evicted for refusing to pay the mortgage.

Daniel prayed for and confessed the sins of his nation in Daniel 9. Israel was in captivity due to the sins of the previous generation and the proper response was not to say, “It was all their fault.” The right response was corporate confession.

To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. (Daniel 9:7)

What we do affects others. What they do affects us. We don’t confess the sins of groups we’re in so that we can distinguish ourselves from them but to associate ourselves with them. As you are connected to, or responsible for, others you are in it together.

Ad Nauseum Wholus Foodus

What we eat matters. God made us to eat. All sorts of bodily systems, some obvious and some more obvious when things aren’t working properly, are given by God for us to bite, taste, swallow, digest, use, and compost food.

Eating is routine and what we eat identifies us. We know it ad nauseum wholus foodus in our current context. Organic used to mean that you ate something derived from living matter, not that that’s what made your life matter. Local meant the pizza place that could deliver the fastest. Gluten-free meant it was meat. Now we’ve got corporations intent on selling an identity, and I don’t mean Monsanto.

The principle of you are who you eat from goes back to the first garden. When Adam and Eve ate from the hand of the dragon, they identified themselves as discontents. Later, the Serpent-killer said, “Take and eat,” but His promise was honest.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. (John 6:51)

It’s as if Jesus said, “In the day that you eat of it, you will have eternal life.” Unlike the devil, Christ wasn’t playing word games. When we eat from Him we identify ourselves with Him as Giver as well as with our family. And families who eat together stick together.

More Fruitful Than Treebeard

I gave the following address at our year-end assembly last Friday.


If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, you no doubt remember Treebeard. He’s a great character, helpful, slow to decide and to speak and to move, but full of conviction. He also offered tasty things to drink to guests. I’m sure his beard was quite a beauty (it was part of his name after all) and have tried to model my beard accordingly.

Treebeard lived in another world but some seeds of his kind have been brought into ours. I’ve seen some of the seeds. I’ve even seen some of the saplings, though I’ve only seen a few full-grown trees. They aren’t exactly ents, but they are descend-ents. A few of these trees live in the woods though most are city dwellers. Unlike ents, these trees put down roots to stay. They don’t have mouths but they talk. Their branches don’t move but they go all over the place.

With the right care, over time the trees grow and their branches wind through the windows and doors of whatever building they’re near. Eventually the limbs will lengthen throughout a whole house, winding through hallways and up stairs and elbowing themselves into every room. You can try to trace the tributaries back to the trunk, but you can’t really tell the twists apart, nor, strangely, do you really want to. Rather than upset the owner or cause him to think that it’s time to prune the tree, the growth of the tree makes him happy. When the boughs get bigger it doesn’t squeeze the space, it actually seems to make everything bigger. The one’s I’ve seen have been quite magical.

In the kitchen, the branches grow pomicultural pleasures. You can see reds, yellows, oranges. You can taste sweet like grapes, sour like lemons, and salty like tomatoes. The fruit can be squeezed into so many juices and baked into so many pies and sliced over so many bowls of cereal. Whether breakfast or dinner or snacks, the tree gladly shares its yield and makes the table a place of laughter and satisfaction.

In the family room, the tree blooms into many flowers with a medley of shapes, sizes, and smells. It’s an indoor garden, with scents that remind you of lavender and lilac but different. Your nose makes you think of rain on dirt, but somehow clean. It seems almost every day as if there are new subjects for entertainments, a new eyeful to see and study. Visitors and family alike enjoy the show.

In the bedrooms, the tree makes the most comfortable resting places. Sons and daughters have their own spots, soft like futons of feathers, with full-body leaf blankets that breathe for crispy-cool summer nights and warm on the wintry ones.

Of course, outside the house the tree springs to the sky; you feel like you can climb it into giant clouds. It also furnishes swank shade. The only tension under its care is in the hammock. Otherwise it’s a glass of lemonade, a novel, or a nap. The greatest parties are thrown under trees like these.

At this point I must confess that I’m so unskilled at thinking imaginatively that the story above is more of an illustration. I’m also so impatient of a fiction attempter that I feel the need to explain and encourage non-fiction style.

I have seen such trees, but we don’t call them trees. These trees are magical, though, maybe more accurately, they are supernatural. The seeds exist. Each one of you students have received this seed, but it is something inside of you that causes you to grow. You are the tree and your education as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ is the seed, the sunshine, the water. You are growing and your life branches out through all the house. As you leave these school walls for the summer, you will continue to grow and change every room you enter.

Your branches flower with Narnian colors. Your branches smell like Uncle Frank, Fat Frank the fairy, the Chestnut King, and Henry York’s baseball mitt. Your branches have walked with Pilgrim to the Celestial City and walked with Hitler into Moral Insanity. Your branches have attended to the principles of Independence and the perils of Revolution. When the breeze blows through your leaves it sounds like the song of Genesis through Joshua or man’s chief end. You’ve gotten moody about verbs and scrambled ham and eggs in Latin poetry. Your branches have sounded out phonograms, found 800 word essays on blank screens, chased levels of letters on a keyboard, read a book about How to Read a Book, and experienced a millions of dollars Music Project. These are great things that put Gatsby’s life to shame.

When you walk into the kitchen or sit down at the dinner table, you flavor family conversations. You tell stories and jokes and make observations and bring laughter all around. In the living room you play games and watch shows, but you add context that the Kratt brothers can’t. In your bedroom you go to sleep with dreams of great things. And outside you become a source of games and merrymaking. You aren’t the fussy or boring or bullying kid on your street. Others seek your driveway or front yard for protection and a party. Neighbors light up when you go out to play.

This is not a way to think about your life that is make-believe.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
(Psalm 1:1–3, ESV)

So now is your summer break from school. But it is a season for you to continue to grow and flourish with more fruit than Treebeard.

Forty-one in Forty-one

Here are lessons I’ve learned or reasons that I’ve got for giving thanks. Also, although I did recently turn 41, I don’t have a 41 point list. Instead, in the spirit of having recently read 1984 which was written in 1948, here are 14 things, numbered but not ordered by importance.

  1. Learned: Line diagramming is great for meditating on God’s Word. It’s my favorite observation tool to beat the meaning out of a passage.

  2. Learned: Christians need to read good fiction. “Good” is key. I’ve really profited from Peace Like a River, the 100 Cupboards series, and Lewis’ Space Trilogy.

  3. Learned: Family is not an obstacle to what a man wants to accomplish, they are what a man is accomplishing. Maggie, Calvin, Hallie, and Keelah are how I’m changing the world. More importantly, they are God’s grace changing me.

  4. Learned: Any doctor’s diagnosis that includes the word “cancer” will probably lead to a lot more conversations.

  5. Thankful: Reading on the treadmill has saved my reading life.

  6. Learned: You can read on the treadmill if you make the font big enough in the Kindle app on your iPad.

  7. Learned: The fact that Christ created everything does more than reveal His wisdom and power, it also reveals His interests. So don’t be a dualist. Also, see anything written by Kuyper. The quote at the end of this post is from a fantastic book that syllogizes worship by way of the world.

  8. Thankful: Dropbox. (As long as you don’t have to explain it to people older than you). You have hundreds of files, dozens of apps, and multiple devices. Have your stuff with you and backed up as an added benefit.

  9. Learned: Scissor skills and penmanship are related. I don’t have either, but I do have hope for the next generation.

  10. Thankful: Fountain pens. There’s one in particular that has written over 4000 pages for me, including the rough draft of this article. The scratch of the nib across the lines on a yellow pad makes me glad.

  11. Thankful: IPAs. I like (intentionally) bitter beer. The New Belgium Ranger is my current favorite.

  12. Thankful: Starbucks French Roast. I like my beer bitter and my coffee burnt. That’s what friends tell me, at least. I’m more than okay with it. There is hardly a more enjoyable aroma than opening a new bag of beans.

  13. Learned: I have a wife who prefers beards. My dad had a beard the entire time I knew him. When I was a kid I never thought about growing-to-keep one for myself. After 15 years of marriage and a lazy week of not-shaving my cheeks, the beginnings of the bush-face became the beginning of being a beard guy.

  14. Thankful: There is no human who I have sinned against more or who helps me so much as Mo. She is the crown I don’t deserve, the reason our kids are cute, and the one who makes me most want to live like the Trinity.


God’s love for God led him to create the world from nothing. Therefore, our love for God, if it is to be an accurate reflection of God’s love, must also lead us to a deep and profound and fitting love for creation. God’s love for God pushes him into creation. So should ours. (Joe Rigney, The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts, 62)

Before or After?

Most of us are familiar with Paul’s warning about eating the bread and drinking the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner. Unworthy eaters “will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). So a person should “examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (verse 28).

Some Christians with sinful attitudes towards another person, let’s say toward their spouse, do not eat or drink at the communion table. Something isn’t right there, so something isn’t right here. Their marriage affects their worship.

It goes the other way, too, doesn’t it? If something isn’t right here, something won’t be right there. Worship affects relationships, including marriage. It is unlikely that a man will be faithful, engaged, eager to commune with God week by week and then be a hermit at home, at least he won’t be that way forever. It is unlikely that a woman will be humble, teachable, eager to commune with God and then be a spoiled, cold brat at home. If either, or both, are half-hearted, motion-goers here, their marriage investment probably won’t amount to much either.

Which is worse, disunity before or after worship? Which is unworthy, fussing with your spouse before taking communion or after taking communion? Paul warns about unworthy partaking not so that we will get our hearts right for this Table and then relax. The point isn’t to survive a communion table gauntlet only to be a pain in the butt at the lunch table. The point is having our hearts right for whatever table we’re sitting around. The communion table reminds us of Christ’s work that makes wrong hearts right and ready for communion wherever.

Before we eat and drink, let us examine ourselves. And after we eat and drink by grace, let us examine ourselves to see if we are guilty of profaning the image of God by our unworthy attitudes toward one another.

Inching up the Triangle

I’ve heard it described before that marriage is like a triangle with God at the summit. As the husband and wife get closer to God they necessarily get closer to each other. I like the illustration well enough. It is true that the man and the woman have their own, personal relationship to God, a relationship that in many cases existed before the wedding and one that can provide support during marriage.

But most of the Christians I fellowship with on a regular basis do not usually struggle to remember or attend to our individual access to God. “I have a relationship with Jesus Christ regardless of what happens around me.” That is true, and there is a proper way to emphasize that. It becomes a problem, though, when we value our individual access to God in such a way as to consider our spouse (or children) as an obstacle between us and God. We come to think of our husband or wife as a hurdle to get over, and then even as a hurdle to leave behind on our way to God.

There is a sense in which every man by himself and every woman by herself bears the image of God. But a married couple bear God’s image together. So your spouse–even your sinning, selfish, stand-offish, criticizing, fussy spouse–is less of a hindrance to Your fellowship with God and more of a reason for it. Christian couples should think correctly about their connection. In other words, it is not a time to congratulate yourself when you’ve inched closer to God on your side of the triangle but your spouse stays further back.

Husbands, if your wife is falling back, then your individual Christian growth (which you should pursue) will result in your loving sacrifice that, by grace, will win/woo your wife to come along. Likewise, wives, if your husband is falling back, then your individual Christian growth (which you should pursue) will result in joyful respect that will, by grace, push your husband further. Individual Christian growth that does not look to unite, even if that unity doesn’t happen overnight, is not growth in godlikeness. God unites us to Himself, He doesn’t just celebrate that He is better than us.

An Interrogative Shovel

I value the Why? question. I think I’ve mostly lost the smart-alecky junior high attitude underneath the asking, but I still appreciate and utilize the interrogative shovel to dig for idealogical treasure.

The reason why God created the universe and the reason why God created marriage between one man and one woman and the reason why Christ came and died and rose again and the reason why we make disciples and the reason why every disciple belongs to the Church is the same reason. If we said that the reason is “for His glory,” we’d be correct but perhaps still clouded behind the Christian jargon. So again, why creation, marriage, salvation, and church?

It’s because the three Persons of God so loved one another and enjoyed their union together that He made other beings to know and enjoy that glory. The understanding and affection and joy between the Father, Son, and the Spirit is part of His magnificence. It’s what makes Him awesome. His incommunicable attributes such as omniscience and omnipotence and eternality are at work for spilling His communicable glory into us.

Therefore, the reason why God made the world, instituted family, forgives rebels, and knits His people together in one Body is so that we will have understanding and affection and joy with Him and between ourselves like Him.

We glorify God when we see His glory truly, when we say it accurately, and when we sing it wholeheartedly. We also glory God when we receive His gifts thankfully and then imitate Him through loving generosity/sacrifice for the joy of others and in order to increase fellowship between us. We glorify God vertically and horizontally, through praise and through practice, through communion with Him through Christ and communion with each other by the Spirit.

What did God want with us and for us? He wanted us to taste His love and joy in union with Him as well as in our relationships here, especially in family, both by blood and by Christ’s blood. Why? Because it’s truly glorious.

Indeed a Political Act

1984coverA happy marriage is a political act. (Note: the adjective is key in the previous sentence.) George Orwell meant as much in his dystopian novel, 1984. The totalitarian State prohibited–to the degree that they could–passionate marriages and sexual pleasure. Orwell’s main characters couldn’t vote for change but they could defy Big Brother by their adultery.

Their motivation, however, was strictly rebellion. Just do what you’re not allowed do to to stick it to the Man. Then you’re truly free. But in opposing bondage to the State Winston and Julia chose another bondage, the bondage of sin. They could not liberate themselves by their defiance, let alone anyone else, less because the government was so powerful and more because they chose to believe a different set of entangling lies.

Their misunderstanding, and Orwell’s himself, doesn’t change that the committed life of one man with one woman and their honoring the marriage bed is indeed a political act. It makes a statement to both neighbors and the nation. Such union is an embodied claim that says the president and politicians and police do not have the authority to make or break marriage however they desire. A male and female in covenant one-fleshedness are enfleshing theology. Husband and wife, then father and mother, are God-instituted relationships for the glory of the human race. This is a political act in that it declares that God is God, not the state. God is the lawgiver and not the people themselves or the lobby groups or big donors or liberal judges sitting on courtroom benches.

God instituted marriage as an incarnational reflection of His own Trinitarian, eternal relations as well as an illustration of the union between His Son and His Son’s Bride, the Church. How we love our wives, respect our husbands, raise our children, none of these are invisible, let alone hopeless acts. Through them we pledge our allegiance to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.