Three Nots

The blessed man in Psalm 1 is known by three “nots”.

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;
(Psalm 1:1)

First, he walks not in the counsel of the wicked. He does not follow advice from the ungodly. He doesn’t listen to their opinions.

Can you imagine what the writer of Psalm 1 would think about talk radio, cable news, podcasts and vodcasts, or the magazine wall at the airport? Then add to those inputs the narrative lessons of so many sitcoms, summer blockbusters, and Pandora playlists. We walk into the road without looking either way and get hit by the media truck that imprints its godless perspective across our face.

The blessed man also does not stand in the way of sinners. Stand is not simply stopping, it means taking up a certain perspective. We could say that he doesn’t join the gang of those who regularly disobey. Standing with rebels on the wrong side of the lines God draws is no good.

And third, he does not sit in the seat of scoffers. The scorner or scoffer is at the boldest stage of disobedience where he mocks righteousness and/or God Himself. Scoffing doesn’t have to be loud or obnoxious. Scoffing in a story looks like laughing at the guy who thinks marriage is only between one man and one woman. The scoffer jokes about holiness. The blessed man avoids the cynics. He’s alright standing out.

Walking, standing, and sitting represent all of life. The unblessed man is immersed in a corrupt culture, tuned in to a particular worldview channel. The blessed man disassociates with the advice, the approach, and the assembly of the wicked. The blessed man delights in the law of the Lord. How much junk have we welcomed into our hearts this last week?

The Door

I gave the following address at our end-of-year assembly on June 5th.


This year Mr. Sarr, Mr. Bowers, and myself (on Thursdays) read for you 100 Cupboards and Dandelion Fire during lunch. The Chestnut King is next and I’m sure it’s first in the queue for lunch breaks next year. N.D. Wilson’s trilogy works wonders for the imagination and I wonder if any of you have tried out the cupboards at your house to see if they lead anywhere amazing.

Henry York discovered a route to other worlds by accident. Then he learned how to go where he wanted with the help of Grandfather’s journals. If he set both compass locks in his room to the right numbers, then the back of the cupboard in Grandfather’s bedroom opened to whole chapters of stories. Badon Hill. Byzantium. FitzFaeren. Endor. Beautiful places. Bad places. Places for battle. Places of roots.

The Chronicles of Narnia tap a similar other-worldly vein. To get to Narnia at first, Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy pressed through the back of a wardrobe. They couldn’t always get it to open. Sometimes the way was blocked. But Narnia held lifetimes of stories.

Wouldn’t you like to have one of these cupboards or closets in your house? Or at least know a friend who did? What if you didn’t have to wait for plaster to fall from the wall and find it by accident? What if you could go any and every time you wanted?

I am not asking these questions to tease you. I do want work up your hopes, but not in order to crush them. I’m not trying to trick you so that I can tell you to: “Grow up. Stop day-dreaming for make-believe places. Start living in the real world.” I am asking these questions because, if you’re interested, I might be able to help.

I’ve been doing some reading and I’ve been doing some looking around. I found the door. It’s here, at the school. If you want, I’ll tell you where it is and, if you want, you can go through it and spend your entire summer break in another world. You can live like Henry York Maccabee or Penelope or Anastasia or Uncle Frank or Aunt Dotty. Do you want to know which door it is?

It’s that one.1

“Now wait a minute,” one of you says, “I’ve gone out that door over a hundred times this last year. That door leads to a concrete sidewalk and an asphalt parking lot.” You’re right. But maybe you’re not looking at it quite right.

The reality is that the greatest adventures are not the ones you choose but the ones that God writes for you. The best stories aren’t always the ones that shock you like sticking a paperclip in an electrical socket, but they will still put a charge into you. Will you see it? That’s the question.

G.K. Chesterton helps us to tumble our mental combination locks into the right place.

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. (All Things Considered, 41)

This springs from an essay he wrote titled, “On Running after One’s Hat.” Men think that chasing their hat in the wind is a headache, a hassle, a bother. Why? Why not see it as a delightful and fun game? Why not join the game and play? Do you suppose that once you walk out that door, something (or someone) will be a bother to you at some point this summer? If yes, then you are ready for an adventure.

In another essay (“On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family”) Chesterton observes,

A man has control over many things in his life; he has control over enough things to be the hero of a novel. But if he had control over everything there would be so much hero that there would be no novel. (Heretics, 83)

The things are that out of our control make for the great stories. Gilbert argues that the most out-of-our-control elements, (so, according to him, the place where stories come alive), are found on our street, with our neighbors and with our family. Think about your family first.

When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we also step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which could do without us, into a world which we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family, we step into a fairy-tale. (82)

He also addresses why it is so much more exciting to live on our own streets then to take a trip to Timbuktu in search of adventure. Some men (and kids) want to travel, want to explore far-off places thinking that there they will find thrill and escape boredom. A boy such as that

says he is fleeing from his street because it’s dull; he is lying. He is really fleeing because it is a great deal too exciting. It is exciting because it is exacting. It is exacting because it is alive. (78)

The real adventure is living with and interacting with the ones you can’t get away from. The stuff of stories is loving your neighbor, the ones out your own front door.

We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor. (79)

God also makes your brother. And your sister. And your mom and dad. God will appoint each of you to backseats of cars or on benches around kitchen tables with beings who will live forever. That’s wild. There is a catch, though. You only have a short time to enjoy the ride.

You will go out that door and away from school for three months. What stories will you have to tell when you return? Epic love for those who weren’t kind to you? Heroic endurance of cleaning your room until every thumb’s width is organized? Poetic joy, a Tolkien like song about your faithfulness to obey your parents?

May God protect you and bless the pages of your summer chapter, raggants included.


  1. Any ol’ door will work. At this point in my address I pointed to our customary point of entrance and exit.

A Good Egg

I gave the following address at our school’s fundraising dinner last Saturday night.


It’s been said that a man shouldn’t put all his eggs in one basket. That assumes, really, that all your eggs are of equal value. Putting a bunch of unremarkable eggs into a bunch of baskets diversifies a portfolio of unremarkable investments.

But what if you found the egg? What if you found the treasure of all eggs? What would you do to secure it for yourself? How much would you be willing to spend to make it yours? Would you still prefer multiple baskets of low-budget eggs rather than owning one of ultimate value?

Once upon a time a young man was working in a field. As he drove his ox into a far corner one summer afternoon, the plow hit something hard. He didn’t find an egg, he found a nest egg. He unearthed years of dirt from a box full of some families’ future, buried by them long ago to protect their fortune. He could hardly believe it. Here was treasure enough for generations. He quickly recovered the trunk and ran for home.

Early the next morning he pursued the purchase of the entire field. The asking price was a number too large to fit in his financial books. What would he do?

Jesus told a one-verse-long version of this story that Matthew recorded for us.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44, ESV)

Different sources provide conflicting positions, but it seems that the law usually gave ownership to the finder. In this situation, however, the finder may have been an employee of the landowner. He may have been concerned that his boss, the owner of the field, would also claim ownership of the treasure. In order to close every loophole and leave no legal doubt, the finder sold everything he had in order to buy the field.

He had to liquidate his assets, which must have taken some time. As the days passed and others watched him sell off all his possessions, I wonder if anyone counseled him against it, or if anyone else criticized his foolishness. To most it must have appeared that he had no idea what he was doing, though it was their evaluation that was uninformed. The investment demanded everything and yet what he gave up was nothing compared to what he got in return.

Likewise, when the true treasure of the kingdom of heaven is found, that value surpasses the price of any sacrifice. Turns out that not all eggs are of equal value.

Classical Christian education is not the same thing as the kingdom of heaven, but it is part of it. The kingdom of heaven isn’t only a personal relationship with Jesus, it is new life in a new community under new management. At Evangel Classical School we are trying to enculturate (pass on a culture) at each stage of our student’s development so that they can love the King, serve the King, and represent the King in everything they do. His kingdom is everywhere. Jesus rules over more than Bible class and personal quiet times. He owns everything. He has vested interest in how we work, create, dress, play, sing, and sweat. He cares about how we interact with our neighbors and with other nations. Everything in life takes its cue from who is King.

Much has been made in the church about worship wars, fights among Christians about song styles on Sunday mornings. Much has also been made by the church about culture wars, fights with non-Christians about what is acceptable, the morals our society is supposed to agree to abide by. But really, all of it is a worship war and every school is a worship center.

G.K. Chesterton summed it up simply:

We have a general view of existence, whether we like it or not; it alters or, to speak more accurately, it creates and involves everything we say or do, whether we like it or not. (Heretics, 132)

In our inescapable “general view of existence,” what God will be recognized? What God/god gets credit for math, history, science, English, art? The nameless god of the state? The great god of the mirror, Humanism? Or the Lord Jesus Christ? Who gets the worship?

The treasure is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven involves life in Christ, with Christ, and for Christ. Purchasing the field isn’t referring to the price of salvation but rather about the cost of discipleship. That discipleship affects every facet of our lives: how we vote, how we write poetry, how we tell stories, how we relate.

The government schools want to define the treasure and regulate how we walk in the field and police what height we bolt our drinking fountains to the wall. They tell us that the treasure is naturalism; science and technology and opposable thumbs answer all of life’s questions. Other education experts say that there is no treasure, or that everyone’s treasure is the same. And whatever you do, please don’t use red pen to mark wrong answers. It might hurt someone’s feelings.

But we Christians know the Creator of the stuff, and it is wrong not to acknowledge Him all the time. We know the God who makes and sustains and liberates. We know the One in whom all things hold together, the One who gives meaning to flesh and blood life on earth. Knowing Him and living in His kingdom is treasure.

The work is not first about educating our kids, or changing our country, but honoring our King. It costs us everything we have. And we don’t know how good we have it.

The school is like an owner’s group with families of believers pooling their resources to buy-in together to get the treasure. The treasure is the kingdom of heaven, and we want that glad worldview that sees everything under the good rule of our King.

This is what we’re doing week after week at ECS. The treasure is worth it. It is a joy to pursue it, but the field costs more than we can afford. The treasure (again, living consciously as the King’s servants and stewards) will shape generations. It will pay for itself, but not immediately and not necessarily in dollars. While trying to keep tuition as affordable as possible for as many as possible, we have asked our teachers–especially our part-time teachers–to work for little pay, though hopefully great reward. Each teacher and parent is giving what he or she has for sake of the treasure.

Time, tears, training, jump ropes, prayers, reading, more reading, more tears, and dollars, are going into this purchase. Would you consider helping us? This is a treasure for you, too. This treasure will serve children and parents and grandchildren and grandparents and neighbors and churches and business owners and mayors and more for years. Again, we could use your help.

Don’t take tonight’s word for it. Come and visit. Pick up a book on what it is exactly that we’re trying to put into place, the part of the treasure we’re referring to. Do all the above and then consider a monetary investment so that we can share the treasure with more families, so that we can get the field in order.

This is–when we can catch our breath for a second–our joy. It is the point of the parable (as well as the point of the pearl of greatest price next door in verses 45-46): when you find what is most valuable, giving up everything is gladness to get it. Discipleship in the kingdom of heaven is worth all our lives.

Unlike the parable, we aren’t concealing the treasure, we’re advertising it. We aren’t keeping the treasure for ourselves, we want more people to have it. This isn’t an individual betterment, it is for the community.

We are not asking for you to give so that we won’t have to. It is our joy to sell what we have to buy the field. So as I say, we are not asking you to fund in our place, we are asking you to join us in the joy. This is one egg that’s worth it.

A Zero Ego Party

We will never be really happy without being really humble. Only humble eyes seen how many things there are that are amazing. A proud person’s expectations are rarely satisfied. A humble person enjoys everything as unexpected or undeserved. He gives thanks always and everywhere because he knows he’s getting great stuff.

It is the humble man who does the big things. It is the humble man who does the bold things. It is the humble man who has the sensational sights vouchsafed to him, and this for [these] obvious reasons: first, that he strains his eyes more than any other men to see them; second, that he is more overwhelmed and uplifted with them when they come…. (Chesterton, Heretics, 28-29)

whereas it had been supposed that the fullest possible enjoyment is to be found by extending our ego to infinity, the truth is that the fullest possible enjoyment is to be found by reducing our ego to zero. (Chesterton, ibid., 69)

True happiness it isn’t about having a lot. More is not a way to be more merry. Nor does gladness perforce come from giving up what we’ve got. It’s just as easy to be a hoarder when you only have one precious than when you have a kingdom.

It’s why communion has every reasonable and dangerous expectation of turning into a party. If every sin is paid for, then we have nothing whatsoever to boast in. We cannot take any credit for anything good. The cross of Christ humbles us before our guilty sentence and eternal punishment. All of pride is killed. Seen from that angle, how could we possibly be more happy?

Only those who know they don’t deserve it can really delight in it.

I Am Not My Own

One of the greatest comforts in life is knowing that we are owned. As disciples of Christ, we were the Father’s and the Father gave us to the Son. He did it in such a way that both Father and Son possess us. Jesus described this reality in John 17 as He narrowed His prayer list. He prayed for His own.

The Heidelberg Catechism, written in 1563, begins with this encouragement, affectionately referred to as “Heidelberg One.”

Question: What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yeah, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth to live unto Him.

I think this comfort has great theocentric, Trinitarian, and Calvinistic clarity. The comfort is objective and durable. At the same time, I also feel its warmth. The comfort is deeply personal. We are not our own; He bought us with a blood-expense. We belong to Him; He wills and works in us to live unto Him. That is truth not only worth believing, it is the only truth that leads to life.

We are in for a great death of futility and frustration if we try to ignore or forget or deny God’s ownership. God intends for us to see His ownership as a blessing, as life, rather than a burden.

Have we been submitting to His ownership? Have we been comforted by His ownership?

Making Himself Known

When Jesus instituted the Supper of remembrance He told His disciples, “this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). What was the new covenant and how is the Lord’s Table connected with it?

The New Covenant was God’s promise to “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31; Ezekiel 36:22, 32) to do for them what they failed to do in the previous covenant. Ezekiel described how God would give them a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), which they could not do for themselves. Jeremiah described it differently. He wrote that God would put His law into them, He would write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33a). The prophecy goes further.

I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:33b–34, quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12)

God makes a promise to make Himself known. In light of what knowing God means in John 17:3, God makes a covenant to give eternal life.

The New Covenant belongs to the nation of Israel. The sun will stop and the heavens will be measured before that changes (see verses 35-37). But God gives life through the knowledge of Himself to all His people, including the “children of God scattered abroad” (John 12:52). God is gathering His people from every tribe, tongue, and nation with a special fulfillment still to come among Israel. This is His own covenant at His own cost because it is His own character. He is making Himself known.

Jesus’ death on the cross not only purchased our forgiveness, it is part of knowing Him. In his book Delighting in the Trinity, Michael Reeves wrote, “On the cross, Christ the Glory puts to death all false ideas of God.” He makes Himself known so that we can have life and our life brings Him glory as the life-giver. This meal of remembrance that Jesus instituted is our life because here we know God and here we glorify God.

Racing Back for More

We’ll be studying John 17 as a church for a while on Sundays and taking our exhortation to confession cues from Jesus’ prayer. What He wants for us should be valued and pursued by us. If we’re not desiring in the same direction that He is supplicating, we have something to examine, and possibly to confess. Last week we focused on His prayer for our sanctification. This week let us consider that He prays for His own glory.

It may seem out of place to point out our need to glorify Him when we have gathered together to glorify Him. The dentist doesn’t need to give me grief about teeth care, “I’m here, aren’t I?” And yet religious people don’t always care correctly. Take, for example, the Jews who killed Jesus to honor God.

Jesus prays that the Father would glorify Him (John 17:1, 5). Do we want the Father to glorify His Son? And how does the Father do that? What part do we have, if any?

The Father lifts up the honor of His Son by making Him known. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Light reveals, knowledge clarifies and distinguishes, the face makes it personal. The Father removes the veil that keeps men from seeing “the gospel of the glory of Christ” (verse 4).

Knowing Christ, as we esteem His features and enjoy His fellowship, brings Him glory. So Peter commanded, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). How about us? Are we resting in our collection of knowledge relics or are we racing back to learn of Him in the Bible, more by day by week by year? Are we gathering to say things about Him or are we gathering to see Him, know Him, and give Him the sort of glory He asks the Father for?

Many Offspring from One Offering

Christ is our high priest. He ministers with our names on His heart as the priests in the Old Testament carried the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. They prayed, they offered sacrifices for the people. But they were limited.

The author of Hebrews wrote “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said ‘Sacrifice and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me'” (Hebrews 10:4-5). Why a body? Jesus not only offered sacrifices, He was the sacrifice, and many offspring came from His offering (Isaiah 53:10).

[E]very priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11–14)

In the communion meal we come to the epicenter of our life, the epicenter of our sanctification, the epicenter of our victory. Jesus conquered sin, He killed death, He defeated His enemies, and He has returned to glory until that time when He comes to get us and bring us to glory.

He gave His body for the bread of our life. He gave His blood as the covenant of life. He is true food and true drink. He invites us to partake of Him, to share together His love until the glorious day when we will be with Him where He is and see the glory that the Father gave Him in love (John 17:24).

Prayer for Sanctification

Last Sunday we entered a study of John 17. The entire chapter is one prayer by Jesus for His disciples the night before His crucifixion. We learn, or at least we have confirmed for us, what sorts of things the Son desires for us as we hear Him ask the Father. He makes a variety of supplications and we will take a few weeks in our confession time to examine if we are wanting what the Son wants.

First let us consider that Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in your truth: your word is truth” (17:17). Two verses later He says, “For their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be sanctified in truth” (verse 19).

We define (or argue about) sanctification better than we desire it. Christ wants us to be sanctified, to be set apart from the world in our desires and loves, but yet not removed out of the world. Sanctification is not an escape, it is a conscious battle to love God and to love our neighbors who don’t deserve it. The moral behavior part of being made more holy grows out of better and stronger love for the right things.

Jesus prays for our sanctification as our priest, as the one who goes to the Father on our behalf. Not only that, He went to the cross on our behalf. He “consecrated” Himself, He dedicated His life and death for the sake of our purification from sin. He cleanses the inside of the cup first.

Christian, are you pursuing purity in your heart for the sake of your pure, unmixed, uncontaminated loves? Are you loving the same direction that Jesus is praying? Are you living in a way that matches the purpose of Christ dying?