We do not know what tomorrow will bring (James 4:14), profit or persecution. Our plans must be put in perspective before God’s purpose and providence, so we ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” Amen.
And, if the Lord wills, we will not be submitting to rulers who say we cannot assemble as the church, and/or who say we cannot gather around the Lord’s Table and share the body and blood of Christ.
We listened to them and followed their directions in 2020 (not as long as others, but—knowing what we know now—also still too long). Thankfully they made their own hypocrisies known publicly and somewhat quickly. They said wine stores were essential, but they said believers were not allowed to participate in “the cup of blessing” (1 Corinthians 10:16). Our governors gathered without masks or distancing for their parties, posting pictures of themselves, while prohibiting us from gathering together for worship of God the Father in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
There are rumors of renewed (medically useless against coronaviruses) mask mandates and possible (authoritarian, as in anti-legislated) lockdown orders. And when we hear of wars and rumors of wars, we must not be alarmed (Matthew 24:6). We “do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1), and so we do not want to boast about tomorrow, nor boast about disobedience.
But as we’ve considered the purpose of government in Romans 13, and as we’ve tested and attempted to distinguish the solid food, we cannot submit on this point and agree to forsake our assembling according to their threats and brainwashing about viruses. They might try to shut us down, but we will not do it for them. Our Lord Jesus Christ has ordained the Supper, and we will eat and drink in obedience to Him.
“Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. ‘What!’ Is the appropriate response, ‘than ten hours over your books, on your knees?’”
Yes, pray. Yes, read, study, meditate, while praying.
Let me apply this across spheres, and exhort us that prayer must not be assumed. We must be devoted to prayer while doing politics.
We’ve been spending time in Romans 13 for the last month. Does the Lord care about earthly authorities? Does He care about government, about rulers and rules, about how nations run and citizens are protected? He most definitely does. While we consider the laws of our land, we see that the Lord has been gracious to give us at least some liberty to choose our representatives and to make our voice known on some decisions. Are we allowed by the Lord to care about how we are governed? He expects it.
Our interest and involvement as Christians is not idolatry, nor is it necessarily worldly, as in, done with sinful motives. And yet it is easy to slip into ten hours over news reading/scrolling/watching, or even political activism, without praying.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Timothy 2:1–2 ESV)
This is not an exhortation to pietism, a private retreat to “thoughts and prayers” instead of work. But it is an exhortation: why would God bless our efforts if we don’t even ask Him to? We can do a lot of things with prayer, but we ought to do no thing without it. “First of all, then,” pray.
The “Golden Rule of Reading” – however you want others to read what you’ve written, so read what they’ve written. At least start by considering their claims to be true. This isn’t immature, it’s loving. Love believes all things, it doesn’t doubt all things.
This applies to all sorts of material, but maybe most to what has been written in Scripture. At least when starting out:
John Wesley wrote “A Clear and Concise Demonstration of the Divine Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures” in 1789. It’s GOOD.
“I beg leave to propose a short, clear, and strong argument to prove the divine inspiration of the holy Scripture.
The Bible must be the invention either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of God.
It could not be the invention of good men or angels; for they neither would nor could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ when it was their own invention.
It could not be the invention of bad men or devils; for they would not make a book which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity.
Therefore, I draw this conclusion, that the Bible must be given by divine inspiration.”
Based on what is in the Bible, the Bible is TRUE/right or FALSE/wrong, it can’t be just a “good” book.
Liturgy is a way we learn through what we see not just through what is said. There doesn’t need to be competition or conflict between what is declared and what is done, though our consistent behavior is harder to ignore than our repeated words.
A civil authority is called a liturgos in Romans 13:6, a “minister” who performs public service. He teaches by what he does, or doesn’t, more than by what is on the books. So Solomon said, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11 ESV). The failure of the executive branch was louder than the verdict from the judicial branch (so to speak), and the public got the point. The liturgy was louder than the law.
Among the saints there are ministers (Paul used liturgos of himself in Romans 15:16 as a “minister of Jesus Christ”), we have religious services, and these services follow a liturgy. There is always a liturgy, a pattern and form, whether or not we’re conscious of it or consistent in it.
And if I were to put a spin on Solomon’s observation, I might say, “Because the Table of the Lord is not celebrated joyfully, the hearts of the children of God are left discouraged and anxious.” It doesn’t matter what merry language we use if our actual practice is to eat, drink, and be mournful. May the joy of the Lord be your strength, and may you truly, and loudly, rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, having been justified by the blood of Christ.
Things are not always what they appear to be at first.
Jesus told a parable about obedience in Matthew 21:28-32. A man had two sons, he told them both to go work in the vineyard. The first son said no at first, but then went and did it. The second son said yes at first, but then blew it off. The chief priests and the elders answered correctly that it was the first son who did the father’s will.
Jesus applied it to the talkers, the ones who appeared and proclaimed their obedience, but who weren’t actually obeying. They seemed to be in the right, to themselves and to others. But it was the unexpected—tax collectors and prostitutes—who actually believed, and obeyed.
This has application for a variety of Appearances vs. Actuals, and I’d urge you to apply it to our submission to authorities. This is any lawful authority, especially in civil, church, or home spheres.
There are two ways to be under authority: in pretense or in truth. It’s possible to be submissive to authority and have others question it or accuse you of arrogance/defiance, it’s also possible to not be under authority and yet beyond the group’s suspicion. Subversive dissent is still insubordination no matter how much one proclaims his loyalty. Passionate arguments for intricate systems of hierarchy and procedures does not a submissive man make.
So the question is: are you actually obeying who/what you’re supposed to, all the way? Or are you holding back, and hiding behind reams of policy?
The following are my notes from the ECS Convocation for the 2023-24 school year.
Welcome back to another school year, Raggants.
We think it is an extraordinary thing to be a raggant; we are the only school in the world with the raggant as mascot. The raggant is more than uniform embroidery, acting like a raggant is part of our vocabulary. I want to remind you of what it means. We include the characteristics on our grade cards, they are part of our other graduation requirements (and there are a few other uses). At least some have wondered why we make such a big deal about it; aren’t we supposed to be Christians? And of course following Christ what we’re about, but I hope to show that being a raggant is a particular and playful way to pursue being a Christian. I’m ready to say that this should be The Year of the Raggant.
Mr. Sarr is the one who first noted how the raggant perfectly embodies the center of classical and Christian education. Before ECS started we were reading The Case for Classical Christian Education in which Doug Wilson wrote:
Classical Christian academies teach all subjects as an integrated whole with the Scriptures at the center.
Christ is Lord of all He made (and “by Him all things were created” Colossians 1:16), and Christ’s Word is the special revelation for our worship and our worldview. We are to “let the word of Christ dwell in (us) richly” (Colossians 3:16). There is no other book like the Bible; the Bible gives us the standard by which we evaluate every other book, subject, class, conversation, and claim. The Bible teaches us about Christ and what it means to follow Christ.
Mr. Sarr was also reading through the 100 Cupboards trilogy by Doug’s son, Nate Wilson. And in the second book, Dandelion Fire, Nate describes the raggant:
The raggant didn’t have any extra senses. He only had one, and it interfaced everything into an amazingly complicated but entirely accurate caricature of whatever worlds were within his range.
What a great parallel: Classical Christian schools where everything is integrated by Scripture and the raggant interfacing with all the world by one sense. So Mr. Sarr proposed the raggant as our mascot. On our school webpage he wrote:
That is a picture of how we want for our students to perceive Christ’s domain academically. We want their perceptions of the world to be less compartmentalized (like human senses) and more academically integrated like the blended, combined senses of the mighty raggant.
A few years later, in the spring of 2016, I needed something to talk about for an assembly. I came up with a list of characteristics for our students, showed it to my wife, and she wondered if I was okay. Ha. My first draft wasn’t impressive. I went back to the brainstorming, and ended up with six things. That talk got a good response, and later that summer the school board approved these characteristics as things to for ECS to emphasize.
At the time I didn’t use a lot of Scripture proof-texts. But all these virtues are driven by the Bible. When we talk about being raggants, it’s not really about taking on the shape of a small rhino with wings, we’re talking about integrated learning and living according to Scripture.
Stout Image Bearers
God made man in His image, blessed him, and told him to be fruitful and take dominion (Genesis 1:26, 28). In order to know who we are as human beings, we have to know in whose likeness we were created, and that comes from God’s Word.
As reflections of God we’re responsible to fulfill God’s mandate. Taking dominion is not for wimps, it requires stout/sturdy/strong image-bearers. So we take heart in what the Lord told Joshua at the edge of the promised land,
Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:7–9 ESV)
So “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Generous Disciples of Christ
Every Christian is a disciple, a word we got from the Latin word discipulus meaning “student/learner/follower.” Making disciples is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). That requires learning and observing all that Jesus commanded, which we get from Scripture.
And disciples give, first of themselves following the pattern of Christ, then of their resources. They die to bring life (2 Corinthians 4:7-12), they contribute to those who need it and show hospitality (Romans 12:13). Liberal education, education that makes free-men, includes giving freely as we’ve received (Matthew 10:8 KJV). Wisdom teaches that “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer” (Proverbs 11:24).
Copious means plentiful, overflowing. Raggants/Christians aren’t just consumers, they are big-time producers.
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. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. (Psalm 1:1–4 ESV)
Fruitfulness is not like that of a machine, but of a living tree. This fruitfulness, like courage, comes through God’s Word.
Remember the sower and the seed (an illustration of the gospel Word), that which fell on good soil “produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:8, 20). When the soil is right the Word grows into a field full of good works.
As copious means abundance, prodigious means enormous, vast. Christ is interested in a lot, so to be like Him we have a lot we can learn.
That includes about Christ Himself: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). That’s a command, and we start with Scripture. So also, when we walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, we are “bearing fruit in every good work (copious) and increasing in the knowledge of God, being strengthen with all power (stout)” (Colossians 1:10).
Thankfulness is how we learn, not just the end of our learning. We give thanks before and during our work, not only after it. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16–17 ESV, see also Ephesians 5:20)
If Scripture integrates all our learning, then thankfulness is like glue that holds together our attitude about it all. To whom much is given, much (gratitude) is required (see Luke 12:48).
Since Genesis 3:15 humanity as been in a battle; there is enmity between two seeds, that of the serpent and that of the woman. That promised seed we now know is Christ Himself. Christians are enlisted as soldiers in a spiritual war (2 Corinthians 10:4) along with Him.
The good fight should be fought in a good way, so our motto is: laughter is war. It comes from Psalm 52.
The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, “See the man who would not make God his refuge, (Psalm 52:6–7 ESV)
See, fear, laugh, all of which come from faith in what God’s Word says. The Word is our sword (Ephesians 6:17), and we wield it with joy.
Of course there are other great characteristics in Scripture. The Greatest Commandment is to love God, then we’re to love our neighbors. The Great Commission is, again, to make disciples not to make raggants. We’re not saying that these six qualities are an alt-fruit of the Spirit, another six onto the inspired seven. But in a school context, with the Bible at the center, with the goal of Christ-honoring education culture, these characteristics seemed playful and potent.
So put it all together. Raggants are high discipline, low drama students who see all the world Scripture. May the Lord bless this 2023-24 school year at ECS as The Year of the Raggant.
Maybe you’ve heard of doomscrolling. It refers to the act of repeatedly, even compulsively, scrolling through news and social media feeds and seeing negative or distressing information. Many of these scrolling cycles never get to the bottom, it’s never ending bad news or predictions of nightmares to come. A constant diet of this woe can increase feelings of stress and helplessness.
The term doomscrolling seems to have gained traction during the 2020 lockdowns, but there has been a regular source of anxiety-producing negativity long before that. It’s come, sadly and inappropriately, from the church. Let’s call it doomcommuning.
This is just another way to remind us of the purpose of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus did not institute this ordinance to increase anxiety. For sure, the Corinthians weren’t even paying attention, and Paul exhorted them to examine themselves (1 Corinthians 11:25). The Table is not a place for selfishness and division; the stakes of the Supper are serious.
But the whole point of the supper is the seriousness of salvation, not damnation. “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1), not panic before God.
Brothers, this is a meal of life, of joy, of hope. Now is not the time for for brooding, for glooming. Here is where God feeds our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not commune in doom. “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9).
Come, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already atoned for what you’ve done through His Son (compare Ecclesiastes 9:7).
Especially when our kids were younger we talked about THIQ obedience. I worked through the acronym in an exhortation to confession in 2012, and as we start the household series tonight, as many head back to school this week, and especially as we think about what God wants with all His children, it seemed like a good time to revisit it, this time with some verses.
Two qualifications. First, most of these passages refer to our obedience to God. Second, no human authority is above God, so if we cannot obey God while obeying a lesser authority then we cannot obey the human authority. But how we obey the Lord, and the fact that the Lord is the one who established human authorities, should teach us how obedience obeys under most conditions.
THIQ obedience is Total, Happy, Immediate, and Quick.
Obedience ought to be total, as in, all parts of all the instructions completed. Before God, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). Obedient children must “be holy in all (their) conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Children are to obey their parents “in all things” (Colossians 3:20).
Obedience ought to be happy, as in, not begrudgingly or with annoyance, no sighs or rolling of eyes. “Serve the LORD with gladness!” (Psalm 100:2). “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God” (Philippians 2:14-15). Moses said judgment was coming upon God’s people who “did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart” (Deuteronomy 28:47).
Obedience ought to be immediate, as in, not delayed, not put off. “I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments” (Psalm 119:60). “Today if you hear his voice” don’t wait (Psalm 95:7). Obey, right away.
And obedience ought to be quick, as in, not slow. “Do not be slothful in zeal” (Romans 12:11). Laziness is not just seen in delay but dawdling, by drawing-out the task. The one who is “slack/sluggish in his work is a brother to him who destroys” (Proverbs 18:9).
Our works don’t save us. None have perfect obedience before God anyway. But He forgives us in Christ, and by His Spirit works from the inside out to give us a love of His standard.
I really do get the huge and tangled implications for Christians as we think about God and government. I also really do think it’s important, relevant, and encouraging, for Christians to think about how God saved us. Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” and was “killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). When Jesus told Pilate, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11) Jesus was acknowledging His Father’s sovereignty in/through the abuse of human authority and His own unjust treatment.
Peter wrote “this is gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (1 Peter 2:19). And then Peter gave us the WWJD passage:
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21–24 ESV)
We would have no atonement for our sins, no Lord’s Supper, no celebration of our hope of glory, if Jesus had not suffered unjustly without sinning. Praise God that He ordains to overcome evil with good.