Not a Crumb of a Cardboard Cracker

How would you persuade someone that the church’s eating and drinking at the Lord’s Supper should be more happy than heavy?

We believe that the bread and the wine represent the body of Christ tortured and crucified, the blood of Jesus spilled from His head, His hands, His back, His feet. We acknowledge that our sin drove the bitter nails that hung Him on that judgment tree. The murder of God’s Son is the most heinous and unjust offense committed in history, and, according to divine justice He had to be crushed for our iniquities. This is heavy truth.

And when we know Jesus Christ and Him crucified, what does the Father expect us to do next? What was the Son’s work for? What does the Spirit accomplish?

The goal of God’s saving work is our life, our joy, and our fellowship with God. That fellowship is sweet. The work of grace includes a plain, and painful, view of our disobedience. But God opens our eyes to see our sin not mainly so that He can rub our faces in it. His purpose is not to remind us in perpetuity that we do not belong, that we barely got in, and that we should never forget how painful was the price His Son paid.

We will not ever forget Christ’s death. And we will praise God’s love revealed in His atoning, substitutionary sacrifice. We will remember and rejoice because it purchased our forgiveness, our freedom, our fellowship with God and all His people.

It is one of the reasons that we started using wine in communion. Wine is given by God as a gift to gladden hearts (Psalm 104:15). We are not drinking the wine of His wrath, but the wine of His feast (think Isaiah 55). Likewise, the recipe we use for our bread includes a touch of honey, because the word is sweet (Psalm 19:10), and Jesus is the incarnate Word. He is the Bread of Life, not a crumb of a cardboard cracker.

Honey is serious business. We do not deserve salvation or any of its sweetness, and that is part of what makes it a serious gift to us from God.

Where It Wafts

Sometimes Christians are able to take obedience and make it ugly; it’s one of our specialties.

In 1 Corinthians 16:5-8 Paul wrote about his plans to visit Corinth, but also acknowledged that the Lord must permit the visit or it wouldn’t happen. Paul wasn’t expecting an approved itinerary handed down to him by an angel from heaven, but he would recognize by providence if God allowed it.

Solomon wrote that “the heart of man plans his ways, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Only the LORD does “whatever” He pleases (Psalm 135:6); we are not the Lord.

Most Christians are probably familiar with James’ teaching about this perspective on providence.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit,” … instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13, 15)

With all that in mind, in order to obey, do you need to say “if the Lord wills” before every stated intention or plan? Or, do you need to correct your brother or sister if they use a future tense verb without including the “Lord willing” qualifier?

James says that boasting in our self-determination is arrogant (James 4:16). It can also be arrogant to boast over a fellow-believer’s sentence structure. If he isn’t living in light of God’s control, then it might be good to bring it up, which is what James is doing. But Pharisees pay more attention to the proper use of formulas; what we need most is to live by faith.

How can you know if you are living James 4:15? You hold your schedule loosely. You respond to interruptions and changes with patience and contentment (which is harder than tagging sentences with Deo volente). You remember that “we have not even a moment in our power” (John Calvin, commentary on 1 Corinthians 16:7). You remember that your life is a mist, and that the Lord wills where it wafts and for how long.

All Sanctimoniousness and Powerlessness

I’ve wanted to share this video and connect it with the quotes below it for some time. Since the interview came out at the beginning of December, it’s apparently been on my mind for half a year. Ha!

The interview is with John MacArthur on The Ben Shapiro Show. Some of you watched it already, and great. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, and I recommend it as a perfect example of the kind of Dispensationalist (like MacArthur) I want to be and the kind of Dispensationalist I also want to build on.

MacArthur’s answers about Jesus as the only hope are great at heart. His appeal to Shapiro to embrace Jesus as the longed for Messiah of the Jews is true, clear, and gracious. In this way MacArthur keeps the main thing the main thing.

It makes me think of the following comment by Abraham Kuyper, found in the chapter on “Common Grace” in A Centennial Reader (page 172), about the problem with some Christians who get a buzz out of discussing Christian impact without first establishing faith in Christ.

“The sects on the other hand have consistently attempted to change this healthy balance by diverting attention from the deeper questions of justification to drive us toward Chiliasm or the Millennial Kingdom by speaking much about the manner of our physical resurrection, about a prior second coming of our Lord, about whether, according to Paul, the Jews will return to Jerusalem, and the like. One can thus have a stimulating religious conversation without being troubled in conscience or convinced of one’s wretched state before God. Therefore we cannot warn often enough against the danger of shifting conversations in Christian circles away from the salvation of the soul to such eternal but sensational topics. In truly Reformed circles that danger is avoided when the substance of conversation is not Chiliasm or the Jewish question but the question of how God is honored and our soul justified.”

In other words, the “Chiliasts” (that is, the Dispensationalists, those believers who anticipate Israel’s national repentance and restoration as part of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom as promised in Romans 11 and Revelation 20), may focus too much on eschatology and applaud themselves for such spiritual interests and yet miss the gospel requirements of first importance. It is possible to distract others from dealing with Christ’s claims and every man’s need to believe in Him for justification. MacArthur does not get so caught up in the future that he lets Shapiro off the hook in the present. And amen.

However, the Christ that MacArthur proclaims to Shapiro is, ironically, not the complete Christ as revealed in the Bible. Jesus saves souls, yes, and He also has more to say after that. This is where we Dispensationalists often stop building too soon. Here is the very next paragraph from Kuyper:

“…[W]e have no right to conceptualize the image of the Mediator in ways other than Scripture presents it. People fall into one-sidedness in the opposite direction if, reflecting on the Christ, they think exclusively of the blood shed in atonement and refuse to take account of the significance of Christ for the body, for the visible world, and for the outcome of world history. Consider carefully: by taking this tack you run the danger of isolating Christ for your soul and you view life in and for the world as something that exists alongside your Christian religion, not controlled by it.”

We must point people to salvation in no other name but Jesus, but we’re only partially done if we point them to a Jesus who offers no wisdom for, or commandments regarding, cultural decisions other than separate and survive until He returns. The public square is not, as Kuyper described “territory which must somehow take care of itself.” Shapiro asked MacArthur repeatedly how believing in Christ affects society, and MacArthur said in effect, “That’s not what Christ cares about.” It is true that discipleship is personal, but not just for how to behave in private.

“From that opposition and false proportionality springs all narrow-mindedness, all inner unreality, if not all sanctimoniousness and powerlessness.”

This is a unique sort of Christian dualism that honors itself as the heights of spirituality and biblical fidelity, and no wonder many Christians don’t know that the Romans Road isn’t finished after evangelism.

To Be Clear about Hell

A few things happened over the last year or so that have caused the elders to propose an addition to our What We Believe statement of faith. We have been in different conversations about the reality of eternal death and, specifically, the existence of hell. When reviewing the doctrinal statement as part of our annual elder affirmation process, Jonathan suggested that we add something more specific.

Currently we only have a couple references to what happens after physical death to those who reject Christ. In 4.3, which is actually about Satan and the fallen angels, we believe that they will be “eternally judged in the lake of fire”; and in 14.2, under eschatology, we have “those who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness will be consigned to everlasting conscious misery” with a number of proof texts.

Those don’t need to be changed. Also, we have not changed our minds about this; we have always believed the Bible’s teaching about hell, but we all agreed that we could be more clear.

So we propose adding a point 4 to section 5 under “Man’s Sin and Fall from Fellowship with God”:

“We believe that because of Adam’s sin God judged mankind with death, immediate spiritual death, eventual physical death, and ultimately eternal death in hell. Every man who does not believe in Christ for salvation will face God’s righteous wrath and be separated from His presence in darkness and fire with weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Romans 2:5; Ephesians 5:6; Matthew 5:29, 10:28, 13:40-43; 2 Peter 2:4-10)

Jesus said, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The one to fear is God Himself. Jesus also said that at the end of the age the Son of Man will send angels to gather “all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42).

We all deserve hell and the everlasting lake of fire apart from Christ. And as Christians we confess that we are saved in Jesus Christ because He bore the Father’s wrath on our behalf. This is the good news we believe.

The Future in a Snap

ECS is a classical Christian school which means, among other things, that we are concerned about the classics. In our curriculum we read and reference some of the all-time greatest works as not just relevant for today’s snobs, but as part of how we got to where we are today as a society.

I’m trying to build up my knowledge and appreciation of these rich resources, and also pass that culture onto my kids. One of the iconic pieces in the canon of Western Civilization that I recently shared with my kids is Back to the Future, the 80’s movie starring Michael J. Fox. Since I am speaking to adults here tonight, I’d like to think that many of you are familiar with this pop-culture staple from 1985 (even those few of you here who are parents but who weren’t born then). We’ve since passed the date that Doc Brown set the DeLorean to reach, October 21, 2015, and, disappointingly, we still don’t have the hoverboards teased in Back to the Future II (when Doc and Marty actually got to 2015).

I’m not going to exegete the movie, but there is a clear image that I’d like to borrow, though I’m going to spin it in the reverse direction. (Also, for those who might be wondering, I don’t actually think that Back to the Future is one of the classics of Western Civilization on par with stories such as The Illiad and Beowulf. Those are in a different category of great, and they are in our curriculum, while the McFly family saga is not.)

In the first movie Marty inadvertently escaped from the Libyan terrorists back to 1955 when he met all the key characters, but when those characters were their thirty-years-younger versions. In particular, he met his dad and mom, and he met the family nemesis, Biff. Doc Brown was also there, and that’s good because Doc understood the momentous responsibility of not changing anything in the past in order to avoid disastrous consequences in the future.

It turns out, messing with the past is the big plot problem that Marty has to overcome, and he has a sort of measuring stick to help him, and us as viewers, know how he’s doing. Marty had a picture of himself with his older brother and sister from 1985. As the sequence of original 1955 events get knocked out of order, the siblings start to fade out of the 1985 picture, and even Marty himself comes close to evaporating out of existence. He finally gets his mom and dad to fall in love and the family is back on track to become a family. When George and Lorraine kiss, just a kiss, at their high school dance, then Marty secures his own future for when he gets back to it.

Time travel is fun to think about, and reading good classics lets us travel back, and forward (think 1984 and Brave New World) in our imaginations. If God really wanted us to, I’m sure there would be a way to do it that wouldn’t be sinful. But my point isn’t to get us to invest in making a machine.

My point, though, is very much about where to invest, and when. What if we discovered a picture from 2050 (thirty years in the future, rounding up), a picture in which we could see our kids, our grandkids, our great-grandkids, or actually, let’s modernize it and say we found a Snapchat Snap/message or an Instagram story (or maybe a FuTube—FutureTube—video?) about our future people, about Evangel Classical School, about the great city of Marysville and the Marysvillian suburbs, what would you hope to see in the picture?

I am going to be 76 in 2050, so there’s some possibility I’ll even be around. In 1985 I was eleven, and from that perspective, 2015 seemed as far away in time as the moon seemed from the earth in distance. But we made it (even with watching Back to the Future II and III). And if Jesus doesn’t return, many of us here tonight will make it to 2050. I don’t know everything I’d like to see, because I’d like to think that our kids are going to carry and advance Christ-honoring culture; so hopefully they will make it better in ways that my imagination is too weak for.

Yet I can name some of my hopes, hopes that I want to share with you, not as in I just want to inform you, but to get us to hold them together.

I don’t really care if I could see where we’ll be having classes in 2050. That vision would be nicer for later this year (ha!), but in 30 years who knows what the new facility needs and opportunities will be. Having an education outpost, on property strategically located for community influence and that includes structures well-equipped for training our students, is and will be a real, material, and constant need. I just don’t feel the need to see what it looks like right now. And I don’t really care what sort of fancy playground we have, or if after three more decades every one can finally remember the difference between dress uniform and event uniform.

What I would love to see/hear/watch in that snippet from 2050 are current students (our kids) who have their own students (our grandkids/great-grandkids) about to graduate and who are wearing these sorts of characteristics:

  • They will be unyielding in their stand for God because they know that they God’s image-bearers. They will know that their lives have meaning and purpose, and that they are not “cosmic chattel” (Ben Shapiro, The Right Side of History).
  • They will spend their lives as weapons, obeying their Master, Jesus Christ, and they will give themselves like a farmer gives seed to the ground, eagerly and faithfully and trusting God to grow great fruit from their sacrifices.
  • They will be the kind of generation who love making things, with their hands and with their words.
  • They will be young men and women who haven’t stopped learning. Their interests will continue to expand according to all the things Christ is interested in, and they will be wiser than any AI algorithm and see the world more clearly than any AR filter.
  • They will hardly be able to speak without expressing thanks, partly because their lives will be overflowing with God’s blessings, and partly because they will default to seeing good rather than grumbling.
  • And they will be laughing long and loud. It won’t be a laughing from too much leisure and silliness, but from so many stories of last minute deliverances and battle scars, along with good wine and good friends and their great Lord.

If that’s the sort of future we hope to see, if that is the kind of people we desire to see in that picture, then those are the kind of people we who are here tonight need to seek to be, or repent from not being. For a blessed future, what can you do?

The French author André Gide wrote,

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

Maybe tonight requires a key kiss—I’m talking to you younger married folks now—that brings a new class of 2038 raggants into the world. (This could be a new school motto: We get more students the old fashioned way, we breed them. Ask the Headmaster with further questions here.) Maybe it is a kiss that doesn’t lead to a new soul but that shows your current raggant(s) that you love your wife and that you love your life with her and them altogether. Maybe you need to lighten up from all the fake news foofaraw, and laugh a little, like the Lord in Psalm 2 when He sees His enemies making plans to revolt. Yes, it’s bad out there, but it’s not actually as bad as Back to the Future II showed 2015 to be, or as Orwell predicted 1984 would be. And more importantly, fight with laughter. Laughter is war! Hahaha!

The woman in Proverbs 31 “laughs at the time to come” (verse 25). Why? Because she fears the LORD and works her butt off in the present for her people so that when they get to the future they will have seen what it’s like to laugh.

In a fiction book I was reading recently, a character named Grandpa Podo, when caught by the Stranders, gave encouragement to Janner not by an exhortation but by his laugh:

“His laugh was like the sound of trees bending in the wind, the bubbling of a river where the mill wheel spins.” (North! or Be Eaten, Location: 1,951)

Others maybe need to drink a glass of wine as from the Lord to gladden their heart, or maybe need to say no to wine if it’s only a mask for lack of gladness. Eat some sugar, have another piece of bread and butter both sides. God is good! Others need to give money, because dollars are also given by God to be used for building.

Because you are here you are one of the persons being used by God in some way to bring Him glory 30 years from now, possibly 130 years from now. The investment is not linear; it’s not simple addition. Tonight is more than the number of seats filled or donations collected. 30 years from now will be a mash-up, a remix, not just of our actions, but our interactions, as image-bearers, as families, as churches, and connected to ECS.

As usual, it’s not a whether or not you will shape the future, but what shape you’re giving to it. You are always doing something to the picture; there is no opt-out, you can’t delete your account, you can’t really even slow it down.

We don’t have a Marty—like-measurement, but we have something more sure: God’s promise that when we abound in laughing for, and abound in giving to, and abound in the work of the Lord, He says it is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

“A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.” (D. Elton Trueblood, The Life We Prize, p 58)

Let’s sow not just for future shade, but for future fruit.


The notes above were from our school’s recent Fundraising Feast.

Steal Like an Artist

4 of 5 stars to Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

This is a small book, easy and enjoyable to read, with good reminders to keep looking and learning. I laughed at the following quote, used it in a talk already, and think it’s a good summary of the benefit of Kleon’s book. As the French author André Gide wrote,

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

North! or Be Eaten

5 of 5 stars to North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

Book #2 in the Wingfeather Saga was no let down, though it’s not quite as light a story as #1. The plot surprised me multiple times all the way to the end. At a few points in the middle of the book I’ll admit I was irritated, but in good ways, because I wanted to know what’s going to happen? but also knew that certain events meant that answers were even farther away. Excited to start #3 soon.

Roaring Lambs

4 of 5 stars to Roaring Lambs: A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World by Robert Briner

A friend recommended this book to me a few months ago and it really was worthwhile. It was first published in 1993, so there are more chapters that could be added now, but I appreciated Briner’s encouragement for Christians to get out of boycotting and grumbling and into screenwriting (for movies and TV) as well as into journalism and other writing endeavors, along with visual arts and higher education. The biggest weakness, in my opinion, is that Briner doesn’t root his exhortations in the deep soil of God’s sovereignty over all the world, such as a Kuyperian would do. And I disagree with Briner that all of this is the church’s job to manage, though the church should be equipping and encouraging Christian disciples to work, which, I agree with him, the church has not done well. As he said early in the book, “Almost nothing in my church or collegiate experiences presented possibilities for a dynamic, involved Christian life outside the professional ministry.” That’s a need that this book seeks to tackle.

Digital Minimalism

2 of 5 stars to Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

There used to be a short answer to the problem posed by Newport that he takes almost three hundred pages to answer. What should we do about all the time-wasting, social-media-hyped, internet-exacerbated problems in society? We need self-control. So all he really needed was a hyphen, not hyperventilation. Though I thought Deep Work was a smidgen too precious, this book is supersized precious. There’s very little fun, though there are occasional common sense reminders about the benefit of focus. The primary way Newport suggests getting better at social media is to avoid it. And it goes against something I wrote recently about carrying my own digital man purse. As I said in that post, I don’t love FB at all, but I wouldn’t recommend this book by Newport as the antidote, to FB, Twitter, email, or to a wealth of online opportunities which also carry some risks.

What a Perishable Seed Can Do

It’s not a new observation, but it seems appropriate after such an extended amount of attention on the resurrection (in 1 Corinthians 15) to note that when Paul delivered the practice and reason for communion a few chapters earlier he did not mention the resurrection at all.

As Paul explained, Jesus gave thanks and then gave bread to His disciples and said “This is my body which is for you,” without adding “and it will be raised for you, too.” Jesus again gave thanks and then gave a cup of wine to His disciples and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” and didn’t chase that with “that guarantees you a sweeter cup in the resurrection.” And Paul’s summary of all this was:

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

The Corinthians knew and believed that Jesus was risen. The fact that we wait “until He comes” is also a clue in the verse that He is not still dead. And yet, for as much as we could not be certain of salvation without the resurrection, our time each week at the Lord’s Table proclaims the Lord’s death.

Though we believe in the resurrection of Jesus’ body, and the continuity of His body before and after His burial, the bread and the wine remind us of His perishable seed. They remind us of Him being sown in dishonor, in weakness. And, among many things, they remind us that a seed well sown in God’s sovereignty and by His grace is not sown in vain.