Categories
Bring Them Up

The Summer of Raggants

The following are my notes for my final assembly talk at ECS.


On the first day of school I declared this The Year of the Raggant. We’ve made it to the last day, and here is the other bookend. I don’t have a short story, but more of a pep talk as you enter the short summer. Let this be The Summer of Raggants.

We want you to be awesome Christians. We want you to be the kind of Christians that people who aren’t Christians look at and think, ‘Those people have something different than me.’ We don’t want all of you to be the same, not just because boys aren’t girls but because God made all His people to do different things. And yet, there are some characteristics that every Christian student should have. That’s why we refer to them as the “other graduation requirements,” or, what it means to act like a raggant.

Do they apply only to school at school days or also to summer days? Duh, they apply to all time, including after you graduate. But while we work on helping each raggant develop these six muscle groups while they are here, what can/should you do over summer to keep getting more ragganty?

I’ve got some feet on-the-ground suggestions (which is good, since raggants don’t like to let others see them fly). Mr. Sarr and Mrs. Pakinas also helped with some of the particular ideas, which include things that a new first grader could do and the new seniors, too. Mrs. Herr made the colorful raggant, and Mrs. Higgins cut out these reminders you can put on the fridge or use as a book mark.

Stout image-bearers. Human beings are not meant to “do our own thing” or “decide who we are.” We are meant to reflect the likeness of God who made us. When we “behold” Him we know more what we’re to be. We become like who or what we worship. This is one reason why our worship on the Lord’s Day not only is for the glory of God but for God to give us our shape and strength.

Of course we see more about God in His Word. What a privilege to have our own copies. Every one of you can read now, so you could read a verse a day, or some of you ought to read more. If your parents let you, listen to Scripture; it’s free, and it’s forming. God’s Word is spiritual food. If you don’t eat, you will get weak.

Go to church and worship God every week, read your Bible every day.

Be patient, gracious, forgiving. These are godly, and ragganty. And for a test of your stoutness and braveness, tell all gossips to STOP IT.

This is first, starting with the first day of the week, so first in priority, and first in the list of raggant virtues. This is the most obvious way of honoring Christ: worship Him.

Copious producers. A producer is someone who makes things, you take some raw materials and create something else. You cause something that didn’t exist to become a thing!

I’m not saying that there’s no place to wind down and enjoy watching some TV/movies/YouTube or play video games as your parents allow, but don’t let that suck all your minutes away.

The blessed man is like a tree planted by streams of water, and as you reflect God more and more you will bear more and more fruit.

Make: dinner, cookies, paintings, Lego castles, blanket forts, science experiments, your bed (every day!)

Generous disciples of Christ. To be generous is to show a readiness to give more of something than is necessary or expected. It’s a way to show kindness to others.

Generous might make you think of money, but most of you as students probably don’t have a lot of that. Christ didn’t give away money. He gave Himself.

We are Christ’s disciples, we are His students, His followers. So we follow the example that He left for us, and walk in His steps. We obviously can’t do all the same things Jesus did, but share the loaves and fishes you have. One thing we all have the same amount of is time. How will you be generous with yours?

Do the dishes (not just on your assigned night). Play with your siblings when they ask. Do something good for a neighbor.

Prodigious learners. Part of what we’re aiming to do is give you the skills and the exposures for sake of increasing interests to keep learning for the rest of your life. To be prodigious means to let it be BIG; Christ made a big cosmos, and He loves all that He made for us.

Reading is a way to do it, and it doesn’t have to be non-fiction. A good story can teach you lessons, even if it’s just some new vocabulary.

Read 3 (hard for you) books before September 4 (the first day of school, not that you want to think about that today). Learn a skill: guitar, drawing, volleyball, wood burning. Sometimes people say, Go big or go home. I say, learn big at home!

Thankful stewards. Thankfulness is appropriate, required, and good for you. There is nothing you have that you did not receive, from God directly or from God through another person.

As Mr. Sarr likes to remind us, thankful people are more fun to give things to anyway.

Handwrite a thank you note for every gift you get. Write a card for a gift you did NOT get. And you all are working on your penmanship anyway, right? This will give you a chance to show off your skills. Say “thank you” after every meal anyone makes for you. See if you can do it!

Jovial warriors. Jovial is a word that refers to being cheerful, like a king in his court, taking care of things without any worry on his face and gifting his people from his resources. He is glad and giving, even though all his projects aren’t finished. This is the kind of attitude to start the day with, not just to end when things went like we wanted.

Whether or not you are naturally so, call a T.O.: Try Optimism. When you’re assigned a chore you don’t like, when your plans didn’t work out, if you can do it without being snarky, throw your head back and say HA!

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15)

Refuse to complain, about the weather, the boredom, getting sick, the Mariners losing again. Practice LOL!

Raggants are high discipline, low drama summer rockstars. Summer break starts today, so start your summer stage of carrying and advancing Christ-honoring culture. May the Lord bless the next few months as The Summer of Raggants.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Obtained by Blood

Elders and overseers and pastors are all underworkers. Jesus Christ is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He not only has the ultimate authority, He is the only one who has shed His blood for your sins.

The exhortation that Paul gave to the Ephesian elders was rooted in their recognition of whose sheep they were caring for.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. (Acts 20:28)

Christian, you are not your own, you were bought with a price. You do not belong to a group of under-shepherds, though they are given by the Chief Shepherd for your good.

Remember Jesus Christ. Remember the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. Remember His blood that has covered all your sins, blood that has made you Christ’s own.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Farmers Believe It

One thing that Bible people and farming people have in common is that both know the phrase: you reap what you sow. One big difference between Bible people and farming people is that farmers typically believe it.

Bible people are like, “but God is sovereign.” And, there is truth there. In fact, that’s how we can trust that we will reap what we sow. That’s how God made things to work, and that’s why His Word reveals the principle, along with page after page of example. Planting corn doesn’t turn into rows of bananas because “God is sovereign.”

One reason we plead, or hide behind, theology is because we don’t like what we see in the field. “That’s not what I wanted.” And, while we’re here for this minute, if you are ready to be honest, are you sure it’s not what you wanted a little more?

You wanted not to be uncomfortable — at least a little more, so you didn’t ask any hard questions to your kid, and after years of not upsetting them, they are more set in their ways. See how David “had never at any time displeased [his son Adonijah] by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?’” in 1 Kings 1:6. So when his dad was old, Adonijah decided he should be king. You say, “That’s not what I wanted for them,” except that you didn’t take the time to sow anything different.

You wanted not to be humble — at least a little more. You maintained your authority, so you thought, by your example of always being right, never repenting to them or in front of them. So you wanted some cushion, because your pride only looks good from a distance, and that’s what you got.

If you sow humility, you will reap stronger people. If you sow repentance, you will reap the rejoicing that comes with righteousness. If you sow taking responsibility, you will reap more who do likewise. If you sow patience, you will reap peace. If you sow peace, you will reap kids who learn how not to freak out.

Could there be a tornado? Are there things that are out of your control? Of course. But so is extra sun and the right amount of rain. The question still stands: what are you sowing? And if you can see that you’ve been sowing weeds, or allowing them to grow, repent and ask God to use your weeding, too.

It is very hard to plant—to pastor, to parent, to disciple—and grow a fruitful field. By God’s grace we will reap what we sow.

Categories
Bring Them Up

Dad Charge

Son, on your baby announcement, along with a tiny picture of your head (because, honestly, you weren’t really that cute of a baby), your mother put “May he shake the gates of hell.” It ended up becoming sort of a painful joke for the first few years of your life, as your mom and me regularly told people that we meant that you would eventually shake the gates from the outside, not immediately like a demon-baby from the inside.

But these many years later, by God’s grace, you have great love for God, great love for your people, and have already made a great impact everywhere you go. You are big, you are loud, you process out loud, and you generate a dizzying amount of ideas. And really, with usually just a tiny bit of refining, most of them are really great.

You are hard to ignore, and so you’ve often gotten grief from those who would like things to be a bit more quiet. They’d like to be undisturbed, and it seems to me, undisturbed in their apathy.

But while it’s true that you are a big presence, you have always had a big heart. Your aims and dreams for a professional sports career, even to build a castle, are for your people. If people held on long enough to listen to your castle de Marysville plans, they would have heard that your plans include a big parking lot and valet drivers to welcome your many guests.

You want to bring people in. You want to win them like Bricklebaum, with joy that looks better. You are a strong brother, a reliable friend, an attentive grandson, a fun uncle, an energetic teammate, and can make almost anything with cardboard and duct tape.

Of course you have more to learn, and only the Lord knows for sure what you will do and how much bigger you’ll get, but:

Son, don’t hold back.

Others may want you to dial it back. Some have already criticized and/or laughed at you. So be it, your legacy will be different than theirs. Fear the Lord, sacrifice for your people, hear feedback not criticism, keep up your walls like Babylon, and then don’t hold back.

May you never doubt that you are a blessing to your father and mother. You are my beloved son in whom I am very well pleased.

May you need a bigger hat to go with your cattle.

May your ideas be even bigger and your leading even louder and your work even more fruitful and your heart even more Christlike and your shaking of the gates of hell be even more effective.

Categories
Bring Them Up

Tip More, Boldly

The following is my graduation charge to the class of 2024 at ECS.


Good evening to our graduate candidates, their parents and families, Headmaster and school board and faculty, and guests.

ECS is less than a week from finishing our 12th year. Two of you have been here all twelve years (you are the majority of Muckle Eejits); only a few of the current juniors will be able to say by the time they’re done that they were here longer. It certainly seems like all four of you belong here, and it seems hard to imagine what it will be like next week without you all.

We are all here tonight because you have completed the work we asked you to do. You have read the pages, written the papers, sang your parts. And all of that is just a small portion of what you’ve accomplished.

As we celebrate what you’ve finished, my final charge to you before you move your tassels is to tip more, boldly.

Tip is the key word. I don’t mean tip as in give an extra 20% or 30% on top of the bill, though I do believe in generous gratuities. I definitely don’t mean tip in terms of giving little simplistic life-hacks; we could all use less of those tips. When I say — tip more, boldly — I mean, don’t leave whatever room you enter the way it was. Think of a Saint Bernard running into a tiny kitchen and stepping on the water bowl; you can’t ignore that.

Make a dent. Leave a mark. Tip the status quo over, and over.

This is not the same thing as destroying the good, but don’t hold back when you see how to make something better. Go ahead, poke holes in superficial stuff.

Here’s an example from your senior year. Together you all turned the school’s annual Reformation Day into Reformation week. Not only that, you added the school at home day and called the raggants to regroup for most of a Friday at a property 45 minutes away. You saw what had been done in previous years and thought that you could try something different, something bigger.

While a lot of that project was enjoyable, edible, and edifying, it was exhausting. Come to think of it, it probably was too much. Your ideas helped to clarify ideas from staff and teachers that, as it turns out, one day is actually enough, and keeping the costumes and competitions, the booths and bonfires on campus is a reasonable restraint. I don’t know how many more opportunities you’ll have like that. It gets harder to risk things as you get older. But, go ahead, and make people dial you back. Do things that make others write policies after you. Make them realize that they could do more, more is possible.

Tip more, boldly.

We could use some more people with ideas. An idea in this sense is different than opinions about how other people should do something, or stop doing something, or do what they’re doing differently. Ideas are thoughts about a course of action, an aim to make something, to do some good for others.

In the movie “The Darkest Hour” there’s a scene that tickles me where two old men are walking through government halls fretting about Winston Churchill as the newly appointed Prime Minister.

First man: “He’s an actor, in love with the sound of his own voice.”
Second man: “I love to listen to him. But we must never take his advice. He has a hundred ideas a day, four of them are good, the other ninety-six downright dangerous.”

But without endorsing everything he did, Churchill had conviction, which was crucial 80 years ago during WWII. All of you stood at Point Du Hoc together; you walked on the beaches in France. We remember the men. And we remember D-Day as one of the tipping points in world history and certainly for western civilization. Graduates, go ahead and have some more ideas with conviction.

I have been referring to this year at ECS as the Year of the Raggant. It didn’t take off in all the ways I hoped it would, but, one of the things that did not disappoint was how all of you acted like raggants. As seniors, you were an elite rumpus within the rumpus, making noise and causing commotion for the benefit of us all.

We talk about six characteristics of a raggant. We didn’t write them with you in mind, but top to bottom as a class you have modeled them the best so far.

Stout image-bearers, not stepping lightly like kittens, but with meaty paws like lions. Seniors, you have refined your rhetoric of roar and reflected a God who cares as you have cared.

Generous disciples of Christ, and here where it would be fine for you to leave big tips, as well as to cause big tips. But you have been generous with your time to hang out with underclassmen, to decorate for events, to give yourselves to others in Jesus’ name.

Copious producers, which you have done, not just in writing parodies about copious production. Go ahead, keep making baskets heavy, and write big books, annoy others that you know so much that it took so many pages and they just couldn’t put it down.

Prodigious learners, because we don’t always know what the next thing to tip is going to be, or even where the pressure point is. I want to come back to this in a moment.

Thankful stewards, and this has been a big part of why you’ve made such an impact, as Mr. Sarr noted in his comments. You’ve done your work with gratefulness, not grumbling. You’ve probably been given more things because it was more fun to do so.

And jovial warriors, laughing so that the other tables get mad, they’re bored and they’re made uncomfortable because you’re having such a great time. This isn’t being cheerful as a way to ignore problems, it’s being cheerful as you address them.

As I’ve considered your quad-rumpus, for all your ideas and big plans and finished projects, what really stands out, looking back, is that while you are not easily tip-able, all of you have been teachable. Mr. Sarr pointed out that your thankfulness has been evident, and teachability is like open hands to thankful’s overflowing heart.

You have been teachable, and so you are teaching others. You have received, and so you have things to give. You have listened, and so you have things to think about and more substance to your own thoughts. Even up to yesterday, you were seeking wisdom and willing to update your ideas.

Those who would be great leaders must know how to be ready listeners, eager learners, prompt followers. Those who would advance Christ-honoring culture must not only not reject it, but take the handoff. Your class has killed it in terms of impact on younger students and even on the faculty, because you never acted like you were being held back.

God has blessed you because of that, blessed you with hard-earned unity as a class as well as with deep influence on the school.

Go into every room, not like you own the place, but like you know the Lord who does. You are raggants. You are part of the rumpus. Be teachaBOLD. Tip more, boldly.

“Lives and generations and history are there for the tipping. You have hands. You have words. You have something. Touch the scales. Touch the least of these.”

—N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, 145

Turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Don’t leave it the same, you have not left ECS the same.

Categories
He Gives and Takes Away

Debbie Wold, RIP

We don’t always get to choose our glory.

All of us are always pursuing glory of some kind. In fact, falling short of the glory we were made for is part of our curse. There is good news about that, but I’ll come back to it.

We pursue glory. We have ideas about what is good and we go for it. Some have big ideas about glory, making lots of money to enjoy finer things or even more altruistic glory like finding cures for cancer. Others want glory of simpler, smaller kinds: a loving family and job with purpose and visiting fun places on vacation. Humans make up their own ways to give and receive glory from one another. But glory is an issue for all of us, one way or another.

Related: Many years ago I told the following to Debbie, and I’m admitting to you all now, that I went through a season of being mad at God about the story He had for her. The Bible says King David was angry at God when God killed a man (Uzzah) for touching the ark of the covenant while trying to protect the ark from falling off a wagon-cart (2 Samuel 6:8). David thought he was doing something special that would honor God, and so he was upset that God didn’t appreciate that. David was wrong. David hadn’t paid attention to what was required.

I also was wrong, and can see that my error was not appreciating how much glory God was writing in Debbie’s story.

When our church started and Debbie started coming it wasn’t long before she really started growing. She herself acknowledged that she was opening up in ways she hadn’t, she was digging deeper in God’s Word in ways she hadn’t. She always shot straight with you, she didn’t have interest in playing a part, and yet she didn’t try to boss everybody else like only she knew better. She often volunteered to take another family’s kids out to go bowling or to make pottery or to do some other fun activity for the afternoon.

If you would have asked me how someone in Debbie’s position could be growing in Christ more and how they could be doing anything better I’d have told you to see how Debbie was doing it. She was a textbook testimony of honesty and humility, in faith becoming more like Christ. It was glorious.

So when she found out that she had cancer, and of a kind that was probably going to cut her life short quickly, I wondered, “Why her?” She didn’t need a wake up call. She was responding to God’s Word. Like David, I thought Debbie was already doing things that should please God. Why mess with that by making it harder?

Because God had chosen more and greater glory for her.

He had already given her faith, now he was perfecting it.

though now, for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7-8)

Through seven brutal years of “fire” — chemo and new kinds of chemo and experimental drugs and radiation and doctors’ visits and traffic to and from the visits and days of sickness and fatigue and other side effects and the relentlessness of questions from caring people — God guarded her by faith and proved her faith in a way that is more glorious.

She acted sort of surprised when I told her that I was upset on her behalf; to my knowledge, though she sometimes questioned if she had enough faith, she never questioned God’s work (nor did her husband, Dave). She was never angry with God. And now she has finished her race and her testimony is more glorious than any of us would have chosen for her. While we usually say, rest in peace, by God’s grace we can say of Debbie, rest in praise.

This is not everyone’s story, certainly not everyone’s hope. These things can’t be said for those who put their faith in the glory of a long life, who put their faith in the glory of their own wisdom and strength. It is for those who know that they have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It is only for those who believe in Jesus Christ who showed His loving glory by dying on the cross.

When some strangers came to a couple of Jesus’ disciples and said that they wanted to “see Jesus,”

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:23–25 ESV)

The glory of Jesus is a greater glory because of His death, and the glory He shares with those who trust in Him is guaranteed because of His resurrection.

It’s okay that Debbie didn’t want a long service, but she didn’t get to choose her glory. And what she did choose is to put her faith in God who raised Christ from the dead, and she wanted above all for you to hear that good news. Even though we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, He sent His Son to forgive our self-seeking, short-sighted pursuits.

There is no glory for those who die without Christ, in the present life or the life to come. But for those in Christ, we have hope for this life and eternity.

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. (1 Corinthians 15:42–43 ESV)

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! And thank You, Lord, for the glory you let us see in Your servant, Debbie.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Communion in the Present Age

As one of the elders of this flock it has been one of the highest priorities as well as one of the deepest joys to share the Lord’s Supper each week with great joy. We have changed a few practical things about it over the years, but more importantly we have (successfully, by God’s grace) changed the expectation about our tone around this Table.

It is our calling to live godly lives in the present age. That calling requires every bit of grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. That calling is rough amidst all the ungodliness and worldly passions. Joy does not come easily or naturally. But this is a Table prepared for us in the presence of so-called Pride Month, a Table that points beyond our political fools and all the biting and devouring one another in the present age.

God’s grace saves us and strengthens us to wait:

for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us … and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession…. (Titus 2:13-14)

We do live in hope of eternal life, and that hope is personal. That hope is in the next coming of the Anointed one. As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

On Being Blameless

The Bible speaks in a way that allows for us to call a man “blameless.” See Job, Noah, Daniel, along with the existence of the general category. That said, the Bible also tells us that even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags, and prior to our glorification we still need regular cleansing.

Elders in particular must be “above reproach,” the same idea as without blame, but we know no one is “perfect.” How are we supposed to fit these things together?

One part of wisdom is to see patterns, to look at the video rather than a still shot. It’s not exactly the same as just a “high percentage” of righteousness, with say a minority 5% of time spent in adultery. Weightier sins such as adultery or murder (or David who did both) take away a blameless status immediately even if that was one night in twenty years. Yet when a “blameless” man sins, even though it’s not a theological surprise, based on his usual practice it’s not what we were expecting.

Another part of wisdom is to see a pattern of humble and honest repentance. He should not be quick tempered, but when he does get angry, how quick is he to confess it? Impatience is not a virtue no matter how big his vision, but does he repent when his self-will steamrolls the group?

In John 3 Jesus teaches that “everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed.” What is the opposite? It’s not “everyone who does righteous things.” Rather, “whoever does what is true comes to the light.” This reveals that when he did good it was by God’s help, and it reveals when He did not do good that he believes in Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life.

Walk before God (and men) in godliness and blamelessness.

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Godly Communion

Let us not get tired of remembering “our Savior.”

Habakkuk said, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (3:18). And now that we’ve moved into one of the pastoral epistles, I’m glad to point out that Paul uses “our Savior” nine times (five in Titus) in what add up to 13 chapters. (Jude is the only other one to use the exact phrase in the NT, verse 25).

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3–7 ESV)

As in Titus 1:3 and 4, both God–Father and Jesus Christ are called “our Savior.”

And of course we ask, “Savior from what?” The answer is sin. We know it required the sacrifice of God’ Son. But especially as we come to the Lord’s Table we remember and rejoice in the Redeemer, the one who reconciled us to God.

How do the godly observe communion? They are humbled by their eternal election, they are humbled at the cost Christ paid, and then they get after high praises of God in their throats (see Psalm 149:6).

Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

Be Careful Little Thumbs

In the last exhortation I urged you to consider what you consume, especially as relates to digital soulcrap. Today I exhort you to consider what you share, as well as for parents in particular to pay attention to what your offspring share.

Solomon gave timeless wisdom that applies to all modern social timelines:

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise,
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

Proverbs 17:28

A different though not inspired angle on the proverb is: it is better not to open your mouth and have others think you a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

And so some reminders:

Foolish, even sinful, thoughts are not good, but when made public they have extra consequences. Every thought does need to be taken captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), most of them should not be let out.

Thoughts, and for goodness sake, pictures/selfies and videos/“velfies” that someone is willing to make public are likely not as bad as what’s being thought and done not posted. If the smoke is skanky, look for the burning pile.

An anonymous account could be chosen out of wisdom, an account hidden from parents could not be. To “sneak” on social media is a fool’s venture; be sure your posts will find you out (see also Numbers 32:23).

Not as public, at least not as instantly, but DMs along with texting and messaging apps can become someone else’s posts through screenshots in as few as five clicks. Be careful little thumbs what you send.

Let there be more conversations between parents and kids when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, by all means. And also outside of that context let there be much more closing of lips and force quitting of apps.