2019: This was my second time traveling with Bilbo, and this round I listened to more than half the book on Audible. Interesting fact about the audio version: the reader sang all the songs, which made me think about the songs differently, but didn’t make me want to listen to the reader’s “performance.” I still haven’t seen the 18 hours of movies (or whatever it is), but I do still enjoy the story.
2017: For some reason I had it in my mind that Tolkien wrote this after the Trilogy, as a prequel, so I started with The Fellowship of the Ring a few years ago until I finished the three. Then I learned that I was wrong, The Hobbit did come first, though I really wasn’t looking forward to reading it at all.
I was wrong again. I liked this the best! I liked Bilbo. I enjoyed the ride, and a few unexpected turns in the story. So FIVE STARS! And I will recommend it to all my friends (if not with quite the enthusiasm as I recommend That Hideous Strength).
Shapiro frames sharp criticism against our current cultural hatred of the very principles that built our culture. However, his call to return to Jerusalem and Athens, as representing virtue and reason, is not enough. He suggests that virtue and reason have worked to give us great things, and that is sort of true. But they worked, to the degree they did, among men who worshipped the Triune God (of Christianity). The eternal Creator and Redeemer is the only transcendent grounds for caring about virtue and reason. Without submission to Him, haters gonna hate, even when the hate destroys them.
I am less interested in the EOS ®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, as a “complete system.” That said, as someone involved in a few different groups trying to DO STUFF, I appreciated some of the questions that Wickman urges people to SOLVE.
There is a patronizing way to say, “Just read your Bible,” and there is also a pastoral way to say it. As one of the shepherds of the flock, I urge you, hear and keep the words of this Book.
Revelation promises that those who hear and keep the words will be blessed (1:3), but this is only the last inspired Book in which God offers the blessing. The Psalms begin with blessing. “Blessed is the man” not who hangs out with the lawbreakers, but instead, the blessed man has “his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
I want this blessing, and so I’ve been reading through the Bible on an annual plan for many years. This summer, along with many of you I added the #SamePageSummer challenge on top of my other plan, and though it was obviously more reading, it was also good. It also seems that my joining along did some good to others as an encouragement for them to read or listen as well.
I just finished reading and posting my summaries of the #SamePageSummer plan, albeit not quite summer anymore, nor on the same page by this point. I was planning to go back and just follow the M’Cheyne schedule, but in talking with Mo last week, I’ve decided to quit (which I’ve never done in September) and start a new plan (which I’ve also never done in September) and follow the Bible reading challenge with #KeepTheFeast.
Should you be reading the #KeepTheFeast plan? I don’t know. Should you be reading (or listening) in order to delight and mediate on His word? You most definitely should if you want God’s blessing.
So if you have no plan, why not accept the invite to #KeepTheFeast? If you’re already doing #KeepTheFeast, encourage one another. If you’re reading according to another schedule, love that. But with the renewed activities of the school year, we need the renewal of our minds by Scripture more and more. Just read your Bible.
In his book The Religious Affections Jonathan Edwards explained how the defining feature of real religion is love for God. He defines affections, shows how some affects in a person’s life may not be from genuine affections for God, and then spends most of the book describing the characteristics of true love for God.
One of his concerns, as should be a concern for all of us, is the possibility of false comforts. It is possible to think things are great, to be optimistic about your condition, and to believe you have peace with God when there is no peace.
On the other hand, I think that some believers have heard these warnings so much that we are afraid of comforts. We are afraid of communion as a celebration because, Hello?!, we might not take it seriously (enough). These are not the only ways to mess up participation in the Lord’s Table, but they are actual misunderstandings.
What should we do? We should read all the words in Scripture. The communion cup is, for example, “a cup of blessing.” So we thank God for it. We remember God’s favor to us so we are glad in it. And, then we go on to remember that this cup is “a participation in the blood of Christ.” It is a costly cup.
“The comforts of the true saints increase awakening and caution, and a lively sense of how great a thing it is to appear before an infinitely holy, just and omniscient Judge.”
Our comforts are not in oblivion, our comforts are purchased at the cross. We have blood-love, love bought by the blood of the Lamb.
Thirty times in the book of Revelation the apostle John refers to Jesus as the Lamb. Far more than any other NT author, John apparently loved that title for the Lord.
In a heavenly vision, “I saw a Lamb standing as though it had been slain” who was worthy to take and open the scroll (Revelation 5:5-6). John described as the heavenly chorus said with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)
Coming to worship, John beheld “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” … “crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'” (Revelation 7:9-10).
When John saw faithful Christians defeat the accuser, the ancient dragon, he said: “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives to death” (Revelation 12:11). In the final battle, John foretold that God’s enemies “will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is the Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
Here we are in His name. The Lamb was slain for us. Let us eat and drink together because He has conquered sin and death, and we conquer in Him.
When it comes to the future, are you more optimistic or pessimistic? We need more qualifications before answering that. When it comes to the future of what? Of world history? Of your house remodel? Of your chances to get married? And what qualifies as optimism or pessimism? Are you allowed to think that the surgery will hurt, and badly, but make you feel better after six weeks of recovery? What if you joyfully plan to give up eating all desserts forever?
As we begin a study of the prophecies in the book of Revelation, we will consider different approaches and different results related to one’s take on the global, sociopolitical timeline. Is the world metanarrative a tragedy or a comedy? Some of what we expect to happen later necessarily colors some of what we expect sooner.
So for this moment let’s narrow the optimism/pessimism question to your sanctification. I’m not talking about your glorification; negative-ninnies about glorification are just little-faithed fools. But do you have high hopes for increased holiness today? Or do you have suspicion, if not cynicism about whether you will actually obey?
You may have a pattern of unconfessed sin that is dragging down your perspective. You may have experiences of disobedient crashes after obedient climbs. But, beloved, your sanctification depends on Christ and happens by faith through His Spirit. Is it hard? You are in the war against the seed of the serpent? Have you been beaten before, and accusations stick? These are not reasons to give yourself to hopelessness, these are reasons to keep giving yourself to Christ.
Sin is awful. More Christlikeness highlights how awful sin is. But though Jesus does not promise us perfection in this life, He does promise us help. So reckon yourself dead to sin in Christ and raised to walk in newness of life. Repent, and repent of defeatist faith.
I gave the following talk at our ECS Convocation yesterday afternoon.
Or, Paying Attention to Curriculum and Character
There is an ancient Egyptian myth about Osiris, a god known for many things, including being the ruler of the dead. This is not a Bible story, but it is its own kind of mirror to problems that people have.
Osiris represented tradition, and even more than tradition, he came to represent dangerous failure to change. Osiris had a scheming brother named Set who was eager to overthrow and destroy Osiris. It wasn’t that Osiris was dumb or even deceived by Set, but Osiris didn’t want to see his brother’s evil intentions. Osiris chose to be blind. Eventually Set took a chance and attacked his brother, hacked him into pieces and sent his parts throughout the kingdom and his spirit to the underworld. Humpty Dumpty would have had an easier time pulling himself back together.
Some time later Osiris’ son Horus came to fight Set. You may have seen the symbol of Horus as the single Egyptian eye. He was also represented as a falcon-headed man; falcons are known for incisive vision. One story teller put it like this: “Osiris is tradition, aged and willfully blind. Horus, his son, could and would, by contrast, see. Horus was the god of attention” (12 Rules for Life, 222).
Seeing is not less than, but it is more than, mere knowing. This seeing beyond what is already grasped. Because Horus could see, he could see the wickedness of his uncle and fought him. He defeated Set, but not before Set tore out one of Horus’ eyes. Later Horus took back his eye, and then in a surprising twist, Horus went to the underworld and gave the eye to his father so that Osiris could see.
There are a couple angles in this story. The first is that it may hurt to see; Horus saw his uncle’s evil and lost one of his own eyes fighting the evil. The second is that seeing is the necessary act to move forward. Seeing was necessary to defeat Set. Seeing was what Osiris needed. If we do not see, if we refuse to learn and mature, our knowledge will grow stale or corrupt.
“Every bit of learning is a little death” (ibid., 223). It is death to our pride to acknowledge that we didn’t know everything already. It is death to our reputation as our ignorance is exposed, or worse, our pet blind spots. But when we learn, when we pay attention, we are sacrificing what may feel secure for something that is better. To get perspective, it’s easier to stand on a dead long than climbing a growing tree, but the dead log will only let you see so far.
There are two general categories that I want to exhort you to open your eyes to see this school year. For simplicity sake, let’s refer to them as head and heart, or we could summarize them as curriculum and character.
Pay attention to the curriculum.
This may surprise you, but our school does not exist as a proving ground for experts. Our school is a provoking goad to learning. What I mean is that we don’t meet here in order for you to Show and Tell all that you know, let alone that you know it all. One thing we know is that you don’t actually know it all, and more importantly, what you know should become a foundation to see more, not a fence to keep you from going further. Knowledge should increase your attentiveness, not your apathy.
One of the most fundamental principles at ECS is that not only are we permitted to, but we are accountable to, grow in Christlikeness. But what does that mean? It does mean that we should obey the Father like Christ did. But it also means that we should observe what Christ has made. Being like Christ means being interested in the things that He is interested in, and He made the world. “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).
Christ made the heavens and the earth, He made the visible and the invisible. He not only created but He continually sustains all things. “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). We don’t keep the stars in place, but we can at least pay attention to them. Science, subtraction, Logic, letters, poetry, and history are all His delight.
Your current knowledge is not absolute, as in, you do not know everything. There will be times when you wish you knew more than you do, but the solution to that frustration is not to complain about the work required to see more. Teachers must keep seeing, and so must parents, so that you can keep seeing. The mission of ECS is that you would carry and advance Christ honoring culture. If you don’t have anything more to learn, then here we are, and here we’ll stay.
I remember my first day of 7th grade, and in particular my literature teacher Mr. Brenner. He had a sign hanging on his podium that he made sure to emphasize: “Hire a teenager while they still know everything.”
Pay attention to your character.
It often hurts to look at our own hearts. We don’t like what we see, so we go out of our way not to see. I mean, who wants to see his own sinfulness, more deeply, more clearly? Considering how we’ve offended God is nerve-afflicting. Looking at ugly things is not a good time, especially if we are the ugly ones.
But this is where you make or break your joy. You cannot be one of God’s children and thrive with unacknowledged sin. Willful ignorance about your sin, or proactive defensiveness of your sin, will choke out your joy. What is true for each individual is also true for a culture made up by those individuals. One weed can get its root deep, but if there are a lot of weeds in the garden, things are going to be a snarled mess.
If you don’t watch your heart, the sin in your heart will cut up your gladness into little pieces and scatter your soul all over the place. It won’t feel good. Paul told Timothy to “keep a close watch on yourself,” and that such attention had effect not just on himself but for those Timothy led (1 Timothy 4:16). It requires looking, and admitting, and sometimes even getting help to grow.
There will be all sorts of exposures of your heart this year. You will get to see how much patience you really have, how much diligence you really have, how much truthfulness you really have, how much skill you really have. Will you look for the opportunity to repent?
Don’t lie to yourself, or to others. You need to grow. We’re not going to freak out that you have immaturities, ignorances, and sins. Don’t you freak out either, and also don’t cover your eyes.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15)
Do you know what you don’t know? What do you want to learn more about this year? You don’t necessarily need to have a plan, but your teachers will help. They have books for you to read and homework to assign and tests to give. They have curriculum, they have maps to show you more places that Christ loves and wants you to love. Listen to them, follow the path of their dry erase marker. Knock on their doors until they open up library of their own looking.
And also, are you prepared to become more like Christ in head and heart? Do you have an eye for learning the right loves, for seeing more ways to obey, for attending to the parts of your heart that need to be wrapped into integrity?
Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice. (Ecclesiastes 4:13, ESV)