The End of Many Books

Made to Stick

by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

A friend recommended this to me while he was waiting in the Emergency Room (for what turned out to be a brain bleed that kept him in the hospital for a week). I figured I should at least read his final recommendation (!), which, praise the Lord, he is recovering and it can just be a plain ol’ recommendation.

I really enjoyed it. It’s about ideas, and what makes some ideas not only better than others but also more transferable. The book provides a framework (and examples and exercises) in order to communicate well. Idea templates can be be more freeing than frustrating for creative persuasion.

The authors didn’t use the word, but it’s very much about Rhetoric, which I’m teaching as a class for the first time this year at our school. There’s a high likelihood that I make this part of my curriculum in future years.

4 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

That Hideous Strength (take five)

by C. S. Lewis

It’s only been two years since I last read THS, and it was, perhaps, even better on my fifth time through? Our 7th annual fiction festival is coming up in March, and the theme is “Why Christians Shouldn’t Be NICE.” So it will have a Ransom trilogy focus, with special attention on the third of the three. I wanted a running start, so I started a plod read with Out of the Silent Planet last summer, got through Perelandra, and just finished THS. I had forgotten how (bloody) bloody the damage is at the end, and of course it couldn’t have happened to NICEr guys. THS couldn’t get any higher on my list of favorite fiction books, though it did root its position more securely.

still 10 out of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle In Time audiobook

by Madeleine L’Engle

I didn’t read A Wrinkle when I was 12-16 years-old, which is apparently the intended target age, but my wife said I she thought I’d probably really like books two and three in the series, and so I figured I should read the first. I listened, and I LIKED it!

I cared about Meg and Charles Wallace, and I have a son named Calvin. I’m curious about dystopian stories, and why not check out a dystopian narrative for teens in particular? The various supernatural powers and astronomy were bonus. So even though I’m not a free will guy, it still worked for my edification, and I’ll get on to A Wind in the Door.

4 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

A Cupboard Full of Vessels

Jesus said “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). That’s good, and the “for one another” part means that this applies to a group not just to single soul. One of Jesus-disciple’s is connected in affection for many other Jesus-disciples.

In complement to that, how should the assembly be known? There should be holiness/godliness in our midst (2 Peter 3:11), there should be the speaking of truth (Ephesians 4:15), there should be using of gifts for the building up of the whole body (1 Corinthians 12:7). These are all good.

And also it’s indispensable that we are identified as the ones to whom God’s mercy has been revealed, as those who have received God’s mercy.

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).

Mercy is Godly. It is God’s nature to show mercy as He pleases. When He sent word through Hosea against the house of Israel, the Lord said of Gomer’s daughter, “Call her name Lo-ruhamah (‘No Mercy’), for I will no more have mercy” (Hosea 1:6). And then she bore a son, and the Lord said, “Call his name Lo-ammi (‘Not my people’), for you are not my people, and I am not your God” (Hosea 1:9).

But after this rebuke, the Lord also promised that “yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea” and “it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God’” (Hosea 1:10).

Paul quotes Hosea (2:23) in Romans 9:25-26, that Jews and Gentiles are made God’s people by God’s mercy. We are a cupboard full of vessels of mercy that make known the riches of His excellencies.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Spiritual Nerves

I’ve shared this illustration with a number of people recently, now I’m sharing it with everyone.

A couple years ago I re-ruptured a disc in my lower back. It was causing excruciating, debilitating pain down my legs. While I pursued a possible surgery, I met with a physical therapist who told me that I did not need to have surgery. He said the broken piece of disc would likely dissolve and stop shearing the nerve, gradually relieving the pain and allowing more movement again. Then he told me that the healing process would take three to five-hundred days.

He was right. I was diligent with the exercises he gave me, and tried to avoid causing further damage by dumb decisions. It took over a year, but the Lord did give relief. Until late last December I had only boring updates to give him for many months.

There are a few things that relate to this exhortation to confession.

Sin will hurt. If you are watching porn, gossiping about a “friend,” disrespecting your parents, you are crushing/cutting your spiritual nerves. If you catch your spouse in sin, your spiritual nerves are also bearing a load that might result in serious damage.

No matter how it happened, some injuries take a while to heal. Forgiveness may be granted, but restoring trust takes time. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and joy is a discipline that takes exercise and effort and endurance. Be patient, keep looking to the Lord.

And you must mortify your flesh, die daily. Don’t make it worse. Refusing to kill the sin you can isn’t a good strategy to deal with the sin others won’t. We’ve all got sin to confess, otherwise it will be pain upon pain.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
(Psalm 32:3 ESV)

Bring Them Up

Mission Critical

These are my notes from a talk I gave at our school’s recent Information Night.

I’ve had a couple conversations recently, including one with my wife, about how close it came to ECS never existing. If there had been other resources available to us or even another classical school closer than 45 minutes away, and certainly if there hadn’t been anyone else interested in jumpin’ Geronimo, it’s hard to say whether ECS would have been born.

Which has also gotten me thinking, what about ECS is crucial? The question of what is mission critical came up during covid lockdowns and then again last summer as our school board considered how to navigate state requirements for private schools. What is not just preference, but nonnegotiable for sake of educating our kids, and even as we think about our children’s children? (I’m now closer to when my grandson will start Kindergarten than when my son started.) There are a lot of things that are important for life and for quality of life; bones and muscles, eyes and ears and fingertips and feet. But if there is no heartbeat, the body is dead.

The heartbeat of ECS is our belief that Jesus is Lord. The evangel in Evangel Classical School is the gospel, the good news, which is of “first importance,” “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). And so “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Jesus is the Messiah, He is also the Maker. “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3; see also Colossians 1:16). He is the one in whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17), and “He upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).

And while this may be obvious, it is delightfully inescapable for us. ECS is from Him and through Him and to Him; we are built on the foundation of His existence and glory (He is and He is great!), we are energized by our faith and hope and love for Him, and we are resolved to carry and advance a culture that honors Christ. We want to be explicit and emphatic that Jesus is Lord.

That confession is mission critical to educating/discipling the next generation. There’s a timely book titled Battle for the American Mind: Uprooting a Century of Miseducation that was just published in June of 2022. It’s easy to read, and everyone should read it, and track the cultural damage happening not just to, but through, our public schools. Our board chairman got on a kick last summer and was handing out copies by the box. One of the co-authors is the president of the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (David Goodwin). The other is a current Fox News “Fox and Friends Weekend” host (Pete Hegseth).

The book is really good, but there is a kind of irony to some of the responses to the book. More than education, schooling is about enculturation. Pedagogy—one’s method and practice of teaching—is “the act of formulating a culture in children.” It’s about defining and triggering affections for the true, good, and beautiful. It’s identifying what is lovely and then learning to order our loves correctly (per Augustine, ordo amoris). It’s having, and then sharing, a common vision of the good life (per Aristotle).

In Western Civilization, wherever the gospel has taken root it has grown a distinct set of loves and understanding of that good life, a #blessed life, which only comes by fearing the Lord. But it’s also observable in many places that after a while, some tried to keep the good life without the good news. They held on to some traditions and cultural practices without having the transcendent Giver. And what’s happened in the U.S. in the last century, and certainly at broadband speed in the last decade since ECS started, is an attempt to attack objective reality, as if reality is what keeps us from the good (sound familiar? Genesis 3:1-5).

Hegseth and Goodwin argue for a return to a model of education that acknowledges up and down, right and wrong, male and female, black and white. They especially look to the model of classical education which isn’t embarrassed about facts (Grammar), uses reason (Logic), and promotes what is lovely and appealing (Rhetoric).

There is a kind of Fox News viewer, a kind of political conservative, who is fed up with 78 gender choices and 13 Pride Months a year and Critical Climate Race Change Theory curriculum and then gets excited when hearing about the classical model. But the “Western Christian Paideia” depends on the Christ. “Jesus Christ has to be at the center of all of it” (Hegseth and Goodin, Location 3344). Reviving the model without the Master is just rewinding the video, but we already know how it ends.

I went to public school. Last year was my 30th anniversary of graduating high school. My teachers weren’t public perverts and my classes were no worse than meh. I would have learned a lot more if I’d have done a bit more of my assigned reading. But the thing I really “learned” was that all the things we did for school didn’t matter to God. At least no one gave any credit to the Lord.

That said, there are other Christian schools, actual institutions in/around Marysville, that acknowledge the Master without taking advantage of the classical model and resources. Actually, they often use the same methods and books as the government schools, but add in a Bible class or a weekly chapel. This isn’t a criticism of those schools, but this is our information night, here’s what we’re trying to do.

We commend the works of the Lord so that the next generation would carry and advance Christ-honoring culture. We are not commending safety, as if all we needed was to escape. Sitting down to read without being surrounded by guns and drugs and guys in the girls’ bathroom is great, but that’s a sign of sanity, not great success. We are not commending smarts, as if there has never been a tyrant or villain with big brains. (Rebekah Merkle writes, “If you graduate [from a classical school] with all of the skills but none of the discernment, then you’re actually turning into a monster.” Classical Me, Classical Thee). We are not commending success, not as the world defines it, as if acceptance into the godless-college system or a higher-paid cog in the machine is winning.

We don’t use Jesus’ name as commas in our prayers, but we do pray our students will learn how to use commas because Jesus is the Word and the giver of language for which we are stewards. Jesus isn’t the answer to every question in science class, but that would be more true than the “Big Bang.” We don’t think the 11th commandment is “Thou shalt follow the Trivium,” but we do think that knowledge of details, understanding in order to distinguish, and wisdom that enables deft/skillful living come from the Lord.

So much so-called schooling is built on a foundation of oatmeal soaked in paint thinner. On its own the United States is not indivisible, without God the Blessings of Liberty promoted in our Constitution are not secure, and apart from grace our American way of life is as shatterproof as glass. The Lord is our only sure foundation (Isaiah 28:16, see also Matthew 7:24-27). When the rain falls and the floods come and the winds blow, It’s mission critical for us to equip the next generation to be like the wise man whose house didn’t fall because it had been founded on the rock, and the rock is Christ.

Lord's Day Liturgy

An Invitation Scandal

Election is not called a scandal or an offense or foolish in Scripture. Our recent political elections may cause heartburn, but no one in Scripture expresses worries about God determining the outcome ahead of time.

What is called a scandal is the cross. More than God’s sovereignty, men are upset by God’s sacrifice. “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). The cross is a “stumbling block,” which translates the Greek word σκάνδαλον, “an action or circumstance that leads one to act contrary to [their] set of beliefs, that which causes revulsion” (BAGD). Paul wrote that some Jews preferred circumcision over the cross (Galatians 5:11). The cross causes difficulty for the way natural men think.

As the Bible reveals, God predestined the cross. Peter preached that those who crucified Jesus did “whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28). So Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” even he said “you crucified and killed” (Acts 2:23). God ordained the Lamb’s blood to forgive the elect’s sins (John 10:11; Romans 8:32-34).

God’s sovereignty saves. He chose to love rebels—all you who believe, to atone for their sins, to bring them to Himself. So “to those who are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Rejoice at the Lord’s Table in such a way that would offend those who know you don’t deserve to rejoice. The only scandal bigger than you being welcome at the Supper is what Christ suffered to invite you here.

Lord's Day Liturgy

We’ll Know How It Happened

In Romans 9:6-13 we see that God elects some and not others to salvation. Sometimes while trying to get straight the truths that bring great comfort, Christians can get stuck, or spun around. It happens with the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Those that God chooses for eternal life He also chooses to want to grow in obedient living. He decides the end and the means.

Peter addressed the “elect” at the beginning of his first letter, and described them as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood” (1 Peter 1:2). The Father elects, the Spirit consecrates, and the Son is obeyed, all secured because of the atoning blood of Christ. From the outside you can’t see whether the gas tank is full, but if the car is going down the road, there is evidence of fuel. Our obedience shows God’s saving initiative.

God’s sovereign grace was no discouragement to increasing in faith and pursuing virtues in 2 Peter 1. “Be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fail” (2 Peter 1:10). This was after he said to “make every effort” to build faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (verses 5-8).

Paul also saw no conflict: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12b-13).

I choose to eat steak, I choose a knife to cut it, I choose how many times to chew. The Lord has chosen a people for Himself to be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14). He’s chosen the persons, the exhortations, and the outcome. If you are not zealous to obey, you shouldn’t blame God’s sovereignty, you should to repent. And if you do repent, we’ll know how it happened.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Not Going Back to Egypt

Learning is usually good and sometimes painful. Sometimes the process is painful—your brain muscles drip sweat out your forehead, and sometimes the conclusion is painful—the palm-of-hand-to-face sort of realization. You might learn that you need to change even more than your thinking, which may even involve changing communities. You could loose connections, you could lose those you considered friends.

In Galatians 4 Paul seems to be talking to Jews and non-Jews about their lives before receiving adoption as sons because of Christ’s work of redemption. The Jews “were under the law,” condemned by the law as sinners. Paul also described those “enslaved the the elementary principles of the world” (Galatians 4:3), those who “did not know God,” who “were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods” (4:8). Then he asks them, “now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world?” (4:9)

In context Paul is referring to works rather than faith in Christ. There is no system of salvation by works that isn’t enslaving, whether Judaism or Pagan Moralism, whether Islam or Roman Catholicism or the New Woke. Giving up false thinking may include leaving a community which is based on what is false. And then don’t go back to Egypt.

When God grants repentance, He grants understanding of the truth, and truth frees us. It frees us from being slaves, and unites us with other sons. We know one another, we practice the one-anothers, we confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). We learn Christ (Ephesians 4:20), and put on the new self in true righteousness and with the righteous (Ephesians 4:24-25).

Lord's Day Liturgy

He Is Ours

I mentioned last Lord’s Day that I’m budgeting minutes to memorize the Pastoral Epistles. If I learn about five verses a week it will take 49 weeks, giving me a few to spare before the end of the year. We’ll see. But one of the benefits is the meditation on things you might tend to skip over, like the basic letter ingredients that start 1 Timothy 1:1-2.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,
To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:1–2 ESV)

Beyond the repetition-happy nature of mentioning God and God and Christ Jesus and Christ Jesus, the qualifiers stand out.

  • God our Savior
  • Christ Jesus our hope
  • God the father
  • Christ Jesus our Lord

We default to Jesus as Savior, God is often Maker or Judge, but the Son has the Father’s nature. I wouldn’t pair Savior with hope, an office and a virtue are not parallel, so Savior and Redeemer or righteousness and hope. Father makes the most sense, especially in relation to Christ, though again, Christ is Lord. So between the both Persons: our Savior, our hope, our Lord. He is ours. (see also Psalm 95:7)

Plus we get grace, mercy, and peace, the salutationary trifecta. Christians, we have the best and #blessed God, we have a bounteous salvation, more than a few reasons to rejoice at the Lord’s Table.