The End of Many Books

A Wind in the Door

audiobook cover

by Madeleine L’Engle

I was told that A Swiftly Tilting Planet is amazing. It’s the third book. I listened to A Wrinkle in Time, and fine. I listened to A Wind… and, it was okay. Traveling to a boy’s mitochondria turns out to not be my bailiwick, but Proginoskes and Blajeny were fun. I will go on!

2 of 5 stars

Lord's Day Liturgy

Speckled, Spotted, and Strong

How can shepherds work to increase the jealousbility of their flock?

I was thinking about Jacob’s third deal with Laban, in which Laban agreed to give all the speckled and spotted sheep and goats (and black lambs) to his son-in-law (Genesis 30:32-33). Laban, deceiving the deceiver, took away the speckled and spotted (Genesis 30:35). But as Jacob shepherded, he set up peeled sticks at the watering places, and “the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted” (Genesis 30:39). Then he started only laying the sticks in front of the stronger sheep, “so the feebler would be Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s” (Genesis 30:42). (For an interesting take on why this worked, check out this journal article.)

That story does not have deeper/spiritual meaning, but I do think it’s interesting as an illustration for another principle.

We, as sheep of the Chief Shepherd, come to behold Him by faith week by week in worship and especially at the Lord’s Table. We are transformed by beholding His glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), including the glory of His love and sacrifice on the cross. So we are made strong, Scripture by Scripture, song by song, prayer by prayer, communion by communion.

The Shepherd of the sheep is kind to give us life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Jerks and Jealousy

Fire can be life-sustaining, useful for a variety of applications, plus beautiful. It can also kill you. Jealousability has some fire-like similarities.

There is a kind of forest-firey jealousability that can jump the road into insufferable arrogance. While I’d argue that this is actually just arrogance and not true jealousability, a man using jealousable vocabulary might still try to argue that it’s virtuous even if a bunch of others get burned. Blessings must be a reason we boast in the Lord, not ourselves.

And since we’re not boasting in ourselves, we also ought to be able to rejoice when others are blessed by the Lord. This is part of diverse jealousability. You will be called to boast in the Lord in various ways, and those might be different than how others are called by the Lord. This connects us in a way that makes the body jealousable not just an individual member.

Let me sum up both of these dangers: 1) Don’t be a jerk. 2) Don’t be jealous.

Being jealous that someone else got something you think you deserved is not jealousable on the individual level and spoils things at the assembly level. Acting better than others and being bitter against others are provocative, but not for good. Constantly keeping score with others on your team shows that you aren’t playing for the team. “Love does not envy or boast” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Jealousy goes with quarreling (2 Corinthians 12:20), strife and rivalries (Galatians 5:20), and disorder (James 3:14).

I have temptations toward being jealous, less about possessions and recognition and more about productivity energy/time to accomplish things. But then I think about how many emails the ones I look at must get, and give thanks for what I have and for their fruitfulness. I think about how many more criticisms they face, and give thanks that mine are limited.

Keep jealousy out of your jealousability.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Supper Specifics

On the night Jesus was betrayed,

(And) he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:19-20)

The same event is described in Matthew 26:26-28 and Mark 14:22-25, but only Luke uses the specific word “new” (καινὴ) to describe the covenant. Jesus instituted the first observance of the Lord’s Supper as a new covenant celebration, and Paul repeats this narrative in 1 Corinthians 11:25 about the cup of the new covenant in His blood as he instructs the church in Corinth about observing the Lord’s Supper.

There is more about the New Covenant in the New Testament as well. Paul also described his own work as a minister of a new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6). The author of Hebrews says that Jesus is the mediator of this New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15; 12:14) and the coming of the New Covenant makes the first one, the Old one obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).

The New Covenant is unconditional, that is, it is a promise made by God, kept by God, and for God (see Jeremiah 31:31-4, and also Ezekiel 36:22-38). The fulfillment of the New Covenant is not based on what the Jews do or don’t do. In fact, the fulfillment of the New Covenant will be when God does in the Jews what they have definitely not done and could not do on their own.

To say, then, that the promises of the New Covenant are fulfilled in the church is to be sloppy with all the specific Old Testament promises. Parts of it are, but not the whole, not yet.

The better answer is that Jesus inaugurated and ratified the New Covenant. There is currently a Jewish remnant who are beneficiaries of the soul-saving elements of the New Covenant. There is currently an extension in salvation blessings of the New Covenant to the Gentiles. But the full/final fulfillment of the New Covenant has not yet happened. The Lord’s Table, especially this cup, remind us that all has been purchased, and to look forward to the accomplishment of all His Word.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Favorite Infections

There is no true jealousability without repentance from sin. Jealousability, as Paul talks about it in Romans 11, belongs with salvation blessings, and salvation begins with repenting.

Repentance is required for true jealousability for at least two reasons: systemic and apologetic.

You cannot try both to keep a favorite infection and pursue a healthy body. Your whole life is connected no matter how much you try to compartmentalize. And while one angle might look jealousable, it can’t be maintained. For that matter, our lives as a church body are connected no matter how much time you spend alone. If you love your sin, defend it, feed it, refuse to turn from it, you are affecting the rest of our health. But also if you confess it, repent from it, there is benefit for us all.

The apologetic reason is because part of the work of jealousability is magnifying God’s blessings, and it shouldn’t surprise you if someone says, “So you think you’re better than me.” You are pointing out what looks like privileges, and they are. But your privilege starts by knowing you aren’t precious. This is what glorifies God not you. You have nothing that you didn’t receive, and everything you did receive isn’t because you are worth it.

You aren’t perfect, but unlike that watching neighbor, you’ve repented, and God promises salvation for those who repent and believe in His Son (Acts 2:38).

Bring Them Up

Raggants Aren’t Normies

Here are my notes from our ECS Fundraising Fiesta last Friday.

A principle is a first thing (derived from the Latin word princips which means “first, chief”) that serves as a foundation; you build on a principle, a (good) chain of reasons starts with a (good) principle. I learned a principle that started snowballing for me around the time that ECS started: thanksgiving is not something we fight for, thanksgiving is something we fight with. Thanksgiving isn’t the win, thanksgiving is a weapon in the war. It’s true with feasting as an expression of joyful gratitude. We share bread and wine, or tacos and cerveza, not because we’re finished, but as part of the fight. Laughter is not for when the battle is over; it’s not risus post bellum but risus est bellum.

So here’s the principle that we should keep in mind tonight: ECS is not something we fight for as much as something we fight with. We’re not simply trying to preserve the institution, we’re trying to spend it.

Of course I don’t mean that we are trying to go bankrupt and get out of the education business. Our fiesta tonight is a party to increase our resources, more locked arms and a more stocked arsenal/bank account. But we do need to know what we’re doing enough so that we never forget what we’re doing: commending the works of the Lord to another generation so that they will carry and advance Christ-honoring culture.

A couple significant things have happened in the life of our school since the last time we feasted in this room. The Lord has provided us with owned space, our own classrooms and a not-closet-office where the headmaster can sit down with interested families or double check-marked students without banging kneecaps. We also found out that sprinklers would be almost twice as much as the quote we raised money toward, but there are still holes in our ceilings that give evidence of progress.

The second thing is that we arrived on the State’s radar, provoked by a pressing plea to the city council to deny our facility use permit. As word got around, the State Board of Education was not impressed that we had not secured their approval. As our school board agreed to help purchase a place that needed loving into more loveliness, so we agreed to submit to a over-reaching and bureaucratic process for sake of playing a longer game.

We know where we’re going to have classes next year, we know what immunization records are required and where to keep chemicals in the closest, and these a helpful because we have a lot of fighting left to do.

There are afflictions at every turn, antagonists without and apathy within. We haven’t come this far to put our feet up on the desk, we’re putting them down on the gas pedal, both of them.

One of our temptations as an institution is to get complacent and comfy because little kids in their mostly put-together uniforms are so darned cute. They are cute. It’s a hoot to hear Kindergarten sound-offs (and almost as much of a hoot to watch the army of proud parents in the back with phones out taking video of said sound-offs), to watch penmanship improve, to see their red-faces near the end of the Liden Mile run during first recess. And when they earn their marble party pajama read-in day, we smile widely and say, Well done. But this doesn’t mean we’re done. The age-appropriate reading speed and comprehension skills equip them for reading new WA state legislation 35 years later. You remember how it goes: “See Jay run. See Jay ignore science and data.”

There’s a derogatory term I’ve seen thrown around, at least on my Twitter timeline, about the “normies.” Normies are those who want to go back to the how it used to be when (it seemed like) everyone got along, when “boys will be boys” meant that they got their pants dirty not that they were groomed into buying tampons. But what so many so-called “normies” don’t seem to see as clearly, which we need to fix for sake of the following generation, is that “normal” is a theological category. Normal and natural depend on God who created nature and defines what is normal; if we don’t give Him credit He will give us up to folly and dishonor.

I do believe in what’s called common grace; God sends rain and sun on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). Non-Christians can (and do) get married, have kids, go on vacation, play sports, build bridges because they know 2+2=4. But they can only have those things and enjoy them if God is kind to them, and they will be judged by the Lord if they don’t thank Him. They are accountable for every good thing He gives.

But it was Christians who got all kinds of good and squandered their blessings as Christians. Christians received good without acknowledging Christ’s kindnesses or kingship in public. Christians acted indifferent about education, whether or not Jesus—as the One who made and who sustains it all—was named. Christians got complacent, we got fat in our feasting rather than using our feasting as fighting. The crazy all around us is because we didn’t honor Christ.

So ECS continues to press forward to the glory of Christ. The young kids are cute, but we’re not teaching raggants to be normies. They are not NPCs (non playable characters in the game). Each raggant is being equipped for his or her vocation/calling. We educate them so that when they are grown they can stand with their fathers, shoulder to shoulder, against enemies in the city gates. It’s why we have arrows on the ECS seal, not just because the headmaster likes archery.

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!”
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
(Psalm 127:4-5).

Mrs. Hall’s husband, Ryan, recommended a book at the beginning of the year, a book that our board chairman, Chuck, then read multiple times, and then Jonathan and Jim read it. Providentially most of our upperclassmen visited Canlis, a fine dining restaurant in the Queen Anne neighborhood, run by brothers, one of whom is mentioned in the book, Ureasonable Hospitality. Anyway, among many, this line stood out to me as a conscious concentration of our mission:

”the legacy we had charged ourselves with defending and extending.” (Location 1676)

We’re trying to do something unreasonable, not as in irrational, but as in exorbitantly special, which does include enjoying normal things giving explicit thanks to the Lord. We are not trying to be Christian normies, if that means being satisfied with cozy and covert rather than carrying and advancing Christ’s name.

We need more funds to do it. Playground equipment is fun, as it is a reset for memorizing science facts. We don’t want any student to mix up XX and XY because they didn’t get their wiggles out. It’s not so we can have our own little isolated safe-space to play, but for play and laughter as war. We’re all paying our taxes and tuition to try to pay teachers better, among a multitude of other costs.

Invest with us in the culture that honors Christ, everything else is crazy. We cherish the blessings of God to ECS, and may God bless ECS even more, not just by preserving her (as we fight for), but by making her formidable and potent in the fight (as we fight with).

Lord's Day Liturgy

Reconciled to Life

Forgiveness deals with our guilty conscience as well as with the consequences of our sins. Reconciliation leaves no doubt that the forgiveness is personal. Sin violates God’s standards, and those who ignore or disobey His law are not merely law-breakers but enemies.

The gospel reconciles us to God. Because Israel rejected Jesus the gospel went to the Gentiles for “the reconciliation of the world” (Romans 11:15). Remember back to earlier in the letter.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10–11 ESV)

The relationship was broken, the Lord Jesus restores, reconnects, reestablishes us in peace with the Father. We are being saved by His life for life. It is a life of rejoicing.

To the Corinthians Paul clarified that

The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:17–18 ESV)

Paul magnified his ministry, glorified his reconciling efforts. All of it is from God who has made us new creations in Christ. Our communion with the Lord and with His body is life from the dead.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Jealousable Moms

There is jealousability as an idea and ideal, there is jealousability on the ground. There are jealousable cultures, there are jealousable kitchen tables, with clean floors underneath them, even though the “olive plants” around it (Psalm 128:3) haven’t mastered their hand-mouth coordination.

Wiping faces (joyfully in Jesus’ name) is jealousable. Making cookies for class parties is jealousable (or buying them at Walmart because your 3rd grader told you about it at breakfast). Disciplining bad attitudes, with patience and consistency, is jealousable. A lot of kids would be a lot better off if they had that.

Everyone has a mom, and these are common tasks (though not commonly done). What makes them jealousable? What gives a woman a jealousable reputation, even after her kids are gone, even when she’s a widow (1 Timothy 5:10)?

A jealousable woman, and especially a mom, ironically makes others look good. That’s why her husband is known in the gates; she does him good. That’s why her children rise up and call her blessed; she fed and clothed and cleaned her little people. She brings them up (1 Timothy 5:10) in love (Titus 2:4).

Turns out, this is one of the reasons that truly jealousable moms often make other moms jealous of the kids, as if the mothering didn’t have anything to do with the kids’ good behavior.

It’s possible for a man to recognize a jealousable mom, in fact, sons should intentionally be taught how to do it. Proverbs 31 is quite a jealousable list, given by a mom to a son, who was a king, who would know the qualities of an excellent queen, not just for the nation, but for his home.

So we’re thankful for ladies who make being a mom look good, as they confess their sins and manage their households and set their hope on God (1 Timothy 5:5).

Lord's Day Liturgy

All the Offerings

Our liturgy should be quite the jealous-making provocation to the Jews. The “riches for the world” aren’t limited to worship services, and without a verse that requires a particular order of praise we recognize some flexibility in worship practices. But think about how our focus on Jesus fulfills their sacrificial system (as Yahweh intended).

Israel had the sin offering. An animal was killed, its blood shed and thrown on the altar to cover sin. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). And and what’s more, “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27).

They had the burnt offering. An animal was killed, its parts arranged on the altar, and the fire consumed all of it. The entirety of the animal represented the entire consecration of the worshipper. Jesus is our righteousness and sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30).

They had the peace offering. An animal was killed, its parts arranged on the altar over fire, but it was cooked not consumed, and the roasted meat shared in fellowship as a symbol of the peace between parties.

Jesus is all the offerings! His blood covers our sins, we are justified. In Him we are set apart, sanctified for His service. Through Him we come to the Father, we share fellowship, and remember His death around the Lord’s Table. These are represented and celebrated in our service with: Confession – Consecration – Communion.

We confess that Jesus is Lord, the Lamb slain and the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Jealousable Salt

The word jealousable may not get past the dictionary gatekeepers but it gets to the point. There are other serviceable words we could use, but we want the punchy ones, the ones that provoke a response. Jesus didn’t use the word, but He had a potent verbal picture that should flavor our thinking.

The second main heading in His sermon on the mount was about salt. “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). This verse is among my top five rants about bad Bible reading. Somehow preachers have been successful at ruining the entire point by saying that salt is a preservative. Sure, salt was used in the first century to cure/preserve meat. But Jesus doesn’t even finish His sentence before explaining what He means by salt. “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?”

There’s no denying that when disciples of Christ obey in a pack they keep the level of group morality from downgrading. But again, what Jesus actually says is that disciples are a savor, an appetite maker, a tongue pleaser. What a disciple of Christ should not be is tasteless, forgettable.

So what kind of person is salty? What characterizes a person that provokes interest?

I can’t recall if I’ve ever made this connection before. It also comes from better Bible reading. Salt is the second main heading, right after the first main heading: the blesseds. There are nine blesseds, the so-called beatitudes. The blesseds include those who mourn their sin, who hunger for righteousness, they show mercy, they make peace, they are persecuted and have lies told about them and they rejoice because their reward is great in heaven. More blessed, less bland.

The way to be tasteless is to be like those who have nothing other than what’s on earth, to love your sin, to act entitled, to fight with others, to complain, like every boring person apart from Christ.