Categories
Bring Them Up

Changing the World from a Basement

The following post is my address during the inaugural convocation of Evangel Classical School yesterday.


Many school years ago Solomon wrote that the end of a thing is better than the beginning. I did not graduate highly enough in my class to argue with him, but I do know that you can’t get to the end without a beginning. You’ve got to start somewhere. This is our start, a sunny first day of school, an historic beginning for Evangel Classical School. Lord willing, we’ll finish well, however long it takes us.

When the end is worth it, it’s worth getting going even if you don’t have everything in place. C. S. Lewis wrote,

“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come.”

—”Learning in Wartime”

Over the last few years, and especially over the last year, a growing number of us have realized how much there is to learn and, in particular, how much we, as Christian parents, have to learn. The simplicity of being made in the image of the Triune God means that we are to be mini-creators everywhere we go. Not only that, but we’ve also come to appreciate Abraham Kuyper’s declaration that rings out over a planet full of opportunities.

There is not a square inch [one thumb’s width] in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”

The world is Christ’s, we are Christ’s, and He would have us live everywhere and in all things for His sake. That means that building homes and governing nations should be done for Him, which means that math and history and politics must be mastered for Him first. We are to sing songs and write books for God, which means that we must learn how God made harmony and poetry to work in His world. It also means that we must learn how to read, which means that we must start with the alphabet and phonetics, which means we must learn how to sit still. Christ cares about it all, so we must care about it all.

Today is a small beginning. God admonished His people not to despise the day of small things in Zechariah 4. His people were returning home from exile and were charged to rebuild the temple as they anticipated the Messiah’s coming. With such a huge project before them, with so few raw materials and with so many enemies, God encouraged them that He was pleased for them to start small. Likewise for us, though the beginning is small, we trust that God is pleased with it.

G. K. Chesterton famously said that “[I]f a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” And here we are.

On one hand, our beginning is small, it is less than ideal. Our second greatest certainty is that we will do some things badly. So be it. Our greatest certainly, though, is that the opportunities are so great that we can hardly wait to get to work and try to catch up to where we should be. Christ is Lord everywhere so we have to start somewhere. Jesus has no jurisdiction clashes; you name it and He reigns over it. His reign covers everything He created and holds together in the universe; no principle or person is neutral. We want students who will grow up to laugh at any worldview that denies it. This is our Christ’s Lordship worship boot camp in a basement, as little as it may be.

On the other hand, it could be said that we already have too many good things to claim that this is hard. We have a delightfully suited-just-for-us place. We have more pencils than the apostle Paul. We have 30 years of a classical education movement ahead of us to learn from. We have families involved here who actually have lives worth sharing with students. We have a local church that supports us. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit and the Institutes of John Calvin and beautiful chairs and a magical mascot that hardly anyone one knows what it is…yet. Considering how many things we have to be thankful for, it’s hard to say that we have it hard.

What makes it hard is that we’re entering a new field in the battle between good and evil, between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. We are taking aim at the world system, at rebellion and unbelief, and we can be certain that the enemy would prefer us to sit on the sidelines.

Evangel Classical School is a front-line offensive campaign for Christ’s sake. From the first meeting of the school committee less than a year ago, we committed to fight and confessed that the first place we must fight is against the sin in our own hearts. We want to show the students how to deal with sin, to show them how to repent from laziness, fear, grumbling, and unbelief. By God’s grace we’ll kill our own sin first as we grow as disciples of Christ.

Isn’t that exactly what we want our kids, our students, and the following generations to have? More than brains crammed full of facts, more than grammar paradigms and dead languages and big textbooks and logic debates, we want our students to love God with all their hearts and minds and to believe that they are responsible to figure out all the ways that they can honor Him in the world no matter how crazy it seems! We want them to count the cost and then go to battle!

We don’t want our kids to want someone else to do it. We don’t want them to wait for all things safe and predictable and comfortable, for the “perfect” conditions. We don’t want them to work in reliance on their giftedness but rather because they believe God. We want them to walk by faith, ready to deal with the challenges of the battle even if they don’t have all the resources. We want them to be starters and singers. We want them to be just like us, only better. We want them to have first days like this, only bigger.

We do not have everything we need. We don’t even know enough to know all the things that we need that we don’t have. As others have said, we are attempting to provide an education that none of us received in order to slingshot these young people into a life we are still learning to run. Whether they use five smooth stones or five Latin verbs, we want them to fell giants and fight the dragon. We want them to read great stories, as they learn to write great stories, so that they will live great stories. We know it’s right and we praise the Lord that He’s brought us to the first day of changing the world from a basement.

For this year at Evangel Classical School, and we pray for many school years to come, we cry Soli Deo gloria!

Categories
Bring Them Up

A Glorious Day

Last Monday night we held an Informational Meeting for Evangel Classical School. Not everyone made it in time for my welcome and I thought I’d share my excitement here anyway.

Announcement day was a glorious day. It was glorious not because the school is big and every detail is set and every ideal has been made possible. It was a glorious day by faith. We are trusting that God is going to take our investment of dollars and minutes and multiply them by His grace into a community of students and teachers and families who see all of life with His Son as the center and Sustainer.

We are talking about worldview (or Weltanschauung as Abraham Kuyper called it). We are talking about opening a comprehensive worldview umbrella that covers all things made by Him. We are talking about framing minds with the eternal categories that shape our perspective for every discipline of study and for any given task. We are talking about education that loves to celebrate how everything fits together from Christ, through Christ, and to Christ. We are talking about people who will be ruined, so to speak, against any explanations or responsibilities that don’t provide meaningful, divine image-bearing joy.

It was a glorious day as we look forward to being worn out for sake of our kids, for our kids’ friends, for our kids’ kids many years from now. What else would be rather be exhausted by than helping to shape a gospel people, an evangel people, with confidence in God and courage to serve Him doing anything in any place in His world?

We have much to do. There are many things still to think about and work toward. But how we gather the tools to train our children may be as important as the tools themselves. We want them to think and that means that we can’t merely give them a book, we’ve got to think ourselves. We want them to work hard and that means that we can’t simply give them assignments, we’ve got to do the same. We want them to be glad, well-informed worshippers, so we must show them how. If we do, by God’s grace, we’ll have lives that are contagious and we will grow into a people who rejoice that:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”

Abraham Kuyper
Categories
Lord's Day Liturgy

THIQ Obedience

Most Christians probably don’t need another acronym for our spiritual walk, and yet a well-applied acronym can slow down unraveling strings when we’re in the fray. YMMV but, at our house, we’ve written a certain acronym on our “heinie remindie” tool (AKA, “the rod”) to remind us all about obedience.

What is obedience? Oftentimes a child who asks the question knows the definition, he’s filibustering to save his fanny. In order to avoid the need for a word study in the heat of a disobedience, we talk about obedience that is THIQ: total, happy, immediate, and quick. Admittedly, that may not be the best logical order but IQTH doesn’t quite roll of the tongue.

THIQ obedience is total, doing everything that was assigned. It is happy, cheerful, without anger or tormented countenance. It is immediate, not traded for an obedience to be named later. And it is quick, not poky, dawdling, or meandering.

I mentioned THIQ obedience that we describe to our kids during corporate worship because worship is one of the best times for parents to model THIQ obedience for our kids. Where should they learn how to obey? They learn as we correct and train them, yes, and they learn by watching us. Our obedience and our worship should be THIQ. Our confession before God should acknowledge when it isn’t.

Are we worshipping totally, whole-hearted and fully engaged? Are we worshipping happily, gladly and without burden? Are we worshipping immediately, that is readily, when He calls, or when we’re ready to get around to it? And are we worshipping quickly, running with our hands on the worship battering ram, or are we just out for a Sunday stroll? If we’re not THIQ, let’s show our kids how we want them to respond when they disobey: humbly confessing our sin and seeking forgiveness promised in the gospel.

Categories
A Shot of Encouragement

Remember the Signs

I read chapter two of The Silver Chair to the kids last night before bed (my first time through, too). Jill meets Aslan, and he explains the reason he called her away from Experiment House and reveals her mission. Before blowing her to Narnia, Aslan urges and warns Jill.

[R]emember, remember, remember the Signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind form following the Signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the Signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the Signs and believe the Signs. Nothing else matters.

(p. 21, emphasis added)

The parallels resonate in my head. There are times, often mountaintop type times, when our fellowship with the Lord is pronounced, when we better perceive His nearness. Also during those times His Word appears quite clear. It’s appropriate to linger with Him and rehearse our instructions, burning them into our minds for later when things may not be so obvious. The truth never changes, but we tend to forget it, and it may look different depending on where we’re standing and how much we’re entangled by seen things. We will have done well to memorize our mission and the promises He’s given.

I still have Snow Retreat on the brain. It’s been my own experience, and observation of other’s experiences, that a Bible-driven retreat can be a similar time of tasting that the Lord is good. The fact that our perception isn’t exactly the same once back down the mountain doesn’t necessarily mean that what was heard and seen was without substance. In fact, we are more accountable for, not excused from, commitments made in clearer air. We must take great care to remember the signs.

Categories
The End of Many Books

The Trellis and the Vine

by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

Very good. I hope it becomes a standard reading and EVALUATING tool for all disciple-making centers/churches and disciple-making trainers/pastors.


I’m rereading this, especially since TEC is wanting this imagery to stay central.

4 of 5 stars

Categories
He Gives and Takes Away

The Precious Possession of Diligence

Many of you know that my dad passed away early Monday morning, April 17. We travelled to Ohio for his funeral last week and soberly enjoyed the time we were able to spend with my mom and sister as well as other family and friends. I had the privilege to speak for a few moments at his memorial service and the rest of this post is the substance of my message.


Fathers and sons have a special connection, and the relationship between my dad and I was no exception. I absolutely loved my dad and it seemed right for me to honor him today even if for just a few minutes.

There are many things I owe my dad.

Dad taught me to love the game of baseball. He instilled me with a passion for mowing the yard to make it look good. He taught me about generosity, never letting any of my friends pay for lunch when we went out and occasionally sending that $20 for pizza when I knew they didn’t have much to spare. He taught me about the power of respect, gradually increasing both my freedoms and responsibilities which only made me want more to grow up and be a man like him.

But there is one lesson I learned from my dad that excels every other in my mind. In fact he is not just an example to me in this area, he will forever be THE standard. Perhaps the most amazing thing about this lesson is that he never once talked to me about it. This is a lesson I learned entirely by observation, watching him day in and day out.

The biggest thing I owe my dad is the lesson of DILIGENCE.

Everyone has a basic understanding of what diligence is and most of us know how rare it is to find. Diligence is defined as careful, or better yet, persistent, work or effort. We might call it hard work, tenacity, tirelessness, or perseverance. A person like this is often known as a “fighter” or we might say they have “stick-to-it-iveness.” But whatever we call it, that’s what I learned from my dad.

There is not a week of my life that goes by when I don’t think about my dad’s diligence. When I’m tired or just tired of doing something unenjoyable I remember his example.

He was diligent in his work. As a self-employed draftsman he did whatever was necessary to make his clients happy and provide for his family. He worked out of our house most of my life and I could count on him being at his table every morning–listening to his country music–day after day, year after year.

Not only that, he was diligent to be at every one of my sports games. He missed none of my games until I was 16 and traveling with a summer baseball team in Tennessee. Otherwise I could count on him being there. When I moved away he was faithful to support neighborhood kids or Triway teams or family friends. As long as there was even a glimmer of health he was there.

There were other areas of faithfulness too. He was diligent to get our family to church every week. He was diligent to shine his shoes every Saturday night before church. He was diligent to recycle. He was diligent to walk when he could. Diligence was the pattern of his life.

Most of all he was diligent for the last 14 years in his will to live. Since open-heart surgery in the fall of 1992 he battled uphill against heart disease, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, staff infections, broken bones and other problems that racked his body from head to toe. I suppose most of us were surprised God’s grace enabled him fight this long.

I cannot read the following verse without thinking of him:

A slothful man does not roast his prey,
but the precious possession of a man is diligence.
(Proverbs 12:27, NAS)

Diligence was my dad’s precious possession and is the one thing I most hope to inherit from him.

The only regret I have for my dad was also my most consistent prayer request: I wanted him to experience more Christian joy. There’s no doubt that there were seasons of little joys for him. He did have a great smile and a laugh that welcomed you into any story. But in spite of all the difficulties and pains that seemed inescapable to him I kept praying that he would experience sweet, Spirit-produced joy in Christ.

Joy is what he’d talk about if he were back with us. If he were here, knowing what he does now, I’m sure he would love to tell us about the sweet and sovereign happiness to be found in Christ alone.

I think he’d tell us that he missed out on living in this kind of joy, the kind purchased for us by Christ on the cross. He’d express godly sorrow for so much despondency and point us to Christ who died not only to set us free from the wages and eternal penalty of our sin, but also from the dreary, joy-killing power of sin in this life.

I believe my dad would urge us to live in verses like:

Though you have not seen Him (Jesus), you love Him. Though you do not see Him now, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

This is the kind of joy he knows about now. This is the kind of joy he’d want us to live in now.

No matter the trial, if we submit to Jesus we can be freed from the concerns of this life to live in the joy of making much of Christ. Jesus is better than life and He promises eternal joy to anyone who will leave their earthly attachments and love Him with their whole heart.

As I close this morning, I saw a Christmas card I wrote my dad in 1995 that he kept it displayed in his room. Though I used the word perseverance back then it carries the same sentiment as diligence. Here is part of what I wrote:

One word that describes you more than any other is PERSEVERANCE. What an absolute pain in the neck to always be physically less than the best and mentally lacking in desire. Yet you get up every day and press on. Thank you. Your example has not gone unnoticed!

…One day, tomorrow or next week, or at least Heaven, WILL BRING ABOUT THE TURNING OF THE TIDE.

Thank you for not giving up and for always being faithful to God and us.

The tide has finally and gloriously turned for my dad. He no longer needs to fight, persevere, or work with diligence. Instead of indescribable pain he has inexpressible joy in Christ. I pray that each one of you have this experience, and hope, of joy today as well.

Categories
Every Thumb's Width

The Battle over Surface Earth

Yesterday was a monumental day in my life. Although there was no parade and no fireworks, it was an absolutely great day.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I mowed my own yard with my own, brand-new mower! I’ve mowed a lot of times before, but both of the above details made this occasion truly historic.

First, I have never “owned” a yard. I’ve mowed my dad’s yard many times. I’ve mowed neighbors’ lawns; I’ve mowed strangers’ lawns. I’ve mowed for businesses; I’ve mowed as a business. I’ve mowed for fun; I’ve mowed for funds. But every other time I’ve been taking care of someone else’s property – never my own. Until yesterday I’ve never known the great sense of pleasure and “ownerly” pride in manicuring my own lawn.

Second, I’ve never had a brand new mower. I’ve used push mowers, self-propelled mowers, riding mowers, lawn tractors, and small farm tractors (there are differences, you know). There are a lot of ways to cut grass. But a true “mowing man” always envisions the day when he will push his very own, never-used, first-pull-starting, not-a-nick-on-it, shiny, new mower out of the garage and engage the evil Lord Grassgrowwild in the epic battle for dominion over Surface Earth. And now I too have joined the ranks of Sod Soldiers with my very own red, Craftsman 6.5 horse power, 21” deck, rear bag mower/mulcher. It really is a mowing man’s dream machine!

Some of you have read all this and are thinking to yourself, “Mowing is a chore – not a drama!” Others perhaps are thinking, “Who stinking cares?” And I guess on one hand the whole discussion is somewhat silly. On the other hand, there is benefit and blessing in the work. I think one of the reasons I like to mow so much is that it gives an immediate and quickly increasing sense of fulfillment. There are a lot of things that we do that we don’t see results from, and many more things we do that we will never be done doing anyway.

Even though mowing is something that needs to be done on an ongoing basis (as long as the grass keeps growing), with each pass through the yard and with each revolution of the blade there is advancement. It is obvious. It is progressive and “profitable” labor. It is always encouraging to see something “get done.” The ability to work is great, but the opportunity to see results from our work is no less a good gift from God.

Whatever it is that you do, or need to do, or like to do – you should enjoy it. In fact, it is the gift of God to be given the power to enjoy and rejoice in your labor (Ecclesiastes 5:19). It is “fitting to…find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot” (5:18). Seeing the completion and accomplishment of our work is just one of the ways we are able to enjoy our labor.

So remember: In all mowing there is profit, but mere talk leads to overgrown landscape. (cf. Proverbs 14:23)