A Political Act

1984A happy marriage is a political act. (Note: the adjective is key in the previous sentence.) George Orwell meant as much in his dystopian novel, 1984, which the Omnibus class has been reading the last couple weeks. The totalitarian State prohibited–to the degree that they could–passionate marriages and sexual pleasure. Orwell’s main characters couldn’t vote for change but they could defy Big Brother by their adultery.

Their motivation, however, was strictly rebellion. Just do what you’re not allowed do to to stick it to the Man. Then you’re truly free. But in opposing bondage to the State Winston and Julia chose another bondage, the bondage of sin. They could not liberate themselves by their defiance, let alone anyone else, less because the government was so powerful and more because they chose to believe a different set of entangling lies.

Their misunderstanding, and Orwell’s himself, doesn’t change that the committed life of one man with one woman and their honoring the marriage bed is indeed a political act. It makes a statement to both neighbors and the nation. Such union is an embodied claim that says the president and politicians and police do not have the authority to make or break marriage however they desire. A male and female in covenant one-fleshedness are enfleshing theology. Husband and wife, then father and mother, are God-instituted relationships for the glory of the human race. This is a political act in that it declares that God is God, not the state. God is the lawgiver and not the people themselves or the lobby groups or big donors or liberal judges sitting on courtroom benches.

God instituted marriage as an incarnational reflection of His own Trinitarian, eternal relations as well as an illustration of the union between His Son and His Son’s Bride, the Church. How we love our wives, respect our husbands, raise our children, none of these are invisible, let alone hopeless acts. Through them we pledge our allegiance to the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

What Does it Mean to be Great?

On Good Friday, we had an assembly, and I (Jonathan) had opportunity to address the students.  I’ve decided to post here my notes from that message, and I hope you enjoy them.

Risus est bellum!

I want to start by reading Matthew 20:20-28 from the ESV.

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Every year it seems like Easter sneaks up on us. Spring rolls around and surprise! it’s Easter time.

For most Protestants like us, there is not the buildup for Easter that there is for Christmas, and often before we know it, it’s Good Friday (like today).

But it is Good Friday now, and this presents us with a great opportunity to examine what it means to be not just good, but great.

The passage we just read takes place as Jesus and His disciples are on their way up to Jerusalem for what would be their last time together. So it even has almost a holy week setting itself. And in it, Christ juxtaposes (that is, He compares side by side) what the world calls greatness with real greatness.

I’d like to consider Jesus’ words along with a character from literature who is familiar to many of you as we try to wrap our minds around this concept of greatness.

In my Omnibus class the last couple of weeks we’ve been reading a story called The Great Gatsby. And in it,the title character, Jay Gatsby, finds his identity and very reason for living in a relationship he had with a woman named Daisy five years before the story takes place. He has now built his whole life around the possibility of returning to this ideal. He’s made a name for himself and collected mountains of money in an effort to repeat the past. He has become what the world would call a “great” man.

He has money, friends, influence (to some degree), and people talk about him a lot with admiration and curiosity. And it’s all pathetically empty and sad.

“Sad?” you say? Yes. His happiness castle is built on a Jell-o foundation. There is no mention of God or God’s honor in all of Gatsby’s plans. And all of his “greatness” doesn’t bring home the happiness he desires. He’s shopping for groceries at Home Depot, and he’s surprised at the checkout to find his cart is still empty. Looking for happiness in self-fulfillment apart from the One who can actually give it is, indeed, a very sad experience.

He grasps desperately for happiness in a place where there is neither happiness or hope. But he gives it a good try. And I think that’s why unbelieving English critics love this book: they can relate! The world does the same thing as Gatsby. The book is tragic, and it reflects a godless life as it actually is: sad and hopeless, however many smiles you might see.

And although this book is an accurate portrayal of the hopelessness of life without Christ (which was not necessarily the author’s intent), it also demonstrates a lesson in futility. No matter how hard Gatsby tries to be happy, he’s using the wrong methods…and he’s using people.

Gatsby is using others for his happiness and trying to recreate the past. Obedient Christians serve others for their joy and learn from the past.

You’ll pardon my spending so much time talking about The Great Gatsby, but it presents a powerful illustration of what it’s like to be great as the world sees greatness, and how it really isn’t that great after all. Money and fame can’t buy you happiness and joy, and in then end, even the world is not impressed by these things if there’s no real substance behind them. We see that in this book.

Now, unlike the worldview of Jay Gatsby, Christians exist for others. Others don’t exist for us. And nobody has made this more clear than Jesus did on Good Friday.

Now let’s return to our passage from Matthew 20. As Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem for the last time, just before the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday, he had a teachable moment with His disciples. Let me read the passage for you again.

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

As He does in a lot of places, Jesus has once again taken the teaching of the world and turned it on its head. The world says that greatness is power, influence and authority over other people. Jesus taught that greatness is found in service to others, and in death to bring life to others.

And Jesus said this as He was walking to Jerusalem to demonstrate precisely what He meant.

Let’s look together at a few examples of true greatness as demonstrated by Jesus.

On the heels of asking for a drink, He offers to give water that truly satisfies. Let’s read John 4:7-14.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

So Jesus gives when most men would be inclined to receive. He does the same thing when performing miracles. He was probably hungry when He fed the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-21.

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

As Lord, He would have been right in demanding that someone fetch Him a meal, but rather he multiplies the loves and fishes of the boy and the leftovers alone fill a dozen baskets!

So note, rather than demanding the honor and service of men, the Lord who kept their hearts beating was always giving of Himself. Let’s look at one more, and it’s a good one. It’s found in John 13:1-20, and it’s the account of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

People flocked to Gatsby to be filled with amusement and champagne. People flee to Jesus to be filled with living water that truly satisfies.

Gatsby received men’s esteem and admiration; as for Jesus, we esteemed Him not (Isaiah 53:3).

Gatsby’s life was taken from him as a consequence of his sins; Christ laid down His life willingly to pay for the sins of others (John 10:11-18).

Gatsby had no interest in anyone’s will but his own and that of his idolatrous love. Jesus only said or did what the Father commanded.

The great Jay Gatsby’s influence lasted as long as the influence of the alcohol he served (during Prohibition, I might add). Jesus influence is still increasing and is eternal.

Now tell me, which of these men was great?

Of course I get that that Gatsby is a fictional character, but in a lot of ways he represents what our world wants to be! And I want for you all to see the folly of this desire.

This all proves even further that the Gospel is not the product of the mind of God; men don’t think like this! Men don’t dream up religions where the deity figure comes in humility to serve, where He comes to redeem us. Men dream up religions where we conquer by strength and capitalize on people as servants to us, resources to be used up. This is a hallmark of most world religions today, but it’s antithetical to Christianity.

Students, if you wish to be great, you must start with what Jesus has said. Only by obedience to what He has said can you ever achieve real happiness, let alone greatness in His kingdom.

Thankfulness and the Trivium

The following remarks were presented at our recent Information Night for prospective families.

What is missing most in most education? For me, my public schooling was more like a week-old donut hole: bite-size, dry, and missing much of the context. I missed many great books, in part because I didn’t read what I was assigned and in part because significant others weren’t assigned. I missed a definition of revolution and how our war against the British wasn’t properly one. I missed logic–formal and in blue jeans. These are just samples. But what I missed most was teaching to thankfulness.

We learned things but we didn’t have anyone to thank. To be consistent with the materialistic, evolutionary worldview that drove what we did, learning shouldn’t have been fun, it was merely in order to survive and advance. But if God created all things and sustains them by His Word, then every page of every lesson and every fact on earth is a gift. That’s how to get kids excited. Unwrap the present that is parts of speech and scientific classification and counting by tens and A Tale of Two Cities and see the tag “From: God.”

This is the advantage of Christian education. The Christian God gives. More than blindfolding students from unrighteousness in the world, teachers at a Christian school work to open eyes to see God’s glory in the world. We give thanks for Christ and through Christ and to Christ. Not anything that was made was not made by Him. It’s all His. He rules it. He cares about it. He gives it to us to enjoy and use.

So Christian education is not only learning the Bible but also learning how to see all the things we have to be thankful for. (And perhaps learning how to not end sentences with prepositions. Or split infinitives.)

How do we get all of it in? We can’t. We’re finite. But what kid rejects a gift because it is too big for his hands? We try to get a hold of as much as we can, and the process we use at our school is the Trivium. Here is the advantage of classical education as it follows the “three ways.”

The Grammar stage is nonstop collecting, ubiquitous capture, building mental shelves and loading them. During the elementary years we teach the ABCs and 1+1s and Genesis one and Romans one and details about wars and who won. The students drink up as much as possible from the ocean of knowable things. But it tastes sweet because it’s gift for which we can be grateful. The 10 Commandments, Egyptian history, Latin declensions, math investigations, Narnia, these are all notes and lyrics and parts for our songs.

At this age, one readily…rejoices in the chanting of rhymes and the rumble and thunder of unintelligible polysyllables; one enjoys the mere accumulation of things. (Dorothy Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning”)

For example, this year our grammar students in Bible class are learning a ten minute song from Genesis to Joshua that includes events and dates and Bible chapter for the six days of creation, the call of Abraham, Joseph as a slave in Egypt, the plagues, the Exodus, and the Ten Commandments. Our kindergarten students are learning a rhyming rap about counting by tens. Our second year Latin students are translating Green Eggs and Ham (or Virent Ova! Viret Perna!). This is a lot of work, but it is not burdensome because we receive it as good from God.

Next comes the Logic stage, a phase that trains for attentive assessment. We do not often think of a junior higher as distinguished, but we can help him to be a distinguisher. Students learn formal logic, a thing to be thankful for itself, as a way to spot lies in what the world says to be thankful for (i.e., personal autonomy) and what the world says not to be thankful for (i.e., God’s laws). Students take the store of information they’ve collected and dissect it, debate over it, and come to some conclusions about thankfulness.

It will, doubtless, be objected that to encourage young persons at the Pert age to browbeat, correct, and argue with their elders will render them perfectly intolerable. My answer is that children of that age are intolerable anyhow; and that their natural argumentativeness may just as well be canalized to good purpose as allowed to run away into the sands. (Sayers)

The Rhetoric stage is persuasive presentation, not learning to dress up like an insincere salesmen but rather learning to adorn the truth and win others to thankfulness for it. Not only can students avoid being manipulated by advertisers and media propaganda, they can articulate the truth better.

The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
(Proverbs 16:23)

This year our older students have read works such as Pilgrim’s Progress, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and others to see what rhetoric looks like driving down the road. We recently read The Communist Manifesto and observed how it argued for a worldview of envy, not thankfulness.

Is this classical approach to education (the Trivium) particularly Christian? It is when it runs on the energy of gratitude and to the goal of gratitude. That said, we acknowledge that unbelievers can and do learn and teach many things. We even know how that’s possible.

Common grace is what happens when God allows non-believers to participate in and enjoy that which could not be true if their view of the universe were true. Common grace is the blessing that results when God allows non-believers to be inconsistent. (Doug Wilson, Why Christian Kids Need a Christian Education)

Non-Christians can give thanks, but they can’t give thanks consistently. And Christians can only give thanks consistently because of the evangel (a great name for a school). The gospel frees us from discontent and opens our eyes to see God. We are thankful for open eyes, and we are thankful for all the things our now open eyes see that God has given.

Thankfulness keeps us sharp, always receiving (from God who doesn’t stop giving), always discerning (from the world who doesn’t stop lying, or from our own sin that keeps whining), and always declaring. Following the Trivium we learn how to keep learning, in particular, how to keep growing in our appreciation for truth, goodness, and beauty.

Classical Christian education isn’t a bore or a chore. It keeps kids interested because it’s all for them and shapes their loyalties to the Father of lights who gives every perfect gift. For that we can be thankful.

Three Reasons to Laugh

Hello! School starts tomorrow, which is very exciting. This morning I sent our teachers an email and kicked it off with some reminders for my own heart and mind. Sean suggested I post it for our own collective thinking, so here goes. The following is an excerpt from that email:


I admit it: Right now I am in a business-sort of go mode. Even the tone of this email is business-y. That’s not bad, but it’s perhaps too easy. Being perpetually serious is easy; being joyful requires fighting. Our motto reminds us of this: laughter is war. And it’s a good thing, because we need constant reminding.

Without question, one of the most powerful instruments of my growth in recent years has been the relentless, ruthless understanding that Christ wants happy warriors. Constantly sad or despairing Christians misrepresent Christ. We have no ultimate cause to despair. The outcome of the war has already been determined, but our world is like the Shire that still needed to be scoured of filth even after the Ring had been destroyed. The enemy’s destruction had been secured, and that victory needed to be applied in Middle Earth. The same is true for us.

The enemy’s efforts to squash our joy and thwart the plan of God are – as Jim Martin said recently – like trying to douse a grease fire with water. It spreads the fire and multiplies the flames. We can be frustrated, but we ought not despair. Instead, we should laugh. Our enemy hates that and covers his ears like the monster Grendel when he heard the din of merriment issuing from Hrothgar’s mead hall, Heorot.

Another reason we should laugh is because it separates us from the world. The world is mostly sad, angry, or at least blasé. Christians’ joy should distinguish us from the world. When we cannot laugh, we look the same as much of the dying world around us. When we laugh, we give off a pungent aroma of life.

One more. We should laugh because we want to make the world jealous. This is not a sort of jealously that makes us look good, but rather that shows off Christ (not that He needs any help). They should want what we have, not because of us, but because of Him. We want to be able to have and maintain a supernatural happiness regardless of our circumstances – something the world cannot do. And that should be evident by our laughter.

So join me in smirking today. As you’re working and partying and resting and exercising and playing and preparing, keep laughter high in your throat, ready for a quick release. You’ll actually be happier. :)

The Door

I gave the following address at our end-of-year assembly on June 5th.

This year Mr. Sarr, Mr. Bowers, and myself (on Thursdays) read for you 100 Cupboards and Dandelion Fire during lunch. The Chestnut King is next and I’m sure it’s first in the queue for lunch breaks next year. N.D. Wilson’s trilogy works wonders for the imagination and I wonder if any of you have tried out the cupboards at your house to see if they lead anywhere amazing.

Henry York discovered a route to other worlds by accident. Then he learned how to go where he wanted with the help of Grandfather’s journals. If he set both compass locks in his room to the right numbers, then the back of the cupboard in Grandfather’s bedroom opened to whole chapters of stories. Badon Hill. Byzantium. FitzFaeren. Endor. Beautiful places. Bad places. Places for battle. Places of roots.

The Chronicles of Narnia tap a similar other-worldly vein. To get to Narnia at first, Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy pressed through the back of a wardrobe. They couldn’t always get it to open. Sometimes the way was blocked. But Narnia held lifetimes of stories.

Wouldn’t you like to have one of these cupboards or closets in your house? Or at least know a friend who did? What if you didn’t have to wait for plaster to fall from the wall and find it by accident? What if you could go any and every time you wanted?

I am not asking these questions to tease you. I do want work up your hopes, but not in order to crush them. I’m not trying to trick you so that I can tell you to: “Grow up. Stop day-dreaming for make-believe places. Start living in the real world.” I am asking these questions because, if you’re interested, I might be able to help.

I’ve been doing some reading and I’ve been doing some looking around. I found the door. It’s here, at the school. If you want, I’ll tell you where it is and, if you want, you can go through it and spend your entire summer break in another world. You can live like Henry York Maccabee or Penelope or Anastasia or Uncle Frank or Aunt Dotty. Do you want to know which door it is?

It’s that one.1door

“Now wait a minute,” one of you says, “I’ve gone out that door over a hundred times this last year. That door leads to a concrete sidewalk and an asphalt parking lot.” You’re right. But maybe you’re not looking at it quite right.

The reality is that the greatest adventures are not the ones you choose but the ones that God writes for you. The best stories aren’t always the ones that shock you like sticking a paperclip in an electrical socket, but they will still put a charge into you. Will you see it? That’s the question.

G.K. Chesterton helps us to tumble our mental combination locks into the right place.

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. (All Things Considered, 41)

This springs from an essay he wrote titled, “On Running after One’s Hat.” Men think that chasing their hat in the wind is a headache, a hassle, a bother. Why? Why not see it as a delightful and fun game? Why not join the game and play? Do you suppose that once you walk out that door, something (or someone) will be a bother to you at some point this summer? If yes, then you are ready for an adventure.

In another essay (“On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family”) Chesterton observes,

A man has control over many things in his life; he has control over enough things to be the hero of a novel. But if he had control over everything there would be so much hero that there would be no novel. (Heretics, 83)

The things are that out of our control make for the great stories. Gilbert argues that the most out-of-our-control elements, (so, according to him, the place where stories come alive), are found on our street, with our neighbors and with our family. Think about your family first.

When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we also step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which could do without us, into a world which we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family, we step into a fairy-tale. (82)

He also addresses why it is so much more exciting to live on our own streets then to take a trip to Timbuktu in search of adventure. Some men (and kids) want to travel, want to explore far-off places thinking that there they will find thrill and escape boredom. A boy such as that

says he is fleeing from his street because it’s dull; he is lying. He is really fleeing because it is a great deal too exciting. It is exciting because it is exacting. It is exacting because it is alive. (78)

The real adventure is living with and interacting with the ones you can’t get away from. The stuff of stories is loving your neighbor, the ones out your own front door.

We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor. (79)

God also makes your brother. And your sister. And your mom and dad. God will appoint each of you to backseats of cars or on benches around kitchen tables with beings who will live forever. That’s wild. There is a catch, though. You only have a short time to enjoy the ride.

You will go out that door and away from school for three months. What stories will you have to tell when you return? Epic love for those who weren’t kind to you? Heroic endurance of cleaning your room until every thumb’s width is organized? Poetic joy, a Tolkien like song about your faithfulness to obey your parents?

May God protect you and bless the pages of your summer chapter, raggants included.

  1. Any ol’ door will work. At this point in my address I pointed to our customary point of entrance and exit.

A Good Egg

I gave the following address at our school’s fundraising dinner last Saturday night.

wheat fieldphoto from mirianda

It’s been said that a man shouldn’t put all his eggs in one basket. That assumes, really, that all your eggs are of equal value. Putting a bunch of unremarkable eggs into a bunch of baskets diversifies a portfolio of unremarkable investments.

But what if you found the egg? What if you found the treasure of all eggs? What would you do to secure it for yourself? How much would you be willing to spend to make it yours? Would you still prefer multiple baskets of low-budget eggs rather than owning one of ultimate value?

Once upon a time a young man was working in a field. As he drove his ox into a far corner one summer afternoon, the plow hit something hard. He didn’t find an egg, he found a nest egg. He unearthed years of dirt from a box full of some families’ future, buried by them long ago to protect their fortune. He could hardly believe it. Here was treasure enough for generations. He quickly recovered the trunk and ran for home.

Early the next morning he pursued the purchase of the entire field. The asking price was a number too large to fit in his financial books. What would he do?

Jesus told a one-verse-long version of this story that Matthew recorded for us.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44, ESV)

Different sources provide conflicting positions, but it seems that the law usually gave ownership to the finder. In this situation, however, the finder may have been an employee of the landowner. He may have been concerned that his boss, the owner of the field, would also claim ownership of the treasure. In order to close every loophole and leave no legal doubt, the finder sold everything he had in order to buy the field.

He had to liquidate his assets, which must have taken some time. As the days passed and others watched him sell off all his possessions, I wonder if anyone counseled him against it, or if anyone else criticized his foolishness. To most it must have appeared that he had no idea what he was doing, though it was their evaluation that was uniformed. The investment demanded everything and yet what he gave up was nothing compared to what he got in return.

Likewise, when the true treasure of the kingdom of heaven is found, that value surpasses the price of any sacrifice. Turns out that not all eggs are of equal value.

Classical Christian education is not the same thing as the kingdom of heaven, but it is part of it. The kingdom of heaven isn’t only a personal relationship with Jesus, it is new life in a new community under new management. At Evangel Classical School we are trying to enculturate (pass on a culture) at each stage of our student’s development so that they can love the King, serve the King, and represent the King in everything they do. His kingdom is everywhere. Jesus rules over more than Bible class and personal quiet times. He owns everything. He has vested interest in how we work, create, dress, play, sing, and sweat. He cares about how we interact with our neighbors and with other nations. Everything in life takes its cue from who is King.

Much has been made in the church about worship wars, fights among Christians about song styles on Sunday mornings. Much has also been made by the church about culture wars, fights with non-Christians about what is acceptable, the morals our society is supposed to agree to abide by. But really, all of it is a worship war and every school is a worship center.

G.K. Chesterton summed it up simply:

We have a general view of existence, whether we like it or not; it alters or, to speak more accurately, it creates and involves everything we say or do, whether we like it or not. (Heretics, 132)

In our inescapable “general view of existence,” what God will be recognized? What God/god gets credit for math, history, science, English, art? The nameless god of the state? The great god of the mirror, Humanism? Or the Lord Jesus Christ? Who gets the worship?

The treasure is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven involves life in Christ, with Christ, and for Christ. Purchasing the field isn’t referring to the price of salvation but rather about the cost of discipleship. That discipleship affects every facet of our lives: how we vote, how we write poetry, how we tell stories, how we relate.

The government schools want to define the treasure and regulate how we walk in the field and police what height we bolt our drinking fountains to the wall. They tell us that the treasure is naturalism; science and technology and opposable thumbs answer all of life’s questions. Other education experts say that there is no treasure, or that everyone’s treasure is the same. And whatever you do, please don’t use red pen to mark wrong answers. It might hurt someone’s feelings.

But we Christians know the Creator of the stuff, and it is wrong not to acknowledge Him all the time. We know the God who makes and sustains and liberates. We know the One in whom all things hold together, the One who gives meaning to flesh and blood life on earth. Knowing Him and living in His kingdom is treasure.

The work is not first about educating our kids, or changing our country, but honoring our King. It costs us everything we have. And we don’t know how good we have it.

The school is like an owner’s group with families of believers pooling their resources to buy-in together to get the treasure. The treasure is the kingdom of heaven, and we want that glad worldview that sees everything under the good rule of our King.

This is what we’re doing week after week at ECS. The treasure is worth it. It is a joy to pursue it, but the field costs more than we can afford. The treasure (again, living consciously as the King’s servants and stewards) will shape generations. It will pay for itself, but not immediately and not necessarily in dollars. While trying to keep tuition as affordable as possible for as many as possible, we have asked our teachers–especially our part-time teachers–to work for little pay, though hopefully great reward. Each teacher and parent is giving what he or she has for sake of the treasure.

Time, tears, training, jump ropes, prayers, reading, more reading, more tears, and dollars, are going into this purchase. Would you consider helping us? This is a treasure for you, too. This treasure will serve children and parents and grandchildren and grandparents and neighbors and churches and business owners and mayors and more for years. Again, we could use your help.

Don’t take tonight’s word for it. Come and visit. Pick up some books on what it is exactly that we’re trying to put into place, the part of the treasure we’re referring to. Do all the above and then consider a monetary investment so that we can share the treasure with more families, so that we can get the field in order.

This is–when we can catch our breath for a second–our joy. It is the point of the parable (as well as the point of the pearl of greatest price next door in verses 45-46): when you find what is most valuable, giving up everything is gladness to get it. Discipleship in the kingdom of heaven is worth all our lives.

Unlike the parable, we aren’t concealing the treasure, we’re advertising it. We aren’t keeping the treasure for ourselves, we want more people to have it. This isn’t an individual betterment, it is for the community.

We are not asking for you to give so that we won’t have to. It is our joy to sell what we have to buy the field. So again, we are not asking you to fund in our place, we are asking you to join us in the joy. This is one egg that’s worth it.

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

In Omnibus II, we are learning about comedies and tragedies.  Tragic stories generally move from a state of stability or normalcy to a sad (tragic) conclusion.  They’re often characterized by death and destruction.  On the other hand, comedies generally move from bad to good, and they end happily (though not necessarily hilariously).  A good example would be the glorious story of the redemption of mankind and the victory of Christ.

This is why we can call the day on which Christ was murdered Good Friday.  The greatest comedy in history looks at first blush like a tragedy.

In truth, Good Friday was the darkest day that the world had ever seen, when the incarnate (i.e., in-the-flesh) Son of God became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) – and was punished – for our sake, and the blackened sky reflected this tragedy (Matthew 27:45). How is this a good thing?

Well, it all starts with a problem.

The Great Problem

For as long as men have been around, they’ve known that they’re spiritual creatures. We know in our hearts that there is an eternal aspect to our existence: the soul, the spirit, the part that does not die when our bodies do. And we know that we have been created, not that we are the result of generations of cosmic and biological happenstance. Any efforts to deny this are ultimately folly, since God has written this truth on our hearts. (See Romans 1:18-3:20 for an indictment of a race that “knows” God, whatever we may say.) We know it, but we often deny it, insisting that God doesn’t exist and that there is no objective standard for our behavior.

What's So Good About Friday?

What’s more, these same men have always known that if there is life after death – and there is – then that is bad news for us, because we are – at best – imperfect. We’ve tried from early in our existence to pacify the gods. We’ve made gods like us, but better, more like we wish we could be. They’re eternal. Big. But they’re also angry, adulterous, murderous, and capricious. These gods (read: demons) demand things of us that reflect their hatred of us and their hatred of the One Whose image we bear. In our errant worship, we destroy our souls.

Men’s sacrifices to the gods of this world and even the True God of Scripture as He commanded in the Old Testament testify to one common theme that God has written on our hearts: sin requires sacrifice. Sin is an infinite violation of God’s holy standard, and requires an infinite payment. This is where the situation gets still more dire: men are not capable of offering a payment for their sins that is sufficient to pay for their sins. A lifetime in hell paying for sins is not long enough to change a soul’s status from sinful to sinless. No time spent in hell can undo what’s been done. Our righteousness is not righteous enough. We literally need the righteousness of Another. And we were given that righteousness on Good Friday.

The Great Solution

At the cross on Good Friday, the God-Man Jesus Christ died a death for sinners. He paid a penalty that was sufficient to pay for the sins of all who would believe in Him. As a Man, He could pay for the sins of Man. As sinless God (without any sin of His own), He could pay for the sins of many men. He took our sins on Himself while we took His righteousness. It’s called the double transfer. Our sin was transferred to Him; His righteousness was transferred to us. He died with our sins, bearing the wrath of the Father.

But the story gets better.

The following Sunday morning – on Easter! – Jesus rose again from the grave! This is a cause for celebration for many reasons. For now, I’ll cite two:

  • It signified that the work of paying for sins was complete. If Jesus were still in the grave, the the payment for our sins would still be in process, and we would have no hope or certainty that the wrath of God had been satisfied.
  • Jesus conquered death. Death has no power over Jesus, and neither shall it have any power over His followers.

So we call it Good Friday, and rightly so. What appeared to be a defeat at the hands of sin and the devil turned out to be a glorious victory over sin, the devil and death. It is because of the work of Christ on Good Friday that we can be in relationship with the God of Scripture, that we can have any hope in the face of death. When Christians die, we go to heaven not because we have been good enough in this life, but because Christ has worked on our behalf, giving us His righteousness.

You may be wondering at this point if or how this righteousness of Christ applies to you. Well, let me encourage you with the following common Christian confessions:

  • Jesus is Lord of all (Romans 10:9).
  • God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).
  • Jesus is the only way to the Father (Acts 4:12).
  • I am a sinner who needs to be saved from the consequences of my own sins and decisions. God alone can save me.
  • Jesus’ payment for my sins on the cross is enough.
  • I love God and want to know Him more and live in obedience to His commands.

If you also confess these things, then you can know – as certainly as God’s Word is true – that you may have a relationship with God forever as His adopted child.

May these truths give you plenty of reason to celebrate and declare God’s goodness this Easter and always.

Four Days Per Week in 2014-2015

It’s been some time since our last news post, though there’s been plenty going on at ECS.

We are excitedly making plans for next school year, and we have an Information Night coming up for prospective families, as well. I thought I’d apprise you all of one major change for next year that we’ll be announcing more completely at the Information Night, namely this:

ECS will meet for school-at-school four days per week starting in fall 2014.

Now, some explanation.

From fall 2011 when we started making plans and decisions regarding the school (which started in fall of 2012), our desire was to be a five-day-per-week day school. However, given our specific set of circumstances, this was not feasible for us year one. So we started by meeting for three days, having parents administer lessons (prescribed by the teachers) at home on Mondays and Fridays. That’s what we have done for the first two years, in fact.

We are ready, we think, to take the next step and add another day.

Some of the finer details are still in the works, as we still need to coordinate with the church from whom we rent our meeting space. But as of right now, we are looking at meeting Tuesday through Friday. Also, we will likely have the kindergarteners continue to attend three days per week (probably Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday).

That’s as much as we can say right now, though we’re excited to be able to say that much.

We hope you can come to our Information Night, where we’d be glad to entertain your questions as best we are able.

Risus est bellum!


Worship and Warfare: Making Grendel and the Devil Cranky…through Song

Worship is a weapon, and singing is powerful. It’s true.

Many Christians today have no idea of the power inherent in singing God’s praises and thanking Him corporately. For Old Testament Israel, God required that they feast! That is, He required that they celebrate and make merry as they wage a full-scale war on gods of this world, and that’s what happens when we sing.

In Omnibus II, we have been reading the famous epic poem Beowulf. In it, the poet describes the villain Grendel (descended from Cain) in grand style, and particularly what makes him so grumpy. His language reflects an awareness of the relationship between good and evil that escapes many of us today:

Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark,
nursed a hard grievance. It harrowed him
to hear the din of the loud banquet
every day in the hall, the harp being struck
and the clear song of a skilled poet
telling with mastery of man’s beginnings,
how the Almighty had made the earth
a gleaming plain girdled with waters;
in His splendor He set the sun and the moon
to be earth’s lamplight, lanterns for men,
and filled the broad lap of the world
with branches and leaves; and quickened life
in every other thing that moved.

You read that right: What maddens Grendel above all else is the merriment coming from the mead-hall and the singing! And more specifically, he hates the singing about God and His creative work.

And though Grendel is a fictitious monster, he represents devilish creatures everywhere, including the prince of darkness himself. Our enemy hates the God of Heaven, and hates all those who are made in His image. He hates it when we are happy and he hates it when we declare to the world His goodness. He hates it when we celebrate His works and he hates it when we proclaim His word.

And we can do all of this in our singing. We sing words like these:

The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure:
One little word shall fell Him.

(A Mighty Fortress is Our God, verse 3)

And when we do sing like this, we can be sure that the enemy is “nursing a hard grievance.” May we bear in mind that our worship is warfare.