Thursday, November 15, 2007

Education is Books

Well, maybe education is not simply books but it is quite clearly learning to read books. Learning to read involves more than just phonics. I am still learning how to read. But Carlyle's insight into how education has changed over the years is very helpful to us.

Have a look at any home school curriculum guide or brochure. The shear number of materials is mind boggling. I am very thankful that having another option in education has produced such a vast array, if not dizzying array of educational materials. This is a good thing.

However, many home schoolers lose the forest for the trees in the same way that their local government schools do or even their well-meaning Christian school does. The result is a frenetic approach to education that can be a detriment to real learning as well as to home and church life.

What is the goal of education?

Carlyle says this, "If we think of it, all a University, or final highest school can do for us, is still what the first school began doing,-- teach us to read. We learn to read, in various languages, in various sciences; we learn the alphabet and letters of all manner of Books. But the place where we are to get knowledge, even theoretic knowledge, is the Books themselves! It depends on what we read, after all manner of Professors have done their best for us. The true University of these days is a Collection of Books." (emphasis his)


Motivated by the reading of Rory Stewart, I have been making my way through Thomas Carlyle's essays on heroes. They are very good. Some of his heroes may bother you but keep plowing through. He has some good things to say and in saying them, it becomes clear to one that our times have changed, that our ideas of heroes, or even the concept of real heroes, has dramatically changed.

Carlyle's preeminent virtue among all of his heroes is sincerity. He gives Mahomet, Rousseau and even Nitzsche high marks for being sincere. Part of this is certainly true. A man is nothing less than a rogue if he is not sincere. If he is manipulating people for anything less than his own sincere belief, then he ought not to be considered anybody's hero. I grant that much.

But what of the man who is sincerely wrong? And not wrong is some superficial triviality but wrong in the big things? Wrong in the pursuit of God? Wrong in the application of government? Wrong in the necessity of reformation or even of revolution?

Carlyle forgives much as long as the man possesses this great virtue of sincerity. Of course, we are those who stand on the truth of Scripture in the ultimate things. But Carlyle is driving at something other than that in these lectures. He is driving at what makes a great man great, whether famous or infamous. And to that end, his lectures are well worth reading.

Not Dead

It's been a while. I've not been idle. I promise. I hope that means that I have been busy but I fear that it really means that I have simply been too inefficient.

Our school year is off and running. Our church is doing well. The wind is blowing. The temperatures are falling and thanksgivings fill the air.

God is always good.

He has blessed me with a new schedule; one I hope will enable me to be more productive.

We'll see.

Projects purposed include finishing the running posts and doing some more work on the child rearing booklet.

Lord willing, those posts will be forthcoming.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Exhortation-Loving God

We like to flatter ourselves that ourselves that our faith is believing and that believing somehow means simply hearing or assenting. But the Scriptures hold us to a much higher standard.

1 John 4:20-21 20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

You cannot love God and hate your brother. Even here, we flatter ourselves, thinking that we do not have ill, seething feelings towards our brother. But hatred often does not look like ill, seething emotions or even words. Sometimes it comes out in calm or even flattering speech.
Some Christians so flatter themselves that if they SAY nice things then they must be nice. And if they are nice, then they must somehow be a disciple of Jesus. This is the ‘good people’ theory. They are just ‘good people’. But God does not allow for this kind of hypocrisy when the same lips that utter nice words in order to be heard by certain people also utter despising words to other people.

Also, when someone fancies themselves spiritual because they can write spiritual words, God is not mocked when that same person is attracted the world’s allurements, whether money, beautiful things, power, sex, prestige, honor at the world’s table, or many other sins. God sees. God knows. It is just that a hypocrite doesn’t really care if God sees or God knows. They are only playing their game for the eyes of watching men. This is why this person has a hard time being obedient when the restraints of coercive power are removed. When mother and father, husband, minister or friends stop applying the pressure to do what is right, they slip off into sinful behavior, proving what their heart was all along.

We are all prone to this kind of sin. I am not saying that we are all hypocrites but it is true that without God’s ordained means of grace and authority, we would be much more likely to fall into these kinds of sins. We need the authority of fathers and mothers, husbands, ministers and friends to keep us from following our sinful inclinations. These are God’s means of grace to us. But we also need to realize our own sinful inclinations, confess them and repent of them. So that, when we find ourselves free from any coercive powers, we then choose to do what is right because it is right, because it pleases the Lord, because we are following the Holy Spirit.

James 1:22 22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Brothers and sisters, do not be deceived, love of God reveals itself in your behavior. That love is expressly revealed by loving your closest neighbors. If you want to measure how much you love God, all you have to do is see how you treat your wife or husband, your children, your parents. To the extent that you have not loved them well, you have not loved Him well. So, let us confess our lack of love of God for our lack of love for them that God may forgive us and enable us to love deeply, as Jesus loved, giving Himself a sacrifice for others.

Communion Mediation-Head and Body

Lately, we have been talking a great deal about being in fellowship with the saints, serving them, loving them. It is what we emphasize repeatedly here at the Lord’s Table, Communion, the Eucharistic meal. We are to be in fellowship with God and with His people. The one loaf signifies not only the broken body of Jesus, broken for us, but also the body of Jesus shared communally with all of us. Our unity in Jesus is a reality. Jesus is the one loaf but we also are the one loaf. He is the head of the body, the church, but we are the body of Christ, the church. The one loaf represents Christ, head and body.

Now, something is powerfully wrong when there are divisions and strife in the body of Christ. What is supposed to be a unified body becomes a divided body. This is what was happening in Corinth when the apostle Paul warned that some of them were sick and even had died because of how they partook of the Lord’s Supper.

The supper is a wonderful gift to the church, a place and an action wherein we receive the thing signified in the sign. We receive Jesus as we eat and drink together. How shameful is it when we parcel Him out, only wanting certain portions of the body of Christ, receiving some and not others, maintaining bitterness, withholding forgiveness, thinking of oneself above others. These are the kinds of sins, the not discerning the Lord’s Body, that was a great problem in the Corinthian Church. They did not recognize that the gathered saints were the earthly manifestation of Christ with us. This is a very great sin and one that we ought not to make.

So, it is fitting that we look around, that we see who is here, that we rejoice with them for partaking in Jesus. It is good for us to let all pretenses go at this meal, to humble ourselves before the Lord as unworthy in ourselves to even be here. And yet rejoicing that He has invited the likes of us to partake of this great meal with Jesus. If we are humble this way, if we see this rightly, then it is easy for us to esteem others more highly than ourselves. When we do this, we have become like Jesus, which is the goal of our Christian faith, which is the great blessing of this meal.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Communion Meditation-Spilt Wine

Spilt milk does not disinherit one from the family. In some families, spilt milk means no dinner. But that is to the shame of that sort of father.

What spilt milk ought to mean is that the child needs milk. They are little and the cup is too big, or they are have a hard time paying attention to all the details, or they are just too clumsy.
But even fathers spill milk, too. But they almost always do so with an excuse. “Oops, my fingers are all buttery from the corn.” Or, with a cross look at an adjacent and innocent child, “Who put my cup right there?”

My question to you is, “Who is causing schism at the family table when milk is spilt by a little toddler? The child or the angry father? It is manifestly NOT the child.

Spilt milk, spilt happily, displays the unity of the family. It displays the welcome of children and the maturity of mother and father, brothers and sisters. Instead of thinking, “I can’t believe Billy would disrespect our table that way!”, everyone should be thinking, with a smile on their face, “I remember when I used to do that almost every night.”

My wife mentioned to a visitor, how she loves to see the wine on the pages of our communion songs. She received a bit of a surprised look. I suppose Presbyterians ought not to spill their wine on the Psalter.

But we ought not to cry over spilt wine. In fact, we ought to laugh and remember when we were just babies and wine was something we had to get used to. We ought to remember when it was hard to hold it and hard to wait for everybody else. But then we learned to discern the Lord’s body. And when we saw them waiting, we waited, too, because we knew that we were of them. And we ought to remember the times we were cross at the spilt wine and had to repent because we caused a little one to stumble.

But Jesus is kind to us. He gives us bread. He gives us wine. He gives us each other. He gives us little children and He builds our faith to be like their’s. So, let us eat and drink, crumble and dribble, drop and spill, grow and mature, all to His glory.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Potter Putter

The other day, Leah and I were engrossed in our HP books. Our five year old Calvin was watching us, sort of sad at the loss of his playmates.

He disapparated.

After a while we hear Rebecca question him upstairs, "How do you like Harry Potter, Cal?"

"It's good, got throgh the first page at the Dursley's."

He started Harry Potter 1 to see if he can catch up with the family.

Harry Potter Pages-No Spoilers

Interesting tidbit.

Since last Friday, my family has read 4758 pages of Harry Potter 7, The Deathly Hallows.

Six of eight of us have finished the book. We are eagerly waiting on mom to finish so we can have an all out family discussion.

No spoiler here, it's good.

More to say in a week or two when you all should have finished reading the book.


James 4:1-11 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Our opening Scripture and prayer spoke of peace. Peace is so wonderful. With peace, we can worship, think, enjoy and love. Peace is the wonderful fruit of maturity. Maturity in a home, maturity in a church, maturity in a business or maturity in a government.

But we have a bit of a problem with the way we seek to obtain peace. We think that peace needs to happen somewhere out there. And in order for it to happen out there, the way to peace is imposed. Peace comes through conflict and conquest. We even have a historic word for it, a Pax Romana, or Roman peace, an imposed peace through strength.

In pagan societies and in devlish behavior, this is true. Peace can be and is imposed from the outside. But that kind of peace only lasts as long as the coercion. Throw off the coercion and revolution and anarchy ensue until another peace is imposed. But in Christ, this entire way of worldly thinking is inverted. Peace is not imposed by the stronger. Rather, it comes by subduing ones own desires, even desires that may be good in themselves. It looks to the good of others, rather than to personal advancement over and above others. Peace is not something that is conquered and obtained. It is something that comes when competing desires are subdued and put in their proper priority and place.

What is the cause of strife among people? Among family members? Among fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in a particular church? Is it not striving? Is it not thinking of yourself foremost and everybody else as also rans? And what if somebody else has something that you desire? Say, a good wife, a nice car, a peaceful home, a seat of honor. What causes your strife with them? Isn’t it the fact that you want what they have? And this causes you to lust to envy? Producing in you all sorts of ungodly, competitive desires?

That is not the way to Christian peace. We do want peace. We want it the way Jesus brought it, through service, self-sacrifice, obedience to the Father’s commands. If we learn this kind of humility, then peace will dwell with us and God will lift us up to the seats of honor. But let it be Him who lifts and not you, yourself. That is the way of the world, the way of the devil and of the flesh. But let us choose the better way, the way of the Spirit, the way of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mimetic Desire

Mimetic Desire, find out about it. More to follow.

As my wise and faithful pastor said, "It's all in Girard."

Exhortation-Loving Discipline

Today, we receive new members into our congregation. The Tuckwiller family, who are members of Christ, are becoming members of this part of the body of Christ. Furthermore, we receive Eden McMaster, through birth and baptism, rebirth, into the body that is Providence Church. We are thankful that our body continues to grow. Growth of the body is a good thing. It makes the body strong, more capable of accomplishment, able to resist disease and sin.

But growth also makes one more capable of sinning, particularly against the family for which one joins. Eden could not have sinned against God or the McMasters a few months ago. But now she is here. She is a gift from God, a tremendous blessing, able to bring joy and delight, laughter and celebration. But she is also fully capable of bringing sadness and sorrow, tears and lamentation.

What will hold her to the former and keep her from the latter? Just this. She has a family. That family belongs to Christ. Therefore she belongs to Christ. This is not something that Eden should fear, as if her father would somehow be a cause of grief to her, instead of blessing. On the contrary, he will love her and teach her how the McMasters live, worship, eat, dress, talk and think. When she disobeys, her father will love her with kindness, hardness, spankings, hugs, tears, forgiveness, restoration, and healing. Without her mother, she would die. Without her father, she would be wanton. Without her brothers and sisters, she would grow eminently self-centered and selfish.

It is not enough for her to say that she has been born into God’s good world. She needs to be born into a godly family and nurtured in all the ways of God through obedience, wisdom, experience and familial expectations. This is a great blessing to her.

I hope you can make all the proper connections to life in the body of Christ. Although the threat of judgment is strong in faithful congregations, the threat of judgment is not the purpose of the relationship. The connection of covenant community is for blessing and not cursing. It is for nurture, growth, accountability, confession, repentance, restoration, healing, service, love, peace and unity. And partly because of the true threat of godly discipline, and the presence of real restorative discipline, all of these wonderful blessings can be enjoyed by the faithful.

Communion Meditation-Wine is Wine

In our bulletin, we say that the wine is wine. That is a true statement. The wine is wine. It almost sounds absurd to say that, the wine is wine, as if we were cracking a joke or something. But nobody in the Christian church seems to think the reverse is funny, the wine is grape juice. Everybody keeps a straight face when that is said. Even though it is a joke. And the kid in the front row who always asks questions just keeps his mouth shut. And the professor rambles ever onward. “You see, this wine was never fermented, so it has a fit use for adults and children. Grape juice, you see, versatile, sweet, able to be swallowed by an adult, loved by children everywhere.”

But in our bulletin it says that the wine is wine. I hear the protests. “But we don’t like wine. It’s too strong. We are not used to it. It makes me gag. It’s a stumbling block. The children are not of age.”

Oh? Who says? Who says that the children cannot partake? Who has made a Christian’s drink and turned it into a drink for kiddees? And who says that children ought not to have wine? Worried schoolmarms? Preachers in skirts? Skirts as preachers? Teetotalers? Prohibitionists? Modern evangelicals? The Bible? Jesus? Who says? By what authority? And who should YOU listen to?

Is it any wonder that the church is so full of babies when we will only give them baby drink? And worse, we won’t even give it to them until they are old enough to not like it so much anymore. But I think that even babies, Christian ones, can hold their wine better than these.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that the church will grow up into maturity if we only start serving wine at communion. But it IS partly true. We need to do what Jesus said to do, everywhere. Even if we do not like it very much. Even if it is strong drink for us. Even if we need to develop a palate worthy of tasting Jesus. Even if the world hates what we do.

We may as well start here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Letters of Augustin

"..but it is the fact that anything which we are taught by allegory or emblem affects and pleases us more, and is more highly esteemed by us, than it would be if most clearly stated in plain terms." Augustin, Letter 55.21

Preachers harken to the wisdom of Augustin. It is hard work to come up with analogies, metaphors and allegories. Easier to say than paint.

Thank the Lord for the story of Scripture with all of its wonderful pictures.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Non-Fiction is True

Some things are counter-intuitive. That just means that you wouldn't have thought of it if somebody didn't tell you. (Double negatives are cool, too.)

I have neck problems. When my neck hurts, I hold it this way and I do not want to hold it that way. But I've found a great booklet (Treat Your Own Neck, McKenzie) that teaches that you need to exercise your neck that way. It works. But it's counter intuitive. I would not have done so unless somebody told me to.

Fiction as truth is sort of the same thing. It is obvious once you see it but otherwise remains a mystery. Many people assume that fiction means 'not true' but that is simply not true. Granted, there are plenty of fiction writers who write things that are mostly not true. But, here's the deal, nobody reads them. The ones who write things that are true are widely read.

But I thought you said it was fiction? Aren't they making it up?

Well, yes, and no.

Good ficiton writers understand the world and in understanding the world they are able to convey truth in a story, in a character, in a situation. Oftentimes, much better than any non-fiction account of a similarly true event.

As a pastor, I sometimes have the privilege of giving counsel. God-words often bounce off the counselee with the same consistent rebound of return volley that said counselee practices on Sunday morning. But a story has a way to penetrate deep into the soul. Especially if the story, the made up story, is painfully true.

Here's another post but I'll give you a teaser. We cannot understand God's story, the Bible, if we cannot even understand a basic story, say C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. We think we understand the truth statements of the Bible but if we are incapable of understanding stories, we really do not understand the Bible. BECAUSE-the Bible IS a story.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 10

Spiritual Spankers

According to Galatians 6:1, only spiritual people get to discipline. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Gal. 6:1) This means that you cannot spank if you are not spiritual. In my opinion, this means that only faithful Christians ought to spank their children. This also shows us that God’s principles work in part even when handled by unbelievers. We all know the well-behaved children of nominal or even of non-Christian parents. While they do not pass the test of being truly spiritual, they are able to copy some of the outward manifestations of spirituality and get a good result. These folks have a strict home and require good behavior. Their expectations are not disappointed.

On the flip side of this, we also know many Christians who apply discipline in a very mechanical and wooden fashion. For them, spanking a child is merely cause and effect. You simply beat the bad behavior out of them. While there is some biblical truth to this (Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Prov 22:15), we don’t only want to beat the bad behavior out of them. We also want to instill the good behavior into them. It is important for parents to have both aspects of this truth in their heads when disciplining children.

Parents, some of you may not be able to spank your children. You are not self-disciplined enough yet to discipline anybody else. This does not mean that you get out of it. Not at all. You need to get with it. You must change your behavior so that you can be obedient to God in molding your children’s behavior.

Spanking ought not to be seen as direct punishment. We do not want the children to pay for their sins, because they cannot do so. We need to remember that we are teaching our children to know and love God, our Father. The entire discipline process should be leading them to discipline in the Lord. This means that they need to learn to do the right thing because they love to do the right thing.

This is essential in our relationship to God. We want to do His will because He loves us and we want to please Him. This is duty bound to love and is the right picture to paint for your children. Furthermore, they need to understand that they cannot earn God’s favor through deeds done or through an expiation of sin. God’s kindness is given to us because He loves us. Because He loves us, He disciplines us. His discipline process shows us how to love Him more.

The same thing is going on with our children. As we discipline them, they begin to learn discipline. And when they learn this discipline well, they are enabled to show their love of us and to us.

We do want them to see the link between bad behavior and bad fruit. We should see discipline and especially spanking as the real fruit of bad behavior and understand that it is a great incentive not just to not do wrong but also and more importantly to do right.

Communion Meditation-Unity of Spirit

We do keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. But sometimes we endeavor to keep the bond of peace in the unity of the spirit. You see, the Spirit is unified. He is one and all of us, in Him are one. Therefore, we can be unified. For, if we are in Christ, through His blood, and by His Spirit, then we are enabled to live peaceably with one another. However, if our first priority is unity of peace, even without the unity of the Spirit, then we will necessarily be at odds one with another. Envy will break out. Factions arise. Bitterness simmers and seathes.

We need to understand this aright. If we seek the unity of the Spirit of God, as revealed to us in His Holy Word, then peace is attainable. If we seek peace, by our own standards, then unity is impossible.

But this is why we are gathered here. In Christ, by His Spirit, we are one. We declare this every Sunday at this table. We are diverse individuals, from different walks of life, with different interests but we are all one family in Christ. This unity is a fact, every bit as much as the unity of the family you were born into before you were born again into this family.

So, recognizing this unity, let us then pursue peace with one another. Families ought not to be at odds with one another. Because of their unity, they must produce peace. They do not produce unity through peace. So, let us see this each week, pray and strive for peace and declare to the world, to one another and to God that the unity of the Spirit is alive and well among us.

Exhortation-Unity by What Standard?

There seems to be a movement these days to unify the church, even a movement within our own CREC and broader circles. This is good but we must make sure that we are unifying in the right way. What are the principles from which this unity is to arise? We have seen many men gather in the name of Christ only to ignore the words of Christ. How can this be? They have failed to listen to the revelation of Christ. We have in these Holy Scriptures the very will of God.

Many men aspire to obedience, but seek to get there on their own steam. We often hear men say things like, “God told me to do this or that thing.” It is assumed that there is no argument against such words. If God has told an individual His specific will for his life, then who are we to contradict? But what if God has told me something different? Then who is the arbiter of this disagreement? Is God so divided that He reveals a will that contradicts itself? This most certainly cannot be. Then how must we know what God is saying to us?

Q.What is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him? A. The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.

Many Christians, in the name of unity, have lost their backbone. We must stand upright as God’s soldiers and fight for the integrity of the Holy Scriptures. We are very prone to say or at least think, “Who’s to say?” when it comes to the folly that is being exhibited in the church today. But our God is not a God of folly. His Word is not compromised. We must commit to being faithful to what God reveals to us in His Holy Word. When we see the truth revealed to us in the Scriptures, we must turn from our own ways, our own understandings, our own feelings, repent of our own hard heartedness and seek to be obedient to His way, His understanding, His feelings, and His heart.

The Scriptures are our only ultimate and infallible guide to our doctrine and practical obedience as Christians. Personal feelings ought to be considered, appreciated and respected. But when they come into conflict to what God has already told us plainly in His Word, we ought to make no bones about stating that those feelings and personal opinions are mistaken. May God grant us boldness to do so. Let us hear the Word of God. Not just words that we nod assent to, but truth that guides us through the darkness of this world.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Bible is a Story

Many Christians do not know what their faith is about or at the most they have a very truncated view of what the faith is. Many spend all their time in the pages of the New Testament only and see the Old Testament as some disconnected bunch of stories that are no longer relevant to their situation.

The Bible is a wonderful compilation of God’s work on behalf of man. There are 66 books written by 40 different authors spanning 2500 years. These books of the Bible cover the first 4000 years of the history of the earth and systematically reveal God’s plan of man’s creation, fall, redemption and glorification.

There are numerous wonderful attributes about the Scriptures. They are clearly God-breathed and can be trusted as God’s testament to us. The continuity of the whole of scripture being derived from such varied sources, places and times is truly remarkable.

In them, we find a wide range of literature, including poetic history, straight historical text, poetry, psalms, proverbial wisdom, epic poetry, fairy tale, erotic love poem, prophecy, and personal letters. Given what the Bible tells us, the fact of its wide range of literature to do so, is a testament of its divine origin.

Many of you have anthologies of poetry or a book of short stories. These books are mostly disconnected collations of different stories, ideals and visions of the authors. For many modern Christians, the Bible seems to be just such a book. But it is not. In fact, the most glorious thing about the Bible is not its wide range of authors and genre, its literary quality, its preservation through history, its universal acceptance as the Word of God, or its systematic propositions of wisdom and theology.

No, the most glorious thing about the Bible is that it uses all of this to tell a story. The Bible, in its most fundamental revelation is a story. It is the story of God and man. Man’s failure and God’s faithfulness. It is the story of God’s creation, man’s fall, and God’s recreation.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Communion Mediation-Covenant

This weekend we have been talking about our favorite theological word, covenant. But I hope that you have begun to see that it is not so much a theological word as it is a relational word. We say this word all the time because we see the imprints of relation everywhere, in the Trinity, in our union with Christ, in our marriage, in our families, in our church. Everywhere we turn, we see the implications of love, loyalty, and faithfulness. As we begin to see this, we realize how truly glorious it is and so we have to put covenant before every noun. But the best noun to put covenant before is God. For He truly is a covenant making and covenant keeping God. He initiates and we reciprocate.

There is a covenant of love in the Godhead itself. The Triunal persons express love and faithfulness, one to another. And this love and faithfulness spills out of the Godhead all over His people. We are the recipients of His love and of His faithfulness to us. Because of this, we can then express love and faithfulness to God, to our wives and children and to all the saints gathered here.

What we do here at this table is an expression of the Covenant between God and us as a people. But it is not just that corporate expression. Because of that corporate covenant, we are able to love one another within that covenant. So, this meal is also an expression of the covenant between brothers and sisters in Christ. Thus, we eat together communing with God and with one another through the Holy Spirit and we express the love of God and His faithfulness to us and the love of the brotherhood and our faithfulness to one another. This is living in covenant with God. This is living in covenant with each other. What a privilege to celebrate and practice this truth here each Lord’s Day.

Communion Mediation-Trinitarian Love

We have mentioned many times that one of the central aspects of communion is the communal aspect. A communion of saints is a body of saints that commune. We even have a word with mostly a negative connotation nowdays that describes a group of people who gather to live together. We call it a commune.

Often times, communes are places where the desires of the one leader are expressed and carried out, sometimes with scary results. The problem there, especially if it is an attempt at a Christian commune, is that the people lose sight of the way in which God is declared and expressed.

God is trinity in unity. We are to express that character here in our lives together, in communion, in our commune, if you will. But that expression is not in everybody trying to be the same, or in everybody trying to do exactly what one earthly leader demands. The body of Christ should be a community expressive of diversity in union.

This means that part of what we celebrate here is all the differences that are among us. We want those differences, different personalities, different gifts, different perspectives. But we do not want those differences to drive us apart. We need to rejoice in them and submit all of them to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is our common interest and the One who gathers our diverse persons into one new man, Christian, and one new expression of life together, the Church.

I say this so that you can learn to look at our differences differently. As long as the differences bother you, then they will simply be reasons to separate, not congregate. But we are the congregation of the Lord. Do not be bothered by our differences but enjoy them. Do not expect everyone to be just like you but be glad that they are not. It is only when we see this and rejoice in it that we can truly express the nature of God and stand in a unity of spirit and a bond of peace.

And when you come to this table, you need to understand that Jesus is welcoming you and your neighbor and your quirkies and his, too. And that as long as Jesus receives Him this way, so should you. This is no apologetic for sin. We must confess and repent. But it is a great message of comfort for sinners, for they are the only ones that are invited to eat here with Jesus. So, come, one and all as all and one.

Joy of Humility

We are invited into the presence of the Almighty God. Will we come? And when we come, do we come with the eager expectation of undeserving humility? Or with the lackluster futility of merited pride?

You see, the Lord’s blessed ones, those whom He initially chose, rejected His favor and incurred His wrath. But those who were wicked in every way, turned to God when His kindness shown upon them. They knew that they did nothing to earn His favor and yet there it was anyway. All of their actions had called out for His wrath but He brought them grace in Jesus Christ. How could such men, women and children do anything but take heart, rejoice and come?

But the firstborn sons were jealous of their younger brothers. The invited guests were envious of those extras that filled the wedding seats. That was back then and we were the younger brother, the uninvited guests, but now we have become the sons of privilege. We might tend to think highly of ourselves. We say, "Well, they were broken off that we might be grafted in." We have become the children of the Most High God. The promises are to us and to our children. Perhaps now, WE merit the favor of God. Perhaps it is WE that will get the blessings of God, even if we no longer do the deeds that we did at the beginning, even if we scoff at God’s blessing the lame and the poor and the blind.

If we think this way, we have already fallen into a great trap. We think that because God has been kind to us, that we are no longer in need of His grace. We are standing on our own cleaned up souls. We are the righteous and deserve the favor of God. But that is not the case. The only reason that you can come to Him is because of His favor to You.

So, we walk carefully. We really are cleaned up, at least to look at from the outside. We learn to live like Christians as God is making us new in Christ. But we do all of this in His grace, by His Spirit. All the good that we have is from God and we simply deceive ourselves if we think that we somehow manufacture or even maintain goodness of ourselves.

We need to remember that our family tree is not one of pedigree. We come from the family of Adam, a fleshy, fallen man. But we also remember that Jesus calls out to us to come to Him. So, we come, happily as children who do not deserve the favor of their father but are granted it anyway. Even when we are basking in the glory, praise and honor from our Father in Heaven and receiving the manifold benefits that He grants us, it is still and always by grace through faith, lest any man should boast. This is simply coming to God in humility which generates thanksgiving, peace and joy.

Bored Fisherman

I must confess that it has been a while since I have suffered the debilitating results of fishlessness. But I did so the other day. I took my good old friend and former elder in our church, Gordon Wilson, fishing. Gordon is a great outdoorsman, loves bugs, snakes, birds and all things wild. However, Gordon is not a big fisher. I thought I could convert him on one of my wildly successful fishing trips.

The water level and clarity was good. The weather was perfect. We had the right baits, at least we thought so. So, we loaded up the canoe and headed for the James. But here is the sobering fact. Sometimes the fish don't bite.

We caught some, he and I. A few. But I think I caught a few more.

We were on a great stretch of river with an abundance of smallmouths and a fairly high percentage of large fish. Didn't matter. A few hours after casting off, our casts were less than enthusiastic. The expectations were waning. The futility was waxing.

I think I convinced Gordon that fishing was much like his opinion of baseball. He is not impressed by either and they are my two favorite past times. By the end of our float, he was floating his smallmouth offerings around the tip of the canoe in a haphazard way with about four feet of line out. I think he would have much preferred to hopping out and flipping over some rocks. At least then, he could have caught some bugs.

I know that fishing is great fun and there are many fish to catch. Gordon doesn't know but I do. They've got to bite sometime. I'll just keep casting until I catch one.

Baptismal Exhortation-Dean Cooper

Paedobaptism and paedocommunion are perfectly compatible just like getting born is perfectly compatible with breast-feeding. In fact, at the hospital, if you do not start feeding the baby right away, the first day, the nurses get all in a dither and want to start feeding them for you.
This is not an argument for bringing newborns to the Lord’s Table. In God’s providence, He instituted this meal with bread and wine. But small children, toddlers, nearly still infants, CAN eat bread and drink wine.

That is consistent. But my point here is that Presbyterians are dramatically inconsistent with their view of the covenant. The covenant governs our entire understanding of the Scriptures and our lives with God. We baptize children because God makes His promises to His saints, and to their children. Peter proclaims this with power at Pentecost.

But what is going on at baptism? Is it not being born again? This Dean was already born from his mother’s womb. Today, he is being born into the church of Jesus. We are marking him out as God’s child, born of the water and of the Spirit. And if he is born again, into the church, then of course, he ought to come to mother church and eat mother’s food.

For a new born infant, that feeding place and food is obvious. At the breast, mother’s milk. In God’s kingdom, that place is His Church, and that food is the Lord’s Supper of bread and wine. Thus, it makes sense that brand new babies cannot eat bread and drink wine. But when they can, they should do so. After all, they have been born into this family of God and are welcome recipients at the family table.

Let me qualify a little bit here, lest anybody misunderstand me and misquote me. Am I saying that being baptized is being born again? Yes, I am. Does this mean that there is still a need to repent of sins, believe in Jesus, have faith, get saved, become a Christian and follow after Jesus in obedience? Well, there is too much in that sentence to give a simple yes. Particularly to our cultural understanding of ‘get saved’ or ‘become a Christian.’ To the rest I give an unqualified yes. We must confess, sins, repent, have faith and follow after Jesus all of our days.

But Dean is a Christian. We are naming him a Christian, today. That is what baptism is. He must be filled with God’s Spirit in order to ‘be saved’ if you will. There must be a spiritual reality to what we do here in ritual. But we gladly confess that we often do not know how, or when, that ‘point’ happens. In truth, we never know it. By the time we see the fruit, the work has already been done. Ultimately, it happened in Jesus work on the cross. It was there that He secured the salvation of His people. But how, exactly, it works itself out in real time, we are greatly ignorant.

Sometimes, we can see the wind. If the day is very dingy, dust is in the air, garbage is blowing around, we think we see the wind. But we do not really see the wind. We just see the effects of the wind. When the rains come down and wash the landscape clean, the wind blows invisibly once again.

The Spirit’s work is like that. Sometimes we can see the mess He is cleaning up. At other times, we do not know when He has blown through. Is the rain of God washing the first mess or a subsequent mess? Why does it matter as long as the mess of sin is cleaned up? At this baptism, we are declaring that God’s washing water is cleaning up all of Dean’s sin and sins. The sin of being a son of Adam and the sins that sons of Adam commit. God has dealt with it all in Jesus Christ and He is declaring that today in this rite.

Our confession allows for not knowing the time of this Spiritual work. God may have already filled Dean with His saving Holy Spirit, like He did John the Baptist, in the womb. It may happen here today, at his baptism. It may happen later on in his youth, or God forbid the heartache, perhaps after a time of soul-searching and rebellion. We want THAT to be the exception and not the rule. We pray at each baptism that the children brought to the Lord here will never know the disobedience of rebellion. But the point is that each Christian must be filled with the Holy Spirit, confess sins, repent and walk in the regeneration. They must have faith and exhibit a lively and life long faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing that I have said here precludes any of that.

So, let us embrace this baptism as a new birth in the kingdom of God and give God the glory for bringing such a wonderful event to pass. And may He, by His Spirit, raise this child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dug in Pride

The Federal Vision squabbles continue to amaze me. Although I do not like the term 'the Federal Vision guys', it appears that those of us who believe a certain few set of things are getting lumped into a crowd. So, while there is no Federal Vision proper, I suppose I identify, and gladly so, with those men who are now being accused of being 'Federal Vision.' I think right will win out and trust that being Federal Vision will eventually roll into the background as simply those men who are articulating and emphasizing a few important differences in Biblical theology and practice.

The big issues are emphases in Baptism and the Lord's Supper, paedocommunion and the objective covenant. Some of the things we emphasize in these areas are nuances that are not addressed in the great Reformed Confessions. Very few of the so-called Federal Vision men take important exceptions from the Confessions, Westminster or the Three Forms. We believe them, down into the details. The exceptions would be on what we ought to do on the Lord's Day, namely feasting, and not being gloomy, and who ought to take the Lord's Supper, even our small children, because they are saints, too!

I think a lot of this boils down to opposition about paedocommunion. Many of the rest of the issues are red herrings. Our men argue regularly from the Scriptures while many of our opponents have staked out their ground on the confessions. That is just plain wrong.
We do not mind starting with the confessions. We are confessional. Confessions are a good summary of what we beleive the bible to teach. But when two men of the same confession, disagree, it is necessary for them to resort to Scripture. Our men are doing this. Our opponents are not doing it very well. That is curious.

One of my students sometimes makes stupid mistakes. When the dumb mistake is pointed out to him, he digs in his feet. He insists that he does not know the right way to do the problem. He persists in this error, not through ignorance and lack of knowledge, but because of plain old stubborn pride. He does not need the problem explained to him again. It is not a difference of opinion on how to do the problem. He just needs a spanking. No, I don't give him a spanking but I do help him see that he needs one and that is usually enough. If he still persists in his stubborn pride after that, I inform his father. I turn him over to father and he takes care of it.

Sure, I think our opponents are the ones with stubborn pride. They have persisted in their error, false accusations and purposeful misunderstandings. At this point, they have a lot invested in NOT seeing the truth (or simply even our veiw of it) , or even in the WAY the thing has been handled, if not the very issues themselves. To admit wrong now means to give up way to much. But to fail to admit wrong means foolishly holding on to the things one ought to let go.

What things?

For one, the accusations of high doctrinal error against such men as Steve Wilkins, Peter Leithart, Douglas Wilson, Rich Lusk, Jeff Myers, James Jordan and the rest of the banditos. Just give it up and admit that it was not as big of a deal as you intially thought. You over reacted, Joe Morecraft, OPC Report, PCA Study Committee, MARS. Admit it and make things right so we can get on to real work.

I am willing to bet that time will prove me out. Although the OPC, and PCA seem like large opposing groups, the voices rattling the loudest swords within them are a small but loud group. They currently have a listening public but the voices of reason, Myers 33 reasons not to accept the PCA Study committee report, will shatter the enthusiasm. Your posturing over the Confessions will be trumped in the light of exegesis. Get out your Bibles. We welcome this. Do you?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Communion Mediation-King Jesus

We celebrate many things at the Lord’s Table. It is a table of communication, conversation and communion between us and the Lord.

Here we renew covenant vows. One of the central commitments that we have made is to be submissive to the Lord. He is king. We are subjects. And He is more than just the kind of King that you try to get around obeying. In many kingdoms, the ruling authority are seen as the them, the people are the us. Thus, it is easy to have the mindset that the ruling authorities are not us. We have to get around them and to do so does not a cause a problem with our conscience. Because the authorities are them and not us, we do not have a problem avoiding them or even disobeying them. Some of this is okay, depending on who the authority is. Is it the federal government, public education, theologians, academics, philosophers? We have to figure this all out in real time.

But at the table, we come to submit ourselves to the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the ultimate and infallible authority. He is an absolute ruler but His rule over all is directly to our benefit. He loves us dearly and treats us accordingly. Thus, it would be the utmost affront for us to circumvent His rule. We ought to gladly submit to every aspect of His monarchy. We say this here in this meal. So, do not keep secrets from this King. Do not subvert His rule, disobey His ambassadors or disregard His written law. Do not go around His rule but come to Him in humility and homage. For in submitting to His rule is the promise of blessing and life eternal.

Fairwell Falwell

This past week a great saint passed away. Rev. Jerry Falwell died and His Spirit has gone to be with Lord, waiting for the Resurrection of the Dead. Just as we remind you of your baptism when we bring little ones into the world and into the church, so it is fitting for us to remember our baptisms at the passing of the saints into glory.

Many of you went to Liberty University and at times have attended Thomas Road Baptist Church. Thus, Rev. Falwell had a large impact on your life. By God’s providence you ended up here where we have important and significant differences with the doctrine and practice of Rev. Falwell. But instead of thinking that where you are now is a different stream than the one you are were in there, I hope you can think of it as a deeper stream. Thus, it is fitting to give thanks for Rev. Falwell for being faithful to God and to you further up the stream. And he was faithful there until the end. There are many aspects about his life accomplishments and personal character that are great examples to all of us. Let us remember him and let us also remember God’s marking of us to be faithful over many decades. He fought the good fight. He finished the race. Let us do likewise.

Some people did not like Rev. Falwell because he sometimes said things that he should not have said. At times, he found himself having to apologize and the apology was construed to mean that he was taking back his initial assertions of biblical commands. But he was not taking them back. As far as I know, he never did so.

So, while Rev. Falwell sometimes said things that he should not have said, or not the way he did, or not at the right time, he more often said many things that he should have said. He said them boldly and he said them in a media spotlight that was particularly hostile, not just to Falwell’s brand of Christianity, but to the very tenets of Christianity. God’s will, I pray, for one man more, of such fortitude that he displayed.

Ps 71:23-24 23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. 24 My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long: for they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt.

While we should be careful with our tongues, we ought not to fault those bold men who display their bibles and proclaim God’s Word. Our danger is not saying what we shouldn’t. Our danger is failing to say what we should say. Rev. Falwell rarely made that mistake. He was fearless of the liberal forces around him. I would say that much of the church in America are like scared rabbits around liberals, the media, modern Academia, and perhaps even unbelievers in general. We are cowed into silence when we should speak out.

Where will we find men who are willing to proclaim not just the remission of sins, which is a grand and glorious doctrine, but Repentance and the Remission of sins? Something has gone wrong. Men need to stop doing the wicked that they are doing. To the world, this is the doctrine of death unto death but to those who are being saved, it is the aroma of life unto life. Let us not fear men, but God, and speak of the manifold glories of God in Christ, just like Jerry Falwell did.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fishers of Fish

Fishers of fish sometimes make good fishers of men. Well, at least perhaps there is some fishing knowledge worth thinking about in cathching men. The fish are biting today and that gets me thinking.

I have a little spot I check often. On the way to work, or the way home, I stop off and fish. Sometimes for only five minutes. But in five mintues I can know if the fish are biting, or not. If I stayed longer, I could probably catch a fish or two but I like catching fish in quantity and do not like to fish for hours with little success. But that does not mean the times when I do catch a lot of fish are times of small investment. I've done my work ahead of time, watching for right conditions to develop.

I know where the fish are. I know when they are hitting. And when they hit, I know how to hook them. But, the fish are not always there and they are not always biting.

There are some corollaries here for fishing for men. Men are pre-disposed to bite. At some point, given the right convergence of circumstances, they will be interested in the presentation. And while presentation is important, if the bite is on, even a bad presentation will produce consistent results.

I think we should look for hungry men. This hunger is displayed in many different ways. Questions, uncertainty, trials, all are an indication that a man may be growing hungry. Then, make a good presentation. Speak the truth in love. If God has prepared the soil of the heart, the plant will grow. If God has heated up the water, then the fish are going to light up. But the control of all the elements is up to God.

So, look for good conditions. And when you see them, cast your bread, or in my case, pumpkinseed salamander, on the water and expect a good bite.

Joyful Home-Part 9

Prov 29:15 15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.


Raising Children means that parents must always be teaching. You do not get days off or time outs. For some parents, this can be exasperating. For some children, this can be exasperating. The job of parenting never ends. You don’t get breaks and you shouldn’t want them.

Why is this the case? Because you never know what is going to happen next. If you decide to have parenting free times or discipline breaks, your offspring may not comply. In fact, they have such amazing natural psychological abilities, that they know when you are heading out for a coffee break and plan their little bits of misbehavior or rebellion at precisely that time. Instead of being constantly frustrated by this, godly and mature parents ought to be amused.

Because you never get to lay down your mantle as parent, it is important that you always be prepared to do the job. Must parents be perfect then? Far from it. We are humans, just like our children. We are sinners, just like them. But we need to understand that because the task of parenting is so daunting, it is important that we be more mature, read this sanctified, than our children. We need to anticipate what is going to happen, sinful stuff, and plan for it. That way, when it happens, and it will regularly, it does not catch us off guard and throw us into the kind of tantrum that we are in need of correcting.

Those of you who have been to Walmart or McDonalds know what I mean. The lady’s kid acts up in a frightful manner. The mom asks him to stop. Three seconds later, when said tot knowingly ignores his mother, she flies off into a tirade that is far worse, and if she only knew, much more embarrassing than the child’s initial behavior. But many feel sorry for the mother when they should feel sorry for the child.

So, in order for parents to be able to discipline effectively, it is vital that they already be disciplined themselves. At least, in the area that they are currently trying to teach the child. Parents must be honest to teach to the children not to lie, self-controlled to teach them not to throw tantrums, joyful and content to teach their children the same things. Remember, you CAN get the children to buckle under to your demands. That is no great talent. You are bigger than they are. But what you cannot get them to do is to “do as you say and not as you do.” The children will follow your example, not your words.

This leads us into our next topic. That parents must be spiritual in order to administer discipline. Parents must be spiritual spankers.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Baseball is Life-Too Hard for Most

Is it any wonder that baseball in America is in decline? Athletes, in mass, defect to that particularly unAmerican sport, soccer. Why? Because soccer is fun. Granted. I can't argue.

But why leave that great American, and from my perspective, with tongue slightly in cheek, peculiarly Christian sport that we call baseball? The answer is fairly easy. It is too hard. Baseball does not provide instant results. There is a tremendous amount of frustration and humiliation.

Take a great athlete, one that has never played the game, and put him on a soccer pitch. In days he'll be the one of the top players. Take a great athlete, one who has never played the game, and put him on a baseball diamond. He will miss fly balls. He will struggle at the plate. He will be baffled at curve balls. He will quit and go play soccer.

Okay, okay, don't yell. I don't mind soccer, really. In fact, every 20 or 30 minutes, when someone actually scores, it is almost interesting. My point here is that the fact of baseball defection is proof positive that Americans have learned to take the easy road, the one most traveled by.

Take the curve ball for instance. Many people cannot hit a curve ball. There is no shame in that. It is a hard thing to do. But with a great deal of training, seeing hundreds of curveballs over and over again and getting plunked by a few that didn't curve, one can get a feel for how to do it. This takes time. It takes humiliation. It takes patience. All of the things that American adults, and now by ordinary generation, American children are sorely lacking.

You can hit a curve ball but you have to see the different spin, wait for the ball, keep your hands back, don't lose your hips. Curve balls are training for life. The boys that never learn to hit a curve ball eventually wash out of the sport, whether at the high school or collegiate level. If the pitcher knows that he can get you out on that pitch, he will do so. But many hitters know that one of the easiest pitches to hit out of the park is the curve ball, especially if it hangs in the zone for a tad bit too long.

We get curves all the time in our lives. Things do not go as we plan. The regularity of life, which we can easily deal with, changes speeds. Children get sick. Spouses die. False accusations and rumors swirl. Many Christians do not know how to deal with this, so they either don't deal with it, or they deal with it poorly. But the Christian baseball player knows a trick or two. Keep your eye on the ball, do not commit too soon, wait for it to break, deliver the time honored and disciplined stroke. And if you miss, which you are still inclined to do, then come up swinging the next time.

We sorely need this training. We need it in our churches. We need it in our homes. We need it in our sports. Sadly, it seems to be largely missing from all three.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 8

Thinking Right at the Start

This could be read as thinking correctly from the beginning, which would be good, or simply as thinking from the beginning, which would also be good. Failing to think and plan about what you are doing and why are you doing it is a great problem. Many people do not even think about raising their children until they get into a crisis. A crisis of first time discipline from an 18-month old, or worse, the potentially rebellious teen years for poorly brought up children. Put it off and you'll be sorry. Use a worldly or even an abdicating methodology and you will also be sorry. So, it is good to think right at the beginning but it is better to think right at the beginning.

A home that is harsh cannot expect to produce lovely, happy, well-disciplined children. A harsh home, read father and mother, may get compliance but compliance is not the same thing as discipline. Forced compliance is not discipline. Discipline produces responsibility. Forced compliance often produces the opposite, that is, rebellion. To be sure, much of discipline, especially in the earliest stages, is not much more than forced compliance. You are bigger than they are. Make them obey. But the entire task of disciplining children is to turn them over to a godly self-discipline. The goal is to not have to force them anymore because they earnestly desire to do what is right on their own.

This is important to get at the beginning. Many parents hardly discipline at all when the children are very small, letting them do whatever they want. Then, when they enter their teens, the children act out and the parents start to clamp down until the older teenager is not allowed to do anything without having to give a detailed account. If they disobey, they are then grounded where mom or dad watches over every move and there is virtually no freedom. This is EXACTLY the opposite of what you want to have happen.

Think about it. What you want is for very little children, say under age three, to live in a totalitarian police state. Nearly all of their actions and decisions are centrally governed by queen mother and king father. But as soon as they are able to start making decisions, preferably good ones, then there needs to be an increasing amount of freedom. If you do this right, your seventeen year old ought to have little or no rules, because she is or is very nearly an adult. Rather than what many parents do, which is to throw every conceivable rule at her just at the time when she is expecting independence. Is there any wonder that this methodology causes stark rebellion?

Joyful Home-Part 7


Before we get very much further along in our topic, I want to set some ground rules. I will return to different aspects of these ground rules later on. I will do an apologetic about the rod from scripture in the next chapter. For now, I am assuming that you are on the same page with me. Thus, I am not trying to convince you, I am trying to give you some wisdom on how to discipline correctly.

As I mentioned in the first chapter, we are aiming at a particular kind of aroma in the home. The home should be a lovely place for all members of the family, especially for those little ones who are on the receiving end of discipline. And not just discipline in the abstract, which has many forms, but especially those who are receiving the hard side of a spanking spoon or paddle. The home should be a very pleasant and lovely place for them, as well.

The spiritual aroma of your home should be the smell of baking bread, not sauerkraut. Don’t argue with me here. I am not opposed to sauerkraut, just how it smells when it is cooking. I am not sure how anyone could bring themselves to eat the stuff after having smelled it boiling, though.

Anyway, when gearing up for discipline, bake some bread. Is that lovely smell the general and regular attitude of your home? If so, good, we are ready to get on. If not, then you need to do some rethinking and relearning of your own behavior before you can expect good results with your children. This will become increasingly clear as we move forward.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 6

My wife and I are indebted to many for helping us acquire the resources to raise godly and joyful children. The Scriptures have been our greatest asset, of course. We endeavor to raise children that not only behave well but also love the Lord with all their hearts and His Word as their light.

We are greatly indebted to Douglas and Nancy Wilson. Doug was my pastor in Idaho before we moved to Virginia. His many books, practical knowledge, wisdom and present example as a husband and a father, taught me much about how to live. My wife can say the same about Nancy. I highly recommend all of their books to you.

Much of what I am saying here is my version of what Doug and Nancy have already said in many places. I hope my version of things will be a contribution to the Great Conversation.

In addition to the Scriptures and the Wilsons, we have been blessed by the examples of many godly families as we have raised our children. This has become a rarity these days. When we lived in Moscow, there were literally many dozens of families who were doing an excellent job in their homes and families and were ahead of us in the process. We got to watch and learn.

Incidentally, I want to say a word about learning. Books are great. Vision is better. Notice things. Watch. File away. Yes, we like that. No, we do not want to do it that way. Notice children that really impress you and then get to know their parents. Ask questions. Many Christians are too prideful to admit that they do not know what they are doing in raising children. Don’t be like this. Most of you were probably not raised very well. I wasn’t. I had to learn everything. That is not shameful. The shame is having the opportunity to learn from godly examples and then NOT doing so.

We like American

Greece Day 1-Santorini, April 11.

Katie and I are heading to the bus stop. We want to explore the island of Santorini and have been told the bus is a good way to do so.

We pass a local grocery and remember that we need bottled water for our outing. The prices are much better here than at our hotel, which is just one block away. I suppose this is not surprising as the four star hotel is normally filled with tourists from America, Germany, France and Great Britain.

It's not full now. We are two of a total of eight guests, the first of the season. The others are all Americans. As far as I can tell, they are like us. Not rich, scraped enough money together for a dream vacation and that is why they are here in April.

But the Greeks don’t buy it. We are from America. We are rich.

We are not yet at the bus stop. We’ve got our water, at 30 cents, Euro, and we are trying to get there. We see the bus kiosk and make our way down the walk. Katie spies a carpet and handwork shop, embroidery, stitching, that sort of thing. An old Greek man in an old Greek suit smiles and beckons us in to look around. We are one block from the hotel, day one of our eight day tour of Greece, about ten minutes into our trip.

“Come, come. Look.” Most everyone here speaks English. He is old. He doesn’t.


“No, we are from the United States.”

“Ah,” with some excitement. “American. Welcome. We like American.” And strangely, he stands like a soldier and salutes.

“For you,” he continues and starts digging around under some carpets and then produces a nice Santorini postcard.

Katie is looking at the embroidered table loths. Uh-oh.

“How much?”

“Four hundred.”



Katie and I look at each other, wondering.

“He can’t mean four hundred Euros. That would mean almost $550.”

I turn back to the old man. He smiles. I notice that some of his teeth are missing.

“Do you mean forty Euros?”

He gets a pen and a 2 inch wide scroll of printer paper. There is no cash register or printer around. He writes, 400.

I turn to Katie. “Maybe he means 4 Euros?”

I write.
400? And push the paper back.

He circles the 400, then grabs another ebroidery that Katie is looking at, placing it with the other one. He hold up two fingers and writes, 600.

We are very confused.

“Four daughters, 65 days,” he says and makes some stitching motions.

“Hold on,” we say and disappear a couple doors down to get the grocer. He tells us that the carpet shop is closed but we know that the old man is there. He comes with us, leaving his cash register open. We think the grocer must be good at English. He is not timeless old, like the old man, but he is old enough not to care that most of the world speaks English.

He talks to the old man. The old man talks.

“Six hundred for two,” the grocer says.


“Yes.” And disappears.

“Can’t be,” I say to Katie. “Let’s go. We just got here. We need to talk to somebody that speaks English.”

She hesitates and the old man smiles. “Daughters.” More stitching motions.

We write again. He writes. We aren’t getting anywhere. I pull some Euros out and show him a 10.

“How many?” I ask.

“400 for two.” Fingers up.

“40 tens?” I say, waving a Ten Euro in the air.


“Too much,” we say, now keeping two one syllable words. And we start to leave the shop. We know there is some serious communication problem going on.

“Wait. For you, 300.”

I pull out my wallet again and count out three tens.

“Will that do?”

“Yes,” he says, and more missing teeth.

We take the pretty do-dad, I’m not exactly sure what it is, and start for the door. His wife makes an entrance and she is all smiles, too. She makes stitching motions. “I make.” We get a picture and then leave.

This incident provides us with many laughs and a lot of conversation for two days. Did he really want 400 Euros, 600 for two? Or was it really 40? Or 4? Maybe we paid 30 and could have gotten five of them.

We are not sure and we never made it to the bus stop.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 5

First of all, let me say that my children are wonderful. Furthermore, let me say that the fact of their being wonderful is essential to the rest of the things that I have to say to you. It is not essential in the sense that my children need to be perfect in order to teach you something about raising godly kids. That is not really what I mean. I do think that I have to have some moral authority in order to speak to you on this subject. Thus, my children should be well behaved, godly, happy examples. It would be no help to you to write these things if my own children had already turned out stinkers. So, they should be good children by a fairly high objective standard. I think they meet that standard.

What I mean by ‘my children are wonderful’ has as much to do with my wife and I as it does to do with them. What I want to say is that we are pleased with them. And this pleasure derives not just in their external behavior towards us but in the very fact of being parents and the joy that it brings us to be their parents.

A word of caution here. This is much more than just thinking that you love your children and then turning a blind eye to their every fault. Children can be pleasant or unpleasant based upon how they behave. And that behavior is largely governed by the parent’s ability to see, even with some objectivity, and then to act. Some parents cannot see anything negative in regards to their own children and thus fail to teach them or discipline them in any way. The Bible has a word for this. It is called hatred.

Other parents, however, see far too much. Actually, seeing is not the problem. How you see is the problem. Some parents, especially those who are trying to do a really, really good job of raising their children, can ‘only’ see defects and they spend all of their time chasing down those defects. In this case, the children are not good enough and never will be. There is a bias towards perfectionism on the part of the parent that can never allow the children to have passed the test. That kind of parent will never be able to say, along with me, that “My children are wonderful.”

By wonderful I do not mean perfect. By wonderful I do not mean sinless. My kids make lots of mistakes. They commit plenty of sins. I try to look at them with my eyes open, seeing that they are sinners, immature, still a tad foolish. This is the way they are because they are children.

However, the fact that they are children does not take from me the great pleasure of enjoying them. It is helpful for us to understand this. I think many Christians, perhaps especially in our own Reformed tradition, misunderstand God, and then reenact that misunderstanding as they parent their own children. They see God as an austere Father who cannot tolerate sin in any fashion, Who is just waiting for us to slip up so that He can squash us. Is it any wonder that fathers who view the Father this way, tend to be harsh, critical and unpleased?

I must confess that I must fight this tendency. I think moms tend to be more critical of girls, dads to their sons. But there is so much in our children to be pleased with. Why not see it and find great pleasure? It is not the same thing to have high standards for your children in behavior, education and Christian witness and to be highly critical when they do not meet your perfectionistic standards. In fact, if you have high standards the children will tend to live up to them or at least live up towards them. But if you are highly critical about shortcomings, then the children will react against this. They can feel, even if they cannot understand, the hypocrisy of your demands and your behavior. Your hypercritical attitude is far worse than their failure to vacuum the carpet just so, or set the table just right, or put the napkin on the lap at the right time. Your critical attitude is even worse than their sour face towards sister, a lazy morning of school work, or a host of other shortcomings.

I will discuss these issues more as we discuss the needed pleasant aroma of the home in raising godly children. However, suffice to say here that in order to say that your children are wonderful you have to see that it is actually the case, believe it and act as if it was so.

I really do think my children are wonderful. We still have a lot of work to do with some of them. The oldest is seventeen. We are mostly done training her in our home. She should be an adult now. We just need to learn how to let her stand on her own feet. The youngest is five. He still needs a lot of day to day training. But for both of them, and the four in between, it truly has been a labor of, not only love, but also pleasure, in training them up in the way that they should go. By God’s grace, we have not been disappointed. They are all a testament of God’s grace to us and to our children.

A last word about our children that also applies to yours. This job of parenting is done by the grace of God. We can see by the fruit that we have done well. Not perfect. There are many better parents. Can’t say that I have seen better children, though. Remember, mine are wonderful. But this is not done by perfect parents who have read all the right books and have the perfect answer to every potential problem. Raising children takes wisdom by relying upon God’s Holy Spirit to lead.

Greek Orthodox is Greek to Me

Someone asked where we went to church in Greece. Here's the story.

We did intend to make it to church on Sunday and eagerly looked forward to worshipping with the saints in another part of the world. Not the saints on the wall. I mean the live saints in the sanctuary.

We had a bit of a transportation problem that morning. The hotel bus to town did not run until 9:00. Services started at 8:00 and ran until about 10:00. Since we would not have any idea what was going on anyway, we thought it would not be so bad to show up at 9:30 and catch the last half hour of the service. So, we caught the bus and headed to town.

We had an extra logisitical problem. We did not know exactly which church to go to. There are numerous churches on Mykonos but apparently not as numerous number of priests. Apparently they move around to different churches doing services. They broadcast these services outside the churches via microphone and loud speakers. As we headed into town we could hear a service going on. However, in the maze of the 'walking only' streets that is downtown Mykonos, we could not locate the source of the chanting priest.

After wandering around at a rapid pace for well over thirty minutes, we decided to slow down and relax, realizing that we had missed the morning service.

Sometime after 10:00am we wandered upon another church in the middle of town. The church was crowded to overflowing and there were many people standing outside the church, gathered around both the back and side entrances. Many men were outside, dressed nicecly, but in animated conversations, oblivious to the service going on inside the church. We were excited to finally find the service and tried to make our way into the church. It was crowded and there was really only room for my wife, Katie, with her church dress on, but bare sleeves, to stand just inside the side door with the ladies in full sleeves. I looked in, couldn't see anything, and decided not to get trapped between the various Greek middle aged women who were standing at the door's threshhold. Katie, however, made her way into the church, with some encouragement from the ladies. After a few minutes, a few more ladies made their way into the church behind my wife, and she was blocked from making her way outside. I stood outside the church, observing the many people seemingly oblivious to the goings on inside.

Occasionally, one of the outside worshippers, having heard some cue from inside, would step closer to the building, perhaps touch the building, do a bit of crossing and pass a moment or two in some reverance. As I said, more Greek to me.

At one point, two boys, about 7 and 10, popped out from the back of the crowded church. With smiles and laughs they sprinted back around to the side entrance shoving their way back into the church. I think their game was to see if they could squeeze through everyone back towards the back again. Worship did not seem to be on their mind at all.

There was finally a break in the service and the crowd issued forth. Katie was freed from her position and made here way to me, smiling, at having finally got to worship with the Greeks.

After the service, most of the Greek men and a goodly number of the younger women, immediately lit up their cigarettes and began talking. Everywhere we went in Greece, we found that a large percentage of the population smokes.

Oddly, right after the service, they began to pass out presents in bags. Inside the bags was a muffin, nuts, a sweet roll and a few other items. As we had stood around watching the people from a few feet away, a lady walked forward and handed me one of the bags. "Efgharisto," I said. She replied, "Parakalow."

Later that morning we made our way back to the hotel. A young lady there had told us when the church times were and asked if we had made it to the service.

"Yes, and they even gave us a gift." And we held up the pretty bag of treats for her to see.

A smile crossed her face but also a bit of a puzzled look at the same time.

"Oh, that is the gift for the funeral service." she said. "I am pretty sure that is the six-month service."

My wife and I looked at each other and laughed.

That explained some of the more curious looks we had got at the service. I suppose it would not be so weird if a foreigner came to Sunday worship. But to come to a memorial service of some unknown stranger is a bit stranger.

Maria explained that the Greeks do multiple funeral services. They do them immediately after the death, at forty days, six months and then annually. We were at the six-month service. They give gifts, she told us, for good luck, even to strangers. Thus, explaining why we had gotten our gift.

So, THAT's where we went to church in Greece.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Returned from Greece

I have just returned from a ten day vacation in Greece with my lovely wife of 20 years, my dearest Katie. We were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. We had a splendid time. I will be posting some of our travel experiences in the next week or so. Mostly, things went off without a hitch and we were glad we chose to travel to Greece. We did make a few gaphs that ought to supply you with a few laughs.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Communion Meditation

Our fellowship with God and man was broken in Adam. The one loaf was broken but it lay shattered and torn, not reunited. But in Christ, there is a new humanity. He was broken for us but He was not left broken. His body was raised bringing life to all that are raised in Him. His body was gathered from the dead that all those who are gathered in Him are also gathered from the dead. His gathered body is offered to all that sit here and are the called according to His promises. His body is given for you. We are all reassimilated in Christ.

What was broken and shattered is now put back together. We are new men, new women, new children. The death that reigned in Adam has been conquered in Jesus. The broken body of humanity in Adam has been gathered by the broken body of Jesus Christ.

This means that we have new life and the hope of new life. This life is realized primarily in the body of Christ, His Church. Because we have been made partakers of the body of Christ, we live, like Him. Death no longer is master and ruler. Sin no longer is the tyrant on the throne. There is a new Master and Lord and we must serve Him in righteousness rather than sin and death in unrighteousness. As we eat and drink, we are being transformed into the new humanity that we are. We are being renewed into the likeness of Christ.

These words may sound abstract but they are not. They are very practical. We are growing in thankfulness, hope, and joy. The fruit of the Spirit should be present and growing among us.

Gal 5:16-6:2 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulful the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

The works of the flesh should be struggling and diminishing among us. The fruit of the Spirit should be flourishing and growing among us. Life conquers death in Jesus Christ. So let us live as the new creation in the regeneration, loving one another in Christ and so fulfilling the law of God.

Easter Exhortation

We often make the mistake of having a sentimental religion. By this, I mean, constructing a faith upon what we feel would be best or what it would be if it were nice and tidy, a precious moment, so to speak. But the Bible and the gospel comes to us on God’s terms and not ours. Because of this, we have to take it as it is given and not as we had hoped it would be. This causes us to submit to God, His Providence, His wisdom, His Christ.

Resurrection Sunday is another one of those parts of the Bible that is often remembered in a sentimental way. I think many Christians envision something other than what actually happened. We have sunrise services so that we can glory in the empty tomb. We picture Mary Magdelene, Peter and John running to the tomb in eager anticipation of finding it empty in proof that Jesus has been raised from the dead. But that is not what happened. They came to the tomb but not eagerly, not in belief, but still lost in their despair and misery. They had not yet believed and so their doubts and fears and disappointments completely blinded them. Among the disciples and even the apostles, there are no exceptions. None anticipated the Resurrection. None were eager for an empty tomb.

But this does not change the fact that Jesus really had risen. The disciples did not believe it and could not see it, but nonetheless it was true. And because it was and is true, they would soon be able to see and have their hope and strength renewed.

We are not unlike the first disciples. We are disciples of Jesus, indeed, but we have our dark moments. We have our Black Fridays like that horrific Friday when Jesus was crucified. All is black and gloom. All hope is lost. All confidence is shattered. We have great doubts and are at a loss as to who Jesus really is. Will He come to me? Will He save me? Am I really His beloved? Or was all that hope just a dream?

We all have our Barren Saturdays, when the day drags on without a word from the Lord. He seems to be gone and not coming back. Where is the joy that we once had in Christ? Where is the hope of Him being King and protecting me from the enemies of my hope? Will He fight this sense of loneliness, of apathy, of unrequited longing? Where is Jesus at this hour of great need?
We have all had our Dissapointing Sundays, when a hope has arisen that perhaps He will come, perhaps He will rise only to find that the tomb is empty but Jesus is not to be found. We thought we could go to Him but He is not there. He has gone.

But all of your Fridays, Saturdays and early Sundays do not change the fact that Christ is Risen. He has risen and conquered the death of Friday. He has returned and brought meaning to the drought of Saturday. He is right behind you on your disappointing Sunday. He speaks and like Mary, you must simply turn around to see Him. His resurrection puts all of the loss, longing, and languishing into perspective. It turns sorrow into joy and mourning into rejoicing.

There is nothing that can separate you from His love. You have but to remember what He said, to believe that His rising is the crowning of victory over death. And that in this victory are all the hopes and joys of your victory. He comes to you on Friday and you must see Him crucified for sins and your sins. He comes to You on Saturday and you must see Him bringing victory over sorrows and your sorrows. He comes to You on Sunday and all hope is renewed. He is risen.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Joyful Home-Part 4

It is not enough to get them to obey. I can make your little children obey. I am bigger than they are. What we want is to get them to love. Love to obey. Love to serve. Love to worship. Love to sing. Love to fellowship. You see, many children DO these things but many of them despise them the entire time. They are rebellions waiting to happen, just waiting for train 18 that will take them out of all this parental and family oppression. Sound too harsh? Look around at some of the families that you know that had 18 and 19 year olds that just could not wait to get out on their own and ruin their lives. It happens. A lot. And the scary thing is, it happens too often in Christian homes, homeschool homes, Christian schooled homes.

As I have done these talks or conferences, I have called them The Joyful Home, Biblical Child Rearing and Practical Wisdom. Who am I? Who is my wife? How is it that we are practically wise? At the risk of losing you amidst your shock at such arrogance, let me say that, We, are the wise. Now, you say, you’ve really done it! If it wasn’t arrogant enough to give us your children as your qualification, now you are painting yourself out as some modern day Solomon! God’s gift to the rest of us who do not know how to raise our own kids.

Slow down there, catch a breath. Let me explain.

I’ll start by saying, yes and no. No, because I hope the angle from which I come to you is one of humility, for only humility is truly wise. Yes, because Solomon wrote all that he did so that we would not be foolish but rather, wise. Those who heed his counsel, and the counsel of the other biblical writers, really do gain wisdom. They are not God’s gift to the earth or to every other human being that they can corner with their divine wisdom but they do have a wisdom that is gained from the experience of others and one that is empowered by the Holy Spirit.

This is not personal know-it-all arrogance. This is recognizing the fact that in your own strength and wisdom you would simply be a fool but in the strength and wisdom of God, you are wise.

It is foolish not to be wise. Why? Because wisdom cries out in the street. Wisdom is not hidden. Wisdom is all around you, in the Word, in the Church, in the good families that you know, in the bad families that you know, in obedience, in disobedience, in righteousness and even in sin.

What do we, my wife and I, have to offer? Are we the wisest of human beings or even parents? No, not by a long shot but to deny that God has given us wisdom is to deny His kindness to us. And you must gain wisdom, too, if you are to raise your children to God’s glory.

And this takes us back to my insistence on my primary qualification and that is my children. Without boring you with the pridefully blind parental details, let me tell you a bit about them.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday Homily

2 Cor 7:9-10 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

1Thess 4:13-14 13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

This night is a solemn occasion for us. We are reminded not only of the death of our Lord but also of our share in it. Jesus did not just die for sin or for sinners as some abstract ideal. He died for particular sins and for particular sinners. He died because we are fallen and dead in Adam and it is his desire to raise us up again to newness of life. He died because we followed Adam into sin with our own sins and thus confirmed the truth that all have fallen in Adam. He died because our sinful nature and our sins indeed have lumped us in with all the objects of wrath and have brought death to those who were meant for life. Without the death of Jesus, those sins cannot be taken away. Without the death of Jesus we cannot be justified and declared not guilty before our perfect and holy heavenly Father.

So, it is good for us to reflect on what a grand failure and horrific sin was committed in the person of Adam. He was perfect in righteousness and holiness. He was walking with God in the garden. He had heard God’s command and knew that he must heed, or die. And yet, Adam chose death rather than life.

He represents us well. For here we are on the winning side of the resurrection, on the knowing side of the Ascension, on the victorious side of Pentecost. Jesus has done all that He said He would do. He has kept all of His promises. And yet, we still, like sheep, have gone astray. We still, like the disciples, deny and abandon our Lord in seeking after what is forbidden. We still, like Peter, proclaim death-defying allegiance, only to shrink away from Jesus in fear of man. And all of this with the power of the Holy Spirit present and promised to us. If we only believed with our heart and actions the way we proclaim with our lips.

These are sorrowful words. Words of failure and sin. Words of hopelessness and despair. Words of guilt and shame. O, wretched men that we are, Who will deliver us from the body of this death!

It is not glorious that we are sad. However, it is most glorious that our sadness drives us to Jesus. For some, it is not so. It was not so for Judas. He sorrowed with the world’s sorrow and only discovered death. It was not true for Simon Magus. He sorrowed with the world’s sorrow and only found fear. But Peter was moved to weeping for his great sin. He was restored and became a mighty man of God. Paul was moved to repentance for his sorrow and was a mighty man of God.

It is not glorious that we are sad, unless our sadness moves us to repentance, unless our sadness brings us to the cross, to cast all of our cares on Jesus, unless our sadness brings the sorrow that leads to repentance and repentance to life. Then will our sadness be turned to joy. Then will our weeping end in rejoicing.

We have reflected on sad things here tonight. But let us remember that Easter is coming. We know this. We cannot be sad forever. Our sadness drives us to Jesus. Our sadness carries us to the resurrection. Our sadness is necessary so that our rejoicing can be inversely proportionate. We weep today, knowing that the Lord is near so that we can rejoice on Easter Sunday. As we leave here tonight, contemplative of our own sins and the fact that Jesus died to pay for them, let us do so with hope. Let us do so with anticipation. Let us do so with the knowledge that Jesus has already risen and that He receives all those who come to Him in true humility and repentance.

We do not wink at sin. It is an enemy and produces all manner of sorrow and suffering in the world. But we do wink at the supposed victory of death on this night. Jesus is crucified before us and sin and death rejoice. We let them have their moment for it has all been a wonderful feint and stratagem of our Lord. Sin is no victor. Death is no champion. There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Jesus has become sin for us and died for us, only to condemn sin and death in us. Glory be to God in the Highest. Easter is coming! Amen.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Communion Meditation-Inauguration

Today, we have celebrated the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem at the Triumphal Entry. I have mentioned many times that this meal can be pictured as the reception dinner of a wedding feast of the Lord Jesus and His bride the Church. I have also mentioned another biblical picture of this meal; the coronation of a King. It is most fitting to remind ourselves of that picture today, on Palm Sunday.

We need to see this in a new light, though. I think we sometimes picture what we are doing here as a precursor to participation in the heavenly kingdom of Jesus. We do this to give us the hope that someday we really will sit in the heavenly banqueting halls and eat with Jesus. We put ourselves in the mindset that what we are doing here is only play acting, or maybe practicing, for some future event. I would concede a bit of that. In the resurrection, I think we will do this better. After all, we won’t have sin messing with us anymore. But that is a qualitative difference.

Suppose a child were to enact a high tea but they did not do it with little plastic cups and kettles. They asked mother to provide the real china, a teapot, some brownies and cakes and real little girls to share it all with. Mother obliges. Is this a tea party? A real, bonafide, tea party? Yes, absolutely, it is just the five year old version. But the tea is real, the brownies are real, the freinds are real.

Is our inauguration party real? Absolutely. Is Jesus here? In might and power. Is the food and drink nourishing and gladdening? Like none other.

So, let us say, "All Hail to King Jesus!"

Exhortation-God Laughs

This is Holy Week, a week in which we remember many important events from our Christian history and the life of Jesus.

First of all, today we remember and celebrate the triumphal entry, the fact that Jesus is King, not just of heaven but also of earth. The day comes with high hopes but the week seems to lead on with tragedy looming. But is it tragedy or comedy?

The arrest on Thursday after Jesus eats with the twelve, one of them betrayer. Tragedy shapes up and thickens or is Jesus working a Divine Comedy, fattening up the adversaries for the fall, the last laugh, the cosmic, gotcha!

The trial. A trial? Can you call it that? But no, God is working a stage and all the world’s characters are merely players.

The execution of Jesus on the Cross. If the rulers of this world had known what God was doing, they would not have killed the Lord of Glory? Why? Because He was good? No, because God was laughing them into derision through the cross.

The darkness when the Light is taken from the Earth. But a new day is dawning, one that will rise and shine brighter and brighter until a full day.

The death of Jesus, the hope of Israel. The death was necessary and had to be. Jesus had even made some simple attempts at explaining it but not in such a way that His disciples ever figured it out. It is almost as if God is trifling with our emotions so that our tears of sorrow will turn into peals of joy.

The sorrow of lost hopes and failed loyalties, the ignorance and unbelief of the apostles.

The despair of Saturday, sad, heavy hearts. A good plan gone awry.

The doubtful wondering about Jesus and who Jesus thought He was. Gloom and despair.

An empathetic God watching like a mother watching her two year old search for her on the next aisle at the department store. The child is frantic. The mother is empathetic and amused at the same time. The child is lost. The mother is in complete control. A tragedy to the child. A comedy to the mother.

The resurrection with all its glory, making sense of all the senseless failures of the week. The joke is out. The Lord is alive.

The tragedy takes a turn and all the players bow with smiles and the crowd is relieved. The mockery of Jesus is turned into God's mockery of unbelief, His mockery of rebellion and of lost hope.

And God laughs.