A Kuyperian-Sized Blind Spot

The Effeminacy of Silence is a mettlesome post by Douglas Wilson. It’s sad, and it’s a needed kick in the man pants.

I don’t have any complaints about or disagreements with it at all, though I do want to add an observation.

When I think of “Big Eva,” a dozen plus names come easily to my mind. And when all those names come forward what does not come anywhere near my mind is cosmological Calvinism.

God has greatly blessed me through the ministries of many of the men who occupy prime bookshelf space in Reformed circles. I’ve attended many conferences of shepherds and been together with many Christians who really do love Jesus, the Gospel, and reading the Bible verse by verse. We’re already cut down to a sliver of the Evangelical pie when using the shibboleths of “Calvin,“ or Solas, and our kind of Evas eagerly embrace all of the above in fives.

However, if one of the characteristics of manliness is taking responsibility, many preaching men (and those who listen to and become like them) are limited, by principle, to responsibility in two dimensions. We are Men of the Page, not men of the public square. Our commitment to the truth doesn’t mean that we only talk about truth in private, but the way we hold that commitment means we only know how to swing the sword of truth when it relates to things that are Bible Proper.

The Bible, though, reveals that God is concerned about more things than just the things that are in the Bible. This was an obvious, biblical conclusion that brought me to repentance some years ago after too many years of blindness. Jesus made the world, and He is interested in, and has standards for, all that He made. That includes nations, governments, laws, and courts, as well as cultures, flags, relationships, genders, libraries, and dictionaries. But a certain type of Bible-defended dualism paints over much of the Evangelical scene I’ve seen, and that creates a Kuyperian-sized blind spot. Instead of seeing all the thumb’s-widths of Christ’s domain, we’ve got our thumb covering the lens on the camera.

This isn’t to say that the Big Eva preachers don’t know better. But I’m not sure they know what they don’t know. They should. It’s written in neat serif font in the Bibles they read, teach, and defend. Yet our manliness can only mature so much because we’re taught that we should only take responsibility for so much, which is basically a responsibility for reading the Bible (which, as I’m arguing, is something we’re ironically not even doing well).

So there is an existing effeminacy of silence about all the things the Bible is good for before there is a silence on drag queens in the libraries. I agree with all of Wilson’s “reasons for such silence,” I’m just adding this one. Much of the silence about, for example, the sexual revolution comes from a myopic doctrine of God’s sovereignty. I know that most of my Reformed, baptistic brother-preachers, along with the Big Eva squad, fully believe that they are engaged in the “fight,” but their chosen field of battle has the same size footprint of their calfskin leather Bibles.

Fellowship: A Mess Worth Making

Our church has another seminar scheduled a few Sundays from now. This will be our fifth seminar, the first two were about parenting and the last two were about marriage. We asked for feedback and ideas after last year’s seminar and one of the suggestions was to talk about fellowship

Fellowship is an easily misunderstood and often misused word. For many folks it means food, probably in a basement with a tiled floor (or industrial carpet) with all sorts of casseroles and bitter coffee. Our seminar does include food, and dinner is in a basement, but the food is not potlucked. As for the basement, well, it is actually fellowship hallish, but we do what we can. 

All four of the pastors at our church will speak for one session, then we’ll have a group Q&A as the final session. Our four elders are very different in personality, but united in theology and vision. It should make for a fantastic day together. 

I’m planning to talk about tough cases, how to set expectations and how to behave in order to do our part to reach those expectations. 

If you live in the area and have February 17th free, the seminar is also free, but we’d love to know you’re coming for sake of snacks, childcare, and dinner. Take a look at the Facebook event page, or if you’re a FB hater, leave a comment here and I’ll forward your interest to the appropriate planners.   

On Carrying My Own (Digital) Man-purse

I am not a perfect minimalist, but I am drawn to it in certain contexts like iPad writers are to Starbucks. In my time as a more severe dualist I thought it very sanctimonious to carry the least amount of things with me as possible. My wife can not only bear witness, she has often had to bear my load.

When we would travel together, I would let her bring a bar of soap, and I would borrow. When we would go out to eat, I would let her carry my money-clip in her purse. I mean, she had all that available space doing nothing else, right? I needed to keep my pockets free for my hands. And when she would need to bring superfluous things, like more than one extra diaper for a kid, or her hair-dryer, or whatever it seemed like I might have to carry if she got injured, I often expressed my passive-but-perfervid disgust. Why couldn’t she make do with less, like me?

I’ve done the same thing to friends at conferences or other trips. They wanted to bring their backpack with them, so surely they wouldn’t mind carrying around my booklet or free books either. I’m sure that I always asked nicely, and said thank you, too.

Hopefully you can see that I’m trying to poke fun at my selfish self here. It’s not to say that we must always carry our own burden, but , actually, there is a verse about it (Galatians 6:5).

My main point, however, is about why I joined, and still have an account with, the Facebook. I resisted for a long time, not because I dislike technology or the Internet or social networks per se. I resisted because most everyone else was doing it. I resisted because the most that anyone can waste my time on Twitter is 140 characters (it’s now twice that, and yuck, but they didn’t ask me). I resisted because I already know enough ways to waste my time. I resisted because I had seen MySpace pages. I resisted because I had Googled some articles about how Facebook uses your data to target you for ads….

That’s all high-road sounding, and I fancifully suppose people in L’Abri communities would say similar things. But, and this is big, I mostly got away with my resistance because my wife had Facebook. That meant she could tell me about all the banality. She could tell me about who was pregnant. She could pass on prayer requests that others posted, or even prayer requests from our family. She could keep in contact with my sister’s friends when my sister was dying of cancer and was stuck in hospital beds and nursing home beds two-thousand miles away. She could carry my digital social media purse.

I realized that my precious digital minimalism was just no good. I still don’t like Facebook. BLECGH! I don’t have the app on a pocketable device, but I do open it up once or twice a day on my computer. After clicking through the notifications (so I don’t have to keep looking at the red circle of how many things I’m behind on), I scrim (that’s scroll-skim) through the timeline. About that time I question the meaning/vanity of life. But a bunch of people I care about communicate, even seem to hang out, there. Lots of people at our church use it to announce opportunities, ask for prayer, and/or encourage others to persevere. Lots of parents at our school use it for the same reasons, and also to share what’s happening with their friends, which spreads the word about how God is blessing. And amen!

If Facebook went away in an hour, due to a meteor, or a Federal lawsuit, or other, I might sing and dance, and not in lamentation. But for now, though lots of people seem to be abandoning the service, for understandable reasons even, I will keep carrying my own purse.

NoDiscontentDecember Postmortem

It’s been a couple weeks since the official end of our family’s finishing hashtag of 2018. I posted about it a few times, and here is an autopsy report.

  • The focus, agreed upon by every member of the family, was fitting and helpful. December was “richly scheduled,” as Anese Cavenaugh likes to say, and it was good to take fussiness off the table as an acceptable response. That’s not to say no one was ever fussy, but it was nice to have the zero tolerance policy clearly in place.
  • Just like praying for patience, you don’t want to do it. Ha. Not only was December busy, there were some days and discussions which seemed extra providentially selected for testing the contentment commitment. By God’s grace I think my own capacity to see contentment as an appropriate response was increased, as well as my actual choice in the moment.
  • Encouraging the use of Grinch lyrics in the Open Season of confrontation added some laughter (at least for the persons whose souls were not greasy black peels), and encouraged us to remember that obedience, which itself is not a laughing matter, can be pursued with joy not just under burden.
  • If I remember next December, then we will do this again.

Since you’re certainly wondering, our new family hashtag for this month is #jerkJanuary. I’m joking. We haven’t chosen one, and I don’t think we will. Also, of course, contentment is required by God all the time, so we don’t get to return to grumpy-pants grumbling because we survived the gauntlet. Paul said that contentment should be learned for every circumstance; our pursuit of contentment isn’t dead, but we’ll pause our use of the pound sign.

Deadness Also Smells Like Death

As is usually the case, there are ranges on a spectrum when it comes to the question of whether believers should speak and live in such a way that unbelievers would be attracted to the gospel of Christ.

There is one side—usually driven by the Bible and theology, even Reformed, Calvinistic doctrines such as the depravity of man and the need for irresistible grace—of those who argue that Christians and the gospel cannot be attractive to sinners and therefore any attempt to make ourselves winsome is naive at best and probably actually dangerous, you know, slippery slope and all.

On the other side—sometimes driven by the apparent callousness and unloving nature of the Bible-theology folks, and/or sometimes driven by the apparent gravity of Jesus demonstrated in the Gospels—are those who maintain that Christians and the gospel can be attractive to sinners and therefore any refusal to make ourselves winsome is at best immature and probably actually ungodly.

I am a truth guy. I think the Bible is the ultimate standard. My wife and I named our only son Calvin. I have served my time in very man-centered churches and can see with my eyes how compromised much of the Christian message is today because of those who try to win the world by being like it. One of my favorite books ever is Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur, and I read it at a time when I was first learning the doctrines of grace. His book gave me categories to resist pragmatism along with the heroic narrative and quotability of Charles Spurgeon.

However, Solomon said it was worth gaining wisdom in order to increase persuasiveness of speech (Proverbs 16:21; 16:23). Wisdom works to be winsome. Paul told the Cretan slaves that they should “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior“ in their behavior (Titus 2:10), not on their book selling tours. Adorning makes it look good, appealing, desirable. Paul also said that “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 5:15-16). Speaking about Christ and living lives for Christ is a smell, detestable to some and delightful to others. Don’t we want it to be delightful? And when does the delightful, life to life part start? Only after a man believes, or as God’s Spirit is sovereignly drawing him to believe?

Of course if no one can hate what we’re doing, we may be seeking the wrong kind of attractiveness. Do not be ashamed of the gospel, and don’t be conformed to this world. But if no one wants what we have, we may be an ungodly sort of unattractive. Life can smell like death to the dead, but deadness also smells like death to the dead.

Him Who Is Weary

I read a mass of complaints about social media, <irony>many of which come on social media</irony>. I have been on Facebook for over a year now, and it is worse than I imagined it to be. At least on Twitter, the most that anyone can irritate me is with 280 characters (though I would be happy to return to the 140 limit). I have curated my list of subscribed RSS feeds to a smaller number than it used to be. All of the information/bellyaching is enough to make a man tired.

And also, this technology is an amazing gift. The Lord could give us whatever He wants, and, while these modern communication outlets are not necessary, they certainly transmit a multiplicity of blessings and not merely bile.

I am very thankful for the Lord’s grace to me through some of these means. I really enjoy reading the updates from some of my friends, wherever they are and whatever they may be posting about.

The prophet Isaiah wrote,

The Lord GOD has given me
   the tongue of those who are taught,
that I might know how to sustain with a word
   him who is weary.
(Isaiah 50:4)

I am not identifying my Friends or Follows as prophets, nor do I take their word as inspired. But God often uses them to encourage my heart.

If you have been “taught” by the Word and want to share a verse, a quote, a link, a short story, then go for it. Use your tongue, or your thumbs. And thanks for being used as His instrument.

Sing It for Yourself

You might need this today. In the spirit of colossians3:16ing, here’s Psalm 94:19 (NASB):

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,

Your consolations delight my soul.

“Anxious thoughts” translates the Hebrew word sarappim which could be defined as “the processing of information which causes distress and anxiety in one’s mind and heart” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semitic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament). Synonyms abound here: disquieting thoughts, anxious doubts, fear, angst, worries, stress, unease, internal reactions to an upcoming event or an uncertain outcome. Do you ever have any of those? Are challenges to your calm approaching from more than one front? The language is emphatic, these “cares” (ESV) are “many.”

The second line of the verse uses another plural. The “anxious thoughts” are not swallowed up by a more absorbing anxiety but by more powerful ”consolations.” The Hebrew word is tanchum describing comforts, the easing or alleviating of distress. These are supports and reassurances that “delight” or “cheer” (ESV) our soul.

Ours are the internal cares, His are the soul comforts. His comforts are greater than our cares.

In the context of the song these anxieties are caused by political and cultural concerns more than just psychological or emotional concerns. It’s a big world, and there are a lot of problems. Certainly, though, there is application for whatever factor is multiplying our worries.

And what are the “consolations” that the psalmist had in mind? Just in Psalm 94 itself Yahweh is the judge who will repay the wicked, He hears and sees all, He rebukes entire nations, He teaches men knowledge, He disciplines those He loves for their blessing, He gives rest to those in trouble, He does not forsake His people, He holds up the falling. Of course these do not include any of the New Testament consolations in Christ by the Spirit, which happen to be a lot.

My meditation on this verse has come by singing a version of the Psalm that our church sings. I’d sing it for you here, but this is a blog. The words are:

When my anxious thoughts are many,
how Thy comforts cheer my soul.

Sing it for yourself. Sing it for another.

Thanksgiving and Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I have more things to be thankful for than I realize. But I know I am #blessed, and it can’t hurt to count some of them.

I am thankful for my wife’s perseverance through daily pain that most people don’t realize. Mo takes pain medication so that she can get up to serve those around her not so that she can sit down and rest a few points lower on the pain scale. I’m thankful for how quickly she forgives me and does not treat me like my sins deserve. I am thankful for her curiosity that never hits snooze. I am thankful for her insight into each one of our kids and for how she mobilizes their force as a unit. I am thankful for her pumpkin whoopie pies.

I’m thankful for our who kids act like it’s normal to go to a school that their parents and parents’ friends started in a basement. I’m thankful for kids who are loyal to their family, but whose loyalty to family is rooted in their love for God. I’m thankful for kids that look forward to worship with the church on Sunday and who never complain about staying late because they are with their friends. I am thankful for kids who are unrelenting idea-machines for doing things better or bigger. I’m thankful for kids who get excited about spending money on other people.

I am thankful that my sister is in heaven, free from pains of all kinds.

I am thankful for all sorts of tools that most people in history could not have imagined. I’m thankful for reading on my iPad Baby Pro in the Kindle app or Logos app while I’m running on my treadmill. I’m thankful that whatever I highlight syncs to my MacBook Adorable. I’m thankful for text messaging. I’m thankful for the Apple Pencil, for the Internet, for Ulysses, Tweetbot, Things 3, nvALT, DEVONThink, PDFExpert, Goodnotes, Dropbox and iCloud Drive, Gmail and Google Calendar and Google Docs, Due, Overcast, Instapaper, Feedbin and Unread, Scanner Pro, and YNAB.

I’m thankful for the Reformation and Luther and Tyndale and Calvin and Bucer and Edwards and Spurgeon and The Master’s Seminary and Brothers, We Are Not Professionals and Douglas Wilson and Abraham Kuyper. I’m thankful for fiction (though not necessarily the Dispensational kind), for non-fiction, for the ability to read and the ubiquity of English reading material.

I am thankful for the three other pastors at our local church. I’m thankful for the flock who endure how often my mouth is open. I’m thankful for the teachers of our kids. I’m thankful for the worldview of Kuyperian Dispensationalism, even if I am not yet living in such a way that others would envy. I am thankful for God’s grace and new morning mercies and the Holy Spirit all working to bless me and make me a better Christian, husband, father, shepherd, friend, and image-bearer.

I am thankful for black coffee, for red wine, for white (turkey) meat, and for brown gravy. I’m thankful for how the gospel has influenced more feasts than those who feast recognize. I’m thankful I get to feast in Jesus’ name.

Hold It Together

I had a particularly good time reading my Bible and praying this morning, and saw some really interesting things in Hebrews 12. In particular, the word “weary” which the author uses a couple times (verses 3 and 5), is an emphatic form of λύω which is the Greek word used in the beginning verb paradigms. For Greek students it’s sort of funny because it doesn’t seem as if you see λύω very often in actual New Testament sentences. By itself luo means “I loose,” so I wonder if this kind of “weary” could be loosely translated as “not holding it together.”

Verse 3 gives a plan for not being weary: consider Christ. And verse 5 quotes wisdom from Proverbs 3 and commands God’s children not to be weary. In other words, hold it together, son!

I also forget about the running illustration in verses 1-2. I like running. I really miss when I can’t run. The exhortation is: “with endurance, run!” And specifically we’re to run “the race that is set before us.” God is obviously the one setting the course, and with every step we should be acknowledging Him as the one who laid out route, including the interruptions and opportunities and difficulties. So, run, son!