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In the summer of 2016 the four elders at our church had a public discussion about the presidential election. I was an unswerving #NeverTrumper. This was not because I found Mrs. Clinton more appealing; both were appalling. I planned to (and did) write in my vote that November.

Nothing tempted me to appreciate Mr. Trump. I believe that good leadership requires good character, and, at that time, there were as many reasons to trust Trump as there were reasons to keep watching The Apprentice, meaning, none. His brash, 3rd grade playground vocabulary, his boasting in immorality and adulteries, combined with his lack of understanding of various policies shown in the Republican debates and his willingness to mock and berate his competition gave me quite enough evidence to commit to not give him any support.

Now, four years later, I have been very surprised by, and grateful for, God’s use of President Trump. While I think Trump has promoted noxious patterns of political discourse (and tweeting) that are likely to be tolerated for generations, he has also turned out to be the most pro-life president we’ve had, in public and by policy. He appears to have rolled back more government regulations with his power and provided a little more breathing room for free-ish capitalism. He’s come out in favor of school choices, and even talked about churches as essential.

He has also survived, if not thrived, through virtually every accusation thrown at him. It is not because he’s teflon.

A teflon coating makes it harder for the egg-guts to stick. A leader with integrity may be likened to a teflon pan; slander doesn’t cling, at least not as easily. Some accusations against some men are just hard to believe. Charges against them slide off into the draining dishwater. Vice President Mike Pence seems to be more like this.

But, if Mr. Pence was trying to accomplish something, would he be able to survive the relentless rotten scum that our modern media is committed to pitch? The Kavanaugh hearing gave a picture of the skeletons that reporters and politicians are diligent to invent. These stories/lies cause damage because they gain traction, they gain traction because they are interesting, and they are interesting because men who care about not being canceled have to fight.

Trump is much more like a cast-iron skillet: the more grease the better. He seems to like the grease. He almost begs for it.

Who cares any more about his personal scandals? It’s not because there aren’t any, Trump just doesn’t seem bothered, and where’s the fun in that? Fake news has upped their fiction levels to international intrigue, but Trump just thanks them for providing another reason for him to talk into the microphone.

Here is a serious question for my Christian friends: what person in a “high position” (1 Timothy 2:2) has been used by God to bring about this many common grace blessings for a “Christian” nation, while appearing to turn more conservative amidst the accusations? Who do we know that could handle not just the scrutiny, but the slander of the liberal media, and still keep cooking the bacon?

Maybe, and I mean maybe, Kanye? Ha.

This is very humbling for Christians. God is protecting the remnants of our liberties through a man that is happy to lie and cheat, or at least BS, his way to whatever he wants, and we keep being blessed.

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I am very grateful for how John MacArthur has come out of the corner on behalf of his flock, for the sake of religious liberty, and in service to all the other churches that will benefit from his stand.

Dr. MacArthur is a truth-lover. He’s been preaching the truth longer than I’ve been alive. God has used his teaching and his example in my own life. My convictions about the Word would not be as dear to me or as deep without MacArthur’s persistence and faithfulness.

I’d also say that his defenses of the truth sometime comes across like a truth quarantine. There have been times when the attitude has been more, “Join us in our corner. Here is where the biblically faithful are.” There is a way that guarding the faith can become insular.

But as GCC has returned to normal church services, Dr. MacArthur is in his lane, but out of his corner.

I started by saying that I am thankful. This is a difficult position, not only as a target of L.A. County officials and the CA governor, but also as MacArthur is getting significant criticism from many he’s trying to help.

It reminds me of the scene in Moneyball when the owner of the Red Sox said to Billy Beane, “I know you’re taking it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall, he always gets bloody. Always.” (Watch the clip here, with the quote at the 2:35 mark.)

I am grateful for Phil Johnson and his (return to writing and) explanations of the changes at the PyroManiacs site. Phil is undoubtedly a major influence to the thinking behind, and change in, the GCC position.

So here we see MacArthur, Johnson, and GCC going first rather than circling the wagons. They are using their God-given platform to take a beating on behalf of others. Again, it’s not that this is the first time they’ve been criticized, even severely. But perhaps more than ever it is clear that this is an offensive rather than defensive move, and it is a move on behalf of their own church that, Lord willing, will benefit churches in CA legally as well as churches around the world by example. I am praying that they win.

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There is a patronizing way to say, “Just read your Bible,” and there is also a pastoral way to say it. As one of the shepherds of the flock, I urge you, hear and keep the words of this Book.

Revelation promises that those who hear and keep the words will be blessed (1:3), but this is only the last inspired Book in which God offers the blessing. The Psalms begin with blessing. “Blessed is the man” not who hangs out with the lawbreakers, but instead, the blessed man has “his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

I want this blessing, and so I’ve been reading through the Bible on an annual plan for many years. This summer, along with many of you I added the #SamePageSummer challenge on top of my other plan, and though it was obviously more reading, it was also good. It also seems that my joining along did some good to others as an encouragement for them to read or listen as well.

I just finished reading and posting my summaries of the #SamePageSummer plan, albeit not quite summer anymore, nor on the same page by this point. I was planning to go back and just follow the M’Cheyne schedule, but in talking with Mo last week, I’ve decided to quit (which I’ve never done in September) and start a new plan (which I’ve also never done in September) and follow the Bible reading challenge with #KeepTheFeast.

Should you be reading the #KeepTheFeast plan? I don’t know. Should you be reading (or listening) in order to delight and mediate on His word? You most definitely should if you want God’s blessing.

So if you have no plan, why not accept the invite to #KeepTheFeast? If you’re already doing #KeepTheFeast, encourage one another. If you’re reading according to another schedule, love that. But with the renewed activities of the school year, we need the renewal of our minds by Scripture more and more. Just read your Bible.

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As of today I decided to switch from the M’Cheyene Bible reading plan to the #keepthefeast plan. Day one was Psalm 119, and this reading by 88 voices was a great way to start.

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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.

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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.   

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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.

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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.

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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.

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