On my shelf at home is a big blue book filled with letters. When I turned thirteen, my Dad enlisted all of the influential men in my life at that time to write me letters as I entered “mahood.” He put them all in this wonderful blue book.

His letter along with all of those men’s words of wisdom and specific insight into my life as a young teenager continues to be influential. That book is one of my most prized possessions, something I reference on a regular basis.

Directly beside that book is a red and ratty notebook that I filled during my college years. It contains notes upon notes specifically about manhood, leadership, marriage, ministry, and wisdom I collected from professors, pastors, and mentors. I look to that book again and again as well.

Recently I received a copy of Reformational Manhood by Greg Gibson, who I consider a friend. Greg is a man whose life reflects everything he teaches, and his new book is no exception.

I couldn’t help but think about my big blue book full of letters and my ratty red notebook as I read through Reformational Manhood. Greg’s journey into understanding and practicing manhood according to Scripture has been similar to my own. Reformational Manhood was just like sitting down with one of my pastors or mentors and having them “teach me their ways.” It’s an experience that is both refreshing and convicting all at once.

One could argue that I say that only because I’m a friend to Greg, but I say it with all sincerity and honesty. I’ll speak clearly: this is a book worth putting on your shelf.

I have very few hesitations in handing this book to a young man. My complaints are few and far from condemning this book.

My concerns are two-fold: the book should be more concise and the layout is distracting. When I picked up Reformational Manhood, I tried to read like (I think) the target audience of young men whom I might pass this book on to. I know many who are avid readers and can tear through any amount of pages, and anyone can argue that 121 pages is not difficult to read. I felt incredibly comfortable when Greg opted to short and concise lists – but when he talked extensively about statistics and had other extended portions of the book without much breaks it became difficult to read.

That is tied to the second issue: perhaps a reformatting of the book might solve some of those issues. It’s more of an aesthetical complaint, but I felt that the font and formatting made the book unnecessarily hard to read. I would have liked something formatted in the style of Don’t Waste Your Life or another book similar in length and content.

All of that said, the strengths of this book are overwhelming. Few books dive deep into both Scripture on manhood and have such an extensive amount of practical advice. Greg strikes the balance well: I felt like I was sitting across from him as he opened up the Scriptures and offered specific advice to me. His chapters on being protector and provider were timely and convicting to me. I learned how to honor my wife even better because of Greg.

However, most importantly this book does not lose sight of the gospel and the example of Jesus Christ. Too often books like this can stray from the foundation of manhood and make it all about wearing camo hats and shooting guns. Greg consistently brings out the eternal, biblical and lasting definitions and shoots down cultural stereotypes.

Get this book for the young men in your life. They will thank you one day as they put it beside their often referenced blue books and red notebooks.

// Purchase Reformational Manhood on Amazon //

A Productive 2013

January 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

One of the beauties of technology is the ability to have a vast amount of tools that equip us to be productive. I believe God is greatly honored as we work, and we should be pursuing excellence in everything, including the way we use technology. CoolHunting.com has provided an excellent list of productivity tools including Flow and Smartr. Go ahead and view the full list here.

 

“A new analysis of the American Freshman Survey, which has accumulated data for the past 47 years from 9 million young adults, reveals that college students are more likely than ever to call themselves gifted and driven to succeed, even though their test scores and time spent studying are decreasing.”

- Dr. Keith Ablow

Insignificance Subdued

“This recognition of smallness is like finding childhood again. Stars are more dazzling this way, sleep feels more peaceful, and the breezes are sweeter. I am small; yes, small enough to see that my continued humming along in this vast expanse is a miracle.”

Hannah Farver

Smallness

Hannah Farver has published an excellent piece dealing with that feeling we’ve all had: incredible smallness.

I’ve never looked at Facebook before and felt small. Bored, annoyed, intrigued—yes. Never small. But as a couple hundred diverse lives updated their statuses on my feed, I suddenly felt, working from my couch, that my life was very unimportant.
Businessmen in Korea are signing deals in right now. Children in Saudi Arabia are scurrying to school, as some hikers are probably lost in the woods somewhere in Wyoming, and some boat is probably taking on too much water while tuna-fishing in the Bering Sea.

The world is like one gigantic beehive, with all our lives crammed together, humming away. I sit here, simply breathing, as lights flicker on And I am very, very small.

It’s not so bad. I don’t mind being small. The whole spinning universe looks all the more magnificent when you know you’re an unnecessary part.

But there’s the catch. Knowing we’re unnecessary doesn’t exactly give the warm fuzzies.

This is well worth taking the time to read as you consider the difficulty of “being small” in such a large world.

// Read “At Once I Knew” Here //

Top Posts of 2012

January 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

It’s always good to look back on 2012. There are great gains to be had and exciting things ahead for 2013. Here were my top five blog posts from 2012. Apparently we’re all into reading, iPhones, and gender roles. Don’t worry, we won’t stop talking about those things in the coming year.

1. Essential Books for High School Seniors

Absolutely one of the most popular blog posts I’ve ever posted on the blog. I’ll try to update the list over time, especially after some fantastic new books that have come out in the past year.

2. I Learned Feminism From Jesus

It’s worth the read. There should be many more blog posts this coming year dealing with gender roles and human sexuality.

3. My Favorite iPhone Apps and Why I Use Them

I love my iPhone and I love my apps. My phone has changed dramatically from the time I wrote that post, but there are some great iPhone apps listed there.

4. My Summer Reading List 

Because I love reading. Made it through most of those books and more!

5. Challies’ Disagrees with Piper about Christianity’s “Masculine Feel”

A short post that highlighted a disagreement “in the ranks.” I added some of my favorite responses.

My good friends Alex and Brett Harris have asked the question, “What lies ahead for the Rebelution?” It’s a question that I know they have continued to wrestle with for the past few years as seasons change dramatically from the days of 2006 and 2007. It’s not always easy to answer.

It’s fascinating to look back on this previous year and to see the incredible amount of change that has taken place in my own life.

Walking across a stage to shake a hand and grab a diploma.

Gently placing a ring on a finger and repeating sacred vows.

Sitting in a doctor’s office and hearing the wonderful news.

Since beginning this blog as a young and fresh fourteen-year-old, my life has changed dramatically. The blog (like the Rebelution) has moved toward staleness and increasing obscurity as I have moved towards a new time in life.

Yet I’m still a Rebelutionary. Here’s why.

1. Faithfulness in doing hard things is more important than one big hard thing done only once

If there is one thing that I have learned during my time in “the movement,” it’s the lure of seeing the phrase “do hard things” turn into “do BIG things” in a split second. Others have written about it, and I have written about it for some time now on this blog, Boundless, and the old Regenerated Magazine. It is incredibly easy to think that what really matters is the stage, the lights, the article, the conference, or the story in the local paper.

I would argue that it is faithfulness that is the ultimate hard thing. You can put together something that is a huge flash, but without faithfulness it fizzles away, forgotten. The Lord is looking for rebelutionaries who are willing to go day after day faithfully serving him wherever they find themselves. He’s ready to use those “little” people who right now might feel incredibly insignificant.

This year I plan on releasing a free (and short) e-book that addresses this topic of faithfulness, feeling small and insignificant, and how God does great things through faithful “small” people. Be on the lookout as early as March 2013.

2. “Do Hard Things” is a message that is needed more than ever

I have not yet lost the pulse of the young generation around us. I may not be a “teenager” any more, but I have been intentional about keeping up with those younger than myself (thanks to friends, youth groups, churches, family, and researchers around the world). Time after time as I have recounted the stories and the message of “do hard things,” it resonates strongly with this generation.

And for those who have not yet heard it, I can see the need for teenagers to rise against the low expectations of culture. This is a message that needs to go beyond homeschoolers. It needs to be a battle cry for a new and young Christian generation.

3. Rebelutionaries never get too old

This third point is mainly for my own heart. I remember the day I turned twenty and thought “It’s over. I’m not a Rebelutionary any more.” This couldn’t have been further from the truth.

As a young man now, I still battle each day to do hard things. There are incredibly low expectations for twenty-somethings in an age that celebrates low commitment, immorality, and laziness. Teenagers are turning into narcissistic college graduates who believe they can live at the same level as their parents – without any hard work or faithful saving. This is true even of Christian young men and women.

Others simply don’t care. They don’t work hard in school. They continue to purposely live at their parents homes late into their twenties without a solid job or a plan to one day care for a family. We need Rebelutionaries who do hard things for their whole lifetime.

Men who are willing to make a commitment to young women to care for them for the rest of their lives and who are willing to marry young. Young women who are working hard in school and work, preparing themselves day after day to become faithful wives and mothers. Others who may not marry, they’re working hard as well in their churches and schools, perhaps preparing to be successful in business or getting ready to go to the mission field.

The Rebelution doesn’t end at 18, or 20, or even 90. It’s a lifetime of doing hard things.

Keys to Joy at Christmas

December 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

(Originally Posted 2007)

Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her king!

It’s a beautiful phrase that proclaims why we must rejoice this holiday season. Yet during the Christmas season, the biggest struggle for me — and possibly for many others– is the struggle for joy. It’s funny that joy would be something hard to maintain during this the “season of joy,” yet it is.

Personally, for me, the past year was characterized by a misapplication of the Doctrine of Sin. I was focusing almost completely on my own sin and failures, instead of allowing God’s grace to flow in my life. Through the great words of C.J. Mahaney, my parents, and God’s Word, I realized that I had been doing the easy part — identifying my sin, yet that was all I was doing. I was not doing the hard part — crushing my pride by accepting God’s free grace. This act of refusing God’s grace sapped joy from my life. But I am still grateful for the lesson I have learned through this season of my life — and am now joyfully enjoying God’s grace once again.

Which brings me back to Christmas — it is a time where we all seem to get caught up in the nation-wide Christmas grumpiness. What we need to do is to take just a few “keys” to joy, and apply them to our lives. Now, these keys are not original to me (as most things are not), but come from the great blog Girl Talk.

First, we must contemplate the incarnation.

I have found this key to be of the utmost importance, particularly this Christmas season. As I have thought upon the great wonder of the incarnation — the miracle of Christmas — and upon the great news that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:6) it has sent shivers up my spine and has brought tears to my eyes.

This past Wednesday was especially sweet to me as I led worship, sharing a story of sacrifice, and just contemplating with fellow believers on the incarnation and on Christ’s death. I don’t usually cry – but the overwhelming power of the message that God had laid on my heart came with such a force. We must always keep this wonder in the forefront of our minds and hearts.

Two other ways to contemplate the incarnation, as pointed out by Nicole Whitacre, include reading chapter five, “God Inncarnate” from JI Packer’s Knowing God, a chapter that affected me deeply this past summer during a class I was taking on the book.

“The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity’s hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross,” says Packer, “It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear.”

The second way to contemplate the incarnation is through music, particularly the Sovereign Grace Christmas Album, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man. The songs on this CD are absolutely wonderful — full of beautiful, theologically strong lyrics and perfect music for the whole year.

The second key is to practice the spiritual disciplines. A great way to do that is to get a hold of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney – a book I desperately need to pick up and read along with my daily Bible readings. I really like what Janelle Bradshaw said in her post on this second key:

“It can be a temptation to let a few things slide. You know the thoughts: “Things will settle down after the holidays. I’ll get back to it then.” Often times, the spiritual disciplines can be the first to go.

We usually don’t feel the immediate effect of skipping a few devotional times here and there. But, what happens if we don’t get our presents wrapped in time or the cookies made before the big meal? That would be a disaster! “

And which one of us has not experienced that very thing happen to us at least one year around Christmastime? I doubt one of us could say that we have been faithful each year during this busy time. But we must remember that “the precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart…they are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” (Psalm 19:8,10)

The third key to Christmas joy is to serve and give to others.

It reminds me of my visit to the nursing home just a couple of weeks ago. I went with the junior high department of my church’s youth group to sing Christmas carols in the halls. As expected, we walked into a smelly, overly heated, dry, old building with what seemed to be smelly, cold, elderly people. And that’s how many of us saw it when we first walked in. Yet when we began to sing, I saw a building that was full of sad, lonely, joyless people who needed to hear those songs proclaiming the greatness of the incarnation.

In one hallway, we stopped to sing for one lady who began to direct us as we sang. I set my guitar down (since we sang a cappella), and turned to see a older black man sitting on his bed, reading a Christmas card that one of the kids had given him. His face was so sad — so lonely, as if he had no one in his life. The television in front of him was the only light in that room, except for a little light from the hallway. He struggled to read the card – and his face slowly melted. And then he began to sing along with us in a deep, quiet voice…

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king…”

I thought I saw a tear in his eye as he looked up at me. I smiled and wished him a “Merry Christmas!” A smile took over his face as he looked up at me. “Merry Christmas,” he said. His eyes quickly returned to that simple card we had made for him earlier that day.

It’s just another example of serving and giving to others — it truly brings you great joy as well. A quote I loved from J.I. Packer was quoted in the Girl Talk post. In the quote, he reminds us:

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor–spending and being spent–to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others—and not just their own friends–in whatever way there seems need.

If God in mercy revives us, one of the things he will do will be to work more of this spirit in our hearts and lives. If we desire spiritual quickening for ourselves individually, one step we should take is to seek to cultivate this spirit. ‘You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty became rich’ (2 Cor. 8:9).

The fourth key to joy is continued communion with God. This is essentially staying and praying to God throughout the day. Not just part of the day. The cross need to be at the forefront of our minds all the time, not just the morning or evening, or Sunday or Wedndesday. We must constantly rely on God for our joy – especially when we serve others. In these things, we cannot do them alone. Meditate on God’s Word all day.

The final key to joy is to return every gift into an opportunity to glorify and adore God.

“Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility”.I have tried to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I meant something different. Gratitude exclaims, very properly, “How good of God to give me this.” Adoration says, “What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!” One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun. If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline. But it is worth some labour.” (C.S. Lewis as quoted in, When I Don’t Desire God, by John Piper)

I pray you will have a joyful year full of the wonder and mystery of God become man – and I pray that you will not stop simply at God becoming man, but what he did as a man on this earth. And that will bring you great joy.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her king!

Originally posted 12/22/2007

As we wake up this Monday morning, we begin a week where parents will begin burying their six and seven year olds. This should not be so. It is, I think, a grave strike in the face of all that is right and true. The serpent has struck at the innocent.

I for one wake this Monday morning and must wrestle in my soul, as I read the stories and see the pictures of these children. Thankfully, there are men who have sensed and felt the same struggle and pain and have written in response to this awful tragedy. I put this list here for your benefit (HT: The Rebelution).

How Does Jesus Come to Newtown? by John Piper

We need a suffering Savior. We need a Savior who has tasted the cup of horror we are being forced to drink.And that is how he came. He knew what this world needed. Not a comedian. Not a sports hero. Not a movie star. Not a political genius. Not a doctor. Not even a pastor. The world needed what no mere man could be.Keep Reading –>

Rachel Weeping For Her Children by Dr. Albert Mohler (also listen to The Briefing)

The calculated and premeditated nature of this crime, combined with the horror of at least twenty murdered children, makes the news almost unspeakable and unbearable. The grief of parents and loved ones in Newtown is beyond words. Yet, even in the face of such a tragedy, Christians must speak. We will have to speak in public about this evil, and we will have to speak in private about this horrible crime. How should Christians think and pray in the aftermath of such a colossal crime? Keep Reading –>

School Shootings and Spiritual Warfare by Russell Moore

Let’s grieve for the innocent. Let’s demand justice for the guilty. And let’s rage against the Reptile behind it all.As we do so, let’s remember that Bethlehem was an act of war. Let’s remember that the One born there is a prince of peace who will crush the skull of the ancient murderer of Eden. Let’s pray for the Second Coming of Mary’s son. And, as we sing our Christmas carols, let’s look into the slitted eyes of Satan as we promise him the threat of his coming crushed skull.Keep Reading –>

Sermon of Remembrance and Peace by Tim Keller

TRANSCRIPT: But it is on the Cross that we see the ultimate wonder. On the cross we sufferers finally see, to our shock that God now knows too what it is to lose a loved one in an unjust attack. And so you see what this means?John Stott puts it this way. John Stott wrote: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the Cross. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” Do you see what this means? Yes, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be.It can’t be that he doesn’t love us! It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the Cross is an incredibly empowering hint. … if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength. Keep Reading –>

The Loss of the Innocents by Ross Douthat

NEWTOWN, Conn., is about 20 miles from the town where my wife grew up. It’s the kind of place that rewards rambling New England drives: there are big old Victorian houses flanking the main street, a hill with a huge flagpole rising in the center of town, and a large pasture just below, with shaded side roads radiating outward from the greensward, and then horse farms in the hills beyond.

When you live in a hectic, self-important city, it’s easy to romanticize a town like Newtown, and maybe imagine escaping there someday, children in tow. The last time we drove through was more than a year ago: it was a summer dusk, and there were families out everywhere — kids on bikes, crowds around the ice cream stand, the images of small town innocence flickering past our car windows like slides on a carousel.

Any grown-up knows that such small-town innocence is illusory, and that what looks pristine to outsiders can be as darkened by suffering as any other place where human beings live together, and alone.

But even so, the illusion has real power, not least because the dream of small-town life makes the whole universe seem somehow kinder and homier. Keep Reading ->

Connecticut Shooting & How God Identifies with Suffering by Alyssa Joy

My heart is broken for the kids and adults who were killed this morning in the Conneticut shooting. My heart aches for those parents, teachers, children and families. They said on the news that this is the worst school shooting in American history.

As I watched the news this morning, my heart cried out to the Lord– praying for those involved, and also wondering why God allowed this to happen. How could this happen?

Then I recalled who the LORD is. He did not turn His back when the shooter went in this morning. He did not forget about His children. He did not forsake them. Keep Reading – >

Suffer Not the Little Children to Come to Me–and to Us by Owen Strachan

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away (Matthew 19:13-15 ESV).

Many of us are still recovering from the Sandy Hook shooting this past Friday. We’re still in shock; we’re still in mourning. It is right that we find ourselves here. Terrible tragedy calls first for sadness, not solutions.

In my own processing of this evil event, I have thought a good deal about what this calamity shows about how Americans continue to think about children. We grieve the little ones who are dead. We do not think of them as expendable, as inexpensive, as possessing less dignity than anyone else. We want to protect them. Our worst nightmare as a society is for someone to menace and kill our kids. Keep Reading ->

My latest article is on The Veritas Network this morning.

My eyes were burning as the salty sweat dripped off my forehead. I took a bite of my chewy energy bar, then crumpled and stuffed the aluminum packaging deep into my backpack. I rummaged around for my water bottle, my arm brushing against the harsh canvas. Finally my fingers touched the warm plastic. I jerked it free and brought it to my mouth.

I took a deep, warm gulp. It eased my throat that was burning from the pungent smells wafting all around me.

Dusty fields randomly spattered with green plants surrounded the brown and broken dirt road I walked on. I stepped off into a ditch to allow a camel-drawn cart full of colorfully clothed men and women pass.

My feet were starting to ache. It had a been a long morning already. The hotel shower had been cold and my breakfast had been a few handfuls of cheap, dry cereal I had bought at a cluttered bazaar the evening before.

A friend and I had met and greeted our translator early in the humid morning, crammed ourselves into a smelly green and yellow auto rickshaw, then pattered off to the bus stop. Once we arrived, the three of us climbed into a dilapidated old bus full of staring people and took off. I wondered why they stared.

We quickly realized why. It was like driving in a war zone. I still have no idea how people could sleep on a bus that creaked, groaned, and roared louder with every kilometer we traveled. Every time we hit a pothole, the sound was deafening.

But we made it. Finally.

We were now walking about 10 kilometers to a remote village in Northern India, a village where I would start to fully realize something that would radically change my life forever.

Read the rest on the Veritas Network.