Counsel to Young Men

September 29, 2022

Self-control, discipline, and hygiene challenges for young men:

  • 100 push-ups a day for a 100 days, minus Sundays. Spread it out throughout the day. Work up to the daily count if needed.
  • Cut the sugar foo-foo Starbucks drinks. Drink black coffee instead.
  • Reduce the frequency of touching your face. Improve your impulse control. Slow down and use a tissue or napkin with both hands. Not every itch needs to be scratched.
  • Trim your board and maintain a basic haircut. Ask an older man (who isn’t a goofy people-pleaser) if you look disheveled.
  • Replace a graphic tee with a polo or button-up shirt.
  • Fast for two meals, one day a week.
  • Read the job listings for a position you aspire to. What does it require?
  • Spend one evening a week developing your career, e.g. practical new skills, certifications, or training.
  • Gradually turn your shower water colder (mid-shower). Push yourself.
  • Keep your phone outside of your bedroom.
  • Memorize a Bible verse and make it your “fighter” verse against porn, lust, and wandering eyes, e.g. Psalm 119:9 or Philippians 4:8.
  • Memorize a gospel-of-grace passage for when you stumble, e.g. Psalm 51:1-2, or Romans 4:5, or Romans 8:1.

“Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.” (Titus 2:6)

Added: “Divide allowance or job income into Give/Save/Spend, so you don’t blow it all on frivolous things.” (Josh Pavon)

August 3, 2020

Counsel to young men going to college this Fall:

  • Find a local church that preaches the Bible and become a member.
  • Join a college Christian fellowship. Regularly attend a Bible study. Dive deep.
  • Make friends with people that are different from you. Be hospitable and welcoming to the socially awkward or lowly. That’ll also connect you with other kind people.
  • Think about going on a Summer mission trip to share the gospel.
  • Find a squad of Christian brothers. You don’t need a lot of friends. Just a few good ones.
  • Call your mom on the weekends.
  • Be productive. Treat video games like occasional desserts.
  • Get radical to avoid porn. Use your computer or phone screen out in the open. Install a filter. Turn off the internet at night if necessary.
  • Stay away from secular fraternities.
  • Stay away from drinking parties and drinking games. Being drunk is stupid. A good beer is for meals around trusted, mature friends who keep you in check. Not for the company of fools.
  • Find a mentor, discipler, who will risk offending you and kindly tell you the truth and keep you honest.
  • Be informed via Christian apologetics on the overt historical arguments against the Bible, philosophies that preclude miracles, and subtle attacks (critical theory, standpoint epistemology) on your faith. Find some solid apologists and read their books.
  • Pursue a godly Christian spouse on purpose, intentionally, straightforwardly, and don’t be bashful about it. Be realistic about beauty standards. Don’t date without a bigger mission. Sex is meant to be productive towards raising a godly family in the context of marriage.
  • Pursue a career that’ll help you raise a family. That’s the goal. Having a “passion” for a particular career is great, but keep it in perspective. Take a serious look at the marketplace and the job statistics and typical lifestyle for those with the degree in question.

Which Bible translation do I recommend?

Short answer:

I read the ESV (English Standard Version) and CSB (Christian Standard Bible).

If you want more continuity with the KJV, you could try the NKJV.

The NIV (New International Version) is another good one that I grew up on.

Long answer:

Almost any major modern English translation is great. They’re done these days by teams of scholars who typically include footnotes for interesting translation/textual issues.

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A few translations are more unapologetically paraphrase, like “The Message”, which is just done by one guy. At best this can function like a commentary, but doesn’t work well as an actual translation.

The free YouVersion/Bible iOS app is great — it has all the major translations, most of which have audio narrations. Just click and play. Great for commuting.

My personal favorite dramatic audio narration is “The Word of Promise.” It uses the NKJV. It is great for OT historical books and is available also as an app.

My children greatly benefitted from the Action Bible (comic book format) when they were still learning the basic stories.

Eight worldview questions

Eight worldview questions you can ask anyone:

1. What is really real?

2. What is the nature of the world around us?

3. What is a human being?

4. What happens after death?

5. Why is it possible to know anything?

6. How do we know what is right and what is wrong?

7. What is the meaning of human history?

8. What personal, life-altering commitments are consistent with this worldview?

Source: James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (InterVarsity Press, 2020).

A Christian tradition: evangelism to heretics

“Ignatius (d. 110) engaged both pagans and heretical Christians, particularly docetists, with the gospel…”

“Employing the language of Greek philosophy, Justin [Martyr, d. 165] communicated through public debates and written treatises, directing his message to Jews, pagan intellectuals, and Christian heretics…”

“While serving as bishop of Alexandria for forty-five years, Athanasius [c. 296–373] also evangelized heretics, particularly as he defended the church against Arian teaching…”

“Augustine [354–430] also served as a missionary of sorts to heretics, defending the church against Manichean, Donatist, and Pelagian teaching…”

“[Irish monk] Columban [c. 543–615] proclaimed the gospel to heretics, particularly the Arian Lombards in Italy.”

– Edward L. Smither, Christian Mission: A Concise Global History

Why distinguish between faith and works?

A Mormon asks, “How is having faith in Christ… not a ‘work’ in the same way our ordinances are works?”

I think it’s a great question. In summary, saving faith:

(1) must be distinguished from works, because scripture itself makes the distinction;

(2) faith admits one’s own unworthiness and takes a needy, humble posture that receives eternal life as a free gift;

(3) faith trusts in a particular Savior who has made particular promises to believers.

Unpacking these:

(1) We are required by the text of scripture to distinguish between faith and works. See especially Romans 4:5 — “To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Paul also makes the distinction in Galatians 3:2,5.

He also insists that believers are saved “not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.” (Titus 3:5) And he says that he has a righteousness, not “of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” So even before we answer *how* faith and works are different, we can at least see *that* they are different.

(2) Saving faith takes a needy posture or mode: it positions itself like a destitute beggar entirely dependent on another. It receives. It has nothing to offer. It holds out open, empty hands. It’s the posture of receiving a free gift, with humility that acknowledges one is unworthy and unqualified to receive it. “Lord, I am unrighteous. Please forgive me, because Jesus alone is righteous.”

Saving faith looks outside of itself to the righteousness of another. Saving faith distrusts its own works to earn eternal life, and entirely depends on the work Christ to earn it on our behalf.

(3) Lastly, there is the content of faith: Faith trusts Christ for particular promises. It does not say, “I am trusting Christ to help me earn, merit, and prove myself worthy of his presence.” Rather, it says, “Christ alone is worthy, he alone has merit, and he has earned eternal life for me on my behalf.” Saving faith hears and believes, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:25)

On requesting a letter of transfer from your previous church

  • It is—at the very least—a courtesy to your new church to request a letter of transfer from your old church.
  • It lets the new church body know that you are in good standing with your previous church. You’re not running away from church discipline or keeping the new church in the dark. It better primes the new community for recognizing the credibility of the profession of your faith.
  • It lets the previous church body know that they can gladly release your membership. Your love has not grown cold, you have not left the faith, and you have not detached from the body of Christ.
  • It honors the pastor-elders that previously were responsible for shepherding you. It encourages you to involve them in evaluating the new church you are you considering.
  • It reinforces the duty that the elders of a previous church have to encourage outgoing members to find a new healthy church wherever they go.
  • It invites the elders between both churches to have an open line of communication during the hand-off. They may have something pastorally relevant and helpful to say for the sake of shepherding.
  • It celebrates the season of fellowship you had with your previous church.
  • It honors the “communion of saints” — the broad fellowship that Christians enjoy across many local churches.

To those thinking, “I would never do that”:

This requires a high level of trust in the elders of the church you attend. If you don’t have this kind of trust, consider changing your mind about it, or finding a church where you can trust the shepherding leadership to that extent.

It also requires a kind of transparency that is fitting to the community life of a healthy church.

If this seems foreign to you — please keep an open mind. It’s possible to have that kind of relationship with a local church!

  • Pastors don’t have the freedom to bind a person’s conscience from moving to a different faithful church. Christians don’t technically need their “permission” to move.
  • Nor can pastors overstep their bounds to infringe upon the conscience, the family, or the state. They can only act in accordance with the Bible according to their “jurisdiction” as church shepherds.
  • And even then, there are important decisions pastors are only supposed to make in unity and consent with the congregation (such as excommunication, or the adding of a new elder). “Christ has likewise given power to his whole Church to receive in and cast out, by way of Excommunication, any member; and this power is given to every particular Congregation, and not one particular person, either member or Officer, but the whole.” (London Confession of 1644)
  • There is a brotherly and healthy protocol (when between faithful churches) in letting one’s prior shepherds know that they are no longer under their spiritual care or congregational governance, and letting the new church know that one isn’t running away from something (kept secret). So it’s not about seeking de facto permission, but about unity, open communication, and voluntary accountability.
  • Churches are free to apply the “light of nature” and apply wisdom as they seek to obey the Bible. How churches fulfill the conceptual equivalent of “membership” (the recognition of a belonging that comes with special responsibilities) may look different in the details and terms and formalities.

On Menstealers

Paul explains how “the law is good”: it is laid down “for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers [also translated “menstealers”, “slave traders”, “enslavers”], for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” (1 Timothy 1:10)

Where does the Law deal with “menstealers”?

“Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:16)

“If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 24:7)

Oh, would that Americans had enforced this capital punishment against transatlantic slave traders. Christians saw the connection long before the Civil War.

“Though this law was given to the Israelites primarily, yet was made for men stealers in general, as the apostle observes, who plainly has reference to it, 1 Timothy 1:9.” (John Gill, 1697-1771)

“Here is a law against man-stealing (Exodus 21:16): He that steals a man (that is, a person, man, woman, or child), with design to sell him to the Gentiles (for no Israelite would buy him), was adjudged to death by this statute, which is ratified by the apostle (1 Timothy 1:10), where men-stealers are reckoned among those wicked ones against whom laws must be made by Christian princes.” (Matthew Henry, 1662-1714)

“By this law every man-stealer, and every receiver of the stolen person, should lose his life; no matter whether the latter stole the man himself, or gave money to a slave captain or negro-dealer to steal him for him.” (Adam Clarke, 1762-1832)

Lessons Learned at Seminary

Apartments and dorms on the campus of MBTS

I love Utah. But all the changes with COVID provided me an opportunity. I was suddenly working from home. I reasoned: if I could work remotely, why not take evening classes at a seminary?

So I moved in 2020 to Kansas City, Missouri, to attend Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Classmates from Theology 2

It has been a blessing. My daughters dash out the door in the morning to play with their campus friends. We now live on campus among believers and have made some dear friends.

I am moving back to Utah this July, and now I reflect on what God has taught me.

When I first moved here I asked a brother (Garrett) what advice he could give me for the seminary experience. He advised:

  1. Take the initiative to make relationships. More people than you realize are just waiting for others to take the initiative.
  2. Don’t murmur or complain. You might find yourself in a funk where this is tempting.
  3. Choose classes based on the professor, not the topic.

Here are some other things I picked up along the way:

Continue reading “Lessons Learned at Seminary”

My First Love, Remembered

Sometimes I listen to an old CCM worship song—not because the artist still believes (sometimes he doesn’t), or because the lyrics couldn’t be improved (sometimes they could)—but because God powerfully used it to bless me in my youth or youth adulthood, and it reminds me of my “first love.” (Rev 2:4)

Oh, when the Lord first opened my eyes! I could see! My heart burned for Christ!