Wednesday, May 31, 2006

New Column at

I recently began a new column at that is called "Shaping Timothy." The column calls for pastors to begin discipleship of young men in their churches. I make the argument that pastoral discipleship is as much a pastoral responsibility as preaching, teaching, and evangelism. This claim is based in the example afforded us by both Christ and Paul, who made it their business to train men for ministry. I am excited about the column and grateful to 9Marks for the opportunity to write it. If you like, you can read it at,,PTID314526CHID598014CIID2209928,00.html

There's also a ton of other good stuff at the site. Here's the teaser.

"The most dangerous attacks on the people of God often come from within our city walls.

This has happened before. Church history speaks to this fact. Not too many decades ago, the church wrestled with humanist modernity, cloaked as progressive scholarship, that attacked the most precious tenets of the faith. The effects were manifold. Many fell away, seminaries went liberal, and the churches fell into twentieth-century malaise. Nowadays, the situation has changed. The opposition is more subtle but just as dangerous. Today, it is soft religion that wars with the church, loosely held religious commitment that is no commitment at all. Pastors, entrusted with the church’s care, dumb down biblical doctrine, take their cues from secular business practices, and evangelize based on earthly benefits, not spiritual responsibilities. Divorce is rampant among the pastoral corps, pornography a common vice, and the culture pities the church as much as it sneers at it. From the high post of fidelity, the church has slid into a puddle of malfeasance. Sadly, its shepherds are leading the way.

In their wake follows a young generation of men raised on doctrinal sugar water. They lack the theological, ecclesiological, and missiological beliefs necessary to faithfully lead the church of tomorrow. Their lack of biblical training will work its effect in time. Ours is not a modern-day Troy yet. But the enemy has entered the city."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Models of Manhood

There are two other models of manhood that come to my mind. The first is the playboy. This type of man could really care less about scholarship, or financial success, or family. He's concerned about three things: himself, the opposite sex, and the intersection therein. That's it. He holds down a job, of course, but he doesn't find his identity in it. He has friends, but he doesn't define himself by them. No, the playboy defines himself by how much attention he gets from girls. He devotes lots of attention to his appearance and in fact often spends more on it than on any other aspect of his person. The newest clothes, the coolest gear, the bronzest tan--such are the pursuits of the playboy. His is a hedonistic existence, measured in contact with the opposite sex. His attitude only grows with each encounter, yet his satisfaction only diminishes.

The misfit, well, doesn't fit in with any of the five other models. He is generally the one who kept to himself in high school, and could have well worn some kind of face makeup to school in that period. He has a strong connection to music, for some reason, and spends long amounts of time listening to his favorite bands. He doesn't dress by everyone else's standards, he's weird, and he's usually interesting and nice when you get to know him. The misfit has little sense of social restriction and so is often flirting with danger. The misfit is generally intelligent though not motivated. He is perhaps the saddest of the models, because he is not hostile to others, usually, but is generally the victim of neglect.

Each of the models present a unique evangelistic challenge. It could be an interesting exercise for Christians to think through which group they most belong to, and then to think through ways they could show kindness and friendship to that group of people. Of course, sometimes it is with opposites that we are most able to build friendships, but all the same, thoughtfulness never hurts. How beautiful it would be to reach men of all these models and introduce them to the supreme model, the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His life for the redemption of all kinds of jocks, normal guys, and misfits.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Models of Manhood

The third model of manhood that sticks out to me is the scholar. The scholar defines himself by at least one of the following: his SAT scores, his GPA, his college alma mater, and the last twenty, nay, thirty books he's read. He sniffs at the boyish conquests of the animal kingdom that characterize the sportsman. He has forgotten entirely how many points he scored in high school, unlike the jock, who can tell you by the game how many he scored. No, the scholar occupies a higher sphere, the realm of the mind. Many scholars do in fact practice an unconscious Platonism in which they devalue the body and exalt the mind. There's some good to the scholar's lifestyle--he certainly learns much and works hard on intellectual things. But he has a tendency to snobbery.

The fourth model of manhood is the normal guy. This is the guy who hasn't killed any moose in the last year, who didn't make even the junior varsity team, and who didn't take any AP classes. He plugged his way through school and now has a solid job. He works hard, maintains a close relationship with his family, and likes watching sports. Generally, this is the guy the beer commercial advertisers target. The normal guy is the least likely of the four to talk about himself and the most likely to dislike those who do. The normal guy usually votes red (Republican), likes slightly cheesy movies, and is the type to loan you a wrench when you need one. He's never going to push his way up the achievement charts, but neither will he cut you down as you try the same.

Next: more models of manhood.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Different Types of Men

In doing some research on manhood, it has occurred to me that there are a number of different types of men, and that there is no monolithic ideal of masculinity. Here are a few that I thought of. Each group expresses one unique trait of masculinity, the desire to prove their masculinity, in different ways. It's interesting to think the different types through.

The first model is the sportsman. The sportsman roots his manhood in outdoor activities. He views himself as the ultimate man because he lives in the state of nature--literally and figuratively. He has discovered life at its essence: hunting, fishing, and doing what it takes to survive, albeit without modern conveniences. The sportsman will often look down on other men because he sees himself as most purely expressing masculinity. Men who do not kill or journey are not fully men, and cannot be fully trusted. However, he does fulfill part of the ideal of the biblical man, in that he provides for his own and is not shy about claiming dominion over the earth.

The second model is the jock. He roots his manhood in his athletic prowess, real or supposed. The jock views himself as the ultimate man because he excels in those fields which modern society pays great attention to--the fields of sport. The jock will often look down on other men because he sees himself as most purely expressing masculinity. Men who did not play sports are inferior because they were not able to do so, as he was. For the rest of his life, the jock will subtly direct conversation to athletic matters and inform fellow conversants of his past athletic prowess. He will also reduplicate his athletic drive in his children. At least he'll try to. The jock fulfills part of the biblical ideal in that he cares for his body and enjoys competition and engagement with others. Many virtues are encompassed in sports. However, he will have a tendency to overvalue the life of the body and look down on those who were not athletic.

Next--two more types.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

One Son's Remembrance, Pt. 2

College brought major changes to my relationship with Mom. It must, of course, and it did. Yet I remained very close to Mom and continued to experience her unconditional kindness. In a busy first year, care packages stuffed with my favorite granola bars, nonpareils, and a nice note brought a smile to my face and memories of yesterday to my mind. The college years were great. My family took ski trips to Sugarloaf in Maine and Mt. St. Anne in Quebec. Bonds were strengthened amidst the swirl of snow and the chill of winter. Mom wasn't the fastest skier, but she was steady, careful, and ever mindful of my sister and I, even as we whizzed ahead of her. In many ways, those slopes provide a metaphor for her love for us. Steady, thoughtful, and others-centered. A mother's love.

It is interesting to see what post-college separation does to a parent-son relationship. I have found that being apart from my parents has only deepened my bond with them. The silly arguments have disappeared; there is a deep mutual respect; and I am on my own, leaving them to trust me. When I do make it back to Maine, I find that I thoroughly enjoy myself. Sure, it's a bit melancholy. My relationship with Mom and Dad has changed, and it will remain that way. It must. There is a bit of sadness in this, but there is great joy when we are together. Years and years of unconditional love, much kindness, and thoughtfulness have yielded a strong affection between Mom and I.

This affection will not pass with marriage. I am currently preparing for marriage to a wonderful girl, and the prospect of a life together overloads my senses. Yet though this act marks my decisive "cleaving" to another, my love for Mom remains. The years pass, the seasons change, but my love for Mom remains the same. I am not there to tell her this, but she knows it. The Lord has allowed us to experience very strong feelings in this life, feelings that transcend words, and this love falls in that strange category. There is a love that transcends speech. This is the love I have for Mom.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

One Son's Remembrance of His Mother

Mother's Day has come and gone with its typical stealth. I am not deterred, however, by Hallmark and its scheduling. I want to take a day and celebrate my Mom, post-holiday.

The Lord did me a great kindness in selecting my mother, Donna Dustin Strachan, to care for me in my youth. It is an awesome thing to look back through time and realize that before this earth was, God had paired my mother with me. He did this in order that I would experience her kindness, her sacrificial love, and her warm, wonderful personality. My association with Mom, then, begins not in 1981. It begins in an age for which there is no date. For this I have divine providence to thank.

I was not around to witness the weaving of threads that one day brought Mom and me together. I was, however, around in the early 1980s, when my father and mother showered me with love on a daily basis. They were young parents then, making a home in small-town Maine, Dad working as a forester, Mom working in a small-town library, both attending a small-town church. Those were simple days. Being the first child, I received all sorts of attention, which I despised. Okay, I'm kidding. I loved the time with Dad and Mom. Mom took me to the Library with her. I crawled all over the nineteenth-century structure and eventually discovered the children's books section in the basement that smelled of forgotten creativity. Mom nurtured that love for reading and learning by reading to me often. One consequence was that one of my greatest joys as a child was to have my parents read two books with me before I went to bed (only to think of those books when I should have slept). Mom and I forged a special connection in those early years. She cooked chocolate chip cookies, took me on my first shopping trips, and supervised from a distance my first friendships. She had much love to give. I received a great deal of it, and was forever changed as a result.

Adolescence often marks the beginning of a wedge between a boy and his mother. He moves more into the territory of masculinity and discovers that it's not cool to talk about your Mom on the playground. I did branch out and make friends like other kids, but I retained my strong bond with my mother. Mom understood me. She laughed with me, challenged me to excel at school, and encouraged me in the difficult days of junior high. We still went on our pre-school shopping trips, still enjoyed a good laugh, and watched Homicide, Dateline, and the X-Files together. In these days, Mom's mettle showed itself. How many basketball games--high school, college, and pro--this woman watched I could never guess. Way more than she bargained for, I assure you. Yet on many a night, she was content to sit on the couch, knitting and perusing books to purchase for the library, while I watched one game after another. Mom didn't need a deep connection to the current activity to be engaged with me. Her love was enough. Here was the thread that lasted through all the years, all the hurt, all the adjustment, all the joy. Love was enough.

High school brought a new phase and sustained expression of Mom's love. Two things stand out about those years. First was Mom's attendance at seemingly every event I participated in during high school. Band concerts, plays, basketball games, baseball games, cross country meets, and much more. Mom was always there, it seemed, and always wholeheartedly cheering me on. She was a wonderful fan, and this filled me with purpose, happiness, and trust. I knew she was there for me. A boy cannot say what that means for him. I couldn't then, and I try now, and even now, it means more than I can write. Thanks, Mom.

Come back tomorrow for more.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What We Have Lost: Beauty

Today's postmodern climate has brought the erosion of many traditional philosophical values. We're going to look at a number in the coming days and examine how their loss has affected the current-day culture. First up is the idea of beauty. The mere word is vague and undefined in today's sphere. We look at why and what we're missing out on in today's blog.

What is the state of beauty today? Well, for most people, beauty is a synonym for "pretty." It means nothing more than attractiveness. What's more, there is no one concept, no grounding idea, by which one labels a thing, person, or action beautiful. One simply follows one's subjective nose for beauty in affixing titles to things. It was not always so. Once upon a time, beauty had a foundation: God. Because God is the sum and source of all virtues, He functioned as the objective grounding for beauty. In other words, because God existed, and He is beautiful, and He created the world and called it "very good" (Gen 1), so we are able to find the beauty that is hidden in this world. What is this beauty to find? It consists of what is good, true, and beautiful. This is the traditional philosophical definition. A second definition, representing a slight advance in the definition (it doesn't use the term in the definition) is that what is beautiful is symmetrical, harmonious, and brilliant. I would offer that the first definition functions well for the evaluation of moral and philosophical questions, and the second functions well for material and matter. For example, in trying to understand whether an action is right, we may say, "Is this true--does it lead to truth or deception? And is it good--tending to the welfare of others according to the character of God?" These are helpful questions to ask in pursuing excellence in life. They are forgotten in today's hedonistic, self-focused culture.

The second set of questions may be applied to the matter of this world. When looking at a face, or a rose, or a building, we may ask, "Is this symmetrical? Does it represent a harmonious whole without disorder or incongruity? Does it possess luminescence or a special quality that lends a certain sparkle or shine?" These questions help us to evaluate the ground-level questions of beauty. In both of these standards of beauty, we ground these ideas in God's character. The second, I think, reminds us of the Trinity: the Godhead functions in perfect symmetry, harmony, and brilliance. It is all in its place, working in perfect fluidity, and it shines with the excellence of perfection. Here is our grounding for beauty. The world does not recognize this. In a situation in which most do not see this, we Christians should point to these things as our standard. Find beauty everywhere--and know that it is grounded not in your mind, but in God's.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Christian Call to Exercise

Many would respond to yesterday's post that the world has grossly skewed the importance of bodily health and appearance, a rejoinder I wholeheartedly accept. It is true that the world has gone body-crazy. One would not be crazy to say that far from a spiritual or philosophical standard, many of the current age define themselves most fundamentally by the way their body looks. Anyone with a conscience and an ability to make rational conclusions can see that this is quite unhealthy. Christians have no part with such thinking, and must carefully guard against it.

But we ought not to run so fast from one extreme that we crash into another. This would be a grave mistake. It would lead us to conclude that our appearance has no value or importance to anyone--God, us, other people. This is simply not true. God desires us to be good stewards of what we have. He has invested us with His image, made us in it, and sent His Son to be a person. The image does not float over our head. It is in us. And Christ was not a disembodied spirit--He was a man. We can assume with certainty that He was not caught in the trap of body-image self-conceptualizing. But can we not also say that He likely took care of His body? Do you really see Christ as flabby, grungy, and slovenly? I don't have much to go on, but based on the value He placed on humanity, I'm willing to go with the assumption that He valued His body. I'm guessing that He took care of it and stewarded it well. We can know with certainty that He lived a disciplined life. After all, He embodied a disciplined life. Would this not naturally lend itself to a disciplined eating pattern that would in turn lend itself to a healthy appearance?

If we answer this question honestly, I'm pretty sure that we'll end up holding a common position. Though the Bible does not break open the dietary habits of Christ, it does reveal His character, and character is connected to the way we care for our body. When we are frequently gluttonous and undisciplined, our body usually reflects this. When we are moderate and disciplined in our eating habits, our body usually reflects this. Of course, some have physical problems that interfere with a fitful appearance, and we must sympathize with them. But many of us, yes, many of us responsible, godly, otherwise disciplined Christians have for some reason checked our discipline at the door when it comes to eating. This is a sad reality, and we ought to realize that such behavior dishonors God. We do not seek the "Abercrombie" body for guys, and we do not seek the waifish image for girls. We seek a healthy, hearty appearance, for this reflects true physicality and wise eating patterns. We do not let the world determine the way we look. But neither do we let indulgence determine our appearance. We are, after all, those who seek the mind of Christ and the glory of God in all things. Surely, "all things" includes our body, the vessel given us by God for His glory.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Duty to Exercise

Thanks to everyone who took note of my engagement notice and responded. What happy days these are. The blessings of God often are a long time in coming. When they do come, all the frustration, loneliness, and anticipation are worth it. Praise the Lord for His providing grace.

Today we begin a few days' worth of commentary on a subject that evangelicals have, frankly, ignored. This is to our detriment. It is sad that Christians have by and large neglected the matter of fitness. We believers in Christ have a troubling tendency to forget about this world and focus almost entirely on the next. Such action leaves us imbalanced, unhealthy, and, well, out-of-shape both philosophically and physically. There is no reason that this ought to be so. Sure, we should primarily focus on the spiritual. We are a spiritual people who believe in the reality of a sovereign God who holds our eternal destiny in His hand. He has called us to follow Him without hesitancy, to treasure His word and ways, and so we do. But in calling us to a spiritual life, He has not urged us to somehow shed our bodies, to leave this world behind. He has not told us to disdain the body, as so many of us do, but to live all of our lives for His glory. Colossians 3:17 tells us whatever we do to "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." Surely, this includes the major and the mundane, the physical and spiritual, the eating of food and the working of faith.

Why, then, have we not seen this? Why do so many of us disdain care of our bodies? There are a variety of reasons. First--we are busy. Adults know this. Yeah, it's something of a fact that most adults who work and have a family are busy. It's a fact of life in America. Our busyness causes us sometimes to neglect important matters. Exercise, which busy people have to fight to do, often gets pushed to the side. Also, exercise is hard. It requires time and energy. Who has that? We have families to feed, jobs to work in, and churches to serve. By the time we arrive at home from these duties, we're wiped, and there's not much left in the tank for a rousing, healthy workout. So we don't. Finally, as mentioned above, exercise is inherently physical, and many evangelicals simply don't pay much mind to physical things. If I wasn't a Christian, I might be tempted to think that Christianity downplays the body and the life of the body. Many Christians don't play sports, don't exercise, and have little association with people who do. This is unfortunate. We who are redeemed, who have come to see the glory of God in everything, who have come to see the importance of stewarding all things well, should first and foremost take care of our bodies. We are spiritual, yes. But we are also physical! In coming days, we'll examine this situation a bit more. It's an "exercise" that might do us some good.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Beauty Happens: I am Engaged

Please forgive my lack of posting this last month. It has been a crazy month. This past Friday, I asked the most amazing girl in the world, Bethany Ware, to marry me. Now, I've tried to keep my blog away from the terrain in which so many blogs dwell, being the realm of the private. For this occasion, however, I've got to share this with you. I am overwhelmingly, madly, stunningly, in love with this girl, and I can't help but share it.

Five long years of praying for a wife have ended. Five years filled with lonely nights in which I walked the streets of Brunswick, ME, Washington, DC, and Louisville, KY. Five years of wondering whether I would ever fall in love. They are over now, and they were incredibly good for me, but they are over. I bid them a joyful farewell. Love, not loneliness, now has its day. What kindness is this that has come to such a wretch as I? What happiness? What mystery?

I proposed to Bethany this past Friday night on the beach of Lake Michigan in Chicago, IL. It was a magical setting and a complete surprise to her. Other than page three of my love poem flying away in the middle of the proposal, everything went swimmingly. I chased it down, ran back, and continued. Phew. Thankfully, my lack of a firm grip did not hinder her from saying a breathy "yes" to my request for her hand in marriage. With that, a life together was begun.