Week 1 in the year of our Lord 2022

Counsel on starting the year well

16 minutes to read

Masculinity is both caught and taught to the younger generation of men by the older.

It’s very difficult to learn what should’ve been caught via some 10-step curriculum. And yet those who missed out on that education are always asking for steps and sub-steps on everything.

Why?

Because they want to do a good job, and not make any major mistakes.

Hence, they’re looking for a detailed map with the ideal course charted on it.

But that’s not how it works. Not even with the well-fathered.

The well-fathered are gifted with a compass pointed North, an ability to course correct on the fly, and the knowledge that there are lots of paths to a destination.

So they are oriented towards taking action, and freed from the paralysis of analysis. They don’t need a detailed map. Being well-fathered gave then an internal GPS.

The fatherless man was never gifted this “caught” education in manliness. He must come to terms with the fact that he will mature much later than his well-fathered peers.

And he must realize that he will never become a mature man if he is risk-averse, and requires a detailed map.

The fatherless man must catch all he can from other men, and throw himself into the work of living life.

Mistakes will be made.

The course will need to be corrected.

And masculine competency may come later.

But it will come.

More on this in our book.

A couple of piles of our book; photo compliments of Paul Liberati

Learn more about the book

Btw, if you’re in Australia or New Zealand, shipping the hardcover from Amazon costs more than the sticker price of the book itself. A good alternative looks to be Reformers Bookshop, who will be stocking it soon:

Pre-order for Australia/New Zealand (without killer shipping)


People look for the shortcut. The hack. And if you came here looking for that: you won’t find it. The shortcut is a lie. The hack doesn’t get you there. And if you want to take the easy road, it won’t take you to where you want to be: Stronger. Smarter. Faster. Healthier. Better. Free. To reach goals and overcome obstacles and become the best version of you possible will not happen by itself. It will not happen cutting corners, taking shortcuts, or looking for the easy way. There is no easy way. There is only hard work, late nights, early mornings, practice, rehearsal, repetition, study, sweat, blood, toil, frustration, and discipline.

Discipline. There must be discipline. Discipline: the root of all good qualities. The driver of daily execution. The core principle that overcomes laziness and lethargy and excuses. Discipline defeats the infinite excuses that say: not today, not now, I need a rest, I will do it tomorrow.

What’s the hack? How do you become stronger, smarter, faster, healthier? How do you become better? How do you achieve true freedom? There is only one way. The way of discipline. —Jocko Willink, Discipline Equals Freedom: Expanded Edition

Our friend Bill Smith shares the following reflections on the freedom of discipline, prompted by this counsel from Willink…

This counsel may be something of the wisdom of the sons of the east and Egypt (1 Ki 4:30). I don’t know the status of Jocko’s relationship with Christ, but much of what he says here lines up with the picture of the life of discipline that Solomon paints for us in Proverbs.

Discipline is a major thread in Proverbs that begins in the introduction and is then woven into the warp and woof of all of the instruction. Solomon desires his son “to know wisdom and discipline … to receive discipline in wise dealing” (1:2, 3). The fool, he says, despises wisdom and discipline (1:7). Our translations render this Hebrew word “instruction” throughout Proverbs with a few exceptions. That is a fine translation, but in many of our ears, “instruction” connotes more of the conveyance of information. The Hebrew word speaks of a “chastening lesson.” This is instruction, but it is not limited to oral teaching. It comes through the rod applied by authorities, general pain, mental toughness that is determined to do one thing and not another. “Discipline” is an alternative and better rendering, I believe.

Discipline is training that aims to produce a specific character that will cause you to fulfill your purpose and enjoy rewards. Discipline subdues, corrects, and directs passions toward long-term goals, willing to endure pain and short-term deprivation when necessary. Discipline is the way of wisdom. Discipline is wisdom’s path. Discipline is the guardrails that keep you in the way and the signposts that give you direction. Discipline is the drive that keeps you on the path, developing skills and doing the temporarily unpleasant things because of the long-term reward. Discipline encourages you when you are weary. Discipline rebukes you when you try to turn to the right or to the left or simply lie down. Discipline moves you when you are unmotivated; that is, when you’re just not feeling like doing whatever it is you need to do. Discipline is tough-minded, overcoming pain, fear, sloth, apathy, criticism, hurt feelings, disagreements, and wanting to give up. Discipline is wisdom’s eyes that keep you focused on the prize, wisdom’s hand that guides you, wisdom’s foot that kicks you when you need it, and wisdom’s heart that moves by your deepest desires.

Solomon exhorts his son repeatedly to hear and heed the discipline he receives, conforming his life to the wise corrections of his attitudes and actions (Pr 1:8–9; 3:11–12; 4:1; 8:10–11, 33; 19:20; 23:23). He desires this because the way of discipline is the way of life (Pr 6:23–24), the way of knowledge (Pr 12:1), and the way to honor (Pr 13:18). Discipline is the way to be all that God created him to be and receive all that God desires him to receive.

Discipline, therefore, is freedom.

Many misconstrue the nature of freedom, believing it is a life without restraints. This can’t be true. A man is not free to be a woman or vice versa. A horse is not free to live underwater, and a fish is not free to live on land. Freedom is the opportunity to live in the fullness of your God-given limitations. Freedom is the ability to maximize your potential within the boundaries God created, whether those are physical boundaries or boundaries of authority. Discipline frees you from things that keep you from being and receiving all that God wants you to be and receive.

Those who believe freedom is living life without restraints will lose their freedom. Proverbs 12:24 says, “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” Discipline keeps you from being enslaved by desires and impulses that others can use to control you. Mark Horne observes in his book Solomon Says, “If you don’t govern yourself, you will be governed by others, and your own impulses will be the reins they use to lead you.” (p. 5) If you can’t discipline your desire for possessions, for instance, marketers will soon make you poor. They will use your desires to empty your bank account. If you can’t master your sexual appetites, someone who promises to meet your sexual hunger will master you. If you are unable to control your appetite for food and drink, you will be a poor man (Pr 21:17). A man given to anger is enslaved to other people and circumstances.

Discipline frees you by keeping all of your passions as servants, and directing their energy to serve your greatest good. This is the discipline that can deny oneself immediate pleasure or, at least, the desire to escape from pain, to face persecution and death for the cause of Christ. Discipline frees you to suffer and die with Christ so that you might inherit glory with him (cf. Rom 8:18). A lack of discipline will put you in bondage to fear of present pain and loss, that will keep you in bondage now and lead you to eternal death.

Do not despise discipline. Discipline is freedom.


Do not spend your time worrying about how you are going to put out the fires the adversary sets. Wake up in the morning thinking about the fires you can set. —Douglas Wilson


Hard truth:

Recovering the “productive womb” without recovering the “productive household” is a sentence to years of familial misery.

If your wife is going to provide your household with a lot of children, you are going to have to provide a lot of tangible and intangible resources.

In a sense, you will both spend your physicality in building something bigger than yourselves. The burden will be spread between the two of you. Not just her. Not just you.

She will give your household the strength of her beauty.

You will give the household the beauty of your strength.

She will sow passing physical beauty into the household—but she will reap spiritual beauty that lasts forever.

You will sow passing physical strength into the household—but you will reap spiritual strength which never fades.

You’ll both end old and, to a degree, shriveled. If you do well, you will both end spent.

But if you pour yourselves out into your household, it will bear fruit to a thousand generations.


For 100 years, Satan has struck an implicit bargain with Western Christians: “I’ll let you decide what goes on in church, if you let me decide what goes on in culture.” We are today reaping the whirlwind for that treasonous pact. —P. Andrew Sandlin


Many men are prolific when it comes to their consumption of content.

They read lots of books.

They listen to lots of podcasts.

They watch a lot streams.

They scroll a lot of social media.

Some of this content is quality. Some is not. Yet even the quality content often does them little practical good.

Why?

Because they don’t meditate.

In Psalm 1:2, we are told that a righteous man meditates on the law of God day and night.

Psalm 63:6 says, “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.”

Psalm 77:12 says, “I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds.”

Psalm 119:27 says, “Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders.”

In Philippians 4:8, Paul commands, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Dwell is a good word to help us understand biblical meditation. The verb, as one commentator puts it, means to ponder, to give proper weight and value to, and to allow the resultant appraisal to influence the way life is to be lived.

In prayer, we cast our cares on Christ, and in so doing our mind is no longer occupied by those worrisome thoughts (Phil 4:6–7). But a Christian does need to have their mind occupied with something.

We don’t want empty minds.

We don’t even want clear minds.

We want peaceful minds.

And peaceful minds meditate.

Above all, peaceful minds meditate on the truths of Scripture.

Truth usually comes in a condensed form. A seed. It is like a cube of bouillon. You don’t make use of it by directly placing it on your tongue. It must be dissolved to become useful.

Meditation is the means by which truth is digested. The water that germinates the seed, so the pattern contained within can grow up in your heart.

Proverbs illustrates this principle well. It is a book full of statements of general truth. Joe Morecraft likens the Proverbs to hard candies. You don’t swallow, or even chew them. They are meant to be turned over and over again in your mouth.

Without meditation, the meaning and benefit of much of Scripture remains out of reach.

The Westminster Confession puts it this way:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

The core message of redemption, of the gospel, is so clear in Scripture that the average person can understand it. But there are parts of Scripture that are deeper, darker, less clear. Even Peter says of Paul’s writings, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand.”

Matthew Henry says, “The words of the wise are sometimes dark sayings.” It is in meditation where we find the Holy Spirit’s light of illumination shining the brightest. That which previously seemed too dark to be useful starts to burn like a flame.

A mature Christian will be able, as Proverbs 1 says, “to [increasingly] understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.” Maturity only comes through meditation.

This is why, in Proverbs, Solomon repeatedly urges his son to receive his instruction.

It isn’t enough to merely hear.

You must think on it.

You must meditate.

What prevents you?

The explosion and availability of digital content is a huge snare—a constant churning noise that drowns out the still quiet required for biblical meditation. Social media and streaming videos have made it easier than ever to surrender to the temptation of mindlessness. The god of this world and his sons want nothing more than for you to volunteer for the slave class—becoming a passive consumer of distractions and foolishness.

There is no space for meditation in such a life, because there is no quiet.

This was documented in a Life Online research project by Kate Moran. She wrote, “we observed a recurring theme: digital ‘noise’ is used to fill the ‘silent’ moments in people’s lives both literally and figuratively.”

Noise is the enemy of meditation. We live in a noisy age.

Dr. Sherry Turkle has written a lot on this subject. In Alone Together, she says:

Erik Erikson writes that in their search for identity, adolescents need a place of stillness, a place to gather themselves. Psychiatrist Anthony Storr writes of solitude in much the same way. Storr says that in accounts of the creative process, “by far the greater number of new ideas occur during a state of reverie, intermediate between waking and sleeping… It is a state of mind in which ideas and images are allowed to appear and take their course spontaneously … the creator need[s] to be able to be passive, to let things happen within the mind.” In the digital life, stillness and solitude are hard to come by.

We need enough quiet to let our brains organize and make sense of the things we consume. Devices like the smartphone make that very difficult.

This should be a great concern for the Christian.

Manton says, “Faith is lean and ready to starve unless it be fed with continual meditation on the promises.” Relative solitude or quiet is where we digest truth.

Spiritually speaking, you can starve while consuming. And you can do this, not just by consuming evil things, or stupid things, but even by over-consuming good things.

In most cases, you don’t even need more content. You need more meditation and more action.

It doesn’t matter if you stuff yourself with tweets, blog posts, or long theological tomes. None of it will have any value without meditation—and then acting upon that meditation.

Now the opposite is also true. Meditation can make much of little. It is in this spirit that Charles Spurgeon wrote:

Master those books you have. Read them thoroughly. Bathe in them until they saturate you. Read and reread them…digest them. Let them go into your very self. Peruse a good book several times and make notes and analyses of it. A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books he has merely skimmed. Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading. Some men are disabled from thinking by their putting meditation away for the sake of much reading. In reading let your motto be “much not many.”

We need to dwell on the things of God. We need to meditate. In 2022, cut back on consumption, and level up in meditation.

Thomas Watson said, “Meditation is the soul’s retiring of itself, that by a serious and solemn thinking upon God, the heart may be raised up to heavenly affections.”

This, of course, is why Paul can be joyful in prison. He is offering up his anxious thoughts to God, and dwelling on the the good things.

Are you worried?

Do you lack joy?

Are you burdened?

Do you meditate? Try it.

Carve out some time late at night or early in the morning. Perhaps your lunch break. Perhaps in the car, instead of listening to music or the radio. Find what works for you.


Notable: #

Here is a page from the OSS’s Simple Sabotage Field Manual, a 1944 document that has been declassified.

It gives simple steps to keep organizations from being effective. All current or former PCA pastors and elders, among many others, will recognize these.

If you want to get something done as a church or ministry or business, keep an eye out for these tactics:

OSS Simple Sabotage Field Manual excerpt

The OSS became the CIA after WWII. The full document is here:

OSS Simple Sabotage Manual, Sections 11, 12


You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.

Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.

This year, spend less time focusing on outcomes and more time focusing on the habits that precede the results. —James Clear


Read and share this email on the web: #

https://notes.itsgoodtobeaman.com/counsel-on-starting-the-year-well/


Talk again next week,

Bnonn & Michael

This email is archived, but you can receive new ones free every Saturday.

Subscribe to Notes on Manhood

You’ll get the newsletter every Saturday morning, Eastern time.


Success

You’re now subscribed to Notes on Manhood. You will get the next newsletter in your mailbox on Saturday.

You can safely close this dialog and keep browsing now.