#30ThankYous Day 14: Dr. John MacArthur

Dr. MacArthur,

It’s hard to express how much your ministry has meant to me. I have been challenged by your preaching, aided by your commentaries, chastened by your books, and emboldened by your public comments. Your history of ministry faithfulness stands in stark contrast to generations of younger pastors who have shipwrecked their ministries in personal sin, public foolishness, or prosperity-gospel sell-outs.

If I were to consider the two or three theologians and pastors of the last century whose work has done the most good for the church, your name would be in that list. Your stalwart position during “lordship salvation” controversy would alone be enough for that honor. Beyond that, you have given the church dozens of books and commentaries that have been and will continue to be a blessing and a light for pastors and teachers (like myself) seeking to preach the Word faithfully and cut it straight.

Looking to the future, as the Christian church faces threats from within and without, books like The Truth War and Strange Fire will grow more and more relevant, as post-modern spiritualism and charismatic mysticism continue to spread. With each passing year, the people of God need pastors and teachers and writers to call them back to the Book, again and again. This is the hallmark of your ministry, and we praise God for you.

May God continue to bless you and guard you, so that you may finish strong. And by the grace of God, may you have many more years of faithful ministry before you step down from the pulpit for the last time. When that day comes, one fact will be undeniable: the church of Jesus Christ has been helped beyond reckoning by your work, and God will have used you mightily in the lives of thousands, if not millions. of believers. There is an entire generation of pastors who have been prepared to proclaim the Gospel boldly as they ought, because of your witness–following your example, as you follow Christ.

God bless you, Dr. MacArthur. Thank you so, so much for your faithfulness to our Savior.

–Dave Mitchell

#30ThankYous Day 13: Diamond Dallas Page

Hey DDP,

I played sports in high school. (I almost said I was an “athlete,” but a more factual statement is that I was sufficiently competent at sports in a very small school, so I got to play on some teams.) I worked as hard as I could, but I matched my workouts with big re-feeds and kept my not-so-svelte 250 pounds all throughout high school. When college came, I maintained the eating but not the activity.

You can see where this is going.

I’ve been severely overweight my entire adult life. I’ve tried diets and workout regimens, and even flirted with some distance jogging/walking. But I never could keep it consistent, and my weight has stayed in the high-400’s for more than a decade. And for the longest time, I was able to manage okay in daily life. Popped some buttons and seams from time to time, and busted a few unsuspecting chairs, but physically I felt okay.

Once I hit 35 or so, things seemed to take a turn. I began waking up every morning with aches and pains, struggling with knee pain when I climbed stairs, and was generally feeling out of breath and gross all the time.

About a year and a half ago, I heard about DDP Yoga on a podcast and finally decided to look into it. After doing my research, I decided to sign up for a year-long online membership for 2 big reasons:

  • It’s not religious in nature. This is a BIG DEAL for me. The number one reason I never tried yoga before was because of its religious aspects. I’m a committed Christian, so I could never take part in yoga’s meditative spiritual practices in good conscience, because it feels tantamount to false worship. I was very pleased to find out that DDPY is specifically not religious in nature, and that you don’t engage in the “mindfulness/mediation” side of yoga. (I have to admit, though, your occasional “positive thinking” comments during workouts do make me roll my eyes a bit!) By seeking to separate the spiritual/mystical elements of yoga from what is really just a rigorous stretching and movement program, you have made it accessible to folks like me who would otherwise have passed on it for moral reasons. Please, please keep it that way.
  • It’s adaptable to any fitness level. One of the things I love about the way you and your team run the DDPY workouts is that you teach the modifications and encourage those of us who are struggling to use them. Rather than feeling frustrated that I can’t hold a position or do a stretch, I can keep making progress and just try to improve every day.

I really want to be able to tell you that I have been transformed, that the pounds have magically fallen away, but we both know that’s not how this goes. Honestly, I still struggle with consistency in diet and exercise, and while I’ve had some success on the scale, it’s plateaued in recent months.

But the thing is, I’m not giving up on myself anymore. I want to be around to take care of my family and serve my Lord and His church. And however long it takes me to get to my goal weight, I’m pretty sure that DDP Yoga is going to be a huge part of that process.

Thank you for creating a program that guys like me can actually do. Thank you for showcasing the stories of guys like Jared and Arthur and Jake who have lost a bunch of weight and gotten healthier, because by doing so, you should guys like me that it’s actually possible with hard work and perseverance.

I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way to “owning it.” So today, I’m both excited and scared about the “Synergy 40” workout that is gonna kick my butt this evening after work, because it’s one step closer to that next level.

High-five from a grateful fan [BANG!],

Dave

#30ThankYous Day 12: Dave Ramsey

Hey Dave,

I was pretty bad with money throughout my teens and twenties, despite having been through Financial Peace University with my folks right after college.  I repeatedly deferred my undergrad student loans, and likely built a few Bank of America branches single-handedly, thanks to overdraft fees. In short, I was a mess.

Then, God gave me a really great reason to get my financial head on straight: I got married. I knew that my foolishness wasn’t going to fly when I had a wife and future children depending on me, so I re-took FPU, this time with my wife. It’s amazing how having someone sharing your last name in the seat next to you makes you pay better attention.

Now, I’ll warn you: this isn’t going to be a “We’re debt free!” story–not yet, anyway. The truth is, we haven’t been as “gazelle-intense” as you would counsel (which probably puts our story in the oft-maligned “Dave-ish” category). BUT we have taken your teaching and incorporated it in some specific and valuable ways:

  • We write a budget every month, and stick to it as closely as possible. As a result, we haven’t overdrawn our accounts in 4 1/2 years. And as a nice bonus, we don’t fight about finances–like, EVER. Being on the same page is fantastic.
  • We have an emergency fund–which is good, because we needed it! In the last few years, that emergency fund has been decimated by typical life stuff.  But praise the Lord for His provision, in the form of an emergency fund that kept our car or dental emergencies from becoming money emergencies.
  • We have paid off a bunch of debt. We’ve chopped credit cards, paid off personal loans, and cash-flowed education and family visits. Most of the debt we brought into our marriage has been knocked out. We still have a little ways to go, but we are making progress month-by-month. As my wife reminds me from time to time, while we aren’t burning the world down with our progress, every month we are better off than we were before.

Our “intensity level” for getting out of debt has sometimes been more “golden retriever” than “gazelle,” but nevertheless, we are grateful for how your wisdom and common-sense teaching have helped us avoid financial struggle and money fights.

So thank you, Dave Ramsey. Your materials have been a huge help, and your radio show is always an encouragement to keep focused. Your approach to finances is often intense, and sometimes a bit scary. But my family has benefited from your wisdom, and I hope to one day call you up and let you know that we’re debt free–even if we took the long way ’round.

Doing better than I deserve,

Dave Mitchell

 

#30ThankYous Day 11: Jared C. Wilson

Jared,

When I started coming up with names for this list, yours was one of the first few I wrote down. Your writing has been a continual blessing to me over the last several years. I’ve not only enjoyed your books myself, but have given them away regularly to bless others. Your words have been useful to me for Sunday School lesson writing, for sermon prep, and most often for daily devotional reading as I seek to be a better disciple of Jesus.

I’ve also had the blessing to sit under your teaching at a few different conferences. There, you shared your heart in a way that was courageous and honest. Rather than put on a front or try to carry off a persona of strength and accomplishment, you’ve sought to glory in your weaknesses. The deep and genuine humility I have seen in you is refreshing in a world of platform-building and name recognition. Please, please don’t ever lose that.

Every interaction I’ve had with you has left me encouraged and strengthened. I have been struck by your sincerity and kindness. I have described you more than once as “a legitimately good dude.” Thanks for being that.

As you have detailed in books and talks over the years, God has taken you on a pretty rigorous and challenging path. In recent months and years, that seems to have continued. I want you to know that I pray for you when you come to mind, that God would strengthen your heart, protect you from the Enemy, and remind you of His mercy.

In recent weeks, it seems like you’re taking a lot more flak than usual online. And truth be told, there are places in the current cultural conversation where you and I would probably disagree on how to address certain issues or which teachers or speakers to take seriously. My hope and expectation is that, should we have the chance to interact again, we will continue to do so with gentleness and respect.

Thank you for your ministry, and all the ways it has blessed and challenged me. I pray for the peace and grace of God over you, sir. God bless you.

–Dave

#30ThankYous Day 10: Dr. Carolyn Cole

Dr. Cole,

Of all the professors I interacted with during my four years of college, you were my favorite. There are loads of reasons why. You were committed to your work, and you labored to help your students see the beauty and truth of literature. There was always a joy about you, a lightness. Obviously you had your daily challenges and frustrations–everyone does; but you didn’t let that show. You showed up to class every day with a smile on your face and a kind word for all of us. And honestly, what impacted me the most was that I could tell that you sincerely liked your students. It didn’t feel faked or forced. You have a good heart, and you share that with everyone who has the blessing of being under your instruction.

I appreciated your patience with me, even when my consistent struggle with punctuality could have been a point of tension. You offered encouragement, perspective, and sometimes much-needed push-back. And during one of our last conversations, you said some very kind things to me, things that have stuck with me ever since.

I learned so many things from you in those four years–and not just the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales in middle English (a surprising bit of which I can still recite, by the way). You taught me to listen, to empathize, to consider other perspectives. You taught me–all of us–that art saves lives, that art and story matters, and that those things are worth fighting for.

Thank you for all your lessons and your good advice. You were a blessing to me.

–Dave Mitchell (Class of 2002)

#30ThankYous Day 9: Frank Peretti

Dear Frank,

The first book of yours I ever read was a Cooper Kids adventure (maybe The Tombs of Anak?) when I was in fifth or sixth grade. I was not yet allowed to watch the Indiana Jones movies, but I had somehow already become fascinated with archaeology and ancient civilizations, so the adventures of a brother and sister digging around in ancient dungeons and tombs was a blast for me.

A few years later, I started reading your more grown-up fiction, and the book of yours that really grabbed me was The Oath. I had never encountered an outspoken Christian author use horror or fantasy elements to tell a story like that. (Aside from Lewis’ Narnia books, which were more fairy tale than fantasy.) The mental image of a dragon or monster chasing down his marked victims was captivating. I read it over a very long week in high school when I was sick at home with pneumonia, and your book made the time fly. (The feverishness only added to the experience, I think.)

I had played around with writing since middle school. I used my vocabulary homework as an excuse to create serialized chapters of adventure stories to entertain my teachers. (No doubt, there was some Cooper influence there as well; I think the first year I did this, it was about scientists exploring an Egyptian tomb.) I’ve read most of your bibliography (though I’m delighted to find I missed a few of your recent ones, and will be looking for those at the library!). But reading The Oath opened my eyes to the idea that genre fiction can be used to tell spiritual stories beyond historical fiction or Biblical epics. I started aping your style a bit, as I tried to write short stories that were more or less morality tales. (I almost typed “moralizing tales,” which may have been closer to the truth.) I was shooting for a mix of Frank Peretti, Rod Serling, and Ray Bradbury, my 3 favorite story tellers–but I’m pretty sure I fell far, far short of that lofty goal. I don’t think those stories will ever see the light of day in their original form. (But who knows, maybe I can go back and mine for story ideas…)

Nevertheless, from that point on, I was hooked–I wanted to be a writer. I got an English degree from my undergrad studies, I’ve been blogging on an off for 16 years, and I have maybe a half-dozen unfinished novels in notebooks and hard drives all over the house. While life circumstances always seem to get in the way of finishing these projects, the dream doesn’t die. I still want to be a novelist. And if I were to trace that crazy dream back to its roots, your books would be there at the inception.

So thank you, Frank. Your love of telling stories and sharing truth have been inspiring readers for decades now, and I’m one of many fans who remember fondly how your books have blessed my life.

Here’s to more years and more words!

–Dave

#30ThankYous Day 8: Ted Kluck and Zach Bartels

Ted and Zach,

Allow me to gush for just a second, baby. (May I gush?)

There’s not a podcast notification on my phone that makes me giddier than the Gut Check Podcast. Maybe it’s the avant-garde release schedule that makes it such an unexpected treat, but getting that little bubble on my Castbox app letting me know there’s untapped Gut Check ahead just makes my day.

The way I’ve described your podcasts to people (possibly on this blog but more likely in casual conversation) is that it’s like getting to listen in as two guys you think are really cool just sit around and shoot the breeze, and you are let behind the curtain and get to hear all the in-jokes and repeated references. Gut Check listeners become part of your crew, just hanging around the periphery of the scene. Basically, we’re all the Charles and Sue to your Trent and Mike (but without the penchant toward random firearm-waving or Wayne-Gretzky-super-fandom).

Not only am I a fan of the pod, but I’ve also really enjoyed your books.  Ted’s collabs with KDY are top-notch, and Zach’s novels (Playing Saint, All Souls Day, and The Last Con) were all fantastic reads that helped restore my faith in Christian fiction actually being, you know, good. Heck, I even bought The Gut Check Guide to Publishing (which is currently sitting on my To-Be-Read shelf).

Thanks to Gut Check, I was introduced to the writing of the magnificent and terrifying Cliff Graham, I have a more profound appreciation for the finer points of Die Hard, and I now understand the true hero of The Karate Kid is the kid who actually trained in karate.

You two are moguls, mavens, entrepreneurs, and supreme rulers over the greatest media, coffee, and/or fashion empire in any boxing-glove-shaped state or Bible-belt buckle. Thanks for all your work, and here’s to another 100 episodes over the next 5-7 years approximately.

I remain, your humble devotee and loyal footsoldier in the Gut Check Army,

T. 4. D.

 

 

#30ThankYous Day 7: Team Pyro

Gentlemen,

It’s not easy being a Christian blogger, especially if you are actively seeking to teach and correct through your writing. People assume the worst possible motives in your words, misread your tone, take you out of context, and otherwise seek to condemn you for being judgmental or hypocritical. That’s what you get for kicking over hornets’ nests and tipping over sacred cows, I guess.

When the Pyromaniacs blog was in its heyday, every post’s combox became a bit of a rhetorical brawl, as the usual suspects showed up to lob accusations and misconstrue what should be PLAINLY OBVIOUS IF YOU READ THE POST. Nevertheless, you all handled these volleys with aplomb, often by logically and carefully responded to the fool so that he did not continue in folly, without stooping to foolishness yourselves.

I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you, gentlemen. Thank you for caring deeply about the Church, and spending time and effort to proclaim and defend the truth. Thank you for being willing to interact with people, confront ideas, even challenge foolish arguments. It was instructive for so many of us who were watching and growing from the interactions. Thank you so much for the edifying and challenging Sufficient Fire Conference. (I’m still holding out hope for a Sufficient Fire 2 someday. If you announce it, you can count on me being there!)

Most of all, thank you for the example each of you set:

  • Phil, thank you for not shying away from controversy, but being willing to continue standing up and speaking out about issues in the wider evangelical church. Your appearances on Wretched Radio are always instructive and beneficial, and of course your contributions to the ministry of John MacArthur and GTY continues to bless countless thousands.
  • Dan, thank you for your books, which continue to be a blessing to me. Thanks also for your example of faithful local ministry at CBC. You exemplify the day-in, day-out pastoring that Paul and Peter describe.
  • Frank, thank you for your wit and wisdom online, and also for your wise example in pulling away from social media engagement when you found it to be too destructive. And that’s not a back-handed compliment, either. There is so much discernment in stepping away when engagement begins to tear down the user. Too many people lean in despite these dangers and shipwreck themselves. Thank you for setting a good example in this.

In the world of Christian blogging, particularly discernment blogs of a reformedish nature, there are some real jokers and seedy characters. You guys have managed to be one of the few that not only didn’t go off the rails but continues to set the standard for how such writing should be done. Thank you for staying faithful to the task, in whatever context each of your finds yourself.

May God bless you as you have blessed (and continue to bless) His people.

–Dave

#30ThankYous Day 6: Matthew Berry

Dear Talented Mr. Roto,

My first “fantasy sports” experience was in seventh grade, when our obviously-bored PE teacher created a makeshift fantasy football league as something for us to do on days when he didn’t feel like, you know, teaching. I don’t remember most of the league rules, but I remember that we each had to pick a team for the season and got points for wins. My classmates laughed when I went with my heart and picked the recently-woeful Dallas Cowboys. The year was 1992.

I didn’t know much about football stats. I grew up a baseball fan, so my interest in pro football was limited to watching bits and pieces of games with my dad. But that year, I started caring about the NFL because fantasy sports gave me a reason to do so, and while my seventh-grade understanding of fantasy was laughably simple, I enjoyed the game in a new way. (And I actually cared about the Super Bowl itself and not just the commercials.)

Ten to fifteen years later, after I had started working at my current job, one of the newer team members suggested doing a fantasy league among the handful of people in our working group (along with a few other people in the office deemed “cool” enough to join us). I had fond memories of middle-school fantasy football so I thought “Sure, what the heck.”

And it began. Our yearly office fantasy football league spawned a yearly March Madness pool, Oscars pick ’em, and random invites to jump in and out of a few other fantasy leagues with coworkers. We started looking forward to the email every August from the league commish asking when we should set up our draft. On Draft Day, my boss would schedule a “very important meeting” in the late afternoon that usually took place at Buffalo Wild Wings and involved several people staring at laptops and randomly yelling at each other for TAKING MY GUY, HOW COULD YOU DO THAT, YOU KNOW I WANTED THAT GUY, YOU JERK. And I firmly believe that one of the reasons our team is the tightest-knit in the entire department (if not the entire institution) is because we play fantasy together.

Yes, that sounds like an overblown statement out of some weekly ESPN writer’s column connecting fantasy sports and life lessons. But I stand by it, because conversations about which team went off for crazy points and upset the league-leader or whose trade offer was so laughable they should be publicly shamed in the coffee room then become conversations about real life things and shared experiences. We’re not just a bunch of people occupying nearby cubicles and vying for the last cup of lukewarm, burnt coffee. We’re friends. We’re a strange kind of family. And fantasy football has helped with that bond.

In addition to all that heartwarming junk, fantasy has helped me personally to enjoy the pro game all the more. Unlike most folks in my home state, I don’t care about college football. But when Sunday rolls around and my family gets in the car to head home after church, I’m not just turning on the radio to listen to my Texans; I’m checking my phone (before leaving the parking lot, of course) to find out about all the other games that have started, because I care about players like Patrick Mahomes and James White and your little Cooper Kupp, even if they’re not facing my team. And during those weeks when the 2018 Texans play like the 2002 Texans, I can focus on how my work-league team is faring (for the record, “Elementary, Dear Watson” is currently 7-2; thank you, Patrick Mahomes!).

So the reason why I’m writing is to say thank you, TMR. Your “Love/Hate” columns are often as touching as they are informative, and the Fantasy Focus Football podcast is a daily listen. Most of the success I’ve had in fantasy sports has been due to the good ol’ 06010 and your work in particular. Whether it was with the old school crew of Nate and Pod Vader, or the “new hotness” with Field, Stephania, and Secret Squirrel, your sports knowledge and fantasy instincts have (mostly) been a boon to my admittedly-average skills. When it comes down to a last-minute decision, and all the company men and women are offering conflicting advice, I lean (probably too much) on your gutsy calls. The crowd can keep their Karabells and Clays: I’m a Berry man, through and through. (Take that, Kenyan Drake fans.)

So thank you, Matthew. Fantasy sports may be fickle and ephemeral, but they’re also a whole lot of fun. And your work helped me see that.

–Dave

#30ThankYous Day 5: Andrew Peterson

Andrew,

I had heard your name a few times but never really dug into your work until the last few years. (Ironically, I’m pretty sure I heard you perform almost 20 years ago at an outdoor music festival in Kansas City. Your name’s on the back of my souvenir t-shirt, at least!)

A few years back, some friends from church gave my wife and I tickets to Behold the Lamb of God, and we were blown away. What a powerful show that was! We were so moved and so blessed by it that we have made the concert a Christmas-season tradition ever since (and I’m pretty sure that both the studio and live performance CDs of the show now permanently live in our van’s CD changer). Since then, I’ve picked up and enjoyed several of your albums. Resurrection Letters, Volume 1 is my current favorite.

On top of that, this year we have discovered the absolute joy that is The Wingfeather Saga. I can say with no exaggeration that your books have supplanted The Chronicles of Narnia as my favorite children’s series of all time–no small feat, considering I read the Narnia books three or four times through in my grade school years, and once or twice as an adult.

Your lyrical and prose writing is eloquent, playful, soul-stirring, and sincere. Your songs are honest, true, and moving. “Is He Worthy” makes me cry every single doggone time.

Thank you for sharing your stories and your songs, and for reminding us that art can be worshipful, and that even children’s fairy tales can be True in the best sense of the word. I look forward to reading the Wingfeather books to my daughter (currently one year old and not much for sitting still) and all the brothers and sisters who may come after her.

God bless you,

Dave