Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why I Write Long E-Mails

I've been meaning to write this post for some time now. Some of my friends have complained, albeit jokingly (I think), about my proclivity toward writing long e-mails. There are actually several good reasons why I do this, and some of these reasons may lie in my weaknesses as much as my strengths. Nevertheless, if you have received lengthy e-mails from me, take heart! That's a good thing, mostly...let me explain.

I write long e-mails because...

1. I attempt to be thoughtful. I always appreciate it when someone takes the time to send me an e-mail message that may seem lengthy to others. To me, it shows that they poured themselves into their words. Especially when I've written something personal or express a need for help, it means a lot to me when someone writes back with a long, thoughtful response. It shows that they spent their time communicating with me and imparting wisdom, knowledge, encouragement, or even laughter, all for my sake. I value words, both what others say to me and what they say about me. In return, I try to encourage others. If I've sent you a nice, long e-mail acknowledging the impact that you have made on me or expressing thanks for the ways that you have ministered to me, take that long e-mail as a compliment. That's how I mean it to be taken.

2. I often think through things as I type. Especially when I write about Scripture or theology, my e-mails can become quite lengthy. Often, this is because I'm thinking through matters as I'm typing. I get caught up in the experience, and minutes later I have open to find references along with various commentaries by my side. When my thoughts get flowing, I let them, and some of my friends have received those theological think-throughs. If you have been sent one of those e-mails, feel free to roll your eyes, but also be thankful that the Lord has used you to help me think more deeply and intimately about God and His Word. For being my guinea pig, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

3. I am more careful with my words when I write. This is another major reason that I tend to write long e-mails. I tend to think more about the words that I use. I will often revise an e-mail several times for fear of being harsh, corny, inconsiderate, or glib. I can be all that and more in real-life situations, as I often am, but I have a little more control of that in e-mail. I guess that's another reason that grows out of my own weakness, but it's a reason nonetheless.

4. I think of long e-mails as the written equivalent of sitting on the front porch swing with relatives, sipping sweet tea and shooting the breeze to my heart's content. Those porch-time sittings were some of the happiest times of my teenage years. We would sit and just share stories and laughs. My e-mails have the tendency to be a bit familiar with the people that I know. In fact, I wonder at times if I share too many details about my life or what I'm thinking. Often, after sending one, I'll wonder if the person receiving really cares to know me. However, I think that my tendency to chat and openly share things about myself is part of my southern raising (I'm referring here to being raised in the deep south, the great state of Georgia, not the city of a Louisville where I currently live, which I would not classify as a southern city). I had a grandfather who could talk to anyone (and normally would). He was a lot more out-going than I am, except when it comes to e-mails. When I feel comfortable around others, I do get very chatty. The same is true with my e-mails. If you've received a long e-mail, it probably means that I trust you, and that should be a compliment. I hope it seems that way!

So, those are the main reasons that I send out lengthy e-mails at times. If you occasionally receive them from me, consider it a good thing. I won't be offended if you don't write back promptly or choose not to respond. The words are for you, regardless.

Know that if you send me an encouraging e-mail (or card, letter, etc.), I greatly appreciate it! In fact, when people send me cards of encouragement, I put them in a box. A pastor of mine once encouraged me to create a "Monday morning file." At times when I'm discouraged, when I think that no one cares for me, or when I'm wondering if I'm impacting anyone at all for the sake of the Kingdom of our Christ, I take out that box. I find encouraging notes from members of previous churches, thank you cards signed by various members of a church I served, or even a card with a couple of sentences from a retired lady telling me that she prays regularly for me. I cherish those, possibly more than the people who send them realize, and possibly more than I can adequately express with the spoken word. If you have sent me a card, a letter, or an e-mail just to encourage me through the years, I publicly say "Thanks!"

So, today, let me just encourage you today to write a family member, a friend, your pastor, a colleague, a member of your church, or someone who is going through a difficult time. Expect no thanks, and do it all for the glory of God. They may never acknowledge what your words meant to them or the impact that they had. However, do everything as unto the Lord, for He is the One who can use your words to do far more abundantly above all that you can ask or think.

[While I have had the idea for this post for some time, the last paragraph of application (sorry to use a preacher term) was spurred on by my friend Angela's recent blog entry, "Spreading the Gift of Words." I encourage you to read it!]

Monday, February 19, 2007

For a Friend...

I don't normally do this kind of thing, but in honor of my good friend Moy's birthday, I told him that I would post a short list of bad pick-up lines that may be overheard at Southern Seminary. However, I offer these two disclaimers:

1. It was not my idea to post these! It was Moy's idea to put some of these up through some jokes that we had batted around. Sorry, ladies, but "The Moy" is married.

2. I have never used any of these lines, nor would I, and nor would I encourage others to do so.

Lastly, as you will notice, this list is very short, which means that we need some reader participation. If you can think of corny religious (or even quasi-religious) pick-up lines that some bookish, Southern Baptist seminarian might use, please add your suggestions in the comments section.

Enjoy, and Happy Birthday, Moy!

Pick-Up Lines One Might Hear at SBTS:

7. Do you believe in special revelation, because God revealed to me that you sure are special?

6. So, how many points are you? (Think of TULIP, not a buck.)

5. Have you considered becoming a minister's wife?

4. So, what do you think of Joshua Harris' writings?

3. God told me that you'd go out on a date with me...You don't want to call God a liar, do you?

2. Would you like to help me fulfill God's will for me to be married?

1. Your name must be Grace, because you're irresistible.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thoughts at the Close of Valentine's Day

So, I'm sitting here in front of the computer on Valentine's Day, also known as Single Awareness Day (SAD) to many singles. Valentine's Day has never been a time when my feelings of loneliness have been excessive, because I value the marriage relationship too much to simply focus on my wants and foster exaggerated feelings of loneliness. I would rather remain single if the Lord has not placed anyone on my heart than rush into a relationship fool heartedly with my emotions, hormones, and/or feelings of loneliness being the only impetus toward finding someone.

I plan on spending my married life trying (as best as I can by God's grace) to love my wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25), and I plan on serving her the rest of my life because she is my sister in Christ. Choosing the bride that I will serve, love, protect, provide for, lead, and cherish the rest of my life is no small thing. Much like the task of preaching, I take the matter of marriage seriously so that it brings about an appropriate and godly dose of fear in me. When I stand before the people of God proclaiming the truth of God's Word, I stand there in weakness, fear, and trembling, in awe of the task that God has set before me and unable to accomplish it without His grace. When I think of my future wife, I sometimes tremble at the seriousness of the task that will be mine to care for her. It's no small thing, but I know that the Lord gives grace in weakness. Just as He supplies the strength that I need to preach, He will supply the strength that I need to approach my future wife, begin a relationship, and weather the trials and heartaches that come from being united to another sinner saved by grace.

Having said all of that, I have used this day to think more about marriage. How can I prepare myself to be a good husband and father? What areas of my life need the most sanctification? What should I expect from my wife and from being married? What is the best way to go about finding and relating to the one who will be my wife? What will my wife need me to do and to be for her? How can I begin the process of learning how to love someone as much as Christ loved the church? Am I truly ready for the married state?

In all of this, I have humbly asked the Lord to make me ready for my future bride and to bring her my way, soon. Surely if the Lord can present His bride, the church, without a spot or wrinkle, He can surely prepare me and continue transforming me into a bridegroom that will bring Him the most glory as I treat my wife in a godly way that reflects Christ's love for the church.

Pray for me, and pray for my (future) wife.

Finally, if you're single and could use some advice on this day (and the days of singleness to follow), consider:

1. Pray for your future husband or wife. I pray for my future wife on a regular basis, even daily for the past few weeks. This will help you to think less of yourself and more about your future spouse. Marriage is not a state of perpetual selfishness, and one must not run toward the altar in the hopes of finding self-fulfillment. Instead, one should come to the altar with joy knowing that the Lord has provided a marvelous picture of the relationship of Christ and the church and a means to give of your life to someone else. So, pray for your future spouse regularly.

For my wife, I specifically pray that the Lord will sanctify her and draw her closer to Himself. I pray that He'll prepare her to be a godly wife to me and mother to our children. I pray that He'll create and stir within her a desire to love me, a wretched sinner though I am. I pray that He'll bring us together (soon), and that if we have already met that He will make His will for us abundantly clear. I pray that He'll care for her and protect her in whatever she does and will take care of her needs according to His riches in glory.

2. Think seriously about marriage. If you do not believe that the Lord has given you the gift of celibacy, you must actively prepare yourself for marriage and begin or continue pursuing the marriage state. In Not Even a Hint--later retitled as Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)--Joshua Harris gives clear advice about marriage:

Unless God has removed your desire for sex and has given you a clear vision to serve Him as a single person, then assume that you're supposed to get married and either make yourself ready or begin pursuing it...I think there are far too many singles today (men in particular) who have no good reason for delaying marriage. Sometimes I think it's just plain laziness and selfishness. Other times it's a cultural, unbiblical emphasis on career and material success. (p. 111-112)

3. Be a brother (or sister) to your sisters (or brothers) in Christ.
Harris gives Christian men some wise advice:

Probably one of the most important things godly single men can do to help their single sisters is to actively be brothers to them. Don't flee relationships with them. Helping to guard their purity doesn't mean avoiding them. It means caring for them and extending genuine friendship. We can encourage Christian women we know who are serving God passionately. We can thank women who dress modestly. (p. 90)

4. Trust in the Lord.
The Lord's hand is good, and He gives good gifts to His children. I look forward to being blessed with a godly wife that I can love with all of my heart, and I trust that the Lord will bring us together soon. I would be lying if I said that I was always confident and never doubted, but I know that the Lord is good. Since He has not given me the gift of celibacy and hampered my desire for marriage nor my physical drive, He desires me to proceed in the direction of marriage. In that way, I trust in Him completely, knowing that He will not fail me in this. I find my satisfaction in Him, knowing that His timing and His will is perfect.

So, single Christian, use this time of singleness to prepare yourself. As I've been told by many married couples, relationships tend to sneak up on you. So, I conclude that it is much better to prepare while the water is calm.

May the Lord cause you to be unwaveringly satisfied in Jesus Christ, above all else!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chapel Schedule

I was just looking at the chapel schedule here at SBTS this semester, and I'm thankful that I'm a part of an institution that invites such godly men to preach the Word. I always look forward to our chapel services. Also, I'll have the opportunity to hear some of my favorite preachers, which means that I'm especially excited about the schedule.

In light of that, I admit that I have found that some of the "no names" have been the most edifying to me, men whose names you wouldn't know but who have nonetheless preached the Word mightily and with such great conviction that great truths of Scripture were made manifest to me in fresh ways.

In either case, may the Lord add His blessing to the reading and the preaching of the Word this semester!

Please Click here to check out the chapel schedule. If you're anywhere near Louisville on Tuesday or Thursday, I'd encourage you to drop by to attend our chapel services at 10:00 AM.

I'd also encourage you to pray for each of these men during the semester. I just printed off the list, and I plan to pray specifically for the men whose names are found there. I also encourage you to pray regularly and fervently for the pastor of your local church, too. I can assure you that he always stands in need of your prayers.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Prayer Request: Alistair Begg

Alistair Begg's ministry, Truth for Life, sends out Truthlines, a monthly ministry update. In this month's edition, which I received yesterday morning and read today, Begg mentions that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It seems that the cancer is "non-aggressive, localized, and treatable." I encourage you to offer your prayers for Alistair Begg and his ministry.

I was particularly struck by a one-sentence paragraph near the end of his e-mail:

"The psalmist reminds us that our times are in His hands and so we rest content in the confidence that God is too wise to make a mistake and too kind to be cruel."
To that I say "Amen!" Although mysterious and sometimes painful, we know that everything that the Lord does is right. My prayer is that the Lord will see fit to show His glory through healing Alistair Begg. In the meantime, let us join him in praying for the Lord's will to be done.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lessons Learned

It was February 1st of 2005 that I was converted and became a Christian. I repented of my sins and the "good works" that were fooling me into believing I was okay. Surely the Lord would look over my sins and give me an A+ for effort. The truth is that those efforts dug me deeper into depravity. My outward performance and smug, legalistic, self-righteousness were no small things. They were cosmic treason against an infinitely holy God.

Oh, how I praise the Lord for His work of grace in my life! I still see so many deficiencies in my life, yet I'm thankful that the Lord has continued to bring about some much-needed changes. I wish I was a spiritual giant like those I read about. My life seems to be a speck in God's kingdom. However, I'm reminded of other "specks" that God has used to bless my life. I could mention names that almost no one reading will know, yet these men affected my life in such profound ways. Tonight at church, Brother Todd mentioned that many of us that are pastors or hope to one day pastor might snub our noses at the small, rural church that runs 15 in Sunday school. In his lesson on John the Baptist, he brought out the fact that God gave him a message, and he was to proclaim that message in a desert. However, I'm happy to serve God in the desert.

In this desert, however, the Lord has taught me a few things, whether it be about myself or about the Christian life. I would like to end this post just listing my thoughts. There's probably nothing orderly about today's entry, but I just wanted to think about the Christian life that I've been living for the past 2 years in thankfulness for God's sanctifying grace.

1. God gives us timely lessons. The Lord has a way of teaching us things through trials and giving us the strength we need for that moment. I can look back and see numerous times that the Lord has taught me a lesson that I would not have had the faith to withstand just 2 years ago. The Lord taught me to better trust in Him and His timing. In moving to my current apartment, my situation was hopeless. I was at the end of my rope, and the Lord came through in the last few days. I literally had no where to go in the final weeks before the house I was living would be sold by our landlord. I don't know if I could have handled that same situation 2 years ago. It was a timely lesson, a lesson designed for that moment in my life, and although I would weep and felt forsaken by God, He heard my cries.

2. Growth in grace is steady, but it is often imperceptible to us. It's remarkably true that others may see us grow in leaps and bounds with a life full of grace, yet to us we see the doubting tendencies and the scars of past sins that still come to life after lying dormant for weeks, months, or years. During this past year, I have often lamented the lack of growth in my life. I did not see major steps toward becoming like Christ. However, even if I look at my life a year ago, I see so many changes and new opportunities that the Lord has brought into my life to remind me that He's actively changing me. I think of a mentor relationship, a new accountability relationship, a new friendship, the sins that are being vanquished, along with several areas in my life that the Lord has encouraged me to change. I cannot see that at the moment. I struggle through each step, not realizing I've walked for miles. I focus on the stretch of road ahead of me and the tiredness of my feet, forgetting that my goal is to keep my eyes on Christ during the journey of the Christian life. On a special day like today, I recognize the grace of God in my life, and I'm humbled that the Lord has given me the privilege of teaching, preaching, and ministering in the name of Christ.

3. Friends sanctify. The Lord has brought some friends into my life that have truly changed my life. That may sound a bit over-the-top, but there's no other way that I can put it. Through those deep friendships with fellow brothers and sisters in the faith, the Lord has revealed to me how much of a sinner that I am. Recently, I sent an e-mail to a brother of mine confessing a sin that I committed against him that he didn't know about. I was able to reconcile with another brother through a rift that was created by something that I said, even though I didn't know the rift even existed for months. Through those interactions, I learned how prideful or insensitive I can be. Those are painful lessons. I don't like to think of myself as a prideful person. I don't normally choose to think of myself as someone who is insensitive to those around me. The truth is, through these men, I have come to realize how much of an impact my choices have on others. Just by choosing different words, I would have been able to avoid hurting a dear brother. Through choosing to tell the truth about a situation, I let my brother see my sin instead of concealing it.

4. Sins must not go unconfessed. It seems that the verse the Lord kept drilling into my head the whole fall semester was Proverbs 28:13, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." The Lord brought about victory in an area of my life because I confessed it to my pastor and a couple of brothers. The Lord is gracious and will hear the prayers of those who confess their sins. I also forsaked that sin, and have taken measures to eradicate it from my life. Unfortunately, any sinful action comes about through sinful attitudes of the heart, and I pray that the Lord will continue working on my thoughts just as much as He gives me the strength to act as I should.

Those are some lessons that I have learned this past year. My prayer is that I will be more like Jesus by the time I post an entry on this blog next year.

Pray for me that the Lord will grant me the grace to live the Christian life as I should, not just when celebrating the anniversary of my conversion, but every day of the year. May I be like Christ on the day when a close relative dies, on the day when close friends forsake me, or on the day when sadness grips my heart. All of that (or none of that) may happen this year...If it does, I pray that it will make me more like Jesus.