The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Month: August, 2013

Letter #16: Losing…Even When You Win

Dear Jonathan,

I’m not sure you understood my last letter, so I’m going to try this again. It seems like a big issue…I know it was for me. I know you were sad about recently losing a debate with one of your friends, but honestly…SO WHAT! You don’t have to win every debate for Jesus, especially in seminary! As a matter of fact, from my experience, I would tell you that when it comes to debating/arguing in seminary…

You lose…even when you win!

What I mean is this…Seminary is spring-loaded for pride (which we’ve talked about before). The gaining of so much knowledge in such a short period of time can easily produce a haughty spirit. There is, after all, knowledge that puffs up.

Hanging Boxing GlovesWhen you turn your “extra-curricular” time into theological boxing matches, this only produces opportunities for you to flex your newly formed hermeneutical muscles with the hope of knocking out your opponent. Too many KOs and you will begin to think yourself stronger than you truly are…

I call this “Seminary steroids”…and just like in pro-ball…they should be illegal.

You are injecting an unwarranted/false sense of superiority into your mind and heart. This will only be damaging to you, but also to your interlocutors. I’m not telling you to avoid theological discussion…not at all! I’m only saying, do not make winning such discussions your goal.

What then is the point you may ask? Simple…the goal is not winning, but understanding. The goal is not to prove your point, but to explain it. You should walk away from the discussion having a better grasp on your friend’s position and vice versa.

Such talks can actually lead to greater mutual respect and a deeper understanding of multiple theological opinions. This also promotes humility, for to understand another’s position, you must humbly open yourself to actually hearing it.

Jonathan, trying to win every argument in seminary will not lead you toward lasting friendships or a fuller understanding of the church to which you are trying to minister…because in seminarian debates…

You lose…even when you win.

Grace and Peace,

J

*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.

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A Prayer for Matt Pitt

1 Corinthians 12:26a, “If one member suffers, all suffer together…”

Today…my heart is broken. Today…I am hurting. Today…I hurt with my brother, Matt Pitt.

I pastor a church in Birmingham, Alabama…the place Matt Pitt calls home and in which he has ministered for many years. Matt was a young man with a troubled past who came to know Jesus in a manner that resembles the testimony of the apostle Paul. One moment Matt wanted nothing to do with Jesus, the next moment he couldn’t stop telling people about Jesus.

the-bHe began meeting with friends in his parent’s basement and over the course of a few years, this meeting grew to thousands of teens meeting in arena type venues. Many people have opposed Matt, criticized his ministry, and made shameless jokes about everything from his theology to his physique. I must ashamedly confess that I am not guiltless in this matter.

Last year, critics felt justified in all they had ever said as Matt was arrested for impersonating a peace officer. He plead guilty and there were minor penalties (primarily probation). Then, last night Matt was arrested for similar charges and apparently tried to evade the police in the process.

Today…my heart is broken, but probably not for the reasons you would think.

It is not broken because of what Matt may or may not be guilty of, but because I went to bed last night and awoke this morning to a social media explosion among Christians discussing the issue. The content and condemnation of these posts is what has broken my heart.

I am not writing this post to defend Matt’s innocence. Honestly, I feel that when it comes to the response of Christians to this incident, his guilt, or the lack thereof, is irrelevant.

Here is our brother in Christ amidst suffering. It doesn’t matter if people from the outside are inflecting it upon him or if it is self-inflected…it is suffering none the less. When one part of the body suffers…ALL suffer together.

Our task is not to add to Matt’s suffering through our words of condemnation…for his guilt or innocence is not ours to decide. Our task is not to add to his suffering through our shameless joking…for this is no joking matter. Our task is not to add to his suffering through feeling justified for our criticisms (past or current)…for he is our brother.

I will be the first to admit that I do not agree with everything Matt has done within his ministry. My own philosophy of ministry is very different from his. My teaching methods and thoughts on discipleship are nearly opposite of what I have been able to observe concerning the basement.

HOWEVER, no matter how much I may disagree or differ with Matt Pitt’s approach to ministry, I do not deny that he is my brother in Christ. We are a part of the same body, and when he suffers. I suffer!

prayer-meeting_wide_t_ntOur task is to suffer with Matt as we pray for his guilt or innocence to be rightly determined and that he be strengthened for the consequences. Our task is to suffer with him as we pray for his family and those to whom he has ministered. Our task is to suffer with him by encouraging him that the body loves him and there is grace greater than all our sin.

Please join with me brothers and sisters to suffer with our brother Matt Pitt. Please join with me to be the body of Christ. Please join with me to pray, love, and extend grace as it has been extended to us.

Sovereign Lord,

I pray for my brother Matt. I cannot imagine the feelings going through his heart and the thoughts going through his mind. I pray for peace. Grant him trust in you no matter what lies ahead.

If he is guilty, Lord I pray for a conviction in his heart to confess his sin and repent knowing that you give grace to the humble, but resist the proud. And, Lord if he is innocent, I pray for clear evidence and a quick release.

May he rely on you while he finds himself in such a place of suffering. May you surround him with brothers and sisters who will suffer with him. No matter what, I pray that through Matt’s words and actions you will ultimately be shown to be great, loving, and glorious above all!

In the name of Jesus…Amen.

Letter #15: Don’t Debate…Dialogue

Dear Jonathan,

I understand your frustrations with Bradley. From the way you described the conversation I believe I would have been frustrated too. Sometimes there is a point that just seems so obvious to you and you want for others to see it as well, but they seem blind or close-minded.

For what it’s worth…I agree with what you were saying. However, I do think you are missing the central issue of your conversation, namely, that it wasn’t a conversation. We both know that you were in debate mode, trying to prove your point and win the argument…you were not listening at all to what Bradley had to say.

Now, debate is not always a bad thing, but I wasted so much of my time in seminary arguing with others in such a way that only led to frustration and griping…not to fruitful growth. Jonathan, I would encourage you…

debateDon’t debate…dialogue.

You are surrounded by so many people who think differently than you…take advantage of that! When talking through issues such as baptism, the Lord’s supper, ecclesiology, justification, homosexuality, creation care…or even the “big” one…Calvinism and Arminianism, honestly listen to people with the intention of learning from them!

I’m not telling you to change or let go of your convictions, but to change your conversational restrictions. Be open to discussing things. This will stretch you and bring true growth.

I was so blessed, in the latter portion of my seminary career, to deepen my convictions while also widening my appreciation for people who don’t share them. I wish that had been my approach to conversations from the beginning.

When you enter into dialogue, state your thoughts clearly and concisely…then listen, take in what is being said, and don’t formulate your rebuttal while they’re talking. Wait until they finish, process what they said, and then respond in love. In this way, you not only set the tone for the conversation, but will actually get to a deeper place as your inviting disposition will likely lead the other person to open up and say things they might have otherwise held back.

Extend grace to your interlocutors and you might be surprised what gracious things the Lord will teach you through them. These are just some of the great gifts you receive when you…

Don’t debate…dialogue.

Grace and Peace,

J

*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.

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