The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Category: Friendship

Letter #19: Fight Hard to Finish Well

Dear Jonathan,

Welcome to your final semester of seminary! You are almost there! The finish line is in sight! There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train! Praise the Lord for graduation day!

I bet thoughts such as these have been racing through mind lately. However…I feel I need to give you a warning. The excitement of your impending graduation won’t last long. I don’t mean to be a Debbie downer, but if you are anything like me…senior-itis is going to set in real bad, real quick!

Business Finish LineYou have to fight hard to finish well!

The road has been long and hard. You’re tired and feel like you deserve to be done, but don’t forget…seminary has never been about what you do or don’t deserve. You are not there for yourself, and so you are not finishing for yourself! You do it all for the glory of God and the good of his church.

Finish your classes well. You may have been saving a few “easy” courses for this final semester so that you can coast, or perhaps you just have fewer courses. No matter what, work just as hard as you always have. God is still equipping you through your courses and you need to pay attention.

Finish well with your profs. You have formed some great, lasting relationships… don’t check out of them! The way you interact with professors during your final semester is indicative of what your relationship will be like with them post-graduation. You are transitioning out of the professor-student relationship into that of friend and colleague…make the transition well.

Finish well with underclassmen. You may not know it, but there are so many students watching and listening to you right now. Those who are just beginning are taking cues from you the same way you did from upperclassmen just a few years ago. Set a good example and pass on what you have learned. Teach them why they are there and how they can get the most out of their time in seminary. You are the expert now…perhaps you need to write some letters of your own!

Finally, finish well with your friends. We have spoken many times about the sacredness of the friendships you have formed during seminary…don’t let them slip away. You are in the midst of applying for different ministry positions, some of your friends are planning weddings or having babies. It is easy for you all to forget about one another. Stay in the trenches together…now and always!

Jonathan, the temptation to walk to the finish line is great, but don’t walk…crawl! I mean…stay on your knees in worship before Jesus. Know that everything you do is for his name’s sake. You began well…

Fight hard to finish well!

Grace and Peace,

J

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

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.

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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