The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Tag: letters to my seminarian self

Letter #11: Put Down the Books

Dear Jonathan,

I love hearing all your stories about the new friends you’ve made over the last year and a half. Some of them sound almost as crazy as the guys who became my brothers during seminary. I’m so thankful you have found our talks about friendship helpful.

However, I have found myself wondering about your other relationships as of late…specifically, your family. In your last letter, you described your study habits to me as if you were proud of how much time you have dedicated to school. Disciplined study is a great thing, but Jonathan…

book-pileThere comes a time when you need to put down the books.

You have two small children who desperately need their father right now (and always)! You have a wife who does not need to feel like a single parent or a widow! Don’t short-change them! If something has to be short-changed…make it seminary.

Taking a lower grade is worth taking time for your family.

During my seminary years, one of the most painful phrases I remember regularly coming off the lips of my daughter was, “Papa has to do school?” I have been so pleased to strike those words from her vocabulary!

Don’t get me wrong…I am not saying that school is not a priority. You could always spend more time with your family and that could lead to a total neglect of your studies. So what are you to do? I would advise you to sit down with your wife and have an honest conversation about priorities and time.

Talk through what each of you feel is an appropriate amount of time to devote to school and how much time must be set-aside for family. This could look different throughout a semester (especially during finals), but even having this conversation will show your bride how much you value her and your kiddos. Make sure your schedule leaves you both feeling like…

Seminary is a priority, but it is not THE priority.

I remember several times when I  put down my pen, shut the book, or closed my computer and went downstairs to wrestle with my kids on the living room floor or had one last conversation with my bride before she drifted off to sleep. If I could go back, I would not trade those moments for more studying…in fact…I’d probably study less in order to have more of those moments.

The health of my marriage and family has affected my pasturing more than seminary ever could. This is not just true for me, but for every pastor. Remember that Jonathan!

Give yourself to your studies. Work hard. Study to show yourself approved. Learn to rightly divide the Word of truth so that you have no reason to be ashamed. Yet…always, always, always remember…

There comes a time when you need to put down the books.

Grace and Peace,


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


Letter #10: Closer than a Brother

Dear Jonathan,

I laughed so hard at the story about your conversation with your concussed friend. Not that concussions are funny, but the conversation was hilarious!

Believe it or not, I had a similar experience with my friend, Jeremy, while in seminary. We played intramural basketball together and he would get injured every single game (at least it seemed like it).

I even had to drive him home one night after he got a concussion. Needless to say, he did not make much sense, especially when we tried to order food at Sonic and he couldn’t even remember or pronounce the words “coke” and “hamburger.”

I share that story with you to remind you of one very important thing that is often forgotten or overlooked by seminarians…

friendship2There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

You have the amazing opportunity to form amazing, life-long friendships while in seminary. I know I have mentioned this to you before, but I wanted to tell you a little more about why I believe this is so important.

Knowing that you are heading for pastoral ministry, finding fellow pastor-friends will be vital to your (and their) spiritual, mental, and emotional health. Pastoral ministry is very unique, and it can be difficult to find friends that can understand the particular challenges you face.

However, fellow pastors can often relate to the things you experience even when you cannot express it with words. They can point you to joy in Christ when no one else can. They can pierce your heart with truth that you need to hear. They can make you laugh in almost any situation.

Find friends in seminary that will be these kinds of friends for life…people with whom you not only study, but also laugh, cry, joke, talk, etc. If you find the friends similar to those I have been blessed with…you will have found people who are as close to you as blood.

Just the other day, I received a random text from Keith that lifted my heart to the Lord. Then there’s Bradley who stops for breakfast every time he passes through my town…these times of refreshment are priceless. And whenever my soul is hurting or rejoicing, I immediately call Allen. No one else has the ability to speak life into my heart quite like him.

I know it may sound like I am exaggerating the value of friendship, but I really don’t think that is the case. I would tell you to pursue incredible, godly, passionate friends just as hard as you pursue your studies.

The friends that I have listed were people I took note of during my first and second semesters and sought them out. I was determined to make them my friends because I saw in them a treasure, a richness and authenticity in their relationship with Christ to which I wanted to get closer.

Right after Scripture (and alongside my family), God has used these friends more than anyone or anything else to speak to my heart. Jonathan, pursue brothers and sisters in Christ who will lovingly live life with you, pointing you to Jesus.

Pursue friends that will stick closer than a brother.

Grace and Peace,


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

Letter #7: Pride is a Problem

Dear Jonathan,

So I’m going to dispense with introductory small talk and jump right into something that has been on my heart since I received your last letter. Please don’t think of me as being judgmental, but I have to be honest with you.

Hello-My-Sin-Is-PridePride is a problem…a massively destructive problem!

I encourage you to go back and read your letter again to see if you can catch what I’m talking about. You really seem to be enjoying your theological studies, but you must be very careful as you gain more and more knowledge concerning the things of God. There is a knowledge that puffs up, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

In fact, the more we come to know the Lord, the more our hearts should be humbled before him. I think of Paul who eventually grew to think of himself as the chief of sinners (that’s right…he “grew” into this). True knowledge of the Lord humbles us! That is “growth!” If our knowledge builds pride…then we either do not truly understand or believe the things we are learning.

While I was in seminary I felt as though I was on a roller coaster of pride and humility. One moment I caught myself lording my newfound knowledge over my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (in class and in the church), and the next moment I was in tears before the Lord who was more awesome than I had ever imagined.

I found that the classroom could either puff me up or humble me. It could provide me with intellectual ammunition or internal adoration. Jonathan, what you learn in the classroom should lead you to one place…worship.

If seminary doesn’t drive you to your knees then you are merely gaining more knowledge about God, not actually coming to know more of God.

Oh…one last thing…don’t try to blame seminary for this problem of pride. I used that excuse for the longest time. Seminary is not a producer of pride…our hearts are the pride factory. If you find yourself struggling with pride…the problem is not outside you, but within and that is where the battle must be fought and won.

This battle is fought, not with more knowledge about God, but with knowing more of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit…fight! Fight this battle! It is a battle for your soul! You face many dangers in seminary, but nothing is more soul destroying and ministry neutralizing than pride!

Pride is a problem…a massively destructive problem!

Fight to know God and be humbled before him.

Grace and Peace,


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

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