Letters to Young Men: Integrity in your Relationships

Dear Friend,

I hope this letter finds you doing well and growing in your relationship with God.  Last time we spoke, we talked about being in the word of God.  I want to encourage you to keep up your commitment to reading the scripture.  Along those lines please read the scripture passage I have enclosed.  This week I want to share with you what the Bible says about being the husband of one wife and how to best prepare yourself to lead in your marriage one day.

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you– if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. (Titus 1:5-8)

I know that this passage deals primarily with appointing pastors and elders, but think with me for a moment.  Do we expect more of our pastors than we do of our people?  Is it right for a believer who is not the pastor to be sleeping around, getting drunk, quick tempered, rearing children that hate God, greedy, and undisciplined? No!  We expect Christians to act like Christians and we expect our pastors to model the Christian life. (As a pastor I pray that you have seen Christ modeled in my life along the way.)  So while this passage is about pastors… It also out a picture of what a mature Christian man looks like.  That being said, you are to aspire to be a mature man in Christ.

So now what about that “husband of one wife” phrase?  How doe that apply to you as an unmarried man?

The idea being communicated in the text is that of “a one-woman man.”  How does a single man make sure that he is a one woman man? … You guard yourself from craving of soliciting the attention of a plurality of women. In short, if you like a young woman, tell her.  It doesn’t have to be awkward, but it is important to define the relationship sooner rather than later.  If you don’t, you may end up leading someone on. If you aren’t interested in marrying a young woman, don’t flirt with her.  If you think that she likes you and you don’t like her, remind her (and act towards her) that you are just friends.

I remember early late in college around the age of 21, I found myself newly single and eager to share my insights on life with anyone of the female persuasion who would listen.  Little did I know that I was leading people on more than I had planned. All the girls I had been “flirting” with told the one girl I really liked that I flirted with everyone and I got dumped before the relationship ever began. In the long run it ended up working out well for me in that I sobered up to how I was leading some young women on, learned more about biblical manhood and womanhood and  was careful to define relationships.  I hope to spare you some bumps and bruises along the way by weighing this scripture and my advice.

Are you living like a one woman man?  Are you leading anyone on?  Remember sometimes women can put more stock in a friendship than we do. Is there a relationship that you need to define?

The wait is worth the reward.  Have I shared with you before about how I courted my wife? It’s a good story.  You should look it up if you are interested.

Your Friend,

Pastor Jonathan

Letters to Young Men: Treasure the Word

Dear friend,

I hope this letter finds you doing well.  I want to be a source of strength and encouragement as you fight against the flesh and continue to grow in Christ.  I know it sounds cliché to say that when times are tough my greatest source of strength comes from being in God’s Word. I know that there are many leaders in our day and age who make light of the daily discipline of reading and studying God’s word.  Their reasons sound good.  They will say that believers in the early church could not read and only heard the word preached.  This is true, but they miss a vital point.  Because the word was scarce, it was sacred.  The danger in our day is not a lack of accessibility, but too much accessibility. No doubt you have more than one Bible and possibly more than one translations.  Here is my challenge to you… Treasure God’s Word!

Set aside a Bible that you will read from each day.  Set a particular time of day.  Get a journal and take notes.  When beginning the daily discipline of reading God’s word, one of the best things you can do is take a chapter or section at a time and summarise what you have read.  If it will help you, I will read the same scriptures and we can compare notes when we get together. If you want me to see and be able to comment post your thoughts on a blog as my pastor does or as notes on facebook like many of my other friends do.

What is challenging me and helping me to treasure God’s Word these days is to memorize portions Scripture.  I’ve set out to memorize Philippians by Easter this year and even in the first week I have been blessed beyond measure.  The amount of scripture memorized isn’t the point, the value that it has in your life is very much the point. Do you treasure God’s Word?

Do not be persuaded to put off (or never even start) the basic disciplines that will help you know and grow in Christ. Do not be fooled by arguments that these disciplines lead to just going through the motions to check off a list.  No doubt some do and will read out of false motives, but knowing the Word is one of the primary ways in which we grow in Christ.

Treasure God’s word.  Grow and develop in the basic disciplines of reading and memorization.  Journal to engage you mind with the scripture and ask God to help you grow in Christ.  I close the letter here by quoting several scripture passages that God has used to speak to me on the subject.

But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world (John 17:13-18, ESV).

while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2Timothy 3:13-17, ESV).

I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11, ESV).

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish (Psalm 1:1-6, ESV).

Your Friend,

Pastor Jonathan

Letters to Young Men

Letters to Young Men

I’m starting a new blog series entitled, “Letters to Young Men.”  I hope to post on this topic once every other week or so. Though I’m not particularly old, I have been blessed and encouraged to share insights with several guys in their late teens to early 20’s in regard to life and ministry.   Some of you live in far away places and we talk only a few times a year; most of your mentoring is behind you, yet we check in from time to time.  Others of you live in closer proximity and we meet on a weekly or monthly basis.  Many you who read this post won’t know me, but hopefully you will be blessed through the series, feel free to contact me.

Many of the lessons I will share here I learned the hard way.  When appropriate, I will share my failure in hopes that you will miss a few bumps along the way. A precious few lessons I learned under the hand of various mentors in my own life and thus avoided the scars and bruises I would certainly carry apart from their influence.  When appropriate I will give them credit and honor for their influence in my own life.

I publish these thoughts to honor, educate, and encourage young men through the trials of life. I will write them as letters.  They will be addressed, “Dear Friend.”  My intention is not to share particular conversations that have taken place in private.  The letters will address subjects that are in some way particular to young men and have developed over many conversations with many people.  My goal is to produce letters that appear personal in nature and cover themes that are certainly relevant.  My prayer is that these open letters are a source of strength and encouragement to you.

I mean no disrespect by the use of the phrase “young men.” By many accounts, I myself could still be considered a young man.  I use the word “young” only in terms of comparative age; I use the word “man” in terms of maturity.

I welcome comments, feedback and input all along the way, but chose the right to delete or edit comments that I deem as disrespectful, rude, or not-profitable for discussion.


An Open Letter to All My Legalist Friends

Recently I have been bombarded by all sorts of people with legalistic agendas.  To be fair most of what I have seen or heard in recent days hasn’t been aimed at me directly.  However, some of you are making it difficult for me to share Jesus with my other friends because they think that you represent Him.  They don’t know that your legalism is a vice and a sickness that actually keeps you from Him.   I’m intentionally avoiding the particulars and get to the heart of the issue which is demanding more of others than God does.

1. Its not about YOU (or ME), its about US.

Sometimes you ask me to do things or put away things that aren’t prohibited in Scripture.  Some of these things are great ways to connect with others and are really morally neutral.  Many of these things Jesus did himself.  But you get this idea in your head that if I do things differently than you that I must not know Jesus (or at least that I am not right with Him).  However, on many of these issues, your the one who is changing His Word to make it say what it doesn’t say.

2. I’ll Gladly sacrifice ME for the sake of US, but please don’t ask me to do it for YOU.

What I mean is this.  I don’t want to be a stumbling block to you.  I don’t want to cause you to do anything against your conscience.  I will gladly not do some things that might offend you so that we can hang out.  But when you go around saying that everyone must think the same way that you do on an issue (and your thoughts don’t exactly line up with scripture), then you are asking me to be conformed to your image, not Christ’s.  Again I love you and will lay down my freedom for you, but I will not subscribe to your extra biblical ideas.

3. Don’t forget that HE loves THEM

Somehow I think that in the process you have forgotten that God loves people.  Don’t get me wrong on this.  Doctrine is important.  But perhaps the biggest truth we can know about God is that He loves people.  Some of you are good at communicating your cultural rules as a standard of holiness but you have forgotten to mention that God loves people.  Please let me remind you.  He says it plainly in His Word.  Just read it.

John 3:16-17, Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:4-9, Ephesians 5:1-2, 1st John 4:10-16

I really am hoping the best for you.  Truth be told, I fight legalism too.  Its easy for us to come up with extra rules (especially if we don’t struggle with the new rules).  We can feel confident that we haven’t broken the rules we’ve added.  The problem is that our rules aren’t always God’s rules and we need to know the difference.

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