The Christian Email Signoffs Debate

I would like to raise an issue of critical importance that I have been considering for some time now, and that is the issue of Christian email sign offs. Let me explain.

When it comes to email, Christians tend to fall into two groups. The first group, which includes myself, concludes every email with a simple farewell, such as “thanks” or “sincerely”. The second group tends to conclude every email with a Christian sign off, a biblical John Hancock if you will, such as “blessings” or “grace and peace”. My question is: am I the only Christian who thinks it’s weird to end an email with a benediction?

I think it’s weird for several reasons. First, the benediction ending often doesn’t fit the context. I’ll get emails like:

Yo homey,

You up for getting some wings tonight and watching Monday night football? You better be there or you’re a loser!

Rejoicing in the abundant grace of God,

John

Or, as happened to a friend who asked for help moving (I assume the signoff was automatically inserted):

Hey Eric,

No.

Saved to Serve,

Nick

Second, I don’t talk like that in normal life. I don’t end my phone conversations by saying, “May the blessings of God follow you throughout the day.” People would probably think I’m a bit weird if I did that.

But here’s the thing: I have many godly, reasonably well adjusted friends who use Christian email signoffs. And they don’t think it’s weird. One friend, who I won’t identify other than saying that he is an assistant to C.J. Mahaney and that his name sounds like “Bony Deinke”, concludes his emails with the word “blessings”.

So could somebody give me a definitive ruling on this? Should I be concluding each email in the same fashion that Paul concluded his epistles, or is a simple “thanks” enough?

Are You Feeling It?

I remember the day in July 1969 that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren became the first men to walk on the moon.

I watched it with a crowd in the lobby of the boarding house I lived in that summer in Ocean City, Maryland. ?I remember when it was over, I said, ?Well, you seen one moon walk you seen ?em all.?

Next day I was talking with the old janitor at the motel where I worked. ?He didn?t believe we?d landed on the moon. ?He thought our government staged the whole thing, a massive hoax. ?He wasn?t there to see it with his own eyes, so he refused to believe it.

No matter how I tried to reason with him, he was unmoved. ??Our government couldn?t pull that off. Someone would leak it,? I argued. ??Besides, why would they want to do that?? ??To get more taxes out of us,? he said.

I asked him if he believed in Abraham Lincoln. ?After all, he hadn?t seen him with his own eyes. ?He didn?t believe in Abraham Lincoln either. ?Or the existence of Europe, since he?d never been there.

Sounds like a guy named Thomas.

Resurrection Sunday evening Jesus appeared to the disciples, but Thomas wasn’t there. They told him they?d seen Jesus. ?But Thomas refused to believe the them. ?Nor did he believe the report of Mary Magdalene, who’d seen the Lord, nor the very words of Jesus who?d predicted his death and resurrection numerous times. ??Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe? (JN 20.25).

What Thomas failed to realize is faith doesn’t come by sight and touch, but ?faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ? (RO 10.17).

This is how I came to faith. ?At someone?s suggestion, I bought a paper back Bible and began to read John. ?I attended some meetings where I heard men preach from the Bible about Jesus. ?By God?s grace, eventually I believed. ?But Jesus never appeared to me.? I never saw fireworks or felt goose-bumps. ?I simply heard and believed.

Jesus told Thomas, ?Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed? (JN 20.29). In other words, we experience God’s blessing not by seeing, but by hearing the gospel.

So John followed the Thomas story with, “these are WRITTEN so that you may BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). We come to believe through God?s written word.

God is so wise to root faith in his Word, not our subjective senses. ?If Jesus had appeared to me in 1973, I could doubt that experience now 38 years later. ?Maybe I hallucinated. ?After all, I used a lot of drugs back then. ?Maybe I was just desperate for something to believe in.

A common expression these days is, ?I?m feeling it.” (Or not feeling it).

Do you FEEL like Jesus rose from the dead? ?Do you FEEL like his shed blood paid for all your sins? At times I’ve felt incredible condemnation for sin. ?But God’s word says, ?There is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.? (RO 8.1). ?So do I believe my feelings or God?s word?

Do you FEEL like God loves you?? I don?t always feel like God loves me, but I know he does, because his Word says, ?But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.? (RO 5.8)

This is the whole fight of faith – are we going to believe what God says or our feelings and circumstances?

29 Things I Miss From My Childhood

Tonight I was reading a book to Charis, and one of the characters in the book said the word “snort”. Apparently Charis thought the word “snort” was the funniest word in the history of mankind, because she kept repeating it to herself and laughing hysterically. This event, combined with the fact that today is my 29th birthday, has me feeling a bit nostalgic. So I decided to compile a list of twenty nine things that I miss from childhood. Here goes…

1. Saying one word over and over, and laughing harder each time I say it. For example: “fart”.

2. Getting super amped up on Saturday morning to watch three hours of cartoons.

3. Watching Darkwing Duck, Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers, and Tale Spin every day after school.

4. Getting really into something for a very short period of time. Examples: Pogs, Star Wars trading cards.

5. Manipulating my parents into buying me an action figure when we went to the store.

6. Breaking that action figure when we got home from the store.

7. Backyard wiffleball.

8. Being coated in sweat and dirt after a long day of playing freeze tag and kick the can.

9. Going to sleep still coated in sweat and dirt.

10. Having a simple faith in the power of prayer. Like the time I prayed that God would allow me to fly.

11. Wearing sweatpants for days on end without one ounce of shame.

12. Watching movies with my dad and having dad try to cover up swear words by saying “BABABABABA” really loudly.

13. Watching movies with my dad and having dad accidentally put the bad parts in slow motion instead of fast forwarding them.

14. My special blanket that had the power to take away all fear and sorrow.

15. Bologna.

16. Being really excited to tell my friends that I had watched a movie rated “PG”.

17. Getting a toy with a McDonald’s meal. (Why don’t they do this for adults?)

18. Playing games with my friends that involved hurting each other.

19. Thinking that I might be a professional basketball player someday.

20. Wearing short shorts and tube socks and not knowing any better.

21. Anticipating the newest release in the “Ernest Goes To…” movie series.

22. Riding my bike to Sheetz for the sole purpose of purchasing a 44oz Slurpee.

23. Getting a refill on my Slurpee.

24. Beating Super Mario Bros.

25. Getting excited about flying on an airplane.

26. Getting a free lollipop from the bank.

27. Drawing intricate designs on my arms and legs with a ballpoint pen.

28. Getting really excited about my first pair of name brand shoes.

29. Not worrying about making lists.

What do you miss from your childhood?

Finding Contentment As Children Of God

I have a little girl who is two years old, and the affection I feel for her is almost overwhelming at times. Everything she does makes me grin. She pushes Winnie the Pooh around in a stroller, and I grin. She points and giggles at low-flying airplanes, and I grin. She passes gas in that innocent ?did I do that?? sort of way, and I . . . you get the point. I love this little girl with all my heart. And my love doesn?t hold a candle to God?s love for us.

In Zephaniah 3:17 God says, ?The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.? Our lives have a glorious soundtrack. God loves us so much that he exults over us with loud singing. He is so glad to have us as his children that he is singing over us.

Every morning we wake up as children of the King. We?re adopted, loved, treasured, and blessed. No trial, circumstance, need, pain, or heartbreak can ever separate us from the intense love and compassion of our Father. God?s love pursues us relentlessly and zealously. Paul describes this hurricane of love when he says in Romans 8:38?39, ?For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.? God?s love for us is invincible, unbreakable, and unshakable. The legions of hell can?t defeat it. There is no future we can imagine apart from it. Even death itself buckles before the almighty love of our Father.

You may not have an earthly father, but you have a heavenly one who loves you far more than any earthly father. You may not have a husband to shelter you, but you have a heavenly Father who shelters and protects you (Ps. 36:7). You may not have everything that you want, but your Father promises that he will meet all your needs (Matt. 6:26).

This truth is life-giving for the discontented heart. Do you want to be more content? Spend a day or a week or a month or a decade marveling and wondering at your divine adoption. You are a child of God. The Creator of the universe really is your Father, and he loves you with an intense, fatherly affection. He cares for you with the heart of a father. He hears your requests with the heart of a father. He watches over you with the diligent eye of a father. Reflect on and rejoice in every difference between your former state (rebel) and your current state (son or daughter of God). Thank God for adopting you instead of sending you to hell. Thank God for calling you ?child? instead of ?enemy.? Fill your mind with the massive truth of adoption. You?ll soon find yourself dizzy with joy and gratefulness.

Excerpted from The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment On Your Side of the Fence

Ever Full Of Sap And Green

They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

(PS 92.14-15)

It?s Easter Sunday and the whole family comes for dinner.

My 92 year-old Dad, JJ, arrives wearing pink sport coat, bolo tie, western belt buckle, hat that looks a little too small for his head with upturned brim all the way around. ?He’s a walking fashion statement.

As we?re eating dinner he says, ?Well I have to go over to the home tonight to preach to the old folks. I’m older than most of them.?

?What are you preaching on?? we ask.

?Gonna preach on women.?

?Women? ?Why are you speaking on women??

?Well, most of the folks who come out on Sunday nights are women. ?There’s a few men. ?So I thought I’d speak on women. ?After all, there’s going to be more women in heaven than men.?

We jump on this. ??Wait a minute, Dad how do you know there?s going to be more women in heaven than men??

?Well, you go to most churches and it?ll be mostly women there.?

As discussion ensues, I think of Dad’s idea many years ago that no one would know each other in heaven because we’d have new bodies. ?He thought he’d be wandering around heaven asking people, have you seen my wife, Jonalee?

After we discuss the merits of whether there will be more women in heaven than men, Dad says he’s going to be talking about godly women. ?And then he says that for his final example of a godly woman he’s going to talk about my mom, who died in 2001.

I think, what a blessed man I am. ?I was so blessed to have a godly mother.

It’s Easter. ?My mom is before the throne worshiping the Lamb.

My godly 92 year old dad puts on his pink sport coat and heads out to talk to the “old folks.”

One of my sons says “Grandpa sure is a servant.”

I think, I want to be like him.

Except maybe for the coat.

Book Notes: “Thriving At College” and “The Baseball Codes”

Alex Chediak’s new book Thriving At College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith, and Get Ready for the Real World! is a helpful resource for anyone who is about to head off to college or who is currently in college.

The strength of the book is that it’s packed full of wise principles that will help a student navigate the murky waters of college and prepare for life after college. It deals issues like relationships, time management, apologetics in the classroom, and balancing the work and fun of college.

The biggest weakness of the book is that it is almost too thorough. At over 300 pages in length, I would be a little hesitant to give this to just any college student. In some ways I felt that the book tried to tackle a few too many subjects, and would have been better if it had been more focused in its content.

This book is a good purchase, but it may be more helpful to use it as a reference rather than something you would read straight through. You can get it here.

Jason Turbow’s new book The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime is a great book for any baseball fan. In the book, Jason discusses the various “unwritten” rules of baseball. These unwritten rules include pitchers intentionally hitting batters in retaliation, runners sliding in hard at second to break up a double play, not criticizing a teammate in public, and not looking at a homerun ball for too long.

I’m really enjoying this book, but then again, I’m a baseball fan. If you’re not a fan this book probably isn’t for you. But if you are a fan, go out and get it.

Worshiping Your Feelings

Worship Leader

Have you ever had one of those Sunday mornings where you just didn’t feel like singing? You know the kind I’m talking about. You had an exhausting week, your Bible reading was sketchy, and you had an argument with a family member on the way to church. You don’t feel close to God and you certainly don’t feel like singing. Then Mr. Smiley Man Worship Leader stands up at the front and encourages everyone to lift a “joyful song” to the Lord, and you want to walk up there and give him a swift slap in the face. Then the music starts, and you’re painfully aware that you really don’t feel like singing. I’ve been there. Maybe you’re in that place right now.

Let me encourage you to do something different this Sunday. When the singing starts, don’t let your first question be, How do I feel about what I’m singing? That’s the wrong place to start when it comes to worship. The first question should be, What is the truth about God?

For example, when you sing –

Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea

– don’t start with an evaluation of your feelings. This truth you are singing has absolutely nothing to do with your feelings. If you’re a Christian you have a glorious savior, a mighty redeemer, and a strong and perfect plea in Jesus Christ. All your sins are washed away and you can approach God himself with complete confidence. You have a place reserved for you in heaven. And all this has absolutely nothing to do with how you feel!

Now I need to be careful here. Feelings are essential in worship. Worship without feeling doesn’t honor God. But feelings aren’t the starting place for worship. Glorious truth about God is the starting place for worship, and is what creates true feeling in our heart. As John Piper puts it in his book Desiring God, “The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God…”

So when the singing starts this Sunday, don’t immediately do an inward evaluation of how you feel at that moment. Rather, engage your mind with the glorious truths that you’re singing and ask God to give you a true vision of his greatness. Ask God to open your eyes to see his glory, and ask him to kindle deep, God-honoring emotion in your heart. Start with the truth and your feelings will follow.

+ photo by jorisjan

Originally published April, 2008

Why It?s So Important To Rejoice Always

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ?1 Thess 5.16-18

The Bible calls us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances, in afflictions as well as times of blessing. To rejoice in all things doesn’t mean that we rejoice that someone dies or gets cancer. ?To rejoice in all things means that we believe God is doing glorious things in and through all our circumstances, and even turns evil to good for those who love Christ.

To rejoice and give thanks in everything isn’t simply a good idea – it is critical and important.? Why?? Because:

– God commands us to rejoice.? God doesn’t command us to do anything without a reason.? All his commands are intended to bring blessing into our lives.
– Rejoicing is important for it is a way to lift our eyes to heaven and set our minds on things above (Co 3.2).
– Rejoicing in all things helps us avoid thinking hard thoughts of God.
– Rejoicing in affliction reminds us that God causes all things to work together for our greatest good – to make us like Christ.
– Rejoicing in all things speaks powerfully to both believers and unbelievers.? Remember Paul and Silas singing hymns while in stocks in prison and the other prisoners were listening (AC 16.24-25).
– Rejoicing helps prevent us from grumbling and complaining.
– Rejoicing in affliction strengthens our faith in God’s character and promises.
– Rejoicing opens the door for us to experience deep, genuine joy in Christ.
– Rejoicing in all things helps us ward off self-pity.
– Rejoicing in all things says that Christ is our source of joy and delight, not our circumstances
– Rejoicing in all things says that we believe God is wise, good, and loving in his plans for our lives.
– Rejoicing in all things glorifies God– it is easy to praise God when all is going well; but it especially honors him when we praise him in the midst of trials.

Rejoice in Jesus today.? Give him thanks no matter what you encounter.? Not one thing will happen to you that he hasn’t ordained for your good.

photo by { pranav }

The Danger Of Turning A Good Thing Into A Moral Thing

All of us have a tendency to take something that is good, at least in our opinion, and add moral weight to it. Public school, home school, and private school can all be good things. Organic food can be a good thing. Dressing up for church or dressing down for church can be good things. Dating, courting, and dorting, can all be good things. Watching television can be a good thing and abstaining from television can be a good thing.

The danger, however, is when we take a good thing and we turn it into a moral thing. When we make a good thing into something that other people must do if they are going to be truly spiritual. When we take a good thing and add it onto justification by faith as the way to God’s approval.

Principle Vs. Practice

All of us are tempted to do this. A lot of it has to do with our experiences. I was homeschooled growing up, and I see both the spiritual and educational benefits of homeschooling. But, I need to be careful that I don’t start to believe that homeschooling is morally superior to other education methods. I need to be very careful to distinguish between principles and practices.

The principle is that parents must raise their children in the fear of the Lord. Homeschooling is one practice for accomplishing that. However, I also know many godly parents who have raised their children in the fear of the Lord through the practice of sending their kids to public school. These parents are just as committed to their children as the parents that homeschool.

It’s the same with relationships. The principle is that young men and women must pursue relationships with absolute purity as they look ahead to the day they are married. The practice of courtship is one way for this to happen. It can happen through dating as well. A young man and woman can “date” and still be pure and pursue intentionality in their relationship.

The Danger of Unnecessary Guilt

Why do we need to be so careful to avoid turning something good into something moral? Because when we do this, we place a burden of guilt on people that God does not place on them. When we say that homeschooling is the only way, we make those who don’t homeschool feel guilty and out of place. We place a weight on them that God does not place on them. When we say that it’s wrong to play video games, and we tell others that it’s wrong, we place a weight of guilt upon them that God does not place on them. And we steal their joy.

So what’s the solution? First, we hold fast to justification by faith. A Christian is a Christian because they trust in Jesus as savior and bow to him as Lord. Nothing more, nothing less.

Then, we hold fast to what is clear in the Bible. That is our authority. We shouldn’t tell people that they can’t date. We should tell people that they must pursue purity, love, wisdom, and counsel in every relationship. We can’t tell people that they must read their Bibles every single day. We can tell them that they should seek to delight in the law of the Lord. We need to hold fast where God holds fast, and be flexible in the other areas.