Why I'm Switching Back to Pen and Paper

14:365 Pen & Paper I love technology.  Computers, tablets, and smartphones are vital tools in any ones line up.  In fact, my life is largely paperless thanks to Evernote. Yet, over the past week I've decided to move much of my writing to the "old school" format of pen and paper.  This is in large part to Jonathan Edwards.  One of the things that amazed me about this man is that he wrote all the time.  Here are three things I learned from him and are trying to implement in my own study:

1. He Thought with His Pen in Hand

I've noticed that the majority of my thinking stays up in my head and thus unremembered. I think a lot of great thoughts (sometimes!), but none of it gets recorded.  I want to learn to record these thoughts.  Although I love the convenience of technology, it is often not worth the price of distraction.  As I'm doing deep writing an email pops up or I get side tracked on another task.  This is one of the reasons why I am going with pen and paper for deep thoughtful personal writing. I can type much faster than I can write.  However, writing with a pen in hand forces me to slow down and think.  Because of that, I see how my thoughts seem much deeper and more focused.

2. He Had the Freedom of Creativity

In the area of theology I have a great fear of unintentionally being a heretic.  Creativity and theology don't often go well together and it can be a quick recipe for a disaster.  Yet, Jonathan Edwards was an open thinker. He was willing to freely  explore deep doctrines like the Trinity from unique perspectives.  In his personal notebooks he would write every thought and had the freedom to explore deep truths.  I want that same freedom to explore deep doctrines privately in my notebooks.

3. He Recorded All His Thoughts on Scripture

Edwards had an extensive system of notebooks to record all his thoughts.  One of those notebooks was a blank Bible, in which Edwards fashioned himself in making a super large margin Bible to write all his thoughts in his Bible. Another notebook he had was his miscellaneous notebook, in which he would record random theological thoughts.  This is a model that I want to imitate.  I want one notebook where I can record all my thoughts on the Bible and theology.  I wanted to create my own journal with just biblical exegesis and interpretation.

Although I've just been doing this old school method for about a week, I have already seen the Lord use it in my life.  Writing with a pen and hand and electronics off has allowed me to think much more deeply.  I've been reading through the book of 2 Samuel and some of the truths God has shown me is amazing (I might share some of it later on this week in a blog).  I believe part of this is that I'm slowing down and listening much more carefully, without the buzz of electronic distraction.

I don't know if you were like me and thought that pen and paper were too archaic for practical use. I still do a lot of electronic writing for blogs, my personal journal, and sermon writing yet for deep reflection I've switched to pen and paper.  I'm glad I did.   There is something about the slow sensory experience of tactile writing that spurs some of my best thinking.  Maybe you should give it a shot and start thinking with a pen in hand.

What about you? What advantages have pen and paper brought to your thinking? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Four Ways to Avoid the Vanity of Self-Promotion on the Internet

2575986601_c0509ed599_b One of the reasons I love to blog is to gain experience and to hear feed back from my writing. Part of what I struggle with though is the vain self promotion that comes along with the writing industry (or any industry for that matter!). If you record a album, you've got to promote online with advertising, social media, etc. If you run a business, you have to run campaigns and fight to get your name out there. Unfortunatly in the Christian publishing world and blogosphere, many adopt the same practices of vain self-promotion. The narcism and egotism I find deeply troubling. The idea of making much of myself tastes so bitter in my mouth. My desire is not to make much of Justin Deeter, but to make much of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, I know that I am unable to deliver any message broadly unless I am promoted. Even still, I find it very difficult to find a proper balance between the promotion of the message and the promotion of myself.

As I observe my Facebook news feed and read my twitter feed, I am deeply disturbed with the perpetual narcisitic comotion and buzz that people attempt to generate about themselves. For a Christian how do we balance righteous ambition with unrighteous self promotion? My mind goes to the book of Philippians where Paul writes,

"Some indeed proclaim Christ from rivarly and envy, but others from good will. The later do it out of love, knowing that I am put there for the defense of the Gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my improsment. What then? Only that in every way Christ is proclaimed and in that I rejoice."

There are a couple imediate observations from this text.

  1. Preaching the Gospel out of selfish ambition is not to be praised
  2. Preaching the Gospel in such a way to put down others is not to be praised.
  3. Despite people's bad motives in preaching the Gospel, the preaching of the Gospel is a great thing to be rejoiced in.

Although Paul praises God, rejoicing over the advancement of the Gospel, even by impure motives, he does not hold it up as a model to follow. Yes, there are those who proclaim the Gospel only seeking to advance themselves. However, Paul does care about their motives, but rejoices over the preaching of the Gospel despite of their motives. God can use the corrupt motives of men to still accomplish his divine purpose.

This is good news for me. So often as I examine the motives of my heart, my motivations are not always righteous. My ego, reputation, and success so often fuel my ministry to proclaim the Gospel. Yet, despite these condemnable motivations, God uses my corrupted motivations to spread the glorious gospel to the ends of the earth.

When I examine my writing and teaching mininstry, the heart of what God has gifted me to do, I know that it is not without its challenges. I pray that I will learn to "promote" not my own reputation but the reputation of Christ. I must decrease and he must increase. However, in a world with social media and vainity all around us, it is difficult to proclaim the Gospel message faithfully without bending knee to our idolatrous celebrit culture and seeking to become like a celebrity.

What are some practical tips we can promote the Gospel and not ourselves in our writing and in the content we produce? As I've wrestled with this topic, I present the following ways:

1. Don't Praise your Own Material or Beg for Compliments

This happens all the time. A tweet will go up saying agressively, "the best post I've ever written" or more passively "I don't think this is any good, but will you read it?" This is just plainly pride and seeking the praise of men. As we post stuff on social network sites we must not cleverly try to sell it with pride. This is one of the reasons I simply put up new posts with a simple formula which looks like this:

New Blog Post: Title, Link

This way it is more of an announcment than a sales pitch.

2. Do Not Post Only About You

When all you tweet about is yourself, your blog, your music, your family, your church, the message becomes clear. You are very in to yourself. When you are putting up five different posts a day about your latest project, then you've drifted into unbridled narcism. If all you are doing is self-promotion not only will you look like a prideful jerk, but your message will be hindered, because no one is going to want to hear from you.

3. Give More than You Get

Share, Share, and Share. The best way to not fall into the drivel of self-promotion is by sharing other people's materials. When you read a good blog post from a friend, share it! If your friend is taking some really cool photos, share them with others. When social networking, it is always better to give far beyond whatever you may get in return. Be generous in sharing others and it will be clear that you are not all about yourself.

4. Let Others Do Your Promotion

Rather than doing all your promotion yourself, let others who enjoy your content share it and promote it. Some of my most popular posts are not the ones I have heavily promote, but ones that others have promoted, shared, and spread around the internet. This is the key to growth of your message and it keeps you from selling your soul to the egocentrism of self promotion.

Promoting the message and not yourself is very difficult.  I am still learning and trying to think through this issue. What are your thoughts? How can we promote our message and not seem like we are only promoting ourselves? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Why I Write: Reflecting on One Year of Blogging

Writing is a task I've grown to love.  Each word is like a puzzle piece begging to be put together into a coherent whole. The puzzle pieces, each with their own nuances and meanings, bounce around and reshuffle at the command of my thoughts. The possibilities of a blank page are legion.  As ink spills on the page, a writer tosses the dice of influence, never knowing the impact the words dripping from his pen will make. The written word is hidden with power greater than any atom.  The power encapsulated word can transform a very man's thoughts. It's persuasion greater than the barrel of any gun.  The power of the written word is only limited by the mind of him who writes. The assembled word grows in power depending on the wisdom of the writer.  The wiser the writer, the more powerful the words. Imagine the possibilities if God himself wrote.  What if God, through the inspiration of human authors, assembled words together to communicate his wisdom? What if God used the power of writing to proclaim His truth?

This work of God would be sharper than any two edged sword.  His writings would have the power to cut a man in the deepest part of his soul.  His word could bring dead men to life.  The Bible, God's Word, encapsulates His power.

Is there any wonder why I've grown so dedicated to the task of writing? I long to imitate God through writing. Seeking to match the power of God's word is as impossible as an infant beating a body builder in a wrestling match.  Although I aim to write powerfully and cut to the depths of men's hearts, my best efforts in writing will be nothing but filthy rags.  This is why I have decided that the content of my writing will be based on this precious, powerful Word of God.  Unpacking the truth of His word is the only hope that there will be any power in my words.  Only through the exposition of the Scriptures will my writing cut to the very souls of men, and that only through the working of the Holy Spirit.

I am amazed at God’s grace towards me.  A little over a year ago, I made a commitment to myself and to God to use social media to spread the Gospel.  Because of that passion, I decided to make the habit of regularly blogging for the sake of the Gospel.  To be honest, I was never really sure if I would follow through with the discipline of blogging.  I see the task of writing as one given to me by God. I view my call to teach and proclaim His word as a divine responsibility.  By His grace, I will proclaim the glorious truth of the Gospel through the written word, and I will continue to expose the truth of the Scriptures through writing, so that all may hear that Jesus is Lord!