6/10/2021 0 Comments
It has been three years since my former pastor, mentor, and friend went home to be with the Lord. I had the privilege to know him and learn from him for nearly twenty years. Here are some nuggets of wisdom (as they come to mind) from Mike:
1) It is worth the time to re-read good books… For example, among the books Mike read and re-read countless times was Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He testified how he saw new things each time, and he was reminded of good, old things that he had forgotten since the last reading. I have made it a habit to keep reading LOTR at least every two years. I also look for, read, and reread great books as often as I can.
(BONUS: He also taught me to appreciate Tom Bombadil...)
7) Write books. Mike wrote a range of books, from children’s literature to spiritually edifying books. He also inspired me and encouraged me as I put pen to paper. I have two books in print, dozens of essays published, and another couple of books in the works. Here's what he had to say about my first book, All Things New: Essays on Christianity, culture & the arts: “Jeremy has brought together a diverse collection of his own Christian reflections on ‘Culture and the Arts.’ His many years of teaching English literature and the Classics and his own genuine appreciation and discernment of—and his wisdom concerning—works as diverse as The Pilgrim’s Progress and the Harry Potter books, have set him up as an experienced and knowledgeable guide to Christians, and others interested in Christian thinking.” He read and endorsed the manuscript, but he passed away shortly before the book came to print...
8) When preaching, teaching, or writing, remember that we are often doing so “on borrowed time.” This advice has been gold as I have been teaching, preaching, and writing for the last two decades. In an email he once sent me offering advice about a sermon I botched (e.g., it took me a quarter of an hour to get to the point of my message…) Mike told me to be “careful to explain what it is we are about to explain, with a view to persuading our audience that they really need to understand this.”
9) Related to number 8… If you love someone, then you will give them honest feedback. Mike did this for me in droves… I am a better teacher, preacher, and writer because of his honest and critical feedback. He said we need to offer each other the “right, delicate, but firm words” if we are going to spur each other on. I thank God for the time, thought, and energy he took offering me “the strong beer of [his] delicate criticisms…”
10) In important areas of life, always strive for excellence. In another letter, Mike reminded me that “competence looks like excellence in the midst of mediocrity.” So, I press on.
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23-24).
"In Pursuit of Excellence" Here is an excerpt from a two-part guest blog I wrote for H&E Publishing in Peterborough, Ontario (Feb 19, 2020 and May 4, 2020).
God is exceedingly excellent in every way. His character is excellent, his Word is excellent—everything he does is excellent! Surely this is why the Psalmist calls us to “praise him according to his excellent greatness” (Psalm 150:2). But if God is excellent, and Christians are called to “be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1), doesn’t that mean we should strive to be excellent at everything we do? At first glance this might seem like a terrifying thought; after all, most of us certainly aren’t excellent at everything. It shouldn’t be terrifying, however, when we realize that the pursuit of excellence is ultimately about using the gifts and opportunities God has already given to us.
Jeremy W. Johnston
Christian, husband, father, teacher, writer.
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