I've been working on expressing gratitude more effectively. It's been up and down quite frankly. I'm having to cultivate the habit. It's not natural to me and a good start doesn't ensure continued success. So there have been fits and starts, lulls and jumps. On the whole, I'm learning two things. First, I'm bent whether through sinful disposition or habit toward noticing the soft underbelly, poking it, and commenting on it. In other words, I'm critical. Second, people seem genuinely awkward with specific comments of praise or gratitude. Flattery they can take, but an accurate and meaningful comment leaves people a bit surprised. They're like deer in headlights. "Uhh. He said something personal and warm. Stand real still he might forget you're standing here."
So, not only do I have to cultivate gratitude in my own cold, sinful heart but I also have to do my part in setting a context where such expressions are normal.
I don't know why I shared that preamble accept to say I'm still working on it. And this morning, I want to express my gratitude to God for Mark Dever, a man I love and respect deeply. The post would be too long to try a format like some of the others. So, I'm opting for a list of reasons here. Let me tell you why I love Mark Dever.
1. I love him because he is Christ's. Christ is in Him, and He loves the Savior. That makes Mark a lovely man (I'm sure he doesn't hear that enough!).
2. I am grateful for the tons and tons he has taught me about the local church and about Christ, her Head. I'm most grateful for the ways he taught me to love the Savior and His body.
3. I am grateful for the example of generosity that he is. It's frequently "Christmas in Grand Cayman" because I'm regularly going to the post office and finding there a surprise package of music or books from Mark. And that's just a more mundane expression of his generosity.
4. I am grateful to God for Mark because of how He has used Mark to enrich my friendships. Without question, I've made more friends through Mark Dever than perhaps any other man I know. He's unusually gifted in giving friends away and I'm thankful for the blessing that habit of heart has been to me.
5. I am grateful for how Mark has shaped my preaching. Now, he shouldn't be blamed for all the poverty in my preaching! That's on me. But, specifically, he's helped me think about precision and application in preaching more than anyone else. Several years under his preaching has shaped me tremendously and I'm still discovering ways in which that's true.
6. I am thankful for the example of tenderness that Mark is. A lot of people feel intimidated around Mark. He's a big man with a big brain. But at heart he is a teddy bear. And he is tender with the sheep. I can't count the number of times I've heard him exhort us with, "Feed the sheep, don't beat the sheep." He has a large pastor's heart. He's a caring man.
7. I praise God for Mark's energetic zeal in discipling young men. Not only am I a beneficiary of that zeal, but it's been a model of what I should be doing with young men as a pastor.
8. I thank God for Mark's example of leadership. Three things in particular have stuck with me, particularly since becoming a pastor. First, Mark is relentless in keeping his eyes on the main thing and disdaining distractions. I've at times misunderstood that as "not listening" or something of that sort. On this side of the pastor's desk, I'm now quite aware of how necessary it is to keep pointing the sheep toward the Chief Shepherd, not waivering at all the bleating going on around you. Second, it's really important to have your "convictions" be biblical and few. I think Mark is exceptional at this. And learning to do this in leadership it seems to me is one of the key ways you keep yourself and the people from the tyranny of "preference" masquerading as biblical mandate. And that's good leadership. Third, the brother is a real team player. He'd rather do most things in a team. And I think that's made both his ministry and the ministries of many other men that much more effective.
9. I praise God for the fruit He is bearing through Mark's writing and 9Marks Ministries. There's an ever-increasing amount of stuff out there on pastoral ministry and the local church--from the bizarre to the brilliant. I appreciate that the stuff that comes from 9Marks and the team there is of sound quality and preeminently useful. I'm no prophet, but I think there's a quiet ecclessiological revival happening in churches and 9Marks has played a definite and critical role in that, by God's grace.
10. I thank God for Mark's impact on my prayer life. This was subtle at first. But at some point I realized that much of my prayer life is patterned on things I learned at CHBC. From praying through the church directory, to the amount of time devoted to prayer in the Sunday service, to the range of things I now pray for with some specificity... the Lord has used Mark to encourage and strengthen me in all of these things.
11. I am grateful for Mark's example of humility. I could note this in a few ways. But one way that sticks out to me now is his self-effacing attitude in conversation and preaching. He's often the butt of his own jokes and the "failure" in his anecdotes. Not to draw attention to himself in a false humility, but so as not to present himself as some superman, to war against pride. He's willing to laugh at himself and to have others laugh at and with him as well. It's a great quality--especially combined with that teddy bear quality I mentioned earlier.
12. I am very, very thankful for Mark's encouragement and support of me. It's been personal, it's been specific, it's been consistent, and it's been effective. Nearly from the day we met, he has taken me aside and given specific counsel and encouragement. I'm not sure I would have finished the couple of books now published or being published, and I may not be anywhere near pastoral ministry right now if it weren't for the Lord's grace, my wife's constant support, and Mark's encouragement.
Well... I could go on and on with reasons I'm grateful for Mark. But in the words of a classic... "these are a few of my favorite things." The Lord has been good to me and to His church in giving Mark Dever to us.
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