mgpcpastor's blog


John Piper Takes An Unusual Sabbatical

Usually when Piper takes a sabbatical we can look forward to another book.
Not this time.

I asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, I love my Lord, my wife, my five children and their families first and foremost; and I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem.
But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me. How do I apologize to you, not for a specific deed, but for ongoing character flaws, and their effects on everybody? I’ll say it now, and no doubt will say it again, I’m sorry. Since I don’t have just one deed to point to, I simply ask for a spirit of forgiveness; and I give you as much assurance as I can that I am not making peace, but war, with my own sins.

Read the rest here: ‘John Piper’s Upcoming Leave’.

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Boring Preaching A Barrier To Growth – The Geneva Push

Al Stewart is up to number five in his list of ten barriers to growth.
This time preachers, or more precisely ‘Preaching that lacks, urgency, guts, and a cutting edge’ is firmly in his sights.

…in many of our churches the preaching week by week is less than riveting. It could even be said (and let me actually mention the elephant in the room) sermons are boring. In fact the elephant is asleep. This seems to be stating the obvious, but my question is, why are we so unwilling to name it, and address it
I know I’ll be in trouble for being unloving, or impatient. I know I will be told that God does his work through his word, even through a boring sermon. True. But why is it that we are content for people in our churches to be bored so often, and why does it seem that we expect God to work in spite of us, rather than with us?
Boring people with the Bible is a serious problem.

I feel pangs whenever the issue of ‘exegetical lectures’ is raised. I try to keep things as basic as possible and don’t like to use a lot of outside material and illustrations when preaching. I’ve never really developed a talent for story telling. My preference is to careful explanation.
Stewart’s points are a constructive challenge.

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An Evening Devotion From Martin Luther

Who says there’s no place for sarcasm in theology?

“When I go to bed, the devil is always waiting for me. When he begins to plague me, I give him this answer: ‘Devil, I must sleep. That’s God’s command — work by day, sleep by night. So go away.’ If that doesn’t work and he brings out a catalog of sins, I say, ‘Yes, old fellow, I know all about it. And I know some more you have overlooked. Here are a few extra. Put them down.’ If he still won’t quit and presses me hard and accuses me as a sinner, I scorn him and say, ‘St. Satan, pray for me. Of course, you have never done anything wrong in your life. You alone are holy. Go to God and get grace for yourself. If you want to get me all straightened out, I say, Physician, heal thyself.’”

Martin Luther, quoted in Roland Bainton, Here I Stand (New York, 1950), page 362.

HT: Ray Ortlund

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Children Of Jerusalem – Sunday Songs

One of our families at mgpc is from Zimbabwe. Their first dialect is the Shona language.
A couple of times now they have sung the hymn ‘Children Of Jerusalem’ in that tongue and the rest of the congregation then sang the hymn in English.
Interestingly, the version our friends sing has four verses, while I’ve only been able to find three in the English versions that I’ve seen.
The emphasis of the lyrics is on a childlike experience of faith. It articulates a family experience of growing in faith, a good testimony for the local church.

The lyrics.
Children of Jerusalem
sang the praise of Jesus’ Name;
children, too, of modern days
join to sing the Saviour’s praise.
Hark, hark, hark!
While infant voices sing.
Hark, hark, hark!
While infant voices sing.
Loud hosannas, loud hosannas,
loud hosannas to our King.
We are taught to love the Lord,
we are taught to read His Word,
we are taught the way to heaven:
praise for all to God be given.
Hark, hark, hark! …
Parents, teachers, old and young,
all unite to swell the song,
higher and yet higher rise,
’till hosannas reach the skies.
Hark, hark, hark! …

John Hen­ley
Hymns from the Rejoice! Hymn Book, Presbyterian Church of Australia

The YouTube has a jaunty organ arrangement with karaoke style words, no vocals.

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The Gospel According to Ferrero Rocher

Michael Bird presents a seasonal sermon introduction observing that, according to the chocolate makers Ferrero Rocher, even the ancient Greek gods celebrate easter.
The Gospel According to Ferrero Rocher at Euangelion.

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Pastoral Helps – 27/03/2010

D. A. Carson contributes a chapter entitled “The Trials of Biblical Studies” to the book The Trials of Theology: Becoming a “Proven Worker” in a Dangerous Business (ed. Andrew J. B. Cameron and Brian S. Rosner; Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2010)
The Gospel Coalition has made a pdf of the chapter at their site. Andy Naselli provides an outline as well.

Carson observes five ‘domains’ that students of Scripture will need to address: integration (of the Bible, and of ourselves); work (whether too much or too little); pride (in several directions); and the capacity to manipulate Scripture. He also makes several helpful suggestions for the priorities of those whose ministry vocation is academic writing.

Timmy Brister writes a post ‘Addressing the Damaging Effects of Professionalism in the Local Church’.

I am increasingly concerned, however, about the state of the church, and specifically how professionalism has caused her to suffer. Every minister ought to do everything he can to be skilled in his craft, competent in his work, and unwavering in his commitment to fulfill his calling. And yet, what I am finding today is that when well-trained, gifted men of God excel in their ministry, those who are blessed by them experience two things: a sense of “I could never do that” and a sense of “I only want him to do that.”

Murray from Mentone Baptist suggests the following for preachers:

When preaching:

  • be convicted – let the word of God convict you as you prepare your sermons
  • be clear – the aim of preaching is not to obscure God but to present Christ as Lord. Keep it simple stupid! What’s the value in being clever and unclear?
  • be correcting and rebuking and encouraging – the preacher who only ever encourages is disobeying God’s charge on preachers. The word of God rebukes, corrects and encourages. The preacher who fails one of these three is not preaching the Word faithfully.
  • be creative – work hard on avoiding being boring and predictable. Mix up the way you begin your sermon, use a variety of illustrations (not always church history, not always this is what I did during the week…), mix up the length of sermons, the number of points you have, the tone of voice and pace, etc
  • be concise – I’m not arguing for short sermons, but don’t use more words than you need
  • be convicting – it is the Holy Spirit who convicts through his word, but we want people to know that we want them to know and understand and be changed by the preaching of the word. We want them to know and feel that this word is for them

From Catablog: 10 Things That Drive Me Crazy About Working for a Church. Tim Schraeder provides some observations based on ten years in ministry. The headlines:

1. We are really good at burning people out.
2. We focus way too much on what we don’t have.
3. We are afraid of change.
4. We use “let me pray about it” as an excuse to get out of making decisions.
5. We LOVE meetings.
6. We try to do way too much.
7. We try to be something we’re not.
8. We spend too much time looking at other churches.
9. We worry about people leaving.
10. We don’t feel trusted.

Justin Taylor provides the list of 10 books that Albert Mohler believes every preacher should read in 2010. (Plus more books from the Crossway catalogue that Mohler commends.)

That’s your lot.

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The Difference Between Sympathy And Empathy

The Contagious Comfort and Mercy of God is another post from Greg Lucas at Wrestling With An Angel.

Rather than dealing directly with his family life, this time Lucas recounts a situation from his work as a Police Officer.

There in the middle of the parking lot sat a full grown man with his socks and shoes off hitting himself in the face and screaming uncontrollably. Hovering over him was an elderly gentleman trying his best to collect the socks and shoes and get him on his feet again.

Read about the difference between sympathy and empathy.

Subscribe to the blog and read them all.
This guy will get a book contract sometime soon.
His writing will get published.
Read them now.