Five signs you need to quit blogging

keyboard

I’ve been at this whole blogging thing for about five years now. One thing I learned very quickly: blogging can be tricky business. Although it’s not actually all that hard to get attention in the Christian blogosphere, it can be fleeting. Deadlines can weigh on you. Life gets busy, and you have to ask: should I still be doing this?

(And for those wondering, no this isn’t my subtle way of saying I’m giving up the ghost.)

So when do you know you need to quit? Here are five signs:

1. You hear your wife making “jokes” about being a blog widow. Repeatedly. Within earshot. On purpose. This is usually a good sign that you’re spending too much time on the interwebs instead of ministering with and to your family. (And my wife wants you to know she doesn’t feel this way, for which I’m grateful.)

2. Your website is the sum-total of your ministry. Brother and sister bloggers, please hear me: I love you very much. I appreciate much of what you write. But your website is not your ministry. It should be an extension of your ministry, but if you’re not serving in a local church and being involved with flesh-and-blood people in any way, then can you please shut it down?

3. You’re always going to war—and usually over the wrong things. You might say you’re “truth-teller,” a “contender for the faith,” or some other such thing, I’ve got a news flash for you, Walter Cronkite: you aren’t.1 Seriously, building an audience on controversy isn’t hard. It’s probably the easiest thing to do, regardless of where you live on the theological spectrum. Evangelical “celebrities” make it really easy for you, too.

But you know what? It’s lame.

If your whole bag is saying The Gospel Coalition is full of gospel-compromisers, the “New Calvinism” is leading people back to Rome or drinking decaf leads you to liberalism, you need to get your head straight.2 You might feel tough using the word “heretic,” but you’ve got to take it easy. It’s a big word and can’t be taken back easily (the same goes for those who liberally toss about “fundamentalist” by the way). There are times when it’s definitely necessary, but you know when you should use it? When it’s really necessary.3

“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2). If you’re always on the warpath, do you really think that’s not going to come back to bite you?

4. You turn every issue to your pet cause. I’ve seen radical egalitarian types lose their beans when a man says husbands should help around the house (because “helping” isn’t good enough), and pundits desperately search for a calvinistic conspiracy theory shaped needle in a haystack, but c’mon. Sometimes a comment is just a comment. If you’re always looking for the “thing” to justify your position, it’s a good sign you need to shut things down.

5. Your online persona and who you are in reality are unrecognizable. Confession: everybody’s got a little bit of this.4 Many bloggers find it easier to communicate their thoughts through words on a screen than words from their mouths. I get it. I’m like that, too. But if you’re a raging firebrand online and are about as gentle as a kitten offline, if being behind a domain name makes you feel mighty when you normally feel weak, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself.

If you travel around the Christian blog world at all, you’ll almost certainly recognize a few things I’ve listed here (which is also why I’ve chosen to forego naming specific sites). Heck, I’ve been guilty of a number of them myself (particularly being a bit too liberal with the h-word). Keeping the main thing (Jesus) the main thing can be tricky, but it’s worth it. And if you can’t, it’s okay to admit it. Just be willing to do something about it.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few Kindle deals I’ve found for y’all:

The First Stone

Julian Freeman:

It still amazes me how little the church of Christ can sometimes actually look like Christ. And I say that as a leader of the church, myself bearing the brunt of the blame.

The hypocritical media and self-appointed moral police of our city have brought a man before us who has been caught (on video) in sin. Death threats, drunken stupors, and binges of crack-cocaine — all from a man who should be an example and a leader. They have set this man in our midst. They are testing us, as a society now. It’s clear how the majority of our city feel. As a church, how will we respond to Mayor Rob Ford?

Why a Spurgeon doc?

Nate Smoyer interviews my pal Stephen McCaskell about his Kickstarter campaign for Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. Here’s an excerpt:

Why is Charles Spurgeon so important to make a film about him?

Charles Spurgeon has written more than any author, living or dead. His passion for the gospel in every aspect of his life is something to be admired and imitated. In his lifetime he preached to over 10,000,000 people the good news of Jesus’ loving sacrifice for sinners. This timeless message is the same hope that we as Christians have today. In discovering and unpacking Spurgeon’s life my hope is that others will be encouraged, challenged, convicted and brought into a deeper understanding of the gospel.

How to live in a secular culture

Dave Bruskas:

Christians are a minority in our secular culture, which largely doesn’t honor Jesus. That’s not going to change, but there’s an ongoing debate among Christians about how we approach a secular culture that doesn’t agree with us about Jesus.

As we think about our relationship with our society, it’s important to remember we too were once far from God, but he saved us through his grace. It’s with this grace in mind that Paul teaches us, through his letter to Titus, how we should respond to a secular society.

Train Your Leaders: A Conversation with Barnabas Piper

Trevin Wax:

Trevin Wax: In my experience, it seems like many pastors and church leaders think in terms of programs, and then they look for volunteers who can run the programs. Why is it important to train the people who serve in our churches, and how can this overcome an overly programmatic mindset for ministry?

Barnabas Piper: Programs can serve as valuable frameworks within churches, creating avenues for people to serve. But just as often they can limit a person’s effectiveness, kind of the way a menu tells what you can order at a restaurant but also limits your choices. Churches that have created a limited “menu” have essentially ruled out many people from using the unique gifts God has given them.

By emphasizing training – the development of gifts and calling to serve – churches are moving toward becoming a healthy body. Instead of having a limited number of pieces doing most of the work, it becomes a healthy whole with each person doing what God designed him or her to do.

Ministry Grid exists to help churches train every person and to do away with that limited menu of ministry options so that the whole church becomes a true body serving one another and ultimately serving Christ.

God cannot be manipulated

Paul preaching at Athens by Raphael

Paul preaching at Athens by Raphael

Paul was a first-century preacher who appeared on the scene shortly after Jesus was crucified and came back to life again. He wrote about one quarter of the New Testament. He was especially gifted when it came to announcing the God of the Bible to the polytheists who dominated the culture of the Roman imperial world. So we find him, for example, in the great city of Athens, carefully explaining what a difference it makes to see that there is but one God and that he cannot be manipulated. At the time Athens had the reputation of being the most learned city in the Roman world, followed by Alexandria in Egypt.

When Paul gives his address to some philosophers and teachers in Athens, he explains what he holds to be the truth. Theirs is a world of gods, and the very nature of their religion is “you scratch my back, I scratch your back.” But Paul says, “The God who made the world and everything in it [thus you find him articulating the Bible’s teaching about creation from Genesis 1–2] is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands” (Acts 17:24). Paul does not mean that God may not disclose himself in a temple if he chooses to do so. What he means is that God cannot be reduced to the temple where he is manipulated and domesticated by a priestly class. You cannot get him into a position where you can manipulate him to do your will by providing cash to a certain class of priests, connected with a temple, who are allegedly experts in figuring out what the gods want. The God of the Bible is too big for that; he made everything, he is sovereign over the whole lot, and he cannot be manipulated.

D.A. Carson, The God Who is There, (46)

Get serious about your studies (recap)

Get-Serious-About-Your-Studies

Studying the Bible is an essential for the Christian. Yet it seems far many of us seem to take it for granted, myself included. If we study the Bible at all, it’s as a chore—”I have to do this”—instead of a privilege—”I get to do this!”

A couple weeks back I shared a series called “get serious about your studies,” looking at a number of practical tools intended to help us study the Scriptures. Over four posts, we covered:

This kind of series is really fun for me to write, not just because it gives me a chance to point you to helpful tools, but because it gives me a chance to remind myself of the tools I have in my own toolkit. It is so easy to become lackadaisical, to lose focus… and it’s for this very reason you and I need to be diligent to study the Word, to invest ourselves in it and be mastered by it as we seek to grow in our understanding of God through the Scriptures.

If you’ve not already done so, I’d encourage you to read these for yourself—and, if you think I’ve missed anything, please let me know!

Links I like (weekend edition)

Are You Part of a Phonebook Ministry?

Aaron Earls:

Not long ago, my youngest son came up to me with a puzzled look on his face. “Daddy, what’s a phonebook?” he asked.

I had to laugh. The idea of a phonebook, that was so common to me, is so completely foreign to him.

Reflecting on that caused me to think about our ever evolving culture and the way we do ministry – are we doing phonebook ministry?

How to peel a head of garlic in less than 10 seconds

This is fascinating (but those who are particularly sensitive, be forewarned—there is a mild swear in the video):

We Are Far Too Easily Displeased

Jon Bloom:

I am a grumbler by (fallen) nature.

Just this morning a malfunctioning software program required my attention. Experience told me the likely course: at least two times on the phone with customer support and at least two glitches in the fixing process. Forty-five minutes minimum. Probably more. (All proved true, by the way.) Immediately I resented this time-stealing inconvenience. And when my wife called in the middle of dealing with it, out of my mouth came my displeasure.

Life problems don’t get much smaller. What is the matter with me?

Elder Questions: Living Together

Tim Kimberley answers the question:

You are counseling a couple, who claim to be Christian, that are sleeping together and believe they are “married in their hearts”. They would like to become members of your church. Describe how would you handle this couple, including how you would address the issue of being “married in their hearts?”

The Assembly of the Good People

Aimee Byrd:

It’s sad isn’t it? This group of confessing unbelievers is being called out by a leader to assemble together on a Sunday of all days. It’s like there is some kind of longing within them to respond, some kind of knowledge of something more. But they suppress the truth in unrighteousness, and make themselves the object of worship.

This Sunday Assembly sounds exactly like J. Gresham Machen’s description of the liberal Christian church gatherings in his book Christianity and Liberalism.

What should I review?

I just got back from a trip to Colorado Springs (day job related). After a fantastic welcome by my kids that included Hudson nearly walking outside barefoot shouting “Car-car!” and Abigail attaching herself to me like a spider monkey, I found a wonderful present waiting for me from my friends at Crossway:

presents-from-crossway

Image via Pressgram

If you’re struggling to see all the titles, here’s the complete list:

I’m very excited to dig into these over the next few weeks, and perhaps even sharing a few thoughts.

Now, here’s where I need your help: If were going to review one, which should it be?

Links I like

I Get Very Suspicious When…

Stephen Altrogge:

My generation is infatuated with the new and immediate. We love the newest gadgets and newest movies and newest theological ideas. We would be wise, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, to let the fresh winds of church history blow through our musty brains.

I’m about 95% sure that at least one person who reads this post will remind me of the fact that many Christians owned slaves. In response I would say two things. First, it is my educated guess that many men and women throughout church history who have defended sinful practices were not born again. This is the case when it comes to the Crusades, slavery, the Spanish Inquisition, and many other sad events. These events and practices were promoted by those who embraced cultural Christianity not true Christianity.

But this is not always the case.

Get The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther by Steven Lawson (hardcover) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • John by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Together for the Gospel 2006 (audio & video download)
  • Are We Together? by R.C. Sproul (ePub and MOBI)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern. And don’t forget—Ligonier is also offering The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson is free until the end of the month.

What does it mean to be gospel-centered?

Progressing Downward

Tullian Tchividjian:

A couple weeks ago I talked about Reader’s Digest Christianity, and how it reduced the Christian faith to pithy, easily-achievable goals that ensure our personal improvement. Here, I have a different (though depressingly similar) target: “LiveStrong” Christianity. LiveStrong bracelets are today even more popular than the infamous WWJD bracelets were 10 years ago, despite the public fall from grace of their namesake, Lance Armstrong.

A Free Gift to Celebrate Crossway’s 75th Anniversary

…we’re giving away the ESV Study Bible Web App for FREE through the end of November. This award-winning resource features the study notes, maps, charts, illustrations, and theological articles found in the print edition—all integrated intoESVBible.org’s easy-to-use web interface.

 The Value of Shutting Up

Mike Leake:

I know that “shut up” isn’t a nice term. We discourage our kids from using that term. But I think a violent term like that is needed here. “Shut up” is what you tell yourself to do when a million feelings are running wild in your heart and you know that it wouldn’t be good to share those feelings.

Oh, wait. Do people still do that? Or have we bought into the idea that letting our feelings fly is always the best course of action?

The lesson we need to learn again and again

pastor

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)

What the world dismisses as sheer foolishness, the foolishness of God, proves “wiser than man’s wisdom” (1:25). What the world writes off as hopeless weakness, the weakness of God, proves “stronger than man’s strength” (1:25). This is much more radical than saying that God has more wisdom than human beings, or that he is stronger than human beings—as if we are dealing with mere degrees of wisdom and power. No, we are dealing with polar opposites. Human “wisdom” and “strength” are, from God’s perspective, rebellious folly and moral weakness. And the moment when God most dramatically discloses his own wisdom and strength, the moment when his own dear Son is crucified— although it is laughed out of court by the tawdry “wisdom” of this rebellious world, by the pathetic “strength” of the self-deceived— is nevertheless the moment of divine wisdom and divine power.…

For those of us in any form of Christian ministry, this lesson must constantly be reappropriated. Western evangelicalism tends to run through cycles of fads. At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how “vision” consists in clearly articulated “ministry goals,” how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies. But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements—but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning. Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing. Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.

D.A. Carson, Cross and Christian Ministry, The: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians

Links I like

Why We Click Stupid Links

Tony Reinke:

By “stupid links,” I mean hyperlinks on the Web that do nothing but tap our kneejerk curiosity. They do little for us because they have little to offer. We click, we read, we watch, and often we feel dumber for it.

Such clamorous links litter the Internet, offering up celebrity gossip, bizarre crime stories, violent videos, and sexual images — each link asking for little more than a click (such a petty request).

5 Churchy Phrases That Are Scaring Off Millennials

David Murray:

I must admit when I see Washington Post headlines like 5 Church Phrases That Are Scaring Off Millennials, my first instinct is “Tell me what they are, so I make sure to use them all in my next sermon!”

I know, I know, that’s a perverse and twisted reaction; but it eventually passes, sanity and reason return, and I try to listen for the truth in the midst of all the over-sensitivity.

So let’s examine these terrorizing and terrifying words to see if we should drop them, modify them, or indeed say them more than ever!

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple new ones for you:

Book signing at the Navigators Resource Center

If you’re in the London, Ontario, area, the Navigators Resource Centre is celebrating its grand-reopening November 28-30. I’ll be on-site Nov 29-30 to share a bit from Contend and Awaiting a Savior and take part in a book signing—hope to see you there!

Don’t Tell Me Your Kid’s Sins

Megan Hill:

When parents retell our children’s sins, we often leave the impression that we are the ones who have been wronged. This is not the attitude of Scripture. David’s confession in Psalm 51 makes it clear that sin is primarily rebellion against God himself. We parents may have been disrespected or disobeyed by our children, but we are not the chief offended party. We distract our children from the real significance of their sin—and the real sweetness of their Savior—when we make it sound like their sin is about us rather than about God.

Evangelism is the enterprise of love

Jesus-Reaching-Out

photo: iStock

I remember some time ago, my wife and I were watching a documentary that featured some pretty unusual ideas about evangelism. A so-called evangelist was interviewed and boldly proclaimed that she could get anyone to come to Christ “like that.” Her attitude was smug and self-serving—she seemed far more concerned about getting notches on her belt than properly proclaiming the gospel.

I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but sadly it’s anything but. I remember sitting in a worship gathering and being told quite emphatically that if we, the congregation members, weren’t each leading five people to Christ every year, we were failing in our duties as a Christian. The mindset was all about numbers, and honestly, made it even harder for me to actually share my faith with anyone.

What if I did it wrong? What if people didn’t respond? What if what if what if…

Looking back, I realize that the issue surrounding much of this mindset stems from having the wrong motivation. It’s not bad to want to see lots of people come to Christ through your personal ministry, but if we’re fixated on counting exactly how many, we’ll be disappointed. Evangelism becomes about me, and not about others. And this is why I so appreciate what J.I. Packer says in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God:

It must never be forgotten that the enterprise required of us in evangelism is the enterprise of love: an enterprise that springs from a genuine interest in those whom we seek to win, and a genuine care for their well-being, and expresses itself in a genuine respect for them and a genuine friendliness toward them. One sometimes meets a scalp-hunting zeal in evangelism, both in the pulpit and on the personal level, which is both discreditable and alarming. It is discreditable, because it reflects, not love and care nor the desire to be of help, but arrogance and conceit and pleasure in having power over the lives of others. It is alarming, because it finds expression in a ferocious psychological pummeling of the poor victim, which may do great damage to sensitive and impressionable souls. But if love prompts and rules our evangelistic work, we shall approach other people in a different spirit. If we truly care for them, and if our hearts truly love and fear God, then we shall seek to present Christ to them in a way that is both honoring to God and respectful to them. We shall not try to violate their personalities, or exploit their weaknesses, or ride roughshod over their feelings. What we shall be trying to do, rather, is to show them the reality of our friendship and concern by sharing with them our most valuable possession. And this spirit of friendship and concern will shine through all that we say to them, whether in the pulpit or in private, however drastic and shattering the truths that we tell them may be.

The enterprise of evangelism is the enterprise of love. Our motivation isn’t numbers or acclaim from within our own circles, but to express our love for Jesus by telling the lost about Jesus. We speak in a way that is honoring to Jesus, is respectful to our hearers, and we leave the results in God’s hands.

Links I like

5 Reasons Not to Give Up on the Marriage Debate

Kevin DeYoung:

But every once in awhile—maybe one day a week, probably on Sundays—I can’t help but hold out hope for traditional marriage. What if “being on the wrong side of history” is more of a progressive ideology than a foregone conclusion? What if our cultural development is not inexorably locked into either a pattern of secularization and sexual liberation? What if the building block of every successful civilization cannot be redefined as easily as some imagine? Are there any reasons to think traditional marriage can make a comeback?

Let me suggest five.

Save on Piper’s latest at Westminster Books

As you may recall, the other day I reviewed John Piper’s latest book, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s GraceUntil 11/19, Westminster Books is offering this excellent little book for $4.50 (50 percent off the cover price). You can also purchase the book as part of a bundle featuring the following titles:

  • Five Points
  • Finally Alive
  • God is the Gospel
  • A Hunger for God

Don’t be a hater

He Opened His Mouth

Bill Mounce:

So does the phrase “to open one’s mouth” have any meaning, or is it so redundant that it should be skipped in translation? I think that there is enough of a pattern to show that it was a way of adding solemnity to what was to be said. Carson comments that it reflects OT roots and “is used in solemn or revelatory contexts.”

Is Your Skin Thick or Dead?

Barnabas Piper:

I have thick skin. It is a blessing. I don’t know whether it is genetic or developed, nature or nurture. Likely it’s some of both. And my three older brothers deserve some thanks for their contributions to thickening it up too. Having thick skin means that I can write and publish without fearing the inevitable criticism. I can speak, converse, hold a point of view and not worry about the flak I will take for my opinions. It means I don’t take too much stuff personally so when slights or criticism come I don’t immediately turn on or draw away from the critic. Thick skin is a real benefit as a writer, an employee, and as a family man. And just as a human in a hurtful world.

Cultivating a culture of worship: four practical suggestions

nathan-clark-george

Today’s post is by Nathan Clark George. Nathan is an award winning singer/songwriter, and serves as Chief Musician at Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin, TN.


As God called Adam to tend and care for His creation, God calls the church musician to name, distinguish, care for and cultivate musical settings and compositions that enable and promote biblical, meaningful and vibrant congregational worship. Over the years I have done my best to stay out of the worship wars, but from my experience and what others have taught I do have practical suggestions that I hope are useful when considering music in the context of worship:

1. Focus. Our focus must be on God’s Word, for our singing is, in almost all cases, prayer. In prayer we usually spend less time talking about how we feel, and more time speaking about how God feels about a subject. Therefore, most of our music and its text should be God oriented, much like our spoken prayer.

2. Congregational vs. Individualistic. I have had several people ask if they can use my older settings of the Psalms, which were written for the purpose of presentation and performance and personal meditation, in congregational worship. My response is usually “good luck.” Now, there is certainly room to train, learn parts, practice, and get better, and we should do so, but there is also a reason Come Thou Fount is going nowhere soon. It’s singable. It’s not individualistic pop music. The rhythm and melodic movement employed is predictable, simple without being simplistic, and is accessible to the folks – it is true folk music. It is congregational.

3. Style. If we get sidetracked into thinking about how someone may or may not like our style, we will have gotten off track already. Remember, as John Frame pointed out, it’s less about style than content. I would add to that it’s less about style than purpose. Is our purpose to impress? Is our purpose to sound like Bach or Vaughn Williams? Then we have miss God’s purpose.

4. Sing the Psalms. Though I do not fall in the exclusive Psalmody camp, the importance of singing Psalms can barely be over emphasized. I would challenge us to look hard at our song choices and see how often we are singing the Psalms. Is it once a month? Once a week? Never? I would humbly and forcefully suggest that we begin to sing and write with the Psalms as fixtures before our eyes.

Above all, the Word of God and the worship of God must be the fertile soil in and out of which a musician cultivates a culture of worship that reflects God’s nature and glory.


NCG_ToLiveIsChrist_cover_600px

Nathan’s new album, To Live is Christ, is now available. You can download “Calm Content” free here.

Links I like

Church, Make Room for Young Leaders

David Mathis:

What some aging Christians need from the younger generation is an invitation to lean into the local church, and not retreat or retire.

But others from the older generation need a different challenge — a summons to lay aside suspicion of everyone young enough to be your child, a charge to dispose of a derogatory view of the real-live specimen of the next generation. And, in particular, some older leaders need to hear a plea not to get off the bus, but to aggressively make room for young leaders at the front.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of new deals from Crossway:

Influence Is Not > Than the Truth

Erik Raymond:

If you are a Christian then you have convictions. If you are a Christian who knows other Christians then you probably have realized that we don’t all agree on everything. As a result, it is incumbent upon those who name Christ to consider how we engage with those who have different doctrinal foundations and ministry expressions. The two loudest arguments we hear are those who tend to be overly critical and those who tend to be overly accepting. On the one side folks want to limit their full affirmation and support of a teacher and ministry to those within their “tribe” (referring to people just like them). Others, resisting this, build a big tent and welcome as many people in there as they can.

As I have thought about this more and more I find it ironic that both sides are after the same thing: influence. One side wants to protect people by minimizing it and others want to influence people by expanding it. It is truly fascinating to watch and observe.

Because I care about truth and influence I have attempted to think through the issue a bit by providing some basic reminders. I realize these could be greatly expanded but I don’t think they can be reduced.

As One with Authority: The Mandate of Biblical Exposition

Albert Mohler:

In 1971, just six years after being invited to teach New Testament and preaching at the Graduate Seminary of Phillips University, Fred Craddock put his thoughts on preaching into a book. That book, As One Without Authority, launched something of a revolution in preaching. Craddock proposed that preaching was on trial in the contemporary church, and that it was fast becoming an anachronism.

He reflected that the church might “celebrate the memory of preaching in ways appropriate to her gratitude and to affix plaques on old pulpits as an aid to those who tour the churches.” Yet, he warned, “the church cannot live on the thin diet of fond memories.”

Why did Craddock see such disaster for the pulpit? Among other contributing factors, Craddock cited “the loss of certainty and the increase in tentativeness on the part of the preacher.”

6 Reasons Not to Abandon Expository Preaching

D.A. Carson:

Puritan theologian William Perkins wrote that preaching “has four great principles: to read the text distinctly, from canonical Scripture; to give it sense and understanding according to the Scripture itself; to collect a few profitable points of doctrine out of its natural sense; and to apply, if you have the gift, the doctrines to the life and manner of men in a simple and plain speech.”

There is something refreshingly simple about that description. Our aim as preachers is not to be the most erudite scholar of the age. Our aim is not to titillate and amuse. Our aim is not to build a big church.

Our aim is to take the sacred text, explain what it means, tie it to other scriptures so people can see the whole a little better, and apply it to life so it bites and heals, instructs, and edifies. What better way to accomplish this end than through expository preaching?

Five Points by John Piper

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What’s the stereotype of the Calvinist? Depending on who you talk to, you’ll probably hear something like this: he’s a grumpy, joyless, theological nitpick who obsesses over an acronym and secretly (or maybe not so secretly) relishes the thought of people spending eternity in Hell.

But should this be the case?

Should the so-called doctrines of grace really lead to a lack of grace among God’s people?

John Piper certainly doesn’t believe so. Instead, he firmly believes that our doctrine should bring us joy. So, with that in mind, he’s penned this short book, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace. In ten easy-to-read chapters, Piper sets TULIP—total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints—in its historical context, offers a brief biblical survey for each, as well as the personal and historical testimonies of many faithful men of God who truly did believe that these truths are essential to our faith.

Piper’s goal is less about defending the five points of Calvinism for the sake of defending Calvinism as it is helping readers better see God—not just for the sake of knowing what He is like, but enjoying Him. “[T]o enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring,” Piper writes. “If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy, as when the fog clears and you find yourself on the brink of some vast precipice.” (8)

What’s most helpful in the book is, I believe, Piper’s honesty about his own view of the five points. One can’t help but come away from the book thinking Piper isn’t as much a fan of the modern construct of TULIP as he is the realities they point to:

  • He sees the implications of the doctrine of total depravity—of man’s open and continual rebellion against his Creator—and it causes him to wonder at the mercy of God.
  • He sees the necessity of understanding exactly for whom Christ died, but not so he can rejoice in the fate of those who die apart from Christ, but because the definitive nature of the cross should cause us to rejoice and to realize that Christ’s sheep are far more numerous than we might be tempted to believe.
  • He sees the unconditional nature of election as being a wonderful beacon of hope, for if salvation depended on anything but God loving us simply because He loves us, we’d be doomed.

Piper’s point again and again is simple: when we see the five points rightly, they should cause us to give thanks for the wondrous grace of God.

If we want to go deeper in our experience of God’s grace this is an ocean of love for us to enjoy. God does not mean for the bride of his Son to only feel loved with general, world-embracing love. He means for her to feel ravished with the specificity of his affection that he set on her before the world existed. He means for us to feel a focused: “I chose you. And I sent my Son to die to have you.” (52)

Not too long ago, I was roped into an online conversation about the angry perception of Calvinists and the problem of TULIP. One gentleman pointed out that he sees a consistent problem with TULIP—that it leads not to joy but to condemning anger. When reading this book, I had this person in mind. Is this the kind of book I’d give to this man? Did it perpetuate the stereotype he believes is more or less true of many who hold to the five points—is this yet another “angry Calvinist” manifesto?

Although he doesn’t shy away from calling into question certain interpretations of Scripture’s teaching, Piper’s language is far from combative. Instead, there’s more of an earnest sense of wonder that permeates the book’s pages. Piper desperately wants to see the love of God in the five points of Calvinism; to see the doctrines of grace manifest their fruit: faithful joy in the lives of God’s people. Five Points is the kind of book I want to give to the person who struggles with the idea of Calvinism. It’s readable, challenging, thoughtful, and, most importantly, faithful to God’s Word.


Title: Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace
Author: John Piper
Publisher: Christian Focus (2013)

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon