Too Much Information

TMI “Too Much Information” sums up our culture. We are drowning in a tsunami of information. The data stream that became a river that became an ocean is drowning us.

But although there is a tsunami of information, there is a drought of wisdom. In this sermon I show how the book of Proverbs remedies that.

Here are my sermon notes from my first sermon in the Proverbs series entitled Wisdom University (download pdf here).  Scroll down a bit further and you’ll find a one-page sermon summary infographic. Download sermon notes here.

Proverbs 1v1-8 Sermon Notes

Download Infographic here.

Proverbs 1v1-7 Infographic

Heavenly Hope or Worldly Pessimism

Pessimism damages our health, our relationships, and even our careers. But it has even worse spiritual consequences. Thankfully, heavenly hope is a great cure for worldly pessimism. Here are my sermon notes on this uplifting subject (Download pdf here).  Scroll down a bit further and you’ll find a one-page sermon summary infographic.

Colossians 1v1-8 Sermon Notes


Download the Infographic here.Colossians 1v1-8 Infographic

Facing Present Trials and Future Uncertainties with Gospel Hope

Tessa Thompson is one of the most remarkable women I’ve ever met. If you suffer or minister to sufferers, you will benefit hugely from her book, Laughing at the Days to Come: Facing Present Trials and Future Uncertainties with Gospel Hope. I want to present three pieces of evidence to persuade you that purchasing and reading this book will be well worth your time and money.

First, watch this video to get a brief glimpse into her unique courage, gracious wisdom, and inspiring story.

Second, here’s my endorsement:

“In a world addicted to cheap laughs that demean God and mock sufferers, here’s a unique book on Christian laughter that glorifies God and lifts up sufferers. A book on laughter that will make you cry tears of sympathy, tears of joy, and tears of worship. A remarkable book by a remarkable woman with a remarkable God.”

Third, here’s a brief Q&A.

Why did you write the book?

While I was gradually losing my hearing in my teens, the godly woman in Proverbs 31 who “laughs at the time to come” (v. 25) was a great encouragement to me. I was crying when I thought of the days to come, and she had a laughter I greatly needed. One night, the title Laughing at the Days to Come came to mind, and I wrote it in my journal, thinking I would love to write a book on the theme one day. That was more than fifteen years ago, but I never lost my desire to write about that fascinating and fear-defeating laughter.

My 20s were a decade of both loss and disappointment, as I lost my hearing completely and God did not see it fit to answer hundreds of fervent prayers for healing. I wanted to be a woman who laughed at the days to come; the problem was, nearly the only thing I could envision for the days to come was being healed. I became absolutely certain God was going to do it. Instead, He took me gently by the hand and graciously corrected my flawed theology. Coming to understand the fatherly sovereignty of God and the nature of our “now but not yet” salvation was life-changing, and I greatly desired to put into words how those truths can help us cultivate a life of laughter.

Who will this book benefit and why?

I hope this book will benefit not only those who are walking through some form of present suffering, but also those who look to the future and wonder what trials might be up ahead. I think it’s safe to say that would be most of us. The reality of suffering in a fallen world is not news to Christians – we know it’s inevitable, and most would even readily admit that it is quite good for us. It drives us to Christ, it sanctifies us, and it gives us greater longing for heaven. What we don’t like is not knowing what’s coming. In present suffering, we wonder, How bad is this going to get? In days of blessing, we are tempted to anxiously question, What tragedy is waiting for me just around the corner? It is my hope that the truths and applications in the book will not only comfort and help those in present trials, but also equip those who are tempted to worry about future trials. If we can increasingly know, believe, and act upon these truths now, we will be much less likely to crumble when the trials of tomorrow come, whether big or small.

On another note, I would love for this book to get into the hands of those who have walked through the disappointment of unanswered prayer—for physical healing, a restored marriage, an open womb—and have been left confused or hardened. Of course, this book is not an exhaustive study on prayer, God’s sovereignty, or suffering; but I hope that sharing my personal story will create some common ground, and then point those readers in the right direction toward a sounder understanding of God’s word and His ways.

In suffering, how do we get beyond merely coping and accepting, to laughing?

Both believers and unbelievers walk through suffering. We all live in the same world of cancer, car problems, and relational conflict. And because no one naturally enjoys pain, loss, and suffering, the world offers plenty of strategies for how to cope in the midst of life’s discomfort, whether that be a debilitating disease or the daily, mundane difficulty of raising a toddler. Unbelievers can learn to cope with and accept their troubles well enough, because coping and accepting depend primarily on self-awareness—acknowledging my sorrow, regulating my emotions, controlling my responses, etc. How is the reality of my suffering affecting me and what can I do about it? 

A life of laughter, rather, starts with a God-awareness—Who is God, what has He done, and what has He promised? How does that affect my response to the reality of suffering? Those who know and believe these truths are able to laugh at the days to come because they know these truths are fixed and unchanging. They are not laughing because they expect their circumstances to change for the better (or to never change for the worse), but they are laughing because God and His gospel do not change.

For some believers, the suffering seems to go on without end as they endure one painful circumstance after another. But even a life of ongoing, increasingly painful suffering can be a life of laughter, because when it comes down to it, this godly laughter has eternity stamped upon its eyeballs. We do not merely believe that God our Father will get us through it—we believe that He will get us home. The reality of God does not change the fact that we live in a fallen world and many tears will be shed. But the reality of God does promise us that one day, all those tears will be wiped away and our suffering will be no more.

Help! I’m Struggling to Strike a Work/Life Balance

The holy grail of modern life is to achieve work/life balance. But despite millions of ‘new decade resolutions’ to that effect, the vast majority will fail miserably in 2020, making this year as miserable as last year for themselves and for those around them.

Maybe you’re one of the millions who already sense that 2020 is going to be just as stressful and joyless as 2019. The new year has barely begun and yet you’re already feeling like the old you—physically drained, emotionally depleted, unable to cope, and lacking in energy.

When you think about your job, you see a relentless enemy. When you think about those who work for you, those you work for, and those you work with, you are cynical and critical. When you think about your customers, patients, clients, members, etc., you are numb and negative. When you think about your family, all you can think about is what you’re not doing. When you think about serving the church. . . well, you try not to think about that.

In fact, it’s almost impossible to separate work from home, work from church, work from hobbies, and work from vacations. Work invades everything until life is just a big blob of undifferentiated stress, exhaustion, alienation, frustration, and cynicism! It’s a miserable life, isn’t it?

But 2020 can be different from 2019. With the Lord’s help, it can be much more joy-filled, if we take the following four steps toward striking a better work/life balance.

Read the rest of the article at Crossway’s blog.

Preaching Primer: Expository Exultation

Last week I posted a Preaching Checklist, an updated list of questions that I use to regularly “audit” my sermons and make sure I’m not forgetting the basics or drifting into bad habits.

This week, I’m posting a Preaching Primer. It’s basically a help to “priming the pump” before preaching. It’s a selection of quotes from John Piper’s wonderful book on preaching, Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship, that one way or another remind us that preaching is worship for worship. The quotes therefore focus on the exultation part of Expository Exultation, and call those of us who preach to remember that the aim of preaching is not just to explain the Word. That’s the start point but not the end-point. The end-point is the presence of God, a meeting with God, the enjoyment of God, exulting in God.

I’ve recently been reading these quotes a couple of hours before I preach and plan to keep doing so. My sermon is prepared, but I want to make sure my heart is prepared and that I focus on much more than mere information transfer. I’m very grateful to John Piper for writing this inspiring book and for reminding us of the glory and greatness of preaching God’s Word. I’ve put some sample quotes below, but I hope they’ll entice you to download the rest here.

“One of the primary burdens of this book is to show that preaching not only assists worship, but also is worship. The title Expository Exultation is intended to communicate that this unique form of communication is both a rigorous intellectual clarification of the reality revealed through the words of Scripture and a worshipful embodiment of the value of that reality in the preacher’s exultation over the word he is clarifying.” (16)

“Therefore, to say that preaching is worship and serves worship raises two questions. One relates to how the preacher is taken up into the supernatural. The other relates to how the preacher uses all his natural powers in the service of the miracle of worship.” (18)

“How does [the preacher] become an instrument of God so that his preaching becomes an act of worship and a means of awakening worship?” (18)

“The present volume, Expository Exultation, aims to show how preaching becomes and begets the blood-bought, Spirit-wrought worship of the worth and beauty of God.” (22)

“I am hoping to show that preaching is worship and serves worship.” (25)

“But if you believe, as I do, that seeing the spiritual beauty of biblical truth without savoring it is sin…” (25)

“Savoring the glory of God is the essence of true worship.” (26)

“The essence of worship is the heart’s experience of affections that magnify the beauty and worth of God.” (26)

“I take “in spirit” to mean that this true worship is carried along by the Holy Spirit and is happening mainly as an inward, spiritual event, not mainly as an outward, bodily event (cf. John 3:6). And I take “in truth” to mean that this true worship is a response to true views of God and is shaped and guided by true views of God.” (27)

“This is worship: to act in a way that shows the heart’s valuing of the glory of God and the name of the Lord Jesus. Or, as we said in the introduction, worship means consciously knowing and treasuring and showing the supreme worth and beauty of God.” (27)

“Worship—whether an inner act of the heart, or an outward act of daily obedience, or an act of the congregation collectively—is a magnifying of God. That is, it is an act that consciously shows how magnificent God is.” (28)

“The essence of praising Christ is prizing Christ.” (30)

“Preaching itself is worship and is appointed by God to awaken and intensify worship.” (51)

“To say it another way, the preacher simultaneously explains the meaning of Scripture and exults over the God-glorifying reality in it.” (51)

“Exultation without explanation is not preaching. Explanation without exultation is not preaching. Therefore, preaching—expository exultation— is peculiarly suited for Christian corporate worship, for worship means knowing, treasuring, and showing the supreme worth and beauty of God. Preaching helps people do this by doing it. Preaching shows God’s supreme worth by making the meaning of Scripture known and by simultaneously treasuring and expressing the glories of God revealed in that biblical meaning.” (51)

“But together—exposition, as making clear what the Scripture really means, and exultation, as openly treasuring the divine glories of that meaning—they combine to make preaching what it is.” (53)

“A herald (kēryx) who communicated by his demeanor that he did not revere his king, or regard his message as valuable, was nearing treason. To speak as a herald was to communicate not only the truth but also the value of the message and the majesty of the authority behind it.” (61)

“The message of the preacher, the herald, is not merely a body of facts to be understood. It is a constellation of glories to be treasured. It is, at times, a tempest of horrors to be fled. Any thought that the message of a preacher could be delivered as a detached explanation fails to grasp the significance of Paul’s use of the phrase “Herald the word!” Or, “Preach good news!” Or, “Proclaim Christ.” Preaching is both accurate teaching and heartfelt heralding. It is expository exultation.” (66)

“He is “a burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35). Burning with exultation. Shining with exposition.” (78)

“Here’s the point for preaching: Paul made clear that preaching aims at awakening and sustaining and strengthening faith. The essence of faith is seeing and savoring and being satisfied in all that God is for us in Jesus. When we preachers experience this in preaching, and our people experience it through preaching, we and they magnify the preciousness and worth of God.” (81)

“That is what preaching aims to awaken and sustain. The aim of preaching—whatever the topic, whatever the text—is this kind of faith. It aims to quicken in the soul a satisfaction with all that God is for us in Jesus, because this satisfaction magnifies God’s all-sufficient glory, and that is worship.” (81)

“I am thinking here of preaching as the portrayal of Christ with words so vivid that Paul speaks of their effect as seeing the very glory of Christ—a seeing so powerful that it transforms the one who sees.” (82)

“Preaching aims to present Christ in such a way that a spiritual “seeing” happens—a seeing so powerful that the hearers-seers are “transformed into the same image.” (83)
“The point I am trying to make here is that preaching is supremely suited for corporate worship, because it is uniquely suited by God for unveiling the glory of Christ with a view to transforming people into that glory.” (85)