This is an outstanding sermon

You MUST listen to this superb sermon, Sorrowful yet always rejoicing, by John Piper. It also happens to be his farewell sermon after 32+ years at Bethlehem Baptist Church. His last message was: “What the world needs from the church is our indomitable joy in Jesus in the midst of suffering and sorrow.”

Although you can quickly read it at the link, if you listen to it you will probably never forget it. What a tremendous combination of teaching and exhortation, of careful exposition and passionate proclamation, of simple profundity and profound simplicity, of painful realism and soaring optimism. He not only expounded this vital message, he embodied it.

Thank you Pastor John for your years of serious-joy-filled Gospel proclamation. We come from very different traditions and we probably differ on a few matters. But I want to publicly and gratefully acknowledge that you had a hugely beneficial impact on my life and ministry 11-12 years ago when I came across your book, The Pleasures of God, in the midst of some painful life and ministry circumstances. God greatly used you and your book to restore my joy in Jesus and in the ministry.

I hope and pray you will have many years of family joy and fruitful service in your new spheres of labor.


Check out

7 Ways Social Media Can Make You More Productive
Probably one to hide from your children.

The Death of the Black Man
Blow, Holy Spirit, blow!

20 Directions for New Believers
I love posts like this that summarize the Puritans and make their teaching easy to digest.

Don’t pay for all your kids education
Turns out the more you pay, the lower their grades.

Let freedom ring
Best response yet to the Giglio un-invite.

Short rules of blogging etiquette
Now this would transform the blogosphere.

 


Where have all the positive Americans gone?

When I used to vacation in America, I was always hugely encouraged by the massively more positive attitude to life than I was used to in Europe in general, and in the UK in particular. There was an optimism, a hope, a confidence that throbbed throughout American life, and especially among American Christians.

Sadly, I’m writing in the past tense. Because that up-and-at-’em, can-do spirit has gone, largely. And it’s absence is especially noticeable in the church. It was still quite evident when I first came here to work 5-6 years ago, but it’s slowly diminished since, and for many it completely evaporated on November 6.

In some ways, this emotional decline is understandable, especially among non-Christians. America has taken a few hard blows in recent years. However, what’s not understandable nor acceptable is the way that many American Christians are leading the way in joyless, smile-less despair. And no surprise, because many have been feeding themselves on a diet of negativity, defeat, cynicism, and pessimism;

A new diet
The American church and individual American Christians need a long and concentrated dose of Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

We’ve been gorging ourselves way too long at the media’s trough as they’ve happily served us up an unremitting diet of the false, the base, the wrong, the filthy, the ugly, and the destructive.

But we’ve then gone and regurgitated that mess into our families and churches. We sit around our dinner tables moping and moaning. Preaching and praying sound more like whining and whinging. Our Facebook pages are full of frowns and fears. Garbage in, garbage out, as someone subtly put it.

We need to change our diet. Good in, good out. Philippians 4:8 in, Philippians 4:8 out.

But what does that look like in practice? Let me give you five equations that I believe will make us more biblically balanced and more counter-culturally optimistic.

More salvation than sin
Yes, we need to preach, write, and talk about sin. Without the doctrine of sin and conviction of sin, the Gospel makes no sense and has no power. Despite many wanting to downplay sin, minimize God’s law, and soften God’s anger, the Gospel message must begin with “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” 

But for every minute spent on sin, let’s spend more on salvation. Sure, we must visit the prodigal’s pigsty – to see, smell, and even taste the evil of sin – but let’s not linger there any longer than we have to. A welcoming father is waiting.

Most Christians don’t need nor want to hear about homosexual marriage or abortion or the latest bloodbath in every single sermon and prayer. We do need to hear about Christ, and grace, and redemption at every possible opportunity.

More truth than falsehood
Just as banks train tellers to spot counterfeit money by over-exposing them to real money, and doctors are trained to detect heart and lung disease by listening to thousands of healthy chests, so Christians would be more edified, and also better prepared to spot falsehood, by focusing most of their reading and teaching on the truth rather than trying to know and counteract the innumerable errors, heresies, false religions, and cults that fill our world.

Sure, we need Apologetics. But I’d like to invent another subject area whose whole purpose would be to positively promote truth as aggressively as we tear down falsehood. Maybe seminaries could set up “Philippians 4:8″ chairs. We certainly need them.

More wooing than warning
Every preacher must woo and warn. Every hearer needs wooing and warning. However, in general terms, we need more wooing than warning, more carrot than stick, more of the beauty of holiness than the ugliness of sin, more of the drawing of Christ than the danger of the devil, more of the attraction of heaven than the fear of hell.

Let’s present Jesus to our congregations and families in all his beautiful saving glory. Let’s make sure that they know how much Jesus is willing to save, able to save, desires to save and delights to save.

More victory than struggle
“Trial, suffering, backsliding, defeat, temptation, etc.,” are all biblical words, but so are “victory, growth, maturity, progress, usefulness, fruit, service, opportunity, advance, assurance, and encouragement.”

Paul wanted to know “the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings,” but he also wanted to know “the power of His resurrection.” He knew the continuing power of indwelling sin (Romans 7), but he also knew the breaking of sin’s dominion and the power of life in the Spirit (Romans 8). Yes, “in this world we shall have tribulation,” But that’s not a full stop there. It’s a comma. …”, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Do our sermons, blog posts, prayers, and songs reflect this biblical emphasis?

More celebration than lamentation
There’s a time to mourn; but there’s also a time to laugh. The note of celebration should sound louder than the note of lamentation. Of course we may complain about government policies and cultural decline, but we must also praise God and thank Him for giving us far more than we deserve. We have so much to be thankful for in the past, in the present, and even more in the future.

If we’re going to pray for five sick people, let’s make sure we also thank God for the health He gives to hundreds more, and the restorations of health for many we’ve prayed for but never thanked for. If we’re going to mourn over backslidings and apostasies, let’s also celebrate the steady progress, beautiful faithfulness, and deepening maturity of millions of Christians.

X more than Y
Please, please notice, I’m not saying, “X not Y.” I’m saying “X more than Y.” 

How much more? I’m thinking maybe even a 60/40 split would give a massive boost to our mental and emotional health.

What are you feeding on? And what are you feeding others?


Check out

The importance of a “stop day”
Interview with the author of 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life.

Why we need plumbers and pastors
Drew Dyck: “Growing up I knew I could serve God in whatever profession I chose. Providing, of course, I chose to be either a missionary or a pastor.”

Counseled by William Ames
Paul Tautges shares what he’s learned from reading about counseling from “the learned doctor William Ames.”

Sitting is the smoking of our generation
Do you want another reason to splash out $50 on a stand up desk?

Ten things a congregation desires in a pastor

Now I’m Aimee, down to sleep
Aimee revives a childhood prayer. And for the opposite view, here’s an argument for taking drugs to reduce sleeping hours and increase productivity.


Check out

Four models of counseling in pastoral ministry
Tim Keller analyzes the state of Christian counseling. Insightful and helpful but the concluding solution/way forward felt a bit incomplete and ani-climactic.

Beware Stubby Glasses
Some fascinating psychology here, including this revealing paragraph on racism: “For example, many of our anti-discrimination policies focus on finding the bad apples who are explicitly prejudiced. In fact, the serious discrimination is implicit, subtle and nearly universal. Both blacks and whites subtly try to get a white partner when asked to team up to do an intellectually difficult task. In computer shooting simulations, both black and white participants were more likely to think black figures were armed. In emergency rooms, whites are pervasively given stronger painkillers than blacks or Hispanics. Clearly, we should spend more effort rigging situations to reduce universal, unconscious racism.”

Black and Married with Kids
When and how to admit you need help with postpartum depression.

May Christian’s Complain?
“Someone asked what my thoughts are on God’s people ‘complaining’ or wrestling with Him in their trials, and if in exhorting one another to be content we try to “accelerate the timetable on when that submission should be.””

An Open Letter to Susan Jacoby
Barry York responds to Susan Jacoby’s NYT piece, The Blessings of Atheism.

Jesus Sings
Fine piece of devotional writing and practical theology from Tony Reinke.