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)

Check out

“Born That Way” No More: The New Science of Sexual Orientation
“A new study adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that the dominant narrative about sexual orientation—that it is genetically determined—simply cannot be true. Instead, the science shows that a person’s sexual orientation and choice of partners depends heavily on the development and expression of personal autonomy regarding one’s own sexual possibilities. People with same-sex attractions should be legally and culturally free not to identify with or act on them.”

How Sex Became King
“Sex is not king, and it shouldn’t be. Instead, it’s designed to be shaped around the will of the King who gave us the gift of sex in the first place.”

On the Issues: Depression
This is an excellent video from Russell Moore.

“Many people suffer from depression. And sadly, a lot of people who are suffering do so silently because of the stigma around depression. The church of Jesus Christ must help correct this. The Christian life is not about faking strength but bearing burdens. In this video, I examine how Scripture gives us examples of God using people who experienced these dark nights of the soul and provide a few points of guidance for what to do in the midst of depression.”

Marks of a Good Sermon Outline [PODCAST] | H.B. Charles Jr.

“In this episode, I want to talk to you about marks of good sermon outlines. Some preachers disregard the structure of the sermon.  Others are more concerned with the outline than anything else. Both extremes are wrong. Sermon outlines should serve the preacher, the text, and the congregation.”

What It Takes to Give a Great Presentation
This is fascinating. Some lessons for preachers here, especially on editing. You can skip the mosquitoes.

Open the Bible
This looks like a great website from a wonderful Bible teacher. “A free website that can help you share the God of the Bible with others.”

Introducing Crossway+
And here’s another new service which you may want to use if you’re interested in weakening the power of Amazon and strengthening faithful Christian publishers.

“Today, we are pleased to announce the official launch of Crossway+, a new membership program designed to provide you with resources aimed at strengthening your faith and serving the church. Registering for a free Crossway+ membership makes it more convenient and affordable than ever to purchase directly from Crossway.”

Why Are Young Americans Killing Themselves? – The New York Times
This is so tragic.

Preaching Checklist

I’ve been reading a few books on preaching recently. John Piper’s Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship and Tim Keller’s Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism have been especially helpful. I’ll share some of what I learned from these books in coming weeks.

But, the most important lesson I learned from these preaching books was to keep reading preaching books.

Over the years, our preaching can drift without us realizing it and we can get into bad habits. It was good, therefore, to be reminded of many of the basics again.

I updated my preaching checklist too so that I can regularly “audit” my sermons and make sure I’m not forgetting the basics or drifting into bad habits.

As I thought this could help my fellow-preachers too, I’ve pasted it below or you can download the PDF here.


 Selecting a Text

  • Have I prayed over my choice of text?
  • Does my chosen text start at the beginning of a thought/passage/paragraph?
  • Does it finish at the end of a thought/passage/paragraph?
  • Is it a complete text?
  • Is it too long/too short?
  • Does it contain one important point?
  • Does it contain too many important points?
  • Is it the best text for teaching this subject?
  • Is it suitable for the congregation, the occasion, the time of year?
  • Does it contribute to a balanced preaching diet?
  • Am I preaching what will help my congregation rather than what merely interests me?

Exegeting a Text

  • Have I prayed over my exegesis?
  • Have I explained the historical background, geographical setting, cultural cues, and canonical context?
  • Have I taken account of the genre of the passage?
  • Have I explained who wrote the text, when, why, and to whom?
  • Have I identified the original message to the original audience?
  • Have I distinguished between what is central and what is peripheral?
  • Have I shown the connections between the text and the previous verses?
  • Have I explained every significant word in the text?
  • Have I translated the text?
  • Have I compared other translations?
  • Have I conducted word studies on the most important words?
  • Have I parsed key verbs and determined significance of mood, tense, voice, etc?
  • Have I understood the syntax of the words?
  • Have I incorporated relevant Scripture cross-references?
  • Have I connected the passage with systematic theology, biblical theology, and Christology?
  • Have I checked my exegesis with reliable commentators?
  • Have I outlined the logic/argument/narrative of the text?
  • What doctrines are involved in the text?
  • Where is the Gospel in this text?
  • How does this text reveal or point to Christ?
  • What does this text reveal about God and his way of salvation?
  • Have I asked all the right questions of my text?

Outlining a Text

  • Have I prayed over my outline?
  • Does my sermon have a recognizable structure/outline?
  • Is it simple enough to help people understand the text?
  • Is it memorable enough to help people remember the sermon?
  • Can you make it any simpler or more imaginative to further the aims of #2 and #3?
  • Does it have as few divisions as possible for the material?
  • Are the points symmetrical/parallel in form?
  • Are the points distinct or do they overlap? Same question for the subpoints?
  • Are the points in the right order? Do they follow logically?
  • Is the theme as short and yet as comprehensive as possible?
  • Does the theme reflect and incorporate the main points of the sermon?
  • Do the theme and points assist the aim of the sermon?
  • What are the main insights/ideas in your sermon?
  • Does the textual data support these insights?
  • Do your transitions raise a question at the end of a point/insight that you answer in the next point?
  • Do I have any illustrations to help my hearers engage and understand?

Introducing a text

  • Have I prayed over my sermon introduction?
  • Is it too long/too short?
  • Does it contain no more than one thought/idea?
  • Is the introduction connected/relevant to the sermon?
  • Does the introduction connect with your hearers? Does it draw them into the sermon?
  • Does it give hearers a reason to listen to the sermon?
  • Does it steal the sermon’s thunder? In other words, is there sermon material in the introduction?
  • Is it apologetic and hesitant rather than authoritative and declarative?
  • Is it unnecessarily offensive or humorous?
  • Is it sufficiently varied when compared with your other sermon introductions?

Applying a text

  • Have I prayed over my application?
  • What problem is your sermon addressing?
  • What is the primary action I am aiming at? (not limited to physical action but can also be spiritual action)
  • Is the application rooted in the text? Is it the primary application of the text?
  • Do I apply throughout my sermon?
  • Is my application contemporary or dated?
  • Do the insights in my sermon drive someone towards the desired action?
  • Do the actions of my sermons vary (Know…, Love…, Believe…, Repent…, Fear…, Do…, Be…, etc.)
  • Have you distinguished between believers and unbelievers?
  • Have you addressed different kinds of believers (e.g. strong, weak, healthy, unhealthy, assured, doubting, etc.) and different kinds of unbelievers (e.g. stubborn, seekers, ignorant, hypocrites, deceived, children, singles, atheists, agnostics, worried, bereaved, etc.)?
  • Have you used a mixture of question, exclamation, imperative, questions, threat, promise, comfort, warning, motivation, invitation, demonstration, adoration, admonition, self-examination, etc., in your application?
  • Have you identified areas in your sermon where you hope to lead hearers into worship?
  • Have you offered the Gospel to sinners?
  • Have you applied the Gospel to different ages, stages, classes, etc?
  • Have I gone through my congregation asking how this sermon applies to each person?
  • Did I describe the Christian’s experience of the truth?
  • Did I show how the text connects with/speaks to modern culture?
  • Did I use dialogue/conversation?
  • Does it help Christians evangelize their neighbors or give a reason for the hope that is in them?
  • Is the application too general or too specific?
  • Have I prayerfully applied the sermon to myself?
  • Is it personal? Is it in the second person?

Preaching a text 

  • Did I pray before my sermon?
  • Was it oral (suited to hearing more than reading)?
  • Did the congregation walk away with greater understanding of the text?
  • Did my conclusion bring everything together?
  • Did I have something for children?
  • Did I use as simple language as possible?
  • Was the sermon doxological?
  • Was my tone and demeanor appropriate to the text?
  • Did I have enough eye-contact with all parts of the congregation?
  • Was my voice varied enough?
  • Was I authoritative or apologetic?
  • Was I myself or trying to be someone else?
  • Did I speak clearly (diction)?
  • Did I use the right mix of volume, tone, emphasis, pace, repetition, passion
  • Was it as plain as possible?
  • Was there too much material
  • Was I conscious of God?
  • Did I pray during the sermon?
  • Have I prayed after the sermon?

Personal Update

I’m very grateful to all those who subscribe to the HeadHeartHand blog and to all who regularly visit the website. Over the years, many of you have been very faithful encouragers of me and my blog ministry. Thank you to you all.

I know some of you have been wondering why the blog has been so quiet and sporadic the past few months. I was planning a couple of weeks off in the Fall, but the couple of weeks turned into a couple of months. If I’d known it was going to take as long, I would have explained it at the start.

So why did two weeks turn into almost three months? I simply needed all that time to re-charge my batteries. A lot happened in my life in 2019! Without going into the details, some of it was really productive and rewarding; and some of it was really painful and disappointing. Both the highs and the lows had their own stresses, and I eventually felt that I needed to take a break from the blog, and modify some other areas of life. I read a book called Reset, which helped me a ton :)

Anyway, here I am, rested, re-fueled and ready to slowly and gradually re-start the blog. I can’t promise you the same frequency as before, but I hope to post 2-3 times a week. Thank you for your patience and understanding.