A Powerful Vacation Sermon

I’ve been enjoying a week or so of vacation with my family in “up north” in Harbor Springs, MI. Felt like a bit of a Scottish summer there with temps rarely above 70, cool winds, bit damp, and a chilly wind at times. Home sweet home!

Apart from getting more time with my wife and children, beating my teenage supermen at tennis, and successfully avoiding the pool, the highlights of my vacation were a powerful sermon and getting to read a number of edifying and enjoyable books. I’ll get to the books tomorrow, but today let me tell you about the sermon.

Warm Welcome
We surfed around the Internet on Saturday night looking for a church to worship in and eventually chose a small Baptist Church in Petoskey. Although it looked like it was a bit Arminian in theology, it seemed the most conservative in worship among what looked more like child-dominated stage shows on other church websites.

We received a warm welcome – although by the fifth interrogation about who we were and where exactly we were from I “took the fifth” as I suspected that we’d stumbled into an NSA convention. We really should have an optional door on our churches that has a sign saying, “If you enter this door we guarantee you a seat at the back and NO QUESTIONS!” It might be the most successful outreach strategy ever – at least for men.

Anyway, the lively worship was well within my comfort zone, and I began to look forward to the sermon. And what a treat it was!

Powerful Sermon
The pastor was an ex-policeman and had the dignified bearing and posture to match. He had no seminary education, but he had what no seminary education can give – UNCTION – that mysteriously wonderful God-given passion for God’s truth and the good of souls that transforms the weakest material into preaching that glorifies God and saves sinners.

His sermon broke many “homiletical rules” and probably would have been torn apart at “Practice Preaching” but it left an abiding impression that will live much longer in my memory than many “perfect sermons” I’ve heard. Although he didn’t really expound his text, the sermon was on a biblical theme, and it had a definite structure.

What it had above all was REALITY. This was not some academic exercise. This was not delivering a manuscript. This was not someone trying to impress or please. This was a dying man preaching to dying men and women about the life-giving life-saving Christ. He really really believed this, and really really wanted us to as well.

Yes, there were verbal stumbles, logical gaps, awkward expressions, and unnecessary repetitions. But there was also sincerity, passion, urgency, and CONNECTION. Although he had notes, they did not come between him and his hearers. The paper “disappeared” and it became simply one man pleading with fellow men and women to turn from our hopelessness to hope in Jesus.

It was so refreshing, even exhilarating, to feel the power of such PERSONAL preaching. He wandered out of the pulpit and down the aisles; he named people in the congregation at times; it was an ex-policeman in hot pursuit of criminals he desperately wanted to liberate with the Gospel. It was so glorious that I almost wanted to be an unbeliever again so that I could believe for the first time again.

Yes, slightly Arminian at points, but give me a living Christ-filled sermon like this any day over our perfect fact-filled Reformed homilies that are so easy to listen to without listening.

Check out

How Do I Know I’m Saved?
Some outstanding quotes from recent “Ask Pastor John” podcasts. I especially enjoyed the extract from #135 on avoiding ministry burnout, and the childlike/childish distinction in #142.

A Baby Changes Everyone, Not Just Everything
“A baby brother has completed and fulfilled our other two children, enhancing the life of our family in ways I never expected.” I identified so much with what Trevin Wax wrote here about the blessed impact of his new son on the rest of his children.

A Response to Zealot by Reza Aslan
You’re going to be hearing a lot about this book for a few weeks, so here’s a great review to strengthen your faith in Jesus. Ross Douthat comments on the controversy in Return of the Jesus Wars

At Christian Companies, Religious Principles Complement Business Practices
Surprisingly fair and balanced New York Times piece on how Christian-owned companies like Hobby Lobby put their faith into practice.

5 Reasons it’s Past Time to End the Stereotypes About Biblical Counseling
Peace-making Bob Kellemen goes to war against counseling stereotypes.

Pastoral Visitation: The God-Given Responsibility to Shepherd
Joey Pipa provides a list of questions for both congregants and elders to review before a pastoral visit

6 Reasons Men are Opting Out of Marriage

“More and more men are choosing not to go to school, not to get a job, and not to get married. If similar numbers of women were doing the same, someone would raise the alarm, but since men are the ones opting out, the problem has been mostly met with silence.”

So says Dr Helen Smith, author of Men on Strike, in which she argues that men are acting entirely rationally in response to the lack of incentives society offers them to be responsible fathers, husbands and providers. In the video below, she presents six reasons why men are opting out of marriage:

  1. They’ll lose respect
  2. They’ll lose out on sex
  3. They can lose their children and their money
  4. They can lose their space
  5. They can lose their freedom
  6. The single life is better than ever.

Despite these powerful cultural trends, I still believe that a persuasive rational case can be made for marriage (see the early pages of Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage). However, this also demonstrates how a culture built on human reason rather than on biblical principles is always at risk of rapid disintegration.


Check out

“Too many old people”?
Dan Phillips: “Paul casts a net that takes in the whole age-range of the congregation. Pride of place goes to seniors, to older men and older women, who then have a ministry embracing younger women and men.”

Five Reasons to Confront Even if you Hate Confrontation
Wish I hadn’t read this.

Why Millennials are Coming to Church
Joe Thorn: “We definitely aren’t the cool church in town. Our building is busted. Our worship space is puritan-plain. We are Southern Baptist (definitely not cool up here), complementation, Reformed. There is a lot about is that is uncool in many ways–at least to many outsiders. But Jesus is here, and his people are amazing.”

The Gospel at Work
Matt Perman on productivity and the Gospel. On the same subject, here’s an extract from Matt Heerema’s sermon on How the Gospel affects our Work, and Patrick Schreiner links to a talk by a businessman on Business and the Glory of God.

Is the New Evangelical Liturgy Really An Improvement?
Kevin DeYoung answers “no” and points to What the Reformed Liturgical Heritage has to offer.

What Are Areas of Common neglect in a Pastor’s life?
Brian Croft highlights lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and lack of spiritual attention to one’s soul.

Best of HHH: 80 Posts on Counseling

While I’m on vacation, I’m taking a break from preparing Check outs and writing a daily post. Instead, I’ve been posting “The Best of HeadHeartHand,” a series of indexes to past blog posts under a number of headings including Counseling, Leadership, Preaching, etc. Previous posts included:

140 articles on the Christian Life,
100 articles of Cultural Commentary
100+ articles on Preaching.
250+ articles on Ministry and Leadership

And today it’s approximately 80 posts on Counseling. Some of the older posts’ formatting may be a bit off, the result of transferring from blogging at Posterous to using WordPress a couple of years ago.

Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling

John Piper On Biblical Counseling

Charity And Clarity In Counseling

The Counselor’s Role In The Holy Spirit’s Counseling

Your Brain Is Plastic (And That’s Good News)

Is It Time For More Positive Biblical Counseling?

Exploring Our Inner Universe

God’s Fatherhood: Better Than The Latest Band-Aid Of Self-Help

A new breed and a dying breed

Really practical theology

Is low self-esteem always beautiful?

Counseling yourself

Daily list: 11 trends in biblical counseling in 2011

Tis the season to be sad

A counseling challenge for 2012

American optimism v Scottish skepticism

Equipping counselors for your church

Turning a dream into reality

What do Bob Kellemen and Mathew Henry have in common?

The best training for counseling

Revealing research

Give us this day our daily brain food

Food and mood

Soul food

I feel sorry for psychologists

Fear and the brain

Can we redeem self-esteem?

Depression: The 6 R’s

Miscarriage? Death of a child? Need help?

Malachi’s short story

A counseling policy for your church

Counseling 101

Rebellious children? Try sleeping

You are what you think

Who sinned? This man or his parents?

Calvin and Piper on sufficiency of scripture

The cost of mental illness

Struggling with personality disorder

Wise counsel for biblical counselors

Want help to stop grumbling?

He cares for you

Pastors and suicide?

Why are we so angry?

Antidepressants work fast?

Journalism and Counseling

Do You Really Need Antidepressants?

7 Questions About Suicide And Christians

Mental Illness & Suicide: The Church Awakes

Pastoral Thoughts On Depression

The Problem With “Mental Illness”

Double Dangers: Maximizing And Minimizing Mental Illness

A Medical Test For Mental Illness

The Puritans And Mental Illness

The Puritans On Medication For Mental Illness

Seasonal Affective Disorder [Video]

8 Ways Preachers Harm The Depressed

Delivered From Islam…And Depression

How Biblical Is Biblical Counseling?

Trinitarian Counseling

Fighting Falsehoods About My Heavenly Father

Wonderful Southern Baptist Resolution On Mental Health Issues

10 lessons from two days

“Black folk don’t go to therapy”

8 ways to help depressed Christians

A depressing report about depression

Caring for the depressed (4): Stigma

Caring for the depressed (3): Support

Caring for the depressed (2): Sympathy

Caring for the depressed (1): Study

5 questions to ask a depressed person

Helpful CCEF video about depression

Helping someone with post-partum depression

The Most Important Question In Marriage

Jesus Sighed

What girls should know about guys: 40 tips

What guys should know about girls: 50 tips

What guys should know about girls (adult edition)

What girls should know about guys (adult edition)

Young(ish), single, reformed

Unofficial study guide for “the meaning of marriage”

What a happy marriage? Marry someone poor and ugly!

How to love your wife (or husband) less

What did you expect? Something more positive!

Disability and salvation: A moving personal testimony

Why disabilities?

A father’s journey with his down syndrome daughter


If you don’t want to cry, don’t watch this

Best of HHH: 250+ Posts on Ministry and Leadership

While I’m on vacation over the next week or so, I’m taking a break from preparing Check outs and writing a daily post. Instead, I’ll be posting “The Best of HeadHeartHand,” a series of indexes to past blog posts under a number of headings including Counseling, Leadership, Preaching, etc. This week’s posts included 140 articles on the Christian Life100 articles of Cultural Commentary, and 100+ articles on Preaching. Today it’s 250+ posts on Ministry and Leadership. Some of the older posts’ formatting may be a bit off, the result of transferring from blogging at Posterous to using WordPress a couple of years ago.

Haters Gonna Hate: How To Deal With Three Kinds Of Hate Mail

Young Pastor, Obscurity Is Your Friend

The Reading Habits Of Today’s Pastors

Pastors and social media (1): Be Positive

Pastors and social media (2): Be Intentional

Pastors and Social media (3): Be Sociable

I’d Rather Be A Godly Administrator Than An Ungodly Minister

Education And The Digital Revolution

Church Power Games

Don’t Sandwich Negative Feedback

Why Do Rookie Pastors Get Fired?

The Most Essential Life Skill: Teachability

Relax! You’ll Be More Productive

10 Ways To Give Constructive Criticism

Administrator Appreciation Day

17 Tips For Better Church Meetings

Church Size: Is 150 The “Magic” Number?

Ministry Miseries Or Pastoral Pleasures

Developing Pastoral Antennae

Reformed Theology And Ragged Schools

Disarming Your Hearers

Work Less To Do More

What Would I Do If I Was Falsely Accused Of Sexual Immorality?

Words Of Comfort For Bereaved Parents

Cheerful leadership

Climbing Leadership

Confident Leadership

Clear Leadership

Communicative Leadership

Courageous And Compassionate

Service Bay 1: Routine

Service Bay 2: Relaxation

Service Bay 3: Recreation

Service Bay 4: Rest

Service Bay 5: Re-thinking

Service Bay 6: Reprioritize

Service Bay 7: Return

10 Types Of Christian Leadership

Paper v Pixels

A Swear Word For Creative Types

Making Ideas Happen: 99% Perspiration

Leading And Reading

Christian Hiring And Firing

For president, I want the guy who’s failed

The mailbox mystery

Is it time to visit the soul care garage?

The secret of corporate integrity

Violent and Original Work

Don’t live for a legacy

A massage or a message?

Pastoral supermodels

Learning from the wrecker’s yard

Six simple ways to avoid burnout

Compassion fatigue

The truth dresses down

My hate-love relationship with seminary

Let the dummies give the answer

I met a “celebrity” pastor yesterday

Do I have a parrot on my shoulder?

Are you like Apple or Google?

The dirty little secret of overnight success

Lessons from Thomas Verelli’s supreme court choke

The secret to grace under pressure

Can you enjoy ministry too much?

6 time management tips from entrepreneurs

5 types of work that will fill your day

The softer side of leadership

7 strategies to stop procrastinating

Learning to be a power listener

A desk that could save your life!

A divine invitation to pastoral rest

A digital dictionary for leaders

10 digital commandments

Why appreciation matters so much

A son’s moving tribute to his pastor father

Pastoral ministry course

Amiable leadership

Three types of bosses that should be fired

Is perfectionism always bad for you?

Chris Larson leadership lectures

Diligence + time = excellence

Four destructive myths most pastors still live by

What’s the best way to study? Top ten tips

Al Mohler on Mark Driscoll

Location, location, location

Prepare for church discipline

Practice church discipline

Want to learn faster? Try the ibrain

Womb seminary

The role of nursing mothers in training pastors

The fatherly mother (or motherly father?)

Wanted: men of exceptional character

Two cautions for Christian leaders

Stars, sloths, sinners, saints, and stalwarts

Don’t spiritualize your management problems: fix them!

Your own personalized Google

Meeting matters

A body-language gallery

Pastoral theology resources

How to lose friends and not influence anyone

Why I left my congregation

96 minutes of daily interruptions

The Talk-O-meter

Top 20 most influential books in my life

What does it take to come up with a really good idea?

7 essential mental activities

The bull-loving matador

In the pastoral bullring

4 ways to benefit from criticism

20 ways to beat “meeting-phobia”

Top ten meeting personalities

My “I’m-never-going-to-get-to-it” list

Chris Larson lecturing on leadership at PRTS

Michael Hyatt’s parting message

Fighting time poverty

The Devil on time management: Squander, stretch, squeeze

10 P’s of time management

Does your desk glorify God?

Leading by listening

Trash it!

Lord, teach me how to teach

Leadership lecture: The honest steward

Gold-plated investment opportunity

Ministers and money

Money matters

Time to declare email bankruptcy?

Leadership lecture: The courageous captain

A call to courage for fellow-cowards

Focus on connection not perfection

Breaking news: Students multi-task during lectures!

The good news about stress

Leadership lecture: The patient shepherd

Leadership lecture: The humble servant

The pastor and the media: Ten tips

3 reasons not to delegate

Are you a pusher or a puller?

Sheep: “This time it’s personal”

The shepherd leader

Servant leadership

My life’s work

Staying on the leadership tightrope

Leadership lessons from president Obama?

I want to be a leader in the church

850 definitions of leadership

Focus intensely and renew regularly

Motives for ministry?

1-step-plan to superproductivity

Clutches in the churches

Facebook and the call to ministry

Achieve your goals (by not telling everyone)

7 tips for church meetings

Learning leadership from ants

How to be a speed reader

Zuckerberg’s favorite word: Um

The biggest mistake a leader can make

Three tips for training our children to lead

Six ways to supercharge your productivity

Why Tony Blair’s leadership journey failed

When to visit

The greatest servant

Two ways to live (and pastor)

Avoid decisions, avoid life

Evangelism and the risk of failure

Congregations gone wild

Pastors, please take a break

Leadership tips from Tony Hayward (not)

I hate the telephone

Focus short and long

Turn the ministry you have into the ministry you want

The men who stare at screens

Would John the Baptist have read the HBR

12 Things we’d tell our bosses if we could

Essential tools in the pastor’s toolbox

Ten laws of productivity

Am I called to the ministry?

Weak strength and strong weaknesses

A “normal” pastoral visit

The pastor as “feeler in chief”

Leading by silence

Leaders who last

Sympathy or empathy?

Who should we hire? Ask the receptionist

Reality check for would-be pastors

A leader’s mic is always on

Top ten motivation boosters and procrastination killers

Be more decisive…wash your hands

Boring grace

7 ways to deal with “haters”

“To do” or tomorrow

A “normal” week of pastoral ministry

Successful ministry or happy marriage

Preach or pastor

The pastor’s worst enemy

Pastoral ministry like having a baby

How to stop people idolizing you

True leadership: Opposing our friends

Leadership crisis

Victory through rest and recreation

The ministry is God’s sandbox

Good recoveries from bad communications

Pastoring clever people (or herding cats)

Investing in your mentor

God’s top 100 pastors

Wise leaders don’t know too much

How to say “No”

Squandering our most important resource

Mirror leadership

Work less to do more

The power of moral clarity

Improving pastoral productivity

For overworking pastors (and students)

Introverts in the church

How to boost your memory. Sleep!

Why do pastors suffer?

Novel advice for writers

How to keep track of what you’ve learnt

The 40-30-30 rule: Why risk is worth it

What does your desk say about you?

How to turn ministry into idolatry

Glorifying God and email

What not to say to some one who just lost their job

Should I tell the pastor?

The invisible gorilla

Confident but not sure

How the mighty fall

Naming names

How to take smart reading notes

Deference and deviance

When pastor’s kids go bad

The sinkhole syndrome

Help for hurting churches in dealing with apostasy

The two essential traits of great leaders

Failure: The last taboo?

80 ways to redeem time

The pastor’s worst day

Water for baptisms

Coping with “church surprises”

Poor excuses for sinful silence

Splits and sorrys

What do people really think of me?

In the hot seat

Blessed defeat

The risk of catastrophic victory

Learning on the tightrope

Why you should fire yourself

Three ways to keep your ego in check

From good to great

Scottish worthies

Wisdom from the world’s richest man?

Top 200 Leadership Resources

Top 300 Online Counseling Resources

Top 60 Online Resources For Battling Porn