Interrogating a text [Video]

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Some of the textual questions we want to ask when preparing a sermon are:

  1. What are the main words in the text?
  2. What are the most important places or personalities?
  3. What doctrines are involved?
  4. What is central and what is peripheral?
  5. How is the text structured?

Previous videos in the How Sermons Work series here.


Brothers, We Are Not Professionals [Book Review]

Review of some chapters in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper.

“Some chapters” because I am only going to refer to the six new chapters in this expanded second edition. Plenty of other reviews have been written about the material in the original book.

Most honest new chapter: Brothers, God does make much of us (4)
When great men (or women) realize they’ve taken a wrong turn, under- or over-emphasized some truth, or become imbalanced through trying to correct imbalance, they correct course and put things right – publicly.

Sadly that’s extremely rare. Some may correct things privately, but never say what needs to be said publicly. Others just stubbornly and proudly continue to teach the same things in the same way, no matter how much evidence to the contrary is presented. Still others dig even deeper to prove their theological muscles and macho spirituality.

Thankfully John Piper has the spiritual guts and the humility to sometimes say, “Hey, I went too far there,” or “I missed something out there.” That’s what he’s doing in chapter 4, which he calls a “mid-course corrective.”

It’s not that he taught major heresy or anything like that; just that he probably over-reacted to a particular evangelical problem, and now, with the benefit of time and thought, he is re-balancing to a more biblical weighting.

Most God-centered new chapter: Brothers, God is the Gospel (6)
Piper is concerned that we do not define the Gospel by its benefits alone. He wants us to go on past all the glorious benefits to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. That alone makes the other good things promised in the Gospel good. God is the Gospel because it brings us to Him. If it doesn’t, it’s not the Gospel.

Most courageous new chapter: Brothers, be Bible-oriented – not Entertainment oriented preachers (13)
Here Piper bravely takes on the flippant, funny, feel-good entertainment-type preaching that can be found in so many churches. He says the main problem with this “is that it is out of sync with the subject matter of the Bible, and diminishes our people’s capacities to discern and feel the weight of glorious truth.”

Most original chapter: Brothers, pursue the tone of the text (18)
For me, this was the most thought-provoking chapter, mainly because of my interest in preaching and in teaching students how to preach. Piper asks, “What tone should you aim at in preaching?” and answers, “Pursue the tone of the text.” I’m sure most preachers do this sub-consciously to some degree, but I found the ten areas of reflection in this chapter to be extremely helpful for stimulating a more conscious and intentional exegesis and communication of each text’s tone.

Most controversial chapter: Brothers, help them act the miracle (22)
These statements shouldn’t be controversial:

  • The cross of Christ unleashes power that expresses itself though my volitional attack on sin.
  • The cross becomes effective in conquering sin by empowering my will to oppose sin in my life.
  • The link between the cross and my conquered sin is a Holy Spirit-empowered will.
  • God intends that part of our experience of sanctification be the conscious, willed, opposition to specific sins in our lives.

That these statements are now controversial, indicates how confused the present church scene is. I’m hopeful that the clarity, balance, and exegetical accuracy of this chapter will go a long way to advancing the truth and impeding error.

Most practical new chapter: Brothers, bodily training is of some value (27)
A few years ago, I had to learn this chapter the hard way – through various operations and a brush with death. I hope the biblical balance and common sense of this chapter will prevent other pastors suffering similarly and also enable us all to see how God uses bodily health and fitness to open our eyes to His glory and serve Him better.

Concluding question: If you bought the original book, do these six additional chapters make the second edition worth purchasing?

My answer: YES!

Brothers, we are not professionals by John Piper (307 pages). Available at Amazon.com


Check out

31 Days with Samuel Rutherford
If you’re going to spend a dollar today, you won’t do better than this.

Raising the Dread
R.C. Sproul Jr., sorrowful yet always rejoicing.

Delivery Dynamics: Are you you?
Peter Mead’s been running a good series on the mechanics of sermon delivery (see previous posts here, here, and here)

Who has clean hands and a pure heart?
Appetizing taster from Anthony Carter’s new book , Blood Work, published by Reformation Trust.

Michael Jordan’s Greatest Season
Seth Getz: “Sometimes we look at someone who is successful and declare that they are “a winner” but what we don’t always see is the often long string of losing in that persons background.”

Revisiting the iron cage
Barry York replies to a letter from a young man who fears he has committed the unpardonable sin.


Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

I was contacted this week by Jason Henry, a missionary in Mongolia, who had very kindly collated and produced the second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf. Thanks so much Jason, and may God bless you and your family as you witness to God’s truth in that needy land.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

And here are the daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books. Further explanation of that here.

Old Testament

New Testament

May God bless you and your children as you study the Word of life.


Brass Heavens [Book Review]

Book review of Brass Heavens by Paul Tautges

Unanswered prayer. One of the greatest challenges in the Christian life. We pray and pray and pray. Nothing. Why? If God hears my prayers and can answer my prayers, why doesn’t He do it?

Paul begins with a beautiful chapter on the role of each person of the Trinity in prayer, such an essential and encouraging foundation before taking on the BIG question of why this same God sometimes chooses not to answer our prayers.

He then lists six reasons in six chapters for why God does this:

  1. Pet Sins: The Care and Feeding of Rebellion
  2. Neglected Duties: When Conflicts and Offenses Go Unresolved
  3. Religious Sins: The Trap of Self-Worth
  4. Inconsiderate Husbands: A Man’s Failure to Understand and Honor His Wife
  5. Stubborn Pride: The Insistence on Going it Alone
  6. Testing our Faith: God’s Loving Incentives to Spiritual Growth

I found each of these chapters both convicted me and encouraged me. I’d rather know where I was going wrong, even though painful to admit, because at least then I can identify what I’ve got to put right. Sometimes we tend to think that God’s silence has nothing to do with us – leaving us completely at a loss, passive, fatalistic, and despairing. It’s often not so mysterious and inexplicable, says Paul, as he calls us to put right what’s wrong and enjoy new boldness in prayer.

As four of Paul’s ten children have impaired hearing, some of them having had cochlear implants, we are reading about a father who knows all about hearing difficulties! Paul’s connection with the struggles of everyday life is apparent in the illustrations that pepper the book and will encourage you that this is a man who is writing from the furnace, not the classroom.

Every Christian will need this book at some point in their lives. Read it to revive your prayers, to melt the heavens, and to increase answers.

Brass Heavens by Paul Tautges (118 pages). Buy at Cruciform Press or Amazon.


Check out

Matthew Parris goes to Africa, and “gets” religion (sort of)
I used to read Parris every week in the London Times and agree with Thabiti, he’s the most honest (and bravest) atheist I’ve read too.

How to have communion with the Spirit
J. D. Grear encourages us to press on to fellowship with God.

People you’ve probably never heard of but should
One of the first books I read as a young Christian was The Life and Labors of Asahel Nettleton, and it still impacts me 20+ years later.

What does cooking meals have to do with sermons
Looks like cooks and preachers have a lot to teach one another.

Hearts Atwitter
Just because your husband or wife didn’t get swept away with overpriced chocolates, teddies, and flowers yesterday, doesn’t mean he/she doesn;t love you.

The danger of do-it-yourself spirituality
Joel Miller: “A full and well-rounded spirituality cannot be a self-directed spirituality. Despite how it might look, such a pursuit will be almost definitionally narrow and fraught with delusion, not enlightenment.”