Thursday, 29 October 2009


'We all like to think of ourselves as more independently capable than we actually are. We weren't created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble dependency on others. Our lives were designed to be community projects. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us we have all that we need within ourselves. So we settle for relationships that never go beyond the casual. We defend ourselves when people around us point out a weakness or a wrong. We hold struggles within, not taking advantage of the resources that God has given us. The lie of the garden was that Adam and Eve could be like God, independent and self-sufficient. We still tend to buy into that lie.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.147.


'I'll tell myself that I didn't really lash out in anger; no, I was speaking as one of God's prophets.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.147.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


'...many Reformed evangelicals think of sound, expository preaching as something of a 'magic bullet.' We may think that as long as we are preaching the Word--preaching the law and the gospel rightly--that everything else in congregational life will somehow take care of itself. We may give lip service to the other two marks of the church--the administration of the sacraments and discipline--but we don't give them proper weight. Fully considered, the administration of the sacraments includes pastoral care, education, and discipleship, while the ministry of discipline means rightly ordering the community, that is, pastoral leadership.
I have often seen many men spend a great amount of time on preparing and preaching lengthy, dense, expository messages, while giving far less time and energy to the learning of leadership and pastoral nurture. It takes lots of experience and effort to help a body of people make a unified decision, or to regularly raise up new lay leaders, or to motivate and engage your people in evangelism, or to think strategically about the stewardship of your people's spiritual gifts, or even to discern what they are. It takes lots of experience and effort to know how to help a sufferer without being either too passive or too directive, or to know when to confront a doubter and when to just listen patiently. Pastors in many of our Reformed churches do not seem to be as energized to learn to be great leaders and shepherds, but rather have more of an eye to being great teachers and preachers.
I'd point us to the example of John Calvin himself. No one put more emphasis on expository preaching as central to ministry. And yet Calvin sat nearly every Thursday in the Consistory, hearing hundreds of practical pastoral cases each year brought by the elders of the city to the council of pastors and other elders. He applied his theology to the intimate details of "adultery and fornication, disputed engagements and weddings, family quarrels, incest, rape, sodomy, buggery, prostitution, voyeurism, abortion, child neglect, child abuse, education disputes, spousal abuse, mistreatment of maids, family poverty, embezzlement of family property, sickness, divorce, marital property disputes, inheritance..." (Witte and Kingdon, Sex, Marriage, and Family in John Calvin's Geneva, Vol 1, p. 15.) Also, Calvin's voluminous correspondence shows what a forceful and wise leader and statesman he was. Because Calvin was not only a preacher but also a great shepherd and leader, he built up the church in a way that changed the world.
I pastor a church with a large staff and so I give 15+ hours a week to preparing the sermon. I would not advise younger ministers to spend so much time, however. When I was a pastor without a staff I put in 6-8 hours on a sermon. If you put in too much time in your study on your sermon you put in too little time being out with people as a shepherd and a leader. Ironically, this will make you a poorer preacher. It is only through doing people-work that you become the preacher you need to be--someone who knows sin, how the heart works, what people's struggles are, and so on. Pastoral care and leadership (along with private prayer) are to a great degree sermon preparation. More accurately, it is preparing the preacher, not just the sermon. Through pastoral care and leadership you grow from being a Bible commentator into a flesh and blood preacher.'


'...a lie told with outward deeds...'
James S Spiegel in Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism, p.191.

Monday, 26 October 2009


'Consider this: two friends met after a long separation. After greetings and pleasentries, one asked the other how his wife was.
"She's fine, I guess. we got divorced a year ago."
"Oh," the surprised friend responded. "I'm sorry to hear that. What happened?"
"I guess you could chalk it up to irreconciliable differences," the divorced man explained.
A long pause added awkwardness to the moment as the inquiring friend puzzled over the phrase, one that he'd apparently never heard. He broke the silence with, "Irreconciliable differences? I thought that was the whole point of marriage!"'
Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, p.174.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


'If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.'
Martin Luther in Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelismn: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, p.154.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


'Change...means taking many small, incremental steps in the right direction. For example:
  • A decrease in the frequency of a sin is a true good. It’s not good that you are still indulging in pornography, but if you are doing it less, you are going in the right direction.
  • A change in the actual nature of the sin is progress. If you are no longer having an affair or premarital sex, and now you are battling pornographic fantasy, it’s good that your struggle has changed from your actions to your imagination.
  • A change in the battleground is progress. When your battle has moved from purchasing materials or going onto explicit internet sites to battling the old fantasy tapes that are still in your mind, that’s movement in the right direction.
  • An increase in honesty and accountability is progress. You are moving forward when you are willing to be truly candid and accountable to a trusted friend, spouse, or pastor and say, “Here’s where I’m struggling.” An appropriate openness to others is a very significant step towards change.
  • Not always responding to difficult circumstances by indulging in sin is progress. If your life gets hard and instead of going straight to your fantasy life, you pray for help and ask others to pray for you, then God is at work.
  • Repenting more quickly is progress. Learning to go more quickly to the Lord of life, instead of wallowing for days, weeks, and months in the gloom of “I failed again,” is a sign that God is at work in your life.
  • Learning to love and consider the interest of real people is progress. Your immoral fantasies use other people in an imaginary world. Caring for others, even in small ways, means that Jesus is changing you.'

Wednesday, 14 October 2009


'Now I want you to remember a few things about the pastorate. Being a pastor today involves more than merely teaching and preaching. You’ll be the comforter of the fatherless and the widow. You’ll counsel constantly with those whose homes and hearts are broken. You’ll have to handle divorce problems and a thousand marital situations. You’ll have to exhort and advise young people involved in sordid and illicit sex, with drugs and violence. You’ll have to visit the hospitals, the shut-ins, the elderly. A mountain of problems will be laid on your shoulders and at your doorstep.
And then there’s the heartache of ministering to a weak and carnal and worldly, apathetic group of professing Christians, very few of whom will be found trustworthy and dependable.
Then there a hundred administrative responsibilities as pastor. You’re the generator and sometimes the janitor. The church will look to you for guidance in building programs, church growth, youth activities, outreach, extra services, etc. You’ll be called upon to arbitrate all kinds of problems. At times you will feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Many pastors have broken under the strain.
If the Lord has called you, these things will not deter nor dismay you. But I wanted you to know the whole picture. As in all of our Lord’s work there will be a thousand compensations. You’ll see that people trust Christ as Savior and Lord. You’ll see these grow in the knowledge of Christ and his Word. You’ll witness saints enabled by your preaching to face all manner of tests. You’ll see God at work in human lives, and there is no joy comparable to this. Just ask yourself, son, if you are prepared not only to preach and teach, but also to weep over men’s souls, to care for the sick and dying, and to bear the burdens carried today by the saints of God.'
Bill Piper in a letter to his son John Piper. See:


'I am enthralled by the reality of God and the power of his Word to create authentic people.'
John Piper in his journal, 14th October 1979. See:


'Consider...what the Bible does teach us about the problem of evil. It gives us slivers of a pie chart. One tiny sliver (and I'm convinced that it's no more than that) would be labeled, "We live in a fallen world." Another sliver would say, "There is a devil." Other tiny slivers would be labeled, "People have free will," "Sin has consequences," "Sometimes God disciplines his people," or "Good can come out of suffering."
Perhaps there are more slivers. I tire of even writing them because they offer so little consolation. The vast majority of the pie chart (a good 75 per cent if you could quantify such things) would be labeled in bold, bright letters, "WE DON'T KNOW."
However we choose to word our answer, we must not imply that one of the slivers in the whole pie. Our "answer" must sound and feel like it's 25 per cent sliver, 75 per cent "I don't know." If our words have no Job-like angst, we'll sound more like Job's friends and receive a similar response.'
Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, p.110.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


'...sin isn't an event; no, it's a progressive movement of the heart that results in disobedient behavior.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.110.

Monday, 12 October 2009


'I had a motive for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to to, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in a way that they find most advantageous to themselves...For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.'
Aldous Huxley in Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did, p.67.

Saturday, 10 October 2009


'...God didn't simply offer you legal forgiveness. Praise him that he did that. But he offered you something much more profound. He offered you himself. He knew that your need was so great that it wouldn't be enough to simply forgive you. He literally needed to unzip you and get inside you, or you would never be what you were supposed to be and do what you were supposed to do.'
Paul David Tripp, Whiter than snow: meditations on sin and mercy, p.103.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009


'The greatest struggle of my life is not trying to discern God's will; it is trying to discern and then disown my own.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.157.


'You cannot go on "explaining away" for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on "seeing through" things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it...If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To "see through" all things is the same as not to see.'
CS Lewis in Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.91.


'The feel of a praying life is cautious optimism - caution because of the Fall, optimism because of redemption.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.84.


'Cynicism and defeated weariness have this in common: They both question the active goodness of God on our behalf. Left unchallenged, their low-level doubt opens the door for bigger doubt.'
Paul E Miller, A Praying Life, p.77.

Monday, 5 October 2009


'What is the most important lesson that life has taught you?
Love is sacrifice.'
David Oyelowo, Guardian Weekend, 3rd October 2009, p.9.


' Friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at our first meeting - any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends "You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another."'
CS Lewis, The Four Loves, p.83.