The Poetry of John Piper

the calvinist

One of the literary arts we have neglected in our fast-paced culture is the art of poetry.  John Piper is a poet.  You know him, perhaps, as a pastor, or as the man whose blog posts or books you have read over the years.  Perhaps you’ve read his most popular book ‘Desiring God‘ (also the namesake of his ministry).

Well this week I wanted to encourage you to take a look at three poems he has written that have had a dramatic impact on me and many others. This week Desiring God released Dr. Piper’s most recent poem, and its just fantastic! It is set to a video backdrop with voice over from some theological titans.  Take a few moments and read, listen, and allow yourself to enjoy God in ways that perhaps you haven’t been recently.  Here are the poems:

The Calvinist  – click here to read the poem and watch the video.

One of my favorite graphs:

See him with his books:
Tree beside the brooks,
Drinking at the root
Till the branch bear fruit.
 

The Innkeeper – click here to check out the book on Amazon.  And click here for a FREE PDF version of the book: The_Innkeeper

One of my favorite graphs:

In two weeks they will crucify
My flesh. But mark this, Jacob, I
Will rise in three days from the dead,
And place my foot upon the head 
Of him who has the power of death. 
 

Ruth: Under the Wings of God – click here to check out the book on Amazon. Click here to download a FREE PDF of the book:Ruth

One of my favorite graphs:

One of my favorite lines: 
Tonight Boaz was by the fire
And wrapped in blankets for attire
young David stood in awe that here
Was his own flesh who, in a year, 
Would have a century of life
Perhaps, on earth and one whose wife
Was his Great-grandma Ruth. He took
His harp and cradled in the crook 
Of his small arm the music of 
A fam’ly’s century of love. 
 

JOB: The Film

In this adaptation of the book of Job, John Piper puts poetry to still images in what is now probably best described as a precursor to the Calvinist poem he just released.  You can learn more about the film here, and see a trailer below:

JOB

Reformation Day + Free Goodies!

Not everyone may know this, but today is Reformation Day. So instead of celebrating a pagan holiday that has basically no redeeming value whatsoever, here is an alternative. Reformation Day is the celebration of the day (Oct. 31, 1517) Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door in Wittenburg.  This action led to the Protestant Reformation, and the spread of the gospel in places that had long since been in darkness.

Luther

In celebration of this great day, my good friends at Ligonier Ministries are offering a free download of their 10 message teaching series called ‘Luther and the Reformation’.  This is a great series, and will help you learn not only about the Reformation, but about the man who was instrumental in bringing it about – and the God who worked through him to do so!

Also – the Gospel Coalition have posted ‘9 things you should know about Halloween and Reformation Day’.  Check it out!

Why Read the Old Testament?

In the coming days, a group of people in my church and friends from around the country will be starting to read through the Old Testament together again, and it’s sure to be a very interesting and encouraging experience.

But why would you want to do this?  Why take all that time to listen to, or read through the OT texts? Isn’t it good enough to be reading the New Testament in our devotions? The short answer is, as you might guess, “No!”  This isn’t about meeting a quota, or doing what is “good enough”, that’s certainly NOT the point. But what IS the point? Here are a few good reasons why you should consider reading the Old Testament devotionally every day…

First, the OT gives us the context for the New Testament (NT). We can understand the redemptive nature of NT history better if we know the history leading up to Christ’s incarnation and earthly ministry. As we get a sense for the context in which Christ came, we grow to appreciate God’s control over history even more.  Unlike most eastern thought, Christians believe that history is linear – God is driving toward a point.

David Murray puts it this way, “Many history books simply relate the what, when, where, and how of each event. Not many attempt to answer the “Why?” question, and those that do usually prove laughably unreliable. In contrast, biblical history has a clear purpose: it is a progressive revelation of the mind and heart of God for the benefit of needy sinners. God is the subject and the hero of the Bible.”

Second, once we become familiar with the OT, we begin to see how Christ is the fulfillment of types and shadows, and the epicenter of redemptive history and the story of humanity. Our story is really HIS story.  Seeing typology fulfilled in Christ only comes when you have studied and read the OT.

Sam Storms says, “In most cases the Old Testament type finds a deeper realization or expression in some aspect of the life of Jesus, his redemptive work, his judgments, or in his future return and reign. The correspondence is based on the premise that god controls history.”

Finally, but not by any means “lastly”, as Christians we believe that ALL Scripture is profitable for renewing our minds. Paul reminds Timothy of this, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

This means that as we read the Old Testament, the words of God are literally renewing our minds, and changing our hearts.  They are equipping us to serve and enjoy God better, because we can help others understand the Scriptures more clearly, and we can appreciate and love God for all that He is and has done as our context is widened.

In conclusion, there are so many reasons to read the whole Bible, and I’ve just scratched the surface here, but needless to say, it is a very profitable exercise, and if you’d like to join a reading group and get to know the OT a little better, feel free to send me a message!

4 Goals to Pursue in Parenting

Last week I reposted ‘s article on 5 Dangers to Avoid in Parenting, which was linked from the Ligonier Blog.  Tonight, I wanted to repost the continuation of that series.  Boekestein now gives a few ideas about the “positive” side of the equation.  I hope you find this encouraging as you start your week!

PJW

4 Goals to Pursue in Parenting

Posted: 15 Jul 2013 03:00 AM PDT

 

Near the end of Colossians 3 God speaks his will to people who play a role in six different relationships; Wives, husbands, children, fathers, bondservants, and masters. Only to fathers does God NOT speak a positive command. He simply says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Col. 3:21). Perhaps by doing so, God is accentuating the uniquely devastating problem of parental provocation. Still, Ephesians 6:4 teaches us that there is a clear alternative to provocative parenting.

So, instead of provoking our children to wrath and discouragement how do we bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord?”

1. Make Jesus Central to Your Family Life

In some “Christian” families Christ is simply not central. Too often we emphasize our own righteousness or the righteousness we expect from our children. How is this ethic different from that in a non-Christian home? We sing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Do we apply those words in our homes?

Christ-centered parenting also means explaining to our children how they can come to Christ. Too often we tell our children to respect us, to obey us, and to grow up. But we don’t help them bring their troubles to, and find healing in, Jesus. Christ said that his yoke is easy; his burden light. He will give rest for our weary souls (Matt. 11:29-30). We need to lead our children to rest in Christ. God forbid that we would make things more difficult for our children than Jesus would.

2. Make Grace Shine in Your Family

Is the most powerful principle in your home grace or law? The law merely tells us what God’s will is and that we must obey it. It is grace alone that teaches us how to please God.

William Hendriksen explains that “Fathers should create an atmosphere which will make obedience an easy and natural matter, namely, the atmosphere of love and confidence.” Our emphasis should be on the positive.

Imagine that on the first day of a new job your trainer gave you only negative instructions. “Don’t ever be late to work, interrupt the boss during his meetings, use the phone for personal calls…” You would eventually wonder, “What AM I supposed to be doing? How do I do my job?” We often lead children to the same exasperation.

Gracious parenting especially applies to correction. Be sure that your children know that you love them as they are, not as you would like them to be. As a good rule of thumb, ask yourself, “What kind of correction is most helpful for me?”

3. Model Repentance before Your Kids

Many children are rarely shown what it looks like to seek forgiveness from others for their sins. We tell them to do it but we don’t show them how. We tell them to “apologize like you mean it.” But we don’t demonstrate what heart-felt sorrow for sin looks like. One way to model repentance is to seek our children’s forgiveness, especially if our provocation has driven them away.

4. Listen to the Advice of Others

Effective parents seek counsel from their pastors and elders, their own parents, and even their own kids. They also take advantage of good books on parenting. Two great helps on spiritual parenting are Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp and Parenting by God’s Promises by Joel Beeke.

Our children are a sacred trust. Our task is not so much to rule over them, as to lovingly, graciously, train them to fear God. If you have ever worked with concrete you know that you only have a few hours to work it into the proper shape before it becomes immovable. So it is with children. We have just a few years to help shape the spiritual impulses that will guide them through the rest of their lives. We must do all we can to avoid misshaping our children by provoking them to discouragement.

5 Dangers to Avoid in Parenting

This past Monday the folks at Ligonier had a post from Robert Boekestein on 5 traps that parents can fall into while parenting. I thought a few of these were particularly helpful so I wanted to repost the blog below.  You can find the original here.  I hope this is an encouragement to you all!

5 Dangers to Avoid in Parenting

Posted: 08 Jul 2013 03:00 AM PDT

 

“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21)

It is tempting to blame children for our family problems. But Scripture does not allow us to do this. Children bear the responsibility to obey their parents. But God commands parents to raise their children with godly nurture, being careful not to frustrate them. Inestimable damage is done by parents who provoke their children, and cause them to become discouraged.

While specifically addressing fathers in Colossians 3:21, God is speaking to both parents. The word translated, “fathers” is elsewhere used to mean “parents” (Heb. 11:23). Additionally, fathers are spoken to as covenant heads of the families. Fathers are to see that neither parent provokes the children. Fathers cannot stand idly by if their children are being provoked by their mothers.

What Does it Mean to Provoke?

The word used in Colossians 3:21 means to agitate, often to anger. Matthew Henry explains that parents provoke their children by treating them with rigor and severity, by holding the reigns too tightly and thereby raising their passions, discouraging them in their duty.

Years ago I was invited to participate in a long and strenuous horse ride. Due to fear and inexperience I held the reigns so tightly that the bit began to agitate the horse’s mouth. Before long the horse grew restless and threatened to throw me. I was provoking him to anger by holding the reigns too tightly. He was willing to be directed. But I was undermining his willingness by my heavy hand.

In Ephesians 6:4 Paul contrasts two approaches to parenting. On the one hand parents can provoke their children to wrath. On the other, parents can bring up the children in the training and admonition of the Lord. Failing to patiently, and constructively train our children in the things of God, we often substitute more fleshly methods of parenting which provoke our children’s anger.

What Is Discouragement?

The word literally means to lose energy or passion. Discouraged children lose hope, stop trying, and give up. When children say, “I don’t care” or “It doesn’t matter,” they are often conveying discouragement. It is tempting to dismiss a dispirited child’s behavior as being teenager-ish or childish. But parents must resist assuming that their child’s indifference is normal. In fact, there are hosts of young people who are passionate about life and enthusiastic in godliness. But sometimes this passion is squelched by parental provocation.

5 Dangers to Avoid

1. Mishandling the Rod of Discipline

Surely the Rod can be used too little. “He who spares his rod hates his child…” (Prov. 13:24). Children need to be taught that sin hurts. If they don’t, they may lose interest in pursuing godliness because they don’t see the danger of sin.

But the rod can also be used too much. The Apocrypha says: “He who loves his son will whip him often… bow down his neck in his youth, and beat his sides while he is young” (Ecclus. 30:1,12). This is not Christian discipline. Sometimes a wise rebuke is better than the rod (Prov. 17:10). This is particularly so as a child moves past the early years of childhood. Matthew Henry urges parents to exercise authority not “with rigor and severity, but with kindness and gentleness.” If your children can forget that you love them, either during or immediately following discipline, you might be doing it wrong.

2. Maintaining a Disorderly Home

God is a God of order (1 Cor. 14:33). He has created us in his image to promote order and thrive in the context of order. A disorderly home can discourage children. A perpetually messy, or especially an unsanitary home can help produce poorly adjusted children. A lack of regularly scheduled meal times and bed times can frustrate children’s God-given desire for order.

3. Holding Inappropriate Expectations

Some parents expect almost nothing from their kids. In such settings, children can lose energy or passion because they are never helped to “reach forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil 3:13). In other homes too much is expected. Experience teaches that unreasonable expectations are the ideal breeding ground for discouragement. If your children regularly fail to measure up to your standards, you might be expecting too much.

4. Building a Joyless Home

In some homes children are not treated with the dignity that God requires. Some parents rarely congratulate or encourage their children, focusing instead, on their faults. Parents must never forget that their children are people created in God’s image. Children of believers are even included in God’s covenant (1 Cor. 7:14).

5. Failing to Speak as “One Flesh”

Too often, dad and mom are not operating by the same rules when it comes to interacting with their kids. One parent might be more lenient. The other might be more demanding. But such “accidental doublespeak” is dangerously confusing to our children. In irreconcilable disagreements the wife must graciously acquiesce to her husband’s leadership (Col. 3:18).

There are many more potential causes for childhood discouragement. Like good physicians, parents should evaluate the spiritual health of their children and, where applicable, diagnose the source of their children’s discouragement. Sometimes the answer will be found by looking in the mirror.

Superman – the Ministry

 

image

In the coming weeks there will be a new Superman movie released by Warner Bros, and I will be the first to admit up front that because I am a lover of fantasy and sci-fi I was excited to catch the movie when it comes out (although being a father of three kiddos I’ll likely see it in the home theatre and not the iMax).

However, I had actually quite forgotten about the upcoming movie release until this afternoon when I received an interesting (if not disturbing) email from StudyLight.org. I subscribe to StudyLight’s email feed so that I can receive Charles Spurgeon’s ‘Morning and Evening’ devotions sent to my email everyday. But this email was nothing even closely related to Spurgeon, devotionals, or Scripture for that matter. Instead it was an email promoting the upcoming Superman movie.

“What is this?” I wondered. The email subject line was entitled: MAN OF STEEL – Free Pastor Screenings and Resources. Okay, you probably know that by this time I was already in a state of confusion. Were these guys promoting resources to help the church correct any misnomers about Scripture that the movie contains? Has there been some public uproar about the movie and its religious overtones that I have missed?

As I dug deeper, it became obvious that the promotion was not only for the movie itself, but for pastoral resources designed to engage congregants using the themes and plot of the Superman movie. In other words, using the movie as the central text and make parallel inferences from scripture to show how Jesus was a “superman.”

To that point, there are even sermon outlines! “Superman’s mythical origins are rooted in the timeless reality of a spiritual superhero who also lived a modest life until extraordinary times required a supernatural response.”

As if Christ was waiting in the wings until things got so bad that as a grown up man he had to do something about it! Thank you Lord for thinking up a Plan B!

But it doesn’t stop there, there are also free resources! From the website: “Welcome to the Pastor Resource Site for the upcoming film, “Man of Steel”. Here you’ll find everything you need to educate and uplift your congregation: Including Free Videos, Sermon Outlines and Images.”

Pastors are being encouraged to use the movie not simply as an analogy, but as the text and background against which entire sermon series will be based – and of course ‘Ministry Resources’ Inc. is ready to provide pastors with trailers, pictures, and all kinds of cool add ons to attract maximum attendance!

Who is Ministry Resources? I’m glad you asked. Once you dig deeper, you’ll find that they are actually a privately held business that caters to the Catholic Church. But it is their slogan that really best explains who they are and their driving motivation: The Stuff You Use – To Fill the Pews!

These days it seems that many churches will do whatever it takes to “get butts in the seats”- and that often means looking more and more like the world. In fact, evangelical leaders are attending and speaking at so-called Christian-leadership conferences with men like best selling author Malcolm Gladwell who see this same thing…and celebrate it. Listen to what Gladwell said in a recent pannel discussion about intelligent design and the evangelical church:

This is part of an ongoing transformation. We will not continue to have this kind of divide between Evangelicals and the rest of society. I just went to an interesting evangelical conference, and throughout, rock bands were playing. The rock-’n’-roll culture within the evangelical world is indistinguishable in terms of the sound of the music from the rock culture that came out of a very different, irreligious secular tradition, except that the words are about Jesus–love and all that. They’re not resisting outside culture, they’re embracing it and kind of making it their own. I think intelligent design and Christian rock are similar. It’s about taking up form from the outside and trying to Christianize it. Does the debate over evolution matter? Isn’t it really a nondebate?

The church is becoming more and more like the world – and the world sees it and celebrates it! If there ever was a time for a generation of leaders in the church who will fight for Sola Scriptura, now is that time.

Of course this is nothing new. Listen to what Paul said to Timothy in a letter written near the end of his life:

…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4, ESV)

2000 years ago Paul knew there would soon be people who didn’t want to sit under the authority of preaching, or study and submit to scripture. When you sit under the authority of true expository preaching where the Word of God is proclaimed the result will be exposed sin – that’s what these people-pleasing pastors and para-church ministries are afraid of, and its what human beings flee from naturally (John 3:19-21).

Any pastor who thinks using Man of Steel Ministry Resources is a good Sunday morning strategy must have no concept of how high the stakes are, or very little confidence in the power of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. As they entertain their congregants with material pumped out from Hollywood’s sewers, lives are kept in bondage, and people’s souls are neglected. In short, the gospel of Jesus Christ is kept hidden despite the fact that life and death are in the balance. Changed lives, changed hearts, and love for God and others (in short: personal and societal transformation and salvation) only comes through the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

StudyLight.org seems to be neglecting the advice of the man whose devotions they send me every morning:

I would rather speak five words out of this book than 50,000 words of the philosophers. If we want revivals, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God. If we want conversions, we must put more of God’s Word into our sermons. – C.H. Spurgeon