john piper

One Answer to the Question, “Should Christian Men Own Guns?”

Should Christian men arm themselves with guns for self defense in the home?

Here is John Piper’s answer: no. He has four reasons. But he begins this way, “I’m bearing testimony here and not prescribing.” And that’s significant. See if you think his four-fold answer is convincing.

  • Reason 1 @ 1:04
  • Reason 2 @ 1:41
  • Reason 3 @ 2:38
  • Reason 4 @ 5:04
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How do Hobbies Glorify God?

Three excellent questions that John Piper encourages people to ask about their hobbies:

  1. 3:13 Do your hobbies feed your soul with God-exalting experiences? Do you see God in them? Or are they leaving you more distant from God and more in love with the world?
  2. 3:42 Do your hobbies refresh you (emotionally, spiritually, physically) so that you when you get to the other parts of your life where you must glorify God (vocation, family, ministry), you are able to do so? Or is it depleting and weakening you?
  3. 4:06 Do your hobbies involve others so that they’re pointed to the glory of God? Is it a means of drawing others into your life for the sake of authentic relationships that will lead to a knowledge of Christ?

Memorizing the Bible: why and how

The 8th chapter of Romans has been called the “Mount Everest” of the Bible, the pinnacle, the high point. According to Christians both old and new (read: dead and alive), it’s the place where the truths of Christianity shine most brilliantly and clearly.

And so at the beginning of this year I begun memorizing Romans 8. It was awesome. I loved having verse 1 remind me all day long, “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And I kept going. Verse 2. Verse 3. And things got less clear. I don’t know if you’ve read Romans 8 recently, but verse 2 and 3 begin talking about the “law of the spirit of life” and the “law of sin and death,” and it confused me. I memorized them, but with less fervor. And eventually (about two weeks ago) I trailed off and abandoned the whole thing.

Just last night though I was catching up on John Piper’s podcast and heard him talk about bible memorization. His points about the lost spiritual discipline of memorization were so encouraging and refreshing that I decided to pick it up again. This is part of the normal Christian life, I suppose: resolving by God’s grace to do something, doing it, becoming discouraged, encountering your fallibility, and picking it up again by God’s grace.

The Why:

The How:

Get Started with This:

http://www.fbcdurham.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Scripture-Memory-Booklet-for-Publication-Website-Layout.pdf

Some Examples:

 

A Few Resolutions for 2014

I promised a friend I would post my new years resolutions.

Here they are:

Read and understand one C.S. Lewis book every two months

abolition_of_man_791Over Christmas break I read John Piper’s tribute to C.S. Lewis (available for free here) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The small eBook is not a “biography” in the traditional sense. It’s more concerned with C.S. Lewis’ impact on Piper’s life than with Lewis’ life itself. Nonetheless, it exposed me to a sampling of Lewis’ works and gave me the bug.

I dived right in and just finished Lewis’ small (but weighty) book, The Abolition of Man and only understood about half of it. I’m sure that trend (and the requisite multiple readings) will continue once I get to Miracles, and The Four Loves. Thus the pace: one book every two months. Slow, but steady, is the goal.

Complete a “through the Bible in a year” plan

I hate having to rush through Bible reading. That’s why this year I’m using the “Discipleship Journal” reading plan. This plan gets me through the Bible in a year without taking an hour a day (which is about how long my old plan would take). I can linger in the places and scriptures that I used to rush through. I’m really looking forward to it.

Because the people who created this plan are undergoing website construction, I couldn’t find the pdf online. Anywhere. But I want to make it available, so I converted my pdf version to jpgs. Here they are:

Discipleship Journal page 1

Discipleship Journal page 1

Discipleship Journal page 2

Discipleship Journal page 2

You can also get it through OliveTree here. YouVersion has it here. If you’re on Android you can get it from Google’s play store here.

Study Luke’s gospel

That’s a hopelessly broad goal. If I were to leave it like that I’m sure that I’d accomplish nothing. So here are a couple sub-goals:

  • Record and answer every question I have about Luke’s gospel. I’ve already written and organized about 100 of these questions. In the coming months I might do some posts about what I discover.
  • Read through relevant sections of Darrel Bock’s commentary on Luke. I’m using a commentary because there are certain issues (like the political deliverance Jesus’ was expected to bring) that I simply don’t have the expertise to understand on my own. For that reason, Bock’s commentary has been indispensable so far. You can find Volume 1 on Amazon here, and volume 2 here.
  • Write small summaries of important sections. One example would be Luke’s version of Jesus’ sermon the mount/plain. I can’t tell you, as of this evening, what it’s all about. I hope to change that this year.

(Sidenote: The way I think about goals has been impacted significantly by Michael Hyatt’s article “The Beginner’s guide to goal setting.” I heartily recommend his counsel to you.)

So those are my goals. At least, the ones I’m willing to share with everyone here on the blogsphere. If you read my blog regularly:

  1. I hope you see these topics in future posts! That’ll mean I’ve actually followed through.
  2. I hope you get to read better posts. I want to write gooder. But it’s taking time to find my voice and style. Let’s all trust this year is one of growth. For your sake and mine.

New Years Resources

It’s that time of year when everyone is talking about resolutions. Here are the most helpful and insightful resources I’ve found for taking the new year seriously, listed in order of usefulness and clarity:

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014

Justin Taylor does this post every single year. It’s astounding. And the content always gets better. His exhortation is crystal clear: Tolle lege. Take up and read! I gladly join his charge: would you make a plan to read the Bible this year?

The Sobering Effect of Year-Ends

This man has had a greater impact on my life than any other. I don’t say that lightly. Here’s a very brief video on how he views the transition to a new year.

Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year

Donald S. Whitney is well known for his book, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.” His 31 questions will be the way my wife and I spend new years day. Give them anything more than a quick glance and you’ll see why. Here are the first four:

  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

It’s a Good Time to Remember, Reflect, and Resolve

An exhortation from the blog All Things For Good to take the time to reconsider our lives and hearts: “If we don’t regularly take time to evaluate our heart, we can, often unknowingly, drift into sinful or sluggish patterns.”

Where We Go Wrong With New Year’s Resolutions

A lot of fluff here, but his second point is worth consideration. Why do we often fail to keep resolutions? Because “We focus on external change before we address the internal issues”

 

How Can God Be Good In Suffering?

I don’t know exactly why, but this video encouraged me tremendously. Perhaps it’s because these men exude such incredible confidence about the applying the gospel to life, while I’ve been focused (for a while) on what you might call “theoretical” issues.

Whatever the reason, I was stunned and encouraged and uplifted and corrected and confronted by their honest advice about what to do and think when suffering strikes.

These guys have experienced degrees and lengths of suffering I’m not sure I ever have. Perhaps you’ll be helped by their measured words (I didn’t hear one stray or flippant thought) and real-life encounters with God in the midst of suffering.

Personality and Ministry: Perspectives

In this “personality and ministry” series, I’ve sought to provide my own answer to the question, “how do I fulfill my duties in ministry in a way that is (primarily) faithful to the gospel and (secondarily) faithful to the kind of person I am?”

The question hints at my priorities. I want, most of all, to be faithful to the gospel. On the last day, I want to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Don’t we all? But I realize that I’m living out this faithfulness with a particular set of strengths and weaknesses. Everyday I have to deal with me.

Thankfully, other people have worked through these issues before me. I’m not the first person to ask that two-fold question. In this post I’ll be pointing your attention away from my little blog and toward some articulate and thoughtful men who have wrestled with this issue.

1. Gavin Ortlund: We Shouldn’t Moralize Strengths and Weaknesses

In his article, “Why I find the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Helpful,Gavin Ortlund makes a really helpful observation about the relationship between personality and morality:

No personality trait has any moral superiority to any other; God simply makes people differently. And yet it seems to me that we all tend to think that the way we operate is the “normal” one. … while the disputes that can occur between a J [judging personality type] and a P [perceiving personality type] can touch upon moral issues, they are not necessarily moral issues. The line between “personality” and “wisdom” or “personality” and “right/wrong” is not always crystal clear. … They remind us that not all of our differences are moral differences, and thus help us not make unnecessary judgments. They help us leave room for God-given differences, and thus learn from others where we might be tempted merely to criticize, and be cautious to assume our way is always the right way.

Do you see what he’s saying? The ways we operate as extroverts and introverts, perceivers and judgers, or whatever, are not always moral issues; though they can be. This is an area where discernment and caution can save us a lot of trouble.

Orltund makes two other helpful observations, and the rest of the article is worth your time if you’re interested in this subject.

2. John Piper: Awareness does not excuse complacency

John Piper I’ve had about seven Jiminy Crickets (Pinochio’s “official conscience”) walking around on my shoulders while writing these posts. They’re reminding me that I like, love my comfort zone, and that I better not slack off in my areas of weakness simply because I know they’re areas of weakness. I can’t let myself say, “I’ll leave those things (I’m not any good at) to other people.”

John Piper would agree. There is no reason for any sensible person called to ministry to settle for what they find themselves with. Piper, the man who has had more influence in my life than almost any other, wrote about this issue early in his days at Bethlehem Baptist:

When I came to this church I knew that I was not gifted in evangelism and personal witnessing. I have never been very good at turning a conversation with an unbeliever into a serious spiritual discussion of his condition before God. I suppose I could content myself under the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit and say that he has called me to be a pastor-teacher, not an evangelist. … [but] unless the Lord makes it very clear to me that I must, I am not going to accept my lack of giftedness in evangelism. I have been praying and will go right on praying and ask you to pray with me that God will give me the gift to win people to Christ, one-on-one and through my preaching.

3. Justin Taylor (observing John MacArthur and John Piper): God does not create all pastors equally

Justin TaylorAt a conference in 2007, Justin Taylor led a discussion with John Piper and John MacArthur about a range of subjects related to ministry. In the video below, Taylor asks the two men how they deal with depression. Their responses are as different as is possible:

MacArthur: I don’t get depressed.

Piper: I get really depressed really often.

God uses the ministries of both these men to bring the truth of his Word to lives all around the world, but he does so through their black-and-white different personalities. I’m filled with hope when I realize that personality is not an obstacle to God’s grace — it is a conduit of God’s grace.

Conclusion

I begun by saying that I approach this whole issue with two goals, 1) I want to be faithful to the gospel, and 2) I want to be faithful to the person God made me to be.

These goals are not equally weighted. Like Paul, I am a servant of Jesus Christ. He has bought me with his blood and I am belong to him. Jesus begun his public ministry by telling people: repent and believe. Both of these are self-effacing actions. They both require that I look to Another. My most important calling is to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ — to repent of my sins and believe in the Good News.

But I’m daily submitting to Jesus’ kingship as the person he made me. Which means that my “repent and believe” will look slightly different when compared to yours. I daily have to repent (per point 1) of judging people for not being organized and self-disciplined, daily believe (per point 2) that God is intent on transforming me by his grace and not content to leave my in weaknesses, and I’m daily reminding myself (per point 3) that God will use me in whatever place I am. It’s never that neat and tidy. But it happens. There are moments of repentance. Sweet moments when I’m aware of God’s grace and his ability to use me wherever I am.

What have you heard people say about this issue?

What are your thoughts about the call to this two-fold faithfulness?

Wide and Shallow or Deep and Narrow?

A while ago I was listening to John Piper talk about reading. He mentioned advice given to him by Daniel Fuller, who said something along the lines of “John, you only have one life. There isn’t enough time to go deep with every thinker in the world. Pick one. And go deep with him [or her]. But don’t give a brief read to everything written by everyone.” I took the advice to heart because the same reality has begun to dawn on me: I can only take in (read and remember) so much in one lifetime. And so for the past few months I’ve been wondering, “Who will I choose to read deeply (and specifically) from?”

Then the other day I followed a link to this video by Thomas Schreiner. The point of the video is to see what he’d advise students to do in their seminary years. At one point he says, simply, “don’t just be a specialist. … the danger of specialization is that we can become narrower and narrower and forget about broader issues.” Schreiner tempers his point and admits that even though he’s in favor of reading broadly, no one can do everything at once. But the main thrust of his advice (especially the examples he gives) is that we all ought to read more widely.

So, wide and shallow or deep and narrow? Here are two seasoned thinkers emphasizing different ends of the spectrum. On the one hand there is Piper (quoting Dan Fuller) to the effect: Deep and Narrow. And on the other hand there is Schreiner pushing for (what I would call) Wide and Shallow.

Now, “narrow” and “shallow” might sound a bit pejorative. They’re not supposed to be. But aren’t they the effects of reading Wide and Deep, respectively? I think they are. They’re the poles we have to strike a path between – the outcomes of stressing each one heavily enough.

I think there’s room for a middle-way, a via media. But their differing and complementary opinions have given me cause for thought.

Deep and Narrow? Or Wide and Shallow?

What do you think?

Seashells

While I’m spending the week with my fiancee I won’t be doing any writing/chapter summaries. Instead, it’ll be a good time to put up some quotes from what I’m reading and link up to other articles that have been a blessing or have been challenging to me. Todays:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/05/20/john-piper-is-not-anti-seashell/

Living with a view towards our ultimate satisfaction in God doesn’t mean we close our eyes to the pleasures that God has made in this world. It means we appreciate them even more than we ever thought we could!

I appreciate the fact that Trevin Wax picks up on this nuance in Piper’s theology, and his article makes that clear. Even if you’re not familiar with John Piper, its worth a read for the amazing quotes and ideas.

A snippet:

“To wake up in the morning and to be aware of the firmness of the mattress, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the sound of the clock ticking, the coldness of the wooden floor, the wetness of the water in the sink, the sheer being of things (quiddity as he called it). And not just to be aware but to wonder. To be amazed that the water is wet. It did not have to be wet. If there were no such thing as water, and one day some one showed it to you, you would simply be astonished.” – John Piper