Burn and Shine

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Two Pillars of Preaching

Lately, I’ve been reading The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper. In it, Piper unpacks his thoughts on effective, biblical preaching.

Piper has tremendously impacted my admiration of God, my hunger for Scripture, and my submission to Jesus — all primarily through his preaching. I feel deeply indebted to the man. Needless to say, I’ve been eager to read this book.

Piper defines preaching as, “…worshiping over the Word of God with explanation and exultation.” He continues, “There are always two parts to true worship. There is seeing God and there is savoring God.”

I have been struck by his emphasis on both of these pillars of preaching. Understanding in the mind and feeling in the heart are not at odds with one another. Rather, they compliment each other. Neither is optional. Seeing God without savoring God does not honor God, and savoring God without seeing God is impossible.

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Christianity in a Word

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Just One Word

London, circa 1940.

The room was crowded—full of sharp minds and tweed coats. Some men mumbled. Some scratched their heads in silence. No one could think of an answer.

Moments before, someone had inquired of Christianity, “What’s unique about it? Is it any different than other religions?” They were men from around the world, gathered for a British conference on comparative religions.

Incarnation? No, other religions have Gods that have become human.

Resurrection? No, this too is a teaching of other religions.

From the back of the room emerged a young scholar. He wore rounded glasses. His hair was balding. He carried a half-lit pipe in the fold of his hand.

“Oh, that’s quite easy,” he said. His voice was soft, strong—it ceased any mumbling. All were eager for what he would say next.

“Grace.”

This young scholar was C.S. Lewis.

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The Gospel is Slippery

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Years ago, I heard Tim Keller say that in a sermon, and it’s stuck with me since.

One minute, we’ll have a good grasp of it. The next, we’ve lost it entirely. But here’s the worst part—we rarely even notice. We’ll grab onto one of two falsehoods and think it to be the gospel.

One is legalism. We’ll believe that God considers us righteous because we’ve read our Bibles, prayed, or abstained from a sin. We’ll allow our activity to govern our identity—what we do becomes who we are. If we’re doing “spiritually bad,” we’ll think that we need to make it up to God through religion. And if we’re doing “spiritually good,” we’ll get the idea that God owes us something.

The other is permissivism. We’ll believe that, because God is full of grace, we don’t really need to strive for holiness. We’ll look at the sin in and our life and think, “Well, it isn’t that big of a deal I suppose. I mean, God’s grace covers it, right?” We’ll be spiritually lazy, putting minimal effort into pursuing holiness or advancing the Kingdom of God.

Interesting, right? I’m not saying that we make a deliberate decision to depart from the gospel in the name of legalism or permissivism, but I am saying that the gospel doesn’t stay within our grasp forever. We have to pick it up again and again and again.

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Loving God’s Word

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“Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. The love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord.”

— Charles Spurgeon

I remember being a young Christian and hearing an older man talk about God’s Word. He was pleading with me to see the Bible as something essential to my spiritual life. “It’s not gravy!” he insisted, “It’s Vitamin A, B, C, D, and all the way to Z. If you want to be a Christian, you need these words in your mind every day. Period. You won’t be able to walk with Jesus without it.”

Passion rang in his voice as he spoke about God’s Word. It seemed so real, so authentic. He wasn’t saying to read your Bibles with an, “Okay kids, now eat your broccoli,” sort of voice. He really meant it. You could tell his own life had been changed by it.

I remember walking out of his house and praying, “God, I want to love your Word like he does. Will you help me?”

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God is Listening

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We Want to Be Heard

The other night, my wife and I came home from long days out and about. We sat down on the couch, faced each other, and talked. The TV wasn’t on. We weren’t folding clothes or paying bills. Just sitting, talking, and listening.

But Emily wasn’t merely listening to me with her ears—the sort of way we might listen to the radio while driving. Her eyes were listening. Her shoulders were listening. She was nodding. She was speaking active encouragement in between some of my sentences—”That’s awesome!” or, “I love that!”

As this was happening, I began to notice something inside of me. The more I could tell she was listening, the more naturally I wanted to speak. Thoughts organically became words. One reflection sprouted into another. Eagerly, I invited her into my inner self.

Don’t you love being listened to?

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The Doctrine of Least Meaning

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If you haven’t been able to tell yet, most of my posts involve borrowed insight from someone far wiser than me. This one will follow suit.

Recently, I heard John Piper mention a Bible-reading tool called “the doctrine of least meaning” to use when we approach difficult passages of Scripture. He admitted that some passages of the Bible are hard to understand—don’t get discouraged when you feel this way!

When we encounter a strange prophecy in Revelation, an extensive description of temple ornaments in 1 Kings, or an obscure oracle in Nahum, we’re likely to ask ourselves, “What the heck am I supposed to make of this?”

But if we can step back, look at the passage and say, “Well at the least, it probably means . . . ” that truth—whatever it is—is so significant that if it is believed, meditated on, and practiced, it will massively benefit our lives.

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The Store of Happiness

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The other night, I listened to a Francis Chan message on YouTube. He was talking about the abounding, backwards joy we experience when we suffer for Jesus’ sake. One of his comments has been running circles in my mind:

“In the Beatitudes, it’s like Jesus walked into the store of happiness and changed all the price tags.”

That comment has inspired this post.


You walk in, and you are met by a salesman. Inscribed on his name tag are the letters D-E-C-E-I-T.

“Hello sir! Welcome! My name is Deceit, and I’m here to guide your experience through The Store of Happiness today. Is there anything in particular you are looking for?”

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Will You Be a Christian Tomorrow?

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Are you 100% sure? 99%? 95%? How do you know?

This has massive implication for our daily lives. 99% isn’t enough. It will leave us feeling timid and insecure. We will call God our Father, but we will really think of Him like our Boss—getting our work done, avoiding major screw-ups, hoping He doesn’t fire us. Our lips will declare, “I will be a Christian tomorrow because my faith is strong!” while our hearts mutter, “I think I will… I mean, I sure hope so…”

Believer, you can be 100% sure. You will be a Christian tomorrow. Guaranteed. How do you know?

The keeping power of God.

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The Gospel is Practical

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Sometimes I think we can get our head stuck in the clouds. We make living for Jesus too mystical, abstract, and theoretical. We spend more time with Christians talking about how to love people rather than actually going out into the world and doing it.

We make it complicated. But really, it’s not complicated at all.

Jesus says to feed the hungry. Okay, let’s go feed the hungry. Jesus says to give water to the thirsty. Okay, let’s go give water to the thirsty. Jesus says to care for the sick, to welcome outsiders, to give to the poor, to clothe the naked, to love our neighbors. Okay, let’s go do it then!

I was recently confronted with this as I read about when Jesus brought Jairus’s dead daughter back to life. Check out what happens immediately after:

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You Won’t Be Disappointed

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Most people are familiar with the Genesis 1 creation account. In six days, God creates everything, and on the seventh, He rests.

I recently came across someone teaching on this, and it struck me. I wanted to share with you guys.

The teacher described how the seven day creation account isn’t broken up into six parts followed by one day of rest, as we would normally think of it. Rather, it’s broken up into two sets of three days each followed by one day of rest.

In the first set, God creates. In the second set, God fulfills.

Let’s take a look at this together.

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