Signed in Blood

The keynote in the mouth of every prophet-preacher, whether in Isaiah’s day or Jesus’ day or our day, is, “Your God reigns!” God is the king of the universe. God is the king of the universe. He has absolute Creator rights over this world and everyone in it. But there is rebellion and mutiny on all sides, and his authority is scorned by millions. So the Lord sends preachers into the world to cry out that God reigns, that he will not suffer his glory to be scorned indefinitely, that he will vindicate his name in great and terrible wrath, but that for now a full and free amnesty is offered to all the rebel subjects who will turn from their rebellion, call on him for mercy, bow before his throne, and swear allegiance and fealty to him forever. The amnesty is signed in the blood of his Son.

John Piper. The Supremacy of God in Preaching. Revised Edition. Baker Books, 2004.26-27.

The Hidden Cry of the Soul

People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. There are far more popular prescriptions on the market, but the benefit of any other remedy is brief and shallow. Preaching that does not have the aroma of God’s greatness may entertain for a season, but it will not touch the hidden cry of the soul: “Show me thy glory!”

John Piper. The Supremacy of God in Preaching. Revised Edition. Baker Books, 2004. 13.

Worship Beyond Singing

More than ever I believe in preaching as a part of worship in the gathered church. Preaching is worship, and it belongs in the regular worship life of the church no matter the size of the church. In the small church it does not become conversation or “sharing.” In the megachurch it does not become hype and jingles. Preaching is worshiping over the Word of God—the text of Scripture—with explanation and exultation.

John Piper. The Supremacy of God in Preaching. Revised Edition. Baker Books, 2004. 9.

The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper, A Thought

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:2-5

You know something? I don’t have to preach like anybody else I have ever heard.

I get to make much of God when I proclaim His Word. I get to lift Christ on high and know nothing except him crucified. I get to be totally and utterly dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit.

What a joy it is to preach the passage at hand. What a relief it is that I don’t have to mention the verse once in the sermon, then go on my own diatribe and spit out my own opinions. What heart-filled gladness that I can see the magnificence of God exalted and in falling so short, I would my very best to explain to others what I am seeing.

But oh, how naïve of me: to be called to preach but only preached just a few sermons. Every single little opportunity savored, gracious and humbled to get that one shot to preach the gospel of God—well, that is maybe your one and only shot. You may not be asked back. You might be barred from preaching there ever again. You might not make it back to preach again next Sunday.

But you get another try at it. God’s grace abounds and you get one more chance to love, serve, and feed His flock. You get to swallow your pride and open your heart and mind and let His Spirit work through you.

So, what are you going to do with that one shot?

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; 2 Timothy 4:1-2a

The Legacy of Leading Your Family in Devotions

By God’s grace, I heard this wonderful message shortly before I got married. When I first heard it, I got what Dr. Beeke was laying out but it seem to be too much. However, when Amber and I blended our families together, it became crystal clear what I needed to do and that same weight became glorious. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

You don’t have to perfectly subscribe to what Dr. Beeke exhorted here. But pray, let that message sink in and ask God for help. You are not alone in leading your family because God is your Lord.

Consider the criticality of family devotions:

Family worship time is the most important thing I do in my life. I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world. It isn’t perfect but it is critical.

The commander of Columbia shuttle that disintegrated in mid-air was so devoted to family worship that he recorded eighteen videos for his family, one for each day that he was supposed to be gone. How valuable do you think those videos are to his family now? What a legacy he has left.

– Joel Beeke, Leading Family Worship

Devotions in Mark: A Few Resources

Here just the very small list of resources on Mark that I have found most helpful.

The Bible – Should go without say. However, many times, many teachers, preachers, and small group leaders (myself included) will “cut straight to the chase” and engage the commentary instead of engaging the Word of God. Remember, the commentaries are not without error—they are the observations of the author. Slow down, pray, read, chew and meditate.

ESV Study Bible – Incredible resource. I use the online more than the actual book.

The Gospel of Mark (NICNT) by William L. Lane – Incredible thorough and wonderfully written, Dr. Lane walks the reader masterfully through not only the Gospel but the perspective of the writer Mark.

Calvin’s Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) by John Calvin – I like to keep an old school commentary for better perspective. (Note: if you don’t find the exact passage in this commentary, just locate the commentary for the similar passages in Matthew and Luke.

Savior of the Suffering (Mark) at Internet Monk – I was looking for a cool Byzantine picture of St. Mark and ran into this very cool resource that lays out Mark, using the aforementioned Lane commentary as resource, for your studying pleasure.

Mark (St. Andrews Expositional Commentary) by R.C. Sproul – I got this for my birthday this year. As I reading from page 1, I am using this as a reference for where we were at. Excellently written and a real joy to read thus far.

Update:

  1. Added the book, Mark by R.C. Sproul

Devotions in Mark: An Introduction

I have the distinct privilege, honor, and joy of leading discussions for our small family of seven (soon to be eight) through family devotions starting with the Gospel of Mark.

I still remember our first night of devotions. I was a brand new stepdad and barely getting to know my four new bonus kids, whom I loved so much. I was quite nervous because I had no clue how my kids would receive God’s words. I prayed and God reminded me that He sends out His Word according to Isaiah 55:10-11. His Spirit through His Word gave me peace.

Now, it was time.

I would love to tell you that they were gentle, sweet, and quiet little angels who sat there, smiled, ate their peas, and then afterwards, broke out in a stunning rendition of the classic hymn, “The Solid Rock”.

Instead, when I announced what we were doing, it took our family a whole twenty minutes to get calmed down. The eye rolling. The sighing. The rejection. The adamant declarations of boredom. The gnashing of teeth. I wasn’t offended by the reaction but I did have to wait until they settled down.

Fortunately, my beautiful, sweet wife was able to get them settled down all with one simple statement, “This should have taken five minutes. But you made it twenty minutes.”

On that note, I bust out with Mark 1:1. From that little verse, we discuss some very basic concepts and ideas. We wrestle with the deep things of God. After the end of the devotion, one of my sons remarked, “That’s all? Man, I could have gone back to playing a long time ago!”

The next week, they all reminded each other, “Shhhh, guys! Remember, this will only take five minutes if we are quiet.”

The point of that is the old cliché: “There nothing to it but to do it.” Forget what your kids (or bonus kids) might think about you. You are charged to lead your house especially all things spiritually. There is no excuse. (We will get to that in a minute.)

I intentionally picked Mark’s Gospel to kick off our very first family devotion for two reasons. One, I tend to default teaching the Bible expositorily (explaining the text as you go through the Word) rather than topically. Two, Mark’s Gospel is the best book to show what Christ has done and I thought showing what Christ has done and more precisely, what Christ has done in us would be more tangible with the minds of our young kids.

I have made mentioned of our family devotions on the Internets and gotten a few requests for my notes. So that is what I am doing just that here. Starting next Wednesday as a regular weekly series, I will share my notes and discussion topics over Mark as well as some parent notes to help you out.

As for leading your family through devotions, don’t think of outright preaching and teaching. Instead, we want to generate discussion. Do not worry about being able to teach. Instead, pray, read the text and think of good questions to spark conversations. In my experience, our best devotions are always the ones that are driven to the finish by the kids and not by me. God through his Word provides the topics. Me? I simply read the Bible and ask the questions. (How easy is that?)

Questions or comments? Feel free to ask away.

Update: Instead of doing this in a weekly series, I will post them as they are ready to post so that no one has to wait for a week until the next one is posted.