Finally! A Blossom in the Desert

Noel Piper

The book, A Blossom in the Desert“Did you know your dream has come true? There's a book of Lilias Trotter's art now—A Blossom in the Desert,” I emailed a friend last week. Miriam Rockness, who edited this book, earlier wrote the book that introduced me to Lilias Trotter, A Passion for the Impossible. I was so inspired by her story that I included it in Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God.

We who admire Lilias Trotter have waited a long time actually to see her artwork. Until now, it was hidden... Continue Reading

Preaching As Concept Creation, Not Just Contextualization

John Piper

As we think seriously about contextualizing the message of the Bible, let’s remember that we must also labor to bring about, in the minds of our listeners, conceptual categories that may be missing from their mental framework. If we only use the thought structures they already have, some crucial biblical truths will remain unintelligible, no matter how much contextualizing we do. This work of concept creation is harder than contextualization, but... Continue Reading

5 Tips for Clear Writing and Talking

John Piper

C. S. Lewis’ advice to children on writing is good advice to pastors on preaching, or anybody on talking.

  1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn't mean anything else.
  2. Always prefer the clean direct word to the long, vague one. Don't implement promises, but keep them.
  3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean "More people died" don't say "Mortality rose."
  4. In writing, don't use... Continue Reading

Falling Dew and Falling Hammers

John Piper

Especially on Sundays, preaching is paramount in a pastor’s life. When we prepare to preach, we remember that our words should fall “as gentle rain upon the tender grass” and “like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces.” Such speaking is not simple. Pray for us.

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distil as the dew,
as the gentle rain upon the tender grass,
and as the showers... Continue Reading

“These Narrow and Ebb Souls”

John Piper

There is a knowing of love that surpasses ordinary knowledge. All thoughtful and true lovers know this. Being loved isn't identical to knowing that one is being loved. This is not spooky. It is in fact gloriously ordinary. Just as a blue sky, a bright sun, a cool breeze, yellow-green leaves, and a new bird-song may hold you in unexpected, unselfconscious thrall for a season, so there are moments when the heart apprehends the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

Paul prayed... Continue Reading

When MLK First Met God

John Piper

On this 40th anniversary of his death, I thank God for the life and cause of Martin Luther King, Jr. It was not the first day that he had met God. Twelve years earlier there was another meeting:

He put his head in his hands and bowed over the table. “Oh Lord,” he prayed aloud, “I’m down here trying to do what is right. But, Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now. I’m afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they... Continue Reading

Preaching What You Don't Feel

John Piper

Can a pastor preach on joy when he is feeling little of it?

Yes. He is preaching what the word says and will say it whether he feels it or not.

Yes. He will be praying that in the very preaching of it, the gift of joy might be given. It does happen.

Yes. He will be honest with his people and over time communicate to them that he has his ups and downs and may have to preach on a text that does not find great fulfillment in his life at the time of preaching.

Yes. But over time the... Continue Reading

“Behold, It Was Very Good.” But Now?

Noel Piper

Our neighbors can attest that we don’t use dandelion poison. Werecycle. One showerhead has a water saver shut-off valve. Beyond that,I don’t give much thought to ecology. I’m scared off by people who tendto treat the earth as god, rather than as God’s handiwork. So I haveavoided considering my responsibility as a steward of God’s property.

I had a one-week crash course last month when Talitha and I were guests of Craig and Tracy Sorley, BBC missionaries with Care of Creation... Continue Reading

Evangelical Humiliation

John Piper

Outside the Bible I have never read anything more devastating to the impenetrable permutations of pride than the section in Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections titled, “Sign #6, Gracious affections are attended with evangelical humiliation.” It ends with one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Few paragraphs fill me with longing like this one:

All gracious affections that are a sweet odor to Christ, and that fill the soul of a Christian with a heavenly sweetness and... Continue Reading

Overcome Contradictory Compassion

John Piper

The inconsistencies of liberal and conservative compassion do not define the nature of good and evil.

That there are liberals who talk compassion for the weak and oppressed, but support the butchery of the weakest persons (the unborn even to the point of birth) does not make abortion less evil.

That there are conservatives who talk compassion for unborn persons, but feel little interest or compassion for their own neighbors, let alone the sorrows of the countless poor,... Continue Reading