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What John Piper Prays Before He Preaches

Dr. Piper has shared before the acrostic APTA that he uses to guide his prayers before he preaches.  He brought it up again yesterday during the panel discussion at T4G, and so I thought it good to share it here:

A-Admit: admit that within yourself you have no power to effect change in people’s hearts or accomplish anything for the Kingdom of God.

P-Pray: pray for God’s guidance, His strength, His Spirit.

T-Trust: trust that God’s word will not return to Him void and that His Kingdom will be advanced.

A-Act: Go and preach with all your heart and strength.

Books at Together for the Gospel

 T4G 2008 Books

One of the many benefits of attending the Together for the Gospel Conference are the terrific books we receive. Here is a recap of all the books:

From the Band of Bloggers meeting:
When I Don’t Desire God
Young, Restless, Reformed
A Tale of Two Sons
The Mortification of Sin
Christ Is All
Dear Timothy
Walking as He Walked

From Exhibitors:
50 Crucial Questions
How People Change

From the Conference:
If You Could Ask One Question
The Faithful Preacher
Preaching the Cross
Pierced for Our Transgressions
Why We’re Not Emergent
The Courage to Be Protestant
The Gospel & Personal Evangelism
The Gospel According to Jesus
The Truth of the Cross
Christ and Culture Revisited
Culture Shift
The Future of Justification
In My Place Condemned He Stood
Worship Matters
ESV Bible Outreach Edition

Reflections of T4G Day Three

Yesterday T4G was all about defining and protecting the purity of the Gospel.  Today we moved from word to deed, from definition to demonstration, from affirmation to action, in two passionate sermons from two incredibly gifted pastors.

First we heard from Dr. John Piper.  John has shaped my heart and mind like no one else on earth.  His sermon at the first T4G still stands in my mind as the most moving and profound I have ever heard.  His sermon this morning was entitled “How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice.”  If we believe, truly believe, in the truth that Jesus Christ and His glory is the most important thing in the universe, then that must move us to go out of our comfort zone, out of our comfortable American middle-class existence, to give up our materialism (yikes, he actually mentioned iPhones by name!), to sacrifice and suffer in any way necessary to make the gospel real to people.  He went through the book of Hebrews to show both the glory of Christ and that Christ is waiting “outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:12-14 ), in the uncomfortable and unfamiliar, and that he calls us to join Him in His sufferings.  He pled for us to see Christ as not only our ticket to heaven, but the very reason that we long for heaven at all.

Lastly, we heard from C. J. Mahaney on joy as the sustainer of a pastor’s soul.  The Christian life is hard, especially that of a pastor (who were the majority of those at the conference).  C. J. said that although most pastors are faithful servants, that many are not truly joyful servants, and the failure to be joyful even in the midst of hardship is sin.  He went through Paul’s letter to the Philippians and pointed us to three characteristics of Paul that allowed him to be truly joyful even in the midst of great hardship:  a life filled with gratitude, with faith, and with love to others.  C. J. emphasized that these characteristics were not isolated or self-generated morality, but rather generated and empowered by the reality of the gospel.

Sacrifice and joy.  That is the way of the true disciple of Christ, and serve as a fitting capstone to a gathering of men who were together for the gospel.


All of the presentations at the 2008 (and original 2006) conference are available now for download free at this site.  I would highly encourage you to listen to them.  I particularly consider Piper’s 2008 presentation to be essential listening for all who are followers of Christ.


Reflections on T4G Day Two

Day Two

This morning I awoke with the thought, “Less of me, more of God.”  That cry of my heart certainly helped guide me today through the conference.


The first lecture of the morning came from Dr. John MacArthur, who has been faithfully pastoring Grace Community Church for nearly forty years.  He gave a wonderful exposition of the doctrine of total inability.  He emphasized how central it is to the Christian gospel for people to know that although a person may do many good, moral, and noble acts, that there is absolutely nothing we can do to make ourselves acceptable to God or to come to God in any way. 


The truth of Christianity stands alone among all religions. All men create a religion in which there is some way in which a person can become worthy before a god or otherwise progress spiritually by their own efforts.  The Bible reveals that we cannot; that we are all born spiritually dead, and that spiritual life can only come through a merciful God choosing to bestow it upon a totally rebellious and utterly unworthy sinner by coming to Christ.


Next Pastor Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Bible Church outlined the ways that many in Christianity today seek to “improve” the gospel, by modifying or adding to its essential truths.  He emphasized that we must guard the purity of the Gospel, and must make it the church’s central mission to clearly tell all the world the truth of salvation in Christ.


I so admire the faithfulness of R.C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries and his commitment to teach Biblical theology.  Eighteen years ago a friend gave me some videotapes of a Bible teacher I had never heard of.  Those tapes were R. C. teaching on the holiness of God, and I listened and wept at the majesty and the power of a God who is holy. 


This morning R. C. spoke on the cross of Christ and the curse of God.  Al Mohler remarked later that he had never heard R. C. speak so powerfully, and I had to agree.  He passionately laid out the awfulness of our rebellion against a holy God, the curse of eternal damnation that God has justly assigned to each and every one of us, and the love of God in providing Jesus Christ to bear the curse for those who come to Him.  O, how glorious a salvation God has provided, and how much the knowledge of God’s judgment should impel us to preach the gospel to all the world.


We finished up this evening with Dr. Mohler giving a detailed overview of the attacks on the doctrine of the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus.  There are many inside and outside Christianity who do not want to accept that their rebellion against God justly merits His wrath against them, and that Jesus Christ fully accepted that penalty and paid for it with His death for those who believe.  And yet that is what the Bible clearly teaches, and that is what we must clearly stand for.


In the panel discussion afterward, it was mentioned that the first step in abandoning a doctrine is to not articulate it.  In other words, unless you clearly, emphatically, and repeatedly teach what is true, then you open the door for what is false.  And that was what today was all about: clearly, emphatically teaching the truth of the Bible in order to leave no room for falsehood, so that God might be rightly understood, rightly loved, and rightly glorified.

Together For The Gospel Conference Highlights

Inside the Conference Hall at T4G
Together for the Gospel is a biannual conference dedicated to upholding Christ and the Gospel and encouraging and informing church leaders.  The speakers include tremendous men of God like Ligon Duncan and Al Mohler, and the pastors who have most profoundly impacted my personal walk with God over the years: John MacArthur, John Piper, R. C. Sproul, and C. J. Mahaney.  This page has all the links to the posts I have written regarding the conference.

Pictures from Flickr

Bits From the Band of Bloggers

Reflections From Day One

Reflections From Day Two

Reflections From Day Three

T4G Recommended Books

T4G Books Received

What John Piper Prays Before He Preaches

All of the presentations are available freely for listening and download here.

I also felt “honored” to be among the 5000 who were labeled “theology freaks” by Christianity Today.

T4G Recommended Books

This year at Together for the Gospel the four organizers of the conference have done something new: they have each furnished a list of books that they especially recommend to the attendees. In addition, all of these recommended books are being stocked in the bookstore set up next to the conference hall.  The conference bookstore has another distinguishing feature in that although there are multiple publishers present, the only books that are available for purchase are ones that have been personally reviewed and approved by the conference.  It is certainly a different experience to walk past book tables and not have to wonder if the book you are picking up has accurate theology or not.  Here are all the recommended book lists:
Albert Mohler’s Recommended Books:

Knowing God
The Supremacy of God in Preaching
The Christian Ministry
Preaching and Preachers
The Gospel According to Jesus
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther
God, Revelation and Authority
The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross
The Forgotten Spurgeon
According to Plan

C. J. Mahaney’s Recommended Books:

The Cross and Christian Ministry
The Cross of Christ
The Christian Ministry
The Holiness of God
The Message of the Old Testament
The Message of the New Testament
God’s Empowering Presence
Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth
When I Don’t Desire God
Seeing with New Eyes
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Mark Dever’s Recommended Books:

Knowing God
Humility: True Greatness
The Screwtape Letters
New Testament Commentary Survey
George Whitefield 2 volumes
Showing the Spirit
The Bruised Reed
To the Golden Shore
Stop Dating the Chruch
C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography 2 volumes

Ligon Duncan’s Recommended Books:

Basic Christianity
The Holiness of God
Don’t Waste Your Life
A Call to Spiritual Reformation
Christianity and Liberalism
Fundamentalism and the Word of God
A Quest for Godliness
Redemption Accomplished and Applied
No Place for Truth
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Reflections of T4G Day One

Inside the Conference Hall at T4G

Here are some personal reflections on the first day of the Together for the Gospel Conference 2008:


The day began for me with the Band of Bloggers pre-conference lunch, where about 150 bloggers from across the US & Canada met together and listened to a panel discussion.  I found the panel discussion very practical and relaxed— the guys were laughing and joking, and yet their heart to honor God with their blogging was very evident.  I posted some of my favorite quotes from the panel discussion here.


Gathering 5000 men and women together in a convention hall and singing great hymns like “It Is Well

With My Soul” was awesome, as well as seeing people from many states and countries as far away as Serbia, India, Thailand, and Australia.  The first session of the main conference was Ligon Duncan, who taught on the importance of systematic theology.  I’ve long valued systematic theology highly, but his lecture both reinforced me intellectually and touched my heart as well.  Details of the lecture were (as always) capably live-blogged by Tim Challies here.


The second session was by Thabiti Anyabwile, a man suffering for Christ as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Caymans, Bahamas.  I had never heard Thabiti speak before today, and I was tremendously impressed by his intellect, his warmth and wit, and his obvious heart for God and the church.  He introduced his lecture on Christian theology and race by telling us that his name is Swahili for “Sure, let the black guy talk about race.”  His lecture just blew me away with its insight into how our mental framework concerning race and ethnicity needs to be completely changed to conform to the Bible.  He started out by comparing our beliefs about race with our beliefs about unicorns:  we can believe what we want to about race and/or unicorns, but in reality neither one exists.  His call to abandon the concept of race in our thinking and replace it with the Biblical identification that we are all sons of Adam and for believers we are all united in Christ was eloquent and passionate.  His lecture will certainly be a must-have for me when it becomes available on mp3.  The Challies live-blog for session 2 is here.


At the end of today my heart is filled with both gratitude and brokenness.  I have such a gratitude for friendship and the friends I have here at the conference, for Christ who has saved me and who blessed me so much, and for these gifted men of God who are serving us through their sharing of their insight and their hearts.  And with the gratitude comes a brokenness, welling up from my heart where God is showing me where I need to change: to love more, to trust more, and to be a faithful servant to my Lord.

Bits from the Band of Bloggers

I just finished attending the 2008 Band of Bloggers conference.  About 150 bloggers met before the Together for the Gospel Conference to eat and talk and pray and listen to a panel discussion that included these men.  Here are a few (hopefully accurate) quotes from the panel discussion that I found especially challenging and well-spoken:

What does it mean to blog as one entrusted with the Gospel?

Abraham Piper:  We shouldn’t bury the gospel in our blog.  The focus doesn’t always have to be the gospel, but the flavor does.

Thabiti Anyabwile:  Let your gospel be saturated, be soaked in the gospel. 

Phil Johnson:  a stewardship of my gifts, of the gospel.  It is an aspect of my testimony, a reflection of what we are supposed to do as witnesses for Christ.

Tim Challies: The real challenge is to always have the shadow of the cross over top of what you’re writing.

How did you get into blogging?

C:  I didn’t know I was a blogger until someone told me I was.

J: I started blogging out of self-defense.  Someone deleted my comments out of his blog so I thought I needed to start one of mine.  My first post had eighty comments the first day, which appalled me and frightened me.

A:  I got started blogging because my wife told me I talk too much.  (I thought bloggers were people) who had no human contact.

P: (at Desiring God) (jokingly) We needed to start inventing news.

How does your salvation shape your content?  What are your burdens in blogging?

C:  My salvation shapes everything that I do and am.  Nothing interests me as much.
I started doing book reviews because no one else was doing them. (from a discerning perspective)

J: Salvation shapes the way I think.  My salvation immediately and radically changed the way I think and what I’m interested in. 

A: I have a love and burden for the church, how do we do us, how do we experience this union of Christ in this very practical and tangible way, it is a marvelously beautiful thing to me.

P: Our goal at the DG blog is to take the theology of Christian hedonism and apply it… buttress it.

How do we handle the desire to have people to read our blog but not use worldly means like controversy?

C: You definitely need to be concerned, you always need to check your heart before you hit the post button. 

J:  Why did everybody look at me when you asked this question?  There are some significant issues where there needs to be some controversy and discussion.  The question isn’t controversy or not but how you wage the controversy and on what.  None of us are controversy mongers, but you can’t shy away from the heart of the gospel.  I think it through every time I write a post.

A:  There are some hills we want to die on, things that are connected to the cross and salvation, that is contending for the faith.  It is not controversy that we are seeking.

P:  If you’re being controversial in a way that all you are doing is getting kudos from people who already agree with you, you may need to change.

What do you do to hold yourself accountable?

J:  Something you say and post will not be erased.  Not a day goes by when I don’t think about that accountability.  My wife reads all my posts…  she tones me down.

A:  I still have a post on Al Sharpton that my wife won’t let me put up.

C:  There are a lot of things we do every day that we can’t have continuous accountability on, and blogging is one of them, but it’s important to be plugged into a local church (and be open and accountable with your church family).

P: Almost every post on the DG blog is read by multiple people.  I hate it when I get a letter from John Piper telling me why I shouldn’t have posted that.

What is the value of blogging?

J:  It does encourage the cult of the amateur and people who shouldn’t be saying something to go ahead and say it anyway.  It is the most egalitarian type of mass communication that has ever come along.  Everything that has been said about the dangers of blogging are true, but so are the advantages.

A:  I want the democratization of information.  I think it helps, it creates an exchange.  I’m not afraid of amateurs thinking about the things of God.

How can blogs be a ministry of the local church?

A: I’ve seen churches create a youth group blog to help communicate.  You can use that medium to facilitate teaching.

C:  there are so many different ways of blogging, …but we want to stay tied to a local church ourselves.

Is blogging too internal, creating just a “reformed ghetto”?

J: That is definitely a danger, but there are different ways of blogging and different reasons of blogging.  Hopefully the things we blog about get communicated beyond the blogosphere, a secondary impact.

P: It helps to have a cofocus on your blog, something else you’re good at or that you enjoy.

How can you improve your blog?

P: Read Seth Godin’s blog on marketing.

C:  Go find the big blogs, take the best of what they’re doing.

A:  Commit yourself to going deep, and let the Lord take care of the breadth.

J:  I let Frank Turk worry about the numbers for us.  I don’t really care.

How do I balance the responsibility for blogging vs. pastoral ministry?

A: Blogging is completely unnecessary for my ministry.  I schedule and limit the time of blogging.  I don’t want this virtual community to erode the real.

J: You realize the gravity of real life’s problems, and you have to keep the priority.  I hope I never compromise my pastoral duties for the sake of the blog.  When my life gets too busy I just don’t blog.  Both things are a stewardship, both things are a responsibility, but pastoring takes priority.

C: the challenge for the rest of us is for it not to take the place of our local church.

How do you discipline your day?

C: I have a blogging time.  When it comes to time, if I spend 2 hours a day blogging it’s taking 2 hours away from something else.

J:  I blog at the end of the day.  If I’m too tired to do it then I don’t. 

A: (in response to some of Phil’s comments) My readers are holier than Phil’s.  I live at the beach. (vs. taking a vacation there!)

P:  A pastor’s blog will make his pastoring better, even if no one reads it, because of the things you have to think through.

Going to Together for the Gospel

Just like gazillions of other bloggers, I’m headed out this evening to Together for the Gospel.  Looking forward to some great fellowship, teaching, swag, and the Band of Bloggers meeting tomorrow.  Hope to post both some photos and some “live-blogging” in the next few days.

In book news, I’ve received the second printing of my book to distribute, and a local pharmacy and gift shop is carrying the book now.  Please keep praying that people would be blessed by it.

Presbyterian Brains

So this guy goes into the doctor’s office one day with a headache.

The doctor looks him over, and says, “I got bad news and good news for you.”

The guy asks, “What’s the bad news?”

“Your brain is in bad shape, you’re going to need a brain transplant.”

“That’s pretty bad news. What’s the good news?”

“Today’s your lucky day, I’ve got a good assortment of donor brains to choose from.”

“How much is this going to cost me to get a brain transplant?”

“Acutally, we price brains by weight and type.  It looks like you’re going to need about 10 pounds of brains.”

“So, what is 10 pounds of brains going to cost me?”

“As I said, it depends of what type you want.  I can give you 10 pounds of Methodist brains for about $100.  On the other hand, 10 pounds of Baptist brains will run you about $200.”

“Well, ever since I saw Dr. Ligon Duncan perform at the Together for the Gospel conference I’ve been thinking about becoming a Presbyterian.  How much would that cost me?”

“Hmmm…  10 pounds of Presbyterian brains is going to cost at least $10,000.”

“What!!!  That’s outrageous!!!  Why do you charge so much for Presbyterian brains?”

“Oh come on, do you have any idea how many Presbyterian donors you have to find to get 10 pounds of brains?”

(with apologies to Dr. Duncan and Presbyterians everywhere)