Today, while rummaging through some miscellaneous files, I found the following book notes written to myself.
For a season, I attempted to extract a summary from each book I read and then I put the summary in a Word document. The season was short, but the following is from those days.
Nothing here is about fatherhood (my usual topic for this blog) but if you’re in ministry (and fathers are) this may be a helpful review.
John Piper has been a favorite preacher and author of mine for the past two years. I happened upon some of his sermons and was greatly impressed. Then not long after, I was able to attend a regional conference hosted by his Desiring God ministry. At this conference I picked up some materials by him, mostly sermons. Since then I have read a couple of his books and have consistently been inspired, instructed, and influenced. With all this as a precursor to reading Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, one could see that this book would be favored by me as well. I was not disappointed. This book delivers in standard John Piper fashion. Although, the one critique I might have is that the book seems to be a compilation of articles put into book form rather than being written as a book from the start. Because of this it seems to have less cohesiveness from chapter to chapter. The overarching theme intended by the title is nevertheless prevalent.
A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry: is the subtitle of the book. Piper is pleading, challenging, exhorting pastors to look at the ministry God has placed them in as a mission. Pastoring is not a job, it is not counseling, or public speaking, or any type of activity that can be placed on a list of occupations or competencies. Reading from chapter one I was struck with the thought that much of what is in this book could and should apply to all Christians, not just pastors. Here is a quote, and if I insert the word Christian in place of pastor does it not also apply?
“There is an infinite difference between the pastor whose heart is set on being a professional and the pastor whose heart is set on being the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of death to some and eternal life to others.”
Certainly pastors have a high calling and a responsibility to their congregations and before God. Yet, all Christians should strive to be the aroma of Christ.
“The aroma of Christ”, I love the vivid and engaging language that Piper uses throughout the book. Here are a few examples:
“God’s love for the glory of His own name is the spring of free grace and the rock of our security.”
“The gospel is not a help-wanted ad. It is a help-available ad.”
“For most of us the voice of self-reliance is ten times louder than the bell that tolls for the hours of prayer.”
“God increases our yield so that by giving we can prove that our yield is not our God.”
One chapter that I need to re-read and study further was titled “Brothers, Save The Saints”. Having long been a believer in the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, these ideas and others that I have heard or read recently, have encouraged me to study this doctrine further. Not that my belief has changed regarding the doctrine, but that there is clearly more to it than I have had the opportunity to study.
The chapter titled “Brothers, Let The River Run Deep” was very helpful for me. Piper discusses the issue expressing emotions and uses Lamentations as the backdrop for the lesson. Lamentations, Piper points out, it deeply emotional and at the same time profoundly formal. The number of stanzas and lines could not hinder the pouring of the emotions but gave them form. Piper uses the analogy of a river to say, “Emotions are like a river flowing out of one’s heart. Form is like the riverbanks. Without them the river runs shallow and dissipates on the plain. But banks make the river run deep. Why else have humans for centuries reached for poetry when we have deep affections to express?”
The book will hold a valuable place in my library and is sure to visited over and over. I look forward to gaining fresh insights from it for many years to come.