John Piper on Why We Should Care about the Issues Surrounding Ferguson, MO

It is a  BLOOD-OF-JESUS  Issue

Michael Brown's body being examined by police

Michael Brown’s body being examined by police

As a pastor committed to racial-reconciliation, justice, compassion, the cross of Christ and the gospel, it is CRAZY that the title of this post is even necessary. Unfortunately, such is the state of thinking about the gospel in the American church. There is ahole in our gospelas one writer has put it. We are too narrowly focused on salvation issues and not focused enough on the gospel implications of what it means to be saved “for good works” (Eph. 2:10).

For nearly 20 years, I was the pastor of an intentionally-planted, multi-ethnic church that at the end of that 20 year run celebrated a congregation composed of saints from 23 countries of birth. It was glorious. It wasn’t perfect but it was at least a grainy (and colorful) picture of what heaven will be when all the saints down through the ages gather around the throne of the Spotless Lamb of God. You can read about that church if you are interested, in book edited by John Fuder and Noel Castellanos titled A Heart for the Community (Moody Press, 2009). My chapter is labeled “Becoming a Multi-Ethnic Suburban Church.”

So it is with a mixture of delight and sadness that I post this brief offering from Kairos Journal cited from Dr. John Piper’s brilliant book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Nashville, 2002). It is timeless and helpful for the church as we mourn and seek to make a difference in our world so that the events in Ferguson, MO becomes a thing of the past.

A Blood-of-Jesus Issue—John Piper (1946 – )

John Piper is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. By any measure, he is also one of the most widely regarded Christian leaders in America. Ministering in downtown Minneapolis, Piper has been forced to think deeply and profoundly about racial prejudice. His words to fellow pastors are a stirring—even jarring—call to both repentance and action.

The issue of racial prejudice and snubbing and suspicion and mistreatment is not a social issue; it is a blood-of-Jesus issue. When you get the conviction and the courage to say something about it to your people, tell them you are not becoming a social-gospeler but a lover of the blood-bought blessings of the cross of Christ. . . .

[Revelation 5:9-10] is a glimpse into the purposes of God in the death of His Son, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ:

 “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You [referring to the slain and risen Lamb of God] to take the book [that is, the book of history in the last days] and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (NASB).

Police Chief of Ferguson Police Department

Police Chief of Ferguson Police Department

The implications here for racial and ethnic harmony in the church are staggering when you let it sink in. The price of God’s securing ethnic diversity in the “priesthood,” and the “kingdom” is the death of His Son. The design of the atonement is racial diversity in the company of the redeemed. Applying and pursuing this is not merely a “social issue.” It is a blood-of-Jesus issue. That is what it cost. And that is how important it is.

Not only that, we can up the ante even more. Notice that in Revelation 5:9 this diversity was purchased “for God.” “You . . . purchased for God . . . men from every tribe”(NASB). The issue is not only a blood-of-Jesus issue, it is a glory-of-God issue. Blood-bought racial diversity and harmony is for the glory of God through Christ. It is all aiming at the all-satisfying, everlasting, God-centered, Christ-exalting experience of many-colored worship.

If the pursuit of ethnic diversity and harmony in the company of the redeemed cost the Father and the Son such a price, should we expect that it will cost us nothing? Or that it will be easy? No, the devil, who hates the glory of God and despises the aims of the cross, will not relent without a fierce battle.

Police Standing Watch in Ferguson MO

Police Standing Watch in Ferguson MO

To join God in pursuing racial diversity and racial harmony will be costly for you and your church—so costly that many will try it for a while and then give up and walk away from the effort to easier things.

But some will persevere and be found doing their duty when the Master comes. Be among that number, brothers. There is an old African-American prayer chant that calls us to “a mighty long journey.”

It’s a mighty long journey,
But I’m on my way;
It’s a mighty long journey,
But I’m on my way.

That’s where we are in the American church—on a journey toward the perfect experience of Revelation 5:9-10. And we want as much of it now as we can, don’t we? So the world will see the glory of God and the worth of Christ. So, brothers, read and study and pray and preach and take the risks necessary to sever the root of racism.1

Footnote:

1 John Piper, “Brothers, Sever the Root of Racism,” in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2002), 197-209. Brackets and ellipses in Scripture quotations are Piper’s.

Finding Someone to Talk to

Wednesday is for Prayer

“A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985.”

—Shanker Vedantam, in a Washington Post article titled,
“Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says” (June 23, 2006)
cited in Living the Lord’s Supper, chapter 1.

Desperation Picture, Created by Brandon

Desperation Picture, Created by Brandon

It is ironic in the extreme that in a world where we are instantly “connected” to thousands we feel more alone than ever before.

Smart phones, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, e-mail, texting capability, all manner of electronic wizardry, and yet the isolation of the typical American seems to deepen with every passing day. News reports from plethora of outlets, [anyone to fit any prejudice a person may have], bombards us with images and “story lines” and “facts” and “conclusions” and “summaries” at such blinding speed that we have no time to process the validity of any narrative.

No one stops and waits on the biblical proverb, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17)  We rush to judgment and then suffer the consequences. Convinced that only our perspective is accurate, we judge everyone else’s motives impure. I’ve done it. And so have you. And the result is that we lose connection. We lose the very thing we need to keep us from sinking into an oblivion of isolation from one another. 

Every pastor has the experience every week. A man or a woman calls. Overwhelmed by life. The details change but the story is the same. Life is hard and they are lost, befuddled, confused, fearful. The hurt has caused them to wake up for just a moment and realize how desperate their situation is, how ill-equipped they are to deal with it, and as they evaluate their resources and find no one to talk to, no one to bear the burden of life with, no one to help them navigate through the swamp of this sometimes wonderful and sometimes bewildering thing called life.

So they call.

And we listen.
And we pray.
And we marshal the resources we have to help them.
And we seek to be Jesus to them.
And we seek to show them and introduce them to others who will be Jesus to them.
And we pray with them again.
And we point them to Jesus.
And we point them to passages in their Bible.
And we encourage them to trust.
And we check up on them.
And we are always stunned.

Stunned that they have no one to talk to.

And so, we talk to them.
And we talk to Jesus for them and about them.

And we know that they need exactly what we are giving.
And that they are hard of hearing.

And all we are trying to do is pump hope into them like we are the billows and they are a dying fire.

Oh God, give your people patience and compassion and emotional stamina to love people until they know that it is not us but you that loves them more than they can imagine. Give them yourself to talk to, and lift, and encourage, and empower them. Help us to carry them to you so that you can heal the hurts this world inflicts. Would you use us in this way? Would you, for the glory of your name put your love on display through us? In Jesus name I ask it. Amen.

Ebola and Links to Inspire, Provoke, Inflame, Encourage and Instruct

Weekend Links

Read and grow but pray for the nation that seems to be coming apart with irresponsible actions by many in authority from Washington D.C. to Ferguson, MO, to Los Angeles, CA.  Pray for peace. Pray that fear dissipates and love predominates.

fallharvestBetter Engagement with Ministry

7 Ways to Kill a Prayer Meeting  (Tim Challies—very helpful.)
Author Suggests 9 Reasons We Can be Certain Christians Won’t be Raptured Before the Tribulation  (Some things to think about.)
13 Differences between American Christians and Biblical Christianity,  Joseph Mattera
How Should Christians Respond to Ann Coulter’s Article on the Ebola Doctor? (Gospel Coalition–beyond the fact that Ann Coulter delights to tweak people, she misunderstands the gospel.)
What We Learn from Nude Reality TV  (This is an important and reflective article for our time. An intelligent push back against the prevailing shamelessness of the public intoxication with nudity.)

The Fundamental Flaw in Courtship  (Good article on the mostly modern phenomenon related to courtship and dating.)
Matt Walsh on the Tragedy of Robin Williams Suicide  (I would change the title. Matt has already received his share of criticism by people who only read the title. But this is more helpful to the survivors of suicide, the ones left behind then almost anything else you might read out there right now.)

The Church and the its Exile from Public Culture  (Carl Trueman with an important article for all Christian leaders as we seek to prepare our people to live in exile.)
Carl Trueman’s Total Surrender (For an alternative view of what is going on in our culture and Christianity, there is this from American Vision writer, Dr. Joel McDurmon)

When God Messes with Your Life Plan  (Stephen Altrogge–A good reminder of who is really in control)
Lies Young Women Believe: Struggling with Same Sex Attraction  (Good article offering hope.)

Better Engagement with Politics and Culture

Hamas was Building Tunnels to Attack Schools in Israel
Keep Politics out of Our Pulpits  (Scary things being planned by politicians.)
Iraq … It’s Personal  (Very helpful. Wondering how to think, where to get accurate information, what to do?)
Science Explains Exactly How Your Phone is Ruining Your Relationships  (Is there anyone, ANYONE, who owns a “smart-phone” who couldn’t benefit from this article?)

For Health, Fun and Recreation

GoPro Camera  (Go anywhere camera and video)

Lamenting a Friend I Never Knew

chosenrebel:

Good article holding the hope of the gospel out for Robin Williams.

Originally posted on unfinished1:

good-morning-vietnam-robin-williams-693139754“Robin Williams attended City Church in fall of 2006 when I was preaching through the Apostle’s Creed. He confessed the faith of the church and shuffled up for communion with everybody else needing grace. He was always kind to those around him. I know from other friends of his in the Bay Area what a generous, humble, and charitable man he was and his death saddens me greatly today. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Fred Harrell, Sr. Pastor, City Church San Francisco

Robin Williams’ death has rocked me. Yes, I’m a Christ-follower and minister, and in God’s story, no one person is greater or better than the next. He was addicted to alcohol – I know this too. And I already know that suicide is not only an act of desperation, but also one of selfishness.

All this is true, and more. But for some…

View original 356 more words

Information Gluttons

Friday is for Heart Songs

Stacks of booksThe tendency in our time, perhaps all times, is that Christians who are supposed to be learners, “disciples” we call ourselves,

become enamoured of study,
intoxicated with knowledge,
saturated with more and more information

and yet we apply little.

We are educated beyond our application, walking contradictions of what it means to be a disciple for a disciple is one who is learning to become like the One he follows.

James, inspired by the Spirit of God wrote about this problem in his day, exhorting his readers . . .

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

—James 1:22-25 (ESV)

Unfortunately, “We become intellectually gluttonous and spiritually sterile.” (Michael Wilkins, Following the Master, 20.

Do you want to avoid a spiritually sterile life?
Do you want to avoid the delusion that James speaks of?

Solution:

  • Don’t study the word less. Study it more.
  • Avoid reading anything merely to know more
  • Apply every command you find in the New Testament (every one)
  • Remember, he who does these simple things, “he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25)

Wonder in the Word of God

Friday is for Studying the Word

“Pore over it again and again, for everything is contained in it; look into it, grow old and gray over it, and do not depart from it, for there is no better pursuit for you than this.”

—Mishnah, Pirke Avot 5:27

It’s not the word of God, but this brief quote on the value of studying the word of God from the Mishnah is great advice. Heed it for a better life. Pore over the word of God every day of your life. No time poring over the Word of the Living God is ever wasted.

Less Even than My Enemies Thought I Was

Wednesday is for Prayer (Soul searching at 3:32 AM)

Van Gogh wheat field under a forboding sky

Van Gogh wheat field under a foreboding sky

Psalm 8:9

O LORD, our LORD
How Majestic is your name in all the earth!

Your name     is holy

.                       is mighty
.                       is above all names
.                       is powerful
.                       is majestic

Let my name decrease
Let all who                         knew me and all who
.                                            know me and all who
think they                           know me, forget me

Let the record not record me
Let me slide into obscurity
Let me become      less than I ever was
.                                less even than my enemies ever thought I was
Let my grave be unmarked
Let my writings be unread
Let my recordings be unheard
Let my image be unseen
Let the road forget I passed
.           and even my shadow be removed

if only your name would be seen
and your way revealed
and your love displayed as majestic in all the earth!
For you must increase, and I must decrease.
And my soul needs to be reminded of that fact
Everyday.

——-

“O Lord of the Majestic Name, make my heart desire this above all its idols. Make me like John the Baptist. Give me one holy passion.”

Go to Psalm 9

“Either this is not the Gospel, or we are not Christians.”

Tuesday is for Thinking

To those who think the Bible makes no difference: a note from history.

Thomas Linacre (1460-1524)

Thomas Linacre (1460-1524)

Thomas Linacre (pronounced, “Lynaker”) was a British humanist and physician. During his own time, he was known more for his fluency in Latin and Greek than he was for anything else. Having studied Greek in Italy, he brought a scholars diligence to the task of translation of classical works, especially works bearing on medicine. But he was after all a physician with patients such as Erasmus and Cardinal Wolsey, the Archbishop William Warham and even the King of England.

Part of his lasting legacy came as a result of his outrage over barbers, clergyman, and even butchers practicing medicine without any training. He was instrumental in starting the Royal College of Physicians which continues today and raised a higher standard for medical practice. 

At the age of 60, Linacre left medical practice altogether and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest. He was only to live four more years but note well his dates, (c. 1460–1524). Think about what was happening during his lifetime.

  • Guttenberg Printing Press  (AD 1439)
  • Printing Revolution is full swing by AD 1480.  “[In 1480] There were printers active in 110 different places in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, England, Bohemia and Poland.” (Wikipedia)
  • “Discovery of the new world” (Columbus, “sailed the Ocean blue in 1492″)
  • Luther posts 95 Thesis (AD 1517)

His last four years, are at the knife edge of the Protestant Reformation. And because of his retirement from medicine, because of the advancement of the printing revolution, because of posting of Luther’s 95 thesis and the “discovery of the new world”, the whole continent is abuzz with excitement and upheaval. 

In this context, Linacre begins to study recently discovered copies of the Greek New Testament. He is a scholar. He was Erasmus’ tutor. He is fluent and known as a Greek master and now, near the end of his life, he reads for the first time, not the rituals of the Mass, not the ecclesial letters of his bishop or Pope. He reads the Gospels for the first time.

What does he think of them?
How does it affect him?
What conclusions does he draw?

He is shocked by what he reads concluding,

“Either this is not the Gospel, or we are not Christians.”

Such is the power of THE BOOK.

It cuts through all of the encrustments of culture and time and penetrates the heart.

Christian:  Read your Bible. Read it often. Read it thoughtfully. Read it when you don’t want to. Read it and let it change you.
Sceptic: Pick up a Bible and read with the eyes of a learner. Perhaps you too will join the happy band who know it to be the Word of the Living God.

Be Careful People, of Your Heroes

Monday is for Discussion

Gone too soon.

Gone too soon.

Be careful people, of your heroes.
For only One is perfect.
Role models and teachers, 
We may elect
Those who inspire 
and those we admire.
But there is One, only One
Who will never leave
Never reveal a single defect
Be careful people, for all your heroes.

On the occasion of Robin Williams death and loss of a comedic genius.

Good bye Robin. We can only hope that you found peace.