Tag Archive: john piper


this has been quite an eventful week.

WORLD VISION AND SAME SEX MARRIAGE

World Vision made a dramatic did-they-really-not-expect-the-reaction-it-got decision involving allowing employees to be in same-sex marriages.

the Evangelical response was strong with notable Christian speakers such as John Piper and Franklin Graham speaking out against the decision and many Christians apparently withdrawing support for World Vision and specifically for the children they support via World Vision.

a day or two later World Vision does a wibbly-wobbly and reverses their decision with president Rich Stearns answering some questions about the matter which included the fact that some of their staff had resigned because of stress:

We had a few in the past few days resigned partially because of stress. You can imagine some of the folks in our call center that our answering our 800 line. They’re receiving an earful of anger. I think we had a few people who couldn’t handle the stress and the anxiety created by the incoming calls.

the decision being reversed also had a dramatic impact on the organisation:

Within an hour of the reversal, the call volume dropped. The angry calls stopped and dropped to a much lower level. Some of the sponsors called back to reinstate their sponsorships.

The Twitterer was on fire with every well-known Christian writer/speaker/blogger having something to say including Rachel Held Evans:

I have never in my life been more angry at the Church or more embarrassed to be a Christian. It feels like a betrayal from every side.

ABORTION

meanwhile, on the other side of town, i posted a story from my friend, Irma, as part of the Taboo Topics section of my blog, on the topic of abortion, where there were special circumstances with both of the babies she lost and where she and her husband had wrestled with the decisions and ultimately she admitted that she still didn’t know if they did the right thing.

i am very much pro life and anti abortion, but when you read a story like Irma’s you realise how not black-and-white those issues can be when there are lives at risk and beyond the issue itself i was very interested to see how people, especially christians, would respond and for the most part there was a lot of love, grace and compassion on offer, but then also responses like this:

I don’t think that there is Any excuse for abortion. We have to suffer for our children and truly lay down our lives for them. those born normal and not. not just abort when the child doesn’t look normal or deformed. thats playing GOD. people died during child birth to give birth to babies that died , were sick and weren’t normal. no amount of justification will remove the fact that you took away a life. I don’t think God favors abortion, under any circumstance. He is a God of forgiveness, yes, but this is coming across as someone who just took things into their own hands and doesn’t have the faith that they speak so much about.

LET’S LET GOD BE GOD [as if we could stop Him!]

A couple of things to take note of:

# In Matthew 22 Jesus is asked what the most important thing is and His response is to love God with everything [heart, soul, strength, mind] and to love our neighbour as ourselves. [Later on He adds enemy to people we need to love and reminds us that His definition of ‘neighbour’ is everyone else in the world and particularly the person in need]

# In John 13 we read: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

# In James 1 we read two important things to take note of here: 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Tight reign of tongue and look after orphans and widows.

# In Matthew 25’s parable of the sheep and the goats, those who are sent to eternal punishment were not sent away because of their bad theology or because they failed to judge those who had messed up – they did not hit the mark because they ignored the hungry, naked, sick, thirsty, imprisoned etc.

There should be no doubt that our primary focus needs to be love. God is going to be doing the judging and each of us will stand in front of Him one day giving account of our lives and actions and maybe more importantly the times we failed to show love, compassion and grace, mercy and forgiveness.

Jesus has a lot of encounters with terribly sinful people and the ‘Go and sin no more’ of his encounter with the woman caught in sin is a reminder that He never takes their sin lightly or dismisses it. But we don’t see Him making the ‘horrible sinners’ feel bad and in fact He is accused of hanging around with the drunkards and prostitutes which means that they probably enjoyed being around Him and not because He made them feel bad i imagine. In fact the major time we see Jesus making people feel bad, it is the Pharisees and the Sadducees who held so strongly on to ‘the law’ and used it to place heavy burdens on those seeking God.

THE POINT

God is the judge – let Him judge.

We are called to hold people accountable yes, but let the phrase “Speak the Truth in Love” always be our guide and mentor.

And whatever we do, wherever we get it wrong, or are not sure, we HAVE to always get LOVE right. That is the highest call on us and we cannot get that one wrong. Love, compassion, grace, mercy, forgiveness, friendship, community… but always LOVE.

God will be God. [He’s pretty good at it!]

love

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2014 brett pool duncs

so today we fly back to americaland and i leave a changed man.

but maybe not in the way you would expect… i don’t feel like i have grown so much as i have regressed, but in a good way though. as in ‘returned to former state’ – or returning at least.

in some Christian senses i guess we have been living the dream – 19 months at the Simple Way [you know, the mecca of christian intentional community… will write something about that sometime], attending Wild Goose Festivals, CCDA conferences and involved in two non-profits… you know, changing the world. or something.

i was having lunch with my new mate Bill yesterday and i heard him say the words… he was talking about living an actively following Jesus life and really taking this stuff seriously and he threw in the line, “But of course you know all this, you’re living it”, which is great to hear of course, but my heart thudded a little bit when i heard it, because i feel i still have so far to go.

AMERICALAND: land of the free… king confused.

oh Africa, who looks jealously across the ocean at Americaland

land of hope, land of plenty

land of money and opportunity and adventure 

land of blockbuster movies and high speed internet and space tourism programs

and really bad mayonnaise. no seriously, i’m talking that stuff needs a new name cos that is NOT mayonnaise.

what the raiSIN-infested-custard were you thinking?

and i will be speaking in generalisations here so please don’t see it through a one-size-fits-all lens, and remember that Americaland is a huge country and our experience of it is largely Philadelphia and Oakland, and the church tribes we have encountered there and online…

but we have noticed that as advanced as Americaland is in many areas [and it is, or maybe developed is a better word because being more developed does not mean more advanced – i remember a glorious time when telephones were not able to be carried around with us and people at restaurants actually looked at and spoke to each other] there are some where it seems completely backward or in need of catchup. mayonnaise is one such area [throw all of yours out and start again] and another is banking systems [so much of backward in many areas of that] and public toilet doors [mind the gap!] and so on.

and your church. while there are incredible church congregations doing incredible things and while we have met some truly amazing and brilliant people and also been super privileged to find a congregation we enjoy being a part of in Re:Generation, your church as a whole [or in large pockets within the whole] feels very confused and in need of a bit of a shake up [and not because it’s not new or post-post-modern or ‘with it’ enough].

the church of Americaland has for a long time seen itself as the Saviour of the rest of the world in many ways – must. save. Africa. [wait, where is Africa? oh, there it is… must.save.Africa] but you seem to largely [remember the generalisations, if this is not you, let it go and move on] be taking your lead from the world and not from Scripture or the Holy Spirit [or the glorious combination of them both].

tolerance has become the big deal where the definition of tolerance has become ‘whatever you want to do or be is fine, anyone who tells you you cannot do or be what you are doing or being is intolerant and judgemental and Jesus who loved and embraced and welcomed all people is sad with those people for not just accepting everyone, however they choose to be. ‘

the church was always meant to be modeling the love of Jesus and the worship of God the Father and the power, love and discipline of the Holy Spirit to the world in a ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me’ kind of way which feels like it has been largely been replaced by a ‘this feels good’ or ‘this will keep people happy’ mentality which is just not evidenced all that much in the Bible.

there is also a strong sense of 1 Corinthians 1 dejavu going on…

12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Except that we have replaced Paul and Apollos and Cephas with John Piper and Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans and Shane Claiborne… being influenced by people is great [follow my example as i follow the example of Christ – 1 Corinthians 11] but when you start following people, that is when it gets dangerous and the cross of Christ starts to be emptied of its power.

church of Americaland – the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing… once our message starts to make sense and be completely acceptable to all those around us, we need to be checking if it is still the same message of God.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

and so, church of Americaland, there is so much good in you and so many passionate and committed people doing some incredible and amazingly creative things, but as a whole, you do seem quite confused and really in need of plugging back into your source and being led by Him. also it wouldn’t hurt for you to take some time in Africa [and beyond] just simply looking and listening and learning… you might be surprised at the work God has been doing there and what they might have to offer you.

REFUSE THIS THING

so for me, this trip has been so good, and two things stand out:

[1] connecting with people who are passionate about following Jesus – i have been leaning towards staying in Americaland for longer because i love the Re:Gen community we are part of and the opportunities to preach and work with young and older people there. God is doing some good stuff there and it has been great to be a part of it and i definitely feel like i have a lot to offer and hopefully learn from them… but it was one night in Hillbrow [my first, back in South Africa] that changed everything for me and reminded me how African my blood is. and i’m not so sure it was Hillbrow. it was spending time with Nigel Branken and his family, who in the messiest of ways, are trying to re-imagine their faith in Jesus and live where they feel He has called them, as well as meeting some other great people in that community that night. it was reconnecting with my buddy Rob and his wife Nicky who are in the midst of planting a church with some friends. it was breakfast with Bruce and Bex and hearing how they are wanting to have an impact in the community where they are. it was listening to my old youth mate Fezile and how he is wanting to create a program to clean up the township where he lives. and it was lunch with Bill, listening to how he is wrestling with really wanting to follow Jesus completely and how that feels like it looks so different from the regular Sunday church meeting he has been attending and how that affects finances and hospitality and work ethics and beyond. and it was sitting with a bunch of people over a meal discussing how we could give away the pot of money we had all contributed to, to meet the needs of other people we know. and more. conversations, people, ideas, passion for kingdom things and transformation of the world as we know it – seeing the kingdom come on earth and not waiting for the big escape from this messed up world

[2] getting hijacked with worship music – we had an amazing gift from an old youth friend Kerstin and her husband Carl in being gifted the use of their car which has been an incredible present to tbV and me while we have been here. but it took us a while to realise there was more than one cd in the car and until we did, there was this worship compilation that i would just play over and over and two songs in particular stood out for me, the one being by a guy called Ben Howard titled ‘I will be blessed’ [anyone who knows me well knows that that is a unlikely title for a song that would be liked by me] – just a completely haunting song that just overwhelmed me in some ways and the lyrics don’t do it justice at all without hearing it so head off to Uncl Google, but here is the chorus:

Oh hey heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go
Oh hey, heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go

but just the gift of worship and having it around me every time i have been in the car has been so great for me and an even bigger gift than the car itself. it feels like my very soul [the whoness of who i am] has been bathed in this river of just holiness and love and grace and brought me so much closer to God and helped me focus on Him. a reminder of Who and what this is all about.

i have a plane to go and get ready for although i feel like there is a whole lot more to say, but the focus of this post is that for me this trip has helped me to become a little more unsettled than i’ve been – hence the regression [which is usually seen as a negative thing but can also be describing something that returns to a former state] – one of the biggest dangers of life as a follower of Jesus is that we settle – with the way things are, with the routine of life, with the squeezing down of our passion and belief that God and His church can actually make a difference in the world and actually just kind of semi-give up and start to resemble everyone else, in a kind of boring and bland and grey kind of way…

that is NOT what we have been called to – we have been called to live and thrive and be agents of transformation in a world that is desperately in need of God… i am so glad this trip has rekindled some of the fire in me and so expectant [and nervous] about what lies ahead… we have been in Americaland for a reason – it has been both great and hard and amazing and difficult and frustrating and exhilarating and angrifying and more… but it has been good…

and i’m not sure what is next or how it looks or anything like that [we are committed to church and non-profit work til August] but i want to continue to fan into flame the things that God is starting to work in my life.

if you’re a praying person, i can definitely use a lot of that. we both can.

my nickname is FISH which stands for Faithful In Serving Him – i am definitely not worthy at all of carrying that as a description of who i am, but as a path i try to follow and live out and aim towards, that is something i hold strongly to.

i love Jesus. i love His church. and i believe that when the church starts being the church, every one of us, then the world will be completely turned upside down.

which, ironically, is right side up.

not their real faces

from this last week on The Daily Mash [and Peace!] blog i’d have to say Thursday’s John Piper tweet piece would be one to look at – Friday’s ‘Get your fax straight’ i published on this blog as well under a different title, and if you haven’t watched Wednesday’s Improv TED talk then that is very much worth it, as was Tuesday’s piece about the inspirational feet-paint-tree-creation-on-road-in-Hong-Kong bit… so i’d start with those and catch up on anything else you may have missed this week:

Monday was a collection of pictures which were more for appreciative head-nodding smiling than laugh out loudnessity but worth a look nonetheless – http://mashandpeace.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/monday-funday-episode-9-origin-of-the-saying-i-could-just-eat-you-up-kinda/

Tuesday was a collection of three news stories that caught my attention from the restaurant that was closed down cos it smelled too much of bacon to an inspirational project to create environmental awareness to freedom of speech curtailed – http://mashandpeace.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/tuesday-news-day-episode-9-news-of-bacon-of-street-feet-tree-painting-and-not-being-allowed-to-sing-about-god/

Wednesday contained an amazing and refreshing TED talk focusing on improv to look at the idea of a shared experience of absurdity –http://mashandpeace.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/wednesday-wed-day-episode-9-absurd-in-the-hand-is-worth-two/

Thursday was an in the moment [the blog changed as i read tweets during the writing of it] look at the John Piper tweet saga that had just broken and some related and important issues – http://mashandpeace.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/thursday-thirsty-episode-9-john-piper-and-the-three-little-pigs/

And then Friday continued by looking at the importance of context and hoax-checking before you pass on the latest piece of gossip the world needs to hear from you [and me] – http://mashandpeace.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/friday-my-day-episode-9-get-your-fax-straight/

In addition to all of this, here is a sneak peek of Brad Fish [from the hit show ‘Dangerous Things You Can Least Expect’] in his new educational show called ‘I can learn you a thing.’:

[to catch up with last Saturday’s round-up featuring Jack Bauer & the return of the Bluths, petrol pump kareoke, picking up your Bible and Passing it on, click here]

 

okay, this made my day [and it had a lot of work to do] but Donald Miller of Blue Like Jazz fame finally jumps on the bandwagon and offers his brief but frank review of the book ‘Love Wins’ – an absolute gem and will hopefully settle any controversy once and for all.

check it out here and pass it on.

i write a weekly email message called ‘Thort for the Week’ and i thort this week’s was an appropriate one to add here:

Dear friends

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” [James 3.9-12]

In light of the online Rob Bell ‘discussions’ that have been raging all over Facebook and Twitter and beyond this week, i would like to add a paraphrasing of this verse for modern times:

‘With our Facebook statuses/discussions we praise our Lord and Father, and with them we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same blog comes praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this can not be!’

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you have to guard your tongue, and your pen/typing finger. This passage from James really nails it on the head and is something a lot of Christ followers are needing to hear right now [all the way from John Piper – who publically tweeted his “Farewell Rob Bell” message linked to the Justin Taylor link on the upcoming Rob Bell book – to the average pleb, like myself, who loves to have his two cents aired on Facebook].

Are you honouring God by the way you speak?
Are you living like Jesus did in the way you write your statuses/blogs and comment on other peoples? In the way you engage with people online and off it?
This is crucial stuff because those outside of the church are watching – is the message they are receiving in line with “you will be known by the love you have for each other” [John 13.35]

Gossip, in general, is such a destructive force. But in the church it can be lethal. It is an area i know i am easily prone to and so i need to watch myself and i do sadly get it wrong a lot still, but hopefully am getting better. It is bad enough when you are sharing a story that is true. But lately i have witnessed people hearing a story that is not true and spreading it around their cell group or church which has resulted in a lot of people believing something that is actually a lie – which results in breakdown of relationship and judgement between them and the people the gossip was about. So at the very least we should ensure that the stories we are hearing and passing on are true. But there are a whole lot of stories that just don’t need to be passed on either way.

Gossip is usually about me. I gain acclaim and fame for sharing the story and so i feel good. And often others suffer because of it. So i really need to start holding my tongue and before sharing news/stories/situations of other people check my motives and ask what the purpose of sharing the story is – to build up or to break down? And then choosing to keep a lot more stuff to myself.

And as a community we need to really start shooting down gossip in love. When someone starts telling you a story about someone else and that person is not there and it is likely to be a negative thing, then jump in and say, “Excuse me, i don’t think it’s cool that i hear that if the person is not here” or something like that. The enemy uses this in a huge way to divide and conquer and we need to start getting on the offensive and fighting to protect those around us.

Consider your tongue this past week? Anything to confess or be ashamed of? Anyone you need to go and apologise to? Look to the week ahead and choose to speak life and love and unity.

In His strength
brett anderson

[if you would like to receive TFTW email brett at brettfish@hotmail.com with your email address and ask to be added]

i am completely over the whole rob bell public bashing, public defending, long back-and-forth status comments thing and so i am hoping this will be my last post on the matter, but i think this is a valid point [and the title which i thort of as i came in here to write is pretty relevant as well]

i recently read this comment at the end of another long rob bell – is he a universalist or isn’t he back-and-forth um… let’s be nice and say ‘conversation’ :

“Game set and match, Jonathan. Well put.”

and responded with this:

“see when you start using “i won the tennis match” language it really emphasises the fact that for so many people this rob bell crap [cos let’s be honest] has become a lot less about standing up for God’s Truth and become a lot more about being right… or having the appearance of being right.”

and that is sadly what it feels like it has become for a lot of people – whereas, right or wrong, the bible is very strong about the fact that Rob Bell is our neighbour and our response needs to be that of love, and 1 Corinthians 13 lists a whole bunch of amazing things we can do and achieve but if there is no love, it means nothing, it achieves nothing, it counts for nothing.

and something about us being the clanging bell… a lot of noise, but no point.

yes, if his theology is publically bad it does need to be dealt with (publically i think, the Matthew passage about ‘if your brother sins against you’ doesn’t apply here because it is not a brother sinning against you – note how Jesus responds publically to bad theology a lot) but it does need to be done in love and the end point hope is that he will always be restored…

i’m not sure how much of that is evident in “Farewell Rob Bell” and various other sentiments that have been expressed this last week.

how bout we all just wait til we can read the book now? [excepting for those of you who are running away completely from the book because, um i can’t remember why, but something]

years ago a book called ‘Velvet Elvis’ came out by this new kid on the block, rob bell, and everyone was reading it and telling me it was the greatest book ever and blah blah blah… i eventually got hold of it [was going thru my phase of taking my time to rush to trending books] and read it and didn’t particularly dig it all that much – it was ok and there were some moments but it didn’t really grab me…

then i heard Rob Bell was quite closely linked to brian mclaren and i read one of his books and didn’t dig it much at all and heard some stuff about him and his views on hell and some other stuff and really didn’t like what i heard and so kinda wrote him off a bit and included mister bell in that…

but then i saw a Nooma video or two and i got hold of his follow up book ‘Sex God’ which i really did enjoy and especially the chapter on women and submission [which i still hold today is one of the best explanations and understandings of it and my beautiful wife Val who was totally unamped with that bit in the Bible really dug what rob bell had to say and ‘got’ it a lot more] and i watched two of his movie preaches – ‘The Gods aren’t angry’ and ‘Everything is Spiritual’ and really enjoyed those and so gradually i have become a lot more open to rob bell’s stuff and enjoy a lot of what he has to say.

so i woke up this morning to find that he is trending and for all the wrong reasons. he has a new book coming out [note not out yet, so yes people are writing hardcore opinions about a book they for the most part haven’t read!] called ‘Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived’ and it comes with a promotional video which you can watch here which seems to be gathering a storm of controversiality and comment from christians the world over [slash americaland]

i haven’t read the book yet [as haven’t most of the people who are making definitive statements on why the book is so evil] but i enjnoyed the video and completely get why it would make people concerned about what Rob might say in the book, but still read the book before making definitive statements. Apparently John Piper’s response was a ‘Farewell Rob Bell’ Tweet with a link to the article, whereas Josh Harris [well-known author of “I kissed reading books before i commented on them goodbye”] also had some words to say [for some reason the link is not working or loading on my computer but try http://www.joshharris.com and see if it works for you]

another quite negative review is by a guy called Justin Taylor (no, not our Justin Taylor) which you can read here

and then finally i found a more positive review from someone who had actually read the book [as a book seller they got an advance copy] and their thorts you can find here.

i think the bottom line is that sometimes being well-meaning is not enuff – i remember a few years ago when a pastor in the eastern cape sent emails to a bunch of people warning them about some local pastors who had read and preached positive stuff about ‘the Shack’ another controversial’ish book that had come out – turns out he had not read it either but was a self-proclaimed expert on its content [which, having read the book and then his email rant i can tell he was completely not except perhaps in the area of missing-the-pointness]

so what is the bottom line? looks like rob bell got some great advertising for his new book and it’s something i will definitely look out for – but the bottom line is a little gem hidden in thessalonians which reminds us to ‘test the spirits. hold on to the good. avoid every kind of evil’ [1 thessalonians 5.21] – whether it’s rob bell or me or your pastor or the book you’re reading or sermon you’re downloading, we are urged to test what it says against the bible and if it holds up, the embrace it and if it doesn’t, then discard it… do the same with this one… but the whole public rob-bashing that is going on [in the name of love, hm] may be just another example of christians publically slating christians while non-christians are sitting back and watching and asking, “so you’re wanting us to join this party?”

go team.

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