Inspired by John Piper

I’ve admired John Piper for some time now.  I was introduced to him back in college in the form of his book, Desiring God.  It was required reading for a class I was taking, and I devoured it.  In it, Piper gave me permission to enjoy God and enjoy my faith-journey with Him.  This was a breath of fresh air for someone like me who had been raised in a very legalistic church where enjoyment of anything was suspect at best.

I am now in my 15th year of full-time church ministry, and John Piper has been one of my closest ministry companions over the years.  His constant outpouring of books, sermons, articles, and blog entries have been a part of my ministry diet since the beginning.  When I hear him preach, I’m inspired to be a better preacher, and when I read his writings, I’m inspired to be a deeper thinker.  His passion for the glory of God is contagious…but its taken its toll on him.

According to The Christian Post, Piper announced last Sunday to his congregation at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis that he will be taking his first-ever break from ministry to “reexamine his soul”.  He apologized to his congregation for not a specific deed but for the “sins of my own soul,” “ongoing character flaws” and stresses that they have caused to others.

He admitted to several species of pride that “may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, but I grieve over them.”

This will be the first time in his 30 years of preaching that he will take an extended leave of absence.  For the next eight months, Piper’s public life of preaching, writing, and speaking nationally will go silent.  “I’m letting go of all of it,” he said.  This means no preaching, no book writing, no blogging, no tweeting, no articles, no papers and no speaking engagements.

I have to admit that when I read about this, I was immediately stunned.  Not for him, but for me.  I think its safe to say that John Piper is a rock – not perfect but a serious and passionate follower of Christ.  If he needs to reexamine his soul, what does this mean for me?

Once again, John Piper has inspired me.  He’s inspired me to look deep inside of myself – to reexamine my soul – to see in what ways the sins of my soul, my ongoing character flaws, and the stresses I have caused others need to be brought under the Lord’s submission and repented of.  Seems highly likely that my Lenten period of reflection and examination needs to extend beyond Easter Sunday.

May the Lord minister deeply to my ministry companion during his time of fasting from ministry, and may the Lord minister deeply to me – and to all men and women who minister in His name – in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

The Best YouTube Videos Ever

Need a laugh?  Need 50 of them? In honor of YouTube’s 5th birthday this year,  Time.com just released YouTube’s 50 Best Videos complete with the story behind each one.  Funny how my two favorite YouTube videos were ranked #1 and #2 by Time.com as well!  I’ve included them below, and I’ve also included the link to Time’s list.  Beware, however.  You could end up wasting a lot of time working your way through the list!

#1: “Charlie Bit Me!”

#2: Evolution of Dance

Click here for the Time.com list.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMH0bHeiRNg&feature=player_embedded

Obama the Anti-Christ?

I’m not a huge fan of politicians.  My cynicism won’t let me root for anyone running for a big-time elected office because of the corruption and deception that it often takes to get there.  Therefore, I’m not a big fan of Barack Obama, but what I just read in the latest Harris Report is ridiculous.

2,320 adults were surveyed online between March 1 and 8, 2010 by Harris Interactive.  24% of Republicans polled believe that Obama may be the Anti-Christ and 22% believe he wants the terrorists to win.  Again, I’m not a big fan of politicians, and I’m certainly skeptical of anyone who is elected president, but this is over-the-top.

Call President Obama what you will, but I highly doubt that he wants the terrorists to win, and I just don’t think he’s sinister enough to be the Anti-Christ.  If Adolf Hitler wasn’t the Anti-Christ, then I just don’t think Barack Obama is either…although 38% of Republicans polled think he’s doing many things Hitler did.  Really?!

Sad.

Denzel Answers My Burning Question

Last Spring, my daughter, Jasmine, was invited to go to Washington D.C. to receive a large college scholarship.  She was one of 111 out of over 30,000 applicants to win.  It was a huge honor for her…and for us.  As she was preparing to go, she said that Denzel Washington was slated to be there to help honor the winning students.  That got me thinking.  I’ve always wanted to ask Denzel a question, and maybe this was my chance.

I’ve read more than once about Denzel’s strong faith in Jesus Christ.  Here’s a portion of an article from The Christian Post about his faith:

“I believe that Jesus is the Son of God,” he says. “I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit. I know it’s real. I was in the room. My cheeks blew up, I cried like a baby, and it scared me to death. It kind of scared me off it. I backed up and went the other direction, to be honest with you. I didn’t know what was going on. It was too strong. It has taken me many years to come back around.”

Sitting in his house recently, reading the Bible (he’s on his third time reading the whole thing straight through), Washington came across a passage about wisdom and understanding in Proverbs 4, which made him reflect on his life.

“I’m in this big house with all this stuff,” he observed. “I’ve heard that saying, ‘You never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.’ You can’t take it with you. The Egyptians tried; they got robbed. I said, ‘What do you want, Denzel?’ And one of the devotional words that day was wisdom. So I started praying on that. ‘God, give me a dose of that.’ I can’t get any more successful. But I can get better. I can learn to love more. I can learn to be more understanding. I can gain more wisdom.”

So, in light of his open confession of faith in Christ, I had one burning question for him:  “Why on earth did you take the sinister and vulgar lead role in the movie Training Day?”  He won an Oscar for his performance as an LAPD narcotics detective, but his character was so foul and so corrupt that I could hardly watch.  In light of his faith, I was shocked that he took the role…and shocked at how convincing he was.  Ever since watching the film in 2002, I’ve wondered what possessed him to play such a dark and vile character.

Well, two days into Jasmine’s trip, my cell phone rang.  Jasmine was on a bus headed to her next event.  She didn’t have much time to talk, but I could tell that she was excited.  She just couldn’t wait to tell me what had happened.  “I not only met Denzel,” she excitedly said, “but I also asked him your question!”

I was a bit taken back.  I was kidding when I told her that she should ask the question, and I wondered what Denzel thought having just met this 17 year-old girl and being asked such a confrontational question.  “Wow!” I replied.  “What did he say?”

She said that he looked her in the eyes and said, “That is a very good question!”  He proceeded to tell her that occasionally he will take roles that are dark and sinister as long as they portray evil as being truly evil (not glorified and not heroic), and as long as in the end, evil loses and good prevails.  He said that the original script of Training Day had his character surviving, but he told the director that the only way he would take the role is if his evil character dies in the end.  And if you saw the movie, you know that his character’s death was brutal and final.  Evil lost in the end.

I recently watched American Gangster, a movie in which Denzel plays yet another sinister character.  I was watching to see if he would stay true to this philosophy, and sure enough, he did.  His character didn’t die in the end, but he did go to prison for many years and then came out a changed man.

Hats off to Denzel.  His tactics may make some Christians a bit uncomfortable, but he’s a purposeful actor who is trying to make a difference in Hollywood.

A Lesson from Jews who “Reboot”

Observing Lent is a new thing for me (see “My Rookie Year of Observing Lent”), but the concept of observing the Sabbath is not.  I’ve been wrestling with how to make the Sabbath a day of rest, recreation, and spiritual focus for years now.  I’ve had some success in leading my family in this but am always looking for ways to enhance our Sabbath day experience.  I read an article today on cnn.com about how one group is attempting to enhance their Sabbath experience.

Reboot is a nonprofit organization aimed at reinventing the traditions and rituals of Judaism for today’s secular Jews.  This group is composed of Internet entrepreneurs, creators of award-winning television shows, community organizers and nonprofit leaders, several who say they have an addiction to their cell phones.

So, in order to reclaim the essence of the Sabbath in their lives, they pledged to observe 24 hours of freedom from their devices this past weekend – a National Day of Unplugging –  lasting from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

The day served as a launch for Reboot’s ongoing project, the Sabbath Manifesto, which consists of these 10 principles:

1. Avoid technology.

2. Connect with loved ones.

3. Nurture your health.

4. Get outside.

5. Avoid commerce.

6. Light candles.

7. Drink wine.

8. Eat bread.

9. Find silence.

10. Give back.

Not that I agree with the theology and practices of many who compose this group, and an obvious omission on this list is anything related to God and His Word…but this list seems to me to be a good starting point for Christians who want to reclaim the essence of the Sabbath as well.

What could be better than one day each week that begins with worship, consists of prayer, time with loved ones, and a period of silence (aka a nap), and then ends with candles, bread and wine?  Sounds like the kind of Sabbath I’d like to reclaim!