Archive for : January, 2015

Lost in the Puritan Woods with John Piper

wooden signpost in forest

Yesterday I watched a new video released by the Gospel Coalition with Piper, Carson, and Keller in which the three of them spoke about influential authors and who they would want their followers to read.  No surprise, the conversation was dominated by C.S. Lewis for Keller and Jonathan Edwards for John Piper.

Keller encourages younger people to appreciate the Puritans but to be careful not to “get lost in the Puritan forest.”  Keller jokes that these lost modern day Puritans begin starting sentences with “Me thinks.”  I was relieved to see John Piper laugh at Keller’s joke.   I was honestly afraid he might take it personally.

I’m grateful for Piper and the role he played at phases of my Christian journey.   His time in the Puritan Woods whittling sticks and hunting rabbits with Jonathan Edwards formed an old school Christian with a profoundly prophetic voice to a church suffering from historical amnesia and desperate to be culturally “relevant.”  As Piper says, today’s preachers lean towards being “chipper and fun and glib” and that they “don’t suffer from an abundance of earnestness.”   Yes, I know that preacher very well and Edwards may be good “corrective”, as he says, for this trend.  Sadly, though, its rarely the people who could use a good long stroll in the Puritan Woods that spend time there.

If Piper had a Spinal Tap amp he’d keep the intensity cranked to 11 almost all the time.  Even when he’s speaking softly he’s intense.  He oozes earnestness.  This is who John Piper is and without the earnestness we wouldn’t have the man.  The problem is when young men try to mimic John Piper.  Many of those who have followed Piper deep into the Puritan Woods have tried to reproduce that intensity and the result is that they are often more loud than deep.  They should seriously consider spending more time making sandcastles at the beach with Tim Keller and C.S. Lewis.

(note:  this post is a penitential lenten rewrite draft)


Kicking, Screaming, and Following Jesus

I find Jesus very easy to follow in theory.  Its when he wants to go somewhere specific that I start having problems.

December 2nd, 5am: I’m inexplicably unable to sleep and find myself reading “A Road to Daybreak” by Henri Nouwen.  He talks of God’s call on him to leave the intellectually stimulating environment as a professor at Harvard Divinity School to go and live in a community of disabled people.  He describes himself as going “kicking and screaming.”  The coffee and the unusual silence of our house help the words slow down a little.

December 2nd, 4pm:  We receive a phone call from the birthing center saying that the genetic test results for our expectant baby boy just came in and we needed to “come in immediately” to talk about the results.  We knew immediately that this means Downs Syndrome.

We have two beautiful daughters Ava (7) and Layla (6).  Layla came into the world without any observable trauma and yet an MRI when she was three showed damage on both sides of her brain.  She is considered intellectually disabled and speech impaired.  Her disability meant the end of our life in China, our home for the previous 11 years.  The cost and the blessing of Layla frame the news we receive.

In the movie The Green Berets John Wayne is a seasoned Colonel leading missions in the Vietnam war.  In a scene boarding an airplane preparing for a parachute mission John Wayne comments “Colonel Kai you haven’t said a word all night.”  “You know why?” interjects a third officer.  “He’s never jumped before.”   “Oh, first one’s easy” John Wayne responds.   “Its the second one that’s hard to get ’em to make.”

This is our second jump.  Our minds are a rush of resetting expectations.  The amount of diapers we will need to buy probably just tripled.  The decimal point on medical bills moves to the right.  I see a fork stuck in the hope that we will ever return to our globe trotting international life.

December 2nd, 8pm  we have tickets to Handle’s Messiah.  We keep our babysitting and our plans to go.  The tenor sings “Comfort ye my people…prepare ye the way of the Lord.”  This is getting a little too real.    I feel my soul kicking and screaming.   I sense that this is one of those points where my expectations that Jesus follow me are exposed and He puts the original offer back on the table.  “Follow me,” I hear Him say.