by John Piper
As far as any eye could see
There was no green. But every tree
Was cinder black, and all the ground
Was grey with ash. The only sound
Was arid wind, like spirits' ghosts,
Now gasping for some living hosts
In which to dwell, as in the days
Of evil men, before the blaze
Of unimaginable fire
Had made the earth a flaming pyre
For God's omnipotent display
Of holy rage. The dreadful Day
Of God had come. The moon had turned
To blood. The sun no longer burned
Above, but, blazing with desire,
Had flowed into a lake of fire.
The seas and oceans were no more,
And in their place a desert floor
Fell deep to meet the brazen skies,
And silence conquered distant cries.
The Lord stood still above the air.
His mighty arms were moist and bare.
They hung, as weary, by his side
Until the human blood had dried
Upon the sword in his right hand.
He stared across the blackened land
That he had made, and where he died.
His lips were tight, and deep inside,
The mystery of sovereign will
Gave leave, and it began to spill
In tears upon his bloody sword
For one last time.
And then the Lord
Wiped every tear away and turned
To see his bride. Her heart had yearned
Four thousand years for this: His face
Shone like the sun, and every trace
Of wrath was gone. And in her bliss
She heard the Master say, "Watch this:
Come forth all goodness from the ground,
Come forth and let the earth redound
With joy." And as he spoke, the throne
Of God came down to earth and shone
Like golden crystal full of light,
And banished once for all the night.
And from the throne a stream began
To flow and laugh, and as it ran,
It made a river and a lake,
And everywhere it flowed a wake
Of grass broke on the banks and spread
Like resurrection from the dead.
And in the twinkling of an eye
The saints descended from the sky.
And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life, I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream-
Almost-and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye.
I knelt to drink,
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.
A big man running on the lawn:
That's old John Younge with both legs on.
And there's old Beryl, and Arnold too,
Still holding hands beneath the blue
And crystal sky: No stoop, they stand
Erect. No tremor in their hand.
The blind can see a bird on wing,
The dumb can lift his voice and sing.
The diabetic eats at will,
The coronary runs uphill.
The lame can walk, the deaf can hear,
The cancer-ridden bone is clear.
Arthritic joints are lithe and free,
And every pain has ceased to be.
And every sorrow deep within,
And every trace of lingering sin
Is gone. And all that's left is joy,
And endless ages to employ
The mind and heart to understand
And love the sovereign Lord who planned
That it should take eternity
To lavish all his grace on me.
O God of wonder, God of might,
Grant us some elevated sight,
Of endless days. And let us see
The joy of what is yet to be.
And may your future make us free,
And guard us by the hope that we,
Within the light of candle three,
Your glory will forever see.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
At times, the pain and evil and sadness and brokenness of this world are so evident and so acute that it seems overwhelming. Can we take news of another tragedy? Is there strength to support those loaded down with grief? Will this insanity ever end? Things are not the way they are supposed to be. And so we cry out, "Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly! Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven."
And for those with eyes to see, there are moments of beauty and heroism and sacrifice and intimacy and near perfection that leaves us breathless and longing for more. We see things that give us hope that sin and death do not have the last word. These are foretastes of the answer to our prayers and the longings of our hearts. These are glimpses of the coming day when Heaven and Earth will be one and the Lord Jesus will set everything to right.
I thought about these foretastes when I read this article of "The Lion Whisperer."
The Scriptures give us so many promises to sink our teeth into: The Prince of Peace will one day usher in His Kingdom of Peace in all its fullness. There will be no more harm or killing, no more tears and longing for something else. Only ever-deepening and ever-increasing joy as we live together on God's green earth exploring God's great universe and enjoying creation, each other, and our Creator just the way things are supposed to be.
Our hope is not to escape this world and live as detatched, disembodied entities. God's design is to spread His blessings wherever there is curse. As the hymnist has put it, Jesus has come to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found...
Reconiliation. Redemption. Renewal. Regeneration. Reinvigoration.
...far as the curse is found...
Restoration. Rescue. Recovery. Release. Rejuvenation.
...far as, far as the curse is found....
Replenishment. Rekindling. Repair. Replinishment. Rebirth.
And it all begins with the announcement of the Gospel of the Kingdom: the Lord of Creation took on flesh and lived the life that we should have lived, and died the death we brought upon this world, and He is now risen! Death could not hold Him!
When the Lord Jesus announced that the Kingdom was at hand at the beginning of His ministry, He was saying that "I have come to heal the world." Reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to every creature under heaven. The announcement of Good News is to be taken to every corner of this world. And this same Good News tells us that the Return of the King will usher in the full healing of this sin-cursed creation. The wine will flow fully, the healing of the nations will occur, and the increase of His reign and our joy will know no end.
And that is the way things are supposed to be.
Addendum: Heather--ever the animal & especially the feline lover--says that she wants a white tiger in the New Heavens & Earth. "They're just big kitties," she insists. "And I want one to bury my face in its fur."
Thursday, June 21, 2007
No, not us!!! Our friends and fellow missionaries with Peru Mission, Allen & Sandi (and Abigail and Adeline), have had their new baby. Her name is Mary Allen. You can see the new arrival on their blog.
Congrats to the Smiths, and praise the Lord for another covenant kid! (How many does that make now on our team? Oh, I can't keep track!)
Doug Wilson has some interesting thoughts on parish life. He writes,
"The church is not the parish, and the parish is not the church. At the same time, the church thrives at the center of the parish, informing and discipling those who live their lives in the parish. Life in the church involves word andsacraments while life in the parish involves auto mechanics, farming, retail shops, schools, along with all the other stuff men and women do.
"But the denominational system, as it has developed in America, has greatly undermined our capacity even to think in terms of parish, which in turn means that we have lost even the concept of true community. The closest approximation we have of it is found in good churches where the members of the congregation worship together, love each other, and share the occasional potluck. This is good as far as it goes, but it must be acknowledged in all honesty that it does not go very far. We have truncated our churches, and have detached them from the soil."
Healthy parish life is one of the things that Peru Mission is aiming for in our churches. Wherever Jesus plants His church, He claims that parish for Himself and commissions His church to announce the Gospel of His Kingdom which brings about renewal and redemption of not just individuals, but communities and institutions as well. Check out our philosophy of ministry to capture an idea of what we want to accomplish here with our parish churches.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
We had our first small group meeting this morning to discuss the book, "La Santidad de Dios" ["The Holiness of God"], and what the Bible has to say about this topic. I'm very encouraged with our students. We met in a cafeteria on the campus of the National University of Trujillo for about an hour and forty-five minutes. They all asked great questions and had very good comments. We continued to talk on our way out of the university as well. I think all of them are excited about this study and grateful for this oppurtunity. I am very encouraged and amazed at this group of jovenes/ young people that God has formed. And I still can't believe that I'm doing this in Spanish. Who would've thunkit?
Please keep these folks in mind and in your prayers over the coming weeks and months. I expect God to teach us some great things and to change lives. Who knows what God will do with this study and with and through these young people? I certainly don't, but I think its going to be very exciting. Thanks for making it possible.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
When I was a college student, I read through one of the most influential books in my life. It was a book called, "The Holiness of God," by RC Sproul. (If you haven't read it, stop everything right now and purchase this book on my recommendation!) God used this book at a very crucial time in my life when I was wrestling with what the Scriptures taught about God and His sovereignty. I don't remember how I came across it--probably my friend Wes Baker recommended it. Nevertheless, it was a very influential book in my life as I began to understand something of the holiness of God and the depths of my sin and the incredible grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and his absolutely necessary death on the cross to secure my standing before ths holy God.
This book is among those "Top 5 Books" I would take with me to a desert island.
I purchased some copies of the book in Spanish to eventually use in our ministry here among university students. I gave a copy to my conversation partner, Pablo, and we were going to read through it together and develop some questions for an eventual small group study. We were up on the campus talking about the book the other day when Estella, a new Christian and an old friend of Pablo's whom I had previously met, stopped by. I told her about this book that we were reading (in my broken spanish) and told her that I thought she would benefit from it very much. Pablo threw out the suggestion that she join us and be a guinea pig for us as we try to develop some questions. She was very enthusiastic.
Pablo and I thought about it some more and thought we'd invite Obal too (the student president of RUF here) and he gave us an enthusiastic response as well. I just received a phone call from Pablo and he said that he just invited two or three more folks to join us as well, so I guess this means that I have my first official small group study over one of my favorite books with a group of university students here in Trujillo, Peru.
What does this mean? Well, at the very least it means that we need your prayers. Pray that this book will have the same or even better effect on the lives of these students as it had on me. And I could use a few more regarding my language acquisition. I still have to use that Spanish dictionary far too much. Thanks! We'll keep you posted.
This past week, I had the privilege of preaching in our Friday night RUF meeting on passage from the Gospel of John where Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast at the wedding in Cana where he and his disciples and his mother had been present.
I opened with a reference about Murphy's Law and its somewhat humorous if not sarcastic view of the world like, "If it's too good to be true, then it probably is," or, "If something can go wrong, it will go wrong," or, "Things always go from bad to worse.
This wedding was definitely a case of something that could go wrong (running out of wine) actually going wrong (bringing shame upon the host) and things rapidly deteriorating. We might add another law to Murphy's catalog: "The wine always runs out" (with special thanks to Fred Harrell).
Mary tells Jesus that the wine has run out and he responds by saying, "Woman, what does that have to do with me. My *hour* has not yet come." I think Jesus was thinking about his own coming wedding day (Rev. 19) and what it will take for him to secure the wine that will never run out. The Bible speaks of the coming day when the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all people's, a banquet of aged wine (Isaiah 25), and of the coming day when the mountains will drip new wine and the hills will flow with it (Amos 9). Jesus speaks about his kingdom as a feast (Mt. 8, et. al).
Why do I think Jesus was thinking about this day? Well, he says somewhat abruptly that his hour had not yet come. In the Gospel of John, "hour" always signifies the coming death of Jesus. Jesus was thinking about what it would take to secure the wine that never runs out for His people on the Great Day of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
At any rate, I enjoyed teaching this passage to an audience of around 60 folks (including some of our SALI interns). I 'm still developing my thinking on the significance of Jesus having the jars filled with water that were used for jewish ceremonial washings. At the very least, Jesus is saying that the old ways of cleansing are being replaced by his way of cleansing. He secured the purity that sinful people need to stand in the presence of a holy God. What I'm still thinking through is the connection this has, if any, to wine being symbolic of his blood. Remember his words at the Last Supper: This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Peru Mission recently changed accounting firms so our address for sending in support has changed as well. Please send any support to the following address:
Christian Missionary Society
PO Box 53363
Knoxville, TN 37950-3363
You will be mailed a receipt promptly. If you have previously given to the ministry, you should have received a letter or you will receive on shortly telling you about this change. Thanks for your participation. We couldn't do it without you!
Some of our good friends from our home church and former students in our RUF ministy at Texas A&M are visiting us for a month. Actually, Brian & Janelle Franklin are on an extended short-term missions trip.
Brian is a Ph.D student in US history at Texas A&M, and Janelle just completed her Master's in Architecture from the same great university (though she is more likely to say "War Eagle" than "Gig'em Aggies," but we're working on her. Thankfully, our kids are oblivious to all things Auburn!--Don't tell Janelle I said that!)
Brian is working on various projects with our SALI language school, and Janelle is working on a church design for our Arevalo parish. They are both working on their Spanish, though Brian already knows a lot. He's practicing with my friend, Pablo, and Janelle is taking lessons from our Spanish tutor, Noemi. Probably their toughest task, though, is living with the Fergie's for a month. We're a loud bunch, but our kids are loving having them here.
Check out Brian's life and Janelle's too as they chronicle their experiences here. Also, check out Janelle's thesis project which was to design a church /clinic /school for Peru Mission.) They are a breath of fresh air to us and we are grateful for thier willingness to come alongside us and the mission for this month.
As some of you may or may not know, I celebrated another b-day several weeks ago. Yes, I know, it is hard to believe, but I hit the big 3-7. I'm certainly feeling my age a bit more these days. I think it must be something of the combination of living in a foreign country trying to learn a new language (the perpetual fatigue-headache is lessening!) and raising five covenant kids.
At any rate, my b-day didn't pass without a healthy dose of humility. I was up on the campus of the National University of Trujillo and was chatting with some students. One girl asked me how old I was, and I told her to guess. I braced myself to be flattered. That was a mistake.
She thought about it for a minute and said, "Cuarenta y cinco años" (45 years old). Trying to not to look too deflated, I said in an encouraging voice, "No,try again." She then said, "¡Cincuenta anos!" (50 years). What do you do in a situation like this? Slightly embarrassed, I said, "37." She said, "Oh! I thought you were older because of the little gray hairs on your chin." I nodded my head knowingly and thought its probably about time to start mourning the passing of my youth.
I told my wife about the incident and she encouraged me by saying that these gray hairs are evidence of wisdom and maturity. (That's why Heather is a great wife.) But it is getting harder and harder to pretend that I'm a recent college graduate, especially when twenty-somethings refer to me as a father figure. Oh well.
Here is a picture of a surprise birthday celebration (Peruvian style) that my friends in RUF gave me after one of the lectures on the campus (see the following blog entry).
Here I am with Isabel and Geraldo, Pablo, Calin, & Obal. They (read "Pablo") tried to play a trick on the Gringo by telling him that it was a tradition for the birthday person to take a bite out of the cake. I was immediately suspicious (after all, I wasn't born yesterday!), and I had seen a birthday celebration or two and had never seen this, but I'm on the spot with a bunch of folks looking at me so I thought, Sure, why not. I'll be the butt of a joke and do something crazy. So I opened my mouth and at that moment felt Pablo's hand conspicously on my neck. Then I knew what he was up to! Doesn't he know that in my old age that I am skilled in getting even?
Monday, June 18, 2007
We recently had a short-term missions team from Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church in Virginia visit us for a week. They worked with VBS in our church in Wichanzao all week. They had previously visited and helped our RUF ministry in Mexico City and campus minister, Peter Dishman. Peter in turn told them about our work here in Peru. They did a little research, made plans, and spent a week with us.
A highlight for me was being able to host Dr. Doughty of Christopher Newport University and The Jefferson Lab. With the help of our campus minister, Geraldo, and several of our key students (¡muchas gracias a todos los universitarios nuestros for su ayuda!), we were able to organize a series of lectures at the National University of Trujillo--the largest campus in Trujillo.
As a physics professor who works at the Jefferson Labs, he gave two lectures: (1) One lecture was on "The Search for Gluonic Excitations at Jefferson Lab" (for you science folks out there, it was quite impressive); (2) the other lecture was on "Cosmological Intelligent Design." Both lectures drew upwards of 75 or so students. We invited these students plus tons more through flyers to the final lecture on Friday.
Friday night at our university ministry, Dr. Doughty gave a final lecture entitled, "How a Physicist sees God." Here are some pics from this event:
We were glad to see many new faces out to our university ministry (even the chairman of the physics department showed up), and Dr. Doughty did a wonderful job of presenting the Gospel. His talk revolved around these three themes: God as an Artist; God as a Master Chess Player; and God as a Compassionate Perfectionist. Many thanks to Dr. Doughty & his entire team for their willingness to come and minister among us in our parish churches and with our university ministry. May God add His rich blessings to your labor!
Okay, after many frustrations and disappearing blog entries, etc., I have converted my template to see if this will help. Sorry for the absence of posts recently. I'll split the blame with the the host.
Hopefully with this change, the blogs and updates will be flowing a little more frequently. I'll try to update this blog with recent events and activities.