May 242013

John Piper needs to learn about “re-incarnation”.

Earlier this week when we were watching the unfolding tragedy in Oklahoma, Piper responded by tweeting out a verse from the book of Job.

It came across as insensitive and harsh…because it was.

It wasn’t intentionally so, but it was anyway.

If you don’t understand that in a tragedy people need comfort before doctrine, your words will not be heard above the weeping…and you are a poor theologian, indeed.

Steve Brown put it best many years ago when He said that God didn’t send us a book, He sent us His son…He didn’t just write us about suffering and death, He came to suffer and die with us and for us.

We call His coming “the Incarnation”.

“Re-incarnation” occurs when those who have His Spirit inside them come alongside those who are suffering and suffer with and for them.

The biblical response isn’t to offer some of the Book, it’s to offer some of yourself.

We are “ambassadors of Christ” and the message we carry from the King has never changed.

In a fallen world the greatest leap of faith is not to believe in God, but to believe that He is good and that He cares.

He is and He does…even when things are really, really, bad.

That’s what the weeping need to hear.

You may be the one to bring that message…you may be the “re-incarnation” of the One who came and suffered in person.

You may have to communicate without words to be heard.

When the time for weeping has passed, make sure they have a Bible.

Make your own application.

  58 Responses to “TGIF”

  1. Hello.

  2. I’ve never lost my home or loved ones in a disaster so I have to walk gingerly around this topic. I’ve lived through earthquakes that scared me to death but no personal damage. What I saw on TV after the last major quake was people helping people. The most caring people from all walks of life, even in the ghetto, were putting themselves at risk to help rescue people they didn’t know.
    Piper’s comment tells me he’s never had tragedy in his life. Even Job’s nearsighted friends sat silent with him for a week.

  3. Many would read the word “re-incarnation” and stop there to scream “blaspheme” and throw out every word that preceded.
    As simple minded as this may sound, this may well be one of the greatest what not to do lessons I’ve learned here as a lurker.

  4. ““Re-incarnation””

    I knew it! You’re EMERGENT!

  5. I’d suggest taking a tablespoon of your own medicine on here.

    Tragedy is often ongoing and not a singular moment event. It is weird how folks but some sort of time/date stamp on it.

    “Give it a couple of days!” before you tear the stuff to pieces.

    I’ve been mocked, maligned, torn apart here for years over my personal tragedy…and it’s allowed and sometimes even encouraged.

    I call bullspit. Human beings do what they do and you and the others are no different than Piper, but I’m sure that article will make you and some others feel more righteous.

  6. I think you just re-invented a word.

    If you’re talking about Steve Brown of Key Life I really like that guy. I met him once although it wasn’t him. huh?

  7. I haven’t been here long enough to know what you went through, believe, but I see the collateral damage and fallout continually on these blogs. Unless you suffered at the hand of PP …SHUT UP!!

  8. For example, if an Oklahoma tornado victim who had their family ripped away from them came on here, I’m sure you’d be very nice for the first couple of days.

    Then if they began questioning God and “groaning” because of the tragedy of life and expressed doubt and questioned and mocked and railed and got angry etc…I’m sure you’d tell them to read a book, moderate them, others would call them names, want them banned, scold them etc.

    Your b.s. is full of b.s. You write nice articles and appear more righteous than others sometimes and your followers feel good about themselves and consider themselves more righteous and not like the heathen or the evil ODM’s or the abusive pastors etc. I don’t think you are more righteous. I think you (and I) suck as much as anyone.

    I also think you have some good in you, as do my atheist friends and even CC guys.

  9. Gary said, “SHUT UP!!”

    LOL, right on cue.

  10. The Truth is like a sword, or so the bible says.

  11. “Piper’s comment tells me he’s never had tragedy in his life. Even Job’s nearsighted friends sat silent with him for a week”
    And those who don’t know that type of tragedy are as ill equiped to counsel as a man who knows nothing about racing being a crew chief on a top fuel car.
    Parts and people are hurt before you even clear the burnout box.
    … and Job’s counselers thought they were qualified after they sat through a threory class for a week…

  12. I was waiting tables at a Pregnancy Choices clinic fund raiser dinner and from behind me I heard a voice I recognized. I had never seen Steve Brown but I knew his baritone. Later I was running auction tickets and I saw one for “Steve Brown”. I found him and there was that unique baritone. I told him I really liked Key Life and he said he wasn’t that Steve Brown. That was so weird.

  13. OGIB instead of TGIF

  14. We went through a pretty dramatic flood here 3 years ago. My husband’s folks lost everything in their downstairs…the water was 5 feet high inside the house. Steve’s aunt also passed away the weekend of the flood…we had tried to call for two days and finally had to call the fire department to break into the house. She had died in her sleep on the couch…my husband and his brother had to clean out the room after the fire department took her body.

    That was a dramatic weekend. We spent the next few weeks literally shoveling debris from my in-laws place and cleaning out the aunt’s house.

    Still…in the midst of all that there was surprising laughter and hope and such a deep sense of community with those who were in the cleanup.

    Praying for OK for those connections and that laughter and community to blossom.

    I like the idea of being used by God as incarnation to those around us. Yes. So many are struggling and there are a multitude of opportunities to walk this out…

  15. Sarah,

    I was remembering that flood when I was writing this…

  16. The particular verse that Piper posted:
    ““Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead.”

    He had to know that was a terrible thing to post. Had to know. This man waits on tornadoes so that he can spout off some ignorant crap. Words from Scripture CAN be comforting. Those words are not.

  17. On Wednesday, I attended the memorial service of a 24 year old woman who was tragically killed in a car accident last week. I hadn’t seen her for several years, but knew her and her family for quite a few years before that. I remember her from her time in the youth group when she was always trying to make sure that everybody was always involved and nobody was left out. She regularly reached out to the new kids, the “unpopular” kids, and those sitting in a corner by themselves. And she did this with such an infectious joy. Many spoke of her at her service, and her acts of kindness and concern seemed to grow even more as she grew into adulthood. One of the things said about her was that while she may have been an “interesting” person, the main thing about her was that she was always “interested” in others. I don’t know how often she had the opportunity to deal with those in suffering and tragedy. But I do know that she regularly came along side people and met them where they were at and tended to their needs.
    She was teaching at a school in the Dominican Republic. She was just finishing dropping off kids at their homes after taking them out for a night of ice cream when her life was taken in the car accident. I will always have much more respect for her than those who may speak a good Christian game but are then callous to those in need. She will be greatly missed by many who knew her.

  18. KevinH,


  19. Kevin…I read your post about this woman and have been praying for her family. Sounds like she was an amazing young woman.

  20. I mentioned earlier in the week the blog post Piper made a year ago after similar deadly tornadoes hit the Midwest. It was cruel and insensitive.

    Michael writes here of what I have heard call “the ministry of presence” – I like and use the term as well. It is very significant in chaplaincy ministry where one is often the first responder (in the spiritual sense) to times of tragedy.

    But pastors would be wise to use it too. Just be there and hug, love, weep, and pray. Our presence indicates the presence of Christ there with the person. That’s why people CALL for their pastor. The ministry of presence. They don’t want a sermon at such moments. They want to be assured that Jesus is there with them.

    Now, if somebody twists that last paragraph into some sort of nonsense in desire to debate, not only will I be ticked, but I hope it will be deleted.

  21. Great word, Kevin.

  22. Steve,

    Well said.
    “Ministry of presence”…excellent description.

  23. I remember one of John Fischer’s articles back when he would write in CCM magazine…the last article in the magazine. I don’t remember the specifics, but he was talking about mourning and how so many people would offer comments and advice. What it came down to was sometimes you want someone to just sit on the bench next to you and kick rocks and say nothing.

    Just be.

    I agree with Steve…sometimes people do not want to hear talk, they just need our presence. I know that was true for my mother-in-law after the flood…she just needed our physical presence there.

  24. How appropriate that Job said to his “friends”, including the one who spoke the words Piper quoted, “Miserable comforters are you all”. Unreal.

  25. I like that term “ministry of prescence” as well.

    The moments I remember from the most devestating times in my life, are not the words someone spoke while I was still in shock, but the fact that they were there at all. Some constant in the time of turmoil.

  26. Thanks guys for the responses. It was really shocking when I first found out about her death. Still is heartbreaking. It was also quite a memorial service. What an amazing mixture of grieving and mourning and remembrance and celebration and sharing of the gospel. This was most pronounced when her father, who is a pastor, spoke at the service. I feel so bad for he and his wife. I can’t imagine the pain they have.

    One of the other pastors who spoke at the service commented of when he was with the pastor/father shortly after they had gotten the news. The pastor/father cried out, “What am I supposed to do? I’m the one who’s supposed to be on the other side helping others when these things happen to them.” And I can attest that he has admirably been on the other side many times. He is a very good man. Same for his wife and family. My heart continues to break as I write this.

  27. I’m not really big on buzzwords. Perhaps because I’m a public school teacher and our profession operates through constantly changing buzzwords and killing trees. But I digress. “Ministry of presence” and “Re-incarnation” are so expressive. Now if I can just learn to live them as well as appreciate them.

  28. Rachel Held Evans received a lot of flak for her diatribe against Piper’s tweet. Here’s what I wrote over there:

    “Dear lady, one of the biggest draws that people feel when they frequent your blog is your humanity. Never ever be intimidated by men who have allowed themselves to be stripped of theirs”

  29. Michael, I will not be offended if you delete my last comment.

  30. Just to avoid strife, CK.
    I’m packing up for a trip and looking for my cat…don’t want to have to spend any energy on fights.

  31. I was very upset when I saw that tweet reported on in the news. Wrote an article this morning regarding it on my blog if anyone cares to read it.

  32. I love and respect John Piper.
    He has done much for the kingdom and his inept usage of social media doesn’t define him or his decades of service.
    I don’t excuse what he did, but a balance is necessary.
    I understand to a point where he is coming from…the sovereignty of God is the pillow I lay my head on at night, especially in the face of many trials and troubles.
    He assumed that everyone used the same bedding…
    I think also that John is far removed these days from pastoral ministry…and when you lose touch with ground level, it’s better to let those who are there comment.

  33. Michael,
    Thank you for allowing those of us who do not share all of your theological views to comment here. From what I’ve seen here, you are a man of integrity and tolerance.

  34. Great writing, reminds me of the emphasis of the Billy Graham Evangelism Disaster Relief Preparedness thing I went to a while back . . . person after person – both those who have suffered through disaster and those who minister to those in disaster repeatedly told us that quiet compassion is always superior to encyclopedic answers. Job’s friends did best before they started talking.
    I find Piper’s use of social media . . . . “defective” ( 😉 inside joke w/Michael)

  35. I hesitate to say this because the exercise of our faith through love is not a game, but doggone it, Michael, you hit a home run with this post!

  36. I was able to go to Moore today and minister to some of those affected. I am part of the BGEA Rapid Response Team; and we offer a ministry of presence. Just a listening ear as they tell their stories of that horrible day when the tornado hit. No criticism, no preaching, just listening! It is amazing how much people appreciate that! Somehow, I believe that is so cathartic for them, it enables them to move forward; and also shows them that people do care and that they are not alone. We heard some amazing stories today; one that touched me was how a small children’s chair (the usual kind you see in an elementary school) held up an entire wall as it fell…protecting the young child that dove underneath it minutes before the tornado hit. They gave all the glory to God! People here are so strong, resilient and amazing!

  37. God bless you, Rebekah. Thanks for sharing and for being there for people. Oklahoma folks are the salt of the earth in my very biased opinion.

  38. Rebekah @36 🙂

  39. We listen. God hears.

  40. “Earlier this week when we were watching the unfolding tragedy in Oklahoma, Piper responded by tweeting out a verse from the book of Job.

    It came across as insensitive and harsh…because it was.”

    Some just don’t when so shut up. There is a time and a season for everything. Piper would do wise to remember that there is much wisdom in being quiet.

    I broke my silence to respond to his insensitive and cruel remarks. Now, back to my silence.

  41. Aw, Randall, we miss you here! Don’t be silent. Voices and hearts like yours need to be heard. God bless you!

  42. Muff, your number 28….excellent!

  43. Randall, good to see you, friend. Break your silence a little more often.

  44. Thanks Michael 😉

  45. John Piper didn’t post that message on FB, big gurus like him have “people” that run their pages.

  46. hate to burst the Piper bash-fest-fun LOL

  47. I know specifically on Piper b/c I asked some questions on the FB page (addressed to Piper) and it was communicated to me by the person running the page that it wasn’t Piper on the other end, LOL.

  48. I had challenged (strongly) Piper’s handling of 2 Peter 2:1 and did my thing in the manner I am capable of doing. It finally garnered some response from the page, but it wasn’t Piper on the other end, which made me feel pretty stupid, LOL. I then did a little research and came to realize that most of the Gurus have underlings that run their social media and post comments on their behalf.

    This is clearly the case of what happened here. Piper’s intern posted a verse and Piper’s catching the hell here. He probably doesn’t even realize it was posted.

  49. I posted this on Piper’s FB page so the underlings consider their posts:

    “Just wanted to alert the folks running this page, Piper’s catching some hell on a popular Christian blog for a bible verse in Job that you folks posted at the onset of the Oklahoma tornado. They think it was Piper who posted what they perceived as an insensitive post and don’t realize that underlings run this social media page on his behalf.”

  50. I exaggerated the “popular’ part LOL. But they got the point, I think.

  51. I wish I was as important as Believe believe’s he is.

  52. *believes
    See low IQ here…I feel so like a peon in the essence of greatness.

  53. I don’t believe I’m “important”, that’s your misperception and angle to smear me. I don’t think I’m “great” either (not in the context you present it, for instance, I think I’m a massive underachiever and have taken the easy path to make a living whereas I should’ve gone the route of my uncles and cousins who tapped their full potential in prestigious universities and have more noble careers), but it is fact that my brain ticks differently than yours, for example, and probably fact that my iq is much higher than yours.

  54. Believe,

    Think about how many more people will be able to bask in your brilliance and reflected glory when you are exclusively posting on your own blog.
    You can leave this backwater ghetto and just shine.

  55. I am so tired of hearing about Believe’s IQ. Seriously, there is seldom a reason to bring up one’s IQ status in the course of a conversation.

  56. Michael, He will not leave willingly and you would not be wrong to send him on his way.

  57. haHAHAHAH.

    You remember on your college application where it asked for your IQ? No?

    You remember on your job application where it asked for your IQ?

    Why not?

    Because it isn’t a serious measure of anything for adults. It MIGHT be OK as a way of placing children. Intelligence Quotient is mental age divided by physical age x 100. So for a 5 year old to have a 150 IQ means that he has a mental age of 7-1/2. That could be useful for placing him in classes as a small child. ( Of curse, most think the tests are too biased and there is no accurate way to measure mental age.)

    So let’s say Believe is 40. All that a 150 IQ would mean is that his mental age is 60. Is that something to brag about? Is that better than a mental age of 40?

    Too funny, Believe. Keep up the good work.

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