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Shortly after 4:30 this afternoon, the residents of Phillips neighborhood in south Minneapolis—the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the United States—may spot a familiar sight: a trim man in his upper sixties, bespectacled with thinning gray curly hair, leaving his two-story house to walk to church.

John Piper will make his way north across the bridge suspended above “Spaghetti Junction,” with its dull roar of freeway traffic, past the East Village Market grocery store, past Augustana Health Care Center for the elderly, past Andrew Residence for the mentally broken, and past the Elliott Twins apartments for low-income residents. And then he’ll arrive at a place he dearly loves, Bethlehem Baptist Church, where he has been preaching the glory of God in the gospel week in and week out for 33 years.

The walk takes seven minutes—six if he is running late, eight if he is especially enjoying the weather. He once counted his steps: exactly 600 paces from his front door to Bethlehem’s old main door. He has made this walk at least 10,000 times in the last 33 years—the equivalent of walking from the east coast to the west coast in the United States and back again. Six million steps.

It’s not the last time he will make this walk. But it is the last time he will do so as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Tucked into the coat pocket of his charcoal suit jacket will be his compact ESV Bible, and in his worn leather briefcase will be a cheap folder, and in the folder will be a 11-page double-spaced typewritten sermon manuscript, with an array of handwritten circles and connecting lines and underlines and exclamation points and notes.

Within a couple of hours the singing will cease, and he will rise from the front-row pew, place his sermon manuscript on the wooden pulpit, offer an introduction, and then read fromHebrews 13:20-21, the text for his Easter sermon that will double as his farewell sermon. (You can watch the live-stream tonight around 6:10 PM U.S. Central Time.) After he reads the benedictory text that begins, “Now may the God of peace who brought again our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep,” Piper will undoubtedly remind his beloved flock that the transition from one undershepherd to another is undergirded by a dying and rising Great Shepherd who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

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Today is “Good Friday”. I heard someone say this morning that “Good Friday” should be called “Great Friday” instead. I agree! It is “Great Friday” because nearly 2000 years ago Jesus Christ died in our place on the cross for our sins!

Overcoming Darkness

Holy Week helps us to remember, recommit and guard against the darkness of today’s apathy.

By Henry Green

The complicity of the church in the Nazi policy to annihilate the Jewish race cannot be denied.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “The church confesses her timidity, her evasiveness, her dangerous concessions. The church has been untrue to her office of guardianship and to her office of comfort, and thus she has denied to the outcasts and to the despised the compassion she owes them. To put it another way, the church has failed to speak the right word, in the right way, at the right time. She has just stood by while violence was being committed under the very name of Jesus Christ. Therefore, she is guilty of the deaths of the weakest and most defenseless brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Adolf Hitler

The isolationism of a global community unresponsive to the abject poverty and destruction throughout Europe in the wake of World War I, the desire to annihilate the soul of the German people and the arrogance of a pride that led to National Socialism paved the way for a Second World War. This isolationist policy of neglect in the west and the nihilism of Communism in Russia to the east set the stage for a reactionary form of nihilism in Germany: The rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Third Reich.

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O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not desert me;
My courage fails me, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace;
in me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.
Father in Heaven praise and thanks be to you for the night

Dietrich BonhoefferA prayer written in Tegel prison, Berlin

10 inaccuracies in The Bible . . . the miniseries, not the book

A scene from episode one of the "The Bible" miniseries depicts Noah telling the creation narrative as recorded in Genesis. But the passage wasn’t penned until centuries later.

A scene from episode one of the “The Bible” miniseries depicts Noah telling the creation narrative as recorded in Genesis. But the passage wasn’t penned until centuries later.

If you listened to the critics’ reviews, History Channel’s The Bible was destined to become an underwhelming miniseries not worth viewers’ time. The Los Angeles Times dismissed it as “flat and often tedious,” Entertainment Weekly called it a “cheesefest,” and the Philadelphia Enquirer labeled it “cardboard characters surrounded by CGI.” Apparently, viewers weren’t listening. The premier pulled in 13.1 million viewers and each additional episode has garnered over 10 million. About 4 in 10 Americans have watched at least one episode of the show.

But some Christians questioned the historicity of some of the finer details of the show’s portrayals. The creators seem to have anticipated such controversy, which is why every episode begins with the following disclaimer: “This program is an adaptation of Bible stories. It endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the book.”

Inaccuracies are inevitable when one moves a work of art from one medium to another (in this case, from literature to film). Such deviations are acceptable depending on the kind and scale of liberties taken. In The Bible’s case, the inaccuracies are often significant but do not seem to compromise the Biblical meta-story itself. Even still, viewers should be aware of which flourishes deviate from the Biblical text. Here are the 10 that stick out in my mind. They are listed in chronological order:

1. Noah’s creation story. In the opening scene of episode one, Noah and his family are bouncing around inside the ark, tossed by the tumultuous waves outside. Noah recounts the creation narrative as it appears in Genesis, but there’s one problem: the story was not written until later. Conservative Christian scholars believe this story was drafted by Moses many centuries after Noah’s flood; more liberal scholars claim it was penned even later.

2. Angels know martial arts? When God’s messengers rescue Lot and his family from Sodom prior to the city’s destruction, the television show depicts them defending the fugitives with swords and Jet-Li-style martial arts. The Bible, however, makes no mention of such a battle or any kind of weapons used by the angels. Instead, the text claims Sodom’s residents were struck with blindness (Genesis 19), which would have made their escape a lot less exciting… and less bloody.

3. Abraham’s lamb. When the Jewish patriarch, Abraham, is about to sacrifice Isaac, the television show portrays a lamb showing up just in time to take Isaac’s place. In the Bible, however, it was a ram (Genesis 22:13). The lamb is more aesthetically pleasing and sweet, but it is not which the animal the Bible says appeared.

4. Saul – he’s #1. In the biblical account, King Saul goes into a cave to “relieve himself” when David cuts off a piece of his robe and spares his life. The Hebrew word here is clear that the Israelite king was defecating (1 Samuel 24), but the television show portrays Saul urinating. The latter act is more viewer-appropriate, but technically inaccurate.

5. Jeremiah, the escape artist. When the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem, a wild-eyed Jeremiah escapes undetected by the invading army. According to the scriptures, however, Jeremiah was captured, bound in chains, and later released (Jeremiah 40:1). Additionally, the television show tells of Daniel and his three compatriots being captured during the siege, when in fact, they were deported more than a decade after Jerusalem’s destruction (Daniel 1; 1 Kings 24:10-16).

6. Cyrus and the lion’s den. The Bible says the prophet Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den during the reign of Darius (Daniel 6). In the television show, however, Cyrus is still in power.

7. Jesus’ birth…how romantic. The birth of Jesus has been romanticized in Western accounts, many added details have no root in scripture. The television show riffs on the popular version with the pregnant Mary riding to Bethlehem on a donkey pulled by Joseph. The Bible never mentions a donkey, and it almost certain that they would have travelled there in a caravan with their family and friends in tow (Luke 2).

8. Wise men, yes. But punctual, no.  Consistent with the romanticized but fictional tale of Jesus’ birth, the television show depicts three wise men riding camels to visit the newborn babe. But the Bible never says how many magi there were. And though the wise men arrive at the same time the shepherds do in the series, they visit the infant Jesus later in the Biblical account (Matthew 2:1-12)

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China Admits to the Greatest Slaughter in Human History

The Story: The Chinese government recently admitted that over the last four decades the country has aborted 336 million unborn children, many of them forcibly.

The Background: According to the Financial Times, on March 14 the Chinese Health Ministry reported the following statistics for its family planning practices since 1971:

— 336 million abortions performed;

— 196 million sterilizations conducted;

— 403 million intrauterine devices inserted.

China, the world’s most populous country, first instituted limits on population growth in 1971 and established its “one-child” population control program in 1979.

What It Means: The story has been shockingly underreported considering what China has admitted: Since 1971, the country has carried out the largest single slaughter of human beings in the history of the world.

To put the numbers in perspective, the 336 million deaths in China are:

• More than the entire population of the world at the time of the Crusades (c. 1100 AD).

• Equal to the entire combined populations of the United States and Australia.

• More deaths than were caused by (in millions): the Bubonic Plague in Europe (100), the Great Chinese Famine (45), the 1918 Influenza Pandemic (40), the HIV/AIDS pandemic (25), the Holocaust (13), the Soviet famine of 1932-1933 (8), the Russian famine of 1921 (3), and the American Civil War (.8).

• More than all the people killed in the 10 ten deadliest wars in human history (Based on highest estimates (in millions): World War II (72), World War I (65), Mongol Conquest (60), An Lushan Rebellion (36), Taiping Rebellion (30), Qing Dynasty conquest of the Ming Dynasty (25), Conquests of Timur (20), Dungan Revolt (12), Russian Civil War (9), Second Congo War (5.4).

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There is not a place to which the Christian can withdraw from the world, whether it be outwardly or in the sphere of the inner life. Any attempt to escape from the world must sooner or later be paid for with a sinful surrender to the world.

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Ethics 

Rev. Paul Mims


Posted by Rev. Paul Mims
This sermon was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia on March 3, 2013 by Pastor Paul Mims.

Acts 14:21-28

Early in January 1939, the precocious German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, age thirty-two, learned that all males in his age had been ordered to register with the military.

The solution was provided by America’s most illustrious theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. Nine years earlier, Bonhoeffer had spent a year in the United States as a free-floating exchange student at Union Theological Seminary, arriving not long after Niebuhr had moved there from Detroit. He had made such a positive impression on Union’s faculty that Niebuhr jumped at the opportunity to bring him back. If we fail to offer him a job, he told Union’s president, Henry Sloane Coffin, Bonhoeffer will wind up in a concentration camp. This was not the stuff of run-of-the-mill letters of recommendation. Union extended the offer. Grateful to have a way out of his dilemma, Bonhoeffer booked passage, and in June 1939 found himself safe in America.

Safe, but unhappy. Bonhoeffer’s second visit to the United States lasted only twenty-six days.
In his beautifully constructed biography, Metaxas calls Bonhoeffer’s return to Germany in 1939 “the great decision.” Before he arrived in New York, Bonhoeffer was already his country’s most prominent theologian; in the German language, only Switzerland’s Karl Barth outranked him. After he went back to Berlin, Bonhoeffer added the roles referred to by Metaxas’s subtitle: martyr, prophet, spy. In 1945, the Nazis arrested Bonhoeffer, sent him to a series of prisons and camps including Buchenwald, and—two weeks before the Allied troops arrived at the Flossenbürg concentration camp—killed him. He was not yet forty. (Metaxas)

Bonhoeffer in five years rallied the churches of Germany to oppose the Hitler madness and has blessed every generation since with his example and writings.

He was certainly in the tradition of the Apostle Paul. The first Missionary journey had gone to its farthest point and they had to decide what they would do. Would they take the safe and easy route home or would they go back to encourage the churches the way they had come? The short way home would have been through the Taurus Mountains to Seleucia and on to Antioch. But they decided to go back where they had experienced hardships and threats of death. Let’s look at this undaunted courage.

The object of Jesus’ command (to follow him) is always the same–to evoke whole-hearted faith, to make us love God and our neighbour with all our heart and soul.

Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship1961 edition, 252.

March 2013


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