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We learn in the New Yorker that Donald Trump ends every phone call with “You’re the Greatest!” If I had time and inclination to write a biography of Trump perhaps a good title can be adapted from an old Charlie Brown book;
You’re the Greatest, Donald Trump.
Greatness, it seems, is his highest ambition.
Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for one of Trump’s best-selling books, The Art of the Deal, has just given the New Yorker a tell-all:
Trump only takes two positions. “Either you’re a scummy loser, liar, whatever, or you’re the greatest…. There is no private Trump…. All he is is ‘stomp, stomp, stomp’—recognition from outside, bigger, more, a whole series of things that go nowhere in particular… .”
Writing in Trump’s voice, he explained to the reader [in The Art of the Deal], “I play to people’s fantasies. . . . People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and it’s a very effective form of promotion.”
Schwartz now disavows the passage.
“I don’t do it for the money,” Trump declares. “I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it…. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
…Of course he’s in it for the money,” Schwartz said. “One of the most deep and basic needs he has is to prove that ‘I’m richer than you.’ Schwartz saw Trump as driven not by a pure love of dealmaking but by an insatiable hunger for “money, praise, and celebrity.” Often, after spending the day with Trump, and watching him pile one hugely expensive project atop the next, like a circus performer spinning plates, Schwartz would go home and tell his wife, “He’s a living black hole!”
And now Donald wants to take us all into that black hole with him and Make America Great Again. [And, yes I still think Hillary is a far worse choice. Both have deep character issues, but as I’ve written elsewhere…. Hillary has become a stunningly corrupt, bought and arrogant tool of those who give the world’s bad guys free weapons and the rest of us bloody war– the elites, Wall Streeters, globalists and central banksters who for centuries have made war to make more money.]
Friends on this side of the pond gristle ungratefully at any notion of America’s greatness (or goodness), or any country’s greatness for that matter. Paul gave good advice in Romans 12:3… “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…”
Yet, national greatness was a promise God himself made to godly nations. It’s in Genesis 12:2… “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” And it wasn’t just a promise to Abraham on into Israel then and now. In Genesis 35:11 that promise was extended greatly: “A nation and a community of nations will come from you... .” It is the promise of God that Judeo-Christian nations will be a blessing to the rest of the world and great in God’s eyes.
But what makes us great is where Mr. Trump has it all wrong.
Jesus said those who practice the Sermon on the Mount will be called greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:19). The Sermon on the Mount is the standard of greatness by which God will measure kings and nations, and you and I. In the halls of academia we speak of a coming eschatological reversal where the first will find out they are indeed, last. Trump still has time to figure this out and that is my prayer.
John Stott’s repeated exhortation when preaching was “Don’t look at me, look at Christ.” Every preacher, song leader and musician needs to write that phrase in the margin of their message notes and chord sheets every weekend. People ought to walk away with His name on their lips, not yours.
In his new little book “It’s not business, it’s personal” Bob Sorge writes about how ministers and musicians get in between Jesus and his Bride the Church. In a chapter called “Scoring with the Bride” he addresses ministers and musicians who feed off her praise and seek out her affections. Imagine if you were asked to serve my bride and you were teasing her affections off of ME and on to YOU. No doubt, Jesus our Bridegroom God has an issue with those who steal away the affections of his Bride.
Bob Sorge says many times he walks away from speaking and prays: “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, and deliver me from this tendency to present myself in such a way that the Bride takes notice of me and my service to her. After I’ve spent an evening with your Bride, I don’t want my name to be on her lips. I want her talking about You.”
Can we get away from these platform-driven performances and smoke shows where the clamor in the hallways is “wow, that guy always hits a homerun.” Same with music ministry as people leave going… “wow, what a voice, I hope she puts that on CD.”
Church at the Gater Annie Johnson tells the world – Jesus heals! She’s such an inspiration. (Sorry I had to resort to a link, I couldn’t get the video to load.)
This is also another win for adult stem cells. There have been NO cures or benefits uncovered in ANY embryonic stem cell research EVER!
Thought I’d experiment and try a vblog today instead of typing this post. Let me know if you like it better than reading. If you do I will do more of them. Already I’ve learned I need to change the lighting (unless you like the glow over my head, kind of saintly I think) and that I should at least wait until my hair is dry (my best thinking is always in the shower so you can be thankful I at least waited until I got dressed before I sat down in front of the camera!). The jury is still out on whether or not this saves me time – hard to tell – loading it to youtube took forever. I’m old school in that I’m a little technology-challenged and I can type as fast as I think so right now I’m thinking the old way may still be easier for me.
Please take 5 minutes to read Winter’s short article – Reconsecration to a wartime lifestyle (pdf alert) and don’t miss this part… “we must live only on what we need and give the rest of our income where it is needed most. We call this a wartime lifestyle.” Here’s a related website also. Here’s a link to some practical suggestions on how to live a wartime lifestyle. Here’s a link to the US Center for World Mission in Pasadena and the William Carey library. This is where I get my mission biographies. (Had to laugh at seeing the book they are featuring today on the homepage – Apostolic Function in 21st Century Missions. The dreaded “A” word I was crucified over five years ago is now becoming standard in evangelical mission circles. Ha!)
I’ve not put much up on GatePost yet on what we have in the cooker for a plan to plant lots of life-giving local churches in Europe but you can contact me if you want to know more. We are starting a new mission agency called Europe Advance. We plan to launch EA at the end of September here.
Now, feedback please! Use the comment link here to a) tell me whether you like the vblog better or not and b) to discuss the call to the wartime lifestyle. I know I know I know, I still ended up typing four paragraphs.
It’s possible to change the world’s political architecture through prayer! The most recent (and most grossly under-reported) example of this is with regard to the fall of the Berlin Wall. This post will be the first in a series where that story gets told, including interviews with those who were in the battle behind the battle.
Kristen and I both read a great book (loaded with pictures!) recently on the Berlin Wall and it’s fall called “Check Point Charlie and the Wall” but regrettably only one sentence in the book spoke of what really took down the wall… “In the top secret document ‘MfS, ZAIG, nr. 496/89’ he confirmed the rapid increase in politically motivated meetings organized by religious institutions and the sharply higher numbers participating in open air demonstrations.” Another book I ordered and can’t wait to read also mentions what I will tell you about more fully here – that book is Voices in Times of Change : The role of Writers, Opposition Movements and the Churches the Transformation of East Germany. (The role of writers and churches?? Uh oh, perhaps this will only encourage my blogging!!!)
I know of only one book (in English, though now out of print) that is devoted to this topic, Candles Behind the Wall. Author Barbara Von Der Heydt writes… “Six candles in Leipzig did more to topple the wall than 6000 missiles in Western Europe.”
The guy behind those six candles is named Rev. Christian Fürher. It is perhaps my only regret on my six weeks this summer in Europe that a meeting between us didn’t materialize. However, we are in communication and a meeting is pending. There are few people alive today who more encapsulate nearly all of my callings; strategic-level prayer, pastoring and politics, Bonhoeffer, the culture war and the Sermon on the Mount. (If only he was a church planter too!)
His name, Christian Fürher, is the first curious thing about him, at least to the English speaking world. When we hear “Fürher” we think of Hitler, but in German the word simply means leader. (Two weeks before Hitler was elected, Bonhoeffer rebelliously said on German radio, “Jesus is my Fürher. “) Christian Fürher was born March 5, 1943 in Leipzig, just south of Berlin. Little did the world know that as one murderous Fürher was ascending in power, God saw to it that another was being born – Christian Fürher – his name, Christian Leader, is quite prophetic in terms of how God used him.
The Berlin Wall (1961-1989) was 65 running miles of concrete, another 79 miles of alarm-equipped electrical fence in the rural areas, 20 earthen bunkers and 302 watchtowers. Unlike other city walls throughout the centuries, the wall was built not to keep people out, but to keep people in. Over 170 people died trying to defect by crossing the wall from East Berlin to West Berlin.
Here I am at one of the only remaining segments of the wall today.
This pic is of a hole in the wall – I’m bummed the view on the other side is blurred. Family members on each side of the wall would gather at these types of places to talk or exchange things. When that got out of hand, even the windows of the buildings facing West Berlin were bricked shut.
A museum and place for old ladies to die OR a grassroots counter-movement
In 1980, Rev. Fürher, started a November teaching series in his church (Nikolaikirche) in Leipzig on the theme of peacemaking. His zeal on the topic was fueled by the rising nuclear threat from proposed Soviet SS20 missiles and American Pershing Missiles. Rev. Fürher took the bold political step and opened the doors of his church to “alternative” young people who were forming protest groups for disarmament. He’s says “I suddenly realized that if we would open our doors for these types, the communists would no longer be able to say the church was a museum, a place for old ladies to die. The church could again become a grassroots counter-movement.”
In 1982, Rev. Fürher started a Monday night prayer meeting at his church – the prayer meeting lasted seven years (until the wall fell). Every Monday night at 5 p.m. a handful of people gathered, and at every meeting the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount were read in unison. These prayer meetings marked a new level of engagement. The meetings were called Friedensgebate (Prayers for Peace).
In 1988, a few protesters were arrested in Berlin and Rev. Fürher dialed up the prayer resistance a notch… he held his prayer meetings daily. Rev. Fürher frequently quoted Bonhoeffer, “the church is only the church when it is there for others.” People coming to pray daily for the release of the protesters quickly reached two thousand in number. Obviously the government was on high alert and they sent hundreds of their undercover STASI agents into the prayer meetings. Rev. Fürher began the meetings and joked about the undercover agents there – everyone laughed except the agents and everyone could easily look around identify who they were by who wasn’t smiling. (STASI secret police had over 100,000 agents and had assembled files on one-third of the East German population!!) Rev. Fürher did not mind the agents in his meetings but said “this is great that the government sent its employees to church and they were forced to listen to Jesus’ teachings!”
In September of 1989, other churches around Germany began to hold similar prayer meetings. At first that sounds like something great to report, and it is certainly. However, as one who has been in some similar battles what I see there is that Rev. Fürher had little help from other churches for six and a half of the seven years of his struggle. In his book, only available in German, he speaks of the discouragement he had to deal with of being the lone radical following the path of the Sermon on the Mount. He comments that he and his church experienced ten years of suffering and defamation prior to this point.
In October 1989, 60,000 people gathered in and around the church which was the largest demonstration ever held in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). All the people came with candles in hand. Rev. Fürher says “the Lord reminded me of this Scripture that says, ‘It’s not by might, and not by power, but by His Spirit.’ The only successful revolution in Germany was a non-violent one. Later the police said they were prepared for everything but not for prayers and candles.”
With two hands on a candle you can’t pick up a stone
The Berlin newspaper reported that the counter-revolution would be put down on Monday October 9 by “whatever means necessary.” Rev. Fürher reports that the day before some doctors came and visited his church to tell him that “hospital rooms had been made available for patients with bullet wound…
…So we were absolutely terrified of what might happen. The police had NOT been briefed for this possibility (candles and prayers). Had we thrown stones, they would have known what to do. They would have attacked. But the tanks had no choice but to withdraw without a single shot being fired…. we had the sense that something extraordinary had happened but we really only understood the enormity of it later… thousand of people with candles. People who have never met before, suddenly a family. They lay their candles at the feet of the armed soldiers and police. The steps of the STASI building, the organization that spied on, abused and sold people out, now awash with candles. It looks like a river of peace and light. …When more than 2000 of us came out of the church – I will never forget the sight – tens of thousands more were waiting outside in the square. They were holding candles. When you hold a candle you need both hands. You have to guard the flame, stop it from being blown out. You can’t hold a stone or club at the same time. And then the miracle occurred. The Spirit of Jesus, a spirit of non-violence, took hold of the masses and what resulted was material, peaceful violence. The army, fighting patrols and police were drawn in, started conversations and retreated.
On Oct. 18, these prayer meetings (protests) led to the resignation of Erich Honecker, the communist East German politician later tried with crimes against humanity. Honecker was contemplating the “Chinese Solution” to shut down Rev. Fürher’s prayer meetings – the Chinese Solution referred to the massacre at Tienanmen Square in Beijing only five months earlier. A leader in the old GDR regime said before his death… “We had planned everything. We were prepared for any eventuality. Any except for prayer and candles.”
Ronald Reagan’s famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate was June 7, 1987 – “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Rev. Fürher contends that the reason Gorbachev didn’t come and tear down the wall is because the request was made “in a spirit of war.” Two more years on contending in prayer were necessary to undermine the real foundations of that wall. Rev. Fürher stood at the same wall (on the other side) and led hundreds of thousands of others to call on God to tear down the wall. God answered and the Belin Wall fell November 9, 1989.
That’s a pic of us at the Brandenberg Gate a couple weeks ago.
The Sermon on the Mount in two words
Later when asked how he was so confident that peaceful prayer protests would work Rev. Fürher commented, “we were not in the least confident. We were afraid day and night, but we had the courage of our convictions. The Bible had taught us the power of peaceful protest and this was the only weapon we had. Resorting to violence makes us no better than our enemies, and then we are no longer blessed.” Obviously he’s strong in the flow of the Sermon on the Mount.
About the Sermon on the Mount he said; “It still moves me today to recall that in a secular country the masses condensed the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount into two words – NO VIOLENCE (KEINE GEWALT!) and they practised what they preached.” Keine Gewalt became their slogan.
In the same way this unjust system has fallen
There was a particular Saturday in 1989 about which Rev. Fuhrer writes: “Fourteen hours, uniformed men beat the defenceless people, who did not retaliate, and took them away in lorries. Hundreds of them were herded into stables in Markkleeberg.” During this period, Markus Laegel was only 13 years old. Today he heads 24-7 Germany and has written here of his memories of that time. Later, at the fall of the wall Markus says he sensed the Spirit of God saying, “in the same way as this unjust system was fallen, so every other unjust system will fall.” He notes that the reason he is doing this 24-7 prayer thing is because he sees his generation has “merely swapped communism for consumerism and they are no more free.”
The street and the altar
This is long enough, but it’s powerful stuff. I have a number of specific questions for Rev. Fürher and I’ll post again on this topic and include his replies. I’ll have to arrange another time/place to meet – perhaps in January. I believe that his story and testimony need to be told in the prayer movement outside of Germany. Here’s a pic of him today in his cut off jean-jacket and white spiked hair, both of which have become his signature look. Also, here is the New York Times article which was a story about his retirement from the church last year. I’ll conclude here with his statement: “I always wanted also to move in the earthly realm. It is not the throne and the altar but the street and the altar that belong together.”
Wow– this week my blog has really turned into more of a slideshow of my pictures rather than my commentary. But, there are still more things to say and show.
Many times I’ve mentioned the privilege I had to study for three years under one of the world’s leading Bonhoeffer scholars – Dr. F. Burton Nelson. Burton died in 2004, he was a personal friend of the Bonhoeffer family. He challenged me to pick a theological companion to walk through life with, so I picked Bonhoeffer. What a treat for me to visit Bonhoeffer’s home (actually his parents home) in Berlin a few weeks ago and be given a private tour. Thank you Knut Hämmerling for that treat. Here we are in front of the home at Marienburger Allee 43.
For those of us who’ve seen this address written in his own script, even walking up to the home is pretty cool. A couple days before he was stripped naked and hung in the concentration camp at Flossenbürg, he wrote that script in the front of a book that he wanted returned to his parents. His body was cremated with thousands of others in the ovens and his family didn’t learn for certain of his death until months later. Bonhoeffer was killed on April 9, 1945. Hitler committed suicide twenty days later. Germany surrendered on May 7.
For a couple of hours Knut downloaded details of Bonhoeffer’s life for me and my family. I won’t take up space here introducing you to Bonhoeffer if his name is new to you. Take a couple moments and read about him here. Here I am in Bonhoeffer’s bedroom/study. (One of the things I’ve given much thought to here is my new home office – I am borrowing a couple ideas from his here – one is the big window which I plan to install when I get home.)
At this desk he wrote what was to be his life work Ethics. He was arrested by the Gestapo in this house and did not complete Ethics. Pages of it were found ten years after his death hidden in the rafters of this home. His good friend Eberhard Bethge compiled them and that is the version of Ethics that is readily available today. Also in this house conspiratorial discussions took place which included Bonhoeffer, other family members and leaders of the resistance movement – plots to assassinate Hitler were discussed here.
As a Sermon on the Mount junkie, I’ve always been quite dialed in on how Bonhoeffer held to the high pacifist ideal in his writings (turn the other cheek, love enemies), but compromised (and justifiably so in my view) that ideal by participating in a secret assassination plot on Hitler. His (and Karl Barth’s) view of the myth of the separation of church and state very much appeals to me. Separating the spheres, Bonhoeffer insisted, is a denial of God’s having reconciled the whole world to himself in Christ. He said the Church wasn’t just to tend the victims of society run over by the wheel, the Church has a God-mandated responsibility to shove a spoke in the wheel and stop the victimization. He said the church may not keep out of politics if the state abrogates basic human rights. He demanded the church be prepared for political resistance and he was very much alone in that opinion.
Bonhoeffer criticized Luther for two things; 1) focusing the Reformation only on the church (whereas Zwingli sought to influence – salt and light – all of society). Bonhoeffer believed Luther’s views on this set the stage for the German Church of the 1930’s to stay out of Hitler’s business. In the 1000+ plus pages of Reformation history I’ve read this month, I’ve had the sense that had Zwingli been in Germany and not in Switzerland, the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened. Bonhoeffer also was one of the earliest voices in the German Lutheran Church to renounce 2) the anti-Semitism and treatment of the Jews.
In the years prior to his arrest he organized pastor strikes, signature drives, etc. and was very much political. As the Reich/State increasing silenced pastors, even friends distanced themselves from Bonhoeffer. He experienced the loneliness of the loss of friends and reputation. Honestly, I can really relate. Had I been called to trumpet the HIVAIDS issue I would be celebrated, but those of us who recognize the humanity of the unborn and the injustice of abortion and walk in a clear call from God to stop the shedding of judicially innocent blood — we are vilified. But, to quote one of Bonhoeffer’s more famous lines… “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Recently I was told I cut the target of those I’m called to reach in half when I get political. Hmm, half. If I was a pastor in Alabama in the 60’s I’d be marching across the bridge with my black brothers and sisters even if it meant 99% of the white folks in my town spit me out. Today we don’t question the humanity of blacks – previous Supreme Court decisions denying blacks full humanity have been reversed. Science now confirms separate and unique living human beings are the product of conception. It’s a human rights issue, a justice issue. And, who does God have on the earth to be his “spoke” in the wheel that is running over the most vulnerable and helpless members of human society? Is it any wonder I’m the only pastor in our state to receive numerous death threats this year? I vote we apply a little Sermon on the Mount to our treatment of the unborn… let’s do to them what we’d want done to us – did you know they feel pain at 8 weeks? Wow– yet they have no voice and they use no anesthesia to dismember them while they are yet living.
For those of you interested to dive into Bonhoeffer a bit – first, buy two books. 1) Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel by Renate Wind. Kristen, Caleb and I read this together a few weeks ago and that made for great discussion just prior to our visit to the Bonhoeffer Haus – it’s an easy 182 pages. Next read 2) Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer. This is now universally considered a Christian Classic – this is where you’ll read his ideas about “cheap grace” and the entire middle section is his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.
After that I recommend my professor Burton Nelson’s book – really a compilation of Bonhoeffer writings – 3) A Testament to Freedom and I also recommend Bonhoeffer’s best friends biography of his life 4) Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography by Eberhard Bethge. Bonhoeffer’s other works and letters are all readily available. If you are not much of a reader and just want a DVD version of his life I recommend – Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Pacifist, Nazi Resistor– which we show during the Omega Course. Those who are hard-core can join the International Bonhoeffer Society. Hope all that is helpful to somebody.
I just got word that my favorite seminary prof just died. I took every course this guy offered and begged him to let me be his research assistant. Dr. David M. Scholer is well-known for his course “Women, the Bible and the Church” and you can thank him for the stance I take today on God’s heart for women. The LA Times just did a great story on him – particularly about his courageous journey with colon cancer. Especially if you or someone you love has cancer, I really encourage you to listen to his final sermon which is linked at the bottom of the article.
This was sad news for Kristen and I, we were in their home many times. There are some professors who have no catagious zeal for their subject matter and at the end of the course you never want to talk about the subject again. Not so with David Scholer, he loved the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke in particular and his love for the Word sent me out of his class every day sharing what I just learned with everyone who would listen. I still go to my notes from his courses frequently.
I’m filing this post under heroes.
Woe to you when men speak well of you. Jesus said that. Yet the temptation in ministry is to have people speak well of you – the more the better. The goal for some appears to be- become a superstar and not so much a servant. Charisma Magazine just ran a story called “The Celebrity Syndrome.” The article fits the hero theme well. It’s amazing that these major magazines are reading my blog and copying my themes. I must have “arrived.”
Leadership Journal recently blogged about the need for a “hero boycott” in the Body of Christ….
Why the big-name celebrity leaders are turning me off…. It’s no different today than it was in the first century, when Paul noted in his first letter to the Corinthians that the Christ-followers there were dividing themselves over who they followed. “I follow Paul,” said some, while others countered, “I follow Apollos.” Today it’s the same story, just a different millennium: “I am of Hybels.” “I am of Warren.” “I am of Maxwell.” “I am of Stanley.” “I am of Moore.” “I am of Groeschel.” “I am of McLaren.” “I am of Driscoll.”…
Those are all evangelical heroes. Should we add some names from the charismatic camp? Hayford, Jakes, Osteen, Meyer, Barnett, Hagee, Copeland, Bevere. How about Bentley, King, Pierce? How about the Christian music scene, even the worship music scene?
There was a hugely refreshing moment at OneThing last month when somebody on the platform said “turn the stage lights off, this isn’t about anybody up here.” The focus was the Lord. Contrast that with endless Christian conferences that pride themselves on having the Who’s Who of the latest move of God on the speakers list.
A number of years ago, like ten or so, a bunch of pastors in the city here met and we were talking about bringing in PromiseKeepers. It was nauseating to see the enthusiasm as different big names were tossed around. I’d been on the bandwagon to bring in Franklin Graham in ’97. Really nothing in our city changed. However, something in me changed after that – I thought, we need God to visit here, no one else. It was one of the things that turned me into a pray-er. Everyone else seemed in the way. Heaven-sent heroes get out of God’s way.
One of the things I admire about heaven-sent heroes is their hiddenness and their humility. Whatever happened to hiddenness and staying hidden in God? Today I nominate no name – unsung – nameless – faceless people who, day after day, spend themselves in pursuit of God and his Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven.
Watching the political primaries in Florida tonight underscored the next thought I wanted to throw out regarding heroes. That thought being… they are all flawed. With the exception of Jesus, or perhaps a fictional or cartoon hero, they all have a human side. This fact alone ought to keep us from any form of hero-worship.
Those of you who have scouted out my blog here perhaps noticed I’m into a biography of Truman. It’s 1007 pages long so I’ll tell you how it ends later. But he’s a hero with regard to being a political intercessor for Israel. He went against the political current of the day, against his own advisors to, in his words, “set right a historical wrong.” Jews called him the American Cyrus. Trygve Lie, the Secretary of the UN (in 1948) said, “If there had been no Harry Truman, there would be no Israel today.”
However, I recently read an article by Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Truman, My Flawed Hero. Foxman lists a few of Truman’s shocking anti-semitic comments and attitudes and concludes;
Truman was a product of his time and of a civilization’s attitudes. The anti-Semitism revealed in his diaries is a stain on his reputation. Still, he remains a hero of Israel.
Some of the men who have most influenced by life, guys I view as heroes of this or that, all are flawed in this area or that. When I’m around them I shake them like apple trees and pick up all the good apples and leave the rotten ones lay. We need to do this with all of our heroes. And worship only God.