Heaven and Don Piper – A short review

A summary report from the book, "Encouragement from 90 minutes in Heaven" by Don Piper.

This seems to be extracted from a larger book, '90 minutes in Heaven' which I haven't read and cannot comment on.
I find no significant problems with the book. It's actually an amazing story. Whatever you make of the supernatural experience he shares, this is one incredible miracle that a man so mangled is alive. He actually notes near the end that during his one-year hospital recovery he nearly lost his life.
Before reading the book I researched his web page. I was encouraged to find a very clearly presented gospel message. In his FAQ he also answers questions such as "Are there pets in Heaven" and "What do people wear in heaven" – He answers with a mix of his own experience and bible knowledge. Nothing heretical stood out to me. 
The book, however, is not a theological treatise. It is a subjective account of an individual experience. Writing like this doesn't give much to discern on – there are very few theological propositions. Most of the supernatural experience is the encounter of overwhelming love and delight, which only increased. The descriptions were not counter anything of the Biblical Revelation of John, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Matthew or others.
The propositions from the book include:
  • Heaven really is real, and it is experienced immediately at death (see 2 Cor 5:8)
  • Other souls are recognisable, and there is great joy at receiving more into Heaven (see Lk 16:9)
  • Light, worship and holiness are the dominant experiences, even above reunions with friends (see Isa 6, Rev 4-5)
Don doesn't claim to have seen or met God. He supposes that once a person does, they would never be 'content' to come away/ return to earth. In fact a number of times, Don 'supposes' things, more than he declares things. That is a lot safer than making theological propositions.
The message of the book
The message of the book is quite clear: "Be encouraged, believing friends/family who you've lost to death are happy and well"
The author and the co-writer take a lot of time to show how much this testimony has greatly helped people who were very distraught over losing others. (I did start feeling like they were trying to sell the book to me at the end as they kept on saying this)
It's the kind of testimony that grieving people will find very encouraging.
The one proposition he did make which didn't sit comfortably with me, however, was the statement that there is no sadness in Heaven, and therefore they don't sing songs like 'the old rugged cross' or 'the nail scarred hand'. Jesus death is a sad thing,he writes, and so there is no memory of it (! I think that's what he said). This troubles me because Rev 5 presents the slain Lamb of Heaven, worshiped for his sacrifice. The scars of Christ were seen on his resurrected body by the disciples. And although the cross was a sad and traumatic event, it will remain forever the central glory of Christ and our eternal hope. I was disappointed by Don's summation here.
My theological reflection
I'm cautious to add my 2c to an account that claims divine revelation. I never make it my business to judge someone's experience. I accept that this is a personal and subjective story.
Although I don't find any explicit danger with the message, there is a subtle lack which I think was short-sighted. If Don Piper's web page has got such great gospel presentation, why not put it in his book? Especially as this book will be handed to many people who are grieving. I'm afraid that an unbeliever who reads this book will miss the almost negligible references to salvation and gain a false hope that they will be reunited with lost loved ones when they die.
There is also very little Scripture-Root in the book. There are little quotes now and then but I don't remember any strong directing to any scriptures. Perhaps in the fuller edition that material is included. But just reading this book, it's as if Don's testimony proves once and for all that everything's going to be OK. But the revelation of Jesus Christ at the cross – the greatest testimony that everything's going to be OK, is not referred to. And that is a gaping hole.
Mark read a great passage from 1 Pet, where Peter points to his experience with Jesus at the transfiguration, as a proof of his authoritative word; But then Peter says there is a more sure testimony of these things – the Prophetic Scripture. If only Don had done the same.
So I'm left hanging after reading the book – wishing that he'd not let his experience be the final word for our encouragement.
This book is not heresy. But neither is it one I'd counsel someone with. 
I understand (only to a small degree because I haven't lost someone close to me) the preciousness of these testimonies to people who are grieving. Books like this are a friend to them. I think it's like the testimony of Brother Yun to people who are passionate for missions. Yet as far as developing my theology about missions, I don't make Brother Yun's experiences my guide. And neither do I develop any theology of Heaven from Don's experience.

BU Assembly, Day 4

Monday was the day of anticipated stress. 2 very critical items were on the agenda: firstly, the future structure of the BU, and secondly, the proposal to appoint a youth developer. These items, among the other usual toughies, like finances, made for a very interesting assembly.

  1. In short, the BU executive have initiated an indaba of people representative of the union, to look at some of the core unhappinesses that exist in the union. It was noted that there are many 'happinesses' but that certain 'elephants in the room' existed that have to be identified and addressed. The details of the initial bosberaad are in the assembly handbook, and include questions such as "Does the BU need to be reinvented?", and the relationship between and roles of the central office and regional associations. As a first step, a statement of unity was proposed by the executive, who encouraged all to sign it as a pledge, which affirmed that we will "seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" despite differences in race, culture, and (Baptist) theology. Unfortunately, amid someone raising the question of "hermeneutic" as a safeguard against 'unity with false doctrine', the assembly became confused with procedures for admitting and contesting proposals and voting. It seemed that the executive present, were not well versed in the procedure. And so a couple of men from the floor were directing the chairman and general secretary on what was allowed and what wasn't. This also effected a general confusion in the assembly about what people were voting for. It was a terribly messy situation, and almost irrecoverable. And worst of all, it was evident that a large contingent were hurting because beyond the procedural confusion, they felt robbed of proper representation or recourse. No doubt, this will leave a bruise for a while, and I believe it needs to be addressed in the final sessions.
  2. As for the youth developer proposal, we have agreed to submit this issue under the greater investigation of the indaba – as one of the critical issues of the BU to be addressed. The think tank of the BYSA will get to work immediately in conjunction with the Indaba.Youth Developer or none, it is agreed that urgent action is needed to encourage youth ministry development in the union of Baptist churches.
After a long and arduous day, we skipped the assembly dinner and met as friends at Bradley Trout's (assoc. pastor, Mountain View Baptist) place for dinner and more fellowship. A refreshing time indeed.

BU Assembly, Day 3

As far as engaging topics, Sunday left much to be desired. I also found it unfortunate that Sunday's morning session of worship and devotion didn't feel any different to the business of the previous days, so that the sense of corporate Sunday worship was absent. 

The morning devotion touched again on poverty and the different biblical definitions or facets thereof, such as poverty from Laziness, poverty from Disaster, poverty from Exploitation, and poverty from Personal Sacrifice. Perhaps the conclusions could be stated thus:
  • we must resist the temptation to generalise – i.e. to assume that a person is poor by their own fault.
  • we must not glamourise poverty – i.e. especially those in poverty can idolise it and expect that it exempts them from being generous or merciful towards others
  • God certainly cares deeply for those in poverty.
  • Using the illustration of a man stuck in a pit and another man trying to help him out, identify where the "ladder" lies. If it's in the pit, let the victim work themselves out. If the ladder is lying on the ground above, let the helper set the ladder down
I and Chris Wood (Waterfall Baptist, Durban) decided to skip the BU lunch and went to a harbour in Fishoek instead for some local fish and chips. The town was buzzing with people, and we found a cramped take-away/restaurant (Kalkies) that served huge portions of hake and chips. What made the meal remarkable, was that a Muslim gentleman asked if he could sit with us, because his family couldn't all fit at the table behind us (what with his 2 wives!). We had good engaging conversation but neither Chris or I found an entrance to talk about the gospel. Nonetheless, it revived in us a sense of God's providence, bringing that man to our table, and also the sense that ultimately the best witnessing with a man like this (very religious in his Islam) would be through relationship. Naturally, after the time, you think of things you could've said to direct the conversation a bit more. The more we have these encounters, the better.

BU Assembly, Day 2

The second day of the assembly was very productive particularly through 2 very engaging events. One of these was actually not on the official program, but 8 of us pastors, of similar age and theological leaning, joined for coffee to discuss ministry and theology. A very edifying time ensued, debating the line between needed social upliftment and preventing a purely social gospel. Questions such as "Are the great commission, and the great commandments equal?" were addressed. 

The other very edifying session was a sermon delivered by a representative of the Baptist Union in Zimbabwe, who incidentally was standing in, last-minute, for the planned speaker. For someone who had little time to prepare, it was a remarkable delivery. He preached James 1, on the inseparable link between hearing God's word, and putting it into practice. These sermons should become available on the BU website at some stage.

I also share some morning devotion points that stuck with me:

Be cause we are made in the Image of God, we are relational beings. Those relationships are with God, self, others, and creation. When those relationships are not operating in His image, we reap poverty.

  • In relation to God: Lack of Spiritual Intimacy
  • In relation to self: Having a God complex
  • In relation to Others: Oppression
  • In relation to Creation: Materialism

Baptist Union Assembly, 3-7 October 2014

Once again the annual assembly has kicked off, this year in Strandfontein, Cape Town. This is the first year ever that it is hosted in a coloured church, after 136 years. There's a good attendance, a provoking theme, and I've heard there will be done interesting engagement over the future structure of the union.

The theme : God's mission, our compassion…. We cannot separate the great commission from the great commandments.

Michael’s progress

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Inside  the Harvest
 3 September 2014
Steven (Fanie) Loots

is a personal update from founder & CEO Steven (Fanie) Loots
to those closest to the Harvesters Family of Ministries.


KENYA – Michael Update

Since our last update, Michael has become fully lucid but remains paralyzed apart from his arms. It has come to light that what we thought was a hit and run accident was actually an attack by a mob of men who tried to kill him – possibly because of his faith. 

Michael is going to need help in his recovery and rehabilitation and we are asking our partners to open their hearts towards this precious brother. 
All gifts will go to Michael and his family. Their immediate need is for almost R20,000. Herbie Venter, our Field Director, will visit Michael as soon as possible to encourage him and work alongside him to ensure the ministry in Kenya continues. 


The video included below was filmed a day before the attack and shows his passion for his work. 

Michael - Kenya 2014
Michael – Kenya 2014


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