Month: March 2017

Lifting high…the Scriptures

With this post, Rick finishes his series of reflections from his trip to Europe this past fall. You can read the first three posts beginning here, and the second three here.

2017 is a significant marker in church history.  It is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Martin Luther nailed his “Ninety-five Theses” to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany on 31  October 1517.  Within months, copies spread throughout Europe.

Doctrinal affirmations of “sola scriptura” (Scripture alone), “sola fide” (faith alone), “sola Christus ” (Christ alone), “sola gratia” (grace alone), “sola Deo gloria” (the glory of God alone) sparked a return to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Lift high 1

The first of these, “sola Scriptura”, was the defining catalyst of the Reformation…the Word of God was being boldly proclaimed as the only source of divine knowledge and the only authority on earth to which the conscience of man was subject to.

As the Reformation spread into French-speaking Switzerland, Guillaume (William) Farel brought his fiery preaching into Geneva, eventually making his way north to Neuchatel.

On 23 October 1530, Farel stormed into the Collegial Church of Neuchatel. Accompanied by a crowd, he destroyed the idols which dishonored the worship of God.  He became the pastor of the church and remained there for the next 27 years until his death.

Farel was a man of intense courage, boldness, fearlessness and missionary zeal. This “Elijah of the Alps” roused John Calvin out of academic solitude. Farel sought out Calvin as he was passing through Geneva in July 1536 on his way to Strasbourg to continue his writing.

Placing his hand on Calvin’s head, he said, “May God curse you and your studies if you do not join me here in the work He has called you to do!” Calvin complied declaring, “I give myself up to the Lord’s good pleasure”.

The two remained life-long friends. Upon receiving a letter from Calvin, indicating his impending passing, Farel, then 75 years old, walked the 70 miles from Neuchatel to Geneva to be with his friend. Farel had taken a backseat upon the emergence of Calvin, but Calvin wrote to him, “Farewell, my best and most worthy brother. Since God has determined that you should survive me in this world, live mindful of our union, which has been so useful to the Church of God, and the fruits of which await us in heaven.”

Outside of his church in Neuchatel, a statue of Farel stands…crushing idols under his feet…and lifting high…the Scriptures (sola Scriptura). The Bible and the Bible only.

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Schaeffer writes that the Reformers had a “serious view of the Bible”…”the Reformation centered in the infinite-personal God who had spoken in the Bible.”

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As I travel in various parts of the world, I pray that God would raise up an army of fiery “Farels”…men and women of intense courage, boldness, fearlessness, and missionary zeal…who are not ashamed to lift high the Scriptures…proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Written by Rick Pierson, Executive Director of CompassGlobal



Dust Jackets

Rick continues his series of posts based on his trip to Europe last fall.

I love books…over the years I have gathered a small library, the core of which has come from my university and seminary days.  I’ve always had an interest in “dust jackets” on hardbacks and have tried to preserve them on my books.

While they do not actually protect from dust, they do serve to protect a book’s original cover while providing design interest and information on the content and author. The earliest known dust jacket was discovered on a 1829 book at the Bodleian Library, Oxford in 2009.Dust Jackets 4

Now before you think I need to get outside more, dust jackets are quite significant to book collectors.  Some can increase the value of a book hundreds of times over.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any of those. But one dust jacket that has always been significant to me is the one on “How Should We Then Live” by Francis Schaeffer.  It portrays the central panel, “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, of the Ghent Altarpiece painted by Jan van Eyck in 1432.

The Ghent Altarpiece is a twelve-panel oil painting that is counted among the great masterpieces of the world.  It also bears the distinction of being the most frequently stolen artwork of all time (thirteen times; if you’re interested in the fascinating history behind this painting, read Noah Charney’s, “Stealing the Mystic Lamb”).

The Ghent Altarpiece was designed for the Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, just north of Brussels.

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Just a few months ago, I traveled to Ghent with Olivier and Dan, two of our supported missionaries based in Brussels. I couldn’t believe, after looking at that dust jacket for forty years, that I was about to enter the cathedral (my photos above and below).

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Soon afterward…there it was…I was standing in front of the Ghent Altarpiece. Schaeffer writes, “It is an altarpiece containing wonderful pictures of Eve, Adam, and singing angels. But most impressive is the central theme: the rich, the poor–people of all classes and backgrounds–coming to Christ. And who is this Christ? Van Eyck comprehended the biblical understanding of Christ as the Lamb of God who died on the cross to take away the moral guilt of those who accept him as Savior.

But this Christ is not now dead. He stands upright and alive on the altar, symbolizing that he died as the substitute, sacrificed, but now he lives! As van Eyck painted this, almost certainly he had Jesus’ own words in mind as Christ speaks in the Apocalypse, the last book of the Bible: ‘I am the living one that became dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and I have the keys of death and hades.'”(“How Should We Then Live?”, p.66).

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Gazing at the Altarpiece with Olivier and Dan, my thoughts turned toward Belgium, France, the U.K., Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Moldova and our church planting partners in Europe…the uphill battle that they face…taking hope that Christ is not now dead!

Written by Rick Pierson, Executive Director of Compass Global

L’histoire des idees dans le Quartier Latin

This post resumes a series based on Rick’s trip to Europe last fall. You can read the first three posts in the series beginning here.

I’m sure most of us can point to a book that has had significant influence in our lives (beyond the Bible of course). For me, it was a book by Francis A. Schaeffer, “How Should We Then Live?”…released in 1976.

A university student that year and relatively new in my faith, I was enrolled in a course, “Ancient and Medieval Philosophy” that began to shake the foundation of what I believed.

I soon discovered that I was ill equipped to provide a defense of the historicity of Christianity…often being challenged to do so in class by the professor (after my feeble attempts to question him on the validity of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle…which seemed like a good idea at the time).

Schaeffer helped me think through how Christianity uniquely provides “real answers to the basic problems that all humanity faces…offering an explanation for all of life.”  He helped me to articulate a world view through a biblical lens.

I felt as though I was walking back in time through the pages of Schaeffer’s book on a recent visit to Paris.  We have global partners throughout Europe in France, Germany, the U.K., Belgium, Moldova, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Trying to reach post-Christian Europe with the gospel is as difficult as my attempts to go head-to-head with my philosophy professor.  According to Operation World, the percentage of evangelicals in Europe is about 2.5.  Slow going.

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While in Paris, I had a unique opportunity to see the city while looking through a historical, philosophical and religious lens. I joined a 5 hour walking tour of “The History of Ideas in the Latin Quarter”.

The Latin Quarter was at one time the true student and intellectual center of Paris…evoking images of Camus, Sartre, Beckett, the French resistance, the riots of 1968, let alone Abelard, Bacon, Magnus, Dante, Erasmus, Descartes, Locke, Pascal, Voltaire…even Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams.

My walking tour began at the Notre-Dame de Paris, (completed in A.D. 1345) in front of the Portal of the Last Judgment facade. It was here at Notre Dame in 1793 that the “Cult of Reason” emerged during the Enlightenment. Christianity was replaced by “reason, nature, happiness, progress, and liberty.”

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The tour concluded in the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, at the tomb of Rene Descartes. Known as the “father of modern philosophy” (“cogito ergo sum”; “I think, therefore I am”), his radical doubt would eventually place an “insurmountable roadblock to biblical faith”. While perhaps unintentional, he planted the seeds for later dissent from the theistic view of the world.

So in this year of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Europe is far removed from upholding the biblical absolutes that ignited the movement back to Scripture. America has followed. I pray that the spirit, zeal and courage of reformers such as Farel, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin take hold in us once more.

Written by Rick Pierson, Executive Director of CompassGlobal

Not forgotten

With this post Rick concludes his reflections on his recent trip to Moldova. You can begin the series here.

One of the great joys I have in Moldova is afternoon visits of the elderly after a full morning of teaching students.  I make it a high priority every time I go.  Kishinev Bible Church has an elder care ministry that regularly visits over 90 individuals.  It began with visitation to the home bound of those connected to the church, but now has expanded beyond that through word of mouth.  So many living in the numerous high rise Soviet-era flats in Moldova are isolated, lonely…and forgotten.

For me, it’s like stepping back into history.  These are individuals who have lived through  World War II, Stalin and Soviet communism.  They talk about the hardness of life, enduring frozen work camps in Siberia, hiding in bomb shelters, seeing their homes destroyed or seized.  One 90 year old woman I visited on this trip had been a spy for the Russian army.  She injured her back on a final parachute training jump.  Her team of 12 were all killed by the Nazis soon afterward on a mission to which she had been assigned.

I visited another fascinating woman on my final day.  This 80 year old had a contagious wit about her that was only accentuated by her Russian dialogue (the head of the church’s visitation ministry was there to translate for me).  She was born in Moscow and had been a professor of literature.  I asked her about her favorite writer.  With great excitement she said, “Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin!”  She promptly and proudly displayed one of his volumes.


Pushkin, born in Moscow in 1799, was a playwright, novelist and poet. He died at the age of 37 from a gunshot wound received fighting a duel over the honor of his wife.

I asked her if she could recite one of his poems…she immediately stood up and treated me to an amazing performance of several that she loved most. There was something about hearing Pushkin in Russian that stirred my soul.

She then did an encore from the poetry of Andrei Dementyev…and one from Mikhail Lermontov for good measure!

She talked with me about her grandfather (pictured second from the left in the photo below) who served in the Russian army under Tsar Nicholas II. Fascinating stuff!


As a result of the visitation ministry, she has recently begun attending the church. I hope that one day soon she will be reciting the Scriptures as passionately as she recited Pushkin.

As I left that day, she presented me with this small volume of poetry with a handwritten note on the inside cover (I’m going to have to expand my Russian vocabulary beyond the six words I know!). She said she hoped I wouldn’t forget her. I haven’t.


These visits for me, bring into bold application James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows…”.

Written by Rick Pierson, Executive Director of CompassGlobal

New Creations: Part Three

Rick continues his reflections on his recent trip to Moldova. You can read part one here and part two here.

An assignment I required for my class was to write on one of the five main sacrifices in Leviticus.  One of my students chose the peace offering found in Leviticus 3 and 7.  The following is a portion of life application he discovered from his study.  He wrote:

“By His mercy and grace, through His death on the cross and the resurrection on the third day, He rescued me from God’s wrath and the slavery of sin, to make me an agent of righteousness.

All I am and all I have belongs to Him.  My talents and my abilities and all my resources were given to me so that I could be a living sacrifice to the pleasure of God.

There is nothing else to make me more happy than to know that I belong to God, and that I can serve Him and other people, motivated by love and compassion, and not by fear, guilt or duty.

Growing up in an orphanage taught me to be a selfish taker…being a part of God’s family taught me to be a cheerful giver.”


Most of the students at the seminary were raised in dysfunctional homes.  Often one parent is an alcoholic and has abandoned the family.  Children are left to orphanages…and fend for themselves by the age of 16.  They have a difficult time accepting what it means to be part of a family and to call God, “Father”.

Yet here is a God, before whom angels continuously cry, “holy, holy, holy”, rescuing us from bondage to sin and tearing asunder the veil that separated us from Him…because of the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Jesus’ blood cleanses us…consecrates us…protects us from being “devoured”…granting us bold access into the holy presence of God.   Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

It was a privilege to stand before a class of new creations…teaching them about a holy God who by glorious nature cannot be approached other than the provision of a substitutionary Life…placing us into His family and transforming us from being selfish takers into cheerful givers.

Written by Rick Pierson, Executive Director of CompassGlobal

New Creations: Part Two

Rick continues his series of reflections from his recent trip to Moldova. You can read part one of the series here.

So how do you approach a “devouring fire” without getting devoured?  The Tabernacle made it possible for God to be with His people…and for them to be with Him.  Explicit instructions by God Himself were given in Exodus (He did not employ architects to compete for best design).  He then empowered and filled Bezalel and Oholiab (chapter 31) with the Holy Spirit to not only construct and fashion the tent of meeting, but to do it with the exact precision required.

Yet even with construction and adornments, it was not operational until the priests and everything in it was consecrated…by blood.  God can only be approached in the way determined by Him.

The invitation to His people to come boldly into His presence while avoiding disintegration on contact (the details of which are laid out in Leviticus) was actually a very loving thing to do.

I used a model (pictured below) as a way for my students to visualize the what, the why, and the how.  There was no end around with God…you couldn’t jump over the back fence and sneak in (Nadab and Abihu learned that lesson the hard way; Leviticus 10).


The holiness of God is difficult to grasp…but sin makes it a blinding reality. If seraphim (“burning ones”) continually declare, “holy, holy, holy” before Him, where does that leave us?

Written by Rick Pierson, Executive Director of CompassGlobal