Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dinner and Auction to Support Mary Robey Koch





(Written by Mike Ansel)

Scripture says to mourn with those who mourn and to rejoice with those who rejoice. As people, and especially as a group of Christian (Called out ones) people, our hearts are drawn to this sister who has been through more than we can imagine or even phantom!  

Mary Robey Koch entered the hospital with the hope of delivering her first child and the joy this would bring her and her husband.  After delivering her healthy son Cooper Mary contacted Sepsis and was thrown into a fight for her life!  Her extremities were under attack and within two days of delivery her feet and lower calf were amputated.  Muscle and infected dead skin were also removed as the doctors at the University of Michigan raced to save her hands!  Prayer warriors were called upon to stand in the gap for Mary.  It was not to be so as two days after loosing her feet Mary lost her hands! Unimaginable nightmare for this young first time mother, her mom and dad, and her inlaws!

Mary spent seven months in the trauma burn unit at the U. of M. hospital, and has been home for a month now.  Mary has a long road ahead of her with therapy, prosthetics, Dr. appointments, and caring for her now 8 month old son!  Of course Mary has had her "down" moments, but her faith remains strong as she puts her spiritual hands to the plow and moves forward with grace, strength, and dignity!  Mary has had a lot of support from her family and friends, and that's where we come in at Redeemer Fellowship. We believe in the Church as the wider body of those who have been saved and sanctified by the sacrifice of Jesus. Mary is a fellow sojourner on this road leading to the Celestial City. It is our Christian honor to help her along the way!  

Mary and her family have many needs, and one of the most pressing is monetary. We (at Redeemer) are planning a Dinner/Auction in order to raise funds toward those needs. I (we) want to partner with this sister and her family in a show of Christian unity and support. 

Of course we welcome help from all people of good will and compassion toward this cause.

The time is fast approaching when we will collectively bring forth a sacrifice of praise as we fellowship around a meal and auction/fundraiser in support of Mary at Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe.  

The date is May 13th. with auction viewing at 4:00 p.m. and dinner at 5:00 p.m. Live auction to start after dinner.  Silent auction bidding will start upon your arrival.  Two separate dinners will be served.  The wild game dinner is $15.00 dollars for adults 13 and up and $8.00 dollars for those 12 and under.  4 and under free!  The alternative dinner will be a simple hot dog, sloppy Joe, potato chips, dessert, and drink dinner for $6.00 for adults and $4.00 for children 12 and under.

In order to have a smooth operation it would be so helpful if we can have a "head" count as to who will be attending so the proper amount of food can be prepared. Auction items are still being accepted, as well as desserts, or a special "wild game" dish you would like to prepare!  
Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated. Call Mike Ansel at 734-241-3329 home or 734-770-4660 for information.  Lets make this day before Mothers Day a time of rejoicing for Mary and her supporters!

Email Mike Ansel at - mikewansel@yahoo.com

Email John Piippo at  - johnpiippo@msn.com

Depleted Leaders Over-rely on Outside Sources


Oak tree in my backyard
In the 1980s, when I was in the end stages of writing my doctoral dissertation at Northwestern University, I was at a point of burnout. Whatever creativity and energy I had were gone. I couldn't see the forest for the trees.

One day, as I was walking across campus, one of my professors saw me and asked, "How is the paper going?" 

"Not well," I responded. "I can't see clearly any more. I don't know what to do next."

"You need to take two weeks off and get away from it."

That was his counsel to me. I took it. During the two week hiatus the creative juices began to flow again.

I have never forgotten this. It applies to our spiritual lives as well.  

Years ago God called me to take several hours each week alone with him, praying and listening and discerning. When I do this I become less dependent on outside sources to inspire me because of what God is doing inside me. Other voices are at times helpful, but rarely do they assist me in the unique day-to-day challenges of ministry in my church family, times which demand creativity and discernment.

Burnout-busyness is the enemy of this. The busier a pastor gets the more they rely on outside sources to do the job of discerning for them because they lack the needed inner resources. Ruth Haley Barton writes:

"When we are depleted, we become overly reliant on voices outside of ourselves to tell us what is going on. We react to symptoms rather than seeking to understand and respond to underlying causes. We rely on other people’s ministry models and outside consultants because we are too tired to listen in our setting and craft something that is uniquely suited to meet the needs that are there. When we are rested, however, we bring steady, alert attention that is characterized by true discernment about what is truly needed in our situation, and the energy and creativity to carry it out."
- - Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, p. 121)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dr. Seuss's Cartesian, Sartrean Birthday Philosophy




































One of my favorite birthday books is Dr. Seuss’s epic Happy Birthday to You. For many years I read it to my sons on their birthdays. This has stopped, since they are now in their thirties.

Happy Birthday to You (hereafter HBtY) is the story of the Birthday Bird (hereafter BB) from the land of Katroo (hereafter Katroo), who arrives one night at the bedside of a boy on the eve of the boy’s birthday. The BB sweeps the kid up and takes him to Katroo for the hugest sugar-carb-filled birthday ever seen.

Seuss writes, on the BB:

“Katroo is the only place Birthday Birds grow.

This bird has a brain. He's the most beautifully brained

With the brainiest bird-brain that's ever been trained.

He was trained by the most splendid Club in this nation,

The Katroo Happy Birthday Asso-see-eye-ation.”

Even though Seuss does some loopy question-begging here, we see that the BB is smart. How smart? The BB has the “brainiest bird-brain that’s ever been trained.” 

The word “brainiest” is a superlative, indicating incomparability. The BB has (thinking on Anselmian lines) “a brain a greater than which cannot be conceived.” If it is the “brainiest” bird brain, indicating a brain a greater than which cannot be conceived, then the BB has omniscience. The BB seems to be, like God, an omniscient being.

The BB’s brain is “beautiful.” Like Nobel Laureate John Nash, the BB has “a beautiful mind.” Here one does not mean the brain’s physicality, but its sheer cognitive mental powers. But if the BB’s brain was “trained,” does that not imply that the brain-trainers of the Katroo Happy Birthday Asso-see-eye-ation have brainier brains than the brainiest brain of the BB? An omniscient brain would not require training. So on this point Seuss is logically incoherent.

"Dr." Seuss made his living on logical incoherencies. But that fact should not cause one to dismiss what comes next. To do so would be to miss some of the best philosophizing in all of Western culture.

“He [the BB] knows your address, and he heads for your bed.

You hear a soft swoosh in the brightening sky.

You are not all awake. But you open one eye.

Then over the housetops and trees of Katroo,

You see that bird coming! To you. Just to you!

That Bird pops right in! You are up on your feet!”

This is troublesome. A total stranger who:

1) Knows your address? How did the BB know your address? Because an omniscient being knows all things that can possibly be known, which would include your address.

2) The BB “pops right in.”

3) The BB “heads for your bed.”

This is disconcerting. The boy does not know the BB. He does not know the BB is omniscient. Even if he did know that the BB is omniscient, this does not imply that the BB is omnibenevolent. As far as the boy knows, the BB may be malevolent. Here is an omniscient and possibly malevolent Bird popping into your room, and heading for your bed. This is the stuff of nightmares. 

The BB says to the boy, “Get dressed!” This is an abduction. He sweeps the boy away, and on to Katroo! 

Five minutes later, you're having a snack

On you way out of town on a Smorgasbord's back.

"Today," laughs the Bird, "eat whatever you want.

Today no one tells you you cawnt or you shawnt.

And, today, you don't have to be tidy or neat.

If you wish, you may eat with both hands and both feet.

So get in there and munch. Have a big munch-er-oo!

Today is your birthday! Today you are you!

My concerns and thoughts include:

• The use of ‘cawnt’ and ‘shawnt’ are typical Seuss-isms as he desperately keeps the rhyme going.

• The assumption is: on your birthday, no one has the right to tell you what you can or cannot do. I like this, since today is my birthday.

• All food groups and food non-groups are fair game on your birthday. I like this, since today is my birthday.

• Forget all sanitary rules. I don't like this.

• Even eat with hands and both feet. The thought of eating with both feet disturbs me. Especially since, at my age, I can barely touch my feet.

• On your birthday you can eat like a pig with its snout everlastingly nuzzling in the trough of all calories.

Now Seuss engages in some big-time philosophizing. He writes: 

“Today is your birthday. Today you are you!”

You are you. ‘A’ is ‘A.’ This is the logic of identity. It’s tautological thinking, redundant stuff, Kantian analytic predicating. Leibnizian "identity of indiscernibles." When the subject is the self and the predicate is also the self we have a powerful, existential statement of personal identity. We are now heading in two converging directions; viz., Cartesianism and Kierkegaard’s idea of truth as subjectivity. Let us proceed.

“If we didn't have birthdays, you wouldn't be you.

If you'd never been born, well then what would you do?

If you'd never been born, well then what would you be?

You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!

You might be a doorknob! Or three baked potatoes!

You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes.

Or worse than all that… Why, you might be a WASN'T!

A Wasn't has no fun at all. No, he doesn't.

A Wasn't just isn't. He just isn't present.

But you… You ARE YOU! And, now isn't that pleasant!”

Seuss sets before us a philosophical smorgasbord. There are so many choices here that one wonders where to begin!

1. “If you’d never been born, then what would you do?” The answer is, ‘you’ wouldn’t ‘do’ anything, since ‘you’ would not be. "You" would not even be a "nonexistent thing," as if nonexistence could be predicated of nothing. ("Nonexistent thing" is a contradiction.)

2. You might be “a toad in a tree.” But this cannot be true, since if ‘you’ had never been born, then ‘you’ would not have been born as a toad in a tree. Had you been born as a toad in a tree you would have been born, and thus be a "you," but you would not know it. We have toads croaking in our backyard as I write. Perhaps some of them are in trees. Not one of them is thinking, “Wow – I was born as a toad in a tree!”

3. You could never have been born as a doorknob. No current physical theory allows for that kind of thing to happen. Doorknobs cannot procreate.

4. But… you might be a “Wasn’t.” That is, if you had never been born, even as a toad in a tree (but not as a doorknob) you would not exist at all and would be, ipso facto, a ‘Wasn’t.’ 

Pause here for a moment. I now compare Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness with Seussian philosophy.

In the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy essay on “Sartre’s Existentialism” we read:

“Sartre’s ontology is explained in his philosophical masterpiece, Being and Nothingness, where he defines two types of reality which lie beyond our conscious experience: the being of the object of consciousness and that of consciousness itself. The object of consciousness exists as “in-itself,” that is, in an independent and non-relational way. However, consciousness is always consciousness “of something,” so it is defined in relation to something else, and it is not possible to grasp it within a conscious experience: it exists as “for-itself.” An essential feature of consciousness is its negative power, by which we can experience “nothingness.” This power is also at work within the self, where it creates an intrinsic lack of self-identity. So the unity of the self is understood as a task for the for-itself rather than as a given.”

The connections between Sartre and Seuss should be obvious. But just in case they are not:

1. Seuss’s “You are you” (or later, his “I am I”) is “independent and non-relational.” Here, the Seussian self is not defined in relation to something else. It exists “for itself.” This is precisely the kind of birthday Seuss is advocating; viz., a birthday that is only about the self and for the self. I like this because today is my birthday.

2. A ‘Wasn’t’ has an “intrinsic lack of self-identity.” That is, a ‘Wasn’t’ essentially, or ontologically, lacks self-identity.

The philosophical excitement builds as Seuss writes:

“Shout loud at the top of your voice, "I AM I!

ME!

I am I!

And I may not know why

But I know that I like it.

Three cheers! I AM I!"”

Sartre’s definition of existentialism is: existence precedes essence. One first of all, primordially, exists. “I am .” Or: ‘A’ is ‘A.’ The predicate is self-identical with the subject. One’s existence is, drawing from Kant, “analytic” rather than “synthetic.”

Seuss continues:

“Sing loud, "I am lucky!" Sing loud, "I am I!"

If you'd never been born, then you might be an ISN'T!

An Isn't has no fun at all. No he disn't.

He never has birthdays, and that isn't pleasant.

You have to be born, or you don't get a present.”

Here a celebration breaks forth as the Cartesian certainty is clarified. I exist! Seuss’s Cartesian certainty is as follows:

1. I have a birthday.

2. Therefore I am.

You have to exist to have a birthday. Neither Seuss nor Descartes nor Sartre are making an evidentialist argument for personal existence. One’s own existence is simply a given, a datum, much like a Plantingian “properly basic belief.” (Note: you have to exist in order to utter the proposition "I have a birthday." Claim-making requires actual existence.)

Which brings us to my favoritest line in the entire book:

 “You have to be born, or you don’t get a present.” 

Taking this line, and using a reductio, I reason:

1. I got presents today.

2. Therefore I was born.

3. Therefore I exist. (From 1 & 2)

The rest of Seuss’s book is a giant celebration of ego-centered, non-relational, personal, gluttonous existence. At the book’s end I am exhausted and touched, as Seuss writes:

“I am what I am! That's a great thing to be!

If I say so myself, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!"

Now, by Horseback and bird-back and Hiffer-back, too,

Come your friends! All your friends! From all over Katroo!

And the Birthday Pal-alace heats up with hot friends

And your party goes on!

On and on

Till it ends.

When it ends,

You're much happier,

Richer and fatter.

And the Bird flies you home

On a very soft platter.

So that's

What the Birthday Bird

Does in Katroo.

And I wish

I could do

All these great things for you!”

Pastors Must Not Give In to Cultural Desires

Image result for john piippo money
Detroit

Once upon a time someone left our church because they didn't like what I was preaching about money.

I was preaching through the four Gospels. It took seven years to get through them. Jesus talks a lot about money, and it is all negative. "Money" is an alternative god that competes for our worship.

This person was all about making lots of money, and didn't like hearing what Jesus says. My guess was that they didn't like Jesus because of watching too much prosperity gospel TV.

So, what is a pastor to do? Keep preaching what Jesus says. Pastors are not, Eugene Peterson says, to give in to the cultural sirens. He writes:

Pastors, "you are not the minister of our changing desires, or our time-conditioned understanding of our needs, or our secularized hopes for something better." (Eugene H. Peterson, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, Kindle Locations 244-245)

If you are interested in what Jesus says about money, then must reading is:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

Ben Witherington, Jesus and Money

Monday, April 24, 2017

Morality Needs God

Jerusalem

One Isis horror story goes like this. Isis members raped a mother in front of her children. She was crying and screaming while being raped. The one of the Isis persons beheaded her baby in front of her and placed the baby on her lap.

Call this example X. Write X into a moral claim: X is wrong.

Is X objectively wrong? If so, then the claim X is wrong is true for everyone, just as I'm now typing these words is true for everyone. 

Many believe that if God does not exist, then there are no objective moral values. On atheism X is wrong is not an objective claim; viz., it is not true for everyone. 

It's not hard to find intellectual atheists who believe that God and objective morality stand or fall together. That is, who believe that if God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist. Here are some examples.

Jean-Paul Sartre: “It [is] very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him.” (Sartre, Existentialism and Human Emotion, 22)

Friedrich Nietzsche: “There are altogether no moral facts”; indeed, morality “has truth only if God is the truth— it stands or falls with faith in God.” (Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols and the Antichrist, 55, 70)

Bertrand Russell rejected moral realism and retained the depressing view that humanity with all its achievements is nothing “but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms”; so we must safely build our lives on “the firm foundation of unyielding despair.” (Russell, "A Free Man's Worship," in Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays, 41)

J. L. Mackie: “Moral properties constitute so odd a cluster of properties and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful all-powerful god to create them.” (Mackie, The Miracle of Theism, 115)

Richard Dawkins concludes that a universe of “just electrons and selfish genes” would mean “there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” (Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, 132-133)

Because real atheism is philosophical naturalism, and nature (matter) is valueless, "why think that value would emerge from valuelessness?" (Paul Copan, "Ethics Needs God," in Debating Christian Theism, 86)

The atheist who, e.g., accuses Christians of being "intellectually dishonest," tacitly assumes the existence of God, without which his moral accusation is logically incoherent. Such an "atheist" is precisely the despicable, intellectually dishonest "village atheist" Nietzsche writes about. 

Self-Image and Failing Well

Image result for john piippo failure
Monroe County


We all fail. How we handle our failures depends on our self-image. A healthy self-image
allows us to fail well. An entitlement attitude causes us to fail poorly.

John Townsend writes:

"You need to learn to fail in healthy and redemptive ways, because fail you will. People with a healthy and accurate self-image don’t have a big problem with failure." (Townsend, The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way, p. 132)

Here, writes Townsend, is how failure is handled by someone with a healthy self-image.

1. They experience disappointment.

2. They lean on God. "I need God's help and wisdom in this."

3. They find support. They talk with friends who have healthy self-images.

4. They learn. "What was my contribution to the problem? What do I need to change?"

5. They adapt. "It's time to swing the bat again and try things a different way."

"That’s how it should work when we fail. Since failure, and even repeated failure, is simply a given in life, then over and over again we go through these five steps, and each next time we fail well and at a higher level." (Ib., pp. 132-133)

The entitled person struggles to fail well. Townsend says they have two self-images, an external one, and an internal one. Then external image appears confident, even arrogant. The internal self-image of the entitled person is insecure and afraid. "Above all," writes Townsend, they are "risk-averse." "The entitled person is deathly afraid of taking a risk and failing... So he postures about his specialness, but he never gets anywhere because he remains frozen in his ability to take normal risks that everyone has to endure to get anywhere. His internal self-image says, “I can’t do this and I can’t try.”: (Ib., p. 133) 

Townsend counsels the following to help the entitlement person.

1. Understand that you are loved by God, not because of your competence, but because you are God's child. God loves you, by grace, not performance, success, or failure.

2. Try new things. No one does them well at first. As you struggle, even fail, keep the first point before you; viz., God loves you.

3. Practice, learn, get advice, fail, and adapt.

4. "Gradually, you begin doing things better. Now the self-image says, "I am loved, and I am competent."

Townsend concludes,

"This is what works. Love precedes confidence, but confidence can’t exist outside of failure and adaptation. When your self-image aligns with what is real and true about you — in other words, how God sees and experiences you— it works for you and not against you." (Ib., pp. 134-135)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Children and Entitlement

Image result for john piippo entitlement
Bangkok

Psychologist John Townsend writes that much research is coming out about children and entitlement (The Entitlement Cure, 97). 

"Scientists are discovering that when kids get overpraised, they become less confident and so become risk-averse. Praise is a great thing, and we all need to know that others affirm our efforts and successes. But overpraise is a very different thing. When you overpraise a child, you affirm successes out of all proportion to reality— and the child inevitably pays for it." (Ib.)

When kids get overpraised "they know at some level that the praise is not based on reality. So they develop a fear of taking risks and of failing." (Ib.)

Townsend writes:

"Most kids have not yet developed the capacity to think, I know what I’m capable of, and what to do when I come to a situation beyond my capability. Instead, they overflow with anxiety and shame, and so they just don’t try at all." (Ib.)

We all want our children to be confident. This will not come from overpraising them. It will come from success. "The only path to great and genuine self-confidence is a history of success. When you can look back at twenty speaking events that went well, or a series of work promotions at the same job, or a year’s AA chip, you will feel confident. And you should... Confident people don’t have to talk themselves into “I can do this.” They know they can, because they already have done it. (98)

Entitlement produces people who lack confidence. Because...

Confidence is earned, not bequeathed. 

***
SEE ALSO:


How to Communicate With an Entitlement-Diseased Person


Marriage Counseling Material

Monroe sunset

A friend asked this question: "Do you have any marriage counseling material that you can share with me?"

Here are some things to begin... 



ONLINE RESOURCES


I use the FOCCUS materials for marital and premarital counseling. 


startmarriageright.com - This is Gary Chapman's excellent website.




BOOKS


Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Got Married, by Gary Chapman

Linhda and I read this after almost 40 years of marriage and still enjoyed it.

Real Relationships: From Bad to Better and Good to Great, by Les and Leslie Parrott

Marital and premarital couples will benefit from this excellent book.

Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling: A Guide to Brief Therapy, by Everett Worthington   

Linda and are reading this book together. It's more academic, and for marital counselors. Very good!

Torn Asunder: Recovering From an Extramarital Affair, by Dave Carder

This is the book Linda and I recommend for people who have experienced this.

Caring enough to Confront: How to Understand and Express Your Deepest Feelings Toward Others, by David Augsburger

Linda and I have used this book so much in marital and relationship counseling that we should be getting royalties from it. On how to communicate in the midst of conflict.

The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love, by Robert Enright

For Linda and I the key to a healthy marriage is: confession and forgiveness. In this book University of Wisconsin psychologist Enright shows us the relational power of forgiveness, in stories and empirical research.

The Mystery of Marriage, by Mike Mason

The most beautiful exaltation of marriage ever written?

Fit to Be Tied, by Bill and Lynn Hybels
Linda and I led a class on marriage using this book.

I Married You, and I Loved a Girl, by Walter Trobisch
These two beautiful books were recommended to Linda and I before we got married.



LINKS TO THINGS I'VE WRITTEN


Your Marriage Can Be Saved (Especially for Husbands)


A Wedding Is a Welding

How to Save Your Failing Marriage

28 Danger Signs for the Not Yet Married

Dealing With Anger In Relationships

Using Logic to Manage Anger in Relationships

Your Marriage Represents Christ and the Church

Want to Be Married? Prepare for Conflict!






Saturday, April 22, 2017

The True Contrarians of Our Time

Image result for john piippo reaction
Bangkok

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This is called Newton's third law of physics.

America's current over-sexed reaction is already causing a reaction. There is, Mary Eberstadt says, an itinerant but continuous exodus out of non-religious territories and into religious ones is ecumenical—neither just a Catholic nor a Protestant thing.

Eberstadt quotes Russell Moore's observation in his 2015 book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel,

"The sexual revolution cannot keep its promises. People think they want autonomy and transgression, but what they really want is fidelity and complementarity and incarnational love. If that’s true, then we will see a wave of refugees from the sexual revolution."

Eberstadt writes:

"We’re already seeing it. These are the true contrarians of our time—the believers who do not want to jettison the Judeo-Christian moral code, but want to do something more radical: namely, live by it."

Eberstadt, Mary. It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies (pp. 114-115). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.