Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Presence-Driven Pastors Practice A.S.L.O.

Michigan flowers

I'm on our back deck rewriting Chapter 8 of my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

Here's a clip from this chapter.

Out of my desire to be a good leader for Christ, I have read many books on leadership. Some of them had titles like this: Fifty Keys to Leadership.[1] To be a great leader, I needed to keep these principles always before me. Plus, I needed to assimilate twenty-five keys to motivating people, twenty-five more keys to a sound business plan, read the top twenty-five classics on “success,” and evaluate it all by using 25 Need-to-Know Performance Indicators.[2] In addition, I read John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader,[3] and then The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.[4]

Now, decades later, I don’t remember most of these keys and qualities. But I do remember coming to a point where I thought, for a brief moment, “I was wrong. Pastoral leadership is rocket science!”

As I read the story of Jesus, I see his leadership keys and indicators coming down to one thing: Follow me. “My sheep,” said Jesus the Greatest of Leaders, “hear my voice, and follow.”

This was something even the unschooled, idiot disciples could do.[5] Hear the voice of Jesus. Follow. That is what I think pastoral leadership comes down to.

What about the “indispensable qualities” and the “irrefutable laws?” I see them as the inevitable fruit of an abiding life. That is, once the abiding life is engaged in, transformation into Christlike qualities happens, like blueberries on a blueberry bush. You become, inexorably, a servant, a discerner, an influencer, and so on, all because of Christ, the hope of glory, in you.

Leading a Presence-Driven Church cannot be rocket science, though it might sometimes feel like you have been tied to a rocket and launched. Presence-Driven Leaders simply do this:

1.    Abide in Christ
2.    Saturate in the Scriptures
3.    Listen (Discern God’s voice)
4.    Obey

To lead a Presence-Driven Church, a pastor follows A.S.L.O. – Abide, Saturate, Listen, Obey.

[1] This is not, as far as I know, an actual book.
[2] By Bernard Marr.
[3] One of the greatest, most impactful sermons I ever heard was by John Maxwell at a Promise Keepers conference.
[4] Both by John  Maxwell.
[5] Acts 4:13 says, When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. “Unschooled” is the Greek word agrammatoi; “ordinary” is idiotai.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

One-Hour Seminary - Tonight (7/25), 9-10 PM (EST)

One Hour Seminary - July 25, 9 PM EST

My first One Hour Seminary will be:

TONIGHT, July 25, 9-10 PM (EST)

Purpose: to equip followers of Jesus biblically and theologically; to go deeper into important biblical and theoilogical subjects.

Topic for 7/25: Why I Believe the Bible Is the Word of God

I will be live on Facebook Messenger.

I will teach from 25-30 minutes on the topic.

You can respond with questions or comments by typing them in. I will respond back to as many of those as I can.

To Access Messenger via computer*

1. Go To
2. Download off main page or just login to Facebook and use the mailbox there.
3. After download, app will prompt you to sign in with your login Note: you will need a Facebook account to log in.

1. Go to google play App Store (appears to be a shopping bag with a play symbol on it. |>
2. Refer to step 2 under apple

*Thank you Eric for helping me with this!

My book on prayer is a record of my personal, theological, and biblical thoughts on a praying life, coming out of forty years of praying several hours a week. You can purchase it as a soft cover or Kindle book at - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

My next book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church. I should be available Aug/Sept this year.


The Bible Gives Us a Story That is True

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Monarch butterfly, Green Lake, Wisconsin

Stories more easily stay in me than logical arguments. I value logical. I like formulating and evaluating arguments. But I remember a good story after the first hearing.

Eugene Peterson, in Subversive Spirituality, reasons that stories are revolutionary and subversive precisely because they are so memorable. A story can get inside a person and, like a Trojan horse, capture a human heart from the inside.

Like N. T. Wright and many others, Peterson sees the Bible as essentially a story that conveys truth. "The Bible as a whole comes to us in the form of a narrative." (5)

A tale, containing truth.
For example, within the "large, sprawling narrative," Mark writes his Gospel. (Note: compare Peterson with N.T. Wright's The Last Word, and the Bible as a "5-Act Play.")
Stories convey truth in ways prose and sheer logical arguments cannot. I teach logic to undergraduates, so I have some idea of what I'm talking about. Peterson writes:

"Storytelling creates a world of presuppositions, assumptions, and relations into which we enter. Stories invite us into a world other than ourselves, and, if they are good and true stories, a world larger than ourselves. Bible stories are good and true stories, and the world that they invite us into is the world of God's creation and salvation and blessing." (5)
Stories master us, rather than us mastering them.
The biblical story (the Wrightian "Grand Narrative") is "large" and "capacious." That is, the biblical narrative has "great containing capacity." Within this capacious story "we learn to think accurately, behave morally, preach passionately, sing joyfully, pray honestly, obey faithfully." (5)
Dare not to abandon the story! Do so and you've reduced "reality to the [meagre, non-capacious] dimensions of our minds and feelings and experience." (5)

Peterson writes: "The moment we formulate our doctrines, draw up our moral codes, and throw ourselves into a life of ministry apart from a continuous re-immersion in the story itself, we walk right out of the presence and activity of God and set up our own shop." (5)
Centuries of Hebrew storytelling find their mature completion in the story of Jesus
If I was God, and wanted the best mode of communicating to my children, would I choose logical argumentation or stories? Obviously, stories. People go to the movies to watch narratives, not monological argumentation. (Linda and I saw "Dunkirk" last week. A brilliant movie, I thought, as it weaves three stories together.)

"'Story'," writes Peterson, "is the Holy Spirit's dominant form of revelation. [It's] why we adults, who like posing as experts and managers of life, so often prefer explanation and information." (4)

    Monday, July 24, 2017

    Forgiveness As a Gateway to Healing (Sermon)

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    Holland State Park, Michigan

    My sermon "Forgiveness As a Gateway to Healing" is HERE (with PowerPoint).

    Price Drop On My Book "Praying"

    The price of my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, has dropped $4 on Amazon.

    This is for the paperback. The Kindle version is still $9.99.

    I don't know how this happens (I don't have a say in pricing the hard copies). 

    Jesus' Kingdom Is Unplugged From this Culture

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    Lake Erie sunrise from Kelleys Island, Ohio

    The word for us is not "relevant."

    1. closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered.

      "what small companies need is relevant advice"
      synonyms:pertinent, applicable, apposite, material, apropos, to the point, germane; More
      • appropriate to the current time, period, or circumstances; of contemporary interest.

        "critics may find themselves unable to stay relevant in a changing world"

    If "relevant" means "connected," we are disconnected.

    If "relevant" means "related," we are unrelated.

    If "relevant" means "appropriate to the current circumstances," we are strangers.

    If "relevant" means "linked," we are aliens.

    "The Christian," writes Eugene Peterson, "is a witness to a new reality that is entirely counter to the culture. The Christian faith is a proclamation that God's kingdom has arrived in Jesus, a proclamation that puts the world at risk. What Jesus himself proclaimed and we bear witness to is the truth that the sin-soaked, self-centered world is doomed.
    Pastors are in charge of keeping the distinction between the world's lies and the gospel's truth clear."
    - In Marva J. Dawn, The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, Kindle Locations 64-66

    "My kingdom," said Jesus, "is unplugged from this culture."

    "My kingdom," said Jesus, "is from an alternative reality." (John 18:36)

    Peterson writes:

    "Our place in society is, in some ways, unique: no one else occupies this exact niche that looks so inoffensive but is in fact so dangerous to the status quo. We are committed to keeping the proclamation alive and to looking after souls in a soul-denying, denying, soul-trivializing age. But it isn't easy. Powerful forces, both subtle and obvious, attempt either to domesticate pastors to serve the culture as it is or to seduce us into using our position to become powerful and important on the world's terms.: (Ib., Kindle Locations 67-70)

    My two books are:

    Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

    Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Sept. 2017)

    Sunday, July 23, 2017

    Why an Atheist Finds Miracles Impossible


    "If resurrections happened every day, atheists would find a natural reason for them and still reject miracles."
    - Joe Puckett. The Apologetics of Joy: A Case for the Existence of God from C. S. Lewis’s Argument from Desire, p. 83)


    Because a true atheist is a philosophical naturalist. On philosophical naturalism, transcendent, non-natural (super-natural) causes cannot exist.

    Therefore, every event, to include a resurrection, has to have a purely physical cause.

    It's like saying, snow cannot be non-white, since snow is white.

    If one accepts as true the statement Snow is white, then it logically impossible for non-white snow to exist.

    By analogy, if one accepts the statement All events have purely physical causes, then of course even a resurrection, should one occur, is not a miracle. Miracles cannot occur, since miracles are impossible. (That's called "begging the question.")

    Pure philosophical naturalists are cognitively incapable of seeing or experiencing a miracle. Their only hope might be an experience of what seemed to them to be a Kuhnian anomaly, causing them to question the veridicality of their noetic framework (paradigm). As Kuhn has showed us, once a paradigm is locked into someone's mind, it is very hard to dislodge. (Paradigms are "obstinate.")

    (As a theist, I reject the metaphysical statement All events have purely physical causes.)

    My two books are:

    Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Sept. 2017)

    It Is a Fearful Thing to Grow in Love

    Bamboo, outside of Brasilia, Brazil
    What our diseased world needs now is love. I pray for love to fully rescue my imprisoned heart. 

    Thomas Merton writes: "Now I see more and more that there is only one realistic answer: Love. I have got to dare to love, and to bear the anxiety of self-questioning that love arouses in me, until “perfect love casts out fear.”"[1] 

    How do I “dare to love?” I think it means abiding in Christ and, in the intimacy of this, asking God to produce his love in me. That is, God's love is so transcendent and beautiful that only God could transform my heart.

    As the transformation happens, I will acquire love’s attributes. I will…

    • become patient
    • become kind
    • not envy
    • not boast
    • not be prideful
    • not dishonor others
    • not be self-seeking
    • not be easily angered
    • keep no record of wrongs
    • not delight in evil
    • rejoice with the truth
    • alway protects
    • alway trusts
    • alway hopes
    • alway perseveres
    • never fail

    I will sacrifice for others. Jesus said "anyone who loves their life will lose it."[2] And: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."[3]

    My love domain will expand. Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."[4] In this way, love is power. With love, things come together; with war, things fall apart. Christ’s love, in me, will be reconciling and restoring.

    The world needs love. I need love. The only answer is God. 

    Love's primal, aboriginal subject is God. Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”[5] "Love" is defined by the being of God. God is love, in essence.

    The world fails to find love apart from God. Love makes no rational sense without God. Without God, and if there is no God, love does not exist. 

    Atheist physicist Stephen Weinberg acknowledged this.[6] Weinberg's scientism causes him to conclude that "the worldview of science is rather chilling...  the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our wives and husbands and children, are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over millions of years."

    Weinberg is correct. If there is no God, there is no "love," since all our emotions, to include "love," are but chemical processes in our physical brains. 

    Weinberg is incorrect. There is a God. This God is love. God’s love looks like Jesus. It is the only answer.

    I once heard that the actor John Wayne defined “courage” as being afraid, but saddling up anyway. It is a fearful thing to grow in love, because it requires deep change. Say the word “change,” and choruses of trepidation sing. 

    Courage is needed. 

    I am praying for courage to love.

    [1] Merton, Learning to Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom (The Journals of Thomas Merton), New York: Harper Collins, Kindle Locations 857-858, April 25, 1966.
    [2] John 12:25
    [3] John 15:13
    [4] Matthew 5:44
    [5] Matthew 22:37-39
    [6] Stephen Weinberg, “Without God.” The New York Review of Books, September 25, 2008.

    Saturday, July 22, 2017

    Pastors - Cast Fire on the Earth

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    Retreat center outside of Brasilia, Brazil, where Linda and I were a few years ago.

    The message of Jesus is deeply, profoundly countercultural.

    This is why, pastors, being "relevant" is acquiescing to culture, rather than being transforming agents of culture.

    Incarnate - yes! But look how Jesus did it. He did not consider equality with culture a thing to be grasped. Instead, he "came to cast fire upon the earth!" (Luke 12:49)

    Ahhh...   but our culture wants to tame Jesus, and us along with him. Forget fire-casting. Put those torches away and entertain the people. We are to be "nice." We are not supposed to create problems and make trouble on the earth.

    The voices of American culture want to "turn us into replicas of our cultural leaders, seeking after power and influence and prestige. These insistent voices drum away at us, telling us pastors to go out and compete against the successful executives and entertainers who have made it to the top, so that we can put our churches on the map and make it big in the world." (Eugene Peterson, in Marva J. Dawn. The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, Kindle Locations 59-61)

    My fellow pastors, my colleagues - shall we revolt against our culture's ideas of what we are to be, pick up the flame of Jesus, and bring fire down in our churches, in our communities? And do so in humility and love, empowered by the Spirit?