Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Praying for God-love to Totalize Me (PrayerLife)

Worship at Redeemer

Jesus tells me to love my enemies. I understand this in my mind. But my problem is that my heart has not caught up to my mind. I'm asking God to fully bring the beautiful "love your enemies" command into my heart, AKA my being. How important is this? My understanding is that, in God's kingdom, everything rises and falls on this.

Greg Boyd writes

"The distinct mark of the reign of God is that God’s people love and do good to people who don’t love them and don’t treat them well—indeed, to people who hate them, mistreat them, and even threaten them and their loved ones." 

I am to love my enemies and do good to them, no exceptions allowed. Just as the rain is indiscriminate as to where it falls, God's love does not discriminate between friends and enemies. Greg writes:

"Notice that there are no exception clauses found anywhere in the New Testament’s teaching about loving and doing good to enemies. Indeed, Jesus’ emphasis on the indiscriminate nature of love rules out any possible exceptions. The sun doesn’t decide on whom it will and will not shine. The rain doesn’t decide on whom it will and will not fall. So too, Kingdom people are forbidden to decide who will and will not receive the love and good deeds we’re commanded to give."

God is love.

Jesus' had compassion on people, seeing them as sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus died for his enemies (AKA me).

I am praying for this kind of love to totalize me.

Bob Sorge - God Could Have Left Job Alone (HD)

Discovering the Real Jesus - Class Begins Thursday, Sept. 18

Our focus at Redeemer is on peeling away layers of culture and folk wisdom that surrounds Jesus and discovering the Real Jesus, AKA the historical, biblical Jesus.

Want to know more about Jesus? Then I invite you to attend our Real Jqesus class, which begins this Thursday, Sept. 18.

You may contact me ( or call the church office (734-242-5277) to sign up.

It's taught by Jim Collins. Here is the syllabus.

RMS - Discovering the Real Jesus
Class syllabus

Contact information

Jim Collins

Eleven Thursdays, 18 September through 4 December (no class 27 November)
7-9 PM

Course Description

We live in a culture that often misrepresents the real, historical Jesus. The purpose of this course is to raise the level of the students’ Jesus-literacy and experience of Christ. In this course students will:
·        Study about Jesus from the biblical texts, as understood within the historical context in which they were written.
·        Study some of the current real Jesus literature as an aid to understanding the biblical accounts of Jesus.
·        Learn how to distinguish the real Jesus from the fictional.
·        Encounter and experience Christ as an ongoing, living reality.
This will be accomplished through classroom readings, class discussion, and homework assignments.


·        Using scripture and book excerpts:
o   Define who Jesus said he was
o   Define who Jesus was by the things he did
o   Debunk our presuppositions
o   Define our life actions based on the Jesus of the gospels

“Final Exam”

1.     1 John 3:1-3

Class outline

1.     Introduction
a.     Class format
b.     Your expectations
c.      Who are we looking for?
d.     Video: Louie Giglio Indescribable
e.      Christianity: “The state of the art”
2.     The gospels: Can we believe what we read?
a.     Truth or public relations?
3.     Class reading of the sermon on the mount
a.     Analyze who Jesus was based on his statements
b.     Briefly discuss our state and future actions
4.     Class reading of the gospel of John
a.     Who did Jesus say he was?
b.     Who did others say he was?
5.     The trinity
a.     The fellowship of God and our invitation
6.     The Messiah – the Jewish hope
a.     Jesus – guess who’s coming to dinner
7.     The Incarnation and birth
a.     Excerpt: Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes
8.     Jesus making disciples
a.     Disciples versus deciders
9.     Jesus’ roles (e.g., healer, teacher)
a.     Messiah and King
b.     Homework: NT Wright excerpt: How God Became King
10.                        The Kingdom of God
a.     Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God
                                                             i.      Find the message in the gospels
b.     Basic eschatology

Relevant Books

·        N.T. Wright, How God Became King
·        Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew
·        Richard Bauckham, Jesus: A Very Short Introduction
·        Michael J. McClymond, Familiar Stranger
·        Ben Witherington, The Christology of Jesus

·        Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

10 Warning Signs That You Are Doing Well

10. You are using the word "No" when pressured to say yes. 

9. You are speaking soft words instead of harsh words that come to mind.

8. You are following Jesus into situations where there is personal risk. 

7. You are making right choices rather than utilitarian ones.

6. You have been going out of your way to be nice to people.

5. You are noticing God's active presence in circumstances that normally feel like a waste of time.

4. You are experiencing inner togetherness in the midst of outer chaos. 

3. You are having hard-to-describe positive sensations that transcend mere happiness. 

2. You have been feeling compassion towards people who dislike you.

1. You have been catching yourself humming worship songs to God.

Praying to Deepen My Conviction that God's Love for Me is Enough

Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin

Henri Nouwen was open about his struggle with self-hatred. He found the antidote to this heart-disease in a life of prayerful dwelling in God's presence. Few have written so well about this spiritual battle. I thank God often for Nouwen, and how God has used him to minister to me and lead me out of my own self-obsession.

Nouwen believed, as the apostle Paul did, that our pre-Jesus condition finds ourselves with this situation: I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. When we become Jesus-followers this situation is defeated within us, and we discover that God's love now reigns in our hearts. In spite of this, the powers of darkness come to accuse us, even "day and night." This should not surprise us.

Nouwen writes:

"As you see more clearly that your vocation is to be a witness to God's love in this world, and as you become more determined to live out that vocation, the attacks of the enemy will increase. You will hear voices saying, "You are worthless, you have nothing to offer, you are unattractive, undesirable, unlovable." The more you sense God's call, the more you will discover in your own soul the cosmic battle between God and Satan. Do not be afraid. Keep deepening your conviction that God's love for you is enough, that you are in safe hands, and that you are being guided every step of the way. Don't be surprised by demonic attacks. They will increase, but as you face them without fear, you will discover that they are powerless." (Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love)

The way to hear what Nouwen described as "the inner voice of love" is to spend much intentional time dwelling in God's presence. When I assign my seminary students to do this, and read their spiritual journals, it is common to see this sentence written: "Today God told me that he loved me." 

Do not expect to follow after Jesus and escape the voices of hatred. Because of this "the more you are called to speak for God's love, the more you will need to deepen the knowledge of this love in your own heart. The farther the outward journey takes you, the deeper the inward journey must be." Only when your roots are deep can your fruits be abundant." (Ib.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Leaders, Prepare for Pain

I am not now in a place of unusual or exceptional leadership pain. Every leader experiences pain. This includes me. I'm saying this because the following quote is not some cathartic, hidden-message act on my part. It's just truth, expressed well.

Ruth Haley Barton writes:

"I have seen and experienced things in leadership for which I still don’t have categories and may never this side of heaven—as I’m sure we all have. But one thing is sure: the choice to lead something, to orient your life toward some vision or ideal and to lead in that direction opens you to a world of challenge and pain that you might not otherwise have to face." 

Barton gives an example, citing Edwin Friedman:

“A major difficulty in sustaining one’s mission is that others who start out with the same enthusiasm will come to lose their nerve. Mutiny and sabotage come not from enemies who opposed the initial idea, but rather from colleagues whose will was sapped by unexpected hardships along the way.”


Among the many joys of leadership there is also pain in the offering.

WORSHIP 1 - Intimacy, Identity, Worship

This class begins tomorrow at Redeemer. Send Holly an email if you want to join.

WORSHIP I – Intimacy, Identity & Worship

Instructor – Holly Benner                            734-625-6025              (my personal blog on my growing worship theology!)

Course Description

True worship and adoration is birthed out of intimacy with God. I believe that one of the major hindrances to intimacy with God is having misconceptions about the identity of God and the identity of yourself in Him. This class will focus on building and furthering that love relationship with Him while defining the truth about who you are.


Students will gain a Biblical understanding of the definition of worship and how we live it.
Students will develop/cultivate their personal relationship with God.
Students will learn about the importance of intimacy with God, how it relates to worship and effective partnership in His Kingdom.


*In-class attendance and participation                                  *Thanksgiving journal – typed
*Completion of periodic homework                                       *Demonstration of understanding of the material

Teaching Method

Personal reading, worship and interaction with God
Class lectures & discussions

Supplemental Resources:   (aka  Holly’s recommendations!!! J)

The Fire of God’s Love – Bob Sorge
Holiness, Truth and the Presence of God – Francis Frangipane (one of my all-time favorite books!)
Divine Love Song: Discover God’s Passion for You in the Song of Solomon – Elizabeth Mulloy
After God’s Own Heart: Becoming a David Generation – Mike Bickle
The Song of Songs: The Divine Romance Between God and Man – Watchman Nee
Passion For Jesus: Cultivating Extravagant Love For God – Mike Bickle
Worship Warrior: Ascending in Worship, Descending in War – Chuck Pierce
Face To Face With God – Bill Johnson
The Jesus Creed – Scot McKnight


DUE:   Thanksgiving journal is to be finished and brought with you to class on Friday, December 2nd at 9:30 a.m.

ASSIGNMENT:  Create a record of 1,000 unrepeated things you are thankful for.
            ~Breakdown à 9/16/14 – 12/1/14 =  77 days
                        *1,000/70 = 13 things you’re thankful for per day.


*To implement thanksgiving to God into your daily life as an ongoing habit and discipline. Thanksgiving is the lens through which life with God should be seen. It shifts our thinking and our response to the circumstances around us. Thanksgiving is the cornerstone of a lifestyle of worship.
                        ~Thanksgiving is the entry way into the manifest presence of God. (Psalm 100:4)

                        ~At least 60 times in Scripture it is said to “remember” the works of the Lord. Thankfulness remembers what God has done, which propels us to hope in Him for what He will do in the future. (Ephesians 2:11-12)

            *Romans 12:2 says to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I believe that that thankfulness is a tool God uses to renew our mind. As you practice daily thankfulness, I believe you will begin to see a transformation in your thoughts and how you respond to your circumstances. 

Self-Exaltation is Bad; Humility is Good

Yellow Springs, Ohio
Humility is the foundational attitude of the Jesus-life. Philippians 2:8 reads: being found in appearance as a man, Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Our English word "humble" derives from the Latin humus, which means "earth," or "soil." It came to mean, in the Latin word humilis, "low." Such as in the movie "Get Low," which is about the morphing of a proud man to a humble man.

In the Jesus-life self-exaltation is bad, humility is good. Jesus said, For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. A person with a humble heart gets low, gets below, gets beneath God and others. Only a person whose heart is humble can be a servant like Jesus was. Only a non-self-exalted person can exalt the Lord, since this requires placing the Lord above one's own self. This defines the locus of the ongoing spiritual battle between darkness and light.

Thomas Merton writes: "A man who is not stripped and poor and naked within his own soul will unconsciously tend to do the works he has to do for his own sake rather than for the glory of God. He will be virtuous not because he loves God but because he wants to admire his own virtues." (Seeds, 106-107) The recognition of one's spiritual poverty is good. Everyone is spiritually destitute; not everyone recognizes it. Such recognition is the beginning of real humility.

This is not about "getting humbled." Everyone gets humbled; not so many become humble. Pride, arrogance, and shame (which is pride's evil twin) are hard conditions to break. Merton writes: "every moment of the day will bring [the proud person] some frustration that will make him bitter and impatient and in his impatience he will be discovered." (107)

The proud person has planned to do "spectacular things" so as to be seen by others. "He cannot conceive himself without a halo. And when the events of his daily life keep reminding him of his own insignificance and mediocrity, he is ashamed, and his pride refuses to swallow a truth at which no sane man should be surprised." (107)

So, I see that: 
  • This universe does not revolve around me
  • I need help
  • I am troubled inside
  • Any outward accomplishments and outward appearances cannot cure what lies inside me
  • What knowledge I do have is infinitesimally small compared to all the knowledge that is to be had (I'm nowhere near as smart as I might have thought I was)
  • I am not better and therefore more loved by Christ than other people
  • I am not to measure myself by other people, but by Christ
  • I am not God's gift to mankind, but Christ is

"Lazarus Patients"

In the Bible we read that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In medicine, a "Lazarus patient" is one who spontaneously starts circulating blood.

See this recent article in The Daily Beast - "Real Life Lazarus: When Patients Rise from the Dead."

Praying Is Subversive Activity (Prayer Summer 2014)

Driving on I-75 north of Monroe
Praying far transcends the kind of "prayer" that people "don't have time for." To pray is to establish the rule of God in my heart and circumstances, thereby dethroning all things that would want to reign over me.

Praying is revolutionary activity whereby I revolt against pretenders to the throne. In the act of praying I join forces with the underground movement, the "seed growing secretly society" that subverts this world's false ideologies. 

Praying is a Trojan horse. It seems harmless and is allowed to enter the city.

Eugene Peterson writes:

"Prayer is subversive activity. It involves a more or less open act of defiance against any claim by the current regime.... [As we pray,] slowly but surely, not culture, not family, not government, not job, not even the tyrannous self can stand against the quiet power and creative influence of God's sovereignty. Every natural tie of family and race, every willed commitment to person and nation is finally subordinated to the rule of God."

- Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction Kindle Locations 104-106) 

A praying person endangers the powers of darkness.