Saturday, March 28, 2015

God-dependent People Pray (PrayerLife)

Door, in Monroe, Michigan

The less a person has, the more God-dependent they are. There are exceptions to this, but I find this to be the rule. "It is hard," Jesus said, "for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." And by "kingdom" Jesus meant: the rule, or reign, of God.

It is hard for a rich man to come under the reign of God in their life. For these reasons.
  1. - Material possessions tend to give people the illusion of control.
  2. - If a person has money they have more control over elements and diseases; i.e., they have a roof over their head, food to eat, and access to health care.
  3. - People with lots of stuff spend their lives attending to their stuff - storing it, protecting it, cleaning it, etc. This takes lots of time, leaving less for God.
When material things become burdensome joy decreases. Henri Nouwen discovered this and wrote about it in Gracias! A Latin American Journal. If you are wealthy and joyful for the right reasons (viz., the presence of God ruling in your being), then praise God. But Nouwen found more joy in the poor communities of South America than in the elite halls of Yale where he taught.

When I was traveling and speaking in central India I discovered that people who wanted to receive prayer were numerically greater than what I find in the U.S. The same happened on my Kenya trip. When you have little food, shelter, and money, it is common to turn more to God because there's nowhere else to go.

Weakness breeds dependence. When I am weak then I am strong, for the great Western illusion is that I am fundamentally non-dependent. 

Over time a Jesus-follower's God-dependency should increase. The truth of how we are essentially God-and-other dependent is more clearly seen. The illusion that we are "in control" is broken in us.

And, we pray more. An increasing prayer life is a sign of increased dependency on God. God-dependent people pray.

Friday, March 27, 2015

God vs. Atheism: Which is More Rational?





Peter Kreeft is Professor of Philosophy at Boston College.

On Christian Mediocrity

My back yard
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24

I had a student in one of my philosophy of religion classes who was a follower of Jesus. They loved God and wanted to serve God. At least they said this. But they were failing my class, not because of a lack of intelligence, but because of a lack of effort. One day I took them aside and asked:

"You are a Christian, right?"

"Yes."

"Has God called you to be in college?"

"Yes."

"If God has called you to be in college," I said, "then you need to pour everything you have into this and study your face off."

I told them they would never serve on my team if they didn't respond to God's callings by giving it all they have. 

This is not about a grade or being better than others. It's not about working hard to earn God's love. It is about loving God; therefore working hard at all God calls you to do

Thomas Merton wrote: "It is the lack of self-denial or self-discipline that explains the mediocrity of so much devotional art, so much pious writing, so much sentimental prayer, so many religious lives." (Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, 26)

Commentaries on Revelation are Wilder than Revelation Itself

Benjamin West, 1796, Detroit Institute of Arts
G. K. Chesterton wrote: "Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creatures so wild as one of his own commentators." (Chesterton, Orthodoxy, quoted in G. K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary, vii.)

(At Redeemer we've begun to preach through The Revelation (The Apocalypse). This Sunday's message is out of Rev. 1:4-8.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Silence (PrayerLife)

Snowing on 3/26/15 in Monroe

March 26, 2015.

It is snowing, softly and silently. Does a snowflake make a sound when it lights on the ground? How much silence is needed to hear snow fall? Today's silent snow produces silence within me. My heart is quiet before it. This is good. Because...

Without silence there is no hearing. Life without silence would be constant noise, without rest.

Silence is essential to music. Silence is music. There is a sound that silence has. At the end of Handel's "Messiah" there is a pregnant pause, a rest filled with glory. How long will the conductor hold us in this silent place? In the pause we realize that something beautiful is about to be born. The pause, the musical rest, speaks volumes. Silence is hope and expectation. Silence is longing for fulfillment.

Silence is filled with meaning. Timely silence speaks for itself. Swiss philosopher Max Picard writes, "Silence contains everything within itself. It is not waiting for anything; it is always wholly present within itself and it completely fills out the space in which it appears." (Max Picard, The World of Silence, 18)


When he opened the seventh seal, 
there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Revelation 8:1

Silence speaks where words fail. Without silence there are no words. Heaven's half hour of absolute silence makes me want to speak something, or cry, or beg. Silence in heaven. You can't hear yourself breathing, you can't hear your heartbeat,there's no sound of bodies shifting, no tinnitus, the perfect recording studio where all sound is contained and packed away for the kairos time.


...a time to be silent, and a time to speak... 
Ecclesiastes 3:7

The Handels of this world live in the dialectic of presence and absence. The God of this world speaks a single word - "Shabat!" (Cease!) - and the discerning shut their mouths. 


He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; 
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, 
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent
so he did not open his mouth.
Isaiah 53:7


Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Mark 14:61

Silence is a healer. In silence, He healed us. Thomas Merton wrote: "The ears with which one hears the message of the Gospel are hidden in a man's heart, and these ears do not hear anything unless they are favored with a certain interior solitude and silence." Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, 13) 

Relationships Class (Redeemer Ministry School)


RELATIONSHIPS

Sunday evenings, 6-7:30 PM, March 29, April 12, 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17

This course will do two things:

1)   Examine the qualities of healthy relationships (of any kind – friendships, family, work place, marriage), and

2)  Present ways of helping and counseling troubled relationships.

One of the required reading books will be Real Relationships:From Bad to Better and Good to Great, by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.

You can purchase this book in advance and begin reading it.

Teachers: John & Linda Piippo

Signup will be in our church lobby, or by emailing me (johnpiippo@msn.com) or calling our office (734-242-5277)

The Book of Revelation - This Sunday at Redeemer - Rev. 1:4-8


Gary Wilson pointed me to Albrecht Durer's woodcuts on the Book of Revelation.

This coming Sunday morning, March 29, I will give the second of many messages at Redeemer on the biblical book of Revelation. We have begun to go verse-by-verse through this incredible text until - a year or more later? - we finish it.

This Sunday morning I will set the stage and preach from Rev. 1:4-8, which reads:
John,
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come,and from the seven spirits[a] before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”[b]
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”[c]
So shall it be! Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

My preaching goals include:
  • rightly interpreting the biblical text.
  • understanding the meaning of the text as it was read by the early church.
  • discerning the relevance of Revelation for the times we now live in.

What is this book, The Apocalypse (The Uncovering), about? Ben Withrington writes: 


“A major point of this entire book is that heaven and earth are very close indeed; in fact they are juxtaposed in such a way that heaven is already active in and for earth and will descend to it at the end in the form of the New Jerusalem.” (Witherington, Revelation)

The commentaries I am using to preach Revelation are:

G.K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (only 562 pages)

Grant Osborne, Revelation

George Ladd, Revelation

Robert Mounce, Revelation

Craig Keener, Revelation: The NIV Application Commentary

Ben Witherington, Revelation


I also recommend two books on Revelation that can be read more devotionally:

If you come to Redeemer I recommend you begin reading and re-reading Revelation to become more familiar with it.

I am excited about taking a long, deep look at this incredible biblical book and what God is going to say to us and do in our church family!

(Note: these sermons will also be online, so you can listen to them and follow along if this is for you.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Support Karla Mendoza



Karla Mendoza, who is an active part of our Redeemer family, is going for a 3-month internship to International House of Prayer in Kansas City.

Her story is below.

You can support her by going HERE.







**
When I was a little girl, I remember once hearing that the most unappreciated people in the church were intercessors, and although I wasn't sure of what that meant, I made the decision to never become one those, but Jesus is funny, you know.

Forward to about 4 years ago, and I found myself craving the very Presence of God, which was always accessible to me, but somehow became stronger when I interceded for my brothers and sisters. Sometimes, I was praying for my actual sister, but many times I found myself praying for the persecuted Church, for the women and men caught in human trafficking, for the children without a home, and even for the church in America.

Through intercession, my heart was open to so many people, because I didn't see them through a political stand, or what the world said about them, or even through my own eyes, but through the eyes of the Creator, who is so madly in love with them.

In this season, I'm feeling called to spend three months at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City by being a part of the Fire in the Night internship, where I will be interceding through the night hours for our communities, for the His children who know Him, but also and most definitely for the ones who do not. I have no idea how I'm getting there, but I know that He will provide if this is the place where I'm supposed to be.

Please partner with me as I take on this new adventure with Him.

Tuition, board and room: $2,200
Airfare: $500
Other expenses: $300

If you'd like to know more please don't hesitate to contact me!
Thank you so much in advance! :)

The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge & Human Freedom


This morning in my Apologetics class I responded to the question: If God knows what I am going to do, then it seems I have no choice but to do it? But that does not follow, logically. God's foreknowledge is not incompatible with libertarian free will. To think so is to have made a mistake in modal logic. 

NOTE: I MADE A MISTAKE IN SYMBOLIZING THE ARGUMENT IN CLASS TODAY. There should not have been a double negative.

The statement: If God knows John will eat an orange tonight then it is not possible that John not eat an orange tonight commits the modal fallacy, which should correctly be symbolized as: If G, then ~◊~O. 

Here's the explanation.

THE COMPATIBILITY OF DIVINE FOREKNOWLEDGE AND HUMAN FREEDOM

1. Some say, “If God knows what choices people are going to make, then we do not have free will in making those choices.”

2. Plantinga (and others) show that this reasoning is not logical. It commits a fallacy in modal logic.

3. Modal logic concerns the different “modes” of the verb “to be.”
a. The 3 modes of “to be” are:
i. Possibility
ii. Probability
iii. Necessity

b. Consider the statement: The coffee in this cup is hot. On modal logic, is this statement true?
i. Possibly? Yes.
ii. Probably? Yes (more or less).
iii. Necessarily? No.

c. If the statement The coffee in this cup is hot were necessarily true, then the coffee in the cup could not not be hot. But that is impossible.
d. No contingent statement can be necessarily true. To claim that is commit a modal fallacy.

4. Consider the statement John will eat an orange tonight. (Call this J)
a. Is this possible? Yes.
b. Is this probable? Yes (more or less).
c. Is this necessarily true? No. Because if it were, then John could not not eat an orange tonight.
d. What if the statement is false. Is it then necessarily false? No.

5. Let G mean: God knows John will eat an orange tonight.

6. Call this Statement 1:
a. It is not possible that (G and not-J).
b. Statement 1 is true. It claims that it is not possible for event G and event not-J to obtain.
c. It’s equivalent to saying, e.g.: It is not possible for both John to be a bachelor and for John to be married.

7. Consider Statement 2, which commits the modal fallacy:
a. If G, then it is not possible that not-J.
b. This reads: If God knows that John will eat an orange tonight, then it is not possible that John will not eat an orange tonight.
c. But that ascribes logical necessity to a contingent event. It thus commits the modal fallacy.
d. (Using our “bachelor” analogy, the following is false: If John is a bachelor, then it is not possible for John not to be a bachelor. Wrong. Because it is possible for John to not be a bachelor. There is no logical necessity involved in John’s being a bachelor.

To see this argument, complete with modal symbols, go to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on “Foreknowledge and Free Will,” Section 6.

See also Craig and Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, 517 ff..  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why Millennials Left Church, and Are Coming Back







See Erin Lane's article in the Washington Post - "Why so many young Christians are leaving their churches - and coming back again." (It will also explain the mobius strip.)



The good news is that churches can cut the hype, put away the stage lights and the fog machines and the coffee bars and go back to the Bible and let it speak for itself, as it is.