Friday, November 24, 2017

Followers of Jesus Get Baptized

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Dundee, Michigan
This Sunday at Redeemer some of our people are getting baptized. They are all followers of Jesus, and followers of Jesus get baptized.

Plus, I am looking forward to teaching our preschool - 5th graders about the what and why of baptism, during our Kids Church. They are going to learn a lot, and then go into our sanctuary to hear the testimonies and witness the baptisms.

Jesus famously said, as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20:

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."


So, Jesus-followers are to be baptized. And so it happened in the book of Acts. 


  • Peter preaches that the people are to "repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38-39)
  • New believers were immediately baptized. (Acts 2:41)
  • As Philip was preaching, as people believed, they were baptized. (Acts 8:12)
  • When Simon believed what Philip was saying, he was baptized. (Acts 8:13)
  • After the Ethiopian eunuch heard the good news about Jesus as presented by Philip, he asked, "What is to prevent me from being baptized?" It became chariot-stopping time, because Philip needed to baptize the man immediately. Why wait?
  • Saul met Jesus on the road, scales fell from his eyes, and he got up and was baptized. (Acts 9:18)
  • People who received the Holy Spirit were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. (Acts 10:47-48)
  • Lydia's heart was opened up to Jesus, and she and her household were baptized. (Acts 16:14-15)
  • Paul's jailer gets saved, and immediately he and all his family were baptized. (Acts 16:32-34)
  • The synagogue ruler Crispus (!!!) gets saved, along with his household, and a lot of people in Corinth, and they get baptized. (Acts 18:8)
  • Some Ephesian Jesus-followers are baptized by Paul. (Acts 19:3-5)
  • Paul is preaching to his fellow Jews in Jerusalem, gives his life-witness, and says: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.' (Acts 22:14-16)
Disciple-making, that is, “making” people passionate Jesus-Lovers and followers, includes “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is important. 

I was baptized when I became a follower of Jesus, because Jesus commands me to identify with his death and resurrection in baptism. (See Romans ch. 6.) My pastors were teaching me to obey everything Jesus commanded me to do. My baptismal experience, witnessed by my family and friends, remains one of the most significant events in my life with Christ.

Baptism is an experiential sign, signifying the spiritual conversion that has taken place in a person, accompanied by an empowering of the Spirit, who can manifest himself in a variety of ways. Bruce Ware writes: "Baptism is the sign and seal of the new covenant, inaugurated by Christ's death and resurrection, signifying the promise for the one baptized that sins are forgiven, that new life in Christ is received, and that God gives the person a new heart and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, by faith." (In Baptism: Three Views, Kindle 520-29)

Daniel Reid, in his Introduction to Baptism: Three Views, writes of the most interesting baptism he has ever seen. It was in a Baptist church, where a young man was being baptized. Reid writes: "As the boy came up from the water, his father stood up in the congregation and in a loud voice declared, 'This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!'" (Kindle edition, 120-130) 


I love that! 

This Sunday morning we're having baptisms at our church. To be baptized in Jesus' name is an important kairos-moment in the life of every real Jesus-follower. As this happens, God surely is very pleased. I expect that we'll be experiencing the pleasure of God at Redeemer this Sunday morning!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Ten Lepers and Giving Thanks (Sermon)

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Munson Park, across from our house

My sermon on the one leper (out of ten) who returned to thank Jesus can be listened to HERE.

Linda and I wish all of you a blessed Thanksgiving Day!

Eight Reasons to Believe God Exists

Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio

A long, long time ago Bill Craig (aka William Lane Craig) was one of my campus pastors at Northern Illinois University, where I did my undergraduate degree in philosophy. I was honored to sing in Bill and Jan's wedding. 

In this essay in Philosophy Today Bill gives eight reasons to believe God exists ("Does God Exist?"). Read the essay for the reasoning. 

They are:



  1. God is the best explanation why anything at all exists.
  2. God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe.
  3. God is the best explanation of the applicability of mathematics to the physical world.
  4. God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.
  5. God is the best explanation of intentional states of consciousness.
  6. God is the best explanation of objective moral values and duties.
  7. The very possibility of God’s existence implies that God exists.
  8. God can be personally known and experienced.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

How to Hear God's Voice

Glasses, in Glen Arbor, Michigan

When I was speaking on prayer and spiritual formation this past weekend in Billings, Montana, more than one person told me they had difficulties in hearing the voice of God. How can we grow in hearing from God?

Here are my thoughts.

Don't try to hear from God. Focus on living an abiding-in-Christ life. In a life of continual abiding, which includes having a praying life (i.e., you actually pray for extended periods of time), my expectation is that you will begin to hear God's voice, spoken to you. Simply spend much time with God. When God speaks to you, write it down.

Saturate yourself in the Scriptures. Read the Word, and meditate on it. Memorize portions of it. Scripture memorization is a way of meditating on the Word. While meditating, when God speaks to you, write it down.

Hang around people who do these two things. I learn much from being in community with brothers and sisters who have praying lives, and who immerse themselves in the biblical story. When God speaks to me through them, I write it down.

Finally, use this as a devotional guide for a year - Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, by Dallas Willard. Dallas shows us how to recognize the voice of God and act on it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Denise Hunter - Trusting God in Hard Times (One-Hour Seminary)

"Trusting God in Tough Times" - 1-Hour Seminary Tonight, 9-10 PM EST


ONE-HOUR SEMINARY - "How Do You Trust God During Tough Times?" - TONIGHT, Nov. 21, 9-10 PM


My next One-Hour Seminary is:


  • "How to Trust God During Tough Times"
  • Tuesday, Nov. 21
  • 9-10 PM EST
  • Guest Speaker - Denise Hunter
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Denise Hunter is passionate about protecting the unborn, teaching others about holistic approaches to health, loving those whom God places in her life, and above all else, trusting God.  Her professional background as a Registered Birthing Center nurse (RN, BSN) and Christian counselor (MA, LLP) have served as solid foundations for ministry.  Her personal challenges overcoming betrayal, divorce, infertility, cancer, and serving her husband and daughter have provided lots of practical application!   Now retired, she continues to minister in a volunteer capacity, guiding others further along the path of abundant life in Christ!  

A Presence-Driven Bibliography

Bolles Harbor, Monroe

A friend asked, "What are some resources you could recommend to deepen one's relationship with God?"

So, here is a basic Presence-Driven Bibliography. These are texts I am familiar with, which have influenced me.

I have highlighted books I find especially helpful





Baldwin, Lewis. Never to Leave Us Alone: The Prayer Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. King's social activism was deeply rooted in Scripture, and his encounters and experiences with God.


Blackaby, Henry T., and King, Claude V. Experiencing God. An excellent, clearly written text that is especially good for church study.

Boyd. Present Perfect: Finding God In the Now. (Zondervan: 2010) This is an excellent, clearly written little book that contains some deep spiritual insights that are not found in other spirituality texts. Greg’s meditation on “death” is worth the price of the book.

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. The Practice of the Presence of God (Garden City: Image, 1977). A spiritual classic by a 17th-century monk that is still relevant today, and is especially good at knowing God in the everyday, mundane tasks of life.

Buechner, Frederick. Godric: A Novel (New York: Harper and Row, 1980). A beautiful novel, spiritually deep and uplifting. The character of Godric reminds me of Thomas Merton.

Campolo, Tony, and Darling, Mary Albert. The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice. Nicely puts together the spiritual disciplines and social activism.


Deere, Jack. Surprised By the Voice of God: How God Speaks Today Through Prophecies, Dreams, and Visions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996). A very good, clearly written biblical and historical presentation of how one hears God speaking to them.

Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim At Tinker Creek (Harper and Row). This makes my personal top ten ever-read list. A beautiful meditation of the creation, especially its microscopic aspects.

Fee, Gordon. God’s Empowering Presence (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994). This massive text is, arguably, the definitive statement of the apostle Paul’s spirituality. A detailed study of every Pauline reference to the Holy Spirit.

Fee. The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987). Superb, meditative, scholarly commentary on what it means to be pneumatikos (“spiritual”).


Foster, Richard. A Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: Harper and Row). The modern classic on the spiritual disciplines. If you have not yet read this it should be one of your choices.

Foster. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper and Row: 1992). Examines several different types of prayer that are both biblically and historically Christian.


Foster. Longing for God: Seven Paths of Spiritual Devotion. (Intervarsity Press: 2009)

Foster, and Griffin, Emilie. Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve SpiritualDisciplines (Harper and Row: Feb. 2000). A very good collection representing the great Christian types of spirituality.


Foster. Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith (Harper and Row: 1998). On the following traditions: contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and incarnational.

Grenz, Stanley. Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom. One of our great theologians positions praying within the context of the kingdom of God.




Kelly, Thomas. A Testament Of Devotion (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1941). This brilliant, provocative little text makes my top ten ever-read books on Christian spirituality. A modern classic.

King, Martin Luther. "Thou Dear God": Prayers That Open Hearts andSpirits

Kraft, Charles. Christianity With Power: Your Worldview and Understanding of the Supernatural (Ann Arbor, Mi.: Servant, 1989). A brilliant study in paradigm theology by an anthropologist and missiologist at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Ladd, George. The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God (Eerdmans: 1959). A classic, still-used examination of the kingdom of God as both present and future. Schoalrly, but it often reads devotionally.

Leech, Kenneth. Experiencing God: Theology As Spirituality (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985). An excellent historical study, from biblical times to the present, of the experience of God.

Leech. Soul Friend: The Practice of Christian Spirituality (New York: Harper and Row, 1980). One of the best books on spiritual direction.

Lovelace, Richard. Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1979).

Lovelace. Renewal as a Way of Life: A Guidebook for Spiritual Growth (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1985).

Manning, Brennan. Abba’s Child. This book spoke deeply to me about my need for experiential knowledge of the love of God.

May, Gerald. Addiction and Grace (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1991). An excellent, clearly written book with an especially helpful section on addiction to control.

McDonald, James. Vertical Church (David C. Cook, 2012)

McGinn, Bernard. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism. McGinn  is arguably our greatest scholar on the nature of Christian mysticism. This is the text to read on mysticism in the early church father, and in the West.


Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1961). Merton at his best.

Merton. No Man Is an Island (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983). Contains the classic chapter, “Being and Doing.”

Merton. Seeds (Shambala: 2002). A killer collection of Merton quotes. A tremendous introduction to the depth, wisdom, and discernment of Thomas Merton. Prophetic.

Merton. The Sign of Jonas (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981). One of Merton’s journals, containing many spiritual gems,

Muse, J. Stephen, ed. Beside Still Waters: Resources for Shepherds in the Marketplace (Smyth and Helwys: 2000). An excellent text that uses Psalm 23 to speak to Christian leaders regarding spiritual issues. Very good on our need to care for ourselves physically.

Mulholland, Robert. Shaped By the Word: The Power of Scripture in SpiritualFormation (Nashville: Upper Room Press, 1985). An excellent book on how the Bible interprets us.

Nelson, Alan. Broken in the Right Place: How God Tames the Soul (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1994). A very good book on how spiritual brokenness effects personal transformation.

Nouwen, Henri. A Cry for Mercy: Prayers From the Genesee (Garden City, New York: Image, 1981). A beautiful book of prayers expressing our heart’s fears, struggles, and longings.


Nouwen. Gracias! A Latin American Journal (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983). One of Nouwen’s spiritual journals.

Nouwen. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on ChristianLeadership (Harper and Row). A brilliant little book, among the best I have ever read on pastoral leadership.


Nouwen. Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life (New York: Harper and Row, 1981).

Nouwen. Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Spiritual Life (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1980).


Nouwen. Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (Garden City, New York: Image, 1976).
An excellent text; a modern classic. On solitude, hospitality, and prayer.



Nouwen. The Genesee Diary: Report From A Trappist Monastery (Garden City, New York: Image, 1976). This book makes my top ten ever-read list in terms of spiritual impact. An excellent example of journaling that is of spiritual value.

Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love (Image Books: 1999). I find it hard to express how much God used a slow, meditative reading of this book to effect changes in my life.

Nouwen. The Living Reminder: Service and Prayer in Memory of Jesus Christ (New York: Harper and Row). A tremendous book for pastors and Christian leaders.


Nouwen. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming (New York: Image, 1992). Simply put, one of Nouwen’s best and one of my very favorites.

Nouwen. The Way of the Heart (New York: Ballantine, 1981). A beautiful, meditative little book on solitude, silence, and prayer.

Peterson, Eugene. The Contemplative Pastor: Returningto the Art of Spiritual Direction (Dallas: Word, 1989). I have read this book two or three times. It always reminds me of my priorities in pastoral ministry.

Piippo, John. Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Piippo. Leading the Presence-Driven Church. (December 2017)

Sittser, Jerry. A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss. Perhaps the best book on a spirituality of grieving ever written, by a deep thinker and excellent writer.

Sittser. A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life. The follow-up to A Grace Disguised.

Smedes, Lewis. Shame and Grace(San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1994). For me, a beautiful book on overcoming self-condemnation by a deeper understanding and experience of the grace of God.

Smith, James K.A. Thinking in Tongues. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010)



St. Teresa of Avila. Interior Castle. (Image Books: 1972) A spiritual classic.

Thomas, Gary. Sacred Pathways (Zondervan: 2000). Very good on showing different spiritual styles and various ways persons experience God (the naturalist, sensate, traditionalist, ascetic, activist, caregiver, enthusiast, contemplative, and intellectual).

Willard, Dallas, and Moon, Gary. Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard’s Teaching on Faith and Formation. This is the best book I've read this year. Inspiring.

Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (Harper Collins: 1998). What a deep, beautiful book on the kingdom of God.



Willard. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Navpress:2002). This excellent book is all about spiritual transformation and is especially helpful in defining biblical terms like “soul,” “heart,” “spirit,” and “body.”


Willard. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (Harper and Row: 1988). A great book, profound, clearly written. Richard Foster called it “the book of the decade.”

Prayer Looping (On Unceasing Praying)

Monroe

A few years ago Linda and I spend several hours together listening to "Serial," a radio series that went viral. At the beginning of each show, and periodically throughout, the theme music played. It was this little, simple, piano piece that became associated with the story of a high school girl who was murdered. For days afterward I could not get this music out of my mind! It was unconsciously repeating, looping through my neural self, sometimes unceasingly.

Conscious repetition leads to unceasing consciousness. I believe Paul's "unceasing praying" can be understood like this. The conscious dedication to intentional praying shapes us, by the Spirit, into constant pray-ers. 


The worship song that was repeated on Sunday morning sings in my heart when I wake on Monday. The praying I do day by day, week by week, and year by year has gouged a deep river in my heart that flows today. From much praying comes praying without ceasing. 

Apply this to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.



  • "Rejoice always" (which emerges out of an intentional worshiping life)
  • "Pray without ceasing" (which happens as a result of choosing to pray consistently)
  • "Give thanks in all circumstances" (which happens as a result of a consistent choosing to be thankful)
  • "For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (This is God's "inclination" or "desire" (Greek thelema) for you; which is to say this is God's very heart, produced in you and I.)

  • This rejoicing-praying-thanksgiving begins to loop through your being, without ceasing.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Biblical Gift of Prophecy





Here is my Facebook Live teaching on "The Biblical Gift of Prophecy."



The first 2-3 minutes have me waiting for people to join the discussion.



Then, 25 minutes of teaching, followed by 25 minutes responding to questions people asked.