Sunday, October 04, 2015

Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries Green Lake Conference 2016 (Join me there!)

Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries
Empowering the Church to Fulfill Her Destiny in Christ 
HSRM Reverse Seed Sowing 2015  
You hold the $20 seed in your hand!
Find out about it here. 
You plant, water & tend the seed, 
and God will give the increase! 
Together we grow the fruit of HSRM!
HSRM carries a unique deposit from the Lord that is greatly needed in the world today by believers and not-yet-believers alike. As you partner with us you become part of a vibrant movement that facilitates spiritual transformation in hungry, yearning hearts. We carry the message of the full gospel, proclaiming the fullness of our inheritance in Christ and our authority in Him, the presence and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and the vital pursuit of deepening intimacy with Father God. As God breaks open doors of opportunity for HSRM, and for you, we fulfill our highest purpose in life -- to be world changers. We become part of God's MIRACLE in the world today! Thank you for your support.
It's never too early to plan for the 
June 26 - June 30, 2016

To REGISTER for the Conference: CLICK HERE 
Info on Green Lake Conference Center: CLICK;  Conference Schedule: CLICK

Conference starts Sun. June 26, 10:30 a.m. Last session ends Thurs. June 30, 9 p.m.
Check our Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries website HERE 
for Green Lake Holy Spirit Conference 2015 picturesmedia picks,  HSRM news and resources! 

Rev. Norelle Lutke
Asst. Director 
Rev. Ed Owens
Chairman HSRM
Visit us at: 
Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries
CLICK HERE for info on primary leadership changes 

An Atheist Tries to be Thankful to Something

Flowers in my front yard

I often have a feeling, a sense, of gratitude that leads me to say "thank you." I experience existential thankfulness for life, for being alive, for my very existence as a gift. As a Christian theist my words of thanksgiving are addressed to God. God, thank You so very much!

Ronald Aronson, Professor of the History of Ideas at Wayne State University, wrote an essay called "Thank Who Very Much?" The reason for the question mark is that, as an atheist, Aronson feels "thankful," but because for him God does not exist he wonders just who or what he should thank.

Aronson believes a person can be legitimately thankful without either a) belief in a God; or b) falling into existentialist absurdity. What's his alternative?

He writes: "Think of the sun's warmth. After all, the sun is one of those forces that make possible the natural world, plant life, even our very existence. It may not mean anything to us personally, but the warmth on our face means, tells us, a great deal. All of life on earth has evolved in relation to this source of heat and light, we human beings included. We are because of, and in our own millennial adaptation to, the sun and other fundamental forces."

So? For Aronson, one can feel gratitude by "acknowledging one of our most intimate if impersonal relationships, with the cosmic and natural forces that make us possible." An atheist can show gratitude "to larger and impersonal forces." Because "we derive our existence from, and belong to, both natural forces and generations that preceded us, ... it is just possible that we will often feel connected [to such forces and generations], and often grateful."

When we gather together with friends on one of those snuggly holiday nights we are overcome by "a warm, joyous, comfortable feeling, even a moment of well-being - but to whom or to what?" The answer is: "Obviously, to natural forces and processes that have made our own life, and this reunion, possible."

To me this attempt to find some object of gratitude sans God doesn't work. I'll take the following dichotomy: either God, or Camus-ian absurdity. Aronson's idea sounds like a spiritless animism (which is, of course, a contradiction). 

Thankfulness, if it is to have any meaning at all, requires inter-personality. I experience innumerable moments of gratitude, but have never felt like thanking the wall of my house for holding up the roof. Thanking "impersonal forces," no matter how "large" they are, is no different than walking outside and thanking your lawn for being green. See again Camus, Sartre, and a host of atheistic existentialists who write on the absurdity of moral feelings, purposive feelings, and so on.

To say "Thank you" only makes sense if there is, at least in principle, someone who can or could have responded "You are welcome."

Aronson the atheist feels thankful. I do not doubt this. As an atheist, he doesn't want his thankful feelings to be absurd. But thanking impersonal forces strikes me as immensely absurd and even sad, like thanking your stuffed teddy bear for loving you. The raw truth remains: No God = no ultimate meaning. Such is the logic of atheism, on which there is no one out there to thank.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Breaking Free Means Leaving Some Old Friends Behind

45 years ago I left the little university bar band I was playing in, and also stopped drinking alcohol. For me the two always went together. These are two of the social consequences of my becoming a follower of Jesus.

One of my bar-band members was Dave. When I sat with the band and told the guys I was leaving, Dave said nothing. I interpreted that to mean: Dave doesn't like me anymore. The truth was I could not sing those moral-anomie songs anymore. My heart was changing. I was being rescued by Jesus out of a long darkness. I was breaking free of the inner cesspool! I was hoping my band would support that.

Andy finally breaks free, in
"The Shawshank Redemption"
I had been drinking and drugging. I left it all behind. This means I left some friends behind. This is a necessary consequence accompanying inner change. I won't be doing that stuff any more. So I won't be hanging with people who did it. Some of my former friends were disgusted with me. I wasn't interested in judging anyone. I just wanted support for my prison break.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 reads:

 14Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?
For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
17"Therefore come out from them
      and be separate, says the Lord.
   Touch no unclean thing,
      and I will receive you."

 18"I will be a Father to you,
      and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

Paul writes these words to the new Greek Jesus-followers in Corinth. Some of them have not understood the inexorable social ramifications of following Jesus as Lord. The Corinthians were still participating in pagan temple worship and sacred prostitution. What's wrong with that? They didn't understand, or didn't want to understand, that to follow something always means to leave some things behind. 

Paul is saying: Do not get into double harness with darkness. Darkness coupled with light will lead only into deeper darkness. 

When two animals are equally yoked, they pull with equal desire and strength in the same direction. "Equally yoked" looks like this. 

"Unequally yoked" looks like this.

Deuteronomy 22:10 reads: Don't plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together. Because they will not plow straight, or they may pull in different directions. Or, the donkey might stubbornly refuse to pull at all. 

So what is the big deal about dating an unbeliever? Or marrying one? Or going to sex-parties? Why can't "light" partner with "darkness?" Is compromise really so bad? Why not flirt a little with Belial? Paul's answer is: Because you are the temple of the living God. This realization means we no longer worship in other temples. We don't sing their songs anymore; we're not in "harmony" (Greek symphonesis; "with one voice") with the enemy; we no longer sing the worship songs of darkness.

No more alliance with spiritual contraries. Harnessing to someone who is spiritually incompatible evokes images of spiritual disaster. Linda and I see this, in marriages, all the time. It is more the rule than the exception.

If you bear Christ’s yoke you cannot bear it with those who deny Christ, or with those who could care less about Christ, or who aren’t pulling strongly in the direction of Christ. If you double-harness yourself to unbelievers you’ll find yourself plowing Satan’s field. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in you. Christ, the hope of glory, in within you. Do not expect Christ to think it's OK or cool to frolic a bit in the pastures of the enemy.

BTW - if you are a Real Jesus-Follower, then kiss "missionary dating" good-bye. This hardly ever works. To compromise is to fail. No one is impressed by it, unless your compromise gets them a little sex. If that happens be assured they won't be interested in your Jesus.

If you break free from the old idols some will hate you. But others, in their dark prison cells, will meet the God who is your Deliverer. Because they are looking for someone, anyone, who has succeeded in making the separation from anomie, idols, and Belial.

I love the way The Message translates 2 Cor. 6:14-18:

"I'll live in them, move into them; 
I'll be their God and they'll be my people. 
So leave the corruption and compromise; 
leave it for good," says God. 
"Don't link up with those who will pollute you. 
I want you all for myself. 
I'll be a Father to you; 
you'll be sons and daughters to me." 
The Word of the Master, God.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Three Tools for Communicating When in Conflict

1. Care Enough to Confront

David Augsburger roots his book Caring Enough to Confront in Ephesians 4:15, which states: Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

How should we communicate with others, even when we are in conflict with them? Here we see two actions we are to take:

1. Speak truthfully

2. Speak lovingly

Both truth and love are needed. If we only speak truthfully we could hurt people. I could tell you the truth in an unloving way, the result of which could bring harm to you.

If we only speak lovingly we may never address the truth. This leaves issues undealt with. It feels warm and fuzzy for a while, but the bleeding has not been stopped.

Instead, says Paul, we are to speak the truth in love. The formula is: Truth + Love. That sounds like Jesus, right? Jesus always asserted the truth, and he always did so in love.

Practically, says Augsburger, it looks like this.

CARING                                                                                   CONFRONTING

• I care about our relationship...........& I feel deeply about the issue at stake

• I want to hear your view.......................... & I want to clearly express mine

• I want to respect your insights........ ....................& I want respect for mine

• I trust you to be able to handle my honest feelings......& I want you to trust me with yours

• I promise to stay with the discussion until we reach an understanding........ ........................................& I want you to stay with me until we've reached                                            an understanding

• I will not trick, pressure, manipulate, or distort the differences...  
................& I want your unpressured, clear, honest views of our differences

• I give you my loving, honest respect...........& I want your caring-confronting response

When Linda and I communicate these are the attitudes we have learned to have. We were blessed to learn these things from David Augsburger years ago when we were in a married couples group that met at David and Nancy's home. Those times were so important to us as a young married couple! We saw, lived-out before our eyes and ears, how to be loving and truthful even when you don’t like each other at the moment. Even when you feel angry.

Speak the truth in love to one another. That is the way out of what sometimes seem like irreconcilable differences.

Work at understanding one another. You will find that often, when understanding has been achieved, "the problem" is not there anymore. ("Understanding" causes a lot of dominos to fall.)

2. Deal with Anger in Relationships

 I once had a friend tell me, “I never get angry.” My thought was this: here is a person out of touch with what’s going on inside of him. Even God feels anger. Even Jesus felt anger. In every good marriage, in every good friendship, in every church and wherever there are people, feelings of anger happen.

When you feel angry, what can you do?  

1. Recognize your anger. 
“Anger” is the emotion a person feels when one of their expectations has not been met. For example, if I drive across town expecting every light to turn green when I approach, I am going to be an angry person. Because this expectation will not be met. Therefore...

2. Identify your unmet expectation. 
Fill in the blank: "I am angry because my expectation that ________ was not met."

3. Evaluate your unmet expectation. 
Is it either: a) godly, reasonable, good, fair; or 2) ungodly, unreasonable, bad, unfair. In my "driving" example above, my expectation was irrational.

4. Reject ungodly or irrational expectations. 
If, for example, you expect people to clearly understand every word that comes out of your mouth, you are now free to reject this as an irrational expectation. Or, if you have the expectation that other people should never make mistakes when it comes to you, I now free you from that ungodly, irrational expectation.

5. If the unmet expectation is godly/fair, then ask: Have I communicated this to the person I am angry with? If not, then communicate it. 
For example, my expectation that persons should take off their shoes before entering our living room may be both rational and of God. But if I have not communicated this to others, my anger at the unfulfilled expectation is still real. My expectation that people should know such a thing without being told is unfair.

6. If you have communicated it clearly to the person you are angry with, then communicate your anger this way: 
Say “I feel angry because my unmet expectation is __________________.

Communicate this in your own way of saying things. Begin your sentence with “I” rather than “You.” For example: “I feel angry…” rather than “You make me feel angry…” Doing it this way asserts without aggressing. For the person who hears this, it does not feel so attacking.

Get rid of irrational or ungodly expectations. As you get free of these things you’ll find yourself less angry.

Remember that from the Christian POV, “anger” is not sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” We are not told never to feel anger. There is a righteous anger, and that is not only appropriate but necessary. But when we feel the emotion of anger we are never to sin. In all relationships we are never to be harsh, demeaning, vindictive, or abusive. Remember that  in every close relationship there is anger. The anger-free relationship is a myth, and probably is a sign of unhealth when claimed.

Finally, Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Which means: deal with anger quickly, and in a loving and truthful way. The goal is always restoration of relationship and reconciliation.

I am thankful that only it’s only been a few times in our almost 42 years of marriage that have Linda I fallen asleep angry with each other. The reason for this is not that we’re some special, exceptionally compatible couple. We are this way because we were taught to do this by godly people who spoke into our lives. We were sufficiently warned about the cancerous bitterness that arises when anger is “swept under the carpet.” We don’t want satan to gain even a toehold in our hearts. We have asked God to help us with this, and He has!

If you have allowed the enemy entrance into your heart because, in your anger, you have sinned, then confess this to God.

Then, receive God’s forgiveness and give Him thanks. 1 John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

Acknowledge, before God, that you are a new creation in Christ.
Ask God to help you, and trust that He is now doing so. 

3. 7 Rules for a Good, Clean Fight

Before I married Linda one of my pastors gave me Charlie Shedd's book Letters to PhilipOn How to Treat a Woman. I read it. And then, a few years later, I read it again. When it comes to wisdom, "old" doesn't mean "not as relevant."

Shedd's little book gave me some relationship tools I have never forgotten. For example, here are his "7 Rules for a Good, Clean Fight." 

  1.  Before we begin we must both agree that the time is right. 
  2.  We will remember that our only battle aim is a deeper understanding of each other. 
  3. We will check our weapons often to be sure they're not deadly. 
  4. We will lower our voices instead of raising them.
  5. We will never quarrel in public nor reveal private matters.
  6. We will discuss an armistice whenever either of us calls "halt."
  7. When we have come to terms we will put it away until we both agree it needs more discussing.

You Have a Ministry of Reconciliation

Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin

If you are a Jesus-follower, then you have a ministry of reconciliation. Your calling is to bring people to God, and to bring people to one another. You are a reconciler, not a divider. Any fool can divide; few and blessed are the peacemakers. 

The apostle Paul wrote:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

God reconciled you, through Christ, to himself. God does not count your sins against you. God did not look at me and the mess I made of life and say, "Nothing good can ever come from this person." You and I have the message that God did not treat us this way. We are to share this with others. This is Good News.

Because of this basic, core message of Real Christianity Linda and I labor to reconcile husbands and wives in failing marriages. We have a ministry of reconciliation, like you do. We have taken this on. Un-ity, not di-vorce, is the God-thing. 

Tap into God's creative, restorative, reconciling abilities to unite people. God can work, through you, empowering reconciliation. Abide in Him, and receive His empowering for the peace unlike this world dishes out. Do not support and enable divisive relationships. Have nothing to do with tearing marriages and families and friends asunder. Refuse to entertain words like "This marriage will never make it," or "We could never be friends again," or "Nothing good can ever come out of these people." If two people follow Jesus, and are "in him," they will come together since, in Christ, divisive relationships are nonexistent. View things this way. Think community, not individuality.

If you are a Jesus-follower, then you are a gatherer, not a scatterer. You are someone who brings people to God, and brings people together. This is dynamic, far more so than those dark, mediocre voices of relational failure that enumerate sins against people and give up on them. 

Thursday, October 01, 2015

A.W. Tozer On the Program-Driven Church

A.W. Tozer has written:

"Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.

If we would find God amid all the religious externals, we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity."
–A.W. Tozer (The Pursuit of God, p. 17-18)

Busyness, if it is to be relevant to God's purposes, must emerge out of the presence of God. First, be with God. Dwell in Christ. Then, as Christ instructs, do. The church is to be a movement that is presence-driven rather than a mass of program-busyness that leave people too exhausted and time-spent to abide in Christ.

Real Praying Knows From the Inside

After I die should someone pick up my copy of Through the Year With Thomas Merton they would conclude, "He read it. And read through it again and again." 

That would be correct. I read Merton because he had this deep, thick, massive praying life. Over many years. It was constant, never yielding to the growing media circus of our shallow culture. In praying he met God and was led to the wellspring of life.

August 28, 1990. That's the date I inscribed inside the book jacket. It became one of my companions in life, along with the Bible, Henri Nouwen, and other writers who know prayer from the inside.

Real praying knows from the inside, from much personal experience. Merton heard the voice of God and matured in discernment. Only the experienced discern.

When I read the Scriptures I not only study them but am studied by them. When this happens I pray the Scriptures. Because in them I am confronted by the One who is beyond me yet comes to me. In and through the Bible I am consistently known. And then, on rare occasions, someone who knows praying greater and longer and higher and deeper than I comes to meet me through a book. Like Merton. And I find myself drawn to praying through the book.

This life-of-praying thing is an inside job, available to all who grow weary of the world's pseudo-sophia and want more.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Praying as Overcoming the World

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island
A consistent, ongoing praying life brings an overcoming of our fear-driven, anxiety-producing world. For me it looks like this:

1. I abide in Christ, in the act of praying.
2. Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
3. Therefore I overcome the world. (Christ in me, the hope of glory - right?)

My status as a Jesus-follower is that I am "in Christ." Praying, then, actively demonstrates my in-Christ status. As Christ is formed in me (Galatians 4:19) He gives me His peace and joy (John 14:27; 15:11).

Henri Nouwen describes world-overcoming and transformation into Christlikeness:

"When we enter into solitude we will often hear these two voices - the voice of the world and the voice of the Lord - pulling us in two contrary directions. But if we keep returning faithfully to the place of solitude, the voice of the Lord will gradually become stronger and we will come to know and understand with mind and heart the peace we are searching for." (Nouwen, The Road to Peace: Writings on Peace and Justice, 23)

In solitary praying I come to know peace and thus overcome agitation. I am made whole, by Christ, and grow beyond the chaos and fragmentation around me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Praying As an Act of Protest

Praying for one another, at Redeemer
One of the results of an ongoing praying life is that God removes unrighteous anger from my heart. God takes the chip off my shoulder. He softens the edge. He forms His heart of compassion in me for my enemies. He frees me from the prison cell of hatred, and releases me to love in ways I have never done before. 

For me this is not a theory but an empirical reality. My wife Linda has seen the results. I am a better husband as Christ is more deeply formed in me. I get changed. Most of this happens as I am praying. 

In praying I am clay on a potter's wheel. I am not the agent of my own transformation, God is. Many times I can feel Him shaping me.

This is praying as an act of resistance to the common, unholy structures of the world which demand conformation to their will. To pray is to protest against the hate-filled standards of our culture.  

Henri Nouwen writes: "Entering the special solitude of prayer is a protest against a world of manipulation, competition, rivalry, suspicion, defensiveness, anger, hostility, mutual aggression, destruction, and war. It is a witness to the all-embracing, all-healing power of God's love." (Nouwen, The Road to Peace: Writings on Peace and Justice, 22-23)

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