Saturday, May 26, 2018

Ireland Votes to Kill Babies

In America I, like you, have certain rights. For example, I have certain "unalienable rights," three of which are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." I have the right to "pursue happiness" as long as it is not illegal, and I do not violate the rights of other persons.

I do not have the right to kill persons who pose no threat to my existence. I do have "rights," but they do not include killing people. In this sense persons come before my rights.

Ireland, apparently, sees this differently. In Ireland, "my rights" come before persons. See "Ireland Votes to legalize Abortion in Blow to Catholic Conservatism." Or: "Ireland Votes to Kill Babies."

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said:

“This has been a great exercise in democracy...  We want a modern constitution for a modern country, and that we trust women and that we respect them to make the right decisions and the rights choices about their own health care.”

Yes, women have the right to make good decisions about their own health care. But women do not have the right to kill babies, not if the babies are persons. Just as I do not have the right to kill my neighbors, them being persons.

Pay attention please: THAT IS THE ISSUE

The issue is not "my rights" or "women's rights." It's this: is the inborn life a "person." If it is, then case closed, because abortion is murder. And if it is not, then, following Peter Singer, not only should killing inborn life be allowable, it even follows rationally that in some cases euthanizing newborn babies is nonproblematic. (See "Peter Singer's Argument for Infanticide.") 

This has nothing to do with being "modern." What has modernity to do with moral values? Nothing, according to Plato, who argued for philosopher-kings instead of unenlightened majority rule.

This is a philosophical and religious issue, not a scientific one. (Because from science one cannot derive moral values.)

On this check out "Abortion: A Logical Argument." 



Irish women rejoicing because now they can kill their inborn children

Remembering as a Cure for Fear

Dandelion seeds in my front yard


Linda’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for many years. This horrible illness caused her to slowly lose her memory. One result of her memory loss was an increase of fear. 

One afternoon Linda, her mother Martha, her father Del, and I were shopping in a mall. At one point Linda and Del left for an hour to shop together, while I stayed with Martha. We sat together for a minute, and then she looked at me, her eyes filled with panic, and asked, “Where’s Del?!” 

“He’s shopping with Linda. He’ll be right back,” I responded. 

This put Martha at ease. But only for a few minutes. Forgetting what I had just said, Martha looked at me again, and asked, “Where’s Del?” 

“He’s with Linda. He’ll be right back.” 

This happened several times in an hour, with Martha forgetting, me reminding her, she calming down, then forgetting and filled with fear, asking “Where’s Del?”, and me reminding her again. Martha not only had forgotten what I said to her, she had forgotten a more basic truth, which was: in Del, she had a husband who would never, ever, leave her or forsake her. He was always by her side, Alzheimer’s or not.  

There is a “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease” which results in forgetting the many times God has rescued and delivered us, provided for us, and been with us. Such forgetting breeds fear. The more one forgets the deeds of God in one’s own life, the more one becomes fearful in the present moment. 

The antidote to this is: remembering

“Remembering” is huge in the Old Testament. The post-Exodus experience of Israel is grounded in remembrance. The Jewish festivals are remember-events, such as Passover, when the head of the household sits with his family and asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” In response, the past is recounted, and we hear again how God delivered their people out of bondage in Egypt. This remembering, reminding them of God’s past faithfulness, brings fresh hope. 

My spiritual journal functions as the written memory of the voice and deeds of God, in my life. I take time every year to re-ponder my journals. In doing so, I remember what God has done for me, how he has delivered me from bondage, and how he has answered many of my prayers. I re-read of past times when I was afraid, or worried, and then re-read how God came through, and my worry dissipated. 

I do not, I will not, forget the deeds of the Lord in my life. The spiritual discipline of remembering brings renewed hope in the present, defeating the onset of spiritual Alzheimer’s disease.

- From my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, Chapter 13, "Praying and Remembering" 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Prayer and Letting Go of Control

The Deepest Ministry We Have with Others

Linda's footprint, next to mine
Your worth is not the same as your usefulness. Your influence runs deeper than your advice-giving. (See "Giving Advice as a Form of Judgmentalism.")

The people who have most influenced me were somebody. I think of them - their character, their Christlike attributes. Just knowing and being with them made a difference. In their presence, more was caught than was taught. Sometimes I catch myself imitating their behaviors.

Dallas Willard, writes Alan Padling, believed that "what God treasures in someone’s life is the person they become more than the work that they do. Dallas reminded us that the deepest ministry we have with others is who we are more than what we say or do." (In Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith and Formation, Kindle Locations 2754-2755)


***
My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

This is a book about the primacy and centrality of God and his unsurpassable presence, and what this means for the Church. The presence of God is the core, the sine qua non, of mere Christianity. God’s presence is what is needed to win the day over the present powers of darkness. This book shows what it means for a church to be presence-driven, and what leadership looks like in the presence-driven church.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Does Jesus Expect Us to Do What He Taught?

Skye Jethani 

The Trouble with People Who are Not Like Me


My back yard


In the days of my greater immaturity I sang in a college choir. I am a baritone, and I can hold a tune. I can stay on pitch. But X, who sang in the baritone section next to me, could not.
I grew to despise him for this. 

Not only was X tone deaf, he could sing louder than anyone in the choir. X's tone deafness overwhelmed the rest of us. He was an eighth of a tone flat, all the time. Just slightly off pitch. To be slightly off pitch in a choir, and loudly so, is a great sin, for it works to drag everyone else down to its atonal level.

To make matters worse, X always had a smile on his face. I can see his broad smile now, forty-nine years later. X was upbeat, chipper, as he miserably sang. This angered me even more. 
X did not see how this was affecting me. My only relief was to share my grief with others, to spread my pain far and wide. I was everyone, and everyone talked about X. "X is ruining our choir." "X can't sing." "Just what does X think he is doing?" "X makes my life miserable."

"My life would be better if X were not in my life."

But that last statement, of course, is false. And immature. My trouble with X brought out my trouble with me. I, not X (or Y or Z or...), am my greatest problem. Unless I come to see the truth of that I will be forever miserable.

C.S. Lewis, in a beautiful little piece called "The Trouble with X," wrote:

"Even if you became a millionaire, your husband would still be a bully, or your wife would still nag, or your son would still drink, or you'd still have to have your mother-in-law live with you.

It is a great step forward to realize that this is so; to face up to the fact that even if all external things went right, real happiness would still depend on the character of the people you have to live with--and that you can't alter their characters. And now comes the point. When you have seen this you have, for the first time, had a glimpse of what it must be like for God. For of course, this is (in one way) just what God Himself is up against. He has provided a rich, beautiful world for people to live in. He has given them intelligence to show them how it ought to be used. He has contrived that the things they need for their biological life (food, drink, rest, sleep, exercise) should be positively delightful to them. And, having done all this, He then sees all His plans spoiled--just as our little plans are spoiled--by the crookedness of the people themselves. All the things He has given them to be happy with they turn into occasions for quarreling and jealousy, and excess and hoarding, and tomfoolery..." (C.S. Lewis, "The Trouble with X")

But God's view is different from my view, or from your view. "He sees one more person of the same kind--the one you never do see. I mean, of course, yourself. That is the next great step in wisdom--to realize that you also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character. All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs."

God sees me. To God, I am X. And surely, I am X to some people. "It is important to realize that there is some really fatal flaw in you: something which gives others the same feeling of despair which their flaws give you. And it is almost certainly something you don't know about."

There is a second way God is different from me. I don't love X, but God does. God  "loves the people in spite of their faults. He goes on loving. He does not let go. Don't say, "It's all very well for Him. He hasn't got to live with them." He has. He is inside them as well as outside them. He is with them far more intimately and closely and incessantly that we can ever be. Every vile thought within their minds (and ours), every moment of spite, envy, arrogance, greed, and self-conceit comes right up against His patient and longing love, and grieves His Spirit more than it grieves ours."

Today, when I think of my attitude towards X, I am saddened. Surely X knew I couldn't stand him. The thought of X knowing that, and still smiling as he sang with all his atonal heart, sickens me. Who am I, before God, to treat anyone that way? And who are you to do the same? Lewis writes:

"Be sure that there is something inside you which, unless it is altered, will put it out of God's power to prevent your being eternally miserable. While that something remains, there can be no Heaven for you, just as there can be no sweet smells for a man with a cold in the nose, and no music for a man who is deaf. It's not a question of God "sending" us to Hell. In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud. The matter is serious: let us put ourselves in His hands at once--this very day, this hour."

***
My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

This is a book about the primacy and centrality of God and his unsurpassable presence, and what this means for the Church. The presence of God is the core, the sine qua non, of mere Christianity. God’s presence is what is needed to win the day over the present powers of darkness. This book shows what it means for a church to be presence-driven, and what leadership looks like in the presence-driven church.

My Two Books (and Two More to Come)


Image result for john piippo books

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Image result for john piippo books

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pastors are Facilitators of Transcendence

I took this picture of the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul

People need the Lord. Therefore, introduce people to the Lord. How can this happen?

1. Know the Lord yourself. Cultivate the God-relationship. Abide in Christ, hourly.


2. Teach people how to enter into the presence of God. Show them how to abide in Christ.


3. Tend the garden. The abiding person's life will bear much fruit.


That's it. 


That's all a pastor-shepherd needs to do. 

This is about the Presence-Driven Church, which is the only church worth living for. (During Jesus' time the Temple fell because the religious leaders shut the door to the presence of God.) 

Pastors facilitate this. Pastors facilitate transcendence.


I like how Jame MacDonald writes about this.



"Transcendence is the best single word I have found to describe the attributes of God that are found only in Him and what is missing too often from our churches. We are facilitators of transcendence. Our main job is to usher in the Almighty— God forgive us when we have settled for less. When transcendence is welcomed and unveiled, no one even notices the program, the preacher, or other people. Anything resembling performance seems out of place. Because all that is visible is eclipsed by what is not: God Himself moving through the church in power and meeting with His people in manifest ways.  (MacDonald, Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for, What Every Church Can Be, Kindle Locations 498-502)

***
My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church