Monday, August 31, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
(Detroit)For several months my spiritual focus has been on the love of God. To know the love of God, and to love others with the same love.
I am stunned by the love of Jesus who, hanging on the cross, still exhibited a heart of love towards his crucifiers. Here is one reason why the "WWJD?" bracelets don't work. They minimize, and even trivialize, the Real Jesus. Jesus loved his enemies! He didn't wear a bracelet saying "WWID?" ("What Would I Do?") The heart of Jesus was love. My heart is not. I see this clearly since I get irritated and annoyed with people who are not my enemies. One wonders what I might do when I actually encounter someone who is out to bring me down.
C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, addresses this issue in terms of the marital relationship. Here the demon Screwtape gives advice to a subordinate demon on how to push the evil-button on a Jesus-follower:
"When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother's eyebrown which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy - if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed."
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Sioux Falls is a beautiful community. Yesterday morning I walked from our hotel to the falls - I wish they were here in Monroe; they would become my new favorite place to sit down, slow down, read the Bible, listen to God, pray...
The First B people were so gracious to us. If you're from First B - thank you for your great hospitality. You accepted us and made us feel at home.
I spoke Sunday morning on Living In the Presence of God. For Jesus followers the distinguishing characteristic is to be that we host the preence of God. Christ, the hope of glory, resides in us by God's Spirit. I am really thinking about this right now.
Every teacher has moments where, while speaking to others, are themselves being spoken-to. So God was addressing me this weekend, and is doing so even now as I write. I want, more than anything, to live and breathe out of the presence of God.
This is very practical for me. For example, I'm far from loving as Jesus loves, and cry out to God for him to produce greater love within me.
And, I have so many people I care for that are now struggling and hurting, and whatever natural abilities I have are not able to pull them out of their darkness. So, for these people, I want to access God's powerful, loving, personal presence, and then be used by God to bring freedom to them. God will get all the credit, and I'll be personally blown away that God would work through me to bring any good to anyone.
Look at this. We read, in Exodus 33:15-19 - "Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?"
See that? The God-follower's distinctive, the mark of the real Jesus-follower, is not personal intellect or ability or skill. What is to make us different is not that we are nicer than other people (because we're not, at least not always, and I've met non-Jesus-followers who are nicer than myself).
It is true that the "mark of the Christian" is that "we love one another." Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:33-35) True. But this love is from God and "by His Spirit." I John 3:23-24 - "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us."
That's true. We are to love as Christ loves. But this kind of love, which is supernatural, is "by the Spirit."
To sum it up: 1) Jesus-followers have Christ in them. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit. We host the presence of God. 2) Hosting God's presence is key to loving like Jesus loved and still loves. It's key to doing the "greater things" Jesus predicted we would be doing. 3) Today, host God's presence. Desire it. Welcome it. Be led by God. Experience God. Know God. God, give me some of that this morning, and I'll be good to go. I bless my new friends in Sioux Falls with a day of God with you all!
And... show us all Your glory...
("And the LORD said to Moses, "I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."
Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."
And the LORD said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."")
Friday, August 21, 2009
So, we sat in airports and read. I finished John Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. What a phenomenal book. I am deeply impacted by it. I'll be thinking about this for a very long time. Walton's proposal is that a "cosmic temple inauguration" best interprets Genesis 1.
Thank you John for writing this for us all.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
(Genesis 1:1; Painting with Light, by Mark Lawrence)
A few minutes ago I opened my front door, walked onto our front porch, and picked up the package that arrived today from amazon.com. Inside was the new book by Wheaton College professor of Old Testament John Walton - The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.I brought the book upstairs to the room I use as my office and began reading. The Introduction alone, to me, is well worth the price of the book. It's clear and brilliant on the nature of interpretation. I'll pull a few quotes and make a few comments, but I suggest that this little 6-page introduction is a primer on biblical hermeneutics. Here we go!
"The Old Testament was written for us, but it was not written to us." Stop here. Absorb that thought, follow it, and the words of Scripture will begin to open up in a new way.
- The OT is written in a language most of us don't understand; therefore the OT requires translation. But translation is far from enough. Because "language assumes a culture, operates in a culture, serves a culture, and is designed to communicate into the framework of a culture." (9)
- "Translation involves lifting the ideas from their native context and relocating them in our own context." (10)
- "The minute anyone (professional or amateur) attempts to translate the culture, we run the risk of making the text communicate something it never intended. Rather than translating the culture, then, we need to enter the culture." (11) This seems akin but not necessarily equivalent to Hans-Georg Gadamer's of Horizontsverschmelzung, or the fusing or merging of horizons of meaning. (Found in Gadamer's Truth and Method).
- "Truly learning the [Hebrew] language requires leaving English behind, entering the world of the text and understanding the language in its Hebrew context without creating English words in [our] minds. [We] must understnad the Hebrew as Hebrew text. This is the same with culture. We must make every attempt to set our English categories aside, to leave our cultural ideas behind, and try our best (as limited as the attempt might be) to understand the material in its cultural context without translating it." (11)
- We should not think of Israel as being "influenced" by ancient Babylonian and Egyptian culture; rather, they were all part of that culture. "For example, we do not borrow the idea of consumerism, nor are we influenced by it. We are consumers because we live in a capitalist society that is built on consumerism. We don't have to think about it or read about it." (14)
- On "mythology." We label certain literature "myths" because we do not believe the world works that way. "But for the people to whom that mythology belonged, it was a real description of deep beliefs. Their "mythology" expressed their belief concerning what made the world what it was; it expressed their theories of origins and of how their world worked. By this definition, our modern mythology is represented by science - our own theories of origins and operations." (14-15)
Of Walton's book Davis Young of Calvin College writes: "Every theologian, every pastor, every Christian in the natural sciences must put aside all other reading material this minute and immediately begin to absorb the contents of John Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One. He has blown away all the futile attempts to elicit modern science from the first chapter of the Bible." Well, that's exacty what I have just done!Finally, Bruce Waltke of Reformed Theological Seminary writes: Walton's "view that the seven days refers to the inauguration of the cosmos as a functioning temple where God takes up residence as his headquarters from which he runs the world merits reflection by all who love the God of Abraham."
Worship with FBC Worship Band
How to Hear the Voice of God - John Piippo
Registration (if not already, still $10)
Worship with FLC Worship Band with John and Linda Piippo
How to Have an Effective Prayer Life - John Piippo
For an Audience of OneWorship Workshop with John & Linda
Worship Workshop Attenders' Supper with John & Linda
Worship with John, Linda and workshop attenders
Role of Worship in Spiritual Renewal & Transformation - John Piippo
Sanctuary ServiceWhat it Means to be in the Presence of God
Family Life Center WorshipWhat it Means to be in the Presence of God
Worship in Family Life Center
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Classes begin Tuesday, September 22.
Worship I - taught by Holly Benner - T - Th, 9:30 - 11 AM.
Spiritual Formation - taught by John Piippo - W - F, 9:30 - 11 AM.
Bible Study Methods I - taught by Josh Bentley - W - F, 11:30 - 1.
Kingdom of God I - taught by Jim Collins - Thursdays, 4:30 - 7:30.
Title: Worship I - Intimacy and Worship
Description: True worship and adoration comes from intimacy with God. Intimacy and Worship will focus on building and furthering that love relationship with Him while defining what a lifestyle of worship looks like. Studies will include the life of David, the Psalms, Song of Solomon, and others.
Title: Personal Spiritual Life
Description: In order to be used by God as an agent of renewal and transformation one must be in a continual place of personal renewal and transformation. This course will combine times of personal prayer, spiritual journaling, and teaching from biblical and historical resources on what it means to dwell in the presence of God and be renewed and transformed.
Title: Bible Study Methods I
Description: This course will provide students with systematic methods of studying scripture. Through those methods students will also learn how to practically apply their understanding as they study different books of the Bible.
Title: Kingdom of God I
Description: The main teaching of Jesus was about the “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven.” This course will present the major interpretations of the meaning of the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed. Students will learn the kingdom's impact on their lives and ministry, discovering how Jesus is active today while the earth awaits the full consummation of His kingdom.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
(Linda and I in Israel)
August 11, 1973 - Linda and I got married in DeKalb, Illinois. Today we'll celebrate 36 years of covenant togetherness by going swimming (at a beautiful outdoor pool located on the shores of Lake Erie), eating together, strolling and shopping, and maybe catching a movie. I have some random thoughts...
1) On marriage - it's a covenant relationship, not a contractual relationship. "Covenant" is like two pieces of paper super-glued together, only parted by death. Life-allegiance is pledged before God, to one another, and to one's tribe. What then matters is - are the man and the wife truthful people, people of their word? Marriage-as-covenant takes such things seriously. When one covenant partner tears away from the other great psycho-spiritual damage is done. For evidence of this see the recent Time magazine article on marriage, as well as U-Columbia's Judith Wallenstein in her book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study. In covenant-marital partnership much is at stake, and much is to be gained.
Contractual relationships, on the other hand, are like two post-it notes stuck together. Not so much is at stake, eternal promises before one's tribe have not been publicly declared, and when one partner pulls away from the other the other remains largely intact, perhaps to affix itself to another post-it-note-person.
2) In covenant marriage much can be learned that cannot be learned in cohabiting (shacking up for a season). In marriage the norm is that opposites have attracted. This explains "infatuation" as the feeling that the other has qualities I do not have and I am made "complete" by the other. While opposite-attraction remains in healthy marriages, opposite-tensions emerge. One wakes up one day to find that the other isn't normal like me. We don't see eye-to-eye on everything! For relationships this is normal and this is good, because without such tension character growth will be stunted and we'll remain "forever young" (eternal adolescents) in a bad way. Linda and I have grown immensely in marriage, and a lot of it has come through facing interpersonal conflict and working through it, learning deeper meanings of the word "love" along the way.
3) Humility is necessary. Linda and I have confessed to one another and forgiven one another innumerable times in our 36 years together. This is more important than communicating clearly. We still struggle with this. But we work at understanding each other. Which leads me to think...
4) Important in marriage: to understand, and to be understood. Deeper love understands and feels understood by the other. To love is to understand; to be understood is to feel and be loved. Again, real understanding requires humility. I am from Mars, Linda is from Venus, and as such we don't think alike all the time. It takes effort to understand the one you love so much yet who, at times, appears to arrived on your earth from a distant planet.
5) The importance of sharing a high ideal. When Linda and I got married we were both musicians. One day a friend told me "I see that your music has brought you together." False. Music, as wonderful as it is, won't hold a marriage together in covenant when the earthquakes of life hit. The higher the shared ideal, the stronger the marriage will be. Two people passionate about life's purpose and their own raison d'etre stand a far better chance of making it than the couple that merely shares a passion for sex. For Linda and I the idea is God and following Jesus. Of course we both think there is a God and that God has come to us in the form of his Son. But note this: even if that were not true it would remain that our life together is focused not on our own personal happiness (which I think never works) but on something outside of our own selves, even to, at times, the detriment of our own happiness. We sacrifice for the sake of the greater cause, which all marital couples do when they passionately believe in one. Note: this makes all the difference in marriage! Lack this, and the many tiny irreconcilable differences begin to eat away at the marital soul.
I'm always thankful to God for bringing Linda into my life and she, to my occasional amazement, is thankful for me!
FYI: if you are interested Linda and I will lead and teach a marriage conference we're calling "Drawing Closer." October 23-24, 2009. Call 734-242-5277 for information.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Thursday, August 06, 2009
("Asia," one of my dog-friends.)
Today's christianitytoday.com has an article on mega-churches and their effectiveness. In the article we read: "It's no secret that too many evangelical leaders are captivated more by business culture than biblical culture, spending more time absorbed in strategies and effectiveness and relatively little time in prayer."Agreed. I know this to me true, from my POV. I estimate that 80% of today's pastors and Christian leaders lack a meaningful prayer life. The statistics are better from non-Westernized pastors and leaders. I base this on: 1) 30 years of teaching spiritual formation and prayer at various seminaries, conferences, churches, pastors' retreats, both in the U.S. and elsewhere; 2) functioning as a spiritual coach/director for 700 pastors and leaders, having them submit their journals to me for discernment and guidance, etc.
What this means, to me, is that there are a great number of "Christian leaders" who have little or not ongoing, deep relationship with God. Hence: relevancy in terms of culture but irrelevancy in terms of God. Hence: hypocrisy, if our leaders and pastors are telling their people that they need God in their lives. Which I hope they are. But which will not be credible if they "are more captivated by business culture than biblical culture."
I think we have a problem.