Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good Grief

Ben Witherington has posted 7 times on grief, at the loss of his daughter.

One more posting is to come.

Anyone now grieving will do well to read his reflections.

World Record: World's Fastest Guitar Player (600 BPM)



This... is incredible.

Watch the entire thing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Spiritual Formation Class - My Audio Presentation


Last night at Redeemer 100 people attended Session 1 of my Spiritual Formation class.

I have 20-30 online students.

You can listen to my 45-minute presentation on Spiritual Formation: How God Shapes the Human Heart here. It should also be available soon on iTunes.

Feel free to download it and pass it on as you like.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Escaping Melancholia


Henri Nouwen writes:

"We need to begin with a careful look at the way we think, speak, feel, and act from hour to hour, day to day, week to week, and year to year, in order to become more fully aware of our hunger for the Spirit. As long as we have only a vague inner feeling of discontent with our present way of living, and only an indefinite desire for “things spiritual,” our lives will continue to stagnate in a generalized melancholy. We often say, “I am not very happy. I am not content with the way my life is going. I am not really joyful or peaceful. But I don’t know how things can be different, and I guess I have to be realistic and accept my life as it is.” It is this mood of resignation that prevents us from actively naming our reality, articulating our experience, and moving more deeply into the life of the Spirit."
(Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit)

Melancholia comes like a runaway planet, threatening to destroy us. It causes us to sit passively, immobilized, shutting us down. But deep within there is a hunger and thirst that will not go away. Obey this thirst. Be discontent to live in the shadow of the stagnant planet. This is an active discontentment that rejects spiritual acedia and pursues the Spirit.

Yes, BTW, I did see "Melancholia." The final scene, which to me represented the failure of religion in the face of a Russellian "Nature," stayed with me for days.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spiritual Formation Class: On-line Participation


Looks like there will be 60-80 people attending my Spiritual Formation class this Sunday evening at Redeemer.

If you want to attend see - An Invitation to Six Weeks of Spiritual Formation - Jan. 29 - March 11, 2012.

I also have some who will be taking my class on-line, from a distance. Here's how to do this if you want to.

***

FOR LONG-DISTANCE ATTENDEES
Send me an e-mail indicating that you will be joining me in this 6-week prayer experience. johnpiippo@msn.com

Because you will not be with us in person this Sunday night, Jan. 29, here are some instructions.

1.       On Sunday evening, 5 PM, I will be sending everyone out to pray for one hour, using Psalm 23.

a.       Please do the same. I will be sending you the handout I am using on Sunday evening, with instructions.

b.      After the one hour of prayer, please write me an e-mail. Share with me the things you heard God saying to you.

c.       I will respond back with feedback, plus instructions for the 6 weeks of prayer.

 2.       My teaching that evening will be available on-line for you to listen to. I'll send you the information/link so you can listen to this 1-hour presentation on A Theology of Spiritual Formation. (To my current and former seminary students: this 1-hour teaching is a mini-version of what I taught in our week-long class.)

3.       Beginning Monday, Jan. 30, and continuing for the next 6 weeks, take one hour a day, 5 days a week, and go alone to a place and pray.

a.       Find a place away from your home, workplace, and your car.

b.      Meet with God for one hour.

c.       For week #1 continue using Ps. 23 to meditate on.

d.      For weeks 2-6 use John chapters 14, 15, and 16 for your meditation.

e.      When God speaks to you, write this down in your spiritual journal.

f.        If your mind wanders, write down where it wanders to. Note: Your mind always wanders to something like a burden. When this happens, follow 1 Peter 5:7 and “cast your burdens on him, for he cares for you.”

g.       After these 6 weeks of prayer, write down highlights from your journal. Send these highlights to me, and I will respond back. Tell me what God said to you. Share with me what God has done within you and for you during this time.

4.       During these 6 weeks I will send you things to read that I have written. Respond to me if you like.

5.       If you have questions please let me know.

Blessings,
John Piippo


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Grieving the Loss of a Child

Havin lost a child myself, my heart goes out to Ben Witherington and his family at the unexpected death of his daughter Christy.

Ben is now writing out of his grief. See...

Good Grief: Soundings, Part One (What Does Grief Look Like)

Good Grief: Soundings, Part Two – Five Things Not to Say to the Grieving

Interview With Bruce Cockburn


Christianity Today has an interview with Canadian singer-songwriter-guitarist Bruce Cockburn. I've listened to his music since the early 1980s. There is not a better lyricist than he.

I've written about Bruce in these posts:

Bruce Cockburn

Bruce Cockburn Sings In The Shack

Dune-Climbing with Mother Teresa, Bruce Cockburn, & Greg Boyd

The Power of Music (& Why the Taliban Wants to Banish It)

The Enduring Influence of Nietzsche


It's no secret, at least to my philosophy students, that my favorite atheist is Friedrich Nietzsche. Were I an atheist (I am not) my "Bible" would be Thus Spoke Zarathustra, as it was for Jack London and Eugene O'Neill.

Here's another nice little article on Nietzsche's enduring cultural influence, generated out of U-Wisconsin historian Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen's American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Invitation to Six Weeks of Spiritual Formation - Jan. 29 - March 11, 2012

(Note: anyone is invited to attend this - I would love to have you come!)
 
I have been teaching prayer, spiritual formation and transformation, and dweling in God’s presence for 35 years. I’ve developed my own materials and have been blessed to teach them in many environments, to include: seminaries, pastors retreats and conferences, churches, all over the world, and in our own Redeemer Ministry School.
As an experiment I want to offer and invite you to take my Spiritual Formation class in a 6-week course. Here are the details.

If you want to sign up please call the Redeemer office (734-242-5277) or e-mail me (johnpiippo@msn.com). Persons who have studied this material with me may re-take it. Why not invite a friend to take it with you?

REQUIREMENTS

Attend two 3-hour classes.

1.    Sunday evening, Jan. 29, 5-8 PM. An Introduction to Spiritual Formation.

2.    Sunday evening, March 11, 5-8 PM. Sharing our experiences with one another;  wrap-up.

Six weeks of prayer and journaling:

-          Feb. 5 -  March 18

-          Pray one hour/day, 5 days/week

Read and reflect on my writings on spiritual formation and prayer. Needed: e-mail access – I will e-mail you the readings.

Needed: Commitment to fully engage in this experience.

Materials Needed:

-          Bible

-          Journal to write in

Cost: Free.
If you want to prepare in advance for this here are some books I recommend.

Boyd, Greg. 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.

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.

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.

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

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

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

Peterson, Eugene. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to 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.

Willard, Dallas. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (IVP: 1999)

For more information e-mail me at: johnpiippo@msn.com   

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On the Moral Argument for God's Existence: Objective Moral Values Exist


(Some notes for my thos who came to my workshop at Faith Bible Church yesterday - "The Moral Argument for God's Existence and the Failuren of Atheism")

1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
2) Objective moral values (OMVs) do exist.
3) Therefore God exists.

How can we argue for the truth of the second premise?

How do we know there are OMVs?

We recognize them. Like we recognize (1) “The lights in this room are on.”

The truth or falsity of (1) is objective, not subjective.

Consider (2) Racism is wrong. Is (2) true or false? The correct answer is: true.

But how do we know this?

Philosophers like Craig and Paul Copan (as well as Alvin Plantinga and William P. Alson) say that we just recognize that (2) is wrong, in the same we that we recognize the truth or falsity of (1).
So, moral values are apprehended. Like we apprehend, by sense experience, that the lights are either on or off. Moral values function like Plantingian properly basic beliefs.

Objection: you can’t prove that (2) is right.
This argument does not claim to indubitably prove this.

There are very few things in this life about which we can be absolutely (deductively) certain.

E.g., Craig says, “How do you know you’re not just a body lying in the Matrix and that all you see and experience is an illusory, virtual reality?” (All Craig quotes from "How Can God Be the Ground of Morality?")
- Yes, it’s possible that is true.
- But I have no good reason to doubt what I see.
- “The mere possibility provides no warrant for denying what I clearly grasp.” (Craig)

So, while I cannot deductively prove that (2) is right, I have no good reason to doubt that (2) is right.

Objection: moral values differ from culture to culture.

This is partially true. Not entirely. Because nearly all cultures believe, e.g., (3): Stealing is wrong.

The truth that many moral values differ from culture to culture does not cause us to believe moral values are not objective. Just as, should we find a culture that believes the earth is flat, we should not thereby reject the objective truth that the earth is round.

What if some culture believes (2) is wrong?

- The answer is: that culture is wrong. The reason we can say “racism is wrong” and “racists are wrong” is because “the ability to detect error presupposes an awareness of truth.” (Paul Copan, “God, Naturalism, and the Foundations of Morality,” in The Future of Atheism; Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett in Dialogue, 142. Note: Copan's essay is one of the best I have ever read on this subject. He's an excellent writer and a very good thinker.)

- Copan writes: “Humans may misperceive or make logical missteps. However, such mistakes hardly call into question the general reliability of our sense or reasoning powers; indeed, they presuppose it.” (142)

Copan: “We possess an in-built “yuck factor” - basic moral intuitions about the wrongness of torturing babies for fun, of raping, murdering, or abusing children. We can also recognize the virtue of kindness or selflessness, the obligation to treat others as we would want to be treated, and the moral difference between Mother Teresa and Josef Stalin. Those not recognizing such truths as properly basic are simply wrong and morally dysfunctional.” (143)

Atheist Kai Neilsen writes: “It is more reasonable to believe such elemental things as [wife-beating and child abuse] to be evil than to believe any skeptical theory that tells us we cannot know or reasonably believe any of these things to be evil… I firmly believe that this is bedrock and right and that anyone who does not believe it cannot have probed deeply enough into the grounds of his moral beliefs.” (in Copan, 143)

Which means: basic moral principles are discovered, not invented.

We would expect this sort of thing if God exists. We would not expect this sort of thing “if humans have emerged from valueless, mindless processes.” (Copan, 143)

Objection: evolution has programmed us to believe in certain values. Therefore those values are not objective.

- This commits an informal logical fallacy - the genetic fallacy.

- Craig says it’s “at worst a textbook example of the genetic fallacy and at best only proves that our subjective perception of OMVs has evolved.”

- The “genetic fallacy”: when someone tries to invalidate a view by explaining how that view originated or came to be held.

- Such as: “You only believe in democracy because you were raised in a democratic society.”

- Compare: “You believe the earth is round because you were born in a scientific age.”

(Note: one of yesterday's attendees shared this. "My professor told us that moral values came about  ss an evoutionary adapatation for our survival." But even if that is true, this only explains how persons came to believe that, e.g., Boiling babies for fun is morally wrong. The professor than concluded that we don't need God to explain moral values. But this is to mistake moral epistemology for moral ontology. In no way does this affect our moral argument as stated above. It also commits the genetic fallacy if one concludes that there is no God.)

Objection: But if evolution is true why should I think moral values are objective?

- Answer: because you clearly apprehend them. Evolutionary theory gives you a reason to doubt the objectivity of moral values ONLY IF naturalism (atheism) is true.

- This objection “begs the question” (an informal logical fallacy) because it presupposes that naturalism is true.

- Craig agrees that, if naturalism is true (if there is no God), then our moral experience is illusory. That, precisely, is Craig’s first premise in his metaethical argument for God’s existence.

Which is: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

If God does not exist then a moral universe is far less likely.

But, as Copan writes, If humans are God’s image-bearers, then it’s not surprising that they are capable of recognizing or knowing the same sorts of moral values – whether theists or not. (142)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Biblical Meditation & Spiritual Transformation

There is a close relationship between biblical meditation and spiritual transformation. God works through meditation to change the human heart. It’s like this: meditate on something and that something “becomes you.” You get changed. If the subject matter of your meditations are God’s thoughts, then those thoughts will get inside you and have a transforming effect on you. Meditation is a main spiritual discipline leading to soul renewal and transformation.
The practice of meditation is found in the Christian Scriptures. For example, in Genesis 24:63 we read that Isaac went out into a field to "meditate." What did he do? I once asked my seminary Old Testament professor this question to which he answered, "Isaac mumbled." This "mumbling" was a repetitive activity using some word or message from God. Biblical meditation is an “over and over” kind of thing.
We see the repetitive, ongoing nature of meditation in a passage like Psalm 1:1-3:
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does he prospers."
Here meditation is a "day and night" activity. If it’s not “day and night” then it’s not “meditation.” You’re not meditating if you just look at something quickly and then move on. In Psalm 1 meditation’s object is "the law of the Lord." Imagine the depth in the psalmist who made God’s law his continuous meditation. Then contrast this to the superficial life that only skims over the surface of things. Meditation’s purpose is to go deeper.
What, precisely, is meditation? Meditation is to reading as digestion is to eating. Think of a cow chewing its cud. Biblical "food" chewed over and over becomes more assimilable to the body. In the end, this "food" becomes one's body. When the food we take in becomes us we are nourished and transformed.
To be transformed by God requires going slow. Biblical meditation takes time. Conversely, "Mc-meditation" is "fast food" that produces only an upset stomach. Meditation requires chewing slowly on things, looking at them from many perspectives. To meditate is to dissect the scripture or moment piece by piece, and then to examine each piece.
Psalm 1 claims that meditation's result is a fruitful, prosperous life in whatever one does. My experience is the more I prayerfully meditate the more God's thoughts and desires become my thoughts and desires. To do this is to enter deeper waters. In terms of what God wants my life becomes more fruitful and prosperous. One’s “depth of soul” is increased.
Biblical meditation is not simply another form of self-help. Rather, it is essentially for the sake of God, not for the sake of self. While meditation can bring personal fruitfulness, its telos or purpose is God. A correct theo-logy is always centered on God (theos) and not on persons. Thus Psalm 19:14 petitions, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." Meditation brings personal reward, but its raison d'etre is to please God.
Historically, there are at least five objects of Christian meditation. The first is meditation on the Scriptures. Psalm 119:97 reads, "O, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." An example of this would be to take a passage such as Psalm 23 and carry it with you day after day, morning and evening, saying it over and over and over.
Secondly there is meditation on the creation. Psalm 8:3 says, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place..." Jesus asks us to consider the lilies and look at the sparrows. To "consider" takes time. It’s much more than just a passing glance. God has much to teach us when we consider the creation. Meditation on the creation often leads to a clarity about life and death. I wonder how much attention would I pay to life and death if I didn’t take time to meditate on God’s creation, since in it there is the constant theme of life vs. death?
Thirdly, Christian meditation makes the world and the activity of God in the world its subject matter. Psalm 77:11-2 reads, "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds." Personally this means three things for me: a) I will ponder the history of the activity of God in the Scriptures; b) I will meditate on the current condition of the world and discern God's activity in it; c) I will remember often all that God has done in my life.
Fourth, there is meditation on the mysteries of Christ. It is always helpful to, for example, take much time to meditate on the cross of Christ. A classic example of this in Christian history is The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
A fifth object is meditation on one's self in the light of God's searching Holy Spirit. Here we pray with the psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart. See if there are any wicked ways or anxious thoughts in me." Here persons like Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Richard Foster lead the way.
The human heart is a fragile instrument, easily put out of tune with God. Meditation "retunes" our heart to God's heart. Meditating on God's thoughts in Scripture or on the creation are main ways of getting back in tune with God. To be "in tune" with God is to be in God's presence. Meditation is a spiritual discipline that escorts us into the presence of God.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Speaking in New York City

What a beautiful time I had with the Payne Theological Seminary M.Div. students, and now friends, this past week. Blessings to all of you as you embark on this new prayer and abiding adventure!

Linda and I are flying out of Detroit to NYC tonight to be with our good friends Dr. John and Rosie Hao and Faith Bible Church.

Tomorrow I'll be speaking at their annual conference, and leading two workshops, plus preaching twice on Sunday morning. Linda will glad two workshops tomorrow. Dan and Allie will speak on Sharing Christ with Muslims Sunday morning.

My Sat. morning message is - "Fight the Good Fight of Faith" (1 Tim. 6).

My Sat. workshops are:
  • Healing and Deliverance Ministry
  • The Moral Argument for God's Existence and the Failure of Atheism
On Sun. morning my two messages are:
  • On Psalm 23
  • Distinguishing the Real Jesus from False "Jesuses"
Linda's two Saturday worskshops are:
  • Keys to Christ-Centered Relationships - Friendship, Dating, Courtship, and Marriage
  • Deeper Life Transformation - How Christ’s Love Changes Us for His Kingdom

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Need

(Road next to Payne Theological Seminary campus.)

The Need

I received the gift of a Bela Fleck dvd, inserted into the player, and sat down to watch, in awe. I was not prepared to be awed, but I was. I had thought I was a guitar player!

I began playing guitar when I was five years old. I did a two year degree in music theory on my way to, I envisioned, a full-time musical career. I taught guitar in the music studio owned by Rick Nielsen’s father in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. I’ve written songs, published them, had them recorded by other artists, played on tv, practiced a million hours and given tons of lessons. But I cannot play like Bela Fleck. As I watched him I thought, “I am a man of unclean guitar playing.” I am in need.

So are you. We’re all a bunch of needy people. My fellow musician and songwriter David once wrote, “Yet I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay” (Psalm 40:17).

We all need guidance. We all need direction. We all need help, in this life.

It is a good thing to recognize one’s neediness, for this realization puts one in position to be guided, directed, and helped. Only the needy know they need a shepherd. Only those who realize their need for guidance can be guided.

In a moment of God-inspired musical genius David wrote the first line to arguably the greatest worship song ever. Out of his neediness David wrote, “The LORD is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1) All of David’s own talents were not enough. As brilliant as King David was, his own intelligence did not suffice. As courageous as he was, he still struggled with fear. David, the greatest King and leader Israel ever had, knew that he needed himself to be led. He needed a shepherd. And for that, David chose well.

In the seminary classes I teach on spiritual formation I send my students out for times of prayer, using Psalm 23 as their meditative focus. I instruct them: “When God speaks to you, write it down.” My experience is that God doesn’t let 40% of them get past verse 1. God asks them the question: “Am I really your shepherd?” That is the foundational question for all spiritual formation, transformation, renewal, and restoration. The answer to that question determines whether a person’s life and ministry will be authentic or inauthentic, relevant or irrelevant. This is because unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain; unless we are shepherded by God, we’re shepherded by some other god (like self; others; money; sex; power). The key question of the spiritual life is, as Henri Nouwen said: Who do you belong to?

The necessary precondition for authentic, relevant God-leadership is: being-led. To lead is to be led. To be led one must heart-recognize one’s great neediness. This is, spiritually, a very good place to be. How do we come to understand this?

I don’t think you can force this idea on people. I believe that the heart-recognition of personal neediness is given to people as a revelation. You cannot command this for other people. It’s a revelation, a wakeup call, that God desires us all to have, but which all do not see. If one consistently abides in God’s presence, God himself will show you this. It will be like me, popping in the dvd, thinking I’ve got my guitar-playing in a powerful place, watching Bela Fleck begin to play, and then comes the revelation of personal guitar-neediness. If I was thinking that I didn’t need more instruction to play like that, that I didn’t need help and shepherding to play like that, such a thought has been, like a bubble, burst.

In the spiritual life neediness is cool, self-reliance is uncool. If I really wanted to play like Bela Fleck I’d need Bela Fleck to shepherd me. If I really want to be used by God I need to be constantly shepherded by God.

Pray for a revelation of personal neediness. God wants to reveal this to you. He will, as you spend time with him.

Your spiritual life and effectiveness for the sake of God and his Kingdom is at stake.

You Can't Force Spirituality

(Flamingos, in the San Diego Zoo)

Once Linda was talking on the phone with someone and I heard her tell them, "You can't force or demand spirituality." Now that is so true! When that takes place mostly bad things happen. People feel controlled, manipulated, pressured, instead of invited.

Jesus invites us to follow after him. He does not say, "Behold, I stand at the door and break it down and come in to your house."

At the root of forcing or demanding people to be in relationship with God is the illusion that we can change people. It can't be done. Or, if it appears that our guilt-manipulations have worked to "change" someone's heart we have before us a prisoner, captive and in chains. I know that when someone tries to change me I get this weird, angry feeling that makes me want to get away from them.

Parents take note: you do not control your child's heart. Spouses take note: you do not control your significant other's heart. So let it go. Many years ago God spoke to me and told me, "John, why are you trying so hard to change other people when you can't even change yourself?" (All this is different from setting boundaries and having household expectations. And the fact that we can't control others does not mean we have no right to speak to the truth in love to others.)

While I usually resent people who try to change me, I have been greatly influenced by a few people in my life. Influence is different than control. The heart of influence is getting before God, consistently throughout life, and crying out "Change my heart, O God!" Enter deeply into a life-process of personal transformation. The break-up that happens inside you will be used by God to influence others. You will see breakthrough around you. That's how it has happened with me. The real influencers in my life have been people who worked on their own souls before God and did not expend their lives trying to do the impossible thing of changing the hearts of others. As I have been with these (very few) people, God has used what he was doing in their lives to speak to me about my life. What a wonderful, grace-filled way for God to do this!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Payne Theological Seminary January 2012 Spiritual Formation Class


Here are my new friends at Payne Theological Seminary - M.Div. students in my Spiritual Formation class. It is such an honor for me to be with them. And, God is meeting us this week!

Payne Theological Seminary - Day 2

This is Day 2 of my Spiritual Formation class at Payne Theological Seminary.

We meet at 9 AM.

I'll give some brief instructions, and then send the 27 seminary students out to pray for one hour, using Psalm 23 as their meditative focus. When God speaks to them, they will write it down.

After this hour we'll gather in the small groups we formed yesterday. Each one will share what God said to them. One person will take notes.

After 30-40 minutes, everyone will return to class. The persons who took notes will share with the entire class. During this time I take notes. Then I do some teaching, coaching, and sharing my onw God-discernment of what God is doing. During this time I give the Spirit free reign to direct me.

Then I will begin teaching my Theology of Spiritual Formation.

I am so thankful to be here in Wilberforce (Ohio), at this historic and living place, with such an excellent class of new friends!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to Hear From God

If "prayer" is defined as "talking with God about what we are doing together," how can we learn to hear the voice of God and distinguish it from other voices, even from our own voice?

My answer is:

1. Abide in Christ.
2. Saturate yourself in Scripture.
3. Hang around people who do 1 and 2.

Olaudah Equiano

(I'm teaching my first session of Spiritual Formation today at Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio.)

I'm reading Robert Kellemen's Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. One of the stories Kellemen shares is of a boy named Equiano. Equiano was born in 1745 in Benin, then known as Guinea. When he was just ten years old his life changed forever. Equiano wrote:

"One day, when all our people were gone out to their works as usual, and only I and my dear sister were left to mind the house, two men and a woman got over our walls, and in a moment seized us both; and, without giving us time to cry out, or make resistance, they stopped our mouths, tied our hands, and ran off with us to the nearest wood." (45) Eventually Equiano and his sister were separated and never saw each other again.

Equiano was placed on a slave ship. Sailing across the Atlantic, the majority of slaves died. Kellemen writes: "Captured Africans were spooned together lying on their sides in ships that pitched with every wave. Together they wept and moaned in a forced community that cut across tribal and cultural lines." (51)

Rice University professor Anthony Pinn "describes the bitter waters as the appalling transition from personhood to property. The Africans left Africa connected to family, community, and continent; they were reborn as chattel. They moved from capture to rupture, a ritual passage of rebirth from one reality to another. Dying to what was and what could have been, they were born into what never should have been." (51; from Pinn, Terror and Triumph, pp. 28-35)

Equiano wrote of his experience on one of these hell ships, as he feared he would be eaten as he was forced aboard. "I was not long suffered to indulge my grief; I was soon put down under the decks, and there I received such a salutation in my nostrils as I had never experienced in my life; so that with the loathsomeness of the stench, and crying together, I became so sick and low that I was not able to eat, nor had I the least desire to taste anything. I now wished for the last friend, Death, to relieve me." (In Ib., 51)

These words, written by a boy, should never have been. Where were the real followers of Jesus? (One real Jesus-follower, William Wilberforce (1759-1833), was to be born 14 years after Equiano's enslavement. Wilberforce died on 29 July 1833, shortly after the act to free slaves in the British empire passed through the House of Commons.)

Olaudah Equiano was transported along with 244 other slaves to Barbados, and then on the the British colony of Virginia. he eventually ended up in London, where he was involved in the abolitionist movement. He eventually wrote The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African Written by Himself. He closed his book with these words of counsel:

"I early accustomed myself to look at the hand of God in the minutest occurrence, and to learn from it a lesson of morality and religion; and in this light every circumstance I have related was to me of importance. After all, what makes any event important, unless by its observation we become better and wiser, and learn "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God!"" (Micah 6:8; quoted in Kellemen, 55)

Monday, January 16, 2012

M.L. King's Brilliant, Compassionate, Truthful, Prophetic "Letter From Birmingham Jail"

Some years ago, as I was mentoring one of my doctoral students at Palmer Theological Seminary, I read, for the first time, Martin Luther King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail." My student, a black denominational leader, was doing her doctoral project on the "prosperity gospel" and its negative, un-Jesus-like influence in the African-American churches under her leadership.

I distinctly remember reading King's letter and being stunned by it - by its clarity, its Jesus-likeness, its prophetic nature, it's love, and its brilliance. Note a few of King's statements below. Better yet, read it in its entirety.
  • "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." (King was viewed as being an "outside agitator." His point here was that, if we are all interconnected, then there is no such thing as "outside agitation."
  • "In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action."
  • "There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts." King wrote this in 1964. I was a sophomore in high school, and quite ignorant of what was going on. Now I feel embarrassed by this. I was not a Jesus-follower, and was unfamiliar with the Real Jesus and his words in the four gospels. Of course now we see that there were white Christians who: 1) looked aside at the racial injustice in America; 2) actively persecuted blacks; and 3) walked hand in hand against the racial injustice. Group #3 - the real, actual followers of Jesus. Group #2 - little antichrists. Group #1 - not following the Real Jesus, for whatever reasons.
  • "I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth." I love this statement, for its recognition of truth. Conflict (non-violent), in itself, is not only not bad but becomes the soil from which resolution grows. Needed: "friction." Unneeded: fight (violence) or flight (avoidance/denial).
  • "Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals." Agreed. And again, a wonderful insight, a very strong point for King to make (whether it was listened to at the time or not). I have found that the ethos of the "herd" often dissipates when the individual is isolated. That's one reason why I pay little attention to how people posture and perform in their peer groups, in the sense that herd-activity is not a good indicator of individual heart-thoughts. I also know this personally, especially since I was once and have been at times since someone who has "gone along with the crowd," only to have a troubled conscience about this as I lay in bed, alone, at night.
  • "For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied.""
  • Read this next part... and weep... "We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern."
  • King then writes about "just laws" and "unjust laws" using thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and Jewish philosopher Martin Buber's famous ("I and Thou"/Ich und Du) distinction. He emphasizes that he in no way wants to defy a law, but clarifies things by saying an unjust law is no law at all. That King has to defend himself at this point brings a sadness into my heart, and an anger against the racist anti-Jesus political system he is standing against.
  • King is simply brilliant and poetic as he uses logic to reason out his protest: "In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion?"
  • The entire section on "extremism" is brilliant and beautiful. Here's a portion to ponder and stand in awe of: "Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists." O my...  Martin Luther King the prophetic truth-teller...
  • What about "Christians" and "the church?" King writes, correctly and humbly: "I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen... In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern."" The archaic suggestion that social action is not about "Christianity" is, simply, exegetical blindness. It's true that Jesus did not give us some political solution to our societal problems; it is also true that Jesus brought in the upside-down Kingdom of God which reaches down to society's marginalized and oppressed. Fortunately today we are seeing a resurgence of the full gospel of Jesus's active compassion for "the least of these" (Matthew 25).
  • King writes: "the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust." It's important to note that King's "Letter" is not mean-spirited. In fact, there's a grace and mercy throughout that for me makes what he writes so compelling, and brings a sadness into my heart. Just look at how he ends it...
  • "If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me. I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.



Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Good Photograph Is Hard to Find


Photographer Abe Frajndlich says that even the greatest of photographers rarely take a shot that will be a "keeper."

He writes: "Practicing photography for more than 40 years, I have become aware of how seldom a photograph — a truly successful photograph — is made. How easy it is to click the shutter, and how nearly impossible to seize something significant through that act. The clicks that have mattered, historically speaking, were so few and far between, even for the masters."

Spiritual Formation Syllabus - Payne Theological Seminary, January 2012

CM 150 Spiritual Formation

Payne Theological Seminary

Winter 2012 Intensive

SYLLABUS

Professor: John Piippo, Ph.D.            Office Hours: By Appointment

734-731-1709 (Cell phone)


johnpiippo.com (my website)

PAYNE MISSION STATEMENT:

Payne Theological Seminary, a free standing graduate school mandated by the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) in 1844, is dedicated to the preparation of men and women for leadership in local, national and global ministries. Payne Theological Seminary offers an Afrocentric theological education focusing on teaching and research that emphasizes salvation which finds expression in liberation, reconciliation, social justice, and the dignity of all humankind. The seminary values African American history, the African American experience, and the biblical tradition.

INSTITUTIONAL GOALS

Students should demonstrate:

1. Servant leadership in local, national or global ministries as responsible stewards who serve with care, humility, strength of character and boldness as they articulate a vision, and inspire and guide others towards embracing higher ideals as articulated in Payne’s mission.
2. Tolerance expressed as unreserved acceptance of the universal concepts of love, justice and forgiveness that finds expression in the capacity to be inclusive and open to difference;
3. Spiritual formation, growth and transformation.
 
PROGRAM GOALS

Students will:
1. Demonstrate an understanding of their religious heritage.
2. Utilize their cultural context in applying Biblical Studies, Historical
Studies, Theology and Ethics and Practical Ministry.
3. Develop personal and spiritual formation as they progress through the program.
4. Enlarge their capacity for ministerial and public leadership.

COURSE DESCRIPTION:

This course is designed to engage participants in an exploration and expansion of their inner spiritual life utilizing the spiritual disciplines. Personal transformation is an internal process that occurs as the individual allows God access to the whole of one’s being and life. The course combines:

1.    Personal encounter with God
2.    Keeping a spiritual journal as a record of the activity of God in one’s life
3.    Corporate sharing of one’s experience with God
4.    Reading and reflecting on three required texts
5.    Biblical and theological reflection on key issues that arise in the life of one who seriously engages in the spiritual disciplines

COURSE GOALS:

1.    To encounter and experience God
2.    To experience personal transformation
3.    To deepen one’s prayer life
4.    To discuss issues of personal transformation with colleagues in ministry
5.    To reflect biblically and theologically on this experience
6.    To understand personal spiritual transformation as the necessary foundation for all relevant church, urban, and global transformation

ASSIGNMENTS:


1.    Attend and participate in class sessions
2.    Keep daily, structured devotional times with God for 6 weeks, 5 days per week, one hour per day, beginning the week of January 22, 2012.
3.    Keep a Spiritual Journal that records what God is saying to you during these times.
4.    Type out your journal and e-mail it to me using Microsoft Word. This document should be sent to me no later than Monday, March 5, 2012.
5.    Read the three books that are required reading. Write a 5-page paper summarizing the required reading. Submit this paper no later than March 5, 2012.

EVALUATION:

  1. This is a pass/fail course.
  2. Class attendance is required.
  3. Keep the required prayer times.
  4. Keep a spiritual journal and submit.
  5. Read the required texts, write a 5-page reflection paper, and submit.
 
No laptops or texting in class, please.

The following is an outline of topics to be covered in the course:

DAY ONE
 
Explanation of Syllabus
One hour of prayer and listening to God
Corporate sharing & response
 
Teaching

  • Intro to Spiritual Formation
  • Keeping a Spiritual Journal
  • Restoration, Renewal, Formation, Transformation
  • One’s need for renewal and transformation
  • Formation into Christlikeness
  • Spirituality of Howard Thurman
 
 
DAY TWO

One hour of prayer and listening to God
Corporate sharing & response
Teaching

  • Review
  • Recognition of the gap
  • Realization that only God can form us
  • Abiding in the presence of God
  • How to hear the voice of God
  • Spirituality of Howard Thurman
DAY THREE

One hour of prayer and listening to God
Corporate sharing & response

Teaching

  • Review
  • Metaphors of the spirit
  • Removing the false self
  • Ontological dualities (the “from-to” nature of spiritual transformation)
  • Spirituality of Martin Luther King

DAY FOUR

One hour of prayer and listening to God
Corporate sharing & response

Teaching

  • Review
  • Humility
  • Spiritual discernment
  • Practicing the presence of God – abiding in Christ
  • Spiritual disciplines
  • Spirituality and Leadership

TEXTS

Required Reading:

1)    Howard Thurman, Essential Writings
2)    Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
3)    Lewis Baldwin, Never to Leave Us Alone: The Prayer Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

I will present my own lectures on Theology and Practice of Spiritual Formation. Extensive notes will be published on my website during the week of classes. (johnpiippo.com)

My annotated bibliography includes texts which have informed me on this subject. I will often point to many of these texts as examples of the material I am presenting.

Arnold, Eberhard. Inner Land: A Guide Into the Heart and Soul of the Bible (Rifton, N.Y: Plough Publishing House, 1976). A classic in Anabaptist spirituality.

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

Boyd, Greg. Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy
(IVP: 2001). An excellent study on the kingdom of God, esp. on spiritual battle and the kingdom of Satan. A coherent Christian response to the philosophical problem of evil.

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 (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 Intimnacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice. Nicely puts together the spiritual disciplines and social activism.

Collins, Kenneth J. Exploring Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Reader (Baker Book House: 2000). An excellent one-volume text.

Costen, Melva Wilson. African American Christian Worship.

Dawn, Marva. Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living In An Affluent Society (Presbyterian Publishing Corporation: 2003). This is a deep, profound study allowing us to see our materialistic world and our spiritual place in it through God’s eyes.

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”).

Felder, Cain Hope. Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation. (Augsburg: 1991) This edited collection does an excellent job distinguishing the Eurocentric bias in biblical hermeneutics from an African American perspective which gives place to the now-experiential reality of God’s Spirit speaking to us through the written text.

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. Life With God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation. (HarperOne: 2010)

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 Spiritual Disciplines (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.

Gutierrez, Gustavo. We Drink From Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1988). Excellent, especially in its emphasis on corporate spirituality.

Holmes, Urban T. Spirituality for Ministry. Still one of the best books on this subject.

Jones, Cheslyn, et. al., eds. The Study of Spirituality (New York: Oxford, 1986). A very good one-volume source on the history of Christian spirituality.

Kelleman, Robert, and Edwards, Karole A. Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. (Baker: 2007)

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.

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). The best book available on spiritual direction.

Leech. True Prayer: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980).

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. The Ragamuffin Gospel. A beautiful, very thoughtful meditation on the grace of God.

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

Manning, The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus. Very good as it gets at the real Jesus.

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.

May. Care of Mind, Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction (New York: Harper and Row, 1992). A very good text on the nature of spiritual direction.

May. Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology (Harper and Row: 1987). An excellent text.

McManus, Erwin. The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within (Thomas Nelson: 2005)  Don’t be put off by the title. I loved this book about what it means to be a real follower of Jesus.

McLaren, Brian. The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything (Thomas Nelson: 2007). I loved this book about the kingdom of God.

Merton, Thomas. The Inner Experience: Notes On Contemplation (Harper: 2003). This is Merton’s final book. Few write about contemplation as well as he does.

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,

Miller, J. Keith. A Hunger for Healing: The Twelve Steps as a Classic Model for Christian Spiritual Growth (New York: Harper and Row, 1991).

Miller. Hope In the Fast Lane: A New Look at Faith in a Compulsive World (New York: Harper and Row, 1987). An excellent text on overcoming sin in one’s life. Especially good on identifying the deep source of stress and overcoming stress.

Miller. The Secret Life of the Soul (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1997). About the vulnerability needed for the transformation of the soul.

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 Spiritual Formation (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. Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1987).

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 Christian Leadership (Harper and Row). A brilliant little book, among the best I have ever read on pastoral leadership.

Nouwen. Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective (New York: Image, 1986).

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. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith.

Nouwen. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit.

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.

Paris, Peter. The Spirituality of African Peoples.

Payne, Leanne. Listening Prayer: Learning to Hear God’s Voice and Keep a Prayer Journal (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991). A very good, well-written text on what it means to hear God’s voice.

Peterson, Eugene. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to 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.

Peterson. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology. The first of five books in Peterson’s summary of his spiritual theology.

Quinn, Robert. Deep Change (Jossey-Bass: 1996). A very good book, written from a leadership-business perspective, on the inner transformation required to lead effectively.

Senn, Frank, ed. Protestant Spiritual Traditions (New York: Paulist, 1986). Various authors writing from the following perspectives: Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, Puritan, Pietist, and Methodist.

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.

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).

Thurman, Howard. For the Inward Journey: The Writings of Howard Thurman (Harcourt Brace: 1984). An excellent anthology of Thurman’s spiritual writings.

Thurman. Jesus and the Disinherited (Beacon: 1996). If you’re going to read one book by Thurman this is the one to read. He is brilliant, insightful, and extremely relevant for even today. There s a timelessness about Thurman’s writings.

Thurman. Howard Thurman: Essential Writings. (Orbis: 2006) Edited by Luther Smith. Smith is one of our great, if not our greatest, Thurman scholars. His introduction to Thurman’s writing is very helpful.

Thurman. Meditations of the Heart. (Beacon: 1999)

Weems, Renita. Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt (Simon and Schuster: 1999). An excellent reflection of the silence of God and intimacy with God.

West, Cornel, and Glaube Jr., Eddie S. African American Religious Thought: An Anthology. (Westminster John Knox: 2003)

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. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (IVP: 1999)

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.”

Wimber, John. Power Healing (Harper and Row). An excellent, encouraging text filled with realism and hope.