Bob Sorge was a senior pastor and worship leader in upstate NY when he suddenly suffered a life-changing vocal injury in 1992 that left his voice completely depleted of strength. He is able to whisper for about an hour each day before the pain prevents him from speaking.
Through his personal suffering and trials, the Lord has used him to minister to countless people in the body of Christ in the years since his injury.
He has become a successful author of many books and travels around the world sharing the message the Lord has given him. I
f this video's message impacts you, check out Pain, Perplexity and Promotion here:http://oasishouse.net/store/pain-perp... . This book further expounds on the themes in this short film.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
|Linda, at this summer's River Raisin Jazz Festival|
My concern with multitasking especially involves the areas of teaching prayer and spiritual formation, and philosophy. If I was still teaching guitar, it would involve this, too.
To think philosophically requires what Daniel Kahneman has called "slow thinking." Needed: attention, focus, fixation. Distraction is the enemy of focus, and multitasking is distracted multifocusing.
This is not all bad. For example, "multitasking often allows us to perform tasks efficiently and effectively; office workers, parents, and doctors would be hard-pressed to do their work if they were forcibly made to focus on a single task for an extended period of time." (Dario Salvucci and Niels Taartgen, The Multitasking Mind (Cognitive Models and Architectures), 4) And, we multitask all the time. Anyone who is doing the dishes and solving a problem in their mind at the same time is multitasking. Salvucci and Taartgen say that "examples of everyday multitasking abound." (Ib.)
But in some areas multitasking is toxic. "There are also environments in which our multitasking may be dangerous if not lethal." (Ib.) For example, cell-phoning while driving.
In other areas multitasking breeds mediocrity. This especially concerns relationships, and focused slow-thinking areas that require understanding, like philosophy. I want my brain surgeon to lay down his cell phone and monotask while examining my frontal lobe. (And "everyday multitasking" will be happening within the brain surgeon's mind as he monotasks. Perhaps within every monotask there is a focused multitask.)
Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, by Maggie Jackson and Bill McKibben
The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr
Here's one of those quotes I read decades ago and, for some reason, stays with me. C.S. Lewis wrote:
"Say your prayers in a garden early, ignoring steadfastly the dew, the birds and the flowers, and you will come away overwhelmed by its freshness and joy; go there in order to be overwhelmed and, after a certain age, nine times out of ten nothing will happen to you."
- C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, 21-22
The idea here is that true prayer is about meeting with God, not about being blown away by God's creation. But I consistently find the following to be true: The more I take time to meet with God and pray, the more I am blown away and astounded by God's creation. The consistent act of actually praying gives me eyes and ears to see and hear the external world differently.
Henri Nouwen puts it this way:
"For those who pray from the heart, the world loses its opaqueness and becomes transparent: that is, the world of experience starts pointing beyond itself to the luminous Source of wisdom and understanding, to the translucent realm of the Spirit of God. To contemplate is to see, to make visible that which is hidden from ordinary sight."
- Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, Kindle Locations 408-410)
People who pray from the heart don't need to travel elsewhere to behold God's glory in his creation. It's all in my backyard, and your's. It's in the park down the street; it's in the skies above. It's the handiwork of God, pointing us back to him again and again.
First, pray. This is where the beholding is birthed.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
YOUNG ADULT RELATIONSHIP SEMINAR
Led by John and Linda Piippo
When: Sunday night, Nov. 17, 7 PM
Where: John & Linda’s home
Who can come: post-high-schoolers who want to learn and discuss about the things that make for healthy relationships.
TW facebooked me with this: "I've recently finished reading Sam Harris' book on free will and I was wondering, since [Plantinga's] refutation [of Mackie's logical argument against God's existence] depends on free will, what some of the stronger logical arguments for the existence of free will are?"
I have not come close to reading all that has been written on free will. Nevertheless, I recommend:
- University of Texas philosopher Robert Kane's A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will. Kane is an Incompatibilist. For terminology see here.
- Here is Kane's "Reflections on Free Will, Determinism and Indeterminism"
- Here's a nice, and long, video of Kane speaking about libertarian free will and incompatibilism.
- Here is a nice list of collected essays on determinism and free will.
- For a comprehensive collection see The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, edited by Kane. See especially Part IV - "Libertarian Perspectives on Free Agency and Free Will."
Monday, October 28, 2013
|Storm over our garage|
Two reasons for this are: 1) unbelief; and 2) an incomplete view of prayer.
Unbelief is one reason for a prayerless life. If prayer means talking with God about what we are doing together, then how could anyone pass up daily opportunities to meet, one-on-one, with the Maker of Heaven and Earth? I can assure you that, if right now the President of the United States (or any country's President) called and said they wanted to meet with me today, I would stop typing this post, and say "Excuse me, I have a meeting with our President." I would drop all things to do this! A chance to meet with the most powerful leader in the world! You would not be able to keep me from such a meeting. And, I would go with awe and trembling.
Multiply this unlikely earthly scenario times a gazillion and we have the matter of prayer as meeting with the all-powerful, all-knowing, necessarily existent, Creator of all things. Almighty God invites you to pray today, which means to enter into conversation with Him concerning many things, to include the Kingdom Mission. If you can't find time for this I suggest it may it be because you don't believe.
Another reason "Christians" don't actually pray is because they have been taught an incomplete, one-sided theory of prayer. This is the idea of prayer as essentially "asking" or "petition." This is found in, e.g., the theology of Karl Barth, who so much emphasized the "Wholly Otherness" of God that God got viewed as phenomenally distant. So we talk to Him more than converse with Him. We come to God mostly with requests. We approach this distant God when we're in trouble.
I know there's more to Barth than this. But this was his emphasis. See how this is expressed in, e.g., the Barthianism and Calvinism of Donald Bloesch, especially his book The Struggle of Prayer. I had Don (who was a great theologian, a very good person, a passionate lover of Jesus, and graciously agreed to speak to my seminary class)) come to speak once in a class I was teaching on prayer at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. The emphasis was, for me, too much on speaking to God but not enough on hearing from God.
If a Jesus-follower thought "God won't speak to me" this would hugely discourage them from praying.
I like how Anglican theologian Kenneth Leech writes about this. Leech says: "Many people see prayer as asking God for things, pleading with a remote Being about the needs and crises of earth. sometimes these pleas produce a response; often, they do not. So prayer is seen in essentially functional terms - is it effective or not? Does it produce results?... But in order to pray well we need to disengage ourselves from this way of thinking." (Leech, True Prayer, 7)
This is the myth of "effective prayer," with "effectiveness as some kind of measuring stick. To focus on the "effectiveness" of prayer is to miss the relationship with God. It is to view God as some object from which to "get results."
How can we help people who "can't find time to pray" because they don't believe? My view is that only God can change their hearts about this. We should not try to force this on someone. We can create opportunities and contexts for others to encounter God. When I send people out to pray as an assignment in my seminary courses, some become believers (in a God who has much to say to them) and get a prayer life that lasts for a lifetime.
We can also introduce the idea that true prayer is about a conversational relationship rather than simply a 9-1-1 call.
|Dixon Road - Monroe County (MI)|
Tomorrow in my RMS Spiritual Formation class.
Many thanks to Carol for taking my assessment material and creatively developing it to be more user-friendly and helpful.
I'm more than interested in our students' response to this!
Sunday, October 27, 2013
|Green Lake, Wisconsin|
I recently shared with someone that, were I to begin another church today and have to choose a name, I would choose a name like "Redeemer." Rescuer. Out-of-bondage-purchaser-and-deliverer. (BTW - I predict there will be a return to naming churches by rich biblical names and leaving behind culturally relevant names such as "The Church of What's Happening Now." This will be a prophetic act of reclaiming secularized territory for the Kingdom of God.)
In our context my Jesus-companions are living out the name "Redeemer" as they get Spirit-empowered and equipped and healed on Sunday mornings and in Home Groups, and then engage 24/7 in the Great Rescue Mission Towards Humanity.
Some things happened last week where I told one person, "This is our enemy coming against us as we help rescue these people." Now, just a few minutes ago, this person called and told me that God's Spirit led them through a seemingly impassable roadblock to a wonderful, praiseworthy breakthrough. So I'm basking in the glow of another battle won by the Lord and for His Kingdom, through His people.
The Spirit empowers as we move out in obedience. I think this is mostly how it happens. Instead of just waiting for something "big" to happen, abide in Christ, listen for His voice, and obey.
It is in the following that there is empowerment.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
The great New Testament scholar Gordon Fee writes:
"The Holy Spirit is none other than the fulfillment of the promise that God himself would once again be present with his people... The Spirit is God's own personal presence in our lives and in our midst; he leads us into paths of righteousness for his name's sake, he "is working all things in all people," he is grieved when his people do not reflect his character and thus reveal his glory..., and he is present in our worship, as we sing "praise and honor and glory and power" to God and to the Lamb."
Fee calls this "the Presence Motif." This motif is, for example, the interpretive key to the book of Exodus. In Exodus the people are seeking for the experiential presence of God, and follow God's tangible presence through the wilderness.
I believe that, for the most part, it is experience, and not theory, that breeds conviction. It is one thing to talk about God and His love and power; it is quite another thing to encounter and experience the Living God.
The Jesus-story has always been about this. Knowing Scripture is good, but it is far from enough. Because Scripture is intended to bring us into a living, knowing and being-known relationship with God. What people need is the real presence of God, not a theory or doctrine about it. Things like God's love, grace, and mercy are essentially experiential realities of the God who is with us, not just theoretical postulates. We are told that the Spirit deluges our hearts with these things (Rom. 5:5 - hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,who has been given to us).
Seek God today, in prayer. Pray in the dwelling place of His presence. Expect God.
Friday, October 25, 2013
If you live in the NYC area and want to learn about spiritual formation and the Presence-Driven Church, I'll be teaching a conference on these things Nov. 1-2.
|Worship at our Women's Conference|
Over the years I have been familiar with some "seeker-friendly" churches that asked their people not too get too emotional during worship and do things like raise their hands in praise. How silly - right? Here's why, from James MacDonald's Vertical Church:
"Ritual church, tradition church, felt-need church, emotional-hype church, rules church, Bible-boredom church, relevant church, and many other iterations are all horizontal substitutes for God come down, we all get rocked and radically altered, Vertical Church. The problem is you can’t fake glory. You can’t manufacture it, or manipulate it, or manifest it at will. Only God Himself can bring glory into a church, and when He does, communities get shaken and lives get changed, and the fame of Jesus Christ curls continuously upon the shore of human hearts like a Hawaii 5-0 wave. Church is supposed to be a tsunami of glory every Sunday, and that is what we gather for. Push out of your mind your concepts of church as community, church as mission, church as evangelistic tool, or church as instruction in Scripture. Church can be all of those things with great power if God is in the house. Vertical Church points to a new day where God is the seeker and we are the ones found. In Vertical Church God shows up, and that changes everything."
- James McDonald, Vertical Church, K104
In this kind of church true seekers will find what they are seeking: viz., God.
This is a church where God is the Seeker and the people are found by him.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
|The River Raisin|
CAMPFIRE WORSHIP AT MY HOUSE
When: Sunday, October 27. 6 PM.
Where: Our house, on the river - 2739 North Custer.
Bring: snacks to share; apple cider will be provided.
Kids and families are invited to come!
Attention musicians: bring your acoustic instruments to accompany me as I lead worship. We'll be singing a lot of our current familiar worship songs.
AND... bring your camera!
|Monroe, in the days when snow fell during winter|
Why did Jesus pray? He prayed to find out what the Father wanted him to do. He prayed to receive strength and comfort. He and the Father were on a redemptive mission together. In times of prayer, Jesus received his marching orders.
Prayer brings us into the control room of the kingdom of heaven. In Scripture the "kingdom" means: the rule, or reign, of God. A praying person engages in God's kingdom activity. In prayer we gain discernment, and see how to separate kingdom activity from mundane activity. In prayer we become relevant do-ers of the will of God.
I like this quote from Henri Nouwen as he describes the place of prayer in Jesus- life.
"In the midst of a busy schedule of activities—healing suffering people, casting out devils, responding to impatient disciples, traveling from town to town, and preaching from synagogue to synagogue—we find these quiet words: “In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.” The more I read this nearly silent sentence locked in between the loud words of action, the more I have the sense that the secret of Jesus’s ministry is hidden in that lonely place where he went to pray, early in the morning, long before dawn." (Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, pp. 20-21)
(If you want to join me in PrayerLife send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll email you things I am writing about the life of prayinjg.)
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
For my MCCC Logic students:
See "Zombies: Our love for the undead refuses to die."
But why? The argument:
Z-proliferation is a manifestation of cultural angst and anomie. Chaos rules, attacking family systems and communities, and there's nothing we can do to stop the advancing of this blind, brainless beast. "Scholars who study zombies suggest the monster can be “read as tracking a wide range of cultural, political, and economic anxieties of American society”." (Platts)
1. The more zombies we see, the more anxious and uncertain Americans are.
2. We're seeing a lot of zombies.
My spiritual life is a dialectical movement between solitude and community, solitude and community, solitude and community... Solitude with God, koinonia, solitude with God, koinonia... I need both.
Ontologically, solitude comes first. Solitude is, as Nouwen has said, the "furnace of spiritual transformation." In solitude God purges my soul. This is good. I experience this, I know this, as a good thing. Without much time alone with God "community" (koinonia) becomes like a costume party that I'm at, wearing my mask. In solitude the mask gets peeled away to reveal the true self. Spend much time in true solitude with God and the masks you are wearing will get removed by the Spirit. "You" will then go to the party, interact with other people, in authentic ways. This is all about your own freedom, who God has made you to be, and who you truly are in Christ.
Thomas Merton has written:
"The truest solitude is not something outside you, not an absence of men or of sound around you: it is an abyss opening up in the center of your own soul. And this abyss of interior solitude is a hunger that will never be satisfied with any created thing. The only way to find solitude is by hunger and thirst and sorrow and poverty and desire. The man who has found solitude is empty, as if he had been emptied by death." (New Seeds of Contemplation, pp. 80-81)
Learn these things and live:
- True solitude is a condition of the heart.
- In true solitude God morphs the human heart.
- All persons have a hunger within that cannot be satisfied by any created thing. That includes you.
- So - stop questing after created things.
- Hunger and thirst for the real thing. In this way consider yourself impoverished and needy.
- What you and I need is God.
- Therefore, meet often with God.
- He loves you, so in his presence you won't need the mask anymore.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
|Eagles, in Monroe|
On Wednesday I'll travel to Clare, Michigan, where I'll have 5 hours to share my Prayer and Spiritual Formation materials with the staff of CapTrust (Holland, Michigan). At the heart of this experience will be giving the participants 30-45 minutes to get alone with God and pray.
When I assign students to pray, I select Scriptures for them to meditate on. My current students are using, for Scripture meditation, Psalm 23 and John chapters 14, 15, and 16. Another favorite of mine is Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 (Jesus' incredible Sermon on the Mount).
James Houston writes: "Prayer goes hand in hand with discovering the riches of the Bible. As we saturate ourselves in the Bible's teachings and attitudes, we become "biblical people," focusing our lives upon the God revealed in the Bible. Like the writers of the Psalms, we discover that the Bible relates to all the moods, emotions and circumstances of our lives." (Houston, The Transforming Power of Prayer: Deepening Your Friendship with God, 37)
As a pastor, and as a Jesus-follower, what is the most important thing for me to do? What shall I shoot for; what shall I focus on? For me this is:
- Abide (in Christ)
- Saturate (in Scripture)
- Abide (in Christ)
- Saturate (in Scripture)
- Hang around people who do 1 and 2.
Incorporate Scripture into your prayer times.
Monday, October 21, 2013
|Flowers in Munson Park|
Some people can write. I mean, really write. I just finished reading chapter one of Victor Brombert's Musings on Mortality: From Tolstoy to Primo Levi. (Ch. 1 - "Tolstoy: 'Caius Is Mortal'") Brombert can write.
His words and sentences are wise and moving and heart-expanding as he tours us on a path of dying and apocalypse. I've never read The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Brombert made me buy it tonight. What coolness to feast at this literary banquet table. And think of the revelation of death. And the power of writing.
"The crucial question for Tolstoy is how we face this revelation, what it tells us about the way we have lived. Ivan Ilych learns— the lesson may come too late— that emptiness, self-deception, and false values have been at the core of his life, that in the process of living we all deny the truth of our human condition, that we lie to ourselves when we pretend to forget about death, and that this lie is intimately bound up with all the other lies that vitiate our moral being. It is a denunciation of a spiritual void." (Brombert, Musings on Mortality, Kindle Locations 251-254)
Freedom from 2 Illusions: The Illusion of Indispensability, & the Illusion that We Can Change Others
I am a small voice sounding a drum from deep in the jungle. Here are some of the drums I beat when I was in Kenya.
I told the Kenyan and Ugandan pastors that the #1 thing they need to do, as pastors, is stay tight with God. Abide in Christ. Dwell in the shadow of the Almighty. Send roots to the river of God. Live, 24/7, in the fortress of God. That's what you need to do. And that's what your people need you to do. Because what they need is not you, but God. They need "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Dwell in God's presence and he will free you from the illusion of your indispensability. I told these African pastors that they are not needed by God. God can and will accomplish his purposes with or without them. But God loves them and wants to use them. And he will, if they trust in him and abide in him.
We can't change other people. Only God can do that. So I told the pastors: "Today you can let go of your striving to change other people."
Some of them told me how novel and freeing this was. I added, "But God can change you."
The change happens as we hang with God. You cannot consistently nurture the "in Christ" relationship and remain unchanged. And, as a bonus, make God your Shepherd (in practice, not theory; viz., trust in him) and he "restores your soul." So, you don't have to "work on your own self." Just step into God's presence, stay there, and the Restorer of Souls starts to strip away all that has covered over your soul to get to the original "in God's image" psuche.
The changes God works in you will not be just for you, but for others. This is called influence. We cannot change other people. But what God works in us can and will influence other people, by God's Spirit.
Today, I will abide in Christ. As he speaks, I'll obey. This is the place of all authentic formation, transformation, renewal, restoration, and in some cases resurrection. This is the place of my need, and my influence.
|Angela Greenig at Redeemer|
Here's what's happening at Redeemer Church in Monroe.
- We're preaching through the book of Hebrews. This coming Sunday (10/27) it's Hebrews 3:1-6.
- This coming Sunday, Oct. 27.
At John & Linda Piippo's home. 2739 N. Custer.
Bring a snack to share. Apple cider provided.
Acoustic musicians - bring your instruments. John will lead worship.
Kids and families welcome!
- YOUNG ADULT RELATIONSHIP SEMINAR
Led by John and Linda Piippo
When: Sunday night, Nov. 17, 7 PM
Where: John & Linda’s home
Who can come: post-high-schoolers who want to learn and discuss about the things that make for healthy relationships.
- Annual Chili cookoff and lunch - Sunday morning, Dec. 8, after worship.
- Baptisms - Sunday morning, Dec. 22. If you want to be baptized please let Pastor John know.
- Christmas Eve Candlelight and Communion Service. 6 - 7 PM.
- New Year's Eve Worship! Worship in the New Year with us.
|Dead flowers in my backyard|
I had just preached a Sunday morning sermon at Faith Bible Church in New York City. FBS is a Chinese church, and my message was translated into Mandarin. When I was done a man came up to ask me to pray for him. He was a government worker from China. China's government is atheist, and does not encourage its workers to have religious inclinations. He could not speak English, so an interpreter told me: "He wants you to pray for him."
"I would be glad to. What can I pray for him?"
"He wants you to pray that he would believe in God."
I have never had a prayer request like that before. It was clear to me that God was pursuing this man, that very moment.
A.W. Tozer wrote: A. W. Tozer writes, “We pursue God because and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit.” (In Richard Foster, Prayer, 71)
The urge within spurs us on to the pursuit. Those that desire, pursue. On that morning in New York City this Chinese government worker was going after God.
This is how it is with prayer. Those that desire God, have time to converse with him. A person whyo heart-wants to pray, actually prays. That's how it is with urges and desires.
This is why I don't think we can make people pray. Making people feel guilty that they don't have a prayer life will not result in them having a prayer life. This is because it's all about desire, or what Tozer called the "urge." You can't command or force this.
In my seminary classes and seminars I do assign people to pray. I have seen, occasionally, that while doing this assignment someone gets a prayer life, for life. A desire is placed within them for relationship with God. And when you desire relationship with someone you find time to meet with them. You just do. That's the way it is with anything you love.
"Here is the beautiful thing: finding God only deepens and heightens the pursuit. One taste of obedience and we want more. “O taste and see that the LORD is good,” invites the Psalmist (Ps. 34:8). (Foster, Prayer, 71-72)
Pray that you would pray.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
THINK OF HAVING A LIFE PARTNER.
Most couples I work with, when they think of marriage (if they do, rather than co-habiting), think of a life partner. But the idea of covenant may not be there, at least intentionally and reflectively. And its profound implications.
- DO THE FOCCUS PREMARITAL INVENTORY WITH A THIRD PARTY WHO CAN INTERPRET IT (GET EXCELLENT PREMARITAL COUNSELING).
- The FOCCUS material helps me as I premarital counsel couples. It asks covenantal questions. So, for a premarital couple entertaining marriage, I have them do the FOCCUS survey. BTW - you don't have to be engaged to do this survey. And, 10% of all who take it break off their relationship after taking it.
- FIND A COVENANT MARRIAGE AND TAKE THEM OUT TO DINNER. Do you know of a covenant marriage? Two persons who have been married many years, and selflessly and sacrificially love each other? Go out for dinner with them and ask them questions about their marriage. Treat them. They deserve it. Note: Linda and I were hosting Chaim Potok when a young girl asked him, "Mr. Potok, I don't have any moral values. How can I get them?" Chaim answered: "Find a family that has moral values and hang around them." A lot of the stuff we have been taught has been caught.
- REJECT THE MYTH OF COMPATIBILITY. Understand, from the beginning, that no two people are compatible enough to weld together for life. So, you won't need to divorce on the basis of "incompatible differences." Expect them. Again, find a successful, long-term covenant marital couple. They've learned how to love in the midst of such differences.
- SAVE THE SEXUAL (INTERCOURSE) RELATIONSHIP UNTIL COVENANTALLY WELDED TOGETHER. This builds trust, and increases real love which is: loving the other for who they are in Christ and not for the sex they can give you. Contractual relationships are all about what I get; covenantal relationships are all about God first, and the other person second.
- READ GARY CHAPMAN'S BOOK. I really like Gary Chapman's newer book Things I Wish We'd Known Before We Got Married. Everyone should read it.
- READ THESE TWO BOOKS BY WALTER TROBISCH. Before I got married (almost 39 years ago) my pastor had me read these two marvelous books by Walter Trobisch - I Married You, and I Loved a Girl. Prepare to be ushered into another, beautiful, alternative noetic framework.
- READ MIKE MASON'S BOOK. I strongly suggest reading Mike Mason's famous The Mystery of Marriage. This is all about the nature of covenant relationship.
- WATCH "SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE," ALONE. The Tom Hanks character knew his wife, inside and out. The Meg Ryan character longs to have a husband like this. And she hasn't even seen his face. Such is the quality of covenant relationship; viz., it grows in an ever-newness of love while the face and body sag and decline.