Monday, February 29, 2016

Copan's Defense of the Old Testament God as Not a Moral Monster


Yesterday I heard of someone who left Christianity and became an atheist because of the way God is portrayed in the Old Testament. Here are a few suggestions I have for this person.

First, this argument does not work:

1. I don't like how God is portrayed in the Old Testament.
2. Therefore, God does not exist.

Nor does this argument work:

1. I don't like how God is portrayed in the Old testament.
2. Therefore, Christianity is false.

Premise 1 needs to be unpacked. Just how is God portrayed in the Old Testament? Probably, this person has it wrong. So this argument fails as well:

1. In the Old Testament God is portrayed as a moral monster.
2. Therefore, the Judeo-Christian God is to be rejected.

The two books this person must read - if they really want answers - are by Paul Copan: 

Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God, and Did God Really Commit Genocide?: Coming to Terms With the Old Testament God.

Note: This person may not really want answers. Why Not? They may not want answers if they have been hurt by other Christians or the church. The underlying reasoning then is:

1. I've been hurt by other Christians.
2. Therefore God does not exist and Christianity is not true.

But this argument fails as well. It is sad that they have been hurt. (Perhaps they have some responsibility in this?) But even Nietzsche said he admired Jesus, but not Christians (Nietzsche is not himself some moral hero).

Maybe this is going on in this person:

1. Christians have hurt me.
2. I am hurting them back be declaring I am an atheist.

Here, for starters, is an essay from Copan, who is a very good philosopher- "Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? The New Atheists and Old Testament Ethics." Copan responds to the Dawkins/Dennett/Hitchens/Harris [DDHH] claim that God as presented in the Old Testament is a very bad God.

If you are a Jesus-follower who feels concern over DDHH's attack on the OT God, then Copan's work here is must reading.


Briefly, Copan responds to atheistic Foursome by saying:
  1. They have not handled the biblical texts with proper care.
  2. The moral heart of the OT is a marked contrast to the new atheists' portrayal.
  3. The Law of Moses is embedded in a larger biblical metanarrative that helps illuminate ethical ideals in ways that mere law-keeping cannot.
  4. Unlike the new atheists, we should not approach the Law of Moses as a holiness code detached from its broader narrative and canonical context-as though this legislation offers an ultimate ethic with nothing further to consider.
  5. While the new atheists are correct in pointing out moral flaws and horrendous actions of OT characters, they often imply that "if it's in the Bible, it must be approved by the author." Yet we see from 1 Corinthians 10 that many of Israel's stories involving stubbornness, treachery, and ingratitude are vivid negative role models-ones to be avoided. The OT's "is" does not amount to "ought."
  6. We must allow the OT ethical discussion to begin within an ANE [Ancient Near East] setting, not a post-Enlightenment one. "Simply put, the ANE world is "totally alien" and "utterly unlike" our own social setting."
  7. Contrast the moral improvements of the Mosaic Law to ANE law codes. Mosaic Law differs from ANE legal texts in at least 7 ways.
  8. Note the increased complexity and stringency of Mosaic regulations in response to Israel's disobedience.
  9. Note that there are differing ethical demands for differing historical contexts in OT Israel's history.
  10. Distinguish between the legal and the moral.
  11. The "hardness of heart" and "forbearance" principles are insights into the status of much Mosaic legislation.
  12. The "restraining" rather than "ideal" Mosaic legislation are part of Scripture's redemptive movement and warm moral impulse.
  13. Note the seriousness of sin and the sovereign prerogatives of Yahweh. "The new atheists seem to resist the notion of Yahweh's rightful prerogatives over humans precisely because they seem uncomfortable with the idea of judgment in any form."
  14. The repeated call to imitate Yahweh's character and redemptive activity capture the OT's ethical spirit and providing an abiding moral norm.
  15. Note the planned obsolescence of the Mosaic Law and its fulfillment in Christ.
  16. The new atheists ignore the sui generis status of Israel's theocracy.
  17. The new atheists wrongly assume that the OT presents an ideal ethic, while ignoring the OT's redemptive spirit and creational ideals.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cancun and the Real Meaning of R&R (and Deconstruction)



I took this photo this morning in Cancun, 7:30 AM. I walked about a mile up the coastline and back. 

Linda and I sat in the sun on the beach for about 6 hours today. Had a great lunch. Did a lot of R & R - Relaxing and Reading. Tonight I told her, "I don't know what I would do if you didn't like to sit on the beach and read. She said, "We are birds of a feather." Maybe pelicans, since we saw a lot of them today.

I am going to make my way through two books while I'm here. The first is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk In a Digital Age, by Sherry Turkle. I really got into this today. Turkle is a great scholar, and understands the effect digital media have on today's youth and young adults. The reality is that texting is eliminating face-to-face conversations and community. We have a world of kids who have lost the ability to empathize. Face to face is always better than texting. Turkle demonstrates this empirically and passionately. And, she is sympathetic. She's not blaming kids for what they are turning into.

The second book I'm reading is Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction, by Christopher Butler. Butler does a nice job explaining things like deconstruction (which does not mean what most people think it does; viz., as a synonym for destruction, or tearing down). He points out inherent contradictions within postmodernism, shares clearly about postmodern fear of metanarratives, and shows how interpretation is everything (how interpreting just one word can take you through the entire dictionary).

Linda read an entire book today (she reads faster than I do) - 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know. She really liked this book, and thought of a lot of people she would want to read it. 

Tomorrow in Cancun - sunny, 77 degrees, and more R&R.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Shepherd-Leaders Have Followers

Wilberforce, Ohio


"To manipulate, drive or manage people is not the same thing as to lead them."
- Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God, pp. 106-107

A sheep dog drives the sheep; a shepherd leads the sheep.

Sheep dogs have prisoners; shepherds have followers. For the Jesus-following shepherd-leader the one to follow is not you, but Jesus. Willard writes:

"When we lead as shepherds, our confidence is in only one thing: the word of the Great Shepherd, coming through us or, otherwise, to his sheep. We know that they know his voice and will not follow another (John 10:1-16). We do not want them to follow another, even if we ourselves are that “other.” Only this supreme confidence frees us to be true ministers of Christ." (Ib., 107)

Our confidence is not ultimately in our own selves, but in the One who leads us. Even the "shepherd" is a sheep. As Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me."

My main task, as a Jesus-follower and pastor, is to dwell in the presence of God so as to hear His voice. (See, in addition, one of the best books ever on pastoral leadership, In the Name of Jesus, by Henri Nouwen.)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Epiphanies of God in Le Temps Vierge

Tree on fire, in my backyard

Thomas Merton learned that "the epiphany of God in time can come to us at any moment, anywhere, whether we are praying or not. It can come at work, on the road, in any situation, because it is a deep and secret movement of the divine spirit within our own, the felt sense of God's own self-discovery in us." (Kathleen Deignan, Thomas Merton: A Book of Hours, 34)

But it doesn't just come to anybody. It comes to the prepared. It comes to those in relationship with God. Ongoing engagement in the spiritual disciplines as a way of connection-maintenance makes us more susceptible to God-interruptions.

"The life of contemplation prepares us for such intervals of divine encounter, creating a new experience of time: "le temps vierge" - one's own time felt at once abundant fullness and profound emptiness." (Ib., 34-35)

The spiritual disciplines - such as contemplation - create an empty space in our hearts which God comes to fill with his presence. Deignan writes: "It is an incomparable point of contact with mystery by which we pass through the center of our own nothingness and enter into infinite reality to awaken as our true self." (Ib.)

Lest this sound like a bunch of words, I can attest to the experiential reality of many in breakings of God, unprovoked by myself. They are expected (i.e., I have expectation) yet unexpected (they always comes as a gift).

God with us, right? In experience. The age to come breaking through this present darkness.

What's Happening at Redeemer!




MARCH - A MONTH OF LISTENING TO GOD. Redeemer’s Elders believe God is leading our church family into a Month of Listening to God. We will humble ourselves and pray, seek his face, and turn from our worldly ways. We will expect God to hear from heaven. We expect all heaven will break loose.
·         On Sunday morning, March 6, I will preach on “How to Hear the Voice of God.”
·         On Sunday morning, March 13, I will preach on “How to Discern the Voice of God.”
·         We encourage you to spend time praying and, when God speaks to you, write it down in your spiritual journal.
·         If God gives you any words that will strengthen and encourage our church and would like to submit them to the elders: send an email, text or hard copy to Tim Curry.  Include your name, and when you received the word.

CORRECTION: "INNER HEALING" CLASSES: Because Full Life in Christ has an event next Sunday evening, March 6, our first Inner Healing Class taught by me John will be Sunday night, March 13, 6 PM. Class dates after that will be Sunday evenings, April 3, 10, 17, 24, and May 1.

OUR SUMMER GREEN LAKE CONFERENCE SPEAKERS will be Robby Dawkins and Bob Hazlett. For more information go here - hsrm.org.

THANKS to Daniel Reaume, Chris Verhille, and many others who are doing our Saturday basketball league. I have dropped in a few times to check it out - this is a great ministry to our kids and other kids who are playing in the league.

We are now using the new building - I taught 3rd-5th graders in the purple room last Sunday. It's beautiful!

Please take a peek into what used to be the old youth room and see what our people have done. It's being transformed into a beautiful classroom and that host up to 50 people - new tables, new chairs, new white board, new paint job.

And, the Prayer Room is getting ready.

THIS SUNDAY MORNING we finish a year's preaching through the Book of Revelation.

IN APRIL we begin preaching through the Book of James.

Blessings to all of you, and thank you for being part of our Redeemer family!

PJ

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Absence-Driven Church

Woodward Avenue in Detroit near Comerica Park

I pastor a presence-driven church. The basic idea is: 1) God is able to lead church; and 2) desires to lead church. These are strong claims which, if true, have radical implications. This changes church leadership from business models to discerning, obedient communities

So is its contrary, the absence-driven church. The basic idea is: God is either able or unable to lead our church, and chooses not to lead us. This is a strong claim. If true, then I would leave the ministry and have nothing to do with church. We would just be leading ourselves, religiously. In the absence of God, we drive ourselves. The blind lead the blind.

One mark of a Presence-Driven Church is the people saying, "Surely the Lord is in this place!" Without that we have Nietzsche's madman who wandered through Europe from cathedral to cathedral intoning "requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"" (Nietzsche, "The Parable of the Madman.") 

Boredom

Warren Dunes State Park beach

Will eternity with God be boring, with all that repetitive worship going on? I've had people ask this, and wondered it myself. I think the answer is "No." We see this on the definition of "boredom."

"Boredom" is not: having little or nothing to do. It is not: doing the same thing over and over again. You can have a lot to do and not feel bored (like spending all day in your garden); you could engage in repetitive activity and not be bored (like, e.g., practicing your guitar because you love it).

"Boredom" is: finding no meaning in what you are doing. And the meaning of "meaning" is: fitness within a coherent context. 

So, the antidote to boredom is the acquisition of meaning.

A person works for hours at a job and the clock drips down the wall like a Salvador Dali painting. One student sits in class bored out of her skull while another student is fully engaged and time flies by.
I live in a land where there are more things to do than ever and yet many are bored out of their minds. Evidence for cultural boredom is seen in things like:
  • the inability to be still;
  • non-reflective capacity;
  • the Facebook Nation and its many games;
  • oxymoronish appeals that couple money, sex, and power;
  • the mass marketing of diversions;
  • the loss of true happiness (see Aristotle [eudaimonia], and J.P. Moreland);
  • "church" as entertainment of the masses [Thou shalt not bore the people!];
  • and Kierkegaardian herds of wandering norm-less amoralists entertaining one another with their boredom-fueled evil.
Boredom is related to anomie. Anomie: a personal condition resulting from a lack of norms. 

Sociologist Emile Durkheim wrote"The state of anomie is impossible whenever interdependent organs are sufficiently in contact and sufficiently extensive. If they are close to each other, they are readily aware, in every situation, of the need which they have of one-another, and consequently they have an active and permanent feeling of mutual dependence." "Durkheim defined the term anomie as a condition where social and/or moral norms are confused, unclear, or simply not present. Durkheim felt that this lack of norms--or preaccepted limits on behavior in a society--led to deviant behavior."

Anomie = Lack of Regulation / Breakdown of Norms (Ib.). Breakdown of norms breeds deviant behavior. Deviants are bored people.

The bored person lacks life-meaning. They lack a coherent context. The reason we don't get a joke is that we fail to understand the context. Where there is no context there is no joy. The bored person is joyless and out of touch. Bored people get desperate. Thomas Merton wrote:

"The modern American is kept in terror of boredom and unfulfillment because he is constantly being reminded of their imminence - in order that he may be induced to do something that will exorcise him for the next half hour. Then the terror will rise up again and he will have to buy something else, or turn another switch, or open another bottle, or swallow another pill, or stick himself with a needle in order to keep from collapsing." (Thomas Merton, Contemplation In a World of Action)

Some churches have lots of stuff going on yet are boring. Why? They've lost their sense of fitness in the context of the Grand Narrative. This is sad, because THE MOVEMENT is not boring.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Listening Is a Type of Humility

Ascending Masada in Israel, via cablecar

To hear someone, I mean really hear them, is to understand them. Hearing is for understanding.
To understand is to "stand under." To get beneath someone. To hear and understand requires getting lower, below, the one who is addressing you.
All this - hearing and understanding, which is true listening - is an act of humility. Only the humble really hear. The proud have deaf ears.
This is true not only in human relationships, but in our relationship with God. To have ears to hear God, and therefore to understand what God is saying, means to place yourself lower than God (the correct position, irregardless). It is to be humble.
Understanding God comes to the humble; the proud remain confused.

How to Hear the Voice of God

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan

I am going to preach two messages on Hearing the Voice of God, at Redeemer.

Sunday morning, March 6 - "How to Hear the Voice of God."

Sunday morning, March 13 - "How to Discern the Voice of God."

We are calling the month of March "A Month of Hearing From God." We're encouraging our people to engage in this, and feed back to us what they are hearing God say.

Sunday services begin at 10:30 AM.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Prayer Is Not Witchcraft

I prayed on this porch when I was teaching on prayer last fall in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

I ran into a former student of mine and we began talking about philosophy and religion. One of the things they said was that someone told them that prayer is witchcraft. The student asked me, "What do you think?" True or false?

I told them the correct answer is: false. Why?

Cnsider the statement: Praying is witchcraft.

Let's define 'witchcraft' as: magical things that are done by witches ; the use of magical powers obtained especially from evil spirits.

In my forthcoming book I define 'praying' as: talking with God about what we (God and I) are doing and thinking together. (In Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, now in the editors' hands.)

On these definitions clearly prayer is not witchcraft or some form of witchcraft. In fact, in many Christian cultures who take witchcraft seriously, the people are praying against witchcraft. Sociologically, Christians who pray construe prayer and witchcraft as fundamentally different. To equate them would be itself witchcraft. (When I was speaking in Kenya the Kenyan pastors told me about "diviners," and how the Christians were praying against them.)

It is true that prayer and witchcraft both make sense within a broader worldview that is nonphysicalist. I, as nearly all who pray, share a nonphysicalist worldview. But this doesn't make the two equivalent, or make prayer a subset of witchcraft, any more than saying baseball is tennis. They are both sports, yes. And they are not the same.

In 45 years of studying prayer, spirituality, and sociology of religion (PhD, Religious and Theological Studies, Northwestern University), I have never read a single scholarly essay arguing that praying is witchcraft. Perhaps some Christians have used prayer as witchcraft (or superstitiously), but that doesn't mean prayer is witchcraft any more than finding people who use power drills as toothpicks means a power drill is a toothpick (which would be stupid, as stupid as a Christian using prayer as witchcraft).

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Craziness of Cosmogony and Eschatology.

CNN posted this photo I took of last fall's blood moon.

I am really enjoying reading Mary-Jane Rubenstein's Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse. It's interesting studying this while I'm wrapping up our one year of preaching through the book of Revelation.

This Sunday I'll do Rev. 21:9-27. It's about the denouement of the universe and its recreation, by God, into a temple that needs no temple because God's shining presence is omnipresent. John sees the Holy City descending from heaven. It's a cube that measures 1500 miles square.

Remember, this is figurative. But "the fact that this is a symbolic vision does not diminish the glory of what John was attempting to describe." (Barton and Osborne) It doesn't make it any less wild and crazy. Sometimes I find myself reflecting, "Man..., this is what I believe!!!" 

How do I rationally cope with believing in something so unbelievable? My answer is: any time you study deeper into the beginning of the universe (cosmogony), or its end (eschatology), the ideas get fantastic and insane and impossible to adequately verbalize. Which brings me back to Rubenstein's book. I just read what a lot of physicists believe about the first micro-second of our universe. Rubenstein is talking about inflationary cosmology.

"Inflation in its most basic form is a brief burst of insanely rapid universal expansion that kicks in right after the big bang—a hyperactively repulsive gravity that, “according to even conservative estimates,” blows the universe up by “a factor of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 in [0].00000000000000000000000000000000001 second.” As Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow explain the process, “It was as if a coin 1 centimeter in diameter suddenly blew up to ten million times the width of the Milky Way.”" (Rubenstein, 156. Emphasis mine.)

Really? The craziness of cosmogony and eschatology.

Work Hard at What God Calls You to Do

My back yard
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Colossians 3:23-24

I had a student in one of my philosophy of religion classes who was a follower of Jesus. They loved God and wanted to serve God. That's what they said. They were failing my class, not because of a lack of intelligence, but because of a lack of effort. One day I took them aside and asked:

"You are a Christian, right?"

"Yes."

"Has God called you to be in college?"

"Yes."

"If God has called you to be in college," I said, "then you need to pour everything you have into this and study your face off."

This student was lazy, disobedient, mediocre.

I told them they would never serve on my team if they didn't respond to God's callings by giving it all they have. This is not about a grade or being better than others. It's not about working hard to earn God's love. It is about loving God; therefore working hard at all God calls you to do. God called me to study. Therefore, I study hard. I don't study for a grade, but for the glory of God.

Thomas Merton wrote: "It is the lack of self-denial or self-discipline that explains the mediocrity of so much devotional art, so much pious writing, so much sentimental prayer, so many religious lives." (Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, 26)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Halvor Ronning - Psalm 23 - Paths of righteousness





Here is my friend Hal Ronning sharing background information needed to understand Psalm 23. Hal was our tour guide when Linda and I were in Israel. What a blessing that was! Hal and his wife Mirja are great biblical scholars and head the Home for Bible Translators in Jerusalem. Hal also has been to Redeemer to speak and teach.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Psalm 23 and Henri Nouwen

Me, at Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin

When I teach people to pray, and in my spiritual formation classes, I use Psalm 23 as the meditative focus (for the past 30+ years!). So I was pleased to read this from Henri Nouwen's A Spirituality of Living. He writes:

"Oh, if we could sit for just one half hour a day doing nothing except taking a simple word or phrase from the Bible and holding it in our heart and mind. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1, NRSV). Say it three times. We know it’s not true, because we want many things. That is exactly why we’re so nervous. But if we keep saying the truth, the real truth—“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want”—and let that truth descend from our minds into our hearts, gradually those words will be written on the walls of our inner holy place. That becomes the space in which we can receive our colleagues and our work, our family and our friends, and the people we will meet during the day." (Pp. 16-17)

Cast Your Distractions on Him


Climbing the large dune at Warren Dunes State Park


Distraction. 

That, according to Richard Foster, is the primary spiritual problem in our day. "The Internet culture is only a surface issue. Our problem is something far more fundamental. This deeper, more basic issue can be summed up in one word: distraction."[1]

The inability to focus. 

Difficulty in attending to just one thing. 

The tweeting soul. The linking brain.

It’s nothing new.[2] This has always been with us. "People were distracted long before it [the Internet] came along. Blaise Pascal observed, "The sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room."”[3]

Minds are prone to wander. Today they seem to divert more than ever because we live our culture sells mental and spiritual rabbit trails. Ours is an atmosphere of distraction, a world economy sustained by distractedness. To un-attend is the norm. 

This is changing the nature of interpersonal relationships, in some ways for the worse. It affects the God-relationship, and if and how people pray. Single-mindedness, the ability to attend to one thing over a sustained period of time, is needed to succeed at anything, including praying. If someone wanted to overcome this, how could it be done? Foster writes: "The first counsel I would give regarding a wandering mind is for us to be easy on ourselves. We did not develop a noisy heart overnight, and it will take time and patience for us to learn a single-hearted concentration."[4] 

Don’t be impatient with yourself here. That is precisely the problem: impatience.

Learn about your inner chaos. Identify it. When your mind wanders, note where it wanders to. It always wanders to something like a burden. Identify the burden and give it over to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast your burdens on him, for he cares for you."

Discern if a particular distraction is from God. "If one particular matter seems to be repeatedly intruding into our meditation, we may want to ask of the Lord if the intrusion has something to teach us. That is, we befriend the intruder by making it the object of our meditation."[5] 

Find ways "to crucify the spirit of distraction."[6] Fast for periods of time from electronic media (how badly do you want this?). Choose to turn off the cell phone and see if you can survive without it (A new kind of reality survival show?).

Remember that people don't need you as much as you think they do. Constant contextedness with people increases inner chaos. Foster writes: "I would suggest a fast from all our Internet gadgetry for one hour a day, one day a week, one week a year. See if that helps to calm the internal distraction."[7] 

Find a place to meet with God. Post a sign saying, “Distraction-Free Zone.” In that quiet place, pray. Dialogue with God. Listen, and speak. Learn the Relationship. Get away from the to-do list and be with God. Live life with your doing flowing from your being with God. 

Ahhh... to calm the inner distraction...  To learn simply being with Almighty God...  To receive and respond to God's earth-shattering presence...  To be in love with your Maker...  

…that I might come to the place where other voices are silenced and my own voice is muted and I hear his voice and nothing else.



[1] Foster, Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer, Kindle Locations 709-710.
[2] See, e.g., Maggie Jackson and Bill McKibben, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. New York: Prometheus, 2008.
[3] Foster, op. cit., Kindle Locations 710-711
[4] Ib., Kindle Locations 716-717
[5] Ib., Kindle Locations 725-726
[6] Ib., Kindle Location 727
[7] Ib., Kindle Locations 728-729

Monday, February 15, 2016

There Is No Other Stream


For my Redeemer family. This is what I read yesterday at the end of the Revelation 21:1-7 sermon. From here.

n the fictional work, The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis, a young girl, Jill Pole, has entered a strange wood in the land of Narnia with her friend, Eustace Scrubb. Due to poor judgment, she finds herself alone and separated from Eustace. She is very thirsty and is walking in search of water. She finds a stream, but stops dead in her tracks. Lewis writes,
But although the sight of water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason: just on this side of the stream lay the lion.
…“If I run away, it’ll be after me in a moment,” thought Jill. “And if I go on, I shall run straight into its mouth.” Anyway, she couldn’t have moved if she had tried, and she couldn’t take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first.
“If you’re thirsty, you may drink.”
…For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink.”…It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl.
…The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
…“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion – no one who had seen his stern face could do that – and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.1

In Narnia, there is no stream other than Aslan’s that can keep one from dying of thirst. In this world, Christ alone offers us eternal life through His gift of living water.

“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water…but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”
JOHN 4:10,14 (ESV)
 

1 Lewis, C.S. The Silver Chair. HarperTrophy:  New York, 1981, pp. 19-21.



Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love Has No "If"

Praying at the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem

I was talking with someone who has lived all his life under the oppression of conditional love. Conditional love is love that has "conditions" that must be met if "love" is extended. In logic, a "conditional statement" (also called a "hypothetical statement") is an "If... then" statement. Like: "If it rains, then the ground gets wet." Which means: on the condition that it is raining, then the ground will get wet.

Conditional love is hypothetical, "If... then" love. This disqualifies it as love. It is hypothetical, and love is actual. Like: "If you have sex with me, then I will love you." Or: "If you give me that money I asked for, then I will act lovingly towards you." Or: "If you do not have sex with me, then I will not love you." It's all the same thing. It's all hypothetical, not real, love.

My friend grew up in a world of hypothetical love, with a father who said this: "Son, if you perform for me, if you do just what I want you to do, if you measure up to my expectations, if... if... if..., then I sure am proud of you and I sure do love you." Hypothetical-conditional love treats others like trained seals in a circus act. "If you jump through the ring of fire then I'll give you a fish." But only "if." Hypothetical-conditional love asks the beloved to make a sacrifice for one's own pleasure. My friend has a hard time thinking that love means anything other than this. He inwardly punishes himself daily, interpreting true selfless love as self-serving "If... then" love.

The New Testament word for love, agape, takes the "if" out. Agape love is non-hypothetical, but actual. Which means: no conditions need be satisfied in order to receive love. Agape love as non-hypothetical is propositional love. In logic a "proposition" is a technical term which refers to a statement that is either true or false, describing a state of affairs that obtains. Agape love does not say "If...  then," but simply "I love you." Propositional-agape love sacrifices selflessly for the beloved. That is God-love.

It's God-love because God, whose essence is love, cannot not-love. One cannot thereby say "If God loves me," but must stand in awe before the state of affairs "That God loves me." God's love doesn't wait for conditions to be fulfilled.

Hypothetical-conditional love is abusive since it dangles a fish before the hungry animal and says "Perform for me." Propositional-agape love says "Forget the performance, take off the costume and makeup, and get used to the truth that God loves you."

When God-love dwells in us we love others unconditionally. Our love for them is not hypothetical, but true, constant, abiding, selfless, sacrificial, and never-failing.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Refuse to Offer the Sacrifice of Fools

Building, downtown Monroe

In John 10:10 Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; but I have come so that you might have life, and life to the fullest.”

The “thief” wants three things:

  1. Our experience of the loving presence of God
  2. Our response of loving God back
  3. Our act of giving this love away to others

How does this thief do this? By fulfilling his job description, which is “accuser.” Fault-finder. Finger-pointer. Judger. This has been Satan’s strategy from Genesis 3:12 through Revelation 12:10.

The “fault-finder” works in two ways.

First, he works internally, inside us. He whispers words like “You are nobody,” “No one likes you,” “You will never succeed,” “You are a failure in God’s eyes,” and so on and on.

Secondly, he works through other people to communicate to us these things. Satan’s greatest pleasures are when he succeeds in tempting Christian brothers and sisters to whisper accusations through gossip and slander.

In Romans 1:28-31 gossip and slander are marks of evil, wickedness, and a depraved mind. Gossip is mentally ill activity that destroys “life to the fullest." That’s horrible, right? What can we do?

We can:

1.Refuse to offer the “sacrifice of fools.” This “sacrifice” is described in Ecclesiastes 5:1-2. The “sacrifice of fools” is to “be quick with your mouth and hasty in your heart.” The remedy is to “let your words be few.” Offer sacrifices of praise instead.

2. Meditate on things are good, true, and beautiful (Phil. 4:8).  Note the intimate link between what goes on in the heart and what comes out of the mouth in Psalm 19:14 – “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Meditations of the heart eventually come out of the mouth.

3. Resolve that your mouth will not sin. Psalm 17:3 states, “Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.” Decide not to sin with your mouth. Can you do it? One of the enemy’s lies is the whisper “You’ll never succeed at this.” That is another of Satan’s deceiving strategies. Remember – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Do these and you’ll sleep better at night.

Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries

HOLY SPIRIT RENEWAL MINISTRIES
 
Empowering The Church To Fulfill Her Destiny In Christ

"And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you!" Acts 1:8a
LIVE THE ADVENTURE ~ LIVE by the Spirit, WALK by the Spirit, LOVE by the Spirit!
"...the Love of God is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Rom.5:5
   
John Piippo's spiritual formation class 2013








From a gas station food court worship service to a theological seminary to strategic leadership meetings, from church buildings and conference settings to foreign nations and radio programs, Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries' presence and influence is expanding and sought after. Co-directors Dr. Clay Ford and Dr. John Piippo faithfully respond to the call to preach, teach and exhibit the full gospel message of power and love. 

News from Dr. Clay Ford: 
"Cheri and I had a wonderful meeting and fellowship/ lunch with Dr. Fausto Vasconcelos and his lovely wife Dione in Falls Church, VA. Fausto is the Director of Mission, Evangelism, and Theological Reflection for the Baptist World Alliance. 
Truly rich fellowship and prayer with this couple! They are originally from Brazil, where Fausto was the pastor of a mega-church of 3,700 members. It's exciting that we have friends in common from Cheri's and my ministry in Brazil in August 2013. Looking forward to what God wants to do in the future. MARAVILHA!!! OBRIGADO!!!"
 
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HOLY SPIRIT CONFERENCE 2016
Green Lake Conference Center
JUNE 26-JUNE 30
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FIVE DAYS IN JUNE THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE! The Green Lake experience is so powerful because we are not just a conference- we are family! Come and experience the love and the joyous celebration that accompanies the incomparable presence of our amazing God. Great ministry for adults, kids, youth, young adults, and professional clergy, and we have amazing spiritual growth, fellowship, and ministry opportunities for everybody!


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CONTACT INFORMATION
Rev. Ed Owens, HSRM Chairman
Rev. Norelle Lutke, Assistant Director
Drs. Clayton Ford and John Piippo, National Co-Directors
Phone: 517-887-0988
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Website: hsrm.org click 
Mailing Address: HSRM, 5455 W. Willoughby Rd, Lansing, MI 48911