Saturday, December 31, 2016

Understanding People Is Superior to Judging People



I have judged people, at times, wrongly. This has taught me to go slow when it comes to understanding another person's heart.

I am asking God to fully free my heart from judging the hearts of others. I do not want to spend the hours of my life doing that.


What about judging behaviors? Of course we can do that, and will do that. We can make judgments about a lot of things without being judgmental. Here, for example, is a moral judgement: It's wrong to rape people for fun. I judge that this statement is true.

When it comes to people, one cannot make a reasonable judgment without first understanding. It is foolish to judge without understanding. Here's things get tricky when it comes to the hearts of other people. We barely understand the complexities of our own heart. How can we think we have access to the inner workings of another person's heart and mind? Yet this is precisely what the judgmental person claims. They say, "I know what you are thinking!" Or: "I know why you did that!" Which makes us want to respond by saying, "And just who are you - God?"

Instead of judging, understand. Strive to understand others and be understood by them. When understanding is the goal, judgmentalism often morphs into compassion.

Time spent judging the hearts of other people is wasted time. Because:
  • First - our judgments can be wrong, and are probably incomplete.
  • Second - judgmentalism has no redemptive value. The point of judging others' hearts is simply: to judge others' hearts. There is an intrinsic circularity, a sick redundancy, to judgmentalism.
  • Third - we can't change peoples' hearts anyway, so why waste time judging them? Years ago God spoke to me and I wrote these words in my journal: "John, why are you trying so hard to change other people when you can't even change your own self?"
I have spent too much "judging time" towards other people. It is non-redemptive, non-edifying, and hateful. I have judged people falsely before (even in my own home) with the result being, not corporate household transformation into truth and love, but a deformed, loveless heart inside of me.

Spend time, yourself, with God today.


Ask God to search out your own heart. Spend your life on being searched-out by God, instead of playing God with the hearts of people.

If God reveals to you some truth about another person's struggle, thank him that he has entrusted you with this knowledge, and begin praying for that person.

***
My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

I'm teaching a five-month class on prayer, beginning Sat., Jan. 7, at Redeemer.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Praying Book Study at Redeemer - Jan - May 2017


Image result for johnpiippo praying


I will lead a five-month book study on my new book Praying. In this study, which will include practical application, we will cover many aspects of a praying life. I will take participants deep into a life of prayer. 

Everyone who attends will receive a copy of the Study Guide. 

First meeting - Saturday morning, Jan. 7, 10 AM, in the blue classroom. 

I will teach out of my book. 

You can attend without buying the book, or you can purchase it at amazon.com

This class will meet once a month, Jan - May. 

Our prayer focus will be the Psalms. 

A sign-up sheet is in the lobby. Or, send me an email - johnpiippo@msn.com.

God Desires Participants, not Admirers


Detroit

Soren Kierkegaard writes:

"Is God's meaning, in Christianity, simply to humble man through the model (that is to say putting before us the ideal) and to console him with 'Grace,' but in such a way that through Christianity there is expressed the fact that between God and man there is no relationship, that man must express his thankfulness like a dog to man, so that adoration becomes more and more true, and more and more pleasing to God, as it becomes less and less possible for man to imagine that he could be like the model? ... Is that the meaning of Christianity? Or is it the very reverse, that God's will is to express that he desires to be in relation with man, and therefore desires the thanks and the adoration which is in spirit and in truth: imitation? The latter is certainly the meaning of Christianity. But the former is a cunning invention of us men (although it may have its better side) in order to escape from the real relation to God." (In David Augsburger, Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-Surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor, 28)

Real Jesus-following is a following-after Jesus, a participation rather than spectating. It's not pew-sitting and being entertained, but "following the footsteps of Christ in imitation" (St Francis of Assisi, in Ib., 27). Real Church was never meant to be an entertainment center.

David Augsburger says that authentic Jesus-spirituality "accepts no substitute for actual participation." (Ib.) Augsburger writes: "We are not observers, not spectators, not admirers, not onlookers, not conceptualizers, but participants. Participation is the central theological framework of all careful thought-about spirituality...

...The ideal of discipleship as participation through the imitation of Christ is a recurring theme, reemerging wherever the practice of following Jesus in life is given priority." (Ib.)

Anyone who claims to belong to Jesus must follow the path taken by Jesus. As Richard Stearns has written, Jesus is looking for disciples, not "deciders."

Praying Book Study at Redeemer - Jan - May 2017


Image result for johnpiippo praying


I will lead a five-month book study on my new book Praying. In this study, which will include practical application, we will cover many aspects of a praying life. I will take participants deep into a life of prayer. 

Everyone who attends will receive a copy of the Study Guide. 

First meeting - Saturday morning, Jan. 7, 10 AM, in the blue classroom. 

I will teach out of my book. 

You can attend without buying the book, or you can purchase it at amazon.com

This class will meet once a month, Jan - May. 

Our prayer focus will be the Psalms. 

A sign-up sheet is in the lobby. Or, send me an email - johnpiippo@msn.com.

God Desires Participants, not Admirers

Detroit

Soren Kierkegaard writes:

"Is God's meaning, in Christianity, simply to humble man through the model (that is to say putting before us the ideal) and to console him with 'Grace,' but in such a way that through Christianity there is expressed the fact that between God and man there is no relationship, that man must express his thankfulness like a dog to man, so that adoration becomes more and more true, and more and more pleasing to God, as it becomes less and less possible for man to imagine that he could be like the model? ... Is that the meaning of Christianity? Or is it the very reverse, that God's will is to express that he desires to be in relation with man, and therefore desires the thanks and the adoration which is in spirit and in truth: imitation? The latter is certainly the meaning of Christianity. But the former is a cunning invention of us men (although it may have its better side) in order to escape from the real relation to God." (In David Augsburger, Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-Surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor, 28)

Real Jesus-following is a following-after Jesus, a participation rather than spectating. It's not pew-sitting and being entertained, but "following the footsteps of Christ in imitation" (St Francis of Assisi, in Ib., 27). Real Church was never meant to be an entertainment center.

David Augsburger says that authentic Jesus-spirituality "accepts no substitute for actual participation." (Ib.) Augsburger writes: "We are not observers, not spectators, not admirers, not onlookers, not conceptualizers, but participants. Participation is the central theological framework of all careful thought-about spirituality...

...The ideal of discipleship as participation through the imitation of Christ is a recurring theme, reemerging wherever the practice of following Jesus in life is given priority." (Ib.)

Anyone who claims to belong to Jesus must follow the path taken by Jesus. As Richard Stearns has written, Jesus is looking for disciples, not "deciders."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Human Freedom Is Not Incompatible with God's Foreknowledge

Chicago Theological Seminary

Someone read my post on the compatibility of God's foreknowledge and human free will. They contacted me with a question, and then posted their question here, which reads:

"Recently I was reading about foreknowledge and free will, and looking at views that say that the two are incompatible and compatible.
In regards to the views that say the two are compatible, the people arguing for this view were bringing up the 'modal fallacy'. They formed their argument as such-
Given that A=God knows X will happen and B=X happens, there's a difference between the following two statements: 1) It is not possible for A to be true and B to be false, and 2) If A is true then it is not possible for B to be false.
The argument is that the first statement is true, but the second is false. However, I don't understand the difference between the two. The first statement is saying that A and B can't be true and false respectively (they both have to be true). So if God knows X will happen (A), then X will happen (B). Isn't the second statement saying the same thing but in a different way? It says that if A is true, then B cannot be false. This seems to be true as well, but somehow it's false (and different than the first statement?). Apparently, if A is true then B doesn't NECESSARILY have to be false, but that doesn't make sense, because the first statement literally said that it's impossible for A to be true and B to be false (and this statement is accepted to be true!). So, if A is true then doesn't B necessarily have to be false?
I don't seem to understand the difference between the two statements, and more importantly I don't get why the first statement is true but the second is false."

I emailed them my response to this, which is:

The two statements are not saying the same thing.

Statement 1 does not commit the modal fallacy.

Statement two does. Here’s how it does.
A conditional statement is made of two statements, an antecedent statement and a consequent statement.

E.g. – If God knows John will eat an orange, then John cannot not eat an orange. The consequent is equivalent to: It is necessary (logically) that John eat an orange.
But that statement (i.e., the consequent) ascribes logical necessity to a contingent event. In doing that, the modal fallacy is committed. Because: 1) it is possible for John to eat an orange; 2) It is probable (more or less) that John eat an orange; but 3) It is not logically necessary that John eat an orange. Thus, statement 2 commits the modal fallacy of ascribing logical necessity to a contingent event. (Because it is possible that John doesn't eat an orange.)

Therefore, God’s foreknowledge and human free will are not incompatible.
See esp. – The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Foreknowledge and Free Will" (scroll down to "The Modal Fallacy").





Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Core Relational Values to Live By


Monroe - path along the River Raisin

Here is a re-edited list of core relational values I posted many years ago.
  • Be motivated by the love of God, not by the need for acceptance. 
  • Impart God’s love in everything you say and do. 
  • Be moved with compassion for the lost and wounded. 
  • Err on the side of grace rather than judgment. 
  • Live life in such a way that your highest priority is to have intimacy and communion with God, then with your spouse, then your children, and after that others. 
  • Commit to a lifestyle of never ending change, seeking to be conformed to the image of Christ. 
  • Take personal responsibility for your life, actions, and emotions, rather than blame others for things that go wrong in your life. 
  • Surround yourself with spiritual fathers and mothers who hold you to a lifestyle of personal accountability in all areas of your life and ministry.
  • Seek to increase in wisdom and knowledge through continued study of sound biblical truths. 
  • Let your words be seasoned with grace, to lift up others, and never to bring down, devalue, or defame one of God’s creations.
  • Seek to live a transparent life that is totally open with God, others, and yourself.
  • Let your confidence and self-esteem not be found in your talents or accomplishments or possessions, but in your identity and faith in Christ. 
  • Practice the presence of the Lord 24/7. 
  • View your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and seek to live in purity and moderation. 
  • Receive God’s love and give and minister out of the overflow of love in your life.
  • Bear the faults and weaknesses of others in your life ,and do not seek to please yourself or to get your own way in life.
  • Be a servant-leader who leads by modeling a servant’s heart. 
  • Be a good listener who judges not by what your eyes see or ears hear, but by discerning the root issues of the heart. 
  • Rejoice more in your name being written in the book of life than in any success and praise that ministry can bring to you.
  • Walk in the Spirit of Christ who is meek and lowly of heart. 
  • Daily experience the Father’s love and give it away to the people you meet. 
  • Live a lifestyle of thanksgiving and gratitude for all that God and others have provided for you. 
  • Walk in loyalty in all your relationships. One way to determine loyalty is by what you say about a person when they are not present.

Christmas - I'm Still Celebrating

I put this slide show together and showed it on Christmas Eve at Redeemer. I used some of my winter photos taken in Monroe, and added quotes on the birth of Christ.

Merry Christmas! (I'm still celebrating...)































Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Primordiality of Listening in the Presence-Driven Church

Image result for johnpiippo listen
Trees, in my back yard

Listening is the first thing. Before acting, listen. Listen, before you speak.

Josh, Dan, and Allie came yesterday and stayed the night. We celebrated our family Christmas last evening. Today I've got a turkey in the oven, and we're preparing for dinner. Yesterday I went to the store to get all the ingredients. Linda wrote a list.

I looked at the list before I put things in the cart. The list comes before the purchase. This is how it is with the Presence-Driven Church. God speaks. We listen. We obey.

First, hear from God. Then, respond as indicated. In the Presence-Driven Church this counsel is for all the people, not just the pastor. Pastors must do this, and show their people how to do this. In the Presence-Driven Church all the people are listening for the voice of God in counsel and direction.

This is not an add-on, something that is OK but peripheral. This is the core. To learn to listen for God's voice is to strike the mother lode. Without this. we're just holding fool's gold. Adam McHugh writes:

"Throughout the Bible listening is the central act of the people of God. They are those who are gathered and formed by his voice and held together by his word. They hear his promises and judgments, instructions and warnings, reassurances and exhortations." (McHugh, The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction, Kindle Locations 38- 40)

McHugh reminds us that the Hebrew word shema means "listen." This is the first word in the core wisdom of Judaism: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Hear, before you do. This ancient wisdom, when lived and applied in the church, slows things down. The Presence-Driven Church is a slow-cooking, simmering stew of auditory acuteness. In this mixture, disciples are formed, followers are fashioned. "Make disciples," said Jesus. To do that, Slow Church is required.

Pastors - get into God's presence and listen. Teach your people to do the same. Listen to what God is saying to your people, through your people. 

***

I'm teaching a five-month class on prayer, beginning Sat., Jan. 7, at Redeemer.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Real Jesus - For Further Reading


Jerusalem street

Here are books and websites I recommend for more reading on Jesus, with a few annotations. It's good for Jesus-followers to engage in Jesus-studies. Note: The vast majority of people who critique Jesus haven't even begun to seriously study him.

BOOKS ON JESUS

Kenneth Bailey

Richard Bauckham
Greg Boyd

Greg Boyd & Paul Eddy


Michael Brown


James Charlesworth

Craig Evans


Craig Evans and N.T. Wright 


Larry Hurtado and Chris Keith


Craig Keener


George Ladd


Michael McClymond 


Scot McKnight

Eugene Peterson


Stephen Prothero 
Lee Strobel
Dallas Willard


Ben Witherington

N.T. Wright (No one today is writing more about Jesus than Wright is.)


NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES

When the following New Testament scholars write a commentary, it's going to be worth reading.

  • Richard Bauckham
  • D.A. Carson
  • Craig Evans
  • Gordon Fee
  • R.T. France
  • David Garland
  • Joel Green
  • Richard Hays
  • Craig Keener
  • Andreas Kostenberger
  • Scot McKnight
  • Douglas Moo
  • Ben Witherington
  • N.T. Wright - especially see Wright's "For Everyone" series.

WEBSITES ON JESUS AND THE NEW TESTAMENT


***

My recent book of prayer is: Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.


Currently in process of writing - Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Uncovering Jesus at Christmas


We had ten inches of snow in Southeast Michigan a few weekends ago. This prevented a number of our people from coming to the church building on Sunday morning.

On Monday Linda and I were driving on Elm Street in Monroe. The snowfall had stopped. Everything was coated white. Even the nativity scene in front of one of our funeral homes was feeling the effects.

Linda pointed to the scene and said, "Look, something is wrong." Yes. The manger had so much snow on it that you couldn't see the point of it all. I looked and saw Mary, Joseph, animals, but no Jesus.

This bothered me.

I returned to the manger scene later in the day and took a photo, as evidence that a white Christmas covers up Jesus. It's not something we should be dreaming of.



As lo, the days of the week hastened on, the image of the snow-covered Jesus stayed with me. On Saturday it was still on my mind. I was at the state park on Lake Erie, working on my sermon. Snow-covered Jesus was getting to me. I thought, "This is a symbol of how the holidays have overrun Christmas and layered over the real Christmas." The "holidays" are a cover-up, drawing attention from the actual event.

Then it hit me. I am to go back to the manger, clear the snow off baby Jesus, and uncover him for the world to see.

I drove to the funeral home and parked. I put on my gloves, and grabbed my camera. There were two men shoveling the sidewalks. Because I'm still not perfectly secure in my missional activity, I wondered what these men might think of me. And, it's a fairly busy street corner. People might see me. They might recognize me as Redeemer's pastor. Some already think we're a crazy church, since we believe in demons, angels, healing, miracles, signs, and wonders. And in Jesus, who believed all those things, too.

I walked through the snow, stood before the manger, and bent low over it. Is there a baby beneath the snow? Yes - to my delight and joy - there he is! Jesus, uncovered. Jesus, revealed. Revelatione Jesu. O holy night! Joy to the world!

Merry Christmas, everyone.






Saturday, December 24, 2016

Violent Night (An Alternative Christmas Story)


Monroe

In Revelation 12:1-7 we have an alternative nativity story. Eugene Peterson writes:  “This is not the nativity story we grew up with, but it is the nativity story all the same.” (Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, 121)

This is why C.S. Lewis referred to the birth of Christ as an act of war. Christmas, said Lewis, is about "The Great Invasion." In chapter 7 of Mere Christianity he writes:

"One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe--a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin...  


Christianity agrees that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage." 


Christmas Eve was the night before the Great Invasion. The creatures were stirring, even the mouse. We see this upheaval in the non-holiday telling of Christmas found in Revelation 12:1-7. It reads:

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. 

And there was war in heaven.

Robert Mounce says that: 

  1. The "woman" here is not Mary, but the messianic community, the "ideal Israel"
  2. Out of the messianic community is born a "child," a Messiah; 
  3. The seven-headed red dragon is Satan (Rev. 12:9; 20:2); and
  4. Satan is looking to devour this child; AKA Jesus the Christ. 

Mary has already been prophetically warned about such things. In Luke 2 we read that...

...the old man "Simeon took him [baby Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." 

The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." 

Violent night

Holy night

All's not calm

All's not bright

Christmas Eve - that violent night when the Light of the World descended into darkness..
.