Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Worry


(Sunset, Monroe County)


Here are some thoughts about worry.

Of all the things I have worried about in my life, I estimate that less than 5% have come to pass. I have spent too much time worrying about things that came to nothing.

Worry, anxiety, fear… I’ve experienced them all. You have, too. What kind of person would not worry? One answer is: someone who had their brain removed. But then, of course, they wouldn’t be able to enjoy their worry-free life.

How is it possible to have the brains we have and move into greater freedom from worry? The answer Jesus gives is this: a person who trusts in God would not worry. “Trust” and “worry” do not go together. 

Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 6:25-34. Slow down and re-listen to these words.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. 
Are you not much more valuable than they? 
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 
And why do you worry about clothes? 
See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

So... 

1. 
Worrying adds nothing to our lives. I’ve read studies that claim worrying actually subtracts from the days of one’s life. Worrying is non-productive. Worry, anxiety, and fear immobilize, and lead to non-action. Worrying makes worrisome situations worse. If today you are worried about something, rest assured that “worry” will not make the situation better and, in some cases, will make it worse because of the resultant non-activity.

2. Trusting in God will lead to basic needs being provided. We must distinguish between basic needs, and personal wants and desires. I have found myself, at times, worrying about something that I don’t even really need. This is a true waste of emotional time and energy!

3. Some run after material things as a cure for worry. But even acquisition can be worrisome. Richard Foster, in A Celebration of Discipline, argues that the more material things a person has, the more things they have to worry about. 

Here I am reminded of research I’ve done on materialistic cultures and levels of anxiety. Dr. David Augsburger wrote a brilliant study showing how some cultures, who have little materially, do not have a lexical entry for “anxiety,” because the condition is nonexistent. These cultures are tribal. In them, the community absorbs the worry. 

Thankfulness is an antidote to worry. I have found that when I am thankful for what I have, rather than needing to have more things to be thankful for, I am more at peace in myself.

“Worry” is the tip of an iceberg. Melt off the tip, and more surfaces. To get rid of the tip, get rid of the entire iceberg. 

Spiritually, this is about our heart. I am asking God to heal my heart that is still too consumed with the cares of this world. Only then can He use me to help others with their cares and concerns. The more self-obsessive I am, the less good I am to others.

Here are some things to get help and healing from worry.

- Keep a spiritual journal. Write down your fears and worries, and give them to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.”

- Re-read your journal periodically. Remembering how God has been with you in the past gives hope for the present.

- Saturate your heart, soul, and mind with God-things. Do not let the news surrounding the reporting of the pandemic occupy every room of your heart. I have found that when I make it my first priority to fill my heart and mind with God-things, I gain an eternal perspective on world-things. While the coronavirus is real, surely some of the fears accompanying it will not happen.

- Separate your real needs from your mere wants. Observe how our American materialistic culture works to create false needs within us that lead to false anxiety over a) either not having such things, or b) over having them and needing to care for them, protect them, store them, worship them, etc.

- Follow Jesus more intently and more intensely. Read Matthew 25 about what Jesus says in regard to helping the poor and needy. Take His words seriously and move towards others. As you begin doing this, you will find that your own cares and worries diminish.

- Make a list of blessings you are thankful for. Carry it with you, pull it out occasionally, and re-read it.

Trust God. Trust is not an emotion, but an action. Trust in God and worry cannot coexist in the same human heart.

***
SEE ALSO...

Everyone Has a Grand Narrative




After explaining my faith in Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life, the young "progressive Christian" said, "Well, that's your narrative. My narrative is different." When they responded to me this way I smelled the spirit of postmodernism.

As a philosopher, I am uninterested in your narrative. I am interested in you, in understanding you. But the philosophical view is one that concerns Grand Narratives, or metanarratives, and whether or not one of them is true. And, the conviction that everyone has a Grand Narrative.

Postmodern theorists such as Jean Francois Lyotard reject the idea of Master Narratives, or Grand Narratives (metanarratives). Here's an explicative quote from Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge:

Modernity is "any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse of this kind [i.e., philosophy] making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creation of wealth." 

Postmodernism, in turn, is ". . .incredulity toward metanarratives."

Philosopher Charles Taylor says, on the other hand, that "people always tend to understand themselves in terms of some big-scale narrative. The only remedy for a bad Master Narrative is a better Master Narrative." (And not, as postmodern philosophers think, scrapping them, as if one could.)

Everyone has a Grand Narrative, which is mostly pre-thematic (i.e., unreflected on). In this, everyone makes a truth claim.

***

See, e.g., Jurgen Habermas's devastating critique of postmodernism. (Explained here - scroll down to #9.) 

***

In their incredulity towards metanarratives, the postmodern thinker employs the metanarrative they dismiss in the critique of metanarratives. This results in self-contradiction. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains it this way:

"Habermas also criticizes Derrida for leveling the distinction between philosophy and literature in a textualism that brings logic and argumentative reason into the domain of rhetoric. In this way, he says, Derrida hopes to avoid the logical problem of self-reference in his critique of reason. However, as Habermas remarks: “Whoever transposes the radical critique of reason into the domain of rhetoric in order to blunt the paradox of self-referentiality, also dulls the sword of the critique of reason itself” (Habermas 1987 [1985], 210). 

In similar fashion, he criticizes Foucault for not subjecting his own genealogical method to genealogical unmasking, which would reveal Foucault's re-installation of a modern subject able to critically gaze at its own history. Thus, he says, “Foucault cannot adequately deal with the persistent problems that come up in connection with an interpretive approach to the object domain, a self-referential denial of universal validity claims, and a normative justification of critique” (Habermas 1987 [1985], 286)."

***


Monday, January 17, 2022

The Real Source of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Social Activism



Image result for john piippo payne
(With one of my Payne Theological Seminary classes)


(To understand this more deeply, I recommend two books by King scholar Lewis Baldwin: Never to Leave Us Alone: The Prayer Life of Martin Luther King Jr.; and Revives My Soul Again: The Spirituality of Martin Luther King Jr.)
In George Orwell's book 1984 the main character, Winston Smith, has the job of eliminating politically unwanted ideas, documents, and words, by throwing them down a "memory hole." To rewrite history is to forget history. To do this is "Orwellian."

Sadly, we will see Orwellian unthinking in today's celebration of Dr. King's birthday. The true sources of his social activism, which were spiritual, are largely forgotten.


As our nation pauses to honor Dr. King, we celebrate his great civil and political influence. But we will hear little of his own understanding of the source of that influence.
The fire burning deep in King’s soul was his relationship with God, fanned by his constant prayer life. Few scholars have attended to this, says King scholar Lewis Baldwin of Vanderbilt University, in his book Never to Leave Us Alone: The Prayer Life of Martin Luther King. Our secular media has thrown King's spiritual life down the Orwellian memory hole. 

I remember reading, for the first time, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” I knew King was a Christian, but his spiritual life was never talked about in the media. We saw film and photos of King praying in the city streets, but were not told how much this meant to him. His “Letter” greatly moved me.

I saw that King was an intellectual, a brilliant writer, and most importantly, a fundamentally spiritual being. The social activism of Martin Luther King, Jr., was a function of a life grounded in God and prayer, which he defined as “conversing with God.”

Prayer was more than a theory or some religious thing for King. King had an actual praying life. He saw praying as necessary for changing his own life and the prevailing culture. King never separated moral responsibility from a deep personal spirituality and piety. Prayer, for King, was conversation with God.

Once King received a phone call at midnight from a racist who called him a “n-------,” threatened to kill him, and “blow up” his home This deeply disturbed him. He discovered that all the intellectual things he learned in the university and seminary could not help him overcome this. 

King turned to God in prayer, and had a face-to-face encounter with what was, in the tradition of his forebears, called a “Waymaker.” This God-encounter exposed his fears, insecurities, and vulnerablities. He found comfort as an “inner voice” spoke to him, reminding him that he was not alone, commanding him to stand up for righteousness, justice, and truth, and assuring him that “lo, I will be with you, even to the end of the world.”

It is important to understand King’s position on spiritual things if we want to grasp his societal accomplishments. King, who earned a PhD at Boston University, knew that intellectual accomplishments were not enough to transform self and society. God was needed, and prayer was able to “invoke the supernatural.” Baldwin writes that “King taught the people of Montgomery that the weapon of prayer was ultimately more powerful and effective than any gun or bomb.”

King told students that, if you don’t have a deep life of prayer, you have no business preaching to others. King saw himself as essentially involved in a spiritual movement, not simply a secular struggle for equal rights, social justice, and peace.

“King,” writes Baldwin, “was effective because his praying and preaching were effective. True leadership in his case made prayer and preaching indispensable.”
King knew, existentially, that real, true prayer involves “a profound surrender of the self to God, not prayer rooted in self-pride, self-righteousness, and self-centeredness.” That becomes the kind of relationship with God that can transform the fabric of reality.

The real source of King’s influence was his soul-receptivity to the powerful, transforming influence of God. 

Rev. John Piippo, PhD
Co-Pastor, Redeemer Fellowship Church
Monroe, MI
Adjunct Professor, Payne Theological Seminary, 2010-2017 (African Methodist Episcopal)
johnpiippo@msn.com 
Author

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Jesus's Core Message Is About the Kingdom of God


(I took this picture on the Temple Mount in Jerusale



In my Philosophy of Religion classes at MCCC I taught, at times, on the major comparative religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). When it comes to Christianity I asked students the question: "What was the main thing Jesus taught?" They give a variety of answers, but no one ever got this right. The correct answer is: Jesus' main message was about "the kingdom of God."

The parables of Jesus were all about this kingdom. Many parables begin with Jesus saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like..." (Note: "kingdom of God" and "kingdom of heaven" mean the same thing. Observant Jews of the time would prefer "kingdom of heaven" so as not to say the sacred name of God [YHWH].) 

In the Lord's Prayer Jesus tells us to pray for God's kingdom to come on earth, as it is in heaven. 

Immediately after Jesus was baptized and tempted in the wilderness he began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 4:17)

What, to Jesus and his hearers, did "kingdom of God" mean? It did not mean a place, or a location. The kingdom of God is not some place we are going to. Rather, it meant, and means today, the rule, or reign, of God.   Because Jesus said, “If you see me cast out demons by the finger of God then the kingdom of God has come to you.” (Matthew 12:28) By this Jesus does not mean a place. Further, Jesus said his kingdom “is not of this world.” (John 18:36)

Few things have impacted me as deeply as coming to understand the kingdom of God. New Testament scholar Michael McClymond writes that this term “is meant to conjure up the dynamic notion of God powerfully ruling over his creation, over his people, and over the history of both… the kingdom of God means God ruling as king. Hence his action upon and his dynamic relationship to those ruled, rather than any delimited territory, is what is primary.” (McClymond, Familiar Stranger, 74)

N.T. Wright asks: What would it "look like if we really believed that the living God was king on earth as in heaven? That, after all, is the story all four gospels tell." (Wright, N. T., How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, K62) What would it look like in your life, in your church family, in your community if, in the midst of it all, the reign of God was established?

When I understood more about the kingdom of God I began to pray The Lord's Prayer in a different way. Now I pray it like this, because I believe this is how the early Jesus-followers understood it:

God, let your kingdom come...,
not only in the future,
but here
and now.
God, reign over my heart and mind
NOW.
As I am typing this sentence
As I take my next breath
As I walk into whatever this day has for me
Let things be here
in my home
in my church family
in my community
and beyond,
on this earth,
as things are in heaven.

Truly!

Saturday, January 15, 2022

LETTER 15 - A Disciple Is a Living Sacrifice

 


(This is excerpted from my recent devotional book 31 Letters to the Church on Discipleship.)

 Dear Interruptibles,  

Someone has said that the problem with a living sacrifice is that it can crawl off the altar. I haven't, at least, for long. In fifty-two years of following Jesus I have never entertained leaving Him. I don't think I have ever been tempted to stop following Jesus.  

The initial call of Jesus, to me, was: Leave everything and follow Me. As I read the Scriptures, that's what I thought The Call was all about. I still think like this. 

I was twenty-one years old, and just born again. Sitting in my Lutheran church on a Sunday morning, I was reading the bulletin. One announcement said: "Our church needs a youth leader. Please pray that God would give us someone to lead our youth."  

As I read this, I felt a burden. To pray. I did.  

Next Sunday came. The announcement was still there. I felt a burden. It felt weightier. I prayed for a youth leader for my church.  

During that week the burden grew. I felt concerned. My church needs a youth leader! Sunday came. I read the announcement in the bulletin. I remember thinking, "Oh no. You have to be kidding me!"

When I became an apprentice to Jesus, one of my leaders placed a book in my hands. It was The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I read this: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” At that time I was immersing myself in the four Gospels. I wanted to hear the voice of Jesus. Bonhoeffer sounded like Jesus to me.  

Unbelievably to me, I became the youth leader of Tabor Lutheran Church. I am eternally grateful to Jesus for seeing something in me that transcended my human abilities. I learned that such things can only be discovered and experienced if I die to myself.  

I am a living sacrifice, offering myself to the Lord.

I want you to do the same.

 Love,

 PJ

 

DECLARATIONS

 I am my Beloved's and he is mine.

 Every day I say to Jesus, "Have your way with me."

 I sacrifice my entire being on the altar of God.

 In being a living sacrifice I am on the road that leads to life.

 Here am I, Lord. Send me.

All to Jesus, I surrender. All to Him I freely give.


(From John Piippo, 31 Letters to the Church on Discipleship, pp. 45-46

Dallas Willard's Four Key Concerns

                                                                            (Monroe)


One author I keep coming back to is Dallas Willard. He was a brilliant philosopher (U. of Southern California), a passionate follower of Jesus, who lived a life of a perpetual student who balanced the academic and the experiential. And, what a writer, and what a teacher!

A few months before his death he met with theistic philosopher J. P. Moreland and shared the four key concerns that drove him in life. Here they are. (From Gary Moon, Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower.)

#1 - Metaphysical realism. 

Willard "believed there is one mind-independent world “out there,” and it and the entities within it are what they are independent of our thinking about them. That means that invisible things such as soul, spirit, the Trinity, and the kingdom of God are as much a part of reality as apples, chairs, and snowflakes. This idea formed much of the background to his book The Divine Conspiracy." (Moon)

#2 - Epistemic realism. 

For Willard, "the intentionality of the mind places it in direct contact with its various objects of attention. Nothing stands between the knowing subject and items of knowledge in cases of direct awareness. Which means that it is possible to interact with realities such as the Holy Trinity in such a way that knowledge can be obtained and new habit patterns established. This truth stands behind Dallas’s books The Spirit of the Disciplines and Hearing God." (Ib.) 

#3 - Human Nature; Personhood.

Moon writes that Willard "was committed to the idea that our view of the nature and practice of formative beliefs and exercises should flow as naturally as possible from our view of the human person. He deeply believed in the need for the development of comprehensive, sophisticated, integrative models of the person. In other words, human beings are uniquely designed to experience God. His best work in this area is fleshed out in his book Renovation of the Heart." 

#4 - Spiritual Disciplines; Spiritual Formation.

"Finally, Dallas believed that spiritually formative Christian practices produce results that are objectively testable. He was deeply concerned to establish Christian spiritual formation and its practices as items of genuine knowledge. In short, spiritual formation could—and should—be measurable and have a place in the university alongside other domains of public knowledge. His book that begins to address this concern is Knowing Christ Today." 

Moon says "a case can be made that all of Dallas’s Christian writing is built around these four critical concepts—concepts that meant so much to Dallas that he felt it imperative to pass them on—and that each of his Christian books is an attempt to elucidate one or more of those core ideas." (Moon, pp. 193-194)



Friday, January 14, 2022

Nothing Has Separated Us From the Love of Christ

Image result for john piippo first baptist church joliet illinois
(Redeemer sanctuary)

When Linda and I were pastors at First Baptist Church in Joliet, Illinois (back in the mid-70s), our church hosted a coffee house. Every Saturday night, twenty to fifty young adults would gather in the basement of our building. Someone would bring a teaching. And, we would worship.

The worship stayed with me. We had great instrumentalists, and some phenomenal vocalists. Some of those songs, repeated over and over, have become furniture in the room that is my heart.

One was a simple worship song that repeated Romans 8:35:


Who can separate us from the love of Christ? 
Can affliction or hardship? 
Can persecution, hunger, nakedness, peril, or the sword?


Follow Jesus long enough, and you will go through some of these things. Most have experienced affliction, hardship, persecution, and peril. Linda and I have had the death of loved ones. We have experienced persecution, sometimes coming from within our church families. We have known financial hardship (many pastors have, BTW). I have encountered perilous situations while ministering to people in dark environments.

And... there are these days we all are now in.

Still, through it all, the experience of God's love remains.

Love is an experience, not a theory. (See Leading the Presence-Driven Church, Chapter 2, "The Case for Experience.")

God's love is felt. It is known, in the Hebrew sense of knowing. 

Linda and I have never been cut off from this.

Dallas Willard writes:

"When our first child was born, I realized painfully that this beautiful little creature was separate from me and nothing I could do would shelter him from his aloneness in the face of time, brutal events, others’ meanness, his own wrong choices, the decay of his body and, finally, death. 

That would be the last word on the subject, except for God. He is able to penetrate and intertwine himself within the fibers of the human self in such a way that those who are enveloped in his loving companionship will never be alone." (Willard, Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, p. 51)

Paul concludes with these words. Write them on a card. Carry them with you today. Read them often. Ingest them. Draw them on a poster. Hang the poster on the walls of the room that is your heart.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors 
through him who loved us. 
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, 
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, 
nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth, 
nor anything else in all creation, 
will be able to separate us from the love of God 
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Coming to Redeemer! Craig Miller and Clay Harrington

 


Craig Miller (Bio here) has graciously agreed to come to Redeemer and share the weekend of February 19th.  Craig is a licensed Christian therapist with Masterpeace Counseling in Tecumseh and has helped many in our Body.  His message on the morning of Sunday, February 20th will be on "Freedom from Anxiety".  

Saturday, February 19th from 10-11:30am - Prayer Training
To prepare for this time, Craig will be leading a prayer training for individuals interested in being part of a Prayer Team for the following Sunday morning message on "Freedom from Anxiety".  He will be using his two books "Breaking Emotional Barriers to Healing" and "How to Pray When Healing Doesn't Happen" as resources to facilitate these teachings.  If you feel God is leading you to participate in this training, please prepare by taking a look at these books.  Also, to ensure there are enough materials for the training, please let us know you are coming by simply replying to this email.

Sunday, February 20th at 10:30am - "Freedom from Anxiety" Service 
Craig will be sharing practical steps to walk in freedom from anxiety during Sunday morning worship service.  There will also be a trained Prayer Team (see above) available to minister to those in need of healing.  A love offering for Craig will be taken at this time or you can also give online through easyTithe.

Sunday, February 20th from 6-8pm - Worship and Intercession 
Holly Collins will lead us in an evening of worship and intercession.  There will also be a Prayer Team available.


April 9-10th, Palm Sunday Weekend - Clay Harrington (Bio here)
Mark your calendar for this exciting weekend!

Born into a military family that traveled the world, Clay experienced an ‘out of the ordinary’ childhood. With a Mother who was on fire for the gospel, and a disciplined Father who served in the Army – Clay was immersed in a Baptist and Pentecostal upbringing while living in Germany, Texas, Maryland, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Despite being prophesied at an early age that Clay would preach the gospel, he turned to a life of sin. However, through many fascinating encounters of God’s grace, Clay answered the call placed on his life and surrendered to Christ at the age of 30. Little did he know that this call would lead him to serve as an itinerant evangelist.


Today, Clay inspires others to press into a rich relationship with the Heavenly Father and has seen a multitude come to Christ as a result. Clay also equips the saints to live naturally supernatural lifestyles in the spirit and provokes the church to live radically for Jesus.

Clay works as the Senior Director of Breakthrough Ministries for Vineyard Cincinnati Church. He resides in Cincinnati, OH with his wife, Regina, and their two sets of boy-girl twins.