Sunday, May 15, 2022

10 Reasons I Pray for the Sick


Why pray for the sick? Here are ten reasons.

1. I pray for the sick because Jesus prayed for the sick.

2. We pray for the sick because I love people.

3. I pray for the sick because, in Normal Church, that's what is done. (See, e.g., the book of Acts.)

4. I pray for the sick because God commands me to heal the sick.

5. I pray for the sick because I have testimonies of the sick being healed. (This encourages me, creating faith and expectation.)

6. I pray for the sick because I am a person of faith, not sight.

7. I pray for the sick because my concept of God, while incomplete, is vast. (I believe God is omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Hence, by using logic, God loves us, knows if we are sick, and has more than enough power to heal people.)

8. I pray for the sick because I do not believe sickness is a sign of God's working all things together for good. (No sickness in eternity, right? Yes, we live in a fallen creation. So, sickness exists. God can redeem our sickness. But I have problems with the idea that God is the causal agent of sickness. At least at Redeemer I'm not telling people, "Yay, you have cancer! God is working all things together for good in you!" That, to me, is so non-Hebraic. Luke 4:40 does not read: "At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of diseases, and laying his hands on some but not others because he wanted those others to stay sick, he healed some of them." The theological position that comprehensive healing (a Hebraic idea) is in the atonement helps here. See Bruce Reichenbach's contribution in The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views.)

9. I pray for the sick because I love seeing God glorified.

10. I pray for the sick because medicine, as wonderful as it is, is unable to cure everything.

Note: All this is out of my comfort zone. I am becoming comfortable with that, since nearly everything Jesus is and does is out of my comfort zone.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Be Free of Trying to Change Other People


                                                   (Woman, selling sock, in Istanbul, Turkey)

Years ago God told me, “John, why are you trying so hard to change other people when you can’t even change your own self?” I have come to the freeing conclusion that: we cannot change other people. Only God can. So I can let go of trying to do that.

One result of this insight is that Linda and I rarely, if ever, “advise” others. We only do it if requested. This is because unasked-for advice is usually received as criticism. For example, if I saw you today and said, “Did you know that Macys has some nice shirts on sale?”, you would think, “John doesn’t like my shirt.”

If I want your advice I’ll ask for it. I do ask people for advice, on a variety of things. If the advice is about something personal, I ask people who know me, love me, are themselves vulnerable and open, and trustworthy. When Linda gives me unsolicited advice (like, “Your pant zipper is down”) it always comes out of care for me.

In relationships, and in ministry, the desire to change other people is toxic. I like how Thomas Merton puts it. Merton writes: “Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other men. A serious obstacle to recollection is the mania for directing those you have not been asked to reform… Renounce this futile concern with other men’s affairs! Pay as little attention as you can to the faults of other people and none at all to their natural defects and eccentricities.” (New Seeds of Contemplation, 255)

If God shows you another person’s fault it’s mostly so you can pray for them.

Before God, be concerned with your own transformation into Christlikeness. Pray "change my heart, O God." That prayer will keep you occupied all your life. To such a person, God will send people who desire change. That's called influence.

(The parent-child relationship is different. As is the teacher-student relationship. As are hierarchical-authority relationships, when acknowledged and willingly submitted to. Like, e.g., a sports coach who shows their athlete what they need to do to perform at a higher level.)

Friday, May 13, 2022

Physicalism as a Faith-Based Religion

                                                                         (Redeemer sanctuary)

The only kind of atheism worth entertaining logically implies physicalism. But physicalism brings problems to atheism. Physicist Richard Muller, in Now: The Physics of Time, writes:

"The denial of nonphysics, nonmath truths has been named physicalism by philosophers. Physicalism is faith based and has all the trappings of a religion itself."

This is not because of the difficulty of not having enough time to parse everything physically. It is because of the impossibility, in principle, of doing so. 

 For example, "there are other issues that are real but not in the realm of physics, questions such as, what does the color blue look like?" (Ib.)


"Gödel’s theorem inspires us to wonder about the completeness of physics—not of any particular theory, but of physics itself. Are certain aspects of reality, in addition to those affected by the uncertainty principle, beyond the reach of physics? Once you start thinking along these lines, you discover that many aspects of reality not only are untouched by current physics, but also appear to be untouchable by any future physics advances. One example is evident in the question of what something looks like."

(See also, perhaps, Thomas Nagel's "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?")

The Power of "No-ability"


(Sunset on a Lake Michigan beach)

The making of a man is making your body
do what it doesn't want to do.

Robert Bly

Way back in the 1970s, when Linda and I were newly married, she received a phone call from a friend who led a Christian band. Our friend was a great speaker and evangelist. His band was popular, having made some albums. 

I was out of the house when he called. When I got home, Linda told me he had called. "He's inviting you to be the guitarist for the band." Their guitarist left the band, and they needed a new one. 

"What did you tell him?", I asked.

"I told him you don't want it."

After thinking for a moment, I said to Linda, "You're right."

God was calling me to be a student. And a pastor. And yet, when we turned on the TV a week later and saw the band playing before 50,000 people in a stadium, with Billy Graham the speaker, I has a fleeting doubt pass through my mind, waving as it went by.

Don't say yes to every opportunity. I want my yes to mean yes. This is about discernment, about what God wants me to do.

The mature person flourishes in life as they are able to wield the powerful word "No." The Jesus-idea is that, as we connect to him as a branch connects to a vine, we bear "fruit," part of which is awe-inspiring "self control." (Galatians 5:23) People drop their jaws and stare in wonder as people say "No" to mere self-gratification.

A Spirit-led, self controlled person is a free person. They have grown in their humanity and are empowered to say "No" to eating the wrong things, to spending money they don't have to buy things they don't need, to entering every open door, to affirming every idea, and to engaging in sexual behavior as the objectification of other persons.

"No" is the ultimate boundary word. The ability to wield this word will not come from hearing will-power slogans like "Just say 'No'." Authentic, boundary-setting 'No-ability" must become one's heart, one's inner being. This happens as Christ is formed in us.

Just because a door opens, it does not mean you are to walk through it.

Think of Jesus after he fed the 5,000. The people rushed after him to make him an earthly king. Jesus exercised self control and refused. His 'No' was not only for him, but for the sake of others; indeed, for the sake of the whole world.

This is a narrow road, said Jesus, and few take it. But it is the road to freedom. M. Scott Peck described The Road Less Traveled as "gratification delay." "No" is, perhaps, the ultimate other-centered word.

Pray for the "No" of Christ be formed in you, and go free.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Greg Boyd on Progressivist Diminishment of Scripture


                                                     (Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio)

I know Greg Boyd, a little bit. We've had him at our church, twice. Greg is an excellent scholar, and a great preacher. And, he is his own person. It would be a mistake to try and label him. For example, his belief in a real Satan immediately places him outside true progressivism. (See here.)

In a recent book, where Greg argues for the plenary inspiration of Scripture (more non-progressivism), he expresses concern over the progressivist diminishment of Scripture. PC diminishes the authority of the Bible. It undermines faith, especially the faith of young believers. Greg Boyd, in his recent book Inspired Imperfection, has a similar concern. 

He writes, 

“[Some are abandoning] the plenary inspiration of Scripture, which is precisely what I fear some progressive evangelicals are doing. I consider this a grave mistake. Among other things, denying Scripture’s plenary inspiration is inconsistent not only with the church tradition, but, as I will later argue, with the teachings of Jesus and some New Testament (NT) authors.

Not only this, but history demonstrates that when groups relinquish the church’s traditional view of Scripture, they tend eventually to float outside the parameters of historic orthodox Christianity.*

I consider the recent Emergent Church phenomenon to be a case in Point.”

This is tragic because, as Greg writes, 

“If we imagine the church as a ship on a tumultuous sea, the Bible has always served as the rudder that keeps her on course. In our postmodern, post-Christendom, and (some are claiming) post-truth world, the sea in the Western world is as tumultuous as it has ever been. Which means, the Western church arguably has never needed its rudder more than it does right now.”

(Boyd, Inspired Imperfection: How the Bible's Problems Enhance Its Divine Authority) 

Understanding Comes First


(Monroe County)

To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.
Proverbs 18:13

I wrote a letter to a young person whose marriage was struggling. There's a lot of fighting and yelling in this marriage. One of them keeps repeating past failures to the other,. The  other called me and asked, "Why do they have to keep reminding me of mistakes I've made in the past!"

Here's the note I sent to them. 

Dear _________:

Understand ______. 

Understanding always comes before evaluation. 

Linda and I spend little time evaluating each other,
and tons of time understanding one another.

To understand is to love; 
to be understood is to be loved and to feel loved.

Understand why ______ feels a need to repeat things to you. It's probably because they feel you are not listening, 
or because they cannot trust you. 

You do not need to defend yourself.
Work to understand why they feel the need to repeat things to you, 
and they will begin to feel understood, 
which is to feel loved.

Communicate with me as needed, and we'll talk on the phone again.



Making judgments without understanding is the cause of many relationship breakdowns. To judge without understanding is foolish. Here's the order of relational priority:

1. Understand.
2. Evaluate. (If at all.)

In knowledge and relationships, understanding comes first. And, while understanding another person takes time, it is time well spent.

(After sending that note I went looking for a book in my library - To Understand Each Other, by Paul Tournier. This is one of the books that shaped Linda and I in how we approach relationships and marriage. We used to give newly married couples a copy of it. For those who value depth and wisdom, Tournier's works are must reading.)

One of my books is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Why I Am Against Abortion


Image result for john piippo kids

(We must keep this ball in play.)

The abortion issue is heating up. I think that's good.

I hope and pray that aborting babies ends.

The reason I, and others like me, are against abortion is this: I/we believe the inborn conceptus/embryo/fetus is a human beingNo human being is more defenseless and innocent than an inborn person.

I, and others like me, believe it is morally wrong to kill innocent, defenseless human beings. I believe if you saw the inborn entity as an innocent, defenseless human, you would feel the same as I and others do.

You would see abortion as human-killing. This would make you feel angry. This should make you feel angry.

I do not believe I, or you, have a moral right to kill innocent, defenseless humans, no matter how they were conceived, no matter how inconvenient their existence is to us, no matter how unprepared we are to nurture them.

I see the following reasoning as irrational and immoral.

1. I am not prepared to care for you.
2. Therefore, I must kill you.

1. You do not fit into my life plans.
2. Therefore, I must kill you.

1. You are a product of rape.
2. Therefore, I must kill you.

1. Your existence is a result of incest.
2. Therefore, we killed you.

1. I have the right to do what I want with my body.
2. You were part of my body. (This premise is false.)
3. I did not want you.
4. Therefore, I killed you.

Here's one I heard this week.

1. People who are against abortion should care for unwanted babies.
2. People are not caring for unwanted babies.
3. Thus, people who are against killing babies are hypocrites.

Which leads to,

1. No one was there to care for you.
2. Therefore, we killed you.

If you are angry that not enough is being done to care for unwanted persons, perhaps God is calling you to do something about this, and not use it as some justification for killing persons. Thankfully, in Southeast Michigan, some people have taken this on. Several in our church family have responded to the call and are doing something for these unwanted humans.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Distorted Ways of Thinking

                                (In my front yard, meditating on a cloud.)

Philippians 4:8 says: 

Whatever is true
whatever is noble, 
whatever is right, 
whatever is pure, 
whatever is lovely, 
whatever is admirable
—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
think about such things.

Loving God with your mind involves thinking about things that are true. In opposition to truth, here are seventeen types of incoherent thinking.

1. Mind reading: You assume that you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts. "He thinks I'm a loser."

2. Fortunetelling: You predict the future negatively: Things will get worse, or there is danger ahead. "I'll fail that exam," or "I won't get the job."

3. Catastrophizing: You believe that what has happened or will happen will be so awful and unbearable that you won't be able to stand it. "It would be terrible if I failed."

4. Labeling: You assign global negative traits to yourself and others. "I'm undesirable," or "He's a rotten person."

5. Discounting positives: You claim that the positive things you or others do are trivial. "That's what wives are supposed to do-so it doesn't count when she's nice to me," or "Those successes were easy, so they don't matter."

6. Negative filtering: You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives. "Look at all of the people who don't like me."

7. Overgeneralizing: You perceive a global pattern of negatives on the basis of a single incident. "This generally happens to me. I seem to fail at a lot of things." In logic, thjis is referred to as "hasty generalization."

8. Dichotomous thinking: You view events or people in all-or-nothing terms. "I get rejected by everyone," or "It was a complete waste of time."

9. Shoulds: You interpret events in terms of how things should be, rather than simply focusing on what is. "I should do well. If I don't, then I'm a failure."

10. Personalizing: You attribute a disproportionate amount of the blame to yourself for negative events, and you fail to see that certain events are also caused by others. "The marriage ended because I failed."

11. Blaming: You focus on the other person as the source of your negative feelings, and you refuse to take responsibility for changing yourself. "She's to blame for the way I feel now," or "My parents caused all my problems."

12. Unfair comparisons: You interpret events in terms of standards that are unrealistic. For example, you focus primarily on others who do better than you and find yourself inferior in the comparison. "She's more successful than I am," or "Others did better than I did on the test."  

13. Regret orientation: You focus on the idea that you could have done better in the past, rather than on what you can do better now. "I could have had a better job if I had tried," or "I shouldn't have said that."

14. What if?: You keep asking a series of questions about "what if" something happens, and you fail to be satisfied with any of the answers. "Yeah, but what if I get anxious?" or "What if I can't catch my breath?"  

15. Emotional reasoning: You let your feelings guide your interpretation of reality. "I feel depressed; therefore, my marriage is not working out."  

16. Inability to disconfirm: You reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict your negative thoughts. For example, when you have the thought "I'm unlovable," you reject as irrelevant any evidence that people like you. Consequently, your thought cannot be refuted. "That's not the real issue. There are deeper problems. There are other factors."

17. Judgment focus: You view yourself, others, and events in terms of evaluations as good-bad or superior-inferior, rather than simply describing, accepting, or understanding. You are continually measuring yourself and others according to arbitrary standards, and finding that you and others fall short. You are focused on the judgments of others as well as your own judgments of yourself. "I didn't perform well in college," or "If I take up tennis, I won't do well," or "Look how successful she is. I'm not successful."

(Adaptyed from Treatment Plans and Interventions forDepression and Anxiety Disorders, by Robert L. Leahy and Stephen J. Holland.)

J. P. Moreland provides a list of distorted thinking traps in his excellent book Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices That Brought Peace

They are... 

1. All-or-nothing thinking. (If you’re not perfect or if you get anything wrong, you’re a total failure.)

2. Overgeneralizing. (“I always do that.”)

3. Mental filter. (You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it.)

4. Discounting the positive. (If you did a good job, you tell yourself that anyone could have done it.)

5. Jumping to conclusions or mind reading. (You interpret others’ actions, tone of voice, or body language in a negative way or, like fortune-telling, you assume and predict that others don’t like you and that things will turn out badly.)

6. Magnification or catastrophizing. (You exaggerate your weaknesses or the harmful aspects of events that have happened or may happen, thus minimizing your strengths or the odds that the event will never happen and, even if it did, the results won’t be that bad.)

7. Emotional reasoning. (You actually believe that reality is the way you feel.)

8. Inappropriate “should” statements. (“I should avoid being around people because they will see what a loser I am.”)

9. Self-labeling. (“I made a mistake, so I am a loser.”)

10. Self-blame. (You blame yourself for events outside your control.)

(pp. 74-75)

For more on loving God with all your mind, see:

William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview

Dallas Willard, "Jesus the Logician

Abortion - Links to My Posts

(Bolles Harbor, Michigan)

(I'm reposting this to keep it in play.)

Sunday, May 08, 2022

A Tribute to My Mother


                                                               (Esther and Hugo Piippo)

My mother, Esther Piippo, died on November 20, 2004, 2:15 AM. My brother Mike and I and Linda were able to be with her just before she died. 

She was weak and frail, having struggled with a failing heart valve, an infection that did not go away for months, an increasing inability to eat and drink, and with that the loss of desire to eat and drink.
In her weakness she found it excruciatingly tough to open her eyes. I asked her once, "Mom, open your eyes - it's me. I'm here with you." And, for a brief moment, there was a small window of visual opportunity, as she opened her eyes, saw me, and I smiled at her.
Now she is with God. She is in eternity. This was her hope, and is mine also.
All the needed words of love were said between me and mom. No bitterness, no unhealed wounds, no regrets. This is the way it should happen. It makes a huge difference in the aftermath.
So, I give an earthly tribute to you, mom. 
You were a faithful wife to dad, and a loving mother to Mike and me. You still are the best cook I've ever known. 
You turned me on to nature early, and I watch birds because of you. Your love for music and artistic creativity hooked me on to the guitar and songwriting. 
Your tenderness towards this world's "least of these" was Christlike. You prayed with me, and held me, and loved me, even when I went astray from God as a late teen. 
You accepted my beautiful wife Linda, and loved my three boys. 
Now you are in eternity with dad.
See you very soon...