Thursday, October 22, 2020

Life Is a Series of Interruptions

Monroe sunset

Today in America, and around the world, we are still experiencing the Great Interruption. Normal life is no more.

Or, perhaps, normal life is a series of interruptions. And these interruptions, as the apostle Paul thought, can actually work to advance the Gospel. (See here, e.g.)

Jesus told Peter that, one day, there will be a Great Interruption. In John 21, after Jesus tells Peter to "Feed my sheep," we see one of the most non-seeker friendly passages in the New Testament. Jesus forewarns Peter:

""Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”" (John 21:18-19)

And Peter followed Jesus.

A real following after Jesus, a real "moving with the Spirit," involves being led by the Spirit into places where we would not want or choose to go. It involves being interruptible, for the sake of the Good News.

Our lives and our plans will often get interrupted by the Spirit, who is non-programmable and unpredictable. Henri Nouwen once said he used to get upset at his life being interrupted, until God told him his life was a series of interruptions.

To be interruptible. That is one mark of true servanthood. 

I've met many church people who you would never ask to do anything. Your request is a great inconvenience in their plans. You hear it in their voices, and see it on their faces. 

I have also met Spirit-led people who are eminently interruptible, willing to follow the Spirit wherever he leads them, to include being led to places where they would not choose to go.

Thomas Merton wrote: "What am I heading for? Where am I going? The answer to that one is: I don't need to know...  God knows what he wants to do with me. Rest in his tremendous love - to know the savor and sweetness of God's love expressed from moment to moment in all the contacts between him and your soul... Rest in that union. It will feed you, fill you with life. He will lead you into perfect solitude in His own good time. Leave it all to Him. Live in the present." (A Year With Thomas Merton, July 3)

Be free from the terrible burden of always having to have things go your way. 

Follow the Spirit in all things, even small things, for the sake of His Kingdom and glory.

Discern how the inconveniences of today can advance the cause of Christ. 

Pray "God, interrupt me. Inconvenience me for your glory."

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Welcome to the Age of Cheap Grace


                                                (Lake Michigan; Pentwater, Michigan)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, made a distinction between what he called "cheap grace" and "costly grace." Eric Metaxas, in his biography of Bonhoeffer, argues that the Lutheran Church's drift into cheap grace was a factor in allowing Hitler to come to power. (See Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy; see also Tim Keller's Foreward.) 

Cheap grace means "going to church and hearing that God just loves and forgives everyone, so it doesn’t really matter much how you live."

Tim Keller writes that, today, we live in an age of cheap grace. "Many Christians want to talk only about God’s love and acceptance. They don’t like talking about Jesus’ death on the cross to satisfy divine wrath and justice. Some even call it “divine child abuse.” Yet if they are not careful, they run the risk of falling into the belief in “cheap grace”—a non-costly love from a non-holy God who just loves and accepts us as we are. That will never change anyone’s life." (Foreward to Metaxas.)

To Love Is to Suffer Together; to Suffer Together is to Love

Maple leaf from my driveway

One of the hardest things we've had to do was putting our dog So-fee down. She developed a urinary blockage, which was untreatable. I hated the day we brought her to the vet and said good-bye.

We suffered much that day. We suffered much, because we loved much. Only those that love much, suffer much. 

When you don't love, you don't suffer. The closer you are to someone spiritually and emotionally, the more you feel with them. This is why those who love others weep when others weep, and rejoice when others rejoice. 

This past August Linda and I celebrated forty-seven years together. We rejoiced together, because we love each other! Over the years we have laughed, and suffered, together. She enters into my pain and joy, and I enter into hers. Love embraces both the struggle and the victory.

This produces a bountiful fruit of a love that is fully exemplified in Christ. In love, Jesus suffered. In suffering, Jesus loved. If this isn't happening, then it's less than love.

Will Hernandez tells us about Henri Nouwen's understanding of suffering love. Hernandez writes:

"Much can be said about the aphorism that the one who loves much suffers much. For to surrender to love is akin to risking, to letting go of one’s proclivity to control, thereby opening oneself to vulnerable living, and consequently inviting the real prospect of suffering. It is equally accurate to say that only one who has known the experience of deep suffering can freely love and give love with true abandon. If suffering happens to be the consequence of true love, then that same love also becomes the fruit of real suffering. [Henri] Nouwen, from his own experience, reminds you and me: “Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear” (IVL:60)." (Will Hernandez, Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities: A Life of Tension, Kindle Locations 238-242)


Image result for john piippo books

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Linda and I plan to co-write our book on Relationships.

Image result for john piippo books

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Two Posts for Christian Parents on Influence and Investment


Church-Involved Parents Influence Their Children

(Monroe county)

This is a reality check.

If you are a Christian parent but don't have time to gather with other Jesus-followers (which means: "church"), don't expect your children to be Jesus-followers. They will grow up to be like non-attenders or sporadic attenders like you. 

"Non-churchgoing follower of Jesus" is a self-contradiction. This is because Jesus came to establish "church" and work through this community of his followers. The person who says, "I'm a follower of Jesus but don't go to church" is misguided. Every real Jesus-follower is the church. "Church," therefore, is not something you either go to or not.

If you are a Christian parent and follow Jesus (which means you know you are "church" and gather with Jesus' church),  then the odds are your children will do the same. This is the conclusion of Notre Dame University's Christian Smith. "Parents are the #1 influence helping teens remain religiously active as adults.

Smith writes: 

"The holy grail for helping youth remain religiously active as young adults has been at home all along: Parents.
Mothers and fathers who practice what they preach and preach what they practice are far and away the major influence related to adolescents keeping the faith into their 20s, according to new findings from a landmark study of youth and religion.
Just 1 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid- to late 20s.
In contrast, 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations were themselves religiously active as young adults, according to data from the latest wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion.

The connection is “nearly deterministic,” said University of Notre Dame Sociologist Christian Smith, lead researcher for the study.

Other factors such as youth ministry or clergy or service projects or religious schools pale in comparison.
“No other conceivable causal influence … comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth,” Smith said in a recent talk sharing the findings at Yale Divinity School. “Parents just dominate.”"

Smith adds: "One of the strongest factors associated with older teens keeping their faith as young adults was having parents who talked about religion and spirituality at home."


The Power of Investing Spiritually in Our Children

(Kitty Hawk, NC)

I have served for many years in our church's Children's Ministry. This is so good for me, as a pastor. I get to know our kids; they get to know me. I get to spiritually invest in their lives. This is among the most important things I do as a follower of Jesus.

Philosopher James K. A. Smith writes:

"Spiritual formation in Christ requires a lot of rehabituation precisely because we build up so many disordered habits over a lifetime. This is also why the spiritual formation of children is one of the most significant callings of the body of Christ. Every child raised in the church and in a Christian home has the opportunity to be immersed in kingdom-indexed habit-forming practices from birth. This is why intentionality about the formation of children is itself a gift of the Spirit. It’s also why carelessness and inattention to the deformative power of cultural liturgies can have such long-lasting effects. The “plasticity” of children’s habits and imaginations is an opportunity and a challenge."

(Smith, James K. A.. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Kindle Location 1031. Emphasis mine.)

Monday, October 19, 2020

10 Warning Signs That You Are Doing Well

10. You are using the word "No" when pressured to say "Yes." 

9. You are speaking soft words, instead of harsh words that come to mind.

8. You are following Jesus into situations where there is personal risk. (You are saying "Yes" to the call of Jesus.)

7. You are making right choices rather than utilitarian ones.

6. You have been going out of your way to be nice to people.

5. You are noticing God's active presence in circumstances that normally feel like a waste of time.

4. You are experiencing inner togetherness in the midst of outer chaos. 

3. You are having hard-to-describe positive sensations that transcend mere happiness. (Viz., "joy.")

2. You have been feeling compassion towards people who dislike you. (You are viewing people as persons, not as problems.)

1. You have been catching yourself humming worship songs to God.


Sunday, October 18, 2020



                                                               (Our office downstairs)

JOIN US at Redeemer this morning as we declare our identity in Christ!


         At the cross I was made a new creation; therefore, I do not have to be influenced by any baggage of the past.

         I am not who my past experience says I am; I am who God says I am.

         I have been set free and released from all bondage through what Jesus has done for me.

         Today is the day of my breakthrough — I am free!

         I am clothed with Christ, therefore I release His presence everywhere I go.

         My touch releases the healing grace of Jesus.

         I am a God-pleaser, not a people-pleaser.

         I am able to prophesy, heal the sick, deliver the oppressed, and walk in increased wisdom, boldness, and creativity through the power of the Holy Spirit.

         God’s Kingdom will advance everywhere I go and in everything I do.

         I am constantly stumbling into the favor of God.

         My life overflows with God’s love, making it impossible for me not to love others.

         People’s responses to me do not determine how I love them.

         I am permanently tapped into Heaven’s infinite supply of love.

         I often experience an open heaven.

         I speak to any worry, stress, or anxiety, and I say you cannot stay. Peace reigns in this temple.

         My heart and mind are guarded and protected by God’s peace.

         As a child of God, it is my privilege and birthright to hear my Father’s voice.

         As I focus on Jesus and spend time in His presence, I am being transformed into His likeness.

         God’s love for me is not dependent upon worldly measures of success.

         It’s impossible for me to spend time in God’s Word and not be radically transformed.

         I encounter God’s love and power every time I am in His Word.

         I belong to Jesus. My identity is: Beloved child of God.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Technology and Spiritual Formation - Bibliography (in process)

(The Lutheran Home, in Monroe, MI)

Here are the tech-resources I am currently using to write Technology and Spiritual Formation. This is a slow-cooker! I don't know if I'll ever finish it. 

For the spiritual formation part I am writing Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart. I'm drawing on this book to inform my Technology book. I intend to show how technology is now and will in the future affect and inform, for good or bad, what I see as needed to be growing and transforming into greater Christlikeness.

So, God willing, my next book is - How God Changes the Human Heart. (Now writing!)

Then, a follow-up - How technology affects this.

Overlapping fields of inquiry include writings in the philosophy of science, and philosophical and theological anthropology.

A note: Just watched "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix. Helpful. Well done. Concerning. Frightening.

David Baggett and Jerry Walls, God and Cosmos: Moral Truth and Human Meaning

William Davies, The Happiness Industry

My two books are: