Sunday, June 16, 2024

Influence: Like Father, Like Child

Influence is greater than numbers. The question is not, "How big is your church?" The real question is, "How is your church's influence?"

You could be twelve, and salt the world with the good news of the Kingdom. You could be twelve hundred, and be an audience inside a saltshaker.

How is your influence going? Which way is it going? Because of you, are people better, or worse?

Every father influences his children, for worse, or for better. My father influenced me for better. 

I remember seeing dad read his Bible, usually in the evening before he went to bed. Dad read his Bible so much that his thumb wore through the leather cover. I have it now. Here it is.

I received my own leather-covered Bible when I was confirmed in our Lutheran Church. I was twelve years old. My mother put my Bible somewhere - I didn't know where and I did not care. I never picked it up and read it.

Until I was 21. That's when Jesus rescued me out of a deep enslavement to evil. My life began to change for the better! And, I needed a Bible.

I drove to my parents' home. I asked, "Mom, do you know where my Bible is?"

She got it for me. I began to read. And read. I wore the leather out on it so much that the cover finally broke off. I still have this Bible. Here it is.

Like father, like child, right?

As the apostle Paul wrote:

Follow my example,
as I follow the example of Christ.

1 Cor. 11:1


Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters,
and just as you have us as a model,
keep your eyes on those who live as we do.

Philippians 3:17

Friday, June 14, 2024

It Is Irrational and Unloving to Affirm All Beliefs

Ann Arbor

(I'm reposting this for someone.)

I was asked the question, "Would a Muslim be welcome in your church?"

My answer was, "Yes!"

And Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists are welcome, too.

I welcome all of them, as Jesus does the same. I would love to have them come. (I have had atheists come to Redeemer, who are mostly students who have been in my MCCC philosophy classes. A few of them have converted from atheism to theism, and then to Christianity.)

I say yes and amen to loving and welcoming all kinds of people.

Does this mean I affirm all the beliefs of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists? Of course not. No one can logically (coherently) affirm contradictory beliefs. Consider, for example, the following three mutually exclusive beliefs.

1) God does not exist (atheism, and Buddhism)
2) There are 330,000,000 gods (Hinduism).
3) There is only one God (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

It is not possible to say "true" to these three beliefs, held simultaneously.

What about John Lennon's song "Imagine?" It's one of the more non-affirming, exclusionary songs I've heard. "I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will be as one." But..   this imaginary "oneness" involves the eradication of religion - "and no religion too." Am I just imagining, or am I being marginalized? (Ask four billion religious people.)

 To believe something is, ipso facto, to deny many things. Beliefs, by nature, embrace and exclude. 
No one can affirm all the various beliefs [truth-claims] of the world's religions.

Going further, No one person affirms all the beliefs of any other person. The fact that I, or you, do not affirm the beliefs of someone else should not be shocking. Anyone who claims to affirm someone else's entire belief system is to be dismissed as unbelievable.

I had a philosophy student who believed The earth is flat. I liked him, but did not affirm his belief. Because his belief was wrong. ("Right and wrong" lie outside science, and and find their place in the arenas of philosophy and religion. See, e.g., atheist Stephen Jay Gould's "NOMA" principle.)

In the Jesus worldview, I welcome and love all people. I do not (because it cannot be done, epistemically) affirm all the beliefs of people. It is irrational to expect that I should do so. 

It is not unloving to say, "I think you are wrong about that." It is unloving, because untruthful, to treat people as if our different beliefs are harmonious.

(See "Welcoming and Sometimes Disaffirming." I just want to keep this ball in play.)

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Presence-Driven Pastors Practice A.S.L.O.

Michigan flowers

Here's a clip from my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

Out of my desire to be a good leader for Christ, I have read many books on leadership. Some of them had titles like this: Fifty Keys to Leadership.[1] To be a great leader, I needed to keep these principles always before me. Plus, I needed to assimilate twenty-five keys to motivating people, twenty-five more keys to a sound business plan, read the top twenty-five classics on “success,” and evaluate it all by using 25 Need-to-Know Performance Indicators.[2] In addition, I read John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader,[3] and then The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.[4]

Now, decades later, I don’t remember most of these keys and qualities. But I do remember coming to a point where I thought, for a brief moment, “I was wrong. Pastoral leadership is rocket science!”

As I read the story of Jesus, I see his leadership keys and indicators coming down to one thing: Follow me. “My sheep,” said Jesus the Greatest of Leaders, “hear my voice, and follow.”

This was something even the unschooled, idiot disciples could do.[5] Hear the voice of Jesus. Follow. That is what I think pastoral leadership comes down to.

What about the “indispensable qualities” and the “irrefutable laws?” I see them as the inevitable fruit of an abiding life. That is, once the abiding life is engaged in, transformation into Christlike qualities happens, like blueberries on a blueberry bush. You become, inexorably, a servant, a discerner, an influencer, and so on, all because of Christ, the hope of glory, in you.

Leading a Presence-Driven Church cannot be rocket science, though it might sometimes feel like you have been tied to a rocket and launched. Presence-Driven Leaders simply do this:

1.    Abide in Christ
2.    Saturate in the Scriptures
3.    Listen (Discern God’s voice)
4.    Obey

To lead a Presence-Driven Church, a pastor follows A.S.L.O. – Abide, Saturate, Listen, Obey.

[1] This is not, as far as I know, an actual book.
[2] By Bernard Marr.
[3] One of the greatest, most impactful sermons I ever heard was by John Maxwell at a Promise Keepers conference.
[4] Both by John  Maxwell.
[5] Acts 4:13 says, When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. “Unschooled” is the Greek word agrammatoi; “ordinary” is idiotai.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

2007 - My First Visit to Payne Theological Seminary

(The first time I taught at Payne Theological Seminary was in 2007. What a blessing for me to continue to teach there. Here is a post from my first Payne experience.)

On Thursday Linda and I got up at 5 AM and traveled 200 miles south to Wilberforce, Ohio, and Payne Theological Seminary. PTS is connected to Wilberforce University. WU's website says this: "Wilberforce University is a unique institution located in a state rich in America's private college tradition. Founded prior to the end of slavery in 1856, it is the nation's oldest, private African-American university. For 147 years WU has, through sheer force of will, provided young African-American students with a solid educational experience."

PTS's dynamic president, Dr. Leah Fitchue, is a friend of mine. She invited me to speak and teach part of a week-long seminary class called "Transformational Leadership." The other class teachers were Dr. James Cone of Union Theological Seminary and Dr. Deotis Roberts of Howard University. My role was to wrap up the class by teaching on Personal Transformation: How God Changes Lives. I did this Thursday from 9 AM to 12:30 PM. My class was held on the campus of Wilberforce U.

Thirty-five seminary students were in my class. Most were pastors and leaders in the A.M.E. church (African Episcopal Methodist). One student was from Sierra Leone, and another was from Ghana.

I structured my 3 1/2-hour block like this:

9 - 9:45 - Introduction; meet the students; share basics of how God changes lives

9:45 - 10:45 - I sent the students out to pray for 45 minutes. I explained to them how I wanted them to do this. My basic instructions are: go alone to a quiet place to meet, just you and God; use Psalm 23 to meditate on; when your mind wanders, write down where it wanders to (the mind always wanders to something like a burden); when God speaks to you, write it down; After 45 minutes, return to class.

10:45 - 11:45 - Meet in small groups, Share what God said to you. Someone take notes on the group sharing. Then, group recorders share with all of us. I comment on what I hear God saying to the people.

11:45 - 12:30 - I taught the elements of Personal Transformation. They are:

1. Recognize how needy you are
2. Realize the magnitude of the needed transformation (into Christlikeness)
3. Understand that only God can effect the needed transformation
4. Get into the presence of God
5. Understand what it means to dwell in God's presence
6. The level of personal transformation is: "the deep waters of the heart" (Proverbs 20:5)
7. God deconstructs the false self
8. The essential attitude is: humility ("Unless you humble yourself like a little child you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" - Matthew 18)

I am so glad Linda came with me. We had a wonderful time, made many new friends and connections. I believe we will be working together in some way in the days ahead.

(I am teaching my Spiritual Formation class at Payne this fall, on line, using Blackboard.)

Morality Is Non-progressive


(Mushroom on my lawn)

In my book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity I burst the progressivist euphoria bubble by showing that, even as there is progress of a sort in science, the human race is collectively stunted when it comes to morality.

An example of non-progressivist morality is this article in the Wall Street Journal. (10/18/23)

In "Dostoevsky Knew: It Can Happen Here," Northwestern University professor Gary Saul Morson utilizes Dostoevsky and Alexander Solzhenitsyn to show that the heinous atrocities of Hamas and Isis are often perpetrated by intellectual sophisticates and elites. Theirs is a cautionary tale, telling us the same can happen today.

All that's needed are ideologues. Quoting Dostoevsky, 

“Ideology—that is what gives evil-doing its long-sought justification and gives the evil-doer the necessary steadfastness and determination . . . so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but receive praise and honors.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Washington State Discriminates Against Foster Parents Who Oppose Gender Ideology

 (This is totalitarianism. It's also happening in Canada. This is the progressivist end-game. [For more detail on this claim see my book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity.]

I'm posting the entire article from ADF's website. It's HERE. About ADF is HERE.)

Washington State Discriminates Against Foster Parents Who Oppose Gender Ideology

The state of Washington is requiring parents to promote its preferred views about gender ideology if they want to foster children...

Monday, June 10, 2024



                                              (Munson Park hill, across from our house)

At Redeemer we are preaching through the Bible. We are now in the wisdom literature (sermons are here - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes). 

Wisdom is a skill. Like, skilled in managing money, or skilled in bringing peace and reconciliation to troubled relationships.

Eugene Peterson writes,

"“Wisdom” is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such." (Peterson, The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In Contemporary Language, p. 870)

The way to acquire Godly wisdom is: Ask. We read,

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

And just what is it that you are asking for? For this. 

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; 

then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, 

full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

To be filled is to overflow. A glass of water is 100% filled when it brims over onto its surroundings. To be filled with wisdom is to overflow with purity, peace, mercy, and so on, and more.

It's the same with the filling of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:15 commands, Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. The verb "be filled" is in the continuous tense, implying "keep on being filled."

The Spirit-filled life, said Jack Hayford, is the new-dimensional life of worship, witness, and warfare."

How do we keep on being filled with Holy Spirit wisdom? We ask. Jesus said,

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Right now, this morning, I begin my day, asking.

God, fill me with your wisdom.

God, fill me with your Holy Spirit.

The Bible and Homosexuality - What Do We Do?


                                                      (Sterling State Park, Monroe, MI)

This is for persons who are followers of Jesus and have a high view of the authority of the Bible. That is, persons who look to the Bible as framing their worldview.

So - what about same-sex sexual relationships and same sex marriage? There is not one verse in the Book that affirms them.

I'm not making this up. 

So, look at this reasoning.

1. Not one verse in the Book affirms same sex marriage.

2. God affirms same sex marriage.

How, in the name of Logic, can statements 1 and 2 be held, simultaneously, to be true? Minimally, it's difficult, requiring an unconvincing (to me and many others) display of hermeneutical gymnastics.

What do we do about this, we (and you) who love Jesus? Here's something from Michael Brown.

"So where does that leave us when it comes to the subject of the Bible and homosexuality? It leaves us in a place of humility before God, not condemning others, not judging with a harsh and censorious spirit, and searching our own hearts for sin and hypocrisy. It also leaves us jealous for God’s best, recognizing that His ways alone are the path of life. And it leaves us clinging tightly to the Lord and His Word, not wanting to impose our values, standards, and opinions on God’s Word but rather asking our heavenly Father to help us form our values, standards, and opinions based on the Scriptures. Otherwise, as Augustine once warned, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”" (Michael Brown, Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality, p. 45)

The interpretive method is to get at the meaning of the text, independently of what you or I want the text to say. But do you like it? This is irrelevant, as regards the meaning of texts. (To persons who have unthinkingly succumbed to postmodern hermeneutics, which logicians and scientists abhor, there is no objective meaning to texts. But that's another story...)

Brown, Michael L.. Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality (p. 45). Charisma House. Kindle Edition. 

Saturday, June 08, 2024

"The Meaning of Marriage"

In this video I make one point: The Christian metanarrative requires marriage to be between a man and a woman. 


A War of Loves: The Unexpected Story of a Gay Activist Discovering Jesus 

By David Bennett

A Change of Affection: A Gay Man's Incredible Story of Redemption

By Becket Cook (Francis Chan writes the Foreward)

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality

By Wesley Hill



Christian Sexuality Interview with Francis Chan

Christian Sexuality Interview with Jackie Hill Perry



Living in a Gray World: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality

By Preston Sprinkle and Wesley Hill




Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry

Emerging Gender Identities





Remarriage after Divorce in Today's Church: 3 Views

(I’m aligned with Craig Keener’s article on this.)










Friday, June 07, 2024

Breaking Free from Self-Pity

(Lake Michigan sunset)

In Luke 9:23 Jesus tells us, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Self-denial is necessary to take up the cross and follow Jesus. It needs to be happen every day.

Self-denial involves stripping away negative aspects of the self. These are things like self-love, self-hatred, and self-pity. All are forms of self-obsession. The more self-obsession, the less following of Jesus there will be. Following Jesus is in inverse proportion to self-obsession.

Self-pity is one of the more punishing forms of self-obsession. Self-pity cannot coexist with spiritual renewal and transformation. 

In one of my seminary classes I was talking about holding “pity parties,” when a pastor named Samuel from Ghana asked, “What do you mean by “pity party?”” I said, “Samuel, the next time I host one for myself, I’ll invite you.” Unfortunately, I could write an essay on How To Host Your Next Pity Party.

To be self-pitying is to live life as a victim. While it’s true that sometimes we are victims, there is a spirit of victimization (self-deprivation) that is to be distinguished from the real thing. It looks like this: "Poor me! They are not treating me right - and after all I've done for them!" Such is the self-pitying, angry person. (Can you imagine Jesus acting like this?)

In this regard Henri Nouwen asks, "What else is anger but the response to the sense of being deprived? Much of my own anger comes from the fact that my self feels deprived." When one chooses to express this anger by hosting a pity party, self-obsession has begun.

In Tolstoy’s character Ivan Ilych we see one of the most brilliant literary depictions of self-pitying victimhood. Read closely. He writes: 

"What tormented Ivan Ilych most was the deception, the lie, which for some reason they all accepted, that he was not dying but was simply ill, and he only need keep quiet and undergo a treatment and then something very good would result… The awful, terrible act of his dying was, he could see, reduced by those about him to the level of a casual, unpleasant, and almost indecorous incident (as if someone entered a drawing room defusing an unpleasant odour) and this was done by that very decorum which he had served all his life long. He saw that no one felt for him, because no one even wished to grasp his position… [W]hat most tormented Ivan Ilych was that no one pitied him as he wished to be pitied. At certain moments after prolonged suffering he wished most of all (though he would have been ashamed to confess it) for someone to pity him as a sick child is pitied. He longed to be petted and comforted.” (Emphasis mine.)

Self-pity is in opposition to spiritual renewal and transformation of the heart. 
Someone who holds “pity parties” refuses to take responsibility for their own behavior, and blames others. Self-pity leads to a “victim mentality.” Self-pity needs to be denied access to our hearts, because it keeps us from being fulfilled in Jesus. 

To experience renewal and transformation, be free from defending your own honor and reputation. Experience God as your Defender. Do this by being like a branch attached to Jesus the true Vine, gaining your sustenance from him. You will experience a joy, and a peace, unlike our culture offers, that will exorcize self-obsession.