Friday, November 30, 2012

Now Happening & Coming Events at Redeemer

Now Happening & Coming Events at Redeemer

·       Food Drive - There will be a food drive for our Redeemer food closet through the month of December. A table will be set up in the lobby next to the food closet to receive non-perishable goods. We are always in need of canned meats, canned soup, canned or bottled fruit juice, peanut butter, jelly, Velveeta cheese (which needs no refrigeration), and cereal. Please avoid glass containers as it would be very difficult to clean the contents off the carpet if broken. Questions? Contact Pete or Linda Nelson at 587-2050.
·       Chili cookoff and lunch. This coming Sunday, Dec. 2, after our worship service.

·       On Wednesday morning, Dec. 5, 9-11, I will be doing a teaching on the second coming of Christ. I will show that, biblically, “rapture theory” is incorrect, and that Christ, when he comes, will restore the world and there will be a new, restored heaven and earth. Anyone is invited to join me for this presentation and discussion. We’ll worship from 9-9:30, after which I’ll teach.

·       On Sunday morning, Dec. 9, we’ll be selling paper poinsettias, purses, and jewelry made by the women of NightLight-Bangkok. Your purchase supports these women who have been rescued from a life of sex trafficking.

·       Christmas Eve candlelight and communion service. Monday, Dec. 24, 6-7 PM.

·       IHOP One Thing Conference – live-streamed into our sanctuary. Dec. 28-31.

·       New Year’s Eve at Redeemer – 9 – 10:30 – games and snacks and hanging out together in the Fellowship Hall. 11 – midnight and beyond – we worship in the New Year! Plus we’ll have baptisms after midnight. If you want to be baptized see Pastor John.

·       Redeemer Ministry School Winter Classes:

o  Kingdom of God II – Healing and Deliverance

o  New Testament Prophecy

o  Worship II –

o  Teaching and Preaching
Women's Conference
Guest Speaker: Norelle Lutke from Wichita, Kansas (More details and info TBA)

Jesus Existed (Part 3) - Jesus Spoke Aramaic (31 Days with Jesus - Day 6)

The Sea of Galilee

I taught for 12 years in the Doctor of Ministry program at Palmer Theological Seminary. It was there that I met my friend Craig Keener for the first time. I remember standing in his office looking at his books. I asked him, "What are some of the best books on the historical Jesus?" Craig mentioned some, and included Michael McClymond's Familiar Stranger: A Life of Jesus of Nazareth. "It's a very good book," Craig told me.

One of the things scholars like McClymond stress is the need to understand as much of the historical context as we can in order to understand the meaning of the biblical texts (or any texts, for that matter). He writes: “Like all human beings, Jesus lived in a particular time, place, culture, and society, and the interpretation of his life requires an understanding of that context.” (44)

What language did Jesus primarily speak? McClymond says:

“Jesus’immediate environment was more culturally diverse and cosmopolitan than has generally been recognized. It is probable, and perhaps likely, that Jesus had enough competence in Greek to converse in that language during his itinerant ministry. Nonetheless Jesus’ primary language was Aramaic, as indicated by the presence of some twenty-six Aramaic words in the New Testament Gospels.” (51)

N.T. Wright agrees. Jesus spoke Aramaic, some Hebrew, and probably at least some Greek. (Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 147)

The Word (Jesus - John 1:1-12) became flesh and pitched his tent among our tents. Jesus spoke the language of the people. He still does.

Note: some scholars (a minority) believe that Jesus spoke Hebrew, not Aramaic.

Jesus Existed (Part 2) - Jesus Grew Up in Galilee (31 Days with Jesus - Day 6)

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

I hope one day you will get to travel to Israel. Linda and I were privileged to do this six years ago. We landed in Tel Aviv, and went first to Mount Carmel. Then to Tiberias, located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We spent three days touring the Galilee area, to include Capernaum.

Then we traveled south along the Jordan river. We stayed for 2 days on the Dead Sea, from where we saw Qumran (famous for the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the incredible fortress at Masada.

We ended up with four more days in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, to include Bethlehem.

One of the many highlights for us was a visit to Nazareth, which is west of Tiberias in the area of Galilee. We were walking on the very ground Jesus walked on. Amazing! And insightful. To understand the Real Jesus we must know about the land he lived in.

Jesus grew up in Galilee, in an insignificant village called Nazareth, close to the major city of Sepphoris. It was home to fewer than four hundred people, almost all farmers.
A house from the time of Jesus was recently excavated. With two rooms and a courtyard where a cistern collected rainwater, it is probably the sort of modest home Jesus’ family would have owned. Many of Jesus’ parables and sayings are are influenced by the rural agricultural context in which he grew up.     (See Richard Bauckham, Jesus: A Very Short Introduction, p. 28)

Jesus of Nazareth was born somewhere around 4 BC. Jesus’ mother was related to the priestly families, and Jesus had a cousin, John, who in the ordinary course of events would have worked as a priest.
Jesus’ mother’s husband, Joseph, was from the ancient royal family, the family of King David, of the tribe of Judah, though by this time there was no particular social status attached to such family membership.

We know very little of Jesus’s early life. One of the gospels tells a story of him as a precocious twelve-year-old, already able to ask key questions and debate with adults.
His later life tells us that, like many Jewish boys, he was from an early age taught to read Israel’s ancient scriptures, and that by adulthood he knew them inside out and had drawn his own conclusions as to what they meant. The strong probability is that Jesus worked with Joseph in the family business, which was the building trade.

So far as we know, Jesus never traveled outside the Middle East. And, he never married. Even though some today speculate that Jesus was married, N.T. Wright says that there is not the slightest historical trace of any such relationship, still less of any children. 
Then, from a life of near-total obscurity Jesus suddenly came to public attention in the late 20s of the first century, when he was around thirty years old. Almost everything we know about him as a figure of history is crammed into a short space of time; it’s not easy to tell if it lasted one, two, or three years, but pretty certainly it wasn’t any longer.    (I've here quoted and slightly adapted from N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, Kindle Locations 228-238)

This gives us some information about the historical context Jesus was born into. And one more thing. Eventually Jesus walks from Galilee south into Jerusalem. Jerusalem was seen as the center of the world was because that’s where all the pressure was concentrated. N.T. Wright says: “That’s where the fault lines all came together, where the tectonic plates ground relentlessly into one another, as indeed they still do. And it is to Jerusalem that we have to go to understand Jesus of Nazareth. That’s where the real perfect storm took place. That’s where all the dark forces converged, one spring day in, most likely, the year we call AD 30 (or, less likely, 33).”   (Ib., 27)
Jesus was a Galilean, a Nazarene.

Note: two excellent books on Jesus are Wright's Simply Jesus and Bauckham's Jesus: A Very Short Introduction.

Jesus Existed - Part 1 (31 Days with Jesus - Day 6)

Playing soccer in Jerusalem

Several years ago I received a phone call from a high school girl who came to Redeemer. She was crying as she told me about her high school biology teacher. This teacher at one point in his teaching left the subject of biology and stated, "There is no evidence that Jesus ever existed." This shocked a number of students in class. The teacher then said, "If you can show me evidence please feel free to bring it to class."

I suggested to her that she bring me into the class to present the case for the existence of Jesus. I wrote a letter to the teacher. When I learned his name I realized he was, at that time, a student in my MCCC Philosophy of Religion class!

When the time came for me to speak on the existence of Jesus at Monroe High School so many students had heard about this that it was decided to hold the event in the school auditorium. The auditorium was packed out as I spoke for 90 minutes, making the historical case for Jesus' existence. There was a Q&A after my talk. Many students asked questions. They were so interested in the subject of Jesus! Now, years later, I've had people who were in the auditorium that day tell me how much it impressed and influenced them. A number of them enrolled in my college philosophy classes as a result of this.

Perhaps you have heard, or read on the Internet, the claim that Jesus never really existed, and that the figure of Jesus in the Bible is all made up. That claim is false. As small a point as it seems to be, Jesus actually existed. No reputable New Testament scholar believes otherwise (actually, maybe one does, but he is in the extreme minority). Even the skeptical Bart Ehrman believes Jesus existed.

If you want to read some more check out:

"Jesus Existed," by Craig Keener

See my "Jesus Existed (but of course...)"

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jesus' Birth was an Act of War (31 Days with Jesus - Day 5)

C.S. Lewis referred to it as "The Great Invasion." In chapter 7 of Mere Christianity Lewis 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. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, 'Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil-hoofs and horns and all?' Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is 'Yes, I do.' I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, 'Don't worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you'll like it when you do is another question.'"

The most a-cultural telling of Christmas is found in Revelation 12:1-7. We read:

"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" (231); 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); 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...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jesus Descended into Greatness (31 Days of Jesus - Day 4)

Candles, in the Church of the Nativity, Jerusalem

While most people are trying to move up the social honor-shame ladder and thus be upwardly mobile, the Word (God the Son) moved down when he became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) among us. That was a move downwards. The Word exercised downward mobility. Love came down.

This act of downward mobility is called the "kenosis," after a word in Philippians 2:7. Phil. 2:5-11 expresses the entire idea.

 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing (Greek kenosisἐκένωσεν ]
by taking the very nature
of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

New Testament scholar Wayne Grudem explains this passage. He writes:

"The best understanding of this passage is that it talks about Jesus giving up the status and privilege that were his in heaven. He did not "cling to his own advantage" but "emptied himself" or "humbled himself" for our sake, and came to live as a man. (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, 240)

In John 17:5 Jesus spoke of the "glory" he had with the Father "before the world was made." In the kenosis he had given up that glory (status, privilege),  but would regain it upon his return to heaven.

I like how Paul expresses this in 2 Corinthians 8:9 - For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. Here we have Christ, who temporarily gave up the privilege and honor that he deserved, for you and I.

Today think of the glorious status Christ gave up, for you, when he humbled himself and took on the form of humanity.

Jesus descended into greatness.


The issue of what Christ emptied himself of has been a by the preexistent divine Son, whereby in "becoming human" he took the "form" of a slave - one who expressed his humanity in lowly service to others." (384)

See also Fee's article in Exploring Kenotic Christology: The Self-Emptying of God, ed. Stephen Evans. Fee writes:

"An orthodox biblical Christology almost certainly must embrace some form of a 'kenotic' [emptying] understanding of the Incarnation, that the One who was truly God, also in his Incarnation lived a truly human life, a life in which he grew both in stature and in wisdom and in understanding (Luke 2:52), learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb. 5:8), and who as Son of the Father did not know the day or the hour (Mark 13:32). (p. 43)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Jesus Was Born of a Virgin (31 Days with Jesus - Day 3)

The Mediterranean Sea, off Caesarea in Israel


34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

- Luke 1:34-35

While I am not Roman Catholic, I do have many friends who are. These friends are my brothers and sisters in Christ. In my biblical and theological studies I have been helped by many Roman Catholic scholars. Names such as Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Aquinas, Francis Beckwith, and Pope John Paul stand out to me. (BTW, John Paul was a brilliant phenomenological philosopher. And, BTW, my middle name is "Paul.")

One of them, Father Stephen Rooney, is a local priest in the Monroe area. Stephen graciously invited me to speak at the RC Unity Service in January 2001. I will never forget that evening for two reasons.

First, St Michael's was packed out as I spoke on the Jesus-unity Father Rooney and I have, using the "Stations of the Cross" that encompassed the sanctuary to illustrate this. I found that I could affirm the truth of every "station" except for the "Veronica" story (the woman who, according to legend, wiped Jesus' bloody face with her cloak).

Secondly, that was the evening my father died. He was suffering and dying as I was speaking. My friend Stephen knew about this, and was praying for me as I spoke.

The current Pope, Benedict, is also a great scholar. His recent book defends, among other things, the virgin birth of Christ. Benedict reasons like this. (From The Infancy Narratives.)

1. Christian teaching affirms that "Jesus was the son of God and was not conceived through sexual intercourse but by the power of the Holy Spirit, one part of the divine trinity."
2. The story of the virgin birth is not just a reworking of earlier Greek or Egyptian legends and archetypal concepts but something totally new in history.
3. God is a Creator. God creates. God invents. This is part of the nature of God.
4. God is omnipotent.
5. Therefore God's creative word is able to bring about something completely new. (See my recent God's Commands are Authoritative Words that Have Illocutionary Force.)

Benedict's reasoning is grounded in the understanding of the power of God. An all-powerful being is, by logical extension, able to bring about any logically possible state of affairs. "If God does not also have power over matter, then he simply is not God," Benedict writes. "But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has ushered in a new creation."

Could the story of Jesus' virgin birth been invented by early Christians to spice up the Jesus story? New Testament scholar Ben Witherington writes:

"I would argue that it is highly unlikely Christians would make up a story about a virginal conception, precisely because it would lead to the charge of Jesus' illegitimacy by opponents of the Christian movement. There must have been some historical substance to this tradition for both Matthew and Luke to refer to the matter, independently of each other and in differing ways." (See Witherington's article "Misconceptions About the Virginal Conception: Our lack of access to narratives about Jesus' birth shouldn't lead us to assume the miracle of his conception didn't happen.")

I'm with Pope Benedict who states that the virgin birth is an unequivocal truth of Christian faith.

Jesus was born of a virgin.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jesus is the Agent of Creation - An Addition (Day 2 of 31 Days with Jesus)


C. B. sent me an e-mail regarding Colossians 1:16, which reads: 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

What does it mean that "in" him all things were created? The word "in" sounds like a container-word, such as: "The water was in the bottle."

N.T. Wright translates this verse as: by him all things were created. Because the Greek word ev can also be translated as "by."

ἐν,p \{en}1) in, by, with etc.

Christ is not simply part of the created world itself. “All that God made, he made by means of him.” (NTW, Colossians and Philemon, 72)

“All things” can be translated As: “the totality.” Wright writes: “Wherever you look, or whatever realities you think of, you discover entities which, even if they do not acknowledge the fact, owe their very existence to Christ. They are his handiwork. Paul has here chosen to mention especially what we today call the power structures of the universe.” (NTW, Col & Phile, 72)

Ben Witherington comments: – “All things are repeatedly connected to Christ. Everything points to him.” (BW, Phile, Col, & Eph, 129)

Jesus Is the Agent of Creation (31 Days with Jesus: Day 2)

Linda, walking in Jerusalem


Jesus of Nazareth is the incarnation of God the Son. God became one of us. Years ago I heard an analogy that still makes sense to me.

If you were an architect observing ants build an anthill and wanted to share your architectural knowledge with them, what would be a good way to do this? It would be this: become an ant, live in the ant world, and communicate in ant language to them. You would take on "ant flesh."

By analogy, this is what God has done for us. God, in his Son, took on human flesh and lived among us.

I am still captivated by the brilliance and beauty of this divine strategy. What makes this story so stunning is what God the Son gave up to come to us. The One through whom all things were created took on our flesh-and-bone, ever-so-limited humanity.

The everlasting supremacy and majesty of the Son is seen in John 1:3, where we are told that through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. God the Son is the agent of creation! New Testament scholar writes that John 1:3 "  describes Jesus as the agent of creation, an action that Genesis attributes to God alone. Thus, the Johannine narrator starts his story by claiming that Jesus does what the one God does, is eternal as the one God is eternal, and, as the Word, “was God.”" (Hurtado, Larry; Keith, Chris, Jesus among Friendsand Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels, Kindle Locations 1037-1039)

Paul understands this when he writes:

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

During this Christmas season, orient your heart and mind towards Christ, who is God the Son come to earth in the form of a person. Think today of his supremacy and majesty.

Then think of our majestic Creator who took on the form of the created.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jesus Is the Pre-existent God the Son (31 Days with Jesus - Day 1)

Tonight at Redeemer I'll do a 1-hour teaching I'm calling "31 Things About the Real Jesus." In a few days my talk will be online. If you have signed up to do these 31 days of Jesus-focuisng with me I will be sending you daily e-mails. If you have not signed up and wish to receive e-mails from me please contact me at

Dancing in worship at Redeemer


One major difference between Christianity and the other major world religions is that, in Christianity, God came to us. In the other world religions we are left on our own to try to discover God (or achieve enlightenment, as in Buddhism).

Christmas is about God coming to us, in the form of his Son. This is called the "Incarnation." (Which means: "in flesh.")

We see this in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. It reads: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2)

Who was "the Word?" We find out in John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Son of God, also referred to as God the Son, came to us from the Father and took on human flesh. This is the language of God as a Trinity of persons. God is a "triune" being: Father, Son, and Spirit.

God, as I've heard J.P. Moreland express it, is a three-personed being. J.P. asks us to imagine a 3-headed person: 3 heads, 3 distinct personalities, sharing the same body.

Greg Boyd has said the idea of God as a Trinity makes conceptual sense of the idea that God is love. This is because love requires relationship. In the very being of God there is, and everlastingly has been, loving relationship. God, in his being, is relational. I love this way of thinking about God! It is so rich and wide and deep and long and high.

Early Christians came up with a word to express the 3-personed being of God: perichoresis. This word is made of a prefix, "peri," which means "around." Like the peri-meter of a circle. "Choresis" is the word we get "choral" from, which can mean to sing, but also to dance, as in a "chorus line." "Perichoresis" is to dance in a circle. With this word our 3-Personed God is described as Father, Son, and Spirit engaged in an everlasting circle dance. I like to refer to this as the Big Dance, into which we are invited (John 14,15, and 16).

God the Son who became flesh has existed everlastingly in the Big Dance that is the being of God. Then, in the infant Jesus, God became one of us. If this is not true than the story of Jesus becomes just a tragic and minor piece of history.

To understand the the Real Jesus we must begin with the Incarnation of God the Son, in whom there is neither beginning nor end. Jesus is the pre-existent God the Son, who has existed everlastingly.

(For you scholars this view of God as Trinity has been called "social trinitarianism"; viz., that in the being of God there is a "society" of three persons. See here, for academic ideas on this. But not, of course, for Islam, which vehemently denies the Christian idea of God as a Trinity of 3 Persons. Islam misunderstands this, as Judeo-Christianity has never claimed there are three Gods.

I also love the book The Shack as a way of figuratively expressing Trinitarian theism - i.e., God as a 3-Personed Being.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

31 Things About the Real Jesus - Tomorrow Night at Redeemer


Tomorrow evening at Redeemer I'll be presenting "31 Things About the Real Jesus."

I'll do this teaching from 6-7 PM.

Then, I'll have a Q&A for anyone who wants to hang around and ask questions.

I'll be doing my best to explain who Jesus is and was.

I'm having a lot of fun putting these 31 things together. I intend to present it in a way everyone can understand.

My teachings are a result of 40+ years of Christological studies, including PhD work in Christology, seminary teaching, 8 years of preaching through every Christological text in the New Testament, and growing in abiding in Christ as ongoing relationship.

If you are interested and have friends who want to hear about the historical Jesus I invite you to come to Redeemer tomorrow evening!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Coming Events at Redeemer

31 Things About the Real Jesus
Sunday night, Nov. 25, 6-7:30 pm
Pastor John Piippo
31 Days with Jesus
Nov. 25 - Dec. 25
Go here for information
Chili luncheon and cookoff
Sunday, Dec. 2
Christmas Eve Candlelight and Communion
December 24, 6-7 pm
IHOP One Thing Live Simulcast
Redeemer sanctuary
December 28 - 31
New Year's Eve at Redeemer
9 - 10:30 - Games, snacks, in the Fellowship Hall
11 - Midnight and beyond - We worship in the New Year!
Baptisms after midnight

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Morning in Monroe

I awoke at 6:30 this morning, grabbed my camera, went to McDonald's to get a coffee, and took some photos of this most beautiful of Thanksgiving mornings.
I chose not to honk...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

God's Unconditional Love is not God's Unconditional Approval

Lake Michigan sunset

God's love is unconditional.

In logic, a conditional statement is an "If... then" statement. For example: If it rains, then the ground gets wet. Conditional statements are also called hypothetical statements.

God's love for you and I is not hypothetical. God doesn't say "If you do ________, then you will receive my love." Were that true than not one of us would be fully loved by God, and the cross would be unnecessary.

God's love is not conditional or hypothetical. We can simply say: God loves you.

But everything you and I do is not thereby loved by God. For example, God does not love, or approve, of violence. Hatred is not cool with God.

Don't confuse the unconditional love of God with his unconditional acceptance of everything you do.

My Strategy as a Pastor

Barn in Monroe County

My strategy as a pastor is: point people to Christ.

That's it.

This Sunday evening I'll be pointing in this direction. I'll be presenting, this Sunday at Redeemer, "31 Things About the Real Jesus."

This is the beginning of my "31 Days with Jesus" event, from Nov. 25-Dec. 25.

If you'd like to join me and receive everyday e-mails on each of the 31 things send me a request to join at:

Praying for Love for My Enemies

Monroe County

The #1 thing I am praying for myself is that God would form Christlike love in my heart that loves my enemies. I'm asking because I don't have it. Jesus did have it. I want his heart to be formed in me (Galatians 4:19).

I am praying for the greatest thing. I believe in supernatural healings. I have seen them. But love is greater than healings. For one reason, love will endure for eternity, love is heaven's modus operandi. As great and wonderful healings are, they are still a subset of that greater, all-encompassing reality that is the love of God. It's like this.

1. God so loved the world.
2. Out of his love God sent His Son to the world.

God heals people because, in the first place, God loves them. Love always comes first. It is possible to heal a person without loving them; it is not possible to love them and not desire their soul and body to be well. Or desire their release from indebtedness. The heart of authentic Jesus-faith is that love forgives. The inability to forgive is an indicator of the absence of love.

I'm still reading Jerry Sittser's excruciating and hopeful A Grace Disguised. Sittser's car containing himself, his mother-in-law, his wife, and his daughter was hit by a drunk driver. Only Sittser survived. The drunk driver was acquitted by a clever lawyer. Sittser writes of the agony of this injustice piled on the loss of his loved ones.

"During the months that followed the trial I thought often about the driver of the other car. I fantasized reading reports in the newspaper that he had died hideously or that he had committed a crime that put him behind bars for life. I wanted to see him suffer and pay for the wrong I believed he had done...

It eventually occurred to me that this preoccupation was poisoning me. It signaled that I wanted more than justice. I wanted revenge. I was beginning to harbor hatred in my heart. I was edging toward becoming an unforgiving person and using what appeared to be the failure of the judicial system to justify my unforgiveness. I wanted to punish the wrongdoer and get even. The very thought of forgiveness seemed abhorrent to me. I realized at that moment that I have to forgive. If not, I would be consumed by my own unforgiveness." (135)

The options are: Either consumed by the love of God that, among other things, forgives; or consumed by the poison of my own unforgiveness. The first option is freedom, the second bondage.

God, produce the love that you have for humanity in my heart.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

For My Logic Students - Online Prep for Exam 5

Go here -

Click on "Student Resources."

Click on Chapter 4.

Pope's Third Book on Jesus Reaffirms Virgin Birth

Monroe County Community College

Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives was released today. See today's nytimes for a report.

The bullets are:

  • The virgin birth is an unequivocal truth of Christian faith.
  • Christian teaching affirms that "Jesus was the son of God and was not conceived through sexual intercourse but by the power of the Holy Spirit, one part of the divine trinity."
  • "The story of the virgin birth is not just a reworking of earlier Greek or Egyptian legends and archetypal concepts but something totally new in history."
  • God's creative word is able to bring about something completely new. (See my recent  God's Commands are Authoritative Words that Have Illocutionary Force.) 
  • God is a Creator. God creates. God invents. This is part of the nature of God.
  • God is omnipotent. Benedict's reasoning is grounded in the understanding of the power of God. An all-powerful being is, by logical extension, able to bring about any logically possible state of affairs. "If God does not also have power over matter, then he simply is not God," Benedict writes. "But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has ushered in a new creation."


Monday, November 19, 2012

Gary Wilson's Art Show - Dec. 7-8-9

(Gary Wilson)
Part of my Christmas in Monroe always includes a visit to the home of Gary and Linda Wilson and Gary’s annual Christmas Art Show. Gary is one of Monroe’s great local artists, and long-time professor of Art at MCCC.

On display and for sale are many of his creations, from wall sculptures to “pots” like you’ve never seen before to beautful mugs and much more.

WHERE: At the home of Gary and Linda Wilson
327 S. Macomb, Monroe, MI

Fri night, Dec. 7: 7 - 11
Sat., Dec. 8: 10-4; 7-11
Sun., Dec. 9: 2-5

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ghost Pepper Chili - Coming Dec. 2

Thanks to T.C. I am here holding his home grown ghost peppers which will be added to my chili for Redeemer's annual chili lunch and cookoff Dec. 2.

My chili last year was the hottest I've ever made or tasted. This year's, thanks to the ghost pepper additive, will hopefully be even hotter. Tonight I picked up good old Dave's Insanity Sauce (which I added last year - just a dot of it will cause your head to explode) and...  Dave's Ghost Pepper Naga Jolokia Hot Sauce. The label on the back reads: "This is a delicious addition to most any food, but especially sauces, meat, and ethnic foods. It also is a great industrial cleaner and grease remover."

Friday, November 16, 2012

When the Heart and Will Get on Board

Children running and dancing during worship at Redeemer

This coming Sunday at Redeemer it is my joy to preach out of Colossians 3:1-4. Call these verses the key to Christian living; the key to a life of set-apartness for Christ (= holiness).

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Yes, there are God-given rules, to which your average religious person adds a bazillion more regulations and prohibitions. But rules and human fleshly willpower (Richard Foster has called this "will worship," i.e. worship of the human will) do not produce righteousness. What can? N.T. Wright comments on this.

“Learn to think about the things that are above, not the things that belong to the present world of change and decay. In fact, learning to think, rather than merely going with the flow of the world on one hand, or blindly obeying what look like stringent regulations on the other, is part of the key to it all.
One aspect of Christian maturity, and certainly one of the road signs on the road to Christian holiness, is that the mind must grasp the truth: ‘you died, and your life has been hidden with the king, in God!” Once the mind has grasped it, the heart and will start to come on board. And once that happens the way lies open to joyful Christian holiness. Don’t settle for short cuts.”
- N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: Colossians, 176