Friday, January 31, 2014

Heart-Silence Is a Key Opening to the Heart of God (PrayerLife)

Raffles Hotel, Singapore
"True silence is a key to the immense and flaming heart of God."
- Catherine De Hueck Doherty (In Richard J. Foster. Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer, Kindle Location 148)

In 1990 I went with Linda, Dan, and Josh to Singapore to teach at Assemblies of God Bible College. I taught two courses over a 20-day period. One of them was my Spiritual Formation and Prayer course.

On every class day I sent my Chinese students out to pray for an hour. I told them to find a quiet place outside of our building to pray. The college was located in the heart of Singapore, near the historic Raffles Hotel. When you stepped outside the building you entered the crowded streets of busy Singapore. I decided to pray in the lobby of the Raffles Hotel. This was where many great writers once stayed, including Ernest Hemingway and Somerset Maugham.

The lobby was beautiful, and a beehive of activity. In the center of all buzzing this my heart was still. And silent. Years of stillness and silence had built into me a capacity to focus, to attend to one thing. A silent and still heart is a receptive heart. It is in this quiet, inner place that I most often hear the voice of God.

Heart-silence is a key that opens to the immense and flaming heart of God.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I'll Teach a Class on Spiritual Formation for Pastors in New Jersey

ABCNJ Academy Presents – Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries

Wind and Waves - the renewal of the Spirit

Course Description

Come embrace an opportunity for spiritual growth and formation within the presence and power of the Holy Spirit for clergy and laity. Participants will be guided through one of two teaching/workshop tracks. One for laity and one for clergy. The day will end with a panel discussion and question & answer time with the teaching team from Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries.

Date and Time

Saturday, March 8, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (EST)


We are pleased to be hosted by Columbus Baptist Church:
24260 West Main Street
Columbus, NJ 08022
Follow this link for directions.


  • There is a $25 registration fee to attend this event.

Register Online

To register for this Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries event, follow this link.

Leadership Team

  • Dr. John Piippo, Professor of Spiritual Formation at Payne Seminary and Senior Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship Church, Monroe, MI
  • Norelle Lutke, workshop leader and Vice Chairman of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, Wichita, KS
  • Dr. Clay Ford, workshop leader and Chairman of Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries, San Diego, CA
  • Dr. Ed Owens, Senior Pastor, Olivet Baptist Church, Lansing, MI

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Universe Is Inflating Like the Surface of a Balloon

In my MCCC Philosophy of Religion classes I present the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's existence. This is an evidential argument, the piece of evidence being a universe that began to exist.

Big Bang cosmology supports this. The universe is expanding, like a balloon. In class I explain the basic physics of this. Here's a drawing to illustrate.

The conventional model of cosmology is that most galaxies recede from one another as space itself inflates like the surface of a balloon — which would explain why other galaxies appear redshifted from our own galaxy's point of view.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Prayer Is Consideration (PrayerLife)

0 °F
Feels Like -19 °F
Sunrise / Set
7:50 AM
5:43 PM
Waning Crescent

11 AM, Jan. 28, 2014.

The predicted high today is 2°F.

My son Josh works nights at Chrysler. His car wouldn't turn over at 5 AM today. I bundled up and went out into the -10°F weather and we jumped it.

On the drive home it was frigid and windless and dark. A large thin crescent moon hung in the eastern sky. Looking at it, I had a moment. 

The Biggest of Big Questions jump-started my spirit: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does anything exist at all? That this universe in all its starry glory is coheres with my theistic worldview quite well. 

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
    your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
    Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
    Why take a second look our way?

- Psalm 8:2-4, The Message

All of this is prayer. When I consider your heavens, the moon and the stars...

To pray is to consider.

To attend. To behold. To contemplate. To ponder. To wonder.

Prayer is consideration.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Why Must the Cause of the Universe Be Personal and Not Impersonal? (Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's Existence)

(For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion students.)

W.L. Craig establishes that our universe has a cause. And, that whatever caused our universe to exist is atemporal (timeless). 

So, we have as the universe's cause either a timeless personal agent, or a timeless impersonal cause.

By inference to the best explanation Craig believes "timeless personal agent" is correct. Here is one way he reasons about this.

1. The cause of the universe is timeless and immaterial.

2. The only timeless, immaterial objects we know of are either minds or abstract objects.

3. Abstract objects do not stand in causal relations.

4. Therefore the cause of the universe is a timeless, immaterial mind (personal agent).

(Note: this explanation is different from the one I gave in class today.)

For W.L.C. on this see:

Und hier. (p. 108)

Monroe County Community College Closed Tomorrow, Jan. 28

Just saw the announcement here

And here


My first Spiritual Formation Tele-Conference class is this Thursday, 9 PM. I've sent the attendees the dial-up information.

Here are the class details below.

E-mail me for more information.


Feb. – March – April 2014

This course is designed to engage participants in an exploration and expansion of their inner spiritual life utilizing the spiritual disciplines. Personal transformation is an internal process that occurs as the individual allows God access to the whole of one’s being and life. The course combines:
1.    Personal encounter with God
2.    Keeping a spiritual journal as a record of the activity of God in one’s life
3.    Corporate sharing of one’s experience with God
4.    Biblical and theological reflection on key issues that arise in the life of one who seriously engages in the spiritual disciplines
5.    Learning how to lead the Presence-Driven Church

1.    To encounter and experience God
2.    To experience personal transformation
3.    To deepen one’s prayer life
4.    To discuss issues of personal transformation and pastoral leadership colleagues in ministry
5.    To reflect biblically and theologically on this experience.
6.    To understand personal spiritual transformation as the necessary foundation for all relevant church, urban, and global transformation


1.    Attend and participate in 4 phone conferences.
    1. The phone conferences will be on 4 Thursday evenings, 9-10:30 pm EST:
                                          i.    Thursday, Jan 30, 2014 (Introduction to the course; I'll present my Phenomenology [description] of Spiritual Formation)
                                        ii.    Thursday, Feb. 27 (Discussion of Boyd book)
                                       iii.    Thursday, March 27 (Discussion of Peterson book)
                                       iv.    Thursday, April 24 (Discussion of Barton book)
2.    Keep daily, structured devotional times with God for 3 months, 5 days per week, 30-60 minutes per day, from Feb. 1 - March 31. 
3.     Keep a Spiritual Journal that records what God is saying to you during these times.
4.     Read the following three books, which we will discuss during the phone conferences:
a.     Boyd. Present Perfect: Finding God In the Now. (Zondervan: 2010) Peterson, Eugene.
b.     The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Dallas: Word, 1989).
c.    Barton, Ruth Haley. Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups

COST: $50 to register and attend. This cost will help cover the 4 conference calls. (I'm not seeing this as a money-making thing for me.)

REGISTRATION: Send me an email at

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Ray of Hope In a World Where People Are Strangers to Themselves

Linda and I, on the subway in NYC

Two years ago I was teaching in New York City and Linda was with me. We took the subway from Queens to Manhattan. As we arrived at Times Square Station, we departed the train and walked towards the turnstile. I saw a young man reading a book. I looked. He was reading Nietzsche's On the Geneology of Morals. My heart leapt for joy. Why?

  1. Here was a young man who was reading. That is encouraging, any way you look at it.
  2. Here was a young man who was reading a book. This is, for the most part, better than reading something on your iphone. It suggests an ability to focus, to endure, to non-link and non-tweet. That is rare. This kid has a chance to actually learn something.
  3. Here was a young man who was reading a challenging book. "Best-sellers" are mostly not challenging. If they are, they remain mostly unread, even though they might rarely sell well. Like, e.g., the best-selling but mostly unread The Closing of the American Mind. (Bought that, read that.)
  4. Here was a young man reading a philosophically challenging book. He was reading a "Big Picture, Big Questions" book. He has an expanding mind. He's taking in deep ideas. He is a ponderer. One can't read Nietzsche and multitask.
  5. Here was a young man reading a philosophically challenging book who has obviously not succumbed to the death trap of neural-shallowness. (See here, here, here, here, and here.)
But Niezsche is an atheist, right? Correct (probably).

Better that someone think deeply about important issues, even contrary issues, than someone who never thinks about what they believe. (WARNING: The dangers of thoughtless religion. The Real Jesus, among other things, caused people to examine their own hearts. WARNING: The danger of "lukewarm religion.")

I'm home in Monroe and open my copy of A Geneology of Morals. I re-read the first sentences from Nietzsche's Preface. He writes:

"We are unknown, we knowers, ourselves to ourselves: this has its own good reason. We have never searched for ourselves - how should it then come to pass, that we should ever find ourselves? Rightly has it been said: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Our treasure is there, where stand the hives of our knowledge. It is to those hives that we are always striving; as born creatures of flight, and as the honey-gatherers of the spirit, we care really in our hearts only for one thing - to bring something "home to the hive!"

As far as the rest of life with its so-called "experiences" is concerned, which of us has even sufficient serious interest? or sufficient time? In our dealings with such points of life, we are, I fear, never properly to the point; to be precise, our heart is not there, and certainly not our ear... Of necessity we remain strangers to ourselves, we understand ourselves not, in ourselves we are bound to be mistaken, for of us holds good to all eternity the motto, "Each one is the farthest away from himself" - as far as ourselves are concerned we are not "knowers."" (K 143-150)

I love the thought of someone, anyone, reading stuff like this. This young man is a ray of hope in a world of self-strangers.

Search yourself out, and be searched-out by God. Examine youself, and be-examined.

Know, and be known.

This is the kind of pre-thinking that, eventually, led me to Christ.

Snowed In?

Auth, in today's nytimes

Prayer & Healing Class CANCELLED Tonight

I'm cancelling tonight's (Jan. 26) Prayer & Healing Class at Redeemer due to weather conditions. Some people are coming from a distance (downriver, Toledo) - and the roads are supposed to be bad with blowing and drifting snow.

Stay home.

Stay warm.

Order a pizza.

Next Prayer and Healing class - Sunday, Feb. 9, 6 PM.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hope for Dante' Herrera

Dante' Herrera

One of my former Payne Theological Seminary students, Marlo Dean, sent me the link to her son's website. Go HERE.

"Dante' Herrera is a wonderful 11 year old boy who has been battling an unknown disease throughout his life... Dante' and his family have traveled from hospital to hospital since he was about 1 year old and after many years of searching, he was recently diagnosed with a rare terminal genetic disease called neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (often, though incorrect, given an umbrella term of batten disease). although there are many known forms of ncl with gene explanations, the form that Dante' suffers from is even more rare, in that, to date, there is no gene explanation. 

Dante', his mother Marlo, and his network of family, friends and a wonderful network of healthcare professionals are dedicated and ready to fight this disease with all their might, but will need some help. please give what you can as all donations are greatly appreciated... all proceeds will go towards Dante's expenses, treatments, hospital stays and travel to various out-of-network facilities. your generosity is very much appreciated.

Love, Dante', Marlo, family and friends"

The Richest 1% Own Half the World's Wealth

Eldoret, Kenya
January 20, 2014

Oxfam International Report

"Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population, and seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. The World Economic Forum has identified economic inequality as a major risk to human progress, impacting social stability within countries and threatening security on a global scale.
This massive concentration of economic resources in the hands of fewer people presents a real threat to inclusive political and economic systems, and compounds other inequalities – such as those between women and men. Left unchecked, political institutions are undermined and governments overwhelmingly serve the interests of economic elites – to the detriment of ordinary people.
In this paper, Oxfam shows how extreme inequality is not inevitable, with examples of policies from around the world which have reduced inequality and developed more representative politics, benefiting all, both rich and poor. Oxfam calls on leaders at the 2014 World Economic Forum at Davos to make the commitments needed to counter the growing tide of inequality."

30 A.D,
Jesus of Nazareth
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
- Luke 1:53
Woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
- Luke 6:24
This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.
- Luke 12:21
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day...
- Luke 16:19
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
- Luke 18:25

January 23, 2014
"God's rules on economics, as articulated both by the prophets and Jesus of Nazareth, are strikingly clear. Not small concentrations of great wealth and the vast majority of people in poverty, but 'each under their own vine and fig tree, living without fear.' (Micah 4:4) Jesus announces his ministry as "good news to the poor" (Luke 4:18), that is, the "Jubilee," the really radical redistributive economic strategy of ancient Israel."
Dr. Ben Witherington - Jesus and Money
"This timely book blends Witherington's exegetical skill and his pastoral concern to address a very relevant issue. His interpretations of various passages reveal the complexity of issues involved in interpreting and applying texts about money that many take for granted. While this work is a welcome retort to the Scripture-twisting of prosperity preachers, it will also challenge many who have been living large without sustained theological reflection on their lifestyle."
--Craig Keener, professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary

"God's dream looks pretty different from Wall Street's dream."
- Shane Claiborne

"American Christians desperately need to read and heed this book."
- Ronald Sider, Palmer Theological Seminary

Friday, January 24, 2014


Bangkok sidewalk
Whatever happened to "sin?" 

If you use this word “sin” in public some people will look at you like you are some kind of medieval religious crazy person. Like: "Justin Bieber sinned a few days ago." Say that and you'll get accused of being "judgmental."

“Sin” is just a word. Which REFERS to something real.

  •  “Sin” is a word that refers to behaviors and actions that create alienation and isolation.
  • “Sin” is a word that refers to choices and non-choices that cause emotions of anger and vengeance and sadness and bitterness and bring tears and loss and grief and cries for justice and so on and on and on…
  • If sin wasn’t about something very real and very dangerous and very alienating…  half the movies that are made would not be made, and many of this world's tweets would be meaningless.
  • “Sin” is a big-time reality word. There are not a lot of things more real than the reality of “sin."
  • The English word “sin” is just an ancient word that refers to a reality that is still with us. 
  • Everyone does it. Everyone has it. If you don't have it then you can start throwing stones at the rest of us.
Sin is only meaningful if it has a reference point. The reality of sin evokes the question "In reference to what?" "Sin" falls short of something. Sin doesn't measure up. If there's no reference point then moral outrage is absurd and "sin" doesn't exist.

Everyone - me and you and you-know-who - has screwed up and landed short of the Reference Point. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Some Thoughts on Teaching, Preaching, & Life

Randy Clark at Redeemer
Here are some things I believe are important when it comes to teaching, preaching, and living the Jesus-life.

Give to others the best of what you have to give. I cannot think of one time I have preached and not given 100% in preparation. I never sing the worship song "Lord, I Give You My Half-Job." I never step up to the plate not as ready as I can be. Give 100% every time you teach or preach. The size or type of listeners means nothing, View every occasion of teaching and preaching as the last opportunity you will have to do this. This does not mean I preach great sermons. But I always give it everything I have. As a pastor I have weeks where I am called to help others more than usual. On those weeks I may not have the time I think I need to prepare. At that point I say to God, "You know I've done the best I can. Now come and make it better than what I have to offer." And, consistently, God does.

o Don’t try to be someone else. Don't waste your time comparing your teaching, preaching, and life with anyone else. This is freeing for me because I have tried to teach, preach, and live like others. Now, at age 64, I feel less interested than ever in being like someone else. Mostly I want to be like Christ.
Focus on pleasing God, not on pleasing people. If you are a people-pleaser you will end up saying nothing, and the nothingness that comes forth from you will displease some people. When we teach and preach God's Word, some will not like it. You will not be universally liked. Therefore be disliked for the right reasons.

Work for God, not people. Work so as to please God and experience God's pleasure, not the pleasure of people. Of course if what you do and say pleases God then real Jesus-followers will be pleased as well. Trust in God to pay you a wage. He is your Master. Desire his "well done." God’s approval is what counts, not the approval or disapproval of other people.

What people think of you does not matter; what you think of people matters greatly. God loves people who like and dislike you. Ask God to so transform your heart that you love others like Christ does. It is freedom to be unconcerned about what people think of you. Only such a free person can then love other people. When Jesus hung on the cross and said "forgive them," behold the perfectly free person who loves even his enemies, and whose love is not a function of peoples' love for him.

Be transparent. But remember: transparency has boundaries. Use personal examples and illustrations in teaching and preaching. It's not only OK to tell stories of personal failure it is needed so people can be free of the illusion of clergy-pedestalness.

Don’t teach or preach your current struggles. People will begin to focus on you rather than what you want to say to them. If you are a sex addict get help. Realize if you confess your sex addiction to your entire congregation you will then become the issue. The time may come when you tell people about this. If so, it will be long after you are healed and set free. Transparency does not mean an open book for all to see everything in your soul.
Don’t talk about other people without their permission. In a sermon, that is. In preaching never talk about other people’s failures (re. people that you know). In life strive to lift people up, not point out their flaws. If God has shown you the flaw or sin of another person it is only so that you can pray for them.

Know your audience.

Remember that you don’t know it all. You don’t have to. But you do have to study, prepare, and pray like crazy.

Be clear rather than profound. In your clarity God's Spirit can move. In your profundity and obfuscation even the Spirit asks, "Huh?"

o What you say needs to be coherent, connected.

Stay on-topic.

• Make eye contact.

• Want people to understand you. Therefore enunciate, use complete sentences, get free of annoying vocal and bodily mannerisms, don't speak too fast, speak so people can hear you, go watch the movie "The King's Speech."

• Teach and preach what people are to do, not on their failures. Good teaching and preaching builds up, not tears down.

If you fail morally, people will not listen to what you have to say. This is a sad truth. It's sad because we all fail morally. Trust will have to be regained before you have a  voice again. It can happen. This will take much time.

Continue to grow deep. What we especially need today are more deep people, not people who know more things. Deep soul-growth will impact your teaching and preaching. Spend much alone-time with God.

Teach and preach as a servant. Desire not to be on TV. This is not about you being viewed as some "great preacher"; it's about you preaching about a great God who is infinitely greater than your preaching.

Teach, preach, and live with passion. Note that passion looks different in different cultures. My ancestry is Scandinavian-Finnish. We are not exactly "hopping" people. Mostly, we'd rather bale hay than talk in front of an audience. But God has placed a fire within my hay-baling heart. And you don't have to advertise a fire.

If you teach, preach, and live so that some people surpass you in excellence, then be very happy.

When, in your teaching and preaching you are wrong, admit it. I've done it. If you haven't then you are dishonest.

Never talk down to people.

You will be criticized. John Calvin, in his Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:18, writes: "For none are more liable to slanders and calumnies than godly teachers. Not only does it arise from the difficulty of their office, that sometimes they either sink under it, or stagger, or halt, or blunder, in consequence of which wicked men seize many occasions for finding fault with them; but there is this additional vexation, that, although they perform their duty correctly, so as not to commit any error whatever, they never escape a thousand censures. And this is the craftiness of Satan, to draw away the hearts of men from ministers, that instruction may gradually fall into contempt."

Listen to your critics. Even if some of them are not loving.

• Remember: The foundation of all God-filled teaching and preaching is love. In your teaching and preaching be loving. It is, after all, possible and necessary to speak the truth in love.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

World Religions and Christianity

In Redeemer Ministry School's Spring Trimester I will teach a class on world religions and Christianity. Topics I will likely cover include:

  • Introduction to and understanding of the major world religions (Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam)
  • Possible reference to other religions (e.g., African religions; primitive Chinese religion; Taoism; Confucianism)
  • Possible reference to smaller religions in America (e.g., Wicca; neo-paganism; et. al.)
  • A special section on Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (following University of Notre Dame's Christian Smith's research) - the current religion of non-choice of American adolescents
  • A section on my friend Candy Brown's The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Christian America
  • and... a Christian response to all of these.
More information on dates, times, and registration TBA. (Will begin in late March, meet one morning a week, and last until the final week in May.)

Cost: free!