Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Book Reviewed in Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette

Many thanks to my friend Don Follis for reviewing my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. Thank you Don!

More Than a Conference - It's a Family (Join me this Summer!)

Let the transformation begin!
Come away and be refreshed  
Holy Spirit Renewal Conference
A little bit of heaven on earth... 
HIS EMPOWERING PRESENCE
Experiencing the Fullness of Joy
JUNE 26-30, 2016 
Green Lake Conference Center, WI
Come away to the Holy Spirit Renewal Conference for five full days and nights to recharge in the presence of the Lord.  

EIGHT BENEFITS you don't want to miss! 
1. EMPOWERMENT. Hear revelatory, life-transforming, biblically balanced teaching from guest speakers Bob Hazlett and Robby Dawkins, national leaders Clay Ford and John Piippo, guest bible study leaders, and a wide variety of workshops. Be revolutionized!
2. FRESH TOUCH. Experience a fresh touch from God for healing, freedom and life-purpose, and get your joy back!
3. WORSHIP. Know God's love in presence-driven, no holds-barred worship. Know your God and be known by Him. Let the light shine in. 
4. EQUIPPING. Be equipped to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit as they are demystified and made practical. 
5. CHALLENGE. Be challenged to advance the Kingdom of God, defeat the darkness, and embrace the authority of the believer. 
6. REFRESHMENT. Take time for rest, relaxation and recreation in a gorgeous, tranquil setting. Every afternoon is free time. 
7. NETWORKING. Be part of a loving family of God from all across America and be part of the growing HSRM movement.
8. FAMILY. All ages benefit from the Holy Spirit Renewal Conference. Excellent programs for children and youth. Young adults' fellowship offers connection and friendship. An unforgettable experience for all ages! 
Conference sessions  start at 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning, June 26 and end at 9:30 p.m. Thursday night, June 30. 
Robby Dawkins
Bob Hazlett
Guest Speakers 

Bob Hazlett 

Robby Dawkins
 


Local Accommodations

Conference Center
Green Lake Conference Center  Get directions here.  GLCC is located just west of the city of Green Lake on State Hwy 23 in south central Wisconsin; northwest of Milwaukee.  

Accommodations
Green Lake Conference Center offers on-site hotel and motel facilities, cabins and house rentals, camping and RV sites! Contact GLCC for availability and pricing and to reserve your lodging today (920) 294-3323. Several off-site lodging options are available in Ripon, WI and Green Lake, WI. 
5-Day Conference Pass

The Presence-Driven Church Doesn't Vote

My handheld hummingbird feeders


I took a break today and ate a snack while watching ESPN. The show was about the final NBA game in the series between Golden State and Oklahoma City. The discussion revolved around this question: "If OKC loses the game, will Kevin Durant leave OKC for another team?"

The sports announcer said, "Log in to espn.com to vote on whether Kevin Durant will choose to stay with OKC or go to another team."

This vote is about public opinion. That's all. It has no bearing on what Kevin Durant himself will choose to do. Durant is not going to wait for the outcome of the vote and then act on what the majority has ruled. 

It's the same with voting in the church. A church vote has no bearing on what God himself will choose to do, or desires to do. It's just the opinions of church people. God is not going to wait for the votes to be counted and then act as the majority wills. 

***
My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God is available 
HERE and as a Kindle book HERE
You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Age Me, O Lord

Monroe
I'm reading through the spiritual journals of my Payne Seminary students. God spoke to one of them and said, "You are afraid to grow old." 

I commented to them: "As this becomes more and more your experience you will long to grow old." 

As we abide closer and closer to Christ we gain more of the mind of Christ. Though our body erodes our spirit renews, day after day. After day. We become more human

Greater humanity-as-Christlikeness is the result of constant abiding. We get free-er. We become less rigid, less uptight. We chill out. We let go and let God. "Trust" leaves the theoretical realm and becomes actual. Ah, the thrill of growing older in this way! Once recognized as our earthly destiny in Jesus, who wouldn't want to age?

The fear of growing old wearies us. The joy (and privilege) of growing old renews us. Therefore age me, O Lord. Like fine wine kept for the wedding banquet, uncork me in my late year and pour Yourself out through me.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Holy Spirit Is the Inner Sherpa

Explore Inner Space

Al Willingham & I on the equator in western Kenya
One of my favorite spiritual formation verses is Proverbs 20:5 - "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding can draw them out."

When we consistently abide in Christ, God's Spirit moves in the deep waters of our heart, searching us out, restoring our souls, and morphing us into Jesus-likeness. This is the inward adventure, the inverted Mt Everest expedition, the exploration of one's very being. 

This is so terrifying that many refuse to undertake it. Paul Tournier wrote: "What is there then within this sepulchre where all the repressed rubbish of all humanity as well as our own is rotting?" Anyone who has spent many hours of being searched-out by God knows what this is about. All is not well within the depths of our souls, but God longs to go deep and heal us. This is a necessary part of spiritual transformation. God is a physician who wants to open us up and take a long look.

There is nothing like adventuring inward with God. It is exhilarating! Thomas Merton wrote: "A door opens in the center of our being and we seem to fall through it into immense depths which, although they are infinite, are all accessible to us; all eternity seems to have become ours in this one placid and breathless contact." (New Seeds of Contemplation) That's one way to put it, written by one of our great soul-explorers.

"Search me O God, and know my heart." Ask this with sincerity and God says, "Thanks - I'll be glad to." 

We need to be known by God if we are to be of any real use for the Kingdom. What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world but forfeit their soul? Exchange your soul for worldly gain? To do that is to give up on one's soul, to say, "Game over. I quit. I'd rather live in the shallows of life than go deep." OK. But realize that one's losses are character, wisdom, and love, because such things only grow in the deep waters of the heart. 

They are worth finding. Explore inner space, with God's Spirit as your sherpa.

Nothing Can Be Stolen From You


Custer poster, in Monroe
Our house was built in 1863. Looking out the upstairs window of my home office I see the land "owned" by General George Custer's cousin Neville. General Custer and his family lived in a house 400 yards to the west of ours. Did they own that house?

I am certain they lived in it, and claimed the farmland that since has been divided and subdivided many times. But, obviously,  they don't have the house or the land now. They are long gone. Now live on the land they walked on. What they possessed slipped out of their hands, upon their deaths. Therefore, they "possessed" neither the land nor the house, nor their clothes nor cattle nor jewelry or whatever.

To conjugate your life using the verbs "to have," "to own," and "to possess" is to live a life of illusion because, literally, we own nothing. One day someone else will be wearing your clothing, living in your house, and non-attending to your garden.

If the meaning of "to own" or "possess" or "have" includes "This object/person/time/space/place is mine,'" then surely that it false.Thomas Merton, in The Sign of Jonas, wrote: "Now my whole life is this - to keep unencumbered. The wind owns the fields where I walk and I own nothing and am owned by nothing." 

To say that the winds "own" anything is to speak metaphorically. It is instructive to note that to say you or I "own" anything is also to speak, in an important way, metaphorically. Ownership is a limited concept and it is important not to get too serious about it.

To live in the truth of essential non-ownership is to live freely. As you have freely received, you then can freely give. The biblical God-idea is that we have been made "stewards" over a few things that belong to our Master. Hold loosely to them.

If you possess nothing then nothing can ever be stolen from you. (Les Miserables, correct?)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sufficient Depravity

Monarch butterfly, photo taken at Green Lake Christian Conference Center, Wisconsin


Someone once asked USC philosopher and Christian theist Dallas Willard if he believed in "total depravity." 

Willard responded, “I believe in sufficient depravity.” 
What’s that?
“I believe that every human being is sufficiently depraved that when we get to heaven, no one will be able to say, ‘I merited this.’ ”
- Quoted in "Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life"

***
My book Praying is available as a Kindle book HERE

Paperback HERE and HERE.

Hard cover HERE

You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Holiness and Culture

Trees reflected in the River Raisin
In Exodus 15:11 we read these beautiful words: Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

The holiness of God is majestic. Awe-inspiring. Other. 

This word "holy" means "set apart." Like fine dinnerware gracing the table on the most special celebrations. Like a young man and a young woman who have set their hearts and bodies apart for the marital union.  That's different. 

This word "holy" can be translated as "different." But from what? From this fallen world. Different from the prevailing world system. Different from culture in the sense that one no longer worships before and under cultural liturgies. (On cultural liturgies see James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit.) 

"Holiness" is as different from secular culture as light is from darkness. Holiness is light rather than darkness. Some thing, or someone, who is light would necessarily contain no darkness at all, just as a rose contains not one part dandelion. I began to learn this about God many years ago when I broke free from the evil and boredom of cultural ordinariness and caught sight of holiness. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) 

I'm talking about the majestic otherness of God. Which brings us to the plebeian subhumanity of us. Hebrews 12:14 says: Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Why? Because God is holy, without remainder. Because I came to love God and desired God more than anything. Because I wanted to know God, with every fiber of my weak being.

More than anything. This is a mark of every true follower of Jesus who is captivated by a life of holiness. This is for every seeker who is sick and tired of trying to fit in with our sex-and-drug-and-appearance world and sets out to pursue holiness and difference, not for the sake of difference, but for the sake of the great calling and majesty of the One who made and sustains all things. (We could here make some post-structuralist, deconstructionst comments on pursuing diffĂ©rance rather than appearance.)

Holiness runs towards, not away. Holiness presses on, not languishes in. People who grow in holiness do so out of love, not out of fear. Holiness is attraction, not disappointment. Holiness is actualized possibility, not limitation. Holiness is liberation, not bondage. Holiness is revolutionary, not complacency. We leave the steel nets of our culture lying on the beach-heads of mediocrity so as to follow after He who is set apart and, ontologically, different.

Longing for God and finding Him. That's what holiness is about. 

Holiness is unique and non-comparative. When He found me and showed me His glory, I was ruined for this silly world of recurring sinful sameness that God died for. 

***
BTW, if you are interested...  My book Praying is available as a Kindle book HERE

Paperback HERE and HERE.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Long-Term Marijuana Use - This Is Your Brain on Drugs

A Harvard-Northwestern study has found differences between the brains of young adult marijuana smokers and those of nonsmokers. In these composite scans, colors represent the differences — in the shape of the amygdala, top, and nucleus accumbens. Yellow indicates areas that are most different, red the least.Credit       The Journal of Neuroscience

From age 18-21 I was a regular marijuana user. One day - the day of my conversion to Jesus - I stopped, forever. To quote Eric Clapton ("Cream"), "I'm so glad, I'm so glad, I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad."

That was during my college years. Dr. Hans Breiter, professor of psychology and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, says that “Working memory is key for learning. If I were to design a substance that is bad for college students, it would be marijuana.” ("This Is Your Brain on Drugs")

Breiter is co-author of a Harvard-Northwestern study published in the April 2014 Journal of Neuroscience. ("Cannabis Use is Quantitatively Associated with Nucleus Accumbens and Amygdala Abnormalities in Young Adult Recreational Users.") The results of the study are:


  • Recreational marijuana uses results in structural differences in two areas of the brain. (See "Casual Marijuana Use Linked to Brain Abnormalities.") 
  • "With the brain developing into the mid-20s, young people who smoke early and often are more likely to have learning and mental health problems." 
  • High-THC marijuana is associated with paranoia and psychosis, according to a June article in The New England Journal of Medicine. “We have seen very, very significant increases in emergency room admissions associated with marijuana use that can’t be accounted for solely on basis of changes in prevalence rates,” said Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a co-author of the THC study." 
  • In the Harvard-Northwestern study "all smokers showed abnormalities in the shape, density and volume of the nucleus accumbens, which “is at the core of motivation, the core of pleasure and pain, and every decision that you make,” explained Dr. Breiter."
  • "Evidence of long-term effects is also building. A study released in 2012 showed that teenagers who were found to be dependent on pot before age 18 and who continued using it into adulthood lost an average of eight I.Q. points by age 38."
My last joint was 45 years ago when my mental fog was healed. To quote another Clapton Cream song, "I feel free!"

***
See also:

Science News, "High-potency pot smokers show brain fiber damage." "People who use especially potent pot show signs of damage in a key part of their brain."

Psychological Medicine, "Effect of high-potency cannibis on corpus callosum microstructure." (Vol. 46, Issue 4, March 2016)

***
Oh - BTW - recreational marijuana use is against the law. So for a follower of Jesus whether or not to recreationally use marijuana is a no-brainer - it's against the law. Unless breaking the law is needed to advance the cause of Christ [like Jesus-followers in oppressive atheistic cultures] then it's beyond-difficult to see how recreational marijuana use would promote Christ.

Resolution: Be Transformed from Dissonance to Consonance

I took this picture of turkish delight
while in Istanbul. A man walking is reflected in the window.
It appears like he is eyeing the candy.

"Resolution" - the act or process of resolving." 
"The act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones," thereby "solving" something.  
"The act of determining."

"Resolution" - in music, "the passing of a voice part from a dissonant to a consonant tone or the progression of a chord from dissonance to consonance."  

For example, if a musical piece is in the key of C, G is the 5th. A musical piece that ends on the 5th begs to be resolved to the 1st, or tonic chord, which is in this case C. The unresolved 5th causes one to inwardly strain and lean towards the anticipated 1st. 


To "resolve" - fixity of purpose, resoluteness. For example: His comments were intended to weaken her resolve but they only served to strengthen it. (From here.)

If you are a Jesus-follower, don't make resolutions. Just resolve, today.

1. Resolve to inquire of the Lord.  

2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed,Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4)

Bring life's dissonance to the Lord. Now. 

Inquire of God, regarding the chaos and incompleteness. You've tried to figure out how the ending will be; instead, seek God about this. Not just once in a while, but today and every day. 

Place your trust in God, now. Get alone with God and receive direction. Like God called Jehoshaphat to declare a fast in response to unresolved dissonance in Judah, so God has promised to shepherd you through all things. God is willing to direct your paths.

Resolve to inquire of God, today and every day.

2. Resolve that your mouth will not bring destruction

2 May my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right. 

3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing; 
I have resolved that my mouth will not sin. 4 As for the deeds of men—
by the word of your lips
I have kept myself
from the ways of the violent. 
(Psalm 17:2-4)

I will keep my mouth shut unless my words serve to build up others.  

I will meet, often and alone, with God. I will abide in Christ. I will dwell in his presence. God will shape and form my heart into Christlikeness. (Gal. 4:19) This Jesus-heart will be what comes out of the space between my lips.

Resolve that your mouth will not destroy, today and every day.

3. Resolve not to defile your soul with the enemy's "turkish delight."

7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. 
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel... (Daniel 1:7-9)

Daniel refused to allow King Nebuchadnezzar to redefine his identity. Daniel "resolved"; i.e., Daniel "set upon his heart" not to pollute himself. 

Daniel set his heart "not to compromise himself by accepting his redefinition as a Babylonian. This is the matter of allegiance.

In C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund meets the White Witch, who seduces him with a delicious piece of  "turkish delight." He eats it, betraying Aslan, and his defiled heart falls under the Witch's dark spell.

Today, resolve not to compromise your allegiance to Jesus as your Lord.

4. Resolve to know Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

This is not rocket science. Learn about Jesus. Learn Jesus. Fix on him. Sum all things up in Jesus.

Resolve to know Christ and him crucified. Today. 


Be transformed from dissonance to consonance.
Tomorrow...



***
My book Praying is available as a Kindle book HERE. $9.99.

Paperback HERE and HERE.

Hard cover HERE

You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Open the Present

Flowers in Rockford, Illinois
 "Now is the time I must learn to stop taking satisfaction in what I have done, or being depressed because the night will come and my work will come to an end. Now is the time to give what I have to others and not reflect on it. I wish I had learned the knack of it, of giving without question or care. I have not, but perhaps I still have time to try."
- Thomas Merton, October 2, 1962, A Year with Thomas Merton

I think it was Annie Dillard, in her book The Writing Life, who wrote something like this: don't save your best writing, your best stories, your best illustrations, for later. Spend them now. I view preaching this way. This coming Sunday morning I will pour out all God has given me as today I pour myself into the biblical text and prayer. This is not about comparing yourself with others, or being worse or better than others. Comparison stalls the now-activity of God.

Spend the best that you have now on what God has called you to do. Don't save your best for some great occasion or great moment in the unknown future. If you don't give your best for Christ now, in the present moment, that future great moment will never come. 

God has given you spiritual gifts. Unwrap them today, and behold as the Spirit builds up the Church. You have much to give. Give all you can today for the glory of God. God has given you much. You are not some spiritual pauper. Use what God has given you now for his Kingdom and glory.

Husbands, spend time with your wives today. 

Friends, befriend one another today. 

Church, move now. 

Come, now is the time to worship. 

It's not time for another meeting to discuss "movement."  Today is the day of action, rescue, and salvation. 

Thank God for the past. Learn from the past. Don't wait for the future. The only moment you have is the present.

Present your life to God. 

Be present to God. 

Open the present.

Bloom today.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Foot Washing at Redeemer - 5/22/16



Foot washing at Redeemer - 5/22/16 - Photo by Karen Reaume

Authentic Community Saves Lives

Covall Russell

The Real Church provides authentic community. (One of the best books on community development in the church is Ruth Haley Barton, Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community.) Christ-centered community is one of the church's great distinctives. Therefore, nurture it. There will never not be a need for this.

Covall Russell was a ninety-two-year-old inmate in the Butte County, California, jail. Russell petitioned the judge to let him stay in jail after the end of his prison term. He had outlived his family and friends. Finally, this elderly bachelor had found a safe and caring community, in prison. Russell, in spite of his appeal, was released. He was interviewed. The "distraught Russell said his remaining options were to... violate his parole so he could return to jail, or maybe even take his own life." Shortly after this interview, Covall Russell jumped off a forty-foot bridge into the icy waters of the Feather River. (Adapted from Jean Lipman-Blumen, The Allure of Toxic Leaders, 79)

Humans were not made to live as isolates. Isolates "suffer the pangs of anomie and disconnection. They experience social death. They watch life from the sidelines." (Ib.) Unconnected to real community, they are the marginal people. (Remember "Brooks" in "The Shawshank Redemption?") 

For individuals to grow we need adequate social, spiritual, and economic support. Lack of these things cause us to be more anxious than ever. We float adrift, without meaning or direction. The meaning of "meaning" is: fitness within a coherent context. A human life that has meaning, that is experienced as meaningful, has found a place in a community of love.

Happily, Covall Russell had found a safe and caring community. Sadly, it was within constraining prison walls. Tragically, his radically individuated existence outside those walls drove him to a place of personal meaninglessness. Psychoanalyst and social philosopher Erich Fromm wrote: "each step in the direction of growing individuation threaten[s] people with new insecurities." (In Ib.) Loving community provides a secure foundation in life. Russell had his pulled from beneath him.

Authentic Jesus-communities provide koinonia. This biblical word comes from koine, which means "common." What we have in common, in Jesus-community, is Jesus. Where two or more get together, he is there with us. It's life-giving and life-saving. 

Growing Spiritually Even While We Sleep

Gliding Forward Even While We Sleep

Tree on fire in my backyard

I am reading (for the third time) Brother Lawrence's classic The Practice of the Presence of God. Books like this, like the reading of Scripture, take my heart to deep places of fitness and belonging. They bring my heart to its true home.

There are many gems in Brother Lawrence. All of them center on dwelling, 24/7, in God's empowering presence. The constant dwelling in Christ was Brother Lawrence's goal. For him this was like learning a new language. One either continues to practice it and grow in it, or neglect it and regress. He writes: "We must continuously walk in God's Spirit, since in the spirit-life not to advance is to fall back." (31)

The "24/7" part, for him, meant just that, and includes night time when we are sleeping. "Those who have the wind of the Holy Spirit in their souls glide ahead even while they sleep." (31) 

I agree. Consider the "branch - Vine" metaphor Jesus uses in John 15. The connected branch grows 24/7. It does not disconnect from the Vine for eight hours of sleep. Christ-dwelling is our status even while we sleep. Sometimes God gives us dreams, right? Surely he is still with us when we are not awake.

Awareness of Christ's presence is nice but not necessary. In sleep we unaware of it, but we are not unaffected. Spirit-morphing continues. Fruit-bearing happens.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jesus Privileged the Deprived to Deprive All Others of Privilege

DeKalb County, Illinois
If you want to read a beautiful little book by an excellent New Testament scholar that will introduce you to the Real Jesus and current Jesus-scholarship, then I recommend Richard Bauckham's Jesus: A Very Short Introduction.

Bauckham explains the upside-down kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed.. He says: "The kingdom is a topsy-turvy world that inverts all claims to personal importance in order to do away with all self-importance." (p. 77) For example, Jesus brings a little child by his side and says, shockingly, the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Just as it belongs to the likes of the poor.  Jesus doesn't call a child to illustrate a child's teachableness. A child resided on the near-bottom of the prevailing honor-shame hierarchy. This is precisely the shock effect felt by the disciples and the others who saw Jesus do this.

Bauckham writes:

"These poor, as we have noticed, are not the ordinary people, but the destitute, the people at the bottom of the social and economic heap. Jesus does not suppose that the kingdom belongs exclusively to them, but that they are the model citizens to which everyone else must conform." (p. 78)

The destitute are now to be treated as one's social equals.

Then, brilliantly, Bauckham writes this:

"On these terms, but only on these terms, Jesus did not confine the kingdom to the destitute, any more than he confined it to the children. He did very seriously privilege the destitute and the children, in order to deprive all others of privilege." (emphasis mine)

That... is beautiful! Jesus privileged the deprived to deprive all others of privilege.


***
(Here is where you can purchase my book on prayer.)