Monday, November 28, 2016

Teaching Spiritual Formation this January in Savannah, Georgia

Image result for johnpiippo payne
One of my Payne Spiritual Formation classes
I'll be teaching my Spiritual Formation class for Payne Theological Seminary in Savannah, Georgia.

When: January 10-13, 2017

Where: Savannah State University, Savannah, Georgia

For information: Contact Ms. Althea Smoot at 937-376-2946, Ext. 222; or go to Payne's website here.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanksgiving Testimonies

Image result for redeemer fellowship church monroe
Kids praying at Redeemer

I invited people from my church (Redeemer, in Monroe, Michigan) to share testimonies of thanksgiving. Here are some that were submitted to me.

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 1)      I am thankful for shelter, though I don’t own it.
2)      I am thankful for income, though it’s not the job I prefer.
3)      I am thankful for family, though we are not biologically related.
4)      I am thankful for transportation, though it is in less-than-perfect condition.

Instead of complaining about things I will focus on what I have been given!

Blessings,
Jeffrey Beauman

***

This year, I am especially thankful for how faithful God is in answering prayer, especially when seeking His counsel for direction in major life decisions.  He provided for us and protected us from adversity in many ways this year, like in selling our home (when it wasn’t even on the market), buying our long-desired Lake Michigan home,—even providing a local condo to meet needs we didn’t even know we had!  I learned that our job is to ask, then WAIT…He does give very clear guidance in His time and in His way.  His hand of protection over our family as He guided us  this year has truly been remarkable, and has encouraged us to continue to trust in God in all things!  

Denise Hunter


***

I am so grateful for who our God is and HIS great love and mercy toward me. I am so grateful that HE is so trustworthy, so creative, so powerful and perfect. I am so grateful for HIS WORD and HIS SPIRIT who teaches us. I am grateful for life and the life HE has given me. I am grateful for my marriage and my delightful family. I am awed by the way HE uses all things for my good. I am so thankful for each person that HE has brought into my life. Each one is a gift from God to me. I thankful to be among HIS people and in a country that allows me to freely worship HIM. I am overwhelmed with HIS provisions for me. My cup runneth over.  Too much for my feeble thanks.

Sallie Collins


***

I am thankful that I can speak to God(!!!) about yummy pie and puffy white clouds, and it's important to Him. Yet, I can also speak to Him about my deepest fears and darkest secrets, and He won't freak out. 

Naomi Vaive


***

Redeemer Church, 
My family and I are so thankful for all your prayers for Gage. He was very sick and ended up having brain surgery last Thursday. He is recovery very well, and gets stronger each day with therapy. He will continue with outpatient therapy, hoping for a full recovery after a two week stay in Motts Children’s Hospital. Today he walked out of the hospital on his own two legs, something he couldn't do a week ago. We had so many prayers and an amazing group of supporters from everywhere, even strangers from  around the world. We have been praising God everyday, giving him all the glory for the miracle he gave us in Gage. We are filled with such gratitude and joy, God Bless you all. 
Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving! 

Joanne Bagley

***

I'm thankful that His glory will ALWAYS be found in even the darkest of circumstances in my life, even in loss. When we allow Him permission to work, he can beautifully mold our hearts to show us His glory and His love. When we lost our child in the womb, and consequently all future children, I never questioned His goodness. My only response after grieving was "Okay, God, show me YOUR glory, how are YOU glorified through this pain." His response was to work in my heart and give me a deep love for the kids and teenagers around me, and give me a desire to disciple them, and the grace to love them like they are my own children, even though I'm not much older than many of them. He has filled my life with children despite my circumstances telling me I would birth no more! That is a glorious work born from a place of deep pain. And the glory is His!

Nicole Griffin

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I am thankful that God spared my life after a very dire medical situation, not only keeping me alive physically, but also using this seemingly bad situation to provide a more vibrant, thankful, peace filled, and hopeful life.  I am thankful that He allowed me to see how many people I have in my life who truly love me and care about my well-being.  I'm thankful that He taught me in a very tangible way that He provides for our every need, even when we can't see how it will be possible.  I am thankful that depression, fear and anxiety no longer define my life, that I am not alone and don't have to figure everything out on my own.  I am thankful for my career and the opportunity to love on my students and their parents with His love.  

This is just the tip of the iceberg! There is SO much to be thankful for!

Jaymi Yettaw



***

The past three years have been a major battle - an attack from the enemy, but through the battle the Lord did something I didn't think was possible, The Lord saved my marriage; and we celebrated 35 years of marriage in September. I am thankful that I serve a God of the possible - Luke 18:27, where Jesus replied, "What is impossible with man is possible with God." 

I am thankful for a loving heavenly Father who is patient, for showing me that I am his beloved daughter, and in HIS timing, with love, He is taking me out of my comfort zone and placing me where HE wants me to be.

I am thankful for my husband, my children, and grandchildren.

I am thankful for my family Redeemer Fellowship church.

Denise Kukwa


Friday, November 25, 2016

Adventures With God - Episode 01 - "Desperation"



Darren Wilson's new TV series is now coming out. I'm in Episode One (and some others) - here it is.

The entire series is coming out Dec. 1. You will be able to purchase it here

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Praying with Thanksgiving Is a Stress-buster


Bridge, Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin

In  Philippians 4 Paul tells Jesus-followers to “not be anxious about anything.” (v. 6) The biblical Greek word for ‘anxious’ is often used in contexts  where persecution is happening. For example, in Matthew 10:19, where Jesus counsels his disciples, “When they arrest you, do not be anxious about what to say or how to say it.”

When Paul counsels the Philippians to not be anxious it’s not like he’s sitting down to a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner. He’s in prison! The context is: persecution. The Philippian Jesus-followers were suffering under opposition from their pagan neighbors, just like Paul and Silas had suffered when among them (Acts 16:19-24; Phil 1:28-30).

I know what worry and anxiety are like. I have, in some especially troubling times, felt consumed by them. So I ask - how realistic is it to be told “Be anxious about nothing?” Paul’s answer, and his experiential reality, is found in his rich, ongoing prayer life. He writes: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

I have proof that this works, (following Henri Nouwen, in his book Gracias!): When I don’t pray I am more easily filled with worry, and fear. In the act of praying I enter into the caregiving of the Great Physician, who dials down the anxiety.

In everyday prayer-conferencing with God I present my requests to him. I lay my burdens before him (See 1 Peter 5:7). I have a Father God who loves me, in whom I trust. Where there is trust, there is neither worry nor anxiety. A person with a praying life grows in trust and diminishes in anxiety. A praying person discovers, experientially, that trust and anxiety are inversely proportionate. 

Paul writes that our prayers should be accompanied “with thanksgiving.” Ben Witherington writes: “Paul believes there is much to be said for praying in the right spirit or frame of mind.” This is significant for the Roman Philippians, since pagan prayers did not include thanksgiving. Roman prayers were often fearful, bargaining prayers, not based on a relationship with some loving god.

Witherington adds: “Prayer with the attitude of thanksgiving is a stress-buster.”

John Wesley said that thanksgiving is the surest evidence of a soul free from anxiety.

The antidote for worry and anxiety is: praying, with thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Official Chair of the World Chess Championship

Magnus Carlsen testing different chairs before the match
Magnus Carlsen testing different chairs before the match. The Staples chair that was chosen is at left.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MISHA FRIEDMAN

Scroll down here to read about the official chair of the world chess championship.

The chair is sold at staples - here.


A Resource for Struggling Marriages - for only $1.99


Dr. Gary Chapman (author of The 5 Love Languages) has written a book for troubled marriages - One More Try: What to Do When Your Marriage Is Falling Apart.

It's on sale as a Kindle book for only $1.99.

Other Chapman books for $1.99 are...

Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married (Linda and I have recommended this book to many couples.)

The Marriage You've Always Wanted


God's Love is Pure Because It Needs Nothing

Two of the pastors who attended my pastors retreat in Eldoret, kenya

I am praying to love as God loves. I would not be praying like this if I already loved as God loves.

I am familiar with the Scriptures. I read the many stories of the love of God. I may be a fool, but at least I can see the great abyss between whatever love I have and the love of God.

God's love is not like ours.

This is, from one perspective, good. If God's love was like ours, then God would be reduced to the lowest common denomination of love. God's love would be a single penny. God's love would have little to give. 

If God's love was like ours, then God would be escorted off the throne where he reigns over the cosmos, and take a seat in the recliner, ruling over the remote control.

It is good that God's love is not like ours. It is not good that our love is not like God's.

God's love is unpossessive. God's love is pure because it needs nothing. (See Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours, 118)

You can only love when you do not need. Because need grasps, so that it may possess. Love holds things and people lightly, and holds onto God tightly.

True love holds, without owning. God's love does not control or demand our reciprocity. God's love waits. Only the unpossessive can wait. Only those who wait are free to love. True love waits for a response.

I am praying for a love like this to find its home in my heart.

Testimonies of Thankfulness

Image result for johnpiippo thanks
Worship at Redeemer

Scripture repeatedly instructs us to cultivate a heart of gratitude to God for who he is and what he has done. 

In 2 Chronicles 5:13 we read this typical story.

The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud.

What are you thankful to God for? Write it up and send it to me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord! If you have a testimony of thankfulness you would like to share with me I will post it on my blog on Saturday.


***
Names of other people should be used with their permission, as applicable.

No longer than a paragraph - 150 words or less please.

I will use your full name.

I will edit your submission, as needed.  :)

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Many Benefits of Thankfulness

Grand Haven, Michigan

Gratitude is greater than bitterness. Thankfulness is better than resentment. 

Colossians 3:15 says:

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

A heart of thankfulness positively affects one’s entire being. Many scientific studies confirm this. Here are some of them.

From “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier” (Harvard Medical School)

  • “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
  • Dr. Martin Seligman (University of Pennsylvania) says most studies on showing gratitude to others support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.
  • Gratitude can improve relationships. “For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.
  • Gratitude is associated with emotional maturity.
  • “Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.”

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.
·        Write a thank-you note.
·        Thank someone mentally. (“It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.”)
·        Keep a gratitude journal. I make lists of things I am thankful for and carry them with me.
·        Count your blessings.
·        Pray. “People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.”


Research reveals that gratitude can have these benefits.

  • ·        Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  • ·        Gratitude improves physical health. “Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences.”
  • ·        Gratitude improves psychological health. “Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
  • ·        Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. “Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.”
  • ·        Grateful people sleep better. “Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer." 
  • ·        Gratitude improves self-esteem.(Acc. to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.)
  • ·        Gratitude increases mental strength. (Acc. to a 2006 study in Behavior Research and Therapy, and a 2003 study in the Journal of Personality and social Psychology.


From “Giving Thanks: The Benefits of Gratitude” (Psychology Today)
·        
Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough “point out the benefits of expressing gratitude as ranging from better physical health to improved mental alertness. People who express gratitude also are more likely to offer emotional support to others.

·        “Expressing gratitude in your daily life might even have a protective effect on staving off certain forms of psychological disorders. In a review article published this past March (see below), researchers found that habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.
·        Increase your gratitude-ability by looking for small things to be thankful for.
From “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude” (University of Berkeley)

·        It’s easy to take gratitude for granted. “That might be why so many people have dismissed gratitude as simple, obvious, and unworthy of serious attention. But that’s starting to change. Recently scientists have begun to chart a course of research aimed at understanding gratitude and the circumstances in which it flourishes or diminishes.”
·        Recent studies on people who practice thankfulness consistently report a number of benefits:
·        Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
·        Higher levels of positive emotions;
·        More joy, optimism, and happiness;
·        Acting with more generosity and compassion;
·        Feeling less lonely and isolated.

From “Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and Mental Health” (Psychiatry Advisor)
Gratitude can have a positive effect on a person’s emotions in four significant ways.

·        First, gratitude magnifies positive emotions by helping us to appreciate the value in something; thus gaining more benefit from it.  

·        Second, it blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, and regret - emotions that can destroy happiness.  

·        Third, gratitude fosters resiliency.

·        And lastly, gratitude promotes self worth. 


·        
  • Gratitude is good for your heart. “According to a recent study at the University of California, San Diego, being mindful of the things you're thankful for each day actually lowers inflammation in the heart and improves rhythm. Researchers looked at a group of adults with existing heart issues and had some keep a gratitude journal. After just two months, they found that the grateful group actually showed improved heart health.”
  • ·        You’ll smarten up. “Teens who actively practiced an attitude of gratitude had higher GPAs than their ungrateful counterparts, says research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.”
  • ·         It’s good for your relationships. “Expressing gratitude instead of frustration will do more than just smooth things over—it will actually help your emotional health. Expressing and attitude of gratitude raises levels of empathy and abolishes any desire to get even, found researchers at the University of Kentucky.”
  • ·        You’ll sleep more soundly. “ Writing in a gratitude journal before turning in will help you get a longer, deeper night's sleep, says a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.”
  • ·        You’ll have better sex. “Couples who regularly say thank you to their partner feel more connected and more confident, according to a study published in the journal Personal Relationships.”


See also:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

When Giving Thanks Becomes Instinctual

The River Raisin in my back yard

When giving thanks to God descends from your mind into your heart it has become instinctual. Throughout the day you find yourself saying, "Thank you, God." It happened this morning. I found myself taking a deep breath, and then - instinctively - saying "Thank you, God, for life."

I don't take this for granted. Many of my journal entries over the years record "Thank you, God" moments.

Psalm 9:1-2 reads:

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.


Here David the psalmist is oppressed by enemy forces, but God shows up to defeat them. This causes David to give thanks, with all his heart. His thanksgiving goes public as David openly testifies to God's "wonderful deeds." All this happens in an atmosphere of gladness and praise.

I make lists of God's wonderful acts and deeds, done to me and Linda. I have written them down in an email, and sent the email to myself. It's not that I'm so e-barren that I need more emails. It's just that I don't want to forget the many things God has done for me, for which I am deeply grateful. 

I have an ever-looping email I call THANKFULNESS. I keep adding to the list of things I am thankful for, only to reply to myself with these things again and again.

When I re-read my thanks-list it gives birth to more thanksgiving "with all my heart."

As you pray, enumerate things you are thankful for.

Then, thank God for them.

*****
DATE _______________________

God, I thank you for...

1. ___________________________________________________________

2. ___________________________________________________________

3. ___________________________________________________________

4. ___________________________________________________________

5. ___________________________________________________________

6. ___________________________________________________________

7. ___________________________________________________________

8. ___________________________________________________________

9. ___________________________________________________________

10. __________________________________________________________

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Preachers - Ignore What the Public Wants

Tipp City, Ohio

At Redeemer we preach, on Sunday mornings, verse-by-verse through the biblical books. This takes time. It is a brick-by-brick strategy that God has given us, viz.: 1) develop a biblically literate community; and 2) raise the level of Jesus-literacy.

We preached through the four Gospels chronologically, which took seven years. In 2015 we preached through the book of Revelation for a year. Then James. Before that Paul's letters, Hebrews, etc. Now we are in 1 Peter.

I like doing this, because I don't have to look ahead to wonder what sermon series I'm going to do next, and every topic one would ever want to discuss comes up as we preach through the Scriptures.

One more thing: when you preach through the Scriptures you attend to them, not to what consumer Christians in the Audience Church want to hear. As C.S. Lewis wrote:

"A man who first tried to guess 'what the public wants', and then preached that as Christianity because the public wants it, would be a pretty mixture of a fool and a knave." (Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, p. 120)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Byproduct of Contentment Is Economic Ruin

Woods cross from my house, Munson Park

The pursuit of happiness will leave you perpetually unsatiated. That is its goal.

In America this is especially true, since we have a consumer-driven economy. For our country to stay afloat, people must continually purchase. Spending must increase. As we approach Christmas, sales must be up (which, of course, has nothing to do with the real Christmas).

Products are marketed in terms of the amount of happiness they will produce. (See, e.g., The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being.) The irony is that these products must ultimately produce discontent, so that we want more, or something different, something newer. The economic cycle is never-ending: happy, discontent; happy, discontent; and so on ad infinitum. Wealthy is the nation whose people are unhappy.

Thomas Merton, writing prior to 1966, said:

"If we are fools enough to remain at the mercy of the people who want to sell us happiness, it will be impossible for us ever to be content with anything. How would they profit if we became content? We would no longer need their new product. The last thing the salesman wants is for the buyer to become content. You are of no use in our affluent society unless you are always just about the grasp what you never have." (Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander; in Through the Year With Thomas Merton, 198)

The teachings of Jesus and the apostle Paul are bad news for our economy. If the poor became blessed, and Jesus' followers acquired contentment in all circumstances, and knowing Christ became life's greatest thing, then today's money-changers would have their laptops overturned. 

The economic wheel would grind to a halt, and read: blessed, content.