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.

***

 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

***

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.  :)

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.

Blessed Are the Free People Who Love

Oak tree, in my back yard

Blessed is the man or woman who does not kneel before the secular media.

Those who ignore the trolling twitter are educated.

Healthy are people who do not take on the offenses of others.

Blessed are all who don't play games in the Stadium of Sin.

Discerning is the person who does not travel on Sinners Highway.

Wise are those who say "No" to temptation, for they shall be called free.

Stable are the ones who don't regress.

Mature are the free people who do not...

slander

gossip

pass on offenses

degrade

insult

denigrate

demean

despise

ridicule

quid pro quo

seek revenge

hate

tear down

sit in the mocking seat.


Blessed is the man 
who does not walk in the counsel of 
the wicked 
or stand in the way of sinners 
or sit in the seat of mockers.

Psalm 1:1

Blessed are the free people who love.


I'm now writing Leading the Presence-Driven Church, to be published in late Spring, 2017.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

In Prayer, Be Fully Transparent To God

I did NOT take this cool photo.

The best spiritual place to be with God is in an attitude of full transparency. God knows what's in you anyway, so why not bare it all?

But why reveal anything at all, from our end, if God already knows us fully, inside and out? The answer is: the God-thing is about a relationship, not a ritual. God loves you, and wants you to trust His love. Relationship requires response. That's you and me.

The good parent knows a lot about their children. Their children do not realize this. If the child steals something, the most fruitful spiritual response will be for the child to come forth on their own instead of being exposed by their parents. Even if the parent already knows. 

The parent wants the child to trust them. In a similar way, God desires us to bring our entire selves before Him. In this way we learn to trust that God will always be truthful and loving towards us, and has His best interests in mind when it comes to us.

When it comes to other people, voluntary vulnerability is our response. We cannot be fully transparent before most people, because they are not God. We cannot trust that their response to us will be loving and truthful. For me, there's only a handful of people in my life that I can be entirely open before. The first among these is Linda. The qualities in her that allow me to trust her with my deepest self are:
  • I know she loves me
  • She never condemns me
  • She's not out to "get me"
  • She never tries to control me
  • She is forgiving (because she, like me, has been forgiven much)
  • She speaks truthfully to me (no game-playing or manipulating)
  • She champions my spiritual being - she wants Christ to be more deeply formed in me
I discovered this in her forty-three years ago. If she has changed it's that she's gotten better at this.

But my wife is not God. God is a lot better than she is, and than I am. For all who cry out to God for "more" of Him, this will involve laying all of you before Him. You will discover that God is...


  •  always good
  • loves you
  • is not out to "get you"
  • will not control you
  • is forgiving
  • speaks truthfully to you
  • champions your spiritual transformation into Christlikeness

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Prayer and Tearing Down Spiritual Strongholds



One Sunday morning at Redeemer God was moving and changing the direction of our service from the beginning. In the middle of worship there was a call to come forward and receive prayer for tearing down inner spiritual strongholds. Many people came forward and were released from the lies of the enemy.

We find the "spiritual stronghold" idea in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

A "spiritual stronghold" is an "argument," a "pretender" that builds itself "against the knowledge of God." Spiritual strongholds are fortresses made of pretense-thoughts that need to be torn down, lest our souls become captive to their lies.


Some examples of pretender-strongholds include:

·         Cares of the world
·         Anxiety
·         Unforgiveness
·         Bitterness
·         Grief (lasting)
·         Instability (emotions rule; the emotional rollercoaster)
·         Accusations (the “accuser of the brethren”)
·         Condemnation
·         Sin and patterns of sin


As I look at this list I realize I have battled everything on it. One of the weapons I have to demolish strongholds is praying.[1] In praying I take these thoughts captive, such as "I am a failure in God's eyes," or "God could never love someone like me." These are pretenders to the throne. They have no place in the fortress of God. I must remember that I am a temple of the Holy Spirit, and God's Spirit will never speak like this to a follower of Jesus.

I am praying for truth to defeat lies.


I’m asking God to:


  • Make me anxious for nothing
  • Give me his heart of forgiveness
  • Uproot any bitterness within me
  • Give me a heart of thankfulness
  • Heal my hurting, wounded heart
  • Have his truth, not my emotions, rule my heart
  • Free me from self-condemnation
  • Defeat sin in me once and for all
I write these prayers down on a list and carry them with me. I pray them, repetitively. I pray the Big Truth, which is: God loves me. As the Big Truth descends from my intellect to my heart it overwhelms the lies that threaten my status in Christ.

I pray this way a lot. While it's true that God can remove things once and for all, it is also true that I am in a spiritual battle, and the enemy of my soul does not let up.



[1] See Ephesians 6:18

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Bondage of Novelty and the Double Loss of Freedom

Leafless tree in Monroe

In The Hunger Games, it appears that the citizens of District 12, to include Katniss Everdeen, are not free, while the citizens in the Capital who rule over District 12 are free. This appearance would be false. Robert Joustra explains,

"Everyone in Panem has lost their freedom, whether through tyrannical suppression in the outer districts or the bondage of novelty and hedonism in the Capital. The same regime causes both, and this is what [Charles] Taylor calls the “double loss of freedom.” It’s two sides of the same coin, foretold by both Orwell (1984) and Huxley (Brave New World). (Robert Joustra and Alissa Wilkinson, How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World, p. 7)

Whether it is a nation, whether it is a marriage, wherever there is oppression both the oppressor and the oppressed are in bondage. Thus, we are not to be deceived by the illusion of freedom cast by "happy" oppressors. The oppressors themselves are not free, they just don't know it.

(See Charles Taylor, The Malaise of Modernity.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Election Is Over - Maintaining a God-perspective


Linda (above) and her sister Lora - praying.

If you are a follower of Jesus you should view yesterday's election through the lens of the Christian narrative. 


You won't get this from the media. 

Do not enframe political events through the secular media

Do not allow this world's mold to shape you. (Romans 12:1-2)

Spiritually, nothing changes. Maintain a God-perspective, and live and pray from there. Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.

Continue focusing on abiding in Christ, as you were doing before the election.

View life through Scriptures such as these. 
















Monday, November 07, 2016

The Election - Acquiring a God-perspective


If you are a follower of Jesus you should view tomorrow's election through the lens of the Christian narrative. 

You won't get this from the media. 

Do not enframe political events through the secular media. 

Do not allow this world's mold to shape you.

Acquire a God-perspective, and live and pray from there.

Meditate on these Scriptures.