Friday, December 30, 2016

Praying Book Study at Redeemer - Jan - May 2017


Image result for johnpiippo praying


I will lead a five-month book study on my new book Praying. In this study, which will include practical application, we will cover many aspects of a praying life. I will take participants deep into a life of prayer. 

Everyone who attends will receive a copy of the Study Guide. 

First meeting - Saturday morning, Jan. 7, 10 AM, in the blue classroom. 

I will teach out of my book. 

You can attend without buying the book, or you can purchase it at amazon.com

This class will meet once a month, Jan - May. 

Our prayer focus will be the Psalms. 

A sign-up sheet is in the lobby. Or, send me an email - johnpiippo@msn.com.

Praying Book Study at Redeemer - Jan - May 2017


Image result for johnpiippo praying


I will lead a five-month book study on my new book Praying. In this study, which will include practical application, we will cover many aspects of a praying life. I will take participants deep into a life of prayer. 

Everyone who attends will receive a copy of the Study Guide. 

First meeting - Saturday morning, Jan. 7, 10 AM, in the blue classroom. 

I will teach out of my book. 

You can attend without buying the book, or you can purchase it at amazon.com

This class will meet once a month, Jan - May. 

Our prayer focus will be the Psalms. 

A sign-up sheet is in the lobby. Or, send me an email - johnpiippo@msn.com.

God Desires Participants, not Admirers

Detroit

Soren Kierkegaard writes:

"Is God's meaning, in Christianity, simply to humble man through the model (that is to say putting before us the ideal) and to console him with 'Grace,' but in such a way that through Christianity there is expressed the fact that between God and man there is no relationship, that man must express his thankfulness like a dog to man, so that adoration becomes more and more true, and more and more pleasing to God, as it becomes less and less possible for man to imagine that he could be like the model? ... Is that the meaning of Christianity? Or is it the very reverse, that God's will is to express that he desires to be in relation with man, and therefore desires the thanks and the adoration which is in spirit and in truth: imitation? The latter is certainly the meaning of Christianity. But the former is a cunning invention of us men (although it may have its better side) in order to escape from the real relation to God." (In David Augsburger, Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-Surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor, 28)

Real Jesus-following is a following-after Jesus, a participation rather than spectating. It's not pew-sitting and being entertained, but "following the footsteps of Christ in imitation" (St Francis of Assisi, in Ib., 27). Real Church was never meant to be an entertainment center.

David Augsburger says that authentic Jesus-spirituality "accepts no substitute for actual participation." (Ib.) Augsburger writes: "We are not observers, not spectators, not admirers, not onlookers, not conceptualizers, but participants. Participation is the central theological framework of all careful thought-about spirituality...

...The ideal of discipleship as participation through the imitation of Christ is a recurring theme, reemerging wherever the practice of following Jesus in life is given priority." (Ib.)

Anyone who claims to belong to Jesus must follow the path taken by Jesus. As Richard Stearns has written, Jesus is looking for disciples, not "deciders."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Human Freedom Is Not Incompatible with God's Foreknowledge

Chicago Theological Seminary

Someone read my post on the compatibility of God's foreknowledge and human free will. They contacted me with a question, and then posted their question here, which reads:

"Recently I was reading about foreknowledge and free will, and looking at views that say that the two are incompatible and compatible.
In regards to the views that say the two are compatible, the people arguing for this view were bringing up the 'modal fallacy'. They formed their argument as such-
Given that A=God knows X will happen and B=X happens, there's a difference between the following two statements: 1) It is not possible for A to be true and B to be false, and 2) If A is true then it is not possible for B to be false.
The argument is that the first statement is true, but the second is false. However, I don't understand the difference between the two. The first statement is saying that A and B can't be true and false respectively (they both have to be true). So if God knows X will happen (A), then X will happen (B). Isn't the second statement saying the same thing but in a different way? It says that if A is true, then B cannot be false. This seems to be true as well, but somehow it's false (and different than the first statement?). Apparently, if A is true then B doesn't NECESSARILY have to be false, but that doesn't make sense, because the first statement literally said that it's impossible for A to be true and B to be false (and this statement is accepted to be true!). So, if A is true then doesn't B necessarily have to be false?
I don't seem to understand the difference between the two statements, and more importantly I don't get why the first statement is true but the second is false."

I emailed them my response to this, which is:

The two statements are not saying the same thing.

Statement 1 does not commit the modal fallacy.

Statement two does. Here’s how it does.
A conditional statement is made of two statements, an antecedent statement and a consequent statement.

E.g. – If God knows John will eat an orange, then John cannot not eat an orange. The consequent is equivalent to: It is necessary (logically) that John eat an orange.
But that statement (i.e., the consequent) ascribes logical necessity to a contingent event. In doing that, the modal fallacy is committed. Because: 1) it is possible for John to eat an orange; 2) It is probable (more or less) that John eat an orange; but 3) It is not logically necessary that John eat an orange. Thus, statement 2 commits the modal fallacy of ascribing logical necessity to a contingent event. (Because it is possible that John doesn't eat an orange.)

Therefore, God’s foreknowledge and human free will are not incompatible.
See esp. – The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Foreknowledge and Free Will" (scroll down to "The Modal Fallacy").





Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas - I'm Still Celebrating

I put this slide show together and showed it on Christmas Eve at Redeemer. I used some of my winter photos taken in Monroe, and added quotes on the birth of Christ.

Merry Christmas! (I'm still celebrating...)































Sunday, December 25, 2016

Uncovering Jesus at Christmas


We had ten inches of snow in Southeast Michigan a few weekends ago. This prevented a number of our people from coming to the church building on Sunday morning.

On Monday Linda and I were driving on Elm Street in Monroe. The snowfall had stopped. Everything was coated white. Even the nativity scene in front of one of our funeral homes was feeling the effects.

Linda pointed to the scene and said, "Look, something is wrong." Yes. The manger had so much snow on it that you couldn't see the point of it all. I looked and saw Mary, Joseph, animals, but no Jesus.

This bothered me.

I returned to the manger scene later in the day and took a photo, as evidence that a white Christmas covers up Jesus. It's not something we should be dreaming of.



As lo, the days of the week hastened on, the image of the snow-covered Jesus stayed with me. On Saturday it was still on my mind. I was at the state park on Lake Erie, working on my sermon. Snow-covered Jesus was getting to me. I thought, "This is a symbol of how the holidays have overrun Christmas and layered over the real Christmas." The "holidays" are a cover-up, drawing attention from the actual event.

Then it hit me. I am to go back to the manger, clear the snow off baby Jesus, and uncover him for the world to see.

I drove to the funeral home and parked. I put on my gloves, and grabbed my camera. There were two men shoveling the sidewalks. Because I'm still not perfectly secure in my missional activity, I wondered what these men might think of me. And, it's a fairly busy street corner. People might see me. They might recognize me as Redeemer's pastor. Some already think we're a crazy church, since we believe in demons, angels, healing, miracles, signs, and wonders. And in Jesus, who believed all those things, too.

I walked through the snow, stood before the manger, and bent low over it. Is there a baby beneath the snow? Yes - to my delight and joy - there he is! Jesus, uncovered. Jesus, revealed. Revelatione Jesu. O holy night! Joy to the world!

Merry Christmas, everyone.






Saturday, December 24, 2016

Violent Night (An Alternative Christmas Story)


Monroe

In Revelation 12:1-7 we have an alternative nativity story. Eugene Peterson writes:  “This is not the nativity story we grew up with, but it is the nativity story all the same.” (Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, 121)

This is why C.S. Lewis referred to the birth of Christ as an act of war. Christmas, said Lewis, is about "The Great Invasion." In chapter 7 of Mere Christianity he writes:

"One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe--a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin...  


Christianity agrees that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage." 


Christmas Eve was the night before the Great Invasion. The creatures were stirring, even the mouse. We see this upheaval in the non-holiday telling of Christmas found in Revelation 12:1-7. It reads:

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. 

And there was war in heaven.

Robert Mounce says that: 

  1. The "woman" here is not Mary, but the messianic community, the "ideal Israel"
  2. Out of the messianic community is born a "child," a Messiah; 
  3. The seven-headed red dragon is Satan (Rev. 12:9; 20:2); and
  4. Satan is looking to devour this child; AKA Jesus the Christ. 

Mary has already been prophetically warned about such things. In Luke 2 we read that...

...the old man "Simeon took him [baby Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." 

The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." 

Violent night

Holy night

All's not calm

All's not bright

Christmas Eve - that violent night when the Light of the World descended into darkness..
.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Day Your Reputation Died

Bolles Harbor, Lake Erie, Monroe

One of my struggles has been about what other people think of me. I have gone up and down, at times, with the evaluations of others, whether good or bad.

I believe I have a modicum of victory over this disease, but am not all the way home yet. I still have my moments of false security and insecurity.

I know where I need to land. It's on the foundation of my true identity, in Christ. When this is rock solid in my spirit, and I stand on the truth that I am fully loved no matter what, I can listen to the praise and blame of others without taking them on myself. In those times I am free, and love others more perfectly.

Scot McKnight writes:

"Sometimes the implication of listening to the voice of God is that we ruin our reputation in the public square. Loving God involves surrendering ourselves to God in heart, soul, mind, strength - and reputation. The minute we turn exclusively to the Lord to find our true identity is the day our reputation dies. We learn, as Thomas à Kempis puts it. that when you surrender your reputation, "you won't care a fig for the waggles of ten thousand tongues."" (McKnight, in Rediscovering Advent, 25)

***

My recent book of prayer is: Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Monday, December 19, 2016

My Sermon on The Lord's Prayer - No. 3



You can listen to my third sermon on the Lord's prayer HERE.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.


***
To learn about our church go to our website - Redeemer Fellowship Church.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016

Eight Books by Henri Nouwen in One Volume

















Eight of Henri Nouwen's books are now available in one volume - The Spiritual Life: Eight Essential Titles by Henri Nouwen.

Only $12.99 for your Kindle.

  • Intimacy
  • A Letter of Consolation
  • Letters to Marc About Jesus
  • The Living Reminder
  • Making All Things New
  • Our Greatest Gift
  • Way of the Heart
  • Gracias



The Spiritual Life: Eight Essential Titles by Henri Nouwen by [Nouwen, Henri J. M.]


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Looking for a Study Bible?



The only Study Bible to get is: NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, edited by Craig Keener and John Walton.

I've been using it for a month now. It is brilliant!

And...



“How I wish someone had put a book like this into my hands 50 years ago.” - N.T. Wright, Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of St. Andrews, Scotland

“I cannot recommend a study Bible any more than this one: Five stars!” - Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

***
My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Viability" Is Irrelevant to Personhood (and Abortion)

Monroe County (Ford pickup emerging from the womb)

On Tuesday, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law a bill that would ban the procedure of abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization. The New York Times says: “The new law makes no exception for rape or incest and, like the heartbeat bill, is part of a dangerous nationwide effort to roll back abortion rights that has gained momentum with Donald Trump’s election.” ("Rolling Back Abortion Rights After Donald Trump's Election")

“Abortion rights” is a euphemism for “kill an inborn person.” The new Ohio law is part of an effort to roll back the right to kill someone.

I and many others are against abortion precisely because we believe the inborn entity is a person, and that all persons have the right to life. To conclude that the inborn entity is a person obviates exceptions for rape or incest. Rape and incest are horrors. But we don’t murder persons who are innocent on account of these conditions.

Unfortunately, the Ohio bill does not go far enough. The conceptus-embryo-fetus will have to make it past 20 weeks to guarantee survival.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot ban abortion before viability, which most experts put around 24 weeks.” (Ib.) But “viability” is irrelevant if the inborn entity is a person (using, e.g., a substance view of personhood). Viability does not change the nature of the fetus so that a non-person turns into a person. Viability measures medical technology, not one’s personhood or humanity.

The viability criterion seems to be arbitrary, therefore irrelevant to the question of whether the unborn is fully human. The “viability criterion” only tells us when some persons in our culture want to accept the personhood of the unborn. I have no moral obligation to accept someone else's category mistake of defining "person" technologically, rather than philosophically and/or religiously.

“In Ohio there’s “a new sense of outrage” and a growing sense of urgency in fighting for reproductive rights.” There’s another euphemism – “reproductive rights.” Again, this means “the right to kill inborn persons.”
I, and many others in our country, have long had a sense of outrage at the mass slaughter of inborn children. Now, perhaps, the time is coming when this horror will be abolished, and inborn children will have an opportunity to live beginning at conception.

***
My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Overcoming Spiritual Self-Blindness

Image may contain: night and sky
The moon, 200,000 miles above my house

I once was invited to speak to medical students at Michigan State University's School of Human Medicine. I talked with some of them after my presentation. The subject of self-evaluation came up. The students told me they were advised not to diagnose themselves when experiencing troubling symptoms. They should get an outside evaluation from another physician. The reason for this is that it is hard to see clearly when you are self-involved. This is also why you and I should, in general, stay off the internet when we are symptomatic.

The same principle holds, generally, in the spiritual and moral life. In Psalm 19:12 the psalmist writes, Who can discern their own errors? The answer is: no one, or at least, not many.

We are notoriously blind when it comes to our own spiritual self. One symptom of spiritual self-blindness is going up and down with the opinions of people, about you. Both self-grandiosity and self-hatred indicate a lack of self-revelation.

The remedies for this are:

1. Immerse yourself in the Jesus community. Be part of a small, home group fellowship. Over the years I have learned much about myself in small group contexts.

2. Have a spiritual mentor. Connect with someone who cares for you and loves you enough to tell the truth, as they discern it, about you.

3. Abide in Christ, and as part of that abiding pray, Search me, O God, and know my heart. I have found that, as I do this, God reveals the truth about me, either immediately by His Spirit, or mediately by His Spirit through people and circumstances.

When we come to see more truth about who we really are, it is all accompanied by God's perfect love, even when the truth is a hard one. This is all redemptive, all part of the rescue of us.

***
My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Sermon on The Lord's Prayer - No. 2

Image result for JOHNPIIPPO REDEEMER
Redeemer sanctuary

You can listen to my second sermon on The Lord's Prayer HERE.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.

The Marriage Is More Important Than the Wedding

Monroe County

I have done many weddings, and seen fewer marriages. The wedding gets all the hype and attention, but the marriage is more important. Many weddings are little more than a selfie; a marriage is meant to be a lifelong selfless.

Eugene Peterson writes:

"When I talk with people who come to me in preparation for marriage I often say, “Weddings are easy; marriages are difficult.” The couple wants to plan a wedding; I want to plan a marriage.

They want to know where the bridesmaids will stand; I want to develop a plan for forgiveness. They want to discuss the music of the wedding; I want to talk about the emotions of the marriage.

I can do a wedding in twenty minutes with my eyes shut; a marriage takes year after year after year of alert, wide-eyed attention.

Weddings are important. They are beautiful; they are impressive; they are emotional; sometimes they are expensive. We weep at weddings and we laugh at weddings. We take care to be at the right place at the right time and say the right words. Where people stand is important. The way people dress is significant. Every detail— this flower, that candle— is memorable. All the same, weddings are easy. But marriages are complex and difficult.

In marriage we work out in every detail of life the promises and commitments spoken at the wedding.

In marriage we develop the long and rich life of faithful love that the wedding announces.

The event of the wedding without the life of marriage doesn’t amount to much. It hardly matters if the man and woman dress up in their wedding clothes and re-enact the ceremony every anniversary and say “I’m married, I’m married, I’m married” if there is no daily love shared, if there is no continuing tenderness, no attentive listening, no inventive giving, no creative blessing.

- Peterson, Eugene H., Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best,.Kindle Locations 852-863)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Moving From Self-Hatred to Self-Forgiveness


My backyard - a light at the end of the tree tunnel

There are things in my past that I wish I would have done differently, words I wish I would have spoken, and words I wish I would not have said. I'm thinking of one of my past failures right now. The good news is that I am not hating myself for hurting someone years ago.

If you struggle with self-hatred I recommend Everett Worthington's - Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free From the Past. Worthington is Professor of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, and a follower of Jesus.

I got this book two years ago and am still slow-cooking in it. I can never hear enough about forgiveness. I need it for myself. And, I need more wisdom in dispensing it to others.

I meet many who cannot forgive their own selves from past failures, whether real or imagined. Un-self-forgiveness is a mental and spiritual assassin. Self-forgiveness, that is rooted in God's great act of forgiveness in Christ, is liberating.

Self-forgiveness will free you from guilt. "Sometimes guilt arises over unrealistic expectations and standards of perfection that none of us can achieve. When you are able to forgive yourself, that weight is lifted." (Worthington, p. 45)

Self-forgiveness will free you from self-blame. "Self-forgiveness frees you from the chattering, accusing voice in your head." (Ib., 46)

Self-forgiveness will free you from stress-related illness. "Self-forgiveness can improve your health, and here’s why. Holding on to self-condemnation elevates your stress, which has been associated with a long list of physical and psychological harm." (Ib.)

Self-forgiveness can liberate you from alcohol misuse. "Forgiveness of the self might be, for alcoholics, the most difficult type of forgiveness to achieve. But if they were able to do so, it could help control their drinking." (Ib., p. 47)

Self-forgiveness can liberate you from accusation. "By bringing our sins to God and receiving God’s forgiveness, we can then forgive ourselves and we can rest in the knowledge that the accusations of Satan are groundless. If we forgive ourselves, we can silence the oppressive voice of the enemy." (Ib., 47)

Self-forgiveness provides freedom for flourishing. "By not being so wrapped up in self-condemnation, you can enjoy more pleasurable and positive experiences." (Ib.)

Self-forgiveness provides freedom for focusing on God. "Instead of being wrapped up in condemning yourself for past failures, you can seek God and enjoy that relationship." (Ib.)

Self-forgiveness provides freedom for focusing on others. "Self-forgiveness allows you to focus on others, with the goal of helping to meet their needs." (Ib., p. 48)

Self-forgiveness provides freedom for health. "Self-forgiveness provides energy and vitality. It supplies both a freedom from the past and a forward-thinking orientation that helps you seek the benefits of exercise, a healthy diet, and energetic work." (Ib.)

Self-forgiveness provides freedom for a better quality of life. "Self-forgiveness can matter greatly in enhancing one’s quality of life." (Ib., 50)

Self-forgiveness provides freedom for peace. "People who continue to wrestle with self-blame are unsettled. They find it difficult to exhale and relax. Forgiving yourself will help you live at peace." (Ib.)

Worthington cites empirical studies that support these conclusions. Why, given the great benefits of self-forgiveness, would anyone choose to wallow in self-condemnation? 
Why is forgiving ourselves so hard? 

Worthington says there are two kinds of self-forgiveness: decisional self-forgiveness, and emotional self-forgiveness. 


In the first you will no longer seek retaliation against yourself. You will choose to not punish yourself for past failings. Instead, you choose to value yourself. 

In emotional self-forgiveness you replace negative, unforgiving emotions with positive emotions toward yourself. "It is emotional self-forgiveness that cools the heat of anger in your heart; it’s what Corrie ten Boom referred to as “the temperature of the heart .” The emotions that we use to replace negative, unforgiving emotions are empathy, sympathy, compassion, and love for ourselves." (Worthington, p. 52) 

Why are these things so difficult to do?

Worthington cites studies showing that forgiving yourself is different from forgiving others. It is harder to forgive yourself than to forgive others. He writes:

"When you attempt to forgive someone else for an offense, you are adopting the viewpoint of the forgiver. The wrongdoer, of course, is someone other than yourself. However, when you try to forgive yourself, you have to operate from two points of view— both forgiver and wrongdoer. Holding contrasting points of view at the same time is a strain. It is hard to bounce back and forth from one perspective to the other." (Ib., p. 54)

In forgiving someone else we are not with them (for the most part) 24/7. But we are with our own selves  and thoughts all the time. We can't get away from ourselves. This can make forgiving ourselves harder than forgiving others.

Worthington says self-forgiveness is harder because we have "insider information"; i.e., we have information about who we really are. "The fact is, we know too much about ourselves. We know that we are capable of repeating the same wrong even when we know how hurtful it is. We also know that, as much as we profess love for God, we are like Paul who wrote: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7: 15). That is, we know the weakness of our will to do the right thing." (Ib., 55)

Self-forgiveness is different and in some ways harder than other-forgiveness because:

1. We live with ourselves 24/7. That is, we live constantly with the one who has hurt us, which is us.

2. We have insider information about our own self that we cannot have when it comes to others.


How, then, can we forgive ourselves? Worthington gives Six Steps to Self-forgiveness. Here you need to read the whole book. But the 6 Steps are:

STEP 1 - Receive God's Forgiveness

  • Go to God for understanding (the task is too big to handle alone)
  • Go to God with regret, remorse, and repentance
STEP 2 - Repair Relationships
  • Take responsibility (you are not the model citizen you'd like to be)
  • Confess to any you have hurt (admitting you're in the wrong goes far in turning things around)
  • Make amends through responsible compassion (thinking of others can help you make things right)
STEP 3 - Rethink Ruminations
  • It's not necessarily helpful to wrestle with the Almighty
  • Adjust perfectionistic standards and unrealistic expectations (Worthington shows how to do this. Getting real about yourwelf moves the process forward.)


STEP 4 - REACH Emotional Self-forgiveness
  • Worthington shows how to move from saying it to feeling it, using the acronym REACH:

1. Recall the hurt. 
2. Empathize with yourself by considering the reasons that you disappointed yourself. 
3. Give yourself the same Altruistic gift you would give other people— understanding and forgiving. 
4. Commit to the emotional self-forgiveness that you experience in order to … 
5. Hold on to self-forgiveness if you ever doubt that you have forgiven yourself. (207)

STEP 5 - Rebuild Self-acceptance
  • Live in the truth that you are deeply flawed and also valuable beyond belief
STEP 6 - Resolve to Live Virtuously
  • Live virtuously, but give yourself room to fail
And through it all, remember Galatians 5:1 - "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free."