Saturday, April 29, 2017

Happiness Is a Negative Goal of Entitlement

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Trees in my backyard

I recommend John Townsend's The Entitlement Cure to every troubled person (such as I) who helps other troubled people.

"Entitlement" is "the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment. Entitlement is: The man who thinks he is above all the rules. The woman who feels mistreated and needs others to make it up to her.”  (p. 19).

Townsend says there are two negative fruits of entitlement. The first is: An attitude of entitlement will limit your goals. Entitlement thinking misconstrues the goal of life to be "happiness." Like: "I want to be happy, that's all." Entitlement people view the highest good in life as being a happy person. This, writes Townsend, "is one of the worst endgame goals we can have." (66)

Townsend states: 

"People who have happiness as their goal get locked into the pain/ pleasure motivation cycle. They never do what causes them pain, but always do what brings them pleasure. This puts us on the same thinking level as a child, who has difficulty seeing past his or her fear of pain and love of pleasure." (Ib.)

The root of this idea developed in the soil of Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism (see William Davies, The Happiness Industry). This is secularism's puerile substitute for objective moral values.  

"There is nothing wrong with happiness. But in a healthy life, happiness comes as a by-product of doing what you love, having purpose, and giving back. You don’t give your talents so that you’ll be happy; you give them because you care and you want to make a difference. Then you feel happy. Happiness is a by-product to enjoy, not a dream to seize." (Townsend, pp. 66-67)

The second negative fruit of entitlement is: "it freezes development." God made us to discover and develop a variety of abilities and passions. But "entitlement influences us to stay right where we are. It keeps us from growing, learning, challenging ourselves, or trying new things. It whispers to us, “That sounds really hard and it doesn’t look like it’s worth it.”" (Ib., 67)

This voice will put us to sleep. "We might become couch potatoes, video addicts, chronic partiers, or simply get in a rut and routine that becomes boring and deadening." (Ib.)

When we understand who we are and what we are here for, and then live out of our true identity and God's purposes for us, we will experience joy as a fruit, as a wonderful byproduct of the Spirit in us. 


Entitlement People Find Eternal Separation From God Reprehensible

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dinner and Auction to Support Mary Robey Koch

(Written by Mike Ansel)

Scripture says to mourn with those who mourn and to rejoice with those who rejoice. As people, and especially as a group of Christian (Called out ones) people, our hearts are drawn to this sister who has been through more than we can imagine or even phantom!  

Mary Robey Koch entered the hospital with the hope of delivering her first child and the joy this would bring her and her husband.  After delivering her healthy son Cooper Mary contacted Sepsis and was thrown into a fight for her life!  Her extremities were under attack and within two days of delivery her feet and lower calf were amputated.  Muscle and infected dead skin were also removed as the doctors at the University of Michigan raced to save her hands!  Prayer warriors were called upon to stand in the gap for Mary.  It was not to be so as two days after loosing her feet Mary lost her hands! Unimaginable nightmare for this young first time mother, her mom and dad, and her inlaws!

Mary spent seven months in the trauma burn unit at the U. of M. hospital, and has been home for a month now.  Mary has a long road ahead of her with therapy, prosthetics, Dr. appointments, and caring for her now 8 month old son!  Of course Mary has had her "down" moments, but her faith remains strong as she puts her spiritual hands to the plow and moves forward with grace, strength, and dignity!  Mary has had a lot of support from her family and friends, and that's where we come in at Redeemer Fellowship. We believe in the Church as the wider body of those who have been saved and sanctified by the sacrifice of Jesus. Mary is a fellow sojourner on this road leading to the Celestial City. It is our Christian honor to help her along the way!  

Mary and her family have many needs, and one of the most pressing is monetary. We (at Redeemer) are planning a Dinner/Auction in order to raise funds toward those needs. I (we) want to partner with this sister and her family in a show of Christian unity and support. 

Of course we welcome help from all people of good will and compassion toward this cause.

The time is fast approaching when we will collectively bring forth a sacrifice of praise as we fellowship around a meal and auction/fundraiser in support of Mary at Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe.  

The date is May 13th. with auction viewing at 4:00 p.m. and dinner at 5:00 p.m. Live auction to start after dinner.  Silent auction bidding will start upon your arrival.  Two separate dinners will be served.  The wild game dinner is $15.00 dollars for adults 13 and up and $8.00 dollars for those 12 and under.  4 and under free!  The alternative dinner will be a simple hot dog, sloppy Joe, potato chips, dessert, and drink dinner for $6.00 for adults and $4.00 for children 12 and under.

In order to have a smooth operation it would be so helpful if we can have a "head" count as to who will be attending so the proper amount of food can be prepared. Auction items are still being accepted, as well as desserts, or a special "wild game" dish you would like to prepare!  
Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated. Call Mike Ansel at 734-241-3329 home or 734-770-4660 for information.  Lets make this day before Mothers Day a time of rejoicing for Mary and her supporters!

Email Mike Ansel at -

Email John Piippo at  -

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dr. Seuss's Cartesian, Sartrean Birthday Philosophy

One of my favorite birthday books is Dr. Seuss’s epic Happy Birthday to You. For many years I read it to my sons on their birthdays. This has stopped, since they are now in their thirties.

Happy Birthday to You (hereafter HBtY) is the story of the Birthday Bird (hereafter BB) from the land of Katroo (hereafter Katroo), who arrives one night at the bedside of a boy on the eve of the boy’s birthday. The BB sweeps the kid up and takes him to Katroo for the hugest sugar-carb-filled birthday ever seen.

Seuss writes, on the BB:

“Katroo is the only place Birthday Birds grow.

This bird has a brain. He's the most beautifully brained

With the brainiest bird-brain that's ever been trained.

He was trained by the most splendid Club in this nation,

The Katroo Happy Birthday Asso-see-eye-ation.”

Even though Seuss does some loopy question-begging here, we see that the BB is smart. How smart? The BB has the “brainiest bird-brain that’s ever been trained.” 

The word “brainiest” is a superlative, indicating incomparability. The BB has (thinking on Anselmian lines) “a brain a greater than which cannot be conceived.” If it is the “brainiest” bird brain, indicating a brain a greater than which cannot be conceived, then the BB has omniscience. The BB seems to be, like God, an omniscient being.

The BB’s brain is “beautiful.” Like Nobel Laureate John Nash, the BB has “a beautiful mind.” Here one does not mean the brain’s physicality, but its sheer cognitive mental powers. But if the BB’s brain was “trained,” does that not imply that the brain-trainers of the Katroo Happy Birthday Asso-see-eye-ation have brainier brains than the brainiest brain of the BB? An omniscient brain would not require training. So on this point Seuss is logically incoherent.

"Dr." Seuss made his living on logical incoherencies. But that fact should not cause one to dismiss what comes next. To do so would be to miss some of the best philosophizing in all of Western culture.

“He [the BB] knows your address, and he heads for your bed.

You hear a soft swoosh in the brightening sky.

You are not all awake. But you open one eye.

Then over the housetops and trees of Katroo,

You see that bird coming! To you. Just to you!

That Bird pops right in! You are up on your feet!”

This is troublesome. A total stranger who:

1) Knows your address? How did the BB know your address? Because an omniscient being knows all things that can possibly be known, which would include your address.

2) The BB “pops right in.”

3) The BB “heads for your bed.”

This is disconcerting. The boy does not know the BB. He does not know the BB is omniscient. Even if he did know that the BB is omniscient, this does not imply that the BB is omnibenevolent. As far as the boy knows, the BB may be malevolent. Here is an omniscient and possibly malevolent Bird popping into your room, and heading for your bed. This is the stuff of nightmares. 

The BB says to the boy, “Get dressed!” This is an abduction. He sweeps the boy away, and on to Katroo! 

Five minutes later, you're having a snack

On you way out of town on a Smorgasbord's back.

"Today," laughs the Bird, "eat whatever you want.

Today no one tells you you cawnt or you shawnt.

And, today, you don't have to be tidy or neat.

If you wish, you may eat with both hands and both feet.

So get in there and munch. Have a big munch-er-oo!

Today is your birthday! Today you are you!

My concerns and thoughts include:

• The use of ‘cawnt’ and ‘shawnt’ are typical Seuss-isms as he desperately keeps the rhyme going.

• The assumption is: on your birthday, no one has the right to tell you what you can or cannot do. I like this, since today is my birthday.

• All food groups and food non-groups are fair game on your birthday. I like this, since today is my birthday.

• Forget all sanitary rules. I don't like this.

• Even eat with hands and both feet. The thought of eating with both feet disturbs me. Especially since, at my age, I can barely touch my feet.

• On your birthday you can eat like a pig with its snout everlastingly nuzzling in the trough of all calories.

Now Seuss engages in some big-time philosophizing. He writes: 

“Today is your birthday. Today you are you!”

You are you. ‘A’ is ‘A.’ This is the logic of identity. It’s tautological thinking, redundant stuff, Kantian analytic predicating. Leibnizian "identity of indiscernibles." When the subject is the self and the predicate is also the self we have a powerful, existential statement of personal identity. We are now heading in two converging directions; viz., Cartesianism and Kierkegaard’s idea of truth as subjectivity. Let us proceed.

“If we didn't have birthdays, you wouldn't be you.

If you'd never been born, well then what would you do?

If you'd never been born, well then what would you be?

You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!

You might be a doorknob! Or three baked potatoes!

You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes.

Or worse than all that… Why, you might be a WASN'T!

A Wasn't has no fun at all. No, he doesn't.

A Wasn't just isn't. He just isn't present.

But you… You ARE YOU! And, now isn't that pleasant!”

Seuss sets before us a philosophical smorgasbord. There are so many choices here that one wonders where to begin!

1. “If you’d never been born, then what would you do?” The answer is, ‘you’ wouldn’t ‘do’ anything, since ‘you’ would not be. "You" would not even be a "nonexistent thing," as if nonexistence could be predicated of nothing. ("Nonexistent thing" is a contradiction.)

2. You might be “a toad in a tree.” But this cannot be true, since if ‘you’ had never been born, then ‘you’ would not have been born as a toad in a tree. Had you been born as a toad in a tree you would have been born, and thus be a "you," but you would not know it. We have toads croaking in our backyard as I write. Perhaps some of them are in trees. Not one of them is thinking, “Wow – I was born as a toad in a tree!”

3. You could never have been born as a doorknob. No current physical theory allows for that kind of thing to happen. Doorknobs cannot procreate.

4. But… you might be a “Wasn’t.” That is, if you had never been born, even as a toad in a tree (but not as a doorknob) you would not exist at all and would be, ipso facto, a ‘Wasn’t.’ 

Pause here for a moment. I now compare Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness with Seussian philosophy.

In the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy essay on “Sartre’s Existentialism” we read:

“Sartre’s ontology is explained in his philosophical masterpiece, Being and Nothingness, where he defines two types of reality which lie beyond our conscious experience: the being of the object of consciousness and that of consciousness itself. The object of consciousness exists as “in-itself,” that is, in an independent and non-relational way. However, consciousness is always consciousness “of something,” so it is defined in relation to something else, and it is not possible to grasp it within a conscious experience: it exists as “for-itself.” An essential feature of consciousness is its negative power, by which we can experience “nothingness.” This power is also at work within the self, where it creates an intrinsic lack of self-identity. So the unity of the self is understood as a task for the for-itself rather than as a given.”

The connections between Sartre and Seuss should be obvious. But just in case they are not:

1. Seuss’s “You are you” (or later, his “I am I”) is “independent and non-relational.” Here, the Seussian self is not defined in relation to something else. It exists “for itself.” This is precisely the kind of birthday Seuss is advocating; viz., a birthday that is only about the self and for the self. I like this because today is my birthday.

2. A ‘Wasn’t’ has an “intrinsic lack of self-identity.” That is, a ‘Wasn’t’ essentially, or ontologically, lacks self-identity.

The philosophical excitement builds as Seuss writes:

“Shout loud at the top of your voice, "I AM I!


I am I!

And I may not know why

But I know that I like it.

Three cheers! I AM I!"”

Sartre’s definition of existentialism is: existence precedes essence. One first of all, primordially, exists. “I am .” Or: ‘A’ is ‘A.’ The predicate is self-identical with the subject. One’s existence is, drawing from Kant, “analytic” rather than “synthetic.”

Seuss continues:

“Sing loud, "I am lucky!" Sing loud, "I am I!"

If you'd never been born, then you might be an ISN'T!

An Isn't has no fun at all. No he disn't.

He never has birthdays, and that isn't pleasant.

You have to be born, or you don't get a present.”

Here a celebration breaks forth as the Cartesian certainty is clarified. I exist! Seuss’s Cartesian certainty is as follows:

1. I have a birthday.

2. Therefore I am.

You have to exist to have a birthday. Neither Seuss nor Descartes nor Sartre are making an evidentialist argument for personal existence. One’s own existence is simply a given, a datum, much like a Plantingian “properly basic belief.” (Note: you have to exist in order to utter the proposition "I have a birthday." Claim-making requires actual existence.)

Which brings us to my favoritest line in the entire book:

 “You have to be born, or you don’t get a present.” 

Taking this line, and using a reductio, I reason:

1. I got presents today.

2. Therefore I was born.

3. Therefore I exist. (From 1 & 2)

The rest of Seuss’s book is a giant celebration of ego-centered, non-relational, personal, gluttonous existence. At the book’s end I am exhausted and touched, as Seuss writes:

“I am what I am! That's a great thing to be!

If I say so myself, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!"

Now, by Horseback and bird-back and Hiffer-back, too,

Come your friends! All your friends! From all over Katroo!

And the Birthday Pal-alace heats up with hot friends

And your party goes on!

On and on

Till it ends.

When it ends,

You're much happier,

Richer and fatter.

And the Bird flies you home

On a very soft platter.

So that's

What the Birthday Bird

Does in Katroo.

And I wish

I could do

All these great things for you!”

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The True Contrarians of Our Time

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Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This is called Newton's third law of physics.

America's current over-sexed reaction is already causing a reaction. There is, Mary Eberstadt says, an itinerant but continuous exodus out of non-religious territories and into religious ones is ecumenical—neither just a Catholic nor a Protestant thing.

Eberstadt quotes Russell Moore's observation in his 2015 book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel,

"The sexual revolution cannot keep its promises. People think they want autonomy and transgression, but what they really want is fidelity and complementarity and incarnational love. If that’s true, then we will see a wave of refugees from the sexual revolution."

Eberstadt writes:

"We’re already seeing it. These are the true contrarians of our time—the believers who do not want to jettison the Judeo-Christian moral code, but want to do something more radical: namely, live by it."

Eberstadt, Mary. It's Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies (pp. 114-115). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Good Night, Modus Ponens

Post-Logic Selfie
I've taught Logic at Monroe County Community College for seventeen years. I've decided not to teach it anymore. Next fall I'll teach one class - Philosophy of Religion. That is my great love. Understanding logic undergirds everything in it.

I am thankful to Bill McCloskey and John Holladay for inviting me to teach logic. Seventeen years of doing this has, hopefully, strengthened my logic chops.

Tonight was my last teaching class. Next Tuesday I'll give the last exam.


Good night, modus ponens
Good night, modus tollens

Good night, Bayes' Theorem
Good night, hypothetical syllogism

Good night, genetic fallacy
Good night, begging the question

Good night, constructive dilemma
Good night, false dilemma

Good night, tu quoque
Good night, equivocation

Good night, soundness
Good night, validity

Good night, induction
Good night, deduction

Good night, negating the consequent
Good night, affirming the antecedent

Good night, subjectivist fallacy
Good night, emotivist ethics

Good night, logic students
Good night, logic text 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Honor in the Real Church

Weko Beach, Michigan

Someone in my church asked me to say some things about "honor." So here are a few ideas.

Honor is respect for other people. This does not mean you agree with everything other people say. Honor is a way of treating other people. Remember that Jesus said "Honor your father and mother." (Matthew 15:4) He does not add, "only if you agree with them about everything." 1 Peter 2:7 says, "Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor." (Even the emperor? Think about it. Do not get your ethics from the media.)

Honor thinks of other people before it thinks of oneself. Romans 12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves."

Honor dignifies others. Honor does not talk negatively about people behind their back. That's called slander. Or gossip. Slander is saying something about a person behind their back that you would never say to their face.

Honor is different from flattery or sucking up to people, which are forms of dishonor. Flattery is saying something to someone's face that you would never say about them behind their back.

Honor does not gripe or complain about other people behind their back. To do that is to take what John Bevere called "the bait of Satan," and dangle Satan's bait before the ears of others.

Honor listens. Honor has "ears to hear."

Honor is a subcategory of love. Love is the great umbrella, beneath which honor is one of love's expressions. Honor is one way of expressing love.

Honor does not discriminate. 

Honor does not enable the transgressions of others. Enabling people in their failure is dishonoring. 

Dishonor is disrespect. Dishonor disses others; honor elevates others.

Dishonor judges before understanding. Honor works to understand before evaluating or judging. Judging before understanding is the game of fools; understanding before judging is wisdom.

A culture of honor extends to isolated people. Dishonor plays favorites.

Honor-able people are people capable of treating others according to their true identities, as sons and daughters of God.

Real Church cultivates an honor culture. We may not agree with everything and everyone, but we never dishonor one another.

Join Me This Summer in Wisconsin for More Than a Conference! June 25-29, 2017

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Green Lake Conference Center

I invite you to join me this summer - June 25-29 - for our annual Holy Spirit Conference at Green Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin.

For Linda and I this conference has been the most life-altering. And, it has given us a beautiful extended family, as many of us reunite every summer for a week of spiritual rejuvenation.

I invite you to be part of this family, and the movement we are involved in.

We have structured the week to include much free time to be recreated in an environment that I describe as the best of Wisconsin. The lake and the vast conference grounds are stunning! 

I am looking forward to our special guest speakers. They are... 

Steve and Wendy Backlund, of Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Steve and Wendy are sought-after speakers, bringing a message that has released multitudes of believers into new freedom and empowerment in their walk with the Lord. Seasoned leaders who live and exemplify their message they share helpful, practical tools that help believers experience the core Christian values of belief, love, and joy.

Internationally-known speaker David Wagner is known for his passion for Jesus Christ and his love for people. He is recognized as a relevant and accurate prophetic voice that God is using all over the earth today. (David is associated with Randy Clark and Global Awakening.) He uses his prophetic gifting to empower, equip, and encourage people to discover their destiny and identity in Christ. He has a passion for restoring the broken, healing the hurting, and reaching the lost through the powerful Word of God and the demonstration of the Holy Spirit, and has seen thousands experience true freedom from bondage and disease.

My friend Phillip Lee is an established Christian authority on the complexities of homosexuality and the cultural issues surrounding it. Philip raises our awareness and encourages the Body of Christ to minister transformingly to those who struggle with sexual and relational brokenness. 

As I see it, our annual Holy Spirit Conference has an amazing track record of being one of God's beautiful transformational tools in individual lives, families, pastors, and churches.

Plus - if you are a pastor and would like to join me for the first time at this conference, please contact me personally about scholarships we have available for you. (

Now is the time to get on this great wave of the Holy Spirit. Make plans for June and bring all those who need fresh joy, freedom, power, truth and love!

Registration and further information HERE.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Jihadi Terrorist Who Turned to Jesus

Here is the New York Times article I mentioned this morning at Redeemer, about the Muslim terrorist who converted to Christianity.

Happy Easter - Jesus is risen!

Easter Sunday - That Great Day!

(The great Jonny Lang sings one of my favorite songs. I'm preaching this morning at Redeemer on knowing the power of the resurrection.)

The greatest days of my life so far are... 

  • One day in May, 1970, when God became real to me in a very experiential way. I knew He existed, and that He incarnated Himself in Jesus. God won me over. I believed.
  • August 11, 1973. I married Linda.
  • July 10, 1982, and September 25, 1985. My sons Dan and Josh were born. (And my stillborn son David died...)
My life is formed and shaped around these events. They color everything I do, and will do, for the rest of my earthly existence.

The greatest holy day of my Jesus-life is Easter Sunday. That's today! As I worship this morning I'll close my eyes and say, for the bazillionth time, "Thank You, God, for rescuing me." It's been forty-seven years since my rescue. My heart will overflow with gratitude this morning at Redeemer

The chains of self-hatred and death that bound me have been broken.

I'm thinking of Romans 5:12-21. It's about the reign of condemnation and death brought about by Adam's sin, and the grace-gift of righteousness effected by Christ's death and resurrection. In Adam, death reigns. In Christ, grace reigns. Even more than this, we who are in Christ now reign in life.

Sometimes I go to a cemetery to pray. I'm standing in a field of tombstones. But because I am in Christ, I'm also standing in fields of grace (Romans 5:2). In the kingdom of God, tombstones don't rule. Grace does. Empty tombs reign in the kingdom of heaven, because one tomb opened 2000 years ago.

Sin produces condemnation. "Condemnation," from the Greek word katakrima, has the root idea of separation or discrimination. Katakrima means: judgment coming down on someone. Because Grace Reigns, there's no more condemnation, no more separation. Grace and mercy are pouring down on me.

THIS IS HUGE! This morning I celebrate this with my Redeemer brothers and sisters and 2.5 billion others around the world.

You can't out-sin the grace of God, you cannot out-fail the mercy of God.

The greatest day in history: one Passover Day around 37 A.D. (That's right.)

That Great Day when sin, condemnation, shame, and death were defeated.

And, in my life, there's one more Great Day to come...


1. Take time today to thank God for...
- sending Jesus to rescue humanity from sin, condemnation, and death
- rescuing you from sin, condemnation, and death

2. Pray that you may experience and know what it means to "reign in life" through Christ, and by the Holy Spirit.

Friday, April 14, 2017

What Does Engaged Worship Look Like? By Lora Hauser (The Presence-Driven Church)

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Tiger swallowtail, in Yellow Springs, Ohio

This is a guest post by my sister-in-law Lora Hauser.

This is Lora's response to my post The Impossibility of Worship Without Presence.

Where I struggle is trying to worship corporately with people who do not seem engaged in worship.  I guess the obvious question is . . . how do I know they're not engaged in worship?  Well, I really don't, except that usually a person "engaged" in something shows some physical signs of being affected by the task.  I think this is true for any kind of corporate experience where the participants have a shared goal (i.e. - a Cubs game with the goal of spurring your team on to winning.)  I'll try to answer these two questions:  

What does "engaged worship" look like? 

Why is it important for me and my own personal worship?

1.  What does engaged worship look like?

The first tell-tale sign of someone who is engaged in worship is anticipation.  At our church, I would estimate that about 50% of worshippers come strolling in late.  (I will readily admit now that all the reasons I'm going to give are going to sound highly judgmental but let's put that emotion on the back burner for a minute.) 

To be casual entering a worship environment could speak to the lack of expectation from the Holy Spirit not to mention the curse of sameness or predictability.  When people walk into a great restaurant or pizza place, you can almost see the excited expectation of that first longed-for bite.  Sometimes, our mouths can start watering just thinking about it. 

This is what I would hope for myself when I enter worship -- a longed-for experience to "taste and see" what the Lord has for me.  At the risk of "making this all about me" I believe it pleases God when we anticipate His presence and begin to rid ourselves, by the moment, of all the "all about me" stuff that prevents pure worship.  It doesn't happen quickly but it will happen because we're promised that when we praise Him, He shows his glory and meets us no matter where we are when we come -- with great anticipation. 

Another sign that engaged worship is taking place is some kind of physical manifestation.  It's hard for me to think that I could sit in a Cubs game and Ben Zobrist (my favorite player) hits a grand slam and I wouldn't respond in some way with a clear, measurable physical response.  This is what I desire for my own worship experience; that at some point as I concentrate on the great "I Am" during worship, I would be so overwhelmed by a truth revealed or just the majesty of the name of Jesus, that I would have an involuntary physical response. 

To me, this is the purist form of worship --- when the body responds automatically without forethought, just like at that moment in a Cubs game -- everyone stands as if given a command.  It's impossible to resist because the joy or electric jolt requires an immediate response.  So it should be for us as worshippers.  Our God is showing us grand slams every few minutes in engaged worship.  It should be impossible not to notice and our bodies not to respond.

Another sign of engaged worship and engaged worshippers is an unquenchable desire for the truths in The Word.  When my twin, two-year-old grandchildren are hungry and sitting in their high chairs but the food isn't quite ready, they will generally start to make loud noises or banging or even frustrated crying.  You can feel and hear their longing to be fed.  It's easily measured.  When my cousin Jami was an infant, she would wave her hands frantically between bites encouraging her feeder to go faster.  Isn't this how we should act as the Word is opened and we release the Holy Spirit to speak into our lives?  Shouldn't we wave our hands and say, "more, more" because we know that what we are receiving has been determined since the beginning of time to be our only sustenance? 

In our church, many, if not most, don't bring Bibles.  Again, maybe a slight judgment, but really it doesn't even make sense?  It's like coming to a great banquet and being okay not to have any food present, let alone bring your own food.  We cannot live, think, feel, and worship without a complete and utter reliance on The Word.  Our worship should be centered around it and our leaders should goad, encourage and require us to hold onto it for our very lives, lest we starve.

2.  Why is it important for me to be with engaged worshippers and what happens to me when I'm not?

The first emotion that I feel when I am around those who seem less than engaged or not anticipating worship is loneliness.  This should never happen when being around Jesus Followers.  Since we attend a mega-church, the chance of feeling lonely just by being a small soul in the large crowd, is always a possibility.  But a feeling a loneliness should dissipate quickly when the focus of our worship and the great "meal" begins. 

To share something wonderful is unity-producing at the very least and miracle-producing at the very best.  The strangers around me are not strangers anymore in the same way the Cubs fans in the seats are unified by a common goal.  But let's say that after that grand slam by Ben Zobrist, I am the only one who has that marvelous, involuntary response of standing, joyful shouting, jumping and clapping.  It's not only lonely but can produce a sense of isolation almost immediately. 

When we, as Jesus Followers, feel that we cannot express appropriately our response to a God who is present in worship, we grieve the Holy Spirit who is shouting to us during worship that we belong!, we are the forgiven!, we win!  I don't want to be lonely in worship.  I want to see the ways God is revealing Himself to the others around me.  I want to hear and see it because it draws me into even deeper worship. 

The second emotion I feel when those around me seem less than engaged is that I am distracted.  It's like our enemy is using these people as a huge distraction -- upstaging what the Holy Spirit is trying to do.  It's as if there is a big screen behind the pulpit with a game show going on or a silly cat video.  I want to be with people that are hungering and thirsting after righteousness and who are concentrating on the awesomeness of the moment.  If I sense that people are bored or a service is planned so that there is no spontaneity or Body-life reports of mind-blowing activity of the Holy Spirit, then I find myself being pulled in to the boredom and sameness.  The upstaging is working.  I don't want to fight this and I don't think I should have to.  Sometimes it even leads to questions like "What am I doing here?  I'm sitting at a White Sox game, expecting the Cubs to come on the field.  I need to go find the Cubs game."  Something is really off, or even ridiculous. 

The third emotion I experience is sadness and grief.  I know exactly where this comes from and could very well be a direct hit from the enemy.  Sadness and grief (unless it's over unrepentant sin or for those who are suffering) should have no place in worship.  My grief comes from my childhood experience of worship and the extreme boredom I felt as well as the misrepresentation of what a Jesus Follower really looked like.  It seems as if I had a front row seat to the opposite of engaged worship.  What is even more grief-producing, is that once in  awhile, the Holy Spirit would break through in some person and then they would be mocked. 

I'm so thankful that God pulled me out of that dark pit and set my feet and expectations of worship on higher ground.  I still grieve for all those children who sit in worship, who will never taste and see what is really meant by Presence-Driven worship.