Monday, July 31, 2017

One-Hour Seminary - Why I Believe God Exists




Tuesday, August 1.

9-10 PM.

I will be streaming live on Facebook, responding to the question "Why I Believe God Exists."

I'll teach for 25-30 minutes.

Then, have a live Q&A.

All my Facebook friends are invited to attend! (Now accepting over 50% of applicants.)

Staff Job Description

Chicago

At a recent meeting I presented this to our staff, to keep us all focused.

Job description
§  Purposes:
1) equip people/kids;
2) minister to our people;
3) connect with them/know them;
4) involve them in ministry/empower them;
5) love them (no partiality allowed);
6) encourage them;
7) pray for them;
8) serve one another;
9) have a deep praying & devotional life;
10) do it all with joy and excellence, not as a job, but as a calling.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Sign of Spiritual Maturity

Chicago

Do you read the Bible regularly? Do you have a devotional life? Do you worship with the Jesus community? Do you practice the spiritual disciplines? If the answer is "yes," that's good. But these are not the signs of spiritual maturity. If they indicated maturity, then the Pharisees would be the most mature.

John Ortberg writes:

"We have to measure spiritual maturity in such a way that the Pharisees don’t win. Otherwise, we’ll just produce Pharisees. But in churches, that’s what we do a lot, because we try to mass produce it and put everybody through a program. We measure devotional practices instead of what kind of persons we are actually producing." (In Dallas Willard,  Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God, p. 67)

The spirit of the disciplines is not for the sake of the disciplines, but for the purpose of becoming a certain kind of person. The disciplines escort us into the presence of God, which is the arena of our spiritual transformation.

The Bible is not for the purpose of having Bible studies and quoting Scripture, but for pointing us into relationship with God. Via the Spirit-empowered disciplines, God gets his hands on us, and we are transformed into greater and greater Christlikeness.

A person could legalistically follow the commands of God (like the Pharisees) and remain unchanged. Just as fruit matures because it has remained attached to the tree, our maturity comes, not by our efforts, but as a consequence of our attachment to God. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

God's Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


Image result for john piippo creation
In Valley Forge, PA

Meditation on truth transforms the human heart. It breaks lies, and heals.

I have discovered that, when I carry my 3X5 cards with me, on which I have written what God thinks of me, the truths of God slowly descend from my mind into my heart. They become my heart.

This is a Henri Nouwen idea, a James K. A. Smith idea, a Dallas Willard idea, and a Pauline idea. Philippians 4:8-9 reads:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

For example, I have carried this list of identity truths with me for years.

I view this as a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit.
 
"Cognitive" - how we think; what we set our mind on.

"Behavioral" - what we do; how we live and experience life.

"Therapy" - from the Greek word
therapeuo, which means "to heal."

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

"Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). You work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.

CBT can be a very helpful tool in treating mental health disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an eating disorder. But not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental health condition. It can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations." (From the Mayo Clinic.)

When we add the Holy Spirit to this, we have an effective therapy that transforms and heals. I'm calling this God's Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This involves two biblical concepts:

1) Intentionally think on (meditate on) whatever is true, right, noble, lovely, and admirable.

2) Take captive whatever is false, wrong, ignoble, unlovely, and unworthy of praise.

Paul writes:

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.

Defeat falsehoods by intentionally meditating on God's truths.

The Holy Spirit champions and empowers this. We are promised that "the God of peace" will be with us. This means an invasion of peace into our hearts.

God's truths, which you mentally acknowledge, become your heart, your way of being, your way of seeing things, and even seeing yourself. Our thoughts become "obedient to Christ."

All this is healing, transforming, and liberating.

***
My third book, which I have begun, will be about this. I'm now calling it How God Changes the Human Heart.)

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

My second book (Today I'm re-editing ch. 8 out of 9 chapters) is Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Sept. 2017).

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Presence-Driven Pastors Practice A.S.L.O.

Michigan flowers

I'm on our back deck rewriting Chapter 8 of my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

Here's a clip from this chapter.


Out of my desire to be a good leader for Christ, I have read many books on leadership. Some of them had titles like this: Fifty Keys to Leadership.[1] To be a great leader, I needed to keep these principles always before me. Plus, I needed to assimilate twenty-five keys to motivating people, twenty-five more keys to a sound business plan, read the top twenty-five classics on “success,” and evaluate it all by using 25 Need-to-Know Performance Indicators.[2] In addition, I read John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader,[3] and then The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.[4]

Now, decades later, I don’t remember most of these keys and qualities. But I do remember coming to a point where I thought, for a brief moment, “I was wrong. Pastoral leadership is rocket science!”

As I read the story of Jesus, I see his leadership keys and indicators coming down to one thing: Follow me. “My sheep,” said Jesus the Greatest of Leaders, “hear my voice, and follow.”

This was something even the unschooled, idiot disciples could do.[5] Hear the voice of Jesus. Follow. That is what I think pastoral leadership comes down to.

What about the “indispensable qualities” and the “irrefutable laws?” I see them as the inevitable fruit of an abiding life. That is, once the abiding life is engaged in, transformation into Christlike qualities happens, like blueberries on a blueberry bush. You become, inexorably, a servant, a discerner, an influencer, and so on, all because of Christ, the hope of glory, in you.

Leading a Presence-Driven Church cannot be rocket science, though it might sometimes feel like you have been tied to a rocket and launched. Presence-Driven Leaders simply do this:

1.    Abide in Christ
2.    Saturate in the Scriptures
3.    Listen (Discern God’s voice)
4.    Obey

To lead a Presence-Driven Church, a pastor follows A.S.L.O. – Abide, Saturate, Listen, Obey.



[1] This is not, as far as I know, an actual book.
[2] By Bernard Marr.
[3] One of the greatest, most impactful sermons I ever heard was by John Maxwell at a Promise Keepers conference.
[4] Both by John  Maxwell.
[5] Acts 4:13 says, When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. “Unschooled” is the Greek word agrammatoi; “ordinary” is idiotai.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

One-Hour Seminary - Tonight (7/25), 9-10 PM (EST)

One Hour Seminary - July 25, 9 PM EST



My first One Hour Seminary will be:

TONIGHT, July 25, 9-10 PM (EST)

Purpose: to equip followers of Jesus biblically and theologically; to go deeper into important biblical and theoilogical subjects.

Topic for 7/25: Why I Believe the Bible Is the Word of God

I will be live on Facebook Messenger.

I will teach from 25-30 minutes on the topic.

You can respond with questions or comments by typing them in. I will respond back to as many of those as I can.


To Access Messenger via computer*



1. Go To       https://www.messenger.com
2. Download off main page or just login to Facebook and use the mailbox there.
3. After download, app will prompt you to sign in with your login Note: you will need a Facebook account to log in.

Android
1. Go to google play App Store (appears to be a shopping bag with a play symbol on it. |>
2. Refer to step 2 under apple

*Thank you Eric for helping me with this!

***
My book on prayer is a record of my personal, theological, and biblical thoughts on a praying life, coming out of forty years of praying several hours a week. You can purchase it as a soft cover or Kindle book at amazon.com - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

My next book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church. I should be available Aug/Sept this year.

  

The Bible Gives Us a Story That is True

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Monarch butterfly, Green Lake, Wisconsin

Stories more easily stay in me than logical arguments. I value logical. I like formulating and evaluating arguments. But I remember a good story after the first hearing.

Eugene Peterson, in Subversive Spirituality, reasons that stories are revolutionary and subversive precisely because they are so memorable. A story can get inside a person and, like a Trojan horse, capture a human heart from the inside.

Like N. T. Wright and many others, Peterson sees the Bible as essentially a story that conveys truth. "The Bible as a whole comes to us in the form of a narrative." (5)

A tale, containing truth.
For example, within the "large, sprawling narrative," Mark writes his Gospel. (Note: compare Peterson with N.T. Wright's The Last Word, and the Bible as a "5-Act Play.")
Stories convey truth in ways prose and sheer logical arguments cannot. I teach logic to undergraduates, so I have some idea of what I'm talking about. Peterson writes:

"Storytelling creates a world of presuppositions, assumptions, and relations into which we enter. Stories invite us into a world other than ourselves, and, if they are good and true stories, a world larger than ourselves. Bible stories are good and true stories, and the world that they invite us into is the world of God's creation and salvation and blessing." (5)
Stories master us, rather than us mastering them.
The biblical story (the Wrightian "Grand Narrative") is "large" and "capacious." That is, the biblical narrative has "great containing capacity." Within this capacious story "we learn to think accurately, behave morally, preach passionately, sing joyfully, pray honestly, obey faithfully." (5)
Dare not to abandon the story! Do so and you've reduced "reality to the [meagre, non-capacious] dimensions of our minds and feelings and experience." (5)

Peterson writes: "The moment we formulate our doctrines, draw up our moral codes, and throw ourselves into a life of ministry apart from a continuous re-immersion in the story itself, we walk right out of the presence and activity of God and set up our own shop." (5)
Centuries of Hebrew storytelling find their mature completion in the story of Jesus
If I was God, and wanted the best mode of communicating to my children, would I choose logical argumentation or stories? Obviously, stories. People go to the movies to watch narratives, not monological argumentation. (Linda and I saw "Dunkirk" last week. A brilliant movie, I thought, as it weaves three stories together.)

"'Story'," writes Peterson, "is the Holy Spirit's dominant form of revelation. [It's] why we adults, who like posing as experts and managers of life, so often prefer explanation and information." (4)

    Monday, July 24, 2017

    Forgiveness As a Gateway to Healing (Sermon)

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    Holland State Park, Michigan

    My sermon "Forgiveness As a Gateway to Healing" is HERE (with PowerPoint).

    Price Drop On My Book "Praying"

















    The price of my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, has dropped $4 on Amazon.

    This is for the paperback. The Kindle version is still $9.99.

    I don't know how this happens (I don't have a say in pricing the hard copies). 


    Sunday, July 23, 2017

    Why an Atheist Finds Miracles Impossible

    Chicago

    "If resurrections happened every day, atheists would find a natural reason for them and still reject miracles."
    - Joe Puckett. The Apologetics of Joy: A Case for the Existence of God from C. S. Lewis’s Argument from Desire, p. 83)

    Why?

    Because a true atheist is a philosophical naturalist. On philosophical naturalism, transcendent, non-natural (super-natural) causes cannot exist.

    Therefore, every event, to include a resurrection, has to have a purely physical cause.

    It's like saying, snow cannot be non-white, since snow is white.

    If one accepts as true the statement Snow is white, then it logically impossible for non-white snow to exist.

    By analogy, if one accepts the statement All events have purely physical causes, then of course even a resurrection, should one occur, is not a miracle. Miracles cannot occur, since miracles are impossible. (That's called "begging the question.")

    Pure philosophical naturalists are cognitively incapable of seeing or experiencing a miracle. Their only hope might be an experience of what seemed to them to be a Kuhnian anomaly, causing them to question the veridicality of their noetic framework (paradigm). As Kuhn has showed us, once a paradigm is locked into someone's mind, it is very hard to dislodge. (Paradigms are "obstinate.")

    (As a theist, I reject the metaphysical statement All events have purely physical causes.)

    ***
    My two books are:


    Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Sept. 2017)

    Saturday, July 22, 2017

    Pastors - Cast Fire on the Earth

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    Retreat center outside of Brasilia, Brazil, where Linda and I were a few years ago.

    The message of Jesus is deeply, profoundly countercultural.

    This is why, pastors, being "relevant" is acquiescing to culture, rather than being transforming agents of culture.

    Incarnate - yes! But look how Jesus did it. He did not consider equality with culture a thing to be grasped. Instead, he "came to cast fire upon the earth!" (Luke 12:49)

    Ahhh...   but our culture wants to tame Jesus, and us along with him. Forget fire-casting. Put those torches away and entertain the people. We are to be "nice." We are not supposed to create problems and make trouble on the earth.

    The voices of American culture want to "turn us into replicas of our cultural leaders, seeking after power and influence and prestige. These insistent voices drum away at us, telling us pastors to go out and compete against the successful executives and entertainers who have made it to the top, so that we can put our churches on the map and make it big in the world." (Eugene Peterson, in Marva J. Dawn. The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, Kindle Locations 59-61)

    My fellow pastors, my colleagues - shall we revolt against our culture's ideas of what we are to be, pick up the flame of Jesus, and bring fire down in our churches, in our communities? And do so in humility and love, empowered by the Spirit?

    A Seminary for the Entertainment Church





    There is hope for me! (Thank you Mark Richards.)

    Free Will - Another Intractable Problem for Atheism


    Flowers for Linda

    It would take more faith than I have to be an atheist because of how I see the logic of atheism; viz., given atheism, what follows logically?

    I think the only variety of atheism worthy of the name is philosophical naturalism (PN), or physicalism. That is, anyone whos elf-refers as an atheist should be committed to PN.

    What is naturalism? 

    Philosopher Louise Anthony, a confessing  PN-er, says naturalism "can be taken to be the view that all entities, processes, and events are governed by natural law ; there are no supernatural forces." (Louise Anthony, "The Failure of Moral Arguments," in Debating Christian Theism, p. 105) Anthony says many atheists are naturalists, though not all. How odd, I think, to be an atheist and think there are forces in the universe that are not natural (nature).

    On PN "matter" is all that exists, in various, accidental collocations. Therefore "free will," whatever it is, is only material on PN (which means: "free will" is fully reducible to material conditions). This leads to the counterintuitive atheistic over-reach called "compatibilism"; viz., the compatibility of free will and PN-determinism. 

    Here is where I lack the faith to be an atheist. The ramblings of a Daniel Dennett, about how free will is something very different from what we've always thought, not only don't help me, they make me suspicious that the PN-Emperor has no clothes.

    PN, writes Paul Copan, cannot account for the very features on which the naturalistic moral realist hangs her hopes. These include self-awareness/consciousness, and reason. Free will is an illusion to some PN-ers (to their logical credit, no matter how hard it is to swallow a PN-er's "decision" to write books and articles on the illusion of decision-making). 

    On PN, free will simply does not exist. Note these supportive quotes from atheistic PN-ers.

    William Provine: “Free will as traditionally conceived— the freedom to make uncoerced and unpredictable choices among alternative courses of action— simply does not exist. There is no way the evolutionary process as currently conceived can produce a being that is truly free to make choices.” 

    Francis Crick: Our sense of identity and free will is “nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” 

    Thomas Nagel: “There is no room for agency in a world of neural impulses, chemical reactions, and bone and muscle movements.” Given naturalism, it’s hard not to conclude that we’re “helpless” and “ not responsible” for our actions.  (Note: Nagel is a different kind of atheist - he's not a PN-er. He does acknowledge that, given PN, free will is an illusion. See here, e.g.)

    John Searle: We believe “we could have done something else” and that human freedom is “just a fact of experience .” However, “the scientific” approach to reality undermines the notion of a self that could potentially interfere with “the causal order of nature.” 

    John Bishop: Our scientific understanding of human behavior seems to be in tension with a presupposition of the ethical stance we adopt toward it.” (All quotes in Ib.)

    If I am not free to make choices, what sense does it make choose PN as "true?" I don't even have a mustard seed in me for that one.

    If We Don't Have Free Will Then We Are Not Morally Responsible

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    Lake Michigan beach

    In my MCCC logic classes (17 years of teaching logic ended for me in May...) I taught a section on applying logic to ethical systems (utilitarianism, Kantian ethics, emotivism, divine command theory).

    I gave my class an introduction biological determinism and moral responsibility. It seems to me that if biological determinism is true, then persons have no moral responsibility. Yale Neuroscientist Eliezer Sternberg agrees.

    Sternberg, in My Brain Made Me Do It: The Rise of Neuroscience and the Threat to Moral Responsibility, argues that thinking (such as moral decision-making) cannot be fully reduced to biochemical constraints. But who might think such a thing?

    Francis Crick did. He wrote that "'you,' your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." (In Sternberg, 24)

    Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux has said: "You are your synapses. They are who you are." (Ib.)

    Regarding free will, neurologist Mark Hallett asserts that "the more you scrutinize it, the more you realize you don't have it." (Ib.)

    Hallett's comment is odd. "Scrutinize" means to search, to examine, to inspect. If I don't have free will, then there is not an 'I' that "inspects" anything.

    Sternberg reasons that, if biological determinism is true and all behavior is caused by neurobiological wiring, then no decision could be made freely. With this belief comes a powerful argument against moral responsibility:


    1. Neurobiological interactions in my brain determined that I did X.
    2. Determined actions are not free.
    3. One cannot be held morally responsible for actions that are not free.
    4. Therefore, I cannot be held morally responsible for doing X.
    "In short," says Sternberg, "moral responsibility does not exist." (25) And this, in spite of the fact that "my deepest feelings tell me that every decision I make is mine. I am a moral agent with the power to control my decisions." (Ib.)

    Sternberg's book argues for a way to affirm both that the principles of neurobiology are true, and that we have free will that is not fully reducible to biological constraints, hence we are morally responsible creatures.

    Friday, July 21, 2017

    The Desire to Change Other People Is Toxic

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    Lightning, over my house

    Years ago God told me, "John, why are you trying so hard to change other people when you can't even change your own self?" I have come to the freeing conclusion that: I cannot change other people. Only God can. So I can let go of trying to do that.

    One result of this insight is that, in our marriage, Linda and I rarely, if ever, "advise" one another. We do it if requested. This is because unasked-for advice is usually received as criticism. For example, if I saw you today and said, "Did you know that Macy's has some really nice shirts on sale?", you would think, "John doesn't like my shirt!"

    If I want your advice I'll ask for it.

    I do ask people for advice on a variety of things. If the advice is about something personal, I ask people who know me, love me, are themselves vulnerable and open, and trustworthy. If Linda gives me unsolicited advice (like, "Your pant zipper is down") it always comes out of care for me.

    The desire to see people change into Chrsitlikeness is beautiful. The desire to change other people is toxic. I like how Thomas Merton puts it. He writes:

    "Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other men. A serious obstacle to recollection is the mania for directing those you have not been asked to reform... Renounce this futile concern with other men's affairs! Pay as little attention as you can to the faults of other people and none at all to their natural defects and eccentricities." (New Seeds of Contemplation, 255)

    If God shows you another person's fault, it's so you can pray for them.

    Thursday, July 20, 2017

    Existentialism and Free Will

    Image may contain: tree and outdoor
    Our back yard, by the river
    I recently talked with a friend about free will. I choose to believe we have free will. 

    He mentioned his liking of existentialism. 

    I said, "Existentialists are big on free will."

    How so?

    To begin - the classic definition of existentialism is: existence precedes essence.

    That is an anti-Platonic, anti-metaphysical statement. Plato believed persons had a pre-existing essence. Socrates, through a metaphysical Q&A, functioned as an epistemological midwife, assisting the rest of us in remembering who we already are.

    For the existentialist (like Sartre, like Camus), we are left to choose our own identity. In this we are "radically free." Existentialism is a philosophy of radical epistemic and ethical freedom, in the face of an unknown future. This, also, is Nietzsche's freedom to choose an uber-morality.

    Hence, free will (radical freedom, with no preexisting ontological constraints) as a core assumption of existentialism.

    Wednesday, July 19, 2017

    Too Dumb to Understand What God Is Making Out of Me


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    In Detroit

    7:30 AM. I'm awake. I begin the day by reading from Psalms and Proverbs.

    Then, I read the daily entry from A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations From His Journals

    I read these comforting words:

    "There is only one way to peace: be reconciled that of yourself you are what you are, and it might not be especially magnificent, what you are! God has His own plan for making something else of you, and it is a plan which you are mostly too dumb to understand."

    Good morning.

    My Book - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God



    My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, is available in paperback and as a Kindle book here

    I have written a simple Study Guide to Praying. This guide is not published as a book, but is available free as a Word file. It is designed for both individual and group use. 

    If you would like a copy of the Study Guide please send me an email - johnpiippo@msn.com. 


    My book Leading the Presence-Driven Church will be out this fall.

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017

    Every Text Is a Cautionary Tale

    Goldfinch approaching one of my backyard feeders

    Every biblical text is a cautionary tale.

    Every statement is a cautionary tale.

    Which means: WARNING! EVERY TEXT CAN BE MISINTERPRETED!

    Any text can be cherry-picked and politicized.

    In a recent discussion on my views of healing and the Atonement, a responder was concerned that my perspective could slip into a prosperity gospel position. I assured them that I am not into the heretical prosperity gospel.

    I am, however, interested in correctly interpreting Scripture, and even language, for that matter.

    We must first ask, what is the text saying? We have to be able, as best we can, to get the text right, and not impose, e.g., a Western worldview on the text.

    Once we believe we get the text right - e.g., in my case, comprehensive healing is in the Atonement (1 Peter 2:24) - then we simply present it. We present the correctly (we hope) interpreted text without worry that our presentation could be misinterpreted. Because - of course our presentation could be misinterpreted! It is a guarantee that it will be misinterpreted.

    This human reality cannot prevent us from putting forth our understanding. If we operated out of fear that our position could be misinterpreted, then we would present nothing.

    Every text is a cautionary tale.

    Sunday, July 16, 2017

    Repetitive Worship Shapes Our Hearts and Minds




    After Linda and I watched "The Lego Movie" I awoke the next day humming, "Everything is AWESOME!!!" That little song repeats those words over and over... and over. The constant repetition worked its wonders on me.

    That is the power of repetition.

    Be careful of what you repeat over and over again, because it will get inside you, and become you. (In my college philosophy classes my teaching method is all about getting students to memorize via repetition the correct answers over and over and over again.)

    I occasionally hear some Westernized linear-thinking Christian mock the repetitive worship found in a Pentecostal church like mine. But the ancient Hebrews were tribal, and tribal worship is repetitive. Repetition is a powerful learning tool, helping God's truths descend from our Western minds into our Hebrew hearts.

    N.T. Wright supports repetitive worship. He writes: 

    "[S]ometimes, in some traditions at least, the things we sing in church are deliberately repetitive. We use them quite differently: as a way of meditation, of stopping on one point and mulling it over, of allowing something which is very deep and important to make more of an impact on us than if we just said or sung it once and passed on.
    Quite different traditions find this helpful: the Taizé movement in France, for instance, uses some haunting brief songs or chants; but you find the same thing in many branches of the modern charismatic movement, where repetition is an essential part of worship.
    True, some people find these tedious, and want to get back to old-fashioned hymns as quickly as possible. This may be partly a matter of personality. But it may also be that such people are unwilling to allow the truth of which the poem speaks to get quite so close to them.
    Repetition can touch, deep down inside us, parts that other, ‘safer’ kinds of hymn cannot reach, or do not very often."
    - N.T. Wright, The Early Christian Letters for Everyone, p. 139

    Repetitive worship is not "mindless" but mind-shaping.

    Be repetitive re. the truths of God and be transformed.

    ***
    My two books are:

    Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

    Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Sept. 2017)

    Sermon Notes - Forgiveness as a Gateway to Healing


    Image result for john piippo redeemer

    Especially for my Redeemer family - These are some of my notes and quotes from this morning's sermon - "Healing and the Atonement - Forgiveness As a Gateway to Healing."

    Plus - some of the resources I quoted from are at the end of the notes.


    Today…   Forgiveness is a gateway to physical and inner healing.
    The one point I am going to make: forgiveness of sins and healing go together.
             
    ***
    A REMINDER - The Comprehensive Nature of the Atonement.
    1 Peter 2:24 - “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
    The Message - His wounds became your healing.
    How wide is the healing?
    I think…   it is for everything on heaven and earth that needs to be healed.
    The need for healing is comprehensive.
    Isa. 1:5-7
              Your whole head is injured,
        your whole heart afflicted.
    From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
        there is no soundness—
    only wounds and welts
        and open sores,
    not cleansed or bandaged
        or soothed with olive oil.
    Your country is desolate,
        your cities burned with fire;
    your fields are being stripped by foreigners
        right before you,
        laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.
    So… a whole lot of healing is needed.
              Healing of nations. Healing of cities.
              Healing of the creation.
              Healing of persons, from their head to their toe…
                         of physical bodies…,   healing of hearts…  
    … healing on the outside, and on the inside…
      healing and restoration of the soul…

    What has God done about this? Well…   that’s 1 Peter 2:24.
    God has provided healing once and for all through the Son’s atonement, which begins with God the Father sending the anointed One
      (Jesus the Christ)…
    … to preach good news to the poor…
    … to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Lk 4:18-19; Is 61: 1) 

    THIS IS WONDERFUL…   but it’s not wonderful to Satan.
    This is where the battleground is… a battleground over our souls, our minds, our bodies, our families, our communities, our nations…
    Unfortunately, there are hindrances to our healing.
    We’ve talked about things that hinder the comprehensive healing that is in the atonement.
              Cessationism…   Dualism…   Naturalism…  Hierarchism

    This morning…   something else – a different sort of thing – that comes against comprehensive healing.
              UNFORGIVENESS
    Unforgiveness affects us physically.
              I know this from experience.
              King David knew it from experience – Ps. 32
    When I did not confess my sins, I was worn out from crying all day long. Day and night you punished me, LORD; my strength was completely drained, as moisture is dried up by the summer heat. Then I confessed my sins to you; I did not conceal my wrongdoings. I decided to confess them to you, and you forgave all my sins (Ps. 32: 3-5).
    One of God’s rules of the universe… is that unconfessed, unrepented, undealt-with sin… puts people in captivity…
              …their hearts… in their souls…  even affecting their physical bodies.

    Charles Kraft - Unforgiveness is like emotional and spiritual cancer.
    As it spreads, it blocks emotional and spiritual healing and can lead to a kind of spiritual death.
    It can even be one of the root causes of numerous serious physical illnesses.

    That’s what is going on in Matthew 9 – the healing of the paralyzed man
    Walter Brueggemann  – “This story is a specific instance where two major features of Jesus’ ministry come together – forgiveness and healing.”
    Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
    This paralyzed man…   his sickness is related to his unforgiven sin.
              Not every sickness is caused by sin.
              But surely are.
                       Unforgiveness is not good for us… physically or emotionally.
    Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
    Jesus healed this man to show that He, the Son of Man, has the authority to forgive sins.
    If He could heal the disease, He could also heal the cause of the disease, the sin.

    In Ps. 103:3 we see a connection between forgiveness and healing.
    "He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.”

    ***
    A main part – of the comprehensive nature of the Atonement…   is the forgiveness of our sins.
              The forgiveness of our sins produces a great healing.

    John Arnott – “When people forgive themselves and others, powerful emotional healing comes to them as they step into the grace and mercy of God. As we pray for emotional healing, it is common to see
    wonderful physical healings taking place in the wake of forgiveness.”

    Charles Kraft - I can’t estimate the large number of people, for whom I have prayed, that have received emotional, physical or spiritual healing almost immediately when unforgiveness was dealt with.
    On several occasions, people have come to me with extreme tightness and pain across their shoulders. But when they forgave the person they were angry at, the symptoms left immediately.
    One woman’s whole personality and outlook on life changed when she gave up her unforgiveness toward scores of people against whom she held bitterness.

    Kraft - Unforgiveness is the most frequent block to freedom, and the cause of much difficulty for those who come for ministry. The habit of holding things against self, others or God results in the unforgiving person being bound up in captivity to the Enemy. This is why Jesus had so much to say about the necessity of forgiving.
    David Seamands calls forgiveness “the most therapeutic fact in all of life.”

    ***
    What is forgiveness?
    2 – You reinterpret the person who wronged you in a larger format.
    This is to help us avoid creating a "caricature" of the person who wronged us.
    "In the act of forgiving, we get a new picture of a needy, weak, complicated, fallible human being like ourselves."
    3     – You develop a gradual desire for the welfare of the person who injured you. (Compassion, empathy)
    Benefits of forgiveness (From Robert Enright, 8 Keys to Forgiveness)

    Why do you forgive?
    1.   You forgive because you have been forgiven much.
    2.   You forgive because Jesus commands you to forgive.

    Why does Jesus command us to forgive one another, just as we have been forgiven?
              Forgiveness can restore relationships.
              It will release others from their indebtedness to us.
              It brings healing to us.

    Robert Enright’s (U. of Wisconsin) research has discovered that forgiving others  produces strong psychological benefits for the one who forgives. They include:
    ·        Reduction in psychological depression
    ·        Reduction in anxiety
    ·        Reduction in unhealthy anger
    ·        Decrease in posttraumatic stress symptoms
    ·        Increased quality of life
    ·        Increased focus
    ·        Increased self-esteem

    What Forgiveness is not
    • To forgive is not to forget (deep hurts can rarely be wiped out of one's awareness).
    • Forgiveness does not require two people (reconciliation takes two people, but an injured party can forgive an offender without reconciliation).
    • forgiveness does not excuse hurtful behavior.
      • Forgiveness takes the offense seriously, not passing it off as inconsequential or insignificant.
    • To forgive is not to trust.

    Forgiveness is a personal transaction that releases the one offended from the offense.

    Forgiveness is a gateway to healing.
              To physical healing.
              To emotional healing.
    Forgiveness… is beautiful… it is so powerful!
    Forgiveness is hard…

    E.g. – Leannda (Chelsie) Bruck
    She gave the convicted murderer who killed her youngest daughter a Bible and although she will never forget the tragic events these past few years, Leannda Bruck said in court that she has forgiven Daniel Clay.
    “Today with the strength of Jesus Christ, I forgive Daniel Clay, because if I don’t, all that has happened the last 2 and three-quarters years will destroy the rest of my life,” she said.
    “I do not want my Lord to ask why I could not offer forgiveness to Mr. Clay.”
    I do not want the rest of my life to be destroyed.
    Sin is its own punishment because it eats us up from the inside.
              It is not God’s joy to punish us for our sin; it is His joy to cure it.

    Mack was raised in an abusive home, where his father, a very religious man, beat him severely many times.
    There is a scene… where Mack gets a wider vision of heaven as thousands of souls appear pear in a meadow at night.
    They look to Mack like multicolored lights.
    And he sees angels and other heavenly beings, including a majestic Jesus.
    During this event (whether vision or reality) Mack encounters his abusive father and they embrace tearfully.
    Mack forgives his father just as the heavenly Father has forgiven him.
    Apparently, at some point Mack's father accepted God's forgiveness, because he is among the heavenly host.

    RESOURCES
    Robert Enright, The Forgiving Life