Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Technology's Threat to Spiritual Formation

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View from our room, in Cancun

Linda and I are away for a break in Cancun. We are birds of a feather, in that we both love just sitting on the beach, reading, talking, and snacking.

I brought Jacques Ellul's The Technological Society along. I am researching technology and culture, and writing a book I am now calling Technology and Spiritual Formation. 

Ellul's book is not a diatribe against technology, but rather a sociology of technique. It is not about individuals, but society and culture, the technological world we live in, and how it affects and influences everyone.

This affects spiritual formation, a subject I teach in various venues. 

In 1964 Ellul write that the technological world poses a threat "to man's personal and spiritual freedom." Now, fifty-four years later, this threat has been actualized.

That's what I am writing about in my next book. Will we "determine to assert [our] freedom and upset the course of this evolution." (Ellul, xxx) 

My first two books are...

Praying: Reflection on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing...

Technology and Spiritual Formation

How God Changes the Human Heart: A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Ontological Polarities of the Spirit (Nouwen's "Movements of the Spirit")

Monarch butterfly in my backyard.

(My two books are:

I'm now working on:

How God Changes the Human Heart.

Technology and Spiritual Formation.)

After reading Henri Nouwen's Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit I see  how indebted I have been to him regarding my own idea of "ontological dualities of the human spirit." Nouwen calls them "polarities." They have a vectorial, from-to movement. They help us understand the directionality of spiritual formation and spiritual transformation.


My original eight ontological dualities are:

i.      From PRIDE/SHAME to -------------- HUMILITY
ii. From CONTROL to -------------------- TRUST
iii. From REJECTION to ----------------- AFFIRMATION
iv. From EVIL to -------------------------- GOOD
v. From FEAR to --------------------------- FAITH (RISK; OBEDIENCE)
vi. From MATERIALISM to -------------- SIMPLICITY
vii. From DEATH to ----------------------- LIFE

Michael Christensen, in "Nouwen’s Place in Spiritual Development Theory" (Appendix), identifies twenty-six such "polarities" in Nouwen's writings. They include:

From LONELINESS to----------------------SOLITUDE
From HOSTILITY to-------------------------HOSPITALITY
*From ILLUSION to----------------------------PRAYER
From SARCASM to---------------------CONTEMPLATION
From LONELINESS to----------------------SOLITUDE
           From FATALISM to-------------------------FAITH
From WORRYING to------------------------PRAYER
From MIND to--------------------------------HEART
From DISSIPATION to---------------------HOMECOMING
*From RESENTMENT to--------------------GRATITUDE
From FORGIVEN to------------------------FORGIVER
From ALIENATION to---------------------COMMUNITY
From COMPETITION to-------------------COMPASSION
From ANGUISH to--------------------------FREEDOM
*From SORROW to---------------------------JOY
From AGING to------------------------------DYING
*From EXCLUSION to----------------------INCLUSION
From DENYING to--------------------------BEFRIENDING DEATH

(Christensen, Appendix in Nouwen, Spiritual Formation, Kindle Locations 2119 ff.)

*In Nouwen's work, seven of the Spirit-movements predominate (indicated by *).

As we dwell in God's presence the Spirit of God meta-morphs our hearts, with a "from---- to" movement. We are changed from, e.g., a HATEFUL HEART to LOVING HEART. In this way our subhuman heart takes on the form of Christ's heart. (Galatians 4:19).

The Core Movement is: FROM SUBHUMANITY...... to HUMANITY (i.e., CHRISTLIKENESS).

Christensen writes:

"These movements of the Spirit may vary with the individual and with one’s season of life and community of faith; yet no one’s spiritual life is static, absolute, or perfectly completed, as if we must graduate from one movement to another before continuing our journey. Rather, we remain in motion and in the process of discerning which way the wind of God’s activity is blowing in our life. The process involves becoming aware of and naming the subtle movements of Spirit. To live spiritually is to seek to breathe with the Spirit’s rhythm and move in a God-ward direction on the long walk of faith.” 

Spiritual Formation & Transformation: My Method

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Michigan beach, on Lake Michigan

(My two books are:

I'm now working on:

How God Changes the Human Heart.

Technology and Spiritual Formation.)

When I teach spiritual formation and transformation to seminary students, pastors, and churches, this is my method.

1. Assumption: God is the agent of personal/spiritual transformation.

2. Point People to God's Presence: Lecturing to people or assigning books to read won't transform the human heart. But God can. Therefore: I assign people to pray. I can point people to the presence of the One who does the transforming. 

3. Share With Others What God Is Doing In You: Transformation has a corporate dimension. This is realized as we return from our solitary prayer times with God and share with others what God has spoken to us. Here we arrive at the center of biblical koinonia ("fellowship") which is, literally, sharing what we have in common; viz., Christ in me, the hope of glory.

The method God has given me to do this is:

Give people Psalm 23 and send them out to pray for an hour. Or sometimes I send them out to pray for 30 minutes. For pastors I use 60 minutes; for non-pastors I use 30 minutes.

Here's the paper I give them. I read the instructions aloud. 

I use this document when teaching seminary classes and doing spiritual formation retreats for churches.

WARNING: If you are a pastor who wants to do this kind of thing with your people you must be engaging in it yourself. 

Dr. John Piippo

  1. The purpose of this exercise is to enter into the presence of God for the sake of deepening your relationship with God alone. My assumption is that you need God. You need to spend much time in God’s presence. And that time is to be spent in a certain way.
  2. Find a “lonely place apart.” When you get to that place, spend 60 minutes with God.
  3. Take with you only Psalm 23 and your journal. You may also take a Bible with you. But I want you to use Psalm 23 as your focus of meditation.
  4. Leave any cell phones, computers, books, shopping lists, and xerox machines behind. They will be waiting for you when you return from this time.
  5. Use Psalm 23 for meditation.
  6. Your purpose is not to exegete Psalm 23, but to be yourself exegeted by the Holy Spirit.
  7. When God speaks to you, write it down in your spiritual journal. A spiritual journal is a record of the voice of God to you.
  8. If your mind wanders, you may wish to write down where it wanders to. Your wandering mind is a barometer of your true spiritual condition. Your mind will never wander arbitrarily, but always to something like a burden or a hope.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.
 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
       he leads me beside quiet waters,

 3 he restores my soul.
       He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
       I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
       your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 5 You prepare a table before me
       in the presence of my enemies.
       You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
       all the days of my life,
       and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The Locus, or "Place," of Spiritual Transformation

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My praying chair, on the river in my backyard

(My two books are:

I'm now working on:

How God Changes the Human Heart.

Technology and Spiritual Formation.)


As we are spiritually transformed into greater Christlikeness, what happens, and where does it happen?

1 – The transformation is a matter of “the deep waters of the heart.”

Proverbs 20:5.says: “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” God’s Spirit moves in the deep waters of the human heart. Here is where the morphing happens.

This spiritual formation is not an external, physical makeover. It is internal, deep, and concerns the human heart. And, it is helpful to note that the deeper we go inside people the more we are all the same. This truth explains why, among other things, the Jesus-message has gone global.

2 – The dismantling of the false self

A major part of spiritual formation is the dismantling of the false, or fallen self. Using recent language by N.T. Wright, God wants to rescue us from our subhumanity and form Christ in us, who was truly human (as well as “very God”).

In my own process of spiritual transformation, and in coaching others, here are examples of the false self’s dismantling. God want to remove from us:

* self-love
* self-hatred
* self-pity
* self-hiding
* self-justification
* self-righteousness
* self-will
* self-centeredness
* self-seriousness
* self-attention
* self-inflation
* self-ignorance

This dismantling of the false self relates to what Jesus said about denying our self daily and taking up our cross. Jesus, the fully human One, was an other-centered Servant. As we enter into God’s presence he wants to morph our hearts into the sacrificial selflessness of Jesus.

3 – Ontological dualities
In the deep waters of the human heart we are all the same. This is why the good news of Jesus and his Kingdom speaks to all persons in all times and all places.

Spiritual transformation has a vectorial dimension in that it is a shifting or moving from one place to another. For example, all persons struggle with control and trust. God wants to shift our hearts from controlling to trusting. This movement is, precisely, the change; viz., one’s heart changes from a control-shaped heart to a trust-shaped heart.

I have discovered the following “ontological dualities” that lie at the base of the human heart. They are:

1. From Pride/Shame to Humility
2. From Control to Trust
3. From Rejection to Affirmation
4. From Evil to Good
5. From Fear to Faith
6. From Materialism to Simplicity
7. From Death to Life

As we continually abide in Christ there is a slow movement from the left ontological condition to the right side. I think that, using these deep dualities, one could thus measure spiritual transformation.

HUMILITY – the foundational attitude of authentic spiritual transformation

Finally, and in some ways back to the beginning, the foundational attitude needed so that one’s heart is “good soil” for the changes God desires to bring about is: humility. Pride, C.S. Lewis said, is "the complete anto-God state of mind." Francis Frangipane called pride "the armor of darkness." If these things are true, as I think they are, then of course the proud heart cannot expect to experience being formed into Christ.

Spiritual Formation: The Journey Inward Precedes the Journey Outward

In the spiritual life being comes before doing. This is a hard one for people who want to "do" great things for God and see time spent alone with God as wasted time. A number of pastors and Christian leaders fall into this category. They may say "I want to pray," but unless this translates into a life of actually praying their desire is an illusion. Ontologically (in the order of being) the Jesus-life works this way: 1) Abide in Christ; 2) Out of the abiding, obey (this is the "doing" part).

I like how Henri Nouwen expresses this:

"Only out of the prayerful place of solitude and introspection can we hope for community and ministry. The journey inward precedes the journey outward, and the chronology is important. Spiritually, we need to know our selves and God in order to know other people. We need to love our selves and God in order to love each other. Communion with God precedes community with others and ministry in the world. Once the inward journey has begun, we can move outwardly from solitude to community and ministry." (Nouwen, 
Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, Kindle Locations 2106-2109)

What the Bible Says About Spiritual Formation

This is from Renovare's website.

"Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand" (Matt 3:2, 4:17, 10:7).
This is a call for us to reconsider how we have been approaching our life, in light of the fact that we now, in the presence of Jesus, have the option of living within the surrounding movements of God’s eternal purposes, of taking our life into his life.

~ Dallas Willard, 
The Divine Conspiracy

The Bible has a lot to say about spiritual formation.  Here are a few relevant passages.

2 Corinthians 3:18 
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Ephesians 4:20-24 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life . . . Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

1 Timothy 4:7-8
. . . train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, 

Colossians 3:10-11
Each of you is now a new person. You are becoming more and more like your Creator, and you will understand him better. It doesn't matter if you are a Greek or a Jew, or if you are circumcised or not. You may even be a barbarian or a Scythian, and you may be a slave or a free person. Yet Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all,
 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly,while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Why God Speaks to Us

Image result for john piippo hearing god

First - get this devotional book and read it every day! Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, by Dallas Willard.

My definition of prayer, following Willard, is this: Prayer is talking with God about what he and I are doing together. God speaks to me about what he and I are doing together.

What are God and I doing together? We are talking about bringing his kingdom realities on the earth.

Willard writes:

"God’s speaking to us does not make us important. Just as when he spoke to the ancient people of Israel, his speaking to us gives us greater opportunity to do good and greater responsibility for the care of others. God speaks to us because he wants us to join him in some purpose of advancing the kingdom of God here on earth." (P. 45)

Seminar on Leading the Presence-Driven Church - Session 2

My book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

This coming Sunday, Feb. 25, 5 - 6:15 PM.

Redeemer Fellowship Church.

Anyone is invited to come learn about the presence-driven church.

If you have the book, you can prepare for this session by reading chapters 4, 5, and 6.

Chapter 1 Introduction 

Chapter 2 The Case for Experience 

Chapter 3 The “Presence Motif” 

Chapter 4 Presence Comes Before Purpose and Programs 

Chapter 5 How to Experience God’s Presence 

Chapter 6 The Marks of a Presence-Driven Church 

Chapter 7 The Language of the Presence-Driven Church 

Chapter 8 Leading the Presence-Driven Church 

Chapter 9 God’s Presence Will Win the Day

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Women's Conference in Dayton, with Wendy Backlund from Bethel Redding - March 15-17

Many of us heard Wendy Backlund from Bethel Redding at our summer 2017 HSRM conference. Wendy will join some other excellent speakers for our HSRM Women's Conference in Dayton, Ohio, March 15-17.

It's a privilege to sit under Wendy Backlund's teaching, speaker and author from Redding, California. Wendy and her husband Steve are part of the ministries of internationally-known Bethel Church, led by Pastor Bill Johnson. Their personal ministry is called Igniting Hope Ministries and their message does just that. Wendy encourages and empowers Christians in revival culture and victorious mindsets, and her experiences with God's love, his Word and the Holy Spirit have transformed her life and will impart breakthrough to you too. 

Julie Weyandt, founder and director of Beauty for Ashes Ministry, is a gifted clinical counselor. She is also a presenter at seminars and workshops, and an author who has developed recovery group curriculum for adult survivors of sexual abuse and trauma. She will bring her Godly and professional expertise as we explore sensitive women's issues of abortion and post abortion trauma.  

Aurora Newton, Prayer and Encounter Pastor at Dayton Vineyard  is also founder & CEO of Assert Now, Inc. She is currently finishing her doctoral program in organizational psychology. She is an advocate who is passionate about the safety and well-being of children, teens, and women. Her vast experiences have equipped her to empower others, especially those who are vulnerable or at risk. 

Event Site
Linden Avenue Baptist Church, 101 Linden Ave., Dayton, Ohio  45403. Directions 

Reserve your room today at any number of guest facilities. Some suggestions:

In the Presence-Driven Church People Come Before Programs


(My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.)

As Jesus' followers live lives of abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit shows them what to do, and what not to do. Most of the ministries in our church have begun because God spoke to someone, while they were connected to him.

We have also released people from ministries because God has told them to let go. We have, on occasion, stopped an entire ministry. At one time it had life in it, but we now discern it has run its course, in terms of what God wants to do.

Churches that are fueled and driven by programs can find this hard to do. Because "the show must go on," the show becomes more important than the people. This is a formula for burnout and resentment. Never put programs ahead of people

Presence comes before purpose. God presences himself in his people, individually and corporately (we are now "temples" that host God's presence). Therefore, because God's presence comes before programs, and since God presences himself in his people, people come before programs.

Presence is about the intimate relationship between God and his people. Within this intimate relationship, God directs our paths. As we teach our people to focus on abiding, rather than what they are to do or not do, we find that God tells them what to do or not do. Teaching people to abide in Christ is a way of caring for them, because God's presence is what our people need, with all its comprehensiveness.

Then, as God speaks to people about what he would have them do or not do, the pastors and leaders must listen to the hearts of their people. 

We want our people to know they can hear from God. When they believe they are hearing from God, we must not put pressure on them because the show must go on.

Monday, February 19, 2018

My Book Is on iBooks

Leading the Presence-Driven Church
My book is available for download on iBooks.

Churches - Nurture Your Strangeness

Image result for john piippo weird

Jesus (the Real One) didn't have a coolness factor. Jesus wasn't trying to be hip, dope, or whatever the word is at the moment. 

Jesus didn't come to be relevant. For more on this see Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance

Jesus was different. Distinct. It is precisely Jesus' difference and distinction that captivates people. ("Nietzsche saw that independent thinkers would always be out of step with the conventional wisdom of their generation." Guinness, 19)

Jesus was weird. 

Jesus didn't fit in with the prevailing religious and political regime. Jesus was, as Michael McClymond indicates in the title of his book, a "familiar stranger." 

Jesus' strangeness, as it is lifted up, draws people. Russell Moore, in "Why Your Church Needs to Listen to the Culture," writes that relevant-hip churches are boring young people to death. If we listened to culture we would see this, and give up trying to make Jesus everyone's homeboy. 

Moore reflects on his own church experience with youth:

"The “unchurched” kids laughed at the Bible studies based on television shows or songs of the moment. They weren’t impressed at all by the video clips provided by my denomination’s publisher, or by the knockoff Christian boy bands crooning about the hotness of sexual purity. What riveted their attention wasn’t what was “relatable” to them, but what wasn’t. They were drawn not to our sameness but to our strangeness." (Emphasis mine.) 

Moore describes one teen who asked him, "Do you really believe this dead guy came back to life?" "Yes," Moore responded, "I do." The kid blinked and then whispered, "Dude, that's crazy." Yes it is. It is crazy. This kid stayed around to listen to more about this.

I don't know if Moore has read Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, but they sound the same. Moore writes: "Jesus didn't hide the oddity of the culture of the kingdom, and neither should we." 

At Redeemer I once preached a year-and-a-half project through the book of Revelation. Missing from my bucket list was to try to make Revelation normal. If it was normal, no one would be interested. Revelation is bizarre. It should be, to all who acknowledge that there is a God in heaven and, ipso facto, his ways are not our ways. We are talking about another reality intersecting and interacting with our unredeemed planet. This other, heavenly reality has to look different!

If you are a pastor or church I now free you, in Jesus' name, from coolness, and release you to difference.

Moore writes:

"Let’s listen to what our culture is saying, hearing beneath the veneer of cool the fear of a people who know that Judgment day is coming because it’s written in their hearts (Romans 2:15–16). Let’s listen beneath the cynicism to the longings there, expressed in the culture, longings that can only be fulfilled in the reign of a Nazarene carpenter-king. Let’s deconstruct what they — and we — tell ourselves when it’s nonsense. But let’s not stop there. Let’s run toward, and not away from, the strangeness of an old gospel of a Messiah who was run out of his own hometown, but who, oddly enough, walked out of his own graveyard. For real."

My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

I'm now working on...

How God Changes the Human Heart (Dec. 2018?)

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Friday, February 16, 2018


Trevor Robinson sent me a list of some of our coming youth group events at Redeemer. They all look great to me - thank you Trevor!

Friday February 23rd Hangout Night
There will be snacks and drinks and time to just hangout and spend time together. This will be at Dayna and Aaron Oldenberg's house and their address is in the Church Bulletin. This will be from 7pm-9pm and we can't wait to see you!

The Pursuit Conference 2018
This is our Youth Conference. 
When: Thursday March 29th-Saturday March 31st
Where: Redeemer Fellowship Church
Cost: 25$ per student
The cost covers the food for the whole weekend.
For our Conference the students stay at the Church from Thursday night up until Saturday. We will have worship, prayer, time for activities and times of teaching and growing. More details to come!

YWAM Coming to Redeemer!
Last year our Youth Group was blessed to have a team from YWAM (Youth With A Mission) come from Louisville, Kentucky to spend a few days with us. This year we are excited to have another one of YWAM's teams come spend sometime with us.

When: Thursday April 12th, Friday April 13th and Saturday April 14th

There is no cost for this and more details coming soon!

And....Steve Backlund from Bethel Redding is coming to Redeemer May 18th-20th!
At our Green Lake Conference this past Summer our students and Youth Leaders got to hear Steve teach and share. I appreciate how practical and easy to understand Steve is when he shares and teaches. I am excited to have him with us and hope that many of our students can attend!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


In my One-Hour Seminary tonight someone asked, "What should a church do if a same-sex couple begins coming to your church?"

I mentioned Mark Yarhouse's idea of how we should relate to transgendered people, if they come to our church.

Yarhouse writes:

"In response to the unchurched and dechurched transgender community, the Christian community needs to ask what it will look like to be missional in the years to come. Keep in mind that this is a group that will be asking, “What does the church have to offer me?” The perception (and too often the reality) is that transgender persons who have nothing to do with the church perceive that the church would reject them out of hand. They have either had poor experiences with the church or they view the church as largely unimportant or irrelevant in their lives. 

It has been observed that a traditional evangelical church focuses on behavior first, followed by belief in Christ and a sense of Christian community. It essentially looks like this:

Behave → Believe → Belong 

This approach begins with communicating expectations for change in how others behave. This may not be explicit, but it often has more to do with the comfort level of evangelicals who are sitting in the pews. They may believe the gospel is for those outside the church, but they do not want those outside the church to actually cross into the church until their behaviors change. What follows the expectation of behavior change is belief in Christ. Unfortunately, on the heels of the expectation of behavioral compliance, it can come across to those outside the church as, “Think the way we think,” which is a hard message after the expectation to conform to behavioral norms. Then the message is: Now you belong. It is a remarkably conditional approach to the world, and one that, in my view, is not sustainable in our changing sociocultural context. 

A missional church model offers a different outline: 

Belong → Believe → Become 

A missional church focuses on first being in relationship (belong) then moves toward an opportunity to live one’s testimony to an unbelieving culture (believe). Only when a person enters into that relationship is there any thought given to who a person becomes over time as they grow in their relationship with Christ (become). Some people will insert the word behave where I have become, but I prefer the designation become to behave, as it reminds evangelicals that the process of sanctification is not a checklist of behaviors but a dynamic process of growing in Christlikeness."

Yarhouse, Mark A.. Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture (Christian Association for Psychological Studies Books), Kindle Locations 2780-2800

On Religious Freedom - Resources (One-Hour Seminary)

Thanks to all who tuned in to tonight's One-Hour Seminary.

Here are some of the resources I mentioned, plus a few more.


My flow chart...

How to Formulate a Christian Perspective on Same-Sex Unions (and a Bit About The Nashville Statement)

Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, by Ryan T. Anderson

What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, by Ryan T. Anderson, Sherif Gergis, and Robert P. George 


Audio of December SCOTUS oral arguments - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOyVEFOOobs

"Judge rules California baker doesn't have to make wedding cake for same-sex couple"


Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, by John Corvino and Ryan Anderson

"Drawing a Line In the Gay 'Wedding Cake' Case," by John Corvino

"A Baker's First Amendment Rights," by Robert P. George and Sherif Gergis

My two books are:

I am working on books 3 & 4:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation