Thursday, May 31, 2018

Join Linda and I for Our Favorite Conference Ever!

Holy Spirit Renewal Conference JUNE 2018 from HSRM on Vimeo.


Linda and I have been attending for twenty-six years. 

This is more than another conference, it's a family. It has given us life-long friendships. 

We experience God's presence and power. Linda and I know our lives have been forever changed because of this five-day experience. 

Much of what we have learned about the Holy Spirit has been mediated to us through this conference. 

And, it is situated in a stunning, vast, beautiful Wisconsin setting. 


Why not join us and many others? Watch the video for contact details. 


Click here for Green Lake Conference Center website


1.  God's presence is there
2.  God's power is at work 
3.  Faith gets enlarged
4.  Strongholds are broken
5.  Worship is anointed
6.  Healings happen
7.  Deeper understanding of the Spirit-filled life is gained 
8.  Revival, Renewal, Restoration, Refreshment, Rest, Recreation
9.  Kids love it, teens love it, adults love it, pastors love it

10. It's a family...!

Why I Pray

Downtown Monroe

This morning I received two e-mails from friends who have been desperately praying for answers from God. Today, they received those answers, and were blown away by this. One person wrote, “Why do I not expect this to happen?” Now, for the moment at least, they are motivated to pray more. God’s loving responses to them motivate me to pray more. 

In a few minutes I will walk to the back of our property, by the river, where there is an old table, and my praying chair. I’ll bring my journal, Bible, and a cup of coffee… to meet with God for a while, and pray. I will pray for others, and I will listen to God speak to me. At this point in my life, I rarely leave these prayer times without feeling encouraged and strengthened. 

Why do I do this? Why do I pray? The basic reason is: because Jesus did. Here’s my reasoning. 

1. Jesus is my Great Shepherd. 
2. My Great Shepherd spent much time praying. 
3. Therefore, I spend much time praying. 

How do we know Jesus spent much time praying? Because “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.” (Luke 22:29) What Jesus did there was: 

1) instruct his disciples to watch and pray. 
2) pray, himself. 

“As usual,” Jesus went to the Mount of Olives, and prayed. “As was his custom.” Praying was Jesus’ customary way of doing life. If Jesus habitually did this, who am I, one of his followers, not to? 

I read of a sign, supposedly on the Alaskan Highway, where the road turned from pavement to dirt. It read: “Choose your rut carefully. You’ll be in it for the next hundred miles.” Choose praying. Over time, it will become the habitual rut in which you live your life.

- From John Piippo, Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (Kindle Locations 3636-3652). 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Prayer and Potato Chips

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Monroe, MI

There was a man in our church named Floyd. Floyd died several years ago. It was my privilege to do his funeral. When I met with Floyd’s wife, Grace, she shared something I had never heard before. 

“Floyd,” she said, “was a thankful person who was always thanking God for what he had been given.” 

Floyd had not come from a wealthy family. As I heard about him and his thankful heart, it reminded me of my mother who, as a young girl, sometimes received only an orange for a Christmas present, and cherished and savored it, and was thankful. 

How deep did Floyd’s heart of thanks run? “Whenever we had snacks, like potato chips,” said Grace, “Floyd would stop, bow his head, and thank God as the bag of chips was passed to him.” 

“You’re kidding me, right?” I said. “Floyd would give thanks, in front of everyone, for potato chips?!!” 

“Yes. He was grateful to God for anything that came his way.” 

I thought: I’m not that thankful. I take too many things for granted. “For granted” - to expect someone, or something, to be always available to serve you in some way without thanks or recognition; to value someone, or something, too lightly. 

To “take something for granted” - to expect something to be available all the time, and forget that you have not earned it. 

A “for granted” attitude presumes. A “for granted” attitude has a sense of entitlement. Like: “I am entitled to these potato chips.” 

“For granted” - to fail to appreciate the value of something. 

“Entitlement” - the belief that one is deserving of certain privileges. Like: “I deserve these potato chips.” 

Floyd, it seems, had no sense of entitlement, as if God owed him something. He didn’t take provision, in any form, for granted. From that framework, giving thanks logically follows. And, in yet another “great reversal,” God is deserving of, and entitled to, our praise and thanksgiving. God, for Floyd, was not some cosmic butler whose task was to wait on him, and make sure he was satisfied with the service. 

The apostle Paul instructed us to “always give thanks for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”418 “For everything” is all-inclusive. Nothing exists outside the realm of “for everything.” Everything is a gift from God, even my very life, even my eyes as I read this, and my breath as I inhale. If I gave thanks for everything, my gratitude would be unceasing. 

If I realized how God-dependent I actually am, I would stop now and say, “Thank you.” And then, in my next breath, I would say it again.

- John Piippo, Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (Kindle Locations 3589-3612). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Moving From Self-Hatred to Self-Forgiveness

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

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

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

I can never hear enough about forgiveness. I need it for myself. And I need more wisdom in dispensing it to others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why are these things so difficult to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How, then, can we forgive ourselves? Worthington gives Six Steps to Self-forgiveness. They are: 

STEP 1 - Receive God's Forgiveness

  • Go to God for understanding (the task is too big to handle alone)
  • Go to God with regret, remorse, and repentance

STEP 2 - Repair Relationships

  • Take responsibility (you are not the model citizen you'd like to be)
  • Confess to any you have hurt (admitting you're in the wrong goes far in turning things around)
  • Make amends through responsible compassion (thinking of others can help you make things right)

STEP 3 - Rethink Ruminations

  • It's not necessarily helpful to wrestle with the Almighty
  • Adjust perfectionistic standards and unrealistic expectations (Worthington shows how to do this. Getting real about yourself moves the process forward.)
STEP 4 - REACH Emotional Self-forgiveness

  • Worthington shows how to move from saying it to feeling it, using the acronym REACH:

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

STEP 5 - Rebuild Self-acceptance

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

Pastors Do Not Minister to Human Changing Desires


As a pastor....

I am not the minister of peoples' changing desires,

or time-conditioned understanding of our needs, 

or secularized hopes for something thing better. 

I am lashed tight to the mast of word and sacrament so I will  be unable to respond to the siren voices of relevance. 

I deal with foundational realities - God, kingdom, gospel. 

If I give in to the ever-shifting sands of populism I'll end up living a futile, fantasy life. 

My task is to keep telling the basic story, representing the presence of the Spirit, insisting on the priority of God, speaking the biblical words of command and promise and invitation."

- Adapted from Eugene H. Peterson. Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (Kindle Locations 244-249). 

Thirty Day Declaration Experiment - June 2018

For the month of June at Redeemer we are doing Steve and Wendy Backlund's Thirty Day Declaration Experiment

June 1- June 30. 

Go here to sign up -

AND... I'll preach and teach on this, this coming Sunday at Redeemer. Philippians 4:8-9:

...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.

Monday, May 28, 2018

In Praying, Remember

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Tiger Swallowtail, Yellow springs, Ohio
(From John Piippo, Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, Chapter 13, "Praying and Remembering.")

I was born in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My parents moved to Rockford, Illinois, when I was a year old. That’s where I lived for the next twenty years. The streets of Rockford were my holy ground. Whenever I return to Rockford I like to walk in my old neighborhood. I’ve done this many times, carrying my journal and camera with me. 

We lived on a cul de sac. The address was 3012 20th Avenue. Our phone number was 399-7931. These particulars, minä muistan. ("I remember," in Finnish)

Adjacent to our house was 25th Street Park. I loved that park! I spent countless hours playing there with my friends. That was the late 1950s and 1960s. I have not forgotten. 

I am thankful for my childhood. I could not wait for school to end and summer to begin! I had fun, adventure, and growth in a world without the Web. We had TV, but only three stations. Reception depended on which way the antenna on the roof was pointing. My father had to climb on the roof to adjust the picture. 

I played from sun-up to sundown. I hear my mother’s voice calling me in the dark - “John, it’s time to come in!” 

As I walk down 20th Avenue, my five senses recall. My parents are dead, but I smell my mother’s cooking. We rarely ate out. For me that was no loss, since I’ll eat from my parents’ table any time. 

Mom loved to cook, and loved to watch us enjoy her creations. Her esteem came from providing and home-making. She taught me how to make mashed potatoes. I’ve never met a mashed potato that measured up to my mother’s. In her cooking I encountered Platonic Forms, by which all shadowy, insubstantial culinary efforts were judged. 

I walk to Rolling Green School, where I attended kindergarten through fourth grade. Then to Whitehead Elementary School, Jefferson Junior High School, and finally, to Rockford East High School. Whitehead and Jefferson were brand new when I was there. Now, they have aged. Everything here is older. I see the same trees, but they are bigger. My parents are buried in a cemetery a few miles from here. I am older.

One year my father brought home a small pine tree he dug up from the family farm in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He planted it at 3012 20th Avenue. It was so small I could jump over it. Now, sixty years later, it’s tall. I walk past, pluck a pine cone, and take it with me back to Michigan. One of these cones made it to my office. I left it there for years. On occasion I held it, and thought of my father and mother and family. It is good to do this. I will never forget where I have come from. 

Remembering is sweet for me. I know that’s not so for everyone, but it is for me. Therefore, I remember. 

I remember loving, hard-working parents. I remember how they looked after me, and fed me, and clothed me. I remember my mother taking me to a store named Goldblatt’s to buy a madras shirt and a pair of Levi’s jeans. I remember my father, every winter, making an ice rink in our back yard. I remember every square inch of that small yard that I mowed and played in. I remember my mother making “pasties” and fruit pies. 

I remember my father hitting baseballs to me in the park. I remember my neighborhood friends, and every crack in the sidewalk on 20th Avenue. I remember going to our Lutheran Church, and having my father as a Sunday School teacher. I remember the smell of the brand new ‘55 Chevy dad bought - two-toned green. I remember our pet dog “Candy.” I remember sharing a bedroom with my brother Mike. 

I do not forget. 

Spiritually, “remembering” is foundational. Remembering is core Judeo-Christian activity. This is not about “nostalgia.” I don’t dwell in the past, or long for a return to it. My many returns to walk in the old neighborhood are sacred. They are holy. “Holy” means: “set apart.” A tiny, mundane piece of earth becomes the center of the universe, the place where God manifests his glory and presence. 

Remembering, as essential covenant activity, is not really about the past. My memory-walk is a full-bodied eschatological event. To understand the future and to have hope, I must remember the past and where I came from. I am a hopeful person today because of my past, a childhood filled with days of expectancy. As I walk these earthly streets I think of the new heaven and new earth that is to come. It will be a safe, loving, playful, and adventurous place. My entire family will be there. I rejoice. 

I remember Christ, and what God, in Jesus, has given me. I remember the “rescue.” I remember what the Lord has done. The Lord has done great things for me, and I am filled with joy. 

Remembering creates expectation. Expectation concerns hope. Hope is future-oriented. 

As I pray, I remember the deeds of the Lord, in my life.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Prayer as Re-membering

Image result for john piippo prayer
I took this photo of a woman praying i Jerusalem

Remembering is a spiritual discipline. When we give thanks, it's an act of prayer often associated with something God has done for us. 

Prayer-remembering is about the past. When that past is positive, it is accompanied with thanksgiving. We remember how God re-membered us, how God put us back together when we were falling apart.

To re-member something, literally, would be to "member again" that which has become dismembered. Parts that were once together because they were meant to be together, got separated, but now are rejoined.

When I pray I am often re-minded (I am mindful again) of something that has "left my mind." God brings something to mind, and I am re-membered. 

This is good. It is clarifying and focusing when this happens. In prayer, in the God-appointment, God puts pieces of life back together again. God's Spirit achieves, in the act of praying, a great unifying.

I don't think you have to try or strive to re-member. Rather, as you consistently meet with God, conversing together in the slow-cooked prayer exchange, a re-membering will take place, by the Spirit. This has been, and remains, my ongoing experience.

This is good news, and provides an incentive to pray. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put you back together again, but God can. As you pray God will put the pieces of your life and life in the kingdom back together again. (As some have said, to pray is to change.)


My Two Books (and Two More to Come)

Image result for john piippo books

My two books are:

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

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Image result for john piippo books

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Ireland Votes to Kill Babies

In America I, like you, have rights. For example, I have certain "unalienable rights," three of which are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." I have the right to "pursue happiness" as long as it is not illegal, and I do not violate the rights of other persons.

I do not have the right to kill persons who pose no threat to my existence. I do have "rights," but they do not include killing people. In this sense persons come before my rights.

Ireland, apparently, sees this differently. In Ireland, "my rights" come before persons. See "Ireland Votes to legalize Abortion in Blow to Catholic Conservatism." Or: "Ireland Votes to Kill Babies."

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said:

“This has been a great exercise in democracy...  We want a modern constitution for a modern country, and that we trust women and that we respect them to make the right decisions and the rights choices about their own health care.”

Yes, women have the right to make good decisions about their own health care. But women do not have the right to kill babies, not if the babies are persons. Just as I do not have the right to kill my neighbors, them being persons.

Pay attention please: THAT IS THE ISSUE

The issue is not "my rights" or "women's rights." It's this: is the inborn life a "person?" If it is, then case closed, because abortion is murder. And if it is not, then, following Peter Singer, not only should killing inborn life be allowable, it even follows rationally that in some cases euthanizing newborn babies is nonproblematic. (See "Peter Singer's Argument for Infanticide.") 

This has nothing to do with being "modern." What has modernity to do with moral values? Nothing, according to Plato, who argued for philosopher-kings instead of unenlightened majority rule.

This is a philosophical and religious issue, not a scientific one. (Because from science one cannot derive moral values.)

On this check out "Abortion: A Logical Argument." 

Irish women rejoicing because now they can kill their inborn children

Remembering as a Cure for Fear

Dandelion seeds in my front yard

Linda’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for many years. This horrible illness caused her to slowly lose her memory. One result of her memory loss was an increase of fear. 

One afternoon Linda, her mother Martha, her father Del, and I were shopping in a mall. At one point Linda and Del left for an hour to shop together, while I stayed with Martha. We sat together for a minute, and then she looked at me, her eyes filled with panic, and asked, “Where’s Del?!” 

“He’s shopping with Linda. He’ll be right back,” I responded. 

This put Martha at ease. But only for a few minutes. Forgetting what I had just said, Martha looked at me again, and asked, “Where’s Del?” 

“He’s with Linda. He’ll be right back.” 

This happened several times in an hour, with Martha forgetting, me reminding her, she calming down, then forgetting and filled with fear, asking “Where’s Del?”, and me reminding her again. Martha not only had forgotten what I said to her, she had forgotten a more basic truth, which was: in Del, she had a husband who would never, ever, leave her or forsake her. He was always by her side, Alzheimer’s or not.  

There is a “spiritual Alzheimer’s disease” which results in forgetting the many times God has rescued and delivered us, provided for us, and been with us. Such forgetting breeds fear. The more one forgets the deeds of God in one’s own life, the more one becomes fearful in the present moment. 

The antidote to this is: remembering

“Remembering” is huge in the Old Testament. The post-Exodus experience of Israel is grounded in remembrance. The Jewish festivals are remember-events, such as Passover, when the head of the household sits with his family and asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” In response, the past is recounted, and we hear again how God delivered their people out of bondage in Egypt. This remembering, reminding them of God’s past faithfulness, brings fresh hope. 

My spiritual journal functions as the written memory of the voice and deeds of God, in my life. I take time every year to re-ponder my journals. In doing so, I remember what God has done for me, how he has delivered me from bondage, and how he has answered many of my prayers. I re-read of past times when I was afraid, or worried, and then re-read how God came through, and my worry dissipated. 

I do not, I will not, forget the deeds of the Lord in my life. The spiritual discipline of remembering brings renewed hope in the present, defeating the onset of spiritual Alzheimer’s disease.

- From my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, Chapter 13, "Praying and Remembering" 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Prayer and Letting Go of Control

The Deepest Ministry We Have with Others

Linda's footprint, next to mine
Your worth is not the same as your usefulness. Your influence runs deeper than your advice-giving. (See "Giving Advice as a Form of Judgmentalism.")

The people who have most influenced me were somebody. I think of them - their character, their Christlike attributes. Just knowing and being with them made a difference. In their presence, more was caught than was taught. Sometimes I catch myself imitating their behaviors.

Dallas Willard, writes Alan Padling, believed that "what God treasures in someone’s life is the person they become more than the work that they do. Dallas reminded us that the deepest ministry we have with others is who we are more than what we say or do." (In Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith and Formation, Kindle Locations 2754-2755)

My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

This is a book about the primacy and centrality of God and his unsurpassable presence, and what this means for the Church. The presence of God is the core, the sine qua non, of mere Christianity. God’s presence is what is needed to win the day over the present powers of darkness. This book shows what it means for a church to be presence-driven, and what leadership looks like in the presence-driven church.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Does Jesus Expect Us to Do What He Taught?

Skye Jethani 

The Trouble with People Who are Not Like Me

My back yard

In the days of my greater immaturity I sang in a college choir. I am a baritone, and I can hold a tune. I can stay on pitch. But X, who sang in the baritone section next to me, could not.
I grew to despise him for this. 

Not only was X tone deaf, he could sing louder than anyone in the choir. X's tone deafness overwhelmed the rest of us. He was an eighth of a tone flat, all the time. Just slightly off pitch. To be slightly off pitch in a choir, and loudly so, is a great sin, for it works to drag everyone else down to its atonal level.

To make matters worse, X always had a smile on his face. I can see his broad smile now, forty-nine years later. X was upbeat, chipper, as he miserably sang. This angered me even more. 
X did not see how this was affecting me. My only relief was to share my grief with others, to spread my pain far and wide. I was everyone, and everyone talked about X. "X is ruining our choir." "X can't sing." "Just what does X think he is doing?" "X makes my life miserable."

"My life would be better if X were not in my life."

But that last statement, of course, is false. And immature. My trouble with X brought out my trouble with me. I, not X (or Y or Z or...), am my greatest problem. Unless I come to see the truth of that I will be forever miserable.

C.S. Lewis, in a beautiful little piece called "The Trouble with X," wrote:

"Even if you became a millionaire, your husband would still be a bully, or your wife would still nag, or your son would still drink, or you'd still have to have your mother-in-law live with you.

It is a great step forward to realize that this is so; to face up to the fact that even if all external things went right, real happiness would still depend on the character of the people you have to live with--and that you can't alter their characters. And now comes the point. When you have seen this you have, for the first time, had a glimpse of what it must be like for God. For of course, this is (in one way) just what God Himself is up against. He has provided a rich, beautiful world for people to live in. He has given them intelligence to show them how it ought to be used. He has contrived that the things they need for their biological life (food, drink, rest, sleep, exercise) should be positively delightful to them. And, having done all this, He then sees all His plans spoiled--just as our little plans are spoiled--by the crookedness of the people themselves. All the things He has given them to be happy with they turn into occasions for quarreling and jealousy, and excess and hoarding, and tomfoolery..." (C.S. Lewis, "The Trouble with X")

But God's view is different from my view, or from your view. "He sees one more person of the same kind--the one you never do see. I mean, of course, yourself. That is the next great step in wisdom--to realize that you also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character. All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs."

God sees me. To God, I am X. And surely, I am X to some people. "It is important to realize that there is some really fatal flaw in you: something which gives others the same feeling of despair which their flaws give you. And it is almost certainly something you don't know about."

There is a second way God is different from me. I don't love X, but God does. God  "loves the people in spite of their faults. He goes on loving. He does not let go. Don't say, "It's all very well for Him. He hasn't got to live with them." He has. He is inside them as well as outside them. He is with them far more intimately and closely and incessantly that we can ever be. Every vile thought within their minds (and ours), every moment of spite, envy, arrogance, greed, and self-conceit comes right up against His patient and longing love, and grieves His Spirit more than it grieves ours."

Today, when I think of my attitude towards X, I am saddened. Surely X knew I couldn't stand him. The thought of X knowing that, and still smiling as he sang with all his atonal heart, sickens me. Who am I, before God, to treat anyone that way? And who are you to do the same? Lewis writes:

"Be sure that there is something inside you which, unless it is altered, will put it out of God's power to prevent your being eternally miserable. While that something remains, there can be no Heaven for you, just as there can be no sweet smells for a man with a cold in the nose, and no music for a man who is deaf. It's not a question of God "sending" us to Hell. In each of us there is something growing up which will of itself be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud. The matter is serious: let us put ourselves in His hands at once--this very day, this hour."

My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

This is a book about the primacy and centrality of God and his unsurpassable presence, and what this means for the Church. The presence of God is the core, the sine qua non, of mere Christianity. God’s presence is what is needed to win the day over the present powers of darkness. This book shows what it means for a church to be presence-driven, and what leadership looks like in the presence-driven church.