Sunday, September 30, 2018

Self-Attention and Self-Abuse Cease When Honor/Shame Hierarchies Are Removed


(This is an idea in progress...)

When Jesus came he did away with cultural honor-shame hierarchies. You see this in Luke chapter 1. Mary sings her song of the new status-realities her son is going to bring in. With Jesus it will be an upside-down world of inverted hierarchies.

Eventually this will be seen as the abolition of hierarchies in the Pauline observation that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.

With this the gate is opened whereby subhumanity might enter into true humanity, where the false self might be exchanged for the true self. This is because self-adoration, self-hate, self-pity, self-centeredness, self-will, self-hiding, and self-ignorance all depend for their existence on the honor-shame hierarchy. All such punishing aspects of the false self are rooted in the comparative evaluation of the self as essentially against other subhuman selves. (One is always, simultaneously, "above" and "below" others.)

The honor-shame hierarchy excludes and never embraces. This is where questions like "Who is the greatest?" are asked, and people say "Thank God I am not like that other person." On the honor-shame hierarchy the "other" is essentially one's opponent.

But in the incarnation, the Greatest became the Least to bestow kingdom status on all who come to him. (This, BTW, is the core idea behind James Cone's theology of the Christ as black.)


On the "reversal motif" in the song of Mary see R. John Vijayaraj, "Human Rights Concerns In the Lukan Infancy Narratives (Luke 1:5 - 2:52)."

On honor-shame hierarchies in New Testament times see Joel Green,The Gospel of LukeOf the four gospels Luke is the most socially concerned.

To further study honor/shame hierarchies see

My two books are:

Friday, September 28, 2018

Pray for America

Recently I was watching a professional sporting event. One team was not doing well. A few of the players were turning on each other. One player was in the face of the coach, angrily pointing his finger and shouting obscenities. This team is in trouble.

Years ago I did a weekend conference at a church. As I spoke the first evening, the people seemed attentive and friendly. But below the surface there was tension. Some of the leaders were fighting. Anger levels were high. Conflict was losing the day. This church was in trouble, perched on the precipice of ruin.

Linda and I are privileged to meet with many marital couples. Sometimes we engage in healing these relationships. When a marital couple cannot coexist in loving unity (not total uniformity), their marriage is in trouble. Hopelessness occupies their house.

Jesus understood this when he said,

Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, 
and a house divided against itself will fall.
Luke 11:17

It's morning in an America that is deeply divided against itself. If America remains this way, it will be ruined. If America remains this way, it will fall.

To my fellow followers of Jesus: Let us pray for America. For our leaders. 

More specifically, pray for our churches, 

that they would be awakened and revived to exemplify communicating the truth in love, 

that they would seek first God's kingdom before all earthly powers, 

that God would come upon us in heavenly power,

and that the Church would rise up, 

for such a time as this.

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Leading the Presence-Driven Church.
I'm working on:
How God Changes the Human Heart
Technology and Spiritual Formation
Linda and I then plan to write our book on Relationships

Thursday, September 27, 2018

REVIVAL - Why Not You?

Leaving Christianity for All the Wrong Reasons

Literati Bookstore, in Ann Arbor

When I was a child, I thought like a child.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13

I have met people who say this: "I once was a Christian. But I have left Christianity because _____________." 

You can fill in the blank. The answers vary, on the surface. But mostly the core is the same. Correctly, it should read: "I left Christianity because my faith was childish."

This is what Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age, calls a classic "subtraction story." Taylor writes:

“The core of the subtraction story consists in this, that we only needed to get these perverse and illusory condemnations off our back, and the value of ordinary human desire shines out, in its true nature, as it has always been.” (Secular Age, 253)

Behind such deconversions often lies an intellectually restrictive fundamentalism. This makes the transformation more likely. As Taylor says, "the more childish one's faith, the easier the flip-over." (Ib., 307)

I meet deconverted students in my philosophy classes. I see that they have never seriously studied Mere Christianity and its advocates. I have talked with people who:

1. Had a childish version of Christianity.
2. Believed their childish version was real Christianity.
3. Knocked down their straw-man version of Christianity.
4. Declared "Christianity" false and became an atheist.

Their defense of 2 is fundamentalist. This makes them impossible to reason with. 

Taylor asks us to look deeper into the dynamics of the "secular age" we inhabit. Commenting on Taylor, Collin Hanson writes:

"Faith is now more difficult than unbelief. We’re adrift in stormy seas of doubt—every man, woman, and child fighting for the lifeboat of belief. Something fundamental has shifted in Western culture that runs deeper than outward changes in technology. So what happened? That’s the question Taylor seeks to answer." (In 
Hansen, Collin. Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor, p. 4.)

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Leading the Presence-Driven Church.
I'm working on:
How God Changes the Human Heart
Technology and Spiritual Formation
Linda and I then plan to write our book on Relationships

The Bible Gives Us a Story That is True

Detroit Public Library

Stories more easily stay in me than logical arguments. I value logic. I like formulating and evaluating arguments. I taught logic and critical thinking for seventeen years at Monroe County Community College. 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, replete with fire and wind, signifying truth.
    For example, it is within a "large, sprawling narrative" that 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. (A good example is "Dunkirk" last week, which 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)

                Wednesday, September 26, 2018

                John Maxwell - 10 Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Temptation

                Weaverville, California

                One of the most impactful sermons I have ever experienced was at the first PromiseKeepers event I went to, in Indianapolis. The speaker was John Maxwell. He preached on "10 Guidelines for Dealing with Sexual Temptation." After Maxwell gave Guideline #1 the place was electric. I felt, at that moment, that 20,000 men were ready to walk in total sexual purity.

                John Maxwell’s 10 Guidelines (For Men) For Dealing With Sexual Temptation

                1. RUN!

                “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

                "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body." (1 Corinthians 6:18)

                2. ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY

                "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)

                Every time we choose righteousness, we not only become closer to God, but stronger in our ability to resist temptation.

                3. BE ACCOUNTABLE - John Maxwell's list of accountability questions:

                Are you spending time alone with God?

                Are you in studying the Bible?

                Are you praying?

                Is your thought life pure?

                Have you seen something you shouldn't see (movies, magazines, Internet)?

                Are you misusing your power on the job? At home?

                Are you walking in total obedience to God? (Remember, partial obedience is disobedience.)

                Have you lied about any of the previous questions?

                4.LISTEN TO YOUR WIFE

                5. BE ON GUARD

                Seldom travel alone.

                When you have to travel, call your wife every night.

                Talk positively about your wife to others.

                Choose friends wisely. "Bad company corrupts good character." ( Corinthians 15:33)


                "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)

                "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)


                "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!" (1 Corinthians 6:15)


                "But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself." (Proverbs 6:32)

                "For the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life." (Proverbs 6:26)

                9. THINK OF YOUR CHILDREN


                Maxwell's definition is: Success is having those who are the closest to me love and respect me the most.

                One Day Jesus Was Praying


                I am reading, slowly, through the Gospel of Luke. This morning I began in Luke 11:1:

                One day Jesus was praying in a certain place.

                I can't get past this verse. It's enough for me.

                The verse does not say:

                One day Jesus thought about praying.

                It doesn't read:

                One day Jesus desired to pray, but didn't have time for it.

                It's not:

                One day Jesus read a book about praying.


                One day Jesus said "I believe in the power of prayer."

                It does say:

                One day Jesus was praying.

                One day Jesus was actually doing it.

                One day Jesus was engaged in praying. 

                One day Jesus, my Lord, my exemplar, my mentor, was spending considerable time talking with God. 

                One of his followers saw him doing this. This follower was so impressed that he wanted to do what Jesus was doing. Which was: communicating with the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

                When Jesus finished dialoguing with God, the follower who desired to do the same said to Jesus, "Mentor, teach us to do what you just did."

                Everything I have to say about praying is in my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

                Tuesday, September 25, 2018

                My Photo Book - A Missions Project

                I've created a book of some of my photos, plus quotes from my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church. (Hardcover. 12X12.)

                It costs me $48 to make one book (includes S&H).

                For $100 you can have one - the $52 profit goes entirely to missionaries we support at Redeemer.

                Send a check for $100 payable to Redeemer Fellowship Church. Please indicate: "for photo book."

                Redeemer Fellowship Church
                5305 Evergreen
                Monroe, MI

                Include a note with your mailing (shipping) address.

                If you are with our Redeemer family and want to do this please give your check to Stella, our office manager. I'll order a book for you.


                The Neural Highway that Flows from the Throne of God

                Lake Erie shoreline

                One of my former seminary students wrote me and said: "You may not remember me but I took your spiritual formation and I fell off the wagon in my daily prayer and meditation! Are there any words of wisdom on how you have been able to maintain your daily commitment!"

                I responded:

                Here's how I've been able to maintain my commitment.
                1. Forty-two years ago I was feeling tired and burned out in ministry. I read Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. I felt moved to carve out time to get alone with God and talk with Him and listen. So, I did.
                2. To my surprise and delight, God powerfully and personally met me. God spoke to me, and I journaled like a mad person. This made me want to meet alone with God more.
                3. A desire, a fire, was kindled in my heart. I chose to tend it, to keep it burning. So I continued regularly meeting with God. 
                4. I began to see God changing my heart. Most of this was slow growth. It was real, enduring progress in the spiritual life. My journal became a record of all that God was doing within me.
                5. My ministry more and more became God ministering to and through me. Being a follower of Jesus began to look and feel different. I liked the feeling. I liked what I saw happening. I saw that this was all on the part of God, what God was doing within me. I found my worship increasing as I easily gave glory and credit to God for any good fruit produced in and through me.
                6. As the months and years passed by a "holy habit" was formed in me. A new, living, neural pathway was created by God, through which his living waters of grace and love and power flowed. I did not, and have since not, wanted to stop meeting with God to experience him. I meet with God regularly because God has met with me and transformed my desires, experience, and knowledge.
                7. I heard there was supposedly a sign on the Alaskan highway where the pavement turned to dirt. It read: "Choose your rut carefully. You’ll be in it for the next hundred miles." I have chosen a good rut. I live in the groove, swim in the neural highway that flows from the throne of God.
                My two books are:

                Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

                Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

                I'm working on:

                How God Changes the Human Heart

                Technology and Spiritual Formation

                Linda and I then plan to write our book on Relationships

                Saturday, September 22, 2018

                My Favorite Conference

                My favorite conference is the yearly Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin. 

                For details go HERE.

                Thursday, September 20, 2018

                Revival - Why Not Us? Why Not Now?


                Finger of God 2 @ Redeemer - Sept. 30

                Darren Wilson's new movie "Finger of God 2" will premiere at Redeemer, Sunday evening, Sept. 30, 6 PM.

                Darren grew up in our church - we're so thankful for how God is using him to spread the Kingdom message of God's power and love!

                Tuesday, September 18, 2018

                Jim Hunter on What It Is to Be a Leader

                Dynamic Leadership Event Highlight from Studio46 Media on Vimeo.

                Here is my friend Jim Hunter, who knows more about leadership than anyone I know.

                Jim has written three excellent, compelling books, that have influenced many of us.

                The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership

                The World's Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader

                The Culture: Creating Excellence with Those You Lead

                Pastoral Leaders - Beware of the Superman Mentality

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

                In Exodus 18:17-18 Moses' father-in-law Jethro sees Moses doing too much. Jethro says:

                What you are doing is not good.
                You will surely wear yourself out,
                both you and these people with you.
                For the task is too heavy for you;
                you cannot do it alone.

                Moses' leadership flow chart looked like this:

                Moses has taken on too much! Just like some pastors. If they don't have a Jethro in their life this will end in disaster. 

                Ruth Haley Barton identifies some of the symptoms that might manifest themselves when a pastor-leader is dangerously depleted and may be functioning beyond human limitations.

                • Irritability or hypersensitivity
                • Restlessness.
                • Compulsive overworking. Bryan Robinson writes: "Workaholism is an obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifests itself through self-imposed demands, an inability to regulate work habits, and an overindulgence in work - to the exclusion of most other life activities." (In Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, p. 104)
                • Emotional numbness.
                • Escapist behaviors.
                • Disconnection from one's identity and calling.
                • Not able to attend to human needs.
                • Hoarding energy.
                • Slippage in our spiritual practices.
                Barton writes: "If even a few of these symptoms are true for you, chances are you are pushing up against human limitations and you, too, might need to consider that "what you are doing is not good" for you or for the people you are serving." (Ib., p. 106)

                Many leaders have a Superman mentality, which is "a grandiosity that we indulge to our own peril." (Ib., 108)

                Pastoral leaders who take my spiritual formation courses know that the antidote to spiritual depletion is returning to their first love which is Christ, and a committed life of praying, solitude, and quietness before God.

                My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God  can help you overcome overworking.

                Monday, September 17, 2018

                Scientism Exceeds its Grasp

                Lake Michigan shoreline, Michigan

                I meet, on occasion, someone who says, "Science explains everything." From this follows the idea that: If science cannot in principle explain something, then that "something" does not exist. This is called "scientism."

                "Scientism" is the belief, indeed the worldview, that claims science is the only valid way of seeking knowledge and truth in any field. On scientism, science explains or will explain (at least in principle) everything there is to be known.

                University of South Carolina biologist Austin Hughes (deceased 2015) addressed this in his essay "The Folly of Scientism." He quotes Peter Atkins, who says that science has "universal competence."

                Hughes scoffs at this and writes:

                "Central to scientism is the grabbing of nearly the entire territory of what were once considered questions that properly belong to philosophy. Scientism takes science to be not only better than philosophy at answering such questions, but the only means of answering them. For most of those who dabble in scientism, this shift is unacknowledged, and may not even be recognized. But for others, it is explicit."

                Atkins, for example, says, “I consider it to be a defensible proposition that no philosopher has helped to elucidate nature; philosophy is but the refinement of hindrance.”"

                Hughes shows how this kind of thinking over-reaches. Scientism "exceeds its grasp." To get at this Hughes takes us to the roots, the foundation, of certain scientific and philosophical ideas in which scientism is grounded.

                He makes a nice distinction between science per se and what scientists say. For example, there has been a good deal of controversy over stem cell research. While many in the discussion are scientists, there is "little science being disputed: the central controversy was between two opposing views on a particular ethical dilemma, neither of which was inherently more scientific than the other. If we confine our definition of the scientific to the falsifiable, we clearly will not conclude that a particular ethical view is dictated by science just because it is the view of a substantial number of scientists."

                Hughes questions the idea that science is essentially "self-correcting," in the sense that self-correction will necessarily occur. He writes:

                "Alas, in the thirty or so years I have been watching, I have observed quite a few scientific sub-fields (such as behavioral ecology) oscillating happily and showing every sign of continuing to do so for the foreseeable future. The history of science provides examples of the eventual discarding of erroneous theories. But we should not be overly confident that such self-correction will inevitably occur, nor that the institutional mechanisms of science will be so robust as to preclude the occurrence of long dark ages in which false theories hold sway."

                Hughes rightly dismisses the idea that science and scientists are above political, petty, and irrational thinking. Those who think science to be epistemtically or metaphysically neutral attain a status quite like cult leaders. It's time to debunk the scientistic "aura of hero worship." Science does not possess some special, transcendent epistemic reliability. And it fails to explain everything, to include the claim that science explains everything.

                Sunday, September 16, 2018

                Hoping Beyond Death

                So-Fee and me
                If there is one thing that is certain, it is taxes. But there is something more certain than taxes. One day I will die. Death is more certain than taxes. 

                I think about death. One result of my conversion to Christ forty-eight years ago was a greater awareness of death. Being a philosophy major helped me. "Death" is a big-time philosophical theme. 

                How we think about death influences how we live today. Heidegger told us that life is best lived in light of one's death. The death of Socrates, as told by Plato, is philosophically famous as a example of a good life and a good death. 

                Attending a theological seminary and becoming a pastor meant I would be called into life-and-death situations, some of which ended, of course, in death. 

                I have done many funerals. I did the funerals of my mother, my father, and Linda's mother and father. My infant stillborn son David never got a funeral because of the crazy circumstances surrounding his expiration. Tomorrow morning I will do a funeral of a beloved friend. When you minister at a funeral you deal with death. You meet with people whose loved ones are gone.

                I have cried at the death of loved ones. I cried when we put our dog So-Fee "to sleep" a few years ago. That was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We loved her so much! Driving her to the veterinarian's office as when she was dying was, for me, ridiculously painful. The fact that she trusted in us, in me, but could not be communicated to, made the situation harder. It also made me angry. Angry... at death... at the fact of death.

                For several years I was the pastoral chaplain at the Mid-Michigan Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Lansing. This was Sparrow Hospital's "HOPING" group. HOPING: Helping Other Parents In Normal Grieving. David was pronounced dead in this hospital. 

                My loss of David made me, in some way, "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." Once or twice a year I would speak, representing HOPING, to parents who lost their children in the hospital. That was intense. It feels intense as I write about it.

                I never forget these things. I do not want to forget them. I cannot and should not forget that death is still with us. In times of death, when walking through the valley of the shadow of death, some people think and reflect. Not all, but some. 

                I once did a funeral where friends of the drug-overdosed  deceased were having a tailgate "party" in the funeral home parking lot. Alcohol was their drug of choice for dealing with grief. They staggered into the funeral service having failed to "drown their sorrows."

                Every death as a God-opportunity. Worldviews kick in at funerals. People weigh things, evaluate things, deal with incomplete things, unsaid things that should have been said, the experiential finality of death, and with their own mortality. All these are thematic in the Gospel of Jesus the Christ. 

                At a funeral I share how forgiveness is possible in Jesus, and how in his resurrection we have hope beyond the grave. As I speak I see people who are listening, who are HOPING. Some who live in denial come out of that dark closet and stand, for a while, in the light. In that moment they are looking for some hope, as before them stands the Hope of the World.

                How do I handle death? I like what Thomas Merton said after one of his healthy meditations on life's mortality: "The important thing is simply turning to [God] daily, preferring his will and mystery to everything that is evidently and tangibly "mine."" (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander) Note the quotes around the word "mine" since, obviously, we own nothing in this earthly life. This includes other people. Even we are not our own.  

                I'm going to die. 

                You are too. 

                But Christ has been raised. 

                Therefore, I have hope, and you can, too. I choose to live in the light of that eschatological hope and connect with "Christ, the HOPE of glory."

                My two books are:

                Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

                Leading the Presence-Driven Church

                Friday, September 14, 2018

                Jesus Is Looking for Followers, Not People Who "Make a Decision"

                Custer Airport, Monroe

                To the Church in America: Focus on making disciples, rather than providing programs to entertain and hopefully retain the deciders

                Jesus commanded us to make followers. Invest resources in this. 

                Many make "decisions" for Christ and stop there, or fade out. Some of these deciders become disciples - praise God! Others don't.

                Jesus is not trying to get people to some decision point, with discipleship as a nice, but unnecessary, add-on. For Jesus it's all about being a disciple and following after him. It's in following Jesus that we come to see that a person's decision was real.

                Is it possible to make a decision to follow Christ as Lord and not follow him? No, it's not. It makes as much sense as saying, "I have decided to take up the game of golf," and then not take up the game of golf. Or, proclaiming in front of hundreds of people, "I have decided to eat this banana," and then proceeding to not eat it.

                Here is Dallas Willard's definition of a "disciple" of Jesus:

                "A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or knows a lot of things. Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus."

                Disciple-making is not popular in American entertainment-driven, consumer churches. For one reason, disciples cannot be microwaved. But a life of slow-cooked Jesus-following is vastly more satisfying, as any of Jesus' disciples know.

                My two books are:

                Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

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