Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Lauren Daigle - Freedom from Texting and Distraction







I ask people to please put their cell phones away during worship, and while I am preaching. Here Lauren Daigle explains why.



Daigle recently noted during an interview that social media has led many believers to experience a spiritual identity crisis—and she's no exception. She talked about how she caught herself texting during service and drowning out God with all the digital noise of the modern era. So how did she find freedom? She explains in this video.

Two Reasons People Don't Pray

Image result for john piippo praying
Monroe County
We've all heard people say the words "I don't have time to pray," or "I just can't find time to pray." Why not?

Two reasons for this are: 1) unbelief; and 2) an incomplete view of prayer.

Unbelief is one reason for a prayerless life. If prayer means talking with God about what we are thinking and doing together, then how could anyone pass up daily opportunities to meet, one-on-one, with the Maker of Heaven and Earth? I can assure you that, if the President of the United States (or any country's President) called and said they wanted to meet with me today, I would stop typing this post, and say "Excuse me, I have a meeting with our President." I would drop everything to do this! A chance to meet with the most powerful leader in the world! You would not be able to keep me from such a meeting. And, I would go in awe and trembling.

Multiply this unlikely earthly scenario a gazillion times and we have the matter of prayer as meeting with the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnibenevolent, necessarily existent, Creator and Sustainer of all things. If someone can't find time for this, I suggest it may it be because they don't believe.

Another reason Christians don't pray is because they have been taught an incomplete, one-sided theory of prayer. This is the idea of prayer as essentially "asking," or "petition." This is found in, e.g., the theology of Karl Barth, who so  emphasized the "Wholly Otherness" of God that the "I am with you always" God got viewed as distant. This can lead to talking to God, more than conversing with Him. We come to God mostly with requests. We approach this distant God when we're in trouble.

I know there's more to Barth than this. But this was his emphasis. See how this is expressed in, e.g., the Barthianism and Calvinism of Donald Bloesch, especially his book The Struggle of Prayer. I had Don (who was a great theologian, a very good person, a passionate lover of Jesus, and graciously agreed to speak to my seminary class) come to speak in a class I was teaching on prayer at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. The emphasis was, for me, too much on speaking to God but not enough on hearing from God.

If a Jesus-follower thought "God won't speak to me," this could discourage them from praying.

I like how Anglican theologian Kenneth Leech writes about this. Leech says: 

"Many people see prayer as asking God for things, pleading with a remote Being about the needs and crises of earth. sometimes these pleas produce a response; often, they do not. So prayer is seen in essentially functional terms - is it effective or not? Does it produce results?... But in order to pray well we need to disengage ourselves from this way of thinking." (Leech, True Prayer, 7)

This is the myth of "effective prayer," with effectiveness seen as some kind of measuring stick. To focus excessively on the effectiveness of prayer is to miss the relationship with God. It is to view God as some object, from which to "get results."

How can we help people who "can't find time to pray" because they don't believe? My view is that only God can change their hearts about this. We should not try to force this on someone. We can create opportunities and contexts for others to encounter God. When I send people out to pray as an assignment in my seminary courses, some become believers (in a God who has much to say to them,) and get a praying life that lasts for a lifetime.

We can also introduce the idea that true prayer is about a conversational relationship, rather than simply a 9-1-1 call.

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My two books are:



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

To the American Church: We Are in a War

Image result for john piippo cemetery
Cemetery on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem
The Church in America must wake up, come to life, and rise up. Because, in America, we are in a war.

Pastors - I am setting up a conference call for Monday, Nov. 19, 9 PM EST. 

The Purpose: To define "revival," share how we can prepare the soil in our churches for revival, and pray together for revival.

If you want to join me for this conference call please email me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Now... back to THE WAR.

In today's New York Times David Brooks writes:

"These mass killings are about many things — guns, demagogy, etc. — but they are also about social isolation and the spreading derangement of the American mind.
Killing sprees are just one manifestation of the fact that millions of Americans find themselves isolated and alone. But there are other manifestations of this isolation, which involve far more carnage.
The suicide epidemic is a manifestation. The suicide rate is dropping across Europe. But it has risen by 30 percent in the United States so far this century. The suicide rate for Americans between 10 and 17 rose by more than 70 percent between 2006 and 2016 — surely one of the most shocking trends in America today.
Every year nearly 45,000 Americans respond to isolation and despair by ending their lives. Every year an additional 60,000 die of drug addiction. Nearly twice as many people die each year of these two maladies as were killed in the entire Vietnam War.
The rising levels of depression and mental health issues are yet another manifestation. People used to say that depression and other mental health challenges were primarily about chemical imbalances in the brain.

But as Johann Hari argues in his book “Lost Connections,” these mental health issues are at least as much about problems in life as one’s neurochemistry. They are at least as much about protracted loneliness, loss of meaningful work, feeling pressured and stressed in the absence of community.
“Protracted loneliness causes you to shut down socially, and to be more suspicious of any social contact,” Hari writes. “You become hypervigilant. You start to be more likely to take offense where none was intended, and to be afraid of strangers. You start to be afraid of the very thing you need most.”
This sounds like a pretty good summary of American politics in 2018.
I keep coming back to this topic because the chief struggle of the day is sociological and psychological, not ideological or economic. The substrate layer of American society — the network of relationships and connection and trust that everything else relies upon — is failing. And the results are as bloody as any war.
Maybe it’s time we began to see this as a war."
- David Brooks, "The New Cold War"


Partner with Me at Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries!

Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you!" Acts 1:4-8, Acts 2:1-4
Hungry Believers Refreshed and Filled!
Clay Ford, HSRM Co-director: "Two workshops, back to back, in three hours at the Transformation Ministries 'UNITE' Annual Convention. What a wonderful sense of God's presence and power we experienced as we gathered in His name! Praise You, Jesus!!! Both workshops were packed out with people hungry for more of God's Spirit, and what a joyous time we had together, focusing on 'Holy Spirit Power: Compelling Reasons Why We need to Pursue a Deeper Filling of the Holy Spirit!' I'm very thankful to Jesus for blessing us with His presence, and grateful to Transformation Ministries leaders  Willie Nolte  and  Doug Meye  for giving me this opportunity. (NOTE: I recorded the workshop, and if anyone wants an audio recording along with the workshop outline, please email me at claytonford@sbcglobal.net and I will email you a link and an attached outline.)"
Did God change His Mind?
Clay Ford, HSRM Co-Director

A n increasing number of my Christian friends have crossed the line now, from affirming the biblical view of marriage between a man and a woman to their new position that same-sex marriage is okay, no big deal. Did God somehow change His mind on this? Was He not enlightened yet, and now He sees the light? Has the church been deceived for two thousand years, and only now sees the truth? Was the Apostle Paul deceived on this issue? Was Jesus mistaken when He defined marriage as between a man and a woman in Matthew 19? This breaks my heart, to see so many friends drifting away from the clear truth of the Gospel. I believe the truth of the Gospel is at stake in this issue. Either we have a Gospel with transforming power, or we don't. Either we take seriously the authority of the Scriptures or we don't. Paul wrote, "...such WERE some of you. BUT you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” - I Corinthians 6:11

I am so grateful that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to transform our lives. We all have an orientation to sin, and we are all guilty of sinning. That's not the issue. The issue is this: Is there a solution to the sin problem? And the answer is YES, THERE IS! That's good news! It doesn't say, "such are you still," it says "such WERE some of you."

We were held captive by sinful lifestyles, facing God's judgment. But through faith in Jesus Christ, we have been washed, sanctified, and justified before God. To teach and preach otherwise is to teach and preach a false gospel. Distorting the Gospel is serious business. As Paul the Apostle wrote: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” - Galatians 1:6-10, ESV
The Cure For the World is Spiritual
John Piippo, HSRM Co-director

I am praying to have a heart of love for my enemies, for those who are against me, for those seeking to hurt me. If I possessed this, I wouldn't be praying to have it.
Because...
 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Jesus, Matthew 5:43-48

The only hope for humanity is transformation of the human heart, person by person, into greater and greater Christlikeness. Should this happen, then transformed persons would love, not shoot, their enemies. 

A changed person would die for their enemies. While the Isis-message is "Die for God," the Christian message is "God died for us." This sounds as revolutionary and radical today as when Jesus spoke it two thousand years ago.

The solution for this world's violence is... more violence? Really? Violence has never worked in human history to make peace (because conquering violence always creates more enemies in its aftermath). Both large scale and small scale violence is impotent to create genuine peace, a peace that has captured hearts. I've worked with countless marriages, families, and relationships, and seen the post-war carnage. Violence that "wins" creates captives longing for retribution. Violence and hatred breed more violence and hatred.

Technology, for all its benefits, is no intrinsic peacemaker, since by it the means of war are increased. Thomas Merton writes: "No amount of technological progress will cure the hatred that eats away the vitals of materialistic society like a spiritual cancer." (Merton,  Thoughts in Solitude , 13) "The only cure is, and must always be," said Merton, "spiritual."

The cure for the world is spiritual. Not political. Not economic. It concerns the "Us vs. Them" condition of the fallen human heart. When Jesus increases in us, hatred of them decreases.
cbc Sermon - October 21st 2018
Andrew McMillan , pastor of Comunidad Cristiana de Fe, a 10,000 member church in Medellin, Columbia, recently emailed HSRM:

"So glad Larry Sparks will be with you [at 2019 Holy Spirit Conference]. I used to pastor in an ABC church in Allentown, NJ and the Green Lake charismatic conferences were a life line . I remember when James Bealle preached and the Holy Spirit crushed me into pieces. Now I have been in South America for the last 33 years seeing revival. One day I really yearn to be at the conference again. Love what you are doing." Andrew McMillan www.fepaisa.com

Pastor McMillan recently visited Columbus Baptist Church in New Jersey where Dr. John Grove has been pastor for 37 years. Enjoy listening to Pastor McMillan's message in the accompanying video.
Testimonies
"Life changed" at Holy Spirit Conference

"'Top Pick, First Choice, Favorite.' Thank you, Holly Collins for these powerful words I remember from The Green Lake Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin this Summer. That week changed my whole life and bought me closer and closer to God. Those three little but powerful words had an real deep meaning to me. During the time at Green Lake, I had little to no anxiety or depression. The months prior I suffered major anxiety, depression and panic attacks that would end me up in the emergency room twice in the same day. Myself wishing to be put into an medical coma because I was suffering from a week long panic attack with heart palpitations. When I was away at Green Lake I felt this calmness over me. I felt loved and cared for by many people, but the most important of all is Our God. I encourage people who are dealing with any type of mental illness to keep going forward, you have a meaning in this world even if you feel hopeless like you have nothing for you here. But you do; we ALL do!"
FB post 10/18/18
Emotional healing for a 5-year-old

Beth and Charley Hatch: "We were recently on ministry team when a couple came up for prayer for their 5 year old daughter, for emotional healing. The little girl was going through absolutely awful fits of rage, and when they would ask her to say 'Jesus' she would scream 'NO!!' and run away; was not willing to accept love, etc. The little girl was an adopted child they had adopted as an infant, and had never had problems. We prayed for her and as we did we watched the little girl relax and put her head down on her dad's shoulder. The Lord gave us emotions to nail to the cross, and then we partnered with Him in inviting the opposite emotions to come. We could see the difference in her. She literally went from stiff and disengaged to relaxed and she kind of melted into her dad. We kicked out rage, disappointment, sadness, abandonment, and unhealthy grief, and we invited Shalom, joy, kindness and gentleness. We prayed a blessing over the mom and dad, and unity in the family. When they left, she waved bye to us. It was pretty sweet!"
Upcoming Events!
Registration for the 2019 Holy Spirit Renewal Conference is OPEN! Make your plans now for an awesome time of God-encounter. Cultivate Great Expectations!
Vietnam Vet healed from PTSD

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Rationality of Belief in Free Will

Image result for john piippo free will
Chicago Theological Seminary
Edge.org's Question of the Year is: 

Many scholars were asked to respond to this, mostly of the secular variety.

Evolutionary theorist Jerry Coyne (University of Chicago) says his question is:

"If science does in fact confirm that we lack free will, what are the implications for our notions of blame, punishment, reward, and moral responsibility?"

Now that is a great question. And a pressing one. A much-discussed one.

For if we lack free will, and what I do is not because "I" chose it, but is either determined or indeterminate, then...

... I am not responsible...,

... I cannot take credit for what I do (I can neither be blamed nor praised)...

... and I cannot be punished for "doing" (what would that mean, if no free will?) something "wrong?" I could be institutionalized because I am a danger to society. But this would not be because I committed a crime, since "committing" myself to something implies a choice.

I think this question, which is so very important for our future, is in principle unanswerable. For what sense would it make for a scientist to choose to confirm that we cannot make choices out of our free will?

I suggest we are rational in assuming what feels intuitive to us; viz., that there is an "I" who is able to make choices that are not fully reducible to antecedent causal conditions; hence, assuming free will exists. (Our belief in free will is what philosophers call a "properly basic belief.")

Don't Consent to the Illusion


Ann Arbor

Many people, especially in America, define themselves in terms of their material possessions, their personal appearance, and their accomplishments. These evaluations are all comparative. They function on the punishing honor/shame hierarchy. This hierarchy is brutal because it requires a constant striving to maintain or upgrade one's false identity.

For such persons, this is all they are. They are nothing more or less than what they own, how they look to others, and what they have done. They create themselves in the image they think others will adore. They are a function of what people think, puppets controlled by ever-changing public opinion.

Thomas Merton knew this and wrote:

"There are many respectable and even conventionally moral people for whom there is no other reality in life than their body and its relationship with “things.” They have reduced themselves to a life lived within the limits of their five senses. Their self is consequently an illusion based on sense experience and nothing else. For these the body becomes a source of falsity and deception: but that is not the body’s fault. It is the fault of the person himself, who consents to the illusion, who finds security in self-deception and will not answer the secret voice of God calling him to take a risk and venture by faith outside the reassuring and protective limits of his five senses."
Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation (pp. 27-28)

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My two books are:


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Wisdom

Image result for john piippo dune
Me, climbing the big dune at Warren Dunes State Park (Michigan)

I am beginning my day by opening up the Bible to Proverbs. And then, I am currently reading Luke. I slow-cook in these biblical books. They situate my heart on the right track.

Proverbs contains much wisdom. I don't think it wise to claim to be wise. Yet, as a philosopher, I have read a lot of the world's wisdom literature.  This is what philosophers do. The word "philosophy" means "the love of wisdom" (philo-sophia). So, I have read Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Kant, Descartes and Hume, Anselm and Aquinas, the Buddha and Confucius, the Upanishads and the Koran, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, Camus and Sartre, Russell and Wittgenstein, Foucault and Derrida, Merton and Nouwen, and others. I read philosophy when driving the car. It is my bathroom reading. I study it. Scholars have taught me. I love wisdom. I treasure it. It has supreme value to me.

The love of wisdom is not a claim to be wise. But you won't be wise without having a foundational desire for wisdom. And study is one thing that helps me.

Have you seen those cartoons where someone seeking wisdom struggles to the top of a mountain to ask a white-bearded man with long grey hair a question? The book of Proverbs lies open on the pinnacle. God meets me, on the mountain, every morning.

"Above all else," I am told, "get wisdom." 

Above everything else? Above money? Above fame? Above beauty? Above possessions? Yes. To understand this is to be wise. To think otherwise is to be an ordinary fool. 

This morning I'm after some more wisdom. I collect it like diamonds, and mount them in my journal. I polish them by reading, and re-reading. 

I am reading Proverbs in Eugene Peterson's The Message. Peterson writes a beautiful introduction to Proverbs on its core theme.

Wisdom is different from knowledge. Wisdom may contain knowledge; knowledge may have no wisdom. Peterson writes:

"“Wisdom” is the biblical term for this on-earth-as-it-is-in-heaven everyday living. Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves. It has virtually nothing to do with information as such, with knowledge as such." (Peterson, The Message Remix 2.0: The Bible In Contemporary Language, p. 870)

A college degree does not guarantee wisdom.

Peterson writes:

  • Wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children,
  • handling our money
  • and conducting our sexual lives,
  • going to work
  • and exercising leadership,
  • using words well
  • and treating friends kindly,
  • eating and drinking healthily,
  • cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes toward others that make for peace.
  • Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do. In matters of everyday practicality, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God. (Ib.)
Here I go again, ascending to the mountain top.

"These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David's son, Israel's king -
written down so we'll know how to live well and right,
to understand what life means and where it's going."
- Proverbs 1:1


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