Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Letter to Christians About Gentleness and Respect

Ancient war helmets, Detroit Institute of Art
Looks like someone took a spear in the forehead.

(This is for followers of Jesus. Because I see this happening everywhere, to include, sadly, in the Church. And note: it all speaks to me, as well. Perhaps I am writing this for my own instruction? To remind myself of The Standard? If so, I can accept that. On this I agree with Dallas Willard, who once confessed that he had not loved others enough. Me either.)

In Romans 12 we are told to not conform our hearts to the pattern of our culture. God's kingdom, as Jesus repeatedly demonstrated, is not of this world.

One of this world's patterns has always been harshness and disrespect. Especially when it comes to disagreement. Much of this is seen on social media. And it gets unloving and ugly.
And anti-Christlike. Followers of Jesus who descend into the ugly side of social media are conforming to the world's modus operandi.

The Jesus way, on the other hand, includes beliefs and attitudes such as...

Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.

All the awesome spiritual gifts are nothing if you don't have love, as a heart attitude that leads to behavior.

Love is the greatest thing. Therefore, if you are on social media, be great.

Express your reasons for the hope you have, but always do it in gentleness and with respect.

Avoid the argumentative person. (Proverbs)

Speak the truth? Yes! But always in love!

If it has flesh and blood, it is not our real enemy. (Do not be sucked in by social media about this. On social media we see people fighting against people.)

When disagreeing, be patient with others, as you work to listen and understand them. (1 Cor. 13)

In disagreement, never dishonor others.  (1 Cor. 13)

Remove your anger buttons. (1 Cor. 13)

Grow up spiritually, and put the ways of children behind you. (1 Cor. 13:11)

When in conflict and disagreement, see HERE for how to be both truthful and loving. 

Remember that, contrary to much media, to disagree is not to hate.

If, when dialoguing and disagreeing, you fall into hatred, dishonor, and diminishment of the other, repent, and ask them for forgiveness. Do not do this on social media. 

The superior conflict-discussing, understanding-and-forgiving environment is face-to-face. Phone conversation comes in second. Email and texting is a distant, inferior third. The worst way, the incendiary way, is on social media, for the world to see. True, that's more interesting and attention-getting. Which is part of our world's disease.

Finally, In Essentials Unity, in Nonessentials Liberty, and in All Things, Love. Read, again, 1 Corinthians 13. Apply.

(Maybe...   one more suggestion...  take some philosophy classes. In my experience these classes had much debate and disagreement, but done civilly. Because, in logic, ad hominem abusives are irrelevant to truth-seeking.)

In Essentials Unity, in Nonessentials Liberty, and in All Things, Love

Antioch University, Yellow Springs, Ohio

When I was growing up my parents did not allow a deck of playing cards in the house. Card-playing was wrong. It was sin. I didn't know why this was so. As a child I didn't question it or find it weird. It was when I became a Jesus-follower that I began to wonder.

I found out that, among the Finnish Lutherans of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where my family was from and where I was born, card-playing was associated with drinking and gambling. Someone who was a Christian didn't drink, gamble, or play cards.

Sociologically, that made sense to me. But I no longer felt card-playing was a sin. Card-playing lies way out on the periphery of mere Christianity. God may tell a few to avoid a deck of cards, but it is a non-essential. You can be a Jesus-follower and have a deck of cards in your house, unless God specifically (for some reason you may or may not know) tells you not to have one. 

Here's how I have come to view the bigger picture about such things.

For a long time I've seen the Christian faith as a set of concentric circles, circles within circles. On the outer circles we find nonessentials of Christianity. These matters may be important for a few, but do not apply to all. In the inner circle, Circle 1, we find the heart of mere, true Christianity. If one does not affirm Circle 1 statements, then probably one is not a Christian, just as I am not now playing tennis as I'm typing on my laptop.

The set of propositions that fit within Circle 1 include:

1. God exists. (Viz., an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing, necessarily existent, without-beginning-or-end, creator and sustainer of all things, incorporeal, personal agent.)
2. Jesus the Messiah is God incarnate.
3. Jesus died on a cross, was buried in a tomb, and was raised on the third day.

If someone thinks any one of these three propositions are false, then I think they are not a Christian. (Yes, I am aware [amazingly, to me] of the "atheistic Christianity" of, e.g., Paul Van Buren and Thomas J.J. Altizer. I read their books back in the 1970s. Altizer, in The Gospel of Christian Atheism, wrote: "every man today who is open to experience knows that God is absent, but only the Christian knows that God is dead, that the death of God is a final and irrevocable event, and that God's death has actualized in our history a new and liberated humanity." At this point I would argue that Altizer has left Christianity in the same way one who travels by foot cannot be said to be flying in an airplane.)

Basic to mere Christianity is belief in God.

Also basic to mere Christianity is a recognition that Jesus is Lord, in the strong sense of being from God. Jesus is God the Son. I don't think one must fully grasp this concept to be a Christian. I'm still growing and learning such things. But mere Christianity includes the realization that one needs saving, and Jesus is the Savior.

To disaffirm the cross and the resurrection surely disqualifies one as a Christian. How odd it seems to me to say, "I don't believe Jesus died on a cross for my sins. I don't believe Jesus was raised from the dead. But I am a Christian." Why, I would ask? Why insist that you're playing tennis while typing on your laptop?

Central to mere Christianity are statements 1, 2, and 3. They (and some others) belong in the center circle of the Christian faith. But the statement card-playing is wrong does not belong there. It orbits on some distant curve many circles from the center.

Outwardly adjacent to and encircling the Circle 1 is Circle 2, which involves very important issues that we should rightly feel passionate about, and upon which Jesus-followers have disagreed.

Circle 2 are important but non-essential to salvation. They 
  • The meaning and means of baptism
  • The meaning and means of the Lord's Table
  • The doctrine of the person and work of the Holy Spirit
  • The theology and practice of the gifts of the Holy Spirit
  • The nature and expression of worship
These (and others) are important. It's in this second circle that denominations form. Churches have split over these things! While they are very important they are not, I think, essential to true Christianity. Surely if one heart-affirms Circle 1's third proposition (and, by implication, affirm propositions 1 & 2), they are a "Christian." No futher doctrinal understanding is needed. 

When I gave my heart and life over to Jesus as Lord, I had no clue of the deep matters of Circle 2. So, I think we can disagree on the things of the second circle and still affirm one another as brothers and sisters in Christ,

if we agree on Circle 1 things. (And even things beyond the second circle, such as the age of the earth, which no one in the Bible seems interested in [while being very interested in the truth that God has made it all].)

My parents were Jesus-followers. I loved them, and did not disrespect their wish that a deck of cards not be in their home. I like the way Pope John XXIII counsels us to do this: "In essentials unity, in doubtful matters [nonessentials] liberty, and in all things, love [charity]."

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.

My two books are:

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

3 Bad Reasons to Help Someone Who Has the Entitlement Disease

The entitlement disease blinds people to the impact they have on others. When you share with an entitlement person how their choices and behaviors negatively affect you, they freak out, because in their minds it's all about them, not you. 

Entitlement people go nuclear when they don't get their way. 

Entitlement people are supremely inconsiderate.

What causes this? 

"Entitlement creates the illusion that My life and how I impact others are not problems. This illusion creates an atmosphere within which the behavior can continue. If the individual were, instead, to think, "My life and how I impact others are indeed problems, and they are my problems," he’d be much more likely to do the hard work required to change."

- John Townsend, The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way (p. 84)

If you want to help someone move from entitlement blindness to responsibility-seeing you must keep two things in mind:

First, deal with your own entitlement issues.

Second, check out your "Why?" Why do you want to help someone who has the entitlement disease?

Townsend gives three bad answers to this question. None of these should be reasons to help someone.

1. To reduce the stress in your life that this person's bad behavior or bad choices cause. 

This "reduces the individual to the role of being a bother to you, a project, something to fix like a leaky faucet, it’s not very loving." (74)

2. To vent your anger on them.

"If this is a project to “set them straight” or to feel a bit of release because you could finally tell them off and show your irritation, the project will fail. Deal with your anger in other ways (prayer, venting to others, working out). Venting is not an effective motive for working with difficult people." (pp. 74-75)

3. To get them to see how they have affected you.

"This motive is about you more than it is about the other person...  Often, the entitled person will at some point have the awareness to see her harmful impact on others. But that awareness should serve her growth, not your satisfaction." (75)

The best answer to this "why?" question is: 
I help because I want them to live well, relate well, and work well. 

In other words, you choose to help because you know that entitlement damages a person’s life, relationships, and ability to successfully complete important tasks. Even at its least destructive, entitlement prevents the person from reaching her full potential. At worst, she could suffer devastating failures, and even an early death. 

The best summary word for this “why” is love. You feel motivated to help because you want better for that person; that is what moves you to engage with him or her. This is the deepest motive of God himself, who acts for our betterment: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8). 

Townsend writes, "This kind of motivation will convey the grace and care you really feel toward your entitled individual." (75) 


The Cure for the Entitlement Disease: The Hard Way Principles

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:

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"

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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 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.
 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

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.
"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!"
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Vietnam Vet healed from PTSD