Friday, November 30, 2018

Coming God-events @ Redeemer


Image result for redeemer fellowship church monroe michigan website

Here's some things going on @ Redeemer in Monroe. 

NIGHTLIGHT TEA – This coming Monday, Dec. 3.

SEED MONEY PROJECTS – We will bring in the seed money + the profit on Sunday morning, Dec. 23.

LINDA AND I, for our seed money project, are providing a CHILI LUNCHEON on Monday, Dec. 10, in the fellowship hall at Redeemer, 11:30-1. The chili will be MILD! Plus – live music will be provided by Brandon Robinson and Victor Vaive! Please sign up in the lobby so we can estimate the amount of food needed. Invite a friend! Cost for lunch: an offering, as God leads you. All profit goes to our missionaries.

YOUTH PROJECT: Friday December 7th
The Youth Group is putting on a Movie Night for everyone to come out and enjoy.
Where: Redeemer Fellowship Church
In our Gym
What: We are showing the movie
Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe 
When: Friday Dec.7th at 6:30pm
Cost: We are asking for a $5 donation per Family that comes.
All our concessions will be $1

Inside-Out: "Growing Together and Moving Beyond Our Borders."  
December 6th, 6:30-8 pm, we will meet at Wellspring Lutheran Services Chapel. 1236 S. Monroe St. Monroe MI 48161. Linda Piippo and some of her students will lead us in thanksgiving and Christmas songs, then we and our children will disperse and "prayer-walk" throughout the many halls of the building--simply asking God for his Presence, his kingdom, his salvation, and his power to come. We will bless and pray with the residents and staff as the Holy Spirit leads. Finally, we will re-gather in the chapel and share what we feel God is saying and doing. Join us! 
December 13th, 6:30-8 pm In the Education Wing. Our Redeemer team that went to Florida to serve and to minister with Samaritan's Purse to those devastated by the hurricane are going to share what God was doing in them and among them on their week long mission to the region. This will be powerful.
December 20th, 6:30-8 pm. Plans are in the works. The plans could have fun for the whole family:)

CHRISTMAS EVE @ REDEEMER: Candle lighting and communion, Dec. 24, 6-7 PM.

NEW YEAR'S EVE COMMUNITY PRAYER & WORSHIP NIGHT @ REDEEMER!!! 

Come celebrate the New Year in God's presence in worship and prayer in unity with surrounding churches! 
From 11AM - 11PM, our prayer room will be open with a different worship/prayer leader each hour. A schedule for focused intercession will be available soon! 
From 9:00-11:00PM, the Gym will be open with snacks and games for a time to fellowship with each other. Please bring a snack/appetizer to share and games to play. 
Worship in the sanctuary begins at 11:00PM with a worship team representing multiple churches in Monroe! Come expectant and ready to celebrate what God has done and what He's going to do! Questions??? SEE Kelly & Jacob Goins or Holly Collins for more info. 

BAPTISMS – Sunday morning, Jan. 13.

HEALING SERVICE WITH CRAIG MILLER: Sunday, Jan. 27, 5:30 – 7:30 PM.

ARISE! WOMEN’S CONFERENCE with Larry Sparks, Lynn Coleman, and Others. March 14-16.

GREEN LAKE WISCONSIN CONFERENCE, June 23-27. With Mike Hutchings (Global Awakening) and Larry Sparks (Destiny Image).

AND…  STEVEBACKLUND IS COMING BACK TO REDEEMER to deepen our understanding of Declarations! Sept. 21-23.

Blessings!

PJ

Preparing for the Invasion - #7 - Jesus Grew Up in Galilee

Boat on the Sea of Galilee

(C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, referred to the birth of Christ as "the Great Invasion.")

I hope one day you will get to travel to Israel. Linda and I were privileged to do this ten years ago. We landed in Tel Aviv, and went first to Mount Carmel. Then to Tiberias, located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We spent three days touring the Galilee area, to include Capernaum.

Then we traveled south along the Jordan river. We stayed for 2 days on the Dead Sea, from where we saw Qumran (famous for the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the incredible fortress at Masada.

We ended up with four more days in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, to include Bethlehem.

One of the many highlights for us was a visit to Nazareth, which is west of Tiberias in the area of Galilee. We were walking on the very ground Jesus walked on. Amazing! And insightful. To understand the Real Jesus we must know about the land he lived in.


Jesus grew up in Galilee, in an insignificant village called Nazareth, close to the major city of Sepphoris. It was home to fewer than four hundred people, almost all farmers.
A house from the time of Jesus was recently excavated. With two rooms, and a courtyard where a cistern collected rainwater, it is probably the sort of modest home Jesus’ family would have owned. Many of Jesus’ parables and sayings are influenced by the rural agricultural context in which he grew up.     (See Richard Bauckham, Jesus: A Very Short Introduction, p. 28)

Jesus of Nazareth was born around 4 BC. Jesus’ mother was related to the priestly families, and Jesus had a cousin, John, who in the ordinary course of events would have worked as a priest.
Jesus’ mother’s husband, Joseph, was from the ancient royal family, the family of King David, of the tribe of Judah, though by this time there was no particular social status attached to such family membership. 

We know very little of Jesus’s early life. One of the gospels tells a story of him as a precocious twelve-year-old, already able to ask big, deep questions, and debate with adults.
His later life tells us that, like many Jewish boys, he was taught from an early age to read Israel’s ancient scriptures. By adulthood he knew them inside out, and had drawn his own conclusions as to what they meant. 

The strong probability is that Jesus worked with Joseph in the family business, which was the building trade. 

So far as we know, Jesus never traveled outside the Middle East. And, he never married. Even though some today speculate that Jesus was married, N.T. Wright says that there is not the slightest historical trace of any such relationship, still less of any children. 
From a life of near-total obscurity Jesus suddenly came to public attention in the late 20s of the first century, when he was around thirty years old. Almost everything we know about him as a figure of history is crammed into a short space of time. It’s not easy to tell if it lasted one, two, or three years, but pretty certainly it wasn’t any longer.    (I've here quoted and slightly adapted from N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, Kindle Locations 228-238)

One more thing. Eventually Jesus walks from Galilee south into Jerusalem. Jerusalem was seen as the center of the world, because that’s where all the pressure was concentrated. N.T. Wright says: “That’s where the fault lines all came together, where the tectonic plates ground relentlessly into one another, as indeed they still do. And it is to Jerusalem that we have to go to understand Jesus of Nazareth. That’s where the real perfect storm took place. That’s where all the dark forces converged, one spring day in, most likely, the year we call AD 30 (or, less likely, 33).”   (Ib., 27)
Jesus was a Galilean, a Nazarene who, at the age of thirty, began his ministry in northern Israel around the Sea of Galilee, and eventually made his way to Jerusalem, a world center of religious activity, focused on the Temple.

***
Note: two excellent books on Jesus are Wright's Simply Jesus and Bauckham's Jesus: A Very Short Introduction.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Guidelines for Civil Discourse - #5: Fear Speaking Badly of Others Made in God's Image

Frost on my car window

(Linda and I are speaking to our church's youth group tonight about how to have civil discussions with people who disagree with you. 7 PM, @ Redeemer.)

Have you ever met a Christian who never spoke badly of another person? I have met a few.

Apparently, Bill Johnson is one of those. Thank you, C.H., for posting this.

"In a recent meeting, someone said to Bill Johnson, "I notice that you never talk about people. You never talk badly about people. And I'm just wondering what's going on in your heart? How did you discipline yourself to NEVER speak negatively of other people, even people who are sometimes a pain?"
Bill, with tears running down his cheeks, said, "I fear Jesus in them. That I would speak badly about someone made in the image of God, that is so valued by God that Jesus died for them. And that I would portray them as something less valuable than that. I fear how God would deal with a person who would betray the people made in his image."

***
See...


Guidelines for Civil Discourse: #1 - Love Others



Preparing for the Invasion - #6 - Jesus Existed



Playing soccer in Jerusalem

(In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis referred to the birth of Christ as "The Great Invasion.")


Several years ago I received a phone call from a high school girl who came to Redeemer. She was crying as she told me about her biology teacher. He had challenged his class by declaring, "There is no evidence that Jesus ever existed." 

This shocked a number of students. The teacher then said, "If you can show me evidence please feel free to bring it to class."

I suggested to her that she bring me into the class to present the case for the existence of Jesus. I wrote a letter to the teacher. When I learned his name I realized he was, at that time, a student in my MCCC Philosophy of Religion class!

When the time came for me to speak on the existence of Jesus at Monroe High School so many students had heard about this that it was decided to hold the event in the school auditorium. 175 students filled the auditorium as I spoke for 90 minutes, making the historical case for Jesus' existence. 

There was a Q&A after my talk. Many students asked questions. They were so interested in the subject of Jesus! Now, years later, I've had people who were in the auditorium that day tell me how much it impressed and influenced them. Some of them enrolled in my college philosophy classes as a result of this.

Perhaps you have heard, or read on the Internet, the claim that Jesus never really existed, and that the figure of Jesus in the Bible is all made up. That claim is false. As small a point as it seems to be, Jesus actually existed. No reputable New Testament scholar believes otherwise (actually, maybe one does, but he is in the extreme minority). Even the skeptical Bart Ehrman believes Jesus existed.

If you want to read some more check out:

"Jesus Existed," by Craig Keener

See my "Jesus Existed (but of course...)" 


***

My two books are:


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Preparing for the Invasion - #5 - Jesus' Birth Was an Act of War


C.S. Lewis referred to it as "The Great Invasion." In chapter 7 of Mere Christianity Lewis writes:

"One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe--a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin...  Christianity agrees... that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, 'Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil-hoofs and horns and all?' Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is 'Yes, I do.' I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, 'Don't worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you'll like it when you do is another question.'"

The most a-cultural telling of Christmas is found in Revelation 12:1-7. We read:

"A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

And there was war in heaven."

Robert Mounce says that: 1) the "woman" here is not Mary, but the messianic community, the "ideal Israel" (231); 2) out of the messianic community is born a "child," a Messiah; 3) the seven-headed red dragon is Satan (Rev. 12:9; 20:2); 4) Satan is looking to devour this child; AKA Jesus the Christ.

Mary has already been prophetically warned about such things. In Luke 2 we read that...

...the old man "Simeon took him [baby Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

Violent night
Holy night
All's not calm
All's not bright

Christmas Eve - that violent night when the Light of the World descended into darkness...

Books of the Year (for me...)


Here are books I read in 2018, and recommend. 

Craig Keener, Spirit Hermeneutics; Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. To better interpret the New Testament texts one must have experienced the kind of things the text refers to.

J. P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism: Learning to respond to a Dangerous Ideology. Many of my philosophy students are scientistic and unaware. Such is the nature of the American university. Moreland shows how important this is to followers of Jesus, and equips us to combat it.

Bessell van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. A mesmerizing book that has greatly helped Linda and I in our attempts to help others.

James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky, Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality. How philosophical naturalism (atheism) cannot explain morality.

Jonathan Merritt, Learning to Speak God from Scratch: Why Sacred Words are Vanishing - and How We Can Revive Them. Merritt adds to the thesis I put forward in Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

Collin Hansen, Our Secular Age: Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor. Taylor is the person to read to understand the absence of God in American culture.

Steve Wilkens, Christian Ethics: Four Views. Today, and in the days to come, Christian leaders have to understand ethical systems and metaethical issues.

Edward Feser, Five Proofs of the Existence of God. Feser explains the force of cosmological arguments for God's existence, with their Aristotelian and Thomistic roots, as well as anyone I've read.

Larry Eskridge, God's Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America. Everyone who was caught up in the Jesus Movement, like I was, must read this book.

Everett Worthington, Hope-Focused Marriage Counseling: A Guide to Brief Therapy. Linda and I do a lot of counseling. This book is a valuable, wise, practical resource.

Francis Beckwith, Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith. Beckwith helps me understand what's really going on politically in America, and gives me a deeper understanding of the nature of persons and human dignity.

Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others. This book is for philosophers like myself who have been reading Heidegger and the French existentialists since we were undergraduates.

Marc Silber, The Secrets to Creating Amazing Photos: 83 Composition Tools from the Masters. This is a book to read, and re-read.

Lee Strobel, The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural. This book is so encouraging, and provides a wake-up call to the Church.

Michael L. Brown, Playing with Holy Fire: A Wake-up Call to the Pentecostal/Charismatic Church. Loving, critical, and, for me, very inspiring.

Jean Twenge, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. More valuable cultural understanding. Christian leaders - do not contract this disease and bring it into your churches.

Donna Freitas, The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost. A great scholar tells us what's here, and to come, with great cost.

Jack Deere, Even in Our Darkness: A story of Beauty in a Broken Life. Raw, honest, touching, revelatory. I could not put this book down.

N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion. For anyone who, like the apostle Paul, wants to know one thing: Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. MIT's Turkle is one of our greatest scholars on the effects of social media on culture.

Mark Yarhouse, Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry. Our church staff is reading and discussing this book together.

Jean Twenge, iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy - and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood - and What That Means For the Rest of Us. Twenge is a great scholar. The title says it all.

Dallas Willard and Gary Black, Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks. When I think of a Spirit-baptized intellect, I think of Dallas Willard.  

Edmund Pellegrino, Human Dignity and Bioethics (Notre Dame Studies in Medical Ethics). This is a valuable resource for all interested in the meaning of persons, and human dignity. 

Derek Shuurman, Shaping a Digital World: Faith, Culture anad Computer Technology. A great book on a most relevant subject. One of the resources I'll draw on as I write (God willing!) Technology and Spiritual Formation.

Michael L. Brown, Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation. An important text for all who are preparing their churches for revival and awakening.

Don Ihde, Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction. Ihde, a phenomenologist, is an excellent philosopher.

John Cheney-Lippold, We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of our Digital Selves. In the midst of an America suffering catastrophic identity confusion, Cheney-Lippold explains how, to our unknowing, we are being viewed as ever-changing digitized selves. 

Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. The best book I read in 2018?

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. No, this is the best book I read in 2018! I challenge Christian leaders to read this prescient text. While reading, think of Romans 12:1-2 and the reality of the American Church's world-conformation. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Preparing for the Invasion - #4 - Jesus Descended Into Greatness

Candles, in the Church of the Nativity, Jerusalem

(In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis referred to the birth of Christ as "The Great Invasion.")


While most people are trying to move up the social honor-shame ladder and thus be upwardly mobile, the Word (God the Son) moved down when he became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) among us. That was a move downwards. The Word exercised downward mobility. Love came down.

This act of downward mobility is called the "kenosis," after a word in Philippians 2:7. Phil. 2:5-11 expresses the entire idea.

 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing (Greek kenosisἐκένωσεν ]
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
 

New Testament scholar Wayne Grudem writes:

"The best understanding of this passage is that it talks about Jesus giving up the status and privilege that were his in heaven. He did not "cling to his own advantage" but "emptied himself" or "humbled himself" for our sake, and came to live as a man." (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, 240)

In John 17:5 Jesus spoke of the "glory" he had with the Father "before the world was made." In the kenosis he gave up that glory (status, privilege),  but would regain it upon his return to heaven.

I like how Paul expresses this in 2 Corinthians 8:9: -

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
that though he was rich, 
yet for your sake he became poor, 
so that you through his poverty might 
become rich. 

Here we have Christ, who temporarily gave up the privilege and honor he deserved, for you and I.

Today think of the glorious status Christ gave up, for you, when he humbled himself and took on the form of humanity.

Think of Jesus descending into greatness.

***
Notes

The issue of what Christ emptied himself of has been a by the preexistent divine Son, whereby in "becoming human" he took the "form" of a slave - one who expressed his humanity in lowly service to others." (Grudem, 384)

See also Gordon Fee's article in Exploring Kenotic Christology: The Self-Emptying of God, ed. Stephen Evans. Fee writes:

"An orthodox biblical Christology almost certainly must embrace some form of a 'kenotic' [emptying] understanding of the Incarnation, that the One who was truly God, also in his Incarnation lived a truly human life, a life in which he grew both in stature and in wisdom and in understanding (Luke 2:52), learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb. 5:8), and who as Son of the Father did not know the day or the hour (Mark 13:32). (Grudem, p. 43)

***
My two books are:


I am now writing How God Changes the Human Heart, plus editing a book on the Holy Spirit which should be out in late Spring 2019.
I'm getting my act together to write Technology and Spiritual formation.
After that Linda and I intend to write our book on Relationships

Monday, November 26, 2018

Preparing for the Invasion - #3 - Jesus Was Born of a Virgin

Pine trees, 5500 feet elevation, Bozeman Pass, Montana


(In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis referred to the birth of Christ as "The Great Invasion.")



34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, 
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, 
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. 
So the holy one to be born 
will be called the Son of God.

- Luke 1:34-35

Father Stephen Rooney, a local priest in the Monroe area, graciously invited me to speak at the Roman Catholic Unity Service in January 2001. I will never forget that event for two reasons.

First, that was the evening my father died. He was suffering and dying as I was speaking. My friend Stephen knew about this, and was praying for me as I spoke.

Second, St Michael's was packed out as I spoke on the Jesus-unity Father Rooney and I have. I used the "Stations of the Cross" that encompassed the sanctuary to illustrate this. I affirmed the truth of every "station" except for the "Veronica" story (the woman who, according to legend, wiped Jesus' bloody face with her cloak). One of my affirmations was, of course, the virgin birth of Christ.

The Pope at that time was Benedict. He had just published a book that defended, among other things, the virgin birth. Benedict reasons like this. (From The Infancy Narratives.)

1. Christian teaching affirms that "Jesus was the son of God and was not conceived through sexual intercourse but by the power of the Holy Spirit, one part of the divine trinity." 
2. The story of the virgin birth is not just a reworking of earlier Greek or Egyptian legends and archetypal concepts but something totally new in history. (Contra the intellectually embarrassing "Zeitgeist" mini-phenomenon.)
3. God is a Creator. God creates. God invents. This is part of the nature of God.
4. God is omnipotent.
5. Therefore, God's creative word is able to bring about something completely new. (See my post God's Commands are Authoritative Words that Have Illocutionary Force.) 

Benedict's reasoning is grounded in the understanding of the power of God. An all-powerful being is, by logical extension, able to bring about any logically possible state of affairs. "If God does not also have power over matter, then he simply is not God," Benedict writes. "But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has ushered in a new creation."

Could the story of Jesus' virgin birth been invented by early Christians to spice up the Jesus story? New Testament scholar Ben Witherington writes:


"I would argue that it is highly unlikely Christians would make up a story about a virginal conception, precisely because it would lead to the charge of Jesus' illegitimacy by opponents of the Christian movement. There must have been some historical substance to this tradition for both Matthew and Luke to refer to the matter, independently of each other and in differing ways." (See Witherington, "Misconceptions About the Virginal Conception: Our lack of access to narratives about Jesus' birth shouldn't led us to assume the miracle of his conception didn't happen.")

Jesus was born of a virgin. This is an unequivocal truth of Christian faith.

***

My two books are:


I am now writing How God Changes the Human Heart, plus editing a book on the Holy Spirit which should be out in late Spring 2019.
I'm getting my act together to write Technology and Spiritual formation.
Then, the Lord willing, Linda and I will write our book on Relationships.