Thursday, January 31, 2019

Contentment

(Greenfield Village, Dearborn)

It's early Thursday morning. The temperature outside is - -12  F
FEELS LIKE -12°


If it was warmer, then I would be content.

An “If.. then…” statement is a conditional statement. 

For example: If it rains, then the ground gets wet

On the condition of rain, the ground gets wet. Or, on the condition of warm weather, then my heart would be satisfied.
A conditional statement is also called a hypothetical statement. It’s a hypothesis. It’s hypothetical, not actual. It describes a possible state of affairs, not an actual state of affairs.
Human longing is about possible states of affairs, and unfulfilled desires. For example:

If only I could be/have/achieve ________, then I would be happy/content

The first part of the conditional statement expresses the longing, the second its fulfillment.

The world of conditional thinking is the world of perpetual discontent. This is because fulfillment of our many longings rarely brings satisfaction. Once we get the thing we long for, it won’t be long before desire returns and we are again longing. 

The single person longs to be married; the married couple longs for children; the parents long for grandchildren; the grandparents long to see their grandchildren get married. In this life there is perpetual incompleteness.

Not all longing is bad. But many of our good longings this side of eternity will remain unfulfilled. This reality could leave us in unremitting devastation if we become enslaved to conditional thinking. 

The way to freedom in a world of many unfulfilled dreams is to be released from the inner “If… then…” Biblically, this is called contentment.

Real contentment is non-circumstance dependent. It is not a result of fulfilled desires. One no longer thinks, If these circumstances happen, then I will be content. 

Paul wrote:

“I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty.”[1]

Conditional thinking demands circumstances to align with my desires for there to be contentment. Unless one is healed of conditional thinking, one will experience perpetual discontentment. 
The Jesus-solution is to eliminate perpetual discontent by revealing the heart’s true resting place. “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”[2]

Years ago one of my baby sons, David, died. If only David were alive, then I would be satisfied. The longing expressed in the antecedent clause of this conditional statement is pure. But the consequent is false. It is false because things run far deeper than life’s circumstances, fulfilled or unfulfilled. The idea that I will be forever satisfied in this life if only one of my circumstances would change is an illusion. 

To realize this is to focus my heart and mind on something else. I have discovered that my soul finds rest in God alone. When I direct and order my life to rest in the One who makes me what I am the tears of my unfulfilled longings are not polluted by unfulfilled circumstances. 
Praying is one way of resting in the Lord. Soul-rest is the birthplace of contentment.



[1] Philippians 4:10-12, The Message
[2] Philippians 4:10

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

How I Grow Spiritually


For me and Linda, this is what we were taught our spiritual life should look like. This is how we believe we develop spiritually.


We take time, daily, to meet alone with God.

We have been part of a small group every year of our married life, and even before we were married. We meet weekly with our small group to discuss the Bible, share, and pray together.

We never miss gathering in the large group on Sunday mornings. We were taught Hebrews 10:25, and had this modeled for us by other Jesus-followers:

This is not the time to pull away 
and neglect meeting together, 
as some have formed the habit of doing, 
because we need each other! 
In fact, 
we should come together even more frequently, 
eager to encourage and urge each other onward 
as we anticipate that day dawning.
(Passion translation)

Then, we do these three things again, over and over  and over, now closing in on fifty years!

It is from these three ongoing spiritual practices that we gain discernment. We have been taught that, without these ways of connecting with God and his people, we will be spiritually clueless.

Out of the God-and-community connection, we are led to go into our culture, in obedience, as salt and light. This causes us to feel that our "doing" is relevant and powerful, because it emerges out of our "being."

Pastors: Develop a Discerning Community

(Garage scene from "A Beautiful Mind")
I've attended, even led, church planning meetings where we got together and "brainstormed" about what we should do. We stormed the gates of hell with our brains. We assaulted the darkness using our collective cognitive abilities. We layered the walls with ideas on paper, looking like John Nash's garage in "A Beautiful Mind."

I don't do this any more. 

Not in our church. 

The Presence-Driven Church is not a "brainstorming committee." It is a Discerning Community.

Imagine the Apostle Paul at a brainstorming meeting. The ideas are pouring forth. But Paul doesn't participate. Someone asks, "Why not?" Paul responds, "Why, since we have the mind of Christ?" (See here.)

The human brain is the craziest, most beautiful, impressive thing in the entire universe as we know it. The human mind is, no doubt, awesome. But the mind of Christ is more impressive. God doesn't even need a brain to have a mind. (Note: there are actually people walking the earth who believe that consciousness somehow "emerged" from non-conscious physical matter, thus affirming the idea that from nothing you can get something.)

God has ideas, correct? Our task is not to come up with ideas, but to discern the mind of Christ, and his already-existing ideas. 

This means developing people who are excellent discerners of the voice of God. These will be people who spend much time with God, and not people who are "too busy to pray," and definitely not people who "come out to vote." Discerning communities eliminate the word "vote." The language becomes, "What do you hear God saying to us?"

For how to grow into a discerning community see:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (John Piippo)

Pursuing God Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups (Ruth Barton) 

Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life (Henri Nouwen)


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Reason You Are Wounded by Rejection

(Detroit skyline)

We all need affirmation, as well as realistic evaluation. But there is a disease called affirmation addiction, and it is punishing to the soul. The affirmation addict goes up and down with the approval and disapproval of people.

Are you disturbed when someone dismisses you, or assaults you, on social media? When you get a "thumbs down?" 

I've been upset when someone attacks me. If I did not live for the approval of other people, I would not die by their disapproval of me. I have to choose whose acceptance I will live and die for. (I am writing this as much for myself as for anyone else.)

Bob Sorge says, "Jesus was not touched by the praise of man, so he was not wounded by the rejection of man." (See here.) Sorge is commenting on John 5:44, where Jesus faces his followers and says,  How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

Thomas Merton once wrote that, when people praised him, he tried to receive this as a clean window receives the light of the sun. The more intense the light is, the less you see of the glass. However, some people receive praise the way a dog gobbles a chunk of food. I feel good when someone affirms me. But I am not to exist for the approval of others. 

Jesus refused to receive the approval of humanity. He didn't rise and fall by what other people thought of him. Instead, he lived and died by the Father's approval, and thus was free to live and die for you and me.
***
My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

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

I'm now working on...

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart 

Technology and Spiritual Formation

I am editing a book of essays on the Holy Spirit, authored by my HSRM colleagues. Hopefully this book will be out by the end of May.

And, when all this settles, Linda and I intend on writing our book on Relationships.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Churches - Nurture Your Strangeness

Image result for john piippo weird
Monroe

Jesus (the Real One) didn't have a coolness factor. Jesus wasn't trying to be hip, dope, or whatever the word is at the moment. 

Jesus didn't come to be relevant. For more on this see Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance

Jesus was different. Distinct. It is precisely Jesus' difference and distinction that captivated people. ("Nietzsche saw that independent thinkers would always be out of step with the conventional wisdom of their generation." Guinness, 19)

Jesus was weird. 

Jesus didn't fit in with the prevailing religious and political regime. Jesus was, as Michael McClymond indicates in the title of his book, a "familiar stranger." 

Jesus' strangeness, as it is lifted up, draws people. Russell Moore, in "Why Your Church Needs to Listen to the Culture," writes that relevant-hip churches are boring young people to death. If we listened to culture we would see this, and give up trying to make Jesus everyone's homeboy. 

Moore reflects on his own church experience with youth:

"The “unchurched” kids laughed at the Bible studies based on television shows or songs of the moment. They weren’t impressed at all by the video clips provided by my denomination’s publisher, or by the knockoff Christian boy bands crooning about the hotness of sexual purity. What riveted their attention wasn’t what was “relatable” to them, but what wasn’t. They were drawn not to our sameness but to our strangeness." (Emphasis mine.) 

Moore describes one teen who asked him, "Do you really believe this dead guy came back to life?" "Yes," Moore responded, "I do." The kid blinked and then whispered, "Dude, that's crazy." Yes it is. It is crazy. This kid stayed around to listen to more about this.

I don't know if Moore has read Yale theologian Miroslav Volf, but they sound the same. Moore writes: "Jesus didn't hide the oddity of the culture of the kingdom, and neither should we." 

At Redeemer I once preached a year-and-a-half project through the book of Revelation. Missing from my bucket list was to try to make Revelation normal. If it was normal, no one would be interested. Revelation is bizarre. It should be, to all who acknowledge that there is a God in heaven and, ipso facto, his ways are not our ways. We are talking about another reality intersecting and interacting with our unredeemed planet. This other, heavenly reality has to look different!

If you are a pastor or church I now free you, in Jesus' name, from coolness, and release you to difference. Our distinctives will differentiate us from American culture, presenting themselves as a clear option for those looking for redemption.

Moore writes:

"Let’s listen to what our culture is saying, hearing beneath the veneer of cool the fear of a people who know that Judgment day is coming because it’s written in their hearts (Romans 2:15–16). Let’s listen beneath the cynicism to the longings there, expressed in the culture, longings that can only be fulfilled in the reign of a Nazarene carpenter-king. Let’s deconstruct what they — and we — tell ourselves when it’s nonsense. But let’s not stop there. Let’s run toward, and not away from, the strangeness of an old gospel of a Messiah who was run out of his own hometown, but who, oddly enough, walked out of his own graveyard. For real."

***
My two books are:
Leading the Presence-Driven Church
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

I'm now working on...
Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart 
Technology and Spiritual Formation
I am editing a book of essays on the Holy Spirit, authored by my HSRM colleagues. Hopefully this book will be out by the end of May.
And, when all this settles, Linda and I intend on writing our book on Relationships.

Pray For the Ego to Be Defeated

Muslim woman, in Jerusalem

The less pretense, the more freedom. 

The less performing, the more presence. 

The less acting, the more authenticity. 

Greater ego-decrease brings divine increase. 

I experienced more of the false self being stripped away last night at the healing service, and it felt good. (Great energy is exp[ended in the maintenance of the false self.)

As I was going over some of my spiritual formation notes, I found this prayer from A.W. Tozer. It still expresses a desire of my heart. Because, sadly, I have had a desire to "be recognized" by people that comes out of my own needy, unhealed heart. I'm praying for more freedom from my own self.

Tozer wrote:

"O Christ, make me strong to overcome 
the desire to be wise 
and to be reputed wise by others 
as ignorant as myself. 
I turn from my wisdom 
as well as from my folly 
and flee to You, 
the wisdom of God 
and the power of God. 
Amen." 

If this prayer expresses your heart, pray it throughout the day. Pray for the ego to be defeated and outdone by the great I Am. 

You Are the Answer to Someone Else's Prayer


Related image
Jerusalem

 Often, while praying, my mind wanders to a person. I feel God placing this person on my heart, as a burden. This can mean I am the one God is going to use as God's answer to that person's prayer. 

A few weeks ago X left his work space, and found a place where he could be alone, in his office building, and pray. X's spouse had a sexual affair with another man. She filed for divorce. X wanted to help for their marriage. She refused.

That morning X received a phone call from his father. "Your mother has cancer. She's not expected to live much longer." X felt his knees buckle, his breathing difficult, the weight too much to bear. X had to get alone with the only One who could make a way where there seemed to be no way. X prayed, "God, help me..."

I was alone, in my backyard by the river, sitting in my prayer chair when, unknown to me, X made his appeal to God. I already knew about X's evil-assaulted marriage. As I was prayed the thought came to me, "Call X now." I did. I believed this thought was coming from God, to me.

I have learned, over years of praying, listening, and risking, that God often comes as an interruption, in my "wandering mind." What could I lose from calling X to check in? This was a no-lose spiritual situation.

I called X. He answered, "I can't believe you called me. I couldn't stay in my work space, and had to get alone with God. I was asking God for help. And then you called!"

We agreed this was no coincidence. It was the orchestrating work of the Holy Spirit. I was God's answer for X, at the time.

When you pray, listen for the voice of God. When an interruptive thought comes, check it out. You begin to discover that such things can be from God. This increases your faith and expectation. You are being used by God to help others in their prayer-cries for mercy.

This is God saying, "I hear X's cry. I am going to answer X's prayer by placing the thought of X in John's mind."

***
My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Healing Service @ Redeemer with Craig Miller - TONIGHT! (1/27)

Image may contain: Craig Miller, smiling, closeup


HEALING SERVICE
Breaking Emotional Barriers to Receive
What God Has for YOU!
With Craig Miller
Sunday, Jan. 27th  5:30-7:30pm
At Redeemer Fellowship Church
5305 Evergreen Drive,
Monroe Charter Township, MI 48161
(734)242-5277
For more info about Craig go to: www.insightsfromtheheart.com


For over thirty-eight years Craig has been ministering and counseling in church, medical, and mental health settings. He is a licensed Christian therapist and currently the co-founder of Masterpeace Counseling in Tecumseh, MI.  Craig’s experience with his own miraculous physical healing deepened his passion to help people receive their own emotional or physical healing and relationship restoration through teaching, imparting, and ministering about the love and healing power of faith.   He has also served as the director of Social Work At Herrick Memorial Hospital In Tecumseh, Michigan for twelve years.



Over the years Craig has learned the unique ability to successfully combine his skills as a christian and mental health practitioner to bring healing and restoration to the spirit, mind, and body.  Craig desires to work with each person, couple, and/or family to receive emotional and physical healing to bring restoration of your heart and relationship, renewal of your heart and revitalization of your faith.  



Craig has a Masters degree in Social Work from Michigan State University (1980), specializing in children, family, and couples.  Masters degree in Health Services Administration from the University of Detroit (1985).  He has been honored with multiple listings in Who’s Who in Executives and Professionals, Who’s Who Among Human Services Professionals, and International Who’s Who of Professionals.  


Craig continues his passion for helping people as a former syndicated radio talk show host, TV appearances , speaking in the USA and Canada, and his books, DVD, CD, numerous articles, and copyrighted material.  
Go to, www.insightsfromtheheart.com for more information. or opportunities  for  purchasing resources and speaking engagements

He has extensive experience with the treatment of depression, anxiety, panic disorders, difficulty expressing feelings, stress disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, addictions, sexual issues, marital issues, parent/child/teen issues, eating disorders, substance abuse, trauma from the past, loss issues, abuse issues, church/religious conflict and abuse and many more areas too many to mention.  You are recommended to call the office at 517-423-6889 if you have specific questions.

Elective Abortion has Nothing to Do with Health Care

Image result for orwellianism

Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, 
as though by instinct, 
at the threshold of any dangerous thought. 
It includes the power of not grasping analogies, 
of failing to perceive logical errors, 
of misunderstanding the simplest arguments 
if they are inimical to *Ingsoc, 
and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought 
which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. 
Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.

George Orwell
1984
P. 132

For example:
Abortion is Reproductive Health. 

Princeton jurisprudential professor Robert P. George, in Conscience and Its Enemies, argues that abortion has nothing to do with "reproductive health." So, the just-passed (and joyously worshiped) Reproductive Health Act, in yet another Orwellian move, is misnamed and, as such, is misleading.

George writes:

"The question at issue in abortion is not “reproductive health” or health of any kind, precisely because direct abortions are not procedures designed to make sick people healthy or to protect them against disease or injury. Again, pregnancy is not a disease. The goal of direct abortions is to cause the death of a child because a woman believes that her life will be better without the child’s existing than it would be with the child’s existing. In itself, a direct (or elective) abortion—deliberately bringing about the death of a child in utero—does nothing to advance maternal health (though sometimes the death of the child is an unavoidable side effect of a procedure, such as the removal of a cancerous womb, that is designed to combat a grave threat to the mother’s health). That’s why it is wrong to depict elective abortion as health care." (Kindle Location 2777; emphasis mine)

Elsewhere George writes:

“A huge irony: The NY law authorizing the killing of babies in the third trimester PROVES that the aim of the abortion lobby is NOT the protection of maternal health in circumstances of hazardous pregnancy, but is rather the right to destroy an unwanted child whose existence poses no risk to maternal health (in any sense of the term ‘health’ that amounts to anything other than a rationalization for killing unwanted babies). The only reason to kill rather than deliver a child in the third trimester of pregnancy and gestation is that the woman (or someone who is pressuring her to abort) wants the child to be dead rather than alive. It's the child's *existence*, not the pregnancy, which poses the alleged, ‘health’ risk. The pregnancy can be ended (‘terminated’) by delivering the baby alive, rather than killing him or her. So do you see the see the sophistry in the argument for abortion here? It's glaring.”

In other words, if the mother's health is at risk, and the third-trimester child is **"viable" outside the womb, why not deliver the child rather than kill it? 

Because...   this baby is unwanted.

_____

* "Ingsoc" - The English Socialist Party, better known as Ingsoc, is the fictional political party of the totalitarian government of Oceania in Orwell's 1984.

** I see no good reason to accept "viability" as the tipping point for determining human value. "Viability" is another example of Orwellian "newspeak," meeting the ideological requirements of a secular political culture.