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."

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.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

COMING EVENTS @ REDEEMER!

(Double rainbow appeared over Redeemer a few weeks ago. Photo by Tim Curry.)


GOOD MORNING REDEEMER FAMILY!

Here are some things I want to share with you.

SUNDAY MORNING, JAN. 27 - We continue preaching on Revival - The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.

SUNDAY EVENING, JAN. 27 - Healing service with Craig Miller - 5:30-7:30. Worship first, then Craig. Craig has written several books - here's one of them.

THURSDAY EVENING, Feb. 7, 6:30 - Tim Curry leads us in discussion of: Are We on Christ’s Mission, Or are We Spiritual Tourists? The Songs of Ascent: Psalm 120-134. Holly Collins leads Ministry for Kids. 

WOMEN'S CONFERENCE - ARISE AND THRIVE: CALLED BY HIS SPIRIT!  March 14-16. Please register for this event. Registration fee covers meals, speaker costs, and incidentals. You can register HERE. This is going to be a great weekend for our women, adding to revival!

LARRY SPARKS PREACHES @ REDEEMER - Sunday morning, March 17. Larry is the editor of Destiny Image books, and co-author (with Patricia King) of the recent book Arise! A Prophetic Call for women to receive Swords, Mantles, and Kingdom Assignments

OUR ANNUAL GREEN LAKE CONFERENCE - June 23-27. Details are HERE. God has used this conference over the years to greatly impact Redeemer!

STEVE AND WENDY BACKLUND FROM BETHEL REDDING @ REDEEMER - Sept. 21-23. Go HERE for more on Steve and Wendy.

CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE - Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (Just checking to see if you have read this far!)

Love,

PJ





Friday, January 25, 2019

Five Stages of Spiritual Transformation


Image result for john piippo formation
Cape May, New Jersey


(My two books are:



I'm now working on:

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart.

Technology and Spiritual Formation.)

***
God can change human hearts. He is able, and desires, to transform (Rom. 12:2 - meta-morphe) our hearts into increasing Christlikeness (Gal. 4:9).

Since 1977 I have been developing my theory of spiritual transformation, which is about How God Changes People. The inputs for my theory of spiritual transformation have been and are:

1. The countless hours, over forty-plus years, that I have gone alone to a quiet place and prayed.


2. My ongoing saturation in the Christian scriptures, studying and meditating on them.


3. The 3500+ pastors, Christian leaders, seminary students, and lay people I have been privileged to spiritually mentor and coach through class lectures, dialogue, and the submission of their spiritual journals for me to respond to.


4. My past and ongoing study of the history of Christian spirituality.

My theory can be applied not only to the issue of spiritual transformation, but also to the ideas of spiritual “renewal,” “restoration,” “renovation,” and “formation.” All these concepts have to do with “change,” and in Christian spirituality change is good, stasis is bad.  


Spiritually, to not be growing is to be dying. As my friend Jim Hunter has said, “We’re either green and growing, or ripe and rotting.” 


Or, as Robert Quinn has written, it’s either “deep change” or “slow death.”


My approach to spiritual formation (I use “formation” and “transformation” interchangeably) applies and works cross-culturally, cross-temporally (concerning both old and young; and past, present, and future), and with both men and women. This is because the locus of spiritual formation is “the heart.” Thus, change and renewal happen at a deep, ontological level. Because the deeper we go inside persons the more we are all the same, the principles of Christian spiritual formation speak to everyone, everywhere. 


This is my experience over the years as I have been privileged to teach this material to Chinese pastors and leaders in Singapore New York City, and Vancouver, to Indians in India, to African Americans at Payne Theological Seminary, Palmer Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, to African pastors (Kenyan and Ugandan) in Kenya, and to hundreds of Anglo pastors and Christian leaders from the U.S., in Canada, and beyond. In my seminary classes, I have taught this material to pastors and seminary students from every continent and, it seems, representing most of this world’s countries. All this interaction and input has served to help me refine my teachings, reducing them to the following points.

How does God change a human heart? Here is a what I call A Phenomenology of Spiritual Renewal and Transformation; viz., a description of what I see happening when lives are renewed and transformed in Christ.

1 – THE NEED (Recognize how needy you are)


Without this step growth will not occur. To recognize one’s own neediness is to be in a very good place, spiritually. Isaiah 6 serves us well here. Isaiah, who is arguably the most righteous person among the people of Israel, enters the temple and sees a vision of a holy God. The result is that Isaiah is “undone,” or “unraveled,” or “dis-integrated.” There is a huge gap between the holy-otherness of God and Isaiah with his dirty mouth.

To recognize, to internalize, the gap between self and God is crucial to one’s inner change.

2 – THE GAP (Understand the magnitude of the needed transformation)


The Jesus-idea is that God wants to morph us into Christlikeness. Paul, in Galatians 4:19, longs that “Christ be formed” in his Galatian brothers and sisters.

The issue here is not asking “what would Jesus do?” but rather doing what Jesus did, as a matter of the heart. For example, if I had the heart of a great soccer player I would do what a great soccer player does. Jesus, as he hung dying on a cross, did not have took look at a wristband and ask the question, “Now what would I do?” Rather, Jesus forgave his persecutors, and we must believe he did so not as a matter of ethical protocol but because this was, indeed, his very heart.

The word Romans 12:2 uses is, in Greek, metamorphe. Literally, this is about “a change of form.” What is needed here are not more ethical rules to follow, since one can obey laws without having a heart for them. This concerns what Dallas Willard has called “the renovation of the heart.” To be morphed into like-Christ-ness.

Because the magnitude of the transformation is so great, we realize we can’t do this by means of our own will power.

Therefore…

3. I CAN’T SELF-TRANSFORM

Spiritual formation and transformation into like-Christness is not something we can do on our own. Indeed, if it were something we could do on our own, then we will have greatly diminished Christ. When it comes to this kind of change it is good to realize that we can’t “self-transform.” This is one thing we cannot do in our own wisdom and strength.

There is some good news here. This realization, if it is a heart-reality, frees us from “striving.” When it comes to personal transformation no striving is allowed. It simply won’t do any good to “try harder.” The goal of heart-morphing into Christlikeness is so beyond us that striving is useless. If we are to be transformed, only God can do it.



4- ONLY GOD CAN EFFECT THE NEEDED TRANSFORMATION

The God who spoke and brought a universe into being is not puzzled by you and I. We pose no special obstacle to change, except that, in our created uniqueness, we could exercise free will to oppose being changed. 

God can change me into greater Christlikeness, and desires to do so.

Therefore…

5 – GET INTO GOD'S PRESENCE AND DWELL THERE/ABIDE IN CHRIST

Allow God to get his hands on you. Enter into the “spiritual gymnasium” and “exercise unto godliness.” (See 1 Timothy 4:7) But isn’t that a kind of “striving?” No, because the spiritual exercises or disciplines are simply ways of ushering us into God’s presence. Once we abide there, God himself changes us. We are like lumps of clay on a potter’s wheel, with God himself the shaper of our hearts.

John 14-16 is important here, as Jesus gives his “final discourse” to his disciples. Be a branch, connected to Jesus the true Vine. The stuff and life and resources and joy and peace and power of “the Vine” begins to course through the arteries of “the branch.” Just as a branch could not be attached to a healthy apply tree and fail to produce apples, so you and I cannot consistently dwell in God’s presence & remain unchanged.

Don't focus on change.

Don't work to make it happen.

Focus on staying connected to Christ, and you will be changed.

Mostly, this is a slow-cooker, not a microwave.