Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Ministry Demands More Than Our Best

Image result for john piippo abide
Next to Payne Theological Seminary, Wilberforce, Ohio

Jesus tells me that, if I connect with him, if I live the connected life, I will do the things he did. 

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me 
will do the works I have been doing...
John 14:12

Now that...   would greatly help me as a pastor. God would work through me to heal the sick, deliver the oppressed, raise the dead, and speak with an authority that is not from me.

My meager abilities, even when working with excellence, fall short of what Jesus did. If ministry was a game of horseshoes, Jesus is throwing nothing but "ringers," while my tosses are landing a foot in front of me.

More than me is needed.

Stephen Seamands writes:

"Of course, ministry deserves our best-all that we have to offer. But it also demands more than our best, more than anything we have to offer. To participate in the ongoing ministry of Jesus, to do what the Father is doing, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Only through the Holy Spirit's directing and empowering us can we fulfill our calling."
Stephen Seamands, Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service, Kindle Locations 248-250

I have written:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

I am writing:

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

I am editing a book on the Holy Spirit - hopefully available in June 2019.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Depleted Leaders Over-rely on Outside Sources

Oak tree in my backyard
In the 1980s, when I was in the end stages of writing my doctoral dissertation at Northwestern University, I was at a point of burnout. Whatever creativity and energy I had were gone. I couldn't see the forest for the trees. 

One day, as I was walking across campus, one of my professors saw me and asked, "How is the paper going?" 

"Not well," I responded. "I can't see clearly any more. I don't know what to do next."

Immediately he said, "You need to take two weeks off and get away from it." 

I took his counsel. During the two week hiatus the creative juices began to flow again.

I have never forgotten this. It applies to our spiritual lives as well.  

Years ago God called me to take several hours each week alone with him, praying, listening, and discerning. When I do this, I become less dependent on outside sources to inspire me because of what God is doing inside me. Other voices are at times helpful, but rarely do they assist me in the unique day-to-day challenges of ministry in my church family, times which demand creativity and discernment.

Burnout-busyness is the enemy of this. The busier a pastor gets, the more they rely on outside sources to do the job of discerning for them, because they lack the needed inner resources. Ruth Haley Barton writes:

"When we are depleted, we become overly reliant on voices outside of ourselves to tell us what is going on. We react to symptoms rather than seeking to understand and respond to underlying causes. We rely on other people’s ministry models and outside consultants because we are too tired to listen in our setting and craft something that is uniquely suited to meet the needs that are there. When we are rested, however, we bring steady, alert attention that is characterized by true discernment about what is truly needed in our situation, and the energy and creativity to carry it out."
- - Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, p. 121)

My first two books are...

Praying: Reflection on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing...

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Desire Eats Will Power and Religious Information for Breakfast.

(I took a picture of this magazine while in line at Meijer.
I can eat snacks and lose 115 pounds in a few months!
But that would put me at 75 pounds.)

Dallas Willard writes: "The realities of Christian spiritual formation are that we will not be transformed "into His likeness" by more information, or by infusions, inspirations, or ministrations alone. Though all of these have an important place, they never suffice, and reliance upon them alone explains the now-common failure of committed Christians to rise much above a certain level of decency."

This typical Willard-quote explains why so many Christians live lives of spiritual mediocrity. What is needed is: to learn what it means to abide in Christ, like a branch is connected to a vine, with Jesus being the Vine and you being the branch.

The fundamental secret of caring for our souls is found in a verse like Psalms 16:8-9: “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely.”

 Willard writes: "Our part in thus practicing the presence of God is to direct and redirect our minds constantly to Him." Then, as this happens day after day after year and after year, our trust is in a God who can morph our souls into the form of Christ. (Galatians 4:19)

As we do this the Holy Spirit transforms our desires. Our desires are what we love, and what we want. When our desires become the desires of Christ, we won't need will power. Desires always overwhelm will power and information. Will power and information will eventually be defeated by desire. 

Desire eats will power and religious information for breakfast. 

All this is about what Willard calls the renovation of the heart

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.

Friday, February 22, 2019

What To Do When You Are Upset With Someone in Church

(Linda and I, in Brazil)

So, someone in church has upset you. What should you do?

Go talk with the person. Do not talk with others about this person, unless it is with someone who can coach you in going to the person yourself.

If this person is going to abuse you, then bring a church leader with you.

Pray. For yourself, and the person, that truth will be spoken in love. You are going to the person because you love them, and you want to make the situation right.

Speak for your own self, and not for others. Do not say things like, "Many others are upset with you, too." If you know of someone else who is upset, direct them to the person, just as you are doing. If they refuse to do this, they have taken what John Bevere called "the bait of Satan." Have no part in this.

When you speak to the person, begin with love.  Begin your sentences with "I," rather than "you." Instead of saying "You upset me," own your feeling with words like "I feel upset _____________." Fill in the blank with a behavior; e.g., "I felt angry when you did not call me when you said you would." Or, "I felt angry when you called me irresponsible." "You"- language puts the other person on the defensive; "I"- language acknowledges your responsibility in the relationship. For how to do this, read this

Do not use negative descriptive adjectives when confronting the person in love (like these). Behind every adjective there is a judgment. You are not the judge of the other person, and do not want to come off that way to them. Instead, refer to behaviors. 

Listen to the person, for the sake of understanding. Your goal is understanding, more than it is agreement. Remember that you cannot begin to agree or disagree until you understand.

Be prepared to confess and forgive. You both may need to do this. For how to do this, read this, and this. And, see "The First Two Steps in Relationship Restoration." 

Follow this template, concerning speaking the truth in love. Have these attitudes, not only in your words, but in your countenance and behavior. Listen, understand, assert, love.

Don't Aim for Happiness

(Linda bought this as a gift for a friend.)

Happiness is a horrible goal, but a wonderful byproduct. If you work at being happy you will become miserable. 

Contentment is superior to happiness. The apostle Paul does not claim to have learned the secret of being happy in all circumstances. Rather, Paul has learned contentment, whether he is happy or not happy. (Philippians 4:11-13)

University of Toronto psychologist Jordan Peterson, in his recent book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, challenges the prevailing American happiness cult. He states:

“It’s all very well to think the meaning of life is happiness, but what happens when you’re unhappy? Happiness is a great side effect. When it comes, accept it gratefully. But it’s fleeting and unpredictable. It’s not something to aim at – because it’s not an aim. And if happiness is the purpose of life, what happens when you’re unhappy? Then you’re a failure. And perhaps a suicidal failure. Happiness is like cotton candy. It’s just not going to do the job.” ("Jordan Peterson: 'The Pursuit of Happiness Is a Pointless Goal'")

See also:

"Happiness" Is a Terrible Goal

My first two books are...

Praying: Reflection on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing...

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

I am editing a book of collected essays by various authors on the Holy Spirit. Should be out this June!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Why People Try to Control Others

(Sterling State Park, on Lake Erie, in Monroe

I meet a lot of control freaks and controlees. Many marriages are the coming together of these anti-types. Every control freak needs a controlee, and vice versa. I call these "master/slave" marriages.

Most people, if not all, struggle with control issues. I have, and at times still do. The Control vs. Trust polarity is an ontological reality; i.e., it lies at the base of human personhood. 

"Control" is the antithesis of "trust." Trust is huge in the Jesus-life, and life in general, since we control so very, very little.

Keith Miller writes: "control is the major factor in destroying intimate relationships." (Compelled to Control: Recovering Intimacy in Broken Relationships., p. 7) Why do we do this? Why try to control others when we can't control our own selves, and are often out of control? Miller writes:

"The fear of being revealed as a failure, as not being "enough" somehow, is a primary feeling that leads to the compulsion to control other people. When we were children, the fear of being inadequate and shameful was tied to our terror of being deserted or rejected and we had little control over getting what we needed. To counteract that basic terror, we have evidently been trying all our lives in various ways to "get control" of life. This includes controlling other people." (14)

A controlling person is an un-free person. Insecurity is the emblem of control. I like the way Richard Foster once put this: God wants to free us from the terrible burden of always having to get our own way. "Walking in freedom" and "controlling other people" ("always getting our own way") are oppositional. 

The control freak crushes the spirit of the other person, who wears a sign saying, "Crush me." "I'm in control of you"/"Control me" - "I'm in control of you"/"Control me" -  this is the cycle that destroys marriages and relationships. The antidote is trust. Because where trust is, control is not. 

Begin breaking free by learning trust in God. Pray to be less controlling than you now are. Pray to be less controlled by others than you now are. Trust God even when you don't trust other people. Understand this: You will rarely have all your ducks in a row, especially when it comes to people.

Go basic, repeating and praying Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
    Run to God! Run from evil! 
(The Message)

To trust God when around distrustful people is an experiential act of freedom. God can use you to be the catalyst that heals others of their fear of not measuring up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Difference Between the God of Christianity and All Other "Gods"

Image result for john piippo gods
(With graduating doctoral students at Palmer Theological Seminary)
I have retired from teaching philosophy at Monroe County Community College. I taught there for eighteen years. I continue to studying philosophy. I cannot get away from it!  Currently, I am immersed in moral philosophy, reading these books:

The Morals of the Story: Good News About a Good God, by David and Marybeth Baggett.

Atheist Overreach: What Atheism Can't Deliver, by Christian Smith.

Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology, by J. P. Moreland.

Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality, by James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky.

Christian Ethics: Four Views, by Steve Wilkens.

Introducing Christian Ethics: A Short Guide to Making Moral Choices, by Scott Rae.

One theme in the discussion of theistic ethics is the goodness of God. Essentially. This - among other things - distinguishes the God of theism from other "gods." The theistic God is qualitatively different from other gods. I have met village atheists (see Nietzsche's critique) who fail to grasp this difference.

The incoherence of the "new atheists" is fading (see atheist John Gray, Seven Types of Atheism - this was one of my Christmas presents, thank you). They provided theistic philosophers a feast of beliefs to both defeat and defend. One such belief was the idea that the God of Judaeo-Christianity is just another god, in the same league as all so-called gods.

This belief funded the "new atheist" slogan: "We are just like you theists, except we believe in one less god than you do." That was a cute saying, parroted by philosophically untrained atheists, accompanied with a slight smile and wink of their eye, appearing like they have dealt Christian monotheism a final death blow.

In all my philosophy career I never heard a real atheistic thinker pull that slogan out of their internet. Here, perhaps, is why.

From David Bentley Hart:

"There are two senses in which the word “God” or “god” can properly be used. Most modern languages generally distinguish between the two usages as I have done here, by writing only one of them with an uppercase first letter, as though it were a proper name—which it is not. Most of us understand that “God” (or its equivalent) means the one God who is the source of all things, whereas “god” (or its equivalent) indicates one or another of a plurality of divine beings who inhabit the cosmos and reign over its various regions. This is not, however, merely a distinction in numbering, between monotheism and polytheism, as though the issue were merely that of determining how many “divine entities” one happens to think there are. It is a distinction, instead, between two entirely different kinds of reality, belonging to two entirely disparate conceptual orders." (Hart, The Experience of God, pp. 28-29. Yale University Press. Emphasis mine.)

Philosopher David Bagget explains:

"Some atheists are fond of saying that they believe in just one god less than do the monotheists, but this is perhaps the wrong way to understand what’s going on. The difference between a polytheistic assortment of this-worldly, morally flawed gods, on the one hand, and an all-powerful, omnibenevolent God, on the other, can hardly be starker, so what accounts for the way some thinkers conflate these two radically different visions of reality?" (Baggett, The Morals of the Story: Good News About a Good God, pp. 41-42. Emphasis mine.)

There is, literally, a world of difference between the God Christians affirm, and the gods we deny. It would be like believing in cars, with the atheist telling me, "I just believe in one less pair of shoes than you."

Monday, February 18, 2019

Why Megachurch Pastors Keep Failing

(Comerica Park, Detroit)


Just read this article - it's good (thank you Lora). 

"Some Thoughts on Why Megachurch Pastors Keep Failing."

You can't have a great ministry and bad marriage. A bad marriage will obliterate a great ministry.

If you’re winning at work but losing at home, you’re losing.

Leaders, you're supposed to serve the church. It's not supposed to serve you.

Just because everybody doesn't need to know everything, it doesn't mean nobody does.

There is a world of difference between a platform and a pedestal. Pedestals are about ego and adulation. Platforms are designed to be shared and used for the benefit of others.

It's way too easy for your platform to outgrow your character.

The seeds of failure are in all of us. So are the seeds of finishing well.

Desire for Holiness Is In Another World from Legalism

I, and many others, are praying for a wave of the Father's love to come to our church family, and to churches across America. We are praying for the Church to be revived and wakened.

This will include a fresh wave of holiness. Every historic revival included repentance and the desire for holiness.

Because the coming revival is about desire, it is not about legalism. When I got rescued in the Jesus Movement, I desired to be like Jesus. My desire to do drugs went away, overwhelmed by a desire to follow Jesus and have what he has.

I did not see myself as following a new set of rules. I felt set free to pursue Christ. I wanted - and still want - to be free to love him and share his attributes. (See, e.g., theologian Wayne Grudem, on the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God, Systematic Theology.)

Legalism can be forced on people. Desire cannot be forced. I don't desire tofu. You might be able to force me to eat tofu. But you will never (apart from a miraculous, divine intervention) force me to desire it. Desire is not like that. Desire and passion for Jesus, passion for repentance, passion for holiness, is not like legalism at all.

Not everyone will welcome the coming revival of love and holiness. Not everyone desires to be a "living sacrifice." Someone has said that the problem with a living sacrifice is that is can climb off the altar.

Is this you? Were you once aflame for Jesus? Have you succumbed to the pressures of the secular culture, and lost you passion for Jesus? Do the "cares of this world" overwhelm your passion for Christ? If that's you, I can pray for you. 

I cannot force you to desire Jesus again. But the Holy Spirit can change your heart. 

I am prepping you. You will not enter into a revivalist lifestyle without a revival of love, purity, and holiness. This is why, as I understand it, Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry has, on their student application form, the following words. I shared them with my Redeemer church family on a recent Sunday. It reads:

A revivalist is not bound by laws. They are compelled by passion. Desire for holiness is in another world from legalism.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Love and Hate

(Middlebury, Ohio)

(This is a theological thought experiment.)

God loves you.

God does not love everything you do.

God hates sin.

If you sin, God hates what you are doing.

If you raped a little girl, God would hate that. That's good, right? You cannot begin to imagine a world where a perfectly loving God would say, "I love it when this man rapes little girls." Neither is God indifferent or neutral about this.

Does God love the rapist in their raping little girls? Yes. That... is... astounding. Does God love the raping? No. God hates it.

God's hatred is loving. This is because God IS love, and all God is and says and does and thinks and feels is love. When God hates, it is another manifestation of his love. God's hatred is logically consistent with his essential nature, which is love. Every lover is also a hater. This is an asymmetric relationship: every hater is not a lover.

Sometimes, God hates our worship. Francis Chan writes:

"There are times when God hates our worship. There are churches He wants shut down. So often we assume that as long as we show up to worship, God is pleased. The Bible tells a different story (Amos 5:21–24; Isa. 58:1–5; Mal. 1:6–14; 1 Cor. 11:17–30; Rev. 2:5; 3:15–16). 
Since the beginning of time, there has been worship God loves and worship He rejects. As I examine the state of the Christian Church today, I can’t help but think that God is displeased with many of the churches in America. 
I don’t say that lightly." (Chan, Letters to the Church, p. 24)

The gentle, fiery, bearded prophet Eugene Peterson said "the consumer church is an antichrist church." (See here.) Surely God hates anti-christ churches, right? Just because the name says "church" doesn't mean it's cool with God. 

More than Francis Chan, more than Eugene Peterson, way more than myself, God doesn't say things lightly. You don't really believe God loves everything that goes on in the name of "worship," do you?

God's grace and mercy are emergent properties of God's love. God IS love, in his being, in his essence. God's love gets expressed in his grace and mercy, and forgiveness, and countless other ways. When we sin, God is gracious and merciful to forgive our sin, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

This was written for Christians (it's important to understand this).

If we claim to be without sin, 
we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 
If we confess our sins, 
he is faithful and just 
and will forgive us our sins 
and purify us from all unrighteousness.

This is awesome. But we are not to presume upon the gracious, merciful forgiveness of God. We are not to live as if sin is no big deal. And, we are not to sin so we can experience, again, the amazing grace of God. How weird would that be? The rapist would keep on raping, the abuser would keep on abusing, the adulterer would keep on adultering, the embezzler would keep on embezzling, for the sake of experiencing - over and over - the merciful, gracious forgiveness of God. That would be sick!

Paul writes (written for Christians - it is important to understand this):

What shall we say, then? 
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 
By no means! 
We are those who have died to sin; 
how can we live in it any longer?

Romans 6:1-2

If you love God, you will hate sin. You will grieve over your own sin. You will worship our God who is gracious, merciful, and forgiving.  

Real love hates what is unloving. This is why so many of us hate the act of abortion. Our hatred is loving. Love the sinner; hate the sin.

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Saturday, February 16, 2019


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!

COME TO HIS TABLE: (Go HERE.) The time is NOW! This online group is for those that will be joining together to participate in 21 days of prayer and fasting starting on February 17th. If you have friends or family that would like to join us in fasting and praying for revival and breakthrough, please invite them as well. You do not have to be a member of Redeemer Fellowship Church to join us. Please read the church bulletin and check back here often for updates.

Feb. 21st - 6:30-8pm: Family Skate/Scoot Night in our fellowship hall. Bring your scooters! Bring your family...or bring your baby in a stroller and walk laps! A disco ball is possible, and the grooviest Christian music playlist is being created! Bring a snack, a 2-liter or beverage to share! We'll have tables set up for those of you who want to kick back and watch. Youth Group will join us!!!

February 28th: 7:15 pm: At North Monroe Street Church,2393 N. Monroe St. 48162, we are going to gather with Jake and Hannah Loop and other passionate followers of Jesus from different churches in the Monroe area and worship together. The whole family is welcome!!!

FROM HOLLY: HEADCOUNT NEEDED!!!! If you are attending the Women's conference in March, and would like your children to be a part of our Kids' Ministry during the conference, I need a head count for each session of how many kids & ages. This will help us make sure we have enough leaders. The schedule for the weekend is this:
FRIDAY:   8:45-12    1:30-4    7-9pm
SATURDAY:   8:45-12   1:30-4
You can email me at Thank you for your help! Holly Collins

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!


SWIM PARTY AT LAKE ERIE THIS AFTERNOON. (Just checking to see if you have read this far! I won't be there.)




cover photo, Image may contain: 2 people

(Patti Angove and Melissa Dunsmore, from our Redeemer family, are leading this - thank you!)

The time is NOW! 

This online group is for those that will be joining together to participate in 21 days of prayer and fasting starting on February 17th. 

If you have friends or family that would like to join us in fasting and praying for revival and breakthrough, please invite them as well. 

You do not have to be a member of Redeemer Fellowship Church to join us. 

Please read the church bulletin and check back here often for updates.