Sunday, April 28, 2019

How to Be a Pastor

Image result for john piippo eugene peterson pastor pray
(I spent several hours praying in this spot when I was in Eldoret, Kenya - gum trees, I was told.)
Are you a pastor? Do you feel called to be a pastor? What does "pastor" mean?

I love being a pastor.

I am still learning how to be a pastor.

I have looked to some pastors about how to be a pastor. One is Eugene Peterson. I never met him. But I did I talk with Eugene on the phone once, for less than five minutes. I was inviting him to speak at a pastors conference in Michigan. He was gracious as he told me he would like to to it, but could not. He said, "I'm out of gas." 

This short conversation touched me, because of who is, and what he stands for when it comes to being a church. Peterson was out of gas, but his words start fires.

Peterson's book The Pastor is important to me. He shares what kind of pastor he wants to be.

  • "I want to be a pastor who prays. I want to be relaxed and reflective and responsive in the presence of God."
  • “I want to be a pastor who reads and studies. This culture in which we live squeezes all the God sense out of us. I want to be observant and informed enough to help this congregation understand what we are up against."
  • “I want to be a pastor who has the time to be with [people] in leisurely, unhurried conversations so that I can understand and be a companion with [them] as [they] grow in Christ—[their] doubts and [their] difficulties, [their] desires and [their] delights."
  • "I want to be a pastor who leads in worship, a pastor who brings [people] before God in receptive obedience, a pastor who preaches sermons that make scripture accessible and present and alive, a pastor who is able to give [people] a language and imagination that restores in [them] a sense of dignity as a Christian in [their] homes and workplaces and gets rid of these debilitating images of being a ‘mere’ layperson."
  • "I want to be an unbusy pastor." (P. 278)

I like this. I want to be a pastor like this. 

It requires a long obedience. In the same direction.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Francesca Ansel Going to Bethel This Fall

Francesca Ansel's Profile Photo

Francesca Ansel is one of Redeemer's young adults. She plans on going to Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in the fall.

I asked her to write up a letter which shares what she is doing.


Bethel Fund Information


My name is Francesca Ansel, and this summer I will be attending Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry. I will be going for first year schooling which is a 9 month program. During these nine months, I will be learning about what it is like to be a revivalist and lead a community into revival. I believe revival is coming to Monroe and I want to be able to be a good steward of what God is doing here. By going to Bethel, I can spend time studying under passionate revivalist and bring back what I have learned to the community. This is going to be a very exciting and growing season of my life and I am so grateful that God is inviting me on this adventure with him!

Giving opportunities:

While I am attending Bethel, I will need to be financially supported. I fully believe God will provide for this mission I am going on and can’t wait to see this financial miracle take place in my life. I am asking the body to come together and support me on this journey.

The cost of tuition for Bethel is $5,200. This will cover all of my classes and books. I will also be in need of housing and food money while I am there. The expense of living in California is significantly higher than here in Michigan. As of now, I am looking at $500 a month for rent (this will be my share after splitting rent with 5 other girls) and an extra $100 a month for food. I am planning on working while going to school but Bethel has a strict policy on not working over 26 hours while you are attending school. This is so you can focus on what God is doing and not fall behind in classes. I am hoping that I can raise at least $10,000 before I leave. This will give me time to find a job and enough money to pay off tuition.

If you are interested in making a donation or want to share my information I have a BSSM donate account which will go directly to my tuition or you can donate through Venmo. On both of these platforms all you have to do is look up my name!

Link to BSSM donate:✓&search=Francesca+Ansel

Prayer need:

During the process of moving to Bethel and while I am attending Bethel I would appreciate people partnering with me in prayer.
These are some things I am asking prayer for:
- A greater understanding of God’s love for his people
- More knowledge of the Word
- That I could become closer to the heart of God
- Revival in my heart
- A close Spiritual Mentor
- Housing
- Financial breakthrough

Contact Information:

Thank you for reading this and if you have any questions or encouragement I would love to hear from you!


In His Kneeprints

(Three Trees - Maumee Bay State Park)

In 1977 I began to set aside times and places to pray. I would go alone, to a place of least distraction, and pray. I began to learn how to pray by taking much time to pray.

I discovered what to do when my mind wandered

I learned much about hearing God.

I understood what intercessory praying is. 

I believe that praying, a lot, is a way of following Jesus. Luke 6:12-13 says:

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 
When morning came...

And Luke 22:39:

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives...

 To meet with the Father. To pray.

If Jesus spent so much time praying, who do we think we are if we do not do the same? 

Years ago I read through an old devotional book called In His Steps. I discovered that to follow Jesus - to do as Jesus did - was to get down In His Kneeprints

Praying was Jesus' first order of business. Everyone who follows him gets this right.

Praying at the Intersection of Heaven and Earth

(Sunset at Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio)

(From my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.)

Praying is Inter-asking

 N.T. Wright believes that “we are people who live at the interface between God’s world and the life of this present world. We are people who belong in that uncomfortable borderland. We are called to stay at this post even when we have no idea what’s actually going on.” 

To stay at this post is to be a praying person. Praying is the act of interfacing this world with the kingdom of God. Praying is a relationship occurring where heaven and earth intersect. 

In conversational praying, I confer with God about what we are doing together. This viewpoint radically changes a traditional view of prayer as only “petition,” or “asking.” Instead of sending prayer requests up to heaven, heaven meets earth in the place and act of praying. Praying includes asking, but is more than that. It is interacting. Praying is inter-asking. 

As you pray you interface with the Maker of heaven and earth. This is important. We are given the location of the God-conference, which is: the intersection of heaven and earth. Praying is the place where God and humans meet. Prayer is the point where God and I converge. The moment of praying is when the rule of God (the “kingdom of God”) invades this present darkness.

Friday, April 26, 2019

It Is Irrational and Unloving to Affirm All Beliefs

Ann Arbor

(I'm reposting this for someone.)

I was asked the question, "Would a Muslim be welcome in your church?"

My answer was, "Yes!"

And Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists are welcome, too.

I welcome all of them, as Jesus does the same. I would love to have them come. (I have had atheists come to Redeemer, who are mostly students who have been in my MCCC philosophy classes. A few of them have converted from atheism to theism, and then to Christianity.)

I say yes and amen to loving and welcoming all kinds of people.

Does this mean I affirm all the beliefs of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists? Of course not. No one can logically (coherently) affirm contradictory beliefs. Consider, for example, the following three mutually exclusive beliefs.

1) God does not exist (atheism, and Buddhism)
2) There are 330,000,000 gods (Hinduism).
3) There is only one God (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).

Unless a person is on drugs, it is not possible to say "true" to these three beliefs, held simultaneously. (Only people on drugs can sing the song "Imagine" and mean it. "I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will be as one." But this involves the eradication of religion - "and no religion too." Am I just imagining, or am I being marginalized?)

From this we learn an important truth: No one can affirm all the various beliefs of the world's religions. To believe something is, ipso facto, to deny many things. Beliefs, by nature, embrace and exclude.

Going further, No one person affirms all the beliefs of any other person. The fact that I, or you, do not affirm the beliefs of someone else should not be shocking. Anyone who claims to affirm someone else's entire belief system is to be dismissed as unbelievable.

I had a philosophy student who believed The earth is flat. I liked him, but did not affirm his belief.

In the Jesus worldview, I welcome and love all people. I do not (because it cannot be done, epistemically) affirm all the beliefs of people. It is irrational to expect that I should do so. It is not unloving to say, "I think you are wrong about that." It is unloving, because untruthful, to treat people as if our different beliefs are harmonious.

(See "Welcoming and Sometimes Disaffirming." I just want to keep this ball in play.)

My two books are:

Monday, April 22, 2019

Letter to My Redeemer Family, and an Invitation

Image result for john piippo resurrection

(I just emailed this note to my Redeemer family.)

Good Morning Redeemer Family - Jesus is risen!

What a beautiful experience we had together on Easter Sunday morning. Great, Spirit-led worship (thank you Holly, worship band, and worshiping church), beautiful special music (thank you Victor), and one of the most inspiring Easter sermons I have ever heard (I've never heard a sermon like this before - thank you Tim).

All this and more causes me to give thanks today. And, to pray.

For over forty years I have been taking Tuesday afternoons to pray. My praying times have been between two to six hours. So, as is my habit, I'll go out to a quiet place tomorrow and pray. 

If you have something you would like me to pray for (which Linda and I will keep private) please send me your request. I consider it an honor and a joy to pray for you. 

And, during my praying times, God speaks to me, about me.

Blessings to you all in these powerful post-resurrection days!


P.S. - Thank you Trevor and Youth Leaders, and to Matt Holladay, for leading this past weekend's youth retreat!

For what I have learned from praying, see my book Praying: Reflections on Forty Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Metaethical Studies and Moral Nihilism

Image result for john piippo atheism
Most atheists I know want to be moral. They make strong moral claims, saying "_______ is wrong," or "We ought to do ________." Indeed, atheists like Richard Dawkins claims religious beliefs are morally repulsive and ought to be discarded. 

But it is questionable if atheism can take us this far. Probably not. Atheism can support utilitarianism, and emotivist ethics, but atheists overreach when they claim theists are morally wrong. The atheist cannot, without warrant, call certain acts "good" or "evil."

This is a metaethical issue. I'm now reading three books that add to metaethical studies. They are...

Atheist Overreach: What Atheism Can't Deliver,  by University of Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. Smith argues that "the naturalistic cosmos that is the standard operating worldview of atheism cannot with rational warrant justify the received humanistic belief in universal benevolence and human rights." (P. 124)

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

"When it began, the quest for a moral science sought to discover the good. The new moral science has abandoned that quest and now, at best, tells us how to get what we want. With this turn, the new moral science, for all its recent fanfare, has produced a world picture that simply cannot bear the weight of the wide-ranging moral burdens of our time." (Kindle Location 112)

This, say Hunter and Nedelisky, is "moral nihilism."

Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology, by theistic philosopher J. P. Moreland. Moreland writes: "Given scientism, moral knowledge is impossible. And the loss of moral knowledge has meant a shift from a view in which duty and virtue are central to the moral life, to a minimalist ethical perspective." (Kindle Location 422)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Pastors Don't Need to Be Awesome, Just Faithful

Image result for john piippo apostle paul
(One of my favorite postcards)
Paul writes, in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12:

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It's easy to think that if God wants to do something great, he needs great people. But great people are not needed to accomplish great things for God. Paul flips the status-hierarchy thing on its head (just as Jesus did). 

God uses weak vessels to display his surpassing glory. This is why Paul is not freaking out about his own personal weaknesses. He knew his shortcomings. He's not physically impressive. He's not a great speaker. He's got a unibrow. (See here.) People fall asleep while he preaches. Some even die. (See here.)

New Testament scholar David Garland writes:

"Paul has become the suffering apostle of the suffering Messiah. We can learn from his example that ministers [pastors] do not have to be wonderful, just faithful. Many labor under the enormous burden of trying to be wonderful in the eyes of others rather than simply trying to minister to them. Many a minister suffers burnout from trying to run a sparkling program, keeping up attendance while keeping down conflict, and preaching catchy sermons instead of preaching Christ." (David Garland, 2 Corinthians, 230)

What our people need is not another performance, but God's empowering, majestic presence. Pastors are but jars of clay who bear within themselves the light of the gospel.

Painfully ordinary. But with the power of God inside.

What did the apostle Paul look like?

He was a bald-headed, bowlegged short man with a big nose, and an unbroken eyebrow that lay across his forehead like a dead caterpillar.
That’s a paraphrase.
It’s from the only physical description of Paul, in an early Christian document, the Acts of Paul. (Its author, a second-century church leader, was fired over the book because he attributed to Paul some unorthodox teachings such as sexual abstinence in marriage.)
A more literal translation of the description of Paul in Greek reads, “A man of middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were far apart; he had large eyes, and his eyebrows met, and his nose was somewhat long.”

This may be little more than imaginative writing from a century after Paul died, but it does not clash with the way Paul’s critics described him: “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive” (2 Cor. 10:10).
(Christianity Today, "Bald, Blind & Single?")

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

I'm working on:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead? A Few Resources

Linda and I made this simple cross and placed it in our front yard near the road.

This is especially or those who listened to my Facebook Live One-Hour Seminary, on "Why I Believe Jesus Was Raised From the Dead."

Here are a few resources to go further.

Gary Habermas, "The Resurrection Argument That Changed a Generation of Scholars"

Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

Habermas's website

N. T. Wright, "Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?

Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God - Just $2.99 for your Kindle!

William Lane Craig, "The Evidence for Jesus's Resurrection"

Craig, The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?

Jesus' Body Lies in a Tomb Owned by Joseph of Arimathea

(Ancient tomb in Jerusalem)


57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. 

 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."
65 "Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard."


As a new Jesus-follower I learned of factual, historical pieces of evidence that strengthened my faith. One is this: Jesus' dead body was placed in a tomb owned by Sanhedrin member, Joseph of Arimathea. This provides a piece of evidence that, along with other facts (esp. Jesus' postmortem appearances - see, e.g., Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony), forms an strong inductive argument for the resurrection of Jesus. 

On the Saturday following Good Friday Jesus' body lay inert in Joseph of Arimathea's family tomb.
 We can be certain, historically (which means "inductively certain"), that this was the case. How so? Here are two reasons: 

1) this story, in the four Gospels and Paul, is found in independent sources that together attest to this; and 

2) by the "criterion of embarrassment" a story of a member of the Sanhedrin helping Jesus' family is unlikely, and not plausibly invented by Christians. This argues in favor of its historicity.

1) We have sources that together attest to Jesus' burial in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.

Paul Barnett writes: "Careful comparison of the texts of Mark and John indicate that neither of these Gospels is dependent on the other. Yet they have a number of incidents in common: For example, . . . the burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea" (Paul Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History, 1997, pp. 104-5). Regarding the burial stories, the differences between Mark and the other Synoptics point to other independent sources behind Matthew and Luke. (Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the "Synoptic" gospels.)

So what's the point? It's this. If, e.g., a police officer had multiple, independent (unrelated) witnesses to a crime, and they all gave the same report (even if worded differently and with variations), this would provide stronger evidence than if only one report had been given. We have this re. the burial stories, in the Gospels and Paul. Here is the key Pauline text.

1 Corinthians 15:3 ff.: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

William Lane Craig writes:

"This is an old tradition, handed on by Paul to the Corinthian church, which is among the earliest traditions identifiable in the NT. It refers to Jesus' burial in the second line of the tradition. That this is the same event as the burial described in the Gospels becomes evident by comparing Paul's tradition with the Passion narratives on the one hand and the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles on the other.
 The four-line tradition handed on by Paul is a summary of the central events of Jesus' crucifixion, burial by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of his empty tomb, and his appearances to the disciples."

2) Most NT scholars say it is highly likely that Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 

Sometimes I hear someone say, "OK, but Christians just made these stories up." This is improbable. As a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin that was opposed to Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention. In this regard New Testament  scholar Raymond Brown says burial by Joseph of Arimathea is probable. Why? Because it is almost inexplicable why Christians would make up a story about a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin who does what is right by Jesus. That would, for a Jesus-follower in the days after Easter weekend, be an embarrassment. 

Craig Keener writes: "Given early Christian experiences with and feelings toward the Sanhedrin, the invention of a Sanhedrist acting piously toward Jesus is not likely." (Keener,
 The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio- Rhetorical Commentary, 690)

Why is this important? It's important because the location of the tomb where Jesus' body was placed was known. Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary" (the mother of James and Joseph) knew where it was, as did the chief priests and the Pharisees. On Sunday, the tomb was empty. If Jesus' body was still in the tomb, it could and would have been seen or exhumed on the days following Easter. 

Why would Joseph of Arimathea offer his tomb for Jesus' body to be placed in? The answer is: he had become a disciple of Jesus. (Matt. 27:57) Both he and Sanhedrin member Nicodemus saw something in Jesus, and stepped out of the box to follow Him. Joseph is a risk-taker who is willing to put aside his place of political and religious power to go after the truth and love he sees in Jesus. He doesn't realize what's going to happen on Sunday. But he wants to make sure his new Lord receives a proper Jewish burial. 


1. Joseph of Arimathea risked his reputation and career to follow Jesus. Reflect on how you are risking all for Jesus.

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 (Encounters With the Holy Spirit) will be out by June.

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

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Easter Week - Jesus Takes the Second Cup

Linda, walking in Jerusalem


14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

 17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."


The cup Jesus takes is one of the four cups taken at the Passover meal. New Testament scholar Joel Green thinks Jesus took the second cup. This is important.

Cup #1 – the head of the family gave a blessing over that cup. Cups three and four came after the Passover meal. Then, Psalms 114-118 were sung – "The Great Hallel."

Cup #2 – This was the point in the Passover Meal where the youngest son in the family asks the father, "Why is this night different from other nights?” “Why is unleavened bread eaten on this night?” And other questions… 

Jesus, on that night 2000 years ago, took the second cup. It was a different night, and would change the world.

At the Passover meal the father, on taking Cup #2, would tell the story of the exodus, and give a message on Deuteronomy 26:5-11. The meal was interpreted as and seen as an act of remembering and thanking God for his past liberation of an oppressed people. It was a celebration of God’s faithfulness and hope for the future deliverance of God’s people.

They would eat lamb and bitter herbs. They would drink the series of four cups of wine.

At the original exodus Passover lambs were slaughtered. The blood of these lambs was applied to the doorways of the Jewish homes as a sign for the Angel of Death to pass over their homes and spare the life of their first born. When the father told this story, the Jews at the meal imagined themselves in the world of Moses in Egypt. Haven't you heard someone tell a story in such a way that you feel as if you are right there? You feel the emotions that were felt, you could smell the food being described, you sensed the oppression, and then... 

            … you experienced being set free!

Here, unknown to Jesus' disciples, it was a different night. The Jewish Meal of all Meals was happening, for the one-thousandth time. The original Passover was a night different from all other nights. It was the night when the avenging angel of death “passed over” the homes of the Israelites so God could liberate the people of Israel. But this night, recorded in Luke 22, is going to be very, very different from any other night. It will be remembered forever, not just by Jews, but by the peoples of the world, to include you and me.

This quite-and-very-different night begins by Jesus talking, not of the Moses-Exodus story, but about his impending death, and his Kingdom that is coming in its fullness. Jesus is changing the meaning of Passover. This is shocking and unexpected.

Can we just stop here for a moment?

Change is hard. This change is beyond hard. Because up to this point Passover was celebrated in the SAME WAY ALL THE TIME! "We always have done it this way!” (These, BTW, are the Seven Last Words of the Church.) The same questions are asked. The same answers are given. And it has been this way for hundreds of years.

But ON THIS NIGHT, as Joel Green says, “Instead of the expected focus on the historic deliverance enacted by God in Israel’s past, Jesus talks about his own death and vindication, and the coming of God’s dominion.” (JG, Luke, 761) "As you drink Cup #2, this cup, remember Me." What Jesus does on this night draws on the Exodus story. But, as N.T. Wright is fond of saying, this is the "New Exodus."

"After taking the [second] cup, Jesus gave thanks and said..." He did this on a night that is different from any before it, and from any that will follow. Jesus was showing that he was the "New Moses" who was leading not only Israel but all of humanity in the New Exodus and their resultant liberation.

Tonight, the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus lifted the second cup. 

It was the night before the day when all humanity would be set free.


1. Had you been one of Jesus' disciples at that Passover Meal, how would you have felt when Jesus reinterprets hundreds of years of tradition in terms of his own life and sacrificial death?

2. Think of how Jesus has liberated you from your enslavement to sin. Count the ways he has done this. Give thanks to God for this.

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 (Encounters With the Holy Spirit) will be out by June.

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