Saturday, August 24, 2019

Freed From the Myth of Personal Brilliance

(Seminary Co-op Bookstore in Chicago)

This past Monday Linda and I spent a day in Chicago. We ate delicious food, people-watched, and marveled at the architecture.
We drove to the south side and the University of Chicago. My favorite bookstore in the world is there - the Seminary Co-op BookstoreThis bookstore is used by the U-Chicago Divinity School as their own. It is a feast of philosophical and theological literature!
I read books. My habit is to have ten going at a time. But on Monday, as I walked through the rows and rows... and rows...  of academic books...  I realized I had not read, and therefore was unfamiliar with, 99.9999...% of the thousands of books and millions of pages of knowledge surrounding me. I am, following philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset, a "learned ignoramus." Had I any pride in my accomplished readings, it was now seen for what it truly is: tiny. Miniscule. 
One character in Sartre's novel Nausea (which I have read) is "the self-taught man." He lives in the library in Paris. His quest is to read every book in the library, from A to Z. He doesn't get far. After decades of reading he is still not out of the As. He gets to Ac..., and then another book is published that begins with Ab. His quest to know all that can be known is vain.

In Philippians 2:3-4 Paul writes:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

"Vain conceit" means that "conceit" is "vain." "Vanity" is an attribute of "conceit." 

"Vain" means: futile, or empty. Containing nothing. Therefore, useless. Conceit is empty and useless.

Pascal once wrote: "What amazes me most is to see that everyone is not amazed at his weakness.” At his or her ignorance.

When overwhelming, matter-of-fact ignorance is revealed and accepted, it is bracingly humbling. This true ignorance is not merely factual, but cognitive. There are things I will never be able to comprehend, not because I lack the information, but because of my inability to do so. 

It is good to come to this realization. It is an arrogance-killer. It is just plan true.

It's not so much what we know, but who we know. If the latter is Nothing, then welcome to the bleak world of Sartre's French atheistic existentialism. (Not the atheistic "brights.") If the latter is an All-Knowing God, then we have found the place where our ignorant minds can find hope and rest.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Steve & Wendy Backlund @ Redeemer!

Dear Igniting Hope Family, 

Steve & Wendy are coming to
Monroe, Michigan on September 20-22
It's going to be a powerful time!

For more information, scroll below or check out our itinerary at
We hope to see you there!

Unreasonably Optimistic,
The Igniting Hope Team

S H A R E   T H E   H O P E

B A C K L U N D   S P E A K I N G   S C H E D U L E

Weekend with the Backlunds  |  Redeemer Fellowship Church
5305 Evergreen Dr. Monroe, MI 48161

Friday, September 20 @ 6:30pm
Saturday, September 21 @ 10am and 6:30pm
Sunday September 22 @ 10am and 6:30pm
Redeemer Fellowship Website

Know someone who lives near this event? Feel free to forward this along. 

September 15 at Redeemer - Jeff & Annie Dieselberg from Bangkok

(Annie & Jeff Dieselberg)

On Sunday morning, Sept. 15, Jeff & Annie Dieselberg from Bangkok, Thailand will be with us at Redeemer! 

Jeff will be our guest preacher. Here are some things about them and the incredible ministry God has called them to in Thailand.

Annie and Jeff Dieselberg are based in Bangkok, Thailand, a bustling metropolis of more than 10 million people. They both serve at the NightLight Foundation and NightLight Design Co. Ltd.

NightLight is an international organization committed to addressing the complex issues surrounding trafficking and prostitution by catalyzing individual and community transformation. NightLight's vision is to offer intervention to sexually exploited women and children, to enable them to discover their dignity and to provide a program of holistic transformation, empowering them to live and work in their communities.

NightLight's mission is to build relationships and provide hope, intervention, rescue and assistance to women and children exploited in the sex industry. It does this by offering alternative employment through the registered jewelry business NightLight Design, Co. Ltd.—in addition to vocational opportunities, life-skills training and physical, emotional and spiritual development—to women seeking freedom from sexual exploitation. NightLight builds support networks internationally to intervene and assist women, men and children whose lives are negatively impacted by the sex industry.

Annie is the founder and CEO of NightLight. Annie also facilitates outreach in the red-light area and leads in the prayer and deliverance ministry at NightLight. As an advocate for NightLight and the issues of women exploited in the sex industry, Annie also does a lot of networking and speaking.

Jeff serves as chaplain to the NightLight. He also serves as senior pastor of NightLight’s church plant, Song Sawang Church (translated “Shine the Light”). Song Sawang Church began in May 2008, mostly with new converts from NightLight. Now, however, these women who are members of the church are reaching out to family, friends and strangers, including men, youths and children, bringing more growth and diversity to the congregational makeup. In addition, Jeff, along with a team of four trained adjunct faculty, teaches urban transformation at the invitation of local seminaries to encourage aspiring pastors and Christian workers to understand and engage in what God is doing in Bangkok and the cities of the world.

Identity #14 - Do Not Let This World Interpret You

(Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio)

The prescient, prophetic, praying follower of Jesus, Thomas Merton, wrote: 

"We have a vocation not to be disturbed by the turmoil and wreckage 
of the great fabric of illusions." 

We have a vocation... 

A calling. 

We have a calling.

From God. 

God calls us.

... not to be disturbed...

To not be agitated.

This is about the heart.

Washing machines have "agitators." They move back and forth, back and forth, with force. They are going nowhere. They make no forward progress.

Disturbances halt forward progress. Disturbances interrupt the calling.

said, "Let not your hearts be agitated."

ταράσσω,v  \{tar-as'-so}
1) to agitate, trouble (a thing, by the movement of its parts to and fro)  1a) to cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of  mind, disturb his equanimity  1b) to disquiet, make restless  1c) to stir up  1d) to trouble  1d1) to strike one's spirit with fear and dread  1e) to render anxious or distressed  1f) to perplex the mind of one by suggesting scruples or doubts. the turmoil...

Let not your hearts be agitated by the agitation. By the upheaval. By the 
irruptions. By the roiling waters.

Let not your hearts be arrested by the peace-thieves. the wreckage...

Do not be captivated by the incessant effluence of cultural carnage.

Put a compress on the bleeding media.

...the great fabric of illusions.

The systematic sham that is "the world."

With all its pretension and arrogance.

Do not let this world interpret you.

We have a calling from God to remain in Christ where agitation and turmoil are not to be found and the great fabric of systemic spell-casting is broken.

My three books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I'm currently writing:

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Then, the Lord willing, 

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Linda and I then intend to write our book on Relationships.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Letter to My Church Family - August 22, 2019

August 22, 2019

Dear Redeemer Family:

Linda and I greet you in the name of Jesus! We are so thankful to be part of the Redeemer family, with you. Here are some things I want to share with you.

What God is saying to me: Redeemer is a Discipling Church. Jesus instructed us to make disciples. The apostle Paul write that pastors are to equip the followers of Jesus for works of ministry. Therefore: Disciple and Equip. Here are some of our discipling and equipping opportunities.

SUNDAY MORNINGS: We gather together to worship, and hear the preached Word. We continue to pray for revival and awakening in our church, and churches cross America. 

PRAYING MEN: Led by Tim Curry, this is an open group meeting Sunday mornings at 9:30. Redeemer is a praying church!
ONE NIGHT – Thank you Daniel Reaume for your leadership. Daniel writes: Join us August 23rd at 7pm at the MBT Expo Center for this years ONENIGHT event! This event Is a gathering of Christians from all across Monroe from various backgrounds, congregations, and denominations with unity in Christ and lifting up Jesus at the center! We hope to see you! See our website if you would like to volunteer of donate to event!

INSIDE/OUT – This is our Thursday evening focus on discipleship, community-building, and outreach. I am now writing my fourth book, which I am calling How God Changes the Human Heart. On the first two Thursdays of Sept-Dec I will teach this book. This is foundational material for me. I’m going to share with you the depths of inner change into greater  Christlikeness that God has given me. More will be announced about the third and fourth Thursdays.

FULL LIFE IN CHRIST: This is our foundational discipleship class. If you have not taken this yet, or desire to go through it again, it will be on Mondays, 7-9 PM, beginning Sept. 16. The third semester class will be on Sundays, 6-8 PM, beginning on Sept. 15.

JEFF DIESELBERG from Bangkok, Thailand, and NightLight International, will preach on Sunday morning, September 15.

(Annie and Jeff Dieselberg)

WENDY AND STEVE BACKLUND FROM BETHEL REDDING will be with us September 20-21-22. Those of us who came when Steve was with us know this is going to be an incredible, equipping, releasing weekend!

(Steve and Wendy Backlund)

CHRIS BAJKIEWICZ, who with his wife Lori, are medical  missionaries to Mexico, Latin America, and beyond. Christ will preach at Redeemer on Sunday morning, October 13.

(Lori and Chris Bajkiewicz)

INVEST IN YOUR MARRIAGE! Linda and I invite marital couples to purchase Les and Leslie Parrott’s book The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer. Read the book together as a couple. Then, sometime in September, we’ll get together for a picnic, discussion of the book, and praying together.

YOUTH MINISTRY meets Thursday nights, 7-8:30. The Fall Kick-off is Thursday, Sept. 12, 6-8:30 PM.

MORAL REVOLUTION: THE NAKED TRUTH ABOUT SEXUAL PURITY. I have challenged Redeemer youth and young adults to purchase this book by Kris Valotton, read it, and join Linda and me for a discussion about it (probably in September).

SMALL GROUPS/HOME GROUPS: Two weeks ago another Home Group formed and is meeting! For Linda and me, being in a Home Group has always been part of our Christian life. If you are ready for this please contact Linda.

MIKE HUTCHINGS AT REDEEMER – FEB. 21-22-23. Mike is part of Randy Clark’s Global Awakening. Mike will come to us with “Healing of trauma and PTSD.” Some of us were with Mike in June at our summer conference. I have never heard a teaching like this before. It’s going to be an incredible, freeing weekend!

(Mike Hutchings)

GREEN LAKE 2020 – THE IDENTITY CONFERENCE. Robby Dawkins will be our featured speaker. I feel this is going to be a significant conference that will influence our culture. June 21-25.

(Robby Dawkins)

Blessings and Love to you all,


Identity #13 - Who You Are, and Who You Are Not

Green Lake, Wisconsin

In my spiritual formation classes for pastors and Christian leaders I begin class by sending the students out to pray for an hour, using Psalm 23 as their meditative focus. My instruction is simply: when God speaks to you, write it down.

Upon returning from their hour with God, many of them will have heard God tell them, "I love you." Some have not heard those words in a long time. This is a powerful time of sharing.

This gets at the heart of who we are. Henri Nouwen wrote that he was "firmly convinced that the decisive moment of Jesus's public life was his baptism, when he heard the divine affirmation, "You are my Beloved on whom my favor rests." (Spiritual Direction, 28) 

When God tells someone "You are my beloved," or "I love you," the most intimate truth about that person is revealed. God loves you: this is the ultimate truth about you. Nouwen says "the ultimate spiritual temptation is to doubt this fundamental truth about ourselves and trust in alternative identities." (28)

Who are you? Nouwen counsels us not to define ourselves by the following alternative identities.

1. Do not define yourself as: "I am what I do." He writes: "When I do good things and have a little success in life, I feel good about myself. But when I fail, I start getting depressed." (Ib.) To define yourself by what you do is to live on a spiritual and emotional roller coaster that is a function of your accomplishments.

2. Do not define yourself as: "I am what other people say about me." "What people say about you has great power. When people speak well of you, you can walk around quite freely. But when somebody starts saying negative things about you, you might start feeling sad. When someone talks against you, it can cut deep into your heart. Why let what others say about you - good or ill - determine what you are?" (Ib., 29)

3. Do not define yourself as: "I am what I have." Don't let your things and your stuff determine your identity. Nouwen writes: "As soon as I lose any of it, if a family member dies, if my health goes, or if I lose my property, then I can slip into inner darkness." (Ib.)

Too much energy goes into defining ourselves by deciding "I am what I do," "I am what others say about me," or "I am what I have." Nouwen writes: "This whole zig-zag approach is wrong." You are not, fundamentally, what you do, what other people say about you, or what you have. You are someone who is greatly loved by God.

Today, God speaks to the deep waters of your heart and says, "You are my beloved son or daughter, and on you my favor rests." To hear that voice and trust in it is to reject the three alternative ways of self-definition and enter into freedom and joy.

My three books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I'm currently writing:

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Then, the Lord willing, 

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Linda and I then intend to write our book on Relationships.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Churches: Destroy the Audience Mentality

(Jax, Josh's cat)

Jesus made pastoral leadership simple when he said, "When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself."

Jesus believed he had so much drawing power that not only do we not have to entertain the people, our entertainers could not draw people to him (otherwise Jesus would have been an entertainer, adding some song and dance, right?). Plus, entertainment actually draws us away from Jesus. It numbs people into an audience. Audiences are passive. And audiences critique. (The Entertainment Church hosts the Critical Church.)

This is a great relief for me! It eliminates endless, thankless striving to keep people happy and in the seats. And, it saves lots of money, allowing us to give more to the truly needy

The apostle Paul knew about Jesus. It's all he desired to know. He confessed to wanting to know nothing except Christ crucified. Paul, like Jesus, was a minimalist.

Michael Brown writes: 

"Jesus did not save us and call us to be an audience! Audiences do not change the world. Audiences do not start revolutions. Audiences do not advance the kingdom. Audiences do not fulfill the Great Commission. And audiences do not threaten the devil one bit. We must destroy this audience mentality, although our entertainment-oriented culture, replete with slick mega-churches and superstar preachers, make this an uphill battle for sure. But change we must, since the devil's troops understand well how the battle must be won - and it is not with the audience mentality."
- Brown, Revolution in the Church: Challenging the Religious System with a Call for Radical Change, Kindle Locations 922-927. 

My three books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Janice Trigg)

I'm currently writing:

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Then, the Lord willing, 

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Linda and I then intend to write our book on Relationships.

How to Rule Over Your Anger - My Sermon - 8/11/19

My sermon "How to Rule Over Your Anger" is online HERE.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Awaiting the Greatest Move the Church Has Ever Seen

(Sanctuary in our church building.)

I see my church family as an airplane with two wings: one wing is academic; the other wing is experiential. One wing is deep study of the Word; the other wing is deep encounter of the Word. Whenever Tim, Josh, or I preach, both wings are operative. This approach was again recently confirmed to me.

Some of us were blessed to have Craig Keener join by phone to discuss his book Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. One of our participants expressed how moved he was when he read the last paragraph of the book (of the main text). This paragraph expressed his hope, Craig's hope, and mine too. It reads:

"An early Pentecostal voice invites us to bring Word and Spirit together—a collaboration that I would envision as the best of evangelical exegesis of the text combined with the best of charismatic power to embrace and carry out its message. Smith Wigglesworth, one of the most prominent early Pentecostal healing evangelists, felt disappointed toward the end of his life that the Pentecostal revival had not directly ushered in the end of the age, as the earliest Pentecostals had hoped. He did not, however, relinquish hope for the future. He believed that in addition to the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit that brought a restoration of the gifts, there would someday come another revival emphasizing God’s Word. “When these two moves of the Spirit combine,” he prophesied, “we shall see the greatest move the Church of Jesus Christ has ever seen.” May it be so, Lord." (289)

A revival leading to deep study of God's Word.

A revival bringing deep experiencing of the One to Whom the Word points.

I want both!

You Are Significant to God

(Monroe County)

Thomas Merton writes: 

"I think the chief reason why we have so little joy is that we take ourselves too seriously. Joy can only be real if it is based on truth... [The]  starting point is the truth of our own insignificance in comparison with God. To penetrate the truth of how utterly unimportant we are is the only thing that can set us free to enjoy true happiness." 

(The Sign of Jonas; emphasis mine.)

"We take ourselves too seriously." Take God seriously, not yourself. The world does not revolve around you, but around God.

Joy turns to frustration and anguish when life is all about you. 

Do not water the flower of your own self so that you might bloom before others. 

Lighten up about you. 

Your reputation is unimportant; God's honor is all-important.

Pray that people might find God, not you, because you are not such a big deal. God is a big deal. 

To be free of the cultivation of one's own persona is the gateway to joy. 

If through you we see God, that will be cool. Better for us to see and find God than to discover you.

We are insignificant in comparison with God. Out of the seven billion people 
on earth, not one of them is now thinking about you. To the world at large, you are a non-issue.

OK, maybe there's one person who, right now, thinks of you, of how beautiful you are, or how intelligent and creative you are. Probably one or two or ten people love you and think of you, now. Maybe there's one person who is now angry with you and hates you, and thinks of how ignorant and irritating you are.

The majority of people (99.999999% of them) do not know you exist; hence, ipso facto, they are not thinking of you. To the world, and in this world, you are near-totally insignificant.

God, on the other hand, is significant. In this moment, right now, many are seeking God, being found by God, questioning God, asking God, arguing against God's existence, saying the name of God, worshiping God, ignoring God, reading about God, dreaming about God, standing in awe of God, saying God's name (not your's) in vain, singing God's name (not your's) in praise, writing about God, basking in God's presence, questioning God's absence, cursing God, and thanking God. God has been, is, and will be the focal issue, the central Person, in life. God is the sun around which the world revolves; you and I are specks. 

Is all this not true? Does not this truth set you free?

"To penetrate the truth of how utterly unimportant we are is the only thing that can set us free to enjoy true happiness."

As you take this breath, God is going after people, including you, with a love that knows no limits, with a pursuit that is forceful, specific, and effective. In your great insignificance and worldly-nonattention the God who is creator of all comes to you, personally, and whispers, "I love YOU." Let those words settle into the secret places of your heart. This is the time of freedom and joy.

Psalm 8:4 says: 

I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? 

(The Message) 

Who am I, God, that you are mindful of me? And yet, You are.

You are a micro-self.

God is thinking of you.