Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Book of the Year

My Book of the Year is:

Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower, by Gary Moon.

In reading this book I died and rose again, several times.

Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower by [Moon, Gary W.]

FOUR RESOLUTIONS FOR 2020 (A Year of Clear Vision)


(I took this photo in Istanbul. The reflection of the man makes it look like he is eyeing the Turkish delight.)



A year of clear vision.

"Resolution" - in music, "the passing of a voice part from a dissonant to a consonant tone or  from dissonance to consonance."  For example, if a musical piece is in the key of C, G is the 5th. A musical piece that ends on the 5th begs to be resolved to the 1st, or tonic chord, which is in this case C. The unresolved 5th causes one to inwardly strain and lean towards the anticipated 1st.

To "resolve" - fixity of purpose, resoluteness. For example: His comments were intended to weaken her resolve but they only served to strengthen it. (From here.)

If you are a Jesus-follower, don't make "New Year's Resolutions." Instead, resolve today. In four ways.

1. I Resolve to inquire of the Lord.

2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4)

Bring life's dissonance before the Lord. Inquire of God, regarding the chaos and incompleteness. You've tried to figure it out yourself; instead, seek God about this. Not just once in a while, but today, and every day. Place your trust in God, now. Get alone with God and receive direction. As God called Jehoshaphat to declare a fast in response to unresolved dissonance in Judah, so God has promised to shepherd you through all things. God is willing to direct your paths.

Resolve to inquire of God, today and every day.

2. I Resolve that my mouth will not bring destruction.

2 May my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right. 

3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing; 
I have resolved that my mouth will not sin. 4 As for the deeds of men—
by the word of your lips
I have kept myself
from the ways of the violent. 
(Psalm 17:2-4)

I will keep my mouth shut, unless my words serve to build up others.

I will meet, often and alone, with God. I will abide in Christ. I will dwell in his presence. God will shape and form my heart into Christlikeness. (Gal. 4:19) This Jesus-heart will produce what comes out of the space between my lips.

Resolve that your mouth will not destroy, today and every day.

3. I Resolve not to defile my soul with the enemy's "turkish delight."

7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. 
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel... (Daniel 1:7-9)

Daniel refuses to allow King Nebuchadnezzar to redefine his identity. Daniel "resolved"; i.e., Daniel "set upon his heart" not to pollute himself. Daniel set his heart not to compromise himself by accepting redefinition as a Babylonian. This is the matter of allegiance.

In C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund meets the White Witch, who seduces him with a delicious piece of candy called "turkish delight." He eats it, betraying Aslan, and his defiled heart falls under the Witch's dark spell.

Today, resolve not to compromise your allegiance to Jesus as your Lord.

4. I Resolve to know Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

Learn about Jesus. 

Learn Jesus. 

Fix on him. 

Sum all things up in Jesus.

Resolve to know Christ and him crucified. Today.


My two books are...

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Monday, December 30, 2019

Al Mohler's Misguided Critique of Bethel Church

Al Mohler recently critiqued Bethel Redding, calling Bethel "not a church," and "heterodox." Here are Mohler's two articles about this. I give my responses in [BRACKETED BOLD CAPS]. 

Amidst all the tumult of recent days comes a series of headlines from California. The New York Post ran an article with the headline, "California mega church tries to resurrect two year old girl through prayer." Yesterday's print edition of USA Today offered an article with the headline, "Church seeks to bring girl back to life."
Damon Arthur is the reporter for USA Today and he tells us, "After the sudden death of their daughter last week, one family has taken the unusual step of enlisting others at a California mega church to attempt to bring the child back to life. Since Saturday,” we are told, “members of Bethel Church in Redding had been using prayer, music and singing in the effort.” [NOTE: THE PARENTS WANTED THIS. WHO WOULDN'T? NOTE ALSO: NO ONE AT BETHEL PROMISED THIS WOULD HAPPEN. IT WAS, AS MOHLER WRITES, AN "ATTEMPT."]
The reporter goes on to tell us that the two-year-old girl who died was Olive Alayne Heiligenthal. Her parents are Andrew and Kalley, and of course they are grieving parents as well we can understand. The little girl, age two, was absolutely beautiful as the photographs testify. There is no doubt that the grief of her parents is beyond estimation and understanding. There is no report about how the child has died, but only the two year old died and that her parents who were involved with Bethel Church in Redding, California have turned to the church to ask for the church to act in order that the child would be resurrected from the dead.
A statement released by Bethel Church on Tuesday stated, "Bethel Church believes in the stories of healing and physical resurrection found in the Bible and that the miracles they portray are possible today." [I AGREE. ME TOO. I BELIEVE, AND HOPE FOR, THE KIND OF THINGS THE EARLY CHURCH SAW, AND WHICH JESUS SAID HIS DISCIPLES WOULD DO. BUT TO BELIEVE IN THESE THINGS IS NOT TO GUARANTEE THEM. I CAN BELIEVE IT IS GOING TO RAIN. I CANNOT GUARANTEE IT IS GOING TO RAIN.]
Kalley Heiligenthal, the mother of the child, is associated with Bethel Music with which she is both singer and songwriter, and much as is the case with Hillsong music from Australia, the music of this church in Redding, California, has spread far beyond the theological movement that gave the church birth.
But we need to look at that theological movement and understand what is going on here. Bethel Church in Redding has become rather well known, infamous might be another word, for its unique brand of prosperity theology that is centered on signs and wonders, on the special gifts and miracles, some of them far beyond human reason or for that matter acceptance. [THIS IS NOT “PROSPERITY THEOLOGY.” THE SIGN OF PROSPERITY THEOLOGY IS NOT AN EMPHASIS ON SIGNS AND WONDERS, AND MIRACLES, SINCE THAT WOULD MAKE JESUS A PROSPERITY THEOLOGIAN. AND, IT’S OK TO GO “BEYOND HUMAN REASON,” RIGHT? FAITH GOES BEYOND HUMAN REASON, CORRECT? THE MIND OF CHRIST GOES BEYOND HUMAN REASON, RIGHT? THE STANDARD OF "ACCEPTANCE" IS NOT "HUMAN REASON." AND, BTW, THIS IS NOT TO DENIGRATE HUMAN REASON. I TAUGHT LOGIC AT OUR COMMUNITY COLLEGE FOR SEVENTEEN YEARS, AND VALUE CRITICAL THINKING. BUT THE PRESENCE AND ACTIVITY OF GOD CANNOT BE CAPTURED IN THE STEEL NETS OF LOGIC.]
Bethel Church is actually heterodox. It teaches what historic Christians would recognize to be heretical teachings. [I DON'T BELIEVE THOSE IN THE BOOK OF ACTS CHURCH WOULD FIND SUCH THINGS ODD. THEY WOULD, I THINK, FIND THE ABSENCE OF SUCH THINGS ODD.] The founder of the church Bill Johnson holds to what he calls a “Jesus is perfect” theology, and in that theology he claims that it is always God's will to heal someone, someone who is ill, someone who has had an accident, or for that matter someone who is dead. [BJ DOES NOT BELIEVE IT IS ALWAYS GOD’S WILL TO RAISE SOMEONE, BACK TO THIS EARTHLY EXISTENCE,  WHO HAS DIED.]
Now, this is not something completely new in the history of Christianity. It is not even new in the history of this kind of fringe movement going back over the last several decades in the United States. Several years ago in Pensacola, Florida, there was a movement known as the Brownsville Revival and similar kinds of teachings and patterns were evident then. In the Jesus is perfect theology [DOES THIS MEAN: OUR THEOLOGY {OUR WORLDVIEW}] SHOULD SYNC WITH THAT OF JESUS? THAT'S GOOD THEOLOGY, RIGHT?], again that's what Bill Johnson calls it, he teaches, "How can God choose not to heal someone when he already purchased their healing? Was his blood enough for all sin or just certain sins? Were the stripes he bore only for certain illnesses or certain seasons of time?" He went on to say, "When he bore stripes in his body, he made a payment for our miracle. He already decided to heal. You can't decide not to buy something after you've already bought it." [THIS IS THE TEACHING THAT HEALING IS IN THE ATONEMENT. A LOT OF GOOD FOLLOWERS OF JESUS ADHERE TO THIS. MINIMALLY, LET'S NOT CALL SUCH PEOPLE HETERODOX, OR NOT PART OF THE CHURCH.]
Now when you look at that, you recognize this is a certain use of Scripture, taking Scripture out of context, but it is also an active fight against human rationality [SO…??? AS MUCH AS I VALUE HUMAN RATIONALITY {PHD IN PHILOSOPHICAL THEOLOGY}, DO NOT THE WAYS OF GOD MASSIVELY TRANSCEND HUMAN RATIONALITY? MOHLER, IT SEEMS TO ME, HAS BEEN ENLIGHTENMENT-IZED.] and not only the teachings of Scripture, but what might be defined as the normative Christian experience and normative Christian teaching over the course of the last 2000 years and more.
What are we talking about here? Well, we are talking about a health and wealth and prosperity gospel that goes far beyond what is normally found even within that context. In the teaching of Bill Johnson, the founder of Bethel Church, is the claim that God wills to heal everyone unconditionally, or at least every Christian, but that simply is not so. That is not what we are promised in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here's the big issue. Biblically minded Christians need to recognize that in the gospel of Christ, we are not promised less than Bethel Church promises, we are promised more. [ONE OF THESE PROMISES IS FROM JESUS: WE WILL DO THE THINGS HE HAS BEEN DOING.] There can be no doubt that in the Bible there are several dead people who are raised to life. Think of the prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha. Think of the apostle Paul with Eutychus who fell out of the window and was dead until the apostle Paul stretched himself out upon him and the Holy Spirit brought him back to life. Think, of course, most famously of Lazarus coming out of the grave as Jesus called him out of the grave, but you can also think of incidences such as Jesus healing Jairus's daughter who had also been dead.
Here's the point: Jesus does not promise that that experience will be our experience in this life. [REALLY? WHAT ABOUT JOHN 14-16? HERE JESUS TELLS HIS DISCIPLES THEY WILL DO THE THINGS HE HAS BEEN DOING.] Instead, Jesus Christ who is himself the resurrection and the life and whom the Father did raise from the dead for our salvation, he promises that there will be a resurrection and that every single one of us will be raised to everlasting life, but he does not promise to us no sin, no sickness, no accident, no death. [LADD’S THEOLOGY HELPS HERE. ULTIMATELY, I SITUATE BETHEL'S THEOLOGY WITHIN THE SPHERE OF LADD'S THEOLOGY.] He does not promise to us resurrection in this life to a continuation of this life on earth. Rather, he promises us resurrection to eternal life in his kingdom, amongst his own, his redeemed.
But one of points we need to understand here is that you do not arrive at this kind of argument out of a vacuum. It comes out of a far larger, contorted and misformed theology. For example, in Bill Johnson's book entitled The Physics of Heaven, he writes, "There are anointings, mantles, revelations and mysteries that have lane unclaimed literally where they were left because the generation that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it's possible,” he wrote, "for us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim them and perpetuate them for future generations." [OK. BUT THE CURTAIN, THE VEIL, IS TORN, AND WE NOW HAVE ACCESSS TO HIS PRESENCE. THERE IS AN "OPEN HEAVEN."]
Now, one of the things we need to note is that when you are looking at a phenomenon like Bethel Church in Redding, it comes from a misunderstanding of Scripture, a miss teaching of Scripture, a contortion of biblical theology. It comes from a corruption of the gospel of Jesus Christ from eternal life and the promise, most importantly, if forgiveness from sins to the promise of health and wealth and prosperity, and it comes in very strange forms at Bethel Church. [THIS IS INACCURATE. ONE OF THINGS AT BETHEL IS BELIEF IN THE WORDS OF JESUS ABOUT HIS KINGDOM, THAT WE ARE PARTICIPANTS IN WHAT GOD IS DOING, AND THAT WE WILL DO THE THINGS JESUS DID. SEE ALSO, E.G., DALLAS WILLARD. FOR EVIDENCE SEE THE MANY PAGES IN KEENER'S MIRACLES, WHERE HE CATALOGUES MIRACULOUS HAPPENINGS.]
For example, there have been claims that during worship at Bethel Church, there has been the experience of gold dust falling from the air. There has also been the claim that during the course of worship, angel feathers have come out of the air and materialized within the center of worship. They have claimed that at the center of worship, there is often what they identify as a glory cloud. That is to say something that looks like a collection of dust and smoke that they claim is nothing else than the Shekhinah glory of God present in the congregation in a cloud form. [I HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS. BUT PEOPLE IN THE BIBLE SAW STRANGE, BEYOND-RATIONAL THINGS. WHY DON'T WESTERNIZED, SECULARIZED, ENLIGHTENMENT-IZED CHURCHES SEE SUCH THINGS AS WELL?]
Over the course of the last several years, we've seen several bizarre headlines come out about this church and its movement. One stated, "Meet the young saints of Bethel who go to college to perform miracles." It's interesting to note that the reporter for USA Today clarified, "Attempting to bring someone back to life is not widely accepted in the Christian faith, but may be more particular to Bethel Church." That's a citation attributed to Patrick Blewett, who's identified as dean of the A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary at Simpson University in Redding. Now, that's a university that's associated with the charismatic and Pentecostal movement located right in the proximity of this church.
This professor went on to clarify, "This fits more into Bethel Church and to what they're teaching." This shows you just how far outside even of modern charismatic and Pentecostal circles Bethel Church actually operates. For example, the USA Today article states, "The Bible associates miracles of resurrection in reference to Jesus either through his own or in bringing others back to life,” and attributes that teaching again to professor Blewett there at Simpson University in Redding. But he went on to say that he and others at the university are praying for the family during its time of grief. You will notice what's absent from the professor's statement. Even coming from historic Pentecostalism, he is not stating that he and his colleagues are praying for the child to be raised from the dead in this life.
Writing for Christianity today, Craig Keener, a prominent New Testament scholar who teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary wrote, "Miracles are a foretaste of a perfect future, but they remain a foretaste. They offer present signs of the kingdom, but not its completion." That's an extremely important statement. Indeed, miracles are a foretaste of the kingdom of Christ to come, but they remain a foretaste. That's a very careful statement and it is a very accurate statement. We are not taught in Scripture that we should expect that we or our loved ones are going to be resurrected from the dead in order to continue this life on earth. That is not the promise. [OK… BUT…   HAS MOHLER READ KEENER'S BOOK MIRACLES?]
There are miracles of resurrection unto continued life in the Bible, but they are themselves extremely rare, and the point in every one of them is that these rare occurrences point to the work of God, the sovereign work of God, in such a remarkable way that in this extremely out of the ordinary circumstance, whether it be in Elijah's ministry or Elisha's or the apostle Paul's or most importantly in the life and ministry of Jesus, they are pointing to not the normative experience of that kind of resurrection, but rather something that is far greater, and that is the absolute promise to every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ of the fact that Christ’s resurrection from the dead shall be our own experience, but not in order to continue this life on earth, but rather to know the perfect life with Christ in his kingdom yet to come.
When we look at this story, we see absolute heartbreak and our hearts are with these parents and with the entire family. Our hearts are even with all of those who are grieving in this church, but I just used the word “church” and actually, by biblical definition, I do not believe that Bethel Church is a church. [!!!]
I understand that sociologically when you look at headlines it's going to be referred to as a church, but it fails the test of the reformer Martin Luther when he rightly identified the first mark of the church as the right preaching of the Word of God [BUT NOTE THAT THE WORD OF GOD TELLS US WE WILL DO WHAT JESUS HAS BEEN DOING. WE ARE GIVEN AUTHORITY. THERE ARE OTHER CANDIDATES FOR "FIRST MARK OF THE CHURCH," SUCH AS: GOD'S PRESENCE, EXPERIENCED; LOVE; POWER; ETC.], which as Luther made clear means that the gospel of Jesus Christ is clearly preached from Scripture. That is what is absent from the picture at Bethel Church. [I GREW UP IN THE LUTHERAN CHURCH, AND AM NO LONGER LUTHERAN, FOR THEOLOGICAL REASONS {WHILE REMAINING GRATEFUL FOR THE MANY THINGS I DID RECEIVE FROM THE LUTHERAN CHURCH}.]
We also need to note something else. The theology of Bethel Church actually detracts from the gospel of Jesus Christ. [ACC. TO MOHLER. IS HE A CESSATIONIST? IF SO, CESSATIONISM, AS I UNDERSTAND IT, "DETRACTS FROM THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST." I BELIEVE CESSATIONISM IS FALSE THEOLOGY. BUT I'M NOT WILLING TO MAKE THE MOHLER-MOVE OF CALLING CESSATIONIST CHURCHES "NOT A CHURCH."] It also sets up the reputation of the Christian Church for an incredible humiliation and embarrassment when promised miracles do not happen. [I’M NOT SURE BETHEL IS “PROMISING” SPECIFIC MIRACLES. I’M NOT EMBARRASSED WHEN I PRAY FOR A HEALING MIRACLE AND DON’T SEE IT HAPPEN. IF YOU ARE MY FRIEND, AND YOU ARE SICK, I AM PRAYING FOR YOUR HEALING. IF IT DOESN'T HAPPEN THE WAY I AM PRAYING, "EMBARRASSMENT" IS NOT SOMETHING I FEEL. THAT WOULD BE ABOUT ME, NOT YOU, NOR GOD.] As some have pointed out, the grief of these parents and the death of their child is likely to be multiplied by the grief that comes when a resurrection they believe they are promised does not happen, when the miracle that they believe is promised does not come.
Just a couple of final thoughts on this. One of them comes down to this: I was called by a reporter years ago for a major American secular newspaper who asked me on background to identify who I thought was the most credible amongst the faith healers than operant in America. I stated that I wouldn't consider anyone to be credible in the so-called field of faith healing unless they were, oh, I don't know, something like 200 or 300 years old. [SO, ALL JESUS’ DISCIPLES ARE EXCLUDED? BY THIS ABSURD STANDARD, EVEN JESUS IS EXCLUDED. BTW - THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRITUAL GIFT OF HEALING IS GIVEN TO THE CHURCH. IT'S NOT ABOUT INDIVIDUAL "FAITH HEALERS." IT MANIFESTS, BY THE SPIRIT, WHEN THE COMMUNITY GATHERS.]
What was my point? The faith healers tend to die right on time. [BUT... SO DID THE DISCIPLES. WHICH MEANS..., WHAT? SEE, E.G., LADD'S THEOLOGY OF THE KINGDOM FOR ONE RESPONSE TO THIS, AND THE PURPOSE OF HEALINGS. MOHLER'S CESSATIONIST LOGIC LOOKS LIKE THIS: 1) THE DISCIPLES PRAYED FOR THE SICK AND SAW PEOPLE HEALED. 2) BUT THE DISCIPLES THEMSELVES DIED. 3) THEREFORE, THE DISCIPLES WERE NOT CREDIBLE. THE HIDDEN ASSUMPTION IS: IF SOMEONE PRAYS FOR A SICK PERSON AND SEES THEM HEALED, BUT THE PRAYING PERSON EVENTUALLY DIES, THE PRAYERS OF THE PRAYING PERSON ARE INVALIDATED. ] ] They who are promising the power of even resurrection from the dead and the continuation of this life, who are promising in the gospel of Jesus Christ, healing from all of our diseases, they tend themselves to die right on time. So do those who are attracted to their religious meetings. [OF COURSE. NO MEANINGFUL POINT FOLLOWS FROM MOHLER'S THINKING HERE.]
But even as our first response is heartbreak for these parents and this family, we are also heartbroken for the damaged reputation of the gospel that comes by this kind of headline. But there's something else we do need to note, and there's a bit of common grace in this. These headlines and these news stories tend to have to state explicitly, this is not a common normative definition of biblical Christianity because even secular reporters have to ask the question, “Why isn't this going on at every church?” [THAT IS A GOOD QUESTION. MOHLER USES IT TO SUPPORT HIS CESSATIONIST THINKING. BUT THE TYPICAL SECULAR REPORTER IS USING IT TO INVALIDATE THE WESTERNIZED CHURCH. SO, MOHLER MISAPPROPRIATES THE QUOTE. SO, AGAIN, WHY ARE THERE MANY MIRACLE CLAIMS IN NON-WESTERNIZED CHURCHES, EVEN RAISINGS FROM THE DEAD, BUT LITTLE TO NOTHING IN THE AMERICAN CHURCH? SEE, E.G., KEENER'S MIRACLES.] 
Finally on this story, let's just remind ourselves that we cannot possibly understand how anyone would survive the experience of this kind of loss, the death of a precious little girl, unless we genuinely believe that all of Christ's promises are truer than true, and that all that he has done for us and promised to us will indeed happen. In that resurrection, everything will be made right, and as the Scripture says, everything will be yes and amen. Every eye will be dry and every tear will be wiped away. His promises realized then in truth will be far infinitely greater than the confusions of his promises that are in this case communicated to the entire world through the words of a grieving set of parents and a very biblically confused congregation.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Five Core Beliefs of a Praying Life

(Linda, on a Lake Michigan beach)

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

Since 1981 my extended praying day has been Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoons I go alone to a quiet place, away from distractions, and talk with God about what we are thinking and doing together. Solitary praying is one-on-one, God and I, for several hours. As I meet with God I carry certain core beliefs with me. They are the following. 

1. God exists. God is real. There is a God. God is. Without this, praying is an illusion. In the act of praying I am keeping company with the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, necessarily existent (everlasting; without beginning or end), personal agent who created and sustains all things. This is no small appointment I have! 

2. God is a personal being. God desires relationship. The Christian idea of God as a Trinity makes sense of God as essentially relational. God, in his being, is three relating Persons in One.6 God, as a Three-Personed Being, makes conceptual sense of the idea that God is love. Everlastingly, the Father has been loving the Son, the Son has been loving the Spirit, the Spirit has been loving the Father, and round and round in the Big Dance. To pray is to accept God’s invitation to the Big Dance. 

3. God made me. For what? For relationship with him. God desires relationship. He made me for such a partnership as this. When I pray I am living in the heart of God’s desire for me. 

4. God knows me. In praying God’s Spirit searches me out. God is aware of my deepest thoughts and inclinations, many of which are beyond me. God knows me better than I know myself. This would be devastating, were it not for the fact that… 

5. God loves me. God, in his essence, is love. Therefore, God cannot not-love. This is good news for me! As I put 4 and 5 together I’m singing “Amazing Grace” accompanied by tears of gratitude and joy. 6. God desires me to love and know him in return. God has called me into a reciprocal relationship. Between God and me is a give-and-take.

Surrender Your Children to God

(Frost, on our car window)

Even though our boys are adults, Linda and I never stop thinking of them and praying for them. We are so thankful for who they are becoming! And, we have to discern when to let go, and what to let go of. Even Dallas Willard struggled with doing this.

Willard writes:

The surest way to know what you haven’t surrendered to Jesus is to consider what you’re worrying about. It took me a long time to surrender our first child to Jesus. It took me a long time. At last, I’ve been able to do it. Thank God, I’ve been able to do it. It was a problem from the very beginning when he was born and I held him in my arms as a little boy. I thought he was so beautiful, so wonderful. And I couldn’t accept the fact that this little creature was going out into a world over which I had no control. . . . You know you never get over being a parent. You can’t divorce your kids. But you can surrender them to God. You can give them to God. And it is one of the greatest challenges of parents to do that. You have to surrender your children to God. You have to surrender your future, your mate, your job, yes, your own righteousness and everything about you.

Moon, Gary W.. Becoming Dallas Willard (p. 140). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Power of Influence

(Room, in our home.)

I’m not entirely against starting a movement, 
but most movements don’t amount to very much, 
On the other hand, people who know how to stand, 
and stand in the Spirit of Christ, 
change people all around them. 
They never fail. 
They never fail. 
When you have that, 
it will never fail to change people all around you. 

Dallas Willard, “How to Be 
in the World but Not of It”

(In Gary Moon, Becoming Dallas Willard, p. 175). 

This is the power of influence. It's not about trying to change people's hearts. But as your heart is broken in the right places, you will see breakthrough in people around you.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Salvation as Living With God in the Present Moment

(Sterling State Park, Lake Erie, Monroe)

I'm slow cooking in Gary Moon's Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower.

Moon says that, for Dallas, salvation was more than making a decision. Salvation "meant a new way of living, healing of the soul, living with God in the present moment." (P. 165)

I thank God for saving me! 

God gave me a new way of living that continues to this moment,
he healed my soul,
I experience God-with-me in the present moment, every day.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

True Church Is the Kingdom of God Operating in Power and Action

(Maumee Bay State Park)

Dallas Willard's life continues to inspire me. I regularly read his material. More than that, I re-read it. I soak in it. I don't do that with many books.

This morning I am reading Gary Moon's Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower. I have to take it slow. That's a good sign. To go deep, you must go slow. (Which is why, in our culture, shallow people are increasing.)  

Here's what I just read. Willard was teaching in his church on the book of Acts. His view of life was indebted to German philosopher Edmund Husserl's philosophical realism. We see it here. Moon writes:

"“Use your imagination,” Dallas exhorts, “If you can’t see these as real events, you’ll not get it. . . . Jesus brought the kingdom of God before people in a way they could not ignore; he made it present for them.” 

Acts was written, Dallas believed, to tell us that what happened while Jesus was on earth could continue to happen in reality after his life, death, resurrection, and ascension—the kingdom of God operating in power and action." (Moon, p. 165)

This is similar to what Craig Keener argues for in his Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost. You will understand things like the book of Acts better if you have experienced the kind of things written about in the book of Acts.

The church, as seen in Acts, is the prototype. This is what I am going after. 

True Church is the kingdom of God operating in power and action.

Note: I feel many connections with Dallas Willard. In my doctoral work in philosophy at Northwestern University I took two seminars on Husserl's phenomenology, taught by Prof. Samuel Todes. Todes was a philosophical giant. From the Wikipedia article:

"According to philosopher Piotr Hoffman, "Had [Todes' {doctoral} dissertation {at Harvard}] been published at the time it was written, it would have been recognized as one of the most valuable contributions to philosophy in the postwar period and as the most significant contribution to the field of existential phenomenology since the work of Merleau-Ponty." 

For any who know something about about philosophy, one of Todes's dissertation advisers was Willard Quine.

In retrospect, I see the hand of God preparing me for reading Dallas Willard.

'Twas the Day After Christmas

(Bozeman, Montana)

Today is December 26.  

It's early. Linda is still sleeping. I've got Christmas music on. Our house is filled with the beautiful sound of the truest worship music this side of heaven.

The day after Christmas is important for all who follow Jesus. How we spend our time, talents, and resources today signifies who, and what, we believe in.

Linda and I live in the overflow of the birth of Christ. Christ is the gift that keeps on taking, and giving. 

Today, Christ is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, reconciling us to our Creator.

Today, our sorrow is traded for His joy.

Today, our imprisonment is acquitted on all counts, and His freedom is bestowed.

Today, Christ takes and gives. Today is a day of taking and giving.

The Incarnation is the pivot upon which our lives turn. 

Because of Christmas, we will never be the same. 

As splendid as Christmas Day was, today is better. The long winter waiting has ended. The long-expected Messiah has come. 

Today, He is wonderful.

Today, He is counselor.

Today, he is Mighty God.

Today, He is everlasting Father.

Today, He is Prince of Peace.

Decades ago, Linda and I met Him. And everything in our lives changed. Christmas, the day of endless taking and giving, began, in us. Christmas, with all its transcendent realities, was born. 


The worship of Christ. 

It's December 26. The real celebration goes on in the hearts of all who have been found by Him.

My two books are:

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Linda, Daniel, John, Joshua, Nicole, Allie, and "Jax"

It's 6:30 AM, and I am awake on Christmas morning. Linda and I spent a beautiful day yesterday with our family, and our church family.

What a wonderful communion and candlelight service we had last night, with a great turnout!

Below are photos I have taken, mostly from Monroe, with a few from recent Montana trip.

I've added some quotes and scriptures to them.


Slow down. 

Scroll down. 


Treasure, in your heart,

Our family wishes you a meaning-filled, blessed Christmas day!