Friday, January 31, 2020

30 LETTERS TO MY CHURCH on DISCIPLESHIP - LETTER 5






LETTER 5 - A DISCIPLE IS A SERVANT


Dear Redeemer Family,


I want you to serve others. 

I want you to place others before the cultivation of your own self.

This is one thing my Lord has taught me.

As a boy, and a teen, I served in some ways in my parents’ house. I helped out, usually upon being asked, and took out garbage, shoveled snow, and mowing the lawn. When I could drive I ran errands for my mother. I served in my parents’ home. But I did not have the heart of a servant. That came in the spring of 1970.

That was when I got saved. Jesus was now my Lord, and I was His apprentice. I was enrolled in the Lifetime School of Jesus. This was, and remains, exhilarating to me!

Part of me was anticipating doing big things for Jesus. Jesus, on the other hand, was teaching me small things. While in God’s eyes it is no small thing to be a servant, a servant specializes in small things. Like doing the dishes.

On a Sunday, in the spring of 1970, I sat with my father and mother at our dinner table. Church was over, and we went home and ate the meal my mother had prepared for us.

After eating, I left the kitchen and went into our family room to watch sports on TV. This was my habit. Little did I know this was to forever change, on that great day in the School of Jesus.

A new though came to me. One I had never heard before or, if heard, then never attended to. It was: “Go back in the kitchen and help your mother clean up.” I knew this was God, instructing me.

I lifted my body off the family room couch and went back into the kitchen. “Mom,” I said, “let me do the dishes today.”

My parents were raised in a patriarchal culture. Making meals and cleaning up afterwards were thing the women did. Some of my mother’s self-worth came from cooking, cleaning, and making the house look good.

“No, Johnny,” she said, “you go back and watch TV.”

“Mom, I’m going to do the dishes!”

I insisted on this. After protesting, she gave in. Little did we both realize that I just advanced in the School of Jesus. I became a servant in my father’s and mother’s house. I consider this one of the greatest things Jesus has ever done for me.

Jesus, my Lord, once said to his disciples, "The Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people." 

Above our kitchen sink is a window. Through the window I see the beautiful pine trees in our backyard. My bird feeders are there. My mother used to love feeding and watching birds. So do I. Here I am today, like mother, like son. I wash dishes.  I do this gladly, with joy and thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

I want you to serve others. 

I want you to place others before your own desires.

Love,

PJ


DECLARATIONS

Just as my Lord Jesus came to serve others, so do I.

I love serving in the name of Jesus!

I place my desires behind the needs of people.

I am learning more and more about servanthood every day.

I am a servant in my church family.

I wash dishes to the glory of God.

When it comes to serving, I take the initiative.



Thursday, January 30, 2020

30 LETTERS TO MY CHURCH on DISCIPLESHIP - LETTER 4


LETTER 4- AN APPRENTICE TO JESUS READS THE BOOK

Dear Redeemer Family,

I read the Bible. Right now I am closely reading the book of Ezekiel. I also read the book of Proverbs regularly. I go very slow with Proverbs! I am also re-reading the Gospel of John. I have read John many times.

Why do I do this? Because:  I am a disciple of Christ. The required text is the Bible. Jesus is training me to be like Him, in character and behavior.

An apprentice to Christ constantly studies the Great Manual of Instruction.  I read it. It is a guide for my life.

I doubt my father knew this, but God used him to influence me to read the Bible. I remember seeing dad read his Bible, usually in the evening before he went to bed. He read it so much that his thumb almost wore through the leather cover. I have his Bible. See the thumbprint.





I received a leather-covered Bible when I was confirmed in our Lutheran Church. I was twelve years old. My fingerprints were not on this Bible. I never touched it. My mother stored it somewhere - I don't know where, and I didn't care. I never picked it up and read it. Until… 

I was 21. That's when Jesus rescued me out of a deep enslavement to evil. Instantly, my life began to change for the better. I was now an apprentice to Jesus. I needed a Bible!

I drove to my parents' home. I asked, "Mom, do you know where my Bible is?"

She got it for me. I began to read. And read. I wore the leather out on it so much that the cover finally tore off. I still have this Bible. Here it is.


I am my father's son. Like father, like son, right? I have been reading and studying the Bible for fifty years. Disciples of Christ study to show themselves approved as they rightly handle the Word of God. (2 Timothy 2:15)  I want this for you.

The apostle Paul wrote:  Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

And:  Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. (Philippians 3:17)

I am a disciple, a student, in the School of Jesus. Jesus teaches us through the Word, and through other disciples, like my father.
Follow my example. Read and re-read your Bible.

DECLARATIONS

I am a student of God’s Word.

I love reading the Bible. It is a guide to my life!

I read portions of the Bible every day.

I sometimes write powerful verses on a card and carry them with me, looking at them often.
God regularly speaks to me through the words of the Bible.
The Bible nourishes me. It is food for my soul.
I have time to read my Bible.
The Bible is getting inside me and transforming me.

(For a good book on understanding the Bible see  How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

FORGIVENESS - Resources

(Leading the Presence-Driven Church students, Faith Bible Seminary, NYC)

(I am re-posting this.)

Linda and I are always talking with people about forgiveness. For those we've talked with about this today (4/30), here are  links to things I have written about forgiveness.

We all need it, and need to learn it and practice it. 


Why Is Self-forgiveness Harder than Forgiving Others?


















***
For empirical research on the benfits and power of forgiveness, see Robert Enright's International Forgiveness Institute.















30 LETTERS TO MY CHURCH on DISCIPLESHIP - LETTER 3





LETTER 3 – AN APPRENTICE TO JESUS LEARNS TO HEAR THE VOICE OF JESUS.

Dear Redeemer Family,

I began hearing the voice of God before I became a follower of Jesus.

One time, when I was twenty, I was playing in a band, in a bar. Out of the blue, the thought came to me, “John, you are messed up.” I thought – This is different. And, it’s true. 

I heard this in a way that was different and deep. In retrospect, I saw it was God, speaking to me, calling me to Him.

Today, I am a disciple of Jesus.

A “disciple” is an “apprentice.” An apprentice learns to do what their teacher does. This requires hearing from God.

My life is apprenticed to Jesus. I am a student in The School of Jesus My Lord. This is the greatest opportunity I have in life! If you are a disciple, you are in this for life, and joyfully so.

Jesus is my Teacher. I know what a teacher is. Linda and I are both teachers. Linda did her bachelor’s degree in education, focusing on special needs kids and behavior-disordered kids. I taught for eighteen years at Monroe County Community College, and have taught in several theological seminaries.

I know what it is to be a student. When a teacher teaches, the student hears their voice. This is basic.

In the same way, Jesus is my Teacher. Jesus is mentoring me to be like Him in his character, and in His abilities. As Jesus once said, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

Jesus knows His committed ones. He speaks to His disciples. His disciples recognize His voice. His apprentices follow Jesus their Lord.

I want this for you, too.

I have been a follower of Lord Jesus for almost fifty years. I have grown in learning to hear His voice. I have learned that hearing the voice of Jesus is directly related to intimacy and familiarity with Jesus.

I have learned that I am to focus on intimacy with Jesus, rather than on hearing His voice. With greater intimacy, hearing comes.

You will learn to hear God’s voice by spending time with God.

I want this for you, as well.

One resource that currently deepens me in this area of discipleship is Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, by Dallas Willard.

Grow in intimacy with Jesus, advance in hearing Jesus teach you.

Love,

PJ

DECLARATIONS

·        I take much time to spend with God.

·        I am more familiar with Jesus than I have ever been.

·        I find that God, as my Shepherd, has much to say to me, His sheep.

·        God speaks to me about many things.

·        I love hearing the voice of God.

·        I am a student in The School of Jesus Christ, and He is my Teacher!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

30 LETTERS TO MY CHURCH on DISCIPLESHIP - LETTER 2






LETTER 2 – An Apprentice to Jesus Is a Praying Person

Dear Redeemer Family,

The year was 1977. I had just graduated from seminary. My theology professor, Dr. Tom Finger, asked to meet with me. Dr. Finger said, “What theology class do you think our seminary needs?” I thought for a moment. Then answered, “Prayer. We need a class on prayer.”

“Would you teach this class on prayer?”

“No. I need a class like this, and am in no position to teach it.”

How many of you know that a teacher, especially a beginning teacher, often learns more than their students? God was speaking to me through Dr. Finger. He persisted. I acquiesced.

In the fall of 1977 I taught a class on prayer at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. My main requirement was: to pray. I thought this was a stroke of genius! In my prayer class I, the teacher, acquired a praying life that has lasted to this day. I became a student of Christ in the School of Prayer.

What is praying? Praying is talking with God about what God and I are thinking and doing together. 

Praying is communicating with God about The Mission. In praying I meet with my Commander and receive my marching orders. This is what Jesus was doing in Luke 5:16: Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Jesus prayed. Therefore I, as His apprentice, pray. I pray at what I call “places of least distraction.”

I take with me a Bible, my spiritual journal, and usually a devotional book (some book I am reading for spiritual direction). During my praying time, when God speaks to me, I write it down in my journal.

In praying I experience comfort, healing, deliverance, and rescue. I receive encouragement. I am told that I am loved. I get corrected and directed, which calls for obedience. I find out what God wants from me and what he wants me to do.

Praying, to me, makes following Jesus more exciting and more real. God really does expect me to follow him!

I have found that I can be myself, and use my own words and ways of talking, when I pray. I don’t have to learn a special language. God is not impressed by my words, but by the attitude of my heart.

I bless you all with a deep, conversational relationship with the Lord Jesus!

DECLARATIONS

          I am a praying person.

          I pray because Jesus, the Lord of my life, prayed.

          When I pray, I pray from the heart.

Praying is exciting to me, because I am communicating with the Maker of Heaven and Earth!

I am gaining control of my schedule. Therefore, I am finding more time to pray.

I am a prayer warrior, defeating satanic strongholds, and bringing in the Kingdom of God!

Love,

PJ

(My experiences in The School of Prayer are recorded in my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.)

Monday, January 27, 2020

Evil Must Be Seen With Respect to the Goals Of God

Image result for john piippo evil
Battling evil in Monroe
The intellectual, academic atheist usually objects to the existence of God on the basis of evil in the world. By "evil" is meant "pointless suffering," or "gratuitous suffering." 

Gratuitous suffering is suffering that is not needed to either bring about a greater good, or prevent an equal or greater evil from happening.

The evidential (or probableistic) argument from evil reasons that, 

1. Much pointless suffering exists.
2. Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God probably does not exist.

Why not? Because such a God would not allow gratuitous suffering; i.e., suffering that has no point to it.

William Lane Craig says this particular objection to God's existence is not difficult to respond to. Craig writes, 

"Since the problem is being presented as an internal problem for the Christian theist, there is nothing illicit about the Christian theist’s availing himself of all the resources of his worldview in answering the objection." (In Chad Meister, God and the Problem of Evil: Five ViewsKindle Locations 873-875.) 

PAY ATTENTION TO THIS. The Christian theist approaches this as an intra-worldview issue. We assume the truth of this worldview, and then answer within the worldview. This is appropriate, since the objection is that our worldview is incoherent. It's not. For example, God's goal is that we know and love him, now and for all eternity. With this in mind, we can agree with the apostle Paul that our present sufferings, as hard as they are, cannot be compared to the glory revealed to us in eternity.

BTW - every worldview has intra-issues. For example, the atheist-as-philosophical naturalist must make sense of free will. That's a problem for an atheist, but not for a Christian theist.

The reason some think the argument from evil is so powerful is that they assume if God exists, then the goal for human life is happiness. Following John Hick's "soul-making defense" against the argument from evil, the atheist assumes that God's role is to provide a comfortable environment for his human pets. 

"But," writes Craig, "We are not God’s pets, and the goal of human life is not happiness per se but the knowledge of God— which in the end will bring true and everlasting human fulfillment." (Ib., Kindle Locations 879-880)

Many evils that happen may be pointless with respect to the goal of human happiness. But they may not be pointless with respect to a deeper knowledge of God.

"Because God’s ultimate goal for humanity is the knowledge of himself— which alone can bring eternal happiness to creatures— history cannot be seen in its true perspective apart from considerations pertinent to the kingdom of God." (Ib., 882-883)


***
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

How God Changes the Human Heart: A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation

30 Letters to My Church on Discipleship

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LETTER 1 – AN APPRENTICE TO JESUS TAKES CONTROL OF THEIR SCHEDULE

Good Morning Redeemer Family!

I am so thankful you are doing this 30-Day focus on discipleship.

I will be sharing with you how I have learned to apprentice myself to Jesus as my Teacher.

I was taught, by my early mentors, that salvation is a life—a way of living each moment of my day with God. As Galatians 2:20 says: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”

I was taught to carve out focused times with God. We called these “quiet times.” It was just me and Jesus.

This was so important to me that I carved out time with God, every day. I believe you have time to do this, too. A disciple has time to meet with Jesus!
Eugene Peterson said that people were too busy to meet with God  because they were lazy. They let others decide what they will do, rather than deciding for themselves. If this is you, today it all can change.

Peterson writes:

“I mark out the times for prayer, for reading, for leisure, for the silence and solitude out of which creative work can issue. I find that when these central needs are met, there is plenty of time for everything else.”

You are choosing to make more time for God in your life. God will honor this. You will begin to experience the effects of this!

In Joshua 24:14-15 we read:

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.

Here are some declarations to carry with you today. Say them several times throughout the day. Let them get inside you.

DECLARATIONS

          As for me, and my house, I am choosing to serve the Lord.

I am taking control of my schedule so that my schedule will not control me.

          I am finding time to get alone with God and meet with Him.

I am making time to meet with Jesus every day.

God is giving me a plan for tomorrow. I will meet tomorrow with Him, at ______ (time), for ______ (minutes).

I am a disciple, an apprentice, to my Lord Jesus Christ!


PJ