Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Presence-Driven Church Is Minimalist

(Cancun - 2/25/19)

Pastors should do two things.

First, they should focus on their own ongoing connectedness to Jesus. They should live the abiding life.

Second, they should teach their people how to do this, how to be branches living in connection with Jesus, the Vine.

As you and your people do this, discernment will come. Your lives will bear much fruit.

That's it. No more steps. No "50 rules of leadership" to follow. No strategizing, just discerning.

Just...  follow... the Holy Spirit. Put all your theological eggs into this basket.

This is "The Lord is my shepherd." This is "He leadeth me."

This is minimalist leadership, minimalist theology. 

I pay a monthly fee to be able to access and listen to every music cd that exists. I listen to multiple genres of music. One of them is minimalism. I listen to Steve Reich and Philip Glass and Brian Eno and their like.

I like minimalist repetition. I like the breathing room it gives me. Mostly, I do not care for over-production. I have a musical suspicion of over-production, and tend to see it as a cover-up for poor musicianship.

The apostle Paul was a minimalist. As Paul traveled from church to church across the first-century Roman Empire, he was not dragging a production team with him. In First  Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul says he did not come to visit the Jesus-followers in Corinth with fog machines, black lights, powerful preaching, great intellectual arguments, stacks of Marshall amps, perfectly timed studio production, quality music, a fair trade coffee bar, tight jeans, stage lighting, creative videos, clocks, and full color glossy programs.

Instead, Paul came minimally, so that God might be worshiped maximally. He writes:

When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.


Paul came with two things:
  1. Proclamation
  2. Demonstration
Paul showed up with 1) his testimony about God; and 2) a demonstration of the Spirit's power. Nothing else. Because anything more would subtract. Because crowd-pleasing techniques would compete with Christ and him crucified. People might rest their faith on the coffee bar and the jeans and the fog and the volume rather than God's power.

In a Presence-Driven Church there is no need to "put on our best" for the visitors, because God always brings his best whenever two or more are gathered. If God leads you to bring out the special drama, or the kids choir, or the pancake breakfast, then do it out of obedience. Otherwise, God's earth-shattering presence will be more than enough.

Do church as usual. Worship, preach, and pray. Recently at Redeemer I preached about knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection. We prayed for sick people who were there. As far as I can tell, the man who came with the hip out of his socket, which caused him a lot of pain, experienced a healing. As someone told me afterward, "Did you see the smile on his face as the pain had left him? Did you see him walking, carrying his cane but not using it?"

Presence-driven churches are minimalist in these ways:
  • They worship
  • They experience God
  • The gifts of the Spirit are manifested
  • God demonstrates his power
  • Everyone gets to participate
  • Every Sunday is Easter
Beyond that, what more could there be?

***
I develop Theological Minimalism in my two books:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Bible Is About Knowing God by Experience

Wood ducks in my back yard

I now see my coffee cup. I hold it in my hand. Lifting it to my mouth, I taste the java. I feel it slip-sliding down my throat. I sense the effects of the caffeine. How shall I describe this, in words? 

The experience of the coffee and the cup is epistemically superior to any poem I might write, or any essay I might pen, about the coffee encounter. In the end, if you really want to know, you must see my cup, hold it, and taste for yourself that the coffee is good. 

Religious experience is the same. To know God, we must experience God. Taste, not theorize, and see that the Lord is good.

We fall short of understanding the stories in the Bible if we lack the kind of experiences those stories describe. “Religion,” writes Wayne Proudfoot, “has always been an experiential matter. It is not just a set of creedal statements or a collection of rites.” 

The entire Bible is about knowing God by experience. God promises experiential knowledge to those who abide in Jesus, and follow.

- From John Piippo, Leading the Presence-Driven Church (Kindle Locations 157-167). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition

- On a correct, experiential interpretation of the Scriptures, see Craig Keener, Spirit Hermeneutics: Reading Scripture in Light of Pentecost.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

If God Made the Universe, Who Made God?


I have been asked, "If God made the universe, then who made God?"

My response is: this is a nonsense question. It's like asking, "How much does blue weigh?" 

The Christian God, the theistic Being, is understood to necessarily exist. That is, God cannot not-exist. If God cannot not-exist, then God has eternally existed. God never began to exist. If something never began to exist, it never came into being, hence it has no cause. 

This is similar to the question, "If God is all-powerful, then can God make a stone so heavy he cannot lift?" This is another nonsense question. Here's why, in some detail. 

I'm drawing upon former University of Michigan philosopher George Mavrodes's "Some Puzzles Concerning Omnipotence" (in Peterson, Hasker, Reichenbach, and Basinger, Philosophy of Religion). I heard Mavrodes speak years ago at a philosophy conference at Wheaton College (I took two independent studies with Wheaton philosopher Arthur Holmes). And once, while strolling the halls of U-M's superb philosophy department, I walked into Mavrodes's office as his door was open. He was very gracious, and we talked a bit.

If God is "omnipotent," does this mean God can do anything? Can God create a stone too heavy for him to lift?

It's generally understood that the doctrine of omnipotence refers to the ability to do anything that is logically possible. So, e.g., God cannot make a "square circle," simply because such a thing is logically incoherent. 

While "square circle" "seems plainly to involve a contradiction..., [the statement that] "x is able to make a thing too heavy for x to lift" does not." (141-142) I could, e.g., make a boat too heavy for me to lift. Why, then, could not God make a stone too heavy for him to lift? At least, it's not obvious that such a thing is logically incoherent, in the sense of being self-contradictory or even meaningless. 

With this in mind, Mavrodes argues that the stone-idea is self-contradictory in the same was as is "square circle." Here's how this works.

God is either omnipotent or he is not. If he is not omnipotent, then the phrase "stone too heavy for God to lift" may not be self-contradictory. It follows that if God can make such a stone, then he is not omnipotent. But if we assume that God is omnipotent, then the phrase "stone too heavy for God to lift" becomes self-contradictory. "For it becomes 'a stone which cannot be lifted by Him whose power is sufficient for lifting anything'. But the "thing" described by a self-contradictory phrase is absolutely impossible and hence has nothing to do with the doctrine of omnipotence."  (142) "The very omnipotence of God... makes the existence of such a stone absolutely impossible, while it is the fact that I am finite in power... makes it possible for me to make a boat too heavy for me to lift." (142)

But what if someone objects and claims that "stone too heavy for God to lift" is not self-contradictory, and therefore describes an absolutely possible object?" (142) If that is correct, than our answer will be, "Yes, God can create such a stone." The existence of such a stone will then be compatible with the omnipotence of God. "Therefore, from the possibility of God's creating such a stone it cannot be concluded that God is not omnipotent... The conclusion which [the objector] wishes to draw from such an affirmative answer to the original question is itself the required proof that the descriptive phrase which appears there is self-contradictory." (142) 

To the question, "Can God make a stone too heavy for Himself to lift?" the objector wants us to answer, "Yes." But if we answer "Yes," the objector will think our answer to be absurd, since the idea of a stone too heavy for God to lift is logically absurd. This is because, once we grant omnipotence to God, plus non-self-contradictoriness to the "stone too heavy for God to lift," we are involved in a logical absurdity which denies what we have granted to God. Mavrodes says: "It is more appropriate to say that such things cannot be done, than that God cannot do them." (Ib.)

***
For some lighter reading...

My book on prayer is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

My book on leadership is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

I'm now working on...

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

After the dust clears, Linda and I plan to write our book on Relationships.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Trading My Comfort Zone for the Joy of the Lord


I'm trading my comfort zone for the joy of the Lord.

When revival and awakening come to our churches it will not look like something we have come up with. This is because God is infinitely more creative than we are. God's ways are not our ways, his thoughts being vastly higher than our thoughts.

We need something new, something different, if America is to be healed of its sickness. That sickness is not economic or political, but spiritual and moral. And it is in our churches.

As A. W. Tozer said:

"If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference."


A change is coming.

People get ready. 

All will not welcome it.

It means giving up control and power over people in the church.

The coming Move of God will shake the foundations of the Church.

It will propel the followers of Jesus out of their comfort zones.

This must happen, if America is to be saved from its unspiritual amorality.

As Hebrews 11:6 tells us:



30 LETTERS TO MY CHURCH on DISCIPLESHIP - LETTER 30


LETTER 30 - DISCIPLES OF JESUS FINISH WELL

Dear Redeemer Family,

Disciples of Jesus never retire.

We never graduate from the School of Jesus this side of heaven. 

Linda and I had parents who followed and served Jesus until the day they died. My parents' church had a large outdoor concert amphitheater that sat 3000 people. During the summer months famous Christian musicians came and did concerts. After the concerts were over the place was littered with waste paper. My parents, who were in their seventies, and other elderly couples, would stay and pick up all the trash. They were great servants!

Linda's father lived with us for seven years. He was in his eighties. Every Saturday morning I would drop him off at the local mall. He would stay in the food court, and approach people to tell them about Jesus. The mall managers heard of this, and asked him not to bother people any more. But Linda's dad was not to be stopped! 

He had a t-shirt made, with the words on it: "Let's talk about Jesus." He kept going to the mall on Saturday mornings, wearing the new t-shirt. After he died we had it made into a pillow. Here it is.




When I enlisted in the Army National Guard, I signed up for six years. I kept my commitment. When I said my vows to Linda on our wedding day, we signed up for life, until death separates us. We have kept our vows.

When I was twenty years old and said "yes" to Jesus, I Told Him I would be His disciple for the rest of my life, and into eternity. This spring I will celebrate fifty years of discipleship.

The Bible presents life as a race, where people run to a finish line that has a prize. Linda and I not only plan on finishing, but finishing well.

Discipleship, like a marriage, is a life commitment. Disciples don't retire from the great race.

You are Jesus' disciples. May you run well, and finish strong!

Love,

PJ


DECLARATIONS

I am running with Jesus, stronger than ever!

I have placed the cross before me, and the world behind me.

I love You, Lord, and I'll never stop loving You.

I thank God that He has not asked me to retire from following and serving Him!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sunday, February 23, 2020

30 LETTERS TO MY CHURCH on DISCIPLESHIP - LETTER 29



LETTER 29 - DISCIPLES OF CHRIST UNDERSTAND THEY ARE IN A SPIRITUAL BATTLE

Dear Redeemer Family,

I was once physically attacked by a demon.

It happened in 1970. I was a twenty-one, and a brand new follower of Jesus. I had become the youth leader in my Lutheran church. 

I was asked to come to a meeting with our pastor, a few church leaders, and a husband and wife who were long-time church members.

The husband and wife shared they had experienced something new to them. They wanted to share it with us. They had begun to pray in tongues.

I didn't know what the manifestation of tongues was about, but was interested.

As the meeting went on, the atmosphere felt tense. This had never happened in our church. I could see that the leadership was not going to allow this. The pastor said we should stop and pray about this.

That's when a demon attacked me.

I had never felt anything like this in my life. It was as if something evil was inside me. I was sitting in this meeting, head bowed, eyes closed, praying, "Help me Jesus! Help me Jesus!" I had no training for this. What was going on inside me?

The prayer time, and the meeting, ended. I went to a phone and called Linda. I was crying. "Pray for me. I don't know what's going on. I think I've been attacked by a demon."

Since that time I've learned more about spiritual beings like demons. I concluded that, yes, I was under a demonic assault in that meeting. Over a spiritual gift. Can you believe it?

I read my Bible and saw that Jesus was confronting satan and demons, all the time. My Teacher believed in demons, and engaged in battle against them.

As an apprentice in the School of Jesus I have been taught that my true enemies are not people, but are demons. I am not to wage war against flesh and blood, but against the dark spiritual agents who are against Jesus.

In my Lutheran church we sang Luther's worship song "A Mighty Fortress." I still love this song! Look what the lyrics say.


For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;

His craft and pow'r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
And though this world, with devils filled, 
should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed 
His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
This song was in my DNA years before I became a disciple. When that happened, the words took on rich, new meanings.

My dear brothers and sisters, we are in a spiritual battle.

Love,

PJ


DECLARATIONS

I do not see people as my true enemies.

Today I am engaging the enemy.

I defeat the enemy using weapons of righteousness, such as love, and truth.

I am a spiritual force that sets captives free.

My mission is to tear down strongholds the enemy has erected in the hearts of people.

The enemy has been defeated! Sin and death have lost their power!




Saturday, February 22, 2020

30 LETTERS TO MY CHURCH on DISCIPLESHIP - LETTER 28


LETTER 28 - DISCIPLES OF JESUS ARE AUTHENTIC

Dear Redeemer Family,

A disciple of Jesus is "the real thing." Which means, they are the same in their heart as they are in their behavior. Which means, they are as Christlike when they believe no one is looking as they are Christlike in public.

This is called congruence. Also called integrity.

Authenticity is having the character of Christ wherever and whenever we are. 

Years ago God told me, "John, you do not have to be like other people." I wrote this in my journal - "God, I no longer want to be like other people. I want to be like You."

Christ-like; like Christ. Inside and outside.

The desire to be like certain people is not all bad. After all, the apostle Paul counseled his churches to "imitate" him. I have been influenced by other disciples of Jesus. Such people had Christlike qualities I wanted to emulate.

This is not about pretending. A disciple is not a pretender. They are not an actor. Rather, their heart is being formed into the character of Christ. As the heart is formed into Jesus-likeness, behaviors follow.

Jesus has taught me that He is enough for me. And, that one day, I shall be like Him. This has freed me from the heavy burden of trying to be like someone I am not. It has freed me from comparing myself with others. It has freed me from pretending, from acting, so as to be liked by others. 

It has rescued me from hypocrisy, and released me into authenticity.

I have not yet graduated from this class in the School of Jesus. But I have moved deeper into the curriculum. Jesus is the perfectly authentic person. I want to be like Him, inside and out.

I want this for you, too.

Love,

PJ


DECLARATIONS

I am the same person in private as I am in public.

I am the same person in my heart as I am in my actions.

I am free from comparing myself with other people.

More and more, I find my desire is to be like Jesus.

I don't pretend to be someone I am not.

This thought blows me away: One day, I shall be like Him!

30 LETTERS TO MY CHURCH on DISCIPLESHIP - LETTER 27


LETTER 27 - DISCIPLES HAVE HEALTHY BOUNDARIES

Dear Redeemer Family,

Disciples of Jesus know when to say "yes," and when to say "no."

Disciples say "yes" to Jesus, and "no" to the secular values of their culture.

They do this by establishing godly, healthy boundaries.

Before I became a disciple of Christ, I had few boundaries. When I became a follower of Jesus, He began to teach me about them. 

One week after I became committed to Jesus as my Lord, I was invited by friends to a party. Drugs were there. I believed I had been set free from a daily habit of smoking marijuana. At this party, joints of marijuana were being passed around. My friend, Bob, took a hit, and then passed the joint to me.

I took it, said "No, thanks," and passed it on. A few minutes later I left the party.

I had set a boundary. This was an important lesson for me!

A boundary is like a fence. A fence keeps good things in, and bad things out. Disciples of Christ set a fence around their hearts. They learn to say "yes" to the values of God's Kingdom, and "no" to the falsehoods of the kingdom of darkness.

When the Boundaries materials came out in the 1990s, they were a huge help to me and Linda. Much of our counseling ministry is about helping people understand and apply godly, healthy boundaries.

We have learned that sometimes we even say "no" to things that are, in themselves, godly and good. For example, one of our habits in marriage is having a date night, every Friday night. Linda and I estimate we have had at least 2,400 Friday night dates, spanning forty-six and a half years of marriage! This habit is rooted in a core value: We will take time to invest in our marriage.

One Wednesday night a friend called. He was putting on a conference, and the main speaker got sick. My friend was under pressure as he asked if I could fill in on Friday night. I said, "I'm sorry, but I cannot." He asked, "Why not?"

I said, "Linda and I have a date, and have the evening scheduled."

I could tell this answer frustrated him. I did not feel I had to defend myself. We said good-bye. Five minutes later, he called to apologize. He told me he understood and valued my commitment to my marriage.

What would you have said? Maybe you would have agreed to speak. As for Linda and I, we have set a fence around Friday nights. Only weddings, funerals, and medical emergencies may interrupt this.

The first disciples said "no" to many things in order to say "yes" to. I have learned to do this.

I want the freedom of boundary-setting for you, too.

Love,

PJ


DECLARATIONS

Every day I say "yes" to Jesus, and "no" to the values of this world.

I place the cross before me, and the world behind me.

I have placed a godly guard around my heart.

Having boundaries has set me free to love as Jesus loves.

I walk in the wisdom of knowing what to do, and knowing what not to do.

I often help others establish godly boundaries in their lives.


Friday, February 21, 2020

30 LETTERS TO MY CHURCH on DISCIPLESHIP - LETTER 26



LETTER 26 - DISCIPLES OF JESUS EXPERIENCE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Dear Redeemer Family,

In 1972 I read, in the Bible, about the manifestation of "tongues." 1 Corinthians 14 says a lot about this spiritual gift. Verses 39-40 told me, Be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

I had never heard about this spiritual gift, or any other, for that matter. I had also never been exposed to the idea that the spiritual gifts have stopped manifesting. That idea would have confused me, since the Bible presents these wonderful manifestations as needed to strengthen, comfort, and encourage the church.

At that time I was the youth leader at Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Rockford, Illinois. This was my home church. One night I could not get away from the idea of this strange Spirit-manifestation called glossalalia ("tongues"). The thought came to me, "I want this."

After a youth group meeting, I went into Tabor's large, empty sanctuary. I lay on my face, on the carpeted floor, and said this to God: "God, if you want me to have this gift, I am willing to receive it."

Nothing happened. But I did not feel discouraged. I sensed that God was pleased that I was asking.  

Almost twenty years later, it happened. In 1991. Linda and I lived in East Lansing, but had driven a hundred miles to a gathering at Redeemer Church in Monroe. This is where we still are. After the meeting, some of Redeemer's people surrounded us and prayed for us. One of them prayed for me, saying, "God, give John all that he needs."

As we were driving back later that night, Linda fell asleep in the car. While she was sleeping, I began to pray in tongues. It did not feel pressured or forced. It felt natural, and beautiful.

This is not how it happens to every disciple of Jesus. It is the story of one disciple, me. I also do not think someone is not Spirit-filled if they do not manifest all the spiritual gifts. Remember: the gifts are essentially manifestations of the Spirit, for the edifying of the people of God, distributed by the Spirit as He wills.

Here is one way I see this. 

Some people, when it comes to spiritual things, are divers. I'm not. I am a wader. I have seen some enthusiastic divers fade away when the initial thrill is gone. Meanwhile, I am still wading, sometimes slowly, even methodically. I have seen all the spiritual manifestations, working around me in the Jesus community, and many of them through me. God has healed through me, delivered people from darkness through me, and prophesied through me, all to my amazement.

I just keep going deeper. Today, I lift my head and observe that I am swimming in the deep ocean waters of the Holy Spirit, expecting more to come.

I want this for you. I want you to pray, 

"Come Holy Spirit. Have Your way in me."

Love,

PJ


DECLARATIONS

Come, Holy Spirit, have your way in me.

Manifest spiritual gifts through me.

I see You working through me to strengthen, comfort, and encourage my brothers and sisters.

The Holy Spirit is having His way in me.

Breakthrough is always happening around me.

I love being God's Church, the body of Christ.

In my church spiritual gifts are manifesting all the time.




Thursday, February 20, 2020

Healing of PTSD & Trauma - Feb. 21-22-23 @ Redeemer

Dr. Mike Hutchings ministering at Voice of the Prophets

Everyone, at some point in their life, experiences trauma. Many walk for years with unaddressed, unhealed trauma. We are addressing this at Redeemer Feb. 21-22-23. 


Mike Hutchings of Randy Clark's Global Awakening Network will be our speaker. Mike spoke and taught at last summer's HSRM conference. Mike's teaching on healing of trauma and PTSD is the best I have ever heard!

On this weekend...  

YOU WILL BE EQUIPPED TO MINISTER TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE UNRESOLVED TRAUMA IN THEIR LIVES.

YOU WILL EXPERIENCE HEALING FROM TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCES.


The Schedule:

Fri. 6:30-8:30 - Intro to Healing of Trauma and PTSD

Sat.10am-12:30 pm - PTSD Seminar Part 1


Sat. 6:30-8:30 pm - PTSD Seminar Part 2


Sunday 10:30-12:15 - Worship and Word w/ Dr. Michael Hutchings


6:30-8:30 pm - Activation Event.


Sunday evening will be an EMPOWERMENT SERVICE.

This is going to be very good!

Come, and bring friends who need healing!

Free admission. Love offerings will be taken.

Redeemer Fellowship Church
5305 Evergreen
Monroe, MI


BIOGRAPHY

Mike Hutchings has 35 years of pastoral, church planting and pastoring pastors experience in a variety of church cultures including Baptist, Vineyard, Willow Creek, and Mennonite. In Peoria, Illinois, Mike partnered with the leadership team of a Transforming Revival Pastors’ Group where the city experienced significant transformation through the power of prayer and unity.
Mike conducts “Healing PTSD” training seminars throughout the country, training prayer ministers, clergy, chaplains, and counselors to utilize a healing prayer model to bring restoration to those suffering with PTSD

Abortion - What Are We Killing?

(Cemetery, Monroe, Michigan)

The primary question in the abortion discussion is: what is the nature of the inborn entity?

Everything that follows rises and falls on the answer to this.

What is the unborn?

Philosopher Greg Koukl writes, “Whether or not it’s right to take the life of any living thing depends entirely on the question what it is.

If the unborn are members of the human family, then killing them is morally wrong because it treats distinct human beings, possessing intrinsic moral worth, as nothing more than disposable objects.

Scott Klusendorf and John Ensor say, “[I]f the unborn are not human, killing them for any reason requires no more justification than having a tooth pulled.”

(Quotes from Stephen Jordan, "Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs, and Simplifying the Abortion Debate with One Question.")

30 LETTERS TO MY CHURCH on DISCIPLESHIP - LETTER 25


LETTER 25 - DISCIPLES OF JESUS LOVE AS HE LOVES

Dear Redeemer Family,

My Teacher has instructed me that love is the greatest thing of all.

The love of God is a power. It is a weapon against darkness, hatred, and violence.

The love of God is a force.

My life with Jesus began when God told me that He loves me. As much as my parents loved me (which was a lot!), I needed to be touched by the One who is love, whose love is without limits. That moment was transcendent and transforming. 

The School of Jesus is a School of Love. All the power, and all the spiritual gifts and natural talents, are nothing if the love of God does not flourish in my heart.

God's love grows in me. More of it captures me today than ever before. The love of God is a bottomless well of supernatural treasures, to be discovered, by me, one of His disciples.

I'm now thinking of a Promise Keepers event I attended. The main speaker was talking about "success." I have never forgotten what he said: "Success is being on your death bed surrounded by your family that loves you."

I think this way. If love is the greatest, then the end-game of not only my life but of all reality is love. Therefore: people get ready.

I am ready.

Love has a Name.

Love,

PJ


DECLARATIONS

I love You, Lord.

I walk through the day filled to overflowing with God's love.

I never ceased to be amazed at how much Jesus loves me.

I never take God's love for me for granted.

The love of God, in me, changes atmospheres.

The love of God, flowing through me, brings healing to the people I meet.

I experience the love of Jesus as a force that defeats my enemies!