Tuesday, March 31, 2020

How I Am Beginning this Day

Image result for john piippo sunrise
(Lake Erie sunrise)

This is how I am beginning this day. 

I read from the book of Proverbs. I am in chapter 10. Especially in these troubled days, Proverbs is speaking. This book focuses me on what is important. For example,

The wise store up knowledge.

Prov. 10:14

Even though I have spent fifty years doing this, there are still vast spaces in the storehouse of my heat that are waiting to be occupied with the wisdom of God.

The wages of the righteous is life,
but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.

Proverbs 10:16

So true! I'm writing these two verses on a 3X5 card, and carrying them with me into this day.

This week culminates in Palm Sunday. So, I am immersing myself in Luke 19:28-41, and Matthew 21:1-11. Even though I have read these word many times, I will be saturated with them this week, as I read and re-read them, over and over.

So this week, for me, is a week of Proverbs 10, and perhaps chapter 11, plus the Palm Sunday passages in Luke and Matthew.

God is going to speak to me through Scripture this week. As he does, I will write down what he says to me. This has been my habit, to keep a record of God's voice to me, for forty-four years.

I will add some commentaries on Luke and Matthew, and study them.

My reading is qualitative, not quantitative. This is not about how many Bible verses I read. It is about slow-cooking and going as deep as the Spirit can take me, given my limitations. Again, my heart is a storehouse. God's going to pl,ace some more wisdom gifts in it this week.

Then, on Palm Sunday, I will share what God has been saying to me. 

People get ready.

Three devotional books I may read from are:

Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, by Dallas Willard

You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living, by Henri Nouwen

Faith That Matters: 365 Devotions From Classic Christian Leaders (Tozer, N.T. Wright, Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, and others - excellent!)

My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God  (This book can be read daily and devotionally.)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Pandemic - The Difference Between a Fact and an Emotion


A "fact" has nothing, essentially, to do with an emotion. 

An emotion concerns a person, not a fact.

A fact does not vary from person to person. A fact describes a state of affairs that obtains. If that state of affairs obtains, then it is a fact for everyone, where or not they deny it or affirm it, whether or not they are even aware of it. Emotions, on the other hand, vary from person to person. Facts are objective (if not, then it's not a fact); emotions are subjective.

Facts are true or false independently of any emotions they might elicit.

Consider this fact: There is a Norway spruce in my front yard. What emotion is a property of this fact? The answer is: no emotion is a property, or attribute, or quality, of this fact. Emotion has nothing, essentially, to do with the fact.

What emotion do you feel when you hear this fact: There is a Norway spruce in my front yard. Not sadness, right? Not joy, correct? Certainly not fear, agreed? Facts are disconnected from emotions. Otherwise we would have this: A Norway spruce is a fast-growing evergreen coniferous tree that produces, in addition to cones, the emotion of fear. Or joy. Or whatever. Which is nonsense.

The nonsense involves associating facts about the pandemic with the emotion of fear. It may be true that most people feel fear when they hear of these facts. But the fear is different from the facts. 

This is not to minimalize the importance of emotions. It is simply to put emotions in their proper place.

This means a person can hear facts about the pandemic without feeling fear, because there is no necessary inference from a fact to an emotion. And the lack of fear does not mean a person will not act upon hearing the fact. In fact, the emotion of fear could immobilize a person from acting in the face of this fact.

This explains how Psalm 23:4 can be a reality.

Even though I walk through 
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil.

The fact here is: I, or someone I love, is facing death. But the emotion of fear does not accompany the fact.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

From the House of Fear into the House of Love

(Linda, holding our grandson Levi)
Henri Nouwen's beautiful book Lifesigns is only $4.99 for Kindle.

Nouwen guides us from the house of fear to the house of God's love, where we fear no evil.

It's hopeful, accessible yet deep, and valuable reading when in a pandemic. 

Stripped-Down Worship (The Presence-Driven Church)

Image result for john piippo quiet
Sterling State Park, Monroe

Tomorrow morning (Sunday) we will live-video stream our Redeemer worship service, led by Holly Collins, Tim Curry, and myself. For worship, Holly will play keyboard, and I will accompany with guitar. It will be a two-instrument band, with Linda joining us on vocals. (To watch the live service, at 10:30 AM EST, go HERE.)

It will be more than enough to lead our people into worship. 

In fact, you don't even have to have a band to worship. Thank God for musical instruments, but even they are not necessary for true worshipers. 

I've had many beautiful, touching worship experiences in my life. Sometimes it's happened when I've been alone, sometimes with a small group of people, sometimes in large group settings. The real worship thing happens, which is 100% about God and his presence. For me this never has to do with how good the worship musicians are, or even if there are worship musicians.

One example was when I was preaching in Kurnool, in central India, in an old church building on the Deccan plateau, before a thousand people. There was no worship band. I am not against worship bands. It's just that they are unnecessary for worship to happen. In this falling-apart church building in India, one man was leading the people, a capella, in a worship song. It was in the Telegu dialect. The singing was repetitive. It went on for a long time. Then, in the middle of the singing, it happened. God happened. And in my heart, I was worshiping. I was caught up in God's presence, 100%.

David Platt writes: “What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would His Word still be enough for his people to come together?”  (Radical. Francis Chan writes about this too - see Letters to the Church.)

In some churches it might not be. When all is stripped away, few would simply come.

How in the world did the early church make it, being not only without awesome media, but lacking funds for whatever the latest post-flannel-graph technology was? The answer would be: the early church thrived because God was with them. They had God and His presence and His power and His voice and His love and His guidance and His correction and His grace and mercy, experientially

This is stripped-down worship, the heart inside the body, the core within the container, the engine in the framework, the software driven by the hard drive.

It's Saturday evening. The sanctuary is empty. I'm at home, and it's quiet.

When the music fades,
and all is stripped away,
and I simply come.

Matt Redman

Francis Chan's book Letters to the Church says a lot about church and worship. Reading it ignites me. 

Here are some fire-starting Chan quotes about worship.
  • "Too often we add in our own voices, thinking if we offer just the right services or package the gospel in just the right way so no one gets offended, we can convince people to stay. By catering our worship to the worshippers and not to the Object of our worship, I fear we have created human-centered churches." (53)
  • "In the book of Malachi, God’s people had become bored with worship. God’s response was not mild. As the prophet Malachi called them back to the passion, devotion, and sacrifice of true worship, the people responded by saying, “What a weariness this is” (Mal. 1:13). They saw worship not as an honor but as an obligation. Today we’d respond to this by saying, “Look at how bored they are! Let’s make worship more exciting; then people will really get something out of it!” But God’s response was much different. He was so offended by it all that He would rather they simply shut the whole thing down." (66)
  • "Years ago, my friend from India drove me to a speaking engagement in Dallas. When he heard the music and saw the lights, he said, “You Americans are funny. You won’t show up unless there’s a good speaker or band. In India, people get excited just to pray.”" (67)

  • "We want to be people who are committed to worshipping God, people who can’t get enough of Him, not people who worship only when it is convenient or when the right people are leading. It must be the Object of our worship that makes worshipping exciting to us." (176)

  • ***

    My two books are:

    Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

    Leading the Presence-Driven Church

    My current writing projects are...

    How God Changes the Human Heart

    Technology and Spiritual Formation

    Linda and I will then co-write our book on Relationships

    Friday, March 27, 2020

    A Praying Life Dispels Anxiety

    Image result for john piippo anxiety
    (Monroe County)

    In Philippians 4 Paul counsels Jesus-followers to “be anxious about nothing.” (v. 6) 

    The biblical Greek word for ‘anxious’ is often used in contexts where persecution is happening. For example, in Matthew 10:19, Jesus counsels his disciples: “When they arrest you, do not be anxious about what to say or how to say it.”

    When Paul counsels the Philippians to not be anxious, it’s not like he’s sitting on the beach savoring a latte. He’s in prison! The context is: persecution. The Philippian Jesus-followers were suffering under opposition from their pagan neighbors, like Paul and Silas suffered when among them (Acts 16:19-24; Phil 1:28-30).

    I know what anxiety is. I have experienced it in troubling times. How realistic is it to be told "Be anxious for nothing" when you are facing hard circumstances?

    Paul's answer, emerging out of his experience, is found in his rich, ongoing prayer life. He writes:

    Do not be anxious about anything, 
    but in every situation, 
    by prayer and petition, 
    present your requests to God.
    Philippians 4:6-7

    Paul's praying life is a deep vein of gold producing spiritual wealth and wellness. His praying life was ongoing. Paul prays, as was his habit, unceasingly.

    Henri Nouwen reasoned that a praying life can dispel anxiety. (See Nouwen, Gracias! A Latin American Journal.) Nouwen said when he didn't pray, he was more easily filled with anxiety. But as he lived a praying life, God diminished his anxiety. 

    Not praying intensifies fear This does not logically imply that the source of one's anxiety is prayerlessness, any more than thinking the cause of an infection is the lack of antibiotics. But in the act of praying we receive caregiving from the Great Physician. I experience this, often.

    In everyday prayer-conferencing with God, I present my requests to him. I lay burdens before him (See 1 Peter 5:7). I have a Father God who loves me, in whom I trust. Where there is trust, there is neither worry nor anxiety. A person with a praying life grows in trust and diminishes in anxiety. A praying person discovers that trust and anxiety are inversely proportionate. 

    Paul says our prayers should be accompanied “with thanksgiving.” Ben Witherington writes: “Paul believes there is much to be said for praying in the right spirit or frame of mind.” This is significant for the Roman Philippians, since pagan prayers did not include thanksgiving. Roman prayers were often fearful, bargaining prayers, not based on a relationship with some god.

    Witherington adds: “Prayer with the attitude of thanksgiving is a stress-buster.” John Wesley said that  thanksgiving is the surest evidence of a soul free from anxiety.

    Paul's antidote for worry and anxiety is: praying, with thanksgiving.

    (I recognize that there are clinical, neurophysical conditions that cause anxiety and fear. The antidote for such conditions may be medications. But even when medications stabilize a person's emotions, issues of trust may remain. Medication will not fully help a person when the only chair they have keeps breaking, but it may help them access the spiritual help they need.

    If you have severe anxiety I recommend two things:

    1) Praying, and having people pray for you. 
    2) Seeing a physician who is skilled in treating you physically. 

    Combine spiritual intervention with medical intervention.)


    My two books are:

    Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

    Leading the Presence-Driven Church

    I am writing...

    How God Changes the Human Heart

    Technology and Spiritual Formation

    Linda and I will then co-write our book on Relationships

    Thursday, March 26, 2020


    I'm speaking on a telephone conference call tonight to Redeemer's youth, plus probably some youth from 2-3 churches in New York City. Here are my rough notes for my presentation. I'm going to do my best to keep this at a youth level, yet challenging! 




      • God rules and reigns over all things; over the entire creation.
    • Paul states, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11 ESV—emphasis mine).
    • Scripture seems to indicate that God brings about, and is in control of, all natural events (Psalms 65:9-11; 135:5-7). In fact, Scripture even speaks about God’s relationship to seeming random happenings (Prov. 16:33). He even controls what the minute details of nature (Matt.10:29-30).
    • God also governs human history (2 Kgs. 19:20-28; Isa. 10:5-12, 14:24-27; Acts 17:26).

    o    The goal of God is that we might come to know Him and love Him.
    ·         God’s goal for us is not to have us live long lives.
    ·                   How do we know this?
    ·                            The disciples died when they were young.
    ·                            Jesus was just 32 when he died.

      • So, God is allowing the coronavirus to happen, not causing the coronavirus to happen.

      • Genesis 3
      • People are broken.
      • The creation is broken.
      • In Gen. 3 evil enters into the world.
      • People are affected.
      • The physical world is affected.

    Gen 3 - To the woman he said,
    “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
        with painful labor you will give birth to children.
    Your desire will be for your husband,
        and he will rule over you.”
    17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
    “Cursed is the ground because of you;
        through painful toil you will eat food from it
        all the days of your life.
    18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
        and you will eat the plants of the field.

    Rom 8 - I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
    22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 
    So, in a fallen, oppressed world, there are viruses. (And tornados, and hurricanes, and floods, and diseases…  )
    The world is an oppressed place where things sometimes go tragically wrong.

    FREE WILL – created agents have free will. This includes spiritual beings.
      • Spiritual beings have free will.
      • They have “say so.”
      • They can choose.

       Created agents have free will. This includes spiritual beings.
    ·         Human beings aren’t the only free agents in the universe.
    ·         There are angelic beings. They have free will. They can use their free will for good, or for evil.
    ·         Hebrews 2:14-15 - Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
    ·         In Luke 13, for example, Jesus comes upon a woman who has a deformed back and says, “How long should this woman, a daughter of Abraham, suffer under Satan’s oppression?” (vs. 16).
    Peter summarized Jesus’ ministry in Acts 10 by saying that Jesus went about freeing people from Satan’s oppression by healing them of their diseases. In fact, the word the Gospels sometimes use for disease or infirmity is mastix, which literally means “flogging.”
    For Satan and demons to be involved, on any level, with bringing about infirmities, they must be able to affect matter. And if they can affect matter to bring about human infirmities, on what basis can we argue that they can’t affect matter to bring about other aspects of nature that seem incompatible with the perfect goodness of God?
    ·         On top of this, we need to remember the incredible stature and authority ascribed to Satan in the New Testament.
    ·         He is called (among other things) the “lord” (archon) of the world (Jn 12:3114:3016:11), the principality and power of the air (Eph 2:2) and the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4).
    ·         He is said to control the entire world (IJn 5:19) and to own all the authority of all the kingdoms of the world (Lk 4:5-7). In this light, why should we think it impossible that this fallen archangel, along with his minions, has messed with the natural order of things?
    ·         Consider also that humans have the capacity to affect natural processes, for better or for worse. For several millennia we have brought about new breeds of domesticated animals, for example. And today, we’re acquiring the power (Lord help us!) to genetically engineer everything from ears to fluorescent fish. If we as intelligent free agents have the “say-so” to impact the natural order, why think spirit agents uniformly lack this capacity?
    ·         Luke 13
    ·         Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. [Pilate executes Jewish pilgrims from Galilee, cut down in the act of offering sacrifices.]
    ·         Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 
    o    Then, Jesus reads an attempt at self-justification rooted in the common notion that disaster happens to people who deserve it.
    ·         But this is not the same thing as arguing that disasters come only to people who are disobedient. 
    ·         Jesus does not deny that sin has consequences. He does not deny that sin leads to judgment.
    ·         Instead, Jesus rejects the theory that people who experience disasters have necessarily been marked by God as more deserving of judgment than those who do not.
    ·         I tell you, no!
    ·         But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 
    ·         Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 
    ·         I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
    ·         [If someone fails to repent, judgment awaits them.]
    o             Yes, judgment will happen to those who live lives of disobedience.
    ·         There is nothing here about God causing these disasters as a form of punishment.
    ·         Greg Boyd - First, his interpretation of Luke 13:1-5 assumes that God was somehow involved in Pilate’s massacre and the falling tower of Siloam. He thinks Jesus was teaching that the ultimate reason the Galileans were massacred and the tower fell on people was because “everyone deserves to die,” and Jesus was simply saying to his audience; “You’re as guilty as they are, and you’ll die too if you don’t repent.” But where in the text is there any suggestion Jesus assumed God had anything to do with either of these catastrophes?

      • God is working all things together for good, to those who love Him. Romans 8:28
        • And “good” here does not mean our personal happiness.
        • It does mean: knowing and loving God.
      • But we are not capable of seeing this. For the most part.
    Here is some bad reasoning.
      • 1. As far as I can see with the coronavirus, it doesn’t look like God is working all things together for good.  
      • Therefore, God is not is not working all things together for good.
    That’s false reasoning. It commits a “no-seeum fallacy.”