Thursday, April 30, 2020

Atheistic Physicalism Is Rooted in Faith

(Holland, Michigan)

An atheist should be, and usually is (unless it's a social media trolling atheist, where incoherence reigns), a physicalist.

Physicalism is mythical.

Therefore, an atheist's faith is rooted in a myth.

Physicist Richard Muller (Berkeley) writes:

"The denial of nonphysics, nonmath truths has been named physicalism by philosophers. Physicalism is faith based and has all the trappings of a religion itself." (Muller, Now: The Physics of Time)

Muller spend much time in his book debunking the myth that nonphysical realities do not exist. For example,

"We take this truth to be self-evident: If it isn’t measurable, then it isn’t real. That “truth” is not provable, of course, any more than are the rights proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. But it is not a hypothesis, and certainly not a theory; it is more like a doctrine, a thesis figuratively nailed to a physics department door, a dogma that, given faith, will lead you to mastery of the physics world. Philosophers call this dogma physicalism."


You Have The Power to Choose // Children's Pastor Holly Collins



Redeemer's Children's pastor Holly Collins.

Overcoming Fearfulness

Downtown Monroe


Many of my fears are irrational, in two ways. The first is like this:

1) I believe that Horrible Event X is going to happen.
2) I feel fearful of Horrible Event X.
3) Horrible Event X never happens.

The famous non-event of "Y2K" is an example. I was among those who did not believe this horrible event would happen. But some did, and the emotion of fear was real to them. Many went through that fearful time for no reason. Their fear was irrational. 

Many fears concern events that never happen. 

A second kind of irrational fear is this.

1) Horrible Event X is probably going to happen.
2) I feel fearful of Horrible Event X.
3) Horrible Event X happens.

For example, I might be facing a surgery. I experience fear while waiting for it. It is natural to feel fearful, but my fear does nothing to help the situation. My fearfulness makes the whole thing worse than it already is. In this sense my fearfulness is irrational. It is like pouring fuel on an already-existing fire. 

Consider a less toxic situation. Let's say that tomorrow I have to mediate in a conflict which threatens to hurt our church if it is not healed. (Which I do not, BTW.) I have trouble getting to sleep tonight, because I am fearful there will be a negative outcome. My fear is real, but irrational, since it contributes nothing to the healing, and may actually prevent me from seeing clearly in the act of mediation.

Both as a pastor and as a human, I face fearful situations. There is always "something coming around the bend," imagined or real. I would like to face those situations minus the feeling of fear, which is unhelpful, unhealthy, and debilitating. Is this possible?

I believe it is possible to overcome fearfulness. The antidote to a fearful heart is to make God one's "fortress and strength," the result being, "what shall I then fear?" Henri Nouwen writes:

"The mystery of the spiritual life is that Jesus desires to meet us in the seclusion of our own heart, to make his love known to us there, to free us from our fears, and to make our own deepest self known to us... Each time you let the love of God penetrate deeper into your heart, you lose a bit of your anxiety." (Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life, 70-71)

Nouwen devotes an entire book to this theme, and asks the question, "Do you live in the house of God or in the house of fear?" 

We have a choice about which spiritual and emotional "house" we are going to call home. (See Nouwen's Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective

Today, engage in those spiritual disciplines that connect you to Jesus. Make the house of God, not the house of fear, the dwelling place of your heart.

***
My two books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Desire Goodness, and Favor Will Find You

(Redeemer's gym)

It's Wednesday morning, and I am still in Proverbs chapter 11.

7:30 AM.

Every proverb is a meal, to be slowly digested, and assimilated into the heart until it becomes the heart.

Will I ever get out of chapter 11?

11:27 says,


Whoever seeks good finds favor, 
but evil comes to one who searches for it.

If you have to search for favor, then you are on the lowest level of influence. Stagnate on this level, and bad things will happen. You will become, to others, an irritant, an annoyance.

Get you eyes off favor! It's like growing spiritual fruit. Do not try to do this. Instead, focus on the connection.

The proverb says, desire goodness. Focus on that. Don't look to make favor happen. 

A heart that seeks after goodness is private. It does not live to be admired. The result will be, over time, that favor will find you.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Bible Study This Friday: An Invitation to Doxologize

Sleeping Bears Dunes on Lake Michigan (Michigan)

Over the years I have taught many classes and seminars on The Nature of God. This Friday, May 1, at 11 AM EST, I'm doing a Zoom Bible Study on The Nature of God. If you want to join send me an email, and I'll send you the link.  johnpiippo@msn.com

I'll especially follow Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, using his distinction between God's incommunicable attributes (those belonging only to God, such as his aseity and eternality) and God's communicable attributes (e.g., God power-shares with us; his love; and so on). If I have time, I may teach on the triunity of God (God's complex unity, in his being).

Whenever I study the attributes of God, I have moments where I am inwardly moved. I feel emotions of awe that lead me to worship God. My study turns into doxology.  

Marva Dawn writes:

"The word doxology comes from two Greek words meaning "glory" (doxa) and "word" (logos). Thus, defined simply, doxology is words about the Glory, words that express praise, true praise. It is important to define praise carefully at the beginning of the twenty-first century because there exists in worshiping groups massive confusion between praise and happy songs. Praise is not merely something uplifting or upbeat. Rather, it is the naming of attributes, character, and/or actions of the one being praised." (Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson, The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, Kindle Locations 409-411. Emphasis mine.)

Dawn writes that "Doxology is praise that names the Glory and helps those who hear to see it." (Ib.)

Simply naming and defining the attributes of God leads God-believers to doxologize.

We'll see what happens this Friday as we go deep into the being of God!

***

For more see chapter 2 of my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, "Praying and the Nature of God."

DECLARATIONS for LUNCH - noon, Monday, Apritl 27



Declarations for Lunch.

10 minutes together.

Print these declarations out and bring them to the Zoom meeting.

For the link - email me - johnpiippo@msn.com. 

More DECLARATIONS OF IDENTITY

  • I often experience an open heaven.
  • I speak to any worry, stress, or anxiety, and I say you cannot stay. Peace reigns in this temple.
  • My heart and mind are guarded and protected by God’s peace.
  • As a child of God, it is my privilege and birthright to hear my Father’s voice.
  • As I focus on Jesus and spend time in His presence, I am being transformed into His likeness.
  • God’s love for me is not dependent upon worldly measures of success.
  • It’s impossible for me to spend time in God’s Word and not be radically transformed.
  • I encounter God’s love and power every time I am in His Word.
  • I belong to Jesus. My identity is: Beloved child of God.
  • Christ, the hope of glory, lives in me.
  • Greater is He who lives in me, then he who is in the world.
  • Christ is forming His character in me.
  • This is the week the Lord has made. I am rejoicing, and glad in it!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Philosophical Naturalism: Some Posts


Today at Redeemer I and Tim Curry preached on the reality of Satan, and demons, and the need to view them as our real enemies.

Once, in my MCCC Philosophy of Religion class, a student asked me, "Dr. Piippo, do you believe in Satan and demons?"

I answered, "Yes."

And, BTW, so did the apostles Peter and Paul. So did Jesus.

Demons and angels are persons, without physical bodies. Do I believe this? Yes.

Why? Part of my answer is: I have never been a philosophical naturalist or physicalist. That is, I have never believed all reality is physical. 

Here are some of the posts I have written relating to: the incoherence of physicalism, and the reality of non-physical objects (such as, e.g., moral facts, or free will.) Establishing these things defeats the irrationality of the existence of nonphysical persons. Turn off Netflix and begin to read!



Demons in America









Naturalism












The Churchlands - famous philosophical eliminative materialists







A dinosaur chooses to question the reality of free will









The Gospel of Scientific Materialism








Presence-Driven Pastors Tend, Not Run, the Garden

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and nature
(Redeemer)


A Presence-Driven Church is a garden, not a factory. Gardens are tended. Factories are "run."

The garden soil is the hearts of the people.

God is the seed planter.

The people are taught to abide in Christ.

They bear much fruit.

Presence-Driven Pastors tend the fruit.

In the Christ-abiding connection, God sows dreams and visions, course correction and direction, into the hearts of the people.

The Presence-Driven Pastor is not threatened by this. They separate the good from the bad. They welcome and nurture good produce, like parents caring for a newborn baby. The Presence-Driven Pastor is an expectant parent who prays for the child to be born, prepares a room for it to flourish, and celebrates its arrival.

This is Real Church, a community where everyone (not just the pastor) gets to play. Everyone becomes part of the movement. Everyone is a leader. This is anti-top-down leadership.

As Scripture tells us,

When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. (1 Corinthians 14:26)

To allow this you must let go of control. Which is hard for an Entertainment-Driven Pastor to do. (Hard for many of us, right?) These pastors control the Studio Church. The many are not as talented or as beautiful or as camera-friendly as the few. So they run the garden, rather than tend it. The people become an audience of outsiders. The Entertainment-Driven Pastor of the Consumer Church has been seduced and trafficked by the American honor-shame hierarchy.

This, Eugene Peterson writes, is a dark vocational shift. It is the "radical fall from vocational holiness to career idolatry," which "goes undetected by all but the serpent." (Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness, p. 7)

***



Thursday, April 23, 2020

Relationship Comes Before Request

Inside the wonderful Norjo Cafe in Monroe (the week it closed as the owners retired)

If I had a child who did not listen to my counsel and respond to my directives, I would not listen to their requests. If they asked for something, I would want to first talk about our relationship, and their noncompliance.

God has no use for the prayers
of the people who won't listen to him.

Proverbs 28:9 (The Message)

If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, 
even their prayers are detestable.

Proverbs 28:9 (NIV)

James 5:16 says, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Which would mean, the prayer of an unrighteous person is powerless and ineffective.

Which means, the prayer of a Moralistic Therapeutic Deist is powerless and ineffective. Because the God of Christian theism is not some big butler in the sky who exists for our gratification. 

God is a God of relationship. He is a loving Father, we are his children. Relationship with him comes before requesting of him.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

DECLARATIONS for LUNCH - Noon, April 23





Declarations for Lunch.

10 minutes together.

Print these declarations out and bring them to the Zoom meeting.

For the link - email me - johnpiippo@msn.com.

(I'll host Declarations for Lunch next M - T - W - Th.) 


DECLARATIONS OF IDENTITY

• At the cross I was made a new creation; therefore, I do not have to be influenced by any baggage of the past.
• I am not who my past experience says I am; I am who God says I am.
• I have been set free and released from all bondage through what Jesus has done for me.
• Today is the day of my breakthrough — I am free!
• I am clothed with Christ, therefore I release His presence everywhere I go.
• My touch releases the healing grace of Jesus.
• I am a God-pleaser, not a people-pleaser.
• I am able to prophesy, heal the sick, deliver the oppressed, and walk in increased wisdom, boldness, and creativity through the power of the Holy Spirit.
• God’s Kingdom will advance everywhere I go and in everything I do.
• I am constantly stumbling into the favor of God.
• My life overflows with God’s love, making it impossible for me not to love others.
• People’s responses to me do not determine how I love them.
• I am permanently tapped into Heaven’s infinite supply of love.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Integrity or Duplicity?

(Sunday morning at Redeemer - prepping for worship.)

I began this day by opening the Bible to Proverbs 11. I got no further than verse three.


The integrity of the upright guides them,
    but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.


Most of the time these days, when I read Scripture, I read it as speaking to me.

My Hebrew professor told me about hebraic "two way theology." This verse gives an example. It's either-or theology. Either integrity, or duplicity.

More and more, reading Scripture faces me with myself. So, do I have integrity?

I understand this word to mean: consistent moral and spiritual character, wherever and whenever I am. To have such integrity means being the same when I am with people, when I am in my home, and when I am alone.

Is this true of me? Not entirely.

Duplicity lacks integrity because the duplicitous person puts on high moral and spiritual character when with people, but lacks this when at home, and when alone. Duplicity is double-mindedness. Duplicity is hypocrisy. 

Am I duplicitous? Not entirely. You'll have to ask Linda about this. And, if you ask me about her, I can tell you that she's the same Linda when with people, when at home, and when alone. 

But, like me, not perfectly.

It is important to understand this. Only Jesus was perfect in moral and spiritual consistency. Only Jesus was tempted, yet without sin.

Linda and I are not there yet. But we press on to take hold of this, and make it our own. Take hold of what? Of Christ, forming himself in us.

Duplicity takes too much effort. It creates hiding, and posturing, and acting, and mask-wearing. Duplicity destroys families and churches. (This is not about imperfection. One can be imperfect and still have integrity. The integrity part includes confessing our sins, one to another.)

Integrity is beautiful. To live, increasingly, a morally and spiritually integrated life is to live a life of freedom and power.

Tomorrow morning I will open the Bible, again, to Proverbs 11. Perhaps God will allow me to advance to verse four.




DECLARATIONS for LUNCH on ZOOM - TODAY!

(Wildflower in our yard.)


Hello Everyone!

I am hosting another 10-minute DECLARATIONS FOR LUNCH at noon today.

Why not take a few minutes and join me?

We will say the DECLARATIONS ON HOPE together.

Hope to see you at noon today!


PJ

***
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
- Philippians 4:8

DECLARATIONS of HOPE (adapted from Steve Backlund)
  • Today is the day that God is going to show off His favor on me.
  • I speak to any worry, stress, or anxiety, and I say you cannot stay. Peace reigns in this temple.
  • There is nothing I am facing that Scripture cannot speak into.
  • I am not who my past experience says I am; I am who God says I am.
  • Today is the day of my breakthrough — I am free!
  • Because I trust in God, I am kept in perfect peace.
  • My hope, my finances, my strategies, and my partnerships with others are causing great positive change in lives and nations.
  • Tomorrow is going to be one of the best days of my life.
  • I will wake up with strong faith, strong love, and strong hope in my heart.
  • My past prayers will be working mightily tomorrow in every situation that concerns me.
  • As I attach faith to what I am hearing, He will do far more than I could ever hope or imagine.

Friday, April 17, 2020

How to Abide in Christ In a Pandemic

(April 17, 2020 - my front yard - SNOW!)

Jesus told his disciples that, if they abide in him, their lives will bear much fruit. "Abide" can be translated "to dwell."

Imagine Linda and I knock on your door. "We've come for a visit," I say. Presumably, you will let us in and put on the coffee. 

But if we knock on the door, and I say, "We've come to dwell with you," you are wondering if we are homeless.

To visit is a microwave, to abide is a slow cooker.

To abide in Jesus is to connect. Like a branch is attached to a vine. Jesus is the vine; I am the branch.

As I am a branch, the resources of the vine flow into me. I begin to produce the life of the vine. I produce VineLife.

To produce VineLife I must choose to do something. I cannot just sleep in my recliner while half-watching Netflix and expect to do what Jesus did. I must connect!

Here are ways I connect. And remember, when you connect to Jesus the Vine, your life will be fruit-bearing. It just will. You cannot be connected to Jesus and not be fruit-bearing. 

1. I meditate on Scripture. I read Scripture. When I read something that speaks to me, I assume this God, trying to tell me something. This makes me a slow reader! If you could see me reading Scripture you would see moments where I've got my eyes closed, my hand on my chin, and my body is still. 
When God speaks to me through a passage or verse in the Bible, I stop reading, and start meditating. I may write the verse in my journal. I often write it on a 3X5 card, place it in my pocket, and carry it with me.
For example, weeks ago, while reading through part of Proverbs, I came to this.




2. I keep a record of what God is saying to me. This is a spiritual journal. I often take time to re-read what God has been saying to me. I have gone through a lot of journals in the past fifty years! I recently bought a new one, which I like. Here it is.

3. I practice spiritual disciplines. The apostle Paul spoke of exercising in the spiritual gymnasium (going into "strict training"). Paul told me that, if I want to compete in the game of life, I must "exercise unto godliness." 
In 1981 a friend of ours, Dr. John Powell, gave me a copy of Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. John has been one of the most influential persons in my life (Linda's, too!). As I began to read this book, God was speaking to me. I read many books. But only a few have transformed my heart. This was one. My abiding life in Christ took a quantum leap forward! The connection-disciplines in this book became my spiritual DNA.   
The spiritual disciplines themselves don't produce the fruit. They provide the attachment. The Holy Spirit produces the fruit.

4. I pray. I have a praying life. I have done this for so many years Foster's book helped me here, too. He also wrote a beautiful book on prayer. (Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home
In praying I speak to, and I listen to God. I have conversations with God. The discipline of choosing to pray has moved from my head ("I need to pray!") to my heart ("I pray to live!").
An excellent book on listening to God is Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, by Dallas Willard.

In this season of my life I continue to read, slowly, Proverbs. And Psalms. I am also reading Ezekiel, slowly, from the Old Testament. And I am re-reading, slowly, the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

One more suggestion. My book on prayer can be read devotionally. Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

I hope this helps - blessings!



Thursday, April 16, 2020

Solitude Is a Transforming Fire

Seagulls at Sterling State Park, Monroe

Solitude is not loneliness.

Solitude is thick, deep, empowering, and transforming.

On Tuesday I spent two hours alone with God. Praying. For others, and for myself. Listening. Meditating on Scripture.

I have intentionally practiced solitude with God for fifty years. Often, hours at a time. I have experienced what Henri Nouwen means when he calls solitude with God the fire of spiritual transformation. In this fire, the false self gets burned away, and the true self - what God has intended us to be - emerges.

Biblical solitude, the kind that is transforming, the kind that changes us, is different from simply being alone in a peaceful, beautiful environment. Transforming solitude is bringing myself to God. It is being with God. It is being in the company, in the presence, of God.

Wil Hernandez states that biblical solitude "encompasses a kind of double transformative encounter: with ourselves and with God - often even simultaneously." (Hernandez, Mere Spirituality: The Spiritual Life According to Henri Nouwen, p. 14)

Transformative solitude is "daring to stand in God's presence." That's the first part of the double transformative encounter. Nouwen writes: "Our first task in solitude is to simply allow ourselves to become aware of the divine presence, to 'Be still, and know that I am God'," (Ib.) 

The second is this: 

"Through solitude we come face-to-face not only with God but with our true self as well. In fact, it is precisely in the light of God's presence that we can see ourselves for who we really are." (Ib.)

Arguably, not much transformation into increasing Christlikeness will happen without ongoing, solitary meetings with God.

Solitude is a transforming fire.

***
I write about this in my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God