Tuesday, June 30, 2020

How to Lead a Church Meeting (John Piippo)


If you have questions, please email me: johnpiippo@msn.com.

God Is Presently With Me, In Experience

(Glen Lake, Michigan)

8 AM. June 30, 2020

Pandemic. The economy. Cultural upheaval.

God's presence. I'm in God's presence, this morning. I am experiencing the presence of God.

God's presence is not a function of life's circumstances. God is not limited by whether we sail on smooth waters or stormy seas. God is in the chaos as well as the calm. 

God's presence is experiential. I have stacks of spiritual journals recording my encounters with God, ranging from possible (could have been God), to probable (probably was God), to certain (beyond a reasonable doubt, that was God).

It is possible to experience God. There is nothing logically impossible about experiencing God. "Experiencing God" is not logically incoherent, like "square circle" is.

It is probable that I will experience God. Because I find the Christian story to be true, I expect to experience God. Experiencing God's presence is integral to the social imaginary of Christian theism. Today, I have expectation.

I know I have experienced God. I have had events and situations where it would be unreasonable for me to disbelieve. In such instances, reductionism to a purely physical explanation without remainder would require a leap of faith too vast for me to make.

These experiences keep me going, spiritually. They encourage me. They change me. They guide me. They provide ongoing confirmation to my belief that God comes to me as Emmanuel, God-with-me.

Thomas Merton writes:

"There exists some point at which I can meet God in a real and experimental contact with His infinite actuality. This is the “place” of God, His sanctuary— it is the point where my contingent being depends upon His love. Within myself is a metaphorical apex of existence at which I am held in being by my Creator. God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of Himself. A word will never be able to comprehend the voice that utters it."

Merton, Thomas, New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 37)

My two books are...

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Monday, June 29, 2020

In God's Kingdom Character Comes Before Ability

(Gabriel's, in Ypsilanti, Michigan

One great truth to be harvested from the fields of the history of Christian spiritual formation is this: A person's doing must emerge out of their being. Therefore, make your first priority formation into Christlikeness. Everything you do flows from this.

Of primary importance is who I am in Christ, and the shape my heart is being formed into (Christlikeness). This is about a person's character, not their abilities. The character of Jesus, being formed in us. (Galatians 4:19)

What we authentically do is an emergent property of who we are. Our "doing" supervenes on our "being." Our doing is entailed by, or is consequent on, who we are and what we are becoming. What we authentically do (what we have a "heart" for doing) inexorably flows from the shape of our heart.

If we don't get this order right, two bad things will happen:

1) we will evaluate ourselves by what we do, rather than by who we are in relation to Christ; and 

2) we will view and use others in the church for what they can do, rather than for who they are in relationship with God and us. 

These two bad outcomes provide a reason why pastors and people burn out in churches.

Getting this ontological order of priority correct is crucial in the development of real Jesus-community. 
Eugene Peterson writes:

"If we identify people functionally, they turn into functions. We need to know our people for who they are, not for what they can do. Building community is not an organizational task; it is relational - understanding who people are in relation to one another and to Jesus and working on the virtues and habits that release love and forgiveness and hope and grace. (Eugene Peterson and Marva J. Dawn, The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, Kindle Locations 2376-2378)

This is where the Entertainment Church and the Program-Driven Church fail. John is viewed as a "guitar player," rather than seen, first, as a person. John's function becomes what is important (because "We need another guitar player!"); thus, John is "used" by the church and, in the process, will get used up.

Peterson writes:

"What I want to point out is that this way of looking at and identifying Christians in community has a way of functionalizing them in our minds, thinking of them not for who they are in community, in relationship, but for what they can do. It is significant that as the Pastorals [the Pastoral Epistles] refer to the members of the community it is as men and women embedded in relationship - Paul was looking for character, not ability." (Ib., Kindle Locations 2371-2373; emphasis mine)

My three books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Janice Trigg)

After a break I'll continue writing Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart.

Then, the Lord willing, Linda and I will write our book on Relationships.

Then: Technology and Spiritual Formation.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Differences Between American Christianity and Biblical Christianity

(Sea of Galilee, Israel)

(I'm re-posting this, to keep it in play.) 


From Joseph Mattera's "13 Contrasts Between American and Biblical Christianity." The differences are:

  1. American Christianity focuses on individual destiny. The Bible focuses on corporate vision and destiny. Correct. It's the tribe, the community, and less the individual. American churchianity is individuated. Note that the apostle Paul's use of the pronoun "you" is overwhelmingly plural.
  2. American Christianity focuses on individual prosperity. The Bible focuses on stewardship. "Much American preaching today focuses on "our rights in Christ" to be blessed. However, in Scripture the emphasis regarding finances has to do with being blessed by God in order to be a blessing by bringing God's covenant to the Earth (Read Deut. 8:18; 2 Cor. 9:10-11). Jesus promised material blessing only in the context of seeking first His Kingdom (Matt. 6:33)."
  3.  American Christianity focuses on self-fulfillment and happiness. The Bible focuses on glorifying God and serving humanity. In contrast to the Bible "much of the focus from the American pulpit has to do with individual fulfillment and satisfaction."
  4. American Christianity appeals to using faith to attain stability and comfort. The Bible encourages believers to risk life and limb to advance the Kingdom. Read Hebrews 11, THE premier biblical text on the meaning of "faith," the kind of faith that, without which, it is impossible to please God.
  5. American Christianity usually focuses on individual salvation. The Bible deals with individual and systemic redemption.
  6. The American apologetic focuses on human reason. The Bible's apologetic focuses on the power of God and experience. "If the foundation of your faith is human reason, then the first person that has more knowledge than you in science could talk you out of being a Christ-follower. Truly, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, not human reason (Prov. 9:10; 1 Cor. 1:17-23)." BTW - anyone who reads apologists like Bill Craig and J.P. Moreland (and even myself), and thinks our interest in rationally defending our faith is about the primacy of human reason over the God-encounter, has misunderstood us.
  7. American believers have a consumerist mentality regarding a home church. The biblical emphasis is being equipped for the ministry. See here, and here. Mattera notes: "Americans shop for a church today based on what meets their personal and family needs the best. It is almost like a supermarket mentality of one-stop shopping." The Consumer Church, as Eugene Peterson has said, is an Antichrist Church.
  8. American Christianity promotes a culture of entertainment. The Bible promotes the pursuit of God. See here.    
  9. American Christianity depends upon services within a building. The biblical model promotes a lifestyle of worship, community and Christ following. Mattera writes: "Most of the miracles in the book of Acts and the gospels took place outside a building in the context of people's homes and in the marketplace. In Acts 2 and 4, the churches met house-to-house, not just in the temple. The man at the gate was healed before he went into the temple (Acts 3), which caused an even greater revival to take place."
  10. American Christianity is about efficiency. The biblical model is about effectiveness. "Often, the American church is modeled more after the secular corporate model rather than the biblical model. The church is not an organization, but an organism that should be organized!"
  11. In American Christianity the pastor is elected. In the biblical model God calls the pastor. 
  12. In American Christianity the individual interprets the Bible. In the New Testament the hermeneutical community interprets the Bible.
  13. American Christianity trains its leaders in Bible colleges. Biblical Christianity nurtures leaders through personal mentoring. "Biblically, leaders were not sent outside of the context of a local church to be trained for the ministry. They were nurtured personally in the context of congregational life by church leaders acting as mentors (as the Apostle Paul did with Timothy; as Aquila and Priscilla did with Apollos in Acts 19; and as Barnabas did with John Mark in Acts 15)."
This is going to be a tough one. Most people won't want the biblical model. They won't recognize it. 

Pastors - if you transition from the American Church to the Biblical Church you will lose some people, and gain some disciples.

My three books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Janice Trigg)

After a break I'll continue writing Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart.

Then: Technology and Spiritual Formation.

Then, the Lord willing, Linda and I will write our book on Relationships.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Moving From Unkindness to Kindness

(Foggy morning, Monroe, Munson Park)

There is a lot of unkindness on social media. Be assured that people who are unkind are far from Jesus. Unkind people do not represent Jesus.

An unkind person is a branch, disconnected from Jesus, the Vine.

Followers of Jesus have no excuse for being disconnected.

"Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else."

1 Thessalonians 5:15

How kind am I? How kind have I been? In general, I think the further I go back in my life the less kind I have been. 

I've always been kind to Linda, for the most part. When I've been unkind, I've always asked her to forgive me. And she's that way towards me, too. We always confess, forgive, and move on. We love being kind to one another!

The further back I go in my life, my "kindness circle" shrinks. I tended to be kind to those who were kind to me. As Jesus said, anyone can do that.

Sadly, I used to privately, and sometimes publicly, make fun of other people. I mocked people. I stood on my self-righteous perch and judged people. I have spoken negatively about people I don't even know! This is unkind.

Unkindness pays back wrong for wrong. You get wronged; you wrong the other person. Tit-for-tat; an eye for an eye. Unkindness breeds unkindness, which breeds more unkindness, and so on ad infinitum

Unkindness is spiritual cancer. Unkindness is... antichrist-like.

In 1 Thessalonians Paul addresses Jesus-followers. N.T. Wright comments: 

"Each Christian, and each Christian group or family, has the responsibility to look out for the needs of the others, to give comfort, warning, strengthening and example whenever necessary. It isn't enough to avoid trouble and hope for the best. One must actively go after ("pursue") what will be good for other Christians, and indeed for everybody." (Wright, Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians, 132)

The kindness circle extends to all who claim the name of Jesus for themselves. If this were followed, churches everywhere would be revitalized. But the real concern here is: me.
Years ago, in an interview, I was asked, "What is the #1 problem you see in your community?" I answered: "It's me." I was serious! If I change, our community will be better and stronger. The old hymn does not sing "Change their hearts, O God..." Nor does it sing "It's them, it's them, it's them O Lord, standin' in the need of prayer."

I need to be kinder.

Does the kindness circle extend even to our enemies? Of course, because it includes you and me. 

·                You and I were once Christ's enemies. (Romans 5:10)
·                God's kindness to us led us to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
·                Christ is being formed in us. (Galatians 4:19)
·                As fruit-bearing people attached to Jesus the Vine, we exude kindness. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Being kind to others is not equivalent to agreeing with others. Christ included us in his kindness circle, and we were his enemies. Enough said!

The kindness circle extends to those in your own home. If we don't show kindness to those in our own home, our marketplace-kindness is fraudulent. The person who is unkind to their family members while opening doors for strangers is a fake. Linda and I have talked about this. I don't want to treat others with kindness, and not be so towards her. That would be hypocritical.

How can I grow in kindness? This happens as I abide in Jesus, the Vine, now.

Then, the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of kindness within me.

I slowly transform into someone who walks in kindness towards all. That's how wide and deep and long and high God's kindness circle extends.

(Further, kindness has power to heal. See former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection In a Sometimes Lonely World.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Who I Am in Christ

(On The Badger - Ludington to Manitowoc)

(I am reposting this for a friend.)

Print this out and carry it with you. 

I am accepted

I am God's child.
As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
I have been justified.
I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.
I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
I am a member of Christ's body.
I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
I am complete in Christ.
I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.

I am secure...
I am free from condemnation.
I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
I am hidden with Christ in God.
I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.
I am a citizen of heaven.
I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.
I am significant...
I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
I am God's temple.
I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
I am God's workmanship.
I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me

What I Do When the Conference is Over

It's Wednesday morning. 

I'm basking in the afterglow of three fire-filled nights with my HSRM colleagues, and Robby Dawkins and James Goll. We will never be the same again!

All the activity and worship and spiritual and mental intake...  it's in the past. Wow! And, thank you Jesus! 

What now? What will I do now? The answer is: what I am always doing

Which is:
  1. I will Abide in Jesus today, tomorrow, and the next day. I'll be a branch connected to Jesus the Vine. "Conferences" are not what I am attached to. The same Jesus that spoke to you and me over the past few days will not stop speaking just because we're not at the conference. I have great hope and expectation... now! The God-encounter is a daily thing for me.  
  2. I will Saturate myself in Scripture. God meets me in Scripture. I am more Scripture-focused than I have ever been in all my Jesus-days. I study it. I meditate on it. I ingest it and, by God's Spirit, it gets into me. I'll just keep doing this. The three-day conference has ignited new hope in me. But I do not need a conference to saturate myself in Scripture. This has become my habit. 
  3. I will Listen for God's voice, speaking to me. When God speaks to me today, I'll write it down in my spiritual journal. God has so much to tell me! God is not thinking, "John's no longer participating in the big conference so I won't speak to him in his own home." My view is this. Today is the day of the Lord's activity in my life. Jesus is not the great "I was," he is not the great "I will be," he is the great "I am." Now. 
  4. I will Obey when the Spirit directs. I am not God's perfect servant, as Jesus was. But I do obey God, and find it a delight. I am God's servant. Transform me, Lord, into greater obedient servanthood!
The conference is over. 

I continue doing four things. 



Thank God for inspiring conferences, the God-intent of each one being daily, inspirational, Jesus-loving, Jesus-following and life more abundantly. (John 10:10) Thank you Robby and James and others for giving us so much! Through you, I am on fire! 

This 3-night conference is over. But God is not gone. He is with me, his rod and staff, they comfort me. For me, life is all about abiding in him, being connected to him, and being where he wants me to be.

God is a good conference speaker, a very present help in trouble. And, meeting with God is free! (Except that it will cost you everything).  

Sit at God's feet today. 

Conference with God. 

Spiritually, it gets no better than that.