Friday, July 31, 2020

Wisdom, Information, and the Difference Between the Two

(Tree, in my back yard)

My child, will you treasure my wisdom?
Then, and only then, will you acquire it.
And only if you accept my advice
and hide it within will you succeed.
So train your heart to listen when I speak
and open your spirit wide to expand your discernment—
then pass it on to your sons and daughters.[a]
Yes, cry out for comprehension and intercede for insight.
For if you keep seeking it like a man would seek for sterling silver,
searching in hidden places for cherished treasure,
then you will discover the fear of the Lord
and find the true knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:1-5
I have spent a lifetime seeking wisdom. Where have I found it?

Not in the media. I look to the media for information, not wisdom. There is not one news reader (CNN, Fox News, etc.) I look to for wisdom. 

I turn off the TV when a journalist goes outside the bounds of raw reporting and puts their spin, their interpretation, on events. Or, when a journalist pontificates ex cathedra on the meaning of it all, or spouts ethics. It's impossible to find untainted, uninterpreted information. It is in principle impossible, since all "facts" are theory-laden. What I am writing is tainted. What you are thinking is tainted. Wisdom is needed to separate the pure from the polluted.

For wisdom I look to five sources, two secondary, the other third primary.

One of my secondary sources is philosophy. Philosophy is philo - sophia, the "love of wisdom." I have immersed my self in philosophical literature since 1970, when I changed my university major to philosophy. I have gotten a lot of wisdom from philosophers, even from atheists who, though disagreeing with their core convictions, display intra-worldview intuition.

My second secondary source for wisdom is people who know God, who spend much time with God, and reflect on their experiences with God. In 1970 I became a believer in God and follower of Jesus.  Two books were placed in my hands, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Since then I have not  stopped reading Christian theistic wisdom literature, having up to ten books going at a time.

I know many Jesus-followers who have never written a book, yet possess wisdom. These are people who love God and know God and spend much time with God. God speaks wisdom through them, to me.

My first primary source for wisdom is the Christian Scriptures; viz., The Book. Since 1970 I have been swimming in a sea of wisdom from above, mediated through the words of the Bible. Currently, I am re-soaking in Proverbs and the Gospel of Luke. Here is deposited wisdom of the ages, illuminated to me by God the Holy Spirit.

Primary wisdom source #2 is the Holy Spirit. Scripture points me to the living relationship with God's Spirit, who illuminates and guides me. 

Primary wisdom source #3 is the Discerning Community. (The best book on developing a discerning community is by Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.) 

Linda and I are connected with our church community. We have gained so much wisdom over the years from our people!

The Discerning Community expands to certain friends and seferal pastoral colleagues. It includes several Spirit-led authors. They have become, to me, human wisdom mentors. Eugene Peterson is one of them. Peterson, now deceased, carries much wisdom. Here he points me in the right direction.  

"If we forget that the newspapers are footnotes to Scripture and not the other way around, we will finally be afraid to get out of bed in the morning. Too many of us spend far too much time with the editorial page and not nearly enough with the prophetic vision. We get our interpretation of politics and economics and morals from journalists when we should be getting only information; the meaning of the world is most accurately given to us by God’s Word." (Peterson, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best, Kindle Locations 661-668)

Begin with the book of Proverbs. In it you'll find nuggets like this.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
    Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Proverbs 4:7

My two books are Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, and Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Still Praying for REVIVAL!

The root problem in our nation is not political, not economic, but spiritual.

That is why I am still praying for revival to sweep through America's churches.

What is revival? Here is Michael Brown's definition.

John Piippo: This Is a Time of Opportunity

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Replacing Outrage with Righteous Anger

Evangelicals (78 percent) and non-evangelicals (74 percent) express high levels of concern about the lack of civility 
in the public discussion of social issues.

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer is Professor of Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton College.

Any follower of Jesus who wants to learn how to speak the truth in love, and avoid the sin of unrighteous outrage, will benefit from this book.

Stay Joyful

(Linda and I were at Maumee Bay State Park today, where I spent some time meditating on this cloud.)

Be joyful.

But, in these turbulent times? How is it possible to be joyful with everything we see on the news?

Because part of the "fruit," the produce, of the Holy Spirit in us is joy. Jesus-followers are joy-bearers. Galatians 5:22-23 says:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 

The Message translation reads this way.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. 

Jesus has told me that, if I live connected to Him, I will "bear much fruit." This includes joy.

But, again, what about during the tough times? Is it possible to produce joy when things around me are falling apart?

I believe so. Look at Paul's letter to the Philippians. Where is Paul writing from? The answer is: jail. Paul is imprisoned. Yet even this situation does not rob him of joy. That must have been frustrating to his captors!

Paul opens the letter this way. 

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

Imagine Paul, praying with joy. Might he have a smile on his face? Could he have laughed out loud? Even though in jail?

James 1:2-4 gives us this remarkable counsel.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Here is this word "joy," from

χαρά,n  \{khar-ah'}
1) joy, gladness  1a) the joy received from you  1b) the cause or occasion of joy  1b1) of persons who are one's joy 

It's an emotion! The appropriate response is: Rejoice!

Paul's letter to the Philippians is saturated with joy. Sixteen times, in just four chapters, Paul uses words like 'rejoice' or 'joy' to describe what our state of mind or general attitude should be as Christians. 

He writes this joy-soaked letter in the midst of his own difficult circumstances. He was under house arrest in Rome, chained to a different Roman soldier every few hours. He had just spent three years in prison in Caesarea. By the time he wrote to the Philippians, he had been in Roman custody for several years. Yet, rather than allow his circumstances to drive him to despair, he experienced deep gladness and invited the Philippians to share in this. 

Paul ends his letter with some more joy. In 4:1 we read:

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

Is this naive, unrealistic, and out-of-touch? Not at all. The joy of the Lord provides a lens, through which I see all of life, including some harsh realities. 

I know this personally. At seventy-one years old (really??!!), I have experienced suffering and loss. As a pastor, I am communicating, nearly every day, with persons who are broken in some way. Today has been no exception! But, through it all, I resolve to not allow the enemy to prowl in my vineyard and the kill the joy the Spirit is growing in me. 

Is this oil of gladness like the emotion I feel when I look at our first grandchild, Levi? I think so. 

During this season of life, the enemy is not robbing me of the joy that is mine, regardless of the circumstances. 

Join me as we fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Stay Connected

When a furious storm assaults the land, like a tornado, or a hurricane, one thing people do not want to see is the loss of power. I remember this happening to us a few times. In the aftermath of one storm, we lost power for several days. That experience occurred when cell phones were nonexistent.
The power loss meant loss of phone connection with friends and loved ones, danger of losing refrigerated food, using flashlights and occasional candles in the dark, concern over the basement's sump pump not working, and waiting...   for the power to return.

When a storm hits, do all you can to stay connected to your power source. This principle holds today, as we are experiencing an ungodly trinity of storms - pandemic, economic panic, and pandemonium in the streets of some of our cities.
In these physical and cultural storms, stay connected to Jesus. Reinforce your attachment to Him.

It's in life's storms that we discover how branch-like we are. 

Be branches, connected to Jesus, the true Vine. In John 15 Jesus instructs His disciples with these words.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. 
If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; 
apart from me you can do nothing. 
If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch 
that is thrown away and withers; 
such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, 
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, 
showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Note that Jesus does not add this qualification: WARNING: IN THE STORMS OF LIFE THIS WON'T WORK.

Today is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. This has not changed. Rejoicing attaches me to Jesus.

I begin the day with opening the Book. For months now I've been starting with the book of Proverbs. As I read the Word, it attaches me to Jesus.

I am praying this morning. This is my habit. Praying is talking with God about what He and I are doing together. Today. Praying is intimate conversation with God. In praying, I strengthen the connection with Him.

God is a strong tower. He still stands. God is an anchor. The anchor still holds. God is a tree that shall never be uprooted. 

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, 
stand firm. 
Let nothing move you. 
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, 
because you know that your labor in the Lord 
is not in vain.

- 1 Corinthians 15:58

See also: Stay Focused.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Linda and I Strongly Recommend This Marriage Book

(Linda and I are at Maumee Bay State Park Lodge)

"What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than make us happy?"

- Gary Thomas

"Keep investing in your marriage."

- John Piippo

FREE if you have amazon prime!

The year-long devotional book based on Sacred Marriage is HERE

Stay Focused

(Linda, with out grandson Levi - June 2020)

Linda and I have been at Redeemer in Monroe for twenty-eight years. What a blessing our church family is to us!

When we interviewed for this position we shared our priorities with Redeemer’s leaders. They still are:

1.    God first.
2.    Our marriage second.
3.    Our children third.
4.    The church fourth.

This is our focus. The pandemic and cultural chaos has not changed this. In fact, it intensifies our focus.

We will not lose sight of God, our marriage, and our family, for the sake of the ministry God has given us.

If we lose sight of God, we will then be like a branch detached from the trunk of the tree. Such a branch, said Jesus, is worthless. This has always made sense to me. Why would I listen to a preacher if they don’t habitually meet with God to pray, and meditate on Scripture?

Why should anyone listen to me if I do not invest in my marriage?

What spiritual integrity would I have if I neglect my children?

Time with God.

Time with Linda.

Our sons are older, but we still love connecting with them.

Time being with, and meeting with, our church family.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Master/Slave Marriages

Image result for husbands love your wives john piippo
(My back yard)
Linda and I have been privileged to meet with many marital couples over the years. We have seen God heal and renew broken marriages. We have seen marriages that should have experienced healing, but remained in their sickness.

One type of troubled marriage is the "master/slave" marriage. We also call this the "controller/controlee" marriage. Instead of the mutual submission marital model given us in Ephesians 5:22-23, the husband takes on a false, dictator-like position on being "the head of the house." He imprisons his wife in a world of his own making. He fails to see his role as head of the house as being like Christ to his wife, loving her as Christ loved the church and giving his life for her.

I have met many control freaks and controlees. Some marriages are the coming together of these anti-types. Every control freak needs a controlee, and vice versa. This is bad. Keith Miller writes: "Control is the major factor in destroying intimate relationships." (Compelled to Control: Recovering Intimacy in Broken Relationships., p. 7) 

Why do we do this? Why try to control others when we can't even control our own selves, and are often out of control? Miller writes:

"The fear of being revealed as a failure, as not being "enough" somehow, is a primary feeling that leads to the compulsion to control other people. When we were children, the fear of being inadequate and shameful was tied to our terror of being deserted or rejected and we had little control over getting what we needed. To counteract that basic terror, we have evidently been trying all our lives in various ways to "get control" of life. This includes controlling other people." (14)

A controlling person is an un-free person. Insecurity is the scar of control. Instead, God wants to free us from the terrible burden of always having to get our own way. "Walking in freedom" and "controlling other people" ("always getting our own way") are oppositional.

The control-freak-husband (or wife) crushes the spirit of the other person, who wears a sign saying, 'Crush me." The destructive cycle is: "I'm in control of you"/"Control me" - "I'm in control of you"/"Control me," and so on, round and round they go. This destroys marriages and relationships. The antidote is trust. Because where trust is, control is not.

Begin breaking free by learning trust in God. Pray to be less controlling than you now are. Pray to be less controlled by others than you now are. Trust God even when you don't trust other people.

Go basic, repeating and praying Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
    Run to God! Run from evil! (The Message)

Get help for your marriage.

You can be a team, a loving, mutually submissive partnership, the kind of kingdom marriage we see in Ephesians 5.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

A Change of Affection: A Gay Man's Incredible Story of Redemption

A Change of Affection: A Gay Man's Incredible Story of Redemption by [Becket Cook, Francis Chan]

I am now reading A Change of Affection: A Gay Man's Incredible Story of Redemption, by Becket Cook. (Cook's website is here.)

The Forward to the book is written by Francis Chan.

Chan writes:

Imagine standing in an open field as a massive hurricane comes raging toward you. Your riches matter very little at that point. No matter how much power or intellect you may have, you are helpless. God equates Himself to a “tempest.” Hebrews explains that we are not dealing with a normal person. He is untouchable. He is a “blazing fire and darkness” all at once. Present day Bible teachers don’t use words like “gloom and a tempest” to describe Him. Many Christians casually speak of how they want to hear His voice, not taking into account that those who had heard Him “[begged] that no further messages be spoken.” We have forgotten that Moses was terrified and “[trembled] with fear.” We are speaking of the “living judge of all,” who dwells in heaven with “innumerable angels” celebrating Him.

Now imagine standing in the presence of a Being with all those attributes and more. Imagine that holy, awesome God declaring you to be His child and loving you as such. Your position as a beloved child of God would become the only identity you care to have.

The world is populated by men and women, like the rich young ruler, who cannot see the true value of God. They refuse to “lose their life” because they consider themselves valuable and God ancillary. Becket’s story is the rare example of a person who gladly let go of everything he had to find a greater life. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Maintaining Focus in Turbulent Times

(Two deer in my backyard - 7/22/20)

For fifty years, I have been following Jesus. From the beginning, I learned and loved to pray and meditate on Scripture, while being outside in God's creation.

Countless times I have stepped outside on a starry night, just to look up. Whenever I do this, I feel the greatness of God overwhelming my smallness.

Yes, we now live in turbulent times. But I have resolved to not lose my primary focus, which is to love and adore God forever. 

This is not an escape for me. To the contrary, it preserves me from escaping into the media frenzy. For me, it is the glorious, majestic presence of almighty God that keeps my mind clear and sane. I begin to see earth, through heaven.

Last night, around 11:30, I took my 16X50 binoculars outside and spent 20 minutes looking deep into space. These binoculars allow me to see many stars that are unseen by the eye alone.

I found myself thanking and praising God. 

Whenever I do this, my focus on God is reinforced. I cannot escape Psalm 8, which reads:

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.
Blessings to you all this day.

One Reason Why I Could Never Be an Atheist

Monroe County

I could never be an atheist.

One reason is this: my belief in objective morality. As Walls and Baggett write,

"most all of the abuses, perversions, corruptions, and various instances of cruelty, inhumanity, and meanness are best identified for what they are and denounced for being as bad as they are only by holding fast to the category of objective moral truth, without which we lose the resource to renounce them robustly." (God and Cosmos: Moral Truth and Human Meaning, pp. 1-2. Oxford University Press.)

Objective moral truth makes more sense, constitutes a better fit, in a theistic world than in an atheistic world. And, as we see by the current protests, most believe in objective morality, whether they know it or not. 

Here's the reasoning.

1. Racism is evil (objectively; for everyone).
2. If there is no God, then there are no objective moral truths.
3. Therefore, (by modus tollens) God exists.

If you are a Jesus-follower, and wish to study this in depth, here are some resources I find valuable.

  • David Baggett, "(R) Moral Arguments (actually R1 to Rn) An Abductive Moral Argument for God," in Walls and  Dougherty, Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God.