Monday, August 31, 2020

iDENTITY #13 - You Are Significant to God

 


(Monroe County)

Thomas Merton writes: 


"I think the chief reason why we have so little joy is that we take ourselves too seriously. Joy can only be real if it is based on truth... [The]  starting point is the truth of our own insignificance in comparison with God. To penetrate the truth of how utterly unimportant we are is the only thing that can set us free to enjoy true happiness." 

(The Sign of Jonas; emphasis mine.)

"We take ourselves too seriously." Take God seriously, not yourself. The world does not revolve around you, but around God.

Joy turns to frustration and anguish when life is all about you. 


Do not water the flower of your own self so that you might bloom before others. 

Lighten up about you. 

Your reputation is unimportant; God's honor is all-important.

Pray that people might find God, not you, because you are not such a big deal. God is a big deal. 


To be free of the cultivation of one's own persona is the gateway to joy. 

If through you we see God, that will be cool. Better for us to see and find God than to discover you.

We are insignificant in comparison with God. Out of the seven billion people 
on earth, not one of them is now thinking about you. To the world at large, you are a non-issue.

OK, maybe there's one person who, right now, thinks of you, of how beautiful you are, or how intelligent and creative you are. Probably one or two or ten people love you and think of you, now. Maybe there's one person who is now angry with you and hates you, and thinks of how ignorant and irritating you are.

The majority of people (99.999999% of them) do not know you exist; hence, ipso facto, they are not thinking of you. To the world, and in this world, you are near-totally insignificant.

God, on the other hand, is significant. In this moment, right now, many are seeking God, being found by God, questioning God, asking God, arguing against God's existence, saying the name of God, worshiping God, ignoring God, reading about God, dreaming about God, standing in awe of God, saying God's name (not your's) in vain, singing God's name (not your's) in praise, writing about God, basking in God's presence, questioning God's absence, cursing God, and thanking God. God has been, is, and will be the focal issue, the central Person, in life. God is the sun around which the world revolves; you and I are specks. 


Is all this not true? Does not this truth set you free?

"To penetrate the truth of how utterly unimportant we are is the only thing that can set us free to enjoy true happiness."

As you take this breath, God is going after people, including you, with a love that knows no limits, with a pursuit that is forceful, specific, and effective. In your great insignificance and worldly-nonattention the God who is creator of all comes to you, personally, and whispers, "I love YOU." Let those words settle into the secret places of your heart. This is the time of freedom and joy.

Psalm 8:4 says: 


I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, Moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? 

(The Message) 

Who am I, God, that you are mindful of me? And yet, You are.

You are a micro-self.


God is thinking of you.


Rejoice.

IDENTITY (Know Who You Are, and Who You Are Meant to Be)

                                                           (Mears State Park, Michigan)

 

Do you know who you really are, and who you are meant to be?

Here are links to some of my posts on IDENTITY.


IDENTITY #1 - I Find My Identity in Giving Myself to My Maker


















IDENTITY #4: From Persona to Personhood

 


                                       (Mears State Park, Michigan)


In the absence of God,
 people are left alone to create their identities.

PERSONA 
"A persona, in the word everyday usage, is a social role or a character played by an actor. This is an Italian word that derives from the Latin for "mask" or "character", derived from the Etruscan word "phersu", with the same meaning. Popular etymology derives the word from Latin "per" meaning "through" and "sonare" meaning "to sound", meaning something in the vein of "that through which the actor speaks", i.e. a mask (early Greek actors wore masks)." (Wikipedia, "Persona")

AKA - the false self; "hypocrite" ("mask-wearer"); fake; phony

PERSON 
The real self; who you really are; the "true self," made in the image of God

Thirty-eight years ago I was sitting on the seat of a rusty tractor in the middle of a field, in a wildlife area, just north of Lansing, Michigan. I went there to pray. For several hours. That was one of the first times I did this kind of extended praying. It turned out to be the beginning of something new God was doing in me.

I was reading Psalm 139. I got to verses 23-24, which read:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

The thought came that I should ask God to do this. To search me out. 

My heart was filled with restlessness. All the busy stuff I was doing only seemed to increase my inner agitation. So I said to God, "Do it." 

God told me, "John, I would love to. You need to spend much time with me, over a lifetime, so I can search you out, remove your anxious thoughts, and lead you in the way everlasting."

"John, you can take off the persona." 

Maintaining a persona is hard work. I did some acting in my college theater department, and it takes a lot out of a person. God told me, "John, I don't care for the mask; it is you that I love." So, before God, I allowed him to peel away the persona and get to me. This is a process, and continues to this day.

It was both hard and good to hear God say those words to me. It was hard, because my persona was something I was accustomed to. To remove the mask was to enter into new territory. It produced, initially, feelings of wanting to hide from God. 

It was also good. Looking into the face of my all-loving God, with hidden parts of me exposed, was fear-and-trembling good! It still feels unbelievable. God knows me, God searches me out, God sees to the root of my being, God knows my true heart. And God loves me? Unbelievable, yet true.

When we wear our persona-mask before people we lie to them. In our inner insecurity and unlovableness we posture before people. We brag. We create and display our persona on Facebook. We are pity-filled. We crave human approval, and fear disapproval. We want others to recognize our hotness. We want to be hotter than thou.

This gets subtle, as I know personally. At times my caring for others has been a mask that hides my need for them to approve of me. True personhood, on the other hand, cares and loves others, whether one benefits from this or not.

That... is freedom. To know God and be known by him. To love God and experience God's love towards us, personally. This is not some theoretical thing, but an experiential reality. In this regard experience, not theory, breeds conviction.

You are loved by God. Go to him.

Ask God to search out your heart, remove the persona, and transform you into the person he has created you to be. Which is: in his image.


***
My two books are

 Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God. 

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

I am now writing Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart.

Abiding in Christ (Video)



Pastor to Pastor - UTS - John Piippo - Abide in Christ - 2013.9.21 - Part 1 from Urbana Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

THANK YOU DON FOLLIS AND URBANA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY FOR INVITING ME.

See my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

Wisdom Is the Foundation of a Godly Life

                                                                
                                                                 (Redeemer sanctuary)


 7 AM.

I finished the book of Proverbs - again.

I'm ready to re-read, and re-meditate on Proverbs, beginning in chapter one.

Proverbs has become part of the rock that keeps the ship of my soul anchored.

The main concepts in Proverbs are:

• Proverbs are general statements that affirm godly values and virtues. 

• There are two ways, and the way of wisdom is to be chosen over the path to destruction. 

• Wisdom is the foundation of a godly life. 

• We show wisdom in the way we speak and the way we interact with others. 

(From Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, Kindle Locations 137220-137223)

From Proverbs 1:1-7, Passion translation.


Here are kingdom revelations, words to live by,

and words of wisdom given to empower you to reign in life,
written as proverbs by Israel’s King Solomon, David’s son.
Within these sayings will be found the revelation of wisdom
and the impartation of spiritual understanding.
Use them as keys to unlock the treasures of true knowledge.
Those who cling to these words will receive discipline
to demonstrate wisdom in every relationship
and to choose what is right and just and fair.
These proverbs will give you great skill
to teach the immature and make them wise,
to give youth the understanding of their design and destiny.
For the wise, these proverbs will make you even wiser,
and for those with discernment,
you will be able to acquire brilliant strategies for leadership.
These kingdom revelations will break open your understanding
to unveil the deeper meaning of parables,
poetic riddles, and epigrams,
and to unravel the words and enigmas of the wise.
How then does a man gain the essence of wisdom?
We cross the threshold of true knowledge
when we live in obedient devotion to God.
Stubborn know-it-alls will never stop to do this,
for they scorn true wisdom and knowledge.


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Register for RENEWAL SCHOOL OF MINISTRY!

STARTING SEPTEMBER 13, 2020 !

Holy Spirit Renewal Ministries (HSRM) is very excited to announce the upcoming online Renewal School of Ministry (RSOM), beginning in mid-September! We’re inviting you to participate in this unique opportunity to learn and grow spiritually and to become better equipped for the ministry God is calling you to. Take classes for credit toward a Certificate of Completion or audit classes if that meets your personal needs and interests.

The courses for Fall 2020 Terms 1 and 2 are listed below. Click on the course title for the course descriptions.

TERM 1 CLASSES: SEPTEMBER 13 – OCTOBER 22, 2020

1.      Growing in the Ministry of Healing/Pastor Ross Lieuallen – 

Sundays, 8pm ET/5pm PT--(Sept 13 to October 18)

2.       How God Changes the Human Heart/Dr. John Piippo 

  Mondays, 8pm ET/5pm PT -- (Sept 14 to Oct 19)

3.       The Introduction to Theology #1/Pastor Ed Owens 

Tuesdays, 8pm ET/5pm PT--(Sept 15 to Oct 20)

4.       The Holy Spirit and the Spirit-filled Life/ Dr. Clayton Ford 

Thursdays, 8pm ET/5pmPT-- (Sept 17 to Oct 22)

TERM 2 CLASSES: NOVEMBER 2 –DECEMBER 2, 2020

1.       Soul Health/Pastor Pamela Wantz 

Sundays, 8pm ET/5pmPT-- (Nov 1 to Dec 6)

2.       Christian Worldview/Pastor Peter Conlin 

Mondays, 8pm ET/5pmPT-- (Nov 2 to Dec 7)

3.      The Introduction to Theology #2/Pastor Ed Owens 

Tuesdays, 8pm ET/5pmPT --(Nov 3 to Dec 8)

4.       Foundations of Biblical Worship/Pastor Norelle Lutke & Guest Worship Leaders Thursdays, 8pm ET/5pmPT --(Nov 5 to Dec 10)

BASIC CLASS INFORMATION

Course Times/Dates: Classes will be a 1.5 hour Zoom meeting for six weeks on the same night each week starting at 8 pm ET / 7 pm CT / 6 pm MT / 5 pm PT. Currently there are classes scheduled for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Requirements for Credit: To receive credit for a course students will need to:

•     Attend every live Zoom session

•     Participate in the class discussions

One absence is permitted as long as the student makes arrangements to watch the Zoom replay.

In addition to the 6-week courses, we will also provide online specialized focus seminars and conference experiences for credits toward certification.

Exceptions to Requirements for Credit: If a student wishes to enroll in a particular class but is unable to attend the live streaming sessions due to personal scheduling issues the student has these options:

Special Arrangements: If credit toward certification is desired course instructors may offer to make special arrangements for alternative approaches to receive credit for their class. Inquiry about this should be made to individual instructors .

Auditing: Follow the online enrollment process provided in the link and choose the auditing option provided. All Zoom sessions will be recorded and auditing students will be given access codes for replay on demand. (Auditing results in no credit given toward Certificate of Completion.)

Cost:  The cost to participate in RSOM is so low it is astounding! You’ll be charged a fee of $10 per course, or a maximum of $25 for all courses taught per six-week term.  It is our desire to make these courses accessible to all.                 

REQUIREMENTS FOR CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION

1. Successfully complete six Foundation courses 2. Successfully complete three Inward Courses 3. Successfully complete three Upward Courses 4. Successfully complete three Outward Courses 5. Participate in any offered online HSRM events 6. Write a three to five-page paper describing how you will use your new knowledge and your certificate 7. Meet with members of HSRM for discussion and feedback about your paper.

If you are interested in signing up or having questions answered fill in the short form below and you will be contacted.

Name 


IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE SUBMITTING YOUR REGISTRATION, PLEASE GO

Is Religion the Root Cause of Evil?




(I mentioned this post in my sermon this morning.
I taught philosophy of religion for eighteen years at Monroe County Community College. My PhD is in this area, to include the problem of evil, as related to metaethical matters.)

Is religion the cause of evil? Was John Lennon correct (in spite of his own wife-beating, child-abusing behaviors) that "imagine there's no religion" and... no wars?... and we all will live as one big metaphysical love-mass?

I don't think so. Atheist David Berlinski doesn't think so either.

See Berlinski's The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. What is unique about Berlinski is his non-religious nature, railing against the new (but aging) atheists. He writes: "I am a secular Jew. My religious education did not take... I cannot pray. I have spent more years than I care to remember in studying mathematics and writing about the sciences. Yet the book that follows is in some sense a defense of religious thought and sentiment. Biblical verses are the least of it." (xiii)

Berlinski is witty, caustic, funny, and brilliant. One of the things he addresses is the atheistic idea that religion is, especially, the root of all evil. He quotes physicist Steven Weinberg, famously, as saying: "Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." (21)

I now confess: "religion" has made me a far better person than I was without it. And, I have met countless people over the years about whom I could say the same. But onwards...

Berlinski turns to atheist Steven Pinker, who believes that "something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler." Pinker gives us good news: "In the scale of decades, comprehensive data again paint a shockingly happy picture. Some of the evidence has been under our nose all along. Conventional history has long shown that, in many ways, we have been getting kinder and gentler." (21-22) Pinker goes on to list things like "cruelty as entertainment, human sacrifice to indulge superstition, slavery as a labor-saving device, genocide..., torture and mutilation..., assassination..., rape..., homicide... - "all were unexceptionable features of life for most of human history. But, today, they are close to nonexistent in the West." (22)

To which Berlinski responds, surely Pinker jests! Here is Berlinski's list of 20th century "happy-face moments," presented to you by irreligion and atheism..

A Shockingly Happy Picture by Excess Deaths (22-24)



  • First World War(1914-18): ……...................................15 million
  • Russian Civil War(1917-22) ……...................................9 million
  • Soviet Union,Stalin's Regime(1924-53) ……...............20 million
  • Second World War(1937-45) ……................................55 million
  • Chinese Civil War(1945-49) ……..................................2.5 million
  • People's Republic of China, Mao's regime(1949-75) ...40 mill.
  • Tibet(1950 et seq.) …….................................................600,000
  • Congo Free State(1886-1908) ……................................8 million
  • Mexico(1910-20) …….....................................................1 million
  • Turkish Massacres of Armenians(1915-23) ……............1.5 million
  • China(1917-28) …….......................................................800,000
  • China,Nationalist Era(1928-37) ……..............................3.1 million
  • Korean War(1950-53) ……............................................2.8 million
  • North Korea(1948 et seq.) …….....................................2 million
  • Rwanda and Burundi(1959-95) ……..............................1.35 million
  • Second Indochina War(1960-75) ……...........................3.5 million
  • Ethopia(1962-92) ……...................................................400,000
  • Nigeria(1966-70) ……....................................................1 million
  • Bangladesh(1971) ……..................................................1.25 million
  • Cambodia,Khmer Rouge(1975-78) ……........................1.65 million
  • Mozambique(1975-92) ……............................................1 million
  • Afghanistan(1979-2001) ……..........................................1.8 million
  • Iran Iraq War(1980-88) ……............................................1 million
  • Sudan(1983 et seq.) ……................................................1.9 million
  • Kinshasa,Congo(1998 et seq.) ……................................3.8 million
  • Phillipines Insurgency(1899-1902) ……..........................220,000
  • Brazil(1900 et seq.) …….................................................500,000
  • Amazonia(1900-1912) …….............................................250,000
  • Portuguese Colonies(1900-1925) ……........................... 325,000
  • French Colonies(1900-1940) ……...................................200,000
  • Japanese War(1904-5) ……............................................130,000
  • German East Africa(1905-7) ……....................................175,000
  • Libya(1911-31) …….........................................................125,000
  • Balkan Wars(1912-13) …….............................................140,000
  • Greco-Turkish War(1919-22) ……...................................250,000
  • Spanish Civil War(1936-39) …….....................................365,000
  • Franco Regime(1939-75) …….........................................100,000
  • Abyssinian Conquest(1935-41) ……................................400,000
  • Finnish War(1939-40) ……...............................................150,000
  • Greek Civil War(1943-49) …….........................................158,000
  • Yugoslavia,Tito's Regime(1944-80) ……..........................200,000
  • First Indochina War(1945-54) ….......................................400,000
  • Colombia(1946-58) ……...................................................200,000
  • India(1947) ……................................................................500,000
  • Romania(1948-89) ……....................................................150,000
  • Burma/Myanmar(1948 et seq.) …….................................130,000
  • Algeria(1954-62) …….......................................................537,000
  • Sudan(1955-72) ……........................................................500,000
  • Guatemala(1960-96) …….................................................200,000
  • Indonesia(1965-66) ……...................................................400,000
  • Ugandi, Idi Amin's Regime(1972-79) ...….........................300,000
  • Vietnam, postwar Communist Regime(1975 et seq.) ……430,000
  • Angola(1975-2002) ……....................................................550,000
  • East Timor, conquest by Indonesia(1975-99) ……............200,000
  • Lebanon(1975-90) …….....................................................150,000
  • Cambodian Civil War(1978-91) …….................................225,000
  • Iraq, Saddam Hussein(1979-2003) ……...........................300,000
  • Uganda(1979-86) ……......................................................300,000
  • Kurdistan(1980's,1990's) ……...........................................300,000
  • Liberia(1989-97) ……........................................................150,000
  • Iraq(1990- ) ……................................................................350,000
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina(1992-95) ……............................175,000
  • Somalia(1991 et seq.) ……................................................400,000
Berlinski concludes: "In considering Pinker's assessment of the times in which we live, the only conclusion one can profitably draw is that such an excess of stupidity is not often to be found in nature." (25)

And, we have the following "awkward fact": "The twentieth century was not an age of faith, and it was awful. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot will never be counted among the religious leaders of mankind." (19)
One more: U of Notre Dame's Alvin Plantinga writes:

"Of course the world’s religions do indeed have much to repent; still (as has often been pointed out) the suffering, death, and havoc attributable to religious belief and practice pales into utter insignificance beside that due to the atheistic and secular idiologies of the twentieth century alone."  (Plantinga. Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism . Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

If I Loved, Everything Would Change

 


(Linda, on Weko Beach, Bridgman, Michigan)

Saturday morning. 

I'm reading from the Gospel of Matthew, to begin my day.

If someone attacks me, am I to attack them back? Should I respond to them as they have done unto me?

For followers of Jesus, the answer is clear. He said:

"Don’t repay an evil act with another evil act. But whoever insults you by slapping you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well." (TPT)

So, obviously, when I pay back with an evil act, what I am  doing is anti-Jesus. That's clear. I see what I am not to do. I am not to do unto others as they have done unto me. 

But what should I do? That's clear, too. I am to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I am to love them, from the heart.

Jesus said,

"Love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. For that will reveal your identity as children of your heavenly Father." (TPT)

Here is the real Jesus, the a-cultural Jesus, the revolutionary Jesus, for His is a revolution of love.

His counsel, his strategy, is simple, and brilliant. 

Simply brilliant. 

Everything about me and around me would change if I, one of Jesus' followers, would do this, from my heart. 

***
My two books are:


Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Friday, August 28, 2020

Blessed Are Those Who Wage Peace, Not War

(Wellspring Lutheran Home, Monroe)

(I am writing this for a pastor friend who feels shame that his church is having problems.)

Thirty years ago a church in the Detroit area took out a large advertisement in the local paper. The advertisement had these words: "________ Church: The Friendliest Church in America!" When I read it I felt like jockeying for position. I could advertise my church as "We're #2!" Within three years, this church had massive internal conflict, many people left, and the church imploded.

At this stage in my life as a pastor one thing I have concluded is: no church is problem free

I can prove this. My church is not without problems, because I am in it. 

We all are troubled people, growing (hopefully) into Christlikeness.

Misunderstandings and arguments and conflicts are inevitable, even among the righteous. What if God shows you someone else's problems? Francis Frangipane, in The Three Battlegrounds, says, if God shows you someone else's mess, it is only so you can pray for them, not talk to other brothers and sisters about how horrible they are.

If you are part of the mess, do not leave others with the mess. Be part of cleaning it up. Be the solution, not the voice of the problem.

As a follower of Jesus you are called to do far more than just love peace. You are to make peace. (One of the best books I've read on this is Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict, by James van Yperen. See also Henri Nouwen's beautiful The Road to Peace.)

Any fool can wage war. Followers of Jesus are called to wage peace. As a pastor, I have found this to be ongoing in marriages, families, and churches. Waging peace never stops this side of the Age to Come!

"But the new church I am going to doesn't have problems." It does; certainly it will. This is important, because it is within conflict that peacemakers and reconcilers are built. These are people who run towards the battle, not away from it.

I know people like this. They say things like, 


"Come, let us reason together."

I have seen people do this in my church family. When I hear of this, I cannot tell you how thankful I am and how blessed I feel!


Blessed are those who put things together, 
rather than tear things apart.

Blessed are those who, more than loving peace, 
make peace.

Blessed are those who stay when the going gets tough,
rather than leave because the going is tough.

Blessed are those who go to the other person,
rather than tell others about the other person.

Blessed are those who deal lovingly with their anger,
rather than sleep on their anger.

Blessed are the problem-solvers,
rather than the complainers.

Blessed are the understanders,
rather than the judgers.

Blessed are the participants,
rather than the observers.

Blessed are the doers,
rather than the talkers.

Blessed are those who wage peace,

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Square One

Aslan brings Edmund back to Square One
When a person loses their way we sometimes hear them say, “I’ve got to get back to “square one.” For them “square one” means something like: the place of origin; the place where it all began; the beginning place from where the journey began; and so on. Square one is: the beginning. 

Eugene Peterson, in Subversive Spirituality, uses the idea of “square one” to make some spiritual points.


Peterson writes: 

“Square One is the place from which we begin learning how to live with Absence with the same ease with which we have come to live with Presence. The generic word that we use for this is Faith – in its classic and never yet improved upon definition, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).” (Subversive Spirituality, 18)

“The characteristic element of Square One is this: God said. When we live at Square One “the absolutely indispensable word that we learn is: God.” 

When we “return to Square One,” we return not only to a realization that God or of God, but to a listening. Listening to what God says. “God said.” (23) Everything meaningful, relevant, and authentic follows from this. 

At Square One it’s not about spiritual chatter, or spiritual platitudes, or talking “Christian-eze.” It is a being-addressed, a being-talked-to, by God. This is not about us talking, or even bragging about our spiritual experiences and accomplishments, but about “listening to God call us, heal us, forgive us.” (27) Peterson writes:

“This is hard to get into our heads. We talk habitually to ourselves and about ourselves. We don’t listen. If we do listen to each other it is almost always with the purpose of getting something we can use in our turn. Much of our listening is a form of politeness, courteously waiting our turn to talk about ourselves. But in relation to God especially we must break the habit and let him speak to us. God not only is; God Says. Christian spirituality, in addition to being an attentive spirituality, is a listening spirituality.” (27)

Christian spirituality begins with God. God speaks. We listen. We respond. In obedience. 

To not listen to God is to not respond to him. One can’t respond to a voice they don’t even hear. “Non-listening obedience” is self-contradictory. Henri Nouwen has pointed out that the word “obedience,” from the Latin ob + audire, contains the idea of “listening” (audire, from which we get “audio”). An audiologist tests our hearing. Of course if we cannot hear then we cannot be expected to obey. Not to be in a continual listening-relationship to God is to be in perpetual dis-audire; dis-obedience. If that’s the case, it’s time to get back to Square One, the place of listening, the place where God Says.

I love how Peterson expands on this as he describes the causal efficacy of God Says. He writes:

“Something remarkable takes place when we return to Square One, to the place of adoration and listening – a terrific infusion of energy within us; a release of adrenaline in our souls which becomes obedience. The reason is that the word that God speaks to us is the kind of word that makes things happen. When God speaks it is not in order to give us information on the economy so that we will know how to do our financial planning. When God speaks it is not as a fortune teller, looking into our personal future and satisfying curiosity regarding our romantic prospects or the best horse to bet on. No, when God speaks it is not in explanation of all the things that we have not been able to find answers to from our parents or in books or from reading tea leaves. God’s Word is not, in essence, information or gossip or explanation. God’s Word makes things happen – he makes something happen in us. The imperative is a primary verb form in Holy Scripture: “Let there be light… Go… Come… Repent… Believe… Be still… Be healed… Get up… Ask… Love… Pray…” (28)

And the consequence, the intended result, of God Says is obedience. “I will run in the way of your commandments, when you give me understanding.” (Ps. 119:32) Peterson says:

“Yes, run. Square One, with its attentiveness and listening, is that place of understanding – we know who we are and where we are… and who God is and where he is. At that place and in that condition, there is an inward gathering and concentration of energy that on signal from God’s imperative expresses itself in, precisely, obedience – running in the way of God’s commandments.” (28)

Get back to Square One. Stay there.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Pastors: Teach A.S.L.O. to Your People


My role as a pastor is this:

1. I am to abide in Christ.
2. I am to saturate myself in Scripture.
3. I am to listen for the voice of God.
4. When God directs, I am to obey.

As I live these things my life will be fruit-bearing. This is a conditional statement. If I abide in Christ, then I will bear much lasting fruit. On the condition of my Christ-abiding, fruit-bearing shall result.

This is the strategy of Jesus. I am to pass this on to my people, who will be edified. Their lives will bear much fruit for God and his Kingdom.

Pastors: teach your people to:
  • ABIDE
  • SATURATE
  • LISTEN
  • OBEY

A.S.L.O.

Here are some of the implications. 
  • Personal "striving" will be gone. This is not about "working harder" for God. It is about the Spirit of God working in you, and in us.
  • Programmatic activity gets replaced by Presence-of-God reality. Here is where "church" starts to get exciting!
  • Personal transformation into Christikeness (Gal. 4:19) becomes ongoing. We grow into Christ, like a little boy or little girl grows into their parents' clothing.  
  • Live connected to God; show your people how to connect with God. This is the best you can give them. What you and your people need is God. You are dispensable. As you abide in Christ you will be broken of the illusion of your indispensability. This is a necessary prerequisite for God to be the Builder. God will not only help you get out of the way, you will end up thanking him for it.
  • Become the abiding pastor, the "unbusy" and "unnecessary pastor" (as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Pastor: A Memoir, and The Unnecessary Pastor).
  • When your church (= people who love and follow Jesus) deeply abides in Christ, they will be spoken to by Christ. This will be the end of all those meetings and committees and "brainstorming" get-togethers and the beginning of the days of fruit-bearing and redemptively storming the gates of hell.
  • This is "Church" as a Revolutionary Movement. Abide, Saturate, Listen (Discern), Follow.