Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Prayer Is Being Unbusy With God

                                                      Our Grandson Levi (Photo by Josh P.)

In 1981 God called me to a deeper praying life. I needed it so badly. I was doing, doing, doing, and the inner fire was leaving, leaving, leaving. God told me to take Tuesday afternoons and pray. I needed that much time to tend the fire within. 

This was a new beginning for me, a time when my doing began to emerge from my being in God. This was important, since in the spiritual life being precedes doing. 

That first Tuesday afternoon was spent sitting on a rusty tractor in a field in a forest preserve north of Lansing, Michigan. I remember being there, trying to pray, while my mind kept asking "Just what the heck am I doing here, anyway? What am I accomplishing?" The answer seemed to be: "nothing." I wasn't xeroxing anything. I was producing (I mistakenly thought) nothing. No empirical "product" was coming forth from my being on this old tractor.

That was one of the most important days of my life. I was getting reattached to the Vine!

The writings of Henri Nouwen helped me during this time. Nouwen has influenced me as much as anyone has. I can only handle a few sentences, maybe a paragraph, of Nouwen at a time. In every Nouwen-sentence there is wisdom from on high. If leadership is influence (which it is), then Henri Nouwen is a great leader.

How did Nouwen become a great leader? The answer is: he "wasted" a lot of time praying. "Prayer," wrote Nouwen, "is wasting time with God." (In Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, pp. 19-20) "The world says, “If you are not making good use of your time, you are useless.” Jesus says: “Come spend some useless time with me.”"

Nouwen writes: "If we think about prayer in terms of its usefulness to us—what prayer will do for us, what spiritual benefits we will gain, what insights we will gain, what divine presence we may feel—God cannot easily speak to us. But if we can detach ourselves from the idea of the usefulness of prayer and the results of prayer, we become free to “waste” a precious hour with God in prayer. Gradually, we may find, our “useless” time will transform us, and everything around us will be different."

This is why I assign my Spiritual Formation students to pray. A lot. Prayer is active engagement in the mutual love relationship between the self and God. Praying is the perfect way to abide in Christ and "just be" with God. We were made for this. This is why it feels so fulfilling and is so influential. 

Nouwen writes: "Prayer is being unbusy with God instead of being busy with other things. Prayer is primarily to do nothing useful or productive in the presence of God. To not be useful is to remind myself that if anything important or fruitful happens through prayer, it is God who achieves the result. So when I go into the day, I go with the conviction that God is the one who brings forth fruit in my work, and I do not have to act as though I am in control of things. I have to work hard; I have to do my task; I have to offer my best. But I can let go of the illusion of control and be detached from the result. At the end of each day I can prayerfully say that if something good has happened, God be praised." (Ib.)

This is real prayer. Real prayer mono-tasks the God-relationship. It has no agenda other than to be with our Creator. To the world this looks like "doing nothing." To us it provides the reason for all we are called to do. Our "doing" gets relevant as it emerges out of our unbusy being-with God.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Faithfulness in Small Things Brings Dominion Over Greater Things


                                                       (Our backyard - path to the river)

Beware of people who want to rule over others. 

Beware of those who want to expand their power over others.

Yet, to those Jesus-followers who are faithful in small things, rulership over greater things is promised.

Jesus said,

You have been faithful over a few things,

I will make you ruler over many things.

Matthew 23:23

Commenting on these words of Jesus, Dallas Willard writes, "When we submit what and where we are to God, our rule or dominion then increases. For God is unlimited creative will and constantly invites us, even now, into an ever larger share in what he is doing. Like Jesus, we can enter into the work we see our Father doing." 

It is a mistake to go after dominion over greater things while neglecting a lifestyle of being faithful in small things.

Saturday, August 28, 2021



                              (This is the 90-foot Sycamore tree that fell during the recent storm.)

The Beatitudes reveal those who are honored in the kingdom of God. This kingdom manifesto can also be turned on its head to reveal the true outcasts.


Dishonored are the self-satisfied.

Cast out are those who are unmoved or amused by the misery of others.

Contaminated are those who shake their fist at God—and keep at it.

Naked and ashamed are those who hunger for earthly riches and honor more than the righteousness of the King.

Dishonored are those who refuse generosity to the needy.

Dishonored are the hypocrites who know what is culturally “nice” but are intent only on self-seeking goals.

Dishonored are those who divide people with their anger or gossip.

Dishonored are those who refuse to taste shame for the sake of Jesus’ name.

- From Edward T. Welch, Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection

Friday, August 27, 2021

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Don't Worship If You Hate Someone

Image result for john piippo worship
(Glass block, with light behind it.)

It's Saturday morning. I got up early. Came downstairs, and started some alone time with God.

I'm reading Matthew 5:22-24. I have read this many times. I've taught this to people, and preached on it. Yet these words of Jesus are hitting me like I've never seen this before. I've done this long enough to know this is God, saying, "John, I want you to listen to this. These words are for you."

Jesus is saying,

  • Do not murder. If you do, it will be bad for you.
  • Do not hold on to anger against a brother or sister. Don't cling to it. Don't go to bed at night with it inside you. If you do, you are murdering your brother and sister. God hates this.
  • Do not demean or insult a brother or sister. Never talk about a brother and sister behind their back unless it adds value to their character. Or if you are meeting with a peacemaker for the sake of restoring relationship. Bitter slander and gossip hurt the family of God.
  • Gossip and slander and demeaning language are curses upon one of Jesus' followers. Do this, and you teeter on the brink of hell.
  • Don't worship on Sunday morning if you haven't taken care of relationships. You are not worshiping if you have hatred towards a brother or sister. That's hypocrisy. Drop the worship-act and reconcile with your brother or sister.
  • Don't stay away from worship just because you have not done what Jesus wants. Do the right thing. When you have done this, come and worship.
Really? Here's Jesus, from The Passion Translation. Really, you can read any translation you want. It's all the same.

“You’re familiar with the commandment that the older generation was taught, ‘Do not murder or you will be judged.’ But I’m telling you, if you hold anger in your heart toward a fellow believer, you are subject to judgment. And whoever demeans and insults a fellow believer is answerable to the congregation. And whoever calls down curses upon a fellow believer is in danger of being sent to a fiery hell. “So then, if you are presenting a gift before the altar in the temple and suddenly you remember a quarrel you have with a fellow believer, leave your gift there in front of the altar and go at once to apologize with the one who is offended. Then, after you have reconciled, come to the altar and present your gift."

Monday, August 23, 2021

A Prayer Tree and A Holy Indifference

Image result for johnpiippo solitude
(Walking through trees in my backyard)

When we lived in East Lansing one of my prayer places was thirty feet up in a tall pine tree in a forest preserve. The branches formed a ladder leading upward. It was an easy climb to the two thick branches that formed a seat. Many times I climbed that tree, hung my backpack on a branch, sat on that natural seat, and prayed. I loved when there was a slight wind that gently waved the tree from side to side. I would close my eyes and think of the Holy Spirit, shaping and forming me.

During that time I wore a leather wristband I had made. On the wristband I burned the words "A holy indifference." I got the phrase from Henri Nouwen. Nouwen prayed that he would have a holy indifference to the opinions of others, so that he might have a holy concentration on God. 

This word was for me, too. If I had a holy indifference I would be able to more purely love people. I would not go up and down with what others thought of me. I would be free from people-pleasing, and striving to gain others' love and avoid others' criticism. 

I had been doing too much of that. The result was much outward striving and agitation in my heart. So, I carved "a holy indifference" on a leather band, wore it on my wrist, climbed a tree, and prayed. 

One day, as I was in the praying tree, God told me to take off the wristband and tie it around a branch. I felt I could let it go. God was doing a good thing in me. I was moving into greater freedom, from pleasing people to loving people.

That was almost forty years ago. Sometimes I think of going back to the praying tree, climbing it one more time, and touching the leather wristband which has now become part of the tree. I'm writing "a holy indifference" on a 3X5 card and carrying it with me today. I'm commemorating t
he freedom God brought into my life many years ago, while swaying high in the praying tree. 

Is it possible to hear from God? I've written about this in Chapter 5 of my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Sunday, August 22, 2021




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.

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

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 Greekbible.com.

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)

Stay Calm

(Green Lake, Wisconsin)

I have done a lot of flying, around America, and overseas to other countries. I don't fear flying. I don't even mind some turbulence. But I will admit that, in extended times of turbulence, the sound of the pilot's calm voice is reassuring to me that we are going to get through this.

When turbulent times come, leaders need to be calm. This goes all the way from government leaders down to doctors, down to police officers and firemen, down to teachers and caregivers and, yes, parents, too. When the child's heart is troubled, the calm spirit of the parent ministers to them.

A calm heart not only diminishes fear. It is needed for accurate discernment. Some decisions are hard enough to discern when you're not in panic mode. Panic makes it harder to see clearly. In general, never make important decisions when your heart is agitated.

Jesus consistently calms the agitated heart. We see this in the story of the storm on the Sea of Galilee.

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 
36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 
37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 
38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, 
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down 
and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? 
Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark 4
Surely God is not in a panic about what's now happening in the world. From a place of calm, Jesus says to his disciples,
Do not let your hearts be agitated.
You believe in God.
Believe also in me. 
John 14:1
Panic is not part of the fruit of the Spirit. Peace is. (Gal. 5:22-23) And, this peace is otherworldly, from heaven, given to you, and me, now. (See HERE.)
The calmness that is the heart of God guards our hearts and minds from turbulence. (See HERE.)
Stay in that place.
Stay calm.

Stay in Place

(I took this photo of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.)

From 1981 - 1992 Linda and I were campus pastors at Michigan State University. The campus is sprawling and beautiful. It hosts many botanical gardens. We loved riding bikes and walking on the miles of paths.

I remember something that caught our attention as we were on campus. We were walking up an incline. Ahead of us, on top of the hill, a young man was standing, with his back to us. His eyes were fixed on something on the other side of the hill. As we got to the top we saw, below in the valley, two German shepherds. They were sitting, their bodies frozen like statues, their eyes locking with the eyes of their master. 

Then, the master said, "Come!" The two German shepherds raced up the hill and sat at their master's feet.

I have never forgotten this scene of the obedient dogs and their trainer. Nothing was going to move the dogs, except the master's command.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15 the apostle Paul writes of the defeat of death and the victory inherent in the resurrection.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”


“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory 

through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since we already have the victory, Paul instructs us to be immovable. 

58 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.

Stay in place.

Lock your eyes on the eyes of Jesus.

Stay anchored. (See HERE.)

Stay planted. (See HERE.)

Let nothing move you, except the voice of your Master.

Stay Content

(Fisher Theater, Detroit)

I am promised peace and contentment that surpasses human intelligence and transcends life's circumstances. There is a place of calm, of rest, available and accessible to me. 

The biblical "fruit of the Spirit" is noncircumstantial (Galatians 5:22-23). Otherwise, my attitudes would go up and down with the news. 

I am told that the heart-conditions of being at peace, being kind, being joyful, and so on, are independent of my life circumstances. Otherwise love, peace, patience, kindness, and so on, rise or fall depending on what I am facing. The real thing, if it exists at all, must be something unattached to the vicissitudes of life.

True contentment, as well, is noncircumstantial. We see this in Paul, who wrote:

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)

Whatever the circumstances. I want to learn that secret! While not yet my full possession, it is my desire. To have it is to be free. Out of such freedom, I am able to love and live. 

How is true contentment attained? Contentment is a function of connectedness. Contentment increases as I am attached, branchlike, to Jesus, who is Vinelike. 

Any other answer to human flourishing is foolish. This is important to understand, in the midst of our materialist, entertainment, consumer culture. Thomas Merton writes: 

"If we are fools enough to remain at the mercy of people who want to sell us happiness, it will be impossible for us ever to be content with anything. How would they profit if we became content? We would no longer need their new product. The last thing the salesman wants is for the buyer to become content. You are no use in our affluent society unless you are always about to grasp what you never have." (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 84)

Our culture mitigates against contentment. It thrives on perpetual discontentedment. Imagine how unhelpful this is in a pandemic.

True contentment requires an a-cultural stance that is circumstance-free. From this transcendent point of view, our hearts have risen above life's conditions. We begin to see earth, through the lens of heaven.

Stay content.


Saturday, August 21, 2021

Want to Deepen Your Faith This Fall? Join me and others...




The following courses will be offered during the Fall Term

The Class Syllabuses can be found here.

The Class Times are 8 PM EDT, 7 PM CDT, 6 PM MDT, 5 PM PDT.


1. Communicating God's Word- Tim Curry

  Sunday night @ 8 PM ET Starting September 19,2021–October 24,2021

2. Apologetics (arguments for God, answers to key objections, witnessing to other religions) - John Piippo

  Monday night @ 8 PM ET Starting September 20, 2021–October 25, 2021

3. Hearing God’s Voice – Ed Owens

 Tuesday night @ 8 PM ET Starting September 21, 2021–October 26, 2021 

4. "Breaking Every Chain" Experiencing Victory in Christ – Clayton Ford

  Thursday night @ 8 PM ET Starting September 23, 2021–October 28, 2021

Avoid the Arguer

Torrey Pines, California

"Get away from a man who argues every time he talks."

- Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert

Do not partner with an argumentative person. 

The argumentative person is not to be your companion. 

Love them, but do not get entangled with them.

Let us reason together? Yes. Formulate and evaluate arguments? Of course. 
Argumentativeness? No.

Do not enter into the arguments of the argumentative person. 
They are fishing for a fight. 
Don't take their bait.

What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 
You desire but do not have, so you kill.
You covet but you cannot get what you want,
so you quarrel and fight. 

James 4

Relationships in the New Community are not 
like living in a court of law. 
Argue? Yes. Discuss? Debate? Yes. 
Reason together? Of course. 
And. always in love. 
Argumentative? No.

Don't go looking for a fight. 
Wage war against the devil, not people. 
If it has flesh and blood, it's not your real enemy.

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.
For they cannot rest until they do evil;
they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble.

Proverbs 4:14-16

Be a peacemaker. 
Lay down your swords. Beat them into plowshares. 
Convert your military weapons into instruments of righteousness and peace. 
Anyone can desire peace. 
Peace-makers are rare, 
are blessed, 
and are called the offspring of God. 

  1. Be at peace with God.
  2. Peace with God brings peace within.
  3. Peace within leads to peace with others.


  1. Abide in Christ.
  2. Christ gives you his peace, a peace unlike this world gives.
  3. Bring this heart of peace into your flesh-and-blood relationships.
In Christ there is peace (everlastingly so, 
in the Triune Godhead).

You are in Christ.

Fulfill the prayer of Jesus in John 17 to "be one"
with others, as the Son, the Spirit, and the Father are one.

My two books are:

Coming soon - Deconstructing Progressive Christianity

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Naturalistic Fallacy (You Can't Derive Moral Facts from Scientific Facts)


David Hume's famous "naturalistic fallacy" is: one can't derive a moral conclusion from a non-moral premise (See Burton Porter, Deity and Morality: With Regard to the Naturalistic Fallacy). Assuming this to be true, it follows that scientific facts contain no claim of inference to moral facts. Science says nothing about morality. 

A scientific fact can serve as a premise in a moral argument (an argument that concludes with a moral fact), but a scientific fact on its own cannot conclude with a moral fact. (On this see Lewis Vaughn's chapter on applying logic to moral reasoning in his The Power of Critical Thinking, which I taught to my Logic students.)

If one believes there are moral truths (moral facts; i.e. moral statements/propositions), then one must admit that science does not explain everything (as scientistic persons claim). Or, if science explains everything, then there are no moral facts. On this reasoning it would be absurd to make moral judgments such as Racism is wrong. Indeed, some physicalist ethicists affirm that moral facts are nonexistent. (Cmp. the intrinsic absurdity of, e.g., the moral outrage of a Richard Dawkins against religious people.)

If a scientistic person (viz., one who makes the non-scientific and faith-based circular claim "All facts are physical facts") argues that evolutionary theory exhaustively explains moral truths, they have committed the genetic fallacy.

If one believes moral truths exist (such as Racism is wrong), then one is philosophically indebted to the following: Non-physical facts exist. The question of the ontological status of nonphysical facts then arises. On this see, e.g., Beyond the Control of God?: Six Views on The Problem of God and Abstract Objects, Paul Gould ed.