Thursday, September 30, 2021

"Leading the Presence-Driven Church" Zoominar Oct. 27


I'll be teaching my presence-driven leadership strategy for the Annual Gathering of American Baptist Churches of Michigan. What a privilege! (Thank you Brian.)

Wed., Oct. 27, 7 PM.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Deconstructing Progressive Christianity (My Book)


My book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity is completed.

My hope is to have it published in early 2022 if not before.


1. Introduction: What Is Progressive Christianity?

2. The Roots of Progressive Christianity: Political Progressivism

3. The Roots of Progressive Christianity: Postmodernism

4. Are Beliefs Less Important than Behaviors?

5. At the Same Table, but Not on the Same Page

6. Can We Know Who God Is?

7. Can We Know Who Jesus Is?

8. Is the Atonement “Cosmic Child Abuse?”

9. Was Jesus Really Raised from the Dead?

10. What About the Supernatural?

11. The Battle for the Authority of the Bible

12. Marriage is Between and a Man and a Woman

13. The Myth of Progress

14. Love and Wrath

15. For Such a Time as This

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Pride: A Checklist

Linda and me, with Payne Theological Seminary friends

God is opposed to the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.

James 4:6

Those are strong words! In areas of pride, God is against us. Pride in us hinders others from experiencing God's love, mercy, and grace.

C.S. Lewis once wrote that the true Christian's nostrils must be constantly attuned to the inner cesspool. That cesspool includes pride. 

Do I, do you, have ungodly pride in your heart? In my praying time yesterday I was bringing, before the Lord, some areas of pride that are within my heart, and asking God to remove them.

Michael Brown, in Revolution in the Church: Challenging the Religious System with a Call for Radical Change, provides a checklist of potential evidences of pride. If you have a pointy finger, aim it at yourself as you read these. If the shoe fits, confess and turn from the prideful attitude.

  • You are accountable to no one. 
  • You think you are “the one”—that your church, your ministry, your anointing or your teaching is the necessary ingredient for true revival or evangelism or growth. 
  • Your opinion is always more important than the opinion of others. 
  • You are able to find sin in the lives of others but not in your own. 
  • You are quarrelsome. 
  • You find it difficult to be a team player. 
  • You are always right about everything. 
  • You are slow to repent. 
  • You find it difficult to say, “I’m sorry,” without defending yourself or blaming others. 
  • You refuse to take help. 
  • You are unteachable. 
  • You are unable to recognize others’ accomplishments or rejoice in their successes. 
  • You are unable to say, “I’m hurting; I’m in trouble.” 
  • You never reverse your path when wrong, but make only minor adjustments. 
  • You always think, “This message is for someone else, not me.” 
  • You fail to realize when God is trying to get your attention, when He is correcting you, when He is judging you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Historically Christian View of Marriage: Part 1 (Preston Sprinkle)

Part 2 is HERE. ("Arguments Against the Historic Christian View")

What to Do When You Are Upset With Someone In the Church


What is a person to do if they don't like something, or someone, in their church family? Here are my thoughts.

1. There is always something, or someone, not to like in any family, including a church family. Depending on the situation, God might lead you to show grace towards them. I probably would lose count if I knew how many people have chosen to show me grace and love when I have not pleased them.

But some situations need to be confronted.

2. There is always everyone to love in a church family. So, if you don't like something someone does, then your job description is to love them. This means...

3. Speak the truth, in love, to them. Here is how you do that.

4. Scripture tells us to go to the person with whom you have an offense. (Matthew 18:15) This is so crucial that you are not even supposed to worship until you go to a brother or sister who has something against you! (Matthew 5:23-24)

This is revolutionary! This means you do not talk to other people about the person. You go to the person.

I remember teaching these verses in a church class. A woman from Malawi, Africa, was there. I remember her saying, "If we really practiced this in my church, all of us would leave the building, find people we are in conflict with, and lovingly share our concerns with them!"

5. If that does not work, then approach church leadership. Share with them that you want help in dealing lovingly and truthfully with someone who has upset you.

Now, let's say you are ready to go to the person. Note: If this person is going to abuse you, then bring a church leader with you.

Pray. For yourself, and the person, that truth will be spoken in love. You are going to the person because you love them, and you want to make the situation right.

Speak for your own self, and not for others. Do not say things like, "Many others are upset with you too." If you know of someone else who is upset, direct them to the person, just as you are doing. If they refuse to do this, they have taken what John Bevere called "the bait of Satan." Have no part in this evil.

When you speak to the person, begin with love.  Begin your sentences with "I," rather than "you." Instead of saying "You upset me," own your feeling with words like "I feel upset _____________." Fill in the blank with a behavior; e.g., "I felt angry when you did not call me when you said you would." Or, "I felt angry when you called me irresponsible." "You"-language puts the other person on the defensive; "I"-language acknowledges your responsibility in the relationship. For how to do this, read this

Do not use negative descriptive adjectives when confronting the person in love (like these). Behind every adjective there is a judgment. You are not the judge of the other person, and do not want to come off that way to them. Instead, refer to behaviors. 

Listen to the person, for the sake of understanding. Your goal is understanding, more than it is agreement. Remember that you cannot begin to agree or disagree until you understand.

Be prepared to confess and forgive. You both may need to do this. For how to do this, read this, and this. And, see "The First Two Steps in Relationship Restoration." 

Follow this template, concerning speaking the truth in love. 

Have these attitudes, not only in your words, but in your countenance and behavior. 

Listen, understand, assert, love.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Trusting in Our Critical Thinking Apparatus In the Absence of Evidence

Here's a nice article on the need for critical thinking by Michael Lynch.

I have one observation. Lynch seems to be over-favoring a W.K. Clifford-type of "evidentialism." Which is: if you cannot provide evidence for a belief, then that belief is not worthy to be embraced.

In response to this, consider the philosophical idea that there are "properly basic beliefs." See Alvin Plantinga, William P. Alston, et. al.

Things such as the laws of logic, the veridicality of sense perception, and objective moral values seem to be properly basic. We are rational in believing them even though we cannot evidentially argue for them (since to do that one would need to assume the very thing one is trying to prove). This forms a response to Lynch's statements: "After all, if all reasons are grounded on something arbitrary, then no one’s principles rest on any firmer foundation than anyone else’s. It seems to give us the freedom to go with any epistemic principle we choose."

Properly basic beliefs are not "arbitrary." Yet they cannot be evidentially proven. (This is the philosophical objection to the "evidentialism" of, e.g., a W.K. Clifford.) To prove that the laws of logic are epistemically trustworthy one would have to assume the laws of logic in arguing for this. To argue for the veridicality of our sense experience one would require using our senses to empirically verify that our senses are trustworthy.

There are things critical thinking cannot prove, either deductively or inductively. One of those things is the trustworthiness of our critical thinking apparatus. What can we do? Assume it is rational to continue trusting in it in the absence of reasonable doubt.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

How Could a Good God Send People to Hell (and other questions...)

On Monday night, Sept. 20, 8-9:30 PM EST, I will answer the question "How Could a Good God Send People to Hell."  

Take my Apologetics class in Renewal School of Ministry and I'll show you how to answer this, and other questions.

Register here.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

(Our grandson Levi)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3

Being "poor in spirit" is about an attitude. It is a heart-thing. It's related to humility.

I was praying this verse last night, and God told me: "Diminish." Become less, so that God can become more.

Craig Evans writes: "The opposite of the poor in spirit are "violent men" who try to take the kingdom of heaven by force (Matthew 11:12), men who will not humble themselves and become like children (Matthew 18:3; 19:14)." (Craig Evans, Matthew, 104)

I am to get small, so God can loom large.

Craig Keener says "["poor in spirit"] refers not merely to the materially poor and oppressed, but to those who have "taken that condition to their very heart, by not allowing themselves to be deceived by the attraction of wealth" (quoting Sean Freyne, Galilee, Jesus and the Gospels: Literary Approaches and Historical Investigations, p. 72). Although Matthew does not stress renunciation of possessions to the same degree as Luke, for him as well the kingdom belongs to the powerless of the world, to the oppressed who embrace the poverty of their condition by trusting in God rather than favors from the powerful for their deliverance." (Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 169)

I am to get less, get simple, so God can show his beauty.

Michael Wilkins writes:

"The kingdom of God belongs to those who know they have no resources, material or spiritual, to help themselves before God. These are the "poor" to whom Jesus has come to announce "good news" (Matt. 11:5) and to whom the kingdom belongs." (Michael J. Wilkins, The NV Application Commentary: Matthew, 206)

In my spiritual poverty I am blessed, for God rules and reigns over me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Why Does God Care if We Worship? (By Holly Collins)


(Our Worship Director, Holly Collins, sent this out to our church family today. I have her permission to post it here.)

I want to share with you something I felt God said this past Sunday morning during our worship. I know this was a word for my family and I and I hope it will be an encouragement to you, too! 

Psalm 24:7  "Lift up your heads, O gates! ... that the King of glory may come in." 

As we were singing, "Reign Above it All," I saw a picture of our world, but it was flat, almost like the bottom layer of a cake. It was dark and swirling, chaotic. Billions of people in different shapes and angles crammed together. At times I could see individual expressions of pain, anger, disappointment, fear, division, etc. The layer had movement to it but no one came out of it.  At first I was in the thick of that layer and the influence felt overwhelming. Michael and I, and our girls, are currently in the middle of some circumstances that leave me very often feeling frustrated, fearful and not knowing what to do. I forget too often to look for God's help and perspective first, above my own worries or solutions.  In the middle of standing in this layer, I heard God shout, "LIFT UP YOUR HEAD, SO THE KING OF GLORY CAN COME IN," over and over again. 

As I obeyed and lifted up my head, my neck started to stretch so that my head slowly rose out and above that earthly layer, which all of a sudden felt like a prison. The higher above it my head got, the greater the freedom and the bigger the space above that earthly layer became...the amount of space and light was incomprehensible, unable to be contained in words. The earthly layer became smaller and smaller. My feet remained in the earthly layer, but as if I'd eaten of the mushroom from Alice in Wonderland, my body had grown exponentially above it. And then, the throne. I locked eyes with the King of Glory. He stood up and started coming. The frustration and fear of our current circumstances immediately dissipated. They weren't forgotten, but my perspective had changed completely. The panic was gone.  The fear over not knowing how they would turn out was gone. Hope returned that wisdom & discernment was coming. Peace was in its place and the resolve to trust and praise Him took over.

I am often asked, as a worship leader, why does God care if we worship? Why do we have to sing or raise our hands? Is God some ego-maniac that He must hear us tell Him how wonderful He is all the time? The answer, I think, to these questions is this. Worship is the physical practice of putting our flesh/spirit/soul in alignment with God's thinking and the knowledge of Him. I would venture to say that most of spiritual warfare happens between the ears of humanity. Our stinking thinking is the enemy's footstool. If he can keep us seeing and living from this small, claustrophobic earthly layer, his destruction is pretty effortless.  But, when we lift up our heads and look at the One who reigns above it all, our lives change, our thinking changes, our power changes, etc. Worship allows us to lift up our heads, to look above it all and see God. When we declare who He is, we see who He is. God doesn't need us to worship for His sake. He desires us to worship for our sake. Worship is other-mindedness on our part in exchange to gain His mind, which is truth! 

So, God has lovingly reminded me that He's got this! The King of Glory has my home. The King of Glory has my children and He's coming in with help, solutions, and peace...His reign and rule. I need only to lift up my head to see Him...for He is more true than my circumstances. 
                       Praise will be my breakthrough
                       My song becomes my triumph
                       Worship is my warfare
                       My victory is You, my victory is in You


Holly Collins
Redeemer Fellowship Church
Worship Director

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Search for Belonging


                                                                     (Plant on our deck.)

Henri Nouwen writes:

"When productivity is our main way of overcoming self-doubt, we are extremely vulnerable to rejection and criticism and prone to inner anxiety and depression. Productivity can never give the deep sense of belonging we crave. The more we produce, the more we realize that successes and results cannot give us the experience of “at homeness.” In fact, our productivity reveals to us that we are driven by fear."

Friday, September 10, 2021

How to See into the Spiritual Realm


Also live streamed here -

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Churches Need Discernment in Such a Time as This


When James Goll spoke to us at our online conference (here, via HSRM) he said this. "Be led. Not pushed." That is, be led by the Holy Spirit, and not pushed or pressured by the surrounding culture. I love that! This is about discernment.

One thing the followers of Jesus need during the pandemic and economic crisis is discernmentThe church leadership question is, "God, what are you saying to us?" 

To answer this question requires much time spent in God's presence, with the Scriptures. If this doesn't happen, as an ongoing practice, you can forget hearing from God. 

“Discernment” is a fruit of an abiding prayer life. To "discern" is different from to "decide."

Ruth Haley Barton writes that some pastors have the...

 "vague sense that our approach to decision making should be different from secular models—particularly when we are leading a church or an organization with a spiritual purpose. The problem is that we’re not quite sure what that difference is. In the absence of a clear consensus, that difference often gets reduced to an obligatory devotional (often viewed as irrelevant to the business portion of the meeting) or the perfunctory prayers that bookend the meeting. Sometimes even these well-meaning attempts at a spiritual focus get lost in the shuffle!" (Barton, Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups, Kindle Locations 180-185)

The difference is: God. God's presence. God, doing the leading. God, doing the building. Because unless God builds the house, we are laboring in vain.

What's needed today, in this storm, is discernment

"Discernment," writes Barton, "in a most general sense, is the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God—both in the ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives. The apostle Paul says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can discern what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2). This includes not only the mind of each individual but also the corporate mind." (Ib., Kindle Locations 186-189)

What's needed today, in churches, is mind-renewing transformation. Pastors and church leaders must be living in the rivers of constant spiritual formation and transformation, in order to discern what the will of God is. This is what the whole "church" thing is about. Barton writes:

"It is hard to imagine that spiritual leadership could be about anything but seeking to know and do the will of God, and yet many leadership groups do not have this as their clear mandate and reason for existence. This raises a serious question: If we are not pursuing the will of God together in fairly intentional ways, what are we doing? Our own will? What seems best according to our own thinking and planning? That which is merely strategic or expedient or good for the ego?" (Ib., Kindle Locations 201-205)

The more familiar or intimate we are with someone, the more we are able to discern their heart. The more time spent in close dialogue, the more we recognize their voice. The less familiarity, the less discernment. Spiritual discernment is in direct proportion to our intimacy with God.

Don't focus on trying to make things happen. Focus on intimacy, closeness, with God. In that atmosphere, discernment comes. 

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

I am writing...

Deconstructing Progressive Christianity

How God Changes the Human Heart

Linda and I then hope to co-write our book on Relationships

Monday, September 06, 2021

Living for a Fullness That Is Beyond Ourselves

Miroslav Volf's A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good is a beautiful read! Chapter 1 is worth the price of the entire book - on the nature of "prophetic religion," with the double-movement of "ascent" and "descent," both of which are needed, and needed in a certain way. 

In Ch. 2 Volf writes of the meaning of labor, of work. Volf ties work in with the existential matters of life's meaning and purpose. 

"There are many possible ways of construing the meaning of work. One purpose that immediately comes to mind is to put bread on the table—and a car into the garage or an art object into the living room, some may add. Put more abstractly, the purpose of work is to take care of the needs of the person who does it... But when we consider taking care of ourselves as the main purpose of work, we unwittingly get stuck on the spinning wheel of dissatisfaction. What we possess always lags behind what we desire, and so we become victims of Lewis Carroll’s curse, “Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.” In our quiet moments, we know that we want our lives to have weight and substance and to grow toward some kind of fullness that lies beyond ourselves. Our own selves, and especially the pleasures of our own selves, are insufficient to give meaning to our lives. When the meaning of work is reduced to the well-being of the working self, the result is a feeling of melancholy and unfulfillment, even in the midst of apparent success." (Kindle Location 639)

The antidote to the "rat race" and boredom of work is to live for "some kind of fullness that lies beyond ourselves."

For example, live for this cause.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Be Still and Gain the Long View


Linda and I both have "be still" times with God during the week. Inner stillness is a receptive, uncluttered heart-condition, where we meet with God and "know God." 

The Lord says, 

“Be still, and know that I am God;

    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

- Psalm 46:10-11

Heart-knowledge gained in stillness before God is an experiential reality, even in the midst of outer chaos and forces that work to destroy us. 

Therefore we will not fear, 
though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.
- Psalm 46:2

In stillness we gain experiential knowledge of God-with-us, no matter the circumstances. Our hearts and minds are escorted into The Bigger Picture. 

I like how Philip Yancey writes about this. 

"In testimony given before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa, one black man told of crying out to God as the white officers attached electrodes to his body after beating him with truncheons. They laughed in his face: “We are God here,” jeered one of the guards. The Commission hearings bared the delusion of that brash claim, for the guards, stripped of all power, now sat in a defendants’ box with heads bowed as their accusers paraded before them. They had been dethroned.... 

...For the South African prisoner, or a pastor harassed in China, or believers persecuted in North Korea, it requires a great leap to attain that sublime faith, to believe that God is indeed exalted among the nations. I think of Paul singing in a Philippian jail and of Jesus correcting Pilate with the plain truth, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” Even at that moment of crisis, Jesus had the long view, the view from a time antedating the solar system."

Yancey, Philip. Prayer, Kindle Locations 416-425.

When we pray God shows us The Long View, The Big Picture. We see earth, through heaven. 

My books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

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

I am in process of submitting my book to a publisher - Deconstructing Progressive Christianity. We'll see what happens!

Then, Linda and I will co-author our book on Relationships.

Then, God willing, and unless he leads otherwise, I have 900 pages of unedited manuscript on How God Changes the Human Heart