Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Preaching on the Kenosis This Coming Sunday



I'm preaching on the Kenosis this coming Sunday at Redeemer.

My prep for this message includes:

Reading the text, over and over. Carrying it with me. Pulling it out when I have breaks, and meditating on it.

Using Gordon Fee's brilliant book Pauline Christology to go deep.

Praying the text. When God speaks to me, I take notes. Some of these will make it into this Sunday's sermon.

Expecting God to make this sermon more than human thoughts and words.

Sensing that God will take it all and activate our people with a fresh anointing of His Spirit for discipleship.

Philippians 2:5-11

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing (Greek kenosis; ἐκένωσεν ]
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! 

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Gratitude Links + Thanksgiving Declarations

                                       (Redeemer sanctuary)

It's the day before Thanksgiving Day. Be thankful!

Gratitude is greater than bitterness. Thankfulness is better than resentment. 

Colossians 3:15 says:

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

A heart of thankfulness positively affects one’s entire being. Some scientific studies confirm this. Here are some of them.

From “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier” (Harvard Medical School)

  • “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
  • Dr. Martin Seligman (University of Pennsylvania) says most studies on showing gratitude to others support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.
  • Gratitude can improve relationships. “For example, a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.
  • Gratitude is associated with emotional maturity.
  • “Gratitude is a way for people to appreciate what they have instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make them happier, or thinking they can’t feel satisfied until every physical and material need is met. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with use and practice.”

Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude on a regular basis.
·        Write a thank-you note.
·        Thank someone mentally. (“It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.”)
·        Keep a gratitude journal. I make lists of things I am thankful for and carry them with me.
·        Count your blessings.
·        Pray. “People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.”

Research reveals that gratitude can have these benefits.

  • ·        Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  • ·        Gratitude improves physical health. “Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences.”
  • ·        Gratitude improves psychological health. “Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
  • ·        Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. “Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.”
  • ·        Grateful people sleep better. “Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer." 
  • ·        Gratitude improves self-esteem.(Acc. to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology.)
  • ·        Gratitude increases mental strength. (Acc. to a 2006 study in Behavior Research and Therapy, and a 2003 study in the Journal of Personality and social Psychology.

From “Giving Thanks: The Benefits of Gratitude” (Psychology Today)
Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough “point out the benefits of expressing gratitude as ranging from better physical health to improved mental alertness. People who express gratitude also are more likely to offer emotional support to others.

·        “Expressing gratitude in your daily life might even have a protective effect on staving off certain forms of psychological disorders. In a review article published this past March (see below), researchers found that habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.
·        Increase your gratitude-ability by looking for small things to be thankful for.
From “Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude” (University of Berkeley)

·        It’s easy to take gratitude for granted. “That might be why so many people have dismissed gratitude as simple, obvious, and unworthy of serious attention. But that’s starting to change. Recently scientists have begun to chart a course of research aimed at understanding gratitude and the circumstances in which it flourishes or diminishes.”
·        Recent studies on people who practice thankfulness consistently report a number of benefits:
·        Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
·        Higher levels of positive emotions;
·        More joy, optimism, and happiness;
·        Acting with more generosity and compassion;
·        Feeling less lonely and isolated.

From “Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and Mental Health” (Psychiatry Advisor)
Gratitude can have a positive effect on a person’s emotions in four significant ways.

·        First, gratitude magnifies positive emotions by helping us to appreciate the value in something; thus gaining more benefit from it.  

·        Second, it blocks toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment, and regret - emotions that can destroy happiness.  

·        Third, gratitude fosters resiliency.

·        And lastly, gratitude promotes self worth. 

  • Gratitude is good for your heart. “According to a recent study at the University of California, San Diego, being mindful of the things you're thankful for each day actually lowers inflammation in the heart and improves rhythm. Researchers looked at a group of adults with existing heart issues and had some keep a gratitude journal. After just two months, they found that the grateful group actually showed improved heart health.”
  • ·        You’ll smarten up. “Teens who actively practiced an attitude of gratitude had higher GPAs than their ungrateful counterparts, says research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.”
  • ·         It’s good for your relationships. “Expressing gratitude instead of frustration will do more than just smooth things over—it will actually help your emotional health. Expressing and attitude of gratitude raises levels of empathy and abolishes any desire to get even, found researchers at the University of Kentucky.”
  • ·        You’ll sleep more soundly. “ Writing in a gratitude journal before turning in will help you get a longer, deeper night's sleep, says a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.”



Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

My heart is filled with thankfulness because I am encountering God’s goodness and enduring love. (1 Chronicles 16:34)
·       As I listen to worship music I find I cannot stop giving thanks to God. (2 Chronicles 5:13)
·       As I share with others what God is doing in my life, my gratitude overflows onto them. (Psalm 9:1)
·       Today I am approaching God with thanksgiving, music, and songs. (Psalm 95:2)
·       I never fail to remember how God has rescued me. (Psalm 118:21)
·       Sometimes I wake in the night and find myself saying “Thank you” to God. (Psalm 119:62)
·       I see God transforming deserts into gardens, causing joy and gladness to flourish in my soul. (Isaiah 51:3)
·       I am being supernaturally delivered from sin and darkness. (Romans 7:25)
·       I live each day with a victorious mindset. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
·       An ocean of God’s grace is overwhelming me, causing an overflow of thanksgiving that glorifies God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)
·       God is using me to supply the needs of the Lord’s people, resulting in many expressions of thanks to God. (2 Corinthians 9:12)
·       As I remember my brothers and sisters my soul is saturated with prayers of thanks for them. (Ephesians 1:16)

Thursday, November 18, 2021

A Miracle In My Family


When I was a boy in Rockford, Illinois, we had a black and white TV. My father put an antenna on the roof of our house. It picked up three stations. Sometimes, when we wanted to watch a show and it was not coming in, dad would get the ladder, climb on the roof, and turn the antenna to get better reception. From inside the house we would yell things like, "No, that's worse!" Or, "There - that's good!"

One show mom and dad liked watching was "Oral Roberts and You." Roberts was a Pentecostal preacher who claimed to have a gift of healing. Sometimes I watched with them. I can still hear the voice of Roberts as he commanded people to "Be healed!" It seemed like power shot through Roberts's fingers, and people said they felt it. They cried as they were healed.
We were Finnish Lutherans. We don’t cry a lot. We laugh occasionally. We are introverts. We tire of drama. And, we were not exposed to biblical ideas like healing, and deliverance, and words of prophecy, and power. This is unfortunate, since Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is not about talk, but about power. On one level this concept posed no problem for our
family, since introverts didn’t talk. But power? What can that mean? Finnish Lutherans did sing hymns, like "All Hail the Power of Jesus Name," and my favorite, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Imagine a sanctuary of introverts singing the words “power” and “mighty.” I remember thinking that Martin Luther must have believed in a great God to write a song like that!

And then it happened. 

My grandmother was healed of cancer. 

Grandma lived with us six months out of every year when we were growing up. She was four-foot-ten. So was her hair, which she never had
cut. My mother used to braid it for her. I witnessed my Finnish grandmother laugh. I also remember her scowl, when I did something she didn’t like. I think grandma scowled more than she laughed.
When she was in her mid-80s grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer. She decided not to have it medically treated. She was ready to be with Jesus. The cancerous tumors in her breasts were growing, and hard. My mother used to bathe her, and visually saw and physically felt them. It was not looking good for grandma. She was going to die. She had lived a long life, and was ready to leave this world for a better one. She even bought the dress she wanted to be buried in.

When Grandma had spent what we assumed would be her last six months in our home, she went to live with relatives in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. One day our relative called my mother. She said that, while bathing Grandma, she noticed the tumors were not there. Seriously. My mother could not believe this, yet wanted to believe it. Mom traveled 400 miles to visually inspect Grandma and confirm it. The tumors were gone!

Grandma lived twelve more years. She bought three more dresses to be buried in. She died at age ninety-seven. What happened? How can we explain this? I, my mother, and grandma concluded two things:
- Grandma once was cancer-filled, and then one day the cancer was gone.

- God healed Grandma.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Taming My Big Mouth


Back in the era of black and white TV, one of my favorite shows was "The Honeymooners." The show was about the ups and downs of Ralph and Alice Cramden. Ralph was a bus driver, Alice, a homemaker. Ralph had a big heart, but trouble with his mouth. Alice possessed practical wisdom, and exhibited grace. 

Hardly an episode went by without Ralph saying something he shouldn't have. When he realized this, he opened his mouth wide, and said, "Me and my biiiiig mouth!"

It looked like this.

I have said the same, about myself. I've also had moments where I wanted to say something harmful, but didn't. When this happens I thank God for helping me keep my big mouth shut.

James 3:5-6 says,

It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. (The Message)

Richard Foster writes,

"Since sins of speech are so prevalent in human interaction, James offers wisdom to church leaders and members on how these can be avoided in their fellowship. Those who teach must weigh their words with care. But all Christians must be careful with the use of the tongue. A Christian’s speech should bless, not berate or abuse. The tongue betrays the world that is in one’s heart; it is a microcosm of the inner self." 

Here's my prayer, for myself.

God, help me to know when to speak and when to keep silent.


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Conservative Christianity and Progressive Christianity are Two Different Religions


                            (Main entrance, Redeemer Church, on a snowy November Sunday morning)

I'm reading Baylor University sociologist George Yancey's and University of Georgia sociologist of religion Ashlee Quosigk's One Faith No Longer: The Transformation of Christianity in Red and Blue America. One of Yancey's theses is:

"Progressive Christians and conservative Christians have diverged so much in their core values that they ought at this point to be thought of as practitioners of two separate religions." (p. ix)

For my support of this see my recent book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity.

My New Book - Deconstructing Progressive Christianity


Progressive Christianity is a different kind of religion. I show this in my new book, which is now available in both paperback and for Kindle

Progressive Christianity is an ethos, a mind set, more than a movement. It is indebted to political progressivism and postmodern philosophy. It has a trajectory, which is secularism. In Deconstructing Progressive Christianity John Piippo explains this ethos, with its corresponding trajectory. He explains the differences between historic Christianity and progressive Christianity, and finds the latter to be a different kind of religion. In the process of deconstruction we see key missing elements, such as atonement theory, the resurrection of Christ, and non-natural realities. The idea of moral and spiritual human progress is seen as a myth, and progressive beliefs about love are examined. In this book you will come to better understand the progressive ethos as it relates to religion, and why progressive Christianity is best understood as distant from historic Christianity.


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


Monday, November 15, 2021






THURSDAY, NOV. 18  6:30 PM


A love offering will be taken to help our youth put together 15,000 boxed meals and ship them to Haiti!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Demons Like to Be Analyzed; God Wants to Be Loved

Olentangy Indian Caverns, near Columbus, Ohio

In the 1980s I wrote Henri Nouwen a letter, asking him a question. To my delight, Henri wrote me back.

204 of Nouwen's personal letters have been published in Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life. Here we have a repository of depth and wisdom, a deep well dug over years of praying, meditation on Scripture, serving others, and engagement with the Jesus Tribe.

In one of them, written in 1976, Nouwen wrote to a friend who was in a spiritual abyss.

“A simple-minded, simple-eyed commitment to God is all that counts,” Nouwen wrote. “We will never overcome the demons by analyzing them, but only by forgetting them in an all-consuming love for God. God is simple, demons are complex. Demons like to be analyzed, because that keeps our attention directed to them. God wants to be loved.”