Friday, December 31, 2021

Monday, December 27, 2021

4 Resolutions for 2022

 


(I took this photo in Istanbul. The reflection of the man makes it look like he is eyeing the Turkish delight.)

(I preached on this at Redeemer yesterday. You can listen HERE.)

The word "resolution," in music, means "the passing of a voice part from a dissonant to a consonant tone or from dissonance to consonance."  

For example, if a musical piece is in the key of C, G is the 5th. A musical piece that ends on the 5th begs to be resolved to the 1st, or tonic chord, which is in this case C. The unresolved 5th causes one to inwardly strain and lean towards the anticipated 1st.

To "resolve" means: fixity of purpose, resoluteness. For example: His comments were intended to weaken her resolve but they only served to strengthen it. (From here.)

This week I am printing out these four resolutions, which I resolve to live out. I'll carry them with me. I will pray them, often. I want them to get inside me, and become living and active.

1. I Resolve to inquire of the Lord.

2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4)

Bring life's dissonance before the Lord. Inquire of God, regarding the chaos and incompleteness. You've tried to figure it out yourself; instead, seek God about this. Not just once in a while, but today, and every day. 

Place your trust in God, now. Get alone with God and receive direction. 

As God called Jehoshaphat to declare a fast in response to unresolved dissonance in Judah, so God has promised to shepherd you through all things. God is willing to direct your paths.

Resolve to inquire of God, today and every day.

2. I Resolve that my mouth will not bring destruction.

2 May my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right. 

3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing; 
I have resolved that my mouth will not sin. 4 As for the deeds of men—
by the word of your lips
I have kept myself
from the ways of the violent. 
(Psalm 17:2-4)

I will keep my mouth shut, unless my words serve to build up others.

I will meet, often and alone, with God. I will abide in Christ. I will dwell in his presence. God will shape and form my heart into Christlikeness. (Gal. 4:19) This Jesus-heart will produce what comes out of the space between my lips.

Resolve that your mouth will not destroy, today and every day.

3. I Resolve not to defile my soul with the enemy's "turkish delight."

7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. 
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel... (Daniel 1:7-9)

Daniel refuses to allow King Nebuchadnezzar to redefine his identity. Daniel "resolved"; i.e., Daniel "set upon his heart" not to pollute himself. 

Daniel set his heart not to compromise himself by accepting redefinition as a Babylonian. This is the matter of allegiance.

When Linda and I were in Istanbul, Turkey, we tasted their famous dessert - called "Turkish delight." Turkish delight will be familiar to fans of C.S. Lewis. In Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund meets the White Witch, who seduces him with a delicious piece of candy called "turkish delight." He eats it, betraying Aslan, and his defiled heart falls under the Witch's dark spell.

Today, resolve not to compromise your allegiance to Jesus as your Lord.

4. I Resolve to know Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

Learn about Jesus. 


Learn Jesus. 

Fix on him. 

Sum all things up in Jesus.

Resolve to know Christ and him crucified. Today.

Tomorrow...

Make Discipleship Your Focus in January

 



The month of January has 31 days.

My devotional book has 31 short entries.

Therefore...?

$2.99 for Kindle. $4.99 for paperback.


TABLE OF CONTENTS  

Letter 1 - A Disciple of Jesus Takes Control of Their Schedule  

Letter 2 - A Disciple of Jesus Is a Praying Person  

Letter 3 - A Disciple of Jesus Learns to Hear the Voice of Jesus  

Letter 4 - An Apprentice to Jesus Reads The Book  

Letter 5 - A Disciple Is a Servant  

Letter 6 - A Follow of Jesus Forgives Others  

Letter 7 - Disciples of Jesus Meet on Sunday Mornings  

Letter 8 - A Disciple of Jesus Makes Other Disciples 

Letter 9 - A Disciple of Jesus Grows to Be Like Jesus  

Letter 10 - A Disciple Grows in Discernment  

Letter 11 - A Disciple Worships the Lord  

Letter 12 - A Disciple Leaves Their Comfort Zone  

Letter 13 - A Disciple Grows in Compassion  

Letter 14 - A Disciple of Jesus is Interruptible  

Letter 15 - A Disciple Is a Living Sacrifice  

Letter 16 - A Disciple Exercises in the Spiritual Gymnasium  

Letter 17 - A Disciple Experiences Union in Christ  

Letter 18 - A Disciple Leaves Everything to Follow Jesus  

Letter 19 - A Disciple Follows Jesus as Their Lord

Letter 20 - An Apprentice to Jesus Says “Thank You”  

Letter 21 - A Disciple Lives in the Presence of God  

Letter 22 - A Disciple Is a Vessel for the Power of God  

Letter 23 - A Disciple of Christ Confesses Their Sins  

Letter 24 - Disciples of Christ Are Humble  

Letter 25 - Disciples of Jesus Love as He Loves  

Letter 26 - Disciples of Jesus Experience Manifestations of the Holy Spirit  

Letter 27 - Disciples Have Healthy Boundaries  

Letter 28 - Disciples of Jesus Are Authentic

Letter 29 - Disciples of Christ Understand They Are in a Spiritual Battle  

Letter 30 - A Disciple Gives to Others 

Letter 31 - Disciples of Jesus Finish Well

Sunday, December 26, 2021

'Twas the Day After Christmas

(Bozeman, Montana)

Today is December 26.  

The day after Christmas is important for all who follow Jesus. 

How we spend our time, talents, and resources today signifies who, and what, we believe in.

Linda and I live in the overflow of the birth of Christ. Christ is the gift that keeps on taking, and giving. 

Today, Christ is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, reconciling us to our Creator.

Today, our sorrow is traded for His joy.

Today, our imprisonment is acquitted on all counts, and His freedom is bestowed.

Today, Christ takes and gives. Today is a day of taking and giving.

The Incarnation is the pivot upon which our lives turn. 

Because of Christmas, we will never be the same. 

As splendid as Christmas Day was, today is better. The long winter waiting has ended. The long-expected Messiah has come. 

Today, He is wonderful.

Today, He is counselor.

Today, he is Mighty God.

Today, He is everlasting Father.

Today, He is Prince of Peace.

Decades ago, Linda and I met Him. And everything in our lives changed. Christmas, the day of endless taking and giving, began, in us. Christmas, with all its transcendent realities, was born. 

Christ-mass. 

The worship of Christ. 

It's December 26. The real celebration goes on in the hearts of all who have been found by Him.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas Day - Jesus Comes to Save Us From Our Distress





In the first "Creed" movie there is a scene where the old boxer Rocky Balboa is training Apollo Creed's son Adonis in the gym. They are looking into a mirror (2:25 in the clip above). Rocky points to the young boxer and says, 

"See this guy here? That's the toughest opponent you're ever going to have to face. I believe that's true in the ring, and I believe that's true in life."


It's not a stretch to say that my toughest battles happen in my own mind. Francis Frangipane called the human mind one of the "three battlegrounds." 
The apostle Paul knew about this. He instructed us to "take every thought captive," because if we don't, our thoughts will capture us.

Neil Anderson writes of this inner battle in The Bondage Breaker. Steve Backlund shows us how to do battle against false thinking with his declarations.

A few years ago KoЯn's guitarist Brian Welch wrote an autobiography called Save Me From Myself. That was the best book I read that year, echoing a prayer I've brought before God for four decades. 

When I was in seminary I was introduced to psychologist Albert Ellis's Rational Emotive Behavior TherapyThe goal of REBT is to change irrational beliefs to more rational ones. Ellis's work was about the power of words and thoughts to affect feelings and behaviors. The transformative power of language was at the heart of my doctoral dissertation on metaphor theory.

Today, we have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. "CBT aims to help people become aware of when they make negative interpretations, and of behavioral patterns which reinforce the distorted thinking.  Cognitive therapy helps people to develop alternative ways of thinking and behaving which aims to reduce their psychological distress."

Jesus comes to save me from my psychological distress. Thomas Merton writes:

God,  "save me from myself. Save me from my own, private, poisonous urge to change everything, to act without reason, to move for movement’s sake, to unsettle everything You have ordained. Let me rest in Your will and be silent. Then the light of Your joy will warm my life. Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for your glory. This is what I live for." (Merton, A Book of Hours)


This is core to "working out my salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12) I need to be rescued and redeemed and freed from my own self every day. 

It's Christmas Day. The Son of God came in human form to save us from self-inflicted psychological distress. That's why the angel told Joseph to name the baby "Jesus."

Friday, December 24, 2021

Violent Night (The Real Christmas Story)



Monroe

In Revelation 12:1-7 we have an alternative nativity story. Eugene Peterson writes:  “This is not the nativity story we grew up with, but it is the nativity story all the same.” (Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, 121)

This is why C.S. Lewis referred to the birth of Christ as an act of war. Christmas, said Lewis, is about "The Great Invasion." In chapter 7 of Mere Christianity he writes:

"One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe--a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin...  

Christianity agrees that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage." 

Christmas Eve was the night before the Great Invasion. The creatures were stirring, even the mouse. We see this upheaval in the non-happy-holiday telling of Christmas found in Revelation 12:1-7. It reads:

A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. 

And there was war in heaven.

Robert Mounce says that: 
  1. The "woman" here is not Mary, but the messianic community, the "ideal Israel"
  2. Out of the messianic community is born a "child," a Messiah; 
  3. The seven-headed red dragon is Satan (Rev. 12:9; 20:2); and
  4. Satan is looking to devour this child; AKA Jesus the Christ. 

Mary has already been prophetically warned about such things. In Luke 2 we read that...

...the old man "Simeon took him [baby Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." 

The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." 

Violent night

Holy night

All's not calm

All's not bright


Christmas Eve - that violent night when the Light of the World descended into darkness...

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Christmas: Why God Rescued the Human Heart

 

(Bolles Harbor, Monroe)

As I was standing in the funeral home, after the service, an elderly man came and shook my hand. "Very good job," he said, with a large smile.
Thank you.

"Of course," he added, "I forgot to put in my hearing aid, and didn't hear a word you said."

He was smiling as he told me this. I smiled and thanked him for the compliment.

Please put your hearing aid in, because God has something he wants to say that, if you are a Jesus-follower, will focus you during the American secularized "holidays." The mission of Jesus is to captivate, capture, and cure human hearts. 

It will help to understand this word “heart,” used over 300 times in the Bible.

The heart is that spiritual part of you where your emotions and desires dwell. “Heart” is a metaphor for the location of your most basic orientation, your deepest commitments. “Heart” concerns what you trust the most. Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

The biblical metaphorical heart concerns what we most love and hope in, what we most treasure, what captures our imagination. Jesus said, Where you find your treasure, there you will find your heart.

The “heart” has to do with inclination and orientation. Like – Do you have a heart for jazz music? Or – Do you have a heart for the little girls in Bangkok caught up in sex trafficking?

Your heart has an inclination (Genesis 6:5), something it leans towards. The orientation of your heart controls everything — your thinking, feeling, decisions, and actions – like the incline of a mountain controls the flow of water.

“Heart” is what you most love and, therefore, find most reasonable, desirable, and doable.
The "heart" is the core of a person.

No wonder Jesus is so concerned about our hearts. No wonder God sees outward actions as manifestations of the heart. Because, if you can change a human heart, you can change their behaviors. 
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. 
People look at the outward appearance, 
but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
People look at selfies; God looks at souls. God looks at orientation and inclination. God looks at what we cherish. Because whatever we most cherish in our heart controls our entire person.

In this sense, God has a heart. God has emotions and desires. God has purposes and motives and a rock-solid orientation. Therefore, God can be said to have a heart. And, David can be called a man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). This means David's purposes, motives, and inclinations inclined to God. 
The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, 
the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:11)
God’s heart inclines towards his creation. Especially you. And me. YOU are on God’s heart… right now… as you read these words. Like a loving parent has their children on their heart, so, also, God is captivated by you.

God awaits a response, from you. God wants your heart to be captivated by him, to look to him, to love and trust him. 

He tends his flock like a shepherd: 
He gathers the lambs in his arms 
and carries them close to his heart. (Isaiah 40:11) 

This is why it grieves the heart of God when one of his children gets disoriented and jumps out of his arms (Genesis 6:6).

God created you. You have been fashioned in God’s image. God has a heart. Therefore, you have a heart.

God made you to have the kind of heart he has. To share His orientation, his motives, his inclinations, his desires, and to cherish what he cherishes. To accomplish this, God has planted seeds of his thoughts and ideas and truths in your heart.

In every heart there is a longing for God. I call this the primal metaphysical impulse, the ontological desire for something more, for the transcendent. I saw it in the college students in my philosophy classes. They wanted to talk about the Big Questions of life. I saw a basic longing for more than mere materiality, for more than what the media can give them. 

OK… but what if they are an atheist? No matter – I see it in them, too. As atheist Julian Barnes wrote at the beginning of Nothing to Be Frightened Of, “I don’t believe in God. But I miss him.”

Correct. 
Because God has made everyone in his image, which essentially means: with his heart.
One night, years ago, Linda, Josh, and I were driving home from seeing a movie in Toledo. It was a beautiful, clear, starry night. I heard the Perseid meteor shower was peaking. I asked Linda and Josh if we could drive to Bolles Harbor on Lake Erie and look for meteors. It was almost midnight when we pulled in. I turned off the car. We sat in black silence.

We saw five meteors that night. 
I thought about God, because God made this vast universe, as well as the inclination of my heart to attribute it to him.
What may be known about God is plain to [us] them, because God has made it plain to [us] them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)

God has also placed – deep within every human heart – a basic sense of right and wrong. I saw this when I taught my logic classes. One section of the class was on applying formal and informal logic to ethical systems. I would take my dry erase marker and write this sentence on the white board: It is wrong to rape little girls for fun. And, behold! The moral law manifested itself in every student's heart. 
Yes, it is really, objectively, wrong to do that.
C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, called this the “key to the meaning of the universe”; viz., the existence of objective moral values. Lewis wrote an entire book dedicated to this – The Abolition of Man – where he discovers the Golden Rule in all cultures big and small. (My friend William Lane Craig presents his metaethical argument for God’s existence, using as an evidential premise the statement Objective moral values and duties exist.)

14 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them. (Romans 2:14)

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Psalm 84:2)

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; 
even at night my heart instructs me. (Psalm 16:7)

Your heart is a hard drive containing the software of God’s moral code, humming behind the scenes and teaching you, even while you sleep. In his amazing book Addiction and Grace, clinical psychiatrist Dr. Gerald May, wrote:

“After twenty years of listening to the yearnings of people’s hearts, I am convinced that human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not, this desire is our deepest longing and most precious treasure.”

God has placed His treasures, the things he cherishes, how he is oriented, how he is wired, in every human heart. In your heart, too. 

Therefore, guard this.

Don’t give your heart to just anything!

WARNING! 

Above all else, guard your heart
for everything you do flows from it.  (Proverbs 4:23)

This is the most important thing about you. Guard your true orientation. Guard the metaphysical impulse. Protect what you were made for, and inclined to go after. Because from the heart, actions come. 

Here is the order:

First, your heart.

Second, what you do. 
Your orientation; your inclinations; your motives; your passions; what you worship… such things determine what we do.

For where your treasure is, 
there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

As water reflects the face, 
so one’s life reflects the heart. (Proverbs 27:19)

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)

Christmas is the story of how God came to rescue and redeem that which was made in his image. 

He comes to give you himself, to fill your heart with all the fullness of Christ. 

When that happens, as it has happened to me and perhaps you as well, out of our hearts come words like these: 

O come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Pastors and Church Leaders - An Experiment in Disciple-making

 


This is an experiment in disciple-making.

My new book is a 31-day devotional on discipleship. I invite you to do this with your church family in the month of January, or in the month of March.

Format:

  • Purchase my book. ($2.99 for Kindle; $4.99 for paperback)
  • Read one entry per day, in January, or in March. Take notes. When God speaks to you, write it down.
  • Pastors - focus your sermons in on discipleship and disciple-making.
  • Finally, join me on a Zoom call (free) to do an afterglow on the theme of discipleship.
Pastors and Church Leaders - does this interest you? If you would like to do this with me in January, or in March, please let me know. If you would like to do this, but in another month, let me know.

Blessings!

John Piippo

johnpiippo@msn.com

DISCOVERING JESUS THIS CHRISTMAS - NO 22 - JESUS REINTERPRETED THE JEWISH FESTIVALS IN TERMS OF HIMSELF