Monday, February 28, 2022

Guidelines for Civil Discourse #5 - Understand Before You Evaluate

Detroit Metro Airport

(I'm re-posting this to keep it in play.)

One evening, when we were younger, I came home from work and heard my sons talking with Linda. It sounded like they were arguing with her. I felt anger, strode into the living room, and took charge.

"Stop arguing with your mother!" I said, in a commanding voice.

All three of them stopped, looked at me, and one said, "You don't even know what we are talking about!"

Fools find no pleasure in understanding 
but delight in airing their own opinions.
Proverbs 18:2

I judged, without first understanding. That's foolish. (I evaluate my philosophy students on their understanding, not their agreement or disagreement with the arguments I present. I tell them, you cannot evaluate until you first understand. Otherwise, they are just airing their opinions.)

Proverbs 11:12 counsels:

Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

Understanding breeds compassion. Compassionate people "feel with" the other person, and thus weigh their words.

Judging without understanding is divisive. In all things worth knowing, understanding precedes evaluating. This always takes more time. This is where we go slow. Remember that the relationship is more important than the outcome.

The good doctor examines before diagnosing.

The auto mechanic diagnoses before estimating.

The builder surveys before constructing.

The counselor listens before helping.

The smart consumer researches before purchasing.

The lawyer studies before presenting.

The police officer investigates before citing.
Whoever is patient has great understanding,
but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
Proverbs 14:29

Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
but whoever has understanding 
keeps a straight course.

Proverbs 15:21

The one who has knowledge 
uses words with restraint,
and whoever has understanding 
is even-tempered.
Proverbs 17:27

By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established.
Proverbs 24:23

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

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

My role as a pastor is this:

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

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

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

Pastors: teach your people to:
  • OBEY


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

To Experience God’s Presence, Abide in Christ

(Pear tree in my neighbor's back yard.)

This is from my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church.

We have an old pear tree in our back yard. As I bite into one of these pears I tell Linda, “This is the fruit of the gods!” The pears grow on the branches. The branches are attached to the trunk of the tree. This connection allows the nutrients of the trunk to flow into the branches. To produce pears, the branch just needs to stay connected. It needs to remain, or abide, in the trunk of the tree. 

To be, in the present moment, attached to Jesus is to abide in him. The word can be translated “to remain,” or “to dwell.” 

To dwell is to truly be with someone. “Abide” is an experiential word, describing a lingering, slow-cooked, togetherness. 

The Greek word is menon. It has the sense of tarrying, hanging around, “to be kept continually.” Menon is a kairos word. It connotes, “Slow down, spend the day with me. Kick off your shoes. Here’s a cup of coffee. Let’s recline in the fireplace room, and be together.” 

Menon is a being-word, more than a doing-word. It is a presence word. Menon is active, alert, focused, and engaged. It has the thickness and intensity of a lover, with their beloved. To abide with someone is to full-being be with them, interact with them, and meet with them. It is to hang out together, with cell phones off and stowed away.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Living for More Than Our Satisfied Selves

Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio

Is anyone more more perceptive and lucid concerning American culture than Yale University's Miroslav Volf? In A Public Faith Volf writes of the pervasive sea of shallowness the typical American dwells in (including, I think, the typical American Christian). He's worth quoting in full, with no commentary. 

"We live in an age of great conflicts and petty hopes... [T]he idea of flourishing as a human being has shriveled to meaning no more than leading an experientially satisfying life. The sources of satisfaction may vary: power, possessions, love, religion, sex, food, drugs—whatever. What matters most is not the source of satisfaction but the experience of it—my satisfaction. Our satisfied self is our best hope. Not only is this petty, but a dark shadow of disappointment stubbornly follows our obsession with personal satisfaction." (Volf, A Public Faith, How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good, p. 99)

This is spot-on, right? Think of churches where this manifestation of the American Dream forms and shapes how pastors and leaders "do church." Think of the pressure to satisfy people's petty hopes. Hear the clash of worldviews if the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached. 

The "dark shadow of disappointment" comes when, e.g., things like power, sex, and possessions fail to satisfy us, and off we go like animals hungering for more of the same.

Volf, who is a follower of Jesus, continues: "We are meant to live for something larger than our own satisfied selves. Petty hopes generate self-subverting, melancholy experiences." (Ib., 99-100)

In my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God I write about hearing and discerning the voice of God. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Who I Am in Christ

(On The Badger - Ludington to Manitowoc)

(I am reposting this for a friend.)

Print this out and carry it with you. 

I am accepted

I am God's child.
As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
I have been justified.
I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.
I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
I am a member of Christ's body.
I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
I am complete in Christ.
I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.

I am secure...
I am free from condemnation.
I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
I am hidden with Christ in God.
I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.
I am a citizen of heaven.
I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.
I am significant...
I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.
I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
I am God's temple.
I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
I am God's workmanship.
I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me

A Discipleship Resource for Pastors


Pastors - the month of March has 31 days. My devotional book on discipleship has 31 entries.

Why not encourage your church family to use my book as a discipleship focus for the month of March?

My book, 31 Letters to the Church on Discipleship, is only $2.99 for Kindle, and $4.99 for a softcover.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Presence-Driven Church Bibliography


(Monroe County Community College)

My leadership book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church. See also my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Here are some books that have helped me understand aspects of presence-driven ministry.

Annotated Bibliography

Arnold, Eberhard. Inner Land: A Guide Into the Heart and Soul of the Bible (Rifton, N.Y: Plough Publishing House, 1976). A classic in Anabaptist spirituality.

Barton, Ruth Haley

Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence

Beilby, James K., and Eddy, Paul Rhodes. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views. Arguably, this is the book to read on the current state of spiritual warfare studies.

Black, Gary. Preparing for Heaven: What Dallas Willard Taught Me About Living, Dying, and Eternal LifeA beautiful, inspiring book I could not put down.

Blackaby, Henry T., and King, Claude V. Experiencing God. An excellent, clearly written text that is especially good for church study.

Boyd, Greg. Satan and the Problem of EvilConstructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (IVP: 2001). An excellent study on the kingdom of God, esp. on spiritual battle and the kingdom of Satan. A coherent Christian response to the philosophical problem of evil.

Boyd. Present Perfect: Finding God In the Now. (Zondervan: 2010) This is an excellent, clearly written little book that contains some deep spiritual insights that are not found in other spirituality texts. Greg’s meditation on “death” is worth the price of the book.

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. The Practice of the Presence of God (Garden City: Image, 1977). A spiritual classic by a 17th-century monk that is still relevant today, and is especially good at knowing God in the everyday, mundane tasks of life.

Brown, Candy Gunther. Testing Prayer: Science and Healing. 

Buechner, Frederick. Godric (New York: Harper and Row, 1980). A beautiful novel, spiritually deep and uplifting. The character of Godric reminds me of Thomas Merton.

Campolo, Tony, and Darling, Mary Albert. The God of Intimacy and Action: Reconnecting Ancient Spiritual Practices, Evangelism, and Justice. Nicely puts together the spiritual disciplines and social activism.

Collins, Kenneth J. Exploring Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Reader (Baker Book House: 2000). An excellent one-volume text.

Dawn, Marva. Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living In An Affluent Society (Presbyterian Publishing Corporation: 2003). This is a deep, profound study allowing us to see our materialistic world and our spiritual place in it through God’s eyes.

Deere, Jack. Surprised By the Voice of God: How God Speaks Today Through Prophecies, Dreams, and Visions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996). A very good, clearly written biblical and historical presentation of how one hears God speaking to them.

Dillard, Annie. Pilgrim At Tinker Creek (Harper and Row). This makes my personal top ten ever-read list. A beautiful meditation of the creation, especially its microscopic aspects.

Fee, Gordon. God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994). This massive text is, arguably, the definitive statement of the apostle Paul’s spirituality. A detailed study of every Pauline reference to the Holy Spirit.

Fee. The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987). Superb, meditative, scholarly commentary on what it means to be pneumatikos (“spiritual”).

Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: Harper and Row). The modern classic on the spiritual disciplines. If you have not yet read this it should be one of your choices.

Foster. Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper and Row: 1992). Examines several different types of prayer that are both biblically and historically Christian.

Foster. Longing for God: Seven Paths of Spiritual Devotion. (Intervarsity Press: 2009)

Foster, and Griffin, Emilie. Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines (Harper and Row: Feb. 2000). A very good collection representing the great Christian types of spirituality.

Foster. Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith (Harper and Row: 1998). On the following traditions: contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and incarnational.

Grenz, Stanley. Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom. One of our great theologians positions praying within the context of the kingdom of God.

Holmes, Urban T. Spirituality for Ministry. Still one of the best books on this subject.

Jones, Cheslyn, et. al., eds. The Study of Spirituality (New York: Oxford, 1986). A very good one-volume source on the history of Christian spirituality.

Kelly, Thomas. A Testament Of Devotion (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1941). This brilliant, provocative little text makes my top ten ever-read books on Christian spirituality. A modern classic.

Kraft, Charles. Christianity With Power: Your Worldview and Understanding of the Supernatural. (Ann Arbor, Mi.: Servant, 1989). A brilliant study in paradigm theology by an anthropologist and missiologist at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Ladd, George. The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God. (Eerdmans: 1959). A classic, still-used examination of the kingdom of God as both present and future. Schoalrly, but it often reads devotionally.

Leech, Kenneth. Experiencing God: Theology As Spirituality (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985). An excellent historical study, from biblical times to the present, of the experience of God.
, as distinguished from pastoral counseling.

Leech. Soul Friend: The Practice of Christian Spirituality (New York: Harper and Row, 1980). The best book available on spiritual direction.

Leech. True Prayer: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980).

Lovelace, Richard. Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1979).

Lovelace. Renewal As a Way of Life: A Guidebook for Spiritual Growth (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1985).

Manning, Abba’s Child. This book spoke deeply to me about my need for experiential knowledge of the love of God.

Manning, The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus. Very good as it gets at the real Jesus.

May, Gerald. Addiction and Grace (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1991). An excellent, clearly written book with an especially helpful section on addiction to control.

May. Care of Mind, Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction (New York: Harper and Row, 1992). A very good text on the nature of spiritual direction.

May. Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology (Harper and Row: 1987). An excellent text, especially on May's distinction between willfulness and willingness.

McGinn, Bernard. The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism. McGinn  is arguably our greatest scholar on the nature of Christian mysticism. This is the text to read on mysticism in the early church father, and in the West.

McKnight, Scot; Tickle, Phyllis.  Fasting: The Ancient Practices.

Merton, Thomas. The Inner Experience: Notes On Contemplation (Harper: 2003). This is Merton’s final book. Few write about contemplation as well as he does.

Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions, 1961). Merton at his best.

Merton. No Man Is an Island (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983). Contains the classic chapter, “Being and Doing.”

Merton. Praying the Psalms

Merton. Seeds (Shambala: 2002). A killer collection of Merton quotes. A tremendous introduction to the depth, wisdom, and discernment of Thomas Merton. Prophetic.

Merton. The Sign of Jonas (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981). One of Merton’s journals, containing many spiritual gems,

Miller. Hope In the Fast Lane: A New Look at Faith in a Compulsive World (New York: Harper and Row, 1987). An excellent text on overcoming sin in one’s life. Especially good on identifying the deep source of stress and overcoming stress.

Miller. The Secret Life of the Soul (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1997). About the vulnerability needed for the transformation of the soul.

Muse, J. Stephen, ed. Beside Still Waters: Resources for Shepherds in the Marketplace (Smyth and Helwys: 2000). An excellent text that uses Psalm 23 to speak to Christian leaders regarding spiritual issues. Very good on our need to care for ourselves physically.

Mulholland, Robert. Shaped By the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation (Nashville: Upper Room Press, 1985). An excellent book on how the Bible interprets us.

Nelson, Alan. Broken In the Right Place: How God Tames the Soul (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1994). A very good book on how spiritual brokenness effects personal transformation.

Nouwen, Henri. A Cry for Mercy: Prayers From the Genesee (Garden City, New York: Image, 1981). A beautiful book of prayers expressing our heart’s fears, struggles, and longings.

Nouwen. Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1987).

Nouwen. Gracias! A Latin American Journal (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983). One of Nouwen’s spiritual journals.

Nouwen. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (Harper and Row). A brilliant little book, among the best I have ever read on pastoral leadership.

Nouwen. Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life (New York: Harper and Row, 1981).

Nouwen. Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Spiritual Life (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1980).

Nouwen. Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (Garden City, New York: Image, 1976).
An excellent text; a modern classic. On solitude, hospitality, and prayer.

Nouwen. The Genesee Diary: Report From A Trappist Monastery (Garden City, New York: Image, 1976). This book makes my top ten ever-read list in terms of spiritual impact. An excellent example of journaling that is of spiritual value.

Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love (Image Books: 1999). I find it hard to express how much God used a slow, meditative reading of this book to effect changes in my life.

Nouwen. The Living Reminder: Service and Prayer in Memory of Jesus Christ (New York: Harper and Row). A tremendous book for pastors and Christian leaders.

Nouwen. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming (New York: Image, 1992). Simply put, one of Nouwen’s best and one of my  favorites.

Nouwen, and Dear, John. The Road to Peace: Writings on Peace and Justice. This is a spectacular book to read devotionally, with Nouwen's deep insights clarifying real Jesus-following and the blessedness of peacemaking.

Nouwen. The Way of the Heart (New York: Ballantine, 1981). A beautiful, meditative little book on solitude, silence, and prayer.

Payne, Leanne. Listening Prayer: Learning to Hear God’s Voice and Keep a Prayer Journal (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991). A very good, well-written text on what it means to hear God’s voice.

Peterson, EugeneAs Kingfishers Catch Fire: A Conversation on the Ways of God Formed by the Words of God

Peterson. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Dallas: Word, 1989). I have read this book two or three times. It always reminds me of my priorities in pastoral ministry.

Peterson. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology. The first of five books in Peterson’s summary of his spiritual theology.

Peterson. The Pastor: A Memoir.

Piippo, John, Leading the Presence-Driven Church

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

Quinn, Robert. Deep Change (Jossey-Bass: 1996). A very good book, written from a leadership-business perspective, on the inner transformation required to lead effectively.

Renovare, et. al. The Life with God Bible NRSV. The spiritual exercises are woven into this study Bible.

Seamands, Stephen. Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service

Senn, Frank, ed. Protestant Spiritual Traditions (New York: Paulist, 1986). Various authors writing from the following perspectives: Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, Puritan, Pietist, and Methodist.

Sittser, Jerry. A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss. Perhaps the best book on a spirituality of grieving ever written, by a deep thinker and excellent writer.

Sittser. A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life. The follow-up to A Grace Disguised.

Smedes, Lewis. Shame and Grace(San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1994). For me, a beautiful book on overcoming self-condemnation by a deeper understanding and experience of the grace of God.

St. Teresa of AvilaThe Interior Castle. (Image Books: 1972) A spiritual classic.

Thomas, GarySacred Pathways: Nine Ways to Connect with God (Zondervan: 2000). Very good on showing different spiritual styles and various ways persons experience God (the naturalist, sensate, traditionalist, ascetic, activist, caregiver, enthusiast, contemplative, and intellectual).

Thurman, Howard. The Inward Journey: The Writings of Howard Thurman (Harcourt Brace: 1984). An excellent anthology of Thurman’s spiritual writings.

Thurman. Jesus and the Disinherited (Beacon: 1996). If you’re going to read one book by Thurman this is the one to read. He is brilliant, insightful, and extremely relevant for even today. There s a timelessness about Thurman’s writings.

Thurman. Howard Thurman: Essential Writings. (Orbis: 2006) Edited by Luther Smith. Smith is one of our great, if not our greatest, Thurman scholars. His introduction to Thurman’s writing is very helpful.

Thurman. Meditations of the Heart. (Beacon: 1999)

Van der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Walters, Kerry (ed.). Rufus Jones: The Essential Writings. Howard Thurman was deeply indebted to the mentoring of the Quaker mystic Rufus Jones.

Weems, Renita. Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey Through Silence and Doubt (Simon and Schuster: 1999). An excellent reflection of the silence of God and intimacy with God.

Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (Harper Collins: 1998). What a deep, beautiful book on the kingdom of God.

Willard. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (IVP: 1999)

Willard. Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23

Willard. Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God

Willard and Gary Black. Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks

Willard. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Navpress:2002). This excellent book is all about spiritual transformation and is especially helpful in defining biblical terms like “soul,” “heart,” “spirit,” and “body.”

Willard. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (Harper and Row: 1988). A great book, profound, clearly written. Richard Foster called it “the book of the decade.”

Willard, Gary Moon, Richard Foster, et. al. Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith and Formation

Wimber, John. Power Healing (Harper and Row). An excellent, encouraging text filled with realism and hope.