Friday, September 30, 2022

Reveal Yourself

Holly Collins recorded my song "Reveal Yourself." Linda and I sing backup vocals, and I do the guitar work.

This song is from the book of Amos.

He who forms the mountains,
    who creates the wind,
    and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
who turns dawn to darkness,
    and treads on the heights of the earth
    the Lord God Almighty is his name.

Amos 4:13

(John Piippo)

He who forms the mountains
And creates the wind
Reveals His thoughts to man
Delivers us from sin

Who turns dawn to darkness
Walks high places of the earth
Holy is His name
His essence is unsearched

Reveal Yourself
Reveal Yourself
Come and show us what You've got
Things that are, things that are not
Yourself to me
Greater revelation
Greater revelation of Your glory

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart?

(Trees in my backyard)

The plagues God sent upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians were not merely for punishment, but also for redemption. God was trying to save Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

On first glance, it doesn't appear that way, given Exodus 10:20, which reads, "the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart." It appears Pharaoh didn't have a chance to repent.

But John Sanders points out that "the Hebrew word for "hardening" means "to strengthen," so hardening does not render a person unable to repent. This is easily seen by the fact that God hardens the hearts of Pharaoh's servants (Ex 10:1), yet they understand what God is doing and implore their master to release the Israelites (10:7)." (Sanders, What About Those Who Have Never Heard?: Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized, Kindle Locations 239-240)

God uses conditional language with Pharaoh, which implies Pharaoh has a choice. For example, Exodus 8:2: "If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs." The conditional word "if" makes no sense if Pharaoh was rendered incapable of making a choice.

For example, what if a professor had to power to harden your heart so you could not, and would not, complete your assignments. It would make no sense for the professor to say, "If you don't complete your assignments, you'll fail this course." It would make sense if you could choose to turn in your work.

Sanders concludes,

"Evidently the divine strengthening of Pharaoh did not override Pharaoh's decision-making powers. The plagues were for redemptive and not merely retributive purposes. Truly God has never delighted in the death of the wicked. Punishment came to the Egyptians, but not before God did all he could to bring redemption into the situation." (Ib., Kindle Locations 241-243)

Monday, September 26, 2022

Scientism - A Circular Abyss of Dark Unthinkingness

(Lady bug, in my house)

J. P. Moreland's book Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology is intelligent, funny, and pro-science, but not scientistic. The distinction is important.

"Scientism is the view that the hard sciences—like chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy—provide the only genuine knowledge of reality." (Moreland, Kindle Locations 271-272)

Have you ever had someone say to you, "I don't believe in religion any more. I believe that science explains everything." If so, you met a scientistic person, caught in a circular abyss of dark unthinkingness.

In my Logic classes I teach, among many other things, the nature of self-refuting statements. Examples are:

"There is no such thing as truth."

"All sentences are exactly three words long."

"I do not exist."

"This sentence is false."

Another is: "True knowledge is found only in science." This sentence is "self-referentially incoherent, meaning that it refutes or defeats itself." (Ib., K653)

J.P. says that not only is strong scientism false, but it is necessarily self-refuting. Scientism states, "Only what is testable by science can be true." 

The scientistic thinker may believe that "one day, science will prove that only what is testable by science can be true." But because this statement is necessarily self-refuting, "no further scientific discoveries could make the statement true." (Ib.)

J.P. writes:

"The irony is that strong scientism is a philosophical statement, expressing an epistemological viewpoint about science; it is not a statement of science, like “water is H2O” or “cats are mammals.” Strong scientism is a philosophical assertion that claims that philosophical assertions are neither true nor can be known; only scientific assertions can be true and known. 

Christians, therefore, should not be intellectually intimidated when they hear very smart people with advanced degrees sitting in positions of authority say things that are self-refuting." (Ib., Kindle Locations 702-706)

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Power of Investing Spiritually in Our Children

(Kitty Hawk, NC)

I have been serving and teaching in children's ministries since the early 70s, when I was a pastor in Joliet, Illinois. This is among the most important things I do as a follower of Jesus. I get to spiritually invest in their lives. It's going to happen again, at Redeemer, this coming Sunday morning.

Philosopher James K. A. Smith writes:

"Spiritual formation in Christ requires a lot of rehabituation precisely because we build up so many disordered habits over a lifetime. This is also why the spiritual formation of children is one of the most significant callings of the body of Christ. Every child raised in the church and in a Christian home has the opportunity to be immersed in kingdom-indexed habit-forming practices from birth. This is why intentionality about the formation of children is itself a gift of the Spirit. It’s also why carelessness and inattention to the deformative power of cultural liturgies can have such long-lasting effects. The “plasticity” of children’s habits and imaginations is an opportunity and a challenge."

(Smith, James K. A.. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit. Kindle Location 1031. Emphasis mine.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Pastors Enter Into The Grief of Others


                                                                  (Our grandson Levi.)

I became a youth pastor in 1971. I've been pastoring ever since - for fifty-one years.

A major part of a pastor's job description involves being with grieving people. We are caregivers and comfort bringers to suffering people.

A pastor enters into the grief of others. We have been trained to do this. Many pastors do this with excellence. 

Not a week goes by without one or more grief-stricken people contacting Linda and I for help. In this, we are not exceptional. Every pastor does this.

Here are some of the ways I have done this, over five decades. I present this to you as non-exceptional pastoral ministry. Every pastor who views their calling as a shepherd to others knows about this. Every shepherd-pastor has a list like mine. 

We do funerals. 

We meet and pray with people who have lost loved ones. 

We weep with those who weep.

We comfort parents who have lost children.

We comfort young people whose siblings overdosed and died.

We are with families and friends who have lost someone to suicide.

We respond in the middle of the night to crisis phone calls.

We meet with victims of murder.

We meet with murderers.

We visit people in prison.

We care for the suffering and dying.

We have been with people as they took their last breath.

We spend a portion of our time with the hospitalized.

We counsel adulterers and their survivors.

We rescue marriages and families.

We cry with the victimized.

We help the helpless.

We bring hope to the hopeless.

We have time to talk with hurting people.

We pray with people.

We befriend outcasts.

We agonize over the sufferings of others.

We counsel those grieving their moral failures.

Sometimes we are just there, with grieving people, saying little, or nothing.

We do none of this perfectly.

Every pastor I know does these things, and more.



To Love Deeply Is to Suffer Deeply

Monday, September 19, 2022

Grief and Hope


(Our dog So-Fee, and me)

If there is one thing that is certain, it is taxes. But there is something more certain than taxes. One day I will die. Death is more certain than taxes. 

I think about death. One result of my conversion to Christ fifty-two years ago was a greater awareness of death. Being a philosophy major helped me deal with death. "Death" is a big-time philosophical theme. 

How we think about death influences how we live today. Heidegger told us that life is best lived in light of one's death. The death of Socrates, as told by Plato, is philosophically famous as an example of a good life, and a good death. 

Attending a theological seminary and becoming a pastor meant I would be called into life-and-death situations, some of which ended, of course, in death. 

I have done many funerals. I did the funerals of my mother, my father, and Linda's mother and father. My infant stillborn son David never got a funeral because of the crazy circumstances surrounding his expiration. I have done funerals during this season of COVID. When you minister at a funeral you deal with death. You meet with people whose loved ones are gone.

I have cried at the death of loved ones. I cried when we put our dog So-Fee "to sleep." That was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We loved her so much! Driving her to the veterinarian's office as when she was dying was, for me, ridiculously painful. The fact that she trusted in us, in me, but could not be communicated to, made the situation harder. It made me angry. Angry... at death... at the fact of death.

For several years I was the pastoral chaplain at the Mid-Michigan Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Lansing. This was Sparrow Hospital's "HOPING" group. HOPING: Helping Other Parents In Normal Grieving. David was pronounced dead in this hospital. 

My loss of David made me, in some way, "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." Once or twice a year I would speak, representing HOPING, to parents who lost their children in the hospital. That was intense. It feels intense as I write about it.

I never forget these things. I do not want to forget them. I cannot and should not forget that death is still with us. In times of death, when walking through the valley of the shadow of death, some people think and reflect. Not all, but some. 

I once did a funeral where friends of the drug-overdosed  deceased person, were having a tailgate "party" in the funeral home parking lot. Alcohol was their drug of choice for dealing with grief. They staggered into the funeral service, having failed to "drown their sorrows."

Every death is a God-opportunity. Worldviews kick in at funerals. People weigh things, evaluate things, deal with incomplete things, unsaid things that should have been said, the experiential finality of death, and with their own mortality. All these are thematic in the Gospel of Jesus the Christ. 

At a funeral I share how forgiveness is possible in Jesus, and how in his resurrection we have hope beyond the grave. As I speak, I see people who are listening, who are HOPING. Some, who live in denial, come out of that dark closet and stand, for a while, in the light. In that moment, they are looking for some hope, as before them stands the Hope of the World.

How do I handle death? I like what Thomas Merton said after one of his healthy meditations on life's mortality: "The important thing is simply turning to [God] daily, preferring his will and mystery to everything that is evidently and tangibly "mine."" (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander) Note the quotes around the word "mine" since, obviously, we own nothing in this earthly life. This includes other people. Even we are not our own.  

I'm going to die. 

You are too. 

But Christ has been raised. 

I'm going to live.

You can, too.

I have hope, and so can you. Choose, as I have, to live in the light of that eschatological hope, and connect, now, with "Christ, the HOPE of glory."

See also...

To Love Deeply Is to Suffer Deeply

Be Quick to Listen, Be Slow to Text


                                                                    (Lake Michigan)

I don't use social media or texting to share negative things, or work out interpersonal conflict. For such things Face-to-Face is best.

When face-to-face, first listen. Understand before opening your mouth. Be a slow cooker, not a microwave.

Henri Nouwen writes:

"When you write a very angry letter to a friend who has hurt you deeply, don't send it! Let the letter sit on your table for a few days and read it over a number of times. Then ask yourself: "Will this letter bring life to me and my friend? Will it bring healing, will it bring a blessing?" You don't have to ignore the fact that you are deeply hurt. You don't have to hide from your friend that you feel offended. But you can respond in a way that makes healing and forgiveness possible and opens the door for new life. Rewrite the letter if you think it does not bring life, and send it with a prayer for your friend." (Bread for the Journey)

Be quick to listen, 
slow to text. 


Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Deconstructing Progressive Christianity

31 Letters to the Church on Discipleship

Encounters with the Holy Spirit

31 Letters to the Church on Praying (December 2022)

Sunday, September 18, 2022

An Incoherent, Dogmatic, Progressive Christian Belief


Colby Martin is a self-proclaimed "progressive Christian." I read his book - The Shift: Surviving and Thriving After Moving from Conservative to Progressive Christianity.

In this book Martin states his beliefs about Christianity. One of his beliefs is that "believing" is toxic. He writes:

 “There does not exist one single way to be a progressive Christian; therefore the following pages won’t tell you what you need to do (or worse, what you need to believe) in order to become one.”

Note that in this logically incoherent sentence Martin states this belief: There does not exist one single way to be a progressive Christian. (Call this Belief 1.)

Apparently, to be a progressive Christian one must, or should, or ought to, believe in Martin's belief.

But, according to Martin, that's horrific ("worse"), since Martin is giving us a singular belief, about what we need to believe, in order to become a progressive Christian. ("Thou must believe there are many beliefs, and this is one you ought to believe.")

If someone does not believe in Martin's dogmatic belief, then it seems the unbeliever believes this: There does exist one single way to be a progressive Christian. (Call this Belief 2.)

But no true progressive Christian believes in Belief 2. Meaning that, to become a progressive Christian one must (or eventually will) believe in Belief 1. Which leads to Belief 3: There is no single way to become a progressive Christian, and to  become a progressive Christian one must (or eventually will) believe this. 

The upshot?

Beliefs are unavoidable.

Progressive Christianity has its own dogmatic beliefs. (On this, see theologian Michael Kruger, The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity.)

(Note: This is why atheists Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker abhor postmodern illogic. See Pinker, Rationality: What It Is. Why It Seems Scarce. Why It Matters.)

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Letter to a Grieving Divorcee


(Monroe County)

I wrote a a letter to a friend of ours whose divorce was finalized. Linda and I meet many people in this situation. So, I thought I'd post it here, with appropriate changes.

BTW - "amicable divorce" is an oxymoron, like "Microsoft Works."


Hi _____, I'm glad you called. Some of my thoughts are... (if they don't fit please forgive me)...

  • The finalization of a divorce, no matter how bad the marriage was, is like lowering a dead body in a grave and burying it. Divorce is the death of hopes and dreams a husband and wife had when they stood before God and pledged their love and fidelity, "until death do us part." The idea was never "until the marriage dies."
  • The God-given, emotional response to death (the final loss of something precious) is grief. You are now experiencing grief, a word that covers a range of emotions. In the aftermath of death, grief remains.
  • Grieving can do its work if one has a community that absorbs the grief. Linda and I (and others) are part of that community, for you. 
  • Jesus knows grief. He is "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." "He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" - Isaiah 53:3.
  • Continue to dwell in Him. Before Jesus went to the cross, he instructed His disciples: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you... If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." (John 14:18, 23) The Jesus said, "Abide in Me, and I in you." (John 15:4)
  • We are promised that, as we live an abiding life in him, our lives will bear much fruit. Even for the grieving person who abides in Christ, God continues to bear lasting fruit in and through them. This remains true for you.
  • Finally, any real or perceived condemnation you feel coming from others who wonder about your divorce is not from God. All of us are in the same boat here. We've all sinned and fallen short of God's glory. All our sin and failure has been crucified with Christ. Now, sin and death no longer rule, but Grace Rules. Where Grace Rules (and Law no longer does), no condemnation can come against us. Therefore, I bless you today with the freedom we share, because Christ reigns in our lives.

John (and Linda)

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Can Persons Change?


The Christian Scriptures provide examples which show that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, persons can change into increasing Christlikeness. Here are some of them. 

If you are Jesus-follower, carry these verses with you, and meditate on them.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Take My Zoom Class on "Deconstructing Progressive Christianity"


I'll teach my class, Deconstructing Progressive Christianity

in Renewal School of Ministry.

Six Monday nights, beginning September 19.

8 - 9:30 PM EST.

 I'll teach my book, plus additional research I have done since the book was published.

Cost: $10 (for six sessions)


Questions? Email me at:


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

Saturday, September 10, 2022

We Become What We Worship


Image result for john piippo new york city
One day, when I was a boy, I carried one of my Elvis album covers into the bathroom. I propped it up next to the mirror, adjusted my face to look like Elvis, and did my best to comb my hair into the King's likeness. 

We become what we worship.

Psalm 135:15-18 reads:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, 
made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak, 
eyes, but cannot see. 
They have ears, but cannot hear, 
nor is there breath in their mouths. 
Those who make them will be like them, 
and so will all who trust in them.

The objects of our worship captivate us. They influence us, in outward appearance and inward desires. 

N. T. Wright writes:

“One of the most basic laws of the spiritual life is that you become like what you worship; and if you are worshiping the true God, the creator of all things, the one in whose image you are made, you should be developing as a wise, many-sided human being, not letting one aspect get out of proportion as though God were only interested in the ‘spiritual’ side, meaning by that not only the non-bodily but also the non-rational. Of course, those who live in a world that has overemphasized the body, or the reasoning mind, may find that they need to redress the balance in other ways than the one Paul stresses here. When you look at the worshiping Christian, what you should see is a whole human being, with every aspect united in giving praise to God.” (NTW, 1 Corinthians [For Everyone], 191)

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Self-Contradictory Statements (e.g., subjective relativism)

                                                              (Downtown Monroe)

In my Logic classes at MCCC one of the teachings was on the irrationality of subjective relativism and cultural relativism. This is a handout I gave students, to illustrate. 

My brother is an only child.
John is a bachelor and his wife’s name is Linda.
There is no such thing as truth.
             1. There is no such thing as truth.
             2. Therefore, premise 1 is not true.
 All the statements I make are false.
             1. All S are F.
             2. Premise 1 is S.
             3. Therefore, Premise 1 is F.

1. We cannot know truth.
2. Statement 1 is true.

All human behavior is determined.
            1. All human behavior is determined.
             2. Making statements is an example of human behavior.
             3. Premise 1 is a statement.
                  4. Premise 1 is determined.
                  5. Therefore whoever believes Premise 1 is determined to believe Premise 1.
I only believe things that you can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell.
1.    I only believe things that you can see, touch, hear, taste, or smell.
2.    I believe statement 1.
3.    Therefore, I believe something that cannot be
 seen, touched, tasted, heard, or smelled.
There is no such thing as free will.
             1. There is no such thing as free will.
          2. Statement 1 was not freely chosen. 
           3. Any person who believes Statement 1 does not freely believe Statement 1, but was causally determined to believe Statement 1.
           4. Therefore, there is no good reason to believe that Statement 1 is true.
The "verification principle." (VP)
             1. A statement is true IFF (if and only if) it : a) can be empirically verified; 
             or b) is mathematical (tautological). (This is called the VP.) 
            2. The VP is a statement. 
             3. The VP itself can be neither a) empirically verified; 
              nor is it b) mathematical (tautological; redundant; definitional ).
            4. There the VP is false (by its own criteria).
Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote: "Most propositions and
questions which have been written about philosophical matters are not false, but
senseless. We cannot, therefore, answer questions of this kind at all, but only
state their senselessness. Most questions and propositions of the philosophers
result from the fact that we do not understand the logic of our language."
All truth is relative.
                1. All truth is relative to individual knowing subjects.
            2. Statement 1 is true.
            3. Statement 1 is relative (and thus, by definition, is not 
            universally applicable).
            4.  Therefore Statement 1 is false.
Which is absurd.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022


One of the Greatest Challenges of Spiritual Leadership

(Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin)

Pastors are to lead people spiritually. Thankfully, to do this they don't need to put on a performance. If a pastor puts on an act, they will mislead people spiritually.

Lots of energy gets expended performing before others. When I was in college, I was in several musicals. That was hard work!

There is a lot of pressure to fake it in ministry. Faking it can make you appear more attractive than you actually are. Some people will fall for the charade. The pastor may even come to believe their mask is who they truly are. 
A pastor who is an actor before their people is a fake. 

Thankfully, a pastor doesn't have to be an actor. They just need to be in process of being formed into increasing Christlikeness. (Gal. 4:19)

Ruth Haley Barton writes:

"In a high performance culture (both secular culture and religious), holding to deep spiritual values in the face of the pressure to perform—whether performance is measured by numbers, new buildings or the latest innovation—is one of the greatest challenges of spiritual leadership." (Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, pp. 27-28)

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

The Meaning of Maturity: Part 1



                                                                            (Lake Erie)

For followers of Jesus, maturity has to do with conformity to Christ. Ephesians 4:13 says:

The purpose of this is that we should all reach unity in our belief and loyalty, and in knowing God’s son. Then we shall reach the stature of the mature [telos] Man measured by the standards of the Messiah’s fullness.  

The Greek word for 'mature' is telos. Telos can be translated as 'end,' or 'purpose.' Or 'goal.' Like a telos-scope; namely, an ocular assistant that allows one to see to the end of things.

The NIV’s “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”  points to Paul’s concern about maturity in the here and now—a faith that reaches an adult wholeness. What is maturity? You measure it by who Christ is. The Christian's goal on earth, to be fully realized in heaven, is formation into Christlikeness. (Gal. 4:19) As C. S. Lewis wrote, 

“Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

The apostle Paul's mission was to walk with Gentile Christians on the road to maturity. He writes, in Colossians 1:28-29,

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

How do you mature in Christ? Not by willpower. A strong will gives evidence of maturity. But willpower fails repeatedly as a method to produce maturity. Dallas Willard told us that "developing maturity based on willpower produces endless failures." (James Wilder, Renovated: God, Dallas Willard, and the Church That Transforms, pp. 32-33)

If not by willpower, then how? Coming in a future post.