Monday, May 29, 2023

Reading today...


Last week someone placed a gift-wrapped package in my church mailbox.

Containing a book. Whoever did this - thank you!

I began reading last week, and I'm going to spend time in it today.

When I read the reviews I thought, I'm going to like this.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Remembering (Combating Spiritual Alzheimer's Disease)

Del & Linda

Linda's mother suffered from Alzheimer's Disease for many years. This horrible illness caused her to slowly lose her memory. One result of her memory loss was an increase of fear.

One afternoon Linda, her mother Martha, her father Del, and I were shopping in a mall. At one point Linda and Del left to shop together while I stayed with Martha. We sat for a minute and then she looked at me, eyes filled with panic, and asked, "Where's Del?!"

"He's shopping with Linda. He'll be right back," I responded.

This put Martha at ease. But only for a few minutes. Forgetting what I had just said, Martha looked at me again and asked, "Where's Del?"

"He's with Linda. He'll be right back."

This happened several times in an hour, with Martha forgetting, me reminding her, she calming down, then forgetting and filled with fear, asking "Where's Del?", and me reminding her again. Martha not only had forgotten what I said to her, she forgot a more basic truth, which was: in Del, she had a husband who would never, ever leave her or forsake her. He was always by her side, Alzheimer's or not.

There is a "spiritual Alzheimer's disease" which results in forgetting the many times God has rescued and delivered us, provided for us, and been with us. Such forgetting breeds fear. The more one forgets the deeds of God in one's own life, the more one becomes fearful in the present moment.

The antidote to this is: remembering.

"Remembering" is huge in the Old Testament. The post-Exodus experience of Israel is grounded in remembrance. The Jewish festivals are remember-events, such as Passover, when the head of the household sits with his family and asks, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" In response, the past is recounted, how God delivered their people out of bondage in Egypt. Remembering, which reminds them of God's faithfulness, brings fresh hope.

My spiritual journal functions as a written memory of the voice and deeds of God in my life. I take time every year to re-ponder my journals. In doing so, I remember what God has done for me, how he has delivered me from bondage, and how he answered many prayers. I re-read of past times when I was afraid, or worried, and then re-read how God came through, and my worry dissipated.

I do not, I will not, forget the deeds of the Lord in my life. 

The spiritual discipline of remembering brings renewed hope in the present, defeating the onset of spiritual Alzheimer's disease.

My books are:

Encounters With the Holy Spirit (Co-edited with Janice Trigg)

Friday, May 26, 2023

Greg Boyd on Progressivist Diminishment of Scripture


                                                     (Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio)

I know Greg Boyd, a little bit. We've had him at our church, twice. Greg is an excellent scholar, and a great preacher. And, he is his own person. It would be a mistake to try and label him. For example, his belief in a real Satan immediately places him outside true progressivism. (See here.)

In a recent book, where Greg argues for the plenary inspiration of Scripture (more non-progressivism), he expresses concern over the progressivist diminishment of Scripture. PC diminishes the authority of the Bible. It undermines faith, especially the faith of young believers. Greg Boyd, in his recent book Inspired Imperfection, has a similar concern. 

He writes, 

“[Some are abandoning] the plenary inspiration of Scripture, which is precisely what I fear some progressive evangelicals are doing. I consider this a grave mistake. Among other things, denying Scripture’s plenary inspiration is inconsistent not only with the church tradition, but, as I will later argue, with the teachings of Jesus and some New Testament (NT) authors.

Not only this, but history demonstrates that when groups relinquish the church’s traditional view of Scripture, they tend eventually to float outside the parameters of historic orthodox Christianity.*

I consider the recent Emergent Church phenomenon to be a case in Point.”

This is tragic because, as Greg writes, 

“If we imagine the church as a ship on a tumultuous sea, the Bible has always served as the rudder that keeps her on course. In our postmodern, post-Christendom, and (some are claiming) post-truth world, the sea in the Western world is as tumultuous as it has ever been. Which means, the Western church arguably has never needed its rudder more than it does right now.”

(Boyd, Inspired Imperfection: How the Bible's Problems Enhance Its Divine Authority) 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Store Up Treasures in Heaven, Not on Earth (You Can't Do Both)

Image result for john piippo money
Leaf, in my backyard

This morning I read Matthew 6:19-21.

19“ Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


Jesus seems to be saying that you can't do both. You can't store up treasures on earth and simultaneously store up treasures in heaven. Like you can't travel forward and backward at the same time. Like you can't breathe in and breathe out at the same time. 

Richard Foster says "simplicity is freedom, duplicity is bondage." 

The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard wrote a book titled Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. And Jesus said the pure in heart are the ones who will see God.

You cannot simultaneously will two things. You cannot simultaneously will "earthly treasures stored up in the house" and "treasures stored up in heaven."

Richard E. Byrd, after months alone in the barren Arctic, recorded in his journal, “I am learning…that a man can live profoundly without masses of things.” (In Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p. 80)

You mean, like Jesus did?

"Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things. We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. “We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like." (Ib.)

Though your riches increase,

    do not set your heart on them.
Ps. 62:10

He who trusts in his riches will wither.
Proverbs 11:28

"Jesus declared war on the materialism of his day."

Matthew 6:19-21 is enough for my heart to take in this morning. I bookmarked it. Tomorrow morning I will read it again. My true heart is indicated by what I am storing up, and what I am doing with whatever time, resources, and abilities God has given me. 

That's what Jesus says to me today.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

"Why Isn't Everyone Healed When We Pray for Them?"


Over my 50+ years as a pastor I have seen people get physically, emotionally, and mentally healed.

I have also prayed for people and not seen them healed.

This Sunday at Redeemer I will give my response to the question "Why Isn't Everyone Healed When We Pray for Them?"

I'll also have a resource list available for further reading.

And, I'll continue to pray for people who are sick. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Pastors Are Unnecessary in Three Ways


I am a pastor. I am thankful that God called me to this. It is instructive to understand what I am not called to; viz., I am not called to be a custodian of the prevailing culture.

Eugene Peterson calls pastors "countercultural servants of Jesus Christ." He writes: "We want to be free of the Egyptian slavery to the culture and free to serve our wilderness world in Jesus' name." (Peterson and Dawn, The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, Kindle Location 70)

Pastors, writes Peterson, are "unnecessary," in three ways.

1. "We are unnecessary to what the culture presumes is important: as paragons of goodness and niceness." (Ib.)

There's a man in my community who is a leader. He's not a follower of Jesus. Whenever he sees me he calls me "Reverend." I have asked him not to do this. "Just call me John," I say. He has a hard time complying with my request.

When he calls me this he reduces me to something kindly and benevolent. He puts me in a box. He doesn't understand that, while kindness and niceness can be good, I am called to subvert and overthrow his thoughtless secularism. He doesn't realize it, but I don't fit into his happy world. Or, he does realize it, sees me as a threat, and imprisons me as the benign Reverend. Or, he mindlessly accepts the label which insulates him from me. 

As a pastor my world is about the realities of life and death, freedom and bondage, meaningfulness and meaninglessness, love and hate, hope and despair. My calling is to reality, not some role culture assigns to me.

2. "We are... unnecessary to what we ourselves feel is essential: as the linchpin holding a congregation together." (Ib.)

When I assign pastors to pray I request that they leave their cell phones behind, because God wants to break them of the illusion of their indispensability. It is important for them to grasp the fact that none of us are indispensable. God doesn't need us. God loves us, and wants to use us for his kingdom's sake. But his redemptive activity does not rise or fall with us.

Peterson writes: "We have important work to do, but if we don't do it God can always find someone else - and probably not a pastor."

3. "We are unnecessary to what congregations insist that we must do and be: as the experts who help them stay ahead of the competition."

Peterson writes:

Congregations "want pastors who lead. They want pastors the way the Israelites wanted a king - to make hash of the Philistines. Congregations get their ideas of what makes a pastor from the culture, not from the Scriptures: they want a winner; they want their needs met; they want to be part of something zesty and glamorous...

With hardly an exception they don't want pastors at all - they want managers of their religious company. They want a pastor they can follow so they won't have to bother with following Jesus anymore." 

Two of my books are - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Friday, May 19, 2023

Leading the Presence-Driven Church - One Hour Presentation

 Here are the slides for the one-hour workshops I did today in Savoy, Illinois.

For greater content and explanation see my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church



Thursday, May 18, 2023

Office Brainstorms Are a Waste of Time


  (Monroe County sunset, 5/17/23)

I've felt this way for a long time. See "Office Brainstorms Are a Waste of Time," by Callum Borchers. 

Giving workers alone time could yield more innovation than getting everyone in a room, research shows.


Religious Faith Is Good for Families



In The God Delusion religious non-scholar Richard Dawkins claimed that parents who teach their religious beliefs to children are guilty of "child abuse." In The End of Faith Sam Harris declares that religious extremism is "the greatest problem confronting civilization."

Are parents who mentor their children in their faith child abusers, part of the greatest problem confronting civilization? The answer is: No, according to W. Bradford Wilcox, director of University of Virgina's National Marriage Project. In fact, religious faith is actually good for families. (See The Washington Post, "The latest social science is Wrong. Religion is good for families and kids.")

Bradford's findings include:
  • On average, religion is a clear force for good when it comes to family unity and the welfare of children — the most important aspects of our day-to-day lives.
  • Americans who regularly attend religious services are less likely to cheat on their partners.
  • They are less likely to abuse their partners.
  • They are less likely to divorce.
  • They are more likely to enjoy happier marriages.
  • Religious parents spend more time with their children.
  • Religious teens are more likely to shun lying, cheating, and stealing, and to identify with the Golden Rule.
  • Children from religious families are “rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents,” according to a nationally representative study of more than 16,000 children across the United States.
  • Faith is a net positive when it comes to “prosocial behavior” among American children.
  • Religious parents are also more likely to report praising and hugging their school-aged children.
Wilcox cites the findings of French sociologist Emile Durkheim, who concluded:
  • What makes religion vital, in part, is that it provides rituals, beliefs and a sense of group identity that deepens people’s connections to the moral order. In his words, the faithful “believe in the existence of a moral power to which they are subject and from which they receive what is best in themselves.” (Obviously this is absent in atheism. On the absence of God there is no reason to be moral.)
  • The rituals associated with religion lend meaning to life, including its most difficult moments and seasons — from the loss of a job to the loss of a loved one.
  • Religious rituals encourage us to take our family roles more seriously and to help us deal with the stresses that can otherwise poison family relationships. The norms — from fidelity to forgiveness — taught in America’s houses of worship tend to reinforce the faithful’s commitments to their spouses, family members and children and give them a road map for dealing with the disappointments, anger and conflicts that crop up in all family relationships. And as one of the most powerful sources of social capital outside of the state and workplace today, religious social networks provide support to millions of Americans.
Yes, there are religious families that are unhealthy. (As there are brutal atheistic families.) But, writes Wilcox, "religion in America is not the corrosive influence that it’s often made out to be nowadays. On the contrary, for many Americans, it’s a source of inspiration that redounds not only to their benefit, but also to their families and communities."

My books are:

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



DIG IN - 6:30-8:30pm
Tonight the focus will be on the answer to the question, "What do we do when people are mean?"  The students will look at the story of Nehemiah and the building of the wall to watch what he does.  They will be encouraged to pray when people are mean and for God to help them know when to respond or walk away.
Youth Group  - 6:00-8:30pm 
Please have your kids enter through the main doors. 
Redeemer School of the Prophet 
Understanding the Dreams You Dream - Final Week of This Series - 6:30-8:30pm
Includes short learning videos and hands-on practice.  Please bring a notebook and a short dream if you have any.
Next week, May 25th at 6:30pm, Carol Vogt will give her testimony!
Sunday, May 21, 2023 AM 
Worship Service - 10:30am 
Holly Collins will lead worship and Pastor Tim will bring the Word from Acts 2:42-47, "Devoted to Discipleship."
Also, be sure to check out the Star Seamstress items that Lori Bakiewicz will have available to purchase this morning in the lobby!  
Sunday, May 21, 2023 PM 
You are Invited!!
Piano Recital at Redeemer - 6:00pm
You are invited to the piano recital of Linda Piippo's students, who are all from our Redeemer Family. 
Tonight they will play their piano selections beginning at 6:00pm Following the piano recital there will be a reception to honor her students.  All families and friends are invited to this celebration. 
Saturday, June 3, 2023
Redeemer Game Night in the Fellowship Hall - 5:00pm
Cheyne T. Willingham, Nate Heckler and Jesse McIllvenna will host a time of fellowship and fun competition for the Redeemer Family!  Beginning at 5pm.  Please click here to sign up to bring an entree or dessert.  Chips and drinks will be provided.  The trio will then teach and lead people in short board games.  Please feel free to bring your own board game too!  This event is suggested for ages 12 and up.
Sunday, June 4, 2023
Family Communion Service- 10:30am
Parents, please note that only the Yellow Room will be open this day.
Sunday, June 18, 2023-Father's Day
Baptisms at Redeemer -  10:30am
If God is calling you to be baptized on this day, please let either Pastor John or Pastor Tim know.
June 25-29, 2023
HSRM Conference -  Green Lake, WI
Click here to register today!