Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The War Over Beliefs, Statements, Words

 

                                       (Green Lake Christian Conference Center, Wisconsin)

We are engaged in a battle over beliefs.

Beliefs are expressed in statements.

Statements are houses built with words, whether written or non-written.

To control words, statements, and beliefs - that's Orwellian totalitarianism.

Johnathan Haidt (one of my favorite thinkers today - see this, e.g.) expresses our situation this way.

"What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower “with its top in the heavens” to “make a name” for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:

Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.

The text does not say that God destroyed the tower, but in many popular renderings of the story he does, so let’s hold that dramatic image in our minds: people wandering amid the ruins, unable to communicate, condemned to mutual incomprehension.

The story of Babel is the best metaphor I have found for what happened to America in the 2010s, and for the fractured country we now inhabit. Something went terribly wrong, very suddenly. We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past."

- The Atlantic, May 2022

Monday, May 20, 2024

Holy Spirit Declarations - For Pentecost!

Image result for john piippo true
Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday.

Here are some Pentecostal declarations to carry with you. (With a HT to Steve B.)

***

Whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable,
whatever is excellent,
whatever is worthy of praise,
think on these things.
Philippians 4:8



HOLY SPIRIT DECLARATIONS
  • God is revealing deep things about himself to me. (1 Cor. 2:10)

  • The Holy Spirit is explaining spiritual realities to me. (1 Cor. 2:13)

  • I am experiencing an outpouring of revelation knowledge. (1 Cor. 2:13)

  • The Holy Spirit has made his permanent home in our church. (1 Cor. 3:16)

  • The Holy Spirit is making my heart into his home. (Rom. 8:11)

  • I have become God’s inner sanctuary.

  • The Holy Spirit is giving life to my physical body.

  • Every day I am opening spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit is giving me to encourage and comfort those around me. (1 Cor. 12:11)

  • I am an equipped, competent, life-giving minister of God’s new covenant of love and power. (2 Cor. 3:6)

  • Every moment of my life the Holy Spirit is calling out to me that I am God’s true child, and God is my true Father. (Gal. 4:6)

  • I am moved by the Holy Spirit. I move with the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 8:14)

  • I am soaring above the domination of the law and experience the full freedom of the Spirit of grace. (Gal. 5:18)

  • The Holy Spirit whispers into my innermost being, telling me I am God’s beloved child.” (Rom. 8:16)

  • The Holy Spirit’s intense cravings are overpowering any sinful cravings I am tempted by. (Gal. 5:17)

  • The Holy Spirit is strengthening me in my weakness. (Rom. 8:26)

  • The Holy Spirit, who knows my deepest longings, is bringing my life into perfect harmony with God’s plan. (Rom. 8:26-27)

  • What the Holy Spirit is doing in me is better than anything I could have ever thought or imagined. (Rom. 8:28)

  • The Holy Spirit is unveiling within me the unlimited riches of God’s glory. Supernatural strength is flooding my innermost being with God’s divine might and power. (Eph. 3:16)



God Does Not Affirm All Behaviors

                                                                    (Redeemer Monroe)


In this post I attempt to establish one point, using 'pedophilia' as an example. 

"Pedophilia is an ongoing sexual attraction to pre-pubertal children. It is a paraphilia, a condition in which a person's sexual arousal and gratification depends on objects, activities, or even situations that are considered atypical. Pedophilia is defined as recurrent and intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children—generally age 13 years or younger—over a period of at least six months. Pedophiles are more often men and can be attracted to either or both sexes." (Psychology Today)

Does God love the pedophiliac? Yes. 

Does God affirm sexual activity with a child? No. 

The Christian belief is that pedophile activity is sin. That is, it misses the mark God places before us. (See, e.g., what in ethics is called "divine command theory.")

This troubling, yet simple, example proves the following: God does not affirm all behaviors

Neither do people affirm all behaviors. 

Whether they believe in God or not, good parents morally screen what beliefs are to be championed in their home. The good parent will not allow their child to be taught the beauty and happiness of pedophilic beliefs and behaviors. 

All institutions have moral filters. These moral filters emerge from worldviews. People may differ in their worldviews. People do not differ in having moral filters rooted in a social imaginary. (See Charles Taylor here.)

Churches are no different. As a pastor of a church, I testify that we would not allow someone to teach our children, youth, and adults, that God affirms sexual activity with children. Obviously.

Every person, every institution, embraces some things and excludes other things. (On this, see Amy Chua's Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations.) That's what doctrine does, and why doctrine is important. Understand this: Real love embraces and excludes.

The matter than becomes how, as Christians, we are still to love the pedophile, while establishing moral boundaries. To begin with, a lot will depend on how the pedophile views pedophilia. And, do they want us to embrace this belief, or exclude the belief? If the latter, do they want help?

Now, instead of 'pedophilia', plug in any sin.


Saturday, May 18, 2024

Speaking on "Freedom from Addictions" at the "Free Indeed" Conference



                                                                         (Green Lake)

Join me and Linda and several of our ministry colleagues at the HSRM "Free Indeed" Conference.

When: Sunday, June 30 through Thursday, July 4. 

Where: Beautiful Green Lake, Wisconsin. 

Detail and information: https://hsrm.org/events 

It's my joy to open the conference on Sunday evening. I'll speak on "Freedom from Addictions." Expect!

Friday, May 17, 2024

Our Strategy for Evangelism

 

                                                   (Northern lights, from our front yard)

Here is our strategy for evangelism.

  1. Make disciples.
  2. The disciples share Jesus with others.

The Moral Argument for God's Existence - John Piippo


Here's a presentation I made on The Moral Argument for God's Existence.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Truth Excludes (as does every community)

 


Downtown Monroe
Humans are tribal. We need to belong to groups. We crave bonds and attachments, which is why we love clubs, teams, fraternities, family. Almost no one is a hermit. Even monks and friars belong to orders. But the tribal instinct is not just an instinct to belong. It is also an instinct to exclude.

Yale Law professor Amy Chua
From her book Political Tribes

Former USC philosopher Dallas Willard writes:

"There is a certain logical exclusiveness built into knowledge as such, and it must be respected... This is due to the fact that knowledge (not mere belief, commitment, sentiment, or tradition) involves truth. Truth by its very nature is exclusive in the following sense. If any belief is true, that by itself excludes the truth of any belief contrary or contradictory to it. And this “exclusion” is not a matter of what anyone wants or hopes to be true or false. For example, if “Sue’s dress is red” is true, then “Sue’s dress is white” and “Sue’s dress is not red” are false. It does not matter what anyone may think or want. It is simply a matter of the objective logical relations between the beliefs (or statements or “propositions”) involved."
- Dallas Willard, Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, pp. 170-171

Truth marginalizes. Truth excludes.

You have a worldview, a set of beliefs through which you interpret reality and experience. Your worldview excludes masses of people. 

Here is an example. 

When I was speaking in India, the hotel I stayed in had an altar in the lobby. Every morning a young Hindu priest, dressed in a white skirt, lit incense sticks on the altar, and offered prayers to the god of the hotel. This scene can be captured in the following statements:

1. There is a god who watches over the hotel.
2. Appeasing this god with the burning of incense and other sacrifices helps ensure that the hotel will succeed financially.
3. Uttering prayers of worship to this god increases the probability that the god will show favor towards the hotel.
4. To not perform #s 1 and 2 may cause the god of the hotel to be angry, and bring harm or disaster to it.

Take statement 1. If it is true, then I, who think it is false, am wrong. Such is the nature of truth. The Hindu priest knows something I do not. I am logically excluded from such knowledge.

I think statement 1 is false. If I am right, then statements 2-4 are false, since there exists no "god of the hotel" to be appeased.

It is not rude or impolite to talk like this. It is not disrespectful. Marginalization is epistemically unavoidable. Willard writes: 

"It is not arrogant and unloving merely to believe that you are right about something and that others are wrong... There have, after all, been many people who were strongly convinced of the rightness of their beliefs, in religious and other matters, without being arrogant and unloving." (Ib., 170)

What if you embrace the belief-system of postmodernism? And you claim, We can't know truth. I have two thoughts about that. 1) You just excluded me and all like me who believe we can know truth; and 2) You just made a truth claim which, on your postmodern thinking, is self-contradictory.

In embracing the truths of your worldview, you have excluded many. That's just the way truth works. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Pride and Receiving Criticism

 

                                                                       (Our lilac bush)

I'm now using Tim Keller's 365-day devotional book on Proverbs. I love Proverbs! It's straight-shooting, in-your-face, no-nonsense wisdom about how to live a godly life (and how to avoid destruction).

Yesterday's entry Is on Proverbs 16:5; 18.

The LORD detests all the proud of heart. 

Be sure of this: 

They will not go unpunished. . . . 

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. 

Keller writes:

"The Bible does not say that pride might lead to destruction—it says it will. Why? The practical reason is that pride makes it difficult to receive advice or criticism. You can’t learn from your mistakes or admit your own weaknesses. Everything has to be blamed on other people. You have to maintain the image of yourself as a competent person, as someone who is better than other people. Pride distorts your view of reality, and therefore you’re going to make terrible decisions."  (Keller, God's Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs, p. 134). 

Keller asks us this. "What negative practical results of pride have you seen recently worked out in your own life or the lives of others you know?" 

Pride is the root of so many things that are wrong with us. This is why C. S. Lewis called pride "the great sin."

Every Community Embraces and Excludes

 

                                                                           (NYC)

All communities both embrace (if you buy into the narrative) and exclude (if you don't).

Amy Chua (Yale) presents this in her book Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations

Chua writes:

"Humans are tribal. We need to belong to groups. We crave bonds and attachments, which is why we love clubs, teams, fraternities, family. Almost no one is a hermit. Even monks and friars belong to orders. But the tribal instinct is not just an instinct to belong. It is also an instinct to exclude.

Some groups are voluntary; some are not. Some tribes are sources of joy and salvation; some are the hideous product of hate mongering by opportunistic power seekers. But once people belong to a group, their identities can become oddly bound with it. They will seek to benefit their group mates even when they personally gain nothing. They will penalize outsiders, seemingly gratuitously. They will sacrifice, and even kill and die, for their groups."

For a deep dive, see Miroslav Volf, 

Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation 

Monday, May 13, 2024

Heaven, the Soul, and the Afterlife (Coming Fall 2024)

 


HEAVEN, THE SOUL, AND THE AFTERLIFE

RENEWAL SCHOOL OF MINISTRY

 


You may have heard it said that some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.  But turn this on its head and we see that some people are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good. In this class we will focus on a Christian understanding of heavenly-mindedness, and hope in, life after death.

We will respond to questions like these.

What happens to us when we die?

What will the afterlife be like?

How does the Bible describe the afterlife?

Why is it important to understand that you have a soul?

How can we know that persons have souls?

Will we be with our loved ones in eternity?

What will we do for all eternity?

How does belief in everlasting life inform how we now live on earth?

This is a four-week class. Monday nights. 8-9:30 PM EST. Begins Monday, Sept. 16, 2024. (9/16, 9/23, 9/30, 10/7)

Class sessions will be both in person at Redeemer Church in Monroe, Michigan, and live-zoomed.

Registration begins in August. $10 for the four class sessions.

INSTRUCTOR: Rev. John Piippo, PhD

John Piippo has taught spiritual formation, prayer, and presence-driven leadership in seminaries, conferences and retreats, around the United States and the world. John has written six books: Leading the Presence-Driven ChurchPraying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God, Deconstructing Progressive Christianity, 31 Letters to the Church on Discipleship, 31 Letters to the Church on Praying, and Encounters with God.

John currently is a Visiting Professor at Faith Bible Seminary (Chinese) in Flushing, NYC, and an Adjunct Professor at Payne Theological Seminary (A.M.E.) in Wilberforce, Ohio.

John was Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Monroe County Community College for eighteen years (Logic, Philosophy of Religion, Western Philosophy)

John and Linda have been pastors at Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe, Michigan, since 1992. 

John has a PhD in Philosophical Theology from Northwestern University, and an M.Div. from Northern Seminary. 

John regularly blogs at johnpiippo.com.  


If Jesus Is the Only Way to God, What About Those Who Have Never Heard of Him?

Shipshewana, Indiana (photo by Linda Piippo)

How about some theological discussion as we come to the end of 2018? The question: If Jesus is the only way to God, what about those who have never heard of him?

Imagine this story. John does not believe in Jesus. But Jason does. Jason tells John about Jesus, and John is interested. 

Jason feels God wants him to get back to John soon, but does not find time to get back to John. John dies without hearing more. What was John’s status before John died? To be saved, did he need more information about Jesus? 


Paul Copan asks: “Was his eternal destiny in the hands of [someone] who happened not to respond to an inner prompting? Could it be that God is more interested in a person’s spiritual direction or responsiveness than in his spiritual ‘location’ on a continuum?”


Theistic philosopher Copan does an excellent job of presenting the issues and suggesting answers to the question: what if someone has never had the opportunity to hear about Jesus? The points below are from Copan’s book True for You, But Not for Me: Overcoming Objections to Christian Faith. Read the book for more detail and explanation, especially regarding Copan’s “middle knowledge” position.

Here are the relevant points. 


1. God’s desire is that all be saved.


2. All who desire to be saved will have the opportunity to be saved.


3. We can trust that God is loving and just. We can trust that the eternal outcome of every person is in the hands of a loving and just God.


4. Persons who have self-inflicted “transworld depravity” will not want God, or God in Christ. So God is not unjust in applying eternal justice to them; viz., everlasting separation from his presence. (1 Thessalonians 1)


5. God has given persons free will. This is risky. Some will likely freely choose to reject God’s offer of salvation, and his revelation in creation and the moral law within (Romans 1 and 2). As C.S. Lewis wrote, re. this, there are two kinds of persons: one who says to God “Thy will be done,” and one to whom God says “Thy will be done.”


6. If God has middle-knowledge (knowledge of future choices) and knows that John will reject Him in any possible world, then God is not unjust in not presenting John with the opportunity to be saved.

 
Here are five views on the question "What about those who have never heard?"

1. The Agnostic View.


a. Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer are agnostic on the matter.


b. If God really loves the whole world, and if Christ died for all without exception, and if God commands all to repent, and if God does not want any to perish, “then it follows that his initiating grace, though resistible (Acts 7:51), is directed toward all without exception. This would include the unevangelized.” (Copan)


c. We can trust that God has the question of the unevangelized figured out.


d. Further, God has done so much to reach us all, even to suffer with us in a world filled with evil and misery, that we have good reason to believe the unevangelized are in excellent hands.


e. We can trust that God is loving and just. So God won’t condemn anyone for being born at the wrong time and place (viz., in a time and place where the message of the Gospel of Jesus was not known).


f. God is able to reach people in ways we don’t expect. For example, he can reveal himself – and has done so – through visions or angelic messengers. Copan cites examples of Jesus appearing to Muslims who had never heard of him.


g. In the end we can trust in a good God to do no wrong. “We should not think about the unevangelized apart from God’s character, motives, and good purposes.” (Copan)


2. The Inclusivist (Wider-Hope) View 


a. In Romans 2:7 Paul writes: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, [God] will give eternal life.”


b. Could some unevangelized people fit in this category?


c. Inclusivists say: Salvation is exclusive in its source – Christ alone as God’s full, final revelation. Salvation is available to every person – even those the missionary can’t reach.


d. One criticism of this view is that accepting it would diminish missionary zeal. Why bring Christ to the nations if the nations can be saved without hearing of Christ?


e. The inclusivist responds by asking why anyone’s fate should solely depend on evangelists who are not always available and/or faithful?


f. Belief in the sovereignty of God makes us think God will not really leave the destiny of unreached people in the hands of imperfect, fallible missionaries. Can’t God work beyond the boundaries of the gospel’s proclamation and our expectations?


g. What about those in the Old Testament who didn’t know about the historical Jesus and his death and resurrection? “Clearly they were saved on the basis of what Jesus would eventually accomplish (Rom. 3:25; see Acts 17:30).


h. And what about infants and those who are mentally incapable of grasping the gospel message?


i. The inclusivist believes that human beings are guilty and helpless before God, separated from him, and cannot be saved apart from Christ.


j. The inclusivist believes that God wants all to be saved. This seems to imply that he makes salvation available to all.


k. The inclusivist claims that salvation through Jesus’ “name” doesn’t necessarily imply knowing the historical facts about Jesus of Nazareth. While Jesus is ontologically necessary for salvation, he is not epistemologically necessary.


l. Natural revelation may have a positive role and may be used by God’s Spirit to show the unevangelized their need for him. For example, Romans 1:20 and Romans 2:14-15 may give us two ways persons can be saved without hearing of the Jesus story. Here inclusivists are optimistic about the role of “general revelation” through the creation, and the moral law within each human heart. Millard Erickson, who is not an inclusivist, says: “If they [persons who know about God through his self-revelation in nature (cf. Romans 1:20) but still reject God] are condemnable because they have not trusted God through what they have, it must have been possible somehow to meet this requirement through this means.If not, responsibility and condemnation are meaningless… Perhaps there is room for acknowledging that God alone may know in every case exactly whose faith is sufficient for salvation.” (In Copan)


m. The Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10) seems to be an example of someone who seems to display the working of God’s Spirit and grace in is life.


n. John Stott summarizes the inclusivist argument: “What we do not know, however, is exactly how much knowledge and understanding of the Gospel people need before they can cry to God for mercy and be saved. In the Old Testament, people were certainly “justified by grace through faith,” even though they had little knowledge or no expectation of Christ. Perhaps there are others today in a somewhat similar position. They know they are sinful and guilty before God, and that they cannot do anything to win his favor, so in self-despair they call upon the God they dimly perceive to save them. If God does save such, as many evangelical Christians tentatively believe, their salvation is still only by grace, only by Christ, only by faith.” (In Copan)


Copan presents an argument against the inclusivist position.


a. Inclusivism can blur important distinctions, which can result in disastrous affirmations. For example, some inclusivists hold that Muslims whoa re seeking Allah can be saved.


b. Romans 1 seems to argue against the inclusivist position. Paul has a pessimistic view of humanity’s ability to turn to God because of God’s revelation in nature.


c. There are people who don’t respond to general revelation yet respond to the preaching of the gospel.


d. Inclusivism dampens concern for missions. “It seems doubtful that inclusivism would actually increase evangelistic fervor.”


3. The Accessibilist/Middle Knowledge View


a. God judges the unevangelized based on their response to natural revelation, which his Spirit can use to bring them to salvation. “Natural revelation doesn’t damn anyone without furnishing genuine opportunities to be saved (Romans 2:7) God’s initiative offers them prevenient (“preceding”) grace to respond. All they need to do is humble themselves before him and repent. God is not only just in his judgment, but also gracious in genuinely offering salvation.” (Copan)


b. God can’t make people freely choose to respond to the gospel. “Some might be like NYU philosopher Thomas Nagel, who said, ‘I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.’ Indeed, with every new indication of God’s reality, a person might come to resent or hate him even more.”


c. God knows all future possibilities and free choices of human beings, and whoever would want to be saved will find salvation. God knows all truths – even future ones. God knows all possible future events and human choices – what free creatures could do in various circumstance and what world-arrangements are feasible.” For example, Jesus knew (from the Father) that Peter would deny him three times. God knew that Peter would freely choose to deny Christ under certain circumstances.


d. God takes human free will seriously. Copan says: “No one will be condemned as the result of geographical or historical accident, lack of information, or failure of a missionary to “get there.” All who want – or would want – to be saved do find salvation. Those who would always refuse salvation get their way in the end.”


e. Perhaps there’s no feasible world of persons who all freely choose Christ; this God creates a world containing an optimal balance of fewest lost and greatest number saved. Sometimes people ask: “Why didn’t God create world in which everyone freely chose to love him?” But if humans are truly free, then there’s guarantee they will use their free will to love him. Remember that God does not create out of any need. God desires that none perish; he wants us to embrace him and live. Copan writes: “So it’s reasonable to believe that he wants a maximal number of persons saved and a minimal number condemned. He wants his renewed creation – the new heaven and earth – to be as full as possible and hell as empty as possible. The only thing preventing hell’s being completely empty of people is the human will’s resistance to his loving and gracious initiative. God isn’t less loving because some people are condemned for rejecting him. So why couldn’t this world be the one that achieves this optimal balance?”


f. Some persons possess self-inflicted “transworld depravity” or “transworld damnation”; they would have been lost in any world in which they were placed.


g. Missions motivation isn’t diminished, since God has also providentially arranged fort human messengers to bring the gospel to those he knew would accept it if they heard it.


h. Some individuals may seem “so close” to salvation in the actual world without finding it. But perhaps this actual world is the very nearest the transworldly depraved ever come to salvation.

How to Mourn with the Parents of Stillborn and Miscarried Children


(Downtown Monroe)

Yesterday was Mother's Day. Linda and I have three wonderful sons! Sadly, one of them, David, 
was stillborn. 

If this has happened to one of your friends, here's a helpful article: "How to Mourn with the Parents of Stillborn and Miscarried Children."

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Faith Is a Shelter in the Storms of Life

 

                                              (Levi, Josh, and Linda in our back yard)

Have I ever felt afraid? Of course.

After our twin son David was stillborn, and our surviving twin, Josh, was fighting for his life, I had moments of fear. Fear is the emotion a person feels when facing something bad that is happening or is about to happen. Fear is the emotion I feel when my well-being, and that of those I love, is threatened.

To fear is to feel unprotected.

Today a tiny virus is expanding its kingdom of fear with mighty human institutions bowing before its path. What shall we do? Keep following normal precautions, such as sanitizing your hands, often. If you feel sick, stay home, isolated from the public. Follow guidelines like these.

Beyond that, what can I do? Here is where I have found my faith functioning as a shelter in the storms of life.

Consider Jesus’ disciples, in their fishing boat, on the Sea of Galilee. A “furious storm” assaults them. The waves are sweeping over the boat. And Jesus is sleeping.

I think of my trip to India. I’m riding in the back seat of a car, being transported from Hyderabad to Kurnool. A five-hour car ride that brought me a lot of fear. Many times I thought the driver would hit another car, or go off the road. To me, his driving was reckless. I was dead tired from a long flight, but could not sleep. Several times I turned to look at my Indian friend who invited me on this trip. Each time, he was sleeping like a newborn baby. Obviously, he had no fear.

Unable to take the storm any longer, Jesus’ disciples - experienced fishermen - woke Jesus up, begging for help. Jesus wakes, and asks them, “Why are you so afraid?” Had I been in that boat I would have answered, “I’ll tell you why. We are going to drown!”

Jesus responds by getting up and rebuking the wind and waves, as if they were demon-inspired. Upon which the waters calm down. Jesus’ disciples were amazed, and ask, “What kind of man is this?”

When our son Joshua was going under, I prayed and told God, "If You will allow him to live, I shall never have such fear again." Josh lived. And while I have had bouts of fear since then, I remember how Jesus brought Linda and I through this terrible storm. 

What kind of man is this, who is with us in the furious storms of life? His name is Jesus. And we are His followers, people of faith, who love Him, and in whom He works all things together for good.

Getting Acquainted With Grief




I am a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. My son David was stillborn. I held his body in my arms and said goodbye... for now.

This sad event, thirty-nine years ago, sent Linda and I into the light-impoverished place of grief. I was asked to be a pastor for Sparrow Hospital's "HOPING" group to parents who lost children in the Mid-Michigan Neonatal ICU in Lansing, Michigan. Linda and I met with many who suffered these great losses.

Along the way God helped me through some books. They include:

Friday, May 10, 2024

Your Identity is: Peacemaker

(My back yard)

In 2 Corinthians 5 we learn the following. 


  • When a person gets saved they become a new creation.
  • As a new creation, they no longer live narcissistic lives for themselves, but live for Him.
  • As a new creation, they no longer view people "according to the flesh (kata sarka), but according to the Spirit (kata pneuma).
  • We see people, all of them, as either reconciled to God, or not reconciled to God.
  • New creations are burdened by this. They "implore" ("beg) people to be reconciled to God.
  • God gives we new creations a "ministry of reconciliation." In this, we are "ambassadors for Christ."

If you are a Jesus-follower, you have a ministry of reconciliation. You bring people to God, and bring people to one another. You are a reconciler, not a divider. Any fool can divide; blessed and few are the peacemakers. 

The apostle Paul wrote: 

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, 
the new creation has come: 
The old has gone, the new is here!
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 
19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, 
not counting people’s sins against them. 
And he has committed to us 
the message of reconciliation.

God reconciled you, through Christ, to himself. God did not count your sins against you. God did not look at you and the mess you made of life and say, "Nothing good can ever come from this person." You have the message that God did not treat us this way. You are to share this with others. This is Good News.

Because of this core message of Real Christianity, Linda and I labor to reconcile husbands and wives and friends and families in failing relationships. We have a ministry of reconciliation, just like you. Un-ity, not di-vorce, is the God-thing. 

Tap into God's creative, restorative, reconciling abilities to unite people. God can work, through you, to dissolve disparity between people. 

Abide in Him, and receive His empowering for a peace unlike this world dishes out. Your identity is peacemaker (not peace-lover). 

Do not assist division. Reconcilers refuse to enable dysfunction and sin. Have nothing to do with tearing marriages and families and friends asunder. 

Refuse to entertain words like "This marriage will never make it," or "We could never be friends again," or "Nothing good can ever come out of these people." (Warning: as you refuse to enable sin, the enablee will be outraged because, from their egocentric viewpoint, you are not "helping" them. They may even accuse you of not following Jesus, as if Jesus assists people on the road to destruction. In short, the enablee will likely dishonor you and, in their blindness, view you as trying to control them. How absurd!)

Your core belief is: God is able to reconcile. You know this is true, for He reconciled you, to Him, and to others. The idea is: If two people follow Jesus, and are "in him," they will come together since, in Christ, divisive relationships are nonexistent. View things this way. Think community, not individuality.

If you are a Jesus-follower, you are a gatherer, not a scatterer. 

You assist people on the road to life, rather then enable people on the path of craziness. 

You are someone who brings people to God, and brings people together. 

This is dynamic, far more so than those dark, mediocre voices of relational failure that enumerate sins against people and give up on them. 

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My books are HERE

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Adventures With God - Episode 01 - "Desperation"



I'm with Robby Dawkins, Bryan Schwartz, Jamie Galloway, and Darren Wilson in the first episode of Adventures of God. 

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Three of my books are:

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God


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