Image result for lewis baldwin king

It is my privilege to teach spiritual formation in one of the nation’s oldest African American theological seminaries, Payne Theological Seminary. In my classes I teach one section on the prayer life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As our nation pauses to honor Dr. King, we will celebrate his great civil and political influence. But we will hear nothing of his own understanding of the source of that influence. The fire burning deep in King’s soul was his relationship with God, fanned by his constant prayer life. Few scholars have attended to this, says Lewis Baldwin ofVanderbilt University in his book Never to Leave Us Alone: The Prayer Life of Martin Luther King. Our secular media has thrown King’s spiritual life down the Orwellian memory hole. Baldwin corrects this.

I remember reading, for the first time, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” I knew King was a Christian, but his spiritual life was never talked about in the media. We saw film and photos of King praying in the city streets, but were not told how much this meant to him. His “Letter” greatly moved me. I saw that King was an intellectual, a genius, a brilliant writer, and most importantly,  a fundamentally spiritual being. The social activism of Martin Luther King, Jr., was a function of a life grounded in God and prayer, which he defined as “conversing with God.”

Prayer was more than a theory or some religious thing for King. King had an actual prayer life, contrary to many religious leaders who talk about praying but don’t find time to do it. He saw it as necessary for changing his own life and the prevailing culture. Baldwin, the great King scholar, shows us that King never separated moral responsibility from a deep personal spirituality and piety. Prayer, for King, was conversation with God.

Once King received a phone call at midnight from a racist who called him a “n——-,” threatened to kill him, and “blow up” his home This deeply disturbed him, and he was unable to sleep. He discovered that all the intellectual things he learned in the university and seminary could not help him overcome this. Baldwin writes that King turned to God in prayer, and had a face-to-face encounter with what is, in the tradition of his forebears, called a “Waymaker.” This God-encounter exposed his fears, insecurities, and vulnerablities. He found great comfort as an “inner voice” spoke to him, reminding him that he was not alone, commanding him to stand up for righteousness, justice, and truth, and assuring him that “lo, I will be with you, even to the end of the world.”

It is important to understand King’s position on spiritual things if we want to grasp his societal accomplishments. King, who earned a PhD at Boston University, knew that intellectual accomplishments were not enough to transform self and society. God was needed, and prayer was able to “invoke the supernatural.” Baldwin writes that “King taught the people of Montgomery that the weapon of prayer was ultimately more powerful and effective than any gun or bomb.”

King spent much time alone in prayer. He told students that if you don’t have a deep life of prayer you have no business preaching to others. King saw himself as essentially involved in a “spiritual movement,” not simply a struggle for equal rights, social justice, and peace.

King knew, existentially, that real, true prayer involves “a profound surrender of the self to God, not prayer rooted in self-pride, self-righteousness, and self-centeredness.” That becomes the kind of relationship with God that can transform the fabric of reality.

Leadership is influence. Therefore, King was one of our nation’s greatest leaders. Baldwin brings us to the source of that influence, which was: King’s own soul-receptivity to the powerful, transforming influence of God. “King,” writes Baldwin, “was effective because his praying and preaching were effective. True leadership in his case made prayer and preaching indispensable.”


My book Leading the Presence-Driven Church is finally available, in paperback, here at

The Kindle book should be available soon.


Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 2 The Case for Experience

Chapter 3 The “Presence Motif”

Chapter 4 Presence Comes Before Purpose and Programs

Chapter 5 How to Experience God’s Presence

Chapter 6 The Marks of a Presence-Driven Church

Chapter 7 The Language of the Presence-Driven Church

Chapter 8 Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Chapter 9 God’s Presence Will Win the Day


Here are some photos I took in Monroe and Monroe County,
with some quotes.
Bolles Harbor
My back yard
River Raisin
Monroe County
Dixon Road
River Raisin
My back yard
Monroe County
Monroe County
Monroe County
Monroe County
River Raisin dam
River Raisin (from Plank Road)
My back yard
Plank Road
Monroe County
My front yard
Our neighbor’s yard

Dinner and Auction to Support Mary Robey Koch

(Written by Mike Ansel)
Scripture says to mourn with those who mourn and to rejoice with those who rejoice. As people, and especially as a group of Christian (Called out ones) people, our hearts are drawn to this sister who has been through more than we can imagine or even phantom!
Mary Robey Koch entered the hospital with the hope of delivering her first child and the joy this would bring her and her husband.  After delivering her healthy son Cooper Mary contacted Sepsis and was thrown into a fight for her life!  Her extremities were under attack and within two days of delivery her feet and lower calf were amputated.  Muscle and infected dead skin were also removed as the doctors at the University of Michigan raced to save her hands!  Prayer warriors were called upon to stand in the gap for Mary.  It was not to be so as two days after loosing her feet Mary lost her hands! Unimaginable nightmare for this young first time mother, her mom and dad, and her inlaws!
Mary spent seven months in the trauma burn unit at the U. of M. hospital, and has been home for a month now.  Mary has a long road ahead of her with therapy, prosthetics, Dr. appointments, and caring for her now 8 month old son!  Of course Mary has had her “down” moments, but her faith remains strong as she puts her spiritual hands to the plow and moves forward with grace, strength, and dignity!  Mary has had a lot of support from her family and friends, and that’s where we come in at Redeemer Fellowship. We believe in the Church as the wider body of those who have been saved and sanctified by the sacrifice of Jesus. Mary is a fellow sojourner on this road leading to the Celestial City. It is our Christian honor to help her along the way!
Mary and her family have many needs, and one of the most pressing is monetary. We (at Redeemer) are planning a Dinner/Auction in order to raise funds toward those needs. I (we) want to partner with this sister and her family in a show of Christian unity and support.
Of course we welcome help from all people of good will and compassion toward this cause.
The time is fast approaching when we will collectively bring forth a sacrifice of praise as we fellowship around a meal and auction/fundraiser in support of Mary at Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe.
The date is May 13th. with auction viewing at 4:00 p.m. and dinner at 5:00 p.m. Live auction to start after dinner.  Silent auction bidding will start upon your arrival.  Two separate dinners will be served.  The wild game dinner is $15.00 dollars for adults 13 and up and $8.00 dollars for those 12 and under.  4 and under free!  The alternative dinner will be a simple hot dog, sloppy Joe, potato chips, dessert, and drink dinner for $6.00 for adults and $4.00 for children 12 and under.
In order to have a smooth operation it would be so helpful if we can have a “head” count as to who will be attending so the proper amount of food can be prepared. Auction items are still being accepted, as well as desserts, or a special “wild game” dish you would like to prepare!
Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated. Call Mike Ansel at 734-241-3329 home or 734-770-4660 for information.  Lets make this day before Mothers Day a time of rejoicing for Mary and her supporters!
Email Mike Ansel at –
Email John Piippo at  –


Image result for johnpiippo snow
My back yard, on a snowy day

“Black Friday” and “Cyber-Monday” are over. The Thanksgiving days of feasting are now days of healthy, moderate eating. I’m about to sit down for a bowl of oat meal.

I turn on the TV. “Holiday” stuff is on. I see nothing about Christmas.


#1 – Christmas has nothing to do with shopping. I’m not against shopping. I like to go to the mall with Linda and look around. I like the crowds and the lights and the music and the candy. I like eating red and green M&Ms. Yet all these things have NOTHING to do with Christmas. What, then, is Christmas about? There’s a big clue in the word itself. Christmas has to do with “Christ.” The word “Christ” means “anointed King.” Jesus is “the Christ,” the anointed King. “Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Messiah.” Christ – mass. The festival of the arrival of the anointed King.

“Christmas” = Messiah has come.

#2 – Christmas has nothing to do with gift-giving. But what about the wise men who brought gifts? They came after Jesus was born. Remove them from your manger scene and place them somewhere outside the house, perhaps down the road a ways. They did bring gifts to honor Jesus’ birth. They did not go shopping to buy gifts to give one another. Is it wrong to do that? I don’t think so. I love giving gifts to my family. I like opening gifts. But giving gifts to one another has NOTHING to do with Christmas. Except that, in Jesus, God gave a great Gift to all humanity. For that Gift, I remain eternally grateful. 

Christmas” = A Gift, from God, to us.

#3 – Christmas has nothing to do with tree-decorating. Is it wrong to have a Christmas tree? I don’t think so. I like decorating the tree every year. I like the lights, especially old-fashioned large multi-colored ones. I enjoy going to Bronner’s, just 75 miles north of us. But decorated trees have NOTHING to do with Christmas. Read the original Christmas story in both Matthew and Luke and see for yourself. There were no trees or lights or tinsel. And, it didn’t smell like fresh-cut pine.

“Christmas” = the birth of God’s Son, who would eventually be crucified on a tree.

#4 – Christmas has nothing to do with snow. I’m looking out my window and it is snowing lightly. I like this. For me, it would be nice to have snow on Christmas Day. But when first-century hoped for and had dreams and visions of a Messiah (a “Christ”), not one of them was dreaming of a white Christmas. Those ancient people were under great political oppression. They could care less if it snowed or not. “Snow” is neither an essential attribute nor a contingent attribute of “Christmas.”

“Christmas” = Messiah who comes to make us, righteously, “whiter than snow.” (Ps. 51:7)

#5 – Christmas has nothing to do with the economy. I have friends who are local retailers, and I hope they do well. I like a stable American economy. But Christmas has NOTHING to do with a consumer economy. The angels were not rejoicing because Christmas sales were up as a result of the Christ being born. Get this: God’s Son was born into radical poverty. Mary ended up singing about how God would now finally help the poor and the hungry and the marginalized and the oppressed.

“Christmas” = the beginning of the “Great Reversal,” where the proud, mighty, and rich are brought down and the poor, hungry, and lowly are exalted. (See Luke 1:46-55, e.g.)

I like the holidays, the holy days. They remind me of times with my parents and brother when I was growing up. And times Linda and I had with our sons. They remind Linda and I of a son of ours, David, who died, which made one holiday season not so jolly. They remind me of Linda’s father Del, who lived with us for 6 1/2 years, until he died on New year’s Eve 2012. (Deck the halls with melancholy…)

I like the holidays and I love Real Christmas Music (like “Trio Mediaeval,” which I’m listening to right now). But mostly, I love Jesus. When I became a follower of Jesus I left a life of drug and alcohol abuse forever. I doubt I’d be alive today if not for Jesus. Jesus fills my life, now more than ever as I grow older. He is my raison d’etre, my reason for being. This time of the year is another opportunity to experience and encounter and think about the Christ, my Savior, and your’s too.

“Christmas” = love, worship, and adoration of Christ the Lord, King, Savior, Redeemer, Rescuer, Bondage-Breaker, Lamb of God, Revolutionary, promised Messiah, my Lord and my God.


My new book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.


I entered a convenience store in Joliet, Illinois. It was 1975. Some people in front of me were purchasing lottery tickets. When it was my turn to pay for my items the attendant asked, “Do you want to buy a lottery ticket, too?”

“No,” I replied.

“Aww, come on! You could win the big jackpot!”


They pressed a little further. That’s when I said, “Only fools play the lottery.”

And a great silence came over the convenience store.

“Fool” here means: people who are ignorant of probability and statistics. “Fool” means someone who falls prey to the “Gambler’s Fallacy.”

I may be a fool, but not when it comes to the lottery. I have never played it, never bought one single ticket. Playing the lottery is throwing money away.

In 1842 Honoré de Balzac wrote:

“This mania, so generally condemned, has never been properly studied. No one has realized that it is the opium of the poor. Did not the lottery, the mightiest fairy in the world, work up magical hopes? The roll of the roulette wheel that made the gamblers glimpse masses of gold and delights did not last longer than a lightning flash; whereas the lottery spread the magnificent blaze of lightning over five whole days. Where is the social force today that, for forty sous, can make you happy for five days and bestow on you—at least in fancy—all the delights that civilization holds?” (La Rabouilleuse)

USA Today asked the question, “Is the lottery the new American Dream?” Probably. But by probability, it’s as likely to happen as fairies landing on your head.


Linda and I invite you to join us in January for 3 Nights of Marriage Strengthening!

WHEN: January 17, 24, 31

6 – 8 PM

WHERE: Redeemer Fellowship Church
5305 Evergreen
Monroe, Michigan

Sign up in the church lobby or by calling our office at 734-731-1709.

We’re working on hopefully providing babysitting. TBA.

We’ll be using the “I Love You More” video + workbook curriculum by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.

Couples will need to purchase workbooks which accompany the videos: Here for men; here forwomen. ($8.99 apiece. If you cannot afford the workbooks please let me know.)

In I Love You More, a video-based study, Doctors Les and Leslie Parrott show you how the same forces that can chip away at a marriage can instead become the catalyst for new relational depth and richness–provided you make wise choices. Whether the problem is major or mild, you’ll learn how to transform nettlesome issues into loving opportunities.

We’ll do 2 17-minute sessions per evening. The topics are:

1. I Love You More, Session 1 “Love Is Not Enough”
In Session 1, “Love Is Not Enough,” you will discuss unrealistic expectations you brought into your marriage and discern how you can strengthen your marriage from conflicts.
2. I Love You More, Session 2 “Tackle This Problem First…and All Others Get Easier”
In Session 2, “Tackle this Problem First… and All Others Get Easier,” you will discuss attitudes that exist in your marriage and which ones need to be changed.
3. I Love You More, Session 3 “The Subtle Saboteurs of Every Marriage”
In Session 3, “The Subtle Saboteurs of Every Marriage,” you will discuss how busyness has crept into your marriage and learn how crabbiness can negatively impact your relationship.
4. I Love You More, Session 4 “How to Solve Any Problem in Five (not-so-easy) Steps”
In Session 4, “How to Solve Any Problem in Five (not-so-easy) Steps,” you will discover the five tools you can use to tackle problems of any kind and learn how to take responsibility in your relationship.
5. I Love You More, Session 5 “Joining Your Spirits Like Never Before”
In Session 5, “Joining Your Spirits Like Never Before,” you will discuss the difficulty in creating and maintaining spiritual connections and learn what you can do to bring more spiritual intimacy into your marriage.
6. I Love You More, Session 6 “The Good that Comes from a Problem-Solving Marriage”
In Session 6, “The Good that Comes from a Problem-Solving Marriage,” you will discern which blessing of marriage you most appreciate and what you appreciate about your marriage relationship and express how your marriage makes you happy.