We Marry Our Parents

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
– Hezekiah 1:1

Linda and I are loving Gary Chapman’s premarital book Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. Buy this little book. Cover it with super- glue. Place it in the hands of your sons and daughters.

Chapman writes:

“I am not suggesting that the girl you marry will turn out to be exactly like her mother, nor that the man will be exactly like his father. I am saying that you are both greatly influenced by your parents. If he has a father who is controlling and verbally abusive, don’t be surprised if in ten years he has similar traits. To some degree, we are all products of our environment. Research indicates that abusive men were almost always abused as children.”

In my premarital counseling I have for years given the FOCCUS Pre-Marriage Inventory. One of the sections is about “Family of Origin.” We’re all more like our families than we might like to admit. To understand this increases behavorial predictability. Sometimes I have thought that I not only have inherited behaviors from my father but that I even walk like my father, and sit in a chair in just the way my dad did. (Is that possible? How many variations of chair-sitting can there be?)

For every one of us, some of our paternal inheritance is good, some of it is not so good. Regarding the “not so good,” are we doomed to repeat the past sins of our fathers? Chapman writes:

“You may be asking, ‘But can’t we learn from their poor example and change our own behavior?’ The answer is yes, and the important word is “learn.” If the sn of an abuser does not take specific steps to understand abuse – why his father became an abuser, and what he needs to do to break the pattern – then he is likely to repeat it.” (K 296-308)

And, “if a girl’s mother is alcoholic, we know that statistically she is more likely to become an alcoholic. However, she is not destined to alcoholism. If she takes positive actions to understand alcoholism and learns more constructive ways to respond to stress and disappointment, she can break the alcoholic chain. Therefore, if in a dating relationship either of you has a parent with a destructive lifestyle, the responsible action is to enroll in a class, read books, talk with counselors, and discuss with each other what you are learning. Don’t sweep these issues under the rug.” (Ib.)

I’ll add a few more thoughts to this wisdom.

1) I’ve collected 30 years of empirical evidence that shows personal transformation (meta-morphe) and change as a result of a consistent lifestyle of abiding in Christ (dwelling in the presence of God, and defining this in a certain way).

2) Gerald May, in his beautiful book Addiction and Grace, gives clinical examples of sudden, quantum-leap transformations in addicted clients. Psychiatrically inexplicable, May attributes these rare yet real events to the grace of God.

Violent Night

C.S. Lewis referred to it as “The Great Invasion.” In chapter 7 of Mere Christianity Lewis writes:

 “One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe–a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin…  Christianity agrees… that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

 Enemy-occupied territory–that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, ‘Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil-hoofs and horns and all?’ Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is ‘Yes, I do.’ I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, ‘Don’t worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you’ll like it when you do is another question.'”

 The most a-cultural telling of Christmas is found in Revelation 12:1-7. We read:

 “A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

 And there was war in heaven.”

 Robert Mounce says that: 1) the “woman” here is not Mary, but the messianic community, the “ideal Israel” (231); 2) out of the messianic community is born a “child,” a Messiah; 3) the seven-headed red dragon is Satan (Rev. 12:9; 20:2); 4) Satan is looking to devour this child; AKA Jesus the Christ.

 Mary has already been prophetically warned about such things. In Luke 2 we read that… the old man “Simeon took him [baby Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

 Violent night

Holy night

All’s not calm

All’s not bright

 Christmas Eve – that violent night when the Light of the World descended into darkness…

It’s You That Needs Changing Monroe


Recently some University of Michigan film students who are making a movie about our Monroe community interviewed me. I enjoyed spending time with them, one of whom was a student named Jordan who has been part of Redeemer in the past. Jordan asked me, “What’s the main thing you see about Monroe that needs to be changed?” My immediate answer was: “Me.” I am dead-serious about this. If I can change for the better, into greater Christlikeness, our community will be better off.

If I can change and be a better husband to Linda, Linda will be better off. If God changes me into a greater Jesus-like compassionate servant, then the people in my church family will be better off. Others will benefit from what God is doing in me. There’s an old gospel song that goes “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” Another worship song does not read “change others’ hearts O God, but rather “change my heart O God.” We can’t change other people. With God’s help we can change. Focus on your own change before God.

Redeemer Ministry School: Laying a Foundation For a Life of Ministry

If you are looking for a ministry school program that will provide a foundation that will last a lifetime then Redeemer Ministry School may be for you.

We provide a 9-month intensive with three Trimesters.

For example, courses for our Winter Trimester are:

* Tuesdays, 9:30-1 Prophecy – (John Piippo & Josh Bentley)
* Wednesdays, 9:30 – 1 – Kingdom of God II (Healing & Deliverance) (Josh Bentley)
* Thursdays, 9:30 – 1 – Teaching/Preaching (John Piippo)
*Fridays, 9:30 – 1 – Worship II (Holly Benner)

In addition to these courses…

* RMS students will travel with me to New York City Jan 3-8, where I will teach Spiritual Formation at Faith Bible Seminary (Chinese) + speak at their annual conference. RMS students will be immersed in Chinese culture, join in some worship projects with FBC, help FBC in some of their ministries, and lead a Friday evening worship experience for FBC.
* Upon returning to Monroe RMS students will prepare for the arrival of Randy Clark and his team for Randy’s School of Healing and Impartation – Jan. 12-15.

RMS Spring Trimester courses are:

* Leadership – Jim Hunter
* Worship III – Holly Benner & Gary Wilson
* Kingdom of God III (Historical Moves of God) – Josh Bentley
* Apologetics – John Piippo

AND… RMS students will prepare for an exciting week of the “Furious Love Event,” with Darren Wilson, Heidi and Rolland baker, Greg Boyd, and many more.

Our 2011-2012 RMS curriculum and events will prove again to be exciting and challenging. Why not join us?

Lay a foundation for life.

Age Me, O Lord


Tonight I’m reading through the spiritual journals of my RMS students and Payne Seminary students. God speaks to one of them and says, “You are afraid to grow old.” Then, shortly after that, they wrote, “Thank you, God, my cup runneth over with the Holy Spirit.”

I commented to them: “As this becomes more and more your experience you will long to grow older.”

Abide closer and closer to Christ, thereby gaining more of the mind of Christ, and though your body decays your spirit will be renewed day after day. After day. You become more human. This is a result of constant abiding. You get free-er. You become less rigid, less uptight. You chill out. You let go and let God. “Trust” leaves the theoretical and becomes actual. Ah, the thrill of growing older in this way! Once recognized as our earthly destiny in Jesus, who wouldn’t want to age?

It is the fear of growing old that wearies us. Therefore age me, O Lord. Like a fine wine kept for the wedding banquet, uncork me in my late years, and pour Yourself out through me.

Did Jesus Actually Exist?

Door, in Jerusalem

Today I heard someone in our Monroe community make the claim that there’s no evidence that the Jesus of the four gospels actually existed, and that the “Jesus” presented there is a myth. I think that view is false.

Perhaps the best explanation of and refutation of “the legendary Jesus theory” is Paul Eddy and Greg Boyd, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus. While the whole book needs to be read, here’s a summary of reasons why the synoptic Jesus tradition can be considered reliable.

  1. “The general religious environment of first-century Jewish Palestine would not have provided a natural environment for birthing a legend/myth centered around a recent, Torah-trumping, cruciform-messianic God-man.” (452)
  2. Core “countercultural and embarrassing features of the Jesus story provide further evidence against the Synoptic portrait(s) being significantly legendary.” (Ib.)
  3. “The claims that Jesus’s identity was inextricably bound up with that of Yahweh-God and that he should receive worship, the notion of a crucified messiah, the concept of an individual resurrection, teh dullness of the disciples, the unsavory crowd Jesus attracted, and a number of other embarrassing aspects of the Jesus tradition are difficult to explain on the assumption that this story is substantially legendary.” (Ib.)
  4. “The fact that this story originated and was accepted while Jesus’s mother, brothers, and original disciples (to say nothing of Jesus’s opponents) were still alive renders the legendary explanation all he more plausible. In our view, it is hard to understand how this story came about in this environment, in such a short span of time, unless it is substantilly rooted in history.” (Ib. See also Richard Bauckham’s excellent Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.)
  5. “Attempts to argue against the historicity of the Jesus tradition on the basis of the alleged silence of Paul or ancient secular writers have mot ben forceful.” (Ib.)
  6. “Much of what we have learned about oral traditions in orally dominant cultures over the last several decades gives us compelling reasons to accept the earliest traditions about Jesus as having been transmitted in a historically reliable fashion.” (Ib.)
  7. “The Synoptics themselves give us plausible grounds for accepting that the basic portrait(s) of Jesus they communicate is substantially rooted in history. Yes they are “biased,” but no more so than many other ancient or modern historical writers whom we typically trust.” (Ib., 453)

Eddy and Boyd conclude: “Where does all this leave us? We suggest that these lines of evidence, viewed from the standpoint of an “open” historical-critical method, provide reasonable grounds for the conviction that the portrait(s) of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels substantially is rooted in history. At the very least, this probability is greater than the probability of any competing hypothesis, which leads us, at minimum, to the conclusion that the a posteriori burden of proof should be born by those who claim the Synoptic Gospelsare unreliable vis-a-vis their essential representations of Jesus.” (Ib.)

That’s a lot of quoting. It’s Eddy and Boyd’s summary of their book. Read the whole thing to see these bullet points reasoned for and filled out.