Greg Boyd at Redeemer in Monroe

Greg Boyd will speak at our Furious Love event:

  • Thursday, April 7, 9:30 AM
  • Thursday, April 7, 1:30 PM

Greg is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist and author. He has authored or co-authored 18 books and numerous academic articles, including his best-selling and award-winning Letters From a Skeptic and his most recent books (co-authored with Dr. Paul Eddy) The Jesus Legend, and Lord or Legend? Wrestling with the Jesus Dilemma.

To register go here.

Suffering In the Believer and the Church’s Response

Lisa Dubois is one of our good friends and Redeemer family members. She is a faith-filled Jesus-follower. She has cancer. I asked her to put together thoughts we’ve talked about on faith and suffering. Here is her essay. Thank you Lisa for writing this! Linda and I and many in our Redeemer family have rarely seen such trust, faith, hope, and joy in the midst of suffering. We are, and remain, deeply inspired and encouraged by Christ in Lisa, the hope of glory.

*****

  
SUFFERING IN THE BELIEVER AND THE CHURCH’S RESPONSE
 
By Lisa Dubois

I have observed, in my own experience in the body of Christ, as believers in Jesus and students of the Holy Bible, that we understand suffering to be part of our Christian walk. There are many scriptures that point to this. Some include:

1. Christ was made perfect through suffering.

  • Heb 2:10 – In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.

2. Suffering disgrace made the disciples counted as “worthy.”

  • Acts 5:41 – The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
  • 2 Thess. 1:5 – All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.

3. Suffering produces perseverance, character and hope.

  • Rom. 5:3-5 – Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

4. Painful trials should not surprise Believers…

  • I Pet 4:12 – Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.

5. Sharing in His sufferings is part of being a child of God.

  • Rom 8: 17-18 – Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
  • 2 Cor 1:5 – For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

6. A believer’s suffering may be for the benefit of others.

  • 2 Cor 1: 6-7 – If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
  • Eph 3:13 – I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

7. Our response to participating in Christ’s sufferings is to rejoice.

  • I Pet 4:13 – But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

8. God’s glory is revealed in our suffering.

  • 2 Cor. 4:6 – 2 Cor.5:7

9. Paul wanted to “fellowship” in Christ’s sufferings even becoming like Him in death.

  • Phil 3:10 – I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

Christ’s sufferings were not limited to those of persecution. He suffered betrayal, rejection, loneliness, fear, physical pain, grief, loss, hunger, lack of sleep, all manner of temptations, etc. As believers, and as humans, we suffer many of these things as well.

Our suffering may originate from different sources than those of Christ’s sufferings. For example, betrayal may come to a believer through the unfaithfulness of a spouse. Rejection may come from a parent who disowns their child. Physical pain may come from a disease brought on by demons or an injury.

In my own personal experience, I give over all my sufferings/circumstances to Him. I desire to “fellowship” with Him in my sufferings. I seek first His possible greater purpose for my current suffering. (Romans 8:28-29: And, we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.) Is the Lord wanting to conform me to the likeness of Christ as in Roman’s 8:29 above? If He does not appear to be in my current sufferings, then I am the first to be rid of them! But my initial response to any suffering is: to submit it to the Lord.

As part of the greater body of Christ, it appears to me that most Christians’ first response to an individual’s suffering is to “pray away the suffering.” That is, to rebuke devils, to pray for immediate physical healing, to pray for persecuting bosses to cease or new jobs to be found, to pray for grief to lift, or for sadness to leave, etc. As the body of Christ, are we praying against the Lord’s will in some of these circumstances— perhaps against His “timing?” Think of the person who has been prayed for countless times and the Lord has not healed them of their grief or despair or physical pain. What does this cause them to believe? Perhaps, as a result, they feel more isolated and lonely. They may feel there is something really wrong with them. They may even begin to feel rejected by God. When we have an expectation that God does not want any suffering to linger in our lives, we may be setting people up for further harm.

How wonderful for me it has been to have fellow believers to come along side me in my own sufferings and walk with me in the perseverance of the faith, encouraging me with hope and comforting me in pain—without an expectation of immediate release or showing impatience with the lack of progress.

Many years ago several lady friends and I spent much time together praying for our troubled marital relationships. Each of us was “suffering.” We spent time being with one another, encouraging one another, shaping (“perfecting”) ourselves in Christ, etc. We have all come out of it stronger in faith and as believers. I wonder what faith would look like, what the greater body of Christ would look like, if we applied a more moderate, patient, enduring, long – suffering approach to individual believer’s sufferings? I do think this does happen actually—but what seems most applauded and celebrated are the quick heals, the quick fixes–when God comes down and rocks our world with what only He can do.

I am not against God doing wonderful, miraculous, instant healings. I just think that, at times, it can be over-emphasized to the neglect of those whose sufferings are of the “long” suffering nature. It seems to me that there are many, many individuals in this category. What does the greater body, the Church of Christ, provide for them? Some believers will seek out their own support network. But I fear that other believers, perhaps younger ones, are left to feel isolated, rejected, lonely and perhaps defective. I have been seeking the Lord about what maybe He would have me do in this situation and I do hope He gives me an answer.

– Lisa Dubois

Avail Yourself of the God Positioning System



Monroe County

 I remember, as an undergraduate in the early 1970s, reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel Nausea. I read it on the recommendation of one of my favorite philosophy teachers, Michael Gelven. Gelven really knew his existentialism, and I was attracted to its themes of meaninglessness and absurdity in light of the absence of God. Even though I had recently come to believe in God, I was convinced that the atheistic existentialists had it right about life’s “meaning” in light of God’s non-existence. That is, if God did not exist, then everything is possible (since there are no objective moral values). Existentialists, reacting to Hegelian-type rationalism, emphasized the limits of human reason. Human reason, on atheism, has serious, big-time limitations.

One of the novel’s characters never left me; viz., that of the “Self-Taught Man.” He spends his life in a library with the goal of reading all the books in alphabetical order. By doing this he thinks he can learn all there is to know. This is a foolish task, because he spends a lifetime but never even gets out of the letter ‘A’. Everything the Self-Taught Man knows he has gotten from a book. If it’s not written in a book, then it’s not real for him. His obviously failed attempt to know everything is absurd, as is life for Antoine Roquentin, the main character of Nausea.

One time, 25 years ago, I made a trip to my favorite bookstore in the world. It’s the Seminary
Co-op Bookstore at Chicago Theological Seminary, which is next to the University of Chicago. I almost did my doctoral work at U of Chicago Divinity School (but chose Northwestern U.) At that time U-C’s divinity school had these professors: Paul Ricoeur, Martin Marty, Langdon Gilkey, and David Tracy to name a few. They had all influenced me, esp. Ricoeur. On a visit to U-C I was introduced to Martin Marty. I was in on office. His desk was piled with books. I thought, “This is my kind of environment!” U-C’s divinity school used the Seminary Co-op Bookstore as their own. This bookstore had the ultimate feast of theological and philosophical texts, unlike any other I had ever seen. There is a lot of learnedness in this place and I want to swim in it.

On that day, long ago, when I walked into my kind of bookstore, I had an “Antoine Roquentin Nausea” experience. (Really, a mini-nausea experience, not one of full-blown existential angst.) I looked at all these books, old ones and brand new ones, and saw that, among the thousands of academic texts, I had read very few. There was the table with all the new publications, displaying books holding recent research and  fresh reasoning. Of the books on that table I had read not one. I felt ignorant. I am, and we are.

Philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset once called scientists “learned ignoramuses.” He wrote, in The Revolt of the Masses:

“Previously, men could be divided simply into the learned and the ignorant, those more or less the one, and those more or less the other. But your specialist cannot be brought in under either of these two categories. He is not learned, for he is formally ignorant of all that does not enter into his specialty; but neither is he ignorant, because he is ‘a scientist’, and ‘knows’ very well his own tiny portion of the universe. We shall have to say that he is a learned ignoramus…a person who is ignorant, not in the fashion of the ignorant man, but with all the petulance of one who is learned in his own special line….That state of ‘not listening’, of not submitting to higher courts of appeal which I have repeatedly put forward as characteristic of the mass-man, reaches its height precisely in these partially qualified men.”

We are all, more or less, learned ignoramuses. We’re all, when it comes to knowledge, partially qualified. And that, I am certain, is an understatement. We may have moments when we feel we know a lot. These moments are delusions.

I have met a few people in my life that I found truly brilliant. One was Reginald Allen. Arguably he was the greatest Plato scholar in the world. Which meant he was also one of the top Aristotle scholars in the world. I was one of six Northwestern U. doctoral students in his seminar on Aristotle’s Metaphysics. I knew I was in for something special when the occasional N.U. professor dropped in just to hear Allen lecture and teach. One day, e.g., the brilliant philosopher Ed Curley sat in the class. We sat around a large wooden table, in heavy wooden chairs, with the walls lined with books. Dr.Allen would walk in and begin to teach. He knew the entire thing in its original Greek. I thought, “I have never seen anything like this before.” I was in the presence of human brilliance. And I liked him as a person, too. But in reality he was but another learned ignoramus like myself. No one was more learned in ancient Greek philosophy than he. That being said, I cannot assume this qualified him to change a light bulb, much less to play like Yo-Yo Ma or do brain surgery

This morning I preached on 1 Corinthians 1:10-25. The new Jesus-followers in the Greek city of Corinth were greatly enamored by the human intellect and eloquent, humanly wise orators. They would debate, among themselves, the beauty of the teachings of Paul, Apollos, Peter, and even Jesus. They engaged in boasting about the virtues of each. Into this Greek environment comes Paul with his upside-down message of “Christ crucified.” “Christ crucified” was a logical contradiction to both Jews and Greeks. It functioned as an oxymoron, like “Microsoft works” or “Anarchy rules.” “Christ crucified” makes about as much sense as “boneless ribs.”

Into this big-time teaching-and-learning environment comes Paul, himself no dummy, with a message that’s looking foolish in terms of “learned” people. God did it this way, Paul said, so as to frustrate the intelligence of the intelligent. (1 Cor. 1:19) Even the weakest sophia of God is far superior to the sophia of persons.

From the POV of Jews (who wanted powerful, Exodus-type signs) and Greeks (who wanted “ideas” packaged in eloquent, culurally acceptable speech-packages) “Christ crucified” was insane. It was “foolish.” “It was,” writes N.T. Wright, “the craziest message anybody could imagine.” In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul insisted that this core message, which in itself was the power of God and the wisdom of God, not be dressed up in the clothing of intellectual and cultural respectability so we won’t be ashamed of it. We are not to seeker-sensitize “Christ crucified.” If we do, it will lose its power. (1 Corinthians 1:17)

We don’t know everything, see everything, or understand everything. We don’t even come close, right? But God does.

A few years ago Linda and I traveled from Monroe to Columbus to attend a funeral. It was in a town east of Columbus. We had never been in that area before. Our son Josh asked if we’d like to borrow his GPS. That sounded like fun to me. We typed in the address and took off. When the British voice (which sounds more intelligent to me than other voices) said “Turn right in 400 yards,” I obeyed. The GPS took us straight to our destination. I thought it would even tell us where to park in funeral home’s lot. But on the trip home something happened.

I like to take different roads and see places I’ve never seen. Linda does, too. So I pressed “alternate route” and off we went. We were driving on a place we’d never been before and the GPS said, “In 400 yards, turn right.” But that did not feel right to me. Stop here. How could I know? I had never been in this place before. So I ignored the British voice and went straight. “Turn around in one mile.” Then, “Turn around.” Then, “Turn around, you ignoramus!” Linda did not use these words on me as I drove on.

We got lost. Finally I submitted to the voice that had a global perspective. We headed back to Monroe.

I am an ignoramus. “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” (1 Corinthians 1:26) Even if we are “wise by human standards” we still know very little.

If there was no God then would be time to despair as the nausea sets in. But God came to us in the form of a person. I now see this as a brilliant idea, as the sophia of God. If I trust in and submit to him, and not in my own very-partial understanding, he will make straight my path. (Proverbs 3:5-6) There is a God Positioning System available to us. Avail of it.

An Obituary Unlike Any I’ve Ever Read

My parents moved from Hancock, Michigan to Rockford, Illinois when I was just one year old. I grew up in Rockford. We attended Tabor Lutheran Church. My parents eventually left Tabor and attended First Evangelical Free Church. We had many friends in both churches.

I remember hearing about Pat Clinton, who attended First Free. He and his brother Tom were (as I recall) athletes in high school, attending (I think…) Harlem High School. Today I read Tom’s obituary. I have never read an obit like this before. I’m hoping it’s OK to post it here.

***

DR. PATRICK ‘PAT’ JAMES CLINTON, 64 ROCKFORD – After a two year battle with brain cancer, I graduated to heaven at 1:12 p.m. Monday, March 7, 2011. When I was 9 years old, I believed John 3:16 and received eternal life. As it says in Scripture, I am fully rejoicing in the wonders of the triune God. Embracing and conversing with my daughter, Darcy Sue, my father- and mother-in-law (Fillmore and Arloine Peterson), and so many other followers of Jesus Christ has been a joy beyond words. It is my heart’s desire that each of you would come to love and trust Jesus Christ as your own personal Lord and Savior. His death and resurrection provided the way for us to have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Inviting Christ to be the Lord of your life, seeking His merciful forgiveness, and believing He is indeed the Son of God will ensure that you also receive eternal life. I love you, Dad and Ma (Joe and Shirley Clinton). Being solid Christian parents, you gave birth to me on Sept. 19, 1946, in Racine, Wis., and raised me well. Together with my brothers, Joe (Dorothy), Tom (Linda) and Bob (Bobbie), and my sister, Debbie (Herb Rosborough), we experienced lifelong love and respect. I am waiting for our joyous eternal reunions. Colleen, my gracious wife, you will always be my best friend. During our wedding on June 24, 1967, we sang a song of commitment to the Lord and to God’s service. God gave us three precious daughters, Andrea Rae (Joel Jacobson) on Father’s Day, Darcy Sue (deceased 1974) on a beautiful autumn Friday, and Lanae Lynn (Joel Williams) on Labor Day. You mothered them wonderfully and helped me to be their loving father. Girls, you will always be our treasures. I will pray for you and our dear grandchildren, Emma, Elliott, and Andrew (Jacobson) and Benjamin, Luke, and Mary Grace (Williams). Remember “Only one life t’will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Sweetheart, during all our 43 years of married life you encouraged me through my graduations from Trinity College (1968), and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1971 and 1983); through our Evangelical Free Church pastorates in Winona, Minn., Beaver Falls, Pa., Holdrege, Neb., Clear Lake, Iowa, and Davis; and through my missionary services with Slavic Gospel Association, Rockford Rescue Mission, and First Love International Ministries. Remember God gave us an extra two years after my brain cancer diagnosis, strengthened our certainty of seeing Him face to face, and brought me home in His perfect timing. Roland and Jeri Peterson (Colleen’s brother and sister-in-law), our many nieces and nephews, and all other relatives and friends – thank you for your love and prayers. May you all continue to help my dear Colleen and daughters in the days ahead. Thank you, Dr. John Dorsey, Dr. Todd Alexander, Dr. Karen Smorowski, Dr. William Edwards and Dr. Nicholas Vick. The Lord used your giftedness to control my cancer and prolong my days to love and serve. Please encourage my dear family at visitations from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 11 and 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday, March 12 at First Evangelical Free Church (Mulford at Spring Creek). My funeral service will follow at the church at 10 a.m. Saturday. The public is invited to attend. Your kind gifts will be shared for our Lord’s continued services through First Love International Ministries, Rockford Rescue Mission, and First Evangelical Free Church. Assisting us with the celebration is Grace Funeral & Cremation Services, 1340 S. Alpine Road, Rockford. For information, 815-395-0559 or visit their website at gracefh.com. On my grave stone that will one day be shared with Colleen are these descriptive words: “Lovers of Jesus Christ” and “Rejoicing & Waiting for You”. If you have never decided to love and trust Jesus as your Savior, don’t wait. It is the most important decision you will ever make.

Influence

I want my life to be used by God to influence people. I want to be part of a community of influence.

We cannot change other people, but God can use our lives to influence others. Because we can’t change people (only God can do that) then we can take our hands off people and trust God regarding their hearts. No controlling needed or allowed. No manipulation. No trying to “shove Jesus down peoples’ throats.” No shaming or guilt-manipulating required. Remember the leaven.

What is required, then? That I, as a Jesus-follower, dwell in him. Let his leaven get into you.

When it comes to influence “size” doesn’t matter. Proof of this is: in America masses of people say they believe in God and are “Christians.” But in proportion to their size their relative influence is small. My college teaching experience and research tells me “church” is not on the rader screen of most of today’s young adults.

You might be “small” as a person, or “small” as a church (“church”= a community of persons following after Jesus in his Kingdom-mission). There might only be twelve of you. Yet God could use you to influence the world. Remember the Twelve.

When I was traveling and teaching in central India I was asked to speak to a grouo of about thirty Indian medical students who were Jesus-followers. One of them asked me, “How can you start a revival?” My answer was, and still is: “When revival happens within you, then revival has started.” Historically this is how it always happens. Moves of God begin small. They don’t happen in mega-situations. (For by far the most part, right?) God could do something in you, right now, that he could use to influence multitudes. Remember the mustard seed.

Could a mega-church have influence in proportion to its mega-ness? It’s possible, but it would have to be muscular and lean. If a mega-church was the spiritual equivalent of one of the Biggest Losers, then we would have a huge but flabby and non-influential church. It is a mega-task to maintain such a church with its massive size and massive couch-potato-ness. Remember the cost of discipleship.

Influence happens underground. God’s Kingdom is an underground movement. It is subtle, subversive, revolutionary, and very powerful. This rarely (if ever) happens on TV or the Internet. We spectate and watch “revivals” happen on TV, but televised moves of God are not themselves moves of God (or rarely so). Remember the seed growing secretly.

Leadership is influence. Therefore everyone is a leader. Leaders for Christ are led by Christ. Therefore they hang very tight with Christ, and the stuff that made for Christ’s influence gets into them. Remember that we participate in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)

Want to Study With Me for a Year?

With RMS students & friends at
Hard Rock Cafe in New York City

I’ve already been talking with people who are interested in coming to Redeemer Ministry School for our 2011-2012 school year.

If that’s you, here are some things you can expect.

  • You will learn what it is to be a leader, studying under author and speaker Jim Hunter.
  • You will learn what it is to be a worshiper, studying under worship leader and recording artist Holly Benner and artist Gary Wilson.
  • You will grow in your understanding of God’s Kingdom, studying under Pastor Josh Bentley.
  • You will study the following things with me: spiritual formation, living in constant renewal, and knowing how to defend our faith (apologetics).
  • You will become a teacher and a preacher.
  • You will pray for people and experience God working through you to heal the sick.
  • You will become part of our greater Redeemer family and all that God is doing here.

I would love to talk personally with you about RMS. Please contact me at: 734-242-5277; johnpiippo@msn.com.

Our website: redeemerministryschool.com 

What to Do When We Hear From God

Somewhere in  Kenya

(Thanks Scott for asking this question. I thought I’d post my response here.)

A friend of mine asked me this question.

“I have a question regarding personal prophecy and need some advice about it. I am minding my own business and out of nowhere comes a voice saying thus says the Lord followed by Scripture. What am I to do with this?”

My response was:

THE scholarly book on prophecy to read is Wayne Grudem’s The Gift of Prophecy. Jack Deere’s little book on prophecy is exellent, as are Mike Bickle’s Growing In the Prophetic and Jim Goll’s The Seer. Another great book is Dallas Willard’s Hearing God. To help me understand the ideas of New Testament prophecy and hearing from God I read books on the subject.

I am certain God has much he wants to say to his children every day. You are one of his children. Thus he has much to say to you today.
When this happens to me:

1. I write in in my journal. I have had some impressions that seemed to be from God that have led me to fast and pray until I got an answer. There’s sometimes a sense of the level of importance that’s made me think “I need to seek God about this.”

2. I take alone-times with God, asking “God, show me what this means. If it’s something you want to say to me I’m open to it.”

3. I have some people I run things like this by. I trust their discernment. They personally spend a lot of one-on-one time with God and, therefore, hear from God. We talk together about these things.

4. Keep spending much time with God. Abide in Jesus. That’s the place where his sheep hear his voice.