Iranian Judge Demands That Pastor Recant

Pastor Yusef Nadarkhani
&
his family
Students in my philosophy classes at MCCC know I am a Jesus-follower, a “Christian,” and a pastor of a local church. I do not feel disrespected by them, for the most part, even though my classes have non-believers, atheists, agnostics, etc. I receive little persecution for being open about this, and what little I receive is emotional, not
physical. (Most of my students do not know what a “Christian” is. And for a
number of them, the word “Christian” has negative connotations. “Christians” are
viewed as intolerant, unloving, judgmental and, frankly, no different in
lifestyle and behavior from other people. Who on earth would want to be a
“Christian” or associate with “Christians?” So I mostly use the term “Jesus-follower.”)

One reason for the relative lack of religious persecution American Jesus-followers receive is that America has learned to assimilate religious beliefs. Europe has not. And certain Arab nations are positively intolerant of non-Muslims. (On the European failure to assimilate Muslims see Christopher Caldwell, Reflections on the Revolution In Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West.)

An example of the latter is that today, in Iran, Pastor Yusuf Naderkhani faces possible execution in just a few days. He is accused of having once been a Muslim, but leaving
Islam to follow Jesus. One report gives us the dialogue between the judge and Naderkhani.

“When asked to repent, Naderkhani stated: “Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge replied, according to the American Center for Law & Justice.
“I cannot,” Naderkhani said.”
I present to you Pastor Yusef Naderkhani, who would rather be executed than deny his loyalty to Jesus.

Philip Mantofa at Redeemer – Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday

One of the many highlights of our “Furious
Love” event was the final evening, when Philip Mantofa spoke to us. It was a
night Linda and I will never forget!

During his message Philip, for about
15 minutes, did not preach. Instead, he took a “quiet time” alone with God. Then
he challenged us on the importance of reading our Bibles. This challenge was
given in a way that moved us all deeply. At one point Linda leaned over and said
to me, “This is one of the three greatest God-gatherings I have ever been to.”
Me too.

With this fresh in our minds we are delighted that Philip will
be with us tomorrow night, and then the next two evenings. I invite you to join
us.

Holly Benner will lead us in worship, beginning at 7 PM. Then Philip
will do something. Or, nore correctly, God will do something through Philip. I
am looking forward to it!

There’s no charge for this – it’s free. We will
take some love offerings – give as God leads you to.

We’re also offering
somethig special on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

Tuesday
morning
. Sept. 27, 10 AM – 1 PM – I invite you to come to my Spiritual
Formation workshop – on How God Forms and Transforms the Human Heart. I will
teach my theory of spiritual formation and transformation. This is a class I
have taught in many contexts, seminaries, around the U.S. and the
world.

Wednesday morning, Sept. 28, 10 AM – 1 PM – Our
worship leader Holly Benner will teach on: Worship and the Nature of Giod; and
“It is Finished: Now what?” This will be about who we are in Christ living in
the completed work. All are invited to come.

AND… all this is subject
to how God leads. As we have found at Redeemer, everything can change!

Philip’s book is Warrior
for Revival
.

For more information:

E-mail me at johnpiippo@msn.com

Call our church
office: 734-242-5277

Redeemer Fellowship Church
5305
Evergreen
Monroe, MI

A Cruciformed Life: Don’t Expect to Be Crowned With Glory By the World

N.T. Wright writes: To begin with, you have
to grasp the fact that Christian virtue isn’t about you—your happiness, your
fulfillment, your self-realization. It’s about God and God’s kingdom, and your
discovery of a genuine human existence by the paradoxical route—the route God
himself took in Jesus Christ!—of giving yourself away, of generous love which
constantly refuses to take center stage.” (Wright, N. T., After
You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
, p. 70).

One would be
hard pressed to find this on “Christian TV,” or in “Christian” media. Yet it is
the heart of the Real Jesus and mere, un-Americanized
Jesus-following.

Jesus told his followers to take up their cross daily
and following. Read the Scriptures for yourself. Paul’s letters to the
Corinthians, especially the second one, is about Jesus’ followers being paraded
before the world as prisoners in a procession. (2 Cor. 2:12-17) I love what New
Testament scholar David Garland says, in his commentary on 2 Corinthians, as he
comments on 2 Cor. 2:12-17:

“Paul has incarnated his apostolic message of the cross of Christ. The cross
determines both his message and his style of ministry, and those who preach
Christ crucified cannot expect to be crowned with glory by the world which
crucified him.”
(146)

Philip Mantofa at Redeemer – Sept. 26-27-28

Philip Mantofa from Indonesia is
coming to Redeemer Sept. 26-27-28. No registration needed; no entrance fee –
we’ll take love offerings.  🙂

Our schedule looks like
this.

Monday evening, Sept. 26 – 7 PM – Worship with
Holly Benner; Philip preaches.

Tuesday morning. Sept.
27, 10 AM – 1 PM – Spiritual Formation: How God Forms and Transforms the Human
Heart, with John Piippo. I will teach my theory of spiritual formation and
transformation. Anyone is invited to come.

Tuesday
evening
, Sept. 27, 7 PM. Worship with Holly Benner; Philip
preaches.
Wednesday morning, Sept. 28, 10 AM – 1 PM – Our
worship leader Holly Benner will teach on: Worship and the Nature of Giod; and
“It is Finished: Now what?” This will be about who we are in Christ living in
the completed work. All are invited to come.

Wednesday
evening
, Sept. 28, 7 PM. Worship with Holly Benner; Philip
preaches.

AND… all this is subject to how God leads. As we have found
at Redeemer, everything can change!

Philip’s book is Warrior
for Revival
.

For more information:

E-mail me at johnpiippo@msn.com

Call our church
office: 734-242-5277

Redeemer Fellowship Church
5305
Evergreen
Monroe, MI

When the Act of Redemption Comes: 3 Stories

STORY #1: I was, for seven years back in
the mid-70s, one of the pastors at First Baptist Church of Joliet, Illinois. It
was an inner-city church, located in a rough neighborhood. I have a lot of
stories about helping street people who would drop in on us. Here’s
one.

Our staff was having a meeting at the church building when a man
came through the door carrying an old, heavy-metal manual calculator. It was
beaten up, like this man was, and looked like he had just rescued it from a junk
pile. The man staggered towards us. He reeked of alcohol.

He asked,
“Would you like to buy this?”

“No,” I said.

He got angry and said,
“Why don’t you want to buy this from me?”

I said, “Because we don’t need
it. And, you’re going to take the money and buy some more alcohol.”

I
told him we’d love to help him. We had many ex-alcoholics who got free of their
addiction when they became followers of Jesus. “Can we really help
you?”

It was clear that he did not want real help. He walked out of the
church onto the streets of Joliet. We watched him out of the office windows.
Then he stopped, turned around to look at us, raised his fist in the air and
angrily shouted, “That’s the last time I’m ever coming to this
church!”

STORY #2 – In the 80s I was a campus pastor at Michigan State
University. One day I received a phone call from a student who played on MSU’s
football team. When he told me his name I recognized it. He was an All-American
football player. He wanted to meet with me for some advice.

We got
together and he told me about his life and how he recently returned to following
Christ. He said, “I’m going to play in the NFL. I’ll be a role model for young
people. I need to get my life together. I’m doing this by giving my life over to
Jesus and following Him.”

I was thrilled by this! But what advice did he
want from me?

“I’m in love with a girl,” he said, “and plan on marrying
her. But we are living together and have a sexual relationship. What I want to
know is – is this OK to do if I’m a Christian?”

“No, it’s not OK. Because
the Jesus-idea is about staying sexually pure before marriage. If you really
want to follow Jesus, then follow Him all the way.”

The look on his face
changed. I did not tell him what he wanted to hear. He left, and that was the
last I ever saw of him.

STORY #3 – A year ago I was shopping at a mall in
the Detroit suburbs north of us. As I was walking into a store I heard a voice
say, “Pastor John!” A man was walking towards me, obviously glad to see
me.

“Do you remember me? I’m ________, and my wife is _________. You
counseled with us many years ago. You tried to help me and save our marriage. Do
you remember when my wife and I were in your office, and you told me I needed to
break off the extramarital affair now? That was when I got up and just walked
out.”

I did remember that. This man ___________ was a violent man who was
abusing his wife, and was having sex with other women. I had tried to help him
by telling him the truth of what God wanted him to do. He told me he wanted
help, but he really didn’t want it. I have seen this so many times! It’s sadly
common for someone to ask for help but want to do life the way they have been
doing it. The truth is that if we keep doing life the way we are doing it we
will continue to get the same results. People who are really helped always
change; there’s no such thing as getting out of the mess we are responsible for
without personally changing and doing things differently.

When _________
came up to me in the mall, years after he raged out of my office, I couldn’t
help but wonder, “Is he going to hit me, right here?”

Instead, words of
gratitude came out of his heart. “John, you spoke the truth to me, and I
wouldn’t listen. You were right all along. Even though I didn’t come back to you
I thought about what you said and took your advice, and so did my wife
_________. I want to tell you that our marriage is doing better than it ever
has. Thank you.”

We are, wrote Paul, to “speak the truth in love” to
others. Doing this could get you crucified. But real, redemptive rescue will not
happen without this. Remember that it is God who is the Rescuer, not us. We are
his redemptive messengers. When the act of redemption happens, and you get to
see it years later, maybe even only in eternity, you will again be reaffirmed in
the reason for your existence and encouraged to keep truth-telling in Jesus’
name and trusting Him for the outcome.

Agua Dulce Coffee & Tea Opens in Monroe

 

Yesterday Linda, Holly, Denise, Stella and I went to the opening of Agua Dulce Coffee and tea in Monroe. Here’s their website – check out their menu.

I love what they’ve done. It’s a nice, open, clean atmosphere. We sampled their delicious peach cake + their cinnamon cake. Yum!

The coffee was good. But I’m really looking forward to when they begin roasting their own coffee beans. Here’s a photo of their coffee roaster.

 
 

Philip Mantofa at Redeemer – Sept. 26-27-28

 

Philip Mantofa from Indonesia is coming to Redeemer Sept. 26-27-28.

Our schedule looks like this.

Monday evening, Sept. 26 – 7 PM – Worship with Holly Benner; Philip preaches.

Tuesday morning. Sept. 27, 10 AM – 1 PM – Spiritual Formation: How God Forms and Transforms the Human Heart, with John Piippo. I will teach my theory of spiritual formation and transformation. Anyone is invited to come.

Tuesday evening, Sept. 27, 7 PM. Worship with Holly Benner; Philip preaches.

Wednesday morning, Sept. 28, 10 AM – 1 PM – Our worship leader Holly Benner will teach on: Worship and the Nature of Giod; and “It is Finished: Now what?” This will be about who we are in Christ living in the completed work. All are invited to come.

Wednesday evening, Sept. 28, 7 PM. Worship with Holly Benner; Philip preaches.

AND… all this is subject to how God leads. As we have found at Redeemer, everything can change!

Philip’s book is Warrior for Revival

For more information:

E-mail me at johnpiippo@msn.com

Call our church office: 734-242-5277

Redeemer Fellowship Church
5305 Evergreen
Monroe, MI

Jesus Often Withdrew to Lonely Places and Prayed

 

 
Sterling State Park on Lake Erie,
one of the places I go to
get alone with God and pray, and be spoken to.

Sometimes what seems like just another ordinary event becomes extraordinary and life-changing. Such was the case for me when, in 1981, my friend John Powell gave me a copy of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. God used it to revolutionize my life. Through Foster, God gave me a prayer life that has remained now for 30 years, which includes 3000+ pages of journal entries that record the voice of God, spoken to me.

I began to see that life’s most important thing was to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. My raison d’etre was: to spend much time with God, one-on-one. And that out of this alone-time with God my life in community with others, to include with Linda, would be strengthened and transformed. I chose to cultivate the abiding-in-Jesus life, it continues to this day, and my heart is to deepen it.

To every Jesus-follower who now asks, “What am I supposed to do?” I give you the answer: go to a “lonely place apart” and meet with your God. Do not do anything until this meeting takes place! And one meeting is not enough. Mc-meetings don’t count either. Abide. Rest in Him. Dwell. “Practice,” as Brother Lawrence wrote, “the presence of God.”

Time-travel back 2000 years to an upper room in Jerusalem. Sit at that table. Slow down. Turn off your iPhone. Open your Bible to John 14. Listen to Jesus’ instructions. John 15. John 16. Open the Text and get Texted. Slow-cook in the teriyaki sauce of these verses. Get covered and coated with these “one thing” words of Jesus.

My mentor Thomas Merton wrote: “The one thing necessary is a true interior and spiritual life, true growth, on my own, in depth, in a new direction. Whatever new direction God opens up for me. My job is to press forward, to grow interiorly, to pray, to break away from attachments and to defy fears, to grow in faith, which has its own solitude, to seek an entirely new perspective and new dimension in my life. To open up new horizons at any cost. To desire this and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest.” (A Year with Thomas Merton, Kindle Locations 4495-4497).

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)

Who am I, who are you, not to do this?

The Historicity of Jesus

 
I subscribe to Biblical Archaeology Review, and receive e-mails letting me know about all things archaeological. Today this came from BAR: “Did Jesus Exist? An Essential Guide to the Evidence Jesus Existed. James H. Charlesworth summarizes the historical evidence of Jesus.” It’s a review of Princeton New Testament scholar Charlesworth’s The Historical Jesus: An Essential Guide. Because I am continuously full-immersion-baptized in Jesus-scholarship, I kindled it.

Here’s a tidbit I can’t resist quoting. In the midst of looking at Tacitus and Josephus and their Jesus-references, Charlesworth writes: “The references to Jesus by a Roman historian [Tacitus] and a Jewish historian [Josephus] disprove the absurd contention that Jesus never lived, a claim made by authors, often not scholars…” (p. 35)

Labor Under God

 

Yesterday morning at Redeemer Josh Bentley preached on 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. When Josh got to verse 58 – Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord – he said it’s interesting that we’re looking at this on Labor Day weekend.

“Labor,” AKA “work,” is “vain” if…

  • …it is for no meaningful purpose.

“Vain  labor” is boring, with “boredom” defined not as having nothing to do, but finding no meaning in what one is doing.

A good philosophical example of vain labor is Albert Camus’s “Myth of Sisyphus.” Sisyphus, according to the Greek myth, was punished for all eternity and made to roll a rock up a mountain, only to have it roll back down to the bottom when he reaches the top. Camus claimed that Sisyphus is representative of the human condition: Sisyphus must struggle perpetually and without hope of success. His labor is absurd. Camus thinks if Sisyphus can accept his absurd labor, then he can find happiness in it.

I think many people view their labor as absurd, and find no happiness in it. They cannot accept it, at least inwardly. Telos-less labor is vain. But from the Jesus-perspective all labor “in the Lord” is not vain, but meaningful. When what we do emerges out of who we are in relationship with Christ, our entire lives become purposeful. Purposeful, *telic living brings great satisfaction.

We are to view God as our Employer. From this God-relational POV redemptive activity can be seen and experienced everywhere. What seem to be vain and meaningless tasks from a human POV take on an eternal, missional quality. This happens, not because of any intrinsic majesty of the task at hand, but as a function who we are under.

Labor under the Lordship of Jesus, and abound in the work you are doing under God.
***
*telic – a purposeful or defined action; from the Greek word telos, meaning “end,” or “goal”; such as teloscope, literally “to see to the end.”