Alienation – Reconciliation – Discipleship

Great white heron – north Monroe County near Lake Erie

What is, exactly, the “gospel?” What is the Good News? This coming Sunday (9/30/12) will be looking at some basic, foundation Christianity and deepening the meaning of the core message. It’s found in Colossians 1:21-23 and reads: 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. 1. Alienation from God. 2. Reconciliation by Christ. 3. Discipleship. (Following after Jesus) This coming Sunday at Redeemer.

Preaching on Colossians 1:19-20 Tomorrow

Monroe County

Tomorrow at Redeemer I’m preaching on Colossians 1:19-20. These last two verses complete the great, exalted Christological worship song that was sung in the early church. These lyrics were ancient versions of “How Great Thou Art” and “How Great Is Our God.”
Verses 19-20 read:
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Verses like Col. 1:19 set off the “Christological controversies” of the first five centuries that dealt with the nature of Christ as divine and human. I’ll be saying some things about this tomorrow, hopefully so people can understand! It’s important to understand the nature of Christ. I like how John Piper expresses this: “There is no more important issue in life than seeing Jesus for who he really is and savoring what we see above all else.” (John Piper, in Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, Bowman and Komaszewski, 73)
Tomorrow I am expecting we will have greater revelation of the Real Jesus.

Angels – A Book Recommendation

Lightning over our house

I so much appreciate the writing and teaching of Christian theistic philosopher J.P. Moreland. I’ve been able to speak at a couple of conferences with him. He’s one of the best pure teachers I have ever seen. And, he’s got a strong intellect, as seen, for example, in a book like his Consciousness and the Existence of God: A Theistic Argument. (See my “The Argument from Consciousness for the Existence of God.”)
J.P.’s Kingdom Triangle represents the heart of a lot of what I believe. On his website he recently posted some readings that supplement the teachings of Kingdom Triangle. One of them is Judith MacNutt’s Angels Are for Real: Inspiring, True Stories and Biblical Answers. (I’ve also been privileged to do a conference years ago with Judith and her husband Francis.) J.P. writes: “While I don’t agree with all that MacNutt writes, I do agree with 90% of it. But more importantly, Judith and her husband, Francis, are well-educated, thoughtful, credible witnesses to the supernatural, and this book is extremely edifying. It will give you solid biblical teaching about angels (including dark ones) (though some of her insights derive from Medieval speculation and do not seem credible to me), it will equip you to be more intentional in regarding angels in your daily life, and it will increase your faith that angels are actually real. This is a wonderful faith-builder.” On J.P.’s recommendation I just ordered (Kindled for $6.99) a copy of Judith’s book.

In Praise of Singleness

RMS circle of prayer
When I became a Jesus-follower God told me to lay off trying to hustle women and take a full year off dating. I did. It was a wonderful year for me. I began to find out about what Colossians 1:18 calls “the supremacy of Christ.” Christ was now my “head,” and I was part of his “body,” the body of Christ, his “Church.” (Col. 1:18 again)

I felt free from cultural pressure to date. My life-goal was no longer to find some “soul mate,” because my soul was now mated to Christ. The life-goal was to find Christ and be found in him. I was beginning to understand this. And, I was allowing to God to change me in ways that would be good for any future relationship I might be in.
If you are not dating, or not married, give thanks to God. You have a Pauline opportunity (1 Corinthians 7:8) to draw so very close to the only One who purely loves your soul and who, BTW, created you. Take advantage of this and rejoice!
If you feel pressure to date and mate ask yourself, where does this come from? I have seen Christian parents who lay pressure on their children to date and get married. Too many times the child ends up marrying anybody just to please, at least unconsciously, their mother and father. This pressure, indeed any such pressure, is not from God. It creates the idolatrous idea that marriage is life’s greatest thing. Like any false god, this will let you down.
I’ve seen a lot of “Christian” marriages that are toxic, not because of “irreconcilable differences” or “incompatibility,” but because of spiritual and emotional immaturity. These marriages are particularly hellish because both partners are Christians. If you are not in a marriage like this give thanks, for you have been spared from a very dark existence. And be thankful if you are not in a world where adult babies are making babies.
Simply because a husband and wife are Christians does not guarantee their marriage will be wonderful. There is a ton of ongoing marital work to be done, and this never ends. Few people count the cost of marriage and end up paying in ways they never imagined.
There’s nothing wrong in desiring and praying for a life partner. There is something wrong with the idea that life will never be flourishing without one. Imagine how Christ feels about that!
What if you are in a marriage that is screwed up? See my post – How to Save Your Failing Marriage.

Preaching Tomorrow on Colossians 1:18

Monroe’s Woodland Cemetery

At Redeemer we’re preaching through the Christology of the letters of Paul. Tomorrow it’s just one verse: Colossians 1:18, which reads:
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

This is high Christology. I love this verse!
In my message I will do things like:

  • explain “head” of the body
  • define “church” (it’s not to be thought of – at all!!! – as a “building” Christians go to)
  • the importance of the resurrection
  • the supremacy, the preeminence, of Christ…
  • … in all things
  • stand back and watch Christ lead, tomorrow morning, throughout the “service” (Jesus is the now-Lord of even the worship service)
Everything in all of life, both inside and outside the “church,” exists to make Christ look good.

Redeemer Ministry School Classes Begin Next Week


I have really enjoyed spending time with our 2012-2013 Redeemer Ministry School full-time students this week. What a beautiful group! Our classes begin next week. We have openings for part-time students who wangt to take individual classes. Send me an e-mail or contact the church office.; 734-242-5277

Tuesdays, 9:30 – 1 – Spiritual Formation, John Piippo
Description: In order to be used by God as an agent of renewal and transformation one must themselves be in a continual place of personal renewal and transformation. This course will combine times of personal prayer, spiritual journaling, and teaching from biblical and historical resources on what it means to dwell in the presence of God and be renewed and transformed.


Wednesdays, 9:30 – 1 – Bible Study Methods, Josh Bentley

Description: This course will provide students with systematic methods of studying scripture. Through those methods students will also learn how to practically apply their understanding as they study different books of the Bible.


Thursdays, 5-8– Kingdom of God I, Jim Collins

Description: The main teaching of Jesus was about the “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven.” This course will present the major interpretations of the meaning of the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed. Students will learn to understand the real Jesus from the perspective of God’s kingdom message.

Fridays, 9:30 – 1 – Worship I: Intimacy and Identity in Worship, Holly Benner Description: True worship and adoration comes from intimacy with God. It is founded on the understanding of God’s great love for you. Intimacy & Identity in Worship will focus on building and furthering that love relationship with Him while defining what a lifestyle of worship looks like. This class will include an in-depth look at Song of Solomon and Old & New Testament character studies

Labor With Significance

Lighthouse, Holland (MI) State Park

It’s Labor Day 2012. And I am sitting on my back deck thinking about my life’s work. I want my life to count for something. Here is what this means to me.
As I was nearing the end of writing my doctoral dissertation at Northwestern University a few things happened that threatened to stop me from completing it. One was a policy decision in NU’s philosophy department that directly affected the research I was doing. When that decision was shared with me, I went to the campus chapel and prayed. I was discouraged. After years of working on this project, which I believed God had called me to do, would I not now be able to finish it? My labor, it seemed, would be in vain.

“Vain labor” is work that counts for nothing. It’s like writing a letter on your computer, then pressing the wrong button and losing the entire thing. All that writing was in vain. It’s like preparing for a vacation for weeks, with great anticipation, having your bags packed, and something happens so you can’t go. All that planning and packing and anticipating was in vain.

It;s possible to “do church” in vain. It’s possible to attend meetings and put together programs and dinners and Sunday worship services and sing songs and collect money and still the whole enterprise be an exercise in vanity. How? If God isn’t behind them. Famously, Psalm 127:1 states: Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.

Some pastors and church leaders never consult God. I’m not judging here. They have confessed this to me. I’ll never forget one of the seminary doctoral classes I was teaching. The subject was: authentic pastoral leadership as emerging out of the presence of God. After my teaching and a time of discussion one of the pastors stopped us and said, “I can’t believe we’re talking about the need for consulting God. When I get together with other pastors we never consult God or talk about God. “God” isn’t taken into account. Instead, we just combine our own minds and intellectual powers and work at figuring things out without consulting God.”

This pastor’s astonishment and confession came with a look of shock on his face, accompanied by the discernment that something was going very wrong, essentially, in his leadership. He was “building a house” on his own, without the leading and empowerment of God. Therefore his “building” was in vain. This God-insight led him to a prolonged period of self-examination, as he looked at the labors of his hands while wondering if God’s handprints were anywhere to be found. “Church” is inauthentic and irrelevant if it is not the handiwork of God. God is the architect and builder, we are his instruction-followers.

It is also possible to do “life” in vain. For the same reasons. Not living after the counsel of God is a form of practical atheism. And on atheism, for many at least (e.g., th French existentialists), life without a God is a futile exercise in nothingness.

The apostle Paul was concerned that he not live for nothing. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 he writes: my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Relevant labor involves “the work of the Lord.” What the Lord is doing. Discern this. Then activate. Let your doing emerge from your slow-cooking in the being of God. “Work out your salvation,” Paul said, “with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Phil. 2:12-13) God works in you. God “wills” in you and “acts” through you. To what end? “To fulfill HIS good purpose.” An authentic life is the handiwork of God. Beyond that, no mere human purposes qualify as good.

Paul trembled at the thought of living an insignificant life. The insignificant life is the life of practical, “no time for God” atheism. He wants to be able to boast “on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” Paul’s boast would be: “I sought the Lord; he answered; I followed Him.”

Labor with significance. Which means:

Prayerfully counsel with God.

Hear His voice.

Respond accordingly.

Boast of the handprints of God, all over you.

Two-Kingdom Theology Tomorrow Morning (9/2/12) at Redeemer

Holland, Michigan lighthouse

Tomorrow morning when the Redeemer family gathers I’ll be speaking on Two-Kingdom Theology. This is the core, biblical Jesus-idea that reality consists of a struggle beween two nonequal and opposing “kingdoms”; viz., the Kingdom of God vs. the kingdom of satan, the Kingdom of Heaven vs. the kingdom of earth, the Kingdom of Light vs. the kingdom of darkness. In the view of Jesus and the New Testament writers this is the way to view things. There’s no third kingdom, there’s no “spiritual Switzerland,” that represents some spiritual and moral neutral place where persons are uncommitted to one of the two opposing kingdoms.
There’s also not some “fence” between the two opposing kingdoms that people straddle and “ride.” The phrase “I’m on the fence” (meaning “I haven’t committed to one of the kingdoms yet”) does not apply here. One is either for God, or not for God.
The biblical text I’m going to preach out of tomorrow morning expresses this. It’s Colossians 1:13-14, which reads: he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. This entire Jesus-idea of “redemption” and “the cross” and “salvation” and “forgiveness” rests on the foundation Two-Kingdom Worldview. Without such a worldview the core Jesus ideas are incomprehensible. This word “kingdom” does not refer to a “place” but a condition; viz., a “rule” in the sense of a kingly “reign.” Who, or what, reigns over you? The Jesus POV is that it’s either “light” or “darkness.” Thus the term “kingdom of God” denotes the “rule or reign of God.” Who, or what, holds you in its sway? Practically and personally, I view myself as being under the rule of darkness, of satan, until that unexpected, delightful, life-saving redemptive moment in 1970 when God encountered me. I owe my entire life and being, now and forevermore, to that moment. I’ve been rescued and redeemed! I’ll talk of this tomorrow, and probably begin by giving the basics of Two-Kingdom Theology. My expectation is that, as I am preaching, God’s Spirit will be engaging in needed redemptive activity for all who are there. If you’re in need of this I invite you to come tomorrow morning.