Thursday, December 29, 2005

Civil War reading

I used my Christmas break to read some newer US Civil War (CW) books. I started this hobby of CW reading when a new friend of mine started to initiate a conversation with something along the lines of, "You don't believe the South rebelled to portect slavery do you? No. It was about States rights." So I've been a reader ever since. Everything I read convinces me it was about States Rights, that is the right ot keep slaves and deprive them of rights and privileges that whites had. At the time of the CW Mississippi's population was half African American, but most were property and even if they weren't slaves they couldn't vote to determine that state's constitutional right to own people like themselves. Not that Northern states allowed African Americans to vote either, but abolitionist whites could campaign on their behalf without threat of violence in retaliation.

So I read two good books over this little Christmas break. Unfortunately, they weren't inspirational. In fact, mostly, they were depressing, but like a mirror I needed to look into to recognize how close is my own wickedness. The first is Uncommon Valor: A Story of Race, Patriotism, and Glory in the Final Battles of the Civil War by Melvin Claxton, Mark Puls. From the bookflap

"Ordered to take this heavily fortified Confederate position that twice before repelled white Union troops with heavy losses, Fleetwood and his companions marched without cover up a hill where 2,000 enemy soldiers waited with artillery and rifles. They walked into a hailstorm of rebel fire. Even as their comrades fell, others stepped up to take their place. The decimated, bloodied regiments pressed forward and, in an astonishing victory, took the hill. What happened that day on rolling hills and grassy knolls of Virginia is the stuff of legend. It is a story that every American should know, and no one who reads it will ever forget."

The 2nd book is about a battle on the Mississippi River called the Fort Pillow Massacre, overseen by incompetent Federal officers and the Confederacy's Gen. Nathanael Bedford Forrest. River Run Red : The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War by Andrew Ward. Out of 500 Federals holding that fort 300 were massacred. Forrest himself said a few times afterwards that the river ran red with Federal blood for 200 yards. From the book description,

"On April 12, 1864, a force of more than 3,000 Confederate cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest galloped across West Tennessee to storm Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River, overwhelming a garrison of some 350 Southern white Unionists and over 300 former slaves turned artillerymen. By the next day, hundreds of Federals were dead or wounded, more than 60 black troops had been captured and reenslaved, and more than 100 white troops had been marched off to their doom at Andersonville. Confederates called this bloody battle and its aftermath a hard- won victory. Northerners deemed it premeditated slaughter."

Let me add one more book that has influenced my thinking, although i read it last year The South Vs. The South : How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War by William W. Freehling.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pharaoh's trick

I’ve been reading The Heavenly Man, a biography of the Chinese house church leader Brother Yun. He says,

I taught that the church should not give in to Pharaoh’s trick, when he tried to convince Moses and Aaron to leave their women and children behind while the men went to worship the Lord (see Exodus 10:10-11). I encouraged the leaders to include their families in their ministry for the Lord, and even to take their sposes and children along with them if possible…The leader of that house church network, however,  disagreed with me. When I finished speaking he privately rebuked me, “Yun, I can’t believe you’ve used your opportunity to teach such a message. Are you trying to destroy my leaders?” Not surprisingly, many of the marriages and families of the leaders from that group are in complete disarray. Many appear to be “successful” in their ministries while ther families are falling apart. For all the strengths possessed by China’s house churches, this area is one of its weakest points. (225)

By the way, Brother Yun is a leader in the Chinese missionary movement called Back to Jerusalem. I encourage you to read about it and pray for them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Viola on Five Fold Ministry

Andrew Jones provides a link to a document on house church writer Bob Viola on Five Fold Ministry.

Notes on Houses that Change the World

Some notes about Simson’s book, Houses that Change the World. Some are good, some aren’t.
Worth Pondering
phrases like ”let us now have a time of worship” or ”let us now go into worship” meaning that all have to stand to sing some songs, might be less helpful than they sound, because they are a simple misnomer. ”It is important to note that the New Testament never mentions worship as the very the reason for Christians to come together - they come for mutual encouragement and edifying each other (1 Cor 14:26; Hebr. 10:24-25), but focuses more on the how, and not on the when and where of worship”, says Peter Ignatius of Christian Fellowship in Madras. The New Testament never refers to a meeting of the church as a worship service. Worship, in short, is not so much what we do but how we do it; not so much what we say or sing, but how we are a living sacrifice. (134)
Housechurches have the ability to shift the main emphasis from public religious behavior to the semi-privacy of homes. (135)

There is even a very powerful Christian equivalent to the minor crimes modern youth bands require from new members, which bond the new members to the tribe. It is the confession of sin. If someone confesses his sin to the housechurch, he may lose his face before the outside world and literally die to a life of double standards, but is accepted in grace and forgiveness and love by his new spiritual tribe. (138)

Preach the church, and the response will look like the church that sent you out. Preach Jesus, and the response looks very different. (147)
In each culture there are therefore essentially three ways of building - and planting - the church: 1. Trying to fit into the ”patterns of the world” … 2. The other extreme is to ignore the patterns of this world, of the local culture, the local ”way of doing things,” and to create and remain on a ”Holy Island”…  3. The third way, which I am advocating, is not a middle-of the-road-compromise, but to find a truly godly mix between redeeming and crucifying a given culture. [my emphasis] (150)

For most churches, everything starts so wonderful. Someone experiences God’s blessing because he has been obedient to His word and spirit. Someone else tells the story and it appears as a testimony; the third one creates a model out of this experience, which then is copied and cloned by a fourth one. A fifth one finally suggests: ”lets create an institution around this new model!”, and goes on to start franchises all over the world; and the sixth one forms all this into a new law, which judges everyone who chooses to do things different. I call this ”the six sure and easy steps to transform a blessing into a curse.” If we put our hands to the plough and look back (or abroad?), how do we dare to think we are fit for the work in the Kingdom of God? …Stop copying, and start creating in the name of the Creator-God, who lives in all of us, whether we are Pastors or not.
This way our churches would pass what Bill Beckham calls the photocopy test. If a church replicates itself with only dimmer versions of itself, then it’s life and nature is simply not good enough. (153-154)

large churches have a larger tendency to transform attenders into passive consumers of a thrilling program than small housechurches, for whom the involvement of almost everyone is absolutely vital….  
We should work, in an united effort, towards the goal of placing a church in walking distance of every person on earth.
In order to make people ”see how they love each other”, we would literally have to place the church, the Body of Christ, as ”a shopping window of God” into the neighborhood of every person on the planet. (161)

Head Scratching
Could it be that one of the up-side-down principles Jesus introduced in the church is the freedom from work for a profit-oriented boss by freedom to work for God the blessing-oriented father who can well provide for his children? (140)

Not Worth Pondering
we have to require a higher level of commitment for anyone to become part of a local church. (136)
Contrary to popular thinking and translations, the Greek wording in Mt. 16:18 does not suggest the ”gates of hell” storming against the church, but the church storming against the gates of hell. Whatever or whoever or wherever those gates are, they will be unable to withstand. Is it the church which will, in the end, crash the entrance of hell and somehow depopulate it, since hell, we know, was not prepared for people in the first place? (Mt 25:41).  [He is wrong about the Greek in 16:18. The greek forms clearly show Hades as the Subject and the Church as the object. 'And I also say to thee, that thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build my assembly, and gates of Hades shall not prevail against it; (Young’s Literal Translation) Bad retranslation seems to justify bad theology, depopulating hell?!?!?!?!?!]

Not your typical Vineyard Church

This story Not your typical Vineyard Church is pretty cool. Make sure you click through some of this church's links like this one, where they write, "Vineyard Central is, in reality, a collection of home churches."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A discipling Mentality

From Simson’s book, Houses that Change the World p. 133,
let them function                give them functions
believe in them                make them believe in you
delegate authority                require submission
partner with Gods plan for them      make them part of your plans
invest in them                use them
love them and say so           love the task more than people
give them what you have           take what they have
discuss with them                preach at them
spend freely time with them           require appointments
give them the keys now           hold back until you retire
serve them                let them serve you
praise them                accept their praise graciously
transfer masterhood to them           demonstrate masterhood to them
We need to recapture discipling as the heartbeat of the Great Commission, and live this out in our ministries and churches.

The Desire For A Sex Change

This isn't my desire. I just finished the short policy statement from a British group called the Evangelical Alliance Policy Thingy, titledTranssexuality. The waters are murky in the deep end. I think the Commission would agree with the statement quoted here: "McHugh concluded that 'to provide a surgical alteration to the body of these unfortunate people was to collaborate with a mental disorder rather than to treat it.'"

A brief book review of the book I just read.


"'table-fellowshipcannot be described simply as festive celebration and acceptance.'"

Saturday, December 17, 2005

are we wolves among lambs?

Wolfgang Simson writes in his book, Houses that Changed the World,

Jesus sent us as lambs amongst the wolves, not as wolves amongst the lambs. This means that there are lessons to learn from the lambs who have been amongst the wolves. That also means, that it is difficult, if not impossible, to preach the message of redemption from a position of power. More and more Christians are realizing today that there is power in weakness, strength in humbleness, and a powerful mission agency is a contradiction of terms.

The lambs he refers too are the growing churches in oppressed lands such as China, Ethiopia, Russia, Vietnam, Sudan, and Cuba.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Continuationism and Cessationism - An Interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem

I'm linking to Part 2 but Part 1 is good too. I like this statement by Grudem, "Another widely-respected British Evangelical leader fifteen years ago said to me that the battle between cessationists and non-cessationists in England is over. The cessationists have lost. Or the charismatics have won. I'm not sure exactly what he said but it was something like that. And that's the case, I think, in almost the entire world outside the United States."

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Wife Beaters

This is a warning to people like me who can't resist doctrinal pugilism.

Neighborhood Fellowships

I don’t know if anyone has already developed this idea into a full fledged para-church ministry with a paid staff, solicitation campaigns, and Statements of Faith. Both books on home church that I read or am reading emphasize an apostolic beginning to a home church. That is a high hurdle of a concept for me. What if you just want to fellowship with your neighbors and break bread with each other and pray for each other and your neighborhood? What if it doesn’t matter what they do on their Sunday mornings? What if you want to have your neighbors over for the purpose of glorifying our Father, for seeking the arrival of our Father’s kingdom and the doing of His will in your neighborhood as it is in heaven, for asking for His provision together, for seeking and granting forgiveness and encouragement? But what if it is church building/denomination/affiliation independent? What if it is hospitality dependent? And Holy Spirit dependent? What if it gathered around a substantial meal that included bread broken and wine drunk in memory of His body broken and blood spilt for us? What if?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Children in House Churches

been reading a book online by Wolfgang Simson of Dawn Ministries. His book is called Houses that Change the World which can be found halfway down the page on Dawn Ministry'sResource Centre
This is from p. 70
Children and Housechurches
Since housechurches are spiritual families, children are a natural and important part of the housechurch, just as they are a source of constant joy - and embarrassment - in a natural family. Children are needed to humble us with their questions, break up our endless ”adult” discussions, bring us constantly down to earth from our pious clouds, and act as natural evangelists and bridgebuilders. They also help us to prove the fruits of the spirit - patience, for example -, and will serve as heaven-sent spies to spot any trace of religious superstition and hypocrisy in us in an instant. Children have a ministry which is at least as important to us as we as adults have a ministry to them. They are, in short, as important to housechurches as they are to families. Any couple that just had a baby needs to answer the question: Are we now born into the life of our baby, or is the baby born into our life?

If we see a housechurch as a program-driven event with discussion-topics, tasks, objectives and an agenda to achieve (Jesus never taught us that), we might feel that children only ”disturb the adults,” and therefore need to be separated and put into separate children's groups with their own programmes to keep them entertained and educated. A special time for children can very well be a common exception, but not the rule. Otherwise children will very quickly be alienated from early ages on from church. Church, again, is not a meeting, it is a way of life. If we have children, they are part of our life, and therefore our

Iranian Martyr

The Voice of the Martyrs - News

Thursday, December 08, 2005

When Christmas falls on Sunday redux

Ben Witherington comments at theJesus Creed � When Christmas falls on Sunday. Scot has an analytical commentary to conclude "so what if churches scale back on Sunday?"

Dan Edelen draws the same conclusion.

Both are used to Christmas Eve services anyway. And this might be the issue. If everyone is sued to the Christmas service being on the Eve's night 6 out of 7 years, why change it for the 7th year.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Pearl Harbor Raid, 7 December 1941

Another unprovoked attack in our country's history that resulted in a war with a tremendous loss of life and limb. Its amazing that the Chinese can't seem to remember what we did for them. If the US hadn't intervened, China would have become Japan at large. China was Japan's version of Manifest Destiny. If none of these things mean much to you, get a book out of your library on the Pacific Theater of WW2. Unfortunately, my local library isn't helping me remember which ones I've read lately.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Reflections of a Winter Barefoot Runner

Barefoot Rick is in his 3rd winter of barefoot running. This is my first. It snowed last night. But I got out there at lunch time, 34F. I tried to keep my bare feet on the blacktop of the road and off the wet stuff. Got a couple miles in. Got my 2nd ever piece of glass in my heel. The first time it happened, this summer, I stopped and flicked it out real easy. This time, my feet were numb so I didn't notice it until I got back in the locker room. It was worked in a little bit. Came out in the shower though.
I never did a marathon this year. I realized I needed to learn how to run barefoot before I trained to run a marathon barefoot. Maybe next year.

that is not my blog: Is Everyone Set?

that is not my blog: Is Everyone Set?: "Anyway, we’ve been dialoguing for the past few weeks (The J-Man doesn’t “teach students,” he “dialogues with colleagues”) about all the latest cutting-edge missional approaches, and I must admit that I’ve been struggling with the new relational inculturation methodologies—mostly with how to spell them, but also with how to mine them for good conversation-starters for the heathen I meet at Starbucks. (“Is that a pentagram on your forehead? Did you know that there are technically five gospels, if you include Q?”)"

Dec. 25th is on Sunday this year

So some churches are scaling back or even closing to let staff have the day off. At Get Religion the reaction to this news is Put Christmas back in the church. Ben Witherington is on fire over this. He writes, "What we are dealing with here are churches whose priorities are so askew that they somehow think it is more important for the church to serve the wants of the physical family than the other way around. This is a far cry from the pattern of the original disciples of Jesus who were seen leaving homes, relatives, jobs to come and follow Jesus. What kind of message does it send to our culture when churches close on one of its highest holy days? That it is o.k. to stay home and do one's own thing even on Jesus' birthday?" I guess it all depends on what following Jesus really means. If it doesn't mean woshipping him together as a family and giving gifts like he did but instead means having to dress up and drive and deal with parking and weather instead of Sabbath then I might not fit well in his church. it seems so uptight.

I think i'm going to church that Sunday, but we are having only one service without Sunday school so the families are all together. I teach sunday school to 3rd and 4th graders also, so, i'm thankful for the break.

you should see Spurgeon's comments on Christmas here.

the internet monk turns this into a rant against mega churches.

the best part of all these blogs is the commenters. make sure you read those comments. don't forget the World Magazine blog.

now am i going to have a conclusion extolling the virtues of house churches here? no. i doubt its an issue for alot of them, though. they have other issues.

new HP movie

A Christian women's apologetic blog that i respect has a short Harry Potter movie review with a thumbs up.

Monday, December 05, 2005

House Church Sub-cultures

Present Testimony Ministry is a "simple church" church planting ministry. He notes some important sub-cultures that form among House churches...

The Glorified Bible Study.

The Special Interest Group.

The Personality Cult.

The Bless-Me-Club.

The Socially Amorphous Party.

The Disgruntled Malcontent Society.

The Unwritten Liturgy Driven Church.

Its a negative article. He has more articles on his site that i haven't read yet. I did read his book, Rethinking the Wineskin. It had really great stuff, but was very weak when trying to reconcile Biblically defined church offices/titles/ leadership with everyone being led by the Holy Spirit. He came close to denying the former to retain the latter. I see this in a lot of emergent church ecclesiastical experimentation. One method endorsed by many is situational leadership. We have all had bad experiences with bad leaders. But the New Testament is written by leaders with instruction to leaders with titles and expectations. Unfortunately, we all can tend to solve an issue by embracing its opposite. There's a better way.

an emergent level head award

to Andrew Jones, TallSkinnyKiwi: Hammett on Emerging Church 4.1. Keep up the good work Andrew. I think I will tie this post and a couple others together then draw some conclusions.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Turtles Can Fly

This movie is so haunting, I'm unable to express myself in response to it. It was disturbing for the right reasons. How can a movie about children in war not be disturbing. So I linked to Netflix member reviews. I hope you watch it. However, I'm also wondering which Christian charity works among Iraqi Kurd refugees? I'd like to help.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Treasure Principle

Read this great little book by Randy Alcorn today. He runsEternal Perspective Ministries. I just started teaching a class on money management at church last night, and of course God is letting me know how little I know. But Randy has a bunch of great links I want to reproduce here.

The Good Steward

Generous Giving

Sound Mind Investing


Needs Met