Saturday, April 29, 2006

Evangelist in India Beaten

Christian Persecution Blog: Evangelist in India Beaten: "We recently received a report on a brave evangelist in India. This man oversees 12 pastors and has won more than 700 people to Christ. His leadership has infuriated some Hindus. A few months ago, they launched an attack on this brother with a hidden agenda to scare off other evangelists. The attack took place in broad daylight, and a local news station was present. They filmed video footage of the attack, and VOM was given a copy of this footage.

The evangelist was leading 40 students in a six-day college outreach. The team was driving down the road in an old yellow van when they ran into a barricade set up by the evangelist’s enemies. The attackers drug the students out of the van while verbally abusing them. Video footage shows the attackers dumping gospel tracts into a pile on the street, and burning them while chanting praises to their monkey god...."

Friday, April 28, 2006

Gene Edwards taken to task

A concern I had when reading Viola's book regarding who can start a house church is addressed in this long article. Simple is definitely better.
New Reformation Review - House Church Christianity

Are All Their Church Planters Trained by Church Planters? A sine qua non for a radical wing church planter is that he must have been trained by another radical church planter. "Sit at the feet of a beat up old church planter! Watch how he deals with problems, answers questions…” (HCM, p.101). Tom Begier, Tim Richey, Nick Vasiliades, and Frank Viola are being trained by Gene Edwards. But may we politely ask: so who trained Gene Edwards, then?

Is the Church Planter Absolutely Necessary for a Church's Existence?

There are several things as well that are troubling about Gene Edwards' conception of the church planter. The church planter is said to be part of the scriptural pattern, and yet we must question just how closely Edwards and his associates conform to that scriptural pattern. For example, in the New Testament we see church planters evangelizing the lost, and then organizing the infant churches from those converts. However, a church planter in Gene Edwards' camp rather works with people who already know the Lord. Another example: a biblical church planter never asked people to move to a specific location, unnaturally uprooting their lives, for the sake of an artificially-created community that probably won't last. A third example: a New Testament church planter always traveled in mutually-accountable teams, but quite to the contrary, Gene Edwards and his crew apparently travel solo. But the most egregious way the self-styled radicals deviate from the scriptural practice of church planting is their elevation of the church planter to godlike, guru status.

House Church Basics : What About Children?

House Church Blog: House Church Basics Pt. 7: What About Children? this just needs to be restated again and's possible to include children in a church meeting. If the church is a family why relegate parts of the family to another room? What if children are allowed to be seen AND heard? and what if they see and hear adults as they fellowship with God and each other?

Wayne Jacobsen says it very well:

But don't our children need church activities? I'd suggest that what they need most is to be integrated into God's life through relational fellowship with other believers. 92% of children who grow up in Sunday schools with all the puppets and high-powered entertainment, leave 'church' when they leave their parents' home. Instead of filling our children with ethics and rules we need to demonstrate how to live in God's life together.

Even sociologists tell us that the #1 factor in determining whether a child will thrive in society is if they have deep, personal friendships with non-relative adults. No Sunday school can fill that role. I know of one community in Australia who after 20 years of sharing God's life together as families could say that they had not lost one child to the faith as they grew into adulthood. I know I cut across the grain here, but it is far more important that our children experience real fellowship among believers rather than the bells and whistles of a slick children's program.

House Church Blog

The House Church Blog is very interesting, but i have so many RSS feeds right now i don't think i can add another one, so i'll park the link here for future reference.

Third Day Churches

Third Day Churches: "On several occasions, history has provided the needed critical mass and the synergistic inertia to thrust the church into breaking out of its’ box and becoming the force in culture and society that God intended it to be.

Today, the church, in the 21st Century, has once again reached this “critical mass.” It is something so big and so obvious that the winds of change demand we look hard at our forms and face the reality that a different church must provide a different response to a postmodern age. This Third Millennium (“a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day,” 2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4), or this “Third Day” requires a “Third Way” of doing and being the church.

Christian Schwartz, a German church-growth researcher suggests that we are in the era of a third Reformation. The first Reformation took place in the sixteenth century when Martin Luther rediscovered the core of the gospel: salvation by faith, the centrality of grace and of Scripture. It was seen as a reformation of theology. The second Reformation occurred in the eighteenth century when personal intimacy with Christ was rediscovered. It was, according to Schwartz, a reformation of spirituality. But when it was all said and done, we were still trying to pour new wine into old wineskins. The third Reformation is now upon us. It is a reformation of structure of how we actually “do” church.

For too many years, our current forms, structures and traditions have led the way, with these practices remaining painfully predictable from generation to generation, ever diminishing in their effectiveness. It is now time for change! The forms of the “first day church” must be reevaluated, and those lifeless programs and traditions be allowed to die in the “second day church” so that the resurrected “third day church” can be released.

In its 'ripple' effect, there now exists a growing fraternity of churches, leaders, and ministries who are ready to obey the wind of the Spirit. They are ready to inhale the breath of change and welcome an experimentation of radical, new, and creative ways of “doing” and “being” the church in the third millennium.

Remember,'...on the third day, anything can happen.”
Gary Goodell
Gary: Gary has been doing this ministry stuff for almost forty years (i.e., Foursquare, Vineyard, Third Day). "

UCLA revival?

jaeson's journal contains more of the same that i linked to earlier from a home church site about the cool stuff he's seeing God do at UCLA. he also provides much more context. there has been 24/7 intercessory prayer going on at campus for awhile now. he seems to be affiliated with campus church networks which looks pretty neat at a glance. i do reserve the right to be critical if i see weird stuff on their website. i've had the weird college Christian experience and i don't wish it upon anyone else.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What Stateside churches can learn from their Ecuadorian brethren

Guy comes through with some good questions and observations...
"Along this same theme, Thom Rainer in an article for the Florida Baptist Witness 'The Dying American Church.' states the following:

The facts of a 2004 research project I led are sobering. It takes 86 church members in America one year to reach a person for Christ...if the research is even close to accurate, the reality is that the church is not reproducing herself. In just one or two generations, Christianity could be so marginalized that it will be deemed irrelevant by most observers...

Compare this to the 3:1 baptism ratio as shared in one of my previous posts of the folks in our house churches here in Guayaquil. It takes three of them one year to baptize one new believer. While that is a far cry from our goal of every believer winning/discipling eight per year, it sure beats an 86:1 ratio for churches in the States! Baptisms are a key indicator to overall church health.

Why has the American church become evangelistically anemic? Thom of course gives several reasons in his article, but I would like to capitalize on just one of them, 'Christians in churches often get caught up in the minor issues and fail to become passionate about the major issue of evangelism...'

I honestly believe most Stateside churches have more to learn from Guayaquil believers than the other way around!

What differences are there between our Ecuadorian national brethren and their Stateside counterparts? Why are the folks here so much more effective with their evangelism than Stateside Christians? I can identify at least seven overlapping things I see the house church believers consistently doing that isn't usually seen in most Stateside churches:

1) Praying daily for lost. Talk to any of the believers in a Guayaquil house church and they will show you their list of people they pray for daily of unsaved family, friends, neighbors.

2) Active regular sharing of the Gospel. It is a very natural part of their Christian walk to share the Gospel with people they encounter in their daily lives. Christ has made such a difference in their lives, and they cannot help but share this with those they come in contact with.

3) Planning regular evangelistic events. The house churches plan regular evangelistic events inviting those they are praying for to attend (concerts, outdoor street meetings, special programs, family conferences, DVD/Videos, invited guest speakers, neighborhood evangelistic door-to-door blitzes, etc.)

4) Visiting the sick and personally ministering to lost friends, neighbors and family in times of crisis. They are very good about visiting sick people outside of their church family, praying for their healing and ministering to lost family and friends during difficult times.

5) Not distracted by a lot of outside issues like Thom Rainer mentions above. We too have our sticky issues, but they are more along the lines of things like can unmarried couples who get saved be baptized? How to counsel people with difficult problems? How to discern if someone is demon possessed or just emotionally unstable? How to handle questions that Roman Catholics always ask? Why doesn't God always heal someone when they are prayed for? If I were to share with them (and I don't) the issues that are causing all the uproar in the IMB and SBC these days, they would shake their heads in disbelief!

6) Intentionally focus on evangelism as a life priority. Talk to any of them and they will tell you that their ministry is to win/disciple at least eight people this year. They expect God to give them these souls and are consciously praying and working to achieve this goal.

7) They maintain friendships/relationships with lost friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. They play ball on the street with them, visit them in their homes, minister to them in times of need. How are we ever supposed to win people to the Lord if we have little/no relationship with the lost? How is a Christian supposed to win lost people if they do not even know any? Folks here know plenty of lost people whom they are burdened for their salvation.

He adds in a subsequent post,
I like to doodle with numbers. So out of curiosity I sat down and was able to come up with a rough calculation of just how much each of our baptized converts cost last year. I figured the monetary value by adding the...

-total yearly support received for our three missionary units
-estimate of the total net yearly offerings of 100 house churches
-total yearly income for two national team members families
-operating funds made available to our team through the IMB

...that sum was divided by our baptisms last year. The total cost of each comes out to $375.90. This was a shockingly high figure for me to come to grips with!

If you take out the two biggest $ amount categories which are the support for the three foreign missionary units plus the IMB operating funds, the amount is reduced to $66.45 per baptized convert (maintaining overseas missionaries is expensive!) But then again, the question arises, would there have been more or fewer results without our presence? Only God knows.

However, I was COMPLETELY BLOWN AWAY this past week after reading James Rutz's, Megashifts. On page 117 he quotes Barrett and Johnson from their World Christian Trends. Their own calculation for the cost of each U.S. institutional church baptism is...


Guy has a great take on things as an insider, now an outsider, with big questions.

Banterist - Shanghai Dispatch: Shanghai Surprise

The Banterist is more of the insanely funny ad copy blogger, but he comes through with an insanely funny travelogue. Just a few snips from one post, but there are many more posts to make you laugh out loud at your desk.

I thought China would be filled with grim-faced, machine-gun toting People's Army types with government agents shadowing me every step. That's very much not the case and either I was just misinformed and paranoid, or the government agents are very, very good.
To say that the city is enormous is an understatement. It's filled to the brim with a vibrant and very pleasant population - most of whom live in giant apartment complexes, the likes of which I'd never seen before. No one seems to have a dryer. Laundry is everywhere, even thirty stories up.

I am tempted to purchase 'Baby Urinate' for the box alone.

Beggars are aggressive and don't take bu shi for an answer. They are predominantly situated near tourist areas and usually limited to 'Hallo, money' or 'Thank you, money.'

Vendors are aggressive and don't take bu shi for an answer. They are predominantly situated near tourist areas and usually limited to 'Hallo, DVD' or 'Hallo, watches, bags.'

Asian tour guides all use bullhorns to address their groups, turning any tourist spot into a cacophony of different dialects competing to tell you about the vase or tree you're looking at. A guide told me they don't use them for Western tourists because we're averse to having someone with a bullhorn talking to them from one foot away. Not so for the various Asian visitors who are perfectly content to have a 90 decibel lecture on the Qing dynasty delivered to their face. Even if the group numbers two, as I witnessed.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Mclaren Radio Transcript

There are so many things wrong in this interview. It's not even heavy lifting. Here's an easy snippet.

"McLaren: See, this also comes from, I think, a very unhelpful way of reading the Bible where, we’re going to parse every sentence and say, oh, that means God’s doing it. I don’t think that Jesus or any of the other biblical writers—and you’ve got to remember that Jesus was a speaker. He wasn’t a writer. But you know, the speakers and writers of the Bible, I don’t think that they’re working in this technical theological way that we very often push them into. I think they are speaking the way we would speak. The way we are having conversation right now. Some day if you go and parse one of your sentences or parse one of my sentences and you know, 500 years from now be making really bizarre conclusions about it. You know, you said a couple minutes ago something about being a pain in the ass. Well, 500 years from now people don’t know that that is an idiom that is used today. You can imagine a whole theological school developing from some of that. And that’s kind of what we’re saying actually happens with the biblical language.

But—and this is a huge problem with all of biblical interpretation. To what degree when things happen in the world, is it safe to say God made this happen? And to what degree is it safe to say, God wants us to interpret this happening in a certain way?

McLaren: This is, one of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then—I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary—but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of the this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other ki"

Pagitt and Dewaay on PoMo and EC

This has been an interesting listen. Thanks to Andrew Jones for the link.
"Back in January Bob Dewaay invited me to be the “other side” in a debate on the issues of the emerging church and postmodern spirituality. He was gracious enough to host it at his place, Twin Cities Fellowship. There were 300 plus people there.
They recorded the night, which was 2 1/15 hours long"

Muslim Mob Shuts Down House Churches in Indonesia

"In the Indonesian city of Bogor in West Java on April 23rd, a Muslim mob of about 200 and a crowd of supporters from surrounding areas shut down a Sunday morning service at the Gunungputri house complex. With hundreds of pleased onlookers standing by, the church was evacuated and emptied of its contents. The protesting demonstrators insisted that illegal religious activities were taking place in the house because nearby neighbors had never submitted a recommendation allowing Christian gatherings there. The owner of the house finally gave in to the mob’s demand to stop holding Sunday services. A few policemen showed up on the scene as women from the congregation cried while their church was officially closed.

Still not satisfied, the Muslim mob marched to a Christian house being “misused” as a church, which also served as a store. However, when the crowd arrived, the house―which was regularly used as a Sunday service meeting place―had already been locked by its owner. Fearing that the mob would shut the church down by force, members of the congregation left the church to avoid any conflict or destruction. Unable to enact another church closure, the mob disbanded, but only after they warned security forces that they would return if the Christians continued holding services at the house-store. The Muslims demanded that the local government strictly enforce a church establishment law against Christians, requiring a minimum amount of members and community support. This makes it difficult for many small churches to survive, especially in predominantly Muslim or rural regions. Even though religious freedom is “guaranteed” in Indonesia ’s constitution, dozens of churches have been closed in the past several months."

Invisible Children

I learned of this ministry from a recent Chuck Colson Breakpoint article. He writes,
Carrying a camera they purchased on eBay and their parents’ credit cards, the young men endured Malaria and scabies as they journeyed from Sudan to Kenya, searching to find a story worth telling.

They found it, all right, in northern Uganda. There, Russell and his friends stumbled across thousands of Ugandan children who make the nightly trek from their homes in outlying villages to nearby towns, sleeping in parking garages and bus stations in order to escape abduction by the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA.

The LRA is a rebel group that has terrorized Uganda for twenty years, kidnapping more than 30,000 children and forcing them to fight for the LRA. Those who resist face murder or mutilation.

So this is the vision these guys have for Uganda.

Invisible Children, Inc. is dedicated to providing financial resources to invisible children by documenting their true, untold stories in a creative and relevant way, resulting in positive change.

Jolly: the woman with the dream.
In 2003, Jolly Okot brought the filmmakers to Northern Uganda in hopes that her dream would one day come to fruition: Thousands of Acholi children given the chance to succeed through education.
She knew that if the filmmakers saw the thousands of children fleeing their homes and sleeping in the streets, they would not be able to ignore them. She was right.

Now Invisible Children Inc. is dedicated to educating the children of Uganda, as well as raising awareness on what the U.N. has deemed “the greatest emergency in the world today involving children;” And a movement began because Jolly believed that these children deserved the world’s attention.
Jolly is still at the forefront of our efforts “on the ground” in Uganda, and is now responsible for advising any IC staff on culture and tradition, as well as keeping the program running in Uganda, primarily by Ugandans...

Jacob: the boy who cried.
On the first night in Northern Uganda the three filmmakers met Jacob at the bus park. Jacob, a former child soldier, was taken from his home, and robbed of his education. After escaping “the bush” at 14, he dreamed of returning to school to become a lawyer, but did not have the means to do so. At the end of the “Invisible Children: Rough Cut,” Jacob says, “I have nothing. I don’t even have a blanket. We don’t have anything to do with food. Maybe we can eat once a day… so it is better when you kill us. And, if possible you can kill us, you kill us. For us, we don’t want now to stay. …no one taking care of us. We are not going to school...” Immediately after saying this, the filmmakers cried with him.

For the first time, it was understood what the children affected by this war felt; And what these children wanted. In 2003 the filmmakers made a promise, as friends, to pay Jacob’s way through school. Under Jolly’s constant watchful eye, Jacob has had much success in school, and has benefited immensely from her guidance. But he is just one boy.The filmmakers thought, “If this bond between child and mentor helps make a difference, maybe it can change lives on a larger scale.” And so they put it to work.

At only 16, Jacob provoked Invisible Children Inc.’s belief in education as a way to freedom.Jacob has, without knowing it, turned Jolly’s dream into a reality. Jacob, the quiet boy with the contagious laugh, has sparked a fire that will eventually give thousands of children the freedom to learn.

My Crowning Glory

My wife tells an entertaining story of her recent crowning experience...
"Today I got a temporary crown. My permanent crown, which I will receive in about two weeks, will be real gold. But it will be covered in porcelain so that I do not stand out too much... "

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The less known Long March in China of Gladys Aylward and 100 orphans

The Japanese invasion of China was absolutely horrible. But this single woman of God rescued 100 children from the invaders. She had seen so many miracles in her life, that these steps of faith were not unusual for her. Madame Chiang Kai-shek had an orphanage to the South, a 6 day journey by adult foot under normal circumstances.
She determined to flee to the government orphanage at Sian, bringing with her the children she had accumulated, about 100 in number. (An additional 100 had gone ahead earlier with a colleague.) With the children in tow, she walked for twelve days. Some nights they found shelter with friendly hosts. Some nights they spent unprotected on the mountain sides. On the twelfth day, they arrived at the Yellow River, with no way to cross it. All boat traffic had stopped, and all civilian boats had been seized to keep them out of the hands of the Japanese. The children wanted to know, 'Why don’t we cross?' She said, 'There are no boats.' They said, 'God can do anything. Ask Him to get us across.' They all knelt and prayed. Then they sang. A Chinese officer with a patrol heard the singing and rode up. He heard their story and said, 'I think I can get you a boat.' They crossed, and after a few more difficulties Ai-weh-deh delivered her charges into competent hands at Sian, and then promptly collapsed with typhus fever and sank into delirium for several days.

We just finished reading aloud to the children the biography, Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime and decided to rent the cinematic version, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman which took so many Hollywood liberties that it should get the tag line, "sort of like a true story." Hollywood added a romantic angle.

Please note that although 'Inn of the Sixth Happiness' is a well-produced, heartwarming movie starring the great actress Ingrid Bergman it was a thorn in the side of Gladys Aylward. She was deeply embarrassed by the movie because it was so full of inaccuracies. Hollywood also took great liberties with her infatuation with the Chinese Colonel Linnan, even changing him into an Eurasian. But Gladys, the most chaste of women, was horrified to learn the movie had portrayed her in 'love scenes'. She suffered greatly over what she considered her soiled reputation.

When the Communists came to power after the Japanese were defeated they tried to destroy the faith of students she knew. She watched the students decapitated one at a time before a crowd for refusing to renounce their faith. She finally left China and returned to England. But her people were the Chinese people. Unable to return to China, she returned to Taiwan where she continued to preach and to serve, finally dying in her sleep at her mission with an orphan baby at her side.

Reimagining Youth Ministry

Advancing : Reimagining Youth Ministry: "Un-churched youth must be reached with the gospel. Statistically this is the harvest field demographic. Much time and prayer should be spent considering the best ways to reach them before they make permanent faith based decisions. Hospitality is the church’s untapped evangelistic natural resource. We should be inviting our lost neighbors and friends into our homes on a regular basis. Then we can share the love of Christ with them from a position of strength. It begins with the example of the parents. As we cast the vision of hospitality and reaching our neighbors through our example I believe our kids will follow. They’ll begin inviting their lost friends over to the house. I’m all for youth evangelism. Nearly half (43%) of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (Barna: 2004) With parents leading the way our youth are called and empowered to reach their generation with the gospel much more effectively. 78% of American teens say that their parents have a lot of influence on their life. (Barna: 1997) Josh McDowell writes, 'The most powerful impact upon a child's ethical, moral and spiritual development is the relationship with the parents. It is 300 times greater than the church.'"

radical youth groups

here is a novel idea, involve the parents!

Covenant Life Church : Our Life : Youth: "As with all ministries in Covenant Life Church, the youth ministry exists primarily to glorify God. The motto of the youth ministry is, 'So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.' (I Corinthians 10:31). The goal of the ministry is to shape maturing teens into young adults who love and worship Jesus Christ, by providing contexts for them to experience, apply, and proclaim the glorious gospel.

To facilitate the training of the youth, parents are equipped to effectively disciple their teens, with the help of the church community. Rather than parents abdicating their role to the youth pastor, parents are encouraged to be heavily involved in all youth activities and to be the primary means of grace in their children's lives.

The format/structure of the youth ministry consists of monthly meetings, bi-monthly small group meetings, regular recreational activities, and several service days throughout the year. The monthly meetings provide an opportunity for the youth to take an active role through prayer, worship, service, testimonies, etc. It is also used as a platform for teaching about biblical expectations for young adults and teen/parent relationships. The teachings are often discussed and applied through biblical fellowship at the small group meetings, which meet in homes where every member is expected to participate. The recreational and service activities provide additional opportunities for fellowship and relational development.

With strong parental involvement, under the direction of effective biblical leadership, we have seen God's faithfulness in revealing Himself to many of the youth, as they have recognized their need for the Savior. The fruit has been abundant as we've seen many of the youth assume their place as vital members of the church community, serving alongside the adults. The youth are seeing Covenant Life Church as their own church, not simply one they attend with their parents."

a convicted civil discourse between an LDS and an evanglical

last night i drove up to 1st baptist of Manchester Ct. to listen to Mormon scholar from BYU, Robert Millet and rev. Greg Johnson of Standing Together model a inter-religious conversation guided the concept of "convicted civility."

This was their 41st public dialogue over the past 6 years and one that began 9 years ago. Johnson emphasized many times that this wasn't a debate with a winner and a loser at the end. The typical Mormon and non-Mormon interaction is either one of fight or flight. I've done both to the boys on the bikes who come to my door. I've told them I've had no time. I've pointed out the abundant inconsistencies in their theology. I've wanted to appeal to the benefits of the concept of grace in Biblical Theology but I haven't had visitors in a while. I do think I've lodged pebbles in the gears of their brains, but I don't know if they weren't small enough to ignore.

Millet appealed to Paul's dialogue on Mars Hill in Acts 17 as the biblical model that they are following. He admitted his own history with non-Mormon interaction begins with "if i can't baptize them, what do i do with them?" the concept of simply being friends and neighbors is tough to embrace. but friendship helps counteract the mental condition he called "hardening of the categories." his friend ceases to be a "protestant" and become Greg. They have both been criticized for being "too friendly" with each other. For Greg though, he had to appeal to both aspects of 1 Peter 3:15, ready to give an answer AND with gentleness and respect.

Both speakers shared some of their testimony. Millet is a 3rd generation LDS from Louisiana. His mother came from a Pentecostal Holiness family and married a Mormon. She converted. Her family is still Pentecostal, and that influence is still part of his life. He experienced religious discrimination in the heavily Roman Catholic neighborhood where he grew up. Johnson was raised LDS also. He was seriously involved as a teenager until he attended a Christian summer camp, out of fairness. It was there he had a "born again" experience when he heard about people relating to Jesus and not to a church. His mother and LDS stepfather divorced and her commitment to LDSism dropped also. They moved back to Southern California where he ended up in a Christian high school, Christian college, Westmont, and then Denver Seminary. In those post-LDS years he became an aggressive LDS debater. When he became outreach pastor at a Baptist church in Utah he was the minority religion representative and learned a friendship and neighbor based approach to religious outreach. He pointed out how this has paid off, including the appearance of Ravi Zacharias in the LDS Temple after a personal letter from Johnson to LDS President Hinckley. This has been reciprocated by LDS elders appearing at various seminaries.

Millet is blessed by how much he's learned and how broad his love has grown for people of all faiths. He does get frustrated when fellow Mormons make incorrect assertions about evangelicals. He is also frustrated when he's accused of not faithfully representing the LDS even though he's a professor at BYU and meets frequently with the higher up leaders, including apostles.

Johnson says that the direct benefit of this is personal holiness as he's learned to be more fair, more tolerant and more loving.

After these introductions Johnson started off the conversation by asking how does Millet expect non-LDS Christians to react to the exclusivist position of the LDS. Millet equivocated. He responded that exclusivity is integral to Christianity (only in the main things), that multiple denominations indicate that one group believes it has something others don't (although not at risk to others salvation status), that Joseph Smith was like the Reformers in claiming that the church has fallen (although they appealed to the same documents without adding new ones or claiming special authority), and that the apostasy although long wasn't complete - there must have been a few faithful believers. The LDS is unashamed of their claim that when the original 12 apostles died, authoirty was lost, but now restored, and some important doctrines were lost, but they can appreciate the Reformers for bringing the Scripture to to the people and pointing out the corruption of the Roman Catholic church. He appealed to the historical, cultural milieu that Smith operated in, including the contemporary Stone/Campbell movement that appealed to a return to primitive Christianity, even though they had all the material they needed in the Bible and didn't need new prophecy or documents.

Millet then asked a question. Who gives us evangelicals the right to decide who's a Christian based on their affiliation? Johnson replied that it is a relationship with Jesus. He can't write someone off solely on their affiliation, in fact there are many important doctrines he can agree with Millet on, but he also disagrees with him on many more. He finds it helpful to understand Mormonism as culture and not cult, and there are differences between the institution and the individual. i experienced this with the man sitting next to me, Joe. He was a single man in his 50's who was baptized a Mormon only a week before. He was raised Roman Catholic and eventually decided on joining the Mormons based on how nice the people were, even though he doesn't agree with everything they teach. i wish Johnson could have added that we evangelicals can't even judge within our own ranks who is in and who is out. we don't know other people's hearts, only God does. we can only speak of our own relationship with God and what things His Word indicates as prescriptive and descriptive to a life with Him.

Johnson then asked Millet about the relationship between the early teachings and the current LDS teachings. Millet responded with whether an early teaching meets one of these 4 criteria: is it in the LDS scriptural canon, is it found in the churchs official declarations/proclamations (only 6 in LDS history), is it taught by the 1st presidency and quorum, and is it found in the general hand books or approved curricula. then he examined a few of the famous ones.

Brigham Young's God is Adam; LDS don't believe in apostolic infallibility, and that doctrine died with Young. (sort of like the Roman Catholic exemption for anything said that wasn't pronounced ex cathedra.)
Jesus was conceived by a sexual union between God the Father and Mary; it doesn't meet any of the 4 criteria.
Blood atonement, it was simply revival rhetoric that was never practiced .
God was once a man. Millet acknowledged that God the father is corporeal with flesh and blood. he says there is no way to know what God's prior existence was like. he complains that the LDS are infamous for what they know least about. when he becomes like God he doesn't know if he'll create a world with beings that worship him but he will always worship Jesus and God the Father.

They moved to a question and answer time picking questions from those submitted on 3x5 cards.
Millet responded to the LDS belief in many gods. No, he doesn't belive in them but he doesn't believe in a trinitarian concept either. The 3 persons who are Gods are so united in love that they can be referred to in the singular (which would be called tritheism).

Johnson responded to why he converted. He referred to the relationship appeal but also that he no longer had to try to get into heaven. His 9 year old daughter in a Utah public school handed out a survey to her classmates about how to get to heaven. All the serious responses were along the lines of doing their best. No one responded like her by faith in Jesus. Millet responded that the LDS church teaches the gift of salvation, which implies something that can't be earned but he also recognizes the predominant works theology. Regarding the external works in the new believer manual, Gospel Principles. The church is trying to prevent licentiousness and has a James emphasis.

Millet responded to a query on the brotherhood of Jesus and Lucifer. He quoted Elder Holland who says we were all part of the pre-born existence with Jesus and he was the first born but no one else was God like him.

Millet answered if his doctrines have changed in this dialogue. No.

Millet answered the hypothetical of an LDS convert who died before doing any works. he pointed to the Doctrine and Covenants which rewards the intentions of the heart.

Finally, Millet asked for patience from the evangelicals. He says they have only been around long enough to be halfway to their council of Nicea. This is dishonest, because if they have apostles, then they'll not have need for a council.

Afterwards i stuck around to thank the speakers. i listened to a woman who left a small offshoot of the mormons called the church of Jesus Christ who broke from Smith after his polygamy teaching became public. They recognize the book of Mormon and the Bible only. she still thinks the American Indians are Jews.

Johnson agrees with my both/and view to Temple outreaches, onsite and offsite. and we both agree that the onsite stuff needs to be considerate and not obnoxious. In fact his website describes one on-site approach.

overall, this was excellent. i think Johnson pointed out significant issues and Millet acknowledged some of them and blew smoke at the same time. it was worth the time and i'm glad i went.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

'You Trying to Say Jesus Christ Can't Hit a Curveball?' - Christianity Today Magazine

'You Trying to Say Jesus Christ Can't Hit a Curveball?' - Christianity Today Magazine: "But money isn't what peeves many fans the most. Few fans say anything bad about Sweeney's religious life when he's picking up RBIs. Yet as the feeble swings and losses mount, critics emerge from the woodwork to belittle him. Some ridicule him by wondering why Jesus doesn't save him from slumps. It's not uncommon to hear fans mockingly respond by reciting a line from the movie Major League: 'You trying to say Jesus Christ can't hit a curveball?'

Others resent his devotion to faith and family, and complain that he should commit himself to nothing but baseball. During a poor team start a few years ago, even Sweeney's manager seemed to jab his best player. 'Chewing on cookies and eating milk and praying is not going to get it done,' former Royals manager Tony Muser said. 'I'd like them to go out and pound tequila … ' Muser soon apologized and said Sweeney is the kind of guy he'd be happy to have his daughter marry.

But is he the kind of guy you want to lead your ballclub? No matter their success, Christian athletes will probably never shake the ridiculous charge that faith undercuts their will to win. Curt Schilling barely dented the reputation by gutting through a bloody injury to pitch the Red Sox toward their first World Series title in ages. Kurt Warner earned two consecutive NFL MVP awards. Not a few fans rejoiced as injuries and squabbling felled Warner, the grocery bagger turned Super Bowl champion.

Near as I can tell, fans concerned about faith say that religion dilutes competitive drive and distracts athletes from concentrating on their job. This must stem from a misunderstanding of both sports and faith. It's not productive for athletes to eat, sleep, and drink sports. Whether it's Michael Jordan golfing and gambling or Mike Sweeney praying with his family, athletes need time away to clear their heads so they can refocus. Baseball especially requires time spent studying opponents, but thinking too much will handcuff a hitter when he needs to do his job—see the ball, hit the ball."

GFA Urges Prayer as Hindu Extremists Intensify Persecution - GFA Urges Prayer as Hindu Extremists Intensify Persecution: "Earlier this month, the government of Rajasthan became the sixth state in India to enact an anti-conversion law. In other states with such legislation, Christians have been targeted for attacks by Hindu extremists.

Nevertheless, Yohannan notes, Christians in India are standing strong, and the increased persecution has only increased the effectiveness of the church's witness across the country. 'We have more people coming to Christ now,' he says, 'especially in places where the worst persecution is taking place.'

How this is to be explained, GFA's president confesses, is a mystery. 'I don't understand it,' he says, 'but Jesus said He will build his church. We are suffering for it, but God is faithfully doing His work.'

As the persecution against followers of Christ intensifies in India, Yohannan urges prayer. He asks believers in the United States and elsewhere in the free world to pray for Christians facing violence and intimidation from Hindu extremists in India and for believers facing persecution throughout the world."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hopegivers President: still imprisoned in India

According to Hopegivers International, their president, Dr. Samuel Thomas, was arrested March 16, 2006, in New Delhi, by about a dozen men claiming to be police officers from the provincial capital of Kota, Rajasthan. Hopegivers International was formed in the United States by friends wanting to support the many orphanages and schools founded by Dr. Thomas’ father M. A. Thomas as he began ministering to children in India. Local anti-Christian hate groups continue their siege against the 2,500 orphans and abandoned children protected at the Emmanual Hope Home in Kota, Rajasthan, by threatening to disrupt water and electric service to the facilities. Bishop M. A. Thomas is currently in hiding from the Hindu extremist groups that have offered large rewards for the capture and beheading of Dr. Samuel Thomas or his father M.A. Thomas. Pray for the release of Dr. Samuel Thomas and others from the ministry being held and for the safety of the children at the orphanages. India’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh has launched an investigation into the arrest of Dr. Thomas. Last year several students were attacked on their way to the annual graduation ceremonies of the Emmanuel Seminary. Many were dragged from trains or buses and beaten, requiring hospitalization. You may want to visit Hopegivers International Web site to obtain additional information about their ministry and the current letter writing campaign on behalf of their staff.
Please also visit and take a few moments to write a letter of encouragement on his behalf. It will only take you a few minutes and it could make a world of difference for Dr. Thomas.

fwiw, the hopegivers website is down and has been for awhile. its been at least a week since i last checked it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

what is gluttony anyway?

after i posted on the parallels between obesity and homosexuality i wanted to find out more about the spiritual issues of gluttony which, i've learned, sometimes but not always manifests physically as obesity. It turns out a fellow blogger at the evangelical outpost recently pondered on it also...

Oddly enough, with the exception of those related to sex, American Christians tend to take an antinomian view of “physical sins.” We act as if corrupting our bodies will have no impact on our souls. Such an un-Biblical view, however, must be rejected by anyone who acknowledges that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Lest we start to feel superior to the obese neighbors, we should remember that not all gluttons are overweight. I’m 5’10”, 170 lbs and though I no longer have to endure the rigors of Marine Corps PT, I’m still in relatively decent shape. But while my waistline may not expose my shame, I’m prone to overindulging in food. I eat several snacks between meals. I eat when I’m in my car. I eat when I’m bored. I eat when I’m restless, when I’m frustrated, when I’m watching TV, when I’m on the computer…I eat constantly for no other reason than that I can.

In stuffing my face, I neglect my spiritual life. I turn to the refrigerator instead of turning to prayer. I pause at the vending machine instead of pausing in meditation. I seek out a piece of bread instead of seeking the Bread of Life. I fill my life with food in order to avoid filling it with God.

“Their end is destruction,” the Apostle Paul warned, for those for whom “their god is the belly.” We worship a false idol when we succumb to the sin of gluttony. We replace the focus on the Lord with a focus on our own indulgences. We make a god of our belly and allow our souls to turn softer than the crème filling in our Twinkies.

He considers himself a glutton in need of repentance before his sin bears fruit. The Catholic encyclopedia provides a definition but moetly focuses on the eating and drinking aspect with a weird digression at the end on spiritual gluttony.

according to the teaching of the Angelic Doctor, may happen in five ways which are set forth in the scholastic verse: "Prae-propere, laute, nimis, ardenter, studiose" or, according to the apt rendering of Father Joseph Rickably: too soon, too expensively, too much, too eagerly, too daintily. Clearly one who uses food or drink in such a way as to injure his health or impair the mental equipment needed for the discharge of his duties, is guilty of the sin of gluttony. It is incontrovertible that to eat or drink for the mere pleasure of the experience, and for that exclusively, is likewise to commit the sin of gluttony. Such a temper of soul is equivalently the direct and positive shutting out of that reference to our last end which must be found, at least implicitly, in all our actions.

another Catholic site, the White Stone Journal enalrges it a bit more.

The cure for Gluttony lies in deliberately reducing our use of pleasurable things, not in eliminating them. When eating, quit before feeling stuffed. When snacking, don't just keep stuffing, but quit after a while. With people, allow some quiet time together, and also get some time alone. Of course, if time alone is very pleasurable, get out more often. And if the toast is a bit too brown, eat it anyway.

Finally someone else opens it wide and almost makes it the term for anything bad.

The sins associated with gluttony war against that harmony between man and God and man and man. It is basically a sin in which one lives to please self. It is associated with:

Stubbornness - This is, "I am going to do things my way and that's it - period." This is the enforcer to control situations in order to have one's way to live or do as they please.

Rebellion - Gluttony wars against self-control. Rebellion is going off the set standard and disrupting the harmony between God and man. It is going against the normal use of things that God has given to man.

Disobedience - A refusal to submit to God and His word concerning excess, such as don't be filled with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.

Drunkenness - excess; filling the need for something lacking inside one's self. I remember when I used to play computer games. I would do it 24 hours a day. I was to go to Cleveland clinic once and kept playing even while Mary was warming up the car. Excess does not necessarily mean the consumption of food or drink.

Wastefulness - where there is excess, there is waste.

So there you have it. We believers are learning to submit the body to the spirit by the power of the Spirit of God. Its not unlike improper sexual expression.


House2House - PROPHETIC WORSHIP AND PREACHING @ UCLA: "...My voice was almost gone, but as I preached you could sense the unction and anointing of the Holy Spirit and His power. Students walking by began to stop dead in their tracks! Five here, 12 there, two tour groups stopped at the top of the college above us. An Asian fraternity sitting on the steps stopped talking and began to listen. An entire group of African Americans who just moments before had their boom boxes blasting, stopped and began to listen. Those tabling turned around. Within moments, there was a crowd of students standing in wonder and looking, gripped by the Spirit. All over Bruin Walk, students were listening to me preach the Gospel of repentance and love towards God! There had to be at least 120-150 students standing still listening for almost a half hour as I shared my testimony and proclaimed the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Moments before, Bruin Walk was full of noise, conversations, hustle and bustle, but all of a sudden the entire Bruin Walk was silent. God supernaturally amplified my broken voice with no microphone! People said they could hear the preaching from the third story of the building above us.

What happened? To tell you the truth, I don't know exactly what happened, but glory be to the name of God! I called them to repentance and to commit in prayer to give their lives to Christ. At least half a dozen hands rose in the air and I asked the crowd to shout out the sinners prayer with me. We could hear students’ voices all over shouting out the sinner’s prayer in commitment all over Bruin Walk! It could have only been God!

The presence of God was present, so present that we didn't even know what to do once finished praying. One student began to question what was preached and started to begin a debate. I could tell it was a distraction and God helped us by having a smoking skater sitting on some steps defend me and debate with this atheist. Then the Holy Spirit led our team to go two by two to begin talking with the students who responded.

One student from a Hindu background said, "I'm jealous for what you have! I want it but I don't know how to get it!" We began to converse and answer his questions.

Another black student who was extremely angry began to tell us, “You are full of sh#$" We listened to him say how Christians could not be trusted. He told us he was a servant of the Devil. Christians had done too much wrong in this world, including genocide, in the name of Christ. My heart began to break as I listened to him. I asked, "Holy Spirit give me wisdom to respond!" I responded to his anger by asking for forgiveness on behalf of myself and all Christians. He had no response for that. He almost began to cry and his entire countenance changed. We prayed for him and he said, “I don't know what it is about you all, but I'm the only one in my family who isn't a Christian. But if there is one church I'll go to, it's the one you go to.” We gave him the info to one of the simple churches in a hall of residence. It was the power of Christ’s forgiveness that He could not resist. We kept talking and he was being transformed right before our eyes..."

Easter violence in India

Compass Direct: "Pastors beaten, churches vandalized as Hindu extremist mobs attack.

April 17 (Compass Direct) – As Christians around the globe intoned, “Christ is risen” with hallelujahs yesterday, Easter in India was marred by violence.

In the southern state of Karnataka, 15 Hindu extremists said to be from the Bajrang Dal (youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or World Hindu Council) attacked a Sunday morning church service, assaulting Pastor V.P. Paulouse.

Speaking of the significance of Easter at the Believers’ Church in Bantaguri, in Mangalore district, Palouse received a head injury and fractures in both hands in the attack; his wife also was severely beaten, according to a local Christian who requested anonymity.

Ransacking the church hall, the attackers threatened to harm the Christians if they continued their prayer meetings, and they later damaged the pastor’s house and car.

The injured pastor was recovering from his injuries in a hospital at press time. The nearby Bantwal town police station filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the attackers, but no one had been arrested at press time.

Christians also believe that 25 to 30 people who stormed a prayer hall in Mangalore district’s Balmatta town on Easter Sunday belonged to the Bajrang Dal. The Hindu extremists vandalized furniture and equipment worth more than 150,000 rupees (US$3,327) at the hall belonging to the Living Faith Ministry. The incident took place at 3:45 p.m. in Balmatta town, near Shanthi Nilaya, served by the Kadri police station.

The Living Faith Ministry has been conducting regular prayer meetings in the area for more than six years. About 70 local Christians attend the meeting in the rented prayer hall."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Pro-Life Speaker Holds Her Own Against Pro-Abortion Crowd at University of Western Ontario - Apologia Christi

"Abortion supporters’ intolerance said to be “appalling”

LONDON, March 27, 2006 ( - One year after the University of Western Ontario (UWO) awarded infamous abortionist Henry Morgentaler an honorary degree, the abortion debate has re-ignited.

On March 21, Stephanie Gray, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, spoke against abortion at King’s College at UWO. Police and security were brought to the scene to handle expected disruption from abortion advocates. 130 people attended the talk, about half were vehemently against Gray. Several spoke out of turn throughout the presentation. One student was so disruptive security told him to leave. He refused but remained silent for the remainder of the presentation.

Gray was protected that evening by an undercover police officer. Before the presentation started, she was given a security briefing which included having a uniformed police officer in the next room, ready to whisk her to a police car if violence broke out.

That evacuation plan was not required but many of the abortion supporters were unruly. “Their intolerance was appalling,” said Gray. “In my four years of giving presentations and debates at university campuses across North America I have never encountered such a rude and disruptive audience. Abortion supporters ‘talk’ tolerance but these ones sure don’t ‘walk’ it.”

Throughout the presentation, random audience members stood up and faced their backs to Gray. Others placed pieces of tape on their mouths with “choice” written on them.

The crowd became greatly agitated when Gray spoke about personhood. She explained that denying the unborn their status as persons was analogous to past atrocities when societies denied, for example, Jews their personhood. She pointed out that t"

book report: More Straw Bale Building

I took a break from my US political history book and read this weekend More Straw Bale Building : A Complete Guide to Designing and Building with Straw by Chris Magwood,Peter Mack, which i thought was excellent and intimidating. i'm not a handyman but i can stack blocks. haybales can support a roof without additional wood. it's even possible to build a straw yurt. i can't get much more unconventional. this book offers hope that it can be done and has been done. More inspiration can be found at massive link farms such as Surfin' Strawbale. the authors run a Canadian construction company called Camel's Back Construction, get the pun on straw? Their FAQ addresses all the silly worries about pests and fire. I like this from their FAQ,

"Why build with bales?

There are many different reasons people choose to build with bales. From an environmental perspective, bales are an anually renewable building material, which happens to be essentially a waste product in Canada. Bale building results in voluntary carbon sequestering; several tonne worth. Bale homes are the likely choice for those who understand and care about embodied energy of materials. There are huge energy savings in bale buildings, given that the R-value of the walls is rated at R-40; this allows for great savings in heating and cooling buildings. Some people choose to build with bales due to the ease with which this technology can be learned. It is an extremely accessible form of building, for men, women, childen, and people of all abilities. A common reason for building with bales is the aesthetic value. If you have not seen a bale building, we encourage you to look for Open Houses and house tours. The warmth and depth of a bale wall is inviting, and inspiring. The rounded windows, built in benches, niches, the thick walls that serve to create warmth and quiet, the fact that no two bale houses will ever be the same...all of these are reasons enough to build with bales."

Madhya Pradesh state, Hindu extremists brutally beat Christians

Compass Direct: "In Madhya Pradesh state, Hindu extremists brutally beat Christians; police take no action.

April 13 (Compass Direct) – Extremists attacked two Christian schools and a private Christian gathering last week in Madhya Pradesh state and accused several Christians of carrying out “illegal conversions.” Christians responded with a protest march in Jabalpur city on Monday (April 10), demanding justice. The Christian community called for the arrest of several Dharam Jagran Sena (DJS or Army for Religious Revival) members who launched three attacks in Jabalpur city on April 5, 6 and 7. After the final attack on April 7 against seven Christians, who were then charged with illegal conversion, the Rev. Kishan Singh led two dozen church members to the police station to object. There a mob of about 80 people beat them as police looked on. "

India: Rajasthan state anti-conversion bill

Compass Direct writes,

Christian leaders urge governor to dismiss new legislation as unconstitutional.

April 13 (Compass Direct) – An anti-conversion bill passed by the Rajasthan state assembly last Friday (April 7) is unconstitutional and could lead to an “explosive situation” in the state, Christians say.

Religious tensions in the state are already high following the arrest of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Thomas, president of Emmanuel Mission International (EMI), on March 16. Thomas is charged with hurting the religious sentiments of the Hindu community.

The Supreme Court today stayed the arrest of EMI founder M.A. Thomas, who had been declared an “absconding criminal,” until April 21.

The registration of EMI schools and hospitals remained cancelled and EMI bank accounts were still frozen at press time.

“In the context of the ongoing harassment of Christians in Kota district, Rajasthan, the anti-conversion law will lead to an explosive situation,” Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, told Compass... (there's more to read on their website).

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Easter Eloquence

John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople; sermon, ca. 400

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

lots of great stuff on this page for Resurrection Day.

Friday, April 14, 2006

maggi dawn: when God vanishes

a postmodern devotion on Good Friday
But Good Friday and Holy Saturday are the most sombre days in the whole Church calendar, recalling the death and disappearance of God. Not much there to celebrate or feel happy about....

It's a relief to be honest, to acknowledge the disappearance of God and the uncertainty of the outcome.

That's not to say that there is no hope of the resurrection. But that hope doesn't forestall the depth of blackness that can descend even upon people of faith. And the recollection that the Easter faith was born in the darkness is, perhaps, a reason to hold on and not to give up.

Nothing but the Blood of Jesus

A great article by Mark Dever in Christianity Today,

I don't doubt that we have more to learn from Christ's death than simply the fact that he died as a substitute for us, bearing our grief and carrying our sorrows (Isa. 53:4). Peter, for instance, teaches that we should follow Christ's example of suffering for that which is good ( 1 Pet. 3). Any biblical understanding of the Atonement must take into account our having been united to Christ by faith, adopted and regenerated in him. As those who belong to him, as his temple and his body, we expect the fruit of his Spirit to be evident in us. Because of the Atonement, we expect a new quality to our lives (Rom. 6; 2 Cor. 5; Gal. 5; 2 Pet. 1). The Atonement is not merely moral influence, but it surely results in moral improvement.

Rather than pitting these theories against one another, couldn't they be evaluated together? A Christ who wins victory over the powers of evil, whose death changes us, and whose death propitiates God is not only conceivable, he seems to be the Bible's composite presentation. Frank Thielman of Beeson Divinity School states a traditional view of the Atonement in his recent summary, Theology of the New Testament (Zondervan, 2005). But Thielman, a scholar who has focused his work more on Paul than on the Gospels, also presents the Cross as a defeat of those cosmic powers opposing God—Christus Victor. As Hans Boersma wrote of Atonement theories in Books & Culture (March/April, 2003), "By allowing the entire choir to sing together, I suspect we may end up serving the interests of God's eschatological shalom."

Still, when we give attention and authority to all parts of the New Testament canon, substitution becomes the center and focus of the Bible's witness to the meaning of Christ's death, and the measure of God's redeeming love. As New Testament theologian George Eldon Ladd said, "The objective and substitutionary character of the death of Christ as the supreme demonstration of God's love should result in a transformation of conduct that is effected by the constraining power of that love." Theologian Donald Bloesch is in line with this when he insists: "Evangelical theology affirms the vicarious, substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ. It does not claim that this theory does justice to all aspects of Christ's atoning work, but it does see substitution as the heart of the Atonement."

No Sacrifice Too Great
And what about that charge of being "too Atonement-centered"? We must center our lives around Christ's Atonement. We don't want to encourage violence, marginalize the gospel, or promote individualistic passivity. But I haven't seen sinners who are gripped by Christ's substitutionary death respond that way. Instead, I've more often observed responses like C. T. Studd's famous statement: "If Jesus Christ be God, and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him." Charles Spurgeon put that point well: "It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed."

Dever takes issue with Scot McKnight's handling of Scripture, and Scot replies at his blog, , but then says something similar to Dever.

Atonement is more than penal substitution. And it all needs to be in front of us, especially today. Here's what will go through my mind and heart and reflections today and tomorrow, but on Sunday we let go and utter "Christ is risen!"

First, I'm thankful that Jesus died for our sins (including mine). His life, his death, his burial, his resurrection, and his sending of the Spirit are all "for us" — not for himself, but all for us.

Second, in his death, as Paul says in Roman 6 and Galatians 2, he represented us — both exclusively (called substitution) and inclusively (called co-crucifixion). He both died for us and we die with him.

Third, as we find in Colossians 2, in his death and resurrection march into the presence of God, he liberated us. He conquered the systemic and demonic enemies, nailed them to the cross, and defeated them so we could live in the power of his resurrection. He is the ransom price paid for us so that we could be set free.

Fourth, overall, to use the language of Irenaeus and Athanasius, which are based on Romans 5, he recapitulated our life: he became what we are so we might become what he is.

Fifth, he identified with us "all the way down." Phil 2:6-11 shows that Jesus came to earth to become like us and in doing so he died for us. By identifying with us, he is our substitution who takes on the very depth of our punishment, even death, even death on a cross, so that he might lift us into the presence of God.

Sixth, he not only dies for us but he gives us in his death a new paradigm for life: we are to die to ourselves, deny ourselves, and make the cross the paradigm of how we live — and that we means we enter into his life by making the cross our own.

Casualty Call:: A Marine's Reflections on Good Friday

I consider Good Friday my anniversary date for this blog. Many things to think on today. Found this one
God is good

"Then I remember it’s Good Friday and I begin to wonder who told Jesus’ family and friends that he had been killed. Since many of his disciples had fled the night before, they were likely still in hiding until it was too late. Who told them they had lost their teacher? Or what about James, who was probably just returning home from work when he heard the news. Did he see the tortured expression on Mary’s face and realize he had lost his brother? And how long until the report reached Jericho, where a reformed tax collecter named Zacchae'us would grieve over the loss of the man who had changed his life?

Over 2000 years ago, the greatest “casualty call” in history spread throughout a small Roman province in the Middle East. The news that the truest friend, the most beloved son, the gentlest teacher anyone had ever known had been crucified must have spread like wildfire through the land, sparking the most profound grief our universe has ever known. From this side of the calendar we can’t begin to comprehend the magnitude of loss that must have weighed on the hearts of Christ’s followers, family, and friends. We look backward on Good Friday, seeing it from the perspective of the glory that came on Sunday morning. But they saw only the darkness and pain, the loss of hope and bewilderment; they saw nothing but heartbreak.

My phone may ring later this evening. I may have to don my uniform and put on a stoic front. I may have to drive for hours only to take the longer journey up someone’s front steps. I may have to knock on the door and see the melting expression of a parent’s dawning realization of why I’m standing on their porch. I may have to face the grief and pain and sorrow of a family that has lost someone they loved.

But I can offer them hope and take comfort in knowing that the heartbreak won’t last. After all, I know how the story ends. It may only be Friday. But I know that Sunday’s coming soon."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hinduism :: Horror of India's child sacrifice

Hinduism :: Horror of India's child sacrifice: "The woman who abducted Akash lived just a few doors away. She claimed to be suffering from terrible nightmares and visions.

It was then she turned for guidance to a tantric, or holy man. It was under his instruction that she brutally sacrificed the boy - offering his blood and remains to the Hindu goddess of destruction.

There are temples across India that are devoted to the goddess. Childless couples, the impoverished and sick visit to pray that she can cure them....

S Raju is a journalist for the Hindustan Times and has been reporting on child sacrifice cases since 1997 in western Uttar Pradesh. He has reported on 38 similar cases...

We visited the jail where those accused of murdering Akash were being held.

The prison warden told us of over 200 cases of child sacrifice in these parts over the last seven years.

He admitted many of the cases go unreported because the police are reluctant to tarnish the image of their state. He told us incidents of child sacrifice are often covered up."

List of Christian denominations in India - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This list of Christian denominations in India is pretty long, but what do you expect from a country with 1 billion people in it? At another Wiki entry, "The 2001 census recorded over 24 million Indian Christians, comprising 2.3% of the country's population. There are two main regional concentrations of Christian population, namely in South India and among tribal people in East and Northeast India....About 70% of Indian Christians in 1991 were Roman Catholics, including 300,000 members of the Syro-Malankara Church as of 1991."

Religious map of India

Notice the high Christian bars in the Northeast of India, especially Nagaland. The region, once notorious worldwide for its savagery, has now become India's most Christian-dominant area. It's known as "the most Baptist state in the world." Nagaland actually lives up to its billing. Some 60 percent of Nagaland's 1.9 million people are Baptists, worshiping in more than 20 groups. Tucked away in a remote corner of the world, Nagaland's people are becoming the soul hunters of Central Asia..

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Smart Mom Blog: Family Lent Field Report

My wife gives a nice report on our Lenten experiment for this year.

Gospel For Asia

I support a missionary and a school child in India through this organization. Every dime i send goes to India. Stateside work has to have its own support.

"Gospel for Asia trains and sends native missionaries because they have proven extremely effective. They are already familiar with the language and culture, and they live at the level of the people they serve, thus removing many social barriers...

Now over 25 years old, Gospel for Asia supports more than 14,500 missionaries working in some of the neediest Asian countries--primarily in the 10/40 Window. Although we have been working among the unreached since the ministry began, it has only been in the last 15 years that we have honed our strategy to reach the most unreached...

How can I help sponsor a native missionary?
...You can also call our office at 1-800-WIN-ASIA or click here for more information. You will receive an envelope and first-gift card with the picture and testimony of the native missionary you are helping. Each month as you continue supporting your missionary, we will send you a receipt for your gift. The lower portion of the receipt may be returned in the envelope provided for mailing the following month's support."

the "gospel" of judas

i really can't believe that people are so informed on this stuff until i talk to them at work. here's a bunch of info on it.-jpu
So the Gospel of Judas is a Gnostic document?

Yes, it is quite clearly a document written by someone who was a Gnostic. The language, the ideas, the theology, and the names mentioned in it all suggest it was written by someone who was an ardent advocate of Gnosticism. The church father Irenaeus (A.D. 180) classified the Gospel of Judas as a form of “Cainite” Gnosticism of which he says, “They delcare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things [Gnostic secret knowledge], and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas.”

What exactly was Gnosticism?

Gnosticism was a religion of redemption that surfaced as early as the late first century A.D. and was popular among some communities through the fourth century A.D. At the heart of Gnosticism is a belief in two gods—the creator God that we know about through Genesis 1, but also a secret, hidden, unknown god that exists in the kingdom of light. It is this unknown god that Gnosticism purports to reveal. At the heart of the Gospel of Judas is a revelation of this unknown god.

But Gnostics apparently believed in Jesus?

Yes, but their Jesus was very different than the Jesus who is revealed in the Bible. The Gnostic Jesus did not become incarnate to die on the cross to make atonement for the sin of the world. He came to reveal the higher knowledge about the existence of the unknown god and that every person has a “divine spark” of this god within them. This divine spark is trapped in our physical bodies and longs for release from the entombment of the flesh to be reunited with the unknown god in the kingdom of light.

So this is why Judas’s betrayal of Jesus was a good thing according to the Gospel of Judas?

Right. The only reason the death of Jesus was important was to free Jesus from the constraints of the physical body. Most Gnostic groups, however, believed that Jesus never truly became incarnate, that it only seemed like he was human. This belief is often referred to as “docetism” (from the Greek word dokeō, “it seems”). This dim view of physical existence is why some Gnostic communities could advocate the practice of abortion and infanticide.

When did Gnosticism begin?

This has been a long-debated question, but the current generation of scholars are suggesting that Gnosticism did not come into existence until after the creation of the New Testament. We certainly have no firm historical evidence that Gnosticism existed at the time of Jesus and the Apostles. If this is true, it is devastating to the idea that the Gospel of Judas gives an accurate depiction of Jesus’s ministry and teaching. I personally tend to follow the conclusions of a group of scholars who argue that the catalyst for the development of Gnosticism was the disillusionment in certain segments of Judaism following the two Jewish wars (A.D. 70 and 135) resulting in a form of mysticism in which heretical rabbis began reporting seeing two powers in heaven.


What are some of the teachings given in the Gospel of Judas?

Here is a random selection of the ideas found in the document:

* The unknown god in the hidden kingdom (Jesus to Judas): “[Come], that I may teach you about [secrets] no person [has] ever seen. For there exists a great and boundless realm, whose extent no generation of angels has seen, [in which] there is [a] great invisible [Spirit].”
* Revelation of the unknown realm (Jesus to Judas): “A great angel, the enlightened divine Self-Generated, emerged from the cloud, and they became attendants for the angelic Self-Generated.”
* The origin of immortal beings and the first man (Jesus to Judas): “The multitude of those immortals is called the cosmos—that is, perdition—by the Father and the seventy-two luminaries who are with the Self-Generated and his seventy two aeons. In him the first human appeared with his incorruptible powers.”
* The origin of Jesus (Judas’s insight): “I know who you are and where you have come from. You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo [the unknown god]. And I am not worthy to utter the name of the one who has sent you.”
* On entering the eternal kingdom (Jesus to Judas): “No person of mortal birth is worthy to enter the house you have seen for that place is reserved for the holy.” In another passage: “The souls of every human generation will die. When these people, however, have completed the time of the kingdom and the spirit leaves them, their bodies will die but their souls will be alive, and they will be taken up.”

The teaching found in the Gospel of Judas is thoroughly consistent with the kind of Gnostic teaching that is reflected in the Nag Hammadi documents and other Gnostic sources. There is nothing here that is consistent with biblical Christianity.

Should we be concerned that our Bible is incomplete?

Not at all. Our New Testament has been complete for nearly two thousand years. Christians throughout history in every part of the world have recognized this to be the case.

The NGS special gave the impression that Irenaeus (A.D. 180) may have chosen what gospels to include in the New Testament. Is that an accurate depiction of what happened?

Neither Irenaeus nor any church leader arbitrarily selected which books would become part of the New Testament. From the moment that the gospels were first written, they were circulated throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond and used in the churches for teaching, worship, and devotion. Lists of New Testament writings were later drawn up by some church fathers and early church councils to recognize and formalize what Christians were using in churches throughout the world. The formal recognition became essential because some groups were wanting to add to the New Testament and other people (like Marcion) were wanting to subtract from what was widely used and recognized as authoritative.
as always, the Apologetics Index is a great place to start your research.

Easter Life and the Facts of History

Doug Groothius asks,

Easter commemorates and celebrates a historical event unlike any other: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But what is the significance of the resurrection? Can we know that it really happened?

Mapping religion in America

i like maps. i like religion. i like this collection of religious maps of USA

Joe's Jottings: Pilate and Herod





Wishing he was somewhere else.

Wishing the 'Jewish Problem' to go away.

Jesus stands before him.

Black eyed.

Clothes torn.

Spit in his beard.

Looking like a street beggar."

worth going to Joe's site to read the rest...

Eugene Peterson's Philosophy of Bible Translation

i think i'm done commenting at Challie's on this topic. i enjoy reading The Message. I think Peterson did a good job. But others, but not Challies, think otherwise. and i won't be changing their minds nor attempting to.

as i read the Bible to the kids according to M'Cheyne reading plan, i love how simple and dynamic and smooth it is to read from The Message.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Illegal Immigration - Prison Fellowship

Chuck Colson points to the social ramifications of abortion on the immigration issue. The murder of 40MM Americans affects everything in our capitalist country, social security, taxation, incarceration rates. Abortion is not our friend. Death never is.

"As Christians, we add a third dimension to this. We are told to welcome aliens and strangers in our midst—no matter how they got here—which is why so many churches are rallying to support the immigrants.

But what’s the root of the problem? Why do we have a shortage of workers? Aha, that’s the unspeakable “A” word that the elite dread the most: abortion.

The reason we must allow millions of illegal aliens in to fill these jobs is because we have murdered a generation that would otherwise be filling them: 40 million sacrificed since 1973 to the god of self-fulfillment. And Americans are barely maintaining a replacement-level birthrate of 2.1 children per woman.

Remember the compassionate stuff that the abortionists used to tell us: “We are just preventing these poor kids from growing up in deprived, impoverished circumstances”? Hah! False. What happens is that others come in from abroad to live in those deprived, difficult, and impoverished circumstances and at great public cost."

Pastor Survives Suspected Murder Attempt in Kerala, India

I think I've decided on a theme for April for this blog, the church in India.
Here's a sad but not untypical news story.

"Pastor Survives Suspected Murder Attempt in Kerala, India

While convert from Islam is hospitalized, two armed men attempt break-in at his home.

(Compass Direct) – Pastor Paul Ciniraj Mohammed, a Christian convert from Islam, is still recovering from what he believes was a murder attempt in Kottayam district, in the southern state of Kerala, on March 16.

Ciniraj is the head of Salem Voice Ministries, which runs orphanages, village schools and adult literacy centers in Kerala state. He also runs a church in another district, Thiruvananthapuram, popularly known as Trivandrum.

On March 16, Ciniraj was riding his motorbike past the office of the district collector in Kottayam when a motorized rickshaw rammed into him, fracturing his knee.

When Ciniraj filed a complaint at the Kottayam police station, police said they suspected the accident was an attempt to murder him. Ciniraj was hospitalized as a medical-legal case, but weeks later the police had not visited him nor arrested the driver of the rickshaw.

Ciniraj said he felt the police were not taking the case seriously.

The attempt came almost a year after Hindu and Muslim villagers burned down a prayer hall and attacked two members of a church plant in Kottayam district. (See Compass Direct, “Villagers Beat Christians, Burn Down Prayer Hall,” April 15, 2005.)

Family Threatened

Three days after the incident, while Ciniraj was still in the hospital, two men carrying weapons attempted to break into his house, apparently intending to attack his family.

“They came to my house at Devalogam, in Kottayam, on March 19, while my wife and two other children were sleeping inside,” said Ciniraj. A third child was visiting Ciniraj at the hospital.

The pastor’s wife, Mercy Ciniraj, woke suddenly at about 2:40 a.m. after hearing a strange noise outside the house. When she looked through a window, she saw two men with weapons standing at the front door.

When she tried to call the police, however, she discovered the telephone line had been cut. Terrified, she started shouting the name of Jesus. The noise startled neighbors, and lights were switched on. When the intruders realized this, they jumped back over the gate and fled.

Mercy Ciniraj informed the police, but at press time officers had apparently not visited the house to record details of the incident.

Ciniraj said he had suffered attacks several times over the past two years because of his evangelistic work among Hindus and Muslims.

In early November 2005, he organized a public convention in Kottayam district. A few Hindu extremists intruded and created a disturbance, asking Ciniraj and others present why they had organized the convention.

Kerala state has one of the highest concentrations of Christians in India, at 19 percent. The majority of these Christians, however, belong to traditional churches that do not approve of evangelism among the other major religious groups.

Muslims account for 23 percent of the population in Kerala, and Hindus 57 percent."

1st barefoot run of 2006

It's 52F outside. There is too much sand on the sidewalks and road. But it's 52F outside. I declared my post-flu symptoms no longer severe enough for postponing the run any further and I went out. Last year I started out on the beach and grass, but those surfaces don't provide the feedback for correct form, so I began this year on the sidewalk and the road and avoided the soft surfaces. I have 2 blisters each on my forefeet under the big toes, but none on my heel which tells me I avoided heel striking. Barefoot running is forefoot running. I'll give my feet the day off and try again on Thursday. I hope to get my bike back from its tuneup tomorrow. Biking is so different from running that I never feel ready when I'm in the beginning of my running season. In that post last year, I promised I'd announce when I've achieved a 50 mile week. I have yet to still do that. I spent all last year learning to run barefoot. Hopefully this year I'll get some distance barefoot.

Of Bach and Church Planting

i love extended metaphors. especially when someone appeals to jazz improvisation.


"Friends I do believe that the institutional church is a brake to the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Inban Caldwell once said to me, ‘the Devil never worries when we go to church, but he really worries when we become the church’. Let us truly become the church without walls, and be obedient to Christ and GO."

being the both/and person that i am i take issue with cheap shots against either church concept. he sees no value in the "institutional church" and its social, evangelistic, and discipleship programs. he left a staff position at a church and feels the need to keep justifying it and bringing others along. but if God can bring him out, he can bring anyone else out to. he complains of the the church ghetto. it can happen in house churches too. its about priorities. whatever your priority is, you'll make time for. if its discipleship, you'll spend alot of time with believers. if its evangelism, you'll spend alot of time with unbelievers. i'm not sure his rant is more of IC vs. HC than of an evangelist who felt trapped in a disciple training church. so indeed, as the body of Christ should work, his gift is braked by others around him. the body is a brake on gift projection. I'm glad he's HCing, just wish he wasn't slamming the IC.

Things Jesus said to NEVER do

I've become a real fan of Diane's blog where she quotes,
"Here are some things that Jesus NEVER said to do:

*Go into all the world and build big buildings.
*Go into all the world and entertain the Christians.
*Go divide up into factions and constantly argue with each other.
*Go find people you can pay to go into all the world so you don't have to tell anyone yourself.
*Go into all the world that's easy to get to and will let you in without too much hassle.
*Go and elevate certain men above all the others and listen to them more than you listen to Me.
*Go into all the world and see what you can learn from them about how to influence people.
*Go get an education so you'll be thoroughly prepared by the theories and programs of Man before you go do what Jesus commanded.
*Go into all the world and learn to be just like them.
*Go into all the world and ignore all the poor people, recruit all the rich people, and then spend 95% of all the revenue on yourself and your own comforts."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Housechurches can be gender-role-controversy-free

This SBC missionary plants house churches. His point is that house churches need not be role or title based but gift based.

"Very few of the house churches have leaders who are called 'pastors'. Leadership is usually shared amongst several individuals according to their spiritual gifts and talents...being the 'church planter' does not make them the 'pastor'..."

I continued, "In the New Testament we find several roles/functions mentioned: apostles, evangelists, prophets, teachers, shepherds (pastors), servants, etc. At least some of these roles/functions were filled by women like Junia (apostle), Phoebe (servant/deaconess), the four daughters of Philip (prophetesses), Priscilla (missionary/church planter/church worker), Lydia (church leader?), etc."

The volunteer continued to press the issue, "call it what you want, but the office of pastor is limited to men..."

I, of course understood where he was coming from and what his point was, but it was important to me that he understand that there can be a 'church' without the offices of pastor and deacons...

"Can we have a church without having the two offices," I asked?

The volunteer hesitated, "well, I guess, but..."

I asked, "Are offices needed if the church as a whole is covering all the ministry bases: teaching, evangelism, nurturing, exhortation, encouragement, discipleship, worship, etc.? Where in the NT is a church required to have an officially named pastor in order to be a functional NT church?"

I also keep coming back to an intriguing idea of John Wimber's that since the gifts are for the church, anyone can have any gift at the time God wants them too. I'm trying to see a connection between these two topics, but its all on shaky ground. Yet I'm amazed at how much baggage can be tossed by house churching. Yes its very scary in its freedom but really cool to us counter cultural folks.

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Religion and International Development: A Conversation with Andrew Natsios

Religion and International Development: A Conversation with Andrew Natsios
This is a massive interview, but so interesting. How does the US partner with religious NGOs? How do NGOs partner with the US govt to provide relief to distressed people? How does govt and religion coexist peacefully? It is described here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

John's Turistfart

Turku Finland July 2000

book report: 2 house church books

today's link goes to a wiki entry on house church with abundant links. First i read Getting Started: A Practical Guide to House Church Planting, by Felicity Dale from House2House. Then my friend Anton who hosts the Bethlehem House Church in Amsterdam, recommended The Church Comes Home: Building Community and Mission through Home Churches by Robert and Julia Banks.

Mrs. Dale keeps it simple and offer a lot of encouragement. The Banks offer a much denser book with many caveats and options. One concern with the Dale book is their emphasis on the "fivefold" ministry, which is a negotiable doctrine. The Banks operate from the concept of a "Pastoral Core," which is analagous to elders, a term that they feel is pretty meaningless in our curent culture. Dale is more comfortable with the inclusion of children in the meeting. Both feel that the best analogy to house church is a large family gathering. Both books reference an author under whom i've personally experienced abusive shepherding, so that rattled me each time. He wrote his book after my experience with him, so maybe he's repented. Dale views numerical growth and mulitplication as very important. The Banks aren't as concerned with multiplication. Perhaps they would disagree with my assessment, but since i read Dale's book first, they sure don't seem as evangelistic. Hence, Dale has great ideas for mulitplication. Instead of asking members to break off as a church grows, she suggests sending a member to help start a new group among those interested in joining. Dale enjoys the model Jesus used in Luke of sending out pairs to find a household of peace and use that family as the base of operations. The household of peace has a network in the community who will come at their invitation and not the evanglist's.

The Banks offer abundant information on facilitating groups. If one hasn't led groups before and lacks experience, then these pointers are very helpful. One weird aspect of their book was how bothered they are by people who sing with their eyes closed. It comes up a couple times in their discussion. Their perspective is that we are supposed to sing songs to one another so why would you close your eyes unless you were being offensive and not with the plan. Just a little weird to me.

I have a few more books on the book trunk to read on this topic, including House Church and Mission: The Importance of Household Structures in Early Christianity by Gehring which is a technical historical work and simpler stuff such as House to House by Larry Kreider. However, before I read these, I picked upa tome at the library called The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln by Sean Wilentz. This one will take awhile.

Overall, I'd recommend both books, but if you can only read one get Felicity Dale's "Getting Started."