Stories from the church that meets in our home

I love the church that meets in our home. We are so blessed! How does one communicate the fun that we have just being together–the laughter and warmth as we share a meal? The joy in having visitors with us?

Usually we start the “spiritual” part of our time together by asking a question: “What has God done for anyone this week?”

This last Friday the following happened:

  • The “miracle baby” was with us for the first time and we celebrated God’s goodness to the family again.
  • A businessman shared how he had held a grudge against someone who had cheated him over a year ago. This week he finally forgave the person and his business took a sudden upswing.
  • A young woman shared how God has just set her free from years of incredible darkness with many medications. She’s a completely different person. It all happened following prayer.
  • A lady who was given a Bible at her baptism in December just finished reading the whole book through for the first time.
There were other great things shared too and we spent most of our time in praise and thanksgiving for God’s love and mercy and in prayer for each other.

God is so good!

 

 

Shhh! It’s a surprise celebration

On Saturday we held a party–a celebration of thanksgiving that Rosaura has been clean and sober for a year. After 30 years of alcoholism and drug addiction, including cocaine and crack, and many rehabs, she was instantly set free from her addictions–no withdrawal symptoms and no relapse. Prior to this, the longest time she had been sober was for 30 days in rehab.

About 40 of us were there, including her family and friends as well as our home church. Amazingly, it was still a secret. Rosaura thought she was going out for a meal with a friend, and they were just stopping at our house to pick someone up. Her kids had gone out for the evening (so she thought) but, of course, they were at our house. Imagine her surprise when she came in and all of us were waiting there to greet her.

Following the meal, Jose, her son, told how he had come to the church that meets in our home and prayed for his mom. The very next week she agreed to come with him, and it was there (while Tony and I were in Russia) that she was prayed for by a group of young people and brand new Christians and God set her free. Then Rosaura told her side of the story, and how faithful God was to her, because within a month, Jose was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and she was able to take care of him because she wasn’t high on drugs.

We then offered to pray for anyone else with addictions. Two people came forward, both probably pre-believers, one on their own behalf and the other on behalf of their son. Jose (with amazing authority for a 16 year-old) and others prayed for them. God is at work in these lives too. Theirs is an ongoing story that maybe, one day soon, I’ll be able to tell.

We also prayed for other needs that were represented there. A pregnant lady, a recent believer, prayed for someone for healing. The pregnant lady has a lot of faith for healing. Earlier this year, she had been told that without surgery there was no way she could have a child, but God worked a miracle, telling her clearly from the Scriptures that she would have a child, and  she believed him. The church prayed for her and within three months, she was pregnant.

Others needed jobs. Others were struggling in different ways. People gathered round and prayed for each of them. The Holy Spirit was present in power.

And we celebrated!

A dream; a story; a challenge

A dream

Two nights ago I dreamed there was a movement of Christians all over the country who had decided to pray in public.  They asked to pray in a secular context before business meetings. They prayed openly before meals asking the non-believers with them how they could pray for them. They refused to be intimidated by the current culture that in many situations, looks down on the Christian lifestyle. They weren't religious or confrontational or political. They weren't obnoxious in a "holier than thou," super-spiritual way. But they were willing to live out their faith under the public eye.

A story

When we lived in the UK and Tony (my husband) still practiced as a doctor, the General Medical Council, the licensing body for physicians in the country, sent a letter to all the family doctors. It explained that whereas up until now, a doctor had to get consent from the parent of a minor child before any kind of medical procedure, from this time on, certain situations were exempt from that. This included contraception/abortion. So a doctor had to get parental consent before operating on an ingrowing toenail, but wasn't allowed to tell the parent that their daughter wanted to go on the pill.

At that time, Tony led a ministry to doctors and others in the caring professions. He phoned several of them to see what they thought, and then drafted a letter to the GMC explaining that our organization represented more than 2,000 family doctors, and that if they wanted to remove their medical licenses, they could, but he would like them to know up front that the doctors he represented planned to disobey this edict.

A few weeks went by. Then they had the nicest letter in reply saying that the Council had no idea that so many doctors felt that strongly and that they were free to go with their conscience in these matters.

I often wonder what would have happened if in 1962, when prayers in the classroom was deemed unconstitutional, the Christian teachers in this country had refused to comply with the law.

A challenge

The climate in this country is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. In our institutes of higher learning, Christianity is ridiculed. The beliefs on which this country was founded are being eroded. We are only a generation away from being a post-Christian nation.

Are we willing to stand up and be counted? Are we willing to buck the trends? Are we more concerned about the Kingdom of God than our own reputations? What does it look like for us to follow Jesus in a way that is radically different and makes a radical difference?

 

Are there advantages to living in a post-Christian nation?

Derelict church
Photo credit: phill.d (Creative Commons)

The way this country is trending, unless the Lord intervenes, it may not be long before the USA is a post-Christian nation. Only 4% of adults currently have a Biblical worldview as the basis of their decision-making. We are potentially only a generation away from being like many countries in Europe where the church is effectively irrelevant.

I've lived in a country that is post Christian. When we lived in the UK,  active Christians made up about 2% of the population. In the very poor area of London where we lived, less than 0.5% were in church on any given Sunday.

Recently, I've met with one of our medical school friends who has become a Christian (he describes himself as "the happy-clappy variety") since leaving medical school. One of his first comments to me was,  "Do you remember how all the rest of us used to ridicule and persecute the Christians?"

Persecution of Christians wasn't physical, but it was social/emotional. In the media, Christians are portrayed as weak-minded wimps. They are laughed at in institutes of higher learning. There is a definite cost to discipleship.

But this has some positive effects:

  • People take a discipleship lifestyle much more seriously. Admitting to being a Christian is not a step to be taken lightly. 
  • Light shines brighter in the darkness. The contrast between believers and non-believers is greater.
  • There's a sense of deeper community. You have less in common with the world and stronger relationships with those of God's family.
  • It's exciting to meet someone else who's a believer–something to discuss over the dinner table.
  • Christians and churches tend to work together more cooperatively. There's much less separation along denominational or theological lines.

 

Guest post by Michael Tummillo: How are things at work?

 

Mobile home parkPhoto credit: Let Ideas Compete (Creative Commons)

I was managing a mobile home park in Texas – 185 homes located about 45 minutes south of downtown Dallas – the only mobile home park owned by a big property management company in North Dallas. Single, divorced, I had long before made up my mind that I was going to allow the Father to use whatever I had available, even if all I had was time. Even if all I had was a job. Like Moses, who gave God the staff in his hand, all I had to offer Him was my job. I had no computer, no phone, none of the tools of ministry I am now utilizing.


I had resided in the park for 8 years with my wife and children. After she divorced me, I stayed there and, when working at WalMart, suffered an accident (a ton of dog food was dropped on my foot) which caused me to remain at home while I healed. One day, the park manager's groundskeeper was caught digging in her purse. She fired him and asked me if I would like the job. In time, she was promoted and I was offered the park manger's position. While I was there, that mobile home park experienced incredible revival. Not only spiritually, but physically, residents planting trees, building nice decks, cleaning up and beautifying their lots. Even the bank that owned the property commented on what a wonderful "spirit" they could feel in the park when they inspected it. 

What made the difference? For starters, I was "prayer walking" at night before I'd ever heard of that. I anointed every post, mailbox and stop sign with oil and claimed that park for the Kingdom of God. I placed encouraging Gospel tracts on car windshields. As time went on, people either committed their lives to Christ, began attending church, with me or elsewhere, or they moved out. The profile of our resident population transformed as one resident was sentenced to prison and a practicing witch's house burned to the ground. In their place, retired ministers and devoted followers of Christ began moving in and our occupancy increased to nearly 100%. Bible studies popped-up. Neighbors started reaching out and getting to know each other. Flying kites, riding bikes, having cook-outs… the Spirit of Peace was downright tangible. 

Some things I did on a "natural" level included a newsletter I created (remember, no computer) as well as a logo for the park to unify us all as a community. I developed the habit of praying for daily divine appointments back then. As park manager, ministry opportunities took place daily right there in my office/residence as visitors would sit across from my desk and pour out their hearts – often quite tearfully – including repairmen and sales people. I always had Gospel music playing softly in the background. One man, a Mormon, told me he could feel the presence of God in my office. When I inquired as to whether he felt that same presence in his church, he stopped to think and finally whispered, "No, not like this." Not only did he become a resident a few days later, but he eventually left the Mormon church and joined a non-denominational church nearby.

This revival wasn't limited to that park. It wasn't long before property managers from our company's apartment complexes throughout Dallas began calling me with Bible questions (no email back then). On occasion, several made the long drive from Dallas just to have a Bible talk. 

Was there resistance? Absolutely, even from a few so-called "Christians." But God favored me greatly. One day, when I was at the headquarters in North Dallas, as I was speaking with the owner, an intimidating woman of great wealth, two detectives walked in and took her 22-year old daughter away in handcuffs for check forgery. After they left, my boss collapsed in her over-stuffed leather chair and tearfully asked , "Mike, what would YOU do?" Suddenly, she was morphed into a hurting, vulnerable mother in need of help. So, I did what was required of me – comforted and counseled her, and received great favor from that woman for the remainder of my 3 years managing that park.

Bear in mind, I had not yet attended Bible College (something that was later paid for, anonymously, on my behalf). I was not "officially" in ministry. I wasn't a church deacon, an elder… I was just a guy who loved Jesus and who understood that we ALL have a ministry. I didn't know it, but I was being trained for the ministry Father had planned for my future. 

What is He requiring of YOU where YOU spend the majority of YOUR time? You're surrounded by hurting people every single day. Start there. Remember, YOU are the church – it's the people, NOT the buildings and NOT the denominations. Our mission is to love one another.
Michael TummilloMichael Tummillo is a Workplace Chaplain in Texas and founder of the international ministry, The Church @ Work (TCAW). A one-finger typist, Michael has had an online presence since 1999 and has reached millions with his email devotionals, and other Internet activities. His goal is not to push religion but to push people, giving his ministry away and encouraging followers of Jesus to share the love of God in the place they spend up to 70% of their lives: the workplace. You can contact Michael at miketummillo@me.com.

Guest post by Ed Waken (part 2) The truth, adventure and mystery of evangelism

Ed Waken

 

I am privileged to have Ed Waken, an evangelist, write this outstanding post on evangelism. What could happen if we didn't view spreading the good news as a chore, a somewhat socially embarrassing spiritual duty to be performed, but instead an adventure with Jesus. You can read part 1 of this post here. Ed is a leader in a network of organic churches in Phoenix, AZ, and works closely with Neil Cole in CMA.

 

 

The Adventure

The church needs to rediscover what has been stolen from them.  We need to give back the cold, distanced and dutiful methodologies[1] of evangelism for the more adventurous, risky and romantic renditions that only Jesus can create and place in our souls.  The church needs some fresh adventures in understanding how serious Jesus is at getting the message into the souls of people.  When we think about engaging people with the truth we should capture the understanding that Jesus is a customizer of methods, not a cookie cutter. 

Jesus will take a believer with all their experiences and fears and have them cross the paths of not-yet-believing people who are a perfect fit for the customized approach Jesus gives the believer, at the perfect time.  This requires trust and obedience but it is exactly what Jesus promised.  Jesus said He will give us the right words at the right time, every time (Luke 21:13-15).  This takes the level of our faith and evangelism to a whole new meaning of adventure. 

The Mystery

I can count fifteen people who shared Jesus with me in some form or fashion before Ralph shared the same truth with me and my life was transformed radically.  Who was more important in my choosing to follow Jesus, the fifteen or Ralph?  Was Ralph more gifted or skilled or persuasive than the others?  Did Ralph ‘close the deal‘ because he has an anointing?  I believe that all sixteen of those who told me about Jesus are equally vital to my process of turning to Jesus.  All salvation experiences are mysterious.  Some are dramatic, some are mundane, others cannot be marked by an event.  Salvation is always a supernatural event where the God of the universe enters the life of a human being permanently.  When the rich young ruler heard what was required by Jesus to gain eternal life, he became very sad.  Jesus’ disciples asked him if a rich man can’t be saved “…then who can be saved?”.  Jesus answered, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:18-27). 

Enjoy the freedom of not knowing what God is doing in a soul – enjoy the mystery.  Be assured, however, that God is doing something in the souls of those with whom you share His truth.  Trust in His God perfect and powerful ability to draw people to repentance in the way they need.  Obediently follow His lead, even when it doesn’t make sense because most mysteries do not make sense. 

The bottom line regarding evangelism is to enjoy it (weird huh?).  Jesus is an artist of the soul.  He created you specifically to engage the people He brings in your life with His truth.  Enjoy His adjusting the delivery of the message to fit the current need of the one listening to your words. 

If we learn to enjoy sharing the life of Jesus with others as He leads us, we will most assuredly share that life more often and with more passion.  The Scriptures teach that the more we sow, the more we will reap.  The power behind people coming to Jesus is not in any delivery, method or medium.  The power behind people coming to Jesus is always in message (Rom. 1:16) so give away the message often and with joy and enjoy watching God at work.


[1] God can, has and will continue to use a more formal, methodological approach to giving out the Gospel.  It is not wrong to do so; however, it has robbed the fun of spiritual reproduction from the ordinary believer.  The giving out of the Word will never return without an effect on the one hearing the truth.  

 

New E-book: A Simple Guide to Hearing God

Front cover ASG

How do we hear God? Does He speak in an audible voice? How do we know it is Jesus speaking and not an over-active imagination? What might happen if we deliberately listen to God, believing He will speak to us?

About 18 months ago I had the idea of a multi-media e-book that would address this topic. (It's like a "vook" if you have come across the concept–a cross between a video and a book.) Over the past year or so, let loose with an iphone and with no expertise in videography, I interviewed friends who I know hear God clearly. I asked them the question, "How does God speak to you? How would you help someone who isn't sure God speaks to them?"

These interviews are included in the text of this e-book, along with many examples from my own experience. They all serve to amplify principles from Scripture. My hope and prayer is that both individuals and groups will be inspired and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus as a result of reading/viewing the e-book, but more than that, their Christian lives will become an adventure, on mission with God. 

The e-book is available via House2House at this link.

I'd love to hear of your experiences in hearing God, especially if the e-book helped you in this process. Leave a comment on this blog post.

Guest post from Ross Rohde: Why we don’t judge

Judging others
 Others should not encounter us like this!

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind (Rom. 14: 4-5).

Oh, come on Paul; give it to me straight, should we worship on Sunday or not? Can we eat meat sacrificed to an idol or not? Don’t hem and haw, just give me the rule and I’ll obey. But he doesn’t; why not?

Paul doesn’t give us hard and fast rules to live by because that’s not how Christianity works. That’s how Judaism worked, but not Christianity. Judaism had a covenant with God called the law (or the old covenant). It was a written code. One showed fidelity to God by following the laws, rules and biblical principles. It didn’t work well, and that was God’s point. We can’t please God in our own power. He gave mankind every opportunity to show Him we could please Him by trying real hard. What we showed Him was that we would cave in to our flesh. So, in his grace he gave us a new covenant that would work; one based on the power of the Spirit living in us.

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.  But God found fault with the people and said:

   “The time is coming, declares the Lord,
   when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
   and with the house of Judah.
 It will not be like the covenant
   I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
   to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
   and I turned away from them,
  declares the Lord.
 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
   after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
   and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
   and they will be my people.
 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
   or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
   from the least of them to the greatest.
 For I will forgive their wickedness
   and will remember their sins no more.”

 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear (Heb. 9:7-13).

Here’s the secret of the new covenant we Christians (and those of Israel and Judah who became Christians) have with God. Our covenant isn’t a crude, one size fits all law, rule or principle. It is God’s direct instruction for our particular situation. It is based on our personality, character and our particular circumstance. But it is God’s individual law put directly into our heart and mind (see Heb. 8:10). And, it will never violate God’s written word. So, let’s live in that new, superior covenant. Let’s not judge God’s other servants. He may have given them other instructions. Let’s live in the freedom of our new covenant with God. Yet let’s reflect everything we think we hear from God through the beautiful lens of Scripture. That’s what it’s for.

  • Why do you think we want to go back to laws, rules and principles?
  • What is the difference between living according to “biblical principles” and living in the new covenant?
  • What is the difference between living according to the law and “biblical principles?”
  • Does Jesus’ instruction to not judge others (Matt. 7:1-2) make more sense now?

For other blogs on the new covenant and other aspects of the simple church life, read Ross's blog The Jesus Virus.  He will soon have a new book out: Viral Jesus: Recovering the Contagious Power of the Gospel. Watch this space for more information.

 

Spiritual battles demonstrate the reality of the spiritual realm

Like it or not, we have been born again into a world where spiritual battles rage. In a post on the reality of the spiritual realm, I asked if anyone had stories of how the spiritual realm had impacted their lives. This one by Frank was too good not to post:

"About 10 years ago, I was returning from a Christian businessmen's meeting with my wife. I was traveling along a country road which I knew very well. It was about 10pm and raining. The road was quite busy and I was behind a long line of cars doing about 50 to 60 mph.

Suddenly I heard the quietest whisper in my spirit.

"Pull back, pull back, pull back!"

Instantly, I was alert, and took my foot off the accelerator, and held it over the brake. The gap between my car and all the others widened as I scanned ahead, totally perplexed.

Suddenly a massive black monster heaved  out of the hedge and launched across the front of the car with a huge bang as I violently wrenched the wheel over and skidded to a halt. Glancing at my shocked but unhurt wife, and her smashed side window, I leapt out of the car in time to see a totally black cow behind the car lurch drunkenly to its feet and stagger away bellowing.

By this time cars were all over the place along with a herd of cows which had followed the leader through the now flattened hedge and fence.

I know that we had massive demonic opposition to the work we were doing as a Christian business. I know that Satan is a murderer. At the jab of the demonic goad, the cow had leapt through the barbed wire fence. I was driving a Renault Espace which has a very wedge shaped front. The cow's muddy impact marks were right beyond the centre line, and all over the screen. The shape of the car swept it off its feet and tossed it right over the screen. The damage was minimal because my speed had totally dropped at the warning of the Holy Spirit.

When I called the farmer the next day, he was at a total loss as to why it had happened. There was only one black cow in a herd of mixed white cattle. 

Thank God for the Holy Spirit.

Thank God that we can learn to hear his voice if we choose to."

Cow

A cholera epidemic averted!

"I've seen several cases of cholera today," the Red Cross worker said, "and two yesterday."

Our hearts sank.  We knew what that meant. We were at the beginning of a cholera epidemic. Several cases today meant a dozen tomorrow, and in a few days there would be hundreds.

We were in Mozambique. It was the year 2000, and there had been massive floods all over the country. Tony and I and two of our teenage kids were there because we are good friends with the Bakers. Rolland and Tony were at school together. When we heard about the flooding, we knew our medical training would be useful and so volunteered to help. 

We had just set up camp at this particular resettlement village with a team of young people in their late teens and twenties. Should we expose them to the risk of cholera?

"Come and see my Red Cross tent," the Red Cross worker said. "It's just over there" (as he waved his hand vaguely past our makeshift campsite.)

En route to his tent, we passed the village well. It was a hole in the ground filled with filthy, muddy water. We watehed as people dipped plastic bottles into this water and drank it without any kind of purification. Small wonder they had health issues! We continued walking. After about 40 minutes ("just over there" is obviously relative), we came to his army tent. He had an old army cot, a bucket filled with the same muddy water and two or three packets or oral rehydration fluid. Not a bandage; not an aspirin. Certainly nothing we could use to treat a cholera epidemic.

Back at our tent, we debated what to do. We didn't have enough of the right medicines with us to deal with the situation we were facing. As we chatted, we remembered a passage in the Bible where Moses and Aaron stop a plague following Korah's rebellion.

"And Moses said to Aaron, “Quick, take an incense burner and place burning coals on it from the altar. Lay incense on it, and carry it out among the people to purify them and make them right with the Lord. The Lord’s anger is blazing against them—the plague has already begun.”

 Aaron did as Moses told him and ran out among the people. The plague had already begun to strike down the people, but Aaron burned the incense and purified the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague stopped.

"Quick," we said to our team. "We have to pray around the camp to stop the plague." 

So the whole team went around the camp, crying out to God and praying that the plague would stop.

We didn't see a single case of cholera while we were there! Not only that, in the couple of days we were there, a church composed of entirely new believers began.

The spiritual realm is real!

African boy