What are we thinking?

I came across a shocking statistic earlier today.

According to the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (2012), the cost per baptism globally is $762,000!

What are we thinking?

I’m sure these figures include seminaries, buildings, training pastors etc., but sometimes I wonder, is this why Jesus died?

I know you cannot put a figure on the salvation of a soul, but surely there is a more cost-effective model (think simple churches meeting in homes with no specially trained leaders…)

 

 

How C. S. Lewis viewed politics: Guest post by David Theroux

Sometimes being a Christian in this country is synonymous with having a certain political opinion. Ross Rohde wrote an interesting post on this topic.

David Theroux is Founder and President of the CS Lewis Society in California. He recently sent me a quote from a lecture he gave on how C.S. Lewis’ viewed liberty:

The Oxford/Cambridge scholar and best-selling author C. S. Lewis was unquestionably and profoundly interested in the ideas and institutions that were the basis for free and virtuous individuals and communities, but he was not at all interested in partisanship or campaign politics. He instead focused on first principles, and public-policy matters were of interest only as they pertained to questions of enduring value. As a result of this focus, whereas the work of most modern scholars and other writers quickly becomes dated and obsolete, Lewis’s work has achieved increasing timelessness and relevance.

Lewis addressed not only the evils of totalitarianism as manifested in fascism and communism, but the more subtle forms that face us on a daily basis, including the welfare, therapeutic, nanny, and scientistic states.

With Christianity, each and every person is “a child of God” or a holy object (res sacra homo) who has free will and is individually responsible for the choices he or she makes.

Lewis argued that a natural moral law is known to all, and this natural moral code is inescapable; it is the basis for all moral judgments. Its foundational truths such as “caring for others is a good thing,” “good should be done and evil avoided,” “dying for a righteous cause is a noble thing”—are understood regardless of experience, just as we know that 2 + 2 = 4.

Does this mean as followers of Christ we shouldn’t have a political opinion?

C. S. Lewis

Our chocolate lab and slavery

Tony and I used to have a dog called Sugar—a faithful and loyal companion, though of dubious parentage and limited intelligence. Sugar had one major character flaw. She loved to wander. We live in a house with a fenced yard and an electric gate across the driveway. Sugar used to hide, lying in wait, until a car went through the gate. Then, just as the gate was closing the final few inches, she would make her bid for freedom. She would return several hours later, exhausted but happy.

When we decided to put a stop to her adventures, we installed an invisible fence across the driveway. If dogs approach an invisible fence too closely, a little battery on their collar gives them a small jolt of electricity. They soon learn their boundaries.

After a couple of, shall we say, shocking experiences, Sugar learned to stay within the confines of our yard. In fact, long after the battery in her collar had died, Sugar would sit, wistfully gazing at the liberty that lay on the other side of an open gate without making any attempt to escape. She had become conditioned to her limitations.

Chocolate lab

Photo Credit: teakwood via Compfight cc

As women in the church, we too, have been conditioned to live within boundaries.

Harriet Tubman, who led many slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, said, “I freed a thousand slaves. I would’ve freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

After the Emancipation, most slaves stayed where they were. Some had no idea they were now free, and others had no idea how to survive outside of slavery. Many entered into sharecropping arrangements with their former masters, getting paid a pittance for the same work they had formerly done as slaves. It took generations for the reality of freedom to take effect.

The worst kind of prison is that of the mind, where a person accepts adverse circumstances as the natural order of things without realizing the perceived cage bars don’t really exist. They are held captive only by their own thoughts.

As women, many of us are imprisoned by what we have known from the past.

(Excerpts from The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church by Felicity Dale)

Check out Lk10.com

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One of the delights of being involved in the house church movement over the last 15 years are the many good friends we’ve made. One of those friends is John White who is a leader in the LK10 Community.  LK10 focuses on connecting and equipping house church leaders in the US and around the world.  Perhaps you’ve heard of some of the unique “tools” they have pioneered … the 10:2b Prayer… CO2 (Church of Two)…  Checking in with SASHET.
LK10 just launched a new website that spells out clearly how they work with leaders.  It would be worth your time to check it out. You may find that it offers just the support and training you need for the role God has called you to.  Here’s the location of the new site:  http://lk10.com/

 

Extraordinary video: Egyptian Christians respond to violence

A few days ago, I received a link to a most extraordinary video. It shows the response of Egyptian Christians to the violence that has gone on there.

The video came with this comment:

“Millions were totally astonished by watching the content of this video which was broadcasted on National TV. It was a real testimony to the love of God and His forgiving power, that was demonstrated through real people; deeply wounded by the loss of their loved ones, yet they are forgiving their enemies and praying for them to see the light and be saved.”

I requested permission from those who made the video to post it on my blog. Their reply: “Yes, go ahead! If the whole world knows that this is the proper response to the terrorists, they will have no sway over us.”

 

May we weep with them, intercede for them, and learn from our brothers and sisters in Egypt.

21 Martyrs

Most of us have been horrified by the events in the news recently. Churches around the nation are joining together on Sunday for a moment of silence to remember the 21 martyrs–all Christians from Egypt.  Right to the very moment when they lost their  lives, they testified to the faithfulness of Jesus. Check out this website and the following video:

We in the West have it so easy–we are barely even ridiculed for holding a Christian worldview–but it could change. In other nations where there is a price to be paid for being a follower of Jesus, one of the basic discipleship lessons is on how to deal with persecution.

It’s a small step, but let’s show our solidarity with our fellow believers by remembering the 21 martyrs.

Milad Makeen Zaky
Abanub Ayad Atiya
Maged Solaiman Shehata
Yusuf Shukry Yunan
Kirollos Shokry Fawzy
Bishoy Astafanus Kamel
Somaily Astafanus Kamel
Malak Ibrahim Sinweet
Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros
Girgis Milad Sinweet
Mina Fayez Aziz
Hany Abdelmesih Salib
Bishoy Adel Khalaf
Samuel Alham Wilson
Worker from Awr village
Ezat Bishri Naseef
Loqa Nagaty
Gaber Munir Adly
Esam Badir Samir
Malak Farag Abram
Sameh Salah Faruq

The tale of a woman and two villages

There is an ancient and almost forgotten road leading from Gibeon (a Canaanite city north of Jerusalem) to the coast. In Old Testament times, this was the principle road from the mountains to the plains. It led through leading through difficult and steep terrain. Two villages sit on this road in the foothills of the mountains. In ancient times, they were known as the villages of Upper and Lower Beth Horon.

Their location was sufficiently strategic that Solomon fortified them with walls, gates and bars (2 Chronicles 8:5). They are mentioned several times in the Old Testament (e.g. Joshua 16:3). Battles were fought over them.

They are now the Palestinian villages of “Bet ‘ûr et-Taḥta” (the lower) and “Bet ‘ûr el-Foḳa” (the upper).

Along with a third village (Uzzen-sheerah, which no longer exists), they were originally founded by a woman, Sheerah, daughter of Beriah who was a son of Ephraim (1 Chronicles 7:24).

Just saying…

Lower_Beth_Horon_aerial,_tb_q010703

 

 

www.bibleencyclopedia.com

Sent to the wolves

Luke 10:3 says this: Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.

Jesus told his disciples to go–or more accurately, “as you are going.”  Yet we usually ask people to come.  “Come to our church,” “Come to our special meeting!”  Even in our house churches we ask people to come. 

Why did Jesus tell us to go?  If we go, we are the ones who are crossing the cultural barrier.  We are the ones to get uncomfortable.  Think about it: what is it like for someone who has never been in church to come to one of our meetings.  It is a total culture shock! We may ask them to sing songs they don’t know, to listen to a monolog or take part in a discussion they know nothing about.  There are reasons we are told to go.  

Jesus may send us to places where we don’t naturally feel comfortable.  But Jesus was known as a friend of sinners.  He was willing to mix with people that the upright religious people of his day refused to have anything to do with.  He was comfortable with tax collectors and prostitutes.  Notorious sinners hung around him (Luke 15:1-2). Are we willing to risk going to places where “sinners” hang out if Jesus asks us to?

Then Jesus tells us that our going is like throwing lambs to the wolves! Dinner time!

Sheep and wolf

What kind of shepherd would do that?  Send his lambs to the wolves?

What is the protection for a lamb?  As Neil Cole likes to point out, it’s not their superior intelligence, their sharp teeth, their camouflage, or their speed.  They have no natural defense but their shepherd. When we go to spiritually dangerous places, Jesus himself is our protection.

Some years ago, when our daughter, Becky returned from YWAM where she had been for a couple of years, she sensed the Lord wanted her to go and work downtown in our bar district. We thought about it. We had two questions: would she be safe, and what would our Christian friends think. As we prayed, we had a peace about her doing this. About 6 weeks later she threw a party and forty of her friends from downtown came–bar-tenders, bouncers, tattooed and pierced. The result: a Bible study formed and several of them found the Lord.

When we go as lambs, we are also vulnerable, weak. People are instinctively more attracted to someone who is willing to admit their imperfections. They identify with us more when we don’t have all the answers. Are we willing to go in this way

Prayer walking

One of the practices that characterizes most of the church planting movements I’m familiar with is an emphasis on prayer walking. It is a core component of the process that results in rapidly multiplying disciples.  If the Lord leads us to start a church in a certain neighborhood, we do well to prepare the ground by prayer walking.

When we started a church in the low income housing projects, the first thing we did was to prepare the ground in prayer.

In Matthew 12, Jesus gives an illustration in his defense against an attack by the Pharisees. They accused him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. He replied, “How can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his goods.” (verse 29)

Who is the strong man Jesus refers to here? It is Satan or one of his minions. What are his goods? It’s the people who he’s taken captive.

In Joshua 1:3, God tells Joshua that he will give him every place where he sets his feet. There is something about praying “on site with insight” that prepares the way for the Lord to come.

What does prayer walking consist of?

  1. We survey the land: When Moses sent the spies into the land of Canaan, he was effectively doing a spiritual survey of the land before they went in (Numbers 13:1-25). We walk the area taking note of anything of spiritual significance and asking the Lord for wisdom and understanding as to what is going on in the area.
  2. We ask the Lord for his plan for the area
  3. We establish a prayer team: Jesus sent out the disciples two by two, praying as they went.
  4. We physically walk the area. As we do so we are praying that God will reclaim the area:
  • We praise and thank God and bless the area and the people who live there. We bless everyone who impacts the area–the police, the education system, etc.
  • We pray for the welfare of the people who live there. In Jeremiah 29:7, the people of Israel were told to pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon, even though it was the land where they were held in captivity.
  • We demolish the strongholds that are there. Jesus has all authority, and he has given us that authority to bind the demonic powers that hold the people who live in that area. We use spiritual weapons to overcome these demonic powers.
  • We repent for the problems of the area. We are priests, and as such, can pray for the redemption of the people of the area.

Psalm 2:8 says, “Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your possession.

Prayer walking

Photo credit: Stef Lewandowski (Creative Commons)