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Three wise women

You do know what would have happened if it had been three wise WOMEN instead of men, don’t you? They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole and brought disposable diapers as gifts!

This is all over the Internet so I don’t know who to credit it too.Jim Rutz alerted me to it.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE. May you know the presence of the Savior throughout this season.

Photo Credit: Kelly Loves Old Crap (Creative Commons)

A tribute to my mom

My mother, Maureen English, was a remarkable character. During her 91 years of life, she witnessed enormous changes of lifestyle which she embraced with enthusiasm. As a child, she went to bed by candlelight. In her 80’s she became “techno-grandma” and learned to use the computer. She saw transportation shift from horse and carriage to cars and planes. communication move from letters and telegrams to telephones, television and emails. She was a wonderful, feisty, talkative, full-of-fun, adventurous lady.

A story to illustrate:  we had a vacation not so long ago, in Branson, Missouri. A go-kart track was a main attraction for the grandkids. Not to be outdone, my mom, approaching her eighties, joined the expedition. One of my favorite photographs is of her in a go-kart leading the pack. (We don’t mention the fact that all the kids were about to lap her!)

My mom enjoyed 55 years of marriage to my dad. I never once remember hearing them argue. That’s a precious heritage. Always the dominant character in the relationship, she loved and cared for my dad throughout his life, helping him recover from his experiences as a prisoner-of-war on the infamous “Railroad of Death” in Burma and then selflessly looking after him as he became blind in his later years.

Everything with Mom became an adventure. We never went on walks as kids–always on a “voyage of discovery.” We were never short of money–we had “economy campaigns” where we would find the best ways to save and to economize.

I just returned from an emergency trip to the UK. My mom had a stroke from which she never recovered. The Lord gave me a precious half hour with her being lucid. She could only communicate by squeezing my hand, but we said a lot to each other that day, and I was able to pray with her. Her memorial service was last Friday.

My mother lived an ordinary life in so many ways, but she has left a far from ordinary legacy. As I look at us–her two daughters, her six grandkids and her eight great-grandkids, I see that legacy written large for the future. We’ve inherited her zany, off-beat sense of humor, her enjoyment of the ridiculous, her sense of fun, her enthusiasm for life and new experiences, her ability to transform the mundane into an adventure. We’ve picked up her love of words–of reading and stories, of music and film. We have more than our share of vivid personalities, of passion for life.

We’ll miss her. Mom may be gone, but her legacy lives on.

Why I’m taking a break from blogging

For the past few years I’ve blogged three times per week. But I’m about to take a break. The reason? I’m currently in the UK where my mom has had a serious stroke and isn’t expected to recover. Much of my time is spent in the hospital.

In answer to prayer, my mom had about half an hour of lucidity this afternoon while I was alone with her. I was able to share many things with her.

Please pray for my mom, Maureen.

In the meantime, I’ll link to some older posts.

Which language do you speak?

It doesn’t matter what our heart/native tongue is. We can choose to speak one of two languages:

  1. Grumbling and complaining (1 Corinthians 10:10-11)
  2. Praise and thanksgiving (Psalm 34:1; Philippians 4:4-6)

Which one do you choose?

Guest post by Tony Dale: Lowering healthcare costs

Simple church life is about living for Jesus 24/7.  We listen to Him and we do what He says.  Could this have anything to do with keeping our healthcare costs down?

Sixteen years ago, as a result of an accident to my knee (that will teach me to try to keep up with the kids on a basketball court!), I needed surgery.  I was so shocked by the bills, that I challenged them all and to my amazement everybody pretty much asked me, “What are you willing to pay?”  Felicity was asking the Lord what we could do to help support ourselves in a country where our medical licenses were not recognized, and out of this came The Karis Group. Our company has since negotiated hundreds of millions of dollars in medical bills for individuals, insurance companies, and for the various Christian health care sharing ministries that have grown up across America over the past 25 years.

By working with these Christian groups, and watching the incredible job they do, we found ourselves wondering how we could promote this sharing costs approach to the wider body of Christ. Most Christians are not even aware that such groups exist. But as I spoke with various ministries and churches about the huge cost savings that they would see by working in this environment, the reply was always the same,  “We love the idea behind these groups, but does it really work for a big group like ours?  Can they handle the challenges of all of our staff and any pre-existing conditions that they already have?”

At that time, the answer to those questions was not really clear.

But things have changed, and The Health Co-Op is the answer that has emerged.  Built around the foundation of what Samaritan Ministries, by far the largest of the Christian health care sharing groups, has done, we have pulled together a collection of services that mean the Christian world now has a serious, non-insurance alternative to classic major medical insurance.  We have taken our 16 years’ experience and created a service that slashes costs while enhancing and improving the way that your medical bills are paid.  The typical family or Christian group that we are helping is able to cut their medical costs by upwards of 50%.  And all of this is done is an environment that glorifies the Lord by literally helping Christians to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2

I believe that the moral and ethical issues involved in health care are some of the key issues that American Christians need to grapple with.  Do we want a system that few can afford, and that does little to nothing to reward godly/healthy living?  Do we want our dollars being spent to provide for services and procedures that we actually stand against?  It is hard to say I am pro-life, and then pay into an insurance plan that puts my money towards paying for other people’s abortions!  It is to the Catholics great credit that they have been willing to challenge the way health care law is trying to shape modern medical practice in a way that is profoundly anti-Biblical.

So come and have a look at what we are doing.  You can not only probably save a lot of money, but you can do so in a context that shows The Health Co-Op providing quality answers to a challenge that may otherwise bankrupt this country.

Jesus, A Theography

When I received my advance review copy of Jesus, A Theographyopy, I was excited to delve into it.

Jesus told the Pharisees, “All Scripture points to me.” We think we know the Jesus of the New Testament, but do we really believe that he can be found throughout the pages of the Old Testament? And what difference does an encounter with him there make?

Jesus, A Theography, is a panoramic sweep of the Bible, exploring how Jesus can be seen throughout its pages. With meticulous attention to detail, and copious footnotes, Len Sweet and Frank Viola rehearse the Old Testament in light of the New, demonstrating Jesus over and over again in the stories, pictures and symbols that are found there. The research and scholarship that have gone into this work are awe-inspiring.

I’ve been reading the book for just over a week now, Bible in hand. Every so often, I’ll think to myself, “It can’t say that–surely I would have noticed that before.” I check the footnotes and references and sure enough, it’s plain to be seen. I’m thrilled to be discovering aspects about Jesus’ life that are “new” to me, delighting in aspects of his character that I’m seeing in a fresh light.

I have a shelf of classics in my library–books that are timeless in their relevance and teaching. This book will join the others on that shelf.

 

 

Greet the Church in Your House

Victor Choudhrie is one of my beloved “fathers in the Lord.” In 1992, even while a renowned cancer surgeon in India,  the Lord told Victor to stop medicine and start planting churches. The results in the past few years have been extraordinary.  One of the most outstanding disciple making movements of our day is going on in India under his loving oversight. This church planting movement has seen more than 1 million baptisms in the last decade.

Some years ago, Victor wrote a book called Greet the Ekklesia, which I had the privilege of editing. (It was a privilege because it meant that I studied every sentence very carefully to make sure it made sense, and therefore I had to understand at a gut level the principles he was enumerating. Anything I didn’t understand, I emailed Victor until we both knew that I had the meaning right. ) Victor has since updated the book, and it has been made available for the Kindle. I was asked to write the foreword.

Greet the church in your house is not a comfortable read. Victor challenges all our nice presuppositions about church and what it means to live as a follower of Jesus.  But if we, here in the West, want to learn the secrets of rapid church multiplication, we do well to learn from a master.

Here are two of the endorsements for the book by David Garrison and Floyd McClung:

Dr. Choudhrie’s “Greet the Church in Your House” ruffled more than a few feathers when it first appeared in 1999. Defenders of traditional church planting and mission models found the book’s ideas iconoclastic and deeply troubling. I first met Dr. Victor Choudhrie in 2002, while serving as a missionary in India. Even before that, though, I seemed to hear his name from everyone who was seeing multiplying movements of new churches in India. All roads to movements seemed to pass through Dr. Choudhrie’s influence. Victor and Bindu’s passion for the unreached and deep insights into Scriptural models for the Christian life, made them natural gurus for generations of young missionaries and local church planters who wanted to see fidelity to New Testament patterns and the dynamism that accompanied it in their own ministries. The Choudhrie’s did not disappoint.

Despite whatever grumblings accompanied Dr. Choudhrie’s “Greet the Church in Your House” many readers also found his ideas strangely familiar. Weren’t these the same images of church that emerged from the pages of the New Testament? Wasn’t this the vibrant life of faith promised by Christ and His apostles?

Though exegetical in nature, Choudhrie’s writings have never been limited to biblical exegesis. A Bible expositor, Dr. Choudhrie is also a pioneer church planter and mentor of church-planting movements. This on-the-ground experience keeps his ideas fresh and relevant to missionaries and church planters who need real-life applications to the biblical lessons they’ve learned all their life.

Choudhrie describes his training as a medical school model. Just as medical students are rigorously steeped in the doctrines of their profession, so too must today’s church planter master the faith handed down to the saints once for all. However, no medical student’s training is complete without practical skill development and mentoring by seasoned elders.

It is small wonder that Dr. Choudhrie’s writings have inspired a new generation of pioneer missionaries and church planters to press on to the fulfillment of our Lord’s Great Commission. I personally would not consider the pursuit of an indigenous movement of multiplying churches in South Asia without first consulting this wonderful mentor and friend.

David Garrison, PhD–missionary, author Church Planting Movements

Greet the Church in Your House is a radical, hard hitting plea to examine how we do church in order to change how we do church – for the sake of reaching the lost. Victor Choudhrie is a prophet crying in the wilderness – a voice from India that pleads with us to heed the call of Jesus to a new covenant and a new way of being God’s people.

Floyd McClung – author You See Bones, I See an Army: changing the way we do church

A weekend of conversation

What is usually the greatest long-term benefit of going to a conference?

Often the thing you will remember best and that will have the most impact on your life is the conversations in the hallways.

 

Photo Credit: photo.maru (Creative Commons)

This year, because of the emphasis on the regional Momentum conferences, rather than our usual Labor Day conference, House2House is having a weekend, primarily of conversation. It will take place in our home in Austin, Texas–very relaxed and informal. There will be good food and good fellowship, iron-sharpening-iron discussions all centered around what God is doing today, evenings in the hot-tub…

Those involved with us in the weekend are primarily involved in the marketplace rather than full-time ministry, although all of them have a network of house/simple/organic churches.

Jim and Cathy Mellon are well known for the financial model they use–their network of simple churches has given away more than $1.5 million since their inception. Jim’s company runs optical services.

Mike and Carol Watson support themselves as business chaplains. They help to create teamwork in secular companies. Their Episcopal church transitioned successfully into a network of organic churches some years ago.

Aaron Snow works for a high-tech company and has helped pioneer International Gatherings and StudentCPX which is having a significant impact in colleges around the country.

We’d love you to come and take part.

Repost: The Amazing Story of Sophie Muller

I’m currently in Taiwan speaking at a conference so the next few posts will be reposts.

 

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Looking over the Orinoco River to Columbia

Earlier this month I had the incredible privilege of visiting the Amazon jungle in Venezuela. Many of those living there were tribespeople recently out of the jungle where they still live very primitive lives. While there, I met a man named Ricardo who told me a remarkable story about an extraordinary woman missionary named Sophie Muller. Here is a part of her story in (more or less) Ricardo’s own words.

“In the early 1940’s a young woman in her early twenties came to Columbia from North America. Her name was Sophie Muller. At that time this area consisted of virgin jungle. There were settlements of a few tribal houses scattered throughout the jungle often many days’ journey by canoe apart. The nearest town of any size (Puerto Ayacucho) was not built until 1947.

“Sophie, a reporter for the New York Times, had become a Christian following an outreach in a New York street. She had seen a group of people singing and preaching on the sidewalk and, out of curiosity, had responded to their invitation to join a Bible study. Over time she opened her heart to Christ. She became interested in working with unreached peoples and so went to the New Tribes Mission. She wanted to go somewhere no one had ever been before, and looking at a map, chose the Amazon jungle.

“In 1944 she went to Columbia and, via Bogota, to the jungle. She came to the Guainia region where the Curipaco tribe lived. At that time, witches and sorcerers were in charge of the jungle. There were many strange rituals that included drinking and drugs and wild partying. But there was a legend that had been passed down through the years. Someone had had a dream that a strange-looking person would come with a power greater than that of the witch doctors.

“With her white skin and blue eyes, Sophie certainly fit the bill of looking strange to the tribespeople. So the chief witch doctor   prepared a spiritual ritual in the jungle as a test. He made a chicken stew and added to it Caribbean stick poison—the strongest poison known in the jungle. It will normally kill a person within five minutes. As she ate the stew, everyone watched her intently, waiting for her to die. She did not die, but did throw up a little. Some of the village dogs lapped at her vomit and a chicken pecked at it.  They fell over and died immediately. But Sophie herself was unharmed.

“The witch doctor who had prepared the stew converted on the spot. She became known as a daughter of God and was allowed to go wherever she wanted in the jungle safely.

“My grandfather was the head witchdoctor of the region. Around that time he saw in a vision that there was a more powerful spirit than the one over the jungle. The story of Sophie passing the poison test had spread far and wide throughout the jungle. So my grandfather sent my father to find Sophie and investigate her. My father paddled his dugout canoe for one month to find her.

“When my father arrived, he made friends with Sophie. She was particularly interested in him because he came from a different (Puinave) tribe and spoke a different language. The two tribes have different languages and the majority of the Puinave could understand the language of the first tribe. Sophie evangelized my father in the Curipaco language. He soon received Christ and they started working together. They would paddle for months at a time to different communities in the jungle to evangelize.

“Sophie and my father worked together for fifty years. When Sophie finally left the jungle, she was an old woman.  She had started several hundred churches.

Why transition from legacy to simple church?

Transitioning from a legacy church to a network of simple/organic churches generally involves letting go of the building, and may result in the paid staff finding other means of income. Of course, many hybrid forms are also possible.

Here are some of the reasons why a church might consider transitioning:

  1. Finances are tight; they’ve already had to fire some of their part or full-time staff. The building payments are beyond their reach. It’s either transition into something else, letting the building go, or close the doors permanently and let people fend for themselves. They know that there’s little finance involved in meeting in homes so they decide to try it. In these challenging economic times, this is becoming more and more common.
  2. Simple/organic is one of the new buzz-words.Many  churches are moving towards the organic end of  a continuum. They want to be on the so-called “cutting edge” of what God is doing. So they change the name of their home groups to home churches, and empower their leaders to baptize and give communion. They may or may not expect everyone to turn up on Sunday too. In a complete transition, the Sunday service will at least become sporadic.
  3. God is speaking to them as a church. He’s telling them that it’s time to transition–either wholly or in part. He’s challenging them that this is a way to reach out to their communities and make a difference.

Obviously the third reason is the best, but God could easily use a combination of two of these things. For example, a church might realize that their financial resources are dwindling and it’s only a question of time before they have to let the senior pastor go, but as they seek the Lord about the situation, he reveals to them some of the principles behind simple/organic church. Another example: some of the church members start reading some books on simple/organic church that convict them about reaching out into their neighborhoods, and again, as the church seeks the Lord, he reveals to them a plan for transitioning.

What other reasons might a church consider the transition?

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