Heroines of the faith: Harriet Tubman

Araminta Harriet Ross was born into slavery in Maryland in 1820.  As a child, she was hired out as a baby minder (whipped if the baby cried) and later worked in the fields and forests, plowing and hauling logs. She was severely beaten by her masters, and early on, suffered a head wound when hit by a metal weight, leaving  her with seizures and headaches for the rest of her life. Harriet had a deep faith and experienced frequent dreams and visions from God. She married John Tubman in 1844.

In 1849, Harriet Tubman escaped to Philadelphia. She later recalled, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”  The following year, she learned that her niece, Kessiah, was about to be sold with her two young children. She helped the family escape, and returned to rescue other family members from the plantations. Slowly, she brought all her relatives out of Maryland and subsequently made more than 19 rescue mission guiding more than 300 to freedom. Called “Moses,” she traveled by night and used the network of  safe houses known as the Underground Railroad to bring them out, never losing a “passenger.”

Although large rewards were offered for the return of the fugitive slaves, no one realized that Harriet Tubman was the one responsible  their escape. When Congress passed an act requiring law officials in free states to recapture slaves, she helped the rescued slaves travel further north into Canada where slavery was already abolished.

During the Civil War, Harriet worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, but then as a scout and spy.  She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the war. She helped lead the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina which rescued more than 700 slaves.

After the war, she went home to look after her aging parents, and was active in the women’s suffrage movement. She died of pneumonia in 1913.

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”  Harriet Tubman


Photo credit: pbs.org

Information for this post came from here and here

Non-religious Christianity

All too often Christianity is cheapened to the point that it becomes a religion of rules in which the do’s and don’ts (especially the don’ts) govern our lives. In an effort to please God by keeping ourselves separate from the world (2 Cor 6:17), we live lives that are less than attractive to those who don’t know Jesus. Anything that might be “fun” in the world’s eyes is viewed with suspicion by those motivated by religion. (“Don’t drink, smoke or chew or date girls that do.”) When our spiritual walk is governed by obligation and duty and law (this is what I ought to do, this is how good Christians behave) it leads to a lifeless religion based on rules and regulations.

Law
Most people in the West were brought up in a shame-based religion. “People are dying and going to hell. Therefore you should preach the Gospel.” Although it sounds spiritual, the reasoning is guilt-based. It implies, “Christ died for your sins and you are doing so little for him. You are guilty. You ought to be doing more.” It attempts to shame us into different behavior.

The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives life! Non-religious Christianity is governed by the life of the Spirit within. As we seek to live close to Jesus, we find ourselves doing what the Scriptures indicate is pleasing to him. Notorious sinners loved to hang around Jesus (Luke 15:1), who was accused of being a glutton and “winebibber.”

The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ (Luke 7:34)

Jesus enjoyed life. And his life won those around him.

What motivates us is important. The grace and love of Jesus operating inside us cause us to want to do what legalism says we ought to do.

Women cannot…

A recent fascinating article describes an advertising campaign put out by UN Women (a branch of the U.N.) that demonstrates that sexism and gender bias flourish in today’s world. The ad shows four faces of women with some of the most popular Google search terms. For example, on the search term,  “women cannot…” the most popular search terms were “drive, be bishops, be trusted, speak in church.”

So I thought I’d check this out. Scarily, it’s true. When I Googled “women cannot,” the popular searches (each search page has eight of the most popular searches for each term towards the bottom of the page) include “be priests, speak in church, teach the Bible, be pastors.” In this search, 50 percent of the issues mentioned were church related. In contrast, the corresponding search for “men cannot” had only one that is church related–man cannot live on bread alone;  that is hardly gender specific.

What’s with this?

I find myself almost without words to express my indignation that the church, the beautiful feminine bride of Christ, portrays herself to the world at large in this way.

What a turn-off for not-yet-believing women thinking about Christianity.

Jesus came to set people free. The one place above all, where people should fight against injustice is the church. And yet gender bias is accepted there. (And yes, I know some of you will point to the two Scriptures that apparently limit women, but they not only stand against the trend of the Bible as a whole, they can, with integrity, be interpreted differently.)

How can we change the world’s perception of the role of women in the church?

What do you think?

Photo Credit: J.Ōta via Compfight cc

Simple missions

This past weekend I met with a group of people to discuss missions.

Traditional church is complex and complicated. Think of what goes into a typical Sunday morning service, let alone the upkeep of a building, handling the finances, keeping the programs running. Ordinary people, who have no training in ecclesiology and who have jobs and families, would find it very difficult to start and/or run a traditional church.

Simple/organic church, on the other hand, is so simple, almost anyone can start one.

Traditional missions is complex too. They require mission agencies and mission boards to keep them running. Raising support is tough. It’s hard to adapt to a different culture.

A question I’ve been asking myself for some time is this. What would simple missions look like? Just as simple/organic church has a very different feel and DNA to the traditional, what would be the differences between simple and traditional missions?

What ideas do you have?

 
Photo Credit: Gary Koutsoubis via Compfight cc

Heroines of the faith: Fanny Crosby

Fanny Crosby was one of the most prolific and best-known hymn writers of all time, composing more than 9,000 hymns, many of which are still popular today, as well as secular poetry. Blind from soon after birth, she loved to compose simple gospel songs that could be used in evangelism. Ira Sankey attributed much of the success of the crusades he did with DL Moody to her songs. She was reknowned for her preaching and rescue missions work.

Photo credit: www.cyberhymnal.org 

Frances Jane Crosby was born in 1806, and at six weeks old, she developed a fever and eye infection. A “quack” prescribed mustard poultices to put on her eyes–and this may have been the cause of her blindness. Once when someone remarked on it, she replied, ” “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.”

A few weeks after her illness, her father died and Fanny was mainly raised by her grandmother.

Fanny had a deep love for the Bible. As a child she memorized large portions of it–often 5 chapters a week–and could recite whole books. She wrote her first poem when she was eight.

Just before her 15th birthday, Fanny was sent to the newly founded New York Institute for the Blind, where she remained for 12 years as a student and 11 as a teacher. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the blind, speaking to Congress about the need for education for the blind and having conversations with the presidents of the day.

Although she could play several musical instruments, she preferred to write poetry. Her husband, also blind and an accomplished organist, wrote the music to many of her hymns. She wrote so many hymns that she used over 200 pseudonyms because some publishers of hymn books were hesitant to have so many hymns by a single author. Her hymns include such favorites as Blessed Assurance (which she wrote with Phoebe Knapp, daughter or Phoebe Palmer), Rescue the Perishing, Safe in the Arms of Jesus.

Fanny Crosby had a “horror of wealth.” She gave away anything she did not need to the poor. When she and her husband separated, she lived near the slums in order to be able to devote more of her time to serving the poor. Some of her wealthier friends supported her, but often she would give the money away. She died just before her 95th birthday.

Here’s one of her hymns:

To God be the glory, great things He hath done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.

Refrain
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory, great things He hath done.

Verse 2
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

(Refrain)

Verse 3
Great things He hath taught us, great things He has done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.

Information for this post came from here and here

Is the spiritual realm real?

Is there a spiritual realm, an unseen dimension to what happens here on earth? Is spiritual warfare just our imagination? Does what we do spiritually make any difference to what happens here on earth?

Understanding the reality of an unseen dimension that affects what goes on here on earth  jolts us out of religious complacency and a legalistic, religious Christianity.

Knights

For many years we were involved in a church plant in the East End of London in the UK. At that point in time, the area was not the gentrified place it has since become. It was a very run-down, neglected area of around 120,000 people, with 93% government housing. The unemployment rate, if I remember rightly, was about 17%. Within our church, (effectively a network of home groups) we had maybe 10 or 12 people who had been out of work for some considerable time with no prospect of employment.

As a fellowship we decided that this wasn’t just a natural problem but it had a spiritual component to it. So in one particular gathering, we put all the people who were looking for a job in the center of the room, while the rest of us prayed for them. Someone suggested that we treat it like the battle of Jericho, so we actually marched round them 7 times, shouting praise to God the final time. Then we prayed for each person individually.

Were we crazy? It must have looked crazy to any outsider. But over the next few weeks, every one of those people found a job.

Another example from a similar time period: There were riots going on in London, and they were approaching our area of town. The fear in the air was so palpable, you could almost smell it. There was a small corner store across the road from where we lived, and I remember looking out our living room window and watching the owner board up the windows. In the front yard of the house next door, a young teenager was preparing his arsenal of weapons to throw. We pulled together a few people and started praying, using the spiritual weapons of praise and the Word, believing that God would intervene and that Satan had no right to come onto “our ground.” As we listened to the news, the reporters gave a street by street blow on which areas of town were affected. The riots stopped at the very first street we regarded as our territory.

The spiritual realm is real!  In 2 Kings 6, when Elisha is under attack, surrounded by the troops of the enemy,  he prays that his servant will see the reality of the spiritual realm. All of a sudden, his servant can see horses and chariots of fire. God delivers them from the hand of the enemy. We need to have our eyes opened to see what’s really going on.

I’d love to hear some of your stories too.

Heroines of the faith: Jarena Lee

Jarena Lee, an African American preacher, was born (free) in 1873 and worked as a servant girl in the home of a white family 60 miles from where she lived. As a teenager, she moved to Philadelphia where she heard the preaching of Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church,  and surrendered her life to the Lord. She soon heard the Lord telling her calling her, “Preach the Gospel, Preach the Gospel! I will put the words into your mouth.” When she told Allen, he denied her request to become a preacher saying that women could not preach in the Methodist Church.

In 1711, she married Joseph Lee, a pastor at a nearby AME church. Her husband did not want her to preach either, so she was forced to put her sense of God’s calling on hold. Joseph died after six years of marriage.

Back at her mother church, one Sunday the preacher who was speaking on the book of Jonah, seemed to lose the thread of his talk. Jarena recounts in her autobiography:

When in the same instant, I sprang, as by altogether supernatural impulse, to my feet, when I was aided from above to give an exhortation on the very text which my brother Williams had taken. … I now sat down, scarcely knowing what I had done, being frightened. I imagined, that for this indecorum, as I feared it might be called, I should be expelled from the church. But instead of this, the Bishop [Allen] rose up in the assembly, and related that I had called upon him eight years before, asking to be permitted to preach, and that he had put me off; but that now he as much believed that I was called to that work, as any of the preachers present.”

Jarena Lee was the first woman preacher in the AME church, but despite the blessing of Richard Allen, continued to face opposition, not just because she was black, but also because she was a woman. She traveled thousands of miles on foot, evangelizing and preaching. In one year alone, she traveled 2,325 miles and preached 178 sermons.

Here’s what she writes in her autobiography about her call to preach:

“O how careful ought we to be, lest through our by-laws of church government and discipline, we bring into disrepute even the word of life. For as unseemly as it may appear now-a-days for a woman to preach, it should be remembered that nothing is impossible with God. And why should it be thought impossible, heterodox, or improper for a woman to preach? seeing the Saviour died for the woman as well as for the man.

“If the man may preach, because the Saviour died for him, why not the woman? Seeing he died for her also. Is he not a whole Saviour, instead of a half one? as those who hold it wrong for a woman to preach, would seem to make it appear.”

Photo credit:pbs.org

Information for this post came from here, here and here.

 

 

Video: Felicity Dale on the house church movement

Several years ago, I wrote a book called An Army of Ordinary People: Stories of Real-Life Men and Women Simply Being the Church. I recently rediscovered a video where I talk about how I came to write the book and I answer questions about the simple/organic/ house church movement. Enjoy…

 

Q&A with Felicity Dale from simplechurch.com on Vimeo.

God at work in the Congo

Rolland and Heidi Baker are seeing an incredible move of God across Mozambique and other countries of Africa with miracles and deliverances, healings and salvations, resulting in thousands of churches being planted. We love what they are doing and have a particular interest in it for a couple of reasons.

  1. Tony was at school with Rolland (a school for missionary kids in Taiwan)
  2. We had the incredible privilege of being there at the beginning of the revival in Mozambique. I’ll never forget it. We were in the UK when we heard about major floods in Mozambique where half the nation was under water. Rolland and Heidi were given responsibility for feeding thousands of people in the refugee camps. Within a few days of our return to the States, Tony, along with a friend who is a nurse were on a plane with boxes of medicines for medical relief work. The United Nations would fly them out to areas of higher ground where a makeshift refugee camp had been set up and they would hold clinics, distribute food and preach the gospel.

A couple of months later, Tony and I and two of our kids went back there to continue the work. Everywhere we went we would hold a clinic, deliver food and tell the people about Jesus. Invariably almost everyone there would respond to the message and ask for salvation. Rolland and Heidi would follow up with one of the pastors they had trained, and so a church would start. We also held clinics on the city garbage dump where people eked out a living by scavenging through the trash the dump trucks brought in. The filth and the stench of burning trash were indescribable. I remember Heidi kneeling on the ground hugging and loving on some of the kids. It’s a revolution of love that’s going on. What a privilege to have witnessed Jesus’ love conquering the most difficult of circumstances.

Now the Bakers are seeing God at work in the Congo. Check out this video.

My visit to Syrian refugee camps by Floyd McClung

The following is a report from Floyd McClung. It speaks for itself. It’s much longer than my usual posts, but don’t rush through reading it–let the Lord speak to your heart. 

 

I just returned home from a two-week visit to some of the Syrian refugee camps in the Middle East. Several people have asked me to share about my journey. Following is a summary of some of the things I experienced and learned, though there are many deep emotions I am still processing. I heard heart-rending stories of tragedy and loss as I met with the refugee families.

I met men who were suffering from wounds caused in the fighting. I “talked” with one man who survived a bullet wound to the head. The bullet entered his forehead and exited the back of his head. He is paralyzed, cannot speak, and yet he can understand everything. His wife sat beside him holding his hand. In that moment I did not see “a Muslim” but another human being, a man with a family he cannot feed and wounds he cannot get medical attention for.

In the same crowded apartment building, I met two brothers, both of whom had recently escaped from prison in Syria. Both brothers had bullet scars and shrapnel wounds. One of the brothers could not lift his left arm because he was tortured in prison – Syrian soldiers cut the tendons and nerves in his arm and wrist while he was held captive.

I sat with refugee families who lived in tents, and did not know where the next meal is coming from. I listened as one man said he wants to work but cannot because of his refugee status. That is true for several hundred thousand Syrian men, many from middle-class backgrounds, who are now refugees in Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. They are stateless, hopeless, and lost. And it is illegal for them to take a wage-earning job in their host country.

It is hard to assimilate all I witnessed and heard in those few days. I asked the Lord to allow me to feel what He feels and to see what He sees. Perhaps no one outside Syria can really understand what the Syrian refugees have been through. But still, I asked God to touch my heart in a deep and lasting way. He is still doing that in me.

I am a man of action, so what I saw and felt is meaningless to me if I don’t do something with it. I will act. I have come back to Cape Town filled with passion and purpose. I feel called to mobilize as many as I can to get involved, to give if they cannot go.

What was most striking to me in my talks with the refugees was their spiritual hunger and openness. They longed to know God had not abandoned them. They smiled with sincere appreciation when I spoke to them about His love for them, when I told them He spared their lives, and that He has a purpose for them. I reminded them that He is a creator, and He will create a new life and a new beginning for them. I compared it to being “born again.” No one objected when we spoke of the love of God revealed in Jesus.

Several million Syrian people have been forced from their homes, their land and their families because of the war. Some of the families told me about their houses being struck by bombs while they were in them. They lived to tell their story. Other families described the physical pain and discomfort caused by chemical weapons. One mother asked for prayer for her baby boy named Sultan.

More than one family had TVs on, blaring continually with live news reports about the fighting. Their TV’s are on night and day. They watch as the “rebels” fight against the Syrian army in their home towns. Places that were names on the news to me previously became more real when I met people from places like Homs, Damascus, Aleppo, and Daraa – where the revolution began.

Can you imagine sitting with a family, while in the background a TV showed violent, bloody scenes of gun battles, RPG’s being fired from wrecked buildings, and snipers killing unsuspecting enemy soldiers? It was disturbing. It hit me that they were watching news reports about their family members and hometowns.

Most of the refugees grieve without knowing how to grieve. Their culture does not allow them to mourn their losses. Except for the first few hours after death, they cannot acknowledge pain when they lose their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons to the fighting. When waves of grief overcome them, they can only cry alone with no one to talk to.

The refugees struggle with feelings of abandonment by the rest of the world. They feel alone in their struggle against a ruthless regime. Hopelessness was tangible in every conversation.

At the same time, in every interaction with the refugees, they were incredibly generous and hospitable.

One thing is clear to me above everything else:there is great spiritual hunger and openness to the good news of Jesus. There are several million Syrian people suffering. They experience hunger, hopelessness, and confusion. I was overwhelmed with the desperate longing by the Syrian people I met to be listened to, to be helped, and to hear the good news of God’s love for them.

Their hospitality amazed me.

In every home, in every shop, and in every single contact with the refugees, I experienced warm hospitality and generosity.I witnessed amazing grace in the midst of huge tragedy and pain. Everyone we visited served us what food they had. They gave us coffee, tea, cakes, hot meals, and soft drinks – at great sacrifice to themselves. I was humbled and deeply touched by their kindness to me, a stranger.

No one turned down prayer. Everyone listened eagerly to the news that God had not forgotten them. They joined us respectfully as I prayed for them in Jesus name.

We have to respond while there is still time! This moment of opportunity and need will not last for long. When the immediate crisis is past, people will settle in new countries, or return to Syria to rebuild their homes, and then the opportunity to minister the love of Jesus will not be the same. Many of the refugees will melt into the local culture. Already thousands of them are doing their best to move out of the camps and into the towns and cities in their host countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

We have to respond while the people are open! There are hundreds of thousands of refugee children. The UN is overwhelmed by the crisis. UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) leaders describe the tragedy as beyond any other faced by the United Nations in recent memory.

What can be done? You can give financially to help us send teams and provide food for the refugees. We have volunteers in All Nations lining up, willing to go. Short-term teams can go now to the camps. We can play with their children, listen to their stories, start schools, teach English, hire Arabic speaking translators, help them get medical assistance, and pray with them. We can share the good news of Jesus.

Every Syrian refugee has a name, a journey, and a story to tell. If nothing else, we can take a packet of food to a family, then sit and listen, and care for them. We can weep with them. And we can share the love of God with them.

I am returning to Lebanon in four weeks time.I would be grateful for your assistance with my travel costs. While there I will help train workers, and I will strategize and plan for meeting needs. I will visit some of the refugees and minister to them. I will arrange accommodation for teams coming in the next few months.

Beyond these initial impressions I shared above, I have concluded the following five things about the Muslim world and Syria… I include suggestions for how to respond, and how not to respond to the Syrian refugees:

The conflict in Syria has created an urgent, unique moment of opportunity. This crisis has an expiry date! It is urgent that we respond now, before the window of opportunity closes. Perhaps we only have 6-12 months to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Our response must not be a political response, though we all have our political convictions, but a spiritual and practical one. We, as followers of Christ, offer something no government or UN agency can offer. We must provide aid to those suffering, and we must do so in the name of Jesus, with prayer and the good news of Jesus.

Syria as a nation will most likely open to outside help for rebuilding their country once the war ends. We should plan now to be part of that response. There will most likely be ongoing tensions and fighting between various Islamic factions within Syria for many years to come, but the danger involved must not stop us from being involved. Danger is normal for those who get involved in crisis situations.

When we respond to the Syrian refugees, we have accepted an invitation by God to be part of him “shaking all nations, that they might seek after the desire of all nations.”Haggai 2

I learned on this trip that the Arab Spring began in Indonesia in 1996, not two years ago in Tunisia.The Arab Spring is bigger and has been going on longer than I realized. It began with the fall of Suharto, the world’s longest serving dictator in the world’s largest Muslim country. It was students demonstrating on the streets of Jakarta in massive numbers that forced his resignation. The “Arab Spring” continues to break out around the Muslim world. The Arab Spring is a spiritual shaking from God. It has shaken Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Malaysia, Somalia, Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan/South Sudan, Iran, and now Syria. It is as significant as the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

The Arab Spring is a spiritual movement and radical terrorism is political response to a spiritual phenomenon. If we see the Middle East through the grid of politics, of what America or the United Nations should or should not do, we will miss what God is up to. We must not think in terms of “radical terrorists” or “extremists” or the “threat to the West…” Much of the Islamic terrorism in the world today is a false-spiritual response to a massive turning of millions of Muslims to Jesus. It is Satan’s way of distracting us, of filling our hearts with fear, anger, and unbelief. We are living in the time of the greatest harvest ever among Muslims coming to faith in Jesus. Of course, Satan is not happy about that – so he is stirring up anger and hatred in the hearts of extremists to act violently, and thus to cause a polarization, a temptation to people in the West to respond in the same spirit. Don’t fall for it! This is a moment in history catalyzed by God to create deep hunger and spiritual crisis in the hearts of people in the Muslim world. It represents a historical turning point in the history of Islam. Respond with prayer, love, and faith, not fear, retaliation or suspicion. See and be impressed with what God is up to, not what the enemy is doing.

To be fully understood, the Syrian refugee crisis must be seen in the greater context of the “Arab Spring” and what is happening all over the Muslim world. Though there is a terrible war in Syria with grave injustices on both sides of the conflict, it is happening because God has seen fit to allow the status quo to be unsettled in the Muslim world. Many Muslims are asking why Muslims are killing Muslims? The crisis in Syria is a severe spiritual blow to Islam that represents a split in the heart of Islam, a division between moderate and radical streams of belief. There is a major spiritual conflict/divide taking place within Islam, and this divide represents a unique moment to share the love of Jesus with Muslims.

Finally, we must not buy into the dualistic, Western mindset that says we should not “take advantage” of people in crisis situations by offering to pray for them, or sharing the Gospel with them, or inviting them to faith in Jesus. Of course, we should not pressure people or manipulate them into “making decisions” based on what we do for them. But we must follow Jesus’ example and obey His command to announce the good news of the kingdom and to heal them. Sharing the love of Jesus, telling the good news of forgiveness and hope in Christ is not manipulation, but providing the spiritual hope people long for. Sadly, I witnessed relief groups separating their good deeds from the good news of Jesus while on this trip. It convinced me once again that hopelessness and Christ-less ness go hand in hand, and the core of what we do in All Nations is discipling people to faith in Jesus, the hope of the world.

Please pray about how you should respond to the Syrian refugees, will you?

Please pass on this letter to others, will you? Thank you.

Warm regards,

Floyd McClung

To donate in the USA, send a check made out to All Nations, and send it All Nations Support
PO Box 55, Grandview, Missouri. You can arrange to give to the Grandview office via EFT or PayPal for tax receipt purposes. Please attach a note and say it is for Floyd and Sally McClung

Photo Credit: Ali Photography ****SYRIA**** via Compfight cc