An awesome example of living in community

In the late 70s and 80s, Tony and I lived in the East End of London, an area of London where people ended up when there was no place lower to go. (The PBS series, “Call the Midwife” took place right where our medical practice was. We were there a couple of decades later, but most of the same socially deprived conditions still existed. That part of London has since become gentrified.)

We experienced a remarkable move of God while we were there. It was characterized by community. We lived “from house to house.” Most of us with homes had other people living with us as part of our families. We shared cars and lawn mowers. I never knew how many people would turn up for our evening meal and so usually cooked for around 10 people–it was rare that we didn’t have that many. We had different home groups meeting on many streets in the area–at one time or another, 17 contiguous streets had home groups. When one of Tony’s patients became a follower of Jesus, there was usually a group within a street or two of where they lived to refer them to. You couldn’t leave our house and walk to the nearest subway station without meeting other believers. And people became followers of Christ.

I’ve never experienced community like that again.

Until a few weekends ago, that is.

I had been invited to do a Black Swan Effect round table for a network of house churches called Common Thread in Birmingham, AL. What Tony and I experienced there was hugely encouraging–especially since I’ve been asking the Lord what he’s doing with simple/organic/home churches around the nation, and sensed him telling me to look at the situations where we were invited to speak.

A group of around 150 people live in the inner city, sharing their lives together. Most of those with homes have others living with them as part of their family. They have more than 25 “micro-churches.” Some of these are in homes, others in businesses, others out in the community. They share their faith in an incarnational way on a daily basis. They have started businesses like lawn care and house cleaning to help those who cannot find employment–a great way to disciple new believers. They have homes for single guys who need help getting off drugs. They are about to start a home for pregnant unmarried women. They have a coffee shop, which is now the number one coffee shop in their city, with an associated coffee bean roasting business. They use fair-trade coffee which has necessitated them visiting the coffee plantations in Indonesia, and they are about to send their first “missionaries” to work there. The “Hub” is a shared space for several of their businesses.

Their sense of community is awesome! Although two or three families live in the suburbs, some of them live in the very poorest area of town. They hang out and play football in the local park, getting to know the local residents who now accept them as part of their community.

We felt right at home. An awesome expression of the body of Christ.

And, by the way, the round table went great too.

Common Thread Coffee Shop

Letters from My Father’s Murderer: a story of forgiveness

From time to time, I come across people with such painful issues in their background that they find it almost impossible to forgive the person who has wronged them. It’s easy for me to advise them that forgiveness is a choice, that Jesus will help them, and so on. Yet despite an apparent willingness, they have an ongoing struggle to truly forgive and find freedom.

I remember watching an interview with Christian actor, Tyler Perry, who said that in his experience it takes as much strength and time to forgive as it did to go through whatever they went through originally.

Forgiveness can be tough for some people.

Now imagine that the person they need to forgive murdered their father.

When I was offered the opportunity to review Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness by Laurie Coombs, I was intrigued by the title, which is why I agreed to read the book. It’s not often that I find a Christian non-fiction book almost impossible to put down. But more than being a page-turner, this book gives an amazing first-hand account of grace and forgiveness, and dealing with anger, hate and a desire for revenge. It shows Jesus’s power in what seems to be an impossible situation.

It’s a book I’ll be recommending ….

On another note, I rarely talk about our personal finances. Recently, Tony and I had the privilege of being interviewed by Ali Eastburn of With This Ring, an organization that teaches radical generosity. They asked us to tell stories of how costly giving has affected our lives. You can listen to the interview here.

Letters from My Father's Murderer

Heroines of the faith: Olympia Morata and Marie Durand

As a young Christian, I was profoundly influenced by the biographies of various women and men of God. Remarkable saints of God like Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, James Fraser and Helen Rosaveare were the ones who mentored and discipled me through their stories and writings. So I’m firmly convinced of the effectiveness of  the biographies of heroes and heroines of the faith.

I was recently sent two books by author, Simonetta Carr. Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata and Marie Durand are the inspiring stories of two women who suffered greatly for their faith.

Beautifully illustrated and well researched, Marie Durand aims at younger readers and tells the story of a nineteen year old who spent 38 years in prison for refusing to recant of the “crime” of having a brother who was a Protestant preacher. 

Weight of a Flame describes the life and love story of Olympia Morata, a renowned scholar whose world is turned upside down by the religious turmoil taking place in Europe in the 1550s. It is aimed at slightly older readers.

My take: It’s really good to have readable stories of heroines of the faith. Both of these books would be especially great for homeschoolers.

Marie Durand

Does healing still happen today?

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of seeing much in the way of healing.

I’ve been in meetings where people have been prayed for who walked for the first time, or whose hearing was restored. I’ve seen arthritis disappear, legs lengthened, epilepsy healed. (It’s not that I prayed for most of these people–just that I witnessed these things first hand.)

I used to have a heart arrhythmia that would occur several times per day. Once it went on for so long I nearly went to the E.R. Although we were living here in the States at the time, I was back in London at a meeting where Paul Cain (a prophet) was speaking. In the middle of the meeting he asked anyone who had a heart condition to stand up. I, along with several dozen others, stood. He prayed a brief, couple of sentence prayer and we all sat down again. I’ve never had  that arrhythmia again!

I know Jesus still heals today.

In my current study of healing, I’ve been examining some of the conditions that Jesus healed when he walked this earth. Here are some of the definitions I’ve found from the Greek words that are used:

Noson: translated as sickness or disease

Malakion: a softness or weakness, a disease that weakens the victim, loss of muscle etc.

Kakos: bad, evil, inwardly foul, rotten, poisoned

Basanos: a touchstone used to test metals, examined by torture, torture, torment

Seleniazonemous: one being “moonized,” lunatic, epileptic

Paralutikos: paralytic (palsy)

So take a verse like Matthew 4:23:

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogs, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness (noson) and all kinds of disease (malakion) among the people. Then his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to him all sick (kakos) people who were afflicted with various diseases (noson) and torments (basanos), and those who were demon possessed, epileptic (seleniazonemous) and paralytics (paralutikos) and he healed them.

As a doctor (in a previous life) I find this fascinating. Jesus healed every kind of disease.

I long to see that happen again.

Crutches

Photo Credit: Bettina via Compfight cc

Freedom from sin and sickness?

I’ve recently been re-reading Christ the Healer by F. F. Bosworth (the second time through in the last three months). An excellent book on healing. Bosworth continuously raises the question, is physical healing part of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross? His conclusion is, yes, Christ died to redeem us physically as well as spiritually. We can experience healing from sickness and disease as well as forgiveness of sin.

Since putting into practice some of the principles he describes, a painful knee condition I’ve been dealing with for several months has just about disappeared. (You may say, “Well it would have gotten better anyway!” but it was noticeable how often when I chose to believe God’s word, the pain went away.)

So I’ve been exploring around the topic.

One of the chief passages about what Jesus accomplished through his  finished work on the cross comes in Isaiah 53.

He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed. (vv 3-5 NASB)

The words, griefs and sorrows, which come twice here, are the Hebrew words  choli and yagon. According to Strong’s Hebrew Concordance, choli is translated as “grief” three times, but words like “disease,” “illness” and “sickness” twenty-two times.  Yagon is translated as “sorrow” four times, but words like “pain” twelve times.

So it seems that “A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief might be equally well (or better)  translated, “A man of pain and acquainted with sickness,” and “Surely our griefs he bore and our sorrows he carried,” as “Surely our sickness he bore and our pain he carried.”

That’s how Matthew interpreted it too.

When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17)

Makes you think!

Christ the Healer

 

Why gender equality is good for everyone

I recently came across this fascinating TED talk. For those who are not familiar with this organization, TED  (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a non-profit dedicated to spreading ideas in 18 minutes or less. It’s well worth the time investment.

In this TED talk, Michael Kimmel shares why gender equality is not just good for women. He looks at the impact of gender equality on business, on family life and on men. It’s from a secular perspective, so doesn’t mention the church, but it is definitely both informative and entertaining.

 

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/michael_kimmel_why_gender_equality_is_good_for_everyone_men_included.html

Fashionable fad or God-inspired trend?

In 2007, in the book Small Is Big!: Unleashing the Big Impact of Intentionally Small Churches (originally The Rabbit and The Elephant) which I co-authored with my husband, Tony, and George Barna, I wrote the following under the subtitle, “A fashionable fad”:

Another hazard we face is that of becoming fashionable, the latest phenomenon in church statistics, the trendy alternative to traditional church. There will always be people who hop onto the bandwagon because they want to be part of the latest thing, not because the Holy Spirit is leading them.

That has proved to be very true. When house church, or organic church, or simple church became a buzz word, many people jumped in with all four feet.  But, as I go on to say, if people don’t truly live out the DNA, they will soon find that what they have is only a pale substitute for the real thing.

Thankfully, those days are over. We’re no longer a fashionable fad.

I was very encouraged to read a recent blog post by entrepreneur and author, Seth Godin. (His blog is well worth following. He is able to clarify thoughts, especially about the digital age, in an extraordinary way.) The post is very short, and so I quote it in its entirety.

A fad is popular because it’s popular. A fad gives us momentary joy, and part of the joy comes in knowing that it’s momentary. We enjoy a fad because our peers are into it as well.

A trend, on the other hand, satisfies a different human need. A trend gains power over time, because it’s not merely part of a moment, it’s a tool, a connector that will become more valuable as other people commit to engaging in it.

Confusion sets in because at the beginning, most trends gain energy with people who are happy to have fun with fads, and it’s only when the fad fans fade away (yes, I just wrote ‘fad fans fade’) that we get to see the underlying power of the trend that’s going on.

I believe we have moved from fashionable fad to Holy Spirit inspired trend. Could it be “for such a time as this”?

Small is Big!