Sunday, June 23, 2013

"I Have a Dream..."*

I have a dream that one day the church of Jesus Christ will rise up to her God-given calling and begin to live out the true meaning of her identity --which is, the very heartthrob of God Almighty --the fiancee of the King of all Kings.

I have a dream that Jesus Christ will one day be Head of His church again.  Not in pious rhetoric, but in reality.

I have a dream that groups of Christians everywhere will begin to flesh out the New Testament reality that the church is a living organism and not an institutional organization.

I have a dream that the clergy/laity divide will someday be an antique of church history, and the Lord Jesus Himself will replace the moss-laden system of human hierarchy that has usurped His authority among His people.

I have a dream that multitudes of God's people will no longer tolerate those man-made systems that have put them in religious bondage and under a pile of guilt, duty, condemnation, making them slaves to authoritarian systems and leaders.

I have a dream that the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ will be the focus, the mainstay, and the pursuit of every Christian and every church.  And that God's dear people will no longer be obsessed with spiritual and religious things to the point of division.  But that their obsession and pursuit would be a person-the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have a dream that countless churches will be transformed from high-powered business organizations into spiritual families - authentic Christ-centered communities - where the members know one another intimately, love one another unconditionally, bleed for one another deeply, and rejoice with one another unfailingly.

I have a dream today....

* "I Have a Dream" written by Frank Viola in Reimagining Church -- adapted from Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech delivered in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963.

A Christian's Role

It's been awhile since I've visited this blog and looking at the statistics on this blog, it's been awhile since anyone has visited this blog.  However since my husband and I are both currently in the middle of reading some of Frank Viola's books -- Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church -- the subject of house church is on our minds and hearts.  Because of this I'd like to share some of my own thoughts either directly or indirectly related to house-churching.  Since I host another blog for my women's ministry and first posted my thoughts there, my post below will continue onto the Kajiji Girls website.  So for those who haven't read the original post, I present it here:

"A topic that keeps tumbling around in my brain and popping up in conversation recently has been Service.  Everyone who truly follows Christ feels led to serve in some way.  Whether you serve in your community, your church or your home, service opportunities are always before you.  What’s interesting for me though is how we label service.  For instance, because my family attends a house church, it’s much harder to see service opportunities, at least, on the face of things.  There are no sign-up sheets asking for teachers, nursery workers, musicians, etc.  There are no special collections taken for the poor, the unemployed, the widow or the regular offering to contribute toward all the expenses associated with running a charitable organization or church building.  I’m sure many people who have tried house church eventually leave feeling like there’s nothing for them to do or nowhere to give of themselves or their money, and God has placed some kind of cause or service on their heart so they must go somewhere to fulfill that role.  The point is God has placed service on every one of his follower’s hearts, and we are commanded to fill that role.

House church eliminates titles. And coming from a traditional church background, this can actually be very hard to deal with when you don’t know any other way.  When you know your role, you know your place..."

Please continue reading here...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Light in the Darkness

Whenever I hear someone ranting about all the evil that organized religion has brought into the world, they always, at some point in their diatribe, mention The Crusades.  Well, they say, isn't that just the Middle Ages' equivalent of Muslim holy jihad, off killing people in the name of religion? The Christian precursor to the holocaust?  You Christians are no different than any other religion who uses your God to justify atrocities.  I have several objections to the this, but here are just two: 1)While religion certainly played a role in the Crusades, and likely underlies some of the more headline-worthy atrocities, the fundamental cause of the Crusades was not religious, but was the same as most other military conflicts: politics, economics, power, regional conflict and trade; and 2) C'mon, really? Is that the best ya got? You need to reach back 1000 years to find something to bash Christianity with? You can't come up with anything a little more recent? That's like Catholics hating Jews because they killed Jesus. But I digress.

My point was, I read something interesting today in my daily devotional regarding the Middle/Dark Ages and Christianity's role therein, which not only rebuts the "religion is bad" argument, but does so by citing examples from the Middle/Dark Ages themselves, the very era from which most of the anti-Christian ammunition (corrupt bishops, selling indulgences, the Inquisition, etc.) usually comes from.

The devotional is A Dangerous Grace by Chuck Colson, who passed away last month. The days reading, summarized, was this:

     After the Roman Empire fell, chaos ruled Europe. Warring bands of illiterate Germanic tribes opposed and deposed one another. People were scattered across the land in crude huts and rough towns. Early medieval Europe seemed destined for complete barbarism.

    One force prevented this:  the Church.

     Instead of conforming to the barbarian culture of the Dark Ages, the medieval church modeled a counter culture to a world engulfed by destruction and confusion. Thousands of monastic centers spread across Europe, characterized by discipline, creativity, and a coherence and moral order lacking in the world around them. 

     The French monks ran schools and sheltered orphans, widows, paupers, and slaves. They opened hospitals, constructed aqueducts, banned witchcraft.

     In Ireland, the monks cleared forests, plowed fields, fasted, prayed, and lived lives of vigorous discipline. 

     In England the religious orders fought illiteracy, violence, lechery, and greed. They drained swamps, bridged creeks, cut roads; they copied manuscripts, organized industrial centers and schools.

     By holding on to such vestiges of civilization - faith, learning, and civility - the monks and nuns held back the night, and eventually The West emerged into a renewed period of cultural creativity, education, and art.

(You can read the full version here.)

People like to go on and on about how much better this world would be without organized religion. Really? How much longer would the Dark Ages have lasted if the Church, flawed as she was (is), did not "hold on to such vestiges of civilization?" Do they forget that it was primarily churchmen, like William Wilberforce, that were the driving force behind the abolitionist movement? That it was churchmen like the REV. Martin Luther King who helped drive the civil rights movement? That for the last several hundred years, all that we have learned through science is attributable to Christianity. How do you figure that, they say. Because it is Christians who believe in an orderly world, created by an orderly God, that follows orderly rules that can be discovered through testing and investigation who were the only ones capable of doing science in the necessary manner to make such discoveries. If you are part of a culture that is sacrificing animals to the volcano god to ensure good crops, you cannot possibly learn about electricity and cell division and thermodynamics.

So, the next time someone brings up the Crusades, enlighten them about the Dark Ages and the role Christianity really played.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Trusting Because of Who He is

As all of you know, I've been planning on going to Haiti. This has been in the works for the last four months or so. A couple weeks ago, I got an urgent phone call from the team leader expressing how much he thought it not a good idea to go. The reports coming in have gotten worse and worse since we decided to do this trip. The report written by the Dept of State is enough to make your skin crawl. He sought counsel and lost sleep over thinking and seeking God before contacting me (the team leader of the girls). I listened with an open mind to all of his concerns and prayed about it HARD and earnestly. To be honest, when I hung up from him, I felt like I couldn't breathe....

That's the only way I can explain it.

My whole team felt that way. Over the next five days text messages and phone calls were flying back and forth... I answered the phone once to a girl who was just crying on the other end. The only word she uttered over the call was "Why?"
The word haunted us all. This change of direction caused us to feel very confused, hurt... and lost. We had put so much thought, prayer, emotion and preperation into this for MONTHS and to have it ripped away left us heart broken.

Doubt now took the home of certainty. Confusion infested us all as questions flooded our minds "Why would God lead us this far?" "What was the purpose of all of this?" "If that wasn't God's leading, then I dont know what is."
After days of prayer, break-down-weeping moments and pillow fights with God, He instilled a peace in us all.

Why we aren't going is due to extreme safety issues. Kidnapping, rape, murder and sickness statistics would appall you. 3 out of 5 cars going from the airport to the destination are robbed at gun point. You hand food out to a child and you need to stay there with him while he/she eats it to prevent an adult coming over and strangling to get the food. One week after we made this decision, Haiti closed it's airport, preventing people to leave or enter the country. It was to that extreme a of point. We all felt it as confirmation.

Why God led us so far just to take it away, we will never know. Or maybe He will reveal it in time. I don't know. The thing we all DO know however is that we have to trust God and leave all the reasons and questions in His hands. He is sovereign in everything!

We began pointing out what good came of all of this and it was enough to say "it was worth it". We have all grown extremely close as friends because of the emails, texts and conference calls we spent together both in discussion and in prayer. Also, our walks with God have grown leaps and bounds. I can honestly say that I am no longer where I was when we started this venture, and it's only gotten better. Everyone feels the same. We've also been able to experience extreme trust in the Lord as those negative questions came into play.... Trusting he knows more than us and sees the whole picture, not the little corner we seem so fixated on. Talk about tunnel vision!! :)

So. I wanted to tell you all because you've all been so supportive. I look forward to what the Lord holds in not only my future or my team's future, but yours too. We don't know how He's going to paint the rest of our pictures! But It's going to be breath-takingly beautiful.

Love you all.

Hannah L.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thank God for House Church

I've spent the last decade feeling like a homeless orphan. Not in a biological sense (thankfully), but in a spiritual one. After seven churches in as many years, I began to wonder, "Is it me? Am I the one who is looking for something that doesn't exist and holding my brothers and sisters in Christ to unreasonable standards? Is my desire for unity, transparency, accountability, and vulnerability too much to ask for? Is doing Life-Together unrealistic? Did discipleship and the Holy Spirit's anointing end 2,000 years ago with Acts?"

House church has shown me the answer to all these questions is a resounding "NO!" Finally, I am surrounded by people who are like-minded and who will grow along side me, refusing to allow me to complacently sit in a pew week after week. Even though we won't agree about everything, I know we will stand strong together as we pursue God's Higher Way instead of our own. I am so tremendously blessed.

One of my favorite music videos of all time is by Blind Melon performing, "No Rain:"

I am the bee girl. House Church (deal with it, you guys) are the group of bees at the end. After years of feeling rejected, unappreciated, and like a misfit, I have found my home. And all I can say is,"Thank you, God!"

I wonder how many others are out there, trying to fit into a traditional church and feel like it isn't working. I grieve for these others and hope they can find their way to a house church before they become so disillusioned they give up hope. I don't want to say House Church is the Right Way, or the Only Way, but I have absolutely discovered it is the perfect fit for me.

All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
I like watchin' the puddles gather rain
And all I can do is just pour some tea for two
and speak my point of view
But it's not sane, It's not sane
I just want some one to say to me
I'll always be there when you wake
Ya know I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today
So stay with me and I'll have it made
- Blind Melon, "No Rain."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Not an A, but doesn't feel like an F either

Often times, even a good sermon or message won't survive in my brain for more than a day or two, but I've had a couple swimming around in my brain now, on and off, for the better part of month.

To set the stage, Bohdan and I were at a Father & Son camp run by New England Frontier Camp in Lovell, Maine. We were going to be there for four days and three nights. The camp's owner and director, Keith Moses, gave the message the first night we were there as we sat around a large campfire under the stars. The premise of the message was building on the rock (Matt 7 "The Wise and Foolish Builders").

To demonstrate his point, keeping in mind that the audience was mostly boys aged 8-14, Keith had a table with two bird houses on it. One house sat atop a pile of sand and the other a large rock. As he was talking, he would stop occasionally to spray the foundation of each house with water and a blast of air from an air hose. As you would expect, over time, the sand washed away and the house on the sand toppled over. Of course, the other house remained since the rock was not phased by the water.

While a good visual for the topic, it was hardly earth-shattering. The part that got me was what came when the visual part of the sermon was over. Keith said that, by his estimation, he would give the house on the sand an "A" and the house on the rock an "F". Of course, that confused all present. He went on to explain that if we think of the "A" using the word Admire and the "F" as the word Follow, then indeed his statement would be true. He explained that there are people who admire Jesus and those that follow and he wanted us to consider where we sat.

For me this was a tough question. In light of another sermon that has recently stuck with me, the answer alludes me to this day. The other sermon was by Paul Washer where he talks about the prayer for salvation and the merit it holds compared to the fruit we bear. Mr. Washer claimed that there are an awful lot of people who have prayed the prayer of salvation and yet may not be saved. He points to the places where Jesus talks about the fruit in our lives (see Matt 7:15-23 for example).

If I am truly a Follower of Jesus Christ, would you not know me by my fruit? How does the fruit of our lives reconcile with Ephesians 2:8-9? Am I just an Admirer? Am I somewhere in the middle? If I'm somewhere in the middle, am I not lukewarm? We know how God feels about that (Revelation 3:15-16)! You now understand my consternation.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Time in the Garden

This blog is for sharing thoughts and ideas, profound or mundane, and so I share some thoughts on life that I had while weeding my garden this morning. I cannot help but think that these same thoughts have occurred in the minds of gardeners off and on since the first garden in Eden, they are that universal. They are simple truths, but truths nonetheless.

First, it is much, much easier to maintain something than to let it go completely to pot and then try to fix it all at once. I had let my garden go, and the weeds were numerous and large. If I had picked them while they were small, it would have been easier, and they wouldn’t have stolen so many nutrients, so much life, from the fruit I was trying so hard to grow. The more I let them take root, the more they entwine their roots around the roots of the fruit, the more difficult they are to remove without damaging those things that I am trying to save. Better yet, would that I had put something in place, some barrier, some protection, that prevented the weeds from germinating and taking root in the first place.

Second, at first glance, the weeds seemed insurmountable. There were too many, they were too firmly entrenched, I had let it go too long, I might as well just let them take over. A lie that could be so easily believed, so much easier to just give up, once I made the mistake of letting the weeds grow out of control. But something else became clear, once I did start pulling the weeds. Although they looked huge and scary, once I got up close, I realized that when I followed the weeds back, to ground level, what looked like many weeds was really just one, tied to one root. And when I pulled that root, and tossed the weed, a whole section of my garden was suddenly clear. I think some problems look huge from the outside, but they have a simple root. I think sometimes the sin looks so big and complicated, and people think they need therapy, or medication, or a divorce, or a miracle, to rid themselves of a problem that really has a simple root: pride, or anger, or lust. Because with weeds, you can’t tear away just the part you can see. You have to get the root, or it comes back.

Third, the plants that I let grow willy-nilly don’t do so well. Yes, they grow big, but they get diseased more easily because they are dragging on the ground, and the fruit they produce isn’t as large, plentiful, or tasty as it should be. But those plants that I prune, the ones I train up the trellis so they stay off the ground, the ones that I reduce the amount of foliage so the plant’s energy can go into fruit production instead of leaf production, those are the best plants that produce the best fruit, because they have been properly trained, properly pruned, and they direct their energy producing fruit instead of wasting their energy on things they don’t need.

Like I said, simple truths, but they spoke to me (or were spoken to me), and I enjoyed my time in the quietness of that morning, listening for a still, small voice to speak the truths of the ages. May God prune me as He sees fit, to produce the fruit He would like to share with His Church.