Thank you for your prayers, especially for Chris during this busy travel season for us. We’ve only had a couple of incidents with him during this last nearly 2 week trip in April, which is amazing. Though a 2 week trip it was right at 3 weeks since seeing him due to preparation before and resting/jet lag after and overall he did well. Thank you! Barb and I leave the 23rd for our Dutch conference and we would appreciate prayers for Chris and us for 23 May through 4th of June.
Additionally, we’ll be renting a mini-van to ferry people back and forth from the airport and from there to the conference center, and while I’ve driven in Europe a fair amount, the 2 days or so after the conference will be site-seeing and going to places familiar, and some not – protection, guidance, being led. We’ve made an appointment for an English tour at the Corrie ten Boom house, and will visit Amsterdam and the beautiful Dutch countryside – it will be amazing I’m sure, there is great peace.
Turkey, Russia, Iran
The recent announcement that Russia has set up a ‘no fly zone’ over Syria, telling the US to stay out, from what analysts say has meant Russia has total control of the skies over Syria. I know I keep mentioning it, but remember the Ezekiel 38 alliance that will one day invade Israel consists mainly of Russia, Turkey, and Iran. What an amazing day to see world events aligning themselves with what Ezekiel saw so long ago. Israel and allies win, which brings great comfort to balance the headlines.
Quick observations about relationship based faith
A vantage point I have that others don’t always is that I can see how different people around the world live out relationship based faith. In a house church in Finland, they all come together as a house church every 3rd Thursday, with various meetings of all sorts through each week. One of those meetings during the week is a men’s meeting meeting every Thursday that they aren’t meeting as a whole. It is a men’s sauna meeting to talk about the Lord and catch up on what He is doing in each other’s lives.- meeting in a sauna and then jumping in an ice cold lake is a Finnish thing for sure, but they are 2 or more gathered in His name, so He is there in their midst, lol!
In some tropical areas homes are smaller and it is too hot to meet inside, so they gather outside for ‘house church’, which often involves others gathering with them when they see the meeting. In places where it isn’t legal to be a Christian the meetings are usually in homes, built around food and fellowship, worship and prayer for one another. And some house churches just getting started are 1 family meeting in their kitchen on a Sunday morning over a big breakfast, sharing the Lord and lessons with the kids. In China some of the meetings can be where neighbors aren’t inclined to report them, like in an alley, or the back of a restaurant, or quietly in homes.
The point isn’t the place but rather the people. The 4 spheres of relationships we see repeatedly in scripture consists of friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. The every so often ‘person of peace’ who wants to know more about the Lord is a 5th, but that person of peace is someone who already knows someone in the group.
The core should naturally care for the core
A couple months ago at a leader’s meeting one of our leaders made the statement ‘the core should naturally care for the core’. The context was talking about how a leader’s in a house church can be so big they want to serve all people all the time, and be all things to all people, but to do so ignores the core group of faithful people who make up the core. The core are the people who need more than a prayer meeting where nothing more is expected of attendees than showing up from time to time.
Jesus explained the way the gospel would be spread in terms of geography and priority in Acts 1:8 when He said it would be first in Jerusalem (Acts 2-8), then Judea and Samaria (Acts 8-10), the to the ‘uttermost parts of the earth’ (Acts 11 with the establishment of the first Gentile home based churches).
In terms of priorities that means the core – our Jerusalem – must first care for itself. On a personal level that means ourselves, and our family come first. We can’t give our rent money to someone further out of the circle lest our own family suffer. These priorities are shown when having a family meal all cell phones are turned off – it is family time and you can’t leave your core to care for those in the ‘uttermost parts’ – the would be neglecting the family core.
In house church it means the core group of faithful people, those who prove their faithfulness to each other and the purpose for that house church, are that house church’s ‘Jerusalem’. There should naturally be a caring among the core for one another. The ‘uttermost parts of the earth’ in house church are those who come and go and never will settle down to invest in the relationships. Maybe their lives are too busy, maybe they don’t want to get too close, maybe they don’t like the word ‘commitment’. The ‘Judea and Samaria’ people attend regularly, they are growing, but maybe they just really need to receive only for a time, so they won’t host or lead a meeting.
The core, the Jerusalem, are the givers, the ones who host, lead, who are stable personally and in life enough to be interested in investing in the relationships. They naturally reach out of those in ‘Judea and Samaria’ so to speak, to bring them along, to mentor them, to follow up with them. But that core group of leaders must have their needs met or they won’t have anything to give to the others. Thus the core must naturally be concerned for the core.
As I mention in my book, Return of the First Church, a house church is a group of committed people who meet regularly, and do so with purpose. If you call yourself a house church yet every person except maybe the host can come and go as they please, with no interest in developing relationships within those who meet, then you’re really just a Bible study or prayer meeting. And if the meetings are just a smaller version of the auditorium with the same person facilitating the meeting each time, it is’t a house church – it’s the auditorium moved to a home, masquerading as a Biblical house church.
I like what Acts 4:23 says after Peter and John were released by the authorities. It says ‘they went to their own’ and reported what the officials had said. “They went to their own”. Do you know who ‘your own’ is? When Peter was released from prison in Acts 12, verse 12 says a group of people were meeting in a home and praying for him – and when Peter was released he went directly to that home. Obviously he knew who were ‘his own’ and that a group would be praying for him there.
As I’ve asked before: If you were released from prison supernaturally late at night, would you know what home you could go to and find people praying for you?
What works, really works well
What we’ve found works, surprise, is just following the pattern in Acts, which is rotating homes and rotating leaders for each meeting. Sometimes in our modern lives a person’a apartment complex may not have parking for 15 or 20 people, so while that person can’t host everyone, they could lead a meeting when someone else hosts in their own home. Be creative, but rotate who leads and when possible, rotate homes. Go house to house as Acts 2:46 indicates. And keep it simple, as 2:42 says: Teaching, fellowship, prayer, food. Invest in the relationships.
A quick word about this month’s teaching series. Many of us know Psalm 103:1 right? “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name.” But did you know the word David used and is translated ‘bless’, means ‘to kneel in reverence and humility’. We read ‘Bless the Lord oh my soul’ and we think it means just to offer thanks or praise, but in reality David is saying kneel down in reverence and humility, and worship Him. NOW read that verse. It sets the tone for the whole Psalm.
That is why this series is so important – it will reset your views on what certain Psalms and passages mean.
Pray for my health – I’m having some challenges this week that need to be cleared up before heading to the Dutch conference next week. Being in 4 countries in 8 weeks back and forth has taken a toll…will update later. Thanks for your giving and support, for you are truly joining us as Paul said of his supporters, the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. I am going in your stead.
Thank you! Blessings,
John & Barb