Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Yes, More Thoughts on "The Heavenly Man"!

A few days ago I mentioned the Back to Jerusalem movement (please scroll down to read more about it; I’m too lazy to repeat myself). Here’s the “training curriculum” they use. I promise you this is real. I wonder how many comfortable American Christians—including me—would sign up for this:

“1. How to suffer and die for the Lord. We examine what the Bible says about suffering, and look at how the Lord’s people have laid down their lives for the advance of the gospel throughout history.

“2. How to witness for the Lord. We teach how to witness for the Lord under any circumstance, on trains or buses, or even in the back of a police van on our way to the execution ground.

“3. How to escape for the Lord. We know that sometimes it is the Lord who sends us to prison to witness for him, but we also believe the devil sometimes wants us to go to prison to stop the ministry God has called us to do. We teach the missionaries special skills such as how to free themselves from handcuffs, and how to jump from second-storey windows without injuring themselves.

“This is not a ‘normal’ seminary or Bible College!” (290)

That’s for sure! I wonder how much the American church would change if our Bible colleges and seminaries trained our leaders for war rather than middle-class careers. I just read that back and it sounds so arrogant, but I can’t get the question out of my head. I honestly think it would weed out the game-players and start a revival.

I’m just one little man and I can’t control or influence such grandiose institutions, but what I can do is pray that God Almighty will put a fire in my soul to preach the gospel at any cost, and that he will help me train others to love him so much that they will gladly endure the cross for the joy that’s set before them. I think I will. Will you join me?

Monday, July 23, 2007

More Thoughts on "The Heavenly Man"

I love to be around and read about people who have an evangelistic fervor because they bring such a sobering, and just plain wise, perspective to the table. Here’s what Brother Yun said about staying motivated to reach people with the gospel:

“In fact, I believe the best way for the Chinese church to remain strong is to keep it motivated to reach out to the nations of the world. When believers focus on serving the Lord and reaching the lost, God blesses them and the church remains sharp. When we become self-centered and critical of each other, Satan has won already and the church will become a blunt, useless instrument” (289).

And remember, the Chinese church remains motivated for sharing the gospel at great personal cost. Oh Lord, may we who live in the Luxury Inn called the United States of America learn, along with our Chinese brothers and sisters, to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow you in sharing the gospel with the world and touching the untouchables of the world!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More Thoughts on "The Heavenly Man"

Along with other prominent leaders in the Chinese house church, Brother Yun spearheaded a movement called “Back to Jerusalem.” The idea is to take the gospel to all of the lands between China and Jerusalem. Reaching Jerusalem is not the point, sharing the gospel in the heart of the 10/40 window is the point. You can read more about this movement at

Of course, the problem with this vision is that the lands between China and Jerusalem are populated by the peoples most opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and violently so. Thus, if the Chinese house church is to fulfill this vision, it will cost many people their lives. Still, they have committed to sending 100,000 missionaries as soon as possible, and in fact they have already begun to do so.

Here is brother Yun’s perspective on this vision and the suffering for which it calls:

“We have also come to understand that the past thirty years of suffering, persecution, and torture for the house churches in China were all part of God’s training for us. The Lord has perfectly fitted us to go as missionaries to the Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu worlds.

“Once I spoke in the West and a Christian told me, ‘I’ve been praying for years that the Communist government in China will collapse, so Christians can live in freedom.’ This is not what we pray! We never pray against our government or call down curses on them. Instead, we have learned that God is in control of both our own lives and the government we live under…Don’t pray for the persecution to stop! We shouldn’t pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure. Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects his love and power. This is true freedom!” (286-87)

Oh Father, may we learn from our cross-bearing brothers and sisters in China!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

More Thoughts on "The Heavenly Man"

At one point in his life Brother Yun felt a calling to begin a training center for the next generations of leaders in the Chinese house church, and so they started the “Prophet Samuel Training Center.” The first class had thirty students and was “held inside a cave on top of a mountain” (220). I can’t remember if they slept up there, but I do know that they spent the majority of their time together for the duration of their training.

What struck me most about this is that the Chinese house churches are more concerned with accomplishing the mission that the Lord has set before them than they are with their own comfort. They are willing to suffer whatever indignities they must and whatever pain they must to spread the gospel throughout their land and the uttermost parts of the world.

It seems to be the opposite in America: we’ll set our hearts toward mission once we have a comfortable place from which to do so.

After this first round of workers had been trained, they were warned about the dangers of engaging in the mission for which they had been trained. Their response was this: “We are not afraid of going hungry or of being beaten. We are willing to die for the gospel! We are only afraid of going without God’s presence. Please pray he will be with us every day” (227).

Oh how I pray that this kind of spirit and attitude will come over the American church! How I pray that with all of our hearts we will learn to say, “We’re only afraid that God will not be with us!” How I pray that we will learn to suffer indignities and pain and torture and even death for the sake of the gospel. How I pray that we will learn to think less of our comforts and more of the glory of God in the salvation of the lost. How I pray that we will learn to be like Jesus, letting go of what is within our grasp—world-class comfort—and becoming obedient all the way to death on a cross that others might hear about and believe in so wonderful a God and Savior as Jesus Christ.

Oh Lord Jesus, may it be so!

Friday, July 20, 2007

More Thoughts on "The Heavenly Man"

“The path of following the Lord Jesus Christ is not an easy one. Along the way lies suffering and hardship, but nothing we experience will ever compare to the suffering Jesus endured for us on the cross.
“I have a problem with the ‘prosperity’ teaching prevalent today, which tells us if we follow the Lord we’ll be safe and comfortable. This is completely contrary to Scripture as well as to our experience in China. In addition to serving years in prison, I’ve been arrested about thirty different times for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“To follow God is a call not only to live for him, but to die for him also. ‘If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord’ Romans 14:8” (page 214).
Enough said!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thoughts on "The Heavenly Man"

Over my vacation I read several books, one of which was The Heavenly Man, the life-story of Christian Brother Yun and the Chinese house-church movement. While I have some reservations about the book, I was very encouraged by it and over the next couple of days I'd like to share some of my favorite excerpts along with my thoughts about them.

The first excerpt comes just after Brother Yun has read Acts 1:8 for the first time and begins to call on the Lord for power to accomplish the ministry he believes that the Lord has given to him:

"I prayed to the Lord, 'I need the power of the Holy Spirit. I am willing to be your witness.' After the prayer God's spirit of joy fell upon me. A deep revelation of God's love and presence flooded my being. I'd never enjoyed singing before but many new songs of worship flowed from my lips. They were words I had never learned before. Later I wrote them down. These songs are still sung in the Chinese house churches to this day."

I love this passage! Ephesians 5:18-19 says, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart..."

We all sing about what we love. That's why there's such a thing as "bar-songs" and genres such as "rock-n-roll" which celebrate debauchery. We are wired to sing about what we love, or at least to enjoy others as they sing about it. The ultimate meaning of this impulse is that we are wired to worship God, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, expressing our heartfelt love and thanks and praise to him. And one of the sure signs that someone is filled with the Spirit of God is that they long to sing to the Lord!

Have you been singing lately?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

My Back, Our Vaction, & the Name of This Blog

Thanks to those of you who have been praying for me over the last few days. My back is much better! I'm at about 90% and so thankful to be feeling healthy again. Tomorrow morning Kim, Rachel, and I will be leaving for a week's vacation in the northwoods, Bemidji to be exact. We're really looking forward to camping, exploring, fishing, resting, connecting with one another, and seeking the Lord with all of our hearts. We'll appreciate your prayers.

As we leave, I thought I would re-post the original post to this blog because it explains why I named it what I did and part of why I have such passion for the Word of God. I haven't edited it at all--mostly because it's 10:03 and I don't have time--but I think by leaving it exactly as it was you'll catch something of the passions of my heart that gave rise to this blog.

Thanks for taking the time to read it, and for praying for us.

Welcome to my new blog! I took the name "Born of the Word" from the 1528 document, The Ten Conclusions of Berne, written by the Swiss reformers Berthold Haller, Francis Kold, and Ulrich Zwingli. Here is the full text of the first of their conclusions: "The holy Christian Church, whose only Head is Christ, is born of the Word of God, and abides in the same, and listens not to the voice of a stranger" (Creeds of the Church, John H. Leith, ed., John Knox Press, 1982, pg. 129).

This sentence sets my heart to worship for at least three reasons. First, I was saved as I read 1 John, particularly 1:5-6 and 3:4-10:"[1:5] This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. [6] If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth...[3:4] Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. [5] You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. [6] No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. [7] Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righ teousness is righteous, as he is righ teous. [8] Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. [9] No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. [10] By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother."

Thus, the theological formulation, “The holy Christian Church, whose only Head is Christ, is born of the Word of God…” is not merely a formulation to me, it is descriptive of the story of my life. And it does indeed set my heart to worship!

Second, my life in Christ has ever been sustained and nourished by the Word of God, in fact, the more prominent the Word the more pronounced the growth. I cannot tell you how these words from Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5 held me when my mother died and it seemed that my whole world was falling apart: "I will never leave you or forsake you." Or how these words from Hebrews 13:8 sustained my faith in the midst of deep intellectual crises: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Or how these words from Matthew 28:20 humbly emboldened me in the fires of church planting: "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Indeed, my journals testify abundantly to the fact that, by the mercies of God, I have been sustained and nourished by the Word of God in triumph and trial, in health and sickness, in strength and weakness. And this does indeed set my heart to worship!

Finally, I love living in that truth that “The holy Christian Church…listens not to the voice of a stranger.” Consider the wisdom expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:“[18] For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [19] For it is written,‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’[20] Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? [21] For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. [22] For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, [23] but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, [24] but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [25] For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

A few weeks ago I was with a group of church planters in Dallas, Texas. During a "paradigm stretching exercise," a few of the planters expressed that they would love to expose their church planting protégés to the greatest leaders in the world, one of whom was Donald Trump. I must admit that I did not handle myself as well as I could have, but rather blurted out, "Who in the world is Donald Trump when we have access to God Almighty, through the Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace and power of the Spirit?" I cannot imagine Jesus or the apostles or the early church consulting the likes of Donald Trump concerning corporate growth or leadership development.

And just this week, I had the privilege of having lunch with Tony Jones, Doug Padgitt, and John Piper. While I appreciated and learned from some of what the former two shared in the conversation, I wondered what will be the implications of the fact that from the earliest days of their movement (the Emergent Church), they spent a lot of time, energy, and resources consulting the likes of Jacques Derrida.Now, I spent several years of my life grappling with the work of Derrida and others, and I do have a certain kind of respect for them and their work. But in the end, “…the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19), and thus it is not wise to build our house on that wisdom. (Additionally, I fear that these men are repeating the mistakes of others like Paul Tillich, John Cobb, and liberation theologians who took as their points of departure existentialism, process philosophy, and Marxism, respectively. The Word of God is able to stand on its own, both in terms of its analysis of and solutions for the human condition, and it does not need the buttress of the wisdom of the world.)

There is great joy and freedom and power in forsaking the wisdom and ways of the world in favor of the wisdom and ways of God, and therefore I delight to embrace the language and spirit of the early reformers: “The holy Christian Church…listens not to the voice of a stranger.” And this does indeed set my heart to worship.

My hope for this lengthy explanation is not primarily that you'll understand why I named my blog, "Born of the Word," but that your heart will, like mine, be set to worship as you ponder the mercies and wisdom and power of God, displayed in the Word of God. I look forward to reading your comments.

For the glory of Christ, and the upbuilding of His church,