Monday, April 28, 2014

Authority of Scripture in China's Underground House Church

As a missionary I am devoted to the practical application of the Bible. Evangelism, discipleship, and church planting fill my mind and my day. However, I have an insatiable desire for understanding. One of the great temptations of my mind, is the quest for answers and understanding that goes far beyond practice. In other words, I want to know things that I don' really NEED to know. This hunger occasionally drives me into a theology binge, where I will disappear for a weekend in order to read theological works, read articles, and listen to lectures and debates on theological issues. Atonement Theory; God's foreknowledge, providence, and sovereignty; and the trinity are theological topics that I have studied for some time and still enjoy diving into on a regular basis.

One of the most informative and entertaining ways to learn theological issues is to listen to debates. Hearing opposing views upheld by different exegetical points is immensely helpful, and the presence of personalities and conflict help keep the learning interesting. Many times, however, it quickly becomes obvious that one of the two debating clearly holds a higher view of Scripture than the other. This is particularly obvious in debates on the practice of homosexuality within the church.

This caused me to go back and evaluate my own view of Scripture and its authority in my life. Are there claims in Scripture that I have explained away? Have I valued my perceived experience with the Holy Spirit over what the Bible says? Can I defend my views through sound exegesis? Obviously not all believers will wrestle with these claims. The majority of obedient disciples of Christ throughout the world have no idea what exegesis means. Those of us who are blessed with a wealth of Biblical knowledge have more tools available to us to test our views by Scripture and more tools available to us to deny Scripture's authority over our lives in whichever ways we desire.

The following is from a free e-book put out by the founder of I immensely enjoyed the book. I don't agree with the entire contents and am unsure that it will bear the fruit that the authors desire, but I recognize it as an important clarion call for the body of Christ today.

The book includes a statement of faith from the China Gospel Fellowship, an underground house church network with 8 million members. The following is their statement on the Bible.

EDITOR’S NOTE: After the Lord’s clear leading to use the name Gospel Fellowships there was a word search preformed on the internet and this statement of faith from one of the larger Chinese house
Church networks called: China Gospel Fellowship was found. This was a surprise and great blessing for before we were never aware of this underground house Church name. After reading their statement of
faith, there was an immediate burden to make this statement of faith available to Gospel Fellowships and to any other house Churches or groups that would like to identify with the statement. We believe it is a tremendous way for believers to be in unity worldwide with precious brothers and sisters in China who are experiencing a great expansion of the Church and revival. Below is the statement of faith found on the China Gospel Fellowship.

 We believe that all 66 Books of the Bible are God-breathed. They were inspired by God through the Holy Spirit to the prophets and Apostles who composed them. The Bible is complete and inerrant truth. It has the highest authority. Nobody is allowed to distort it in any way. The Bible clearly states God’s purpose of redemption of mankind. The Bible is the highest standard of our Christian life and ministry. We are against any denials of the Bible; we are against any teaching or theories that regard the Bible as out of date, or as
erroneous; we are also against the practice of believing only in selected sections of the Scripture. We want to emphasize that the Scriptures must be interpreted in light of their historical context and within the overall context of scriptural teachings. While interpreting the Bible, one must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the principle of interpreting the Scripture by the Scripture. The interpretation should be coherent and consistent, but not based on isolated verses. Biblical interpretation should take into account the orthodox faith that has been taken as the heritage of the Church down through history. We are against interpretation of the Scripture merely according to one’s own will, or by subjective spiritualization.
2 Timothy 3:16
Hebrews 1:1, 1 Peter 1:10
Romans 3:4, Revelation 22:18-19
John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9
Psalm 19:7–9, Acts 20:27
1 John 2:27, 1 Corinthians 2:13
2 Peter 1:20

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: Love Hunger by David Kyle Foster

David Kyle Foster's autobiography grips the reader with a potent and poignant intimacy from beginning to end. The subtitle, "a harrowing journey from sexual addiction to true fulfillment" is a tame understatement for the story of self-abuse, prostitution, homosexuality, and redemption this book contains. Foster's transparent retelling of trauma, sin, and self-destruction can only be overpowered by his story of receiving the love of God the Father.

Though I could barely put this book down, there were many times I could barely keep reading. Foster writes with an unsettling intimacy, drawing me into a story I could barely handle hearing, yet I so easily recognize. It felt vaguely dangerous. On one hand I was gripped by a familiar pain and shame; remembering the degradation and hopelessness from the small amount of overlap I have with Foster's experience. On the other hand, I want to disengage from the same voyeurism to which our culture is addicted: obsessed with the next story of scandal and promiscuity. Love Hunger is raw and real, harrowing and at times lurid because it is accurate to the material described. The thread of Christ's redemption always stays visible enough to cling to, and along with Foster, the reader is pulled from soul-staining experiences into the healing and restoring love of God.

In the same way that we experience pain after pain and shame after shame through Foster's eyes, he draws us into encounter after encounter with the love of God. He does not describe a process, or even a journey, but a relationship: an ongoing experience with the saving person of Jesus. The book is full of practical insight and wisdom, but that is only a byproduct of the encounter that overflows from its pages. Love Hunger is an encounter with the tragedy of human sin, the beauty of salvation and redemption and God's great love. It is an intensely human story, told in an intensely human way. Perhaps the greatest miracle is the fact that such a story can be told with such integrity and innocence, proof that Foster is not clinging to some claim of a miraculous encounter. He is the miraculous encounter. His encounters with God's love define his story and the way he tells it.

This book contains explicit content some believers may find inappropriate (Eph 5:12).

My thanks to Chosen for providing a complimentary review copy. I have given an honest review.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Passion Week Visualized - BibleGateway

BibleGateway has a phenomenal post featuring the following infographic as part of a series of brilliant infographics from the NIV Quickview Bible:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Holy Fire by R.T. Kendall

R.T. Kendall's Holy Fire steps into the current debate concerning the Spirit's work in our lives, providing an inspiring, bold, yet curbed approach to the current presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. Kendall does not openly respond to John MacArthur or the "Strange Fire" conference, but has taken the occasion to write a book that strongly emphasizes the continuation of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit's "direct and immediate" work in our lives, and reformed theology. Kendall's emphasis on the activity of the Spirit in assurance of salvation and transformation opens the door to the current work of the Spirit by bridging into the supernatural with sound theology and common experience.While hardly an exhaustive work on the Holy Spirit, Kendall's book stands as an inspiring and accessible introduction to the reformed charismatic perspective.

Kendall's writing remains exceptionally clear and accessible throughout the book, in spite of handling some rather deep theological issues and citing a number of nuances in theology from different puritan writers. He illustrates his theology with testimonies from his own life, illuminating how his own personal journey and his relationship with Christ revealed his current stance on the continuing operation of the gifts of the Spirit and reformed Calvinism. The book also draws heavily from the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, Kendall's mentor and one of the most respected reformed preachers of the last century. Jones' own embrasure of the gifts and operation of the Holy Spirit and his passionate advocacy for receiving the Spirit's empowerment stands as one of Kendall's most drawn upon arguments. These factors make the book seem more like an appeal to the reformed church to embrace the Spirit, though Kendall does take a significant amount of time advocating reformed theology to Charismatic readers.

I greatly appreciated Kendall's emphasis on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. A large portion of Holy Fire reminded me of the teaching of Roy Hession and Norman Grubb, which sprang out of the revivals in Africa in the 1950's. The reminder of the Spirit's work to convict, correct, encourage, refresh, inspire, and cleanse is desperately needed in the church today, as is Kendall's teaching on grieving and quenching the Spirit. One of the most disappointing parts of the book was his outlandish claims regarding open-theism and "hyper grace" teaching. While I'm not an open advocate of either, Kendall's brief and scathing misrepresentation of both views will not help either side of the debates regarding God's foreknowledge or His grace. His final chapter, which contains a prophetic word for the future of the Church was exhilarating and the most inspiring and poignant chapter in the book for me.

While I would only recommend portions of this book, it stands as an important bridge from cessationism into the work of the Spirit. I hope it will have a profound impact on the reformed church and a positive impact in redirecting the Charismatic church back to focusing on transformation and a step by step walk with the Spirit of God.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Movements Reading Project

Though this blog hasn't featured a deluge of new projects, I have been diligently reading and studying the Bible. In fact, I've been in the middle of one of my most involving Bible reading projects ever. I've been hinting at this project for some time. I started in 2014 (actually I gave myself a head start at the end of 2013), and continued it through my trip to Uganda, which yielded some interesting experiences.

My life and ministry has been consumed by a vision of multiplication. I am fully committed and involved in the principles and practices of Church Planting and Disciplemaking Movements. My constant involvement in this lifestyle and mission has led me to consume the word of God voraciously with the Great Commission (really the only commission) and Church Planting in mind.

Inspired by Steve Addison's What Jesus Started and the example of Jeff Sundell, I committed to read the Gospels and Acts thirty times in 2014. That means I am reading ten chapters per day of just Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. In addition to that, I will be reading the New Testament at least twice, and the Old Testament once. Just writing about it makes me feel a bit overwhelmed.

In my study of the Gospels and Acts I am focusing on six major themes, and diligently taking notes on each subject. Each time I go through a book, I carefully take notes on one of the following:

How did Jesus, the Disciples, the Church, and Paul:

1. See the End (see and cast vision)
2. Connect (with lost people)
3. Share (the gospel)
4. Train (disciples)
5. Gather (and do church)
6. Multiply

These six topics are part of Steve Addison's Movements Diagram, and his missiological study of the Gospels and Acts in What Jesus Started. In a sense, I'm retracing Addison's steps for myself. I've read his book twice, but I won't go back to look at it again until the end of the year. I'll check to see if I missed anything that he found and if my conclusions match his.

I'm extending the study beyond the Gospels and Acts and using the same note scheme on the rest of the Bible. While I'm taking notes on one of the six topics per read-through of the Gospels and Acts, I'm taking notes on all six at once per read-through of the Old Testament and the Epistles. This means a far less thorough study of the other books, but the majority of the Gospels and Acts is evangelism, discipleship, church planting etc. I am surprised at how much I am finding these themes through the rest of the Bible, however.

This project features the ESV Single Column Journaling Bible and 005 Pigma Micron pens. I may write a follow up post on the fruits of this study, but you can see some in the video below along with the vision of Movements and an explanation of the movements diagram.