House Church: Do’s and Don’ts

“I spent ten years on the house church journey, seeking to disciple those Jesus drew from our neighbourhood, discipling my own children as they watched and caught the vision of our journey and anyone who came to our home church via meal invitations, social settings and relationship building. It was a great journey until my wife endured a four year cancer journey and we had to put it all on hold. We learned so much about true Christianity, the ministry of Jesus and the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit. The highlight was attending the inaugural world house church conference in New Delhi back in 2009. In four days we got a glimpse of what God is doing globally.”

That paragraph is the beginning of an essay I posted this morning about our journey. It began as a letter to a church leader in a country ending with “stan” who has been forced by the government to transition from a traditional western church structure to house church, and who requested information and insight on how they work.

If you would like to read more of that essay please click here.



Why Antony Flew Rejected Atheism

From 1949 until 2004, professor Antony Flew was the worlds most celebrated atheist. He wrote dozens of books on the atheism and attacked theistic philosophy relentlessly from his position as a professor of philosophy at Oxford and other universities. He argued that the onus of proof lay with the theist and that the case for divine intelligence, if any, must only come from scientific evidence.

Very early in Flew’s stellar career, in 1953 to be exact, Watson and Crick published their famous findings on the double helix structure of DNA. For the next 51 years, as the complexity of biochemistry became more widely known and understood, Flew became increasingly anxious. In 2004 Antony Flew finally told the world that he was no longer an atheist. The vast amount of intelligence built into the structure of genetics and the cell convinced him otherwise. Here is what he said on page 75 of his last book, There is a God:

“What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.”

Antony Flew followed the evidence to a very costly conclusion. He was viciously attacked by his colleagues for his honesty. However, unlike Richard Dawkins, he was consistent with his belief that you must go where the evidence leads. So what exactly was the evidence of divine design that Flew saw?

To find out go to this link and read the whole fascinating story of what is actually inside the cell


Who Were The Gulenists?

Since the attempted coup in Turkey recently we have been hearing about a purge of Gulenists from their military, educational establishments, politics and the media. The Gulenists follow the teachings of an elderly Turk of the same name living in the USA who is the intellectual, spiritual and financial leader of a worldwide Islamic cult that sought to infiltrate and eventually control Turkey, and then other countries as opportunities came up.

I found the following link on a Russian website and found it very intreguing as to how subversive, clever and widespread the Gulenists are. As an example they own over a hundred publically funded charter schools in the USA alone. The article is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what it’s really happening in Turkey


Ex-Salvation Army Officier Runs World’s Most Successful Prision

When Arne Kvernvik Nilsen was a little boy he had an idea that one day he might grow up to be an entertainer. Instead he became the governor of Bastoy prison island, the first “human ecological prison” in the world. Under Nilsen’s tenure, Bastoy, home to some of the most serious offenders in Norway has received increasing global attention both for the humane conditions under which the prisoners live – in houses rather than cells in what resembles a cosy self-sustaining village, or what the sceptics have often described as a “holiday camp” – and for its remarkably low re-offending rate of just 16% compared with around 70% for prisons across the rest of Europe and the US. Last year alone, the island, not much bigger than a breakwater in the Oslo fjord, played host to visitors from 25 international media organisations, all keen to find out the secret of Nilsen’s success.

Nilsen was brought up on a farm run by his uncle near Trondheim. His father was a fisherman who often spent the spring months away at sea while his mother ran the home and looked after him and his two older siblings. He skied the 5 km to school in the dark in the winter and cycled in the summer, and remembers his childhood with fondness. “I grew up in a very loving home. I loved helping on the farm and, in the summer, helping my father on the boat. There was a lot of joy in our house.”

Nilsen was 17, he joined the Salvation Army, studying at officer training college – where he met his wife. A 16-year ministry followed, during which he spent a year in the UK working one day a week in Lewes prison. On his return to Oslo, he helped to establish and run an institution called Soldammen, geared specifically to helping young drug addicts. It was a wrench, he says, when, after deep thought, he decided the time had come for him to resign as an officer of the Salvation Army. He went on to work in a church mission establishing a centre to care for people with HIV, before going to Oslo University College to study governmental management. In his own time, he spent four years training as a Gestalt psychotherapist and later applied successfully for the position of chief probation officer in the south-east county, which was his opening into the correctional services.

From probation, he went on to work in the ministry of justice where he spent 12 years in various positions, taking charge of designing the content of prison regimes, working for the inspectorate and going on missions abroad, advising the ministries of Latvia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Russia and Georgia. In Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, he advised on reforms of the police, courts and prison system. It was there that he witnessed prison conditions where there was little room for humanity.

“I saw a cell of about 30 square metres holding more than 90 prisoners. They slept on bunk beds three high with just a hole in the concrete floor, covered with a blanket, for a toilet. They wore only underpants in the 40C heat. The smell was unimaginable. Some had been in there for two years or more .”

He then took a year off to practise psychotherapy full-time, working with the prisoners on Bastoy Island. “One of the most interesting challenges of my career,” he says.

When the then governor decided he was going to step down, he suggested Nilsen apply for the post. “It felt like the right time and the right place to continue my work. In Norway, as in the UK and many other countries, we still think quite short-term, wanting to inflict revenge on criminals, wanting them to suffer for what they have done. But in most countries nearly all prisoners are going to be released. So what happens to them when they are in prison is very important.”

“I run this prison like a small society,” he says as we sip tea in his cramped but tidy office. “I give respect to the prisoners who come here and they respond by respecting themselves, each other and this community.” It is this core philosophy that Nilsen, 62, believes is responsible for the success of Bastoy.

“It is not just because Bastoy is a nice place, a pretty island to serve prison time, that people change,” says Nilsen. “The staff here are very important. They are like social workers as well as prison guards. They believe in their work and know the difference they are making.”

It is clear to anyone – when looking at the results of Nilsen’s approach that by achieving its low re-offending rate – thereby reducing the number of future potential victims of released prisoners, Bastoy prison works. Prisoners can come here for the final part of their sentence if they show a commitment to live a crime-free life on release. Bastoy is also one of the cheapest prisons in Norway to run.

Nilsen believes that politicians carry a huge responsibility for the number of people in prison around Europe and the commensurately high reoffending rates. “They should deal with this by rethinking how they address the public regarding what is most effective in reducing reoffending. Losing liberty is sufficient punishment – once in custody we should focus on reducing the risk that offenders pose to society after they leave prison. For victims, there will never be a prison that is tough, or hard, enough. But they need another type of help – support to deal with the experience, rather than the government simply punishing the offender in a way that the victim rarely understands and that does very little to help heal their wounds. Politicians should be strong enough to be honest about this issue.”


Matthew’s Genealogy Explained

The genealogy at the beginning of Matthew is a long list of names that we average modern Christian’s glances over. We have a vague notion that the list is of some importance, but not to us, perhaps to the theologians and the Jews, but the average modern believer rushes on to get to the story of the adult Jesus for inspiration.

However, we need to understand the New Testament was not written to us twenty first century Christians. It was actually directed to an educated Jewish audience in the mid first century in an effort to convince them that the Jesus that Matthew followed was not some random prophet come from the desert, but was in fact THE Messiah, the long overdue promised saviour and redeemer of the nation of Israel.

To have any semblance of believability, the document had to begin in one place and one place only, the linage of Jesus. Matthew had to prove Jesus was of the right linage or any claim to the mantle of Messiah was a fraud.

The Messiah was to be the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3), the seed of Judah (Genesis 49:10) and the seed of David (Psalm 132:11). Therefore only one genealogy weaves its way through the entire 1,500 years of the Old Testament, the genealogy of David. Matthew’s genealogy therefore lays the crucial foundation for all that follows. This genealogy lays the foundation for the believability of Jesus claim to be the saviour of the house of Israel. Jesus does indeed come from the line of David, on both sides (Luke 3:23-38)!

Matthew intriguingly mentions that Joseph is descended from Jeconiah (Verse 11). Jeconiah had a curse placed on him by Jeremiah declaring that no descendant of his would sit on the throne of Israel (Jeremiah 22:24-30). If Jesus was Joseph’s natural son he would have been disqualified for the mantle of Messiah. Of cause Matthew and Matthew’s audience knew this.  This is why Matthew launches straight into the story of the virgin birth after the genealogy. Jesus is not really the son of Joseph, but the son of God through the virgin birth (Matthew 1:18-24). He came from the line of David through Jeconiah to Joseph, but was not really Joseph’s son.

Matthew also mentions four gentile women in the linage of Jesus. In doing so he breaks the Jewish tradition of only mentioning males in genealogies. Why? The purpose of the coming of Jesus was to bring a new covenant (contract) to humanity in which gentiles and sinners were welcome into the Kingdom of God (Matthew 22:1-14). Matthew uses the women to represent both gentiles and sinners, since three of the women were involved in sexual vice.

There are many other layers of meaning in this genealogy. However this short summary gives us enough reasons to re-evaluate and begin to appreciate the power of this list on its original intended audience.

Christianity in Laos

Our trip through Asia recently took us from Vietnam to Laos, and as usual we prayed for God to show us a glimpse of what he is doing in this destitute, corrupt, spiritually blind country.

Laos has been squashed by bigger neighbours right through its history. It is land-locked, mountainous in the north and stinking hot in the south. At various times the Thais, Khmers from Cambodia, French and the Vietnamese have ruled it. Some 2 million US bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War in an effort to stop supplies coming down to The Vietcong in South Vietnam. This destabilised the monarchy and allowed Communism to usurp power. Hundreds of thousands of Hmong hill tribes people from the north, who had been fighting with the Americans, then had to flee the country, mostly to the USA.

the current Communist government oversees a deeply impoverished country and it is mainly their own fault. They steal everything from their people, from foreign aid doners, from the Chinese, from tourists. They are thugs with a whole country at their mercy and tolerate zero non-government institutions and activity. To illustrate; internationally respected organic agricultural pioneer, Sombath Somphone, disappeared off the streets of Vientiane in late 2012. Camera footage shows him being abducted by police. His crime; becoming too popular with local people trying to improve their lives. He was outside the only authority allowed, the government. Never did he have any political intentions, such is the insecurity of the politically incestuous idiot thugs that run Laos.

The mighty Mekong is Laos’ greatest resource, and at present there are at least fifty hydro dams recently constructed, under construction, or planned, with Chinese money of course. With increased daming upstream in China, combined with climate change, many are deeply worried about the future of this river system. The super high speed rail link from China to Singapore is also under construction but development has not yet reached Laos. The Chinese era of colonisation has begun.

into this sad situation, one rarely considered seriously by the throng of western and Asian tourists that come to Laos for pleasure of various descriptions, God is at work. The French occupation from the late 19th century till the onset of Communism left a legacy of backwardness…and the Catholic Church. Somehow though, in the midst of suffering and poverty, the seed of the true gospel has taken root. Some 2.5% of the population is now in relationship with Jesus. This is higher than all other South East Asian countries. Most of this number made up of believers from the various hill tribe peoples of the north, people who were not Buddhist but animist. This is a very similar situation to that of Vietnam. Nearly all of these believers meet in homes as no non-Buddhist religious buildings are allowed to be built in Laos. This simply speeds the growth.

During our 10 day journey from Vientiane to the far north we met no believers. However on our last day in the country something interesting happened. Annette was downstairs at the laundry section of our hotel and started chatting to a young local lad in his early twenties who had started working at the hotel just two days earlier. It turns out he had just completed his training as a novice Buddhist priest, as many young men do in this part of the world. When Annette mentioned she was a Christian he replied with a startling statement. He said he was on a journey to becoming a Christian himself!!! He had lost faith in Buddhism and had been engaging with a local Christian for four months and had wanted to learn about the teachings of Jesus.

His greatest stumbling block was interesting. He said he had been asked to teach on Buddhism at the local university and felt he couldn’t do so if he became a believer in Jesus. Annette helped him out by telling him of the Hindus and Muslims we have met in India who now happily worship Jesus while keeping their traditional external culture. She suggested he teach the good things from Buddhism as a lifestyle while maintaining his faith in Jesus. He seemed visibly relieved at hearing is news. The next morning we gave him a translation of Pauls writings to keep, and then caught the bus. It was all over so quickly. God is good!





Meet Vu, Our Hmong Trekking Guide

we met Vu in mid June while staying in the Vietnamese mountain holiday town of Sapa for eleven nights, escaping the heat of the Hanoi summer.

After doing a trek through the rice fields of the Hmong minority hill tribe people, with a  useless Vietnamese guide, we were keen to do another with a local. On the streets we met Vu and organised a trek to her village some 15km away via the ridge outside Sapa. It was going to be a spectacular walk.

While hiking through majestic mountains and coming down into the famous Hmong terraced rice fields we discovered that Vu was a Christian like us. The conversation quickly developed from there. She told us her village used to be nominally Catholic, as is most of the Hmong community. Then in the early 2000’s Australian and American Christians shared with them the good news of persoanl relationship with Jesus. She said the whole village responded to the message and became believers. It was the missing link they had been looking for.

Being a totalitarian Communist state, the domineering Vietnamese police took none too kindly to this development. Leaders were imprisoned and bashed, meetings were broken up, believers harassed. This went on for about five years and served to purify the church of any half hearted followers.

When I asked it if it was still dangerous, Vu said it was now calm and had been for most of the last ten years, that they had their own church building and would we like to come to church next Sunday! Why was it now calm, we asked? Her answer was instructive. She said the government noticed there was no more crime being reported from the new Christian villages. There was also no domestic violence, which had been rampant due to the prevalence of “happy water”, alcohol. In short, the area had become model citizens, so they were finally left alone to worship as they pleased…and it was safe for us to visit!

We finished our hike with a great sense of anticipation.

After a 15km ride on the back of motorbikes down into their stunning valley, we came across a vibrant church service of some 150 people. Many of the women were dressed in their fantastic indigo Hmong traditional dresses. There were children everywhere. It was noisy, but happy. I was asked to speak for a few minutes so shared some thoughts on the parable of the prodigal son. The service went for three hours, in the Hmong language, a language which has been actively suppressed by the Vietnamese government.

Afterward we enjoyed a simple lunch at Vu’s house, hosted by her daughter-in-law. Vu was busy earning a few more precious dollars taking another hiking group that day. It was indeed a privilege to be welcomed into a traditional Hmong home in the middle of their vast terraced system of mountainside rice fields. These are enterprising people with little formal education. We had never met them before, but we were one family, the family of Jesus Christ.


Young Brits Stuffed Up Their Brexit Vote

Unless you have been living under a rock lately you would have been inundated with media alarm bells in response to the shock Brexit vote. In response to the vote to leave we have seen mass demonstrations by the youth of Britian, millions more sign online petitions and noisy vocal outrage. Talking to British backpackers in Vietnam and Laos straight after the vote was a fascinating experience. They felt betrayed. They were bitter and angry. This cohort is clearly not used to not getting what they want.

However, what few know is that most Britons between the age of 18 and 25 failed to bother voting. Projections suggest only a little over a third of Brits aged 18-24 voted in the referendum. For those aged 65 and over, that number was closer to around 80 per cent. Given there are more than five million people in Britain aged between 18-24, and the vote was decided on a margin of only 1.3 million, it’s safe to say that if the younger generation matched the participation of the older generation, Britain could still be a member of the EU.

The entrenched laziness and political cynicism of today’s youth cost them a “Remain” victory and now it is all over bar the shouting.

And shout they will as the greatest sin you can commit against a spoilt millennial is to offend them. They will turn on you, label you and fight you. I saw this first hand on Ha Long Bay when talking to a Young Brit. He labelled all those who voted for Brexit as uneducated rednecks. Which, by definition, means nearly all older people, the very people who have a memory long enough to understand the difference between British sovereignty and subservience to the arrogant EU superstate. Yes, name calling is still the lowest level of debate!

So what happens now? Well Britian will regain control of its courts, it’s trade, it’s parliamentary sovereignty it’s regulations and its future. This used to be called freedom! Benjamin Franklin once said that a people who trade freedom for security deserve neither. In the years to come the millennial a will thank those “rednecks” for getting them out of the EU. Britian has just left an already sinking ship. The age of the elites is over, long live nationalism.

Which nation will be next?


When humans disappeared…

Here is an insightful clip that explains what would happen to planet earth if all humans disappeared today, enjoy.

Christianity in Kazakhstan

Today is my last day in Kazakhstan after a two month on-again-off-again visit that included a month in Kyrgyzstan. Christianity came to this part of the world over a thousand years ago. While Europe was suffering through a spiritual dark age, the Christian Faith was confidently spreading east toward China via enthusiastic Nestorian missionaries. Bishops were appointed in all the areas we now call countries ending with “stan” as well as Tibet and China.

Then came the exterminator Ghengis Kahn, followed two hundred years later by Tamelane, the Muslim warlord who executed some seven million Christians. Since that time this part of the world has been nominally Islamic, and at the same time clinging on to its folk religious traditions. In Kyrgyzstan I visited an Islamic victory tower built on the site of a defeated Nestorian city.

In the Nineteenth and twentieth centuries Russia starved the people, suppressed all religions (especially Islam) and imported millions of Russian settlers. As a consequence Islam does not run very deep here today and th country looks to the West for its culture.

With the fall of Communism there was a brief window of opportunity for the seed of Christianity to be re-sown into this wonderful land. Missionaries from the western world came in numbers during the 1990’s with support and programs to help Kazakhstan battle an epidemic of drug addiction that erupted in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union. The church began picking up the lives that Communism shattered. At the same time indigenous believers emerged into the sunshine after decades of underground activity.

These last two months I have been getting to know some of the local believers. It is not easy here any more for them. Almaty has some significant churches, but generally they have to keep a low profile and are watched by the police. Step too far into the arena of witnessing and they are in trouble. Recently a high profile pastor was driven from the country. Evangelistic literature is banned, open witnessing is banned, and foreign, preachers preaching is closely monitored.

The government gives lip service to Islam, but in reality, it is deeply suspicious of radical Islam as well as Christianity. If an Islamist begins stirring up trouble and calls for Jihad they usually disappear forever. This is a dictatorship and the president will tolerate no threats to his power, no matter which direction the come from.

please pray for this country. The people are wonderful, kind and welcoming. The country is stunning and economically on the move, but they need to hear the truth. They need to know about Jesus once again, they have been in spiritual darkness for six hundred years, the church is growing, but it is not yet secure here.