You are browsing the archive for .

From Outlaw Faith to Monarch Faith

September 23, 2010 in Headlines

“Exactly what is ‘Outlaw Faith’?”

That’s the question I often get asked when talking about the difference between Traditional Christianity (yuk!) and Outlaw Christianity (hurray!). In response, I squint my eyes (usually from the smoke of my pipe, but sometimes to look real intimidating) and with considerable coolness, I ask, “You don’t know?”

“No, I don’t know.”

“Well,” I say, tapping my pipe thoughtfully, “that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?” (And I return to squinting and puffing again.) Nine out of 10 times, that’s all I have to do.

Occasionally the obnoxious-type will keep pressing me…“What do you mean by that?

And for that person I would say, “Study the life of King David–then we’ll talk.” Again, this is hugely effective for 9o% of my stubborn “Outlaw Faith” inquiries.

But some will ask, “Why study David?” And others come back and say, “OK, I’ve studied David, so what is ‘Outlaw Faith’?”

So I know I’m in real trouble now. As a result, I’ve been studying David’s life now for about a month and headed down to Columbus to get a collection of teachings from my mother, who taught a series on David about 25 years ago.

The Columbus Connection

“There’s really no more than three teachings on David,” mom said. “After a point, it’s all about David killing people!” (What’s the problem with that?)

So I’m pretty dismayed, but still hopeful as I head south, because I know there’s more than three teachings on David, and maybe we can dig deeper and get past mom’s aversion to David’s warrior-ways. After all, he occupies about 30% of the Old Testament, so he’s the primary character in the Old Testament. Across the entire Bible, only the life of Jesus occupies more material. Three teachings!?

The next thing I know, I’m sitting in the emergency room with mom, waiting for service (for hours) for my bruised ribs, and we look at her David series…she has 150 pages of teaching notes!

Check it out--a beheaded Goliath is one of the many thrills in this series.

“You taught all this in three teachings?” I ask, amazed (with visions of the groans I receive whenever I go past 35 minutes in my Central Teachings—I could cover this material in three sessions if each session was 4 hours long!).

Mom shakes her head in amazement. “I’m glad you made me go through this. I forgot how much material I had here.” (She’s almost 90 years old.) She will be teaching a David series this fall in the 4 Challenge Groups she leads  in Columbus. So we spent four days pouring through her 150 pages of material and five books on David she has in her library. Now I’ve got more material than I need. All told, she had about 20 teachings on David’s life (which we will cut down, of course).

The Plan Takes Shape

The plan is to cover David’s life over the course of this Fall season, and there is plenty of good material to work from. Read 1 and 2 Samuel to see what I mean.

David’s life is really a great answer the original question, “What is ‘Outlaw Faith’?” We see the difference between David living as an outlaw, on the run and hiding from persecution by King Saul, for no good reason except that David trusted God, and Saul didn’t. The way he handled things often is not exemplary, but David had the right heart, according to Paul:

“‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’  Acts 13:22 (NASB)

David was unafraid of standing up for God, despite tremendous opposition and pressures that would scare even the strongest among us. Yet David held a courageous faith all throughout most of his life, until he settled into a successful reign as King himself. Then we see spiritual corruption compromising his courageous faith. I think the appropriate title for this study of contrasts is, “From Outlaw Faith to Monarch Faith,” and it really helps explain the spiritual weakness so typical in American Christianity.

We at NeoXenos obviously are not immune from settling into the comforts and compromise of Monarch Faith, because we live in a world of great prosperity. Christian Tribalism is perhaps the greatest blight on the face of modern Christianity. The Christian Tribal Family Unit is a hotbed for self-indulgence and a very self-enclosed, self-protective world which cares little for the plight of outsiders. We love to build our own little kingdoms. The greatest problem with such a quest for security is the loss of God’s security which only comes through faith and dependence on Him, not from the strength of our own human kingdom. God’s Kingdom operates by principles and powers completely different than our petty human kingdoms.

The study begins in October (10/2), and should prove to be not only insightful, but hopefully very dramatic. Each week will be another story of blood, gore, victorious faith, God’s love, chopped-off heads, dismembered bodies, and many of the elements that will compete with the best of Prime Time television.

Ecclesiastes Series Begins

July 2, 2010 in News

One brief sentence captures the genius of this remarkable book:

Who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?  Ecclesiastes 2:25 (NLT)

It seems obvious enough, but it takes a lifetime to understand what that really means.

So it goes throughout the book of Ecclesiastes—one profound statement follows another through a twisting, turning labyrinth of caves running deep beneath the surface of life. Written by Solomon, this book proves why he truly was the wisest person who ever lived before Christ.

The book pierces superficial life with the questions people rarely dare to ask:

In the few days of our meaningless lives, who knows how our days can best be spent? Our lives are like a shadow…
Ecclesiastes 6:12 (NLT)

Yet God gave us this book so we can tackle the deepest despair before it tackles us, like this little shocker that hits everyone, sooner or later.

But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:11 (NLT)

The book really throws uptight people for a loop, too:

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NLT)

Especially those negative, melancholic minds get warped by this book:

Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind. Ecclesiastes 6:9 (NLT)

And just in case the negative melancholic misses the point:

Don’t long for “the good old days.” This is not wise.  Ecclesiastes 7:10 (NLT)

But those self-righteous, phlegmatic minds can’t scoff at their negative brethren for too long in this book:

A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time. Ecclesiastes 7:4 (NLT)

And the silly sanguine who plays the life of the party get a sober shock:

A fool’s laughter is quickly gone, like thorns crackling in a fire. This also is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 7:6 (NLT)

But then Solomon revives the sanguine heart:

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Ecclesiastes 9:7 (NLT)

Of course, the high-functioning choleric also gets smacked:

One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 4:6 (NASB)

And there is insight for young men gawking at the pool this summer:

I discovered that a seductive woman is a trap more bitter than death. Her passion is a snare, and her soft hands are chains. Those who are pleasing to God will escape her, but sinners will be caught in her snare.  Ecclesiastes 7:26 (NLT)

And for women who feel scandalized by such a sexist depiction of the fair sex:

“This is my conclusion,” says the Teacher. “I discovered this after looking at the matter from every possible angle. Though I have searched repeatedly, I have not found what I was looking for. Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman! Ecclesiastes 7:27-28 (NLT)

But for husbands nodding their head in agreement, we have this:

Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. Ecclesiastes 9:9 (NLT)

It’s a fun book! It’s a great follow-up to our Evidence series, because Solomon tackles the best arguments people raise against the knowledge of God. But he also gives the greatest comfort to broken hearts with these immortal words:

Joy to the World!

December 24, 2008 in Headlines

Rockin the Rusty Nail with some real joy!

Did you know “joy” is used almost 200 times in the New Testament? Did you know “joy” is the most frequent word used in the Bible to describe Christian life?

Christians are truly God’s “Joy to the World,” like we saw at the “2008 Christmas Gala.” It was a record-breaking celebration of joy with almost 200 people! A contagious enthusiasm called “joy” filled the room (especially evident in dancing later). I think our Gala rocked more than any office party, and without the liquor! (Well, liquor was available at the Rusty Nail but I didn’t see anyone guzzling it. Did you?)

We lost our meeting place, a newspaper reporter was there investigating us (but he seems to like us), we still don’t know where or when we’ll meet again, and yet it was truly a Gala Christmas affair, by all accounts. How can anyone explain this, unless they understand the history of Christianity?

The Christian Legacy of Joy

Almost 200 people came to the Gala!

From the beginning Christian history is littered with the same unconquerable joy, like these people: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials!” (1 Peter 1:6). The same weird thing happened when the officials “called in the apostles and had them flogged,” but “the apostles left the high council rejoicing!” (Acts 5:40-41).

Did you know “joy” is unique to Christianity? It’s not taught or held in esteem by any of the world religions, which makes sense: our joy comes from the freedom of knowing God’s grace. But man-made religions are all about good works, earning salvation, great self-effort, and very somber, dark rituals. Buddhism extols a state of serenity through severe discipline, and its “serenity” is really the absence of joy (and all other emotions). Islam is a severe religion and is spread by warfare, not joy. Jehovah Witnesses are much like the early Puritans who forbade all celebrations by law, and Mormonism is equally strict and full of foreboding. Isn’t it tragic when people think Christianity is just like the others?

Young and indomitable faith

It’s amazing to meet a stranger who turns out to be a Christian. Suddenly “joy” fills the conversation! I saw this recently with Yife Gao, a Chinese Christian from Craig Smith’s new Bible study at Akron University. (View their hot video online!) Yife came to America in August and barely speaks English, but we had such a blast, I can only describe it as “joy”. (Other diners at Panera bread wished we weren’t so joyous, I think!) But it was sweet to meet a baby Christian born in the outlaw home church movement in China. Those poor Christians have every reason to feel oppressed and depressed, but instead the home churches are a thriving, joyous movement, now 100-million strong and causing much embarrassment to the atheist communist government. Yife’s parents are communists, so they treat him like a traitor, and yet losing his family didn’t faze his joy in Jesus Christ!

[callout]View all the Christmas Gala pictures here >>[/callout]When a Christian is bored or depressed, a spiritual problem is surely stealing that Christian’s joy. Maybe they’ve grown distant from good Christian fellowship, or maybe alienated with Jesus for some useless reason. (Why run away from someone who really loves you?) But joy should be an over-riding constant in a Christian’s life, because it’s a “fruit of the Spirit” just like love (see Galatians 5:22). There may be varying degrees of joy, because we certainly aren’t always “leaping with joy”, but a healthy spiritual life is marked by the confident optimism of Christian joy.

It’s more natural for Christians to be filled with joy (“And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” - Acts 13:52), despite oppressive circumstances (“I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction!” – 2 Cor. 7:4). Paul’s letter to Philippi was written during his long imprisonment, but it’s called “The Letter of Joy” because “joy” appears more often in this short letter than his other writings, even the long ones.

Oh the Joy of 2008!

Our own (unscientific) poll shows that 60% of us said 2008 “was a rockin’, cheese-handling jamboree spritual poop-flingin roller coaster of ecstasy”, and another 25% called it “Amazing! I grew like a kid in puberty minus the B.O.” Nobody felt bad about it. (See the full results and Talk Line feedback.)

Aside from silly polls, the evidence is clear that morale is not only high, but spiritual growth is occurring on a scale never before seen in NeoXenos. Consider how many people are taking the initiative to launch this wide variety of ministry efforts:

  1. We launched and maintained an inner-city, after-school program with South Street in January.
  2. We started a new KSU Bible study in August that continues to grow.
  3. We started the “Western Ohio Enterprise” Bible study for three colleges near Toledo.
  4. We started a new Akron University Bible study for international students, and it looks good.
  5. We grew another 20-25% at CT.
  6. We started a Discovery Group among Stow neighbors.
  7. All our existing ministries lost their experienced leaders to these new ministry initiatives, but new leaders and teachers suddenly appeared from within the groups!

And every week it seems someone is sharing about yet another person meeting Jesus Christ, especially since this Fall. All this energy cannot originate through human devices, and certainly it isn’t our great organizational skills at work: it is the spiritual life of Jesus Christ working through many different people in many directions.

From Whence Commeth Indomitable Joy?

What a great question that is! Why are Christians so joyful?

Progressive Dinner festivities

I always knew Christian joy is sparked by the Holy Spirit dwelling inside a grateful and responsive heart, like this: “At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, ‘I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth…’” (Luke 10:21) But until our own recent “afflictions”, as Paul calls them, Christian joy in the midst of persecution was perhaps a bit theoretical, for me.

Now I see it, and I see why joy is so tightly-coupled with Christian persecution: it is the elation of the heart released from tangled thorns: “The one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Matthew 13:22) The Kosmos suffocates spiritual life with a mountain of counterfeit hopes and dreams, and it’s so dreary to live by “the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8) With persecution we reach the end of our hope in such bland living, and reach instead for “the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3)

At least, that’s what I saw last weekend at the Rusty Nail.

Rockin’ Rusty Nail Christmas

December 14, 2008 in Announcements

Come celebrate Christmas NeoXenos style!

Saturday, December 20th at 6 pm NeoXenos will celebrate in style at the Rusty Nail Banquet Hall near Twin Lakes. The fireplace will be roaring, Keith will deliver a Bible study, the Children’s Choir will ressonate, and the Rusty Nail will deliver a smorgasborge of fine food. Christmas 2008 will be an evening to remember: .

And it’s only $5 per person for a fine Christmas meal!

“I call that a bargain — the best I ever had!” says The Who.

Map - click to enlarge

The Itinerary

We have a Great Gala lineup:

  • 6 pm – “How Would You Rate 2008 for Your Spiritual Growth?” MCs Kyle McCallum and Brian Bassett lead us in a lively discussion.
  • 6:15 pm – The Xenos Children’s Christmas Choir dish up a highly-polished set of Christmas carols.
  • 6:30 pm – Dinner is served.
  • 7:15 pm – “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men!” (Titus 2:11) delivered by Keith McCallum, with prayer and discussion led by Neil Brooks.
  • 7:45 pm – “A Video Survey of the Year 2008″, by Mark Michalek.
  • 8:00 pm – “The Hughes Family Singers, featuring Amy Lagotte” lead us in “Singspiration” – a silly-super-fundy title for our NeoXenos Gala Christmas Caroling.

Followed by more spontaneous festivities, dancing, and whatever Christmas cheer we might wish to share.

Watch the Advertisement:

[flv]http://www.therustynail.net/video/rustynail.flv[/flv]

Stay posted for more details!

Driving From Riverwood

December 8, 2008 in Headlines

Christmas Sing-Fest

Riverwood has been a great stop-off for the Xenos caravan, but we never meant to overstay our welcome, of course. We may wish to review our Xenos.org Web which puts our Riverwood meeting in perspective (below).

We’ve done well, and met there for more than two years, but we were always their “guests”, and as we’ve been growing, it’s obvious that we’re taxing Riverwood’s resources and imposing undue hardships on their peaceful church.  Quoting the famous Old Testament prophet, Riverwood might ask, “How long, oh Lord?” (Ps.6:3)

For more information:

Is Riverwood ready for this?

Newly-licensed teenage drivers and more seasoned ones are pouring into the spacious parking lot at 1407 Fairchild Avenue…but everyone — especially teenagers — are committed to exercising courteous behavior as guests of Riverwood Community Chapel (one of the many plants from “The Chapel” of Akron).

A Christmas Gala!

December 8, 2008 in Announcements

Get in the FAST LANE and let's GO!

Keep an eye on The Portal and Basecamp for the big announcement — a Christmas party, teaching and sing-fest with the Xenos Children’s Choir. Put on your Santa cap, bring some food for the poor, and get ready for a smashing Christmas party, Xenos-style!

(Photo by Neil P. Brooks)

Progressive Dinner!

December 6, 2008 in Announcements

Your Host This Evening

Eat with us!

We’re friendly!Saturday! 5:30!For details, read about The Progressive Prayer Dinner!

More is available on the Talk Line

The Price of Christian Freedom

December 2, 2008 in Web

[googlevideo]http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8207264028785745392&hl=en[/googlevideo]

Christianity always brought freedom wherever it spread — words unparalleled for nearly 2,000 years, and certainly never taught by any other world religion. Consider how radical this freedom was in the 1st Century:

Galatians 3:28 (NASB) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

But “Christian Freedom” frightens people, especially if they aren’t used to freedom. For some, “Christian Freedom” sounds like “chaos”…

Oh the Joys of Refugee Life!

December 1, 2008 in Headlines

They feasted on a hot breakfast buffet of breakfast burritos, coffee cakes, scrambled eggs and more, and chatting like it was normal fellowship at a Xenos Central Teaching.

Refugee Camp

But as the crowd settled down, they studied Bible passages about handling persecution and opposition as Christians.

“Worship Christ as Lord of your life,” Greg Morscher read from 1 Peter 3:15-16. “And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.”

View this teaching online...

There are three common elements found in the Bible’s “Languange of Persecution”, Greg said: “Faith-oriented prayer, alertness, and keeping Grace at the center of our message and attitude.” (See [cref the-christian-message] for more.)

Keith McCallum taught from Galatians 4 and 5, “which is very coincidental,” he said. “I was scheduled to teach this, but it’s also incredibly helpful for understanding why people persecute Christians.”

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free,” Keith read from Galatians 5:1, then said, “Christianity always brought freedom wherever it spread. For example, ‘there’s no distinction between male or female, or slave or master,’ the Bible says, and this is radical freedom in the 1st Century — words unparalleled for nearly 2,000 years, and certainly never taught by any other world religion.”  This “Christian Freedom” frightens people sometimes, Keith said, “especially if they aren’t used to freedom — it seems chaotic.” (See [cref christian-freedom] for more.)

It was an impromptu Sunday meeting, scheduled only 24 hours earlier when Riverwood asked Xenos to hold off meeting there until they look into the sudden controversies raised by a Stow resident. Her adult son was baptized recently after becoming a Christian, and she was convinced Xenos manipulated his decision, despite his efforts to explain it to her.

Listen to this teaching online

She took her protest to the entrance of Riverwood Chapel last week with signs that read, “Xenos is a cult” and “Don’t drink the cool-aid”. A student joined her protest because someone from the “Word” high school group mistreated her, a school official said, but the details are still unknown.

It is Riverwood’s policy to place staff on “Paid Administrative Leave” when controversy like this occurs, Riverwood pastors told Xenos leaders.

“Since you’re not Riverwood staff, you guys need to hold off meeting here while we figure this out,” said Brian Bales, Riverwood’s senior pastor. “We’re giving you the benefit of the doubt, because we agree Xenos’ teachings are biblical,” and the differences in our groups are issues of personal taste, not significant doctrines, Brian said. “But we always treat complaints seriously, and we need to get this resolved.”

[callout]“If you follow what Jesus taught, your life will be turned upside-down, and you’ll get persecuted.” – Brian Bales, Riverwood Pastor[/callout]But for the large group stuffed in the Howell’s house that Sunday morning, the sudden meeting change proved the Christian life is grounded in personal joy, not facilities. They gathered again at the Morscher’s house for several hours last night to pray and enjoy their fellowship together. It’s been riotous gatherings of fun-loving people not bothered by the criticisms.

“I have an idea,” one of them said. “Let’s stand in front of Riverwood with signs that say, ‘We’re the cult, not Riverwood!’”

Undeterred and talkative

“It’s really impossible to squash ‘Christian Freedom’ — it’s not an institutional freedom. It’s a freedom of the heart,” Keith said. “When you invite Jesus into your heart and find out how much he loves us, it’s really a fear-killer.” This is why Christian freedom spreads like a chemical fire when water is poured on it, he said.

“What Jesus taught was counter-cultural,” Brian Bales said at last week’s Riverwood meeting. “If you follow what Jesus taught, your life will be turned upside-down, and you’ll get persecuted.” People in Xenos home groups agree it gets tough, but it’s so worthwhile. When people discover “The Grace Awakening” that Charles Swindol wrote about, freedom becomes a way of life.

Watch Tom’s baptism online:

[googlevideo]http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7766260070848411567&hl=en[/googlevideo]

Galatians Begins

October 10, 2008 in Ministries

Galatians is one of the earliest New Testament books, like James, and it’s a sweet picture of how God’s love shocked the 1st Century.

Can you imagine hearing the good news of “total forgiveness” if you lived back then? After a dreary life of a “yoke of slavery” sacrificing to silly Greek gods, Paul comes to town with this amazing message that “it was for freedom that Christ set us free!” (Gal. 5:1)

Now, 2,000 years later, watch new people at CT get surprised by the sweet freedom in Galatians. Christianity is so common and always in the mass media, yet people never hear about this radical grace.  Satan hates this book and fights the message with all his power.

Galatia is near Paul's home town, and not exactly a 'missionary journey' - but it is similar to our 'jump' desires.

Bring some new people to hear about it. If you’re frustrated explaining grace, or someone just can’t believe it, Galatians will straightened it out.

Blueprints in Galatians

But it’s more than a study in radical grace. How’s your fellowship going?

Galatians is great for all our new Bible studies and leaders because it gives a clear picture of what the earliest Christian koinonia (fellowship) looks like without all the institutional machinery. It’s a great way to establish new Christians, new Christian groups, and rediscover “it was for freedom that Christ set us free!”

Wouldn’t you love to describe your fellowship that way?

Study some background:

  • Read about Stephen’s death in Acts 6-7, because God drafted Paul to replace this guy and carry his message forward in Galatians.
  • Read about Paul’s conversion in Acts 9, and the activity at Antioch in Acts 11:19, because Paul describes this in Galatians.
  • Read about Paul’s First Missionary Journey in Acts 13-14, which is in the region of Galatia.
  • Read about the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, which is the when this book was written.