The Gathering Is Central to the Life of a Church

The gathering of Christians is central to the life of a church. That should be a given. But in our culture of individualism, we begin to individualize church so much that we sometimes think we don't have to be part of a local body of believers and yet are part of the Church.

The church needs to be a community that disciples are bringing new believers into. Conversion isn't just bringing a person into proper behavior and thought processes but showing them God's community and teaching them how to join. The community must be healthy in order for God's light to shine.

In the OT, God designed his will to spread through the world through the kingdom of Israel. When Israel failed, he then moved to using an altered kingdom, which is primarily manifested in the Church but can be seen anywhere God's will is being brought about. His kingdom come, His will be done. His will seems to have always been the same, a community of followers who bless the world as a result of God blessing them. He just wants a faithful people that will exhibit the characteristics He desires in his kingdom.

The gathering is the center of the church's life. It is during this time that we act in such a way together that we remind one another what is important. Through doing what is important, we either show the world the glory of God or a god that is long dead.

The Lord's Supper should be the center of the service since it seems to have played a primary role in the early church gatherings and has throughout church history until recent times.

I also think there should be room for fellowship (not just incidental fellowship that happens before and after the gathering), prayer, and teaching from Scripture. I do not know how we can have prayer needs shared and genuine fellowship in a larger setting. But I'm not in a position currently where I have to struggle with that, but I do think that is important for a healthy body and greater people than me will have to struggle through that.

I also believe that the gathering should be all-encompassing (or at least as close as it can be). It shouldn't be something that we think is just one part of all of the parts that are necessary to be included in the local body. "We do this Sunday morning worship service but you should also be plugged into a small group and a ministry team at other times during the week." Ministries should flow out of the gathering and fellowship should happen there like it does in small groups.

The gathering should be interactive. Not just between the people in the pews and God, but with the people in the pews with one another and the people leading.

If we do not have fellowship, prayer, the Lord's Supper, and the Scriptural teaching, then what we are doing is not church.

A bookI read said:

If you've ever felt lonely and unimportant in church, there's a good reason: You are alone and unimportant.

From 11 to 12 Sunday, you're just another pretty face in the crowd.

Though surrounded by others, you're cut off. Custom walls you off in your own space and silences your voice--except for song or responsive reading.

Surrounded by an audience of trainee mutes, you can find it lonely as a solo trek across Antarctica. After you've eaten all the sled dogs.

The service would be exactly the same without you. You know that. Your impact on it is like an extra gallon of water going over Niagara Falls.

You can feel free to skip (like you need my permission for that), but I thought I would include another lengthier section.

The heart of your church is the Sunday service, where the typical communication pattern is about as useful as a jello telephone.

No matter what you have on your heart--the greatest joy or deepest sorrow--you are not allowed to share it during the service. Ever.

Fellowship is confined to the foyer afterward, please. (Unless you've figured a way to fellowship with the back of someone else's head.) Try to talk, and the ushers will ush you out. Post hastily.

This, my friend, is not Biblical. Saint Peter would have wept.

In fact, many of the early churches almost demanded you share something every week. They even expected you to sing for them (aaugh!) Even solos!

But now you can't say anything longer than, "Hallelujah!"--if that. As a result, you're often more of a spectator than a participant.

How did we ever get into such a fix? Well, around A.D. 300, the church made the worst blunder in her history. We voluntarily decided to give up the three key freedoms that powered the early church to success: Open worship (praising God), open sharing (building up each other), and open ministry (serving others in the church and in the world.

Throughout Christendom in the Fourth Century, we professionalized the local church and turned over our Sunday service to the pros, leaving them to do almost everything while we sat and watched..

Lay men found themselves stripped of initiative and power, like newly-captured slaves. Lay women were quietly relieved of what little responsibility and leadership they had. (By about 450, even the congregational singing faded to zip, as we turned over the music to professional choirs of men and boys.)

All the laity suddenly found Sunday worship to be more distant from their personal lives and daily concerns. They fell into Spectator Christianity, where loneliness doesn't end at church--it starts there.

Through all of this, I am amazed at how God uses all of our convictions to further his kingdom. People who do church in ways that I think are inappropriate are still being used by God to bring about His will and bring more people into His fold. However, I do wonder if we did things more deliberately the way that God seemed to have intended them if God might be even more glorified.

Watch out for the potholes.

Hiring a Minister for this and that

Often churches hire ministers to do those things that the body doesn't have the desire or the talents to do. We see this often in the case of evangelism, youth, or discipleship. I think in the case of desire, it is wrong for a church to hire a minister to do that which a church should already be doing. It will just lead to a minister getting burnt out and a body of believers not growing. The body needs to change and have the desire to the things which the body of Christ should be doing.

In the case of talents, I think the case can be better made to hire a minister. We see this in the case of preaching and music leading. I just wonder if we value those roles too much, and that they aren't as necessary as our church culture has made them out to be.

Watch out for the potholes

What about the children? Age and Family Requirement of Elders

A friend of mine turned down being an elder due to the fact that his children weren't of an age yet to believe on their own.

I told him what I just wrote in the previous post. We also delved deeper into the two passages that deal with the issue at hand.

Titus 1:6b

"His children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination."

1 Timothy 3:4-5

"4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?"

In Titus, it appears that the children must be older, be believers, not known for debauchery or insubordination. This is the verse that seems to be used to say that an elder needs to be an older individual.

In Timothy, we see something different. It appears that the children are still in the household and are living in submission to their father. This would seem to imply that the father is one that has younger children, which could allow for a younger man to be an elder.

If you have children slanted towards debauchery, you should probably not be an elder in the church. We could hypothesize all day on why that is, but I don't think that would be fruitful. The point is that Paul considered the state of a child a reflection of the state of the father. He made the children's state a requirement for eldership. If you have a wayward son, then eldership is probably not the place in the church for you.

I think there would be exceptions for those who didn't become a Christian until later in life or in cases where everyone feels that the individual did everything they could to raise a godly child. The overriding principle in choosing elders is to choose those who can insure the church has proper doctrine and proper direction, not to have a legal checklist that needs to be fulfilled.

One word of particular interest in the discussion is the word "submissive" from the 1 Timothy passage. This word is the same word that is used in 3 other places in the New Testament. Feel free to open up your own Bibles to get the larger context.

1 Corinthians 9:12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

1 Timothy 2:11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

Galatians 2:4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in--who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery-- 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

The word emphasizes a release of one's will to the will of another. Submission is doing that which we might not want to do because it is the will of another, yet we do it any way because of the authority of the other's will. If you desire to be an elder and you have children that are not of age, then you need to insure that they are submitting to your will and that your will is one that is worthy of submitting to.

I think we can conclude that Paul allowed younger men to be elders in Ephesus.

Raising godly children is a careful balance of giving them just enough rope that they don't hang themselves, yet not keeping them too close that they will just fall when they don't have us there helping with the rope. An elder of the church should know how much rope to give people. The way his children act will reveal whether he knows how to do that or not.

Watch out for the potholes.

The Biblical Requirements of Elders

The issue of the requirements for church leaders becomes a divisive issue in some churches. In this article, we will begin by looking at the most quoted verses on the subject and then examine what they reveal.

1 Timothy 3:1-7
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Titus 1:5-9
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you--if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer,as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Here is a list I made that combines the two lists in Timothy and Titus:
  • Be above reproach (Titus & Timothy)
  • Husband of one wife (Titus & Timothy)
  • Self-Controlled (Titus & Timothy)
  • Hospitable (Titus & Timothy)
  • Not a drunkard (Titus & Timothy)
  • Not violent (Titus)
  • Not violent but gentle (Timothy)
  • Sober-minded (Timothy)
  • Upright (Titus)
  • Respectable (Timothy)
  • Able to teach (Timothy)
  • Not quarrelsome (Timothy)
  • Not greedy for gain (Titus)
  • Not a lover of money (Timothy)
  • His children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination (Titus)
  • Manages his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive (Timothy)
  • Not a recent convert (Timothy)
  • Must be well thought of by outsiders (Timothy)
  • Not arrogant (Titus)
  • Not quick tempered (Titus)
  • A lover of good (Titus)
  • Holy (Titus)
  • Disciplined (Titus)
  • Holds firm to the trustworthy word (Titus)
Making a list like this is dangerous because we have a tendency to use lists and become very legalistic about them. That is not the purpose of this list.

The requirements that Paul expressed to Timothy were somewhat different than the list that he sent to Titus. If you look at any modern denomination, you would see written lists (or paragraphs) that express the specific requirements for elders in the local church. These lists do not waver from church to church; they are set in stone for a church in Topeka, Kansas, USA, to a church in Baghdad, Iraq to a church in the middle of Siberia. We do not see such set in stone requirements in Scripture for elders.

Through the lists in the Titus and Timothy we can get a glimpse at the fact that God works locally. What was needed to insure good elders in Ephesus appears to have been different than what was emphasized to insure good elders in Crete. Certain things were the same. Others were different. All depended upon the church and culture at hand.

The lists are good at showing us what is expected in an elder; however, we go too far if we make them a legal list that has to be completely fulfilled in order to allow someone to be an elder. The heart of the matter is that God desires local churches to have godly men to insure proper teaching and proper direction of His body.

A Response from Knight-McDowell Labs on Airborne

I received a reply back from Knight-McDowell Labs.

"Thank you for your comments. Our product contains a very small amount of sucralose. Sucralose was chosen because it provides for a much more pleasant tasting product. It is a very common sweetener and has a well documented safety profile. We take your comments and suggestions very seriously and I will pass them on to the labs as we are constantly striving to improve the formula.

Thank you for your taking the time to send us feedback on our product. Have a great day and stay healthy!"

It was a very quick reply. I felt like responding to ask about the "well documented safety profile" but I'm not feeling feisty today.

I'm going to go take some Airborne now.

Watch out for the potholes.

Sucralose (Splenda) and Airborne - a letter to Knight-McDowell labs

I wrote a letter to Knight-McDowell labs today. Knight-McDowell is the manufacturer of Airborne. It pretty much tells the whole store, so I won't repeat it. Here's the letter:


I have been using Airborne off and on now for about a month and a half. I work in a mall and am always catching a cold. However, I have not caught a cold during this time despite co-workers getting them. Airborne has been the only change that I have made during this time. Thanks.

However, I am writing to ask that you make an Airborne without sucralose. I try to avoid alternative sugars and sucralose is not something that I or many nutritionists consider to be healthy. You could use natural cane sugar, stevia, or zylotol if you feel that it needs sweetening.

I hope that you seriously consider making an Airborne with a different sweetener, for I love your product but don't want to expose myself to sucralose in a long-term manner. I might just be paranoid, but I know there are many of us out here that have the same view.

Regan [last name omitted]

Now, I might just be crazy, but here is a link on sucralose. We seem to always be fine with new artificial sweeteners. Then we find out their danger, and they disappear from society.

Donald Rumsfeld introduced us to Nutra Sweet. NutraSweet was not approved by the FDA for 16 years until Donald Rumsfeld took over the company and worked his political tricks to get it approved. Here is a link to an organization that fights against NutraSweet. And here is a link to a page that has some links to articles on the subject. My father also suffered from aspartame poisoning, but is doing better now after having to cleanse himself from it for a year or so.

Watch out for the potholes, aspartame, and sucralose.

How to properly dispose of a Bible

I ran across a Bible that I had that had been decimated at some forgotten point in the past. It almost seems like a dog dug into it and ripped it apart. But I am left with a destroyed Bible that I need to get rid of and I wasn't comfortable just tossing it in the trash.

I must give a disclaimer first. We have the liberty to just throw away an old Bible. There is no biblical teaching on the subject. I just wasn't comfortable doing that.

So I did a search on the internet to see what I could find.

Here is what Dear Abby had to say when she was asked the question:

DEAR ABBY: Here's another one for your "never thought I'd be writing to Dear Abby" collection.

I've been reading your column for ages, but I don't recall having seen this topic addressed. I have an old Bible that has seen better days. The pages are tearing and beginning to fall out. I have purchased a new Bible, but I am not sure what to do

with the old one. I don't feel right just throwing it into the garbage.

Is there a proper way to dispose of an old Bible? -- MIKE IN TEXAS

DEAR MIKE: Yes. I consulted the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and was told: Protestants can dispose of an old Bible by giving it to someone or throwing it away if they are comfortable doing so -- the paper and ink are not "holy." However, if the individual is not comfortable with that, it can be given to a Bible bookstore or Bible Book Society for refurbishing or disposal.

Father Joe Moniz at St. Joseph's Church in Torrance, Calif., advised that Catholics can either burn or bury old Bibles.

Persons of other religions should consult their religious authority concerning an accepted manner of disposing of holy books.

Here is a struggle a librarian had with disposing of religious books such as the Bible and the book of Mormon. I found the comments to be particularly insightful.

The Lutheran says to just throw it away.

Ask Moses, a Jewish site, deals with disposing of the Torah (our first five books of the Old Testament). They say the Torah must be buried to dispose of it.

Through this I concluded to take my family on a trip into our yard (although Lindsay has already opted out because of the cold) and dig a hole to bury the Bible. We will say a prayer concerning the Bible being written on our hearts. We will also sing the kid's song, "The B-I-B-L-E". We will literally be able to "stand alone on the word of God". I hope that this will help to emphasize to my children that the words in this book are precious and different than the words in any other book that we have.

I understand that I could just throw it away, but I feel that I would be missing a teachable moment to myself and to my children. Most ceremonies or rituals are instruments of teaching. The problem that happens with them a lot of the time is that they lose their meaning yet the practice of them carries on. There is nothing worse than an empty ritual. I think we as a Christian culture could use a lot more of deliberate, thought out, Christian rituals that are instruments of training ourselves and our children.

Watch out for the potholes.

Chaos in the church - Our children and bad experiences

We had a bad experience with our children at church last night. Church itself wasn't bad, just our experience with our children. I guess it was bound to happen.

We strategically chose to sit in the back near the doors out of the sanctuary in order to allow an easy escape for Lindsay when Aria would start acting up. However, It wasn't Aria that started acting up; it was Eli. I got up and picked him up to take him out and put an end to his acting up. I had to squeeze by Lindsay who was sitting on the outside of the pew. I successfully squeezed by but unbeknown to me, my foot got wrapped in our diaper bag. Then I took another step in which the diaper bag became stuck at the end of the pew. I toppled face forward. This would have only been funny and embarassing to me except for the fact that I was carrying Eli. His fall was stopped by the corner of the door frame. He started wailing. I felt so bad and my knee also hurt. Thankfully, Eli didn't seem to get a concussion. He was his regular old self after the service.

Then it was time to participate in the Lord's Supper. Eli was still a little shaken up from the fall. Participating in the the Lord's Supper every week is a new experience for our boys because we had been going to a church that didn't take it except for once a month, and for some stretches before the new pastor it wasn't even that frequent. Lindsay was holding Eli at this time and Eli loudly pleaded as she took the bread and the cup: "I WANT A COOKIE AND JUICE!" The he cried because he couldn't have them.

Our fun experiences were not over yet. Due to the accident, we gave up on trying to make Eli behave, so Lindsay took Aria and him to the nursery where she could watch them without worrying about them making too much noise. I was left in the pew with Isaac. We have been trying to stop Isaac from going to the bathroom during church, but that only works when I make sure that he goes in between Sunday school and church. I forgot to do that last night. So when he asked me to go the bathroom, I allowed him. Since we were sitting near the bathroom, I decided to allow him to go alone. I went back to listening to the sermon. About a minute and a half later the sermon was interrupted by the voice of Isaac yelling through the bathroom door, "Daddy! Daddy!" I jumped up to go see what was going on. I made sure not to trip on the diaper bag (actually, I think it was in the nursery). As I neared the bathroom door, Isaac opened it and yelled: "DADDY! THERE IS SOMETHING ALL OVER THE FLOOR!" That something was water. I ran into the bathroom. The urinal was spilling all over the floor. I figured that Isaac might've stuffed something in the urinal since he was in the bathroom without my supervision, so I reached my arm into the urinal to see if I could unplug it. Nothing was there except for water to make my shirt sleeve all wet. The urinal continued to pour water all over the floor. It decided to stop all on its own. My lack of plumbing experience conclusion was that for some freaky reason the water pressure insanely pumped too much water into the urinal. It just had to happen on the time I let my boy go to the bathroom alone.

The church was very loving, kind, and encouraging throughout this whole ordeal.

Watch out for the potholes, diaper bags, and insane urinals.

A funny story about chicken and dog love

Neil Young wrote in the song From Hank to Hendrix: "The same thing that makes you live can kill you in the end."

This story of betrayed love seems to illustrate that story in a twisted sort of way.

Watch out for the potholes.

Is God's Will Always Done

Is God's will ever evil? If not, then his will is not always done because evil is always done. Was it God's will for our twins to die (People can substitute most any tragedy in their lives here). I don't think so. Did he allow it? Obviously, he did. Just because he allowed it, doesn't mean that he willed it.

Just because I allow my child to do something doesn't mean that it is my will that he does it. I might be waiting for him to make that mistake in my presence so that I can correct him. My goal is that he wouldn't make that mistake ever but always choose to do what is right. I want my child to grow up and make the right decisions. In order to do that, I need to allow him the opportunity to make the wrong decisions.

God made us in the same way. He could have made puppets that always did his will. For some reason, that isn't what he made. He made people that can choose what to do. He would prefer for us to make the right choice; He could even force us to always make the right choice. But he chooses not to. That doesn't mean that when we make the wrong choice and bad things happen that His will is being done. It means the exact opposite. It means that we made the wrong choice.

Not only do we suffer from the consequences of our own wrong decisions. We live in a world that has consequences abounding from people's wrong choices. Not only do we suffer for the wrong decisions of those around us now, but we also suffer for the wrong decisions people have made in the past.

A world without suffering and doing wrong would be a world void of free will. For some reason God chose free will to be the priority.

Because of His decision to give free will, God is left with the same role that we have as parents. We could force our children to do what is right, but that really wouldn't matter in the long run. What really matters is training them to choose to do His will all of the time. That is what God desires.

I think in discussing this we morph various questions that should be dealt with separately.

"Is God's will always done?" I would argue absolutely "no".

The other question is: "When God wants to force His will on humanity can it be thwarted?" And I would argue absolutely "no". His forced will is irresistible.

Is God accountable for not intervening when He doesn't force His will? I would say that He is, but as He explained to Job, we don't really see the big picture and realize totally what He is trying to accomplish. But that doesn't mean that when He doesn't force His will that His will is being done.

He gave us free will but it is not His will that we make the wrong decisions.

A reply from a Jehovah Witness on non-violence

A Jehovah Witness replied to my post on receiving a vist from them.

I debated on deleting it and preventing my site from funneling people to the Watchtower website. However, I refrained from doing that. Instead I will write this post and put a link to this post in the comments of that original post.

I agree with the Jehovah Witnesses approach on non-violence (as expressed in the reply) and liked their approach to evolution (as expressed in the original post). However, that does not mean they are right in other areas.

The logic that "we are right on a few areas, so trust in the questionable areas" just doesn't fly with me.

I also share my view on non-violence with many non-Christians around the world. That doesn't make those people right on how we are to follow God.

And I disagree with many Christians on how to approach creation and evolution, that doesn't mean that they are wrong on the important issues on what is the right approach to follow God.

Here is a website by ex-Jehovah Witnesses.

And from that website here is a nice article by Jerry Bergman about his journey through the Jehovah Witnesses: My Journey From a Jehovah's Witness to a Christian:
A College Professors Story and Why it Matters

Watch out for the potholes.

Christian Community - The Impact It Would Have On Our World

The Bible uses various language to express the community aspect of the Christianity, from kingdom to body of Christ to the family of God. The Bible doesn't really get into a whole lot of individualistic language (like personal relationship). However, having the right language doesn't mean that we are doing it just like having the wrong language wouldn't mean we are not doing it. I like this quote from Alexander Campbell that I shared the other day: "The Bible alone in the lips, and the creed in the head and in the heart, will not save the church from strife, emulation, and schism. There is no moral, ecclesiastical, or political law, that can effect any moral, ecclesiastical or political good, by simply acknowledging it in word. It must be obeyed...The Bible alone is the Bible only, in word and deed, in profession and practice; and this alone can reform the world and save the church." The concept being lived out is more important than the words being used.

Most churches teach the right concept in some form or other. Living it out is another issue. When we visited all of the churches we visited, only 3 were very friendly at greeting. If you aren't friendly at getting to know the visitors, I can almost guarantee that you aren't living out the community aspect of church. The love should be overflowing.

I think the Bible deals with what are some of the elements of community. Sharing meals together. Praying together. Encouraging one another. Confessing our sins one to another. Meeting one another's needs (that would entail knowing those needs). Loving one another. Being patient with one another. Being at peace with one another. Having fellowship with one another. Many of the biblical teachings, along with the biblical concepts, focus on healthy community. I'm sure this list isn't all inclusive.

Maybe the church is healthier than most of my experience leads me to believe. I sure hope so. Take a year off and visit church after church and see what you see. Just kidding. I don't wish that on anyone - especially someone with kids.

I think I always see the room for improvement rather than say well done. (That might be the polite way of saying I'm overly critical). That is what I've been trained to do in retail. Every day I try to come up with ideas on how to improve things. I encourage our workers to notice the flaws in the way we do things so that we can improve. If their is a better way to do things that doesn't cost money, we change in a heartbeat. Every week I'm tweaking something.

Another thing we are taught in retailing is to look at our store as if we are seeing it for the first time. What impression does it give off? Does that match with the impression we want it to give? We need to do the same exercise with our church. In examining what impression we give off, we are more than likely really seeing what we are rather than what we think we are.

So when it comes to being the church, we will only be perfect for short periods of time. We are like a window to the world that allows the light of Christ to shine through. All windows seem to get dirty, especially when dirty things are going on around the window. When the farmers harvest the crops around here, the windows get filthy. Sometimes we get a sideways wind mixed with rain that sticks leaves and items to our windows. With the church, a lot of people and events are messing up the window. Some are sticking their faces on it to look goofy. Others write messages in the dew that don't need to be there but leave a lasting impression. Some of the dirt is the natural dirt of harvesting. All sorts of activities get the window dirty. We need to always be cleaning the window to allow the light of Christ to shine through in all its glory. That light will change us and the people around us.

Watch out for the potholes.

a question about personal Bible study

I had a question concerning personal Bible study. It wasn't until the printing press that personal Bible study was even an option for most people. If they wanted to hear the word of God, they would have to go down to the church and have it read out loud to them or read it out loud to others. Even Bible study in that time was a corporate event. We now have this whole issue of how to work out individual Bible study (which I think should be done) with community. Does anyone know any good studies, books, or articles out there on the transformation of Bible reading from a community-centered activity to a private and personal activity? Or maybe we started incorporating personal Bible study into our spiritual lives just because printed books were a new technology and hadn't really thought the concept through. I know I have thoroughly enjoyed the times when I have just gotten together with people to read Scripture. Any thoughts?

edited to add: A friend of mine recommended reading Dissident Discipleship to deal with this question.

Watch out for the potholes.

Physical Unity, Creeds, and Truth

I'm revisiting my church of Christ/Christian church church roots due to our visiting the Antwerp Church of Christ and conversations with friends.

God works personally. Everyday I am faced with situations in which I make decisions on what actions to make. Many of these are made without a direct commandment of Scripture telling me what is the right course of action. How we discern that right course of action by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit, studying scripture, filtering it through church history and our brothers and sisters in Christ, is still a method of discovering truth. Just because a truth is localized to our specific situation and circumstances doesn't mean that it isn't an important truth. Any truth reveals to us more of who God is. If we did not believe that there was a right course of action for us, then we would not be concerned about doing the right thing in areas where the Bible is silent. The fact that we are concerned about doing the right thing where the Bible is silent means that we believe their is truth outside of Scripture.

But I think that "We as Christians..." or "thus saith the Lord" statements should be used minimally and only in the instances where they are clear. Just because something is true in my circumstances and situation, does not mean that it would always be the right course of action for everyone to make. I think we need to avoid the common pitfall of only believing that there are clear truths when it comes to mental beliefs. Those mental beliefs without actions that stem from them are meaningless.

I've recently picked up my copy of Alexander Campbell's Christianity Restored. I've had it on my shelf since college. This apparently isn't in print any longer. My copy is from 1959.

Thomas Campbell and his peers came up with the Declaration and Address in 1809. In it they wrote:

"That this society formed, formed for the sole purpose of promoting simple evangelical christianity, shall, to the utmost of its power, countenance and support such ministers, and such only, as exhibit a manifest conformity to the Original Standard, in conversation and doctrine, in zeal and diligence;-- only such as reduce to practice the simple original form of christianity, expressly exhibited upon the sacred page, without attempting to inculcate any thing of human authority, of private opinion, or inventions of men, as having any place in the constitution, faith, or worship of the christian church;-- or any thing as matter of christian faith or duty, for which there cannot be produced a 'thus saith the Lord' either in express terms, or by approved precedent."

They even left room for a "thus saith the Lord" by approved precedent rather than direct teaching of Scripture. Maybe they will explain later what an "approved precedent" consists of, but it seems to me to be something that Christians have practiced through church history. The founders of the church of Christ/Christian church seem to exalt time as being a filter for truth. They even thought their original conclusion on unity was wrong except for what time showed them. (However, I do wonder what time now reveals about their teaching with the resultant schisms in their own movement.)

"The application of the principle already stated trimmed us so naked, that we strongly inclined to suspect its fallacy, and had well nigh abandoned it as a deceitful speculation. Time, however, that great teacher, and Experience, that great critic, have fully assured us that the principle is a salutary one; and that although we seemingly lose much by its application, our loss consists only of barren opinions, fruitless speculations, and useless traditions, that only cumber the ground and check the word, so that it is in a good measure unfruitful."

It is interesting that the founders of the church of Christ focused on establishing physical unity. We seem to be a people content with disunity when it comes to our physical state of Christianity. It is refreshing to read the writings of someone who cares about the church being one, as Jesus prayed it would, here on earth. They were discontent with us just being one spiritually like so many in the church currently emphasize.

"Tired of new creeds and new parties in religion, and of the numerous abortive efforts to reform the reformation; convinced form the Holy Scriptures, from observation and experience, that the union of the disciples of Christ is essential to the conversion of the world, and that the correction and improvement of no creed, or partizan establishment in christendom, could ever become the basis of such an union, communion, and co-operation, as would restore peace to a church militant against itself, or triumph to the common salvation,--a few individuals, about the commencement of the present century, began to reflect upon the ways and means to restore primitive christianity."

Here is another good chunk from that book. Then I'll be done for the time being.

"On examination of history of all the platforms and constitutions of all these sects, it appeared evident as mathematical demonstration itself, that neither the Augsburg articles of faith and opinion, nor the Westminster, nor the Wesleyan, nor those of any state creed or dissenting establishment, could ever improve the condition of things, restore union to the church, peace to the world, or success to the gospel of Christ.

As the Bible alone was said and constantly affirmed to be the religion of protestants, it was for some time a mysterious problem;--why the Bible alone, confessed and acknowledged, should work no happier results than the strifes, divisions and retaliatory excommunications of rival protestant sects. It appeared, however, in this case, after a more intimate acquaintance with the details of the inner temple of sectarian christianity, as in many similar cases that it is not the acknowledgment of a good rule, but the walking by it, that secures the happiness of society. The Bible alone in the lips, and the creed in the head and in the heart, will not save the church from strife, emulation, and schism. There is no moral, ecclesiastical, or political law, that can effect any moral, ecclesiastical or political good, by simply acknowledging it in word. It must be obeyed...The Bible alone is the Bible only, in word and deed, in profession and practice; and this alone can reform the world and save the church

We found it an arduous task, and one of twenty years labor, to correct our diction and purify our speech according to the Bible alone. And even yet, we have not wholly practically repudiated the language of Ashdod. We only profess to work and walk by the rules which will inevitably issue in a pure speech, and in right conceptions of that pure, and holy, and celestial thing, called Christianity---in faith, in sentiment, and in practice.

A deep and an abiding impression that the power, the consolations and joys---the holiness and happiness of Christ's religion were lost in the forms and ceremonies, in the speculations and conjectures, in the feuds and bickerings of sects and schisms, originated a project many years ago for uniting the sects, or rather the christians in all the sects, upon a clear and scriptural bond of union; upon having a "thus saith the Lord" either in express terms, or in approved precedent, "for every article of faith, and items of religious practice."

Watch out for the potholes.

Give Us Our King, Presidents, Chairmen and Pastors - The Leadership Crisis Around Us - The thoughts Ted Haggard caused me to ponder

A lot of Bible verses today. This was also something that I felt I needed to research. I think I will be putting the things that I research on my blog more often so expect more of this. The recent crisis with the leader of the National Evangelical Association made me wonder about this. Why do we appoint leaders that we put on a pedestal? We do this not just on a national scale but in our local churches and our denomenations.

Deuteronomy 17:14-20
14 When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," 15 be sure to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. 16 The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, "You are not to go back that way again." 17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. 18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
Just because the law contains what to do when his people have a king doesn't mean that God desired for his people to have a king. We'll read more about that later. There are many laws that deal with things that are wrong. God knew the human tendency to have a king over them, so he made some regulations that the people and the king were to follow.

1. Be sure to appoint the king God chooses for you.

2. Make sure the king is one of your brothers.

3. The king was to not acquire a large military might. That is what the horses represented.

4. He must not take many wives.

5. He must not accumulate wealth.

6. He was supposed to make his own copy of the law, read it all the days of his life, and follow carefully all the laws and the decrees.

7. He is to revere the Lord.

8. He is not to consider himself better than others. The laws that apply to others should also apply to him.

As with most of the commandments of God, this one ends with a blessing. If the king would do this, then he and his descendants would reign a long time over the kingdom of Israel.

These principles of leadership seem to be very wise. All of them seem applicable today.

Judges 17:6
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 18:1
In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them.

Judges 19:1
In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.

Judges 21:25
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
The people of Israel had "no king", but the problem was that they had the best king yet refused to acknowledge and obey Him. In practice they had no king. But the unseen reality was that God was their king. The rejection of him caused all sorts of strife. We see a cycle throughout the book of Judges. Israel serves the Lord --> Israel falls into sin and idolatry --> Israel is enslaved --> Israel cries out to the Lord --> God raises up a judge --> Israel is delivered --> and the cycle starts all over again.

If only the people of Israel had remained faithful in serving the Lord, they would've avoided their desire to have an earthly king. Too often we make our major decisions when we are in the wrong place on the cycle. Many of our decisions, as was the nation of Israel's, are made when we are in sin and idolatry. The key to making wise decisions is to get out of this terrible cycle and keep God the king of our lives and make our major decision when we are faithfully serving the Lord.

1 Samuel 18
1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations. 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them. 10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11 He said, These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day. 19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles. 21 And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. 22 And the Lord said to Samuel, Obey their voice and make them a king. Samuel then said to the men of Israel, Go every man to his city.
Here we see that God did not desire a king for Israel. Despite the regulations in Deuteronomy, setting apart an earthly king was not God's will. God points out to Samuel that the desire for a king was not a rejection of Samuel but a rejection of Himself. God was their king, yet they were blind to seeing it. They were living outside of His kingship. The people had become the people of themselves rather than the people of God.

Israel desired a king for what appears like three reasons. The judges that followed Samuel were corrupt and they wanted someone to rule over them rightly, all the other nations had one, and they wanted someone to fight their battles.

I think those are some of the same reasons we want formal leadership in our religious organizations. We get sick of the wrong decisions being made and feel that if we appoint a leader, then right decisions will be made. We feel that we need to look like all of the other organizations in our culture that are respected. And we don't want to struggle and do things on our own. We want our leaders to make our role as Christians easier to carry.

The thing is that God is willing to do those things for us already. God is at work in our midst without formal leaders. History has shown that having formal leaders brings about just as many -maybe even more - problems than not having them brought. Our structure will not be what gains us respect by those around us. It is faithfulness to God that should do that. If that doesn't gain respect, then respect really isn't something that we should care about. And God is willing to make our burden just what we can carry. He is there to take care of that burden when it becomes too much.

God submitted his actions to the will of his people despite that will being wrong. That is an amazing and disturbing thing about God. When His people will something, He will let them attain what they will. I think it is because He hopes that through attaining their wrong desires people's hearts will be transformed into desiring that which God really wants for them.

The people wanted a king. God did not want the people to have any other king besides Himself. In the end, God gave the people the king they wanted. I think the same has happened with the church in America. God has given us all of the wrong things we have desired in the hope that in the end we will desire what God wants us to desire. We are to be God's people under His leadership. We need no middlemen. We need no mammoth organizations that requires us to have the leadership structures necessary to run them. We need to be a collection of people fully committed to being the people of God, bringing His will into our reality, and shedding His redeeming light to everyone around us. When we are the people of God all other things will line up into proper perspective.

1 Samuel 12:11-25
11 And the Lord sent Jerubbaal and Barakand Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety. 12 And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, No, but a king shall reign over us,when the Lord your God was your king. 13 And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the Lord has set a king over you. 14 If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. 15 But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.

16 Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king. 18 So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. 19 And all the people said to Samuel, Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king. 20 And Samuel said to the people, Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. 23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 24 Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. 25 But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.
Verse 14 contains the scariest scenario about setting up leaders above us: "If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well."

Once we have placed leadership over us, our wellness is not just dependent upon our serving the Lord. It is now also dependent upon our leader serving the Lord. It is only when we are faithful serving the Lord and when our leader is also faithful in serving the Lord that all will be well. When we place ourselves under formal leadership, our blessings and curses seem to be linked to those that the leadership will receive.

Asking for a king was a great wickedness. But even in the people of Israel committing this great wickedness, God was still going to use them to bring about His will for His name's sake. God was still linked to His people despite their great wickedness. People's image of God would be based upon the actions of His people. God commands them to do not be afraid of this evil act they have committed, continue to serve the Lord with all of their heart, and to not chase after empty things.

I think we find ourselves in the same situation. We have made "kings" all around us. We might call them presidents, chairmen, pastors, or ministers. These people are any that we place in a position between us and Him. But we need not lose hope. Just as Samuel vowed to continue to pray for those who had made the great wicked mistake of choosing a king, we should continue to pray for our brothers and sisters. And all the while we need to focus on fearing the Lord and serving Him faithfully with all of our heart.

Watch out for the potholes.

On the King James Version of the Bible

I was in a conversation this week about the King James Version. To refresh my memory I read the Wikipedia articles.

The New Testament in the King James was translated from the Textus Receptus. Here are a few of the highlights from the article:

Erasmus also lacked a complete copy of the book of Revelation and was forced to translate the last six verses back into Greek from the Latin in order to finish his edition.

It is now widely accepted by textual scholars that the selection of manuscripts available to Erasmus was quite limited — due partly to his time constraints, partly to geographic isolation before high-speed transit, and partly to the fact that many important texts were as yet undiscovered — being confined to a few late medieval texts that most modern scholars consider to be of dubious quality.

The majority of textual critical scholars have adopted an eclectic approach to the Greek New Testament, with the most weight given to the earliest extant manuscripts, which are mainly Alexandrian in character, thus breaking with the Textus Receptus in numerous places.

In summary, Erasmus, the compiler of the Textus Receptus, didn't have access to many of the earlier manuscripts that we now have access to. The current thought of biblical scholars, which I agree with, is that a manuscript is more accurate the closer it is to the date the of the original authorship. Consequently, this means that the accuracy of the translation of the New Testament in the King James Version isn't as accurate as some of the more recent translations.

The Old Testament of the King James Version is taken from the Masoretic Text. This text is pretty much accepted as the authority on the Old Testament and is used in most English translations.

watch out for the potholes.

All Evil Comes From That Which Should Be Good

I meant to write a post today springing out of this quote from C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, but I ran out of time. For some reason this concept was on my mind today when I was jogging. (I recently weighed myself and realized that I have gained 40 lbs in the last year, so I've decided I had to do something.) I haven't touched Mere Christianity since the 90s. (Maybe I'll create a recommended reading list and it would be one of the books that I include in it.) Anyway, the mind is a weird thing. Bold points are mine.

In real life people are cruel for one of two reasons - either because they are sadists, that is, because they have a sexual perversion which makes cruelty a cause of sensual pleasure to them, or else for the sake of something they are going to get out of it - money, or power, or safety. But pleasure, money, power, and safety are all, as far as they go, good things. The badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much. I do not mean, of course, that the people who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness; you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong - only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him. In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled. We called sadism a sexual perversion; but you must first have the idea of a normal sexuality before you can talk of its being perverted; and you can see which is the perversion, because you can explain the perverted from the normal, and cannot explain the normal from the perverted. It follows that this Bad Power, who is supposed to be on an equal footing with the Good Power, and to love badness in the same way as the Good Power loves goodness, is a mere bogy. In order to be bad he must have good things to want and then to pursue in the wrong way: he must have impulses which were originally good in order to be able to pervert them. But if he is bad he cannot supply himself either with good things to desire or with good impulses to pervert. He must be getting both from the Good Power. And if so, then he is not independent. He is part of the Good Power's world; he was made either by the Good Power or by some power above them both.

Put it more simply still. To be bad, he must exist and have intelligence and will. But existence, intelligence and will are in themselves good. Therefore he must be getting them from the Good Power: even to be bad he must borrow or steal from his opponent. And do you now begin to see why Christianity has always said that the devil is a fallen angel? That is not a mere story for children. It is a real recognition of the fact that evil is a parasite, not an original thing. The powers which enable evil to carry on are powers given it by goodness. All things which enable a bad man to be effectively bad are in themselves good things - resolution, cleverness, good looks, existence itself.

Watch out for the potholes.