Friday, December 18, 2015

Nadab & Abihu and The Terrorism of Pattern Theology

Leviticus 10:1-11
What if I said to you that I feel peace and comfort when I think of Nadab and Abihu?

If you've been taught a legalistic pattern theology, then you may respond with:

"What? Those dudes were put to death by fire from God Himself! Are you kidding me?"

No. I'm not. Bear with me.

In Philippians 4:4-8 Paul instructs Christians to think positive and healthy thoughts:
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."
Painting by Noah Bradley
We can't follow Paul's instructions to rejoice and avoid living anxiously while thinking about God damning us to Hell if we disobey one command of God for worship like Nadab and Abihu. 

A while back, I came across three articles that I think, when all put together, will bring us some comfort as we better understand our blessings in Christ and that even Nadab and Abihu can bring in spite of the fact they have been used to terrorize faithful Christians for decades in Churches of Christ.

This peace and comfort comes from a better interpretation that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and excellent.
 
FIRST ARTICLE

The first article came up when I was searching for information on demonizing one's enemy. It had to do with jumping to conclusions why the Boston Marathon Bombers killed civilians. 

No one really knew at that time, and the article's point was to explain that not all acts of violence are "terrorism," and that many of our freedoms have been infringed upon because the media immediately characterizes every act of violence as "terrorism" based on the U.S. Government's definition "which often expands... to demonize violence originating from ideologies and movements that oppose U.S. hegemony."

Friday, November 20, 2015

TUNNEL HILL 100 MILE RUN

My Belt Buckle
"Sometimes she scrapes," said Lanier. 

He was talking about his RV, JOLEEN, as we gently pull out of his Athens, AL driveway on Friday, November 13, 2015 headed to Vienna, IL for The 2nd Annual Tunnel Hill 100/50 Mile Endurance Run.

She did rock a little, as I recall, as we dipped from the driveway to the street, but she didn't scrape this time. We pulled onto East Washington Street away from the cemetery and up the street on a crisp, Fall Alabama morning.

THE RIDE

My wife, Laura, and our children, Brett (4) and Alex (2) had dropped me off a few minutes earlier. She made sure that I had all my bags and my $5 folding, red chair from Academy Sports that would come in so handy during the race. We ease out of town, and while JOLEEN makes her way down the divided highway, Lanier and I discuss hamburgers and barbecue. He tells me about L & S where he makes a daily trip to get fresh hamburger meat for his restaurant, Dub's Burgers.

I tell him about my semi-catering event for our small church group a few weeks back. 

Pic by Lanier
I tell him I think a business ought to have a process. He listens patiently, especially since he's been running a restaurant for the last 10 years, and I never have.

I'm thankful for this virtue of his.

Lanier is traveling to volunteer at the race and to pace me. I am traveling to attempt my first 100 mile run. Our sunny morning ride progresses up Interstate 65 toward Nashville, and Lanier fiddles with the heat fan while we talk. It was cool to me inside the cab, but only for a few miles. After I bumped my head on the pull out sleeper coming back from the bathroom, I knew I was road ready!

As we ride, I'm content to know that all the talk about my first 100 mile attempt will be over tomorrow. I try to keep my spirits high and reinforced about finishing the next day. I want to be as realistic as possible, but not so realistic that I admit I may not finish. There's always that possibility even for those who have already finished one, but it would be too much stress to think about that now. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Toward Unity By Sharing Salt at the The Lord's Table and Away From Conformity to a Restricted 'Supper'

The New Jerusalem Bible translates Acts 1:3-4 as:

"While at table with them (sunalidzo), he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised…"

The NIV 2011 has "On one occasion, while he was eating with them..."

Eugene LaVerdiere translates Acts 1:3-4 as:

"He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while He was sharing salt with them..."

And, BAGD, the currently accepted standard for first century Greek usages, gives these usages for sunalidzo:

1) eat (salt) together, share a meal with; or
2) to bring together, assemble, come together, or 3) “spend the night with,” “stay with.”

Vincent Word Studies in the New Testament says of Acts 1:3-4:

"Being assembled together (συναλιζόμενος) From σύν, together, and ἁλής, 'thronged or crowded.' Both the A. V. [KJV] and Rev. give eating together in margin, following the derivation from σύν, together, and ἅλς, salt: eating salt together, and hence generally of association at table."

These translations, lexicon usages, and word studies help us better understand first century culture and Paul's concern for unity at the Lord's Supper/Table in 1 Cor. 11:17-34; cf. 10:21, especially when the word Paul uses in 1 Cor. 11:20, deipnon, refers to the evening meal.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

'Congregations' at the Public Building? Or Families Around The Supper Table?

Jeff Reed writes,

“…The West must rediscover its roots and get back to the way of Christ and His Apostles. Yet it is hard to see our way back. It is hard to see through our traditions and institutionalization to see clearly what is actually there in Acts, the Epistles, and the early church…”

“…It is very important for us to look closely and carefully at this early church to discover its success. We must understand why these churches were so strong and the secret of why they so successfully multiplied across the Roman Empire until they turned the entire world of that day upside down.”

“The simplicity of the churches and the complexity of their movement are hard to see today, because we are blinded by the clutter of our ways: our institutions, our traditions, and even our expectations of what it means to go to church... Let‘s turn our attention to these small groups that gathered together weekly called churches.”

“By small, simple gatherings, I mean small simple meetings of new believers that were called churches: simple, met in homes, on the first day of every week, around an evening meal, celebrating their new life, inviting friends, coworkers, relatives, etc. They all looked like this. And they multiplied around the world…”

“The church began meeting in Acts 2 where we see the church meeting together around four key elements: the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer (cf. v. 42). Once the church was scattered and churches began multiplying around the Empire, that practice shifted to breaking bread on the first day of the week in small communities called churches (Acts 20:7-11).”

“They were devoted to the Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer (4 elements). The Lord added to their numbers. For the next 300 years these small church communities, meeting in homes, multiplied around the world.”

Thursday, October 8, 2015

How Elder Expediency & The Pharisees' Oral Traditions Are Similar

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes."

I heard this phrase again the other day and meditated briefly on what it means.

Obviously, the same exact events do not repeat themselves in all aspects. Once something happens in history, it's over. It cannot be redone.

That part we understand.

What it seems we do have trouble understanding, however, is that "rhyme," as Twain puts it, really is the next closest thing to learn from, but we don't.

People behave the same ways in different generations. This seems normal in successive generations within a culture, but it is interesting to me that it can happen in separate cultures thousands of years apart.

This is exactly how I see "elder expediency" in churches of Christ with which I'm familiar.

For some background to what I mean,

The following comments from Tom Wright in The New Testament and The People of God explain why Jesus had so many debates with the Pharisees.

Why He had a different interpretation when confronted with not keeping the "traditions of the elders" (Matt. 15:1), and it especially explains, for me, why some Christians today try to bind expedient traditions of elders.

Wright writes,

"The Pharisees... while they undoubtedly had case law which enabled them to apply the Torah to particular situations, did not claim for this a status exactly equivalent to the written Torah itself. They interpreted, they applied, they developed Torah. They had to. But they knew when they were doing it."

Friday, October 2, 2015

2015 IRONMAN Chattanooga (144.6) Race Report

On The Road to Chickamauga
144.6? I thought an IRONMAN triathlon was 140.6 miles? 

It is, but evidently the race director of IRONMAN Chattanooga likes to provide athletes with a smidge of bonus suffering. 

The bike portion of this two year old but already popular race is 116 miles. Four miles longer than the standard 112. Athletes know these extra miles will add time to their bike splits.

If you're fast, not a problem.

But if you're a finisher like me, then you like to have all the time you can get.

Knowing this pre-race = stress level: medium.

My Garmin Data.

Not only is the 116 mile (4400+ ft. elevation gain) bike leg challenging, the marathon following it is less typical for IMs I've done having 1300 feet of elevation gain that must be conquered before hearing the coveted words:

"You. Are. An IRONMAN!" 

It's been even tougher for me to hear those words since the announcers of my two previous IMs said my name and my hometown (which I appreciated), but did not say those iconic words along with my name.

The third time was a charm.

I finally got to hear it. "You are an IRONMAN, Scott!" sounded great coming over the loud speaker.

Tennessee Riverwalk
But wait. There's more! 

Not only are the bike and run courses unusual, the start time of the entire race which is normally 7 a.m. local time was pushed back 30 minutes, because Chattanooga is in the Eastern (US) Time Zone where the sun rises later than in our Central Time Zone.

But wait. There's more! 

Not only does the race have 4 more miles on the bike, a hilly marathon, and a 30 minute delayed start time, it also separates the non-wet suit swimmers from the wet suit swimmers because the water temperature was above 76.1 degrees on race morning.

Since I chose to wear one, I got to stand to the side while everyone not wearing a wet suit entered the water. This additional factor meant that we wet suit swimmers would enter the water nearer to 8 a.m.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Total Man: Jesus Christ

We study the life of Christ to understand Jesus' behavior as a man, and what we find is that a man keeps on growing in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man. He keeps on developing mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Christian success is developing into a person of godly character, and satisfaction comes from being yourself while not disrespecting others. Manhood is not having or doing, but being Christ-like through developing your unique personality and skills.

Favor does not mean being well-liked, or popular. Rather it is that which cannot be successfully condemned (John 8:46). 

By the American standard, Christ was a failure. However, appearances and expectations can be deceptive. It is substance that matters. Because He was a man of substance, Christ had an inner peace and so can we regardless how it appears or what others expectations are.

In his book, The Total Man: The Way to Confidence and Fulfillment (1980), 

Dan Benson asks:

"How do we as men find and keep the important balance in personal fulfillment, family life and work? How do we distinguish between godly manhood & pseudo-masculinity?

Freedom in being a man is separating one's self from society's false standards of masculinity to a more relaxed, confident manhood."

He continues by contrasting society's standard of manhood with a more Christ like standard:

"It was a perceptive ad agency that conceived the Marlboro Man. There he stands, rugged and free. The sun glints off the ruddy crevices of his face. Behind him, a herd of galloping mustangs symbolize his strength, daring and hard masculinity."

"Those who created him knew that he would portray America's masculine dream—our subconscious symbol of the brooding, rugged independence that spells maleness."

"His image sums up what we strive for: freedom, success, and the ability to handle any situation that comes along--the strong, silent disposition that expresses nothing short of total manhood."

"Men. Look around. The American masculine dream is killing us."

Monday, September 21, 2015

5 Reasons Why Churches of Christ Are Not The Church You Read About in the Bible

A linchpin is a person or thing vital to an organization. Vitality is life. Without linchpins organizational life pulls apart.

The linchpins that hold together the organizational or institutional churches of Christ are centered more around things than people. This is why the church building, pulpit, and official positions, etc. are revered as the most important (necessary expedients) to a church's life.

The organization (something greater than yourself we are told) is more important than you and everybody else for that matter.

Ironically, this Industrial Age viewpoint in churches of Christ sacrifices the very people who the NT says is 'the church.' What is left is a veneered organization claiming to be the church that eats its young.

Veneer Churches of Christ (like most Western Churches) cover or disguise the true nature of the church you read about in the NT with an attractive appearance that does not actually help the Body of Christ, but serves the few competing to be heads of it.

When things (steps, acts, offices, positions) instead of the people are the linchpins of churches, this veneer must remain at all costs for it to hold together whether the actual people who are its substance do or not. The people are replaceable cogs in a machine supporting the linchpins. Some linchpins are more important than others, but below are what I believe are the main linchpins in order of importance and my reasons for why they need to be pulled.

The primary reaction by the status quo is to dismiss and demonize anything and everything that challenges its truthfulness.

As Noam Chomsky said,

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." I challenge that allowed spectrum.

Recently, I learned the mission of The Emerging Church,

According to Wikipedia:
The emerging church is a Christian movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries that crosses a number of theological boundaries… Some attend local independent churches or house churches while others worship in traditional Christian denominations. Proponents believe the movement transcends such modernist labels of "conservative" and "liberal," calling the movement a "conversation" to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature, its vast range of standpoints, and its commitment to dialogue… What those involved in the conversation mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship, modern evangelism, and the nature of modern Christian community.
The churches of Christ that I am familiar with would oppose TEC because it removes so many linchpins needed to survive. While I was pleasantly surprised to see many characteristics I agree with and were actually present in the first century church, my main purpose is to show that the churches of Christ today are not who they claim to be to the exclusion of all others. In fact, I am more "conservative" than they are if I must use that cultural term with my view of the first century church.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Breaking Free From The Chains of Shame: Forsaking Religious Rule Keeping For A Maturing Relationship

Here's a great link to 10 characteristics of ungodly, shame-based relationships contrasted with the 10 characteristics of godly, grace-based relationships:


Dale and Juanita Ryan write,

"Shame is a social experience. It is rooted in exchanges between people. It may grow out of experiences of public humiliation."

"It may result from experiences of being devalued. It may come from experiences of rejection. Many people learn shame early in life in their family-of-origin. Harsh criticism, neglect, lack of affirmation, humiliation, contempt and ridicule are not uncommon features of family life. Any of these experiences can contribute to shame in family members. The family is not, however, the only source of shaming experiences."

"Shame learned in families is often reinforced by experiences in other relationships and in other systems, such as schools and work settings. And shame is sometimes fostered as well by experiences in the Christian community. Experiences of public exposure, judgment and rejection sometimes happen in the name of Christ."

"Whatever the source, shame is a very painful emotional experience. Shame hurts at a fundamental level. While shame is rooted in social experiences, it is also easily internalized. If people experience humiliation often enough, or intensely enough, or consistently enough, they may come to the conclusion that they ought to be humiliated. When shame becomes internalized in this way it poses a fundamental threat to a person's identity."
 
GUILT & SHAME ARE DIFFERENT

"There is an important difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is part of recognizing that I have done something wrong. Guilt is a painful emotion. It can, however, be a helpful emotion because it alerts us to a violation of our values and ideals. Guilt can be the first step in a process which leads to growth and change, to repentance and recovery. Shame, on the other hand, is not part of such a healthy process."

"Shame does not open a person to the possibility of change. Instead, shame is experienced as a flaw so fundamental that no hope for recovery seems possible. Shame causes people to see themselves as unlovable, unworthy and irreparable."

"Perhaps the most difficult tenet of the Christian gospel to believe is that no matter how badly damaged you may seem to yourself, God sees you as valuable. No matter how unlovable you may seem to yourself, God loves you. No matter how pessimistic you may be about the possibility of recovering from shame, God is eager to bring healing. Because shame damages a person so deeply, recovery from shame will require deep healing. This kind of healing requires time and the help of others who love you."

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Unseen Branches & False Constants: The 10 Dogmas of Modern Science

Modern science is based on the principle: "Give us one free miracle and we'll explain the rest."--Terence McKenna

"... And the one free miracle is that all the matter and energy in the universe and all the laws that govern it came from nothing in a single instance."--Rupert Sheldrake

Tom Huston writes,

"TED's Chris Anderson censored Rupert Sheldrake and removed this video from the TEDx YouTube channel. They dared question the Scientistic Orthodoxy, and for that they have been publicly castigated and defamed."

BIO: "Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. (born 28 June 1942) is a biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and ten books. A former Research Fellow of the Royal Society, he studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, where he was a Scholar of Clare College, took a double first class honours degree and was awarded the University Botany Prize."

TEDx Talk: The Science Delusion
"He then studied philosophy and history of science at Harvard University, where he was a Frank Knox Fellow, before returning to Cambridge, where he took a Ph.D. in biochemistry."

"He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, where he was Director of Studies in biochemistry and cell biology. As the Rosenheim Research Fellow of the Royal Society, he carried out research on the development of plants and the ageing of cells in the Department of Biochemistry at Cambridge University."

"From 2005-2010 he was the Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project funded from Trinity College,Cambridge. He is a Fellow of Schumacher College , in Dartington, Devon, a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences near San Francisco, and a Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute in Connecticut."

Monday, September 7, 2015

Usurping the Authority of Husbands

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." - Nietzsche

The separate class of elders and gospel preachers in churches of Christ usurps the God-given authority of husbands over their own wives. When power is hedged away from husbands, their options become severely limited to join that peer group, be dependent on it, or leave.

Control over the man-made pulpit and man-created church treasury by a plain-clothed clergy usurps the authority God gave to husbands by misinterpreting the husband-wife contexts of 1 Cor. 11:1ff, 14:34-35, Gen. 3:16 and 1 Tim. 2:8-15 as "man-woman" rather than "husband-wife."

If husbands and wives decide what to do with their own private treasuries as Paul instructs (1 Cor. 16:2) and the husbands are the teacher-preachers, then what becomes of the organizational-institutional view of "church?" It is rendered impotent and is exposed for the unnecessary entity that it is.

My point is to show that from the very beginning, Bible context is often misinterpreted generically as "man-woman" rather than "husband-wife," and the former interpretation sustains a pernicious, superior class of Christians that unnecessarily comes between husbands and wives much like they unnecessarily come between Christians and God.

At best, the man-woman interpretation creates a dysfunctional democracy of husbands attempting to counter the clerical class by majority vote.

Neither of which is NT Christianity.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

How To Live With Another Person

A healthy relationship is tough.

Like a worn out paperback cover, those involved can be used, bent, creased and flattened back out, maybe even a chunk taken out.

And while wounds come with relationships, "biting and devouring one another," as Paul puts it in Galatians 5:15, and "consuming one another" is relational cannibalism.

I doubt there's any cure for those who desire to be that way.

However, if you are like me, and honestly desire to understand for yourself and do what is good and true, then David Viscott's book may be an enjoyable and relief-filled read for you, too.

I gave 25 cents for my copy about 10 years ago before Laura and I got married, but I recently reread it in hope of finding another "profound and life changing" book. Whether this book is profound for you, you must decide, but I was pleasantly satisfied. At least I am through the first 50 pages.

The excerpt that I would like to share is from chapter two on "Everyone's Basic Rights."

Our present day, highly charged, political culture is certainly not at a loss for opinions on what is a legitimate right and what is not, but I think that what Dr. Viscott explains is agreeable to all. If not, I would like to hear your opinion. Perhaps we can all benefit from an increased understanding. The principles outlined by Dr. Viscott are written primarily for couples, but I think that they are universally applicable to any relationship: friends, family, coworkers, social groups, and especially between God and man.

David Viscott writes:

"ANY relationship which does not respect the rights of its individual members equally cannot be based on an understanding that goes very deep. A relationship should be a place where each member regards the others' rights and feelings as he would his own. Usually two people come to accept each others rights by trial and error and by argument and misunderstanding. Each couple must decide for itself what is acceptable in its relationship. This may take years and involve periods of disenchantment, self-accusation and feelings of isolation and betrayal. The course of all relationships is occasionally stormy, even if the partners never seem to argue."

"We are all human and that simple fact makes us heir to the noblest aspirations, the basest instincts, an attraction to what is beautiful, a potential for angry retaliation and the capacity for love and self sacrifice. We are each a story and no one's story is completed until his death, no matter how hopeless the opening chapters seem to be or how limited their future development appears. Neither is a happy outcome a certainty no matter how great and promising one's beginnings are. We are all becoming and none of us can be sure what it is s/he will finally become. The process from beginning to end is hard work. The times are always uncertain. Our greatest strength comes from protecting our rights."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Reclaiming the Lord's Supper From the Auditorium: House Churches Together in One City

From the Supper Table...
"Together" (epi to auto)

Contrary to the mandate that a church must meet in "one place" to be Scriptural based on the KJV translation of 1 Cor. 11:20:

Eugene LaVerdiere writes:

“In 1 Corinthians 11:20, Paul places the expression epi to auto "together" parallel to the expression en ekklesia, meaning "as a church" (11:18)."

"... After Pentecost, when the community grew to more than three thousand (Acts 2:41), it was not possible to assemble in one place. As we read later in the first major summary, "every day they devoted themselves...to breaking bread in their homes" (2:46)."

"That presumes that the community not only lived, but assembled to break bread in a number of homes. That, however, did not take away from their koinonia (fellowship). Nor did it prevent them from sharing life with one another and sharing their possessions with those who were needy."

He continues:

To The Government Lecture Hall...
"...Referring to the community as a whole, Acts 2:44 uses the Greek expression epi to auto. In the Septuagint, the expression appears very frequently, always as the translation for the Hebrew word yahdau, meaning "together." In the New Testament, however, the expression epi to auto has a quasi-technical meaning, designating the community as such and stressing the koinonia (fellowship, common-union) of its members."

"The expression epi to auto, therefore, does not mean that they lived or assembled "in one place" or "together," as it meant in the Septuagint. It means that they met "as a body" (Acts 1:15; 2:1), and after Pentecost, "as a church"--as a community of believers who were one in Christ. That was true whether they assembled in the same place or in various places."

"A good translation for 2:44, therefore, would be, "All who believed were united as a church" or "common-union" epi to auto. A good translation for 2:47 would be, "And everyday, the Lord added those being saved to their common-union (epi to auto)."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Confirmation Bias & Overconfidence in Pattern Worship

Authoritarian Teaching Model
So, I do a Google search of "Pattern Worship" and this article is at the top of the list: The Divine Pattern of Acceptable Worship.

I am very familiar with the interpretations of the author, since he is certainly not the only preacher from (southern) churches of Christ who fully believes that content.

Since I have written extensive articles over the last four years on the various contents found in his article, I would simply like to point out the seeming disconnect that it takes to even title the article. What makes any one person think that he knows the "divine pattern" of "acceptable" worship?

From my view, it comes from being born into a belief system such as the author was in Tennessee, being brought up in only that authoritarian tradition, and therefore, never really considering anything else. This isolation, reinforced by confirmation bias and from being vested in tradition, seems to originate from being indoctrinated from birth that one has the truth and must never consider that what he has been taught may be wrong or that a differing interpretation may be more valid. Terms like "faithfulness" and "sound" are attached to this indoctrination and so to consider anything differently is viewed as infidelity to God.

The reinforcing nature of the interpretation style goes like this: The isolationism causes one to disconnect from his own interpretations. An innocence in the mind of the believer that he is not interpreting anything. All he is doing is telling us what "God said" and that "God's word" is "truth." So, for him, he genuinely cannot understand why everyone else cannot see what he sees. Yet, his own inability to see information that may invalidate his conclusions remains elusive to him. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

SAFE PEOPLE: How To Find Relationships That Are Good For You & Avoid Those That Aren't

Colin Powell says,

"The less you associate with some people, the more your life will improve. Any time you tolerate mediocrity in others, it increases your mediocrity. An important attribute in successful people is their impatience with negative thinking and negative acting people."

"As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don't help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don't increase you will eventually decrease you."

"Consider this: Never receive counsel from unproductive people. Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always first to tell you how. Not everyone has a right to speak into your life. You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person. Don't follow anyone who's not going anywhere."

"With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it. Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life. Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships. If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights. A mirror reflects a man's face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses."

"The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those with whom you closely associate - for the good and the bad. Be not mistaken. This is applicable to family as well as friends. Yes...do love, appreciate and be thankful for your family, for they will always be your family no matter what. Just know that they are human first and though they are family to you, they may be a friend to someone else and will fit somewhere in the criteria above."

"In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends. Never make someone a priority when you are only an option for them. If you are going to achieve excellence in big things,you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Courage To Stand Your Ground Against Attacks

Authoritarians Attempt to Use Force/Guilt/Manipulation
I strive to be real.

I have found that when Christians strive to be religious rather than real, we sometimes become more controlling than the people in government.

Control is achieved and maintained by gaining your trust, but I have found that trusting others to think and do things "for us" prevents God commanded growth and ends up destroying relationships. If "religion" (and I really don't like this word applied to Christianity) should do anything, it should strengthen individuals and relationships not destroy them.

Wisdom warns of trusting in man as an authority instead of trusting God as our authority.

Men are deceptive, use sleight of hand, and say and do not: "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things..." (Jer. 17:9), and nowhere is it more deceitful than when some act as if their interpretation of the Scriptures is the only one and all who disagree with them on "matters of faith" are evil.

The Weakness of Dogmatism
Paul writes: "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings" (1 Cor. 7:23). And,

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with a yoke of bondage" (Gal. 5:1).

Obedience and responsibility are not the same thing.

Obedience to God increases man's responsibility and maturity.

Obedience to man stagnates man's responsibility and maturity. The Apostle Paul knew this and taught against it.

Do we?

Or do we have a worldview of compartmentalizing life that justifies obedience to man which is not the commanded responsibility and maturity that increases from obedience to God through his grace? (2 Pet. 3:18). 


Don't Think For Yourself, You'll Fail!
As Seth Godin says, "Perfect is the enemy of good." Do we let men fool us into believing that God wants us to be perfect with their man made laws and interpretations?

Isaiah says:

"Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?" --Isaiah 2:22, NIV 2011.

And, again, Paul says:

"Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ....What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.... So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Peter or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God"--1 Cor. 3:1...23, NIV 2011.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How To Build Self Confidence

In The Ultimate Secrets of Total Self-Confidence, Robert Anthony reveals three detrimental behaviors that prevent living an abundant life: Conformity, Comparison, and Competition.

The way to overcome these harmful behaviors, he says, is to "de-hypnotize" ourselves of false beliefs. He writes:

"You may have spent valuable, irreplaceable years trying to fit into the parade only to learn, too late, that you will never fit in. What makes us follow each other like sheep?" "It is because we are trying to conform to the majority."

"It's time to break out of this sheep state of mind and stop punishing ourselves because we are different from our family and friends, or anyone else for that matter. Much of our suffering can be eliminated if we refuse to let our lives be marred by conformity."

"To think that we are controlled in any way by another individual, group, or society imposes a condition of mental slavery that makes us prisoners by our own decrees."

Dr. Anthony continues:

"The problem is that we have been conditioned by false concepts, values and beliefs that have prevented us from realizing how truly capable and unique we are. Faith is limitless. Jesus says that the "kingdom of heaven does not come with observation, but it is within you" and that "all things are possible to him who believes."

"Health, happiness, abundance and peace of mind are natural states of being once you break the bonds of negative thinking. Unless you perceive your own true worth as a person, you cannot come close to achieving self confidence and personal freedom. Only to the degree that you can acknowledge your own unique importance will you be able to free yourself from self imposed limitations."

"Yes, I said self imposed!"

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Looking At The Lens: An Introduction To The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

In his landmark book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (1989),

Stephen R. Covey says that while preparing lessons for a leadership development program he "became particularly interested in how perceptions are formed, how they govern the way we see, and how the way we see governs how we behave."

He continues,

"This led me to a study of expectancy theory and self-fulfilling prophecies or the “Pygmalion effect,” and to a realization of how deeply imbedded our perceptions are."

"It taught me that we must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world." 

Covey's book is separated into the four parts of: Principles & Paradigms, Private Victory, Public Victory, and Renewal which explain and describe how practicing the 7 Habits will restore the "character ethic" which has been replaced in American culture over the last 50 years by the more superficial "personality ethic."

Concerning private victory and public victory, Covey says that private victory must precede public victory on the "Maturity Continuum" from "dependence" to "independence" to "inter-dependence," because only independent people can become inter-dependent which is the ultimate goal.

Friday, August 21, 2015

7 Myths Debunked in The Total Money Makeover



$12.99 on Kindle
"Myth: You can get a good deal on a new car at 0% interest."

"Truth: A new car loses 60% of its value in the first 4 years; that isn’t 0%."

"A good used car that is less than three years old is as reliable or more reliable than a new car. A new $28,000 car will lose about $17,000 of value in the first four years you own it. That is almost $100 per week in lost value. To understand what I’m talking about, open your window on your way to work once a week and throw out a $100 bill."

"USA Today notes that the average car payment is $464 over sixty-four months. Most people get a car payment and keep it throughout their lives. As soon as a car is paid off, they get another payment because they “need” a new car. If you keep a $464 car payment throughout your life, which is “normal,” you miss the opportunity to save that money. If you invested $464 per month from age 25 to age 65, a normal working lifetime, in the average mutual fund averaging 12 percent (the seventy-year stock market average), you would have $5,458,854.45 at age sixty-five. Hope you like the car!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

If We Are Doing Anything Different Than What Is In the New Testament, Please Tell Us. Okay...

 THE REASON I POST ARTICLES

The primary reason I post articles is to increase awareness through questioning our assumptions. Our assumptions determine what our conclusions/beliefs are, so if we never challenge our assumptions with new information, then we will always draw the same conclusions. 

Unless we already know everything, then not allowing new information and never wrestling with our assumptions is not wise behavior. We will only become more isolated and delusional about what is true, especially in the Information Age where everyone has access to reliable information. Never has there been an age when we can appear more foolish.

Another reason I post articles is because, generally speaking, we do not know our own history. God commands Christians to "mature" and "grow" (Eph. 4:11-15; 2 Pet. 3:18) just as much as He commands baptism (Acts 2:38), so not realizing and not acknowledging that we interpret the Bible and that we have inherited the power structures and systems already in existence when we were born into this world will also contribute to unnecessary and peculiar behaviors that are obvious to others, but not to ourselves.

These peculiarities are not favorable as we would like to think they are, but actually make us odd because they lack integrity. If they were peculiarities that showed that we go out of our way to apply to ourselves what we expect of others in matters commonly called "doctrine," then that would truly make us different from the world in a respectable and honorable way. This is not how we are "peculiar."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Why Do People Eat The Lord's Supper in Church Buildings Instead of Homes?

"Many institutions and elements of institutions which have sometimes been thought to belong to primitive Christianity belong, in fact, to the Middle Ages.--Edwin Hatch

"Experience supplies painful proof that traditions once called into being are first called useful, then they become necessary. At last they are too often made idols, and all must bow down to them or be punished."--J. C. Ryle

"Protestants (as well as Catholics) do not practice the Supper the way it was observed in the first century. For the early Christians, the Lord's Supper was a festive communal meal. The mood was one of celebration and joy. When believers first gathered for the meal, they broke the bread and passed it around. Then they ate their meal, which then concluded after the cup was passed around. The Lord's Supper was essentially a Christian banquet."--Frank Viola

"When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God. After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you" (Luke 22:14-20).

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread...When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives" (Matt. 26:26-30).

"The word deipnon (1 Cor. 11:20), meaning "dinner," tells us that it was not a token meal (as it has become since) or part of a meal (as it is sometimes envisaged), but an entire, ordinary meal. The term indicates that this is the main (normally evening) meal, the one to which guests were invited. The breaking and distribution of the bread was the normal way of commencing such a meal, just as the taking of a cup was the usual way to bring it to a conclusion, prayers of blessing accompanied both."--Robert Banks

"It is not in doubt that the Lord's Supper began as a family meal or a meal of friends in a private house. The Lord's Supper moved from being a real meal into being a symbolic meal."--William Barclay

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Why Do People Dress Up For Church?

 
Man made doctrines like "give your best to God" are often cloaks for clerical control that compartmentalize rich and poor and sustain ethnic and class divisions, but what else should we expect from a dualistic Christianity?

With dualism, we expect to look and act differently when "religious" than while we are "in the world."
 
When a foundational part of western Christianity's hermeneutic is to be "called out" of the world (which is NOT what ekklesia means--it was a political assembly called together), and when we view worship as "separate from the rest of life," then there are bound to be manifestations like dressing up for church to show that you are giving your best to God. Often it comes across as simply a means for the self righteous to shame all who disagree with them.

Here is yet another inherited "doctrine" that in many places in the institutional churches is a cause of division (Rom. 16:17), perhaps because people fear an established hierarchy, and/or they have been taught that this human tradition is another factor of "faithfulness." If not in word, then certainly by example.

When and where did our modern practice originate? As we will see from James 2:1-13, it was not first century Christianity.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Paul's Traveling Companions: 1st Timothy 4:13 in Context

Were Timothy and Titus located preachers at congregations under the oversight of elders or were they apostolic workers sent to correct others who were doing the teaching in the assemblies?

Richard C. H. Lenski's translation of 1st Timothy 4:13 is:

"While I am traveling, pay close attention to the reading, to the exhortation, to the teaching.”

He comments:

"hEOS (ἕως) with the present tense means 'while' although many translate it 'till.' They misunderstand the situation."

"'While' Paul is away... (ἔρχομαι does not mean 'coming' but 'journeying,' 'traveling' from place to place)... Timothy is to watch things in the churches.”

The fact that Paul traveled throughout the Roman Empire and had traveling companions whom he sent to various cities consisting of multiple churches is confirmed by one of Paul's traveling companions, Luke, in the book of Acts:

Acts 13:13 reads:

“From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John [Mark] left them to return to Jerusalem. From Perga they went on to Pisidian Antioch” (NIV, 2011).

And Acts 20:2-4 reads:

He [Paul] traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months... He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia.

The letters of 1st & 2nd Timothy (and Titus) are private letters meant to encourage (only) two of Paul's many companions. Lenski's translation and interpretation of 1 Tim. 4:13 is also confirmed by Paul himself :

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Collection For The Saints

"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him (par heautō = at home) in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me" (1 Cor. 16:1-4).

Many times Acts 17:11 is used to show the nobility associated with searching a matter to its end. The Jews in Berea "searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." It is very easy sometimes to see error in opposing positions, but not always easy to see error with ourselves. The responsibility falls to you and me to search the meaning of the Scriptures daily to see if what we are being told (have been taught) is indeed the truth. 

This, however, is not simply looking at the verse on the page as self evident and believing the one who tells us, because he is such a great guy. The Bereans did not entrust their own salvation to a miracle-working apostle. They knew the meaning and value of the phrase "wolves come in sheep's clothing" and took appropriate and wise actions.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Going Beyond What Is Written & Doing All In The Name of the Lord in Context

Jay Guin writes,

"We should consider the 'proof' text relied on to assert that authority is essential. The foremost proof text is 1 Cor. 4:6:"

Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.

Guin continues,

"What was Paul talking about? First Corinthians is likely the first of the New Testament books to have been written, so he obviously couldn’t have been referring to the New Testament as “what is written.” He wasn’t saying only do in worship those things exemplified in the New Testament, as there was no New Testament. In fact, we also often argue that special gifts of the Holy Spirit were granted in those days because the New Testament had not yet been completed, and so special guidance was required."

"Obviously, therefore, Paul is not referring to written instructions as to how to conduct the assembly. In fact, he’s not saying that the writings the Corinthians had are comprehensive and sufficient. They weren’t at that time. Rather, “what is written” is plainly a reference to the Old Testament, as most commentaries conclude. More precisely, it’s a reference to the Old Testament passages Paul had just quoted:"
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God (1 Cor. 3:19-23).
"His point is to condemn the Corinthians’ letting themselves be judged by humans rather than by God and so being prideful over the others. Do not think you are better than others, for just as soon as you think that, God will judge you. Do not go beyond—do not think more highly of yourselves than what God has said. Don’t think you’re smarter than God! Don’t supplement God’s work to fill in the gaps. Don’t make yourself the judge of your fellow Christians. Don’t consider yourself superior because of your intellectual accomplishments!"

Friday, June 26, 2015

An Excerpt from Straight & Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate by Thomas Schmidt

Thomas Schmidt writes,

"An acquaintance at the office, or a neighbor, approaches you and says, "You're a religious person--tell me, what do you think of all this homosexuality stuff?"

"You reply, "Well, I think the Bible is pretty clear that such activity is inappropriate." You think you have made a simple statement expressing your belief in the authority of Scripture. But what the other person hears may be altogether different."

"To many people today, it is as though you had said, "Well, I think that the Bible makes it pretty clear that light-skinned people are superior to dark-skinned people." Why? Because for increasing numbers of people, sexuality is no longer a moral issue but a civil rights issue."

"How did the shift occur from morality to rights, and why has it proven persuasive? In the broadest terms, we might consider developments in Western and especially American culture. Begin with the affirmation that all people are created equal, and continue with the principle that the state should not rule in matters of personal conscience. Implication: the state should protect privacy."

"But then--and here's the rub--gradually remove the notion of a universal standard by which to evaluate behavior (the Judeo-Christian tradition), and people are left to evaluate their own behavior, which is all equally moral because it is all equally legal. The flip side of this is that it becomes immoral--and it could actually become illegal--to express intolerance, and the definition of intolerance could extend to any challenge to a legally protected behavior or opinion."

"The confusion between what is legal and what is moral, and the emergence of tolerance as the supreme virtue, stands behind most of the important issues being debated today... Within this cultural climate of confusion, in the past few decades there has been considerable civil rights legislation for minorities and women... the key issue in the link with civil rights is the issue of choice. Is homosexuality something you are, like being black or elderly or handicapped or female, or is it something you do, like adultery or polygamy or incest? Those who practice these latter behaviors have certainly been discriminated against... but they are not linked to the civil rights movement."

Sunday, March 15, 2015

ROMANS 13:1-7: Did God Write The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution?

Reading the Scriptures
I will never forget the first time someone told me that God forbids taking up arms and rebelling against the government as the American Revolutionaries did. 

I responded, "What are we supposed to do, then?" They said, "Raise our children. Live the Christian life. Do good deeds, etc."

That may have been the first time it dawned on me that the church and America were different, and that I could no longer view the two as the same any longer.

If America was founded by the willingness to rebel against England and take up arms as an organized group in defense of their rebellion, and God says to be subject to ruling authorities, then there's no way the American Colonists could have been obeying God in doing so. My realization about my country's origin affected my Christian identity, and I didn't know how to fill the void when it was detached from being American. 

In a bizarre way, it is not as upsetting now that America seems to be approaching, if not already at, the point where we can really question the veracity and legitimacy of the view of authority that most of us have been taught from the generations following World War II.

Stanley Hauerwas gives an insightful recommendation when interpreting Romans 13:1-7:
Never read Romans 13 without first reading Romans 12:14ff, because then you begin to see that “bless those who persecute you” applies also to Caesar... Then you’ll see how Americans have failed to read Paul well, because they want to read Paul as underwriting democratic presuppositions of government that assume, ‘somebody’s gotta kill somebody in the name of Jesus.’ Now, that’s what I don’t think Paul will let you do, if you read Romans 12 in relationship to Romans 13. That’s why we have so little good religious discourse in this country, because most American Christians don’t know how to read the Bible well. And they don’t know how to read the Bible well because they’re Americans before they’re Christians.
The part of Hauerwas' quote that stuck with me is, "that's why we have so little good religious discourse in this country" and also that "we don't know how to read the Bible well," because we are "Americans before we are Christians." Wow. This seems so true to me based on the authoritarian society that America has progressively become since World War II.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Myth of Limited Government

This is Discretionary Spending not the Total Budget
The United States of today is a vastly different country from what it was before World War II. 

For example, virtually no income tax existed back then, but 75 years later, approximately 35% of the $3.9 trillion US budget is spent annually on the military industrial complex. 

The rise of Central Banks at the beginning of the 20th century, the resulting method of perpetual indebtedness, and the growth of the US Government in connection with Big Corporations is now viewed as necessary with little faith in viable alternatives. 

It seems that the American form of government has evolved to leave people with the meaningless power to vote for only two choices--a Warfare State or a Welfare State. It seems that the role of representative government is to spend as much money as they can borrow while keeping their subjects busy, one side blaming the other as the source of all problems, based on the myth that if "my side ran the government all would be better." 

No it wouldn't. 

There is only one side in American Government made up of two parties whose only concern is how to spend the money they receive through taxation. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Questions Every Man Must Answer for Himself: Alexander Campbell's Address on War (Conclusion)

Alexander Campbell: Address on War, 1848
Campbell concludes his address making his most powerful appeals to reason and emotion:

JESUS' FOLLOWERS

"So far as any indignity was offered to them or any punishment inflicted upon them as His followers, or for His name's sake, they were in no way to resent it. But in their civil rights He allows them the advantages of the protection of civil law, and for this cause enjoins upon them the payment of all their political dues, and to be subject to every ordinance of man of a purely civil nature, not interfering with their obligations to Him."

"If a heathen man, or persecutor, smite you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If he compel you to go with him one mile, go two. If he sue thee at law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy mantle also," etc. These and whatever else of civil treatment they might receive, as Disciples of Christ, they must, for His sake, endure without resistance or resentment. But if in their citizen character or civil relations they are defrauded, maligned, or prosecuted, they might, and they did, appeal to Caesar."
 
"They paid tribute to civil magistrates that they might protect them; and therefore they might rightfully claim their protection. In this view of the matter, civil magistrates were God's ministers to the Christian "for good." And also, as God's ministers, they were revengers to execute wrath on those who did evil. Therefore, Christians are in duty bound to render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's - to reverence, honor, and support the civil magistrate, and, when necessary, to claim his protection."

"But as respects the life peculiar to a soldier, or the prosecution of a political war, they had no commandment. On the contrary, they were to live peaceably with all men to the full extent of their power. Their sovereign Lord, the King of Nations, is called "The Prince of Peace." How, then, could a Christian soldier, whose "shield" was faith, whose "helmet" was the hope of salvation, whose "breastplate" was righteousness, whose "girdle" was truth, whose "feet were shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace," and whose "sword" was that fabricated by the Holy Spirit, even "the Word of God." I say, how could such a one enlist to fight the battles of a Cesar, a Hannibal, a Tamerlane, a Napoleon, or even a Victoria?"

"Jesus said, "All that take the sword shall perish by the sword." An awful warning! All that take it to support religion, it is confessed, have fallen by it; but it may be feared that it is not simply confined to that; for may I not ask the pages of universal history, have not all the nations created by the sword finally fallen by it? Should anyone say, "Some few of them yet stand," we respond, "All that have fallen also stood for a time; and are not those that now stand tottering just at this moment to their overthrow?" We have no doubt, it will prove in the end that nations and states founded by the sword shall fall by the sword."

"When the Savior, in His figurative style, indicating the trials just coming upon His friends, said, "You had better sell your outside garments and buy a sword," one present, understanding him literally, as some of the friends of war still do, immediately responded, "Lord, here are two swords." What did he say? "It is enough." Two swords for twelve apostles! Truly, they are dull scholars who thence infer that He meant they should literally use two swords to fight with!"