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Friday, September 30, 2011

Adventures in Job Applications

            Over the course of the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to go through three discouraging experiences.  I will point out that I have a bachelor’s degree and about 30 years of experience in retail sales, customer service, and small business ownership.  The degree does not relate to the experience.  I had to close a business at the end of 2008, so I have been either unemployed or underemployed since the beginning of 2009.  At the beginning of this year, I was merchandising magazines in grocery stores and pharmacies.  It wasn’t much, but it was 15 hours a week.  It was honest work, even though I can’t exactly recommend the magazines or books I was putting out as being edifying reading.  In the spring, I received an offer to score essay questions on national and state student achievement tests.  It was about 10 weeks of full time work, so the magazine thing had to be cut to four hours a week, which continued after the scoring season was done.

            With its completion, I began looking for full time work again.  After about a month, I received an invitation to an interview.  It was a group interview, and at the end everyone was offered a position, with a training program to start in a month.  After a couple of weeks, I received an email stating that the training class would be put off indefinitely.  I put it to the back of my mind, on the idea that if they needed people so bad, they wouldn’t be doing that.  Well, no job came my way in the month, and another email came with a date to begin training.

            It was paid training, which was good, as it was the most bizarre “training” I’d ever seen.  Over five weeks of Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm training classes, over 50% of the time was just sitting there while the trainers either were trying to get the class computers to operate correct, or make up their minds what to teach next, or something.  One instructor said she had taught this class for nine years, and didn’t seem to know how to teach.  What could I say?  I’m the student, and I’m getting paid.  A number of times, the class was told that the computers when we would actually do the work would not have the problems we had in training.

            Finally, training was done.  I was apprehensive given how I was taught.  Finally, I got to start to do the work.  Guess what, the computers had different problems, and it was almost immediately clear that they had intentionally taught us incorrectly, for whatever reason.  Maybe I am wrong, but that was one problem that I am totally unmotivated to struggle over.  I did, of sorts, two pieces of work and informed those in command of my departure.  As much as I needed a job, this was the ethical elevation of Death Valley.  At least in wasn’t underwater.

            In the last month, I have gotten two interviews.  One was with a major retailer whose name you would know.  Although it was early September, the interviewer immediately told me that they had finished their Christmas season hiring, but was just interviewing extra persons in case a background check came back bad.  I received a rejection email the next morning.  A couple of days later, on the state employment commission website, I saw this company still has about 25 positions posted.  Oh, well.

            The next week, I received a reply from another ad.  It was from a company that fixes chips in windshields.  Now, I had a chip in my windshield of a car last year.  I was really impressed how the method works, but that the system looks ripe for abuse, both by customers and by repairers.  First, unlike most companies in my area currently, they didn’t ask me to email my resume.  Don’t ask me what good a resume is with regard to most bottom line jobs in our society, but most companies expect it.  Anyway, they give me a time to come to their office.  The secretary looks a little like the late Amy Winehouse; not exactly corporate, in my opinion.  She hands me a clipboard to fill out an application.  There is a big screen TV over her head playing an Eddie Murphy comedy.  This office looks like we’re reshooting the application scene from “Being John Malkovich.” (I wouldn’t have seen that movie had not Rikki Watts of Regent College made reference to it in his distance learning New Testament course I look about a decade ago—albeit artistically excellent, I don’t recommend the movie).  After filling out the application, I am invited into an office, where a man about 25, I am guessing, shakes my hand, looks at the application, and tells me that it looks ok.  He invites me to come back the next day for the second part of the interview, which is seeing how the work is done.

The next day, I go back.  After being there about ten minutes, they give me an address, MapQuest directions, and the cell phone number of the person I will be seeing.  Being late enough in the morning, this 45 minute trip turns out to take 1 hour 45 in Hampton Roads traffic.  I get there, and there are two guys.  One tells me to drive my car over to his tent.  I explain that I was there on the job interview.  He says he understands.  He glances at my windshield for just a moment, and says that he spots three chips.  Here is a secret—insurance companies will pay 100% for up to three chips, so they always find three chips.  I’m trying to be nice, and it’s not going to cost me money, so he fixes the “three” chips.  He also sprays stuff as seen on TV for headlight clarifying. I’m not sure if there were one, two, three, or zero chips, but I know the lights needed that.  I can also sense a scam.  Meanwhile, the other guy is crawling up onto the hood of a semi truck fixing a chip.  I’m sure of that, as the semi driver flagged him down.  I couldn’t have gotten my body up there under any conditions.  Also, my knees are telling me that they are already complaining about the amount of standing up I’ve done.  Even if it was an honest job, I couldn’t have done it.

            I hate to say it, but I am getting a poorer attitude about the society I’m living in. Maybe that’s part of why God has given us only so long to live; too many of us will get soured by it all after six to ten decades.  Still, I believe that work is an important way to honor God moment by moment.    

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2001--tithe over time (revised)

            Today, this post is another revision of a previously posted commentary.  Once I actually attempt to record these, problems show up that are not so obvious in writing originally.  In this case, these were written for a five minute time frame, and the previous version, I could read in about three and one-half.  Further, this commentary has some of the same ideas as the commentary I posted two days ago.
            Also, I am concentrating on at the end of these writings giving more citations of where I got the information.  Hopefully, this will help someone.

2001—the tithe over time

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Today, a little bit about how the idea of the tithe has morphed over time.  In the days of the Old Covenant with the physical chosen people, the Jews, there were three tithes.  The first was the temple tax, which was for maintenance of the temple in Jerusalem, the Levites and the priests.  Key verses which speak about this one are Leviticus 27 verses 30 through 33 and Numbers 18 verses 26 to 32.  The second tithe was to pay for the festivals commanded in Torah, the Law or Teaching of Moses.  Key verses for this are Numbers 18 verses 20 to 26, Deuteronomy 12 verses 1 to 19, and Deuteronomy 14 verses 22 to 26.  The third tithe was voluntary, and was a third of a tithe or a tithe every third year, and is based on Deuteronomy 14 verses 27 to 29 only.  That tithe was for helping the poor, of which it appears that the Levites were expected to be a part of.   At the times in which Israel was a nation, the budget for the country also came out of the tithes.  By the time Jesus came to earth, the Jewish people had greater hardship, as, in addition to these tithes, the Roman Empire had more layers of taxation upon conquered peoples.  Further, the rabbis had made a rule, not based on any scripture that Jewish people were not to give more than 40% of their increase.  This was because of the influence of Roman culture, in which certain wealthy persons were paying for large public works projects to gain favor with the people, so as to be able to gain public office with the Empire.  These public works projects could be likened to some of the earliest political advertising in history.  Although this might look good to us today, given how we are barraged with annoying and twisted political ads today, the rabbis saw it as a danger to the people. 

            When Jesus died on the cross, the early believers understood His death as the ultimate sacrifice which fulfilled the Old Covenant, including the laws about tithes.  This is confirmed in Acts 15 verses 23 to 29, where the apostles and elders write a letter to define to the early church what parts of the Law were to be carried over into the church. Verse 29 says, “that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”  The question they were writing to settle was about circumcision.  Tithing wasn’t even an issue.

            The church gave generously to help spread the message of Jesus, and to help others, both fellow believers and neighbors who were not.  The church did not have buildings.  Leadership was by God’s leadership gifts. 

            Saul’s parents or further ancestors were apparently sufficiently wealthy to purchase Roman citizenship.  When he became a Pharisee, it was a rule that Pharisees had to learn a trade, as in the past, Levites had a difficult time when large amounts of Israelites turned away from God and then stopped tithing.  When Saul had the miraculous experience that brought him from persecuting the church to speaking for faith in Jesus, became Paul, grew in faith, and started on missionary journeys, having the trade of making tents was handy for supporting himself far from his home church.  When Jesus said in Matthew 10 verse 10 that “a worker is worthy of his food,” that was not a license for a church to have a payroll, but that the believers had a responsibility to financially help those who were going to take the message of Jesus where it had not been heard, as those cultures might be so different that being able to make a living there with skills obtained in their home culture may be difficult to impossible.  Jesus commended the widow in Matthew 12 verses 41 to 44 who gave generously out of her poverty, as opposed to those who gave much more out of their abundance.

            The teaching of one 10% tithe came back into the church in the 8th century, when the Catholic Church began acquiring land in northern Europe, where 10% of a year’s crop was the traditional land rent.  The local leaders, who at that time were trained in ritual, but not necessarily on understanding scripture, then got it confused with the Old Testament writings.  Whether that was an honest mistake or not is beyond our reach.  Possibly this did not disappear in the Reformation due to the church leaders not being prepared as Paul was to earn a secular living.  Today, in traditional churches, 85% of offerings go to building costs and payroll alone, and only two one-hundredths of 1% go to sending the message of Jesus where there is absolutely no Christian teaching going on. Interestingly, we are hearing a great move of people coming to faith in Jesus in the Marxist, Buddhist, and Islamic lands where the believers are underground like the believers we read about in the New Testament, but we, with all our money, buildings, marketing, and programs see minimal.

            I can be reached at or 757-xxx-xxxx.  If you wish to review what I just said, a transcript is posted at, dated September 27, 2011.  You can find out more about believers being the church without buildings and corporations in this area at .

            Much of the reference information about the three tithes is at the end of the blog of September 25, 2011 (the immediately previous one).

            The information about the middle ages return of the tithe can be found in George Barna and Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

2099--three tithes (revised)

On Sunday, September 11th, during the Bible discussion/teaching at church, we were discussing Matthew 17.  I was not the leader of this discussion, so I wasn’t specifically prepared for the content.  Near the end of the chapter, when we came to verse 24, the person who was leading the discussion came to the word “tax”, and was thinking that this was referring to a poll tax instituted by Josiah; he was reading from Young’s Literal Translation (released 1898).  I, reading from NKJV, had the word “temple” in italics, in front of the word tax.  In that version, a word in italics means that the word doesn’t appear in the original text, but its meaning is there from the context.  For anyone who doesn’t know, when the Bible is translated from one of the original languages to English, there are times when whole phrases are implicit in the context, and other times when one word in the original language means a whole phrase, or a whole phrase in the original language means one English word.  That’s one of the weird things about the original King James Version.  Those translators had five texts to work with; our modern versions come from over 15,000 fragments to books.

            Anyway, he had poll tax, and I had temple tax, so we went and worked on it in our free time this week.  I should also say that he was thinking of a Jewish poll tax, and I was thinking of a Roman one, with it only hitting me later that virtually none of the Jews in Israel had Roman citizenship, as Paul would later need to use on his missionary journeys, but that’s another question. That would have been totally weird to ask Jesus, a poor, Jewish man of the lowest class about something only a few wealthy non-Roman persons could afford to have, that is, citizenship, which would have been necessary for voting, which would bring up a poll tax discussion.

            That’s the background of a total re-write of this commentary.

            Note that no one but I would probably notice: In a previous form, I numbered this topic 2110.  I changed the number because all the other 21XX commentaries are quotations from other persons.  Also, yes, I have some 20XX commentaries which are quotations of others’ writings, but those are, in my opinion, exact topical fits of subjects which have the same last two digits as the two minute commentaries I posted in December, 2010. 


2099-three tithes

My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  One day, at my church, the discussion came to Matthew 17 verse 24, which in the NKJV reads, “When they (Jesus and the disciples) came to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?”  In some versions of the Bible, the word “temple” does not appear, as it is not there in the Greek, but to the original receivers of the book of Matthew, they would have understood that the word “tax” referred to the temple tax.  The temple tax was the first of the three Old Covenant tithes, which is referred to in Numbers 18, Joshua 14, Leviticus 27,  Nehemiah 10, 12, and 13, First Samuel 8,  and Malachi 3. That was to pay for the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, the Levites, and the priests, of whom God did not give land to.  The second tithe is the festival tithe, to pay for Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Feast of Weeks, which is what is being spoken of in Deuteronomy chapters 12, 14, and 16, Leviticus 5, 7, and 25.  There is a third tithe in Deuteronomy chapter 14 verses 27 and 28.  This was a tithe every third year, was voluntary, and was for the poor, of whom the Levites were included.  Some would argue that this third tithe was just a special commitment of the second tithe every third year, but outside the Bible, we can see the apocryphal Book of Tobit, the historian Josephus, and the early church leaders Jerome and Chrysostom all left writings that showed that they understood that there were three separate tithes for the Chosen People. 

            Additionally, Leviticus 19 verses 9 and 10, and chapter 23 verse 22 places a direction upon the Jewish landowners to leave some crops in the field to be gleaned by the poor.  This is not a tithe as such, but is an economic part of the Law which is behind Ruth going to the fields to glean in Ruth 2, and Jesus and the disciples in Matthew 12 verse 1. 

            Who paid the tithes and left the gleanings?  Jewish male landowners, as the instruction was tied to God’s gift to the chosen people of the promised land.  The tithe was not connected to businessmen, nor single mothers, widows, those crippled, ill, and the poor, which, as I said before, the teachers of Israel were seen as part of.  Therefore, in the passage I started with, Matthew 17 verse 24, why were the tax collectors asking about Jesus paying the tithe?  He didn’t own land, and walking around as a teacher, would have appeared to be an exempt person.

            First, Matthew, until being called by Jesus to follow Him, was a tax collector.  There were two types in Israel, both were considered traitors to Israel for working for the Empire, but Matthew was from the more hated group.  Matthew almost assuredly wrote this a short period of time after the Romans destroyed the temple and started confiscating the temple tax to be given to the pagan temples, which caused the Jews to stop paying that tithe.  Matthew was writing to clarify that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, and was reminding his readers that paying the temple tax was throughout the Jewish people a sign of solidarity with Israel when Jesus was ministering. 

            Why did the tax collectors ask Peter whether Jesus paid the tax?  Maybe they heard that Jesus had said something against the temple.  Later, in Matthew 24, Jesus would prophesy about the destruction of the temple, but maybe they thought that they had heard something like that already.  Also, Jesus prophesied that He would rebuild it in three days, referring to his rising from the dead, but unbelievers who heard that might have associated that with his earthly father Joseph and his trade as a teknon, which is closer to our modern trade stonemason than the commonly said nowdays carpenter. 

Maybe the tax collectors were attempting to find out whether he paid the tax in a different area.  Be that as it may, Peter, consistent with his impetuous ways while he was with Jesus, told the tax collectors that Jesus did pay the tax.

            There was a third reason for Jesus to not pay the tax.  We today know that Jesus was and is the King of Kings, and kings and their children do not pay tax.  Matthew tells us immediately after that Jesus teaches exactly that to the disciples, but, so as not to offend the tax collectors, who would not have understood that third reason any more than it doesn’t make sense why they didn’t recognize the first two, Jesus commands the disciples to go catch a fish, and that there would be a coin in the mouth of the fish to pay the tax. 

            What were Jewish non-landowners to do?  As with the story of the widow’s mite, they were to give generously.  Second Corinthians chapters 8 through 10 instruct us to do the same.  What happened to the tithes of the Law?  Jesus, in dying on the cross for the sins of mankind, fulfilled the Old Covenant.  The stories we have from the New Covenant church show us that we are to be generous, and that the early believers spent money on helping the poor, within and outside the church, and to send mature believers to places where the message of Jesus had not been heard, and that is the only things they spent money on.

            If you would like to see references to back up the statements I made, they are with a transcript of this commentary on my blog,, on the entry for September 25, 2011. You can contact me at or call 757-735-xxxx.  For more info on organic church in this area, visit

            Where did I get some of these statements that run counter to what is openly taught in some churches in the West? 

            Craig Keener, ed., IVP New Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1993), on Matthew 17:24-27, 92-93.

            Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1993), 745.

  , on gleaning.

  , on temple tax

  , for one of the breakdowns of which OT scriptures refer to which tithe that I used

  , on Matthew’s personal connection to the temple tax collectors how he would have related to recent events in his writing this passage.

  , on the connection to the law about gleaning and the tithes, although in this, it indicates that John MacArthur sees it as a tithe, which I cannot find agreement with by anyone else, sofar.

            As best as I can find, scripture references to:

First tithe/temple tax: Lev. 27:30-33, Num. 18:21-32, Josh. 14:3-4, 2 Chron. 31:5-6,  1 Sam. 8:15, Amos 4:4-5, Neh. 10:37-39, 12:44-47, 13:10, Dt. 12:6, Mal. 3:8, 10, Mt. 23:23, Lk. 18:12.

            Second tithe/festival tithe: Lev. 5:2-10, 7:6-10, 25:20-22, Dt. 12:6-7, 17-19, 14:22-27, 30, 16:1-16, 26:1-15, Lk. 11:41-42.

            Third/tithe for the poor:  Dt. 14:28-29.  Extra scriptural evidence: Tobit 1:6-8, Josephus, Antiquities

            Gleaning: Lev. 19:9-10, Lev. 23:22, Ruth 2, Mt. 12:1.  

            Note:  If anyone, after studying this, has a quibble that one certain passage belongs with, say, second tithe instead of first, I leave all of this to make the general point of three tithes, all of which belong in the Old Covenant, and generosity and no tithes in the New.  The quibble is with one (or more) of the writers cited above.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2008--what Constantine did (revised)

                        This is a longer redo of something I wrote earlier—again. 

2008—what Constantine did

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  History tells us that Constantine, the Roman Emperor, claimed to have a conversion experience and, afterward, legalized the Christian faith early in the 4th century A.D.  Did he actually come to faith in Jesus?  Any of us who are believers know that only God knows one’s heart, and that we all have failed to follow Him as we know we should have, but we are also well aware that, when we are not living in a dire persecution circumstance, there will be some people that will attempt to imitate being a believer for some purpose, and there are some who are just self deceived.  History does give us some insight into this question, because, being possibly the most politically powerful person in the world at that time, we have a supply of information recorded about his life. 

            First, we know that, after his conversion, he ordered two members of his family put to death.  Yes, it is possible that he actually had a justifiable reason for that, but, on the other hand, having someone meet death is an easier thing to do when you are a dictator.  Second, he ordered that the Christian faith become legal in the Roman Empire, but, he did not make the paganism that was the national belief illegal.  Instead, he gave the church things it did not have, such as buildings, special tax exempt status for the churches and the clergy—except that the church, unlike paganism and most other beliefs—didn’t have clergy.  Also, the churches and buildings were named after apostles, similar to the Roman pagan temples being named after the gods of Roman mythology.  That caused a run on orators quote converting unquote and taking the church organization leadership positions, which in a fairly short period of time saw the now official church take a look similar to the religions of the world.  For me, none of that has a look or feel of a person who truly came to faith in Jesus and sought out mature believers to help guide one’s spiritual growth.  It does have every look of dictator of a declining empire grasping at whatever it took to prevent the dictatorship from declining further.  Third, when Constantine died, his burial spot was made in the form of the sun.  One needs to think of Mithras, the Roman sun god—with the sun having twelve rays, with, at the end of each ray, a statue to represent one of the twelve disciples, with him buried in the middle, representing himself as the chief apostle.  Does that sound like a person with a good grasp of the teaching of Jesus, the apostles, and the early church and its leaders? 

            What does that have to do with us today?  Well, almost all traditional churches in the western world own or rent buildings, and the organizations have names.  One should notice that, in the New Testament, Paul and the other writers wrote to all the believers in a city, and also never wrote directly any leaders, but, as I mentioned, to everyone.  When we look at scripture, we see that 1 Corinthians 6 verses 19 and 20 tell us that we believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit, not any building. 

            When you have a building, you need someone to take care of it.  I am not referring to the janitor; I am referring to the person in charge of who is the janitor and everything else.  That person originally was called the bishop, then later elder, and then later, priest.  The Reformation recognized that the name priest was about 180 degrees theologically off track, and used the word pastor.  All those words appear in the Bible, but the meanings they have taken since Constantine are nothing like what they meant to the apostles and the persons they taught about following Jesus.  We, on the opposite side, have been insulated by centuries and what we have experienced from the proper definition of the words’ meanings.  Most of these problems have been impossible to see by those of us without graduate theological training because, if anyone can force any idea through two lifetimes of people, by the third generation people think that’s the way it’s always been. One can always believe that maybe a thing they don’t understand was explained one day when they weren’t around.  As we should know from politics—no, it was never explained.

            We could say that what has gone on must be still ok with God, because we see the Holy Spirit working through it.  One can say that God is gracious and works in spite of our imperfections.  We can also say quite clearly today that God is working powerfully in the underground church of cultures where the government or societal groups oppose the church, as was the case of the church in the New Testament days, and, as part of living under intense opposition, have not been able to do anything other than follow the forms that the apostles taught the early church, not as a matter of theological study, but according to what is practical for an underground group without financial or normal social resources.  This should indicate to us that the church must literally be a group of people who meet wherever, build up and care for each other, and become God’s supernatural family, and that the Holy Spirit is blessing those groups of believers in spite of any persecution in the form of seeing people coming to living faith.

          You can communicate with me by email at or by phone at 757-xxx-xxxx.  You can read what I just said, along with references behind what I said, at my blog,, on the entry dated September 21, 2011.  You can find out more about simple church in this area at

            See George Barna and Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, chapters 2 and 5, which, in turn, have dozens of historical footnotes to back up the statements that make, which I have referred to.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2012--eternal purpose (revised)

As with two days ago, I began to record one of these commentaries, and found that it was lacking when read, so I rewrote it.  Also, I have been attempting to include quotations from a variety of persons writing on simple/organic/house church, and this rewrite turns out to allow me to add a quotation from Frank Viola.  In spite of most of these blogs being heavily built on the research from George Barna and Frank Viola’s book, Pagan Christianity, I had not put an actual quotation in any of the commentaries, heretofore.

2012—eternal purpose

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Milt Rodriguez, in his blog entry for July 6, 2011, told an extremely short story, of which I quote:

            A friend recently told me that the eternal purpose of God was so vast that it was difficult to grasp and even more difficult to explain.  I told him that I agreed.  He also said that it’s very difficult to put into one sentence.  I also agreed with that, however, after thinking about this later, I decided to take on the challenge.  So here is my contribution of consolidating the eternal purpose into one sentence:

            “God’s eternal purpose is that the fullness of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, would be displayed and expressed visibly through a vessel that would be a Family/House for the Father, a Bride/Body for the Son, and a Temple for the Holy Spirit.”

            What in the world does that mean?  Most believers have never heard anyone overtly speak on this subject—God’s eternal purpose.  Implicitly, most of us who have been part of evangelical or fundamentalist or Bible-believing (choose you favorite phrase) church understand that the thing to do that is most emphasized is wishing other persons to come to faith in Jesus, that is, evangelism.  If I point it out, it is obvious, that in that part of time previous to Genesis 3, the story of the fall, there was no place for evangelism in the whole universe.  At the other end, beginning at Revelation 21, the final judgment, there will once again be a time where there will be no place for evangelism.

            Now, just for a moment, glance at what things would look like from a liberal progressive church position.  There, doing good is the emphasis.  Once again, before Genesis 3, there is no place for that, as sin had not entered the human race, and some period of time before that, the fall of Lucifer that is told us in Ezekiel 28.  On the other end, after the judgment in Revelation 21, there once again will be no room for doing good, because sin will have been banished.  Therefore, neither of those things can possibly God’s eternal purpose.

            Let me go over those items in the Rodriguez quote.  God wants the fullness of Jesus displayed.  That was the plan before the creation of the universe. How do we know this?  Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not a man that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.”  If we follow Jesus, then we have to take God’s word that what he has told us in the Bible was what he meant to tell us.  He tells us that he wants a family.  The chosen people of the Old Covenant, were a physical, and imperfect, type of a New Covenant chosen people that are a new creation by faith, a people that deep in our hearts want to be his chosen people.  We also are God’s house.  John, in Revelation 21 verse 3 tells us, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.”  On this idea, Frank Viola, in his book, “From Eternity to Here”, wrote,

            “John’s climatic vision in Revelation 21 and 22 gives us an intriguing window into the ultimacy of God’s house.  Therein we discover that the house is a city.  As we read further, we discover that the city is also a bride, and that the bride is also a dwelling place, and that the dwelling place is also a wife, and that the wife is also a temple, and that the temple is also a garden.  All are graphic, mind-grabbing images of the same reality.  All speak of God’s ultimate purpose.”*

            God’s ultimate purpose is that temple of the Holy Spirit from 1 Corinthians 6 verse 19, that bride of Christ from John 3 verse 29, the body of Christ from 1 Corinthians 12 verse 27, that family of God from Galatians 6 verse 10, that house of God from Hebrews 3 verse 6.  That all is us, the saved, the believers in Jesus, who wish to desire to do His will in everything.  Good works are good, communicating the message of Jesus’ love for us is good, it is part of how we desire to honor God, but there is a time coming that those things will be irrelevant, and God’s plan in some way accounts for a time that we only can understand at this point in time quite dimly, and trying to hold onto any chaff that the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit is blowing and burning away is counterproductive.
            I can be reached by email at or at 757-735-xxxx. What I just said went fast; to read what I just said, I have it posted on my blog,, with additional information, posted to September 11, 2011.  To find out more about simple church on a national and international scale, visit and, for this area, at  

            Milt Rodriguez quote from his blog,, from 7/6/2011.  Frank Viola quote from his book, From Eternity to Here (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2009) p. 213-214.  This book is an excellent, thorough examination of this subject.  Frank has additional resources at his website, and his blog is

Friday, September 16, 2011

2005--Sunday (a total revision)

            I was getting around on Labor Day weekend to record some of these commentaries.  After reading aloud the commentary on how we treat Sunday, decided upon a total rewrite. 

            As a note, this blog contains an email that will be connected to these airings.  I have hesitated to put one in, as I reserved a name on the email program where I had my personal email, and, at least for me and my computer, having two email accounts from the same brand makes both more difficult to use.



My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Today, I wish to speak about the way we who are believers treat Sunday, as opposed to what the Bible teaches us about Sunday.  In Genesis 1, we are told that God rested on the seventh day.  We know that days, months, and years have an astronomical basis; weeks do not.  When God established the Old Covenant Law, there was a Sabbath day.  While it is now celebrated among the modern Jews from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, back then, the festival days were not counted among the days of the week, so relative to our calendar, the Sabbath floated through the week. 

            When Jesus came to earth and ministered to the people and taught his disciples, there was a continual clash between Him and the religious leaders over various aspects of the Law, including how to honor the Sabbath, to keep it holy.  The Roman Empire, which controlled Israel at the time, had the worship of the sun god, Mithras, on Sunday.  That’s where the word Sunday comes from.  When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled the Old Covenant and the Law.  Now, God knew that, and the few hundred people who came to believe on Jesus while he was on earth knew that, but the Jewish religious leaders didn’t know it, and Jesus’ death wasn’t even a blip on the news to the Romans, just one more person put to death on a disorderly edge of the Empire.

            When the Holy Spirit was sent on the 120 persons in the upper room in Jerusalem that we read about in Acts chapter 2, the God’s New and better Covenant began.  By the power of the Holy Spirit the people came from that room and spoke about Jesus in the street.  The church grew rapidly, and we are told that they met daily.  They didn’t all meet together daily*.  It tells us they met from house to house.  They may have met a little by the side of the Jewish temple, but that went away after a while.  Almost all of them were poor.  Some foreigners who heard about Jesus and believed dropped what they were doing and attached themselves to the believers.  Because they were poor, most of the believers assuredly worked long and odd hours.   They had no building, no ritual, but were connected by having seen Jesus in their spirits, and from that, desiring to live to honor Him.  Because of Roman Mithras worship, Sunday probably became a convenient time to meet, especially outside of Israel where Jews and Jewish worship was a minority belief. 

The Jews were unhappy under Roman rule, and between attacks in 70 and 130 A.D., the people of Jerusalem were dispersed, which would have made the Sabbath as a holy day of even less effect on surrounding society.

            After the legalization of Christianity in the 4th century, many pagan ways got forced into the now legal, no longer underground church, and Sunday became entrenched as the day of worship.  The Reformation came, formal, ritualized worship changed, but the use of Sunday as the day of the services was not affected. 

            This is not the case everywhere.  I know of a man who is a leader of a small group of believers in a Buddhist dominated country.  The tradition in that land is that most of the people meet at sunup on Thursday mornings to give a ceremonial bowl of rice to the Buddhist monks.  In that area, it is only reasonable for the small group of Christians to meet at that same time, as the social tradition of the area will make it easiest for everyone to meet then.  This will be the case wherever a religion or dominant social organization has ruled that a certain regular time is an off time, whether for religious ritual, political indoctrination, or whatever.

            Why is this important?  Because, even though scripture doesn’t command a special off day, tradition can make it feel that way.  A couple of years ago, I had a job where I worked all day Saturday and Sunday, and I mean all day as in 16 hours on Saturday followed by 10 on Sunday,  what little I had to do the rest of the week was easily scheduled to my convenience.  It was impossible to “plug in” to what we in this culture see as a traditional church, as almost all are set up to revolve around a Sunday morning meeting.  In 1 Corinthians 11 verses 20 to 22, when Paul is warning persons in this city about their behavior about food during a shared meal among the believers, the underlying situation is that some believers got to the assembly at different times due to their work.  Is it because most of the believers there were poor and some were slaves that this church was expected by Paul to be flexible to lives of the various persons among the saved, but today, because churches are big business, with real estate, well paid officials, and neighborhood marketing plans, that they don’t have to be flexible to real needs in their midst?  Jesus told us that the poor we would always have with us, but never commanded buildings, salaries, or marketing plans.

            Every day is the Lord’s Day.  Church is where one gets spiritually fed, but that doesn’t have to be, and oftentimes isn’t, an intellectual thing, when the Holy Spirit is directing us.  He has commanded us to build up each other in faith, and serve those around us.  Almost all of what, in this society, looks like Christian ritual really doesn’t have a basis upon what Jesus taught the disciples, who taught the early believers. 

             I can be reached at or 757-735-xxxx.  To see what I just said written down, where you can read it at your own pace, visit my blog, where this is the entry for September 16, 2011. For more information about simple church, visit

*I mean, as in, all of the now thousands of believers in Jerusalem

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

2016--leadership in God's people over history

2016—leadership in God’s people over history

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  In the Old Testament, after Joshua led the chosen people into Israel, the Bible tells us that for about 200 years, God Himself was the leader, with persons called judges as the human leaders.  These persons had wider responsibility than what we think of a judge today as having. For one thing, having responsibility for people before God did and still does have a spiritual element.  Still, as it says in Judges chapter 21 verse 25, “In those days, there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  There were threats by enemies in various directions, and the people, who were the chosen people not by faith but by to whom they were born, eventually demanded a king, the story of which is in First Samuel chapter 8 and following.

            In the time of the New Covenant, God raised up a new chosen people by faith, not ethnicity.  They were opposed by both the Old Covenant status quo supporters and the government who heard that believers in Jesus saw Him, not the emperor, as king.  The church had no buildings to destroy, and leadership was by gifting, not to which family you were born to or under what person or group you were trained by. As an underground group that wasn’t a true organization, there was no need to collect money, except to help the poor, both from within and neighbors in need nearby AND also to assist fellow mature believers who were constrained by the Spirit to travel to areas where people had not heard the message of Jesus.  Even then, the apostle we know the most about is Paul, who had a skill by which he didn’t have to depend on others as he spoke about Jesus in his travels around the northern Mediterranean.

            Whether it was intentional or accidental, when the Roman Empire made faith in Jesus officially legal, it forced the trappings of religions of the world it was familiar with onto Christianity—buildings, paid staff, regular collection of money to pay for the buildings and paid staff, and tax-favored status for the now formal organizations. History shows that if something is forced onto a culture for a period of time long enough that no one remembers the thing not being around, everyone treats it as normal.  For instance, in this culture, no one remembers not having radio, and almost everyone doesn’t remember not having TV, and with them, news from around the world being whipped to us almost immediately. 

            I grew up with it assumed that a church was a building and a pastor held a job that one went to school for years to be able to do.  When I was in high school, I learned that there were some pastors and people who taught them or were their overseers who did not believe the standard beliefs of faith in Jesus.  Years later, I learned about spiritual gifts, but where I was, most of the talk was about speaking in tongues, not about who was the one who appointed the leaders.  About this same time, I met persons who didn’t have a church leadership title, but did have a special ability to teach about faith in Jesus in a way that spoke to both my mind and into my spirit, or at least the latter.  Some of these people did normal, everyday jobs.  Only in the past couple of years did I learn that the title “pastor” was not used as a title for a leader until after the Reformation, and that that word’s appearance uniquely in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 11 in our English Bibles does not reflect a unique word in the original written language, but was a translation decision by persons who reflected their experience of church—whether accidentally or intentionally, only they knew.  Leadership in the true church, the believers desiring to follow Jesus, is not a title for any person or group to hand out, but a responsibility accepted by a believer in Jesus who cannot do other than whatever the Spirit guides, AND if that includes sharing with other believers or not yet believers what he or she has learned about following Jesus rightly AND if that falls into one or more of the categories of leaders mentioned in God’s Word, so be it.

             I can be reached by email at or by phone at 757-735-xxxx.  To see a transcript of what I just said, my blog is, and this is the posting of September 14, 2011.To find out more about simple church internationally, visit, and in the local area, at,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

2006--Simson's 15 Theses

Today, I have come to believe that my short term goal is to have 40 of these five minute commentaries.  If you go back through these blogs, I am not close to that, but, for a few, I will totally use a blog of another person who has said what I wished to, and far better than I, sometimes because their experience brings out a point better than I can.  I have a few of these mentioned, but it doesn’t read too well when I have an introduction, a link to another site, and an ending, so I will save the rest for the moment.  Also, even though I believe that such a short thing that is published freely falls within fair use, I won’t get further into that point for now.  I believe I am thinking about that as I ran into a blogger last evening who specifically states that permission is not granted for republishing his writings, which I perceive will be made into a book.  Of sorts, fortunately for me, nothing he wrote quite fits into the train of thought of these series.  I am also attempting to quote a variety of writers on the subject of organic church (unfortunately, there are not that many).  One person’s writing that I have been struggling with is the German writer Wolfgang Simson.  Do I make one, or fifteen, parts based on his Fifteen Theses toward a Re-Incarnation of Church.  For the moment, I have chosen one.

=====================================================================             2006—15 Theses

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Something I have noticed over the years is how professors of biology consistently refer to Darwin’s Origin of Species, but never assign students to read it.  About a decade ago, I had to take a cross country bus trip, so I got it from the library, and it was obvious.  In my opinion, he wasn’t nearly as hard-nosed about the rightness of what he said as many professors are today.  I bring this up in that, within believers in Jesus, we oftentimes refer to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses as a historical watershed document, but it is rarely read, because if you look it up, it reads like a medieval Catholic theological argument, which it was.  Much of its detail is irrelevant to today.

            One person who is very influential in thought about organic church is the German writer Wolfgang Simson (no p in his last name, unlike OJ or Homer). In his book, Houses that Change the World, and on his website, he has posted a much smaller document than Luther’s, but definitely a parody of it, called 15 Theses towards a Re-Incarnation of Church.  Simson has theological training, and as such people, sometimes puts his statements in an intentionally provocative manner.  He isn’t trying to irritate you or I so much as he wishes us to think deeply about what he is saying.  To that effect, here are his 15 Theses, with a slight amount of explanation:

1.               Christianity is a way of life, not a series of religious meetings. 

2.               Time to change to cathegogue system.  He made up a word there, jamming cathedral and synagogue together, that, whether accidental or intentional, we have a series of rituals, disconnected from the real life of the society we are called to be salt and light into.

3.               The third reformation.  From this, he is saying Luther’s was the first, the pietistic renewal of the 1800’s was the second, and it is time for a third, a reformation of structure.

4.               From church houses to house churches.  Buildings are a financial and logistical burden God never directed us to bear.

5.               The church has to become small to grow large.  I know some megachurches use this phrase to stress the importance of cell groups, but Simson means something more radical. 

6.               No church is led by a pastor alone.  Almost all traditional churches I know of that have a pastor do not have anyone with the other four ministries of Ephesians 4, and the other four are the ones seen used in the New Testament, which, interestingly, pastor is not.

7.               The right pieces—fitted together the wrong way. Many of our practices are attached to words found in scripture, but not in the way the early church or the current underground church practices these directives.  

8.               Out of the hands of bureaucratic clergy and on towards the priesthood of all believers. 

9.               Return from organized to organic forms of Christianity.  The Bible shows that the apostle Paul generally went from coming into a city, preaching, seeing some come to faith in Jesus and helping a group of new believers into being church in 3 months, when he went to the next area.

10.            From worshipping our worship to worshipping God.  What’s more important —to be real before God or to have our music or talk look slick before each other?

11.            Stop bringing people to church, and start bringing church to the people.  If Jesus will be there when two or three are gathered, what’s the structures adding, besides weight?

12.            Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper as a real supper with real food.  Have you noticed that 1 Corinthians 11 is in the context of a meal?

13.            From denominations to city-wide celebrations.  See Acts chapter 5.

14.            Developing a persecution-proof spirit.  You can’t have buildings and organizations if the government won’t allow it, but no terrorist can stop the Holy Spirit from going where he wills.

15.            The church comes home.  By this he means that it is easy to live fake in a ceremony, but it is impossible in your family, which makes it the most meaningful.

Simson writes in the introduction that while writing notes for this book, he was in, and had discussions with everyday believers, in Columbia, the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, England, Sudan, Egypt, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Korea, China, and Mongolia.  You know the variety of cultures that represents—the West and what is and isn’t going on here, lands of overt persecution, and lands of great revival. Obviously, he writes from an extremely internationalist perspective.  Even if you he is dead wrong, or impossibly idealistic, this book is worth reading.  You probably won’t find it on the shelf of a local bookstore (Christian or secular) as it was originally copyrighted in 1998, but some online places will have it.

        You can read a transcript of what I said here at my blog,, in the posting of September 11, 2011.  I will also have a link to his website, which has a long, relatively unusual spelling.  You can contact me at  or 757-xxx-xxxx.  You can find out more about house churches in this area at

Wolfgang Simson’s website is  The book’s full title is Houses That Change the World (Waynesboro, GA: Authentic, 2001).  Most books on house church are not carried by local Christian bookstores or, but so far I have not had any problem finding books from, and, yes, I recognize that comment one can take two very different ways. 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

1067--What if someone asks...(in one minute)

The last commentary was an expansion of commentary #67 from two to five minutes.  This one is a reduction to one minute.

1067—What if someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to?

            This is Simple Church Minute.  What if someone asked you a question about your faith in Jesus that you don’t know the answer to?  First, know that a person ever coming to faith in Jesus depends more on you allowing the Holy Spirit to show through you than can any intellectual answer.  Still, one wishes to answer correctly, even if that answer is opposite of what you know that person may like.

            An excellent answer is, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” with the notation that you have promised, as a matter of honoring Jesus, will find out.  If that person won’t wait, the person really doesn’t care about the answer.  Also, you need to be connected to mature believers willing to deal with real life, not mere clever answers.  You can find out more about simple church at You can reach me at (phone) or (email).

            As I said previously, I got this idea from a talk given by Glen Davis, currently a campus pastor at Stanford University, ( in 1998.   By the way, I should clarify what I mean by a clever answer.  Now, as much as in other places I have indicated that I believe that, in the New Covenant, we are directed in scripture to generousity, instead of giving a tithe, there is a reasonable question in U.S. society, where we get paid with withholding taxes pre-removed, whether tithe is to be paid on the gross or the net.  I have heard speakers from the old time Pentecostal traditions answer, “Do you want a gross blessing or a net blessing?”  That may come across as humorous, but totally avoids a cultural problem of, if tithing was for this day, how one would figure it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2067--What if someone...(five minute version)

            Almost everything I have written for the Simple Church Minute commentaries come from the writings of persons who have written notable things about simple/organic/ simple church.  A couple more have come from my own experiences.  Only one of these commentaries, so far, comes from an idea from a brother who is functioning significantly and creatively inside the institutional system.  This idea comes from Glen Davis, an Assembly of God pastor working on the campus of Stanford University (  This came from a talk I heard him give in 1998.  I never heard anyone say this before, I haven’t heard anyone say this afterword, except for my repeating Glen’s idea.  It doesn’t directly have anything to do with organic church, except for it being connected with dealing with real life, as opposed to some dream of how believers should react to the world around us.

2067—What if someone asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to?

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Let us say you are in a conversation with a person who is not a believer, and that person asks you a question you do not know the answer to.  What should you say?  This is a matter of heart, not knowledge, on both yours and the other person’s part.

First, there are questions of the trivial variety, like “Can God create a stone He cannot lift?”  Philosophers through the ages, and in mathematics, Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem address this, but it isn’t a serious question for someone seeking truth, it’s a parlor game.  That God is in the sentence is irrelevant; it has to do with the use of positive and negative terms in a certain alignment, and that, in turn, differs in different languages.

            Now, for relevant questions.  First, this situation, for you, has to do with obedience to Jesus.  If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell the person, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” Now, at this point, you have given your word as a matter of desiring to honor Jesus.  This matter is, for you, even more a matter between you and God than it is between this other person and yourself, or that person and God.  Next, you need to be connected to mature believers who are willing to struggle with the difficult situations of this life, and not give cleaver answers that pass the buck.  What do I mean by this?  Here’s an example.  I’ve indicated in other spots that I have come to see that New Covenant believers are to be generous, but the tithe was in the Old Covenant only.  If I didn’t, then “Should a believer tithe on the net or gross of one’s paycheck?” would be a valid question.  An answer I have heard given by speakers more than once, “Do you want a net blessing or gross blessing?” may be humorous, but it is not an answer, much less an honest, thoughtful answer of a mature believer, which that speaker is implying that he or she is, one that cares to truly see other believers grow in faith.  I do not care what titles or degrees that person has or does not have—avoiding honest questions is irresponsible before Jesus with being in a position of leading others towards maturity of faith.  If possible, and it is in this culture, we all need to be associated with mature believers that will assist us with these honest answers to honest questions, so we all may grow up to do the same, and, no matter how young one is spiritually, one should desire, as part of honoring Jesus with one’s life, to be that mature believer that assists the next generation.  Might I suggest that part of that is being around spiritual leaders that desire and expect each of us to grow to a level of responsibility in living for Jesus and seeing those around us grow in faith that is equal or higher than where that leader is at.  That is far better done in one on one conversations, not generalized lectures.  There are supposed leaders today who do not want that, either because intentionally or subliminally, they are protecting their position or paycheck, or ego or that just possibly they don’t believe that, if God truly created the universe, that everything in the universe does fit together and make sense-- albeit not in a manner that can be explained in 25 words or less--or even 25 minutes or less. 

            Lastly, there are some questions that God has not told us the answer to.  Francis Schaeffer wrote that God has, in giving us the Bible the way He did, communicated to us truly, but not exhaustively.  That means the Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth, and that, in turn, means that God understood before creation all the subatomic small to astrophysical large processes it takes to have this universe work.  I believe it takes less faith to believe the God of the Bible than it takes to believe it happened by a one over one times 10 to the one hundred second power chance. On the opposite side, a Bible doesn’t replace a Chilton’s manual if you need to bleed the brakes on your car, although the whole process works on principles God ordained for this universe.   

            At the point that you have found out the answer, or whether there is none, and you have communicated that, you are not responsible for the other person being satisfied with the answer. You are responsible to live to honor Jesus. We must understand that the Holy Spirit works both through our minds and our spirits, and He can and sometimes does speak to a person through the intellectually unsatisfying answer.  All of us believers have wondered why God didn’t tell us something, and then did tell us some of the things He did in the Old Testament. 

             You can communicate with me at or 757-735-xxxx.  To read over what I just said, and some additional information on this subject, I have it posted on my blog,, on the post dated September 7, 2011. For more info about organic churches in this area, visit

            I have been a believer since 1968, and I feel that I have desired, albeit imperfectly, to serve Jesus with all that is in me, including my mind.  I have spent some of my life as a believer in a Calvinistic tradition, which tends to overemphasize intellectualism. I have spent part of my life in the charismatic-Pentecostal tradition, which in some places does the opposite.  During the winter of 2011, I ran into the fact that the word in Acts 19 that is translated “assembly”, referring to the mob protesting the work of Paul in Ephesus was “ekklesia”, which in all other places in the New Testament is translated “church.”  As the mob was not just non-believers, but was opposed to Paul’s work, and was supporting the idol makers in Ephesus, and the idols were for the temple of Diana, a fertility (i.e. sex) cult, the question occurred to me, “were the idols the idol makers were making what we, in this culture, would call pornographic?”  I looked at a number of books, and couldn’t find any comment on this.  I already knew that to not be surprising, as all kinds of Christian writers over the centuries have been less forthcoming on the subject of sexuality as God is.  I called a man I know in this area that has had seminary training and has been and still is involved in foreign missionary work.  After a few days, he directed me to some resources which, to my surprise, indicate that, as much as one might expect the answer to be “yes,” and in spite of the archeology done in the ancient Greek world, the answer to my specific question, at this time is, we don’t know for certain.