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Friday, March 30, 2012

I Made a Mistake

I found out today that I made a mistake.  I could argue on both sides whether it was sin, in that, on one side, it was just a misjudgment on my part.  On the opposite side, it was a waste of about a month and a half of the short, precious time that God has given me upon this planet for this life.  Anyway, I scraped up money to see the doctor today, and found that I was missing a medication that I needed.  I got a prescription, took the medicine, and within a few hours was out of the mental fog and constant pain that I had been in for the past month and a half.

            There have been so many things that I have wished to do here, but didn’t have the mental and physical strength to do over the past weeks.  First, is the writing out of what is now 13 Meanings of the Word Church as a speech.  Gee, back in 2010, this started as 8 Meanings.  While in my mental fog, I somehow ran into #12, and in the past few minutes, while writing out my outline, based on Simple Church Minute 2002, I discovered that one of my points had two parts to it.  I’m excited have my brain feeling like it’s on this planet once again.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Simple Church Minute 3--origin of the sermon (revised)

Today is a revision (mainly adding footnotes) of one of the two minute commentaries (when read aloud) that I originally posted in December, 2010.

3—origin of the sermon
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.
            On another day, I mentioned that sermons, as we now know them in traditional churches, did not happen either among the Jewish people in the Old Covenant, or in the early church.  There is indication that if someone like Paul or Apollos visited a church, the visitor might speak, as Acts chapter 20 verse 7 shows Paul in Troas spoke a long time.  Still, the Bible calls in speaking, not preaching.  There is no indication that Paul’s speaking had the fine touches that a modern sermon, or even the rhetoric of his day, had.
            Where did the sermon come from?  Roman/Greek culture.  In about the fifth century b.c., history credits a group of teachers called sophists for inventing rhetoric—the art of persuasive speaking.  They taught others this skill, and delivered speeches for money.  They made a good living, as it became an entertainment form.  They were experts at debate, at using emotional appeals, and added to it by physical appearance—they came to wear special clothes to indicate their position—and by the use of cleaver language.  Over time, style, form, and skill were prized over factual accuracy.  They did not necessarily live by the ideas they spoke of.  In these ways, this sounds like some of today’s entertainers, minus music or cameras.  Some traveled and appeared from place to place, others appeared same time, same place.  Some would walk in wearing a robe called a pulpit-gown.  Some would quote the writings of Homer, and knew passages by heart.  Some would encourage the audience to clap.  Some lived at public expense, were celebrities, the stars of their day.  There were Greeks and Romans who were addicted to this type of entertainment.  After the legalization of Christianity, many orators “converted” and got a regular speaking engagement.
            You can email me at or phone me at 757-735-3639. For a transcript of what I just said, I have it on my blog, , posted on March 16, 2012.  For more info on organic church*, see or locally at .
On the recording, at this time, it says, “house churches.”  While that phrasing is OK, to say “organic church” is better.  I comment on that in blip 94.
Footnotes:  Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity, Present Testimony Ministry, and later, Barna/Tyndale, chapters 4 and 6.  There are further and many further footnotes there.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thoughts on spiritual discipline and freedom

            At the house church I go to, as opposed to examining a piece of scripture, the discussion on Sunday (which just happens to be a day in which we meet) was around the topic, “How does being involved in a house church, as opposed to (what in North American culture would be considered) a traditional church, change one’s life?”  What I thought of, for myself, is that is has changed the dynamic conflict between spiritual disciplines and freedom in Christ.  Over the years in the traditional church, I was taught to (at the least) read some scripture daily.  I am quite certain many persons did not do that, and if one just comes in, listens to sermons, and acts friendly toward others, the (lack of) intensity of the realationships in the church are insufficient for most to realize any difference in a person’s life, either to one’s benefit or ill.  In and of itself, there is the technical conflict that one can grow in faith by studying scripture, but one is never commanded in scripture that one must study the Word (which, of course, has been impossible for many in a wide variety of cultures over history for a variety of reasons).  We learn that we are free in Jesus to follow Him, but there are implied and subliminal pressures to exercise that freedom in only certain ways, such as using that Bible study or quiet time in either teaching Sunday School or forcing oneself into a leadership position, for instance (with seemingly few other choices).

            Now that I am not longer in the traditional system, there have been changes in how I live for Jesus.  At first, I felt a kind of guilt when I didn’t go to a service on Sunday morning at times when I was free to do so (I have worked a significant amount of my life in jobs in which I had to work on Sunday), even though I intellectually knew that worship was how I lived my life, not a ritual in a building at a time and place. It was something I had gotten used to over the years, and fit the status quo.  For an extreme example, if one grew up Catholic/Anglican/Episcopal, one might associate the smell of incense with worship; I once visited such a church, and found it irritating and distracting and strange.  That’s my background and experience; there are plenty of other things equally not based on scripture that I had gotten used to, such as the “worship service” starting immediately after a bell on the roof clanged a certain amount of times (at one time I knew how many, I no longer remember).

            Now, spiritual discipline is something to do to honor Jesus.  Over the last couple of years, I probably have done Bible studies less than in the past.  I remember in college a teaching on quiet times done via Inter-Varsity (I think I have this correct) that broke down quiet times into the parts of a) Bible reading, b) Bible study, c) meditation on the Word, and d) prayer.  At that time, I probably did more Bible reading, but that, in a sense, makes more sense in that we need to read the Bible to know what is there, and then study it to understand how God’s communication to us interconnects with our lives.  Over decades, I know more and more what and where certain teachings are, and can interconnect them in my mind.  For instance, one reason I never use the KJV is that English has changed so much in 400+ years that James 1:21 in KJV doesn’t make sense anymore, as the meanings of a number of words in that sentence have either changed in meaning or just became archaic, and, therefore, meaningless in our culture.  If one has been a believer for many years, and gotten used to the archaic dialect might not even notice that to unbelievers in this culture, and even believers younger in age, the dialect makes it unreasonably difficult to understand.  Conversely, if you don’t feel that way, that’s cool.  God made us differently, and each of us may fit in either better or worse as His witness to various subcultural situations. 

I do far more meditating on the Word.  As I say that, it gives me reason to explain myself.  Among my age group, believer or unbeliever, if I say the word “meditation”, it right should conjure up a photo from the late 1960’s of the Beatles sitting crosslegged before the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.  As eastern as it is, that has become the standard image impressed on western culture, in part as this society has become more secularized, and part because the traditional church has taught minimally on meditation from a Christian perspective.  Simply, eastern meditation involves supposedly emptying one’s mind.  Personally, I’m not sure that’s truly possible, and if it is, I believe it borders on the demonic, which is a subject difficult to put into words.  Christian meditation is on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and what we know about following Him—which includes our experience of first becoming His child (the beginning of our salvation), what He has shown us in His Word, our experiences of continuing salvation, sanctification, and growing in spiritual maturity, including both rightly and wrongly sensing the guidance of the Holy Spirit in one’s spirit, and as we grow in maturity, learning of and walking in one’s particular spiritual giftings, and becoming more and more an elder—an experienced believer—in the practical (not human titular) sense.  As time goes by, the Spirit has more to work with in enlightening our spirits in this way. 

For myself, there’s more that I would like to do to honor Jesus with my life, even as I have less strength to physically do things.  I think that I have always felt that I was free to honor Jesus however the Spirit would lead me, but I can look back that, to the degree that a certain act did not fit into the program of the traditional church I was connected to at the time, that attitude was threatening to the leadership and the system, particularly if it was only felt by leaders at a subliminal level, i.e. they may have felt threatened, but didn’t consider why.  As I look back at some of the scandals among famous “Christians” in my lifetime, I know that I cannot figure out, and only God knows, whether that person, in his/her spirit, was a total charlatan on the level of a used car salesman, or whether the person was/is somehow deceived or self-deceived.  That is important to me only to the degree that I, as a part of living in this culture, deal with persons who have been hurt in spirit because of it, but that is pretty much all of our society, both unbelievers and believers.  Therefore, for me, freedom in Jesus is different, and less limited.  Part of that is the realization that God may truly, by the Spirit, do a certain thing, which in turn is a part of my witness to the people around me, and another believer, in another place, being a witness to a different group, may do an exactly opposite thing in an aspect that is not a tenant of faith.  Examples of this (that I can think of at the moment I am writing this) are meat-eating/vegetarianism (Peter teaches us in Acts that we believers are no longer under the kosher law, but I know of believers who choose to be vegetarian so as not to be a stumbling block in being a witness to people in eastern cultures that hold, for their own reason, to vegetarianism), being conservative/liberal/ apolitical (I overtly choose apolitical—I have my opinions, but I feel led to keep them to myself, but respect my brothers who get heavily involved in one side or another), immersing oneself in one of many subcultures, using a certain ability/laying that ability down to emphasize a point of God’s infinite love, and the list could go on and on.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Simple Church Minute 1--sermons (revised)

         As I commented a few days ago, I have realized that, if I got these radio commentaries broadcast, and someone was to go to this website to see the transcript, having multiple posts on the same day make them difficult to find.  Therefore, I am reposting these writings, beginning with the 2 minute versions, in a more convenient manner.  I am also adding footnotes, and placing all of my phone number, as I now, as most people in this society, have a number not shared by others.

My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute. Why are there sermons in church? It’s only been in the last few years I’ve even thought of this question. I’ve just assumed that there is scriptural reason for it. Matthew 5 is called the Sermon on the Mount. But, if you look at it, scripture doesn’t call it a sermon. It covers way too many different topics in the couple of minutes it would take to read it aloud. Also, was it really a teaching to believers, or a series of statements so radical as to turn off those who were only chasing the next big thing, and to allow the Spirit to speak to the heart of those who would follow in spirit and truth. John chapter 6 verses 66 to 68 indicate Jesus wasn’t at all concerned about having a large number of fair weather friends. Acts 17, where Paul speaks with those at Mars Hill, it is clear that Paul was doing dialogue, not monologue. From Acts chapter 20 verse 7 and other places, where we do see someone doing something that appears to us as preaching, the Bible uses the word “spoke”, and these occurrences are infrequent. Some say Second Timothy chapter 4 verse 2 connects preaching with speaking to the church, but that context is not clear. The church we see in the New Testament shows itself as using speeches such as what Paul gave while visiting Troas as an exception, not the rule. Why? We don’t get nearly as much out of one-way communication as we do multi-way, where one can ask a question if something is unclear, or where a variety of people with various skills and experiences can paint a fuller picture of a subject. Romans chapters 12 and 15, First Corinthians 14 and Colossians 3 show that worship involved every member, included teaching, exhortation, prophecy, singing, and admonishment, was conversational and impromptu.

For more on organic church*, see , or locally at . You can phone me at 757-735-3639 or email me at .  You can see a transcript of what I just said on my blog,, on the post of March 11,2012.


On the recording, at this time, it says, “house churches.” While that phrasing is OK, to say “organic church” is better. I comment on that in blip 94.

Footnote:  Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices, 2002, Present Testimony Ministry, and later Barna Books/Tyndale House, chapter 4.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A soft sell introduction to the idea of organic church from afar

Before about three years ago, I was not aware of the existance of simple, organic church. I found it because I was looking for it, as traditional church didn't fit into my business schedule, and, more importantly, it wasn't adding to my life, and I didn't feel that I was adding to others', just showing up to a service, unable to be involved in anything, as where I was was geared to Monday through Friday working persons, and, at that time, I was a "work all day Saturday and Sunday" person. I know some people that may not be aware of this flavor of the Body of Jesus' existance, and today, I stumbled upon an idea that is in the form of a "What do you think?" approach that, I hope, doesn't imply an expected answer. I sent a few brothers who now live far away this message, thanks to the technological everywhereness of Facebook:

On 3/5/2012, on Felicity Dale's blog,, she mentions 7 changes she is seeing in the believers of this culture. From where I am, I cannot tell, as I am in the same branch of the tree of forms of honoring Jesus as from where she is. When I look at Christian media, even more than secular media, I don't see any signs of these things, as a general rule. What's your perspective?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My view from here, and an odd story

            While I have attempted to blog at least once per week, and usually have done more, it has been two weeks since the last post.  The main reason for that is the illness that I have been struggling with for about the past six weeks.

            Over at, 2.29.12 was Shameless Promotion Day.  Why didn’t I mention this blog on it?  I had every intent to do so, and was thinking that I was looking at my email each day, but clearly did not notice that the 29th was the day until about 10pm (EST) on the 1st. About then, I realized to what degree that my mind was operating foggily.

            Those of us who read Frank’s blog know that he has been generous on giving advice to bloggers.  Of course, Frank has written many books and appears to do a significant amount of speaking.  His directions, I would imagine, would be near impossible to follow by a person doing an everyday, normal job (and a job in some type of field as being a professor, missionary, or other Christian service job doesn’t, in this instance, fit as being everyday).  As I am to a degree disabled, it is somewhat easier for me, but not all that much.  Feeling ill certainly lowers that ability.  Anyway, in his blog, , on February 26, 2012, he gave a piece of advice of not posting more than one post per day, as it makes finding it more difficult.  That was something I need to take to heart, as, when I started, I posted 100 2-minute radio scripts I had written over the previous two years, and posted them all within one month, with the idea of referring back to the date at the end of the program.  Also, when I posted them, I did not, at the end, leave footnotes as to where I got the information from.  Therefore, it is reasonable to post them again, where each can have a unique date affixed to the writing.

            As for getting them on radio, to my knowledge, I am further from that than I was back in December, 2010, because of what I know of myself.

            A funny thing happened to me about a week ago.  I have been attempting to contribute to the finances of my house by buying self storage units, and selling the contents.  For anyone who has never been involved in this, but has seen one or more of the reality programs based on this activity, it isn’t anything like the programs, but still, some odd things happen.  Part of the oddities come from all the extra bidders that have been produced by viewers of the programs.  Anyway, it was a Friday morning, and on that day, a certain chain had an auction planned at a location to the north of a military base, another, a couple of hours later, at their location to the opposite end of the base, and, a third at a location to the west of the base.  I went to the first one, and there was a tremendous amount of persons.  This may be good for the company, but not for me.  Also, I saw in the paper that there was one at the same time as the second auction on the opposite side of town, but they only had two units available.  I had been to that company before, and knew that it didn’t draw many bidders that last time, so I decided to go over there.  Noon came, and no other bidders showed up!  As the law in my state (according to the owners—I haven’t bothered to double check) was that they needed a minimum of three bidders, they went out into the lot and got a couple of service men who warehoused there to come in and sign in.  Since I was there to bid, and they weren’t planning on it, I got both units, in my opinion, quite reasonably.  Opposingly, one unit was of a major company which had gone out of business, and the contents was all their IT equipment, like 15 year old computer and server equipment.  I find that, as time goes on, I am selling more and more items which, if I had to describe what they do, I could not.  I guess that, so long as I can put a price on an item, and someone will pay it, on enough items, and income is greater than outgo, I’m ok in that regard.  It’s just an oddity of life.