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Thursday, June 28, 2012

The opposite of bravery...

            Earlier today, I saw a group of quotations, one of which was “The opposite of bravery is not cowardice, but conformity.”  It was in an email, which I erased.  About an hour later, I went to find it but could not among the writings of those I regularly read.  I went to look up the quote, and found it attributed to Dr. Robert Anthony, whom I perceive has written self help books.  I went to look up more about him on Wikipedia, and, to my surprise, could not find anything (they have a Robert Anthony who is a pro wrestler, but that must be someone else).

            I cannot help but think of how things can look different from different angles.  My son is in the military, where such a quote must be looked at with derision, as bravery and conformity must operate hand in hand.  Also, as I write on subjects concerning organic church, it fits the mindset of the extremely few persons attracted to this idea because they have bought into the Universal Reconciliation false doctrine.  When I read this quote earlier today, I thought that I saw the name of a famous artist attached to it.  I can easily picture artists being attracted to this quote as it appears to justify whatever it is they might do.  On the opposite side, many within organic church would be attracted to this quote with the idea of conformity being represented by those whose idea of “church” are all kinds of things represented by the western status quo.  This quote, as many, is quick, snappy, and says less than it appears.  Sometimes it is true, and sometimes as far from truth as it can be.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Simple Church Minute 305--holidays

When I started this blog, it was to post transcripts of various little commentaries I had written which I entitled, “Simple Church Minute”, focusing on various truths of following Jesus that have gotten to some degree lost over the centuries because they run contrary to operating church as a corporation with buildings, budgets, salaried and titled leaders, etc.  That was basically done in 2010, in a time frame that would fit a two minutes, with the thought being that they were written for Christian radio.   There is only so many ideas that fit that grouping.  From the book I reviewed last week, the author(s?) brought up an idea that I have, in my mind, considered before, but he/she/they developed the thought better than I or anyone else I have read or heard had.  Therefore, this week, I have a new transcript. 

            Just for note, I believe that in recent weeks, actually getting some of these on radio may be coming closer.



            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.

            Recently, I ran across something about following Jesus that I hadn’t considered before.  I imagine most of us have heard the stand up comic one-liner that goes, “I tried being an atheist, but I gave it up. No holidays.”

            Much of what tradition and our society celebrate is not connected with our faith in Jesus, although much of it has had a nominal Christian sugar coating.  In the Old Testament, part of what was established in the Law were the four festivals, but Acts 15 verses 23 to 29 indicate that they, along with most of the Old Covenant law, doesn’t carry over for we, the New Covenant chosen people.

            In our society in the U.S., holidays like Flag Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Patriot’s Day have a political or social origin.  Christmas came from the Roman pagan holidays of Saturnalia, from December 17 to 24, celebrated with revelry and buying of large amounts of gifts, and December 25, the pagan birthday of the sun.  Easter came from an ancient fertility rite, hence eggs and bunnies as symbols of reproductivity.  Halloween comes from the Druid Day of the Dead.

            Is there a truly Christian holiday?  Yes, there is, but we have been taught by omission to not notice it, and a person who only wishes to be seen by others as a believer, but doesn’t actually want Jesus to be their Lord isn’t going to consider this much to celebrate.  In First Corinthians chapter 5 verses 6 to 8, Paul wrote, Your glorying is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore, purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you are truly unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

That holiday is today; we celebrate this day by living, by the power of the Holy Spirit, a life of truth.  For the person who has come to follow Jesus, from the moment of receiving Jesus’ salvation, we have entered a spiritual Sabbath rest.  We no longer have to be striving and seeking truth.  As such, we can celebrate each day of this new life by desiring to live to honor Him each and every moment, in honor of the gift He gave us.   

            You can contact me at 757-735-3639 or at I have additional information on this subject on my blog, at the posting of June 25, 2012.

This idea was derived from pages 43-45 and 89-96 of, Right Here Right Now” (this book is available online, at the website mentioned, for free).  Other scripture references that, as a group, back up that this is a proper interpretation of the scripture quoted are Mt. 6:11, 25, 33-34, Lk. 3:23-24, and Gal. 4:9-11.  Also, while not mentioned by the author I am quoting, I would say Heb. 3:13 also bouilds the case for this concept, that every day a believer lives is a true holiday for celebrating what Jesus gave us.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

2002--13 definitions of church (revision)

This blog I have redone a number of times.  It’s original title was “8 definitions of church”.  With this update, the number is now 13.  With each update, I feel that I am learning a little bit more of what God has said to us, the church, and a little bit more of how toxic the unscriptural traditions that have morphed into the church over the centuries are. 

2002—13 definitions of church

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Today a word study on the greek word “ekklessia” and its English equivalent, church.  I, so far, have found 13 distinct definitions.  Six began developing a minimum of two hundred years after the writing of the New Testament, and, therefore, are not anything the writers of Scripture had in mind.  Those are:

1) the Roman Catholic Church, which in the western world was perceived to be a virtual equivalent for over 1200 years,

2) a denomination, of which others came about after the Reformation,

3) a building—buildings were forced into Christianity only after the Roman Empire legalized Christianity, or a general style of building that is exclusively used by institutional churches.

4) a special type of not for profit corporation—a benefit that the Roman Empire had for paganism, and extended to Christianity upon legalization, and

5) the special tax-favored corporation, and

6) the persons who make the policies for the not for profit corporations.

            The following definitions are connected to the word “ekklessia” in the original writings of the New Testament. 

7)  All believers in history.  Hebrews 12 verse 2, even though it doesn’t use the word, described this group.  This is the group that is going to be admitted into heaven. 

8) All believers in a city or area.  We only have one overt mention of a meeting of all believers in a city, in Acts 5 verse 12.  It is easy to picture that some of the early churches Paul describes were small enough that at some point they all met together.  Today, there are so many divisions that it is hard to imagine all believers in a city coming together, but I must mention it as one of the definitions. 

9)  A group of believers that meet together to worship, which is described in Acts 2 verses 42 to 47.  I believe that many do not wish to teach this scripture due to verse 45, where it speaks about sharing everything in common.  We must recognize the context of most of this early church being poor, under persecution from both the Romans, who saw them as a Jewish group, and the Jewish establishment, who had Jesus put to death.  The Non-Jews who had just come to faith in Jesus were travelers, as Jerusalem was on a trade route.  We see later in scripture that the Romans years later force everyone to scatter, and these non-Jews would have spent time growing in faith, and taking faith in Jesus back to their homeland upon that scattering.  This has and continues to happen.
10)     1 Thessalonians 5 verse 11 tells us that the church is a group of people that meets to build up each other.  This indicates that a local church is small enough for everyone to know each other, care about each other, and if everyone mentors one another, no one person is dominating all the teaching and mentoring.  Every believer gains wisdom to share as they desire to follow Jesus. 

11) As few as two believers, when meeting in agreement.  Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in their midst.”  Further Colossians 1:18 tells us Jesus is Head of the Church.  Conversely, Heb. 10:25 tells us not to not forsake gathering together with other believers, but to exhort one another.  One can gather together with as few as two, but if one meets in the hundreds or thousands, but exhorting one another is not allowed or is not expected by others, we need consider the possibility that our traditional large gatherings do not meet the scriptural definition of church.  Also, Jesus was said this in a way that negated to the disciples’ minds the Jewish tradition that it took ten persons to have a congregation.

12)  This is a bizarre reference, but the believer in Jesus knows that God knew what He was doing in commissioning the books of Scripture.  In Acts 19, we have the story of the idol makers of the temple of Diana, a fertility cult, organizing a protest against the work of Paul in leading persons to faith in Jesus.  Apparently, enough persons were coming to faith in Jesus, and abandoning the town worship that was built on sailor’s giving money to the temple in trade for sexual acts, that their bottom line was affected.  In verses 32, 39, and 41 of our English Bibles, this mob is described as a “assembly” or “gathering”, but in the Greek, the word was “ekklesia” the word everywhere else translated “church.”  This tells us that an ekklesia isn’t religious, could be temporary, and the word is quite vague, more like our modern English word, “group,” and not much like the very religious, stiflingly organized meaning most persons in our culture associate with the word “church.” 

13)  To that effect, given that the early church met in meetings where everyone could share what God had done in their lives or taught them, with minimal structure, one scholar says that, if we were translating ekklesia into English for the first time now, the most appropriate way would be the phrase "town meeting".
Therefore, my conclusion is that many of the informal groups of believers meeting in business break rooms, college dorms, and informally in homes, where “two or three are gathered” align more with the biblical concept than our structured rituals, and by rituals, I am as much referring to modern soft-rock praise and worship as to centuries old liturgie. If you or I personally enjoy it does not make it any less a ritual.  How do we worship in Spirit and truth?  It takes work on every believer’s part, and openness on every leader’s part, to allow Jesus to be Head of the Church in reality, and not just a quote from Colossians 1 verse 18.
  You can contact me at or by phone at 757-735-3639. To review what I just said, visit my blog,, as this is the entry for June 20, 2012.
 For more information about simple, organic worship in this area, visit
Information for this commentary was obtained from:
Frank Viola and George Barna, Pagan Christianity,
On point 2) Actually, Orthodox and Thoma (in India) predate the Reformation, and a variety of small groups of believers (and also heresies) were in hiding, particularly in mountainous areas of central Europe, before and somewhat after the time of the Reformation.
On point 11) Jon Zens, in The Pastor Has No Clothes, opines that the modern phrase "town meeting" is closest to ekklesia.  In the five minute format that I am working with in this commentary, there wasn't time to more than mention that idea.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Book review: Right Here, Right Now by

Book review: “Right Here, Right Now: Living the Anointed Life with Jesus and Each Other” by

            A couple of days ago, I was at a meeting of persons involved in simple church in my metro area, and one of the persons there had some copies of this book to give away.  At the front and end of the book, the anonymous writer(s) make it clear that this book, which is available in paper and online forms, is free, and permission is granted to reproduce it so long as one doesn’t change it.  The online version is available to read at the website above.  I fully well understand the motivation to hide the names of the writers; I considered the same when starting this blog.  There are negatives to both giving and not giving one’s name, particularly in communicating about living for Jesus, as it is Jesus who is important, and who did everything necessary to make any true communication about Him possible.  Whether an individual or a group of writers, at least one person has a background in history, and has used that experience to explain, my means of story, how some details of history that unbelievers did, and doesn't necessarily make sense to us now, did to them at that time.  Also, at the end of the book in the reference list, the authors did something some of us take for granted, which is explain at the beginning of the reference list that some of the works cited are by non-Christian writers who used methods of expression that we who are believers would not consider morally proper, and are cited for the historical contribution, and not overall agreement of their point of view.
The first chapter, titled “Paradise Lost: Life Without God” is written in a style that, if for some reason one hadn’t looked at the cover to know it was about following Jesus, it wouldn’t be clear from the chapter, in that it avoids use of all traditional clich├ęs, much like Richie Furay did in his first Christian musical work, “I’ve Got a Reason”, back in the mid-1970’s (and I really cannot think of any other comparison in my lifetime).

Whereas many writings within non-humanly organized faith in Jesus attempt to walk a line of neutrality in advocating the basic principles of following Jesus, picturing believers reading the work who still may to a degree like the status quo way of faith in the western world (buildings, paid leaders, worship services), this book, implies within the sentences that the status quo way is not what God intended.  From chapter 2 on, once the introduction is done, it is written in a way that is clearly as writers who follow Jesus, giving a story-like travel through God’s work with man and our response, but still in a manner quite different from Frank Viola’s “Story of the New Testament Church”, in that Viola, in that book, attempted to stick closely to exactly what the Bible told us, and here, the parts that are commented in the line of where some persons responded correctly, and where they didn’t.  Chapter 2 deals with the Old Covenant, and how man, and particularly the chosen people, didn’t follow God’s plan.   Chapter 3 follows how Jesus reintroduced God and man walking together, like Adam and Eve did previous to the fall, to the disciples and a group of everyday people.

  Chapter 4 is about how the apostles guided the early church to follow the same principles that Jesus taught them, and warned them about going another route, with comparisons to paganism over the ages.  Chapter 5 deals with the church beginning to wander backwards from ekklesia life towards religion, with a title comparison to how gravity pulls physical objects back to earth. 

 Chapter 6 goes into how the Roman Empire pulled the church into a twist of the forms of paganism.  Chapter 7 deals with some modern, western distortions, particularly megachurches and the pagan basis for supposed Christian holidays, and the holy day Jesus instituted (I’ll let you read it to find out what it is).  Chapter 8 deals with believers today desiring to again follow the practices the apostles taught with rejecting the syncretism of the previous fifteen or so centuries.

Clearly, a running theme of this book is that what God showed in part via the temple, and what Jesus taught is what gives believers life, and everything else is just a twist on human religion/paganism.  I have no question that this makes some of my fellow believers uncomfortable, and those who collect a salary on account of their faith even more uncomfortable.  It is a tone that is necessary for someone to express.
Since this is free, I’ve already given you a copy, above.  The people behind the book realize that there are instances in which giving a physical copy works as a matter of witness or spiritual growth better, so physical copies are available.  From the website, there is the implication that the person or persons involved in the production of this writing are from the Indianapolis area, but that it is the content, not the authors that are what is relevant, particularly in this age where we have companies with marketing plans that produce Christian stars and personalities.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Simple Church Minute #6--oration (revised)

6—oration (revision)

NOTE: I originally wrote a segment for each of the 61 points Frank Viola and George Barna make in their book, Pagan Christianity, about traditions in the institutional church not based on scripture. After writing it, I chose to not include this segment merely as I felt that, standing alone, it would come across as overly picky.  Therefore, the end of this commentary lacks the normal references the recorded commentaries have.  

My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute

A few days ago, I mentioned that oratory became an entertainment form in the Roman Empire in the days of the early church. Apollos was an orator before his conversion to Christianity, and Paul grew up in Tarsus, the “city of philosophers.” The early church was taught that all believers were kings and priests of God, per Revelation 1 verse 6. All were important in each other, which is growth in both mind and spirit. Still, over a couple of centuries, mutual ministry faded, being replaced with religious specialists. Over this time, some orators and philosophers became Christians, and some of their skills entered the church. Paid specialists came from paganism; Jewish rabbis of the Pharisaic side, which appear to be the only type that survived the revolt of 130 AD, learned a trade so they did not need to either charge for their teaching or depend on the tithe, in case unbelief swept the Jewish community, as happened at times during the Old Testament days. History shows that converted orators spoke in a style that was similar to before their conversion, which may not be all that surprising, quoting scripture instead of Homer. Eventually, as the church became formalized, the person giving the sermon was required to have studied rhetoric, and those without such training were not allowed to speak. Orators called their speeches homilies; the Catholic church uses that term to this day. The legalization of Christianity by the Romans solidified the Greek style of speaking and professional clergy. By the time of the Reformation, it was taken for granted that the sermon was how “lay people,” another concept foreign to the Bible, learned the Christian faith. Of course, in the Middle Ages, non-professionals did not have access to the Bible to know whether what they were being taught was true. That was what Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was about.

Speeches do not teach well. That’s why, in school, there is a mix of studying texts, hearing lectures, having discussions, and doing presentations.

            The information used in this commentary comes from Frank Viola & George Barna, Pagan Christianity, Chapter 4.  Within that chapter are further copious footnotes on the sources they used.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Today, I was going through my email, and read the 5/30/2012 post on the blog of Jamal Jivanjee.  He presents a perspective on the idea of “praying without ceasing” that is excellent.

            It reminds me of the statement made by Bill Gaither, when he said that he sings two kinds of songs, those he has written, and those he wished he had written.  My feelings exactly, albeit I have neither the training or experiences Jamal has had to make that possible.

Monday, June 4, 2012

On John 11:45-50

            Last evening, I was reading in the Bible, the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verses 45 through 50.  This tells us important things about how God works.  Immediately previous to this passage, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  Verse 24 shows that Martha had sat under the teaching of Jesus, in that she indicates that she believed in the resurrection of the dead, but the rabbis of that day would not have allowed a woman to hear teaching of the Law from them directly.  Verse 37 indicates that some who were there did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah and were skeptical, saying that he could have showed up before Lazarus died.  Verse 39 makes it clear that Lazarus’ body would be deteriorating.  After four days in a hot climate, an unburied cadaver (yes, it was in a cave, but that’s not the same as being buried, albeit necessary for what is to follow) would be moving close to its maximum amount of stench.  In verse 44, Lazarus emerges alive.  There is no naturalistic explanation for such a thing, except miraculously.  I point this out in that some miracles have a possible, albeit extremely unlikely to the degree of being miraculous of itself, naturalistic explanation.

            Now, to what I wish to get to.  Verses 45 to 48 tell of two reactions.  Verse 45 indicates that some people saw the miracle and believed that Jesus was who he indicated he was from it.  I am as much a person as any who likes the precision of how what God presents in the Bible has a miraculous degree of theological order, but I know that sound theology doesn’t touch many persons’ hearts to lead them to faith in Jesus (me included).  Conversely, Jesus doing the naturally inexplicable, both then and now, does bring people to faith in him.

            Verses 46 to 48 tell of another reaction.  Some people went and told the status quo religious leaders who, more the most part, had already rejected him in their hearts. What conclusions did they make?  First, they said, if left alone, “everyone will believe in Him.”  While I, as a person who has come to follow Jesus, feel this is quite logical, it isn’t true, and they were their own examples of its falsity.  They didn’t believe in Jesus, and “just” because he could raise a man to life who had been dead four days didn’t change their minds, or, more relevantly, their spirits.  Second, they say why they rejected Jesus—the Romans would take away their position of influence (as it turned out, they would lose that position of influence a few decades later, anyway) and the nation (they already were unpopular among the commonplace Jews), which would be scattered after populist Jews organized a military force against the Romans (twice) and lost (twice).  The allure of fame, money, and power always overrules logic among some.

            In verses 49 and 50, Caiaphas, the high priest, by accident, prophesies of the importance of Jesus’ death while urging His being put to death.  God’s penchant for the contrary and paradox should be sufficient to keep those who believe humble.