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Friday, February 28, 2014

From average to excellent

About 15 years ago, while I was still part of an institutional church, I assisted the high school youth group in chaperoning them to an Acquire the Fire conference in Tampa, FL.  The concluding speaker was Dr. Myles Munroe, who normally speaks on subjects concerning leadership, which is what he did that evening.

At the end of his speech, he gave seven points for achieving one's goals:
1.  Have a purpose.  Know God's call on your life--everyone has one.  If you don't know it, then, and only then, obedience is a sufficient substitute.  Almost all of God's will is in the Bible; what isn't is God's specific call.
2.  Have passion.  Not the world's definition--lust.  Going after that goal with everything that is in you.  99+% of the time, it is your deepest desire.
3. Know your potential in God (I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me). I can do it with God's help, especially if you couldn't do it without God.
4.  Have a plan.  Even a bad plan is better than no plan.
Write it down.
a.  What I am accomplishing by next week.
b. What I am accomplishing by next month.
c.  What I am accomplishing in two months.
d. What I am accomplishing in six months.
e.  What I am accomplishing in 1 year.
f.  What I am accomplishing in 5 years.
5.  Get people to help.  Your friends show you your future. 
If they are lazy,         you will be lazy.
                  thugs,                        a thug.
                  amoral                       amoral.
                  druggies                    a druggie.
                 on fire for God            on fire for God.
6. Be persistent--there's no "can't" until you've done your best.
7. Pray earnestly.

At the time, I thought, great speech.  Over time, watching the teens, I only overtly saw one accomplishing his goals, and that was based on a) being really motivated towards his goal, and b) it being tied to going to a school where instructors fulfill the role of encouraging friends in point 5.  I would have forgotten it, had it not been for my habit of taking notes, and retyping them so I can actually read and understand them later.

Point 5 is a weak point.  I say this because it comes very close to a phrase circulating among radical feminists (of that time), "Pick a goal and surround yourself with people that will get you there." When that is said among that group, some things antogonistic to following Jesus are being thought of:  dump the husband, dump the kids, dump your relatives, dump heterosexuality, if that's what's getting in the way.  Of course, when unbelievers say such things, the guidance of the Holy Spirit isn't there, and they cannot be criticized on those grounds.  God is to judge, the Spirit is to convict, we are to love.  While I disagree with the radical feminist example, the phrase, when applied within the bounds of following Jesus morality, has some benefit.
How do you get someone to help?
How would you help someone if a person asked?
(Note: These previous two sentences are the truly stickiest parts of this whole presentation)
Stop a moment.  Write down one to three top personal goals you have.
Now, one reason for doing that is that some of us have goals which we have in the back of our minds, and, much less than not telling anyone about them, we haven't tried to describe the goal on paper.  That can sometimes tell oneself where the problem is--you are having difficulty describing it clearly to oneself.
Another problem comes if you have 2 or 3 written down.  Let us say your #1 goal has a due date of a year from now.  Goal #2, unrelated to it, has a due date of two months from now.  Goal #3, unrelated to #1 and #2, has a due date of two weeks.  Which goal do you work on immediately?  Is #1 really #1, or is it really #3?  This stuff can get tricky.

A basic way to achieve a goal is to make one that you know you can achieve.  I am going to use an acronym--SMART.

S will stand for specific.  What is a goal that is not specific?  I will grow spiritually.  How do you know that you achieved it? If we changed the goal to "I will read Chapter 1 of J.I. Packer's Knowing God, and will write out answers to the questions in the back of the chapter," although that is a very different sentence, I could infer that there is a good probability that, in doing so, one will have grown spiritually.

M will stand for measurable.  You have a goal, "I want to lose weight."  First, that isn't specific enough, but is measurable, in that anything less than one's current weight would be a loss.  "I want to lose three pounds in the next week" is measurable and specific.

A is attainable.  A goal of "I want my son to go to Yale" is not an attainable goal, for you, because it is not dependent upon yourself.  No matter how hard you try, if he doesn't try, it won't happen.  It is potentially attainable for your son.  A goal must be one that is within your power to achieve.

R is relevant.  Let us say your goal is losing 3 pounds.  A goal of getting a vial of moon dust and analysing it for green cheese content may be attainable if you are trained in certain scientific fields, but it is not relevant to your losing 3 pounds.

T is time specific.  The goal I just used in describing R, that is, losing 3 pounds, is not time specific.  You have forever to get there.  You need to achieve a goal and move to the next.  The goal I used to describe M, that is, "I want to lose 3 pounds in the next week" is time specific.

If a goal meets all five of those standards, it is a goal that you will know within a certain amount of time that you will achieve.  You can sense success with, or re-analyze to see why you missed, and continue with.  If you do this with another person who understands these principles and will ask you about whether you achieved your goal, your odds of achieving are enhanced just because you know someone else knows.

Now, some of us have goals that, for certain valid reasons, we cannot share with just anyone.  Therefore, we need someone who will keep ones successes and failures confidential.
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I just picked up this writing out of the notes I have taken over the years.  I have no idea how much of what I just wrote came from Dr. Munroe, and how much was my addition.  I will say that in the intervening time, I was involved in life coaching, and the SMART system is the basic method of life coaching.  From experience, depending on one's motivation, combined with the importance or triviality of the goals one sets for oneself, one can get "burned out" on a weekly diet of achieving small goals, depending on one's level of motivation.   

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A two minute commentary about "edify one another"

Today, I repeat a post from a few years ago, which is the transcript of a two minute commentary.


74—Edify
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.
            In First Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 11, Paul tells the church to “edify one another.”  One can see that the English word “edify” comes from the same root as the word “educate.”  We can easily get the idea that to edify has to do with teaching our intellect.  In many flavors* of the church, we have been told that sermons are for teaching us.  There is a problem with this idea.  The first one is that if sermons are edifying, only one person is doing the edifying.  First Corinthians chapter 8 verse 1 tells us God is love, and that love, in this case, agape, God’s love, is edifying.  From the original Greek, a more literal translation of edify would be “home building.”  Edify or edifying appears 15 times in Paul’s letters, and in almost all cases appears in a sentence with love, comfort, or grace.  We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus has adopted us into God’s family.  God is building us into his family, and that has more to do with loving him and doing his will, caring for our brothers and sisters in Jesus, than intellectual learning.  No matter how highly intellectually trained, how gifted in leadership and imparting God’s vision, no one person can fulfill the 58 “one another” directives of scripture for a group of people.  That highly trained person cannot grasp the insights of the 80 IQ brother or sister who can basicly handle the idea, “Jesus loves me.”  Edify means all believers contributing their share. Not 20,000 not 200, possibly not 50 can do this together—that’s too many people to know and be known to one another.
            The early church, being an underground group, did not have buildings, real estate, special corporate status, bank accounts, leaders with quasi-governmental roles, and scripture speaks nowhere of these qualities which are what an unbeliever is this culture would find most noticeable about what is called churches in our culture.
            You can email me at 757757tev@gmail.com.*   For more info on simple forms of worship, visit http://www.simplechurch.com/ or locally at (local website).
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.
*Originally, there was a different email address.
*I heard this word used in this manner originally from Duane VanderKlok, an institutional church pastor in Grandville, Michigan, and former missionary in Mexico.  I believe that it better captures the idea that certain groups of groups of believers are connected together in ways that divide or cross over denominational or traditional affiliational lines, in a way that is similar to how we group flavors.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A thought about purity


When there is an illusion of purity, the situation is ripe for corruption, as the illusion of purity inhibits investigation. The illusion not only hides corruption, but makes it possible.

Yesterday, I happened onto the Science Channel program Freakonomics, which I had never seen an episode of before. During it, there was a segment on corruption within sumo wrestling in Japan. The two sentences (or something extremely close to it) were said a number of minutes apart in the segment. If that sounds somewhat bizarre, sumo wrestling, besides being a sporting event, has large portions of Shinto ritual within it, according to that report.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Two minute commentary on where "sermons" don't appear in the New Testament

I recently happened to accidentally click the statistics page connected to this blog and realized that a significant percentage of pageviews to this blog come from outside the United States.  I have to admit to having not been outside the U.S. except for a short day trip across the border to Mexico, and a couple of short stays in Canada.  This doesn't help me know too much about some of the places what I have written is read in.  In many of my footnotes, I refer to George Barna and Frank Viola's book Pagan Christianity.  In that book, there is a large amount of scholarly footnotes as to where the facts behind their writing, and, therefore, my short summations of various points are.  I'd like to say that I will try to do a better job of footnoting, but sometimes my intentions are better than how I actually get things accomplished.

When I started writing, I took topics from PC and other books on non-corporation church, and broke them into one minute segments, as a radio commentary (yes, I once recorded this within a two minute time frame).

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1—sermons
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 http://www.simplechurch.com/ , or locally at (local website).  You can email me at 757757tev@gmail.com .*  
When I recorded this, I said "house churches" instead of "organic church", and there was a different email address.
Mainly from Barna and Viola, Pagan Christianity, chapter 4.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

On ESPN OTL's N-word special


I just finished watching ESPN Outside the Lines' special program on the N-word. For myself, being 60, I found myself agreeing with the persons of over 40 on the program who expressed the feeling that, due to its insulting nature to those who have been racially black in the United States for the whole of its history, it is never appropriate to be used. In the program, some off camera figure interviewed a number of students at Teaneck (NJ) High School, two of whom were black, one Asian, and one Jewish-surnamed maybe white, maybe mixed race, who expressed significantly less restrictive views, except for one, on the word's use, or attempted to differentiate between its historical racially insulting use and its use in their pop culture.
There is one thought I have about this subject which is so a part of the subculture of followers of Jesus of approximately my age, and almost assuredly an idea foreign to the persons connected with the production of that program, given ESPN/ABC/Disney's secularist bias, that I figure I'd write a few paragraphs.
Within the subculture of believers in Jesus here in North America when I was in my late teens and twentys, that is, the decade of the 1970's, there was a development of certain talented persons using the styles of the popular music of the day to express their faith in Jesus, which was rejected as inappropriate by a significant amount of older leaders in the traditional churches. That was refered to as Jesus Rock, or Jesus Music. Over time, as those leaders retired or passed on and replaced by leaders who were out of that age group, that style of music was accepted within the traditional churches, and the relationship became less adversarial. On the opposite side, there is a degree that the music became more status quo.
The two subjects come together in connection with one song of the early 1970's, Larry Norman's “Right Here in America”. Sitting here forty years later, one can say that, in a sense, what is now called contemporary Christian music comes out of the work of Norman, much like smooth jazz comes out of Chuck Mangoine's “Feels So Good”, or bluegress, at least as a recorded medium, from Ralph Stanley. Norman's work never got much airplay, even as contemporary Christian radio began being a format in the late 1970's, in part due to his tendency to be unpredictable, much like in commercial rock, the refusal to play Tiri Humpherdahl, in that case because he littered his music with the famous seven words that became the George Carlin monologue that eventually spawned a Supreme Court ruling (I actually never heard Humpherdahl's music, but have been told this secondhand).
Many years later, when one of the Christian record companies had other artists do a tribute album, “Right Here in America” was not one of the songs chosen. That would be, in part, due to its being so set as a reflection of what was doing on both in the traditional church, the Jesus Movement, society, and politics. Nonetheless, there was some lines near the end of the song, “I have been in your churches/ And sat in your pews/ And heard sermons about/ How much money you'd need for the year./ And I've heard you make references/ To Mexicans, Chinamen, N-------s, and Jews,/ And I gather you wish that we'd all disappear.” Now, Norman was none of those ethnicities, and was speaking in the voice of the folk singer, or prophet, of God Himself, relating to the “least of these”. He assuredly used the phrase as a shock mechinism, to make us fellow believers aware of the difference between the religious status quo and truly following Jesus.
Yes, that tends to follow the line of reasoning in most of the blogs I write. Somehow, I feel that that may be the one and only time I have heard a Caucasian person use that epithet in a redeeming manner. I've thought, over the years, if I was a singer-musician, which I am so much not, and I was to drag up some of the most powerful songs of years gone by, and I somehow chose that one, would I use that word, or do something distracting that would communicate the same intent, such as stop playing, pause, and say “African-American” in a voice different from how I was singing, and then continue. Since that's not my lot in life, its irrelevant. What isn't irrelevant is how the Holy Spirit moves powerfully for a period of time through something, and then, like the wind, blows where He wills.
On the ESPN program, near the end, one of their commentators, Jamele Hill, made the comment that, as a reporter, she felt uncomfortable, assumably from a from a freedom of speech stance, saying that any word should never be used, but that there were words that are taken differently if someone with the group uses among each other, and taken differently if someone outside the group uses them. She gave examples of blacks, women, and gays. For we believers in Jesus, it is clear that, at least in the media, unbelievers cannot bring themselves to refer to someone saying the Sinner's Prayer, except in a mocking manner. That is understandable, because that touches a sensitive area in a person's being. There may be some other specific points of communication that I'm just not thinking of at this moment.. That's one of the great things about blogs. If one occurs to me, I can add onto this stream of thought later.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Two minute commentary on the word "pastor" in Ephesians 4:11

This is a republishing of a blog I originally did on December 4,2010.  It is unique in that, unlike any of my other blogs, it never received a page view.  Maybe it is because of the title I gave it, or that it was with the first few days after I started this blog.  This piece was written to be a one minute long radio commentary.  At the time, I recorded it and was able to say all this in clear English in two minutes.  Later, when I compiled a recording, I did five minute commentaries.  Because of the time limit I was working on, there is one statement below that comes across less nuanced than may be proper.

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95—“pastor” word study

My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.
            The modern job, position, and title of the word “pastor” is far different from what Paul meant in Ephesians chapter 4 verse 11.  The Greek word “poimen” appears 18 times in the New Testament.  The other 17 times it is translated “shepherd” meaning either a) a sheep herder, or b) a reference to Jesus, that what He does for his people is like what a shepherd does for the sheep.  Neither of those meanings fit Ephesians 4:11.  Paul is speaking about gifts of ministry.  Pastor is the Latin word for shepherd; its use is a distinction in context, but not in the word itself.  The way the sentence is constructed, Paul was putting shepherd or pastor together with teacher, such as we, in English, would write shepherd hyphen teacher.  This was an experienced, faithful, obedient believer who has accepted a gift to care for and teach others in Christian love as a matter of their growing in spiritual maturity.  Such maturity is a criterion on the shepherd’s part.  Intellectual achievement was not.  Certainly no man or organization was or is today capable of giving God’s gifts.  It was not an honorific title.  It had nothing to do with getting paid. 
            Another thing that shows that pastor or shepherd does not stand alone from teacher is that, in the New Covenant days scriptures, one can find persons indicated to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers, but no person is designated to be a pastor.  How did we wind up using the term to designate the leader of a group of believers? Before the Reformation, the word “priest” was used, but the Old Testament shows that a priest is a mediator between man and God.  Jesus’ death destroyed that need.  After the Reformation, over time, the word “pastor” worked itself out over time.
            You can email me at 757757tev@gmail.com.(1) For more info on organic worship, visit http://www.simplechurch.com/ or locally at (local website).
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 What would be more nuanced is the idea that pastor/shepard and teacher definitely would be a hyphenated two word phrase in English.  This, I am told by people who know this better than I, is a maybe yes, maybe no thing, although, personally, I believe it makes better sense when combined with the fact that we have no early examples of a person being called a pastor or shepherd, and we have a woman, Junia, being called an apostle in Romans 16:7.
I got all this information from Barna & Viola's Pagan Christianity, which, in turn, has the scholarly references.
1)  In the original post, I had a different email address, but that one I am no longer watching.  I have inserted the one I do regularly use for all kinds of purposes.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On taking a state licensing examination


Today, I took the state examination for the auctioneer trade in the state of Virginia. Before the exam, I wrote a note to myself, thinking back to earlier stages of my life, such as beginning kindergarten, junior high school, and college, and looking ahead with some mixture of excitement and trepidation. At this point in my life, my thinking was more in the line of, “What kind of mess am I getting myself into?” I know that, without regard to how perfectly I try to do things, problems, really knotty problems, come up.

I am doing this project with my son. I, in myself, don't quite have the stamina to pull starting a new business off. Further, it appears to me that it takes a minimum of ten persons to make an average auction day happen. I do not have experience in overseeing that many persons at once, but my son, who is preparing to leave the Navy this year, does. Still, I am taking this because I can assist, and that I immediately had the time to go to the schooling.

The state has assigned the oversight of this test to a worldwide test giving company. As such, it has to be multiple choice, with the questions appearing on a computer screen. Many of usknow that this can boil down to a test on test taking. I may have been able to pass it before taking the training school. That's life in our society.

That was written before taking the test; the following is afterward.

The exam actually turned out to be more difficult than I thought. At points in it, I felt inadequately prepared for it. My son will go, in about a month and a half, to a different school than I went to, and we will match experiences afterward. Be that as it may, I believed that I passed, and on an occupational test, that is all that mattered. In this case, that I score 57 or more, and not 56 or less.

Today, I spent a few hours in the local library studying my notes, and then I took the test. I did no physical work. Somehow, after getting home, as much as I was telling myself that I was calm, I must have been very stressed, as for a number of hours, I just felt like resting.

I look forward to being able to contribute to whatever projects the Holy Spirit may put on my heart, as I have not been able to earn any money for a number of years. Back when I could, I was in the status quo groove of largely giving to a certain organizational “church” which spent most of the money on itself, although everyone, including myself, had been taught that that was giving to God. I am at peace that those days are over.


On a totally seperate topic, this evening, I took some time to listen to two of the most recent www.thegodjourney.com podcasts, put together by writer Wayne Jacobsen. In case you aren't familiar with it, its more like Wayne sharing what has been affecting him on, as the name implies, his journey of following God, and not like preaching or teaching, per se. One of the neat things about a podcast is that he isn't trapped into a certain time frame like a radio program, and one, if one wishes, can leave a comment on the website, making it more like a conversation.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On seeing Bruce McLaren and Shane Claiborne on TV last night


Last night, I caught an episode of “Red Letter Christianity” on JUCE TV, in which Tony Compolo and Shane Claiborne interview Bruce McLaren. I was familiar with McLaren's name via his being quoted by Frank Viola, and one, when having to kill time in a mall a few years ago, got to read a few pages of one of his books while on a bookstore. As I say all too often, I don't think as well as I did up to a few years ago, so I really couldn't get into reading some less than basic theology, but I recognize that he is respected by some people whose thinking I respect. At whatever level, I would guess that that is the real reason behind which leaders we pay attention, and which ones we either don't or don't go out of the way to consider. Anyway, the program was a level above the level of thought that usually appears on the TBN family of networks. As the program was only one half hour long, they couldn't get too heavily into any one subject.

I think that I had heard Shane Claiborne's name before, but didn't know anything about him. Let us just say his physical appearance got my attention. While McLaren appears as a conservative dressing, middle aged Caucasian male, and Compolo similar and maybe a decade older (I guess I could have taken the time to look up their ages on the net, but that's not the point), Claiborne is younger, also Caucasian, and has nearly belt length red dreds. From being a foster parent, I know second hand how difficult it is for most white folks to get dreds right (but, then again, that might have been the makeup folks, although my gut feeling is probably not). Anyway, I got on my computer to try to find out a little more about what he has had to say.

To that effect, I wound up at Rachael Held Evans' blog (another name I have heard of, but knew little about), where, on her February 27, 2013 post, has him do a guest Q&A. It is an interesting group of comments on some controversial issues, including the proper role of the church in the world, and homosexuality, and how the gay community perceives Christians as being near-polar opposite of what we espouse to be. Claiborne makes some comments which are worth thinking through, although done in the process of not answering the actual question asked. This rings my bell in what I have said previously about various Christian leaders avoiding answering or even speaking about certain difficult questions, in that I perceive that Claiborne, in these answers, actually says more than if he had addressed the direct question. Evans, later, in answering a comment, points out that Jesus, in the Gospels, oftentimes did the same thing, and that can be a lesson for us. 

Let me say that this is not a hard and fast rule—I don't believe it is an excuse for a certain preaching “star” avoiding telling the world where he got his earned doctorate, or another one from articulating his view on a basic doctrine by using words that have a clear meaning in Buddhist theology, but not in Christian theology. Of course, except in our media age, I probably wouldn't know those two persons exist. 

All this is, in part, because of a sentence Rachael Held Evans wrote, which sums up why I have not written a blog on all kinds of subjects:
“...I'm still trying to figure out how to articulate my thoughts well.”

Sunday, February 2, 2014

On Philippians 4:18-19--What do I need?


Indeed I have all and abound, I am full, having received from Epaphroditus, the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:18-19.

We know that Paul wrote this while in prison, but he said “I have all and abound.” The he, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, says that God shall supply all our needs. So, what do we need?

Most basicly, a person needs the Holy Spirit indwelling, so that, if someone is so infuriated by one's faith in Jesus is about to kill one, one can stand for God to death. Of course, there is a sense that that is as easy as making one decision to stand in faith, and then there are no more ethical decisions to make.

Far more difficult, in another sense, is to continually live by faith when the world around us chooses, for whatever reason, to merely refuse to do more than give one a minimal amount of human respect. That last phrase can mean different things. For myself, I worked at one business after another in which I saw persons with less ability promoted. On the opposite side, if the reason for their promotion was their willingness to be unethical towards others, there is a sense I gladly refuse their “promotion,” and equally disrespect, to the same degree God does, their supervisor or owner who thinks that to be good. I know that I have it better than my brother that is imprisoned, tortured, or not given proper medical care or nourishment on account of his faith.

Further, I desire to work unto God, and not as unto man. I spent a number of years working for a company that is considered to be a company with high corporate ethics. I know that one of the founders was very public about his stand for doing the right thing, from a humanistic perspective. From the inside, it was a better place to work than other large businesses I worked for, in that they paid a little bit more in comparison to their direct competitors. I appreciated that little bit. From the inside, I could see that, in my opinion, the next three promotion levels up were, to greater and greater degrees, jobs in mass production lying—to customers, employees, whomever. While I now believe that the church is an informal group of believers that comfort and encourage each other, at that time I believed what I had been taught of the church being a group that had special meetings at certain times, that showed that one did not forsake the meeting together with other believers. Now, I can say that oftentimes, while I may have been in the same room with other believers, we really weren't meeting together, but watching a ritual on a stage. Either way, the law in the U.S. That says that a business must give an employee time off for their belief is easily circumvented; at that business, when one is initially interviewed, one has a place on the application of when one will work, and if one in the interview says that one will not work Sunday mornings, one doesn't get hired. Upon working there, it eventually came to be that, as a “lean” business, there were never enough persons on the floor to help customers except Sunday mornings, when there were far more than were needed. Businesswise, this wasn't a problem, in that sales personnel were to put away new freight, and that had been piling up all week, so it was catch up time. Now, admittedly, that is nowhere near as bad as what my brothers in the persecuted world go through, but at a spiritual level that the persons in management don't understand (and, then again, maybe they do subliminally), it is still a subtle persecution.
Recently, Frank Viola, in his “Christ Is All” podcast spoke about “error in emphasis”. What this is is to teach a doctrine that may be correct, but to teach it in either a) an unbalanced manner, as when the Bible at cursory glance appears to teach opposite things, which means there is an aspect of truth to both sides, which at times needs be shown to our hearts by the Spirit, as using words to deliniate the degree to which each side is true is extremely difficult, or b) teaching a doctrine to such a huge degree over all of the rest of God's communication to man that, even if it is being taught correctly, it is taught to the exculsion of other important teachings.
I think of this in that the above scripture ties into what is currently called “prosperity” teaching. There is a sense prosperity teaching is true. If I believe in Jesus, then I wish to honor Him with my life. If I don't get addicted to something like illegal drugs, I will be more prosperous because such a thing will not take away my money (as that is expensive), my freedom to work (as I won't be in jail for it), and my ability to work hard and with my ability not inhibited. Of course, addiction is a tricky thing. Some persons are addicted to coffee, which is legal, and actually gives one a “pick-me-up.” Further, when coffee was introduced to Middle Ages Europe, many workers used beer for the same purpose in the morning, but had inhibiting qualities. The Industrial Revolution, with the machinery invented, would have grown more slowly than it did if coffee had not been introduced to society first. I write this knowing that there is some degree that I am addicted to white sugar, and most of us in North American society have an addiction to white sugar, coffee, or both. It is so common we don't even think about it, until someone who is really pushing natural foods starts talking.
In between barely getting by jobs in my life, I have started a small business twice, and both times I wound up in bankruptcy. I can remember working just about every moment of the day six days a week, sitting in the basement of my house doing books late at night until I was too tired to keep my eyes open. Work can be addictive; even if you aren't making any kind of money, other business owners, to some degree, respect you that they don't non-business owners. 

One might think that for we who are believers, given that scripture directs us to not forsake the gathering together with other believers, that we, at the next level, have a “need” for fellowship. This is tricky. I say so because, as it is in scripture as something we should have in our lives, that seems to come next. The problem is that in North American culture, way too often, our plugging into some ritual of being part of a corporate church is used as a substitute for true fellowship, and then it is implied that that “gathering” is fellowship, even if it is only believers in a room. I say this as, looking back on my life, the closest experience of the fellowship that is true church was when I was in a secular liberal arts college, and in that antagonistic situation, the group of believers I was part of, which was connected to an international Christian college student organization that emphasized that they were not a church to the degree that “everyone” knows that they are not a church, was the best example in my life of church, as in a group of believers that comforted and edified each other. On the converse side, because I have moved a number of times over the latter part of my life, and what is marketed in our society, even in the “Christian media”, as fellowship, is a well-meaning stage presentation, true fellowship has been difficult to find. All of what I see in the “Christian media” is there because there is money behind it. The music is, actually, better. These persons, to the greatest degree, are everyday believers with an ability in music, which is, in turn, marketed by a recording company. Of course, since the early days of “Christian rock”, the late 1960's and 1970's, when it was overtly rejected by certain Christian leaders, the music has not been controversial, ironically the opposite of who Jesus was and is. I might say that I recognize that, within believers in the African-American community, there may have been the same reaction to rap with a Jesus message, but as I don't live in that subculture, I don't know about it one way or another. The same might be said of other things believers are doing in other subcultures of the world that I don't know about. 

Much of “Christian teaching” comes out of a certain group of voices that at some point have been leaders of institutional churches, where the money collected could be used for “media ministry” which promoted the leader. Whether the leader overtly knew he or she was doing self promotion is inside that person's spirit. Much teaching that I have seen actually has little teaching in it, and what there is is doctrine so basic that a new believer could pick it up from reading the Bible and interacting with other believers. The early church was in a culture which used oratory as an entertainment medium and its practicioners, at first, came into the church by faith, but later came into the church as a secular power mechanism, it appears. For centuries, we were implicitly taught that was the way it worked.
Today, an embarrassment to believers in Jesus are many of the supposed “teachers.” If a Christian musician does something contrary to Christian ethics, the record contract is cancelled. Not so the “teacher.” A couple of days ago, on the internet, a secular news source made a list of 15 “preachers” who, from their humanistic perspective, had been involved in wrongdoing. Half I had never heard of. Of those I had heard of, on one of them, the only offense they listed was offending the socially liberal leaning media. All the others had listed true public problems which contradicted Christian ethics. Unfortunately, on some, the offenses they listed are not as troubling as other ones done that I know of. Further, there are other names that could easily have been on this unnamed writers list. That is, in part, due to these leaders having control of an organization's money. It is profitable to do “teaching” that excites, but doesn't actually teach, and is directed where the unbelieving world isn't watching, to a large degree. There is an aspect in which that is unforunate, and another aspect to which it is fortunate.

I need fellowship. I need teaching that is thought out, not a stage show, done my brothers and sisters in Jesus that are willing to give and take, answer questions, and are willing to be equal to other believers.
I don't need any believer pontificating to me. If a supposed leader can talk, but refuses to be available to give, to quote Francis Schaeffer, “honest answers to honest questions” or even receive questions, he or she may have my prayers, but not my respect as a teacher of the life that is in Jesus.

I write this in that, since the end of 2004, I have been effectively unemployed and disabled, although not in the eyes of the government. Beginning tomorrow, I go off for some training that, hopefully, will help my son in his move from a military career to one in the rest of society. I don't know if that means I will post more in the next two weeks or less.

My son & I have a business of selling various items.  On eBay, the store name is "navygamer."  We have a website, www.shop.savvythrifty.com. On craigslist in Hampton Roads, VA, the search word is 757-735-3639.  If, perchance, you see something you need or want, it would assist me.