Reimagining a Church Insurgence

Frank Viola has written quite a few books with titles like pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, There Must Be More, Discipleship in Crisis, Rethinking the Will of God and Insurgence. He’s got a couple web sites and a blog and has worked with George Barna who founded Barna Research which is kind of like a Christian version of the Gallup Research organization. If I read his information correctly, he’s also a disciple of Watchman Nee, which is important and I’ll talk about it more in a minute or two. I read pagan Christianity, and I’ve checked out summaries of some of the other books Mr. Viola has written.

I was studying up on his works when I ran across an offer he makes on his website to do print interviews for your book, film, album, resource, other product or service. According to the site all you have to do is send them the information and if they approve you pay $200.00 for it. A nice deal. So I thought, “Hey, our book Whole Bible Christianity seems like a great fit for Reimagining Church. Maybe he’d like to help us promote it.” I figured he must be serious about the problems in the church and finding solutions, and I’d like to help by showing Frank some of the things I think the Lord has shown to me. Since I’m an “Insurgent” I got excited thinking what a great match up this would be.

I was wrong.

I requested an interview, and gave links for my book and website, and said I had read pagan Christianity and agreed with Frank’s assessment of the church but thought I had something to add to the solution. After I sent in the request, I got a reply from someone named Anaya, so maybe Frank didn’t even see it. But since his people represent him, I think I’m safe in characterizing her (his?) reply as indicative of Frank’s attitudes. So in her first reply, she said that pagan Christianity wasn’t supposed to have solutions, but Frank’s later books did and had I read them? I emailed back and said I didn’t have to read them, I had heard what he was talking about decades ago from other people. After about a month I emailed and asked if she had anymore questions. She emailed back and said she hadn’t seen an Interview Request from my email address. So I re-sent copies of our email exchange. To my surprise, she said they weren’t “accepting any interview spots right now because all spots are taken until mid-2019.”

Huh?

If this is true, why doesn’t it say so on the website? Why didn’t she tell me in the first email all the spots were taken? I think I know why, and it doesn’t have anything to do with how many spots are taken. Without question she looked at my book and website and decided they didn’t want anything to do with it. And why do you suppose this is a problem? Because I write in very passionate terms of God’s Law, with so much support from the Word that it is undeniable that it should be a central part of all believer’s lives. This of course in contrast to standard church teaching ignoring the New Covenant and promoting a mystical buddy from out of town who allows any behavior one chooses.

Can Frank do what he wants? Of course. Does he have to lie? You wouldn’t think so. He says he wants to “break the echo-chamber phenomenon that’s in the bloodstream of the blogosphere today” yet it seems plain from their dodgy response to my Interview Request that perhaps echos are all they want to hear.

Part of Frank’s problem is that he sets up a false dichotomy between a “right” and “left” in the church. I’ll let him explain his “Three Gospels.” From a Bible Gateway interview on his site.

There is the gospel of legalism, which isn’t just working for one’s salvation. The gospel of legalism says that if you want God’s favor, you have to perform to receive it. This causes many Christians to live with a headache of guilt and a constant feeling that they are never measuring up.

In reaction to that is the “gospel” of libertinism which says that because we’re under grace, our behavior doesn’t really matter much to God. So we can live the way we want, and God is okay with it because He understands that we are mere mortals.

The third gospel is the gospel of the kingdom, which brings liberty on the one hand and absolute allegiance to Christ’s lordship on the other.

You see what he does? On the one hand the “right” or “evangelical” or “conservative” view lumps together legalism with performing for God’s favor. On the “left” hand we have “libertinism” meaning behavior doesn’t matter. His “third gospel” proposes a liberty with allegiance to Christ’s lordship which includes behavior that matters but without “performing.” How in the world does one manage this, and where in the Word does this come from? The answer is, it doesn’t come from the Word at all.

It’s this kind of mystical nonsense that comes from people like Watchman Nee and others. Watchman Nee is very mystical and spiritualizes the Bible text nearly out of existence sometimes. He has influenced a lot of people, including many in Calvary Chapel and evidently Mr. Viola too. This is why I said I didn’t need to read any more of Frank Viola’s books. It’s all been said before by many people such as Watchman Nee and Chuck Smith. Many organizations have steered away from the Bible as they tried to steer away from what is wrong in the Church. Mr. Viola is repeating the same mistakes with updated language and a nice book cover. He’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic instead of invoking real change.

The New Covenant is the Law written on a heart of flesh. What is new is the heart that will do what God says. Jesus did what God said in all ways, including the “Word of the Lord by Moses” also called the Law. The apostles followed the “living oracles” as Stephen called them. The first three thousand (and the next 5,000) converts to following the Christ were all Law-following Jews. Acts 2:46 says they were “attending the temple together. Paul says what counts is doing what God says.

For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. (1 Corinthians 7:19, ESV)

The “right wing” and “left wing” of Judaism was not doing what God said. They did part, but they did not do what He said with a whole heart of flesh in love and the Spirit.

Another thing Frank has wrong is his definition of the gospel. The word means “good news” but what exactly is the “good news?” What is the “gospel of the kingdom” biblically? If we look in the Bible instead of making up our own definitions, we find that the “good news” is “God with us.” Hebrews 4:2 says that at Mt. Sinai the gospel was preached to them just as to us.

For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (Hebrews 4:2, ESV)

How could this be if the gospel is according to Frank’s definition? The answer is that doing what God says will mean that “God is with us.” If Jesus is really Lord and King, we will do what He says. Since Jesus gave the Law in the first place then believers in the Lord and King Jesus the Messiah will follow His Laws too. It’s not that hard. What is hard is humbling ourselves and doing what God says all the time no matter what.

Mr. Viola is another in a long line of fancy charlatans with smooth dialogue and a pitch that would charm angels, relentlessly marketing his misleading merchandise. But he’s still on the wrong track. Unless of course he just wants to sell books. As I read his blog post titled Scratch a Christian and You’ll Find Out What’s Underneath at http://frankviola.org/2013/11/20/scratchachristian/ I couldn’t help but chuckle. Did I scratch him and find out what’s underneath?

If the cross is front and center, then His body and blood will be our food.

Shalom

Bruce

Generalizing

I just read an article by a person who noted that “generalizing” with the words Judaism or Christianity might cause significant problems. The writer didn’t specify the problems, but I can imagine what they are. There is always someone who objects to the characterization that goes along with the general label.

For instance, “men are pigs” is a pretty severe generalization, and I would have to object to an extreme label like this without context. However, there are times when men act like pigs. I told my daughter as she was growing up that men are pigs and boys were piglets because they (generally) only wanted to get into a female’s pants. I was trying to teach her to be wary of the boy who claimed he loved her but (generally) didn’t really. In general, it’s true that many men (or boys) use tactics that generally are intended simply to get into a woman’s pants. If you doubt me, ask some women. I’m sure they’ll have lots of stories on guys who generally wanted nothing more than to hit and run.

I agree that generalizing can be viewed inaccurately. Just because something is generally true doesn’t mean it is true for everyone or everything. There are lots of Christians and lots of Jews who do not behave or think according to generalizations made about them. For instance, not all Christians reject God’s Laws. Some of them at least are just going by the teachings they have heard. All Jews do not drive hard bargains, nor do they all reject the Christ.

However, when a majority of time or a majority of instances something is true then a generalization can be accurate. Generally we need to include some context. For instance, most people who call themselves Christian reject God’s Laws in one form or another. Christians, again in general, have rejected the New Covenant while claiming to follow it. These things are  true, even if general. Most Jews are non-practicing or nearly so as far as Judaism goes.

What we really need to do is stay away from absolutes, such as in saying that all Christians are hypocrites or all Jews are Christ killers. Absolutely we are sinners, and we need a payment that absolutely cleanses us from all sin. So there are some absolutes, but we need caution when applying them.

Does God generalize? I think so. He does it both in judgment and in forgiveness. For instance, Israel many times chose idolatry over God. But God didn’t judge immediately. In His grace He gave them time to repent. Not all Israel was into idolatry, even at the worst of times. So there were times He waited for the general majority to repent. In the meantime there was always a remnant who  followed Him. Nevertheless, when judgment fell it fell on the whole nation. Sodom and Gomorrah could have been saved, if 10 righteous people were found.

Generally, God’s forgiveness is available to all. But some refuse the gift of the blood of the Christ as payment for sin. Generally, those who do will find themselves in a place that was generally created for fallen angels. We can take care of our sin, in general, by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus. I hope that people do.

 

Shalom

Bruce

Liar

Hillsong has a recent song out called New Wine. There’s a line in there that made me think, “Liar.”

What do you think would make me react that way? They sing:

“So I yield to You and to Your careful hand

When I trust You I don’t need to understand”

Sounds perfectly fine, doesn’t it? So why the negative reaction? you ask.

The part that made me think of liars was “I yield to You.”

No, they don’t yield.

How could I possibly know?

Because they are standard, modern church. There are a lot of songs like this in the church, and Hillsong is a big creator of them. They (and their fans and so-called “worship teams” that copy the music) love to close their eyes and sway back and forth and raise their hands. Standard, modern church places a huge premium on looking holy and “feeling the Spirit.” Except when you get right down to it, there is no yielding.

Oh, there’s lots of sentiment. Tons of feelings.

I’m a musician, and I love to play and sing. I really like many different songs, and enjoy group music. But a lot of what passes for “worship” in the churches is not much more than ego feeding and vanity. If there was really a yielding, which would show up all week long in many actions, then it might be more genuine.

How do I know there’s no yielding? Simply put, they don’t follow God’s living oracles.

Try this experiment sometime. In your Sunday school or weekly Bible study, make a suggestion that all of God’s Law is relevant and a valid lifestyle and discipleship method for every believer.

See what happens.

I guarantee that almost universally, especially among the young adults, there will be instant and ferocious denial. You will be hit with all sorts of counter-arguments, from the nice to the not-so-nice.

Because we don’t like to yield. We don’t want to do what God says. Rather than holy behavior, we’d rather sway and cry and raise hands when a really good band plays appealing songs. Then go home and “feel led” to ignore much of what He has laid down for us in the Word.

Like I said. Liar.

And don’t get me started on the “When I trust you I don’t need to understand” stupidity.

Shalom

Bruce

Whole Bible Christianity, The Book

Our book Whole Bible Christianity has finally been published! It is on Amazon at this link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997501413/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1DQVER67Q2HMX&coliid=I1RPTLB6JQO1FI

There is a Look Inside feature, you can flip between the front and back cover, and it is only $19.50. If you would prefer, we will have the entire text on a web page when we update our website so you can read it online.

The book has about 800 direct quotes from the Word, around 1,500 entries in the Scripture Index, and is about 340 pages. One of the many uses of the book is as a handbook for whole Bible Christians everywhere who need a reference to help counter attacks against a whole Bible lifestyle. Chapter 7 deals with a bunch of the objections to following God’s living oracles, and chapter 8 has a list of blessings from doing what Jesus says.

Let us know what you think, and make sure to post a review on Amazon if you would be so kind.

Shalom
Bruce

Jury Duty

Last week I had to do the Jury Duty thing again. It is a privilege and a responsibility for citizens of our country, but it is also a pain in the rear. Usually I make a call and find out the trial has been cancelled (probably due to plea bargaining) and I’m off the hook for another couple of years. Last time I actually had to go down to the Justice Center and then get told the trial was cancelled. So I haven’t actually been a juror or even gone through the selection process. But this time I went a little further than before.

After watching a video on what it was all about, about thirty of us went to the courtroom and sat down. Then after a few instructions and questions the judge called 12 of us up to the jury box for more questions. I was the last of the 12 called trying to fill out a six-person jury.

The prosecutor gets 20 minutes to ask questions of the prospective jurors, then the defense attorney gets 20 minutes. Each side got three challenges for cause and three peremptory challenges. A challenge for cause means that there is something in the juror’s answers to the questions that might indicate a prejudice or bias in one direction or the other, and so they are dismissed. A peremptory challenge doesn’t have to have a reason for dismissing a prospective juror. I was dismissed on a peremptory challenge.

Of course I was hoping to get out of the jury. I had work to do and I think the justice system is pretty stupid. I call it the “no justice” system. In my opinion a fair jury would be randomly chosen, for instance.

But besides that, I am certain no one would want me on a jury. I think too much, am too intelligent, and too much of a leader for either side to want me (this is why churches and synagogues don’t want me around also!). Why do I think that? Because a “fair and impartial” jury is never wanted by any lawyer. All lawyers want a biased jury – biased in their favor.

It’s one of the biggest lies in the justice system that they are looking for a fair and balanced, unbiased jury. Who would be dumb enough to want that, if you were a lawyer? You would want the odds in your favor. The defense wants to get their client off. They are not looking for justice at all. The prosecutor is already convinced of the defendant’s guilt, and wants to put him or her away in jail or punished in some other way. The judge is biased too. Not for or against a particular defendant, and not for the law, but for his or her (in my case, a her) own view of the law and for the views of the law from her peers (other legal professionals). They want professional recognition, and to be able to climb the ladder to the Supreme Court. Or a lot of speaking engagements for high fees.

It was funny how I was dismissed, too. I got to be dismissed by BOTH the prosecutor and the defense. (They REALLY didn’t want me on that jury!)

Here’s how it happened. The prosecutor was asked by the judge if he had any challenges for cause for the first half of the pool (the first six people called). I was in the second group of six (the eighth possibility). Then the defense was asked if he had any challenges for cause in the first six people and he didn’t either. Next the prosecutor was asked if he had any peremptory challenges for the first six. He eliminated one person, which caused the rest of us to move up a seat (they kept us in order for some inane reason). The defense attorney didn’t realize the judge was still limiting the review to the first six people (I hadn’t moved up to the first six spots yet) and used his first peremptory to challenge me. The judge corrected him that we were just looking at the first six still. So then the prosecutor used his second and third peremptory challenges to get rid of one person ahead of me, then me. So I got to hear that both attorneys wanted me gone. The defense wanted me gone so bad he couldn’t wait his turn!

Our legal system has gotten so out of whack compared to real justice (and real law – God’s Law) that it’s a joke. No wonder they are removing God’s commandments from so many courtrooms. They don’t want to be reminded that they are just playing games, or trading lives for influence and prestige, or denying justice to the oppressed. They want those pesky reminders scrubbed away so they can pursue their own selfish interests.

The thing is, erasing the commandments doesn’t change the fact that God demands justice. He was the one who set it up that man must see to equal justice. If someone sheds blood, we (as a group) must make sure that his blood is shed also in punishment.

“And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:5–6, AV)

Our trial wasn’t going to be a murder trial. By the questioning it was easy to guess that a man had been accused of driving under the influence and that the influence was marijuana. The defense was going to be something along the lines of mere road rage connected with something about getting the wrong mail. Law officials (rightly so) are looking for some definition for driving under the influence of marijuana (in our state marijuana is legal) because there isn’t a handy test like a breathalyzer for it. So the prosecutor had a “bias” that way too. Not a bad bias, but certainly not the “fair and balanced” thing he stated he was looking for.

God’s laws are being rejected everywhere, especially by the church. We can see the results of this lunacy everywhere we look. I was especially aware of it in the rejection of my service as a juror. On the one hand I was happy to get out of the farce (although perversely I was also a little put out by the double rejection). But on the other I was sad, because justice is not to be found in our courtrooms anymore. It’s out of the church, it’s out of our courts, and it’s out of our land. And God will require it of us.

Shalom
Bruce

A Whole Bible Look At: Romans 13 through 16

New up on our Youtube channel is the fourth video for Romans covering chapters 13 through 16. The truth seeker will enjoy the comments on the famous Romans 14 chapter helping to clarify the plain meaning stated by Paul that he is talking about opinions, not God’s Word. Taken all together it is clear that Paul has a high regard for the Law and many suggestions for application. He “upholds the law” (Romans 3:31) rather than trying to change Scripture. For Paul the “law is spiritual” (Romans 7:14) and he “agrees that the law is good;” (Romans 7:16 and others) and he “delights in the law of God, in [his] inner being” (Romans 7:22) although he finds that the “law of sin” is waging war with the “law of his mind” (God’s law) (Romans 7:23) making living it out very difficult. Freedom (Romans 8) from the impossible struggle of trying to earn our own righteousness comes from the sacrifice of the Christ, who has paid the penalty for our disobedience and given us a way back to intimacy with our Father and Messiah.

Instead of rejecting the law as many in the church suggest, he wants us to present our bodies a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) by renewing our mind, testing to discern the will of God (Romans 12:2) and holding fast to what is good (Romans 12:9) which includes God’s law (which he said before). Paul reminds us that the first word of the law is love (love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength) and love fills up the Law (Romans 13:10). This is all included in his admonition to “put on Christ and make no provision for the flesh.” By the time we get to Romans 14 it is obvious that the subject is a continuation of principles laid down in the previous 13 chapters.

Shalom
Bruce

A Whole Bible Look At Romans 9 through 12

The third video in our Romans series is up, and I’ll bet you’ve never heard Romans this way!

Shalom
Bruce

A Whole Bible Look at the Book of Galatians

Just posted. New video looking at the book of Galatians using mostly just the book itself in simple, plain language. It’s a little long (1 and a quarter hours), but there is an outline in the notes with time marks so you can skip to particular sections as needed. We show you how easy it is to understand the book the way Paul intended, in keeping with the teachings of the whole of the Word. Three times Paul gives us the subject: 2:6; 3:11; and 5:4. Tutors and guardians are explained, as well as “under the law” and “works of the law.”

Enjoy.
Shalom.

Purity

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. (Titus 1:15, ESV)

Have you ever been accused of impurity? You probably have, because the word is used (one way or another) for everything from not holding to “orthodox” church doctrine to being “insensitive.” The people condemning you for impurity don’t usually use the exact term, but the meaning is the same. Somehow, in their estimation, you are impure because you do not meet their standard of purity. Some of the accusers use a verse or two from the Bible; rarely have I found that they use the Bible according to the Bible.

The verse above is interesting, because like the accusations it is generally taken out of context. Let’s read it again with some context, shall we?

This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:13–16, ESV)

Now we get a little better idea of the purity issue. Paul is contrasting those who “profess to know God,” who “devote themselves to Jewish myths,” but who are “defiled and unbelieving” with the people who are “sound in the faith” and “pure.” Interesting, isn’t it? He’s saying that there’s a big difference between the wannabe’s who “claim to know God” but “deny him by their works” and those who are pure (presumably the ones who do not deny God with their works).

So many times the pure are hammered by the apparently pure using a personal standard instead of the Word. We are encouraged to cease attending a church, or cut off from family relationships or from “friends” simply because we acknowledge God with our works. We are not conformed to this world, being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2) so our purity comes from His standard rather than the world’s. And our biggest enemies are not the unbelievers, but the apparent believers denying Him with their works.

With the other labels already mentioned, we also get tagged as “divisive.” But again, the Word gives us the context for the truly divisive. They are those who divide people away from the Word of God. Paul continues with his counsel to Titus, describing the aforementioned impure wannabe’s as the real dividers.

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10–11, ESV)

Purity comes from the Word of God dwelling in our heart. His Word trains us in right behavior and attitudes, softens our hearts, and fills us with the Spirit. The works of those who claim His name are evident when they condemn us for taking a stand on the Word. “All things are pure” not in and of themselves, but in our reactions to them. We don’t divide, we unite on God’s instructions, statutes, rules and ways. All things are pure because our minds and consciences are not defiled with actions not in keeping with His Word.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4–7, ESV)

So when the divisive people, wrapped in robes of self-righteousness, tell you that you are not pure (in whatever verbiage they choose) for standing on His Word, remember it is by testing that we discern the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Shalom,
Bruce.

Freedom from Sabbath Keeping

Hey All,

Just spent a few days writing a new article which is a point-by-point response to an article by Ray Comfort that he titled Freedom From Sabbath Keeping. It took a while, because the article is filled with a lot of, shall we say, less than biblical information.

Ray is a good guy as far as I know, and has a lot of good teaching. I have quoted from him, and use some of his material in my conversations with atheists. However, there are a number of areas where he falls short of biblical truth, and a bunch of them are in this article. So I went through it and inserted my comments directly into his text. I included Bible verses and commentary all with a whole Bible perspective. You’ll find a nicely organized selection of responses to what are also typical Christian arguments against observing the Sabbath. Why people would reject a day off from God is beyond me, but they do. So this article should help you with standard Christian objections to observing the whole of the Word, not just the Sabbath.

An excerpt from Point by Point through the Ray Comfort article Freedom from Sabbath Keeping. His words are in red, my comments are in square brackets and in blue (on the web page they are just in a different font).

Let’s briefly look at their arguments. First, nowhere does the Fourth Commandment say that we are to “worship” on the Sabbath Day. [True. Worship was every day. The act of resting on the Sabbath is worship. Worship has taken on an inadequate meaning in the intervening centuries, and it used to be that worship included sacrifices. But worship has always been obedience at its root.] It commands that we rest on that day: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). [Notice that he does not answer the issue he raises: why does the church not “rest” on the Sabbath?] Sabbath-keepers worship on the Saturday. [No. Sabbath keepers might MEET on Saturday, but worship is obedience and for every day.] Do they know where the word “Saturday” comes from? It’s from the Latin word “Saturnus–Saturn + Old English dæg day.” Obviously Saturday is from the pagan day of worship of the planet Saturn (astrology). [In spite of the attempt at sarcasm, I can agree here. However, Saturday is also the seventh day, and therefore the Sabbath. The name of the day is not important. But the Sabbath is.

And another excerpt.

The Scriptures tell us that at one point, the Apostles especially gathered to discuss the attitude of the Christian to the Law of Moses. [This is biblically incorrect. The council in Acts 15 met mainly to discuss salvation by circumcision (verse 1). This was proved to be wrong. Salvation was coming to Gentiles without circumcision and by grace through faith just as Abraham and JUST AS THE JEWS (who had the Law). Verse 5 also asks a question about following the Law, which was answered in verse 21 (Moses is read in the synagogue every Sabbath.) This meant 1) Moses is read. 2) Moses is read in the synagogue where all believers met at the time. 3) They met every Sabbath.] Acts 15:10-11, 24-29 was God’s opportunity to make His will clear to His children. [Biblically incorrect. God had been making His will clear to His children for a long, long time.] All He had to do to save millions from damnation was say, “Remember to keep the Sabbath holy,” and millions of Christ-centered, God-loving, Bible-believing Christians would have gladly kept it. [Not so. He already said many times to remember the Sabbath, and just about as many times was ignored. He is still being ignored today as is evidenced by this article by Ray. Many Christians do not want to obey God’s commands. Mostly because we do not want an objective, absolute standard. We want to give ourselves permission to sin.

Enjoy the article.
Shalom,
Bruce