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

Keeping Themselves Holy

In 2 Chronicles 31:18 we are given this interesting note.

They were enrolled with all their little children, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, the whole assembly, for they were faithful in keeping themselves holy. (2 Chronicles 31:18, ESV)

King Hezekiah of Judah is getting things organized while leading the people back to God. He and the people destroyed all the high places, cleaned up the temple, and re-instituted sacrifices, tithes and offerings. The enrollment spoken of is for the Levite families in order to receive food distribution from the tithes and offerings. Remember that the priests (sons of Aaron) and the Levites were mainly tasked with taking care of the temple and sacrifices and didn’t own much land for the production of food.

What caught my attention was the phrase “they were faithful in keeping themselves holy.” First, they were faithful, meaning to keep doing what they were supposed to be doing. Second, they were keeping themselves holy, which means to follow the Law in avoiding unclean things such as pork and shellfish in addition to bathing and washing clothes and so on. Third, the faithful keeping of these things made the families holy, meaning separate and different from the usual run-of-the-mill people of the world.

In modern times, as in ancient Israel, there are many people who wear His name yet are not faithfully keeping themselves holy. Many claim to be cleansed by the blood of the lamb Jesus, yet ignore His Laws for maintaining and refreshing that cleansing. It’s as if they think that one shower is enough for the rest of their lives. They also teach against the Law, and persecute those like me and my family who realize that the Laws are just as valid for believers now as they were when they were given and even all the way back to the beginning.

The church, sadly, is not faithful in keeping itself clean. In fact, they are proud that they preach Jesus and at the same time deny His word of life. They do what is right in their own eyes, following the ear-tickling Nicolaitans they have chosen for leaders and mixing the Word of Truth with lies, traditions, and philosophies of men.

A picture that has stayed with me for decades came from the movie The Mark of the Beast popular in the ’70’s. There was a scene at one point after the so-called Rapture of a church that was empty except for the pastor preaching. I have since come to realize that the picture is false. The churches with be full for the most part if in fact a Rapture happens as they believe, because the people are not faithfully keeping themselves holy.

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

No One Saw It Coming

I recently saw this headline in connection with Karl Rove’s mom committing suicide. I see these headlines or something like them all the time concerning all sorts of different crimes or sudden events like a suicide or a school shooting.

On the one hand it is true. No one probably saw whatever it was coming.

On the other hand, it’s not because it couldn’t have been seen.

People were just not paying attention.

In most cases if someone is suicidal (or thinking about killing others) it is very easy to tell. But you (and I mean the personal you) have to be aware of what is going on. If it is a friend or family member, there are all sorts of warning signs. Perhaps they are involved in harmful behavior or “lifestyle choices” such as drug usage (and not just illegal ones either), homosexuality or other sexual immorality like jumping in the sack before marriage. Homosexuals have about a nine times greater chance of suicide among other bad effects. There could be a sudden loss in a person’s life such as death of a spouse or child. The key is you have to spend time with them, listen, attempt to understand, and just be there. We have to try and dissuade them from bad choices, rather than “affirm” their lifestyle idiocy.

But see, that takes too much time. And we are too damn busy to slow down, take time, and be around. If we spend time and listen, we will hear the cries for help.

Karl Rove’s mom was in a failing third marriage. Third marriage? Failing? And “no one saw the suicide coming?” Give me a break. Mr. Rove didn’t see the election of Trump coming either, but it’s because he wasn’t paying attention, not because “no one could see it coming.” Blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other as my dad used to say. Or as Jesus said, having eyes they do not see and having ears they refuse to hear.

As tragic and sad as a suicide is, trying to say “no one saw it coming” is just an excuse to take ourselves off the hook for choosing our own, frequently meaningless (in the long run) activities over taking time for someone. We feel the guilt, and mostly rightly so, but we try to dodge it. So we never fix the problem which is in the heart that generally rejects God or much of what God tells us to do.

A school shooting occurs and the parents are mystified about their child killer? Give me a break. We kill babies in the womb and then act surprised when a child performs a “post natal abortion?” There’s no way that even a half-way loving parent spending time with their child wouldn’t be able to see that something was wrong and find out what it was. Were the parents following God? I mean really following, not just going to church or being a decent person. Was home schooling an option, or were they too busy pursuing money and career satisfaction? Were they feeding their own egos, or looking to feed their child on the Word?

We choose our own way in this world, and then we are surprised when tragic things blow up in our faces. Come on, it’s not that hard to figure out. Selfishness inevitably leads to bad results. God’s been telling us this for centuries and centuries. No God means no life.

At a time when people all around are talking about love in many different ways (“all you need is love” as John Lennon sang) love is actually waxing cold. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:12 “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

Lawlessness is increasing because people are ignoring more and more the Law of God. God’s Law is intimately connected with love, and to move away from the Law of Christ is to move away from love. Talk about it all you want, continue to be surprised by tragic events, but until we repent and return to all of His Living Oracles it’s just so much empty rhetoric. Trying to absolve yourself of guilt or blame won’t make a difference either. We have to be in the Word daily, walking with God and working at putting more of it into our own lives. Then we can “see” to help others.

Admit it. If “no one saw it coming” then we have to do something about our vision. The healing comes when we turn to His Word.

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

Milestone Reached On Youtube

Very happy to let everyone know that we recently passed 20,000 total views for the videos on our Youtube channel Whole Bible Christian. We have 119 videos at this time, and the most views is for our video on The Nicolaitans (somewhere around 4,500 or so).

Now we just have to get the word out better about our book. There are millions of people who don’t go to church because of Nicolaitan leadership, and our book Whole Bible Christianity is intended to help those people connect with God. Believers don’t need the Church. Especially since the church has departed from God’s Word so severely. There is no church in the Bible – they only have authority that they borrow from the Bible. None of the churches or leaders have the authority to block someone from access to the Kingdom or to God.

Check out the vidoes, or get the book if you are drifting and need encouragement in finding God.

Shalom

Bruce

Audiobook for Whole Bible Christianity Available

It took a while, but an Audiobook version of our book Whole Bible Christianity is now available. It’s about 15 and a half hours, narrated by Bruce. You can get it free if you sign up for a trial membership at Audible.com. You get a free audiobook when you first sign up for the service. After the first month it costs $15.00 per month but you get one free book per month too.

If you click this link to view the print version, then click on the Free with your Audible Trial button and stay with Audible for two months, not only do you get two free audiobooks (for $15.00 the second month) but we get a $50.00 bonus! You can exchange any audiobook you decide is not for you, and your credit for one free book rolls over to the next month if you don’t use it. Even if you cancel membership after a while you can keep all your audiobooks.

What a great deal! Whole Bible Christianity, Blessings Pressed Down and Overflowing audiobook for free, a bonus to us, and you get more free audiobooks.

There’s also the print version of the book, and Kindle version for a pretty low cost. The Kindle and audiobook versions do not have the Scripture Index with almost 1,500 entries from every book in the Bible, and the audiobook doesn’t have the footnotes, but still you can listen on the way to work and back or read on a Kindle at your leisure. Get all three and get it all.

Shalom

Bruce

New Audiobook!

We’ve now produced an audiobook for Whole Bible Christianity. It is available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. I narrated it myself and it sounds very good. I did the narration because I don’t think anyone else could’ve really given the project the right tone except the guy who wrote it. It’s about 16 hours long but I don’t know what the pricing will be. Just check with Amazon under Whole Bible Christianity when you want a complete reference for Whole Bible Christianity to listen to in your car or while you are trying to go to sleep!

Shalom

Bruce

Read the Word Publicly

Just a note to let you know that we’ve posted a new article to the website titled Read the Word Publicly. We advocate reading large portions of the first five books of the Bible and the first five of the New Testament. We use an annual reading schedule that is popular in synagogues called the Parasha or Portion, except we modify it with New Testament readings. It takes a while in our meetings to read eight or ten chapters, but in a lot of ways it is much better than preaching.

The article is about eight pages and covers a number of reasons for why we think this should be a widespread practice among people who genuinely follow Jesus. Click on this link or copy and paste into your browser.

http://www.wholebible.com/read_the_word_publicly.htm

Oh yeah. The new Manna for Whole Bible Christians reading schedule booklet ready for printing is also posted on the site at

http://www.wholebible.com/Manna/MannaBooklet17_18.pdf

Shalom

Bruce

We No Longer Live in Christendom

Baltimore Sun October 23, 2017

Article: Churches merge, close: “We no longer live in Christendom. We really have to accept that it’s a thing of the past”

The quote above is from Reverend Daniel Webster, canon for evangelism and media for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. He’s studied the trend of churches closing and merging for 20 years. The article presents his point of view, as well as documenting the decline in church attendance which occasions the closing and merging.

Jonathan Pitts, the writer of the article, offers Mr. Webster’s opinion of one of the most important factors in declining church numbers.

While it’s hard to pinpoint a single most important factor, Webster says, it’s impossible to ignore the repeal of most of the old state blue laws, regulations that had long placed restrictions on commercial activity on Sundays, starting in the mid-20th century.

Today’s faith leaders must compete with everything from youth soccer and pro football games to shopping at the mall.

Mr. Pitts doesn’t really spend much time on causes. He just assumes that competition from the world is the cause and details a number of church’s efforts to merge or close.

However, I do not agree that competition from the world is the cause of church closings and mergers.The world has always been in hostile competition with the Kingdom of God. Believers have been in a fight since the Garden of Eden with those who oppose God and His plans. Perhaps you’ll be surprised at my opinion that the church has also been in hostile competition with the Kingdom. The church (in general) and the world are not much different from each other. Churches claim to follow Jesus, but when we compare their beliefs and practices with the Bible we can see that they don’t have much in common. On the other hand, compare churches with the world and we can see that the real merging has already taken place.

Just because the church has some trappings that look Christian, does not mean a church is automatically part of the Kingdom of God or the body of believers. Much of what the church has done is to merge some stories and tradition borrowed from the Bible with self-seeking behavior. Way back in 325 A. D. when the Roman emperor Constantine took a fancy to some of the Christian concepts the merger with the world got a big boost. For centuries the visible church has been in a tug-of-war with the world sometimes holding to God’s Word better than at other times. But in modern times it has mostly been tugged in the wrong direction.

The church merged with the world a long time ago, and the loss of some people or buildings is not the biggest hurt. It is the loss of God’s Spirit due the refusal to do what God says that has really sunk the church. Churches might be shrinking or merging, but the body of Christ has been steady and growing because we hold tight to the Word of God, living and teaching it to all who would listen.

I don’t even agree that “we no longer live in Christendom.” Believers have never lived in Christendom. We are salted throughout the world, and even throughout the church or churches. A church member is not the same thing as a believer although there are believers who might be church members. The world has always been hostile to God and the body of believers, and we’ve never had a Christendom. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we no longer live in Churchdom.

Shalom

Bruce