Going To and Fro

It’s always interesting to me when we have a Sabbath on a weekday. People all around me are going about their daily business completely oblivious to God’s rest. This is most obvious on days like today, the first Sabbath in the feast of Tabernacles because we sleep every night in a tent in our back yard. We are awakened to the rushing sounds of lots of cars driving on nearby roads, people going to work or school or wherever.

It’s like a prophetic statement about the present and future form of God’s Kingdom. Those of us who take in the whole Bible and do it as if it was food and drink enter in to His rest. We are quiet and joyously focused on the Words of our God and Savior Jesus the Messiah, while so many are focused on their own thing. Those who do not pay attention to the Word of God just keep going to and fro, as it says in Daniel.

But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4, ESV)

This, sadly, includes many church-goers and others who wear His name but refuse to do what He says. Knowledge increases; obedience and love decrease. In their own knowledge people who ignore God run in circles, busy accomplishing nothing, exhausting themselves with what they think are good things but bottom line go nowhere. When we ignore God, there is no rest. Take in His knowledge, love and submit and just do what He says, and there is peace and joy and eternal happiness.

Shalom

Bruce

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

An Aide to Spiritual Growth

Some people have told me that they experienced a big improvement in their walk with God when they had a vision of the resurrected Christ.

I wanted to do better in my walk, but how does one go about getting such a vision? Details were light or non-existent. I remember one Calvary Chapel pastor encouraging the congregation to “visualize the throne room and Jesus sitting there.” Well, I could do some imagining, I guess, but that didn’t help. I was aware I was just making it up.

Since I found that Torah is for all believers, I have actually seen the Father and the Son as I read His Word and do what He says. I’m making a lot of changes for the better in my growth and walk with God, but some of the changes I need to make are coming slow. Do I need a vision of the resurrected Christ to become a different, more righteous person?

As I was pondering this a few days ago, I had what I think was in fact a vision. But it wasn’t of the resurrected Christ. I think God gave me a better vision, one which is going to help much better.

He gave me a vision of myself.

I don’t mean the same type of vision that some believers claim to see of Jesus. I mean God gave me a view of myself as He sees me, with emphasis on my character development (or lack of it). I got a glimpse of myself as I really am, which cut through the image I have of myself normally. We want to think the best of ourselves, and we craft an image that we hope is true. But most of the time it isn’t true. It’s just wishful thinking.

The downside to seeing yourself as you really are is it’s very discouraging. The upside is, when you accept the truth about yourself and take responsibility for your actions and for changing your actions, then you can make progress in moving closer to God. The reason is that as you draw closer to the light of the Father you become more aware of what you lack in perfection or holiness. You can either patch over your flaws with fig leaves as did Adam and Havah, or with improved vision you can accept and change.

It was painful looking at my history and seeing the bad decisions, the unwillingness to do what God said I should do, the times of stunted growth; simply because I didn’t want to give up my comfort.

So in a sense I did get a vision of the resurrected Christ through eating and drinking His body and blood (hearing and doing His word). But what really got me was the vision of myself as I really am.

I still need a lot of work, but the job is actually easier with an honest, albeit painful, self-evaluation.

Shalom

Bruce

The Law versus the Approval of Men

One of the many good things about God’s living oracles, or the law, is that I can take comfort and have confidence that I am an approved son. Oh, not that I get any special awards or accolades. It’s just that I can feel good about doing one more thing God says on a minute-by-minute basis. I am not perfectly behaved. I am not Jewish. I don’t have a bunch of people who hang on my every word, nor do I have frames of famous people I’ve met or recognition from colleges or learned men on my wall. What I do have is the satisfaction of doing what God says, no matter how small the effort or how many times in between I might fall.

The approval of men is much different. Most judge by appearances, or money, or by the number of followers on Twitter. Approval from people is ephemeral, vaporous, and without substance. As long as I think like them, do like them, make sure I feed their egos and avoid hurting their feelings, then I am accepted and part of the group. Step outside with a different thought one time, however, and you are done. Not only that but you will never be accepted by them again unless you spend a lifetime in obeisance, bowing and scraping and hungry for every tiny little pat on the head or scratch under the chin.

Each command, statute, hint or suggestion I do from what He says as outlined in His Word I know meets with His approval. I might not get a coin from Him immediately, or even a pat on the head or scratch under the chin, but each step connects me better and blessings flow. When I refrain from work on His sabbath simply because He asks me to I am made whole with His oneness and Spirit. I avoid pork or shellfish; He is there. His holidays channel the river of life through my soul.

Men do not approve. They’d rather my worship be at their direction and that I elect them to be as gods. The only reward from that, however, is in their regard which is as changeable as the weather during a Rocky Mountain spring. One minute sunshine, the next a freezing snowstorm. No thank you. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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

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

Proving the Stupid Point

“With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down. (2 Samuel 22:26–28, ESV)

I love verses likes these. God doesn’t even have to really do anything to make people look stupid. They do it all by themselves. We have many idiots writing books and posting online about “bizarre stuff in the Bible” or “Ten Things That Turned Me Off About the Bible” or “Confusing Facts About The Bible” and other similar subjects. They might as well be putting up neon signs that say “I’m Crooked.” They are not straight, so God appears not straight.

Lots of people look at God through their experience or the Bible and can’t figure Him out. But it’s not Him that is the problem. If your brain is screwy, if it is darkened by hate and bitterness or if your top desire is to call the shots yourself without interference from some God who is going to tell you when you’re wrong, then you will naturally suspect others of the same twisted motives.

God is not twisted or dark. He is not wrong in any sense, nor does He have trouble informing creation of His purposes or intent. We just want to ignore Him, so many of us come up with excuses to make it seem like we don’t understand. Then we can do what we want.

If we make the switch to humility, however, then the picture starts to clear up right away. Knowing that God is always right and true and holy is a guiding light for understanding. People can be screwed up; never God. You might not like what He does, or doesn’t do, but that doesn’t mean He’s wrong.

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

The Demise of Christian Bookstores

Publishing a book is not an easy task. Traditional publishers want you to get a literary agent and won’t accept manuscripts if you don’t. A literary agent can be good or bad, but mostly they are limited by their own perspective on what will sell. What sells is frequently not really connected with the Bible or good Bible teaching but more likely something based on feelings only loosely connected with the Bible. If you write a book, as I think I have, that is not only biblical but comes from an unexpected direction then you are pretty much out of luck with traditional publishing. You won’t even get a second look.

Another huge problem in publishing is the Christian bookstore. My wife and I are getting ready to take another trip to see family in San Diego. So I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to buy some copies of my book and take them around to the bookstores there and see if they would like to carry some copies. I started researching on the web to find the stores and got a shock. One chain calling themselves Family Christian had just closed (something like 240 stores) after filing for bankruptcy a couple years previous. Another chain calling themselves Lifeway tells me on their website that they don’t accept Product that is self-published. The “Product” must come from a traditional publisher or a literary agent. A third option I remembered in San Diego was the Evangelical Bible Bookstore which was famous for a long time because they carried a lot of serious theology books, were very knowledgeable and helpful, and discounted their books. To my surprise they had gone the way of many independents and closed their doors too after 40 years in business.

Locally, the three or four independent Christian bookstores we used to have are also out of business. The only stores around here are a Barnes and Noble (not exactly a Christian hotspot) and a couple of church bookstores. We used to have a Borders also, but they bit the dust some years ago. You would think we could maybe try the church bookstores and see if they would carry our book. But the problem with the church bookstores is if you have a book that is not “church friendly,” such as our book Whole Bible Christianity, or you are not one of their own famous people or pastors, you are not going to get a fair hearing from them. They only carry stuff with which they agree, usually written by their own people.

The church bookstore does okay because the overhead is paid by the church, and they don’t have to meet sales goals. They are present just to push the publications and music of the particular church or denomination. Catholic bookstores sell Catholic books, Calvary Chapel sells books by Chuck Smith or others of their pastors, Christian Science sells their own teachings, and so on. Since Whole Bible Christianity just teaches the Bible, and we don’t push a particular church teaching, we are out of luck.

So why is the Christian bookstore (or even just bookstores in general) disappearing from the landscape? Many people jump to blame the internet, and Amazon in particular. They have a point. Amazon has a tremendous selection, fast shipping, discounted prices, and are open 24/7. But did the rise of Amazon kill the bookstore, or did Amazon and others like them come into existence because the bookstore wasn’t getting the job done in the first place? Did Amazon kill the bookstore, or did the bookstore help create Amazon?

In my estimation, Amazon or the internet in general has not killed the bookstore. It is also not the main factor hammering the traditional publisher either (traditional publisher sales, Christian and otherwise, are also slumping). Two things I think are doing it. One is the lack of vision; the ability to discern what people need and would want, or if you will, the ability to tell the difference between a good product and a bad one. The second is the church itself.

Publishers and bookstores have to make money. Printing is expensive, and carrying space in stores costs money. If a publisher prints a bunch of copies of a book and they don’t sell, it can get costly. A bookstore has limited space, so if a book doesn’t sell it is a double whammy because the space could’ve been used by a book that did sell. So the industry is forced to gear all of their decisions around what will sell. If they make a mistake it can get real expensive real quick. So the nature of the market causes them to be super cautious. The publishers use literary agents to sift the writers material, which helps a little, but the literary agents work off of commission and tend to be extra cautious also. They have reputations to protect too, because if they keep recommending books that bomb then they will not be able to continue in the field. Everything is driven by money, which is not necessarily a bad thing (costs have to be paid somehow) but it tends to make people in the industry want to find the guaranteed “sure thing” and stay away from stuff they simply don’t have the vision, skill, imagination or judgment to evaluate properly.

A couple of cases in point. The first Harry Potter book was universally turned down by every publisher by the account of J. K. Rowling. A book called The Shack which has become a multi-million bestseller (although I think it is a piece of trash) was also turned down by everyone. Many more examples could be listed, but I think you get it. People in the book industry have purposefully become dumber than a sack full of hammers, too afraid to take a chance because of the dollars involved and reputations that could suffer.

The same problem afflicts the Christian book industry. But another problem serves to double the damage, and that is the church. I will go out on a limb here and say that the church doesn’t teach the Bible anymore. They just teach opinions about the Bible. Pastors, priests and rabbis have (in general) made themselves into champion ear-ticklers. They have convinced themselves that no one wants the truth, because the truth may not fill the pew or the offering plate. The lure of a bigger paycheck, a mega-church or a spot on late night talk shows is too strong for most of them.

Obviously, the Bible is the champion bestseller in history, so why would we back away from teaching it? Money and ego, again. It is easier to write and sell a book catering to the latest fad or to sentiment than it is to take the time to learn and teach the Bible or anything from it. You also don’t (seemingly or immediately) get very far with Bible teachings because those require humility to learn and teach.

Fortunately, God doesn’t need the world’s systems (including the worldly church) to get His Word out. One way or another He gets the job done. His Spirit is causing all sorts of people all over the world to wake up and embrace the pure, plain, soul-saving teachings of the Lord of Life. We may or may not be able to sell a single book, but His work goes on and on for eternity. His holy, just and life giving will is being done, and you can come along for the ride if you want. A bookstore could find that the difference between bankruptcy and success lies in the radical marketing concept of the Book that beats all others. Publishers would see fewer reverses if they would just commit to serving up the meat of the Word instead of the bland, nutrition-less saccharine they insist on providing at the present time. If we submit to His Word we find that judgment for finding what really matters comes roaring back.

The bookstore, the publisher, and the church/synagogue are sowing the seeds of their own demise. Blame Amazon if you want and it makes you feel better. But you might want to look in the mirror instead.

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