Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I firmly believe one cannot form a healthy relationship with another human being until one first forms a healthy relationship with God. There are many things God provides that a person can NEVER provide. He fills us in ways no human can and to a depth that is not humanly possible on our own.

We give to others out of the abundance and overflow we receive from God, spiritually and emotionally. If you do not know God, you have little to give away and you certainly can not provide to others what they need, at the levels they may need it especially if the other perons is particularly NEEDY!

Regardless how much we CAN give others, it is always insufficient. God alone can fill us to overflowing. It's a lot like eating. Once we eat and are full we aren't completely satisfied. We soon hunger again. God alone can fill us and satisfies us for weeks at the deepest levels. There are times we may be so full of God (and satisfied completely at such spiritual and emotional levels) that we absolutely have no need for the company of others nor any desire for food!

I think this is what Jesus was referring to when, in John 4, he tells his closest disciples, "I have other food to eat that you do not know about." Cool stuff!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Da Vinci Debunked

Constantine called a council meeting. Bishops debated. But, what did they debate? Was it a debate about which books to include in our New Testament?

The debate was actually on the precise meaning of what had been written in scripture centuries before. All four gospels had probably been completed by A.D. 80. Some recent scholars date all New Testament books before A.D. 70! This means that some of the four gospels could have been written as early as twenty years after the events they record!

There is no historical evidence that the Council of Nicaea discussed any Gnostic gospels or anything pertaining to the canon of Scripture.

There is not even a hint about a debate concerning books of the New Testament. Twenty rulings were issued and the contents of all are still in existence. Not one refers to issues regarding the canon. (The Council at Nicaea simply debated whether Jesus was coeternal with the Father. The vote to endorse the Nicene Creed came down to a vote of 300 to 2. Hardly close as Brown asserts in his book!)

By the time Constantine calls his council, it is not for the purpose of selecting books but merely for the purpose of verifying books already recognized by Christians as inspired of God. They merely discussed what those books said about Christ’s deity.

The four gospels were written around two hundred years BEFORE the Council of Nicaea. The debate was long over. All the bishops had to do was recognize the historic teachings that had been in existence for over two hundred years in the early church.

Irenaueus writes in the second century (Against Heresies), over 100 years before Constantine, that the four gospels were so universally recognized that he refers to them as “four pillars.” Early Christians protected and passed on those early writings of the Apostles and their close disciples under severe persecution. They also warned against other writings which claimed authenticity under an earlier disciple’s name (such as Gospel of Philip and The Gospel of Thomas.) History shows that well before Constantine, documents like the late second century Gospel of Mary were considered false by the overwhelming majority of Christians worldwide.

In the early days, the church was not as much an organization as an organism. It was NOT a highly organized hierarchy of scholars and clerics. The early church was people like Origen’s father and many of his friends. These early Christians were put to death for refusing to recant their faith in Jesus. So, when Origen talks about the church, he refers to a growing body of believers who recognized the writings of the apostles or someone close to them writing under their authority. In time, there arose among these early followers, a broad acceptance that these writings were trustworthy and others questionable.

In one of Peter’s last letters, he recognizes the fact that Paul’s writings are already being gathered. In 2 Peter 3:15, 16, Peter writes: “...which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

Even before A.D. 70, followers of Christ are recognizing certain New Testament books as equal in authority to “scripture” in the Old Testament. Polycarp (A.D. 115) and a later church leader named Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150) both refer to Old and New Testament books with the phrase, “as it is said in these scriptures.”

We can see that it was not some clerical council that put together the early scriptures but actually early Christians. The writings of the earliest prophets and apostles were so unique that they became recognized as God’s own words. They were preserved over the centuries. With these writings, not only could true words be easily recognized but also false pretenders with their false gospels could easily be set apart from them.

That the early Christians collected and circulated an agreed-upon standardized list or index of accepted scriptures, is easily seen. In A.D. 303, the edict of Diocletian calls for destruction of the sacred books of the Christians. This proves that at least some form of a Bible existed twenty-three years before Constantine.

Many historians recognize that the majority of what we call the New Testament was acknowledged a hundred years before Constantine. Then, in A.D. 367, six years after Constantine died, Athanasius (a bishop at Alexandria) finally gives us the earliest list of New Testament books we would recognize as our present New Testament.

The first time a church council listed the complete twenty-seven books of the New Testament was in A.D. 393, The Synod of Hippo (which had nothing to do with deciding the canon) recorded the books universally recognized by the church.

The Da Vinci Code has it wrong. The early Christians gave us our New Testament, not Constantine, not some clerical hierarchy.

Recommended reading: The Da Vinci Code, A Quest For Answers, by Josh McDowell, Green Key Books, Holiday, Florida.

No Clergy! No Popes! No New Apostles!

There is NO clergy-laity distinction in Christ’s Body! Jesus condemned distinguishing titles among his followers. He BLASTED the religious elitism of his day! The biblical role of pastors/elders/leaders is always plural and accountable to the local congregation they lead. Elders are a natural carry-over from Judaism to Christianity. There is always a need for God-like, mature leaders who guide and mentor. But, this is far from the special class MAN sets up to “administer, manipulate and control” all things religious.

Biblical overseers serve the local body of believers as shepherds, leaders, guides, not cattle drivers. In Texas, we know the difference. These leaders NEVER assume a "position" in the local congregation! They would never attempt to supplant the original foundation of the first (and only) apostles the church needed, as does the Mormon LDS Church!

Once the foundation of apostolic authority was laid in the first century it needed none other to be laid! Apostolic succession (of authority) in the church is spurious and unbiblical! Every Christian today is added to that same spiritual building with that same spiritual foundation of that same original apostles and that same original teachings, Jesus Christ is STILL the chief cornerstone, if you truly belong to Christ! Otherwise, you simply belong to a religious organization! See Ephesians.

In Christ's true church, every member has equal access to our Head...Christ! Every member is a priest (ergo Revelation 1, “a Kingdom of Priests") and each member has equal access to God as a priest through Jesus Christ, the one and only High Priest! We need none other to intercede for us, not Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, Elders, Deacons, Pastors, Ministers, or Clergy of any stripe!

There is no additional need for authority or teachings other than the original. The Spirit is in charge of the Church until Christ comes back! We need no person over us than the Spirit whom Christ sent to administer things religious in this age of grace! There is no need for additional doctrines or new doctrines (to replace the original teachings).

The clergy-laity distinction is an invention of men! Christian clergy are spurious and without biblical precedent or authority.

I beg you with the love of the Lord to discard your titles that divide us! I beg you to relinquish your ungodly authority! I ask you to return all authority to Jesus Christ and to follow His Spirit alone, not men. See Romans 8. All clergy should set God's people free! Clergy should renounce their ungodly position of ungodly power and ungodly influence.

Those of you in the denominational churches, cast off the chain of command that your popes, bishops and pastors have used to imprison you. Answer to Christ alone! Come back under His sole authority, His teachings, and His leadership. Come back under His plain teachings, God-given authority, and qualified leadership of the original Twelve Apostles through their historic teachings in the New Testament.

In Christ's church, we have no need of a Pope, Pastor or Clergyman. We are the Bride of Christ. We are under the Lordship, Leadership, and Headship of our Lord and Master, Jesus and His Holy Spirit.

I encourage you to gather with your fellow believers to edify one another and glorify God. Leave room for the full exercise of all the servants with their unique spiritual, be they gifts of administration, gifts of teaching or gifts of leadership.

Drop the spiritual elitism, remove the clerical robes and funny-looking collars. Surrender your unbiblical authority. Then, the criticism of you and others like you will dissipate. Christ Himself forbade such distinguishing titles and religious clothing!

In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor freeman, and there is also neither clergy nor laity. We are all one in Christ without distinguishing titles in Christ’s Kingdom.

Jesus said it best:
“All authority is given unto me in heaven and on earth.”

Come Lord Jesus!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Pure Grace

The concept of pure grace atonement is unique to Christianity. Other religions enforce a strict religious code to satisfy the wrath of angry gods. The more obedient a person is to that code, the more righteous that person is perceived to be.

Sadly, some Christians believe the same thing. They believe one must perform and complete certain acts or works to obtain salvation. They believe God's salvation must be maintained by constantly performing good deeds, and refraining from bad deeds. They teach an adherence to some strict (written or unwritten) moral code. If one fails to do certain deeds, God removes his salvation and condemns him to hell. He will also be condemned to hell for things like cussing, dancing, or drinking alcohol. He must maintain his salvation by attending church, visiting the sick, tithing, praying, etc., (the list is endless).

This explains why some Christians have no problem converting to Islam, or Christian cults. They simply exchange one form of legalism for a more rigid form. They take on a stricter set of rules to feel (or appear) more righteous, more saved. This rule-keeping has a form of religion and self-righteousness, but it promotes a system whereby one obtains God's salvation and acceptance through human effort.

God’s salvation is not earned. God’s salvation is not maintained through pious human acts. God bestows his salvation, freely. He decides upon whom he wishes to convey it, based on faith in Jesus Christ. He is obligated to save no one. He desires all to come freely.

There is no doubt that we, as believers, have obligations. Just like marriage brings certain obligations and responsibilities. Yet, we do not earn or maintain our salvation through keeping these obligations. We are saved by the blood of Christ. Payment was made one time, for all time. The debt is paid. Jesus' last words were,

"It is finished."

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cheerful Giving

Tithing one-tenth of everything one owns is an Old Testament concept for supporting the temple priesthood. The New Testament promotes the idea of free-will offerings for needy saints.

Jesus’ ministry was funded largely by wealthy women. It’s true. We are introduced early in the New Testament to the idea of free-will offerings. In the early life of the first church, at Jerusalem, everyone pooled their resources. Men full of the Holy Spirit were entrusted to oversee and distribute these funds and goods. Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, lose their lives in the early church when they hold back a certain amount from the sale of a piece of property. They are condemned, not for holding back funds, but for lying to the Holy Spirit. Listen closely to Peter.

Acts 5:4 “Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal?”

Everything we own belongs to us. God blesses us with our resources and he trusts us with their disposal. When we first came to God he asked us to give him everything. Then he handed it back and commanded us:

“Now, go and use all for my glory.”

So, where do churches get the authority to command a weekly tithe offering if the New Testament promotes a free-will offering? Good question. It comes from a misapplication of I Corinthians 16: 1, 2.

“Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up…”

This Scripture is often quoted as a command for the church collection plate to be passed weekly in the assembly. What they do not quote is the last half of this Scripture. Paul gives the reason for his command:

“…so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.”

If this applies to us today, then the gift we collect must go in trusted hands to the needy saints in Jerusalem! This was a ONE TIME gift promised from the Gentile churches to the needy saints in Jerusalem experiencing a famine. After Paul stops by and picks up their gift, they are under NO obligation to take up another collection the next Sunday!

Paul later says that he is even hesitant to command them to send their gift. He does so only because they had promised to give to the saints in Jerusalem. His command is actually a reminder for them to keep a promise! It has no authority today. It is not given by Paul with that intent!

There is no New Testament authority for commanding a weekly offering in the assembly. In the assembly where I worship, there is no passing of the plate! We have a box in the back for anyone who wishes to give. There are no sermons on giving to make one feel guilty or obligated. There is no coercion. And, we have never failed to meet our budget.

God desires we give “as each determines in his own heart…for God loves a cheerful giver”, 2 Corinthians 9:5-11.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Join the Church of Your Choice?

The above statement is often meant to encourage persons to attend church, somewhere. But, there are several flaws in its reasoning.

You may join a denomination, but Christ’s church is not something you choose to join. Christ’s church is something you are! When you receive Christ's “birth from above” God adds you to his family. You become a part of the spiritual body of Christ. You cannot join it. You can only be born into it! (Or, should I say "reborn"?)

When you are added to the body of Christ, you are expected to gather weekly with other family members. You are expected to assemble for corporate worship and mutual encouragement. Assembled or not, you remain IN the body of Christ, his church. Assembled in a denominational service or in your living room with family and friends, you are still part of the body of Christ, his church, if you actually belong to him.

Just before Christ died, he stood in Galilee on a large outcropping of rock. He proclaimed, “Upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” He wasn't going to build a denomination! He was stating that the grave would not prevent his Kingdom from coming to earth. Immediately after his resurrection, he told Mary to inform Peter and the rest that he was going to Galilee. Paul writes that Jesus appeared to 500 persons in one gathering, see I Corinthians 15. I believe Galilee was the place of the first gathering of his church. His church started on that large outcropping of rock following his resurrection, see Matthew 16.

After Jesus' return to heaven, Peter stands and preaches the gospel (Acts 2). Three thousand persons respond. Luke says God continued to add daily those being saved. God added them to the already existing church of Christ and gave them his Spirit to make them his children. He continues to add family members today. He does the adding! He decides who is in and who is out of relationship with him.You may choose to join a denomination and never be added to Christ’s church. You may be a member of Pastor Bob's church yet never be a member of Christ’s church. You may go to liturgical services and denominational meetings all your life but never be in Christ’s body. You may get thrown out of a denominational church but remain a faithful member of Christ's church!

Christ’s church follows Jesus. Christ’s church centers worship on Christ, not men. Christ’s church owns no property. Christ’s church is part of God's universal spiritual Kingdom. Christ’s church is not about liturgical services, traditional hymns, choirs and choruses, or man-made creeds! These are matters of men. These are part of traditional or cultural Christianity and matters of personal preference. Please don’t confuse the two. You can participate in all of these and never be in Christ’s body! You can participate in all of them and your heart STILL be far from God. You can participate in NONE of them and reside daily in God's presence.

Denominations require tithing. Christ’s church requires 100% of everything you are and own. Denominations are concerned with organizational committees, Bible schools, budgets, pastoral alliances and doctrinal allegiances. Christ’s church is about taking up your cross daily.

So, join the DENOMINATION of your choice but realize Christ’s church is not about religion. Christ’s church is about your relationship to God in Christ!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Historic Christian Worship

Imagine an ordinary person searching for God. He procures a copy of the Bible and begins reading. He asks his family and neighbors to join him in reading and studying the Bible regularly in his home. They all agree to read through the Bible starting in Genesis. They meet regularly to discuss what they have read in the previous week. They learn how God prepared the Israelites for the eventual coming of the Messiah.

After finishing the Old Testament, they have an earnest expectation that the Messiah will arrive soon. They agree to continue reading. They discover the Messiah has arrived. They read of his immaculate conception, his public life and ministry, miracles, signs, and wonders proving Jesus to be God. They review the testimony of his public execution and historic resurrection. They read his instructions to believers about making disciples and teaching them what Jesus instructed. They immediately confess their own faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. They read in Acts 1 of the promised Spirit's coming. They discover Peter’s response in Acts 2. They agree to immerse each other to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. God pours out his Spirit into their sincere hearts.

To which denomination would this group belong? They would simply be members of the body of Christ. They would be free to continue studying and meeting regularly for mutually encouragement, or join a local denomination. If they continue with no pastor, no elders, and no deacons, and simple living room style, open worship, they would be no less a Christian assembly. In fact, they may be more so than what we see today.

Their open meeting would not be liturgical services. It would most likely be no dress-up affair. Their casual and open style would follow the Spirit’s lead as he expressed himself in the function of each member in the local body, in and out of worship. They would practice order and give preference to truth-speaking in each assembly as Paul instructed, I Corinthians 14. Problems would naturally arise but be handled by the whole body according to letters of the New Testament.

Several persons would probably speak, each taking their turn. One would come with an encouraging word while another may offer a spontaneous song. Worship would be a time for building up, not tearing down. Discussion would be kept spiritual and not digress to subjects like politics or sports. No discussion leader or moderator need be appointed! No one would take center stage, besides Jesus. Everyone would be expected to speak as the Spirit moved them. Everyone might sing. Spiritual songs would be selected that all would know. All would be done spontaneously keeping order. They would not need a musical instrument, not even a guitar. The singing might begin rough but it would improve over time.

I’ve seen this work successfully countless times. This is especially needed in the mission fields today. There is no need for paid staff or church buildings. Not required! It works very successfully in China and places where no missionary can go! [See the book, MegaShift: Igniting Spiritual Power, by Jim Rutz (pronounced, "ruts").]

Prayer time would probably not be for nosebleeds or hangnails. They would probably stay away from “prayer requests.” Prayers would become expressions of love and appreciation to the Master, like their open worship. Special time might be set aside to pray over a situation or health issue for a member, if the Lord directed. Everything would be kept uplifting to all and glorifying to God according to Paul’s simple instruction, I Cor. 14. Each person would check his motive before speaking. Each would make certain God and his Spirit prompted them before they would speak in corporate assembly.

Jesus established a “kingdom of priests.” This means every Christian has an immediate and personal responsibility for maintaining, sustaining, and propagating God’s rule and reign on earth. This means no one stands between us and our God, save Christ. When Christ died on the cross, the curtain between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place was torn in two from top to bottom. God granted equal access to all. All have equal right to lead in God’s kingdom according to God’s call on each life. We do not need certification or ordination. (God does not always call the qualified. But, he certainly qualifies each person he calls!) One is ordained and called the minute God places his Spirit in them and gives them the particular gift he wishes them to express in the body, Eph. 4. We answer to God and no one else!

True New Testament Christian worship recognizes that each person is given a gift for service in God’s kingdom. Christ and the Holy Spirit determine who gets what gift, I Corinthians 12:11. No clergy, elder board, or ecclesiastical elitist assigns these. If one thinks they are not qualified to baptize or serve communion, speak in an assembly or hold a memorial funeral service, then they have been brain-washed and wounded by our 1400 year old pastoral, ecclesiastical system. Please do not contribute to the wounding of God’s precious souls, here or abroad.

There are 1700 years of church history where God’s children have been convinced they are unqualified to lead public worship. There is over 400 years of indoctrination into a British form of worship created by men, for men, thanks to Calvin. We need to encourage all members to minister in the Kingdom. Every person in the body stands deserving and worthy as "priest" before God. There was no lay-clergy distinction in the New Testament church that existed for 300 years after Christ! (Enter Constantine!)

We need to promote the idea that in corporate worship, as well as daily functioning, every member is equally expected to function according to his gift. In the early days, there was no pre-set order of worship. Paul had every opportunity in I Corinthians 14 to command a common form. He did not. He simply stated that everything was to be kept orderly, glorifying to God, and edifying to all. Preference is given to truth-speaking. In speaking truth, God gets glorified and the body is edified!

There is no ritual “tithe” in New Testament Christianity. There is no biblical support for enforcing a "tithe". New Testament Christians give out of their abundance, spontaneously and willingly, as the Spirit leads. They determine in their own hearts how, when and to whom they contribute.

In a typical New Testament congregation, no single person speaks regularly. Regular speakers in early congregations were occasional visitors and rare. There were no spectators at Christian assemblies. Every member was expected to function! The modern sermon didn’t appear until the Fourth Century, with the influence of pagan Greek orators. The pastoral system is 1400 years removed from the New Testament church. They attempted it (I Corinthians 1), but Paul lopped off its ugly head as soon as it raised up in the local church.

If you have never been in an assembly where everyone’s life is being changed through ordered, spontaneous worship and praise, where charity is shown toward a needy member as soon as he expresses a need, where leaders are not visibly leading, you have never tasted the greatest freedom and pleasure known to historic Christianity.

It is time to promote and experience true Christian worship lost to us for 1700 years! Please encourage New Testament, open, living room style worship. The New Testament worshipped house-to-house. There is no reason we cannot do the same today.

My prayer is that all leaders will encourage and permit the Spirit to once again reign supreme (without chaos or liturgical choreography) in our corporate assemblies.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Our Christian Heritage

John Calvin gets credit for our Protestant churches. Over 400 years ago, a call was made for the elimination of the hierarchical system of priests, bishops, and archbishops in favor of having individual congregations elect ministers and set up governing bodies comprised of ministers and church elders. Calvin also urged that services be simplified, eliminating ritual, special clothing for clergy, instrumental music, images and stained-glass windows. He is the one that placed the sermon as the primary focus of institutionalized worship.

These changes were radical in his day. The Catholic Church held prior prominence for nearly 1300 years. Catholicism replaced early Christian communities (and Christ-centered worship in homes). Catholicism emphasized elaborate ceremonies and sumptuous church buildings. Calvin rejected Catholicism and the Church of England because it resembled Catholicism.

New Christians worldwide are expected to readily accept ancient Catholicism or Calvin’s 400 year old Protestant church. New Christians are expected to sit quietly through services organized for men, by men, focused on a message brought by one man, the same man, every Sunday. Some leave stating,

“I can worship better at home.”

Catholic and Protestant church models are not natural for new Christians who were not exposed to traditional churches prior to their conversion. These new Christians find it difficult to accept the "institutionalized church" with it ritual services. They do not desire “church”. They desire “community”. They see quickly that the institutionalized church with its traditional practices are unnatural to Christian community. These Christians desire the presence of Jesus Christ. They desire to be part of a Christian community whose primary focus is discussing Jesus, not discussing topics related to Jesus. These Christians edify one another naturally. They find sermonizing unnatural. These Christians find it difficult to participate in choreographed praise and worship. To them, praise and worship should be spontaneous. These Christians desire to gather with persons they know intimately. They find it unnatural to worship with casual acquaintances! They also find it unnatural to gather and sit quietly. They come together expecting to function! They gather to emphasize all gifts. They would never emphasize one man or one gift to the exclusion of women with gifts!

The institutional church with its traditional worship is foreign to our true Christian heritage.