Saturday, December 31, 2011


I'm returning to blogging. The hiatus has been profitable and restful and I appreciate those of you who have had a willingness to understand the need for it.

But honestly, I've had to rethink this whole idea of blogging during the time off. More specifically, blogging as it relates to gossip. Someone has recently said blogging is a new way of doing an old thing that has been sin from the beginning? Namely, "gossiping."  Bloggers he said, "are gossips who sit around in their mother's basement, in their underwear, writing on their computers, saying nothing of any significant value." [What a horrible mental picture that would be if true. LOL] 

Is blogging simply, as he claims, a new modus operandi for "gossip" in this age of communication? To begin blogging again, I would assume any thinking person would need to at least face the possibility of this criticism being valid. So I thought I'd have a personal look see with a new blogging post at the beginning of 2012. 

"Gossip" by definition is, according to Wikipedia..."a casual or idle talk of any kind, sometimes slanderous and/or devoted to discussing others." Webster says it this way, "Gossip is... 1. A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational fact. [noun] 2. Rumor or report of an intimate nature. 3. An informal conversation." 

To the surprise of no one I'm sure, I have a few personal observations about Webster's definitions.  [I don't put a lot of stock in what Wikipedia says about anything actually so I'll disregard that.]

I wonder if Webster's number 1 is legitimate were it to be thought of as referencing a person who gives a personal or sensational fact... about themselves? Is that a negative thing? What's wrong with someone sharing a personal or even sensational fact about their own experience? Nothing I would think.

I also am wondering if Webster's number 2 is correct in using "rumor" and "report" together. "Rumor" I understand. "Report" of an intimate nature might not qualify [automatically] as gossip from my point of view. Autobiographies would have to be rethought were one to accept such a narrow definition.

Finally, I'm wondering if Webster's number 3 should be thought of as harmful or sinful as well! An informal conversation is what I desire on this blog, albeit, in written form, and were that to qualify as gossip there is no question that my blog would need to shut down. I guess we might ought to see if the scriptures can help us in this. 

It seems to me that when scripture speaks of idle talk in a negative way, it isn't speaking necessarily of conversation that is intimate, personal, or even sensational in nature, except as such conversation would have a view to harm or tear down. Now if personal or intimate talk [writing] were to be of a salacious nature, of course it would qualify, not only as gossip, but sin as well. However, even there we would have to work through to an acceptable or agreed standard for defining salacious. [I have a friend who blushes when the phrase "sexual relationship" is used in any context that is public.] That's for another post however.

It is true that Romans 1:28-32, for example, does use "backbiting" to describe language which may be personal and intimate conversation in nature. But that passage is speaking of someone who talks about someone else and it is evil because of its intent. In the same passage "debate" is used as evil in the same way and for the same reason. 

Blogging would qualify as gossip when defined in that manner without a doubt. So boiled down to its core definition, blogging would be "gossip"were it to be found having more to do with something that is of a personal and intimate nature [salaciously] or has a direct and obvious intent of harming a person if believed. This I accept.

But blogging, though seen as a conversation that is personal and intimate in nature about ones self and others about themselves as they respond, [comments]  would not necessarily meet that definition of evil it seems to me. Intent has a lot more to do with what scripture regards as sin, if I'm reading the scriptural text correctly, than does the words themselves. [The writers of the Psalms got pretty intimate and personal on occasion did they not!] 

Blogging may be more akin to giving information and opinion about issues [even life] and might be thought of as a processing and organizing of data conversationally that adds to the knowledge of the person receiving it. This is what blogs can be a great tool at doing. It is this that is my personal desire and purpose for blogging.

So, simply put, blogging is information and can generally be viewed as conversation when comments are permitted. When comments are not permitted, however, the blog is more apt to be for teaching or promoting a view and could even qualify as "propoganda." But even then "gossip" is not accurate in describing it I would think.  

So, all of this is to simply answer the question, is blogging, or more accurately, can blogging be gossip? My answer is..."yes" and "no." You will have to decide, as will I, which blogs are or are not gossip, which blogs are or are not real conversation and thus are worthy of being read and responded to. I would hope this blog is one you will enjoy reading and commenting on in the new year of 2012.

So I've concluded for myself that blogging isn't necessarily gossip and is not a sin. I'll cautiously keep at it, then, for 2012. Be discerning as you read and communicate your opinion in the comment section as you wish  [Do remember the guidelines]  and I trust we'll all enjoy blogging together. 

Welcome to you as readers... as I return to the blogging world. And thanks for being a part of it all.

By the way...HAPPY NEW YEAR as we begin 2012.


Saturday, December 24, 2011


A suggested Christmas gift list for 2011.

To God who has loved and redeemed you__Gratitude.

To those who have wounded you__Forgiveness.

To those who are different than you__Acceptance.

To those who oppose you__Tolerance.

To yourself__Respect

To your spouse and children__Yourself

To your extended family members__Your heart.

To your friends__Your loyalty.

To waiters and waitresses and those who serve__Your kindness.

To strangers__Your example.

To those who are hurting__Your compassion.

To those who fail__Your mercy

To All____________Agape love

Monday, December 19, 2011



It’s Christmas time in this mired land,
Bone chilling cold the season,
The Son of God became a man
Beyond all human reason.

It’s in the record of His Book,
In pages old and worn,
Announcing news for those who look,
A baby Savior born.

How could you, Lord, demean Yourself,
To this rebellious earth,
Put judgement power upon the shelf,
In ignominious birth.

Yet, You saved us lovingly
Beyond the scope of time,
With grace incomprehensive be
To a merely mortal mind.

From eternal to eternity,
You planned this to instill,
From predetermined destiny,
Accomplished perfect will.

Reacting, man predictably,
Received the news eschewed,
No faith, but doubt indubitably,
In crazed thoughts misconstrued.

So to this day the minds of men,
Are lead in grand deception,
Allowing many to descend
To utter desolation.

But for the remnant God did choose,
To save from dread despair,
He from the start deemed not to lose
Them to the Prince of Air.

It’s Christmas time in this mired land,
He came to save His own,
Great Sacrifice, He lives to stand,
Our sin He did atone.

In His Grace and Peace.

T.D. Webb

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I'm not breaking my announced "hiatus" but believe the title to this post says it correctly.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Recently I came across an excellent article by Frank Viola encouraging men called to pastor and shepherd people not to dominate, control, or exert "authority" over their flocks. The entire article can be read online, but I thought a pertinent section spoke biblically and directly against some of the practices of pastors within the Southern Baptist Convention. If we pastors could all catch the spirit of what Frank writes below, 95% of church problems would be resolved. Frank Viola writes:

"In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders, “Be on your guard for yourself and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” Notice what he says: “You, elders, are among the flock, and the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” Not over the flock; among the flock. Among the flock! Among the flock to do what? “To shepherd the church of God.” Not to control the flock, but to care for it. To serve it. The elders are overseers, not overlords! The word “overseer” means one who looks out for the good of the saints, not for his own personal interests. Yet because overseers care for the saints, they are called shepherds also. And a shepherd (pastor) is simply a metaphor, it is not a title nor an office. In the first-century churches, all the brothers and sisters take care of one another. All of them take care of one another! But the shepherds are the older, wiser ones that do it best. They are the examples for everyone else. Let me put it this way. Every brother and sister is to do what a true shepherd/elder does. The elders are but examples to all. Now hold on to your chair. Get ready. It’s going to be heavy, brothers. Look at Acts 20:33. I want you to read very slowly verses 33 to 35. Follow this: “I, Paul, have lusted after no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you elders know that my hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you, elders, must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Now, brothers, let’s get the scene. Paul, an apostle sent by God, spends three years raising up a church in Ephesus. Before he leaves, he acknowledges the older brothers, the elders. He says to them, “Take care of God’s people if there is a problem.” He did not say, “Lord over them. Control them. Do all the teaching and preaching.” Nor did he say, “You are their leaders. They must obey you.” He didn’t say that. Four years after the church in Ephesus is planted, Paul meets with the Ephesian elders at Miletus. He says them, “Brothers, the Holy Spirit has given you a gift to care for the Lord’s people. They are the flock of God; not your flock. It’s the flock of God, purchased with His own blood. You are among them, not over them. Brothers, when I was with you I worked with my hands. I paid for my own needs, and I also paid for the needs of the men I trained. By doing this, I gave you an example. Elders, shepherds of Ephesus, remember my example. That I did not take anything from God’s people! I gave to them! I did not take from them! Follow my example.” And that is what an elder is, brothers. He is a person that gives! He doesn’t receive! Brothers, think about this. Just think about it."

Saturday, November 12, 2011


3 The Shift from a Suffering Church to an Institution of Ease

The early church grew and prospered incredibly without having church buildings or being protected by the state. In fact, from apostolic times to the ascension of Constantine the church went through cycles of intense persecution spearheaded by the ruling powers. These times of persecution are well documented in such books as Persecution in the Early Church by H. B. Workman and Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church by W. H. C. Friend.5

However, the advent of the emperor Constantine in 312 A.D. brought great changes, most of them for the worse. Money from state funds was used to erect Christian church buildings and support Christian clergy. Ultimately, Christianity was declared to be the state religion. 

From Constantine onwards the visible church became enmeshed in political intrigue, and the state mingled in the determination of church affairs. As Louis Berkhof notes regarding the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. [which Constantine convened and presided over]: "A settlement forced upon the Church by the strong hand of the emperor could not satisfy and was also of uncertain duration. It made the determination of the Christian faith dependent on imperial caprice and even on court intrigues." This is exactly what happened repeatedly in subsequent history.

Constantine set in motion the ideal of a territorial state religion with Christianity at the helm. This ideal was the death knell of all that the Gospel stood for. It signaled the end of believers gathering separately from the pagan culture as a counter-culture where the way of Christ was displayed in simplicity. 

Now the church was conceived of as all the people in a nation who were born as citizens of the state and constituted as part of the visible church by infant baptism. Church and politics were fused together, creating immense confusion. Ron VanOverloop notes this phenomenon operation from the post-apostolic church to the Reformation: "As was the case in the early church when emperors called the great ecumenical councils together, so was the progress of the Reformation to a great extent determined by the political maneuvering taking place in each country."

In the early church the disciples banded together in homes and other places as communities "called out" from the world; but Constantinianism erased this distinction and defined "church" as all citizens in a given territory. This had the practical effect of watering down true discipleship and creating a worthless nominal Christianity. 

Werner Elert contrasts the early days with the rise of Constantinianism: "[In the early church] the strength of their ties with one another is matched by the strength of the boundary they draw to the outside. In business dealings with one another they do not choose an unbeliever to arbitrate; they transact their business "before the saints" and between "brother and brother" (1 Cor. 6:1.5). One is to throw in one's lot with those who fear the Lord, consider their common good, and daily visit the saints face to face ...After Constantine things changed radically with the influx of the masses. This did not prosper the Christian brotherhood. If we can believe only half of what Salvian says, there was not much left of it a hundred years later in many parts of western Christendom."

The shift from a suffering church to an institution sanctioned and promoted by the state forces us to face a crucial question: Was the Constantinian change the rise or fall of the church? How you answer that question will greatly define your whole view of the church and its mission. 

In light of New Testament revelation about the church Christ purposed to build, I submit that Constantinianism was a wretched stone thrown into the sea of church history, the ripples of which still lap on our shores today.

We must make a choice. Are we going to cast our lot in with the New Testament vision for the body of Christ [simplicity, suffering, servanthood], or in with the Constantinian model [powerful institution, clergy dominance, rule by political maneuvering]? Are we going to devote the energies of our short life-span to perpetuating the post-apostolic shifts that moved away from the simplicity of Christ, or to restoring the spirit of the New Testament vision?

4 The Shift from a Spirit-Dependent Church to a Letter-Dependent Institution

Twice in his epistles Paul refers to the fact that the church serves Christ "in [the] newness of the Spirit and not in [the] oldness of the letter" (Rom. 7:6; 2 Cor. 3:6). The church was a community of the Spirit from the Day of Pentecost. In light of this reality the early church did not trust in fixed forms to maintain and guard her existence. There was an openness of the body to be led by the Spirit in light of Christ's Gospel-word.

This can be seen, for example, in the glimpse of an early church service revealed in 1 Cor. 14. Edification was the goal which was to be reached by the Spirit-led participation of the body. The balance Paul desired can perhaps be summed up like this: no form of order in the service must be allowed to stifle the free expression of edifying gifts in the body; no expression of spontaneity in the body must be allowed to blossom into unprofitable disorder. William Barclay isolates these important points from 1 Cor. 14:  "[Paul] is determined that anyone who possesses a gift should receive every chance to exercise that gift, but he is equally determined that the services of the Church should not thereby become a kind of competitive disorder. ...There must be liberty but there must be no disorder. ...There was obviously a freedom and an informality about [this service] which is completely strange to our ideas. ...Clearly the church had no professional ministry. ...It was open to anyone who had a gift to use that gift. ...There was obviously a flexibility about the order of service in the early church which is now totally lacking. There was clearly no settled order at all. Everything was informal enough to allow any man who felt that he had a message give it. ...The really notable thing about an early Church service must have been that almost everyone came feeling that he had both the privilege and the obligation of contribution something to it."

Unfortunately, as time went on this Spirit-dependence gave way to more and more fixed forms of worship, which phased out body participation and committed ministry only to an ever-growing web of ecclesiastical hierarchy. By 250 A.D. church order was set in concrete with one bishop ruling over various territories. The momentum of this church bureaucracy was accelerated when Constantine and his successors sanctioned the church and contributed moneys and resources to this increasingly powerful institution. What began as a Spirit-led organism ended up as a letter-dependent institution. The leaders no longer trusted in the Spirit to hold the body together; instead they leaned on intricate human contrivances and rules to feign outward unity.

One of the saddest features of this shift to letter-dependence, combined with the church's new collusion with the state, was the employment of coercion both to gain and maintain adherents. Simply trusting in the Spirit would have resulted in a spiritual reality too vulnerable to be controlled by human contrivances; the use of raw power backed by the weapons of the state seemed to promise greater stability.

 Eric Hoffer makes this tragic observation which church history, unfortunately, verifies:  "There is hardly an example of a mass movement achieving vast proportions and a durable organization solely by persuasion ...It was the temporal sword that made Christianity a world religion. Conquest and conversion went hand in hand. ...Where Christianity failed to gain or retain the backing of state power, it achieved neither a wide nor permanent hold. ...It also seems that, where a mass movement can either persuade or coerce, it usually chooses the letter. Persuasion is clumsy and its results uncertain."

Again we must ask ourselves, "Are we going to be a part of perpetuating this shift to trusting in outward carnal hedges to hold the church together, or are we going to purpose to contribute to a return of child-like trust in the Spirit of Christ to build and sustain His body?'

Concluding Remarks...

We have examined four clear shifts in early church history. These shifts are acknowledged by church historians of all theological persuasions. James D. G. Dunn, one of the foremost New Testament scholars of our time, summarizes the essence of these four shifts like this: "Increasing institutionalism is the clearest mark of early Catholicism - when church becomes increasingly identified with institution, when authority becomes increasingly coterminous with office, when a basic distinction between clergy and laity becomes increasingly self-evident, when grace becomes increasingly narrowed to well-defined ritual acts." 

We saw above that such features were absent from first generation Christianity, though in the second generation the picture was beginning to change. Such features were absent from first generation Christianity, that is, they are not found in the New Testament. 

Does this concern you? Is your heart burdened by the chasm between the original work of the Spirit and the hardened institution that quickly emerged in the post-apostolic days? Does it bother you that most of what we associate with 'church' has little to do with the New Testament, and more to do with patterns that reflect a drift away from it?

Further, and this is the key question, were the shifts we have studied a faithful extension of New Testament ideals, or a tacit denial of all that they stand for? If the answer is the latter, then it is incumbent upon believers to work for the recovery of Christ's ways and to stop contributing to the perpetuation of non-edifying ecclesiastical patterns.

I commend my thoughts on the four shifts and the upcoming collaborating materials to your discerning conscience. May the Lord guide you into appropriate responses as 'the worthy walk' is set before us in the Gospel.

Jon Zens

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Two of the four Jon Zens

1 The Shift From the Body of Christ as a Dynamic Organism to a Settled Institution

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul goes into some detail concerning the implications of the church being a living organism, a body with many parts. In the early chapters of Acts we see a vibrant, caring, sharing and witnessing body of believers created by the power of the Spirit who was poured out by the risen Christ. 

This corporate 'new man' created by Jesus was not without leadership and organization, but there is no evidence of desire by the leaders to create a tightly-knit religious institution, with an elaborate hierarchy and intricate chain-of-command. 

The leaders above all were to be servants to feed and build up the flock; the organization that came to expression was for the purpose of meeting people's needs, not to create a religious bureaucracy.The church Christ purposed to build is always described in terms of 'koinonia', a common sharing of life together in the bonds of Jesus Christ. 

However, the reality is that as time went on after the apostles' death, the church gravitated increasingly toward finding its essential definition, not in a dynamic organism, but in a visible institution with a hierarchy of officers. The church came to be no longer identified as a body of believers bonded by love as members one of another, but as a religious organization whose officers gave it significance. Ultimately it was asserted that without the officers, there was no church. Organization usurped vital life as the hallmark of the church.

This legacy still remains with us today. The needs of people are subordinated to the maintenance of religious bureaucracy. Patterns of church government often have nothing to do with the ethos of the New Testament. Many define the 'true' church in terms of outward marks such as "the proper preaching of the Word, administration of the sacraments, and practice of discipline". But these characteristics have been outwardly present in dead churches. 

The New Testament defines the church dynamically in terms of functioning together as a body. If church was defined, for example, in the organic terminology of Acts 2:42-47, how many churches would you find? Why is it that even today when somebody asks "What church do you attend?:, the next query after you tell them is usually, "Who is the pastor there?" We still tend to define church in terms of leadership instead of by loving relationships among the brethren.

2 The Shift From Polyform Ministry to Uniform Ministry

In the early church ministry was conceived of in terms of Ephesians 4:16, "From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." Ministry was seen as committed to the whole body by Christ its Lord. As Paul put it, "Now the body is not made up of one part but of many ... As it is, there are many parts, but one body" (1 Cor. 12:14,20). To every person in the body of Christ is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the benefit of all (1 Cor. 12:7). Universal giftedness in the church, which is secured by the resurrected Christ leading captivity captive (Eph. 4:7-8), included such important leadership gifts as apostles and administration.

The great tragedy is that from about 180 A. D. onwards the increasingly institutionalized church began to assign ministry more and more to the officers (the "clergy"), and less and less to the common people. (the "laity") 

George W. Forell astutely summarizes the shift from body-ministry to bishop-ministry: "Ethical guidance for people recently converted to Christianity and likely to bring a pervasive pagan attitude to his new life was offered at first by a polyform ministry of grace, reflected in the New Testament. But, as time went by, moral authority was increasingly focused on an ordered ministry of bishops and deacons ...The institution most effective in containing the threats to the unity of the nascent Christian movement was the gradually evolving office of the bishop ...Through the office of the bishop the shape of the Christian life is determined and the masses recently brought into the Christian movement are conformed to Christ."

No emphasis on one person who occupies the office of bishop (pastor) can be found in the New Testament. While it certainly contemplates a plurality of leaders as part of life in Christ's body, the overwhelming emphasis falls upon exhortations that involve all the members of the body. At least 58 times in the New Testament believers are commanded to fulfill responsibilities relating to "one another". We have turned the tables and viewed ministry as essentially resting upon "the minister" and forgotten that ministry as unfolded in the New Testament is spread around to everyone.

If ministry is not seen as focused in one office in the New Testament, where was precedent for a separate caste found? It was found in the exclusive priesthood under the Old Covenant. William Bausch observes: "Our survey has shown us that no cultic priesthood is to be found in the New Testament. Yet we wound up importing Old Testament Levitical forms and imposing them on Christian ministry."

The negative implications that arose from the shift from polyform to uniform ministry are myriad. The mutual care so basic to the fabric of early church life was virtually lost. Why? Because mutuality - "you are all brethren" - was buried underneath the superstructure of institutionalized officers. 

William Bausch crystallizes this point by saying,.."Nevertheless in practice there is no denying that there has historically been a gathering into one person and his office what were formerly the gifts of many. ...[This practice] goes astray, of course, when it translates to mean that only ordination gives competence, authority, and the right of professional governance. It goes further astray when eventually all jurisdictional and administrative powers in the church come to be seen as an extension of the sacramental powers conferred at ordination. In short, there is a movement here away from the more pristine collaborative and mutual ministries of the New Testament."

We must face the fact that the traditions regarding church government and order which we have inherited are cast in very suspicious garb. They are clergy-centered and generally stifle and suppress the "one another" perspectives of the New Testament. Servant leadership should be a natural part of body-life by which the people of God are encouraged toward, facilitated in and equipped for various ministries. 

Unfortunately, however, the shift from polyform to uniform ministry has created the deplorable situation in which the church forever remains as a dependent, helpless, non-maturing infant for the sake of the officers who watch over the crib. We have inherited traditions in which the tail wags the dog. It is my conviction that because of the deep-seated nature of this awful shift in perspective, the greatest practical need facing the church today is the reincarnation of "a polyform ministry of grace".

Jon Zens

Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm still off writing for awhile. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy someone who is on target with his writing. Jon Zens, my friend, is one of those. I'll post the four shifts fully explained next time.

Four Tragic Shifts In The Visible Church
180-400 A. D.

by Jon Zens

Most professing Christians do not realize that the central concepts and practices associated with what we call 'church' are not rooted in the New Testament, but in patterns established in the post-apostolic age. While there are a legion of disagreements among serious students of church history concerning various issues and details during the period of 50 A.D. to 325 A.D., they all speak as one voice in affirming the four undeniable shifts that will be examined in this article. Church historians of all theological and ecclesiastical backgrounds observe in their writings the following four shifts: 
1. The church portrayed in the New Testament was a dynamic organism, a living body with many parts. The church from around 180 A.D. onwards became an increasingly hardened institution with a fixed and complex hierarchy.
 2. The early church was marked by; the manifestation of a polyform ministry by which edification and the meeting of needs were accomplished through the gifts of all the brethren. The post-apostolic church moved more and more toward a uniform conception of church offices which separated ministry from the 'laity' and limited significant ministry to the 'clergy'.

3. The church of the first and most of the second centuries was characterized by cycles of intense difficulty and persecution - it was a suffering body. With the advent of Constantine the church became protected, favored and ultimately sanctioned as the state religion by the Roman state, and thus became an institution at ease.

4. In the New Testament the church, with no small measure of vulnerability, depended on the Holy Spirit to hold the brethren together and to lead them in ministry. Later, the church trusted in itself as a very powerful institution, along with its many rules, rites and offices to secure visible unity among its adherents.

These four shifts are indisputable. They did not come about in a day. They were the result of many factors working together as time elapsed. There are many implications to ponder in light of these significant changes that occurred. I would like to explore each of these shifts in order to highlight certain key issues that each of us needs to face.

We claim to take Christ's revelation about the church in the New Testament seriously, yet the reality is that too often we are more attached to the 'received order' which is based on human traditions. What does it mean to be faithful to the New Testament's teaching about the church? In what sense are the examples of the church life 'binding' on us?

For instance, some assert that since the early church met primarily in homes, we are obliged to emulate this example. I think the primary theological point of the New Testament in this regard is that under the New Covenant there are no holy places. Contemporary Christianity has almost no grasp of this significant point. Taking the cue from the Old Covenant, people are still led to believe that a church building is 'the house of God'. Believers are free to meet, anywhere in which they can foster, cultivate and attain the goals set before them by Christ. The problem today is that many church structures neither promote nor accomplish Christ's desires for His body.

Homes are a natural place for believers to meet, and the early church flourished well into the first and second centuries without erecting any temple-like edifices. In places around the world where persecution reigns, house-church movements have flourished. Someday in America, if our religious infrastructure falls as a result of economic and political turmoil, true believers will be forced to meet outside of traditional church buildings.

But the issue still is not what type of place believers gather, but what shape their committed life together takes as they wrestle with the many duties and privileges flowing out of the priesthood of all believers.
I believe that it is far more important to capture the spirit of church life as we see it unfolded in the New Testament, than it is to try and woodenly replicate cultural particulars of the first century. We do not live in the first century, but the concepts and principles in the New Testament endure and will come to expression in any culture.

The four tragic shifts about to be examined will give us all plenty to reflect and act upon as we seek to take our discipleship earnestly. Christians must take their stand and devote their precious energies to building up the body of Christ in ways that return to the original patterns of the New Testament.


Monday, October 24, 2011


With Rex's comment I realized I owe you all an explanation as to why I haven't written some fresh material on my blog. I honestly don't have an explanation other than whatever muse I've had for it has disappeared. It will return I'm sure, but in the meantime I'm going to take a brief hiatus from blog writing to focus on some other things. My schedule this fall has been surprisingly full of meetings [an old guy is still wanted in some quarters for which I'm grateful] and will not be letting up for the next month or so. will probably be around the first of the year before I return. Please comment on any of the previous posts you wish to address and I will post those comments and even respond if I think it is something that I can do quickly and without much research.

All of you who come by here and take the time to comment are special to me. Thanks for the connection and when I return I trust it will be with something to contribute that is worthwhile. Blessings!

Paul B.

Friday, October 07, 2011


I wrote about two mistakes ministers make in my last post. Those were..1) seeing the pastor as the all-important person/minister in a church and..2) seeing the church as a business instead of a body. Check the previous post for the entire idea presented about those two mistakes.

Now for the third mistake I'll be addressing made by modern ministers. This is one that is so major that I will deal with it by itself before continuing to a few of the implications of this problem in the third and final post on this subject. 

The third mistake I'm addressing is a failure to see the Old Covenant, including the moral law written on the tablets of stone, as being fulfilled in the New Covenant and not now binding on the people of the New Covenant as a standard for behavior as Kingdom people. 

This is major, as we will see, primarily because of the ramifications of it all. Some ramifications [for example, the tithe and the Sabbath] will be addressed in my final post on this subject next time. But the problem itself is my point at present.

In order to not make this mistake, it would be necessary that one understand how the Old Covenant [Testament] was basically between God and Israel. It is also important to see how the law, called the "Law of Moses" because it was delivered through him to the nation of Israel, codified their behavior as the people of the Covenant following their redemption out of Egypt. [The Exodus] 

At that time and place in history, they were brought out of bondage and into a Covenant with Jehovah as His special people and were to live under certain stated standards presented in the law of Moses. There were, in fact, several purposes for that law, but we are at present interested only in dealing with it's binding effect as a lifestyle upon the Covenant people called Israel . 

This law, by the way, was a unified standard that was not ever thought of as being divided into three parts, Moral/ Civil/ Ceremonial, by the Jewish people. So many bible students would later attempt to make that division with the purpose of retaining the moral law as an eternal standard even for people of the New Covenant. [Testament]  This would include many in our present day, including dispensationalists, who so frequently are found making that mistake.

But the Old Covenant with Israel and the Mosaic law were all only preparatory for something that was yet to come. That covenant was certainly an important step in what could be called "Redemptive history," or the "story of redemption," but God was using it as only temporary "until the time of reformation." [Heb 9:10]  That was when God would speak in a final way to a new brand new people in a brand new New Covenant with a standard of behavior to be  written on their hearts and not on stone. [2 Corinthians 3:3]  

Jon Zens, a friend of mine and as good a scholar on this issue as can be found today, points this out so well when he said... "Thus, all of procedures and special activities in the Old Covenant were types and pictures of the One who would come and deliver a new people from bondage and create a new nation holy to Himself with a new standard of behavior." [See Heb. 3:5/8:5/9:8-9]

All of this is not to say that the Law of Moses was/is not significant for the Christian in the New Covenant in some fashion. But it is to say that it was preparatory and not binding as a lifestyle on those of us who are in the New Covenant .  

Again, Zens states it this way..."This is simply to say, then, that the 'law' [for the New Testament believer] must now be identified with the current covenant in force for the former covenant is no longer operative. Moses was the head of his house: Israel. Christ is now the Head of His house: the church. So we must come to grips with the fact that the house of Moses is finished, and the house of Christ is being built until the end of this age (Heb.3:1-6; Matt.16:18; 28:20). These lines of thought come together rather clearly in Matthew 5:17-7:29." That statement of Jon Zens deserves a second reading I would think.

Jon goes on to say..."So Jesus stands in history as the long-awaited Messiah. The government is to be upon His shoulders, which is to say He is the law-giver. He here [In what He says in the gospels & the epistles] expounds "law" in the New Covenant." But - and this is crucial - While His explication of "law" in His Kingdom incorporates elements of the Mosaic code into the New Covenant, it is as He intensifies the Mosaic elements that they become new. ("whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart," 5:28)."

Jon's conclusion is that there are certainly similarities between the Mediator of the New Covenant giving His law, and the Old Covenant mediator, Moses, receiving the Ten Words at Sinai, but it is the authority with which the new Lawgiver says what is the standard for the behavior of the New Covenant believer's lifestyle that is to be recognized. We are not under law [Moses] but under grace. [Christ]

[I personally believe there is a major shift from "doing" which is the basis of the Old to "being" which is the basis of the New. This will be seen more clearly as we look at the Sabbath for example next time.]

The proclaimers of the New Testament message were certainly mindful of how their message flowed from the types, offerings, and sacrifices of the Old Testament,  but were also extremely conscious of how their message was new and found its authority in Christ alone and was, thus, fundamentally different than that of Moses.  

This contrast can be clearly seen in the familiar expression used by our Lord in the sermon on the mount when He repeatedly said... "But I say to you." This is why the writer of Hebrews was willing to say things like this in his letter to Hebrew Christians to show them how the old has given way to the new.

"If that first covenant had been faultless, then no place have been sought for the second" (Heb.8:7).

"In that he says, A new covenant, he has made the first old; now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away" (Heb.8:13).

"He takes away the first, that he may establish the second" (Heb.10:9).

"That which is done away....that which is abolished" (2Cor.3:11-13).

It is in this failure of seeing the uniqueness of the Law of Moses for Israel alone and the reality of Old Covenant's
abolishment/fulfillment in the New Covenant that modern ministers so woefully get it wrong. And why is this important? Next time I'll give my two cents on that.

Paul B.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Ministers are leaders in modern church life. I'm not saying that's the way it should be..but is the way it is. So then leadership leads. But where leadership leads can be disastrous if people follow without question. Modern day ministers, as leaders, are making some huge mistakes in my opinion and I want to gently point out a few that I believe need to be examined carefully. 

Were someone to ask how huge I believe these mistakes are, My answer is..big enough to write about them and that may be because I think too many seem to be following without question.

The first huge mistake is in viewing the role of the pastor as all important. The word "Pastor" only appears once in the scriptures [Elder and Bishop however appear over forty times each.] and out of all the letters written to churches none were addressed to the Pastor. They were generally addressed to the people as the church. 

In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the New Testament who would think of a single person as pastor [local fellowships had a plurality of shepherds/Elders] and they certainly would never make the mistake of thinking of a single person, including a pastor, as the head of the church. That place was reserved for the Lord Jesus Himself. 

No one is disputing the need or purpose for having in the body some who shepherd the flock, but in the New Testament it was never to the point of one man/one teacher/one preacher in any gathered group. [Local Church]. That's a modern day mistake made by those who lead that way and the churches that follow them.

Where it has disastrously led us is to the unbiblical place where you can find a local body [church] having "lost" a pastor to another church. They are, thus, handicapped by being "without a pastor" and cannot function in worship or training until one is "called" and sets out his "vision" for the church.

Do you see where this is going? We may not want to call a pastor the head of the church in Baptist theology but we sure live like he is the head.

A second huge mistake made by modern day ministers as leaders is to think of political processes as the way to change a society into what it ought to be.  No one would disagree that things in America are in a mess. But attempting to change society into what it should be by legislating a particular set of Christian values and ethics through the legal processes is a colossal mistake. It would have been unthinkable in the New Testament.

In doing what I just described, Ministers/leaders are forgetting at best or even possibly purposefully ignoring the fact that New Testament believers lived under some horrible and oppressive political systems and yet never attempted to shame, condemn, change, or force their society to become what it ought to be by their Christian definition

They, rather, spent their time in obedience to their Lord, in loving their enemies, doing good to those who used them, and, rather than attacking their enemies verbally, with grace they presented the message of redemption found in the person and work of Christ who is Himself God's Son and who came for fallen human beings. Yet, by any way you choose to measure it, they turned the world upside down with that simple theology and methodology.

I think the simple reason is they never thought of the church as a business to be developed. To them, they were the church, and the scriptures always spoke of them as being a body, a bride, a temple, a holy nation, a peculiar people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, instructed by the Word of God, belonging to God and strangers to this earth and any era.

It simply would have made no sense to them to form protest groups or establish lobbying groups to change culture or society. That lay in the realm of a returning Lord who will make right all things in its time. 

It was in their message of the gospel that the unique power of God was presented which was sufficient to change people. And it was the deliverance of that message that would not allow any other message to capture their attention or occupy their time and energy. 

More to come.....

Paul B.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I'm writing this as an American citizen who is both appreciative for and concerned about our unique system of government. It is my concern that causes me to reflect on a speech given by Edward Erler, professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino California. Dr. Erler delivered a speech at a National Leadership Seminar held in Dallas Texas last May and has appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on the issue of birthright citizenship as well as being the co-author of a book entitled The Founders On Citizenship And Immigration.

What Dr. Erler said has caught my attention. I'm going to be paraphrasing much of it but will attempt to capture the salient points that serve the purpose of this post.

One of his points made was that the Framers of our Constitution understood limited government in a different manner than is being propagated by the Tea Party movement of the present day. The Tea Party seems to be advocating a limited government which is synonymous with small government and is similar to what the Anti-Federalists held who opposed the ratification of our Constitution. They preferred a form of government in which the states held the top spot of priorities.

The Federalists, on the other hand, viewed it next to impossible to have a States/Federal system because any attempt to hold to both multiple states rights AND federal sovereignty was a lost cause since one or the other would have to give up their sovereignty and that would render ineffective the governing of the whole nation.

The framers decided on a new and unique system never before tried that James Madison called "partly national and partly federal." Madison explained his point this way..."For some purposes we will be one people: for other purposes, we will be many peoples. So for those purposes that concern the nation as a whole___the federal government will have sovereignty___complete and plenary power to accomplish the things assigned to its care in the Constitution."  [Those things are principally found in Article I, section 8 of the Constitution.]

Dr. Erler went on to make a second point that if those assigned federal responsibilities are to be fulfilled, the federal government must be given the necessary means to achieve those ends. He also said..."If this entails large government___and today it does___then large government must be compatible with limited government."

But therein is the rub. If large government IS the antithesis of limited government as the Tea Party SEEMS to be saying, then we're in trouble. However, if limited government IS compatible with large government, because the issue is not the size of government, but the definition of limited, meaning the limited areas of concerns assigned, then we must make sure such assignments to the Fed are carefully approached and undertaken by the Fed in a fashion that does not allow for their violation. The States deserve that inherently. 

So it is obvious that since by "Limited Government" is meant the limited range of responsibilities, then whether a violation does happen or not will always ultimately have to be decided by the Supreme Court of the USA.

I expect some major decisions are on the way. As an American citizen I'm watching and waiting with interest.

Paul B.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I've been privileged to speak at Emmanuel Church, Enid Oklahoma this past Sunday as well as the upcoming September 25th Sunday. 

They asked me to write a brief article for the bulletin on the concluding service of my being with them. I was glad to do so. I just sent it to be published next weekend. 

What I said I would like to pass along to you as well. I'm making a point that is very valuable, it seems to me, concerning those times the church gathers for worship. Do you agree?

I'm so glad for a fellowship that is real. Mary and I have traveled rather extensively and are experienced with attending every size and flavor of local congregations. Not all are real.

What I mean by that is that, all too often, "going to church" takes on a "mask" kind of mentality. Whatever shape or form that mask takes, its purpose is to hide the real person, especially if pain, hurt and struggle are all part of that person's journey. Who wants to be real when real isn't too pretty? Right?

Well, real is beautiful, if the truth be known, and the alternative of pretense and fakery are about as ugly as people can get.

Jesus lived in reality. The woman at the well was a benefactor of that reality. Her failures and hurts didn't turn Him away and were some of the stuff that made the reality of Jesus so potent in that encounter.

Every time Mary and I attend Emmanuel we go away with that sense of reality the woman at the well must have experienced in the Lord. Mary and I struggle and fail, [and are open about it] but just keep going in our journey together.  But that doesn't seem to bother you folks at Emmanuel. In fact, you seem to thrive on accepting people who are on that kind of messy journey. 

Well, here is a "thanks" from two who love sharing the real journey with you. It's been our joy to be with you the past two Sundays.

Paul B.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


I'm known as a rebel by many who know me well and after this post I may also be known as a cynic. Although I think that would will miss the mark of reality a bit. I'm saying this because I want to address something that has bothered me for several years now and seems to be getting worse instead of better. It is the use of what I call Christian-ese.

Christian-ese, which cannot be found in Webster's dictionary, is a word of recent vintage that has come to define certain words or phrases used by Christians in everyday language that have become not much more than meaningless cliches. Christian-ese has developed over the past few years among some Christians and now seems to be something of a secret, coded language and is almost a badge worn by people who appear to find their comfort zone to be only with others like themselves. But I'm concerned that it may, in fact, unconciously feed a need to be known as spiritual as opposed to carnal. [Who can know the motives of another person with any certainty!]

My basic concern with all this is Three-fold.

One thing is that the Christian-ese lingo is generally thought of as conveying biblical truth when it doesn't really do that at all. "I feel in my heart God wants me to______" is not a biblical method for knowing and doing God's will. "Let this MIND be in you...who THOUGHT it not good to remain equal with God..." is the biblical pattern. [Phil. 2:5-6] The Bible always speaks of the thinking processes when discovering and doing the will of God. Paul said..."It seemed good to me."...when addressing something to be done except on rare occasions.

 In Romans 14 when addressing making choices about questionable things his advise was NOT "Feel God impressing your heart"...but "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own  mind." [14:5b]He said in another place.. "For we have the mind of Christ" [1 Corinth. 2:16]  which is further indication that it is the mind that is as important as anything in Christianity, with all due respect to anyone who might think Christians are only ignorant and emotional.

A second concern is that such lingo too often becomes a source of measuring spirituality or spiritual growth.  I've met new believers who sometimes end up feeling inferior or less "spiritual" because they don't know all the "right" phrases yet. Or worse, they think someone is spiritual who does use the language.

The truth is it doesn't measure true spirituality at all and, in reality, may hide an immaturity behind that kind of language. To continually say, as I once did, "well, praise the Lord,"  at ever opportunity, may sounds as if we're spiritually minded in all things, when in fact it can be as vain and empty as those who say "Well, fiddlesticks" [or worse] at every opportunity.  I'm speaking from personal experience here as you can probably tell.  

But a third concern is my greatest. It seems to me that it may forge an unnecessary stumbling block for unbelievers. I often wonder if non-believers hear some Christians talking and think, "Ugh, there go those Christians on their high-horse again using their silly, secret coded language." I know that I have that reaction sometimes and I'm in sympathy with the Christian message completely. It seems to me when we Christians develop our own private language to be used with one another, we may have really forgotten how Jesus made Himself accessible to ordinary people. Using Christian-ese often does exactly the opposite which models the Pharisees rather than the Messiah. 

 But therein lies the real problem. Our message of the gospel is, in and of itself, offensive to the natural mind anyway. We don't need to create unnecessary obstacles which trite, empty, meaningless, cliches tend to do. I think we, as Christians, may need a new discovery of Koine-English [Common English] as an effective tool of communication much as the early Christians found Koine-Greek [Common Greek] to be an effective tool for conveying the gospel message.

Let me give just a few examples of some Christian-ese phrases along with what is probably meant if the truth were to be known.

"I feel in my heart God wants me to_______"  Translated means... "I'm going to do it and I hope it's the right thing to do."

"I'm still waiting for God to open some doors."  Translated means... "I don't have a clue about what I'm going to do and I'm hesitant to do anything."

"I can't do_______, so Christ in me will have to do it."  Translated means... "I'm struggling with wanting to do this at all and sure don't want to do it right now."

"I need to share with you where the devil is attacking me."  Translated means..."I want to tell you where I'm struggling and some of my failures and I feel badly about them."

I'm wondering why we can't, as the post title puts it, say what we mean and mean what we say? 

Of course the answer to all this isn't to "not speak at all" but rather to talk like normal people and act in such a fashion [Grace, acceptance, forgiveness, love, integrity] that our lives stir some to ask us about what makes the difference in us and then share the truth of our Lord. 

I think that is what could be called...Christianity.  

If you wish to... just for fun...add any words or phrases that you view as the best illustrations of Christian-ese in the comment section.

Paul B.