Friday, April 27, 2012


Piers Anthony, a British author, once said, “When one person makes an accusation, check to be sure he himself is not the guilty one. Sometimes it is those whose case is weak who make the most clamour.”

Turning the spotlight away from ourselves, is the most comfortable position. It focusses attention on the place where the light shines.

From my own observations over more than fifty years in the church scene, that is also true of many who claim to be Christians.

Anthony's statement also holds true of those who are quick to gossip about such accusations.

The truth of this statement is a sensitive issue for me since my best friend, a highly respected pastor, to whom I owe much, was accused of having an affair.

He was sensitive to the needs of others, and was a truer servant of God than any other pastor I've known in my long life, and, as I was later to find out, suffered from bipolar disorder, something he hid very well.

My dear friend committed suicide, leaving a note which stated that he could not live with the shame that the accusations caused for his wife, family, and church.

The saddest part of this story IS NOT the accusation, as sad as it is, but that it was widely reported, and that it was PROVEN to be FALSE.

This sensitive servant of God had his life cut short by his own hand, most likely assisted by his bipolar disorder.

The much greatest assistance was by the tongues and pens of those who ran with the story, or should I say, the latest hot gossip.

It's a mystery that we, who claim to belong to Christ, can be so quick to condemn the failures of others, whether supposed or real, and at the same time forget that, our Lord received us unto Himself, without condemnation, but amazing grace.

Maybe it's not such a mystery, but a simple matter of religion rather than true membership in the Body of Christ? Self-righteousness rather than the grace of imputed righteousness?

It's quite amazing how the discomfort of a lump of wood in one's eye can pale into insignificance compared to the speck of sawdust in another's eye!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Since posting the latest blog, I've read an article by an octogenarian, retired medical doctor, who, with his now deceased wife, ministered in Africa as a Baptist Medical Missionary, for many years. His name is Jack Gray and now resides in New Zealand. His blog, The Pilgrim Path. will stimulate a response, one way or another :)

His words in his testimony, "My Search for The Church" caused me to reflect on my previous post. Here is a man who has experience of which I wrote:

"These days marked the greatest transition of my life as a Christian, a beginning of the dying out to church as I had known it, to allow God to reveal Church as He would have it. That death has not been sudden and clean, but slow, sometimes painful and progressive. The religious habits of a lifetime and the mind-set of years do not expire easily. The months that followed were not easy, but we constantly received encouragement from the Lord in various remarkable ways, and over the past three and a half years we have been coming to a new understanding and experience of the Body of Christ. What we perceive as yet dimly, and what we are experiencing encourage us not to look back, but to press on."

In another article"What is the Church?" he writes:

Recently I have been culling my library, sorting out what I want to keep and what I can discard. A little paperback entitled "Invitation to Pilgrimage" nearly went into the discard box, but something made me hold it back to read it again after the many years since I first bought it. It was written by an eminent theologian of the Church of Scotland, John Baillie, and it was his attempt to present the Christian faith to his academic colleagues who were not believers. I found much of profit in all of the book, but it was in the last chapter, "Invitation to Church" that I found a passage which thrilled my heart with its ring of truth, and with its harmony with all that Paul and other New Testament writers taught us about the church.

Here is the passage:
"The Christian Church is neither a local thing, nor a human thing, but is universal and divine. It has nothing to do with place or race, nor is it an association created by men for their own purposes. The Church is a divine society, created by God Himself; a society to which men are elected, not by human vote, but by the grace of God; a society whose one condition of membership is faith in God's forgiving love. It is indeed a human society in that its members are men and women, but it is a divine society in that its Head, on whom all its life depends, is the Son of God." 

Jack writes, "......... those brave enough to venture forth trusting in the reality of the divine society, created by God Himself, and drawing its life from the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ and joined together by the Holy Spirit, are "Church Discoverers":

"If I have truly been, as John Baillie puts it, "Elected to this society not by human vote but by the grace of God", and if the ground of my membership is "Faith in God's forgiving love", then I am indissolubly incorporated in God's Church. I belong to "The assembly of the first-born, who are enrolled in heaven" (Hebrews 12:23) The Church is not some organisation which I may of my own will and choice join. To God's Church I have to be joined by an act of God, to be "baptised by the one Spirit into the one body." (1 Corinthians 12:13)

As Jack intimates, the Surgeon's knife, of which I previously blogged, is not comfortable, but is full of blessing! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's been made clear, in my own life experience, and I suspect in others such as my blogging friend Paul, that during our life since professing trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, that God progressively interacts with us in an ever-changing, and intensifying manner.

He begins very gently, almost imperceptibly, yet never-the-less unrelentingly, as He surgically operates on all our claims of faith and practice, our belief systems which we have been taught as authoritative.

He uses His scalpel to reveal the audacious pre-conceptions which prevent us from making any objective evaluation about the pretensions about ourselves and others.

He gets down to the depths of the delusions and falsehoods we perpetuate about ourselves and others, as well as the habitual practices our traditions have spawned, as well as the ugly formalism about which I have previously posted.

What He does is nothing to do with some ritual, or religious ceremony, in which we have become so adept.

Our Sovereign God, by the working of His Spirit, does what amounts to a quiet surgical exploration into our innermost being.

Who are the recipients of this work of God?

The Apostle Paul had caught a grasp of the answer to that question:

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1Cor. 2:12-13 ESV)

The answer of course is, only those who are members of God's Family by the convincing, convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God!

Membership in a chosen religious institution/denomination/order will never qualify us to receive the privilege of God's great surgical work. As members of the human race all will receive of His wider grace, but will never fully understand the full measure of His saving grace, and the ongoing deeper work of His Spirit.

We can sweat and strain to follow religious customs, traditions and laws, and He will graciously allow us our fantasy, exercising His great grace when we fail.

Those who are truly His will find that His ongoing exploration of our innermost being will continue revealing many surprises about what we thought we are, and knew.

What He reveals He already knows, but like our growing children, we simply do not know everything that Father knows, even though we might think we do.

Like all operations, there is discomfort afterwards, and a period of recovery. Like all operations, we learn something about ourselves we didn't want to know.

We also learn something precious about our loving Father! 


Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Family of God

From my reading of Scripture I cannot conceive that God's idea of the Church His Son is building is what the community, calling itself Christian, has actually accomplished, with the diversity of congregations, preaching-places, or just meetings!

Assemblies, or congregations of people calling themselves Christians, have been constituted by techniques of human ingenuity, all claiming to be based on the New Testament, each with its system of doctrine and practice, some in stark contrast to others.

It seems to me that God's idea is the creation of a spiritual family; a Family marked and ordered by love for God, as revealed in Jesus Christ, whose outworking of life will express itself according to what Scripture reveals.

In that Family, a unit, which Peter calls, living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.(1 Pet. 2:5)

This Family belongs to God. They are His Family through the functioning of His Holy Spirit, His people!

Every one of them have been indwelt by His Spirit to take up spiritual responsibility, which He has distributed to every one of them (1 Cor.12:7).

As the building material of “living stones” (Pet. above) they are an organic building whose growth is as differing from the organised, externally formulated development which we have come to accept, as chalk is to cheese, the spiritual results of which are as easily measurable .

God, who, after all is the Architect has a blueprint which has ONE Stone from which every other dimension is measured (Eph. 2:20), especially the rest of the foundations, as our verse reveals. The “living stones” which of which the rest of His Family, Church, or people are bonded to the foundation, and to each other, by the love, which first comes from God (1 John 4:19). This mutual love, is not predicated on pet doctrines.

Mutual Family love begins by spiritual birth, which is the placing of an individual spiritual stone, in the one organic entity of God's Family. Mutual Family love DOES NOT come by adherence to a doctrinal code, statement of beliefs, or by joining.

Its intended purpose is not determined by its size or it's statements about what it believes, but by the outworking of spiritual life of love and service to others as a measure of the indwelling of Christ by His Spirit.

There nothing stilted, artificial or formalistic, because God's Family is what any healthy natural family would be in respect of its corporate life as Family.

The spiritual growth of God's Family will be evidenced by the proof of spoken testimony being seen in the way the Holy Spirit works through Family members, in ministering to one another, and the multiplication of itself in the establishment of new families.

This is the way the local expressions of the God's people, His Family, ought to be. This is what God intended for His Family as it gives visible form to Himself and His principles.

This outworking is not induced by external pressures by others, through organization or formulas, but is totally spontaneously produced internally as a fruit of the indwelling Spirit.

It is rather clear that God is allowing a strong sense of unease by many who are involved in traditional organized Christianity which has been substituted for genuine, freedom in the outward expression of life in the Family of God.

The Apostle Paul speaks of the full spiritual capacity given to all who trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, in Colossians 2:6-23 (ESV).

Either these truths have been forgotten or never understood:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands.  

Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

It seems to me that Paul's message to the local expression of God's family in Colossae, has morphed into something like this:

So then,just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in your doctrinal distinctives, rooted and built up in those traditions, strengthened by your statements of faith as you were taught, overflowing with loyalty to your leaders.

See to it that no one takes you captive by causing you to check what you are taught as to how it accords with Scripture.

For in your strict accord with your traditions the fulness of Deity lives in bodily form, in which you will find completeness. Your leaders has been accorded power and authority, in whom you were circumcised from your responsibility to think, with a circumcision of a kind. Your whole self has been put off to be ruled by human flesh, in which you are raised from burial in baptism, through your loyalty to leaders.

The last paragraph speaking about the forgiveness of sins is far too liberating, so we pretend it is not there, for convenience sake. Anyway, it takes away the leverage many leaders appear to have in controlling "their" people.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Through the Apostle Paul, God assigned the Church the title of 'The Body of Christ'. It is "the Church which is His Body.”
That terminology is basic to all that the letter reveals.

Now the word "together" impresses me as to its use in the letters. In the ESV,four times in this letter, and thirty-six times in Paul's letters (I'm including Hebrews).

Eph_2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Eph_2:21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
Eph_2:22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Eph_4:16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Several versions add a fifth “together” in Eph. 1:10.we are said to have been gathered together under one head, the risen Christ, hence Paul's use of “in Him” as he continues.
We have been corporately made alive to a new spiritual reality,”in Him”, with a corporate result in view,”so that it builds itself up in love”.

This corporate mind set displayed by Paul is repeated throughout his letters,:
Rom._12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function,
Rom._12:5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
1Cor._10:17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
1Cor._12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
1Cor._12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
1Cor._12:14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
1Cor._12:18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
1Cor._12:20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
1Cor_12:25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
Eph._2:16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
Eph._4:4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—
Col._3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Paul, without doubt, sees the body into which believers are called, as a singular entity.

Peter, in 1Pet. 2:4-5, sees this body as a single entity, when he writes, “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.
a spiritual house”, “a holy priesthood”, a single entity.
The life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus was expressly  forthe establishment of this singular entity,which is the full number together, of those who rest in His finished work.

Ephesians 2:6 is part of the same sentence as the preceding verse where we are said to be "made alive together" in Him.

Furthermore the “us”, Paul and the believers in Ephesus, he mentions as being made alive, are mentioned again,"seated us with him".

Now, it's very interesting that these believers are now addressed as “you”, who “ are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household (singular) of God (2:19).

This very household has, very reasonably, a foundation (singular), which in 2:21, we are told has one “cornerstone” who is Jesus Christ, along with the apostles and prophets making up the rest of the foundation.

The fact that the Church is a single,corporate Body, at the moment of Paul's writing; Christ's work of grace is completed; it's not something that God has planned for the future, but as Paul writes, the Body is!

The parochialism which blinds us to what God says His Church is, is sin.

Paul's letter to the Ephesians, reveals what the work of Jesus Christ was all about, it is the unveiling of the mystery of Christ and His members, The Church, the one Body, and it clearly states the fact the Body is one, not several.

The Apostle isn't making an argument or a case for this singular nature of the Body or the Church, nor is this a discussion. He states the fact. It is settled for him, and it ought to be for us.

The Ephesians letter as it is written, declares the Body, the Church, as a solid whole, a corporate unity, which has One Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is built of those who have been spiritually awakened to trust what Jesus has accomplished, that which was fully realized as He cried,”It is finished!”, and for what He is now the Advocate (1 John 2:1).

Whilst writing this I read a blogger I have come to appreciate and respect very much, Paul Burleson, who, today asked the question, "Do I believe in local churches?"

I'm not being pedantic when I answer,”No!”

Let me explain what I mean.

I believe in ONE Church, which can be represented by local people who trust the finished work of Christ, and as those who have received His Holy Spirit , now express His love for one another, and who, “….consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another....”.

These represent The Church, and are a local expression of The Church!

The Church, the Body of which we speak, is Christ in living union with His own.

A special building which we call "the Church", IS NOT THE CHURCH.

A religious institution, whether it calls itself Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, or some other name, and which you call "the Church", IS NOT THE CHURCH.

THE CHURCH IS, all who trust the finished work of Jesus Christ on their behalf, believers in living union with the risen Lord.
This Church is not a figure, or representation of a future dream.

It IS the present reality!

Our parochialism, which is reinforced by the "my church", or, "our church" idea, results in an attitude which stands in the way of that reality being seen.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


A question posed in response to the previous blog prompted me to re-post this, which I then entitled "The Congregation of God", At the time I was seeking to find some way of separating our modern concept of "church" from the Biblical concept of the Church.


Is human beings, people who have been called by the Holy Spirit into a family relationship with God the Father; a relationship created by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and embraced through the unearned gift of saving faith in His finished work.

Is recognized only by that initial relationship with God the Father and the common familial relationship which result with others who are called, all having only one recognized Head, the Lord, Jesus Christ. .

Can never be initially recognized by common institutional, organizational membership.

Is led by those who have, over a period of years, gradually been recognized by virtue of their exhibiting the Scriptural gifts and qualifications of leadership, by fellow believers, with whom they are in relationship.

Is where each individual, whether male or female, is understood to have personal and spiritual worth as a brother or sister in family, under the headship of the one Head, and able to contribute according to the gifts and qualifications, which each one called inevitably has, of membership in that family;

Is where each member of the family is understood to be traveling a road of many twists and turns, which is common to all, with difficult obstacles, some of which, depending on the individual needs, all will need help to traverse, no matter how long since the journey began.

Is, because they are family, able to worship God by the way they live, work, play, and study their common faith, share, sing and pray, in Christ centered, Spirit endowed unity, regardless of differences.

Is a family who is more concerned about making disciples of others who are encouraged to form new families, rather than the original family getting larger and enriching themselves with real estate, buildings and comforts.

Is a spiritual family where it is normal for conversations to center on family matters which are for the mutual building up of each other towards spiritual maturity.

Is a family which continually devotes themselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to times of prayer, expecting God to work amongst them and those for whom they pray.

Is a family which shows the wider community that they are disciples, by their love for one another, and prove for all to witness, the Scriptural truth that because God loves them, they cannot help but love, reaching out in humility, mercy and grace, and without favor, to the non-family people around them, reflecting the Christ to whom they belong.