Saturday, September 1, 2012


Should time continue, our gospel meeting at the Archdale church of Christ in Charlotte begins tomorrow night, 2 September, 2012, at 6 p.m.  It is entitled; "That Ye May Be Healed."  We are making no political statement whatsoever.  Our goal is to publicly preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to a city in the world spotlight this week as the DNC is holding its national convention here.

We do not call our gospel meetings "revivals."  "Revivals" in the American tradition are public, contrived and staged events.  They are dominated by various forms of religious entertainment and wild emotion.  "Revivals" are events that attempt to manipulate a "reviving" of the collective heart and soul.  Biblical revival, on the other hand, is a private, humiliating and mournful experience between an individual Christian and his / her God.  The church is revived only when the individuals within Her bring their broken and contrite souls back to the Father begging Him to restore their spiritual lives.  Biblical revival is a gift of restoration from the Heavenly Father to His ailing child.

Why is revival so urgently needed?  Peter puts it very simply in I Peter 4.17 - 19:

1. Judgement begins at the House of God
2. The righteous will scarcely be saved
3. The ungodly and the sinner have no standing at the Judgement

I need reviving and you need reviving so that we, first as individuals and then as a congregation, will speak of God's amazing grace to the vast ocean of sinners around us every day.  

Tomorrow morning we will study the revival of just one man, King Josiah, who by asking for and receiving God's revival kept an entire nation from destruction for 31 years!  What will YOUR revival do?  Or will you have one?  The choice is yours.  BE THERE!  Our texts are from I Peter 4, Psalms 85 and II Chronicles 34.  Read them ahead of time.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Case For Engagement

During the War Between the States there was a cavalry engagement at Thompson's Station, TN near Nashville.  The Southern force was being pressed from both their front and rear.  When asked for orders the Southern commander replied; "Charge in both directions!"  They won the day.

I am reminded of that line in the great hymn, Just As I Am.  
Fightings within and fears without, oh Lamb of God, I come, I come!
The church of Christ today continues to face the foes of sin and strife from outside the body of Christ as she has since the beginning.  She is also facing today those within who are attempting her destruction.  Jude refers to these as those "who have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation..." - Jude 4 (ESV)  In a way of speaking, they "came in through the side door unnoticed."

None of us can judge anyone else among us, that is up to God and only God.  However, there are those who insist upon the division of the Body of Christ in order to possess the instrument.  It truly is an "instrument of division."  They must be confronted, engaged and stopped!  Paul clearly teaches in Romans 14.23 that if any Christian holds a divisive opinion he "should keep it between (him)self and God." (ESV)  Regardless of all the biblical reasons to reject the instrument, it should NEVER be adopted for it divides the Body of Christ.  Not only does it divide the Body as a whole, it often divides congregations.  Many "double minded" elderships purposely divide their flocks between so-called "traditional" and "contemporary" worship hours.  Two worships, two assemblies and two interpretations of the Bible. Which is right?  Which is wrong?  Who is right?  Who is wrong?  James tells us that "a double minded man is unstable in all his ways." - James 1.8.  Elijah the great prophet asked the Baal worshiping Israelites of his day; "How long will you go limping between two different opinions?" - I King 18.21b (ESV)  There is no such thing as a "multiple truth" where both parties can be right before God simultaneously while advocating two different things.
The instrument cannot be both right and wrong!
 "IF" we assert that the instrument is wrong we must say so!  If we no longer believe it we must adopt it's use and begin teaching that those who fail to use it are in error before God.  Compromise is not an option for compromise is just another word for surrender and lukewarmness.  It is time we engaged the dividers of the Body with the truth proclaimed in love.

In times past brethren who disagreed would hold a public, logical, reasonable and monitored debate so that ideas and facts could be presented in a non-emotional setting.  Today, debates in the true sense of the word are nearly extinct.  Taking their place today are  un-monitored, emotional and opinionated rantings in the most prominent media vehicle among churches of Christ, The Christian Chronicle.  In the current on-line edition of the paper (today being 14 May 2012) there appears an article examining the question as to whether or not the instrument faction is seeing a rise in attendance because of the devise.  As I am writing this article there have been 36 responses.  Of those responses, only 4 quote or refer to any Scripture!  That makes only 11.1% of those responses, at least partly, based on Scripture.  This writer attempted on several occasions over the last two days to post Scripture based responses but, for whatever reason, they are no longer there.

Why assert engagement?  James makes it simple; "My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." - James 5.19-20 (ESV)

Won't YOU engage?  Just go to this link, scroll to the bottom and write your Scripture based comments for all our erring brethren to see.  Perhaps some will repent!

The general flavor of the comments posted rest upon the assumption that to use or not to use the instrument is just an "opinion."  God does not really care if we do or not use it - so appears the typical sentiment.  In fact, there is a certain syncretistic overtone to all of this, a sort of "we can have it both ways" if you please.    This reminds me of the syncretism of the State of Israel from the time of Jeroboam until the Babylonian exile.    Websters On Line Dictionary defines the term as: "the combination of different forms of belief and practice."  ["We will take the instrument while you do not but your'e o.k. and I'm o.k.  We both can be right though our faith and practice is 180 degrees apart."]  THEY wanted it both ways; "We can serve Yahweh AND Baal!"  "Not only that we can change the priesthood, we can alter the focus of our worship and we can change the place of worship.  God won't care..."  Well, He DID care.  He sent prophet after prophet, not to those outside of the covenant, but to those "wandering sinners" inside the covenant.  These prophets were not so-called "defenders of the faith," they were proclaimers of a message of repentance.  That, my friends, is OUR role as we seek to lovingly engage the advocates of the "instrument of division." Our engagement is one of repentance, renewal and restoration while God's mercy tarries.  The need is eternally urgent for we can see, as it were, the dust of the approaching Babylonians just over the next hill. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Growing Papal Influence Within Emerging churches of Christ – Apostasy Redux?

How the “Tail of Tradition” is Wagging the “Theological Dog” in a Growing Number of Congregations Among Us

Benedictine Papal Coat of Arms rendering courtesy of

All over our fair city one is finding advertisements for many “holy week” observances. Here, and elsewhere, congregations claiming to be churches of Christ are advertising “holy week” observances such as  “Good Friday” and / or “Easter” worship services.  We must, therefore, ask the question; “Are these celebrations biblical?”  Did Jesus and His Apostles command such celebrations?  Did the Apostles celebrate these things themselves?  Did they even infer that such celebrations were allowed?  The answer is a resounding, NO!

From Matthew to Revelation we find nary a trace of anything called “Holy Week.”  To add such celebrations to the Holy Scripture would be presumptuous, arrogant and wrong.  How, then, did the several observances of “Holy Week” come into being?  The so-called “Holy Week” has six components:

·         Ash Wednesday
·         Lent
·         Palm Sunday
·         Maundy Thursday
·         Good Friday
·         Easter Sunday

What do all of these celebrations have in common?  They are all Roman Catholic in origin and have “meanings” that are allegorically assigned.   Allegorical interpretive methods were adopted by the apostate church beginning in the 2nd century based most notably upon the teachings of the so-called “church father,” Origen.  Origen taught that all Scripture has multiple meanings and each individual can interpret the Scripture based upon their own individual experiences, understandings and stories.  The RCC then began to assign “meanings” to Scripture erroneously (in error.)  Strangely, even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that these celebrations were unknown in the first century:

…there seems much to suggest that the Church in the Apostolic Age designed to commemorate the Resurrection of Christ, not by an annual, but by a weekly celebration.[1]

Before you take umbrage at your writer, the claim that Origen’s Platonic philosophy[2] is the foundation of “tradition over revelation,” please note that such is not my claim but the claim of Pope Benedict XVI himself!  Here is what the self-proclaimed “vicar of Christ” said about Origen just five years ago this month:

In our meditations on the great figures of the ancient Church, today we will get to know one of the most outstanding. Origen of Alexandria is one of the key people for the development of Christian thought. He draws on the teachings he inherited from Clement of Alexandria, whom we reflected upon last Wednesday, and brings them forward in a totally innovative way, creating an irreversible turn in Christian thought.  He was a true teacher; this is how his students nostalgically remembered him: not only as a brilliant theologian, but as an exemplary witness of the doctrine he taught.  In substance, he grounded theology in the explanations of the Scriptures; or we could also say that his theology is the perfect symbiosis between theology and exegesis. In truth, the characterizing mark of Origen's doctrine seems to reside in his incessant invitation to pass from the letter to the spirit of the Scriptures, to progress in the knowledge of God.  And this "allegoristic" approach, wrote von Balthasar, coincides precisely "with the development of Christian dogma carried out by the teachings of the doctors of the Church," who -- in one way or another -- accepted the "lesson" of Origen. In this way, Tradition and the magisterium, foundation and guarantee of theological research, reach the point of being "Scripture in act."[3]

Just what does the pope mean when he uses the phrase “Scripture in act?”  He means that, based upon Origen, church tradition in practice…over time…becomes “revelation.”  In other words, church tradition practiced over time TRUMPS Scripture!  Thus, even though NONE of these “holy week” observances are commanded, exampled or inferred in the Word of God…they are “Scripture in act” due to their centuries old practice by papal directive…according to the pope. 

Here is a short history of these allegorical additions to God’s complete Will…“the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”  -  Jude 3 (KJV):

1)    1) ASH WEDNESDAY – Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the 40 days of Lent.  The name comes from the practice of taking the ashes from the previous years burnt palm leaves form “Palm Sunday” and spreading them on the foreheads of parishioners in the form of a cross.  This is said to be representative of “mourning and repentance.”  This supposedly prepares the adherents for the 40 days of Lent following. Historically, Ash Wednesday was first celebrated annually beginning around the year 960.

2)      2) LENT – The word “Lent” is from the old English word lencten which means to “lengthen” and was used to describe the longer days of the spring season.  The time span of “Lent” was totally allegorical and imaginative.  It was based upon the fact that Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness as He prepared for His temptation.  Other allegorical assignments were also made:

The duration of the season of Lent is based on the ancient church custom of requiring catechumens to undergo a forty-day period of doctrinal instruction and fasting before being baptized on the evening before Easter This probationary period was called the quarantine (from the Latin word for forty). [4]

The annual celebration of Lent dates to the mid 5th century and is noted by several church historians of that time; Leo, Socrates and Jerome.

3)      PALM SUNDAY – Palm Sunday was never celebrated in the apostolic era and apparently not annually celebrated until the 6th century at the very earliest.[5]

4)      MAUNDY THURSDAY – Thursday is the traditional day of the Lord’s Supper.  “Maunday” comes from the Latin term mandatum novum, meaning new commandment.  It is also known as “Holy Thursday” or “Green Thursday.”

Zelený čtvrtek (Green Thursday) is how the Czechs and Moravians refer to Maundy Thursday. One explanation is that in many places, before the thirteenth century, green vestments were used for the Mass that day. Another is that this is a reference to "the Green Ones," the penitents who, being re-admitted to the Church, wore sprigs of green herbs to express their joy.[6] 

5)      GOOD FRIDAY – The annual celebration of both Good Friday and Easter date to, at the earliest, the 2nd century A.D.  Though unknown in the 1st century, these two festivals were the earliest of practiced “Holy Week” observances from a historical standpoint.

6)      EASTER – The word “Easter” comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word, eostre.  The word generally came to refer to the “spring season.”  It has clear pagan overtones since the word was the name for the so-called goddess of spring:

This mythical figure is said to have been the goddess of the sunrise and the spring. She is the Teutonic goddess of the dawn. The direction of the sunrise, East, is named for her. In Norse mythology, the name is spelled Eostare. Another considered the Norse/Saxon goddess of spring is Ostara. Eastre is believed to be an ancient word for spring.[7]


Any and all “Holy Week” celebrations are at best extra-biblical and at worst un-biblical.  They are all allegorical, presumptuous and self centered.  They were created by men for men and do not glorify God in any way, shape, matter or form.  We were called, not to “Holy Week” but to holy living!  We celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ EVERY Lord’s Day during the Lord’s Supper and not during an annual celebration of so-called “Holy Week.” 

With all due love and respect for our erring brethren, the embrace of Roman Catholic “holy week” (or significant parts thereof) tradition constitutes a theological un-equal yoking with un-believers.  Sadly, a large number of churches of Christ are now heeding the words of Pope Benedict XVI more than the words of God’s Holy Word by accepting, instead, the magisterium.  For a biblical perspective on how God wants us to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, read I Corinthians 11. 23 – 34.  Let us go back to the Bible and avoid an apostasy redux.

– Russ McCullough – 8 April 2012

NOTE: An "Emerging church of Christ" is a congregation focusing on it's own "theological evolution" rather than eternal and static truth.  For more information on the "emerging church," read Brian McLaren's 
A Generous Orthodoxy.

[2] Plato understood Homer allegorically and so Origen taught that God’s Word could be understood allegorically as well.  An allegory is a fictional illustration of a point of fiction.  Such allegories have multiple meanings and multiple interpretations – after all, it’s only fiction!
[3] Origene: il mondo, Cristo e la Chiesa," tr. it., Milano 1972, p. 43. (Benedict XVI. Homily On Origen of Alexandria. Vatican City. Zenit - April 25, 2007).  [RM NOTE: According to the Catholic Encyclopedia On Line, Magesterium & Tradition is defined thusly: “The word refers sometimes to the thing (doctrine, account, or custom) transmitted from one generation to another sometimes to the organ or mode of the transmission.”]

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Un or Non Denominational?

The current issue (April 2012) of the Christian Chronicle leads with this headline:

Declining Numbers, but Signs of Hope?

NEW DIRECTORY for Churches of Christ in the U.S. shows a loss of members and congregations.  At the same time, interest in non-denominational Christianity soars.

What does reporter Erik Tryggestad find as “signs of hope?”  Here are some quotations from the story:

They (young Christians) just don’t see why it (the Lord’s church) must have the words “Church of Christ” on its building…

Our generation wants more Jesus and not more tradition.

We’re all about relationship…

…many Lipscomb students attend ETHOS CHURCH, a congregation started by a former campus minister for the university.  The church meets in the Cannery Ballroom, a downtown Nashville bar and music venue and has multiple worship services, all with instruments.  The Harpeth Hills church of Christ in Brentwood, TN. helped fund the church as it began.

Young Christians don’t look for the name “Church of Christ” when choosing a place to worship…And we’re not looking for instrumental music…We’re looking for how we can connect with God.

We used to say, “We are Christians only but not the only Christians.”  What happened to that?[1]

Two things are disturbing here.  First of all, with one exception, specific Scripture citations are missing.[2]  In addition, history has been rewritten to suit the present day.
First and foremost, the church of Christ is not a denomination nor is it "non-denominational."
The blood bought Body of Christ is UN - denominational.
Jesus promised to build His church (singular) in Matthew 16.18 - 20.  In Acts 2.41, 47 we read that His promised singular church was established on the Day of Pentecost and "God added to that church (singular) daily those who were being saved." Words mean things.  The word “denomination” is a mathematical term meaning “division.”  The bottom number of a fraction is known as the “denominator.”  A denomination, by definition, is a division from the original. 

The phrase "non-denominational" is bandied about by those denominationalists (in current semantical usage) who advocate religious pluralism.  In reality, “non-denominationalism” is the mixing together of many denominations together into a singular setting.  It is not the rejection of denominationalism, it is the acceptance of multiple denominations! 

This view is marketed by some among us with the phrase; "We are Christians only, but not the only Christians."  In real history, this phrase was used to describe the fact that un-denominational Christianity was springing up all over the American frontier and those finding the truth of the gospel did so without any knowledge or contact with other New Testament Christians in other locations. Today this quotation has been co-opted by many departing churches of Christ who embrace the so-called "emerging church" theories of non-Christian theologians. 

To those who celebrate these "other Christians," please consider these questions: 1) Who are these "other Christians?"  2) How did these "other Christians" become such?  3) When did God begin adding Christians (those who have repented of their sins and have been baptized for the remission of those sins in the Name of Jesus) to churches other than the church of Christ? 

The purpose and mission of the singular church of Christ was clearly articulated by our Lord in Matthew 28.18 -20.  We, too, should “be about our Father’s business.” We are to make disciples, baptize and to teach all things taught by Christ in the gospels, the Acts, the epistles and the Revelation for “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.”  Our mission is to preach and teach the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, the very same gospel proclaimed by Peter and the rest of the apostles on the Day of Pentecost.  It is NOT for us to become just another “non-denominational” denomination. 

[1] All quotations are from: Erik Tryggestad in “Declining Numbers, but signs of hope?” The Christian Chronicle, Vol. 69, No. 4, April 2012.  From page 1 continued on page 10
[2] The only Scripture citation is a generic reference to the Pentecostian congregation in Jerusalem.  (Acts 2)   The text is used as a “proof text” that this congregation was prototypical for all congregations which would follow.  Such Is not the case.