Thursday, December 28, 2017

Dying Assemblies

Our assemblies are dying because they're not fulfilling their God-given purpose.

Our church leaders "learned" in the 1950s that the purpose for assemblies is to "worship correctly", which puts the focus on singing right and preaching the right message and doing the Lord's Supper right and controlling who can say what when and all these "regulations", which have the appearance of wise worship.

There's nothing wrong with these things, but that's not what our leaders should focus on. Our leaders were given to us for a different purpose:
WEB Eph 4:[11 ]He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; [12 ]for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ...
If you're a church leader, and you're not helping your sheep mature to the point of serving and building, you're not doing your job.

Your purpose is not to conduct a "God-pleasing worship service". Your purpose is to conduct a personal-growth seminar.

Paul writes this same message elsewhere:
WEB 1 Cor 14:[26 ]What is it then, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has another language, has an interpretation. Let all things be done to build each other up.

It's about training each member of the flock to develop and use his own God-given gifts, whatever those gifts are, to be used in the service of God's kingdom.

Can you imagine the difference we'd make in the world if we were producing armies of men and women trained to use their skill-sets in the work of the kingdom? Medical researchers giving sight to the blind. Lawyers defending the rights of the oppressed. Film-makers drawing in block-buster crowds to be influenced to no longer steal but to work productive lives. Business managers who keep the books honestly. Employers who "do right" by their employees. Engineers who develop life-enhancing products cheap enough for third-world countries. Farmers who feed the starving. Spiritual advisors who pray in Jesus' name with their clients. Public speakers who inspire listeners to make the right choices in life. Power-point developers who make God's message vibrant and alive. Software programmers who hide God-honoring easter eggs in their work. Singers who put the Norman Fishing-Tackle Choir to shame. People who make a difference in the world, because their God-given talents were developed by godly leaders who have learned to recognize and nurture those talents in each individual.

From Jesus' first public sermon:
KJV Luke 4:[18 ] The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised....
The assemblies are not about worship (although that does take place in the assembly). The assembly is about identifying and nurturing each one of us to do good works:
WEB Heb 10:[24 ]Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, [25 ]not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.
That may mean breaking away from our traditions of two songs, a prayer, a song, the Lord's Supper, a song, a sermon, an Invitation, contribution, and a closing hymn and prayer. It may mean breaking into small groups, learning how to place our hands on one another and praying as a group. It may mean setting aside time to ask each member, "What's happening in your life?", so we can get to know each other and each other's needs. It may mean spending less on the outdated bus program and sending a young Christian to medical school instead, who then cures cancer or provides doctoring to the congregation's been-there-a-year full-time members at an 80% discount for ten years after graduation. It may mean game-show style learning opportunities instead of 30-minute one-way sermons that are completely wasted on the post-MTV generation. It may mean adapting the assembly in whatever way is needed to develop 21st century Christians into 21st century kingdom powerhouses.

It starts with the leaders. Are you developing your flock according to their bent, or are you simply scratching your own itch to talk into a microphone?
ISV Prov 22:6 Train a child in the way appropriate for him, and when he becomes older, he will not turn from it.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Even Whores Matter

- Tamar, the presumed prostitute, was declared more righteous than the ancestor of Jesus' tribe - Gen 38.

- Rahab the prostitute was a heroine of the faith - Heb 11:31.

- One of the judges of Israel, Jepthah, was the son of a prostitute - Judges 11:1.

- Hosea married a prostitute - Hos 1:2.

- The woman who wiped Jesus' feet with her hair was a "sinner" - Luke 7:37.

Not sure what meaning I'd take from this, but I find it interesting.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Jesus Was Probably Not Born On Christmas. So?

The most important birth in the history of the world, and we argue that it is sin to assign a day to remember it, just because we're not told to do so.
WEB 2 Cor 10:4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, 5 throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ;
It is OUR JOB to destroy things exalted against God, like paganism, and CAPTURE everything, like pagan practices, for Christ's glory.

If Christmas trees belonged to the Druids, we need to CAPTURE them for Christ.

If Halloween belonged to demons, we need to CAPTURE the day for Christ.

If Springtime Fertility Festivals belonged to Ashtarte ("Easter"), we need to CAPTURE the day for Christ.[1]

We are to bring every thought, every day, every moment, into captivity to the ownership of Christ.

Caesar is not Lord, despite the claims of the first-century pagans. Jesus is Lord.

God did not "authorize" the set-apart ("holy") days of Purim, or the set-apart days of Hannakuh ("Festival of Lights"), or the set-apart days of Christmas. God's people "captured" these days to honor the Lord. And at least in the first two cases, God approved, the first by including in the Bible an entire book to explain the holiday's origins, and in the second case by having Jesus right in the middle of the festivities.

WEB Matt 23:24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel!
Focusing on the tithing of pennies, and completely missing the far more important tasks of justice and mercy and fidelity. How can you be faithful to Jesus if you're going around yelling, "Don't freely honor him whenever the opportunity arises! Stick to the legalistic rules that we assume apply because we know Jesus only cares about exact obedience and not about the heart!"
WEBm Matt 15:7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying,
‘These people draw near to me with their mouth,
and honor me with their lips;
but their heart is far from me.
And in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrine rules [like "No Christmas!"] made by men.’”


1. These holidays don't actually have pagan origins, but most people believe they do, and trying to explain otherwise in the blog post would just get in the way of my message.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Being Good Out of Self-Seeking?

What motivates a person to be a Christian?

Isn't it ultimately for the sake of the person himself? Perhaps to avoid hell, or to gain paradise, or because he's driven to serve a principle, such as the principle of Righteousness, or the principle of Truth?

Whatever the motivation, does it not boil down to a selfish, "#1 gets what he wants in the end" reason?

And that has bothered me. I should seek to be righteous for selfless reasons, not for selfish reasons. And yet, no matter how I turn it and look at it, the reasons boil down to "My Choice", which means I'm getting my way, which means ultimately, selfishness.

No matter how selfless my choices in this life, ultimately they're driven by a selfish hope of a valuable pay-off in the future.

And I don't want to be selfish.

But then I read a passage I've heard/read many times before, and realized, Jesus sacrificed himself for his own selfish reason. Here it is:
WEB Heb 10:looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
 Jesus endured the cross because he saw a valuable pay-off in the future - "Joy".

If Jesus can be selfish in his motivation to do the right thing, I reckon I can be, too.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Pharos Printing from Linux

Pharos Printing from Linux
This document assumes you’re installing on a Debian 9.x computer, and that you’re printing to a Pharos release station, not to an actual Pharos printer queue. If you need the latter, you can probably add the functionality by recoding /usr/local/bin/pharospopup to ask for a password, and recoding /usr/lib/cups/backends/pharos to process that password, but I’ve not looked into that at all. Maybe next year, in the Year of the Linux Desktop ;-)

1 - Install CUPS

aptitude install cups

2 - Install Python

  1. Install Python
    1. aptitude install python
  2. Test for wx
    1. Start python (“python” at the command prompt)
    2. At the python prompt (>>>), type “import wx”. If you get no errors, great! If you get a message that no module named “wx” is found, you’ll have to install that piece (see below)
    3. Exit python with “quit()”.
  3. To install the wx modules,
    1. aptitude install python-wxgtk3.0
    2. Repeat the text for wx as above.

3 - Install pharos-linux

This is an open-source pharos client for Linux, written in python (which is why you installed python above).

  1. On the green button to the right, that says “Clone or download”, choose “Download zip”.
  2. In a Terminal window, navigate to where you downloaded the zip file, and unzip it:
    1. cd ~/Downloads  (for example)
    2. unzip
  3. Navigate into the directory created by the unzipping above:
    1. cd pharos-linux-master
  4. Here you have to create a “printers.conf” file. This will be different than the CUPS “printers.conf”, so don’t get them confused. But you may need some info (like the printer driver name, etc) from the CUPS version of the file, so you may want to create a dummy printer temporarily in order to collect that info:
    1. Web-browse to “localhost:631”
    2. Use this normal CUPS interface to create a temporary lpd:// version of the printer you’re wanting to install. Make sure to make it as accurate as you can, including the IP address and model and driver.
  5. Now that you’ve created a temporary dummy printer in CUPS, you can look in the “/etc/cups/printers.conf” file for some of the info you’ll need in the pharos “printers.conf” file. Create/edit “printers.conf”. Mine, for an HP Laserjet p4015dn printer, looks like this:

# ACU Brown Library Kiosk Printer Configuration File

Model=LaserJet p4015dn
Location=Brown Library Circ Desk
Description=Circulation Desk Printer

The “README” and “CONFIGURATION” files may provide you some help.

On one of my machines, I had to aptitude install printer-driver-hpcups to get the correct driver installed for this printer.

  1. Now that you’ve created the pharos version of the “printers.conf”, you can run the pharos setup program:
    1. ./
  2. If all goes well, you should see a message that remote printing has been successfully installed.
    1. This created a new “backend” processor for CUPS, named “pharos”. This is what allows you to select “pharos” as the protocol when you add (or modify, as in the next step) a new printer. If you're curious to see the file, you can find this new backend in the “/usr/lib/cups/backend” (“/usr/libexec/cups/backend” on Macintosh, just FYI) directory.
    2. It installed some executables and config files in “/usr/local”, such as “/usr/local/bin/pharospopup” (which is the python script that creates the popup window when you print).
    3. It created a symlink to “/usr/local/bin/pharospopup” in the KDE or Gnome startup locations of any users it found on the system, so that the popup client "daemon" will be running in the background when you start KDE/Gnome, which watches for print jobs sent to the Pharos printer and then pops up the credentials window. In my case, running XFCE4 instead of KDE or Gnome, I had to manually create an autostart item (using the XFCE4 System Settings GUI, but I could have done it by hand in the “~/.config/xfce4/autostart” directory) that runs the “/usr/local/bin/pharospopup” executable” when XFCE4 starts up. When this executable is running, you should be able to see it with a “ps ax | grep pharos”. If it’s not running, something’s wrong (did you log out / back in?).
  3. Now you need to go back to your CUPS configuration page (web-browse to localhost:631), and “Modify” your temporary printer, changing only the protocol from the lpd:// you used earlier to the newly-available “Pharos” protocol (not named that; can’t recall or access at the moment).
  4. If all has gone well, when you try to print, you’ll get a popup asking for printing credentials, and all should be working.
  5. If your printer dialog has more printers than just the ones you want, you can turn that off. Apparently in earlier versions, the “browse” options in “/etc/cups/cups.conf”, or the “/etc/cups/cupsd-browsed” were controlling factors, but now Avahi seems to override those settings. (You can even turn off CUPS altogether, and your wanted printer goes away, but the autodiscovered ones remain. Arg.) I’m currently testing how best to do this. Here are three possible options:
    1. Turn off avahi-daemon altogether. Avahi is related to (the same as?) ZeroConf / Bonjour / Rendevouz / Auto-discovery. You’d think that you could turn it off with a simple:
systemctl disable avahi-daemon
but on reboot, it seems to be back in service. Flipping the bit in “/etc/default/avahi-daemon” doesn’t help either. You might have to tweak the avahi files in “/etc/init.d” to disable it.
    1. Tell Avahi to not publish on dbus the devices it finds. Edit “/etc/avahi/avahi-daemon.conf”, uncommenting the line under “[server]” that says “enable-dbus=yes”, and changing the “yes” to “no”.
    2. Tell the GTK-3 applications (like Firefox) to not use the devices published by Avahi. Create “/etc/gtk-3.0/settings.ini”, and add the following content to it:


(the default, without this setting, is "gtk-print-backends=file,cups)

Of these three methods, I’ve had the best results with “b”.

You should now be able to print to a Pharos printer from Linux. I edited the “/usr/local/bin/pharospopup” python script to swap out “myACU” for “myITT”, and to tweak the “release station” to “the Circulation Desk”. Now the popup is customized more specifically for my environment.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Biblical Complementarianism

N.T. Wright (whom I've never listened to before; didn't really know anything about him) is asked a question about "Gay Marriage", and presents a very interesting concept from a much wider view:

The Biblical design of our (pre-Fall original and future restored) cosmos is one of complementary contrasts:
  • Light - Dark
  • Day - Night
  • Heaven - Earth
  • Land - Seas
  • Birds (flying in air) - Fish ("flying" in water)
  • Male - Female
  • God (Christ) - Humans (Church)
  • New Heaven - New Earth
  • Lion - Lamb
  • Body - Spirit
This is the Design. Anything else is something other than the Design.

Friday, September 08, 2017

What Matters is the Heart

I recently read online the claim that, "What truly matters is obedience."

And I do not in any way want to diminish the need for obedience.

But let me suggest that the Pharisees thought the same way, that, "What truly matters is obedience". They were so ultra-concerned with obedience that they tithed on even the smallest spices - mint, dill, and cumin.

But Jesus said there were weightier matters than this type of obedience - justice, mercy, fidelity.

Jesus spoke often to this issue. He said that if you're in the middle of a worship ritual - obedient sacrifice - and remember that you've got something against your neighbor, you were to leave your sacrifice at the altar and go deal with the neighbor issue.

He spoke about how food going into your mouth does not defile a person, no matter how "obedient" you might be concerning dietary restrictions; what matters is what is in, and what comes forth from, the heart.

He spoke about white-washing the outside obediently, but having a dead inner-man.

He spoke about praising God outwardly, with the lips, while the heart simply isn't in it.

Obedience is not about finding and enforcing every little legal nuance in a legal system; it's about having the spirit that drives you to want to please God. When you tell your ten-year old son to clean his room, and he obediently goes off to do it, you're pleased with his obedience. But when he gets distracted and pulls out a bunch of toys and makes the room worse, he's not at all being disobedient; he's being a ten-year old boy. He needs correction, not removal from the family.

Failure to precisely obey every jot and tittle does not equate to disobedience. What matters with your child is not his perfect performance; what matters is his attitude, his heart. Is he earnestly trying to do the right thing, even if he doesn't understand, or gets distracted, and fails to accomplish the exact goal you set for him?

In the old covenant, it was about a legal system written down on paper (rock, actually), in specific regulations such as "don't touch, taste, handle", that had to be taught one to another. But the new covenant is not like the old; it's written on the heart, and doesn't consist of regulations like "don't eat this; observe this holy day, etc", that has to be taught one to another. It's a matter of attitude - love - first for the Creator, and then for one another. It's a matter of where your heart is.

Now granted, if the heart is in the right place, one will seek to be obedient in all things. But a perfect score in Performance is not what God is looking at in the new covenant; Jesus got that score for us, which is given to us on the basis of our attitude and trust in him. He's looking at our hearts.

Willful disobedience absolutely will disqualify one from the reward. But an imperfect score will not disqualify us, because Jesus' perfect score is given to us (he even got baptized to fulfill even that detail of right-ness, not because *he* needed to be baptized, but because *we* need to be).

What matters is the heart.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Why Are Our Assemblies Dying?

Why are our assemblies dying?

Because members no longer get value from attending.

It's often claimed that people "want entertainment", and that's why they don't attend.

I believe that's false. It's not that people want entertainment; it's that they want Value.

Entertainment is a form of value, so it works to some extent to bring people in, but entertainment is not really what people seek in attending. They seek Value.

Those who attend regularly find some value in attending:

 - a sense of doing what they're supposed to do
 - entertainment
 - a chance to criticize
 - standing within the community
 - they like lectures, and sitting mostly passively on a pew for two hours
 - a chance to meet a boy/girl-friend

Those who don't attend regularly don't find value in attending.

If we're not offering the value that the Bible has established for attending, is it any wonder our assemblies are failing?

Most people think that Biblical value is "worship", focused upward on God.

But the truth is, the Biblical value for our assemblies is one-anothering, focused horizontally on one another.

We can worship God when we're all alone in a fishing boat on the lake. But we can't one-another when we're alone.

We can worship God when we're alone on the couch at home. But we can't one-another when we're alone.

We can worship God when we meditate silently in our pew during the Lord's Supper. But we can't one-another when we're inward-focused.

We can worship God when we're looking at our song books, or the overhead projection, or the song leader, belting out the chorus of 728B. But we can't one-another when we're essentially ignoring those around us, passively "teaching" them the exact same words they're passively "teaching" us.

And since many of us are introverts, we sneak in quietly, trying to avoid the gauntlet of hand-shakers, and we sneak out the side-door as soon as the last "Amen" is uttered, because we find no value in small-talk. Those same introverts might find value, however, in a safe place to talk to others about things that matter.

The Bible presents the value of assembling as each person encouraging and enabling each other person to do good works, and to grow spiritually. This does not mean talking about the weather for three minutes before the opening announcements.

As long as "church" is structured like a Catholic mass lite, we're not going to see Biblical results for the assembly.

Here are some one-anothering suggestions:

- Set aside a time for small groups to go around the circle telling first name and some significant thing that is currently happening in their life. Make that info publicly available on a prayer-list.

 - Discover what each members' strength is, and put that strength to work some how in the assembly.

- Set up an information exchange so that needs can be matched up with skills. Sister Anna needs a broken window replaced? Brother David has the money to pay for a new window, and Brother Tom has the tools and skills and time to replace the window. David is eager to serve with his money, and Tom is eager to serve with his skills, but unless they know about Anna's need, their gifts are lying fallow and her need goes unmet.

- Rather than have a 20-minute lecture, which absolutely drives away the post-MTV generation, present God's word in a way that has value to the people. Sermons are absolutely useless to me. I do not hear a word. I am not an auditory learner. I tune out, and fall asleep. Lectures have no value whatsoever to me. And that's the main focus of most of our assemblies; it's the only service most congregations pay for. In my case, it's just throwing away money. Am I unique in that way? Or are our empty pews testimony that others find little or no value in one-sided dronings that tell us what we've known since we were three? Make your presentation interactive; get us involved. The very first Gospel sermon takes less than two minutes to read out loud, slowly, and it was followed by a Q&A. Yet we think we've improved on that by following Paul's example of preaching a kid to death (after which, he changed his methodology from talking to them to talking with them - interesting).

- Change the seating, so that instead of focusing everyone on one, everyone can focus more better on each other. How can we be one-another focused if all we see of each other is the back of each other's head?

You want your assembly to grow? Then focus on the Biblical reason for assembling: One-anothering.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Microsoft Tools Leave Me Wanting....

You wouldn't believe how difficult it was to figure out the syntax of this simple task using Microsoft tools. (Linux makes it *so* easy!):

powershell -command "& { Invoke-WebRequest -UseBasicParsing -Uri… -Outfile 'FirefoxSetup.exe' }"

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Word "Sing" in the Bible

When the Ephesians, etc, read Paul's instruction to sing, they did so with a cultural background of learning their religious terminology from the Old Testament scriptures.

When they read "sing and make melody in your hearts to the Lord", they, knowing the Old Testament scriptures much better than most of us, would realize that Paul, just as he had done twice in the previous chapter, was again alluding to scripture:
WEB Ps 108:[1 ]My heart is steadfast, God. I will sing and I will make music with my soul.
They understood the word "sing" exactly as God had taught them to understand the word "sing". You can understand the word using a non-Biblical understanding all you want, and insist that it automatically excludes instrumental music, but that is not how God taught Bible students to understand the word. Here's how he taught Bible students to understand the word "sing", and how to sing his praises to the peoples:
WEB Ps 108:[1 ]My heart is steadfast, God. I will sing and I will make music with my soul. [2 ]Wake up, harp and lyre! I will wake up the dawn. [3 ]I will give thanks to you, Yahweh, among the nations. I will sing praises to you among the peoples.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The following is written by Lucas Necessary.

Without question, there is one thing God wants: for you to show up on enough Sundays that you make it to heaven; give Him just enough of your time. Or maybe it's that you throw enough money into the plate that you make it to heaven? Maybe that you believe in Him (or think about believing in Him) more of the time.

Yeah, so maybe that's not so true. It's common for us to view God in that way ("I'll give enough that I reap a reward"), but God pointed out in Micah 6 that He's interested in something else:
Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? 
He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you? 
But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God!
There is no amount of giving done that can replace a true LOVE of kindness. Not just outward acts, but being in love with your Creator; loving to have mercy on fellow man.

At least, that's IMHO.

Originally published in the CHURCH OF CHRIST Facebook group, 14 Jan, 2017, by Lucas Necessary, and then published at