Jesus Christ Born Twice

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.

~ Acts 26:19

Much debate has taken place about the central theme of the book of Acts. Some have argued that it’s a record of the acts of the apostles. Others have argued that it’s a record of the acts of the Holy Spirit. Still others have argued that it’s a defense of Paul’s ministry.

Each argument can be cleverly supported. But rather than being broken on this stone of stumbling, I wish to point out that Luke himself tells us what the book of Acts is all about. The theme appears in his opening words:

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach. (Acts 1:1 nasb)

In order to understand the above sentence, we need to compare it with the opening statement of the gospel of Luke.

Since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:3–4) 

Luke was the hand behind the gospel that bears his name as well as the book of Acts. Both books were addressed to a prominent man named Theophilus. The gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are twin volumes. They are two parts of the same story. [Continue Reading...]

Just Breathe

Occasionally on the blog I’ll post the lyrics to a new song.

Click here to read the lyrics to a song I wrote to the tune of Wavin’ Flag.

In that post, I discuss the long-standing practice of writing Christian songs to well known tunes.

Seven years ago I delivered a series of 19 messages on Ephesians to a fellowship of believers.

While I was giving that ministry, I wrote the first stanza and chorus to a new song.

And then I asked the fellowship to whom I was ministering to write the rest of the song.

They did. And they knocked the ball out of the park.

The song is sung to the tune of 2 A.M. by Anna Nalick – the track is awesome and Anna’s voice is amazing. The chorus is “Just Breathe.”

I titled the new song “In Christ” and it’s based on Ephesians Chapter 1 and 2. [Continue Reading...]

Pagan Christianity: Preface to the New Edition

Yesterday, George Barna and I did our first interview together since Pagan Christianity released four years ago.

Recently, Tyndale House released the paperback (softcover) edition of Pagan Christianity. I love that the softcover edition is the same size as the constructive follow-up books, Reimagining Church, From Eternity to Here, and Finding Organic Church.  So they look nice on a bookshelf. :-)

Frank Viola

After the hardcover edition of Pagan Christianity sold 100,000 copies, Tyndale sent me a special leather-bound, gold-leafed edition of the book commemorating the sales mark. This was very classy of Tyndale to do, and I wanted to thank them publicly for this thoughtful gesture.

What follows is the new preface to the softcover edition followed by a list of free resources for the book. I’m publishing the preface here because it’s so important to the conversation.

As many of you know, Pagan Christianity is not my favorite book. It’s simply a curtain raiser for my other volumes. [Continue Reading...]

George Barna and I Reflect on Four Years Since “Pagan Christianity”

It’s been four years since George Barna and I released Pagan Christianity. Joe Miller recently caught up with George and me, giving us our first exclusive interview in four years. Joe’s questions were excellent.

Here’s the interview. (Note: Reposting this interview is not permitted. But you are free to place a link to it on your blog or share it on Facebook or Twitter via the share buttons below. Click here to review our copyright policy.) 

Pagan Christianity

Joe Miller: Before we get to your current life, can you tell us, what has been the most enduring and positive legacy of your book, “Pagan Christianity?”  

George Barna: The book has helped many people to open their minds to the fact that the organized, localized, congregational form of ministry commonly known in the west as “the church” is a human construct that was neither dictated by God nor described or found in the Bible. In that sense I think the greatest legacy of the book, based primarily on Frank’s extensive research, is giving people an awareness of the truth about the history of the modern local church body and the tremendous possibilities for more meaningful ministry experiences and expressions.

Frank Viola: One of the most enduring qualities (and effects) of the book is that it has given millions of Christians permission – biblical and historical permission – to question cherished church practices and traditions in the light of God’s written Word. It has effectively driven many believers – including pastors – to reexamine the way they practice church in view of New Testament principles and church history.[Continue Reading...]

Encountering Christ in Colossians

As promised, we’re restarting the podcast with a series of messages I delivered several years ago on Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

The first message gives the historical background, and then it’s off to the races as the curtain is pulled back and Christ is unveiled in Colossians.

Some scholars have rightly called Colossians “the high watermark of Scripture” (along with Ephesians). When you finish the series, I think you’ll agree.

Click here to subscribe via iTunes and other ways to receive all the talks, including all previous episodes.

There is a lot more in store for the podcast in the days ahead. I will not be announcing each new episode, so you’ll want to subscribe.

One last thing:[Continue Reading...]

Interview with My Favorite Worship Artist

Those who know me well are aware that I’m a monumental music fan. However, I’ve never been terribly impressed with contemporary Christian music.

There are a few exceptions. And David Ruis is one of them.

In fact, David Ruis is my all-time favorite worship artist, hands-down, walkin’ out.

If you’re not familiar with Ruis’ work, then follow my suggestion.

Head over to Pandora and create a “David Ruis Radio” station.

Then start listening to all of his tunes. Feel free to skip the tunes from other artists.

David is the man.

On that note, here is my interview with Ruis.[Continue Reading...]

Getting Rid of a Sectarian Spirit Once and For All

When I was in my early 20s, I had wonderful fellowship with an older brother in Christ who was part of the Plymouth Brethren.

We disagreed on a few doctrines (I didn’t buy into the pretribulational rapture theory, and I believed that God still healed people supernaturally). That aside, we both held to the orthodox creeds of the faith (The Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, etc.) as I still do today.

Never having stepped foot in a Plymouth Brethren chapel, I was interested in visiting his church. So I did. But I was shocked when he told me that I couldn’t partake of the Lord’s Table.

This both surprised and saddened me greatly.

He received me as a brother in Christ, but because I didn’t toe the line on PB doctrine, I wasn’t allowed to partake of the bread and wine with the others in his church.

When I shared my feelings with him — that this action was a flat-out denial that I was part of the Body of Christ — he retracted his position and said I could partake of the Table.

However, his initial sectarian decision left its wound.[Continue Reading...]

How (Not) to Leave a Church

Once in awhile, people will ask me questions about leaving their church. They want my advice and opinion on it. This happened again very recently.

Because I’ve received this question countless times over the years, I’m posting my general response here. Before you read what follows, I want you to get clear on this: there are always special circumstances and exceptions to what I’m about to say.

What I’ve written here is merely my personal opinion for those who desire to hear it. It’s based on the last 30 years of watching people leave churches (of all different kinds) and the results I’ve witnessed . . . both good and unmentionable.

Five points to begin with:

1. I have never asked anyone to leave a church nor have I encouraged a person to leave one. It’s simply not my place to do so. Except in rare situations where someone was being abused, I actually encourage people to stay in their church. Unless God specifically and clearly leads them out. Or it violates their conscience to stay involved.

2. I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t leave a church unless the Lord clearly directs you to leave and your family has come to a consensus on the matter. I’ll simply add that I will never understand why some people leave beautiful churches while others stay in abusive or dead churches. See my post on What Ever Happened to Perseverance? where I give examples.[Continue Reading...]

Your Favorite iPhone Apps

Since it’s Memorial Day and much of the Internet will be inactive, we’re not going to delve into anything heavy.

So today’s post is about iPhone apps.

Several months ago I purchased the iPhone 4S, and I’m quite happy with it. (Siri is a trip.)

Especially after using a 3G (which gave new meaning to the word “slow”) for several years.

Right now my favorite apps are:

Voice Assistant

Flashlight

Compass

Tip Calculator

Urbanspoon

AroundMe

Pandora

I’m on the look-out for more apps.[Continue Reading...]

How Jesus Reaches His World

I have often stressed that the church’s calling to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world (a la, Luke 4:18-19) is just as much a part of God’s Eternal Purpose as living as a face-to-face community that makes a home for the Lord to lay His head.

(I’m speaking here of the church in local expression . . . a tangible, touchable, locatable body of believers in a locale, in whatever form or shape it may take.)

We Christians seem to fall off one side of the horse or the other on this subject.

Some make the church a shallow “soul-winning” / “world-improvement” station with little depth, relational life, or spiritual substance. Others make the church an insular, isolated, navel-gazing community.

I believe the church must know both inreach and outreach . . . it must know what it means to be “built together” as well as “being Christ” for the world. And it must learn how to discern the season for each.

As I’ve argued in From Eternity to Here, the ekklesia is called to embody Jesus Christ as a bride, a house, a body, and a family. This is God’s Eternal Purpose.[Continue Reading...]