JohnSWilson3 Blog

Review of “Christ Alone” by Searching Together
October 10, 2015, 2:07 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Loved reading the new Searching Together booklet, “Christ Alone.” The title pretty much sums up the booklet. Jon Zens discusses five challenges every local ekklesia faces in keeping Christ alone together. A very timely word. The booklet then takes aim at one of those things we can often confuse, the equating of the Bible with Christ by Dennis J. Mulkey. “The Canon of Scripture and the Christ of Scripture are not synonyms!” The booklet then ends with a short chapter from T. Austin-Sparks of “All Things in Christ” where TAS illuminates the problem of how the church has taken the techniques and practices and orders and forms and teaching found in the Bible “and the Lord Jesus has just been missed and lost.” The ending of TAS excerpt is when on a conference in the USA the sad affair we see when brothers and sisters do not pursue Christ alone…”they were not interested in that.” Thought provoking and a stirring of the soul word for today. A great read!

Review of “the Gathering” by Milt and Mary Rodriguez
September 27, 2013, 1:39 am
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Very rarely do I read a fictional novel. Because I had read a number of Milt Rodriguez’s books I decided that I would take the opportunity to read his and his wife’s new book “The Gathering.” I absolutely loved it! I could not put it down!

The Gathering is about people looking for more of Christ than what they are finding in the institutional church building, a desire to be a part of fulfilling the eternal purpose of God. The characters have been given a heart to know the Lord Jesus Christ deeper, in an experiential way not found in attending the varied sundry meetings with the overload of duties that focus on staying busy. This in fact is something near and dear to Milt and Mary Rodriguez’s hearts. They travel to form and visit with gatherings who desire to learn Christ, to live by His life together in a shared life in real life. Back in 2009 I had the chance to meet Milt Rodriguez and Frank Viola and heard them speak and share with the brothers and sisters. I was totally blown away; I have never been the same since. I’m not sure but the bald headed man with the red beard in The Gathering sounds kind of like Milt.

The story is based on a fictional time where a political church party, the Unified Church Movement (UCM), has put a President into the oval office of The United States. This seems to be a fictional adaptation of what might have happened if The Christian Coalition with its “stealth” tactics had done the same a couple decades ago. At times the UCM seems like the Reich Church that was controlled by the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, known to have hunted down, tortured, and executed underground groups of Christians during the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler. In The Gathering the UCM has mediators who control all organized churches to ensure that any semblance of a move of the Holy Spirit is squashed by forcing the “pastor” to adhere to certain rules of order or the removal of the “pastor,” often by devious and unconscionable means. So the characters in the story not only are they “coming out” of this political church system but they must do so counting the cost of their lives and livelihood.

The characters of the story are totally down to earth, their personalities, problems, and perks are typical of any other person you would happen to know. In fact it is what makes The Gathering such an enjoyable and readable story. Milt and Mary really know how to express the varied personalities of people and create characters that are totally believable. The story is about the main characters recognizing God’s call to live the deeper life in Christ and traveling to a hidden organic expression of brothers and sisters who are living together “underground.” There are many twists and turns along the way but each character is guided by the Lord through dreams and specific circumstances that require the characters to count the cost and step out on faith to pursue a heart’s desire to know Christ intimately with others. The characters struggle for faith and love which will touch the reader. Interspersed throughout the story are teachings of the bald headed man with the red beard on living by the life of Christ and God’s eternal purpose found in scripture but neglected by most of God’s people. The dreams of each character in the story are beautiful and show a variety of the riches found in Christ with His Bride. These are heart warming and touch the spirit. The reader may find that they themselves may have had similar dreams, describing something of Christ and His Bride (albeit without the bald headed man with the red beard, lol).

For those who desire to know Christ better, to live by His life together, to fulfill the Father’s eternal purpose through His Son you will see glimpses of what gatherings with Christ as Head could look like in this story. You will see beautiful examples of faith and love and the variety and creativity of Christ in God’s people. After reading The Gathering the dream to truly want to know Christ better, in a deeper way with other brothers and sisters was stirred. The story will quicken His Spirit in your spirit and perhaps help you hear Him better as a result. As you hear Him, by faith follow Him, do what He says, you will be amazed! The story describes how the characters learned to live by their spirit, their conscience and intuition, communing with the Lord. The Gathering is a must read! After reading the last chapter I was hoping for more. The Gathering must have a sequel! Perhaps that’s what Acts in the Bible was meant to do for the brothers and sisters who read it. Hoping for more.

Review of “God’s Favorite Place On Earth” by Frank Viola
June 24, 2013, 3:09 am
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

I am thrilled that Frank has updated his out of print book “Bethany: The Lord’s Desire For His Church.” (1)  I definitely love the update from the older e-booklet version that is no longer available and its synthesis from Jesus Manifesto (2) with Frank’s other writings. In 2009 Frank’s little booklet inspired me to see “church” in a whole new light, one that was centered on Christ as Head of the church practically and not just in theory. But “God’s Favorite Place On Earth” is far from being an updated version of the older booklet, it really has been remade.

I enjoyed reading the dialogue and story of Lazarus, it is really inspiring! There were times that the vivid images that Lazarus gives brought me to the point of tears and a fresh joy in our Lord. The story of Bethany written like this gives one the sense of a play with varying acts. In each ‘act’ Frank describes the story through the eyes of Lazarus. He then gives the “sacred text” that describes the story from the Bible and provides a section of application called “walking it out.” In this section of “walking it out” you can hear in his words the voice of experience, Frank has “been there done that.” In true fashion Frank does not hold back on the “gore and glory” one will find when we learn to live by Christ’s life together. I thought that one of the most important sections was “Blessed Are The Unoffended” involving dealing with criticism in the body of Christ. Additionally, in the back of the book Frank has a “talking it over” section that gives questions that groups can use to discuss that ‘act’ in the Bethany story.

Frank has been able to take the genesis of what T. Austin-Sparks wrote in 1933, “Bethany: The Lord’s Thought For His Assembly,” (3) into a spiritually and emotionally electrifying read that includes timeless and timely experience and application vitally important to the body of Christ today. As Frank says “the earth awaits a group of Christians in every city who will receive Him again utterly and completely.”

Frank brings out the stories of Bethany to show God’s desire, His thought, His heart for a people who together receive and appreciate His Son. When His people learn to be a Bethany they have learned to live by His life together and there will be “cleansed lepers, resurrected humans, transformed servants, extravagant worshippers, brothers, sisters, fathers, and disciples all sitting around a table where Christ is the Head – feasting, fellowshipping, and rejoicing with Him.” They are “a group of followers who will enthrone Christ as absolute Lord over their lives…who stand for and submit to His headship…who will sit under the Lord Jesus Christ and esteem Him above all else…who will give themselves fully to Him and to one another…who are willing to ‘waste’ their lives on Jesus…both individually and corporately. The earth awaits such a group.” Wow! And we can be part of what God desires!

The stories of Bethany are stories of how the body of Christ properly receive and appreciate her Lord. Each time Jesus visited the family of Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and Simon with His disciples Frank shows that the church is in training on what it means to gather around her Lord, to give a place for Jesus to lay His head. The time around the Lord together will not only bring joy and awe it will include conflict with our souls, with our selfish desires and as we learn to live by Him Christ will have the supremacy, He  will find “that which His soul longs for,” and will find His favorite place on Earth. May we be a Bethany for our Lord.

(1) “Bethany: The Lord’s Desire for His Church” was a 24 page e-book first published by Frank Viola, in May 11, 2007.
(2) “A House Of Figs,” Chapter 9 from Jesus Manifesto. By Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, 2010. This chapter has 19 pages and is an overview “of the outstanding features of Bethany, all of which depict what the Lord is looking for in every city across this planet.”
(3) “Bethany: The Lord’s Thought For His Assembly.” By T. Austin-Sparks, 1933. (28 page booklet from Witness and Testimony Publishers)

Review of “Jesus: A Theography” by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
November 25, 2012, 2:59 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

This book above any other, including the Bible should be read by every follower of Jesus Christ. It is the one book that can help every gathering of brothers and sisters around this globe see how the Bible is to be read and understood. Too often people, Christian or otherwise will take the Bible and read it like any other book without understanding the unique way God meant for it to be read. Leonard and Frank remind us “that all the Scriptures are held together by a single narrative: the story of Jesus Christ.”

What Leonard and Frank do is none other than what Jesus said to the Jewish leaders: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40, TNIV). And later to His disciples in Luke: “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:44-45, TNIV).

Throughout church history brothers and sisters have often divided themselves over various interpretations of the Bible, because of using a wrong hermeneutic. Thankfully there have always been remnants of God’s people who “got it” throughout church history. Today is another one of those days in church history. Now in this unique book all of God’s people can see the unique way the Bible was meant to be read, not just a few. Leonard and Frank want believers to see that “the Bible contains its own hermeneutic” by which we understand the Scriptures: “Jesus Himself was the common source…Jesus is the interpretative key of the Bible…everything in the Bible points to Jesus – either His person, His work, or His character…He is the Canon within the canon.”

As Leonard and Frank say: “In a word, Jesus is the thread that holds all Scripture together. He is the prism that breaks forth its multifaceted colors. He is the lens that puts all of it into focus, the switch that sheds light on its dimly lit quarters, and the key that unlocks its meaning and richness.”

The authors also help inform the brothers and sisters when reading the Bible that history and composition matter. “The Bible didn’t emerge out of a vacuum. It is historical but also metaphorical and narrative story of truth written within history.” They state that “biblical logic defies logic. The Bible was written in a circle” because they were written at a time when the spoken word was written in what is called “ring composition.” The connections in the Bible are done “not sequentially but synoptically” because it is a “story-circle” not a “story-line.” As such reading the Bible must take into consideration the literary constructions of “(1) parallelism, (2) chiasmus, and (3) latch” which the authors describe in the book and as they relate it to reading the Bible in their many examples throughout the chapters of “Jesus: A Theography.” Too often the Bible is read like a novel, quickly, focusing on key parts, and then once done put it on the shelf. Or it is read like a ‘self-help’ book and we read only those parts we can ‘apply’ to make our lives ‘better.’ Because the Bible was written in “ring composition” it “forces one to slow down and pay attention to the details while never losing sight of the whole.”

It has been said by many that the “Introduction: The Jesus Story” from Leonard and Frank’s book is worth the price of the book. I would heartily agree! In fact this review is a review of the introduction because of this one section’s importance. In the rest of the book the authors pick up the Bible with the reader and together peer into Christ as they look afresh into the First and Second Testaments, the terms the authors use for the Old and New Testament. The rest of “Jesus: A Theography” applies what they speak of in their Introduction to help the brothers and sisters “discover that the entire story of Israel in the First Testament repeats itself in the life of Christ in the Second Testament. And it does so in almost every detail. In this regard, Jesus not only fulfills the First Testament narrative but also reenacts, relives, and replays it.” In the end the authors make an astute comment: “Don’t try to figure everything out or get everything right. Just let the story unfold. Let the Bible tell its own story to you. Trust the Jesus story as it moves from Genesis to Revelation. And see if the Holy Spirit doesn’t open your eyes to see the greatness of Christ anew and afresh.”

There have been many complicated theories and opinions put forth about many sundry things in the Bible, things that get the focus instead of Christ Jesus our Lord. I would encourage you to get a copy of this excellent book and see how Christ comes afresh from the pages of the Bible. Then as you read the Bible for yourself, see, as the authors tell us, that all the words of the Bible should be in “red” letters. May the Father by His Spirit open our eyes to Christ in the Bible! And let us not stop their, because it is only the beginning, “the elementary truth’s of God’s word… the elementary teachings about Christ” (Hebrews 5:12, 6:1, TNIV) because in truth the Scriptures teach us that God wants us to know the Christ, in Reality in one another!

May the prayer of Paul given to the brothers and sisters in Ephesus be our reality: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe…I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 1:17-19a, 3:16-19, TNIV).

Review of “The Torch and the Testimony” by John W. Kennedy
July 3, 2012, 1:33 am
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

I have actually had the book “The Torch of the Testimony” by John W. Kennedy for some time, ever since reading “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola and George Barna a couple years ago. I have also read quite a lot of books on church history but believe this by far is probably the most succinct and least biased that I have read. Too often as the saying goes “those who win the war writes the history.” Sadly when many of the gatherings of Christ’s people degenerated into a religion they tended to be the only writers since they attempted to exterminated those true gatherings of God of whom they disagreed with. But in this day and age God has raised up some truly excellent writers who not only have experienced and expressed the life of Christ but can write in humbleness of heart and share using history as a backdrop to look at the gathering of God’s people for the purpose God meant it to be and make some striking conclusions.

“The Torch and the Testimony” is a quick read, a book you really don’t want to put down! It does not follow most other history books that go into the sordid and horrible details of gossip, slander, murder, etc. He does though give some analysis to the reasons for such awful behavior but most importantly gives the precious journey of those who wanted to simply live life together from Acts to the present time looking at the key spiritual movements through history and the resulting conclusions. In his preface he writes: “The great need of the present day is not for more knowledge, theological or historical, but that what knowledge we have should be practically related to life.” This then is a key to understanding why Kennedy writes the way he does. Kennedy goes into sufficient detail into the major movements both ecclesiastical and spiritual throughout church history to give the reader a big picture of what happened from the time Christ came and indwelt His people with His life by His Spirit.

Throughout the book, based on what history shows us, some key principles are shown for how well a gathering of God’s people can endure the challenges of fellowship together and be a place Christ finds to rest His head. Perhaps the key principles that Kennedy notes are that “the ground of fellowship is possession of the life of Christ,” “the church is grounded solidly upon it’s relationship with Christ and looks to Him alone as its Head,” and that every member is a participant.

Kennedy also gives a warning on the key temptations for every local gathering (ekklesia) of Christ:

“The true church is the scene of a continual, spiritual struggle for its own existence…It is tempted to compromise with organized Christianity. It is tempted to organize itself in order to conserve what it has gained. It is tempted to sectarianism by limiting its growth to a certain emphasis of Christian truth. When it succumbs to any of these temptations, declension follows, for progress has been limited, and when it has reached the end of its possible progress, it must fade out as a spiritual power. This is the picture that history so graphically portrays, the picture of spiritual power followed by declension, but from every scene of declension God calls out His remnant.”

Throughout the difficulties of Christ finding a place of rest He has always had a remnant. You may be in a local gathering learning to center your life together on Christ alone as we are. By the way, we too still have much to learn. May you be comforted to know that you are not alone. May we fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith! These are some arresting words of exhortation by Kennedy to Christ’s people:

“Life reproduces life. The church is the embodiment of the life of Christ, and is not dependent upon particular leaders or institutions for maintaining its existence. Where the vitality of the Spirit directed by God’s Word exists in those who are part of that body, the churches will extend and grow. No power of earth or hell can overcome them.”

May we simply gather together with Christ as Head living by Him, in so doing we will be over-comers and endure until the end.

Review of eBook “Beyond Evangelical” by Frank Viola
June 12, 2012, 10:36 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Frank’s ebook “Beyond Evangelical” is a discussion of a historical perspective of fundamentalism and evangelicalism and brings out a dialogue that compares and contrasts the religious right and left and looks at a forward option for Christians no longer interested in either, to moving forward in Christ. This forward, beyond option looks vastly different from what the world sees in the media that has taken center stage in propagating a Church that looks nothing like that we find in the New Testament. I really like the questions that Frank poses and the arrangement of the subject. Because this is a collection of Frank’s blog of the same title it can have a tendency to be a little repetitious but not distracting. Frank provides an enormous amount of resources linked to each of the pages of the ebook which help those interested in knowing more about the historical background of fundamentalism and evangelicalism and the different aspects of living by the life of Christ in an organic way. These things have spoken to my own heart and I am sure to many followers of Jesus. Thank you Frank for showing Christ in you, who is beyond all we could ever hope or imagine (paraphrase of Eph. 3:20).

Check out Frank’s blog for his book here:

Review of the animated movie “The Secret of Kells”
April 29, 2012, 2:52 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Our family has Irish roots and we enjoy fine arts so this movie has a definite appeal to us. “The Book of Kells” has also been something of an enigma with it’s legendary past and it’s beautiful illuminations that have never been equaled. Perhaps it is because of the illuminations that many often forget what The Book of Kells is, the four gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ. But the illuminations were meant to express something beautiful or perhaps better, an analogy of Someone who is altogether Beautiful.

The movie “The Secret of Kells” is a historical fiction. It is an animated story of the completing of The Book of Kells. Some might get distracted by the pagan elements in the story, but remember it is historical fiction. Perhaps it would do well to remember that much of the traditional practices that are in our institutional churches come from paganism.

I see this as a story of the problem of institutionalism, the problem of when our focus becomes our fear and self effort and being insular instead of a focus on faith and simplicity and engagement in life. Perhaps it also gives, somewhat unintentionally, a view of institutional Christianity and of staying inside the safe walls which some build for themselves versus life together which is organic and expresses a life of selflessness and service. Those who are in institutional gatherings can often see those brothers and sisters who are learning to live organically by the Spirit as something of an enigma as well.

The Bible, as the Book of Kells demonstrates, was meant to not be a book to just be read but a book to be illuminated, expressed by His life lived through His body in a dark world. The body of Christ was originally organic, she lived by the Spirit of Christ in her in the ups and downs of daily life in a fallen world. The letter of Acts demonstrates this, and it also shows how quick she can fall for institutionalism making something or someone else Head of her gatherings. Institutionalism has more times than not caused the life of Christ to be hidden in her people, perhaps unintentionally, with the idea of protecting the body. But Christ does not need protecting, He is quite able to be Lord of His body if we humble ourselves and hear Him, following Him. This is expressed as we live by faith, loving one another based on the measure of faith and gift He has given us.

“The book was never meant to be hidden away behind walls locked away from the world despite its creation…you must take the book to the people so that they may have hope.” Christ, the Word of God, is our hope. May we bring Him, express Him, illuminate His beautiful life to all we meet.

Here is an excellent video trailer of “The Secret of Kells.”

Review of “Christ Minimized?” by Jon Zens
January 24, 2012, 2:19 am
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

This is my review of Jon Zens new “booklet” titled “Christ Minimized? A Response to Rob Bell’s LOVE WINS.” This review comes from my conviction and I understand that there are a number of opinions on the subject. Many voices have shared their thoughts on the subject but really like Jon Zens and David Flowers articles on the subject.

When I read the title “Christ Minimized?” of Jon Zens response to Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” I immediately was captured again by Jon’s desire to see Jesus Christ made supreme and central to the ekkelsia of God, His body. How Christ desires to be Lord, Leader, and Life among His people and not a set of teachings or practices, but real food, real water, real life. How Christ desires to live supremely and centrally in His ekklesia, His body!

In “Christ Minimized?” Jon Zens again very astutely brings out the centrality of Christ as he reflects on the thoughts from Rob’s controversial book. Jon looks at what Bell writes and searches the Christ of scripture to give a more balanced view that neither those who ascribe to “eternal torment” or “universalism” wants to reconcile. Jon’s approach is to see what scripture really says and lay it before the body and let the ekklesia see the reality of what was written to the ekklesias in the first century. Jon comes with a heart, like all believers past and present, that all would know our Lord, but realizing that while God so loved the world that He sent His Son, not everyone would believe in Him. What is the fate of those who do not trust in Jesus Christ? Can we accept “eternal torment” as perpetrated by the institutional church or does scripture say something different, such as “perish.” I am more inclined to believe what scripture says.

As Jon points out, much of one’s opinions can often be masked by the dangers of reading our current modern and traditional practices into the interpretation of the Bible. Jon has been uniquely gifted of the Lord to help the body search the scripture and allow His Spirit to interpret it for us. His previous books are key benchmarks in the plethora of false teachings that have become the tradition of the institutional church for centuries, traditions that have been accepted without question and kept His people silent and blind to the reality of Christ in them. His response to Rob Bell’s book is just one more to add to the body to see what Christ really says. In “A Church Building Every ½ Mile” Jon asks God’s people to question the institutional church’s traditions and the “tragic shifts” that describe how far it has fallen from its organic roots in Christ. In “What’s With Paul and Women?” Jon asks God’s people to relook the role of women the institutional church has perpetrated and what Paul really said in his letters to the ekklesia. Just recently in “The Pastor Has No Clothes!” Jon asks God’s people to question and even challenge the heresy of the clergy-laity divide, perhaps the one tradition that has so robbed Christ of His full expression in His body.

We can too often focus on only one side of what scripture says to the limitation or silence of the rest of scripture. Perhaps this is the reason we are called to search the scripture together so that Christ in us can give us better sight as to what He really wants us to know, to see a more balanced teaching in the body and the fuller expression of the life of Christ in His people. Rob’s book is one more voice in the powder keg of emotion in the religious debates of history regarding eternal torment or universalism, debates that sadly have divided the body and left a trail of tears. Jon comes in though and brings out the voice of balance, the voice of insight, the voice of reality that can only be Christ in him. But Jon is not alone in this discussion as he points out numerous witnesses of those past and present who have expressed their portion of Christ Jesus, speaking the ultimate value of His incarnation, life, resurrection, ascension, and now His life in His ekkelsia. Christ is bigger than Rob Bell or any of us can imagine. In the end Jon humbly assents that “no position is airtight, and there are always a few Scriptures that seem to challenge every view…” In my own study and learning to hear Christ in me, the words Jon Zens shares are my own as well. In fact it is surprising how what I read are the same conclusions I have also come to acknowledge. Only the Spirit can do that. May the Father give us spiritual sight to see more of His Son in His body.

If you would like to get Jon’s book go to:

Book Review of “Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities” by Frank Viola
November 23, 2011, 4:27 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Book Review of “Finding Organic Church” by Frank Viola that I posted to on September 19, 2009.

I just finished reading Frank Viola’s latest book, “Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities.” What an awesome book! Of all of my books on the church and it’s purpose that are in my “library” (as my kids describe my study) this is by far the best of them all. Probably no other book lays out the actual way a New Testament church was started and sustained. Every person who calls themself a pastor, teacher, evangelist, preacher, prophet, apostle, whatever the title you want to call yourself, ought to prayerfully read this excellent book! It encapsulates the dream of Jesus, of removing everything that is religious and not of Christ, to have a place to dwell richly in a community that loves Him so much that they willingly deny themselves, take up their cross (they die to themselves, their religion, their giftings, their personality, etc.), and follow Jesus together! Totally scriptural and practical! Thanks Frank!

Book Review of “What’s With Paul and Women” by Jon Zens
November 23, 2011, 4:24 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

This is my book review of “What’s With Paul and Women” by Jon Zens that I posted to on July 14, 2010.

I really enjoyed reading “What’s With Paul and Women?” by Jon Zens! Discussed some of the parts with my wife and we are in agreement, guess that means this is a keeper! Jon Zens does an excellent job at describing some of the mistranslated words and the cultural context of what appears as a bias towards women in the Bible, when in fact he was addressing specific issues. Men and women were called to function freely in the body of Christ!