Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Here is a portion of that letter:
"During Rob's illness I have had almost no income from our business and no unemployment insurance. Yet, from the first day Rob was in hospital, our needs have been met. Hundreds of people have prayed for us, scores have sent cards, letters or flowers, and others have helped with meals and yard work etc. We have received incredible support by way of monetary gifts from Christians of about 30 different congregations from about 20 different denominations!! During this time, my personal concepts of how I provide service to others have also radically changed!
The following is a brief summary:
(1)Before, I viewed myself as the self-employed owner of my business. I assumed I had direct control over the work I did and the fees I charged! Now, I realize I am simply a steward of God-given talents, abilities, health and even time which He has entrusted to me. I've realized that, while I have choices for which I am responsible, I have no actual control at all! (I had no control over Rob's illness, my responsibility to him, my lack of available time to work, my inability to draw an income, or the means by which our needs would be met!) My Employer has been in full control!
(2)Before, I considered myself the producer of goods and services which I sold to you. Now, I realize that physically I have absolutely nothing (health, strength, abilities, talents or resources) which I have not received from Another and which cannot also be removed at any moment! So I'm not a producer, but simply a channel which receives and is designed to transmit what's been entrusted to me for the benefit of others.
(3)Before, I considered that you were a client of my business. Now, I'd be wiser to consider myself a servant of your business.
(4)Before, I charged you what I decided was best for me. Now, I no longer charge for my work so that your best interests may be served. (See #5.)
(5)Before, you were obligated to pay what I charged regardless of whether you felt it was too much (some feel this way) or too little, (some also feel this way!) Now, you are at liberty to give (and I will be happy to receive) what you choose to offer. (You will be free to make that assessment based on your estimate of the value of the service and on your ability to give.)
(6)Before, I wrote an invoice as proof of an obligation connected with your business which was to be paid by cash or cheque. Now, I write no invoices. So, whatever you decide to give, by cash, cheque, products or services is fine by me. (If you require a receipt, I will be happy to write one for whatever you choose to give.)
(7)Before, I kept records of "accounts receivable". If a client didn't pay, couldn't pay or forgot to pay an invoice of mine I would get uptight and remind them of their obligation and then they might get uptight! Now, since I don't charge, I keep no records of "accounts receivable". Therefore, If someone I serve doesn't pay, or cannot pay, neither of us need get uptight!
(8)Before, I was a businessman who made sales and charged for goods and services. As a direct result, the government required me to charge taxes to my clients. Now, since I am simply a steward who gives goods and services, the government will allow me to charge no taxes at all!
I trust this new service arrangement will be more enjoyable and beneficial for all concerned! Which do you prefer: receiving gifts and giving them OR receiving bills and paying them????
If, for any reason, this arrangement of not charging is unsuitable for you I'd be happy to refer you to companies which do."
So, you are likely asking, "How has this arrangement worked out in the long run?"
Well, obviously, after ten years my family and I haven't starved yet! But there were a number of changes which became immediately apparent during those first few weeks:
(1) A number of corporate stores (in-store bakeries) which I had previously served refused to do business with me anymore since they required invoices in order to make payments.
(2) Some bakeries were happy with the arrangement and enjoyed receiving the service without obligation to pay and indeed some have not given anything. Others who thought I had charged too much were happy to be able to give less than I had formerly charged.
(3) Most continued to give the same amount which I had formerly charged. But a number of bakers immediately started to give considerably more than I had ever charged before and have continued doing so and have even given me periodic "raises"!
But the greatest observable change that I experienced was an entirely new working relationship with the bakers that I served:
- I immediately discovered that a number of bakers I served or employees in their stores were Christians!
- Many, even unbelievers, expressed a longing to be able to "do business" in the same way as I had purposed, but could not see their way clear to do so!
-Folks in almost every bakery I entered asked immediately how our son, Rob, was doing and many told us they had wept when they read the letter we had sent! To this day, ten years later, we are regularly asked in quite a few bakeries we serve how Rob is doing! (We’ve been able to tell them he has been cancer free all that time and that he and his wife Ada have just recently had a healthy big boy, Brayden!)
- Because of all of this it has been much easier to speak to many of these bakers about the Lord, His goodness and our relationship with Him. How we thank Him for that!
But regarding our finances, we can definitely testify to the goodness of our God to keep His Word to provide for all of our needs as we have been obedient to follow His directions. Many of the store owners whom we serve were very curious how this system of not charging could really work for us. So I explained it this way, “How are the needs of your employees (your bakers, clerks) supplied? They serve your customers freely and don’t expect paychecks from any of those people whom they serve, they simply look to you, their employer, to pay them. They do what you tell them to do: i.e Certain customers are charged retail rates, others are given wholesale rates or discounts, in other cases you may give your products to certain people freely according to the arrangements you have personally made with each client. So it is in my relationship with my Master. I look to Him for the provision of all my needs, I do not look to those whom He instructs me to serve. What those people give is not my business but is entirely between them and my Master. If He says “Their service is free to them,” that is OK by me for I am not looking to them but to Him for my supply. If He says to them, “You are to give generously for the service you have received,” that too is OK by me for it is Him to whom I look and not them for my supply.
So these last ten years of seeing the faithfulness of God to meet our needs apart from charging anything for our services, Psalm 123:2 has become very precious: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.”
I have learned by experience that a servant looks to his master for at least two things:
(1) He looks to his master for his daily assignments (what work he is to do and whom he is to serve.)
(2) He looks to his master for the supply of all of his needs.
I have found by experience that the Lord Jesus, whom I serve, is the Very Best of masters!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
(Continued from previous post....)
While our son, Rob, was receiving treatment for High Grade Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma during the summer of '99, the Lord continued to quietly but persistently challenge my thinking about how I did business. He had brought me to acknowledge that...
- I was not in control of anything and therefore I was not qualified to be self-employed,
- My life, as a New Covenant believer, was not divided into 2 compartments (the holy and the common) as were the lives of those who had lived under the Old Covenant. Rather all of my life was to be lived as unto Him!
- As a believer, I had never had a "secular occupation" (i.e. one in which God was not involved!). Rather, as a believer, I was in Christ and Christ was in me 24/7!
I also knew that the Lord was calling me to relinquish my "self-employment" in order to be a servant of His and to do business His way.
While there was much I did not understand about doing business His way, the one thing which I clearly understood and which (I must be honest!) scared me, was that it would mean never again charging for my services but offering them freely and without obligation!
By this time, it was the first week of September of 1999. I was in the mental process of arguing with the Lord that this arrangement would never work and that if my family and I were to continue to eat and pay our bills, we just had to do business like any other business in the world! But it seemed like the Lord just wasn't listening to me!!! He simply continued to quietly ask, "Are you willing to be My servant and to do business My way?"
I'd never dreamed that God would speak to me through a "secular" song on the radio which was sung by a country singer, but I've found He has unique and unexpected ways of getting my attention! I rarely listen to music on the radio and country is not my favourite style of music. But one night early in September of '99 I was alone and driving the car when the words of a country singer, Clay Walker, caught my attention. The story of the song "The Chain of Love" has been etched in my mind ever since that night over 10 years ago. The words of that song which the Lord used to bring me to tears, to break my rebellion against Him and finally to surrender to His call upon my life were these:
When an old lady flagged him down, her Mercedes had a flat
He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the snow
'Til he said, "I'm here to help you ma'am, By the way my name is Joe."
She said, "I'm from
I must have seen a hundred cars go by, this is awful nice of you."
When he changed the tire and closed her trunk and was about to drive away,
She said,"How much do I owe you?" Here's what he had to say:
"You don't owe me a thing, I've been there too.
Someone once helped me out just the way I'm helping you.
If you really want to pay me back, here's what you do...
Don't let the chain of love end with you."
Well a few miles down the road, the lady saw a small cafe.
She went in to grab a bite to eat and then be on her way.
But she couldn't help but notice how the waitress smiled so sweet
And how she must've been eight months along and dead on her feet.
And though she didn't know her story, and she probably never will,
When the waitress went to get her change from a hundred dollar bill,
The lady slipped right out the door, and on a napkin left a note.
There were tears in the waitress's eyes when she read what she wrote:
"You don't owe me a thing, I've been there too.
Someone once helped me out just the way I'm helping you.
If you really want to pay me back, here's what you do...
Don't let the chain of love end with you."
That night when she got home from work, the waitress climbed into bed.
She was thinkin' about the money and what the lady's note had said.
As her husband lay there sleeping, she whispered soft and low,
"Everything's gonna be alright, I love you, Joe."
That September evening was the only time I have ever heard the song "Chain of Love" on the radio. But that night it seemed to me to be an effective illustration of a number of scriptural principles upon which every servant of the Lord must learn to rely:
-"Freely ye have received, freely give." Matthew 10:8
-"For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: but by an equality, that now at this time you abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack." II Corinthians 8:13-15
- "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;)" II Corinthians 9:6-10
-"Be not deceived, God is not mocked for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Galatians 6:7
- "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." Galatians 6:9,10
It was these scriptures which encouraged my heart and strengthened my weak faith to step out in obedience to the Lord's call. But in the midst of the trial of Rob's illness and his chemo and radiation treatments in the hospital and at a time when my business was at a standstill while we spent all our time at the hospital with Rob, the Lord had been graciously providing for all of our needs! The very first day that Rob was in the hospital, we received $500 in cash! Then during the next three months the Lord maintained us through gifts of cash that were handed or mailed to us from His people. In July, August and September of '99 we received gifts of cash from believers representing over 30 different congregations of over 20 different denominations! So as the Lord had been challenging my thinking and urging me to trust Him more, He had also been demonstrating how very practically and generously He could arrange to meet our needs!
So on September 9th, 1999 I sent a letter out to all my former clients telling them of Rob's illness, the Lord's miraculous provision for all of our needs, and of the radical changes that would be made in my business. I wrote that "Woodford's Sharpening Service" was being shut down but that I would continue to offer the same services but on radically different terms. I would be providing the same services as before but would be making them available freely and without charge or obligation of any kind. I would be writing no invoices and would no longer be keeping track of "accounts receivable". Also, since I offered no products or services for sale, I would be charging no taxes. If these new arrangements were not suitable to them, I also offered to refer them to other businesses which would be happy to charge and invoice them for their services.
I was enabled by the Lord to send that letter out with a deep sense of joy in my heart which sprung from having been obedient to His direction. But I must admit that it was also with fear and trembling! My faith was so weak and I still wondered what the outcome would be in the weeks and months that would follow!
But for “the rest of the story” I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait for the next post soon to follow!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
For many years a "pet peeve" of mine had been people who were involved in "Christian ministry" who charged big bucks for their "ministry"! (Christian singers, writers, musicians, preachers and teachers who demanded remuneration for their recordings and books, their concerts and speaking engagements.) "Red flags" were always raised in my mind when I encountered such money-making ministries! Had not the Lord Jesus clearly taught His disciples in Matthew 10:8, "Freely ye have received, freely give"? The Lord Jesus never charged for His ministries of healing the sick, raising the dead, or teaching and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom! And the apostle Paul ministered in the very same way. In I Corinthians 9:18, he wrote, "What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel."
But, in my mind, there was a big distinction between those people in "Christian ministry" and my own involvement in "secular business"!
For nearly 14 years I had been a "self-employed" businessman. I took pride in the fact that I was "in control" of my own business: I determined the hours I worked, the territory I covered, the services I offered, and the prices I charged for my services. But the God who resists the proud was about to shake my world!
I had a list of all the clients I served and, each month, I would contact the ones who were most likely in need of my services. The number of those who needed me to come for service calls that month determined the amount of work I had. Usually I was kept relatively busy full time. But, by the end of the first week of July of '99 I had serviced all my clients who needed service that month!! It was like my business had suddenly dried up and I didn't know what I was going to do the rest of the month!
But only a couple of days later, our 19 year old son, Rob, was diagnosed with cancer! There was a huge mass growing all through his abdomen. It was growing so rapidly that it put such pressure on his kidneys that he was in need of immediate dialysis. The doctors' did not hold out much hope for Rob's recovery and, realizing the seriousness of his condition, we were expecting an imminent funeral!
In the midst of this sudden turn of events, it seemed that the Lord was quietly speaking to my heart and patiently asking some very pointed questions. Since I had prided myself in being "in control" of my own business, the first question he brought to my mind was this, "Bruce, of how much do you think you are in control now? Just in the previous few days, it had been made painfully aware to me that I could not control my own son's health, I could not control which clients would need my service in any given month, and, if there was no need for my services, I could not even control the hours I worked or the amount of income I would have!
So I responded to the Lord, "No, I'm really not in control of anything!" Almost immediately His next question came completely unexpectedly to my mind, "If you are not in control of anything, are you qualified to be "self-employed"? I immediately wondered, "Where are you going with this, Lord?" But there was no response, it seemed he wanted an answer to His last question first. So I pondered the question for a while and at last acknowledged, "No Lord, since I am not in control of anything I am not qualified to be self-employed, BUT what am I to do, I've got this business to run!"
It was then that the Lord quietly reminded me that He had already shown me that there was no distinction between "clergy" and "laity" (all believers are His inheritance and His people), that there was no scriptural distinction between "full-time" and "part time" Christians (all are called to lives of holiness 24/7). Then He challenged me on my "sacred versus secular" distinction by asking, "Are the lives of New Covenant saints divided into two compartments (the holy and the common)as were the lives of the children of Israel under the Old Covenant?
That was a question I'd never pondered before but it compelled me to face the fact that my "sacred/secular" distinctions had indeed sprung from God's own ordained ways for His people under the Old Covenant which was given them at Mt. Sinai! They had holy days and common days, a holy priesthood and the common people, a holy building and their common homes, there were holy garments and common clothes, there were holy foods and common foods. In fact every area of life was clearly divided between that which was holy and that which was common! But then I realized as never before that all such distinctions have been done away with for us who are believers in the Lord Jesus on this side of Calvary!
-We are not instructed to observe holy days (Romans 14:5,6) but rather to live holy lives! (I Peter 1:14-16)
-There is no longer a distinct class of priests for every believer is a priest! (I Peter 2:5-10)
-God does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48 & 17:24) but rather in all of His justified people!(Eph.2:20-22)
-We are never instructed to "dress up" to "go to church", for we are the church where ever we go and are to dress modestly at all times.
-Nor are we ever taught to eat "holy foods" or a "holy supper", on a "holy day" in a "holy temple" which is administered by a "holy priesthood".... but as new covenant believers we are to remember the Lord as often as we eat and drink.(I Cor.11:24-26) The Lord's Supper is a meal, not a snack!
Thus, my ingrained distinction of things sacred as opposed to things secular was challenged to the core! Webster's Dictionary defines "secular" as "worldly, profane, heathen" and defines "secularism" as "a system of doctrines and practices that disregards or rejects any form of religious faith or worship"! Basically, to think of something as "secular" is to regard it as if God is not in it! So I began to realize that I had been entirely wrong to think of my own occupation as one which was "secular"!
I had long professed that all believers, myself included, were ordained (John 15:16), were clergy/God’s inheritance (I Peter 5:3), were ministers (I Peter 4:10,11) and servants of the Lord (I Cor.7:22; II Timothy 2:24) but the practical implications of these things had not filtered down into my own daily life! But now the Lord was again quietly asking me another question, “Bruce, rather than being a self-employed business man, would you be my servant?”
Intuitively I knew that He was calling for radical changes in how I worked and conducted business but I had no idea what that would look like! So I asked, “Exactly what do you mean, Lord? So He responded, “Rather than you being the boss and doing business your way, are you willing to work for Me and do business MY way?” Then I knew that what I had always expected of those who professed to be “servants of the Lord” or involved in “Christian ministry” , (i.e. that which they had freely received from the Lord, they were to freely minister to others) was exactly what the Lord desired and intended for me!!
I had freely received from the Lord good health, my talents, skills, abilities, resources and the time that was at my disposal. But I immediately thought that, if I freely offered my talents abilities, skills, resources and time to others, I would soon go “broke” and my family would starve! This was just “good common sense”, I thought! You cannot expect to survive in business by simply offering your services freely and without charge, it just doesn’t work that way! Then it was just like the Lord responded, “You are right! In the secular world (the imaginary/fairy tale/fictional world where God doesn’t exist), it doesn’t work that way! But I’m not asking you to work “in some “secular world” where God doesn’t exist” , I’m asking you to be my servant in the real world which I have made!”
Can you imagine the turmoil in my mind at that point? I’d been self-employed, charging for my services, writing invoices, keeping track of “accounts receivable” for 15 years in a world where supposedly “God didn’t exist” and now He was inviting me to be His servant and do business His way in the real world which he Himself had made! I don’t know what you would have done, but I was not at all eager to take Him up on His offer!
(To be continued in another post…)
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
One of the most interesting videos of that series for me was video 5 which dealt with the effects of the evolutionary theory on the development of Nazism, Socialism, Communism and the New World Order. In one very brief section of that video, the speaker listed the Ten Planks of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto of 1846. The second of those ten is a heavy progressive income tax. He recounted that Ronald Reagan had once said in a speech that “The taxation system in America is based on Karl Marx’s idea!” But his next statement challenged everything I had always believed about Income Tax. He said that most Americans are not liable to pay Income Tax at all but that it is voluntary for most folks!
Extremely curious about these statements, I contacted the office of Creation Science Evangelism which produced the video series and asked for more information. They sent 14 pages of material and sources of information. In those pages I learned that while the speaker paid all taxes that were required of him, as the Lord Jesus taught us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, he had not filed or paid Income Taxes for many years because he was not liable to pay such taxes and would not volunteer to do so!
If this was true in the United States, I wondered if the same was true here in Canada. So my research of Canadian Income Taxation began.
It didn’t take long to find a number of seminars being offered on the subject and I attended a number of such seminars in Toronto in the late summer of ’99. A number of organizations were offering “DeTax” programs with legal forms, documents and affidavits that one could use to stop filing Income Tax forms. But as I spoke personally with a number of “distributors” who were marketing these programs I could not find even one who had personally stopped filing! So I was determined I would not pay one red cent for a program which those who were selling it were not willing to apply personally!! I decided rather:
- to begin my own research of the Income Tax Act itself,then
- to interview Revenue Canada agents personally and finally,
- to write a letter to the (then) Minister of National Revenue , The Honourable Martin Cauchon.
My purpose from the start of this journey was to find out the truth and to put it into practice. If I was liable to pay Income Tax and had a legal obligation to do so, I wanted to fulfill my obligation under the law and in obedience to the teaching of the Lord Jesus. But if I was to discover that Income Tax really was a voluntary matter for me, I knew I could no longer continue to pay it.
I knew that neither the Lord Jesus nor the apostles were held morally accountable for the wicked use of tax revenue which they were required to pay to the Romans and neither would I be morally accountable for the wicked use of tax revenue that was required of me. But if I willingly, knowingly paid voluntary taxes, I could not escape moral accountability before God for the wicked use of such revenue which I had knowingly and voluntarily contributed! So I knew that I had to find out if I was liable under the law to file and pay Income Tax or if I had unknowingly “volunteered” to be part of the system when I had filed my first Income Tax forms as a teenager!
My initial study of the ITA (Income Tax Act) revealed some startling facts:
-Unlike other Canadian legislation, the ITA was never published in the Canada Gazette!
- Income Tax in Canada was first initiated as a voluntary measure to help fund the war effort in the First World War.
- I have been unable, as have many others, to locate or acquire a copy of the official version of the ITA nor has it ever been produced in a court of law when tax cases are being heard!
- Tax agents in the offices of Revenue Canada (now Canada Revenue Agency) and any member of the public must rely solely on an unofficial version of the ITA which is published not by government printers but rather by a private printing company!
Realizing that definitions of words are crucial when seeking to understand any legislation, I went to the “Definitions” section of the unofficial version of the ITA at a local library. The following were some of the surprising discoveries that I made:
-a “taxpayer” is defined in the ITA as: “Anyone, whether liable to pay tax or not.”
The acknowledged fact in this definition that one could be an Income Tax payer even if they were not liable to pay such taxes was the first clue that I had that paying income tax here in Canada just might be voluntary!
Then I looked for a definition of “Income”, but to my amazement although the Income Tax Act was comprised of hundreds of pages, I was unable to find a definition of that which it was designed to tax!!! In spite of this fact, every year that I had filled out income tax forms, I had been required to sign a solemn declaration that Ì had “fully disclosed all of my income.”
So on one trip to the Revenue Canada office in London, Ontario, I sat down with a Rev Can agent and asked what “Income” was. She got down her copy of the unofficial version of the ITA and began showing me various ways to compute income. But I told her I was not interested in learning how to compute such. I just needed to know what “Income” was, i.e. how it was defined in the ITA. Frustrated that she could not find such a crucial definition she called her supervisor to help. I sat there for 45 minutes while two Rev Can agents searched unsuccessfully for a definition of "Income".
While they were at it, I said, “Let me give you an illustration: My wife and I have a garden and our neighbour has a garden and we trade fresh garden produce. Do either of us have “income” from our gardens?” One agent responded, “Oh yes, both of you do!”
So I replied, “Well if that is true, I have a big problem! I have never declared garden produce on any income tax form so if such is actually “income” I have been lying every time I have signed such a form and declared that I had “fully disclosed all of my income.”
When both of those agents had finally given up and acknowledged that the ITA did not even define what “income” was, I told them, “I can no longer file income tax forms because I cannot in good conscience sign that declaration apart from knowing what is meant by “income”. If employees of Revenue Canada, whose responsibility it is to administer the ITA, cannot tell me what “income” is, how am I - a simple worker, to know what it is or whether I have fully disclosed all of mine??
Reading further in the ITA, I found that “returns of Income are to be filed in prescribed form.” Then “prescribed forms” were defined as those which have been authorized by the Minister of National Revenue. So on another trip to the Revenue Canada offices in London, I picked up a copy of every income tax form available as well as copies of every information bulletin that was made available to the public. Many of the information bulletins said that they were “authorized by the Minister” or Deputy Minister but I examined each and every Income Tax form with a magnifying glass and found that not even one had been so authorized! I have searched and inquired now for years for any evidence that such authorized forms have ever been printed and I have found none! So, as far as I know, it is a physical impossibility for me or anyone to file income tax forms in accordance with the provisions of the ITA!
But on that expedition to the Rev Can office I picked up a publication called “Revenue Canada, Our Programs and Services -1999” On page 8 of that publication I found these remarkable words: (emphasis mine)
We have designed programs and services to encourage voluntary compliance---the cornerstone of Canada’s self-assessment system. We combine education and service to the public with a comprehensive program of responsible enforcement to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the system.
We encourage voluntary compliance by:
Providing information and help to clients to ensure they understand their rights and obligations, and are able to comply with the law.”
-Here I found, in plain English in Revenue Canada’s own publication, that Canada’s self-assessment system of Income Tax is based on voluntary compliance! If something is mandatory, you have to do it! There is no such thing as “voluntarily compliance” to a mandatory law! If you don’t comply with a mandatory law, you face the penalties for breaking that law! Nor does government “encourage” voluntary compliance with any mandatory law…they simply enforce sanctions against those who do not comply!
But when co-operation with a voluntary system is necessary - “programs and services” are “designed” to “encourage voluntary compliance”! Catching fish with bait or lures is entirely based on the fish’s “voluntary compliance”. There is no law that requires that the fish MUST bite! But if the fish decides it wants the “bait”, it swallows the “hook” at the same time! So good fisherman are good at “encouraging” a fish’s “voluntary compliance”!
In like manner, Revenue Canada (now Canada Revenue Agency) is so good at this that almost everyone feels they “need” the programs and services which have been "designed to encourage voluntary compliance" with the Income tax system! Those programs and services include “social insurance”, “employment insurance”, “welfare programs”, “Workman’s Compensation”, “Canada Pension Plan”, “Child Tax Benefits”, “GST Rebates” and even “Income Tax Refunds” etc !
So armed with this information, I wrote a letter in September of ’99 to the Revenue Canada office in London, Ontario. I told them I was a Christian who wanted to fulfill all of my obligations under the law. I explained that I did not need or desire any of the above “programs or services” (which had been designed to encourage my voluntary compliance) and asked them if one in my situation was still liable to file income tax forms or to pay any income tax. I also asked 10 specific questions about the Income Tax Act, Income Tax forms etc. If they concluded that I was actually liable to pay such taxes, I requested that properly authorized forms be sent to me and I assured them that I would guide my affairs according to their response. That letter was sent to them by registered mail on Sept. 23rd,1999 and they received it the next day. But over ten years later, I am still waiting for a response from them or even an acknowledgment that they have received my letter!
After waiting in vain for over 90 days for a response (their own publication stated that they “provide information and help to clients to ensure they understand their rights and obligations, and are able to comply with the law”) I sent another registered letter to the Minister of National Revenue telling him of my inquiries to Rev Can and of their failure to provide the information which I had requested of them. I then informed him that I was no longer an “Income Taxpayer” and requested that no more income tax forms be mailed to me as had been mailed every year since I first “volunteered”. The Minister of National Revenue never replied to that letter, but neither has Revenue Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency sent me any more Income Tax forms as they had for many years previously!
I have not filed another “Income Tax Return” since the spring of 1999 nor have I paid a cent of Income Tax since that time. I simply learned the facts and asked if I was “liable”. In the absence of any evidence of such “liability” I simply decided not to voluntarily comply with the self-assessment system of Canadian Income Tax and clearly informed Revenue Canada and the Minister of National Revenue of my decision!
Over the years since then, I have received a number of “Requests to File” and “Demands to File” and “Assessments” alleging that I “owe” some outrageous sums as a result of not “filing”. But each such document I have promptly returned to the sender by registered mail marked "VOID, your offer of contract is hereby refused and rejected for fraud." I have also assured them that they need not “Demand” anything from me. All they need to do is (1) fulfill their own mandate by answering my questions in my letter of September ’99, and (2) send me the authorized forms which the ITA requires and I will be happy to “file”.
It has also been during these intervening years that I have learned how mandatory taxes are clearly distinguished from voluntary taxes -The first (such as PST, GST, gasoline taxes, property taxes etc) are simply charged and we pay them. But in order to pay any voluntary tax one first chooses to apply for a Social Insurance Number (although there is no law that requires anyone to have such a number), one then chooses to fill out forms (applications) to pay voluntary taxes (although there is no legal obligation for anyone to do so) , then one chooses to put their own signature and the SIN which has been assigned to them on those application forms (when there is no legal obligation upon anyone to do so!) Payment of mandatory taxes requires no number, no forms to be filled out and no signature. But payment of voluntary taxes requires all three!
In February, 2006 the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (now Canada Revenue Agency) sent me an alleged “Requirement to Pay” in the amount of some $115,000.00! But in the absence of any evidence that I was actually liable to pay such, I knew it was simply an attempt to scare me into volunteering back into the system again. I returned that “RTP” to the officer who sent it to me with a letter explaining why his document had failed to instill any fear in me to comply. From that time to the present (over three and a half years) I have had no further communications from the CRA.
I’m sure when our friend, Jason, gave those videos to Rob – he had no idea how they would challenge my thinking and the course of my life! But that was just one challenge to my thinking that took place in the summer of ’99. In my next post, I hope to share how my thinking was also challenged regarding service to the Lord and how it would radically affect my business.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
So Dave and I often met together to pray and to discuss the scriptures and seek to challenge each others' thinking regarding the church. But I think Dave challenged my thinking far more than I ever challenged his!
I had long been taught and had believed that there were just two kinds of churches composed of Christians:
The first was the church which is Christ's Body which is composed of all born again believers who have lived since the Holy Spirit was sent down by the Lord Jesus on the Day of Pentecost. This church is commonly known or referred to as the "Universal Church". That term is not found in scripture but is commonly used to designate the church which Christ is building and against which the gates of hell will not prevail.
The second was the church we called "the local church" of which there are many in the world today and for which men are given the responsibility to build and (as history shows) such churches have often been prevailed over and many which existed in former times are no longer in existence! But neither is the term "local church" found anywhere in scripture!
I don't recall just how Dave and I began to discuss the matter of different kinds of churches, but he began to suggest to me that there were, in fact, not just two kinds of churches in the NT but rather three! The term "local church" has confused and prevented many from recognizing the distinctions between two of these three for both are found and are located in local communities!
Dave suggested that the first kind of church in a locality is what scripture refers to as "the church of God". (See I Cor.1:2) That passage of scripture also clearly describes what kind of people comprise such a church.....the church of God at Corinth was comprised of all those at Corinth who were "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints". Such churches in other places were also composed of "all (in those places) who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours". So Dave suggested, that all the born again believers in the city of Woodstock comprised the church of God at Woodstock!
Then Dave suggested that the other kind of church that was mentioned in scripture in a particular locality was churches that met in houses. Houses were the most common meeting place of NT assemblies until the early 4th century when Constantine made "Christianity" the state religion of Rome and from then on "church buildings" became commonly used along with many other unscriptural practices such as a clear distinction between "clergy" and "laity"! Churches which met in homes of believers are mentioned in scripture in such passages as Acts 8:3; Romans 16:5; I Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15 and Philemon 1:2.
The idea that God recognized churches in cities which were composed of all the believers in that city was an idea which was totally new and strange to my thinking and one which I adamantly opposed in discussions with Dave.
However, I also began to realize that I had long encountered some difficulties with seeing only two kinds of churches. Some of those difficulties began to arise when I realized that the early believers broke bread and remembered the Lord in their breaking of bread on a daily basis in their own homes (Acts 2:46) for they had no "church buildings/sanctuaries/halls" in which to meet! While Old Covenant believers always had special places designated by God where they were to meet with Him and to which their sacrifices and offerings were to be brought...New Covenant believers were taught that God did not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48 and 17:24) but rather that He now dwelt in His own saved and sanctified PEOPLE! ( I Cor.3:16,17 and Ephesians 2:21,22) I will never forget the day when that truth was forceably brought to my attention as I walked out of the Bunsmaster Bakery on the west hill in the city of Owen Sound. Directly across the street was a large billboard with this bold statement in huge letters: "WE DON'T GO TO CHURCH!" Then, in smaller letters beneath that statement was placed a second statement... "We are the church!" As I stopped to ponder that bill board, I had to acknowledge that whoever had placed it there "had their head screwed on right" and had understood a truth of scripture which many Christians never realize! God no longer dwells in PLACES but rather in His redeemed PEOPLE!
Whenever that truth is realized and practically acknowledged by any believer they must also recognize that it is an absolute impossibility for them to "go to church"! If "church" is a place you go to, you could certainly "go to church"! But since an assembly (the Greek word "EKKLESIA" of the NT) is always a people, then if I am one of the people of God, I am part of that "EKKLESIA" where ever I go!
So realizing that breaking of bread, the Lord's supper (feast), was actually a meal eaten in the believers homes, I could not for the life of me visualize such occasions being times at which believing sisters (who had prepared the meals) would now be required to be silent while those meals were eaten in their own homes! (And yet, in the gatherings described and regulated in I Cor.14:23-40, women were to be silent (i.e. not to speak!) But I had never before even considered the fact that the I Cor.14 meeting was (1) not convened in a home, (2)did not include breaking of bread but was, in fact, (3) a gathering of the whole church (in the city of Corinth) in one place! It was NOT a small gathering of just a few of the Corinthian saints in someone's house, but rather a very large gathering of the whole church into one place, I Cor.14:23 (which of course would have had to be a venue large enough to accommodate them all)!
It was then that I began to realize that many assemblies in homes in the first century were gatherings in which sisters took an active vocal part! (see Acts 1:14-2:4; 4:23-31; 10:44-48; 12:5-17; 19:24-27) These facts ran completely counter to my belief (from I Cor.14:34,35) that women were to be silent (not to speak) in church gatherings! How could the Holy Spirit lead women to speak in assembly gatherings when His own Word tells them to be silent????
It was then that I also realized that I Cor.14:23-40 did not regulate small gatherings of churches in peoples houses, but rather the large gatherings when the whole church came together into one place! (I Cor.14:23)
This is verified in the Book of Acts where a number of city-wide or whole church gatherings in one place are recorded. If you read the accounts of such gatherings in Acts 2:46a; 6:2-7 and 15:4-29 (see especially 15:4,12 & 22) you will see that these gatherings were conducted in accordance with the regulations of I Cor.14:23-40.
-There was one speaker at a time,
-no women spoke and,
-although not all the men spoke, they all had the opportunity to do so for there were no “pre-appointed speakers”!)
-Please notice too that in such gatherings of the whole church, there never was breaking of bread (this was always done in houses. See Acts 2:46b)
-Nor was there congregational singing because singing is speaking (Eph.5:19) and women are not to speak in such gatherings (I Cor.14:34,35).
Thus I realized that scripture not only mentioned…
-churches in people’s houses AND churches of God in cities,
that scripture recorded…
-actual examples of both kinds of gatherings and
that scripture required …
-different behaviour in the gatherings of these two kinds of churches!
It was then that I realized that my brother, Dave Johnston, had been right after all when he suggested to me that scripture actually described three kinds of churches!
If you would like to investigate this matter in more detail and consider all that the scriptures have to say relative to these three kinds of churches (The church which is Christ’s Body, The Church of God in your community, and churches in houses) just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and request the article “Three Kinds of Churches” and I will gladly send it to you.)
Saturday, September 5, 2009
I believe that one of the most avoided and misunderstood chapters in the NT is I Corinthians 14, especially verses 23-40. (Have you ever heard a sermon, or been in a Bible study which addressed this portion of scripture? Have you ever asked a church leader who claims to "go by the Book", "How are we putting ( or should we put) this portion of scripture into actual practice?" Or "In which of our gatherings can the instructions of this passage be consistently obeyed?")
Have you ever wondered what a church gathering would look like if it was governed according to this portion of scripture?
This question was first brought vividly to my mind many years ago when our children were small and we had begun our journey of homeschooling. We had become good friends with another Christian family who lived just a few houses up the street from us and who also homeschooled their children.
While we were part of a "brethren" assembly and (at the time) believed that spiritual gifts such as prophecy, healing, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues etc had ceased by the time the NT scriptures were completed, our friends up the street were Pentecostals who believed that all those gifts were still in operation and that the evidence that a believer had been baptized in the Holy Spirit was that they spoke in tongues. So you can see that our perspectives on the gifts of the Spirit were poles apart!! And yet we often enjoyed fellowship together in each others' homes.
But one evening our neighbour, Mike, came over to have a conversation with me. He was evidently concerned for me and I was convinced that he wanted the very best for me. Since he knew from previous conversations that I had never spoken in tongues, he was concerned that I had never experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. So he came as a brother in Christ to speak to me about this matter. I told him that there was much in the Bible that I did not understand and I knew I had lots to learn. I also told him that I certainly wanted all that God desired I should have. But from previous experience with other friends who "spoke in tongues" I had observed many things which did not seem to line up with the Word of God.
At that time, I would have claimed that in our assembly gatherings we actually practiced and obeyed the regulations of I Cor.14:23-40. BUT, since we believed that the gifts of prophecy, tongues and interpretation had long ago ceased, the only thing left in that passage to actually practice today was the silence of women! (We were also taught incidentally from this passage that there were two classes of believers: (1) There were those who were "in fellowship" with our particular kind of assemblies and thus were allowed to "break bread" and (2) there were other believers who were "unlearned", were not "in fellowship" with our assemblies and thus were not allowed to "break bread" among us!)
As brother Mike spoke to me about "receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit" and speaking in tongues, I was sure that I could silence him with I Cor.14! So I asked him a series of questions:
(1) Did he believe that the scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit? (He did.)
(2) Did he believe that the Holy Spirit would ever lead believers to disobey the scriptures which He had inspired? (He did not believe the Holy Spirit would ever do such a thing.)
So I took Him to I Cor.14:23-40 and showed him how this passage taught that in the church gathering it described....
- speakers were to speak one at a time,
- no more than 2 or 3 were to speak in tongues,
- no one was to speak in tongues unless there was an interpretter who could interpret what was spoken so all would be edified, and
-women were to be silent, i.e. not to speak.
Then, thinking I would certainly show him the errors of what he had been taught and accepted, I asked him the following questions:
(3) In your church gatherings where tongues are spoken... is there only one speaker at a time? (He replied that there were often many speaking at once.)
(4) In these gatherings, are there ever more than 3 people who speak in tongues? (He replied that there were usually many people speaking in tongues.)
(5) In these gatherings is there always an interpretter? (He replied that often there was no interpretter and no interpretation of the tongues which were spoken.)
(6) In these gatherings, are the women always silent or refraining from speaking? (He replied that often, there were many women speaking.)
So triumphantly, I responded to Mike that it was for such reasons that I could not accept that what went on in such gatherings was lead and directed by the Spirit of God. For, as Mike had already acknowledged, the Holy Spirit would never lead anyone to do something which was in disobedience to His own Word. At this, Mike had nothing left to say and seemed pretty discouraged in his desire to have me speak in tongues.
But I concluded with this challenge to my brother, "If you ever discover a gathering of Christians where tongues are spoken and all of I Cor.14:23-40 is consistently obeyed, I would like to observe that gathering! So would you contact me and take me with you if you ever encounter such a gathering? (Mike agreed that he would do that for me and soon left for home.) He never again spoke to me about speaking in tongues.) I believed I had "won" a debate with my brother and that therefore my thinking did not need to change at all. But the Lord had other things in mind!!!
A few short weeks later, as I recalled the conversation with Mike, a thought came to my mind which I believe was a challenge to me from the Lord. It was this question, "What would you do ...
(1) if Mike came back to you acknowledging that what he had believed and practiced regarding speaking in tongues was not according to I Cor.14... and
(2) if he asked you (since you claim that all your assembly gatherings are conducted scripturally)...to take him to your assembly meetings so he could see I Cor.14:23-40 practiced consistently in your gatherings ???
I had to acknowledge in my own heart before God that I had NEVER participated in or even observed such a gathering! I also had to acknowledge in my own heart that I Cor.14:23-40 left no room for human pre-appointment of speakers and gave liberty to any brother to speak in the gatherings it described and regulated. Yet in almost all of our assembly gatherings speakers were pre-appointed and thus all the other men were virtually muzzled contrary to I Cor.14 !!!
I had been very smug thinking I had shown my brother Mike that his gatherings were in violation of I Cor.14 and that our own were consistent with the same passage of scripture. But now I had to face the fact that if I Cor.14:23-40 condemned the practices of our Pentecostal brothers and sisters in their gatherings, it equally condemned the practices in our own "brethren" assemblies!!
I had accused other denominations of denying the headship of Christ over His church by appointing a particular man as their pastor/minister/preacher/speaker but now I realized that we were just as guilty by appointing speakers in most of our meetings and denying the Lord Jesus His rightful place as Head over us to use whom ever He chose to minister!
This was the first major challenge to my thinking from I Cor.14, but it was not to be the last! But the account of that next challenge will have to wait for the next blog post!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
For many years, among saints with whom we gathered, I had grown accustomed to defining churches by activities. (If a group of Christians is a church they will do this and that and the other and if they don't do those things they are not a church.) This manner of thinking allowed me to have a "measuring stick" by which to judge other gatherings of saints and determine in my mind whether or not they were a church!
But when I looked for such an "activities based" definition in scripture, I became troubled that no such definition could be found! I knew then that if my thinking on the church were to be truly scriptural, I would have to find a scriptural definition, even if my former thinking about the church would have to be radically altered!
It was then that I began to notice that every time the apostle Paul, the NT writer who writes most about the church, defines the church - he does it by relationships rather than by activities. See I Corinthians 1:2; II Cor.1:1; Ephesians 1:22,23; Philippians 1:1; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:1 etc.
It is for these reasons that I was deeply impressed by the following article by Bill Hoffman which I found at http://www.story.house2house.com/2009/05/06/church-at-table-number-two/
“Would you like us to pray for you about something?” I asked. Immediately the eyes of our waitress opened wide as she blurted out an answer in the affirmative. It was Tuesday evening and our men’s accountability group had gathered for our regular meeting at a local coffee shop. For the past several months we had been offering to pray for those who waited on us. Most of the requests we received were fairly superficial. “My grandma is sick.” “I have a test coming up tomorrow.” “My boyfriend needs a job.” But when “Fran” began to share her needs with us it was like someone had backed up a garbage truck to our booth and dumped its contents out onto our table. Her daughter was suffering from cancer. A grandson had been born with serious medical problems. And her adult son had been thrown out of his home along with his three-year-old daughter. Fran had sacrificed financially to set them up in an apartment nearby but they had no furniture and her son had no job. She was working two full-time jobs to support them all and was still sinking quickly into debt.
“We will certainly pray for all of these requests,” I promised, “and we will see what else we can do to help.” Over the next few days we managed to come up with some leads for employment for her son and found a few items of furniture for them to use. On the following Tuesday Fran, who turned out to be the night manager at the restaurant, was again our waitress and once again we offered to pray for her. By the third week Fran was sitting down with us in our booth and joining us in our prayers. This was the evening she dropped the bombshell that has revolutionized the way we’ve been doing church.
“Thank you so much for your prayers and for all your help,” she gushed with a huge smile. “You guys have meant so much to me! I look forward to Tuesday night all week. Other people have invited me to their churches but they all meet on Sunday mornings when I am always working. So, God brought you guys to me on Tuesday nights.” After spreading out her hands toward the rest of us sitting at the table she joyfully declared, “This is my church!”
I’m afraid the first thought that crossed my mind was, “No it’s not! This is a men’s accountability group.” But the Lord suddenly revealed to me that this is exactly what we had been praying for. For months we had been moved to fervently pray for “workers for the harvest” asking the Lord to specifically connect us to a “man of peace.’” These prayer directives came from our study of the book of Luke, chapter 10: 1-7. It dawned on us that we had just found a “man of peace” even though the “man” was definitely a female and her house was not a house at all but rather a restaurant.
At first we attempted to invite her to our weekly house-church fellowship that meets at our home on Sunday evenings. However, her schedule made this impossible and her own apartment was in a community some twenty miles away. So, we just resigned ourselves to accept the fact that the Lord of the harvest had just morphed our men’s accountability group into a rather unique church. Early on Fran provided the name for this special gathering when she related to us a conversation she recently had with a fellow employee.
“You’re doing drugs, aren’t you?” Fran asked one of her co-workers with a tone of compassion rather than accusation. “Don’t try to deny it because I’ve been around and I know the signs.”
The young waitress just stared back at her through dilated, bloodshot eyes waiting for the expected pronouncement of her termination.
“Don’t worry,” Fran continued, ‘I’m not going to fire you or turn you in to the police. I’m just concerned about you and I know that whatever your problems are this is not the answer. Jesus is the answer! We need to change your work schedule so you can be here on Tuesday nights. Then you can go to church with me.”
Feeling somewhat relieved, the drug-addicted waitress responded by asking, “Where is your church located?”
As her face erupted into a huge smile Fran pointed over to a booth in the corner of the restaurant and proudly proclaimed, “Table number two!”
From this point on our gathering has been called “The Church at Table Number Two.”
Not long after Fran revealed to us that our gathering was in fact a church, she told us she had a surprise for us. She then excused herself from the table, went back into the kitchen, and brought out the cook and his assistant. After we all introduced ourselves we asked the two men what we could do to help them.
“We have heard all that you have done to help Fran,” began one of the Hispanic men speaking in heavily accented English. “We both live in very small apartments and have very large families. Could you perhaps find us some furniture? We especially need beds for our children.”
“I don’t know if we can help you,” I responded. “But I know who can. Jesus was the one who found help for Fran. Would it be okay of we asked Jesus to help you, too?”
Within a couple of weeks we had found some used furniture for these men and we began to connect every Tuesday evening with the cook. He led us to another family in a nearby community who was also in dire need of help, a young, recently widowed Hispanic woman with three young children and very little means to support them. We soon began meeting regularly in this woman’s home taking the Love of Jesus with us and doing what we could to help. Before long we were also traveling regularly to the cook’s home and “doing church” with him and his family. The cook, his wife, and her mother have all placed their faith in Jesus and God continues to open up doors through them into the Hispanic community. This has all been truly amazing to us since neither my wife nor I speak any Spanish and most of these new acquaintances speak little if any English. I’m not even a fan of Mexican food, but God’s Word tells us to “eat what is set before you.” (Luke 10:8) So, I’m learning to sacrifice my tongue and digestive tract for the greater good of reaching out to a people group in our area who are in desperate need of the Gospel of love. We are learning that the love of Jesus can break through any ethnic barriers.
I believe it is significant to note that not one of these individuals have ever attended our own home gathering. However, we are perfectly content with this development. It’s not that we wouldn’t love to have them; it’s just that they would most likely have a difficult time adjusting to our way of doing things, not to mention our food. Besides, the Lord has been teaching us to change the direction of our focus. For years our goal was to grow our home gathering to the point where it would be obvious we needed to split off and start another group. We would then commission a few of our members and send them out to plant the next church in another home. It’s not that this concept is terribly wrong; it’s just terribly slow. Meanwhile, the harvest is ripe and waiting.
These days we are not asking people to join the group that meets in our home. When we come across a “man of peace,” or discover someone interested in doing simple church, or lead someone to the Lord, our first instinct is to plant a new church in their home. We ask them to gather together their family and friends, especially those who are not yet Christians or who don’t attend church anywhere else, and we proceed to help them plant a church in the surroundings they know best, where Jesus can make the biggest difference, in their homes and workplaces. The results have been truly remarkable. But why should we be surprised? This is exactly how Jesus taught us to do it.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
But still, one of the most commonly asked questions when Christians first encounter other Christians is the one which is the title of this post..."Where do you go to church?"
The very asking of such a question reveals a very common but a very false conception of what the church really is! It is not a place to which one can go but rather a family relationship into which one enters by way of the new birth!
The following article is found on the web site www.house2house.com.
I hope it will help you and me the next time we are asked this common question!
Where Do You Go To Church? By Jack Helser
When Christians meet for the first time, the question most often asked is “where do you go to church?” I dread that question more than any other because the people who ask are usually shocked by my unusual answer. I hope by the end of this column, to show the reader just how silly the question really is.
Since the time of Christ, the question has been asked in many ways. There was the woman at the well who asked Jesus about worship on Jacob’s mountain or in Jerusalem. Jesus’ reply made it clear that where we worship is no longer relevant, but who and how we worship (John 4:21-23). On another occasion, the disciples stopped a man from working miracles because he was not a member of their church. Clearly angered, Jesus said “don’t stop him - if he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally” (Mark 9:38-40).
If where is not important, and there are only 2 sides in the conflict between light and darkness, can there be more than one church (Mark 3:25)? The answer depends on perspective. Since we are a people called to “deny ourselves” and follow Christ (Luke 9:23), only His perspective matters.
What has impressed me the most is our Father’s heart for unity, as expressed in Jesus’ prayer for all believers to be one with each other in the same way that He and the Father are one (John 17:20-23). In keeping with His Father’s desire for unity, Jesus commanded us to love each other (John 13:34-35) and when we have disputes to resolve them quickly (Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15-17). Our oneness and love for each other lets the world see Jesus in us and shows them we are His disciples (John 17:20-23, John 13:34-35).
Sadly, division and opposition began cropping up in the church even before the New Testament was complete. To the church in Corinth Paul wrote that their gatherings did more harm than good because of disagreements between opposing groups (1 Corinthians 11:17-18). He also corrected them for boasting about whom they followed, whether Paul, Apollos, or Peter. Paul wrote that such boasts were carnal and sinful, and he refocused them on God (1 Corinthians 1:12 and 3:4-7). Today, divisions are known by the sanitized name “denominations” where people profess religious brand-name loyalty to Calvin, Luther, Wesley, et al, and opposition has turned to competition between churches. Are division and opposition any less carnal and sinful today than they were then?
From God’s perspective, there is one church, and it is not a building that we “go to” (Acts 7:48 and 17:24). Rather, the church is the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) which is people, what Peter calls “living stones”, and God is assembling us into a spiritual temple (1 Corinthians 3:11, 12:18 and 1 Peter 2:5). Instead of asking “which church do you go to”, we ought to recognize one another as temples of God in which His Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19), and wherever God brings any 2 or more of us together, church happens (Matthew 18:20).
The Biblical example for the church is cities and regions living for Christ in relational fellowship, hence the 9 letters of Paul and the 7 letters from Jesus in Revelation, which are addressed to all believers in a city or region. If Jesus were to write a letter to us, He would likely address it “to the Church in Princeton” or “to My People in Bureau County.” His message is clear; wherever we live, we are God’s children and we are brothers and sisters. Imagine the kind of relational community described in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-35 here! What would it take from each of us to become a city united in Christ?
As for the original question “where do you go to church”, the answer is everywhere! Church happens in the aisles of a grocery store, in a café over pie and coffee, in the Laundromat, in homes, outdoors, and even in church buildings, because it is Christ who makes us the church, not where we meet.