1. The New Testament reveals the establishment and early growth of the church...
    1. The church Jesus said He would build - Mt 16:18
    2. The church Paul wrote that Jesus loved - Ep 5:25-27
  2. The Lord's will is that there be one church...
    1. He prayed for the unity of His followers - Jn 17:20-23
    2. Paul later wrote that there is one body (i.e., church) - Ep 4:4-6; cf. Ep 1:22-23
  3. Yet we see around us so much religious confusion, so many different churches...
    1. How did it happen?
    2. What can disciples of Christ today do about it?

[In the first place, we really should not be surprised by the plethora of different churches. For in the Bible itself we read that there would be an "apostasy" (falling away)...]

      1. In warning the Ephesian elders - Ac 20:27-31
        1. Of "wolves" coming in from outside the flock
        2. Of men "from among yourselves" drawing disciples away
      2. In warning the church at Thessalonica - 2Th 2:1-3
        1. Of a great "falling away" that must come
        2. Revealing "the man of sin", "the son of perdition"
      3. In warning the evangelist Timothy - 1Ti 4:1-3; 2Ti 4:1-4
        1. Describing how some will "depart from the faith"
          1. Giving heed to "deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons"
          2. Forbidding to marry, commanding to abstain from meats
        2. Describing how some will "not endure sound doctrine"
          1. Getting teachers who will tell them what they want to hear
          2. Turning from the truth, turning aside to fables
      1. Peter warned of false teachers to come - 2Pe 2:1-2
        1. Who will bring in destructive heresies
        2. Whom many will follow
      2. Jude warned of false teachers who were present - Jude 3-4
        1. Who had crept in unnoticed
        2. Who were turning the grace of God into lewdness
        3. Who were denying the Lord God and the Lord Jesus Christ
      3. John warned of "antichrists" who had come - 1Jn 2:18-19
        1. Many, in fact, had come!
        2. Indicative of living in the "last hour"

        [As Jesus had warned, there would be false prophets (Mt 7:15). Before the canon of the New Testament was completed, the apostasy was already underway. As one examines early church history, there are further indications of...]

      1. In many cases, innocent at first
        1. Attempting to deal with errors in and out of the church
        2. Leading to a change in the organization of the church
          1. From autonomous and independent congregations overseen by a plurality of elders (also known as bishops and pastors) - cf. Ac 14:23; 20:17,28; 1Pe 5:1-2
          2. To a collectivity of churches under one bishop - e.g., Ignatius
        3. Resulting in centralization of power and influence among key individuals
      2. This subtle change made it much easier for error to spread
        1. When those in power began teaching false doctrine
        2. Before long, the very errors foretold by Paul were being taught - cf. 1Ti 4:1-3
      3. Through slow but gradual changes, the seeds of modern churches were sown
        1. Producing what later became known as the Roman Catholic Church
        2. But also many other "orthodox" churches (Greek, Egyptian, Russian, Armenian, etc.)
        -- Just as foretold, many departed from the simplicity of the Lord's church
      1. I believe the Lord's church continued on
        1. For not even the gates of Hades could prevail against it - Mt 16:18
        2. It is a kingdom that cannot be destroyed - cf. Dan 2:44; Lk 1:32-33
        3. Wherever there are faithful disciples, though few and unknown, the church exists - cf. Ac 2:47
      2. Faithful disciples would have undoubtedly been treated as heretics
        1. For refusing to follow those in "power"
        2. By those presuming to have "authority" over the Lord's flock
        -- History may not record (or may misrepresent) the existence of those who remained faithful, but the Lord knows His own!

      [Throughout the history of the apostasy, many have come to realize what has happened, and efforts made to rectify the problem...]

      1. Attempts by those within to reform what they saw as the "apostate" church
      2. Some reformers were persecuted, either executed or expelled (e.g., Luther)
      3. Followers of such reformers often started new churches (e.g., Lutheran)
      -- The end result was denominationalism
      1. Some claimed modern day revelation as a solution (e.g., Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White)
      2. Believing the Lord was using them to lead people out of religious confusion
      3. Followers of these "prophets" started many more churches (e.g., Mormon)
      -- The end result was even more denominationalism
      1. There have been many calls for "restoration"
        1. Some seeking to restore the Lord's church (as though it had been lost)
        2. Others seeking to restore people back to the Lord's church (which has always existed)
      2. In both cases, efforts usually centered around restoring the New Testament pattern for the local church (organization, worship, work, etc.)
      3. In many cases, the efforts appear to have been short-lived
        1. One generation may have truly been restored to the Lord's way
        2. Yet some in that generation and others to follow simply repeated the process of apostasy (e.g., the International Church of Christ)
        -- The end result often being even more denominationalism!
  1. Of the three (reformation, revelation, restoration), I believe the Biblical response is restoration...
    1. As illustrated by the restoration of the Jews after Babylonian captivity
    2. As illustrated by the restorative work of John the Baptist - cf. Lk 1:16-17
    -- We must be restored back to the church of the New Testament
  2. Yet the principle of restoration works provided we...
    1. Allow the Word of God to be our only guide and authority - cf. Ac 20:32; 2Ti 3:16-17
    2. Do not allow traditions of men to replace the commands of God - cf. Mt 15:3-9
    -- Otherwise we plant the seeds of apostasy and denominationalism all over again!
  3. As followers of Jesus, we do well to imitate His service to God while on earth...
    1. Living under the Law of Moses which was in force at that time, He was simply a Jew (not a Pharisee, Sadducee, etc.)
    2. Living under the law of Christ (1Co 9:21) today, we should simply be Christians, not members of some denominational party - cf. 1Co 1:10-13

What are you religiously? Involved with the descendants of the apostasy foretold in the Scriptures? One of those whose response to the falling away has resulted in only another denomination?

Why not simply be a Christian, by letting the Word of God restore you back to the church of our Lord as revealed in the New Testament...? - cf. Ac 2:36-42,47

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2021


This is a test by Gary Rose


About two weeks ago we purchased new smart phones from the home shopping channel. No, they are not the latest and greatest phones out there, but they are quite an improvement. Most of the time, I use my computer, so I am not an expert with “Smart” phones, but I am trying to improve.

I must confess, I am growing to like my new phone more and more as times goes on. I am learning a lot and with trial and error, I am getting better using this gadget daily. One thing that really impressed me was the 13mp camera. I took a couple of pictures just for fun and I was surprised at the quality. The picture at the top of the post was one of them. I used a sharpie marker to draw a few symbols on a piece of paper and put it on the table in the lanai. Ok, the symbols could use a lot of work, but when I uploaded them to my e-mail account, everything actually worked as expected. Success!

After awhile, the symbols actually began to make sense to me on many different levels… Perception, Bible Study and even the very nature of my own being all seemed to flow together. The Bible says…

1 Thessalonians 5 ( World English Bible )

23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Perception: When I looked at that simple horizontal line on the white paper, I realized that I was looking down at it. A one dimensional view, simple, right? But, what if the view was changed to vertical? Then, the other two shapes that are hidden from the top view could be possible. A lot of people out there never get past the obvious straightforward concept; they simply look at things in black and white, nothing more. Spirituality is not an option, let alone allowing God to be LORD of your life. Consider John 5:19-47 and then think about what Jesus actually said about himself. But, the religious of his day were not into anything but the law and not willing to listen. I wonder, how many people out there are actually willing and able to hear what Jesus has to say to them?

Bible Study: The line represents the single proof text concept. People use proof texting to make the Bible say anything they want to. But, if you add the rectangle ( let’s just call a box ) then the context comes into view. Add the ellipse ( it started out as a circle, but I am artistically challenged ) and the concept of God’s presence within and through the Scriptures comes to mind. Again, consider the passage from John 5 as mentioned above.

Being: We are made in the image of God. We think rationally, emotionally and are linked spiritually to our creator by design. Christians have a mind-set that includes this concept and this worldview changes everything. We are multi-dimensional beings and what we think, do and truly understand are linked to our understanding of life, lived in the presence of Almighty God. See Genesis 1, Ephesians 1:3-11 and Acts 2:38

Well, so much for Smart phones, pictures and shapes. But, there is one thing more, for remember the title of this post: This is a test. The test here is all about listening to what God has done for those who are willing to obey HIM and live with HIM as LORD of their life. The question remains….. Will you obey and live for God or are you still stuck on just a horizontal line?


Looking Ahead by Gary Rose


Only 10 more days left in 2021. As we approach 2022, it is quite natural to reflect on what has transpired during the current year. If we just take the time to consider, we will find a mixture of both good and bad during this most recent 365 day period.

In just a few days, the date on the calendar will change, but I wonder, will we? Should we? If we are dwelling too much on the past, with all its hardships and things we could have done better, then the answer is a resounding … YES! As human beings we all make mistakes; accept that FACT and deal with it. For those of us who are Christians, we look to God for guidance and motivation and direction. Paul puts it this way…

Philippians 3 ( World English Bible )

13 …. Forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before,

14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Follow the example of the Apostle Paul. He persecuted Christians before his conversion to Christ; but after, well, his actions helped change the world for the better. How? By putting the past into its proper perspective and not repeating his mistakes. And, most of all pressing forward.

We too should Press on, change, improve your life! Yes, it IS OK to remember the past, but not to habitually dwell on it. In short, forget that rear view mirror, look straight ahead and with Christ’s help you will succeed in the future.

May God bless your efforts in HIS service!



Glowing yet? By Gary Rose


Three pictures of the same object taken at different distances and times. The object looks different in all three pictures, but what is it?

At first, I thought it was lightning hitting the tree, but no, lightning wouldn’t “drip” like that. Then I thought it might be radioactivity, but again, there is that dripping.

Finally, I decided the tree was on fire, but again, that just seems WRONG. It did, however remind me of an encounter from the book of Exodus…

World English Bible ( Exodus 3 )

1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to God’s mountain, to Horeb.

2 The angel of Yahweh appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

3 Moses said, “I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”

4 When Yahweh saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said, “Moses! Moses!” He said, “Here I am.”

5 He said, “Don’t come close. Take your sandals off of your feet, for the place you are standing on is holy ground.”

6 Moreover he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look at God.

7 Yahweh said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.

8 I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.

9 Now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to me. Moreover I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.

10 Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

11 Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

12 He said, “Certainly I will be with you. This will be the token to you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Moses said to God, “Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you;’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,” and he said, “You shall tell the children of Israel this: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

This encounter of Moses with God says many things, but I would like to focus on only one. The closer Moses came to God, the more he understood about the Almighty and what God wanted him to do. The same can be said for us. The closer we are to God, the more we will come to know HIM and serve HIM.

How? By reading and studying the Scriptures, by prayer and the practical application of the principles learned from the Bible. By the reality of becoming a faithful Christian and allowing God to work through us.

No, I didn’t forget about the pictures at the beginning of this post. They were originally all one picture, but I separated them in order to emphasize closeness. So, what are they anyway? The answer: time lapse photography of fireflies hovering around a tree.

Perhaps, if we “hover” around God long enough, we will glow ( spiritually ) something like them. We can only hope!!!


Really? by Gary Rose


If you have read my blog posts, then you probably are already aware that I love dogs. Size, age and breed really doesn’t matter much to me; I love them all ( but the ones that BITE, not so much ).

Over the years, I have grown to appreciate my own dog’s personality. Until the past year or so, when he wanted to go out for a walk he would just stare at me. Now, he still does the stare thing, but after awhile he will do a very faint woof, then a louder woof and finally a quite loud bark; and if its an emergency several barks. Sometimes, I can understand him when he will intermittently shift from staring at me to looking at the door – I get it, he wants out, NOW.

Having said all this, look at today’s picture. How would YOU caption this picture? For me, its a one-word title – “REALLY ?”! It is as if he is doubting what someone is trying to tell him.

As a Christian, sometimes I hear things about the Bible, the church or Christ himself that just doesn’t sound right to me. Then its time to do a little research in THE BOOK of books. This situation is nothing new, for as far back as the early church, some people were distorting the truth or just plain outright LYING.

The Bible says…

1 John 4 ( World English Bible )

1 Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,

3 and every spirit who doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already.

Now, the first century church had special gifts, such as prophecy and tongues ( see 1 Corinthians 12f. ), but today we have the complete revelation of God. See also, Acts 20:27; 1 Cor. 15:1ff; Jude 3 etc.. Paul writes to Timothy the following…

2 Timothy 3 ( WEB )

14 But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

15 From infancy, you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus.

16 Every Scripture is God-breathed and1 profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,

17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Since the Scriptures enables one to be fully equipped ( 2 Timothy 3 ) and Jude 3 says..

3 Beloved, while I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I was constrained to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

then we have a standard to go by, a measuring stick for the truth. Whether its the deity of Christ ( 1 John 4 above ) or the completeness of God’s revelation, we have the truth, the complete truth.

Its Ok to doubt when you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right, but the Scriptures have the final word, period. Believe that, for its true!