“Nickels and Noses”? (On Measuring Success in the Church—More Encouragement for the Remnant)

Phyllis Nissila

I recently heard the idiom, “nickels and noses,” translation, “money and people,” referencing how success is counted in some churches.

Cute, but really?

How about one crown of thorns, two bloody beams, three nails, and success “counted” by our faith in same, that is, by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice no matter the size of the building or denomination.

Although we live in an age when Big Box stores, banks, and now churches are possible, and ultimately members from every tribe and tongue throughout time will assemble at the Throne above, down here where the Church of Terra Firma assembles “success” has little to do with size.

The “Body of Christ” into which we are united ipso facto by the power of the Holy Spirit is, in the spiritual sense, down to the significant One, Jesus Christ, where if even just two are gathered in His name He promised to be in our midst (Matthew 18:20).

Not that big is necessarily bad nor small necessarily good, because, as always, it’s about His presence, not ours. And, granted, we must pay for lights, camera, and action in cold hard cash, but we must also remember that the Light of the Truth—the real focus of the Church—revealed by Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit residing in however many or few are present, was purchased by the precious coin of the cross.

So be encouraged, brethren, especially in an era when the Churches of the Big Box seem to be crowding the street corners. Your little gathering, down to, for whatever reason, a few focused on Jesus Christ and Him crucified, still counts.

This, I think, is an especially good reminder as the Spirit of Antichrist amps up…

those at the foot of the crossImage from Wikimedia Commons.

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“Hey, You: Talk to the Man on the Cross!” (On the Righteousness of Believers)

Phyllis Nissila

Wondering who the You I am addressing in the title is? Who (hint, hint) prowls around seeking whom he may devour? Who likes to snake upside a believer’s brain with Blame and Shame thus keeping the spiritual klieg light on us and our efforts to save ourselves (not good) and away from the righteousness imputed to us through Jesus Christ (good)? [1]



And the prize? More of that “peace that passes all understanding” promised by Jesus to those who put their faith in Him—the One Who died in our stead, His blood covering our sin, guilt and shame.

Sounds pretty simple, huh? Put the Devil in his place with some power-packed Scripture by claiming our righteousness in Jesus Christ and walk away easy.

But as usual, sigh, not so easy.


Well, for starters, what earnest, true believer has not looked at him/herself in the spiritual mirror and queried, down-hearted, “Oh, no! I said (or did or thought or wished) WHAT? And I’ve been walking with Jesus Christ ____ (fill in the blank) years, now?!”

And immediately, the Blame and Shame begin…

Not that we don’t deserve the B and S, to be sure. And even though we’ve heard the good word about that in the Good Word: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NIV), it’s still hard.

The problem is, head knowledge doesn’t always filter down to emotional knowledge–you know, the place where we feel things, where we are wont to curl up in the spiritual fetal position and moan in regret because it seems we came up short. Again.

Even St. Paul had his moments in the mirror (Romans 7:13-20).

And, worse yet, for those of you (like me) reared in the Sacred Tradition of Works (one size fits all denominations), it might not even be the “seven deadlies,” the “frightful five,” or even the “nasty nine” (or whatever other list of sins we come up with) that trip us up and for which we assume the position.

We sweat even the small stuff, or the past stuff.

Something triggers a decidedly non-Christian word, thought, or deed from some unfortunate situation soon forgotten or long past, and we head for the corner where, trapped by the truth of us—and not yet remembering the Truth of Him (see above)—we marinate in misery.

And there (cue the Jaws theme), in the fertile valley of our self-made angst, You enters, locked and loaded with accusations.

“Oh, what a hypocrite are you,” he begins, smiling, I imagine, a nasty little snake smile. “And what are people going to think now! And how many people will turn away from The-One-I-Hate-and-Whose-Name-I-Refuse-to-Pronounce because of what you did!”

Or, worse, “You will NEVER EVER be able to overcome THIS sin!” (Emergency insert: “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again…” Proverbs 24:1.)

Know what I mean?

Or maybe not. (In which case I think you would be a rare and especially blessed believer!)

But before I trigger too much spiritual trauma, here, let me encourage you with something I am now applying to the situation.

You know the expression, “Talk to the hand,” which means, to finish the statement, “because I’m not engaging with you anymore.”? Spiritually, I go one further.

“Talk to the Man on the cross,” I now say, when cornered with yet another failure in my “journey in progress,” “because my righteousness is not due to my works, but due to His.

Cheap grace?

One sometimes hears this claim in opposition. But in response to that I wonder if he/she who argues thus has ever really considered the full import of that bloody day on Calvary, the weight of prophecy regarding its full intent, the unimaginable suffering of the only Sacrificial Lamb Who alone, through His flawless sacrifice, has the power to reconcile us with a God Whose perfect love also requires perfect justice?

I often wonder that…

But back to the scene in front of the mirror of (potential) doom.

Just in case Whoever won’t listen and continues his prowl-about in your mind and heart, add the following to your response, at will, and repeat as needed:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH (Romans 1:17, NASB).

 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:13).

And my personal favorite:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

And we are also promised help in the process of improving our “spiritual best,” as it were: “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NASB).

NOTE: For those new to all this and who may just now wonder, but how do you get there from here? Yield to the salvation power of God’s call on your life. Acknowledge your sin and ask Jesus Christ to come into your life as Savior and Lord. In short: “for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (sozo, “rescued, delivered out of danger and into (God’s) provisions”) (Romans 10:13). Then get yourself into His Word ASAP for the road map. I’d start with the Gospel of John.

Oh, believers, one more thing.

For those really hard-to-eradicate blames and shames, this additional little reminder for that old Despicable You: It didn’t end at the cross of (our) guilt and sin. There is, you see, this empty tomb…in a garden…outside the old city of Jerusalem…


[1] “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB).

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Vanilla or the Full (Spiritual) Meal? (On the Baptism in the Holy Spirit)

Phyllis Nissila

My sister once asked a local pastor, who we eventually came to realize is immersed in the 21st Century Church of the Hip, Slick, and Cool (or something like that),“Will you be teaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

Without blinking an eye, he replied, “We’re pretty vanilla around here. We don’t get into all that. We’re just into loving Jesus.”

My sister was speechless.


While the darkness enveloping the world is almost palpable? Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East? The economy is ready to tank? (Not to mention daily challenges…)

Really? Continue reading

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On (Dying) Snakes and (Defeated) Satan

Phyllis Nissila


snake-reptileIt is said of a snake that even though its head may be cut off, it takes a while for its slow metabolism to respond. In the interim, sometimes up to an hour, its tail thrashes about destroying whatever is in its way.

Its head also lives on for a spell: pupils dilate and fangs sink into whatever is near as the doomed reptile executes its final reflexive actions fueled by a snake’s brand of terror-laced adrenalin. [1]

If it is we who are near, and the serpent hasn’t been contained, there is still cause for fear.


How seemly, then, literally and/or metaphorically, Satan slithered into Eden as such a being.

And how equally seemly for us to keep in mind that even after our spiritual arch enemy’s ill-fated head-on collision with the Son of God (ca 33) he, like his reptile counterpart, continues his destructive postmortem thrash-about until his own containment (Tribulation’s end) and fiery finale (1000 years hence). Continue reading

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Prayer Needed

REPOSTED from http://mkayla.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/prayer-needed/:


The following is a prayer request from Iraq. It is real. It is not news or a conspiracy theory. Children are dying at the hands of ISIS for their faith…this story has chilled me in a way nothing else has in my life. I don’t have an update, just please pray!

Continue reading

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On Light and “Light” (“Is the Husband in a ‘BMBW’ Marriage Tantamount to Christ?” Part 2)

Phyllis Nissila

public domain sun photoA commenter on my previous post brought up what I think is one of the most frustrating and telling “bad fruits” of the natural tendency to “keep up appearances” when a rigid list of behaviors is imposed on groups of people based on the elements of “the flesh,” i.e., cultural and normalcy biases, human reasoning—and gender (not to mention lesser motivations…) particularly in religious systems, where grace can get lost in the mix.

One might paraphrase, “By bad fruits we shall know…too.”

This prompts me to share some thoughts on discernment based on an analogy that’s been on my mind lately.


In addition to believing that God does not lie in His Word (yes, I’m a literalist when evaluating Scripture in context and in the original languages, and what I have learned in only my first forty years of growth and study has so far only strengthened this belief), I’m what you might call a “metaphorist,” too.

In this capacity, I’ve been lately pondering the comparison of visible light and the “spiritual light” of God’s Word.

Just as visible light has components that enable it to infuse the nooks and crannies of creation by virtue of the elements of intensity, frequency, polarization, and speed (the complete spectrum of which is not wholly visible to the human eye [1]) the perfect “light of God’s Word” infuses the entirety of spiritual creation, too, and an individual’s or a group’s “spiritual view” may not “see” all there is there, either.

Why not? Perhaps it’s not the “fullness of time,” for one example, for a revelation or visible manifestation of a prophecy or group of prophecies.

There are also “flesh reasons,” you might put it, for truncated or incorrect interpretation, such as “cherry-picking” Scripture to “fit” into the aforementioned “external framework” of argument, insufficient exegesis, assumption, or presumption–no matter what authorial position the interpreters or group of interpreters might represent or claim to represent.

We are all fallible.

But just what is it I am saying, here, in reference to the “male headship” teaching in the BMBW movement?

Just this: when we or someone (or “someones”) else put a cap on God’s Word from an external or mankind-centered motivation, though it might align somewhat or even entirely in some places with the full “intensity, frequency, polarization, and speed” of Scripture, THIS SHOULD BE A RED FLAG. Particularly when the “fruit” of the teaching, such as the frustration my commenter referenced, conflicts with the fruit we are to look for that stems from correct teaching and practice (see Galatians 5:22-23).

In other words, is a husband’s “Christ-type” positioning in a marriage, at least as is implied in advice to wives in the movement (see previous post), really a truth infused in all of Scripture, or has it been presumed so?

But how can we know what is the “light of God’s Word” versus mankind’s limited “light of understanding” in this, or any other teaching that emerges? This is my focus, today.


Encyclopedias of information exist on the properties of physical light. I noted only a few facts.

Likewise, spiritually speaking, as the famed Bereans illustrated (Acts 17:11), a careful study of God’s “light” might also require “discerning through” spiritual encyclopedias of information, if you will.

But, whew! How is ANYBODY, then, to “get it”! Particularly in view of the fact that we, as Paul metaphorized, “see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12) when it comes to our limited understanding of all things God on this side of the pearlies!

And who has time to do all that work?!

Thankfully, God also provides benchmarks, i.e., “spiritual best practices” and perspectives to help the discernment process.

Here are three key verses:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 54:1, NIV).

For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement (1 John 5:7-8).

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).

Next question: so how are we to know who is speaking in alignment and who is not? How are we to possibly be able to  “prove all things” so that we can “hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)?

In addition to observing the afore-referenced “fruit of the spirit” emanating from aligned teachings and practices, here is another guideline when we don’t have the luxury of studying over time:

It’s not just about the text, it’s also about the context.


From my perch back in the English teacher’s classroom, this time the subject is literature, I offer this illustration.

When teaching students how to “unpack the prompt,” to discover fully the instructions for answering a test or assignment “question,” literature instructors stress the importance of proving one’s opinion with specific references—in appropriate context—to the text. This is critical for success.

In other words, a student might have a seemingly correct opinion as to some element or elements of a play, novel, essay, or poem, but without references to substantive elements in the work itself, he/she will have only accomplished half the assignment. It’s about opinion and  adequate support.

How does this relate to discerning Scripture?

The answer circles back to the discipline of the Bereans: study.

But how is the average person, without a Bible degree of some sort, supposed to figure things out, then?!

Fortunately, God does not leave us without guidance here, either, particularly on occasions when we don’t have access to teachers, preachers, prophets, counselors, and so on.

Our help?: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jesus, as quoted in John 14:26).

(This teaching is not gender-specific nor gender-restricted, by the way.)

And over the years I have also employed this wise advice a pastor once gave:

If the focus is centered primarily on us and our behavior, be very careful, no matter how educated and/or well-meaning the preachers/teachers may be, or how big and/or well-financed the religious institution may be.

Conversely, if the focus is on Jesus Christ (the real Christ, not a christ proxy, a Christ type, or someone actually claiming to be Christ), this is teaching in the right direction.

And where is this verified in Scripture? “He (the Holy Spirit) will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you” (Jesus, as quoted in John 16:14).

But, you might now think, taking a little bit closer look, what does “glorify” mean, exactly?

Excellent question!

And the Grand Adventure starts here, my friends: http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/doxazo.html

But let me encourage you further.


As you follow Jesus’ prompts through the Holy Spirit infused in you at re-birth, sent to illuminate every “jot and tittle” of God’s Word, frustrations will ease, confusion will abate, and the joy and lightness of another kind, emanating from your relationship with the God who loves you inestimably more than even the elements of His exquisite creation, will “shine you through” to that day when every dark glass will be shattered, every false Christ vanquished, and in the company of all others who worship Him and Him alone you will bask forever in the eternal light of God’s love.

And I have faith that once “home” we will all find that it will have been well worth the study, the process—and the “unpacking.”


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light

Photo from the public domain.

You might also enjoy be encouraged by this related post:


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Is the Husband in a “Biblical Manhood/Biblical Womanhood” Marriage Tantamount to Christ?

Phyllis Nissila


I concluded my last post with direct quotes from the document “Fifty Crucial Questions” (and answers) posted on The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website [1]. Permit me to do a bit of English teacher word/sentence analysis to help expose the errors in the teachings of the “husband as supreme authority over the wife as Christ is supreme authority over the church” and to propose the logical conclusions wherein the errors fester, wrong teachings of great import—and danger—for they cut to the quick of Who Jesus Christ is—and who a husband is not.

Not to mention the un-biblical (and potentially dangerous) position, spiritually, mentally, and perhaps even physically, into which these teachings put the Christian wife (and children) in such marriages.


For reference, again, from the document, here are the explanations given wives and husbands regarding her “submission role” in the teachings and his “Christ role” (bolding within the answers, mine):

Question 5: What do you mean by submission (in question 4)?

Submission refers to a wife’s divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. It is not an absolute surrender of her will. Rather, we speak of her disposition to yield to her husband’s guidance and her inclination to follow his leadership. Christ is her absolute authority, not the husband. She submits “out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). The supreme authority of Christ qualifies* the authority of her husband. She should never follow her husband into sin. Nevertheless, even when she may have to stand with Christ against the sinful will of her husband (e.g., 1 Peter 3:1, where she does not yield to her husband’s unbelief), she can still have a spirit of submission – a disposition to yield. She can show by her attitude and behavior that she does not like resisting his will and that she longs for him to forsake sin and lead in righteousness so that her disposition to honor him as head can again produce harmony.

Question 6:
What do you mean when you call the husband “head” (in question 5)?

In the home, Biblical headship is the husband’s divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike leadership, protection, and provision. (See question 13 on the meaning of “primary.”)

*qualifies: “be entitled to a particular benefit or privilege by fulfilling a necessary condition.” [2]


The definition given the husband regarding his role is nuanced by use of the adverb “Christlike”. By the suggestion that he is to strive to merely act LIKE Christ, not AS Christ keeps this part biblical. Indeed, all Christians are called to Christlike actions.

However, and this is key to the first serious error, the wife is told that she is to go well beyond believing merely that her husband has only to behave like Christ.

The wife is taught, as the definition regarding her role denotes, that her husband IS Christ, or a Christ type, i.e., mediator between her and God. She is to believe that his Christness, if you will, is not merely his behavior, but his essence due to his husband status.

How is this accomplished rhetorically? By use of the cause/effect construction of the sentence: Christ has supreme authority over the church, therefore, the husband has supreme authority over her.

But here is the (dangerous) rub: Jesus Christ is sinless.

Her husband is not.

When any Christian, man, woman, or child, is called to follow (the real) Christ, he/she does not have to worry that Jesus will lead in the wrong direction.

When we follow those who claim or presume to be Christ, or Christ types, there is no such guarantee.

But perhaps the more dangerous—not to mention heretical—logic of such teachings is that assigning Christic status to a man in the marriage relationship means that he is at once both Christ and anti-christ (false christ), he is at once both sinless and sinful.

This error in this conclusion should be egregiously apparent, and not just to Bible scholars and theologians.

If the wife has become ensnared in this belief system, or was reared in it, here is where the teaching winds further away from the straight path of truth down an even more treacherous road: how is she then to respond to her “relationship christ,” as it were, if he sins?

Not even the BMBW Scripture-spinners are denying that a husband, as revered as he is to be by his wife, might at times sin. However, should the Mrs. be aware of the Mr.’s transgressions, she is allowed but few suitable responses, again:

  • Showing by her “attitude and behavior” that she does not like resisting his will and that she “longs for him to forsake sin and lead in righteousness (again)” so that by her behavior, her “disposition,”
  • She still honors him as “head,” so that
  • (her right behavior) will thus bring back harmony

Here are but a few concerns prompted by these “instructions” for the wife:

Who is it that determines what attitudes, behaviors, and/or dispositions are “correct”?

What if Hubby’s sin is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual abuse?

Why is it that if it is he who has sinned, it must be she who, by “behaving correctly,” brings back the harmony in the relationship? This, ironically, actually puts HER in a Christ/Savior position assuming her husband is somehow unable to “save himself” from his sin without her carefully prescribed and executed responses…

Not to mention the potentially debilitating mental, emotional, and/or spiritual pain that she might experience trying to juggle all her responsibilities vis-a-vis his sins: the frustration, alarm, guilt, fear, doubt, etc., that predictably follows attempting to follow a false christ via mandates that are essentially religious works.

And, of course, what is notably missing in all this word smithing is the truth of the matter, i.e., it is wholly the husband’s responsibility to deal with his own sin (just as it is for the rest of us)—the acknowledgement of it, the confession of it, and any restitution deemed appropriate because of it—regardless of his wife’s, or anyone else’s, behavior.

Now on to the clarity of God’s Word.


That is to say, from the truth and protection of The Word:

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy, 2:5, NIV).


To my dear Christian sisters caught up in this teaching: there is no one who stands between you and (the real) Jesus Christ. Ask Him today for guidance, wisdom, and comfort.

And if there is abuse, contact your local authorities at once. Whatever you have been taught in this belief system, you—and your children—are still protected under the law.



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