Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How much of the Bible is written to me?

This is an interesting question that I haven't really considered much until yesterday. This Luke 12:22-34 passage was one of the passages that I was unable to understand.

Is this passage telling me (and you) to:
  • Not worry about your life?
  • Not worry about what you will eat?
  • Not worry about what you will wear?
  • (Not worry about budgeting, saving, financial planning)?
  • Sell your possessions and give to the poor?

Luke 12:22-34 (NIV)
"Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

But were these words written directly to me? Or is this a record of Jesus' words to His 12 disciples?

Is Jesus saying that all those who want to follow Him need to sell their possessions and give to poor? Or was this command specific to His 12 closest followers?

Even if we conclude that this passage was specific to the 12 disciples, I'm sure we could pull some universal truths from them about not placing our hopes in wealth, and our responsibilities to the poor.

But this is still a tough question. If I conclude that this passage was not directed specifically to me, there are likely a lot of other passages that could have the same conclusion applied. How much of the Bible is written to me?

Then I'd have to rely more on the Holy Spirit to really guide me....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I don't understand Matt 24:34

This is another posts on my lack of intellect, and inability to understand parts of Scripture. Some people approach these verses and attempt to make them fit what they believe, but I'd rather admit I don't understand them, and pray God will reveal more truths to me if or when He wills.

In Matthew 24 Jesus is responding to the question "what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"

He replies that there will be false prophets claiming to be Christ, wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions. He says that "the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

Then continues that when we see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel, there will be the worst times our world has ever seen.


"Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'""At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

OK, so this all sounds like the end of the world stuff to me... but then what follows makes no sense to me at all.

Matt 24:34 (NIV)
"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."
If "this generation" means what I think it should mean, Jesus was saying that all the stuff above would happen with the next 40 ish years of when he spoke it.

Preterism has a way of explaining it by claiming all these things did occur in 70AD with the destruction of Jerusalem. But I'm not sure where that leaves us now... are we waiting for a 3rd coming? Or is this related to the kingdom of God which has already started which I also don't completely understand.

Others have tried to explain that "generation" could mean something other than what it means. Or that "this" should have been "that". Or others say that Jesus made a mistake.

I'd rather just admit I am lacking enough intelligence to figure this out right now. And I'm OK with that:

1 Corinthians 1:27-31 (NIV)
"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Does the Bible Give Clear Asnwers on all Issues

The Bible gets used to give support for many topics.

Is there a problem with using the Bible like a magic 8 ball? Can we look to it to find answers to all issues?

Throughout my years in a variety of church circles I have heard Bible based arguments for each of the following issues. Some have used the Bible to claim these issues are clearly sin. Others conclude they are not.
  • Gambling
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Dancing
  • Mixed gender swimming
  • Females wearing pants
  • Females without head coverings in church
  • Females in leadership roles at church
  • Symbols like Christmas trees used in church
  • Use of drums in church
  • Use of musical instruments in church
  • Going to movie theaters
  • Listening to secular music
  • Birth control
  • Polygamy
  • Participating in Halloween
  • Participating in armed conflict
  • Being protestant
  • Being catholic
  • Being ______
I'm sure you could add a few more to this list.

Here are some bigger past issues that people had used the Bible to support:
  • Slavery
  • Crusades
  • Inquisitions
  • Apartheid
  • Hitler's actions against Jews
  • Condemning interracial marriage
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • Many harmful cults
William Shakespeare recognized the problem:
"The devil can site scripture for his own purpose! An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek." [Merchant Of Venice]

So why do some people feel the need to say the Bible has clear answers to every issue?

Is the bible black and white on all issues?

How many of these issues need to be central to our faith?

Should we use the Bible like a magic 8 ball to find answers to all issues?

We can learn from history that there are some obvious dangers to using scripture to promote a position that is not part of the central message of the Bible.

I propose one of the biggest dangers is the divisions in Christ's church that have been created by holding too tightly to these non-essential positions.

When Christ's body is not One, the world will not recognize us as His.

I think it is wise to look to scripture and study what it has to say on all issues. But if it is outside the central message of scripture, let's not get too dogmatic about it.

Can we agree to disagree on issues that have less scriptural support than our essential belief of Christian Unity?

Related Posts:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Unity is Essential

When we consider Christian unity there are a few questions to consider.

How can we find unity when we have so many different beliefs?

We must recognize that we will not all agree on everything. Being of one mind does not mean we will agree on everything. There has never been a time in the history of Christ's Church where everyone agreed on everything. But we must recognize the unity that exists in the essentials of our shared faith in Christ and His message of good news for us.

What are the essentials?

This is where I believe we often go wrong. Many 'churches' have made the list of essentials to included everything they interpret the scriptures to say. Then when someone interprets part of scripture in a different way, they can not find unity.

I believe we need to reconsider our list of essentials for the sake of unity. I believe Christian unity is one of the essentials to our shared faith. If we don't highly value the unity of Christ's body, we are not placing high value on the word's of Christ.

Jesus' Prayer for us in John 17:20 - 26 (NIV)
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
Colossians 3:13-15 (NIV)
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Ephesians 4:2-6 (NIV)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Romans 15:5-7 (NIV)

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

1 Cor 12:12-13 (NIV)

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
1 Cor 1:10-13 (NIV)

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
My Modern day interpretation:

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, in my life journey I have heard many quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I am Baptist"; another, "I am Lutheran"; another, "I am Catholic"; another, "I am Protestant"; another, "I am Evangelical"; another, "I am Orthodox";another, "I am Emergent"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was your denomination crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of a denomination?

The scriptures are clear that placing a high value the unity of Christ's Church is essential to our faith.

I propose that whenever we encounter an issue that is dividing Christ's Church we ask this question:

Is this issue more essential to my faith than the unity of Christ's body?

And to determine the answer to that question, take a second look at the scriptural support that is backing up your position to the divisive issue. If there is less scriptural support for the issue you are debating than there is on the topic of unity (and there are more verses that I did not list here), then we need to recognize that maintaining unity is more essential.

Related Posts:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Respond to Disagreements in Love

A big part of my journey in the past few years has been a growing distaste for things that cause dis-unity in Christ's Church. However disagreements are very common in every human relationship, they are going to happen. How can we respond in love and respect despite different points of views?

I'm finding myself struggling with this lately. I am recognizing how strongly I disagree with those who publicly create divisions with others in Christ's Church. So how should I respond? Do I respond to those who are causing divisions with further hostility? How can I maintain unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ who do not share my perspective on what is essential to the faith?
Love (1 Cor 13:1-13 NIV)
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Lately I have been quick to recognize Christ followers who are not displaying these characteristics of love as they relate to other Christ followers.

It is critical that I respond to everyone with love, even those I disagree strongly with.

John 13:34 (NIV)
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
If we leave out love in our response to disagreements, others will not recognize that we are Christ's disciples.

I pray that I can demonstrate love in all situations as I work through this journey.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fire Insurance Sales Agents

Is Christianity like buying and selling fire insurance?

Is it about believing certain truths about Jesus to insure we spend our eternity in Heaven instead of Hell? Then making sure other people believe the same things so they also can be guaranteed to spend eternity in Heaven and be spared Hell.

Do we do good deeds so others will believe like we do? Do we strive to live good lives to be a good witness, with the hopes that others will believe like we do?

Is the main task getting this fire insurance policy into everyone hands? I don't think so, otherwise the greatest commandment would have been.

NOT Matt 22:37-39
'Love your beliefs with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Teach your neighbor your beliefs'.
Is there more to Jesus Message? Is it just about eternity? Or is it about living now?

Loving Jesus...

Loving others...

Enjoying God and His creation...

Becoming people of love, joy, justice, peace, mercy...

Starting now, and into eternity.

Luke 6:27-38 (NIV)
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Liturgical Gangstas

Some great stuff going on at internetmonk.com.

A question is posed, and responses are given by “The Liturgical Gangstas” (An Eastern Orthodox priest, an Anglican priest, a First Baptist pastor, a Roman Catholic, a United Methodist pastor, and a Lutheran pastor).

So far there's been 6 topics discussed. There is much to be learned from each other.


Good work!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Responsibility of the Wealthy

I'm still pondering what the deal was with Jesus saying He came to preach good news to the poor. And I'm still wondering what my response should be as one who has been blessed.

Jesus gave some hard teaching regarding wealth. Some verses are extremely difficult to follow, I'll get to those in future posts.

But first I want to look at some verses that seem easier to follow, yet I'm afraid I'm still not living these well either.

2 Corinthians 9:10-12
"Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God." (NIV)

1 Timothy 6:17-18
"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."(NIV)
This should be a starting point for all Christ followers who have been blessed (who have more than enough food in their homes). We should not put our hope in wealth, but in God. We should be rich in good deeds, and generous in every occasion and willing to share.

I'm not living here yet... I find security in budgeting and financial planning. I need to find a way to blend my habits of budgeting and being a responsible steward of what God has blessed us with, yet allow spontaneous giving to alter my financial plans to line up with God's plans for my finances.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Burned out on Religion?

Matt 11:28-30
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
With Love, Jesus

(The Message)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Good News to the Poor

Luke 4:16-20

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (NIV)

Matthew 11:4-6
"Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (NIV)
Huh? What about the rich? Didn't Jesus come to give good news to the rich too?

In North American standards I'm not rich... but ...
  • I own a car that puts me in the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.
  • I own a computer and only 1% of the world does.
  • I have lots of good food in my house... too much actually
Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every five seconds. http://www.bread.org/learn/hunger-basics/hunger-facts-international.html

What is this good news to the poor that Jesus came preaching?

Am I as a follower of Christ bringing this message to the poor of our world today?

So yes, I'm a bit confused and am praying for better understanding on this.

Was Jesus' good news to the poor the message of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-55)? Is this message of the kingdom of God a message that will see the debts of the poor forgiven?

Is the good news to the poor: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." ... "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. " (Luke 6:20-26)

I don't understand what this really means.

God how am I to respond, as one who has been blessed? What is my responsibility?

I want to also share this good news to the poor. But I'm not sure what my part is. Do I need to sell all that I have and give it to the poor? Would God ask me to remove all the comforts my wife, kids and I share? Would this be responsible? Or is there some way I can use the money and resources I have to bring Christ's message of redemption (physical and spiritual) to the poor?

I pray for wisdom and understanding on this.

(Edit March 7th, 2009)
This may makes a bit more sense to me now... If the good news is: "The reign of God is here - change your life, believe this message". It would make some sense that the poor would be eager to hear this good news message. They may not have hope in being part of a human kingdom, but they could be part of this kingdom of God.

But it still troubles me that Jesus didn't say he was giving this message to everyone - rich and poor.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are the Wicked Punished in Hell Forever?

I've always heard that the wicked would be punished in Hell for eternity. Let's look at some verses:

Luke 13:1-5

"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (NIV)

What is the context of the word perish here? Perish like the people who had a tower fall on them?

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (NIV)
John 10:28
"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." (NIV)
Note that Jesus said 'perish' not eternal punishment.

John 3:36
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (NIV)
What does 'not see life' mean? Not live for eternity?

Jude 1:7
"In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire." (NIV)
How is this an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire? There could be an eternal fire that destroys the wicked in the same way that the people from Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. An eternal fire does not necessarily mean the wicked survive in the fire eternally.

Rom 6:23
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (NIV)
Again eternal life is contrasted with death - not an eternity of punishment.

Matt 7:13-14
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (NIV)
What does destruction mean?

Verses used to support eternal punishment
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matt 25:46 NIV)
This does say eternal punishment. One explanation used to fit with the perish side is this: Consider someone getting multiple life sentences for a crime. It does not mean the person will live as long as the sentence. Is it possible that the punishment is eternal, but the life of the person is not eternal?
"They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power" (2 Thes 1:9 NIV)
Could everlasting destruction mean they are destroyed forever?

Mark 9:43-48
"And if thy foot may cause thee to stumble, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into the life lame, than having the two feet to be cast to the gehenna, to the fire -- the unquenchable --where there worm is not dying, and the fire is not being quenched. " (YLT)
We also need to consider that Jesus is quoting Isaiah 66:24 here:
"And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind." (NIV)
Note the reference to dead bodies, not living bodies. Also Gehenna was a burning garbage dump near Jerusalem. Things thrown into the burning garbage dump would be destroyed. The fire burned forever, but the things thrown into it perished.

Either way eternal life with Jesus is still the obvious choice. I'm just questioning if the doctrine of Hell, that most denominations support, is true to scripture. To be destroyed or perish may simply mean that those who do not choose life with Christ do not get to live eternally.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What I don't know

The more I study the less I know... sadly that seems to be the way my earthly mind works.

So here is a summary of stuff I don't know... I will likely update this post as I discover more things I don't know with certainty.

I don't know which denomination has the best theology and doctrines

I have spent most Sundays in 'evangelical protestant churches'. However as I look at the different points of the protestant reformation, I can not say with certainty which side has the most correct answers. Both sides use scripture and logic to back their positions, but place greater emphasis in different places. I see some areas of concern in some Catholic doctrines. However I don't see any consensus in an evangelical systematic theology either. The holy scriptures were not written as a list of doctrines, maybe we are not supposed to create an airtight system of beliefs on all issues.

I don't know who all will be saved

I am not the final judge on this - thankfully God is! I will try not to be a judgmental Christian. I don't think the criteria will be based on which doctrines and statements of faith you agree with. It may have more to do with how we lived in relationship with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit and all His creation. But what about all the people who love God without understanding and loving Jesus? Or believe without following? Or follow without believing (if that is possible)? Or died as a child before they could really believe or follow? Or had the emotions of a child through some disability and could not understand? Or just believed and did the wrong things because that is what they were taught to do by their religious leaders? Or the ones who used to believe and follow, but then in their last months of life lost the passion and didn't end well? What about losing the passion for the last years of life? Or most of their adult life? I'm not qualified to be the judge. I'm OK leaving all this to God.

I don't know what to call the thing we do on Sunday morning

I believe I don't go to church, I am part of Christ's church. Should the word 'church' refer to an event, location, building or organization? I do value worshiping with others, and supporting others in their relationship with God, and we do this on Sunday mornings and throughout the week.

I don't know if the wicked are eternally punished in Hell

I don't know if the wicked are punished in Hell forever. Either way eternal life with Jesus is still the obvious choice. I'm just questioning if the doctrine of Hell, that most denominations support, is true to scripture. To be destroyed or perish may simply mean that those who do not choose life with Christ do not get to live eternally.

I don't know if the Bible has clear answers on all issues

The Bible gets used to give support for many topics. But does the Bible give clear answers on all issues? Should the Bible be used like a magic 8 ball to give answers on every topic? Many of these issues were not meant to be the central message of the gospel. We need to balance the fact that unity is essential, and loving everyone is essential, before we become dogmatic about any lesser issue.

I don't know why only 'church' leaders perform baptisms

Who was the great commission given to? To all Christ followers? Then who was instructed to baptize? Why do most Christ followers leave the great commission to the 'professionals'?

I don't know why some identify with John Calvin

There's some stuff about John Calvin that I think we should all want to distance ourselves from. However some people still call themselves "Calvanist" or "new Calvanist". What do they mean by that? If it means they are in agreement with some of the teachings of John Calvin that's likely OK (I have concerns with those beliefs too - but it's OK to have different beliefs than me, I don't have it all figured out either) . But why can't they just say they are follower's of Christ? Are there some teachings of Calvin that are different than the teachings of Christ? If they are the same, why the need for another label?

I don't understand Predestination

The way I see it, both Calvinists and non-Calvinists have points where they must admit they don't understand something. I am quick to admit I Don't Understand Predestination. I think this is safer than defending some of the conclusions further down their logic path.

I don't know if I've grown up allowing the Holy Spirit to teach me enough

Why so much emphasis in Christian circles on teaching each other all truths? Are we letting others replace the role of the Holy Spirit? Take a look at Hebrews 8:7-13 and some other passages.

I don't know if Jesus paid my debt

I can not find any passages in our Bible that describe a legal transaction in terms of Jesus paying a debt. I think there is a difference between paying a debt and paying a ransom. I also think the over-use of this language may help shape an unhealthy view of God. Same goes for the thinking in Penal Substitution.

I don't fully understand Christ message about poverty and wealth

Christ came preaching good news to the poor. But I don't fully understand what it was, and what my responsibilities are yet with this message.

I don't know if Christians should be religious

Did Jesus Come to Start a New Religion, or did He come to free us free us from religion and connect with us in new relational ways.

I don't know why the gospel of the kingdom isn't preached often

Jesus and His discipled frequently preached about the good news of the reign of God. What Gospel does you neighbor need to hear? I don't understand why we don't follow Jesus example on this. I've looked for the Gospel in the Gospels - and I'm not sure why it seems clear to me, but different for others. Are people not interested today in understanding the Secrets of the Kingdom?

I don't know a lot of other stuff.

I plan to post a few more under the what I don't understand label category. I'm humble about what I don't know - and proud of it. :)

... I've got a few other questions floating around in my head, but I shouldn't list them here until I do some further study. I'll be updating this page as I learn more (and likely understand less).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

What I Believe

The more I study the less I know... and many of my blog posts here reveal how I am seeing shades of gray in many places where I once saw black or white.

But there are things clearly central to scripture that I choose to believe by faith.

So here is a summary of what I believe... I will likely update this post as my journey unfolds.

It is OK to have a simple faith

I want to have faith like a child. I don't believe it needs to be as complicated as some have made it to be. We don't need to read libraries full of volumes of complicated theological arguments. Many of these complicated theological discussions are good, but they are not required.

Allow God to Reign in His Kingdom

Jesus' spent a lot of time preaching about the Kingdom of God , or the Reign of God. We must repent, and allow God to reign in our lives. I want to be part of His work in His kingdom now and into eternity.

Unity is Essential

There are many issues that are causing divisions in Christ's Church. We must recognize that Unity of Christ's Church is an essential part of our faith. We must look at the large scriptural support of unity and compare that to the amount of scriptural support of an issue that is causing a division.

Love is Essential

What is more important, correct theology or love? I believe scripture is clear that love is essential to our faith.

We should love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind.

Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. - Matt 22:37-38 (NIV)

We should love others unselfishly
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." - Matt 22:36-40 (NIV)
True Faith is accompanied by good actions.
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. - James 2:14-17 (NIV)
(I see irony in the faith vs works divide. Sola Fide is a related topic.)

God is Eternal
"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." (Psalm 90:2)
The Problem is Our Self Centered Ways

God created us in His own image to have an abundant life. He did not make us as robots to automatically love and obey Him. God gave us a will and a freedom of choice. We chose to disobey God and go our own willful way. We still make this choice today.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." —Romans 3:23 (NIV)

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." —Romans 6:23 (NIV)
God wants us to have Peace and Life

God loves us and wants us to experience peace and life—abundant and eternal.
"We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." —Romans 5:1 (NIV)

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." —John 3:16 (NIV)
"I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." —John 10:10 (NIV)
God's wants to restore relationship with us

Jesus Christ died on the Cross and rose from the grave. Jesus chose to be the sacrificial lamb that would take our sins to the cross. The wages of my sin is death, and Jesus has taken that upon himself so that I may live.

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! "(John 1:29 NIV)
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ." —1 Timothy 2:5 (NIV)
"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." —1 Peter 3:18 (NIV)

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." —Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Our Response: Receive Christ

We must trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and receive Him by personal invitation.
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." —Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." —John 1:12 (NIV)

"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." —Romans 10:9 (NIV)

We must not forget to share this good news

The Parable of the Life-Saving Station is a good reminder.
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. (Mark 16:15 NIV)

Parable of the Life-Saving Station

I heard this at the Franklin Graham Festival Christian Life and Witness classes a few years ago. I thought it was a good challenge. I googled and found this text at: http://www.bible.ca/evangelism/e-parable-life-saving.htm (and many other places). You may have read it before, but I thought I'd share it here too.

Parable of the Life-Saving Station

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur there was a once a crude little life-saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves, they went out day or night tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding areas, wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought and new crews were trained. The little life-saving station grew.

Some of the new members of the life-saving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and so poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea.

So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in an enlarged building. Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they re-decorated it beautifully and furnished it as a sort of club.

Less of the members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired life boat crews to do this work.

The mission of life-saving was still given lip-service but most were too busy or lacked the necessary commitment to take part in the life-saving activities personally.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boat loads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people.

They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin, and some spoke a strange language, and the beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's life-saving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal life pattern of the club.

But some members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the life of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. They did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. They evolved into a club and yet another life-saving station was founded.

If you visit the seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are still frequent in those waters, only now most of the people drown.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Faith Like a Child

Mama Luka Comes Home from CTA on Vimeo.

The story in this video is an example child-like faith surpassing that of a wiser adult.
"At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children".(Matt 11:25 NIV)

"But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:16-17 NIV)
(Similar in Matt 19:14, and Mark 10:14-15)
I believe all Christ followers teach their children simple truths about how Jesus wants them to live, and how they can be followers of Christ... and our children understand it, and place their trust in Christ, and learn to obey Him. We have two young children, and it is awesome to watch them sing songs of Love to Jesus, speak openly about their faith, pray and trust Jesus with their problems.

I'm afraid that the older and wiser we get it becomes harder to have the faith of a child.

I thank God that the Kingdom of Heaven is simple enough to grasp for a child, and even myself.

I pray my faith always remain as simple as that as a child.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

One Mind

What does being with "one mind" mean?
"When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, "Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. "For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry." (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.
And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) "For it is written in the book of Psalms, 'LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT'; and,'LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.'"Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us-- beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us-- one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place." And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles." (Acts 1:13 - 26 NASB)
So from these verses we are to admire that the followers of Jesus were of 'one mind' and continually devoted to prayer. This should be our desire too.

From these verses do we think that being of one mind meant that they agreed on everything? Peter stood up and proposes that they pick one more person to become one of the 12 apostles. I think the fact that two names were put forward suggests that they did not agree on everything.

I do think they found a way to place their focus on the issues that are of greatest value (prayer, loving Jesus, loving people, and working together on the mission that Jesus calls us all to). And by focusing on these issues, and not getting distracted by their differences, they were of one mind.

Also consider Paul opposing Peter, yet we must consider the main message in their writings to be of 'one mind'.
Gal 2:11 "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong."
A question. Does everyone in any 'church' agree on all doctrines? I know in most community of believers there are different thoughts on many issues. But when it comes to working together to reach others with the good news, the doctrinal discussions are not the focus.

When our minds are focused on living out our faith, loving God and others, and seeking the kingdom of God, we can be of 'one mind'.