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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kingdom slowly growing

Is the Kingdom of God slowly growing now? A reality now but not in its final dramatic state?

The Parable of the Growing Seed
He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
Again he said, "What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade." (Mark 4:26-32 NIV)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Child in the Kingdom

I'm a child of God, co-heirs with Christ
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Rom 8:15-17 NIV)
This is amazing stuff - co-heirs with Christ. Does this mean I'm in line for some wealth and royal benefits? Co-heirs with Christ - in His sufferings and able to share in His glory? This is no spectator faith, I'm not just signing up and waiting around for the jackpot of heaven.

The kingdom of God started in the days of Jesus:
"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. (Luke 16:16 NIV)

"I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. "(Matt 21:32 NIV)
I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." (Matt 16:28 NIV)
The Kingdom of God is within me (us)
"Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20-12 NIV)
This is the good news that Jesus proclaimed:
And after the delivering up of John, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of the reign of God,and saying -- `Fulfilled hath been the time, and the reign of God hath come nigh, reform ye, and believe in the good news.' (Mark 1:14-15 YLT)
God's kingdom is here! The reign of God is here!

Change your life, believe the good news!

We can not gain entrance to this kingdom in any position of arrogance or control. There can only be one Lord. We must allow God to reign in our lives.
"tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:15 NIV)

Friday, March 20, 2009

I don't understand Luke 6:24

Luke 6:20-21 (NIV)
"Looking at his disciples, he said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
OK, I think I get this. Those (of His disciples ?) who were hungry would be blessed later.

Luke 6:24-25 (NIV)
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Yikes, I'm not feeling so good about the sounds of this part.

Were these words written directly to me? Or is this a record of Jesus' words to His 12 disciples and some other specific rich people in that audience?

I'm hoping Jesus was talking about some other rich and well fed people - not directly to me!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another look at Rich Young Ruler

I've been struggling to understand God's will for my family regarding the poor. Some previous posts on this struggle are here in this label category. I'm slowly working through "He Loves Me" by Wayne Jacobsen, and in chapter 8 he takes a look at the Rich Young Ruler. Here is the story again:

The Rich Ruler (Luke 18:18-29 NIV)
A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"
"All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."
Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!"
"I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."
Wayne Jacobsen's has given me a different viewpoint on it.

Maybe Jesus wasn't saying "go sell all your possessions and I'll give you eternal life".

Maybe Jesus was trying to prove a point that the rich young ruler was asking for eternal life the wrong way.

"What must I do?" - is that the wrong question to ask?

If that's the wrong question, then here's the impossible answer: "Keep the law"

Since the rich young ruler thinks he is has righteously kept the law, Jesus adds an unrealistic request: "Sell all you have".

And the rich young ruler learns that he is not capable of earning God's favor.

Was that the point of this story?

The rich may have a greater tenancy to try to earn God's favor. Our pride and feelings of being self-sufficient. The poor may be more willing to accept Father's love the way a child accepts it. Not because we deserve it, just because He chooses to love us.

I like this view of this story.

But I'm not certain if that was the point Jesus was making here. Was Jesus making the point that we need give all to follow Him? Or that it's impossible to give enough to earn His favor? Luke 14:33, luke 12:22-34 (note verse 33) are similar commands to consider.

What do you think? Is it an offer of salvation regardless of our sacrifices?

Or is sacrifice necessary?

I guess this is similar to the faith vs works issue. Faith comes first, but both are required.

Monday, March 16, 2009

If Protestants accepted Sola Scriptura

What would happen if protestants accepted Sola Scriptura?

From Wikipedia:
Sola scriptura is the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all — that is, it is perspicuous and self-interpreting. That the Bible requires no interpretation outside of itself is an idea directly opposed to the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Coptic, Anglo-Catholic, and Roman Catholic traditions, which teach that the Bible can be authentically interpreted only by Apostolic Tradition
A question to consider:

Do protestants become protestants by reading the Bible, or is this passed down by the protestant tradition?

If someone who knew nothing of our faith found our scriptures and accepted Jesus as Lord of their life, based only on our Bible, would they become a protestant?

Is there any scriptural support for creating different denominations?

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?
Is there any scriptural support to continue a 500 year old 'protest' with other followers of Christ who hold different beliefs?
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21)
I think if Protestants accepted Sola Scriptura they wouldn't be Protestant.

I think the essentials of unity and love are sacrificed whenever protestants focus on protestant traditions and protestant language that are not as central to our faith.

If they placed less value on protestant traditions, and more value on Scripture, I think they would simply be Christians, Christ followers, children of God, part of His Kingdom. I don't see a need to have any additional labels.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Love is Essential

When we consider Christian unity a common reaction by many is to say, sure I can be united with those who hold to the essentials. The problem often is that we make our list of essentials to include most of our beliefs. This excludes many Christ followers who have interpreted the often not so clear parts of scripture in different ways.

What are the essentials?

I believe we need to reconsider our list of essentials for the sake of unity. I believe love is one of the essentials to our shared faith. If we don't highly value loving all those who follow Christ (and everyone else), we are not placing high value on the word's of Christ.

Is it possible to love God and not love other Christ followers?
"We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." (1 John 4:19-21)
Just love those I fellowship with?
"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Matthew 5:46 NIV)
Loving others is the sign of who we are.
"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." (John 13:33-35 NIV)
Jesus chose me... to love! I think this is amazing, why me?
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. "(John 15:16-17 NIV)
Isn't correct theology more important than love?
"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.'" (Matthew 22:36-39 NIV)
Again, we are commanded to love.
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:11-13 NIV)

I think we can all be challenged by this. We may know better than using the word "hate" to describe our feelings towards someone, but do our actions and words demonstrate our love towards our brothers (and sisters)? Even those brothers and sisters who don't have all the same beliefs as us?

The scriptures are clear that placing a high value on love is essential to our faith.

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

Is this issue more essential to my faith than Christ's command to love? Then how should I respond?

This is no insignificant part of our faith - it is the greatest commandment.

Related Posts:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sell all I have and give to the poor?

I still don't get what Jesus wants me to do with this story of the rich young ruler asking "what must I do to inherit eternal life?".

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Luke 18:22 (NIV)
I don't view myself rich by North American stantandards, but I'm rich considering this:
At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day

So is Jesus asking me to sell all I have and give to the poor to be saved?

Would this be a responsible action to take? Removing all financial security from my wife and kids?

Then I find the story of Zacchaeus on the next page.
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:8-9 NIV)
Zacchaeus only gave half of his possessions to the poor, and Jesus declared him saved.

Whew, I only have to give half my possessions to the poor now? This should be much easier!

Just a minute... I've got to do some number crunching...

Uh....nope, that $30 to Compassion Canada isn't quite half.


OK, I still don't understand what Jesus is asking of me here. I pray for wisdom and then courage to follow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Who was instructed to baptise?

Who is the great commission for? Yes, Jesus was talking directly to the 11 disciples here. But I've often heard this passage quoted to encourage all Christians to:
  • go to all the world and make disciples
  • teach them everything about our faith
  • and then when enough time has passed, enough classes taken, and maturity developed, the 'church' leaders will baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit so they can become members of the local 'church'.
So is part of the great commission given to all Christians, and the other part left to the authority of 'church' leaders?

Matt 28:16-20
"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Unfortunately what often happens is that all of this is left to the professionals. Most Christians think bringing a friend to 'church' is a big enough part... The teaching, discipleship, and baptism is all left to the professionals.

But maybe it would be better if all Christ followers (myself included) took the whole great commission seriously?

What do you think?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Because He First Loved Us

I Love Jesus because He first Loved Me. When someone loves me enough to die in my place because of my sins, how could I not respond in love towards Him.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:7-12)

From this I understand that I don't just decide one day that I am going to love God or Jesus of my own will, but it was He who loved me first, and I respond.

And how do we show that we love God? By loving one another.

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21)

I think we can all be challenged by this. We may know better than using the word "hate" to describe our feelings towards someone, but do our actions and words demonstrate our love towards our brothers (and sisters)? Even those brothers and sisters who don't have all the same beliefs as us?

If we can't show love to our brothers and sisters, how will the world recognize that we belong to the loving God?

If we love God we must love our brothers, in words and deeds.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Am I a Son of God?

Does this sounds too much like some new age thinking? Like I'm claiming to be some sort of deity?

It seems wrong to call ourselves a son of God. According to the law in Jesus day claiming to be the son of God was punishable by death.
"The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God." (John 19:7)

But what do our scriptures say:

"He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." (Rev 21:7 )
"But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bondservant though he is lord of all; but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed of the father. So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world: but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God."
(Gal 4:1-7)
"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."
(Rom 8:15-17 ESV)

OK, the rest of these verses talk about being children of god. But if I'm a child, who is male, I'd be a son, right?
"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (Joh 1:12-13 ESV)
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." (1Jn 3:1-2 ESV)
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." (Eph 5:1 ESV)
"It is for chastening that ye endure; God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not?" (Heb 12:7)
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments." (1Jn 5:1-2 ESV)

"By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother." (1Jn 3:10 ESV)

OK, that's enough. Certainly more references to calling us children of God than there is using the word Christian. Why don't we call ourselves by this name more often? Is it too childish? Are we too proud to call ourselves children of God?

What about calling ourselves a son of God? It seems wrong, but I'm not sure what the difference is?

Is this related?
"Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein." (Luke 18:1)
I've been appreciating the imagery of being a child of God lately. There are many similarities between the way my children interact with me that are similar to how I relate to God. I'm often not very quick at responding to Father's will. I'm usually self absorbed. I love Father lots, but I don't say it enough, or act in ways that show it enough. Sometimes there are consequences for my actions, but always love, forgiveness, mercy and grace.

Is this related to the current kingdom of God? Is my position in this reign of God that of a son of the King?

I'm not the perfect son, but God has chosen me to be His son, and I am amazed by that.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Good News

So what is the good news or gospel message that Jesus came to tell us?

Mark 1:14-15 (The Message)
"After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: "Time's up! God's kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message."

Or... Young's Literal Translation
And after the delivering up of John, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of the reign of God,and saying -- `Fulfilled hath been the time, and the reign of God hath come nigh, reform ye, and believe in the good news.'

God's kingdom is here!

The reign of God is here!

Change your life, believe this message!

Did you know God's power is available to you? You don't have to do everything in your own strength and wisdom. If you allow God to rule in your life, instead of your selfish ambitions He will restore your life to what it was intended to be.

Jesus is both Saviour and Lord.

What do you think? Is this the good news we are commanded to share with the whole world?

Related Posts:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Can I find unity without agreement on essentials?

I have a serious question to consider.

I recognize it as the same serious question that all denominations have grappled with:

Can I be united with others that do not place high value on the essentials of the Christian faith?

I believe this question is at the heart of every division in Christ's church. The problem is that the people on each side of the issues have a different set of essential beliefs.

My problem is that I believe Christian unity is one of the essentials of our faith, and I'm not sure most (if any) denominations are placing a high value on this core scriptural belief.

Can I be a member of any denominational 'church' which places greater value on details that divide Christ's Church, and less value on unity of Christ's whole church? By being 'one' with them, am I being true to what I believe is an essential value of the Christian faith?

It seems ironic that this issue of unity could bring my unity with a local 'church' into question.

Logically I see a big problem.

However in faith, life and practice I can answer "Yes".

I do recognize Christ alive in many denominations - despite some wrong thinking. I recognize the fruits of the Spirit and a love for Jesus, and that is enough for me to trust they are my brother's and sisters in Christ. I recognize who they belong to by the lives they live and the passion for Christ that they display - not just by their theology.

So yes, even though we disagree with issues I believe are essential, I must recognize their sincere love of the same Christ I love. And I need to respond to disagreements with love.

I pray for humility and grace as we work together as one body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:2-5 (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.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

About Jon

Hello, I should probably introduce myself to those who are reading my thoughts here and have never met me face to face. It may be helpful to know who I am, and where I'm coming from.

I am in my mid 30's. Blessed with a great wife, and two wonderful children.

I don't want to boast at all here. God has been good to me. But I feel there may be some value to let readers know a bit of who I am and where I'm coming from.

I want to assure you I am not someone who wants a more liberal view of Christianity so I can live at peace with my sins. I don't want to water down the gospel message in any way. I just seek to clarify what the main gospel message is.

In a similar way as Paul wrote:

Phil 3:4-11 (NIV)
"though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless."

So here's my list of things a religious person could be proud of:

  • My father was a pastor of small rural inter denomination churches.
  • Instead of seeking money as a youth I spent 7 summers working at Bible camps
  • I attended Bible College for 2 years for personal growth
  • I've been involved in regular weekly 'church' activities all my life
  • I've faithfully given financial support to God's work locally and around the world
  • Our family is planning our second 'short term missions' trip to some orphans in Mexico
  • I don't smoke, drink, dance, swear
  • I only listen to Christian music
  • I don't hate anyone

I do have sin issues in my life.... I'll omit listing those here though. I don't compare with the likes of Paul and many other giants of the Christian faith... but that's not the point here.

Paul Continues:
"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

None of the stuff in that list of mine means anything compared to knowing Christ.

Thank You God for all the good things you've blessed me with, they are all gifts from you!

I want to know Christ, and seek His will, and learn to follow Him better.

Monday, March 2, 2009

If Starbucks Marketed Like a Church

Amos 5:21-24 (The Message)

"I can't stand your religious meetings.
I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want.
(Thanks to M Blog and the others this is borrowed from)