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.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Playdough Scripture 2 Tim 3:16

"All 66 books of Scripture, the canon that will be decided a few hundred years from now, (including this letter I am witting to you Timothy) is will be God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,"

2 Tim 3:16 (Playdough Version)

Playdough Scripture is great! You can squish and reshape it to fit into any box! Try it yourself! Fun for the whole family of God. :)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Elders in Christ's Church

I've found myself wondering who my elders are.

If I look to my local church, there is a well defined group of elders who are chosen, and help our pastoral staff guide our local congregation.

But what if I'm trying to view church as Christ's church? What if I'm trying to look beyond the local group that meets in a specific place at specific times under a specific denomination?

What if I'm trying to view church as it is often described in the new testament as "The church at (city name here)?

Who would the elders of the church at my city be? I'm actually not sure. Unfortunately the Church in my city is so divided I doubt there would be any consensus as who the elders of the church are.

Then I ask, who do I view as elders, as I am part of Christ's church.

Do they need to be elected or appointed to be elders? Were all the elders in the OT and NT elected or appointed? I don't think so.

So who are the older, wise men who I fellowship with who give me wise council?

I can think of a few. Some are inside my local 'church' and others are outside my local 'church', but definitely part of the same body of Christ that I belong to.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Playdough Scripture Matt 23:8-12

"But do not be called Rabbi; (since you don't speak Hebrew) for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not be like the Catholics and call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. But go ahead and call yourselves pastors, preachers, ministers, reverends, theologians, and include Ph.D. or M.Div if you can.

Matt 23:8-12 (Playdough Version)

What was Jesus Like?

Part of a great post by iMonk on What Was Jesus Like:

Jesus wasn’t building an institution or an organization, but an efficient, flexible movement with the Gospel at the center and grace as the fuel.

The church Jesus left in history was more a “band of brothers (and sisters)” than an organization of programs and buildings.

The message at the heart of all Jesus said and did was the Kingdom of God, which implicitly included himself as King and the status of all the world as rebels in need of forgiveness and surrender.

The movement Jesus’ left behind was made up of the last, the lost, the least, the losers and the recently dead. The world would never recognize this Jesus shaped collection of nobodies as successful.

Jesus treated women, sexual sinners and notoriously scandalous sinners with inexplicable acceptance.

Jesus taught the message, power and presence of the Kingdom. He did not teach how to be rich, how to improve yourself, how to be a good person or how to be successful.

Jesus didn’t teach principles. He taught the presence of a whole new world where God reigns and all things are made right.

Jesus rejected the claims of organized religion to have an exclusive franchise on God, and embodied the proof that God was in the world by his Son and through his Spirit to whomever has faith in Jesus.

Jesus practiced radical acceptance in a way that was dangerous, upsetting and world-changing.

Jesus calls all persons to follow him as disciples in the Kingdom of God. This invitation doesn’t look identical to the experiences of the apostles, but the claims and commands of Jesus to his apostles extend to all Jesus-followers anywhere.

God is revealed in Jesus in a unique way. What God has to show us and to say to us is there in Jesus of Nazareth. All the fullness of God lives in him, and to be united to Jesus by faith is to have the fullness of all God’s promises and blessings.

Jesus didn’t talk much about how to get to heaven, and certainly never gave a “gospel presentation” like today’s evangelicals. Nor did he teach that any organization of earth controlled who goes to heaven.

Jesus never fought the culture war.

Jesus was political because the Kingdom of God is here now, but he was the opposite of the political mindset of his time as expressed in various parties and sects.

Jesus was radically simple in his spirituality.

Jesus was radically simple in his worship.

Jesus wasn’t an advocate of family values as much as he was a cause of family division.

Jesus fulfills the old testament scriptures completely, and they can not be rightly understood without him as their ultimate focus.

The only people Jesus was ever angry at was the clergy. He called out clergy corruption and demanded honesty and integrity from those who claimed to speak for God and lead his people.

Jesus embraced slavery and servanthood as the primary identifiers of the leaders of his movement.

Jesus didn’t waste his time with religious and doctrinal debates. He always moves to the heart of the matter. Love God, Love Neighbor, Live the Kingdom.

Jesus expected his disciples to get it, and was frustrated when they didn’t.

Jesus died for being a true revolutionary, proclaiming a Kingdom whose foundations are the City of God.

Does this sound like Jesus as you’ve encountered?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Playdough Scripture James 2:24

"You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."

James 2:24 (Playdough Version)

Playdough Scripture is great! You can squish and reshape it to fit into any box! Try it yourself! Fun for the whole family of God. :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

What I used to Believe

I've read a few bloggers do similar posts here, here, and here. The format of the meme is what one used to believe contrasted by what one believes now. Here is my list:

I used to believe a small number of denominations were correct enough to make the cut. I was very confident the narrow road to salvation was filled with conservative protestant evangelical churches like Baptists, Alliance, and other congregations who refer to themselves as 'Bible believing'. I now think there are many outside this group who have true love for the same Jesus I love, and are seeking to allow Jesus to reign in their lives.

I used to think very little about church unity. Now I think unity is essential to our faith. If there is less scriptural support for any other issue we are debating than there is on the topic of unity then we need to recognize that maintaining unity is more essential.

I used to think protestants followed the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Now I realize that a lot of language used by protestants is not found in the Scriptures (Sola Scriptura, saved by faith alone, Jesus paid our debt, and more). A lot of protestant language has been passed on through protestant tradition. If all traditions stuck to language that is strongly supported in Scripture, we would have much less division.

I used to believe the gospel message could be summarized using verses from Romans - following the 'Roman Road' method. Now I believe a complete gospel message must start with an understanding of the good news of the kingdom of God. This message was central to the life and teachings of Jesus, it should be the starting point in our description of the good news.

I used to believe the wicked were punished in hell for eternity. Now I can't find much scriptural support for that idea.

I used to think the Bible and 'church' leaders were to teach me all things. Now I realize I need to rely more on the Holy Spirit to teach me all things (John 14:26, John 16:13, 1 John 2:27)

I used to believe the Bible should be used as a road map on all issues of morality. Now I realize the harm that is often caused when the Bible is used give support to any issue. I question if the Bible gives clear answers on all issues. I think we should focus on the main good news of the reign of God. I still 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 - and seek the Holy Spirit to guide us forward.

I used to be a Calvinist. I didn't know the whole story of John Calvin and the other leaders in his church. Now I'd rather just follow Christ.

I used to say 'church' to refer to a location, event, and/or building. Now I get confused trying to describe all those things. I try to use 'church' to refer to Christ's church.

I used to think it was dangerous to not have everything figured out. Now I think it is dangerous to think you have God figured out. If you have God in a box, you'll likely exclude everyone who has a different looking 'God box'. And again, I believe unity is essential. Now I'm content having faith like a child.

Exclusive Truth Claims

Is it OK to have exclusive truth claims in today's climate? Is it OK for me to be firm on a belief that excludes others who do not believe? Many in today's culture do not think we should be strong on any absolutes.




OK, this is the longest youtube video I've ever seen. But there was some good highlights I'd like to share whether you watch the video or not.

The first 4 minutes I think is an introduction to the speaker.

Religion has been involved in many conflicts in our world. On large scale and within communities. When we look back at history it is easy to identify where we've made mistakes, but are fundamentalists making similar mistakes today?

8:10 – 9:38

“Now that we all agree that religion is a big problem”

Everyone believes some exclusive truth claims. Some believe the exclusive truth claim that goes something like this "Nobody should push any exclusive truth claims". They believe this statement to be truth, and believe those who hold other exclusive truth claims to be wrong. But they fail to realize they are pushing their own exclusive truth claim.

30:55 – 33:24
"What you need, is people with an exclusive truth claim that humbles them"
The problem is when we make exclusive truth claims and send the message we are better than those who do not believe the truth. "I know the truth, you don't, so I'm better than you." But that is not the message of the Bible. The message could go more like this: "I know the truth, I am an awful person that Jesus is redeeming. I am no better than you, and have nothing to be proud of."


37:46 - 40:40 The Moral Performance Narrative vs. The Grace Narrative

39:13

"Salvation only belongs to those people who admit their moral failure."
Do we see the focus on how we live? Do we focus on making it appear like Christians are better than non-Christians? Or do we focus on the Grace poured out on us?

43:40 – (The last bit of this video clip is a question and answer time with his audience.

I think this give a good perspective and challenge to us. Yes we can believe in absolutes - it would be foolish not to. But we need to remain humble at all times. Knowing the truth does not make us superior in any way. We are made of the same flesh that everyone else is made of. God loves everyone dearly, and we should too. We are not saved because we are better than other people. We have no right to look down others. If we approach our absolutes with this humility we can avoid some of the conflicts fundamentalists often find themselves in.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Playdough Scripture 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 be tormented in hell for eternity 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 be tormented in hell for eternity perish."

Luke 13:1-5 (Playdough Version)

Playdough Scripture is great! You can squish and reshape it to fit into any box! Try it yourself! Fun for the whole family of God. :)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

N. T. Wright on Women in Ministry

Thanks Jonathan Brink for sharing this video.


Two interesting points.

Was Junia(s) in Romans 16:7 a woman?

And is she (he) being referred to here as being an apostle (prominent among the apostles), or just well known to the apostles?

I'm not sure I'm qualified to weigh in strongly on this other than highlight that there is an interesting discussion on these questions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junia

http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=1163

The other point N.T. Wright makes here is one I've heard before. Was there significance to the fact that women were the first witnesses to the empty tomb? In those days, the testimony of women was not admissible in courts. So why did God pick women to be the first witnesses of the resurrection? And why did the the gospel writers bother including it? Were things to work differently within this kingdom of God? Can women share fully in the task of sharing the good news of our risen Lord?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Playdough Scripture Rom 14:1-8

"Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on ancient disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant on such ancient disputable matters? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

But feel free to judge on current disputable matters like:
  • praying to the saints
  • too much emphasis on works
  • too much emphasis on faith
  • the role of women in ministry
  • drinking
  • dancing
  • reading books like 'The Shack'
  • stay at home dads
  • which denomination is best
  • infant baptism
  • salvation
  • or on anything you think is an essential truth
One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

But feel free to make a huge list of doctrines that you feel are essential to the faith. And if anyone questions any of those, feel free to judge and exclude them."

Rom 14:1-8 (Playdough Version)

Playdough Scripture is great! You can squish and reshape it to fit into any box! Try it yourself! Fun for the whole family of God. :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Starting a new Church?

Have you ever heard someone talk about planting a church?

If not an individual, has your church planted another church?

Or have you heard of someone starting a house church?

When was the church you go to founded?

What are we talking about here?

I don't think we create 'church' no matter how we try. Christ already created His Church by living within each of us. So there is no need to try to create a new organization and call it church. I think when we do this we encourage disunity in Christ's Church because some will naturally think they belong to one 'church' but not another.

I pray that more would see themselves as members of Christ's church - His body - part of His kingdom where He is King.

Am I just hung up on this church word? - I think we need to find some better ways to communicate what we mean.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Playdough Scripture Matt 22:38-40

"Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God Study correct doctrines 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: Get involved (serve) in a local church that believes correct doctrines 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Matthew 22:37-40 (Playdough Version)

Playdough Scripture is great! You can squish and reshape it to fit into any box! Try it yourself! Fun for the whole family of God. :)

A.W. Tozer on Fundamentalism and Love

Perhaps the most serious charge that can be brought against modern Christians is that we are not sufficiently in love with Christ. The Christ of fundamentalism is strong but hardly beautiful. It is rarely that we find anyone aglow with personal love for Christ. I trust it is not uncharitable to say that in my opinion a great deal of praise in conservative circles is perfunctory and forced, where it is not downright insincere.

and later

Our meetings are characterized by cordiality, humor, affability, zeal and high animal spirits; but hardly anywhere do we find gatherings marked by the overshadowing presence of God. We manage to get along on correct doctrine, fast tunes, pleasing personalities and religious amusements.

How few, how pitifully few are the enraptured souls who languish for love of Christ. The sweet “madness” that visited such men as Bernard and St. Francis and Richard Rolle and Jonathan Edwards and Samuel Rutherford is scarcely known today. The passionate adorations of Teresa and Madame Guyon are a thing of the past. Christianity has fallen into the hands of leaden who knew not Joseph. The very memory of better days is slowly passing from us and a new type of religious person is emerging. How is the gold tarnished and the silver become lead!

http://www.sovereigngracefamilychurch.org/_mgxroot/downloads/docs/The%20Art%20of%20True%20Worship%20AW%20Tozer.pdf

Monday, May 18, 2009

Playdough Scripture John 17:20-23

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them those who agree on similar doctrines may be one with those they agree with, 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 30,000 denominations that try to be united within themselves as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity when they get to heaven (some of them at least) to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 17:20-23 (Playdough Version)

Playdough Scripture is great! You can squish and reshape it to fit into any box! Try it yourself! Fun for the whole family of God. :)

Jesus and the Kingdom

Here's a video clip by Brian McLaren looking at Jesus and his message about the kingdom of God. (shorter than the last videos I posted)



Making the point that the message Jesus came to share wasn't so much about a way to get to Heaven after we die - but a way to live under His reign in this life.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Playdough Scripture John 17:3

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent go live with God in mansions in the sky when they die.

John 17:3 (Playdough version)

Playdough Scripture

As I read scripture I keep coming across verses that don't fit too well in the theological box that I'm familiar with.

If it doesn't fit in our box, what options do we have?

We don't want to get rid of the box do we? That would be too dangerous.

So there's Playdough Scripture to the rescue!
Just squish and reshape scripture to fit into your box.
Try it yourself! Fun for the whole family of God.

:)

OK, that may sound harsh and borderline sacrilegious. Sorry, you may not find any of this humorous.

But I see four options when confronted with a passage that doesn't fit in my box:
  1. Ignore the passage
  2. Re-word and re-explain it to force it to fit the box (playdough method)
  3. Get a different box
  4. Admit I don`t understand it, don't know what box to use, and just keep collections of truths and questions scattered around like an unfinished puzzle.
Option 4 looks the best to me, but here are some posts that look like option 2 to highlight some verses that I feel don't fit well in some common boxes. Similar to what Alan Knox has done with his Scripture as We Live It posts.


Click here to read all my Playdough Scripture labeled posts.



Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dr. Dwight A Pryor on Kingdom of God

"There is no other subject more important to the life of the man Yeshua than the subject of the kingdom of heaven." I've been around church all my life, and I don't think I've ever heard it explained this way. Yes, this is a long video, and the sound quality is not the best, but I think this is the best presentation of the message that Jesus came to give, that I've heard to date.

Dr. Dwight A. Pryor speaks on the Hebraic understanding of the Kingdom of God, comparing it to the Greco-Roman (Western) mindset.



Yes, you may notice that this video is 32 minutes long... if you don't have time to watch it let me try to summarize some of the main points here.

0:33
"There is no other subject more important to the life of the man Yeshua than the subject of the kingdom of heaven."
Luke 4:43 (NIV)
"But he said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent."

So Jesus spent his short life teaching about the kingdom of God. He taught by explicit teachings, by parables, and by demonstrating how one should live in the kingdom of God. His life taught us what life in the kingdom of God looks like - both by what he said, and by how he lived.

5:27
When Yeshua spoke and said the kingdom of heaven... he's not talking about heaven in the same English way that you and I do... heaven in this phrase is just what the scholars would call an evasive synonym... meaning God.
In Hebrew during the days of Jesus, they did not speak the name of God. So in the book of Matthew we see the Hebrew that Jesus would have spoke translated "kingdom of Heaven".
Mark, Luke and John used the Greek which translates "kingdom of God".

So when we read verses like Matthew 7:21 (NIV)
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
We should not read this and think "will not get to go to Heaven when they die". This should be read "will not enter the kingdom of God". I think there are other verses like this we have often misunderstood as well.

8:57
Yeshua believes in the world to come... he does believe in life after death, of course.. but that's not what he's talking about ...
9:37
For Yeshua when he's talks about kingdom, he's not talking about a realm, he's talking about a reigning, a ruling.
When Jesus talked about kingdom of heaven, or kingdom of God, he wasn't talking about a location or realm, he was talking about who is reigning or ruling. He was talking about the kingship or ruling of God.

10:01
This term kingdom of heaven is a term that is unique to the pharisees, to the sages of Israel.
So the people in Jesus day knew what this meant.

13:07
When he comes out of the wilderness and announces 'the kingdom of heaven is at hand' people don't turn to themselves and say 'what is he talking about?'

13:47
To the sages, to the rabbis, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, means first of all to accept God's authority over your life, and the other side of the coin, to do God's will.
15:45
Point two, there's a fundamental difference between the Hebraic orientation to life, and the Greco-Roman orientation to life.... The Greco-Roman heritage of which we share, fundamentally views spiritual things as being of the other world not of this world.
16:32
The Hebraic mindset... the spiritual is that which bears life... the word spirit and life are parallel... the word spirit... is basically the word for wind or breath.
Jesus message of the kingdom of God was something for the here and now, not just talking about the afterlife.

30:55
The king is here, he's ruling and reigning, and the power of His Holy Spirit, in the lives of all who will submit to His authority and who obey His will. So repent, turn around, the king is present and in the power of the Holy Spirit he's going to set captives free. That's why it's good news.

I pray that we could learn to focus on this same good news of the kingdom of God - the same message that Jesus came to share!

I'm looking forward to watching more of this session.

Related Posts:

Rethinking Church



The United Methodist Church put together this great video. It's great to see God is at work in so many different communities. Many Christ followers are asking some great questions. What is it that Christ's followers are supposed to be focusing on? If we are Christ's hands and feet, what type of Christ is the world seeing by what we are doing?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Roadblocks to God's Kingdom

Matthew 23:13 (The Message)

"I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either."
Or in NIV
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to."
Or Young's Literal Translation
"Wo to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut up the reign of the heavens before men, for ye do not go in, nor those going in do ye suffer to enter. "

I just came across this verse that I had somehow missed before when I was examining verses about the kingdom of heaven, or kingdom of God. This verse confirms the idea that the Kingdom of Heaven is now - starting in the days of Jesus. Everything in the verse seems to be in the present tense.

May we all seek to enter God's kingdom and live under God's reign. And may we not be roadblocks to others.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rob Bell on the Good News

This video of Rob Bell triggers some interesting questions. What was it about the early Christ followers that made such an impact.?

Was it simply that they had a message of truth that the world was eager to believe?

What was so unique about there message?

Or was it that they were living lives of truth that the world could not ignore?


Watch more viddler videos on AOL Video




Now, I haven't done enough research to verify all the claims of this video. I wish there was some sort of footnotes to reference some of the claims.

Regardless I think this is worth considering: It was likely not simply the gospel message that we often hear preached now that changed the world back then. I doubt it was just solid preaching on truths like this:
  • God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
  • But you have a sin problem that separates you from God.
  • The good news is that Jesus came to die for your sins.
  • If you accept Jesus' death, you can be reconnected to God.
  • Those who are reconnected to God will live in heaven with God.
    http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2009/05/kingdom-gospel-1.html
I believe the above statements are true, and they are all good news. But it's not the entire good news. It was likely the way that these people became the good news to the people in their communities that made the impact. How they took care of the poor and elderly, how they defended the oppressed, how they shared all that they had, how they served each other, and sought first the kingdom of God. It was likely not just that they preached good news, but that they were living the good news. Nor was this some empty social gospel that was merely good deeds done by anonymous do good-ers. This was a group of people following the teaching of Jesus, and inviting others to join with them living under God's ways instead of the worldly ways.

Jesus claimed he was the light of the world, yet he also said we are to be the light too:
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:14-16 NIV)

Monday, May 11, 2009

A.W. Tozer on Oneness in Christ

An old joke goes something like this:

A Lutheran dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter welcomes him at the gates and offers to give him a tour of heaven. The man says sure and off they go.

First he takes the man to the part of heaven where all the Catholics are and they see all of the Catholics doing the things they love to do - playing Bingo with Mary calling out the numbers.

Then just across the way they go to see where all of the Mennonites are. They are working on their family trees, and figuring out how they are related to each other.

Then Peter takes him a long way away from the Catholics and the Mennonites to the Baptist part of heaven. The man asks Peter why the Baptists are so far away and Peter says "shhh they think they are the only ones here".

(sorry Baptists - this joke can be re-worded a number of ways - I had to pick on somebody)


I don't think it will be this way. I appreciate these words from A.W. Tozer:
Oneness in Christ

Allow me one more point. I want to say something about the body of Christian believers and this universal unity that one day will be established in the person of Jesus Christ. If I could ask, "Do you believe in the communion of saints?" what would be your reply? Would the question make you uncomfortable?

I suspect many Protestants would chide me right here, feeling I was getting too close to doctrinal beliefs held by ecumenists or perhaps by Catholics. I am not referring to ecumenicity and dreams of organizational church union. I am gazing ahead in faith to God's great day of victory, harmony and unity, when sin is no longer present in the creation. In that great coming day of consummation, the children of God—the believing family of God—will experience a blessed harmony and communion of the Spirit. I surely agree with the foresight of the English poet, John Brighton, who caught a glimpse of a coming day of fellowship among the people of God. He wrote: In one eternal bond of love, One fellowship of mind, The saints below and saints above Their bliss and glory find.

I believe that is scriptural. I do not think anyone should throw out the great doctrine of the communion of saints just because the ecumenists embrace it.

Prayer

Father, thank You for my brothers and sisters around the world. May we be one just as You are in Christ and Christ in You. In Jesus' name.

Scripture

'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.'
—John 17:20–21

Thought

Jesus prayed for the unity of believers. Church labels may differ; faith expression vary; biblical interpretation be less than harmonious. But those born of God's Spirit are one in Christ and that oneness we are to recognize.
http://www.cmalliance.org/devotions/tozer/tozer.jsp?id=1061

Amen! May it be so!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Servant for Mothers Day

image by flickr user Mothers&Daughters
I didn't buy anything for Mother's Day. The kids made some homemade craft, and bought some small gifts.

But I'm going to try something different. I'm going to try to give myself as a servant for the day.

Ephesians 5:25-33 (NIV)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."
And how did Christ show his love to those around him? He was a servant to them.

Luke 22:25-27 (NIV)
Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
Jesus was the type of leader who served. This is likely the type of leadership I should take in my home as well.

My life should really be one of service to my wife, my family, and everyone I relate with every day. But I'm going to start small by trying this for one day towards one person. If I can succeed at that I will try to extend that servant attitude towards others too.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tricked into religion?

I've often heard people claim Christianity is not a religion, it's about a personal relationship. However other sources will make claims like Christianity is the worlds largest religion... so it is a bit confusing.

Let's take a look at Wikipedia's definition of religion:
"A religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life through reference to a higher power or truth. It may be expressed through prayer, ritual, meditation, music and art, among other things. It may focus on specific supernatural, metaphysical, and moral claims about reality (the cosmos and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws, ethics, and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience."
I think this definition describes most forms of Christianity, and most other religions.

However some Christians often want to distance themselves from the term religion which has images of institutional rules and legalistic practices. They want Christianity to be different than the other world religions.

I think Christianity should simply be a way to describe those who follow Christ and His good news. It is a personal journey. Others may influence me, and being part of a community of others on similar journeys is very beneficial. But the following Christ part must be a personal thing between me and God, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

So even though the term religion may describe a lot of Christianity well, I'd rather describe following Christ it in terms of a relationship.

Here's some questions I came across recently:

So how do we know if you’ve been tricked into religion?

  • When God is a distant concept to you instead of a real presence.

  • When you find yourself following another man, woman, or a set of principles instead of following Jesus.

  • When fear of eternity, not measuring up, or falling into error drives your actions.

  • When you find yourself in empty rituals that do not connect you in a real way to him.

  • When you are burdened by the expectations of others and feel guilty when you can’t do enough.

  • When you look at others who struggle with contempt instead of compassion.

  • When the approval of others means more to you than remaining in the reality of his love.

  • When you hesitate to be honest about your doubts or struggles because others will judge you.

  • When you think of holiness as an unachievable duty, rather than a glorious invitation.

  • When you think righteousness depends on your efforts instead of his grace working in you.

  • When following him is more about obligation than affection.

  • When correcting someone’s doctrine is more important than loving them.

  • When God seems more present on Sunday morning, than he does on Monday.

If you have only known Christianity to be a set of doctrines, rules and rituals, I have great news. Jesus came and died to open up access between you and his Father. Religion supplants that, distracting us with discipline, commitment and hard work that never yields the fruit it promises. If you’ve been worn out by religion, don’t think you’re alone. Others are just pretending, afraid they are the only ones, too. Life is only found in him.

http://www.lifestream.org/LSBL.May09.html

I think the idea here is that if we find ourselves stuck in Religion, we should try this instead:

John 13:34-35 (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."
Matthew 11:28 (The Message)
"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."



Thursday, May 7, 2009

The M Blog: When can we be a church?

Guy Muse from Ecuador shared this great story of some new converts multiplying and planting 'churches'. Worth the read here: The M Blog: When can we be a church?

Some questions to consider:

  • How many people are needed to call a group a church?
  • How much education and training is needed before one can disciple others and plant other 'churches'?
  • How much human intervention, organized hierarchy is needed?
  • How much should we rely on the Holy Spirit?

Amazing story... maybe it always doesn't turn out this way, but I fear we may often get in the way of God working though us because we think we know His plans.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A.W. Tozer on Essential Truths

Truth Is Bigger than You and Me
The new convert is sure to feel the need of instruction and will drink up whatever he hears from the pulpit, accepting not only the doctrines but the emphases as well. Soon he will speak the language of his group and will speak it with their accent. Then he will judge the spirituality and orthodoxy of all other Christians as much by the accent as by the language itself.

Unfortunately indoctrination of a new Christian often means no more than giving him a thorough course in partial truth with the tacit understanding that this is all there is. I am sure we do not mean to do this, but it is what too often happens nevertheless. Of course narrowness, intolerance and bigotry result from this as certainly as an oak from an acorn.

I have seen the motto, "In essentials unity; in nonessentials charity," and I have looked for its incarnation in men and churches without finding it, one reason being that Christians cannot agree on what is and what is not essential. Each one believes that his fragment of truth is essential and his neighbor’s unessential, and that brings us right back where we started.

Unity among Christians will not, in my opinion, be achieved short of the Second Advent. There are too many factors working against it. But a greater degree of unity might be realized if we all approached the truth with deeper humility. No one knows everything, not saint nor scholar nor reformer nor theologian. Even Solomon in all his glory must have overlooked something.

Prayer
May I follow You, Lord, as Your disciples did. You are the Truth.
Scripture
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.
—Luke 22:39
Thought
It is disciples of Christ we are to make (Matthew 28:19) not disciples of ourselves, our churches or our denominations. Granted that in discipling we can hardly avoid transmitting our own truth perspectives. Yet we ourselves must keep in mind, and those we disciple, that truth is greater than our understanding of it.
Great thoughts!

I agree with Tozer in all of this execpt I wouldn't go as far as saying
"Unity among Christians will not, in my opinion, be achieved short of the Second Advent." I think it is possible that all Christ followers can be united now. Maybe all that is holding some back is the failure to acknowledge that unity is more essential than some of the other details that are dividing. So maybe those that reject the unity of Christ's body are rejecting an essential part of following Christ???? I'm not certain here... I will leave God to be the judge. Or maybe unity is here even when we don't acknowledge it? Either way, I just won't go saying unity is impossible. But that was just a small disagreement with what A.W. Tozer's main point was here.

I think it is important that we aim to make disciples of Christ, and avoid trying to make disciples of ourselves, our denominations and traditions. Humility is a key to unity that is challenging to achieve and often overlooked.

Great Stuff!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Good News in the Gospels

Here is a collection of verses dealing with good news and gospel found in the 'gospels'. Jesus came preaching good news of the kingdom of God. This is before Christ's death and resurrection. Is this a different good news message than the one Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (both are good news stories)?

Is this the same good news that we are commanded to go into the world and preach? (Mark 16:15)

Matthew 4:23
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the
good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Matthew 9:35
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the
good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

Matthew 11:5
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.

Matthew 24:14
And this
gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Mark 1:1
The beginning of the
gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Mark 1:14-15
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the
good news of God.
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the
good news!"

Mark 8:35
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the
gospel will save it.

Mark 10:29-30 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

Mark 16:15
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the
good news to all creation.

Luke 3:18
And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the
good news to them.

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,

Luke 4:43
But he said, "I must preach the
good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent."

Luke 9:6
So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the
gospel and healing people everywhere.

Luke 16:16
"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 20:1
One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the
gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. (NIV)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A.W. Tozer on Justification by Faith

I like this quote from A.W. Tozer
No one has any right to believe that he is indeed a Christian unless he is humbly seeking to obey the teachings of the One whom he calls Lord. Christ once asked a question (Luke 6:46) that can have no satisfying answer, “Why do you call me, `Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

Right here we do well to anticipate and reply to an objection that will likely arise in the minds of some readers. It goes like this: “We are saved by accepting Christ, not by keeping His commandments. Christ kept the law for us, died for us and rose again for our justification, and so delivered us from all necessity to keep commandments. Is it not possible, then, to become a Christian by simple faith altogether apart from obedience?”

Many honest persons argue in this way, but their honesty cannot save their argument from being erroneous. Theirs is the teaching that has in the last fifty years emasculated the evangelical message and lowered the moral standards of the Church until they are almost indistinguishable from those of the world. It results from a misunderstanding of grace and a narrow and one-sided view of the gospel, and its power to mislead lies in the element of truth it contains. It is arrived at by laying correct premises and then drawing false conclusions from them.

http://www.cmalliance.org/devotions/tozer/tozer.jsp?id=993

I think A.W. Tozer is correctly identifying an error that happens when too much emphasis is placed on the doctrine of justification by faith alone, or sola fide. Following Christ is more than lip service or beliefs kept in your mind. Following is actions based on ones beliefs. I think all Christian traditions believe this, even though they may word it in different ways.