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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Playdough Scripture Luke 2:10

"But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for the elect all the people."

Luke 2:10 (Playdough Version)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Five Points of Calvinism

Sorry, this post may be too elementary for some, but I suspect many in the pews do not know the basic beliefs some of their leaders hold...

I've been doing some reading on the 5 points of Calvinism. I faintly remember learning this stuff back in my days at Bible college. I think I recall thinking it seemed a bit far fetched back then. I remember some debates over dinner in the cafeteria, and then just ignoring it.

But now as I'm rethinking the tradition I've belonged to, I keep coming back to the influences of John Calvin.

I suspect that the average person in the pews of evangelical churches do not know what the 5 points of Calvinism are, or know much about the man John Calvin ( In a previous post here I discovered some disturbing info that I didn't learn in my Bible school days.)

However it seems that there are some influential Christian leaders that hold to these 5 points of Calvinism. They may not emphasize this fact in every message, but these basic beliefs they hold do influence their message... so I think it's worth studying what some of the underlying beliefs of these leaders are. I suspect many Christians are being influence by 5 point Calvinist, but don't even know it.

Here's a few influential Christian leaders who hold to 5 point Calvinism.... and others, but I'll end my list there since these are the only ones I found that I've been influenced by.

So what are the 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP):
  • T - Total Depravity
  • U - Unconditional Election
  • L - Limited Atonement
  • I - Irresistible Grace
  • P - Perseverance of the saints
Total Depravity
When man fell, sin permeated his entire being. This fall was so complete that man had no desire for God and righteousness. Man is so totally enslaved by sin that he can only choose evil; he cannot choose good. He is incapable of choosing God and His salvation. Man is totally blind and deaf to the gospel. Apart from a supernatural intervention from God, the gospel message absolutely has no effect on a person. Total depravity is also called total inability.
Unconditional Election
God has chosen some people to go to Heaven and other people to go to Hell. This choice is not based on any qualities of the person being elected. This selection is not based on God’s foreknowledge of who will "get saved" in the future.
Limited Atonement
God limited His atonement to only those who are elect. When Jesus died on the cross, He did not die for the sins of the whole world; He only died for those He wanted to go to Heaven.
Irresistible Grace
The grace that God extends to the elect cannot be refused. God puts into the hearts of the elect an irresistible desire to turn to Him and accept His salvation. This desire is so overpowering that no one can refuse it.
Perseverance of the Saints
Since God has determined who will get saved and they cannot resist His call, they are unconditionally and eternally secure in that election. Therefore, those who have been chosen to be saved will always stay saved. They cannot resist or lose their salvation.
(Above points taken from http://www.biblehelp.org/tulip.htm )

Some Concerns I have with this:

1)I don't think it fits with God's character of love for all his creation. If we say we are saved by grace alone, that it is all God's doing and not our own...
Do we also say the wicked are doomed by God's lack of grace alone, that it is all God's doing and not their own???

2) Where is free will? Why would God create humanity yet not allow us to exercise free will?

3) If God does everything, we don't need to seek and pursue Him?

4) As for once saved always saved... how I've witnessed that being applied to real people. We tell children when they say a prayer that they are saved and nothing can change that fact... but then if/when that child grows up and falls away from the faith we say "well, I guess they were not really saved to begin with... maybe they didn't mean it". So I'm going to just leave this one up to God to be the judge.

5) Yes there are some verses that support these positions. But there are other verses that seem to be ignored. If God wanted us to believe this system of beliefs I think it would have been clearly laid out... however it took 1500 years before John Calvin and his followers came up with this.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) - Total Depravity?
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) - Unconditional Election?
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
1 John 2:2 (NIV) - Limited atonement?
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Matthew 23:37 (NIV) - Irresistible Grace?
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."
Acts 17:30 (NIV) - Unconditional Election?
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."
Matthew 6:33 (NIV) - free will? Ability to seek God? Yes!
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."


Related Posts:

Playdough Scripture 1 John 2:2

"He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours - the elect but also for the sins of the whole world."

1 John 2:2 (Playdough Version)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Focus on Language in Scripture

As I'm reflecting on where I've been traveling on this blog I seem to be taking a number of different rabbit trails.

Christ's desire for unity in His Church is the reason I'm on this journey.

So why do I find myself mucking around with issues like total depravity, hell, penal substitution, Calvinism, a so on?

I think it's because I'm seeing our different Christian traditions have gradually wandered from using language and the main focus of Scripture, to using language that was created to explain and defend different positions of past Christian leaders. Each tradition has had different leaders, and each leader has had some different interpretations (we all seem to).

If all Christ followers focused on using the same language used in Scripture we would find we have greater unity.

Any Christian leader from any tradition or denomination could walk into another assembly of a different tradition, open up and read from our share Scriptures, and be welcomed and accepted for speaking the truth. No Christian assembly would take issue with someone sharing wisdom straight from the Word.

When we go off defending things that are not central to Scripture, using language not found in scripture, we will certainly find we create dis-unity.

So where do I find myself these days:
  • I am not Catholic, but am not anti-Catholic
  • I am not a Calvinist, but am not anti-Calvinist
  • I am not Protestant, but am not anti-Protestant
  • I am not a defender of denomination X, Y, or Z, but am not anti-X, Y, or Z
  • I am not Emergent, I came into this conversation too late to use that label
I know and respect people in each of these traditions... and I respect their passion to follow the same Christ I love. So I can't be anti-Catholic, anti-Calvinist, anti-Protestant, etc... I have to respect the journey each of my brothers and sisters are on, and pray we can be an encouragement to each other.

But I wish we could drop all the labels and traditions that divide.

I just want to follow Christ, the words he spoke, and be part of the Church He founded.

And I propose the more we focus on language that is clear in scripture, I think we'll look more like Christ's one Church, and others will see and believe.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Graham Cooke - Inheritance



“The Lord says that there is nothing that you can do that would make Him love you more. There is also nothing you can do that would make Him love you less.

He loves you because
He loves you because
He loves you because
He loves you because
He loves you because
He loves you because
He loves you because
He loves you because
He loves you because
He loves you, because that is what He is like, it is His nature to love, and you will always be the beloved.

And His love is unchanging, and He loves you 100%, He won’t love you any better when you become better. He loves you 100% right now, and even if you have no plans to become better, He will still love you 100%; because He loves you, because that’s the way that He is, and even if you don’t want to change, He will love you 100%. Even if you have no plans to walk with Him, He will love you 100%, because that’s his nature. He loves all the way all the time. His love is unchanging. What will change says the Lord is your ability to receive my love, and this evening I want to cram some more of that ability inside you. So I challenge you says the Lord, open your heart to me, open your heart to me and you will receive more of my love than you’ve ever experience before, I dare you says the Lord, come on, open you heart to me, give me your heart, give me whatever your obstacle is, I’ll take it, I’ll remove it out of the way, because I love you as you are right now. I love you 100% as you are right this moment. I love you as you are, so be loved. You are the beloved, it is your job says the Lord, to be loved outrageously, it is why I chose you, and it is why I set my love upon you, that you would live as one who is outrageously loved. That you would receive a radical love, so radical it will blow all your paradigms of what you think love is. And know says the Lord, I will love you outrageously all the days of your life, because I don’t know how to be any different, this is who I am, and this is who I will always be, this is the I Am that I promised you, I am He that loves you outrageously. And you may love me back with the love that I give you; you may love Me back outrageously, with the outrageous love that I bestow upon you. And know this says the Lord you can only love Me as much as you love yourself. So My love comes this evening to set you free from yourself, to set you free from how you see yourself. To set you free from the smallness of your own thinking about yourself, My love comes to set you free from rejection, and from shame, and from low self-esteem, and from despair and from abuse. Because when I look at you says the Lord, I see something that I love, and I see someone that I can love outrageously. And I have so much to bestow upon you, so much to give you, so many places to take you in My heart, but you can’t go there unless you allow Me to love you. And my love for you, will break every barrier, bring every wall crashing down, and know this says the Lord, My love damages fear, My love hates fear My love will fight fear it will fight fear in you it will fight fear around you, and if you have fear this evening says the Lord, then know that you have a treat in store, because My perfect love casts out fear, there is no fear where I am present, because My love casts out fear. Beloved, you are My beloved, you are My beloved, and in My love I want you to feel good about yourself.”
-Graham Cook, “Inheritance”

Friday, June 26, 2009

Playdough Scripture 1 Tim 2:1-4

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men only those he predestines to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for those he chooses all men —the testimony given in its proper time."

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (Playdough Version)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Total Depravity


I'm trying to get an understanding on the doctrine of Total Depravity:
Total depravity is the fallen state of man as a result of original sin. The doctrine of total depravity asserts that people are by nature not inclined to love God wholly with heart, mind, and strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Even religion and philanthropy are destructive to the extent that these originate from a human imagination, passions, and will. Therefore, in Reformed Theology, God must predestine individuals into salvation since man is incapable of choosing God.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_depravity
I've always thought this Calvinist doctrine was a bit extreme... but hadn't considered how it could negatively impact one's view of God.

It is related to the concept of predestination:
"By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predestination_(Calvinism)

So, the way I read it... those who are not predestined to love God, those who are not part of the elect, are not capable of choosing God on their own free will. So God punishes (eternally?) those who he does not choose to love Him.

Yes, this view of God keeps his elect humble... there is nothing for the elect to boast about (and that is good). But is this a healthy way to view God? Did God create billions of people who have no ability to choose him, and then does he punish them for nothing they've done but because He didn't choose them to be His elect?

If we say we are saved by grace alone, that it is all God's doing and not our own...

Do we also say the wicked are doomed by God's lack of grace alone, that it is all God's doing and not their own???

This doesn't seem like a great way to view God... or maybe I'm missing something.

I know there are a lot of passages that describe how sinful we are, and that our best efforts are like dirty rags... but is there Scripture that says we are incapable of loving God on our own? If so, why is the Bible full of commands that tell us to love God... would God command us to do something we are not capable of doing? If He's just going to make some of us love Him, then why would he command us.

Consider a family, which often is a shadow of how our relationship with God should be. Children often act selfishly, but there are other times that they do have the ability to love unselfishly. I've witnessed many unselfish moments from my children where they are willing to give anything to help someone in need, or show their affection to someone they love.

Yes, our human tendency is to be selfish and full of sin... but I think it's a bit extreme to say that we lack the ability to choose to be unselfish and choose love. I think a healthier way to view our relationship with God our father would be one where He gives us the freedom to choose to love Him.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Playdough Scripture John 14:15

"If you are one of the elect who is predestined you will love Me, and keep My commandments. The rest of you are incapable of loving me because of your total depravity."

John 14:15 (Playdough Version)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Following a book?

It is possible to confuse an academic knowledge or theology about Jesus with a personal knowledge of the living Christ himself. These two stand as far apart as do the hundred thousand million galaxies. The fullness of Christ can never be accessed through the frontal lobe alone. Christian faith claims to be rational, but also to reach out to touch ultimate mysteries. The cure for a big head is a big heart.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with CliffsNotes for a systematic theology. He leaves his disciples with breath and body.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with a coherent and clear belief system by which to love God and others. Jesus gives his disciples wounds to touch and hands to heal.

Jesus does not leave his disciples with intellectual belief or a "Christian worldview". He leaves his disciples with a relational faith.

Christians don’t follow a book. Christians follow a person, and this library of divinely inspired books we call "The Holy Bible" best help us follow that person. The Written Word is a map that leads us to The Living Word. Or as Jesus himself put it, "All Scripture testifies of me". The Bible is not the destination; it’s a compass that points to Christ, heaven’s North Star.

The Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. The "good news" was not a new set of laws, or a new set of ethical injunctions, or a new and better PLAN. The "good news" was the story of a person’s life, as reflected in The Apostle’s Creed. The Mystery of Faith proclaims this narrative: "Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again." The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success . . . not wealth or health or anything else: but love. And God is love.
A Jesus Manifesto
John 17:3 (NIV)
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Philippians 3:7-9 (The Message)
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.
I don't have to have it all figured out... I'm OK with the partial views I'm given.

Knowing and loving Christ who gives me life... and allowing Him to really live in and through me... that's it... that's all... that's my desire.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Questioning Church

Two thought provoking posts by guymuse.

http://guymuse.blogspot.com/2009/06/did-jesus-actually-say-do-these-things.html


There's a lot of people questioning stuff... for some, like myself right now it's all just theoretical questions...

But this guymuse guy is someone who is actually 'doing it'. He's involved with a network of over a 100 churches in Ecuador. From what I can tell he's asking a lot of serious questions about how we do church... and is active in doing church in different ways in his world.

I think this sums up the difference:
In most of the churches we relate to we don't refer to leadership (whether men or women) as pastors. We don't use titles. All of us are hermanos(as) brothers/sisters. We teach that ALL believers are servants and ministers of the Gospel. Both men and women alike are charged with fulfilling the Great Commission. That package includes: going, making disciples, baptizing, and teaching.
http://guymuse.blogspot.com/2009/06/is-shepherding-spiritual-gift-or-church.html
I'm torn because I sense some truth in the questions linked above. However asking these questions likely would cause some friction, and hurt. I pray for wisdom and discernment, as I desire to maintain unity and love with my brothers and sisters. And above all I pray that God's will be done in my life, and in His church.

And maybe I'm not the right person to ask such questions... but I'm interested in following the stories of people like guymuse who are.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What are you seeking?

Matt 6:25-34 (NIV)
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that 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, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Challenging passage to most of us. How much of our time and thought life is spent seeking health, wealth, good food and entertainment?

We should be seeking His kingdom...

And if we don't have an understanding of what Jesus meant by His kingdom, we need to do some studying first... then learn to live in it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Playdough Scripture 1 John 2:27

"As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not still need anyone others to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him."

1 John 2:27 (Playdough Version)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bearing our Burden


"That on the cross, My burden gladly bearing," comes from our popular "How Great Thou Art" hymn.

I'm rethinking some common language we use related to Christ's work on the cross. Is this one scriptural, and if so what it means?

I find 51 references to "burden" in the Scriptures, but none referring to Christ's work on the cross.

Psalms 68:19 (NIV)
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
So, yes God daily bears our burdens. I guess in the sense that God has always carried our burdens this part of the hymn is true.

Also consider similar language Moses used here, talking to the Israelites:
At that time I said to you, "You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone. The LORD your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky. May the LORD, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised! But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself? Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you." (Deuteronomy 1:9-13 NIV)
We must also consider 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
So what does "bore our sins" mean? Does it mean he was punished by God instead of me because he bore our sins? I suspect our minds have been trained to fit this verse into our penal subsitution box. But it may simply mean he carried our sins to the cross so that our sins would be removed from us.

Consider the scapegoat in Leviticus 16:
"Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat. (Leviticus 16:6-10 NIV)
"When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat's head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert. (Leviticus 16:20-22 NIV)
So I thank God for always caring and being concerned about my life troubles and burdens. I thank God for providing a scapegoat for me. All my sins were taken by this scapegoat to the cross, and are removed from me. He took away my sins so I could die to sin and live for righteousness. Now I am to live in Christ, not in sin.

1John 3:4 -10 (NIV)

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

Yikes... this is a challenging passage. I think I understand it, but not sure if I can live it. God help me live this way daily!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Matt 25:31-46

OK, here's the rest of the passage I was looking at the other day here.

Matt 25:31-46
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Aside from my lack of ability to fully understand the afterlife... there are some other important points to note from this passage.

In this passage what is the difference between the righteous and the unrighteous? It is how they responded to others in need - the poor, needy, lonely, and sick. Life under the reign of God is much more than just belief in the truth (or belief in Jesus). Justification by faith alone? Faith is obviously required, but this passage makes it clear we must respond to the needy in the same way Jesus would respond.

To be a follower of Jesus, we need to follow his example.

From what I can tell, I don't see the Scriptures giving a completely clear description of what the afterlife will be like. There are small references to what comes after life here and there, but it's not laid out clear enough for me to fully understand. I think the main message of Scripture does focus on how we should be living here and now.

Believe in Jesus, and wait around for the afterlife? - NOPE

Believe in Jesus, follow now, and trust God to work out the details of the afterlife. Yes, this is what I need to do.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Playdough Scripture or Unfinished Puzzle

I've gotten feedback that these playdough scripture posts may come across more harsh than funny...

So I'll stop using this line:"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. :)" Chances are nobody reading was smiling.

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 (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.
I now vote for option 4.

(But I'll likely continue making posts that look like option 2 to highlight some verses that I feel don't fit well in my old box.)

Playdough Scripture Matthew 16:27

"For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has believed done."

Matthew 16:27 (Playdough Version)


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Aeon Everlasting or Age-during

Matt 25:46 (NIV)
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Other passages state the alternative to eternal life is death or perishing. Matthew 25:46 is one verse that seems to clearly support the option of eternal punishment.

I have previously understood one way of making this verse fit into the 'perish' view: 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?

However the more I research, the more complicated it gets.

Supposedly the eternal in this verse is the greek αἰώνιον or aionios.

aionios comes from aion which usually means age.

There seems to be some connection between the greek work used in Matt 25:45, with the one in Matt 28:20.
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV)
But it wouldn't make sense here to say "to the very end of eternity".

So Young's literal translation translates Matt 25:46 as:
And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during.'
And that's as far as my non-greek mind can take me for now... there's a range of ways of reading this passage. I'm not prepared to take any firm position with this verse alone.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Playdough Scripture 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 have an eternal life of torment but have an eternal life of bliss."

John 3:16 (Playdough Version)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why The Threat

Here's another thought from "He Loves Me" by Wayne Jacobsen.
There's a free pdf download of the book here
http://www.lifestream.org/helovesme/index.html
or you can buy a paper copy for under $10 at amazon.com.


WHY THE THREAT?
No one ever threatened me to do something that was wonderful
to do. My parents didn’t threaten me with punishment to get me to go to Disneyland. But to make me go to the dentist or work on the vineyard, that was another matter.
So if I am told that I must love God or he will throw me into hell, I might well consider loving him—or at least pretend I do. But if the only reason I’m even responding to him is to serve my own self-interest and escape a fiery eternity in hell, am I really loving him or myself?
Can a true friendship blossom under so grave a threat? Let’s say I approach a recent acquaintance of mine, hoping to deepen our friendship. I say to him, “I have really appreciated the time we’ve been able to spend together. In fact, I’d like to see our relationship deepen and maybe even become best friends. How would you like to spend some time together over the next few months and see if that kind of friendship develops?”
So far, so good! But what if I added one more sentence? “I hope you do, because if you don’t, I’m going to hunt you down and torture you for the rest of your life.” Hasn’t the invitation just taken an ominous turn? Even if he wanted to explore the potential of a friendship with me, it has now been twisted by my threat. What does it say about me, and how will he ever feel safe in a friendship cultivated on fear?


How many of us have turned to Christ out of fear of eternal punishment in Hell?

Was this method modeled to us by Christ? Do we think crowds followed Jesus as He ministered to them because they feared His wrath if they didn't? Or was there some positive qualities about Jesus and his message that they desired?

Has the way our relationship with Christ started impacted our view of God and our relationship with Him now?

Monday, June 8, 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 perish will not only die but be tormented in hell for eternity. 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 will not only die but be tormented in hell for eternity."

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. :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Disclaimer

I thought I should put some sort of disclaimer together for this blog.

Please read at your own risk!
  • Some of the content on this blog is potentially dangerous.
  • I make no claims to having everything figured out. However I do have a tendency to get stubborn about stuff - then years later realize I was wrong.
  • Some parts may seem like foolish and stupid arguments that may produce quarrels. Feel free to leave me a comment telling me so, and I may even try to re-word or clarify my thoughts - I don't really want to quarrel about this stuff.

2 Tim 2:22-26 (NIV)
"Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."
So why am I still blogging despite warnings like this?

I'm not convinced this verse only applies to me - it may also apply to all those Protestants who are still protesting with their own arguments (or every other denomination that is out there.) And maybe I can say something that will help someone else see the plank in their eye. I don't know.

I also stubbornly believe that unity of Christ's body is Essential, and I don't see most Christians making this a focal point of the faith. 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.

But yes, I do also get side-tracked on other issues. I've been trying to understand the different traditions and viewpoints on all sorts of issues to figure out how we got to where we are, and what the original good news message was all about. I'm not certain where I'm going with all these side issues. So please don't assume I am the authority on any of it.

Please seek the Holy Spirit and our Scriptures yourself!

God Bless, and read at your own risk!

Washing Hands

This post goes out to my wife and kids. :)

Mark 7:1-16 (NIV)
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"
He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
" 'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."
And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.' "

So what do the Scriptures teach us here:
  • Some of Jesus disciples did not wash their hands before eating
  • The religious Pharisees and Jews always washed their hands before eating. They even went as far as washing cups, pitchers, and kettles - what legalism!
  • Jesus saw no problem with his disciples ignoring these traditions
  • Jesus goes on to show how empty rituals like washing your hands before eating can distract from the more important aspects of our faith.

Should we be like the religious Pharisees and Jews, or like the disciples of Christ?

I think the Bible clearly states that I don't have to wash my hands before eating. :)

Or maybe the Scriptures shouldn't be used like a Magic 8 ball to find answers to all issues. :)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

NT Wright on 100 Huntley Street talking about Hell

Thanks iCanuck for finding this.





Transcript: " The word hell has had a checkered career in the history of the church. And it wasnt hugely important in the early days. It was important, but not nearly as important as it became in the middle ages. And the in the middle ages, you get this polarization of heaven over here and hell over there, and you have to go to one place or the other eventually. So you have the Sistine Chapel, with that great thing behind the altar. This enormous great judgment seat, with the souls going off into these different directions. Very interestingly, I was sitting in the Sistine chapel just a few weeks ago. I was sitting for a service, and I was sitting next to a Greek Orthodox...who said to me, looking at the pictures of Jesus on one wall. He said, these I can understand. The pictures of Moses on the other wall, he said, those I can understand. Then he pointed at the end wall of judgment, and said, that I cannot understand. Thats how you in the west have talked about judgment and heaven and hell. He said, we have never done it that way before, because the bible doesnt do it that way. I thought, whoops. I think hes right actually. And whether youre Catholic or Protestant, that scenario which is etched into the consciousness of Western Christianity really has to be shaken about a bit. Because if heaven and earth are to join together. Its not a matter of leaving earth and going to heaven. Its heaven and earth joined together. And hell is what happens when human beings say, the God in whose image they were made, we dont want to worship you. We dont want our human life to be shaped by you. We dont want, who we are as humans to be transformed by the love of Jesus dying and rising for us. We dont want any of that. We want to stay as we are and do our own thing. And if you do that, what youre saying is, you want to stop being image bearing human being within this good world that God has made. And you are colluding with your own progressive dehumanization. And that is such a shocking and horrible thing, that its not surprising that the biblical writers and others have used very vivid and terrifying language about it. But, people have picked that up and said, this is a literal description of reality. Somewhere down there, there is a lake of fire, and its got worms in it and its got serpents and demons and there coming to get you. But I think actually, the reality is more sober and sad than that, which is this progressive shrinking of human life. And that happens during this life, but it seems to be that if someone resolutely says to God, Im not going to worship you...its not just Ill not come to church. Its a matter of deep down somewhere, there is a rejection of the good creator God, then that it the choice humans make. In other words, I think the human choices in this life really matter. Were not just playing a game of chess, where tomorrow morning God will put the pieces back on the board and say, Ok that was just a game. Now were doing something different. The choices we make here really do matter. Theres part of me that would love to be a universalist, and say, itll be alright. Everyone will get there in the end. I actually...the choices you make in the present are more important than that."


Does the way we view Hell come from the Scriptures alone, or from the Christian traditions we have inherited? ( I put together some related verses here.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead?

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? A historical approach by
Dr. N.T. Wright... yes a bit long, but a serious question deserves some serious thought.

Playdough Scripture Rom 6:23

"For the wages of sin is death eternal punishment, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Rom 6:23 (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. :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Nooma Rich

There’s a popular bumper sticker that reads “God Bless America,” but hasn’t America already been blessed? It’s easy for us to fall into a mindset of viewing “our” world as “the” world, because it’s all we generally see. We’re constantly bombarded with images of the latest styles and models of everything, and it can easily leave us feeling like what we have isn’t enough because we see people that have even more than us. But how does what we have compare to what most people in the world have? Maybe what we have is enough; maybe it’s more than enough. Maybe God has blessed us with everything we have so we can bless and give to others.




1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NIV)
"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."
This verse is for those of us who have access to some or most of these things:
  • clean drinking water
  • an automobile
  • a computer
  • TV
  • decent food
I enjoyed this video of Rob Bell. Applying these truths to my life may not be as enjoyable, but it may be rewarding.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Playdough Scripture Matt 7:21

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven when they die, but only he who really believes and is not just doing lip service does the will of my Father who is in heaven.".

Matt 7:21 (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. :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More on Penal Substitution

A post by Jonathan Brink today on Penal Substitution lead me to someone else's post with further thoughts on this topic.

In a previous post of mine here I had discovered that Jews did not view their sacrifice of atonement in terms of the lamb paying for a debt of the sinner, or die in place of the sinner. But I had not considered a few of these related thoughts:

1) Contrary to popular belief, the Mosaic sacrifices did not operate in a Penal Substitution framework.

1a) Nowhere does the Mosaic Law indicate the punishment for sin was transferred to an animal or God's Wrath being poured out upon it.

1b) Places like Leviticus 5:5-13 talk about what the guilty must bring for a sacrificial sin offering. In this description, the Law teaches that if the sinner cannot afford a lamb he must bring two pigeons. However, it continues, if he cannot afford two pigeons he must bring a bag of fine flour. If Penal Substitution were in mind here, allowing a bag of flour instead of a animal is illogical.

1c) The “scapegoat” was part of one of the most important ceremonies for the Israelites, the Day of Atonement, described in Lev. 16. The term “scapegoat” often conjures up images of an innocent party taking the blame and suffering the consequences for the sins of a guilty party. Yet, the description of the scapegoat in Lev. 16 (vv7-10 & 20-22) shows that this goat is never the object of wrath but instead released out into the wilderness. This is quite contrary to the notion of Penal Substitution.

1d) The Passover was a very important event in Jewish history, and St Paul tells us that Jesus is the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). Moses gives the instructions for the Passover to the Israelites in Exodus 12 (esp. vv1-13). Rather than being an object of wrath, the eating of the lamb and applying its blood to the door fame of the house is what turned away God's wrath. This directly corresponds to us partaking in the Eucharist and having Christ Blood applied to our souls, making them pure and pleasing in God's sight (Heb 9:14). It was the blood (merits) of the Lamb, not the death itself, which turned away God's wrath. This also does not fit a Penal Substitution framework.

1e) All through Leviticus (which deals heavily with sacrifices) there are numerous references to sacrifices being described as “an aroma pleasing to the Lord” (e.g. Lev. 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2). These sacrifices are pleasing to God because they are prepared 'the way He likes it,' He is pleased when such things are done in obedience to His teachings. It is no mistake that the sacrifice of Jesus is also described as a “fragrant aroma,” because He acted in love and obedience (Eph 5:1f). This is obviously not Penal Substitution, for this appeasing and pleasing God is not done by unleashing wrath but on account of obedience. Also, Eph. 5:1f calls Christians to imitate Christ's sacrifice, yet Penal Substitution is specifically intended so Christians wont have to imitate Christ's example of sacrifice.

The penal substitution doctrine works well for those who think in legal terms. It is a way to explain how a just God could extend love towards us sinners. It's a way of making things fair and even. God's wrath was directed towards Jesus instead of towards us. Jesus paid the price of our sin. However I think it is ironic that evangelical protestants who hold strongly to this are the ones who claim to be less legalistic than other traditions.

If the Jews did not view their sacrificial lambs as payment for their sin debt, and there are no verses that talk about atonement as Jesus paying for our debt - I just see no need to use this language either.

And I'd rather view God as one who loves us even when we sin, just like I am capable of loving my kids even when they sin. I'm not saying everyone goes to Heaven when they die - I'm just not sure its a good idea to view God as one who needs to kill His son to appease His wrath.

Playdough Scripture Matt 25:34-35

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For you invited Jesus to come into your heart I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"

Matt 25:34-35 (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, June 1, 2009

Dr. Dwight A. Pryor's Kingship video Part 2

"There is no other subject more important to the life of the man Yeshua than the subject of the kingdom of heaven." If you don't have a clear understanding of the good news message of the kingdom of God, which was the focus of Jesus message and life example, I'd highly recommend watching these two videos. Yes they are a bit long - the length of a regular sermon or lecture. But shorter than most movies and many TV shows. I'd urge you to make time to watch them.

I've summarized some of the main points bellow.

This is Part 2. Part 1 is here.



0:00
"Yeshua not only announces, proclaims, explains, illustrates and demonstrates the kingdom Himself in His ministry.... He also empowers and sends out His own disciples to announce and implement this good news."
0:46
"... heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you'". Luke 10:9

The disciples did not heal people, and tell them the kingdom of God would come many years from now... they were saying the kingdom of God is present.

3:18
Luke 11:20
"But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."
5:22
"The kingdom is already... and yet even more. It does have a future indicative but it's a present imperative. The kingdom is advancing... and it will come to fruition."
Typically Kingdom in the gospels is referring to the present, but there are cases that are referring to the future. Typically Jesus used "coming" language, and "Son of Man" language to talk about the future.

8:40
"The good news of the kingdom, the poor being comforted and encouraged, the lame being healed, the blind seeing, the mourners comforted - that's the first aspect of the kingdom. The judgment of the apocalypse is coming later."
Luke 17:20-21
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." (NIV)
Jesus is telling them that they shouldn't be looking for the kingdom of God coming in a visible way. And neither should we. He said it is "within you" or "in your midst".

Then Jesus goes on talking about the days of the 'Son of Man'. And those are references to the future.

14:34
3 things about he kingdom
When Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God he is emphasizing 1 of 3 things (or all 3).
  1. A Person - That He is King
  2. A Power at work in a process - the power of the spirit of God in the people of God
  3. A People - all those who submit to His authority, who receive him as King, they are joined to a community that bears wittiness to the fact that for us there is one God and one Lord. Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
17:30
I appreciate the explanation given here for this verse. I didn't understand the forcefully advancing, or forceful men lay hold of it. His explanation here makes sense... it's a bit long for me to repeat here though... so watch the video at 17:30 if interested.
Matthew 11:12 "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it."

Matthew 7:21
"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." (NIV)
This is not a verse about how to get to Heaven when we die. This is talking about who is part of Christ's kingdom here and now.

28:40
"It takes more than verbal affirmation to be part of Jesus people. It takes the fruits of repentance. It takes the obedience of faith."

John 8:31-32
"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (NIV)
The kingdom is about setting captives free.

To have the fullness of the kingdom you must have
  • redemption
  • revelation
  • responsibility
32:50
Distinction between God's kingship/kingdom and God's sovereignty.
  • Kingship - particular, conditional, volitional
  • Sovereignty - universal, unconditional, inescapable
We can choose to be under God's Kingship, but being under God's Sovereignty happens whether we like it or not.

Matt 6:9-13
"This, then, is how you should pray:
" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.'

I pray we can understand the good news of the kingdom of God, be able to apply it to our lives, and share this good news with the world around us.