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.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Gospel does your neighbor need to hear?


Your neighbor Bob has shared some problems he's having in his life. He feels trapped and burdened.

"Hi Bob, I see you are a sinner. Do you want to hear some good news? God used to require His people to kill animals to receive forgiveness for their sins. Then Jesus came to die for your sins. You don't have to kill animals as burnt offerings to restore your relationship with God anymore. Confess your sins to God, believe in Jesus and what he did on the cross, and you will have eternal life."

Bob:"Huh? I wasn't talking about my sins. And the thought of killing an animal as a sacrifice for my sins has never crossed my mind. So what's the message of the cross have to do with the problems I'm burdened with?"

OR should we try this good news message:

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

Which good news message is closest to the message Jesus preached as He traveled from town to town?

If Bob accepts the good news message of the reign of God, he will want to learn more about how this all works. As he studies the Scriptures he will also learn about the work Jesus did on the cross, and understand the problem of sin. Bob wouldn't be the first person to be saved without an understand of Christ's work on the cross first.

Would the good news Jesus and His disciples preached before the cross still work today?

Related posts:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thoughts on Membership

I mostly I agree with GotQuestions.org on this one.
http://www.gotquestions.org/church-membership.html

The way we do church membership is not found in Scripture. The body of Christ is a universal body. The members of the body are all Christ followers... not just those who make a commitment to a local gathering.

I think the biggest downside of church membership is that of exclusion. Some people are 'in', and others are 'out'. And those that are 'in' may get confused and view those that are outside to be not part of Christ's body. The church that meets down the block or across the street has a different membership list, and may not be considered part of the same body.

Other than that... I've concluded that it is likely not a sin to submit to the desire of others on this one. If it's the way they think the church functions best, and it's what they require for us to be involved, it's likely not a sin to go along. I can't find a verse that says "Thou shalt not become a member of a local assembly."

At our Sunday morning event, and throughout the week, I value and respect the sincere love for God that I see in many people from Christ's Church. We all need each other to encourage each other, teach one another, love one another, submit to one another, share hospitality with one another, forgive one another, serve one another... (and the list goes on)... and I'll repeat love one another.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Playdough Scripture 1 John 4:15

"If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, prays a simple prayer like this: "Heavenly Father, I know that I have sinned against you and that my sins separate me from you. I am truly sorry. I now want to turn away from my sinful past and turn to you for forgiveness. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your Son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, that He was raised from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become my Savior and the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You and to convict me when I sin. I pledge to grow in grace and knowledge of you. My greatest purpose in life is to follow your example and do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."

... and then continues to regularly attend a church, give to a church, and live a moderately sin-free life...

...God lives in him and he in God."

1 John 4:15 (Playdough Version)



Have our traditions made things more complicated than they were meant to be?

Monday, November 23, 2009

How can I gain your love?

What did you need to do to gain the love of your parents?

What do your kids need to do to gain your love?

What did you need to do to gain the love of your grand-parents?

In most cases - Nothing!

I can't imagine my kids arriving at my parents home when we visit for Christmas and asking "Grandma, what can I do so you love me?" They just know they are loved.

We don't need to try to earn it. We should know too that we are loved by our Father, and learn to live within that perfect loving relationship... being guided by the One who loves us and knows us best.

Playdough Scripture Matt 10:8-10

"Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep, it's OK to make a profit from the gospel."

Matthew 10:8b-10 (Playdough Version)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Is The Problem Our Separation?

On my 'What I believe' page, I started with a number of quotes from Billy Graham Association. I picked them because I know most Christian denominations have agreed to work with the materials they provide at their events... so I thought it was a good place to start for the sake of unity.

Here's one of them:

The Problem is Our Separation

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

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


However, the shortest blog post ever here got me thinking (and the responses that followed).

"True or False: Sin Separates us from God"

I believe Rom 8:35-39 may apply… nothing can separate me from the love of God.

When I rule my life by going my selfish way (sin… like the prodigal son) I can distance myself from participating in the kingdom of God…

But God is all powerful... He has the ability to reach out to us even when we are sinners…. while we were sinners, Christ died for us...

Jesus was a friend of sinners. It’s not like sin creates a gulf that God himself can not cross to reach across to love sinners... and that was the perception I've had in the past. I thought God was incapable of loving sinners because of his Holiness. My love isn't even as pure as God's, yet I am capable of loving my kids when they sin against me... I don't think we should limit God's love this way.

Sin separates us from God?
True – when we sin we separate ourselves from God’s ways.
False – God's love can always reach out to us.

I think the image of separation has gotten me confused in the past. I'm going to change my 'what I believe' page to read: The problem... our self centered ways.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Playdough Scripture Rev 20:10

"And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet, and everyone who is not a Christian had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."

Revelation 20:10 (Playdough Version)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do you support torture?

I don't live in the U.S. but here's a story that saddens me. I think it's a sad reflection of a people who should be living as a reflection of God's love.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/04/30/religion.torture/index.html

More than 60% of people who attend 'Evangelical' churches at least once a week say torture is often or sometimes justified against suspected terrorists.

Only 42% of people who seldom or never go to church believed the same.

How could this statistic be true? Why could people who know the love of Christ, who have used the phrase "what would Jesus do", support torturing suspected terrorists?

Could the way they view the work of the cross play into it. They see God torturing and killing His own Son....

Or does the idea of double predestination and the traditional view of Hell play into thinking that since God has chosen those who will remain unsaved and He plans to torture them for eternity... it must be OK for us to do the same here too with those who are obviously unsaved.

:(

God I pray that your people would get a personal glimpse of who you are, and portray that image to a broken world.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Do Doctrines Unite?

Is the greatest calling for Christian communities to come up with shared statements of beliefs?

Do we need to work on our doctrinal statements until we find unity?

Does having doctrinal statements create unity or do they create divisions?

Doctrinal statements may help define what it takes to be united within a certain group... but what does it do to those on the outside of the well defined list of beliefs?

Colossians 3:13-15 (NIV)
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Or would a renewed focus on love be a better way forward?

Is that why Jesus focused on love as the greatest commandment... is that why love is the true mark of a disciple of Christ. Is it possible that we could look past our differences when we recognize true love in each other?

When I recognize true love for the same Jesus I love, I am able to look past disagreements on less essential matters.

When I understand God's love extended to towards me, and recognize that He also loves others who follow different traditions, I am able to recognize that we are part of the same family.

I also recognize that when I know someone loves and respects me... I have an easier time discussing disagreements. If we start with love and respect... we may actually make progress on doctrines as well.

So... to make this practical...
If you are a 4 point Calvinist, think Hell is eternal torment for the wicked, and love the penal substitutionary atonement theory... if you love Jesus... let's celebrate that as we encourage each other to follow God's leading in our lives.

... Or if you believe the Pope has a unique position of authority in the church, pray to Mary, and follow some other traditions that seem different to me... if you love the same Jesus I do... let's recognize that and encourage each other to follow that Jesus whom we love.

... Or if you _____(fill in your own blank here if you are one of the 30,000 different Christian denominations not included in the previous two statements... I don't want to leave you out) _____ .... if you love the same Jesus I do... let's recognize that and encourage each other to follow that Jesus whom we love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Parable about a Divided Family


from: http://www.alanknox.net/2009/11/a-parable-about-a-divided-family/

I just read this Post by Alan Knox, and had to repost it here:

A man had several children. He loved his children and provided for them as any loving father would. And, like most children, they often disagreed and fought. But, the father would bring the children together and make them deal with their disagreements.

One by one, as the children grew up, they moved out of the father’s house. However, they all stayed close by. One son moved into a house a block away. A daughter moved into the house next door. Another son moved across town. Each child moved into his or her own house, married, and began to start their own family.

Also, one by one, the children stopped talking to one another. Their disagreement and fights became more serious and divisive. And, since they no longer lived with their father, they no longer came together to work out their differences.

Whenever they saw one another at the store, or on the sidewalk, or at the park, they would point out their differences and disagreements. Often, the arguments would become loud and heated, such that people walking by would notice. Eventually, the people in town knew the family as “the divided family.”

The name “divided family” grieved the father, so he invited his children to come together to work out their differences. They all agreed. But, one by one, the children declined the invitation when they heard that the other children were invited as well. Each one refused to get together with their father as long as the other children were invited.

The father continued to spend time with his children one-on-one, but he could not convince the children to come together. Whenever he attempted to invite more than one of his children to his house, the children would refuse and point out their disagreements and differences with the other children.

As the grandchildren grew older and moved out of their parents’ houses, they also began to disagree with one another. They would often argue with their parents as well. While each of the children and grandchildren and (eventually) great grandchildren loved to spend time with the father, they refused to get together with one another.

Whenever the father tried to bring them together, the children and grandchildren and great grandchildren would complain to the father about the others, and tell him that their family was right and the other families were wrong. They explained passionately to their father why they could not get together with those other families.

One day, in his grief, the father wrote a letter. In the letter, the father acknowledged the hurt, disagreements, and arguments that had split his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. He acknowledged that it would take great efforts on all their parts to bring them all back together again.

“However,” he concluded, “in all of your arguments and disagreements and divisions, you have forgotten one thing: In my perspective, as long as you live as separate families, you are living a lie. You are one family – my family – and I will never see you nor treat you as multiple families.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Playdough Scripture Acts 2:38

"Peter replied, "Repeat this prayer after me:
"Heavenly Father, I know that I have sinned against you and that my sins separate me from you. I am truly sorry. I now want to turn away from my sinful past and turn to you for forgiveness. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your Son, Jesus Christ, died for my sins, that He was raised from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become my Savior and the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You and to convict me when I sin. I pledge to grow in grace and knowledge of you. My greatest purpose in life is to follow your example and do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen."
and you will be saved. Repent and Then after you've taken baptism classes be baptized, every one some of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Acts 2:38 (Playdough Version)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Graham Cooke part 2



Part 1 of this video here.

"Everything always comes back to the nature of God, always. What is God like for me, what is my experience with Him, what am I enjoying about Him and that's where your passion comes from, and you should live in your passion about God... you know... it's supposed to be a joy, a pleasure, and a delight to be with God, because He has a joy, a pleasure, delight with being with us."

"Whatever God wants from us He intends to give us. So if He wants us to be faithful, He's gonna be faithful, because He is the model, He's the example. And in fact it takes God to love God. Only God can love God. So what does that mean? It means that for me to love God properly I have to be loved wonderfully by Him. So the chief role of a Christian therefore I think is to allow themselves to be wonderfully loved. So when God touches you, who He is comes into you, sets you free and that's what you manifest."

"I am so passionate about church, I think church is such a brilliant idea. But you know the problem is we've taken God's whole idea of church and we've made it in our own image... we've put it in a box... you know this is what church is. The only time God put himself in a box He said you touch this thing and I'll kill you. But the whole idea of God is for freedom that Christ has set us free."

"So church really should be a community of dream seeking permission giving people. The best leaders are leaders who can facilitate the growth and the development, not only of the individual, but the corporate. So they are permission giving, they don't mind if people make mistakes because sometimes when you do something for the first time you learn how not to do it. So they're real fathers, but they're dream givers. The Pharisees are the dream thieves of their day. They stole peoples dreams."

"One of the discrepancies in Evangelicalism, speaking as an Evangelical, is that we have put the great commission ahead of the first commandment. The first commandment is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. That is the real role of the church in the earth. The great commission actually is the second commandment. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. And so our prime role in the world is to know God, love God, encounter God, and then be part of the release of that understanding and that experience into the world."

"... it is His deep joy in you that captures your heart. And you realize that, for me it was... OMG, He's the happiest person I've ever met, and also He's the kindest person I know, and you get totally awestruck by the nature of God, and what He's like... and then it's like my hearts swept, it's not like you can't go back... you can't find your way back"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

80% Muslim

I just thought I'd do some research to explore what common ground I share with Muslims, so the next time I chat with a Muslim I have a better idea of what they believe.

Literally, the word Muslim means "one who submits (to God)".

Check - I have the same desire. In this sense I could call myself Muslim.

They believe God has sent many prophets all over the world. These are their top 5 prophets:
  1. Nuh (Noah)
  2. Ibrahim (Abraham)
  3. Musa (Moses)
  4. Isa (Jesus)
  5. Muhammad
I'll score myself a 3.5/5 on this one

Most Muslims believe that Jesus ascended into heaven, but not the death and resurrection part.

I'll score myself a 1/3 on this one

Muslim 6 articles of faith:
  • One God
  • Angels - messengers of God
  • Prophets (already mentioned above)
  • Scriptures - They are the Suhuf Ibrahim (commonly the Scrolls of Abraham), the Taurat (Torah), the Zabur (commonly the Psalms), the Injil (commonly the Gospel), and the Qur'an.
  • The Day of Judgment and the Akhirah or afterlife
  • Predestination- "Allah has knowledge of everything in his creation. Nothing occurs except by his will. Human beings are given free will, and it must be made clear that destiny does not have a cause-and-effect influence of the choices humans make. The choices that humans make are all within Allah's knowledge."
I have a slightly different Scriptures and Prophets list. I'm not Calvinist, but I'm good with this description of Predestination. I'd give myself a 5/6 on this one.

Virgin Birth of Jesus

Check

"Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."

Check

Once they reach puberty, his/her account of deeds is opened in Paradise. To attain paradise, at death, their good deeds (helping others, testifying to the truth of God, leading a virtuous life)... must outweigh their evil deeds.

Nope

"There is no other god beside God." (Qur'an 47:19)

Check

"My Lord, make this a peaceful land, and protect me and my children from worshiping idols." (Qur'an 14:35)

Check

"And make not Allah's (name) an excuse in your oaths against doing good, or acting rightly, or making peace between persons; for Allah is One Who heareth and knoweth all things." (Qur'an 2:224)
Check

"O you who believe, when the Congregational Prayer (Salat Al-Jumu`ah) is announced on Friday, you shall hasten to the commemoration of GOD, and drop all business." (Qur'an 62:9)

(most of us don't keep the Saturday Sabbath either - I'll ask for an exemption on this point)

"....and your parents shall be honoured. As long as one or both of them live, you shall never (even) say to them, "Uff" (the slightest gesture of annoyance), nor shall you shout at them; you shall treat them amicably." (Qur'an 17:23)
Check

"....anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people." (Qur'an 5:32)

Check

"You shall not commit adultery; it is a gross sin, and an evil behaviour." (Qur'an 17:32)

Check

"They shall not steal." (Al-Mumtahanah 60: 12)

Check

"Do not withhold any testimony by concealing what you had witnessed. Anyone who withholds a testimony is sinful at heart." (Qur'an 2:283)
Check

"And do not covet what we bestowed upon any other people. Such are temporary ornaments of this life, whereby we put them to the test. What your Lord provides for you is far better, and everlasting."

Check

OK, my belief system is different than most Muslim's on some key points, but very similar on other key points. A quick tally says I'm in agreement with 80% of these beliefs. I know this is a brief overview, but this percentage may be close. I imagine most conservative Christians share more ethical positions with Muslims than they do with our secular culture.

I've also recently discovered I am not 100% Protestant or Catholic either... I wonder what percent of shared beliefs is required to qualify.

Oh well... I found this quick study informative... if anyone is reading I hope you find some value in recognizing some shared beliefs as well. And may we encourage those we meet to seek God to direct us all to understand whatever percent of truth He wants us to understand.


Sources:
http://www.religioustolerance.org/comp_isl_chr.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Graham Cooke - Do you know God's voice?



I love hearing how God first reached out to Graham Cooke. The first few minutes are a great story of God's desire to restore a messed up life. Worth the watch...

And then Graham goes on sharing these challenging words:

It's really interesting that people say that they are 'Bible believing', but they don't know how to hear the voice of God. It's not like God wrote the book and stopped talking... I mean what is that?... that just makes me giggle. I think God is always talking. And the promise of Jesus is 'my sheep know my voice'.


Do you know God's voice?

(Part 2 of this video here.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Playdough Scripture 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

"He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction torment and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power... but they won't be destroyed.

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 (Playdough Version)