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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm a Believer

I'm a believer. Are you? If so, what does this mean to you? What did it mean to the gospel writers?

As I've been going through the gospels, looking at what each writer has to say on the topic of the gospel or good news, I have to pause to include what the gospel according to John has to say on the topic of being a believer. The word believe shows up more in John than in Matthew, Mark, and Luke combined. I'd like to look at some of them here.

What essential things need to be believed in order to be a believer?

Keep in mind that John would not have assumed his readers had access to all the other NT books, or had our modern theological mindset. We should assume John is writing with enough details to achieve the goal of vs 20:31 "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

Would John's readers concluded we must believe the following:
  • God is holy.
  • We are sinners.
  • Our sins separates us from God.
  • The just penalty for our sins is eternal torment in Hell.
  • Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross so we can be with God for eternity

What do you think it meant to John to be a believer?

Here are some verses from the gospel of John (all Scripture NIV):

1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

2:23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.

3:14-18 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

4:39-42 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

4:53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.

5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

6:28-29 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

6:35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

6:47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.

6:69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

7:31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”

7:38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

8:30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

9:36-38 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

10:42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.

11:25-27 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

11:45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

12:36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

12:37 [ Belief and Unbelief Among the Jews ] Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.

12:44-46 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God ; believe also in me.

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 may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

20:29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John gives a picture of a simple belief. John described people believing in Jesus' name, that He was the savior, the Messiah, the Son of God, or Lord.

Interesting there is never a list of all the essential beliefs in one verse or passage.

According to John, what do you think are the essential beliefs to be a believer?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Extending Grace on this Journey

I recently recognized the significance of my starting point on this journey I've been on for the past few years.

The starting point for myself was the recognition of Jesus prayer for unity, and the church's lack of focus in that regard. I wanted to understand what issues were keeping the church divided. I started examining other traditions, especially the RCC - which my protestant tradition occasionally still protests. I came to appreciate that many of the issues were not as black and white as I had once thought. I began to doubt that all my protestant traditions were absolutely true. I came to conclude that even if the RCC was wrong on many non-essential truths, it is not for me to judge. I will readily agree I am also likely wrong on many non-essential truths as well... I just don't know which ones.

I recognized that love and unity were more essential - it is one of the biggest themes in Scripture. We can't ignore that Christ's body is one over every doctrinal debate that has a few verses of support on each side. Maybe it's not all about having all the right answers.

I found a place where I can extend love and grace to my RCC brothers and sisters who have less than perfect theology IMHO, but may have a true love and devotion to my Lord. (btw: I'm not suggesting all RCC members have a true love and devotion to my Lord... only God could know that.)

Now more recently I've come to a point where I see some flaws in my own tradition. For some reason recognizing these flaws stirs up more emotions. I think it's because I recognize I'm disagreeing with brothers and sisters that have been close. These aren't the long separated brothers and sisters of a distant related tradition. Questioning my beliefs results in questioning the beliefs of many people that I am close to. And I know some of them won't be thrilled about this.

However, my logical response must be the same.

I recognize that love and unity is more essential - it is one of the biggest themes in Scripture.

I have found a place where I can extend love and grace to my protestant brothers and sisters who have less than perfect theology IMHO, but have a true love and devotion to my Lord.

The difference here is I know many of these people personally. I can see their sincere faith. I can't ignore that part. So that makes it much easier when I stop to think about it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Bring You Good News

I just wanted to highlight a few verses that are part of the narrative of Christ's birth. These verses introduce us to the gospel theme in the gospels. The good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus and his disciples later preached.

Luke 1:29-33 (NIV)
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.
Luke 2:8-14 (NIV)
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Matt 2:1-2 (NIV)
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

As we celebrate Christ's birth may we celebrate the good news that He is king. He is ruling over our lives. His kingdom that He established will not end. He is God's Son. He is our Savior. He is the Messiah the Jews were waiting for. And He is our Lord and king. The depths of these truths are worth celebrating.

Related Posts:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Joy To The World - The Gospel

Great song. It proclaims the gospel of the kingdom.

During this season consider how you can:
  • Receive Christ as King
  • Rejoice in your King, because he rules the world with truth and grace
  • wonder at his love
  • Flee the curse and kingdom of darkness

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dave Black on Church Today

Dave Black - Known for his love for New Testament Greek and passion for teaching, Sun Day 16, 7:38AM Says:

"Much of what we call "church" today originated, not in the New Testament, but in post-apostolic times.
  • The Lord's Supper has changed from a celebration to a ceremony.
  • Worship has changed from participation to observation.
  • Witness has changed from relationship to salesmanship.
  • Leadership has changed from servanthood to professionalism.
  • Mission has changed from being missionaries to supporting missionaries.
  • Body life has changed from edification to entertainment.
  • Buildings have changed from functional to sacred.
  • Child care has changed from the hands of parents to the hands of strangers."
I'll add a few more:
  • Gatherings changed from spontaneous spirit lead to prescheduled.
  • Giving changed from giving to the poor to giving to the 'church'
  • Discipleship training changed from apprenticeship model to academic model
  • Gospel of Jesus' Kingdom changed to gospel of our distinct doctrines
  • Unity of all saints changed to unity within our local faction

It's easy to get grumpy about lists like this. I can point fingers at those anonymous people in history... "Look at the mess you have made with Christ's church."

But then there are still some fingers pointing back at me...

Have I been faithful with what God is calling me to do? Am I loving God and loving others with a servant heart moment by moment? Am I full of Christ's Joy? Peace? Patience? Goodness? Genteelness? Self control?

To get Christ's church back to where it needs to be we simply need to allow Christ to direct it.

Just like I need to allow Christ to direct my life. Easier said than done, but this is the part God is asking of me.

Fixing Christ's church? I can't do that, but I believe God is moving in His church, I'm excited to see what His plans are for it. (even if he doesn't fix everything in my list) :)

But mostly I'm excited (and anxious) about what his plans are for me.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shepherding Basics

As I've written about before, Scripture talks of Christ being our Chief Shepherd (Lead Pastor), and a good/great shepherd. And I see no evidence that anyone in the early church used the word shepherd, pastor, or overseer as a title for themselves or job description.

However there are a few verses that refer to Christ followers as shepherding or pasturing. So what can this mean for me?

One simple idea is how I'm a type of shepherd to my children. It is easy to see that I:
  • care for them
  • feed them
  • guide and teach them
  • scold and correct them
  • encourage and build them up
The goal is to build them up to maturity, so when they are older they will be able to shepherd others. I love them more than a shepherd would love his sheep, yet I don't really want them to be sheep forever.

Are there other people in my life that I am shepherding also? I believe as I mature in my faith there should be.

Are there people in my life that are still shepherding me? Yes.

Some will be more gifted at this than others. I'm thinking the goal of shepherding should be to feed, guide, correct, and encourage others, to build them up so they can mature to the point that they are shepherding others as well.

What do you think?

Related Posts:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Overseer in 1 Peter 5:2

1 Peter 5:2 (NIV 1984)
"Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;"
The way this is written this verse seems to support the concept of an office of overseer.

I'm not a Greek student. Please correct me if I'm wrong. But from a quick glance at the Greek for this passage, I don't know why most translations include the word overseers or oversight.

Take a look here for the breakdown of the Greek words in this verse.

"tend you the among you flock of God not by obligation but voluntarily not lucre but eagerness"

Rea-range the terms to make sense, but notice there is nothing here to hint at an office of an overseer.

I see the NIV version has dropped the word 'overseer' from it's 2010 version, but had it in it's 1984 version.

I hate to suggest it, but I have some translators bee doing their own version of playdough scripture. :)

EDIT: I stand corrected. Some manuscripts have ἐπισκοποῦντες which can be translated "look diligently, take the oversight.", so that is why the translators have gone this way. Thanks Steve.

Interesting the other time that term shows up is Hebrews 12:15, and gets translated "See to it", "look carefully", "watching"... and it seems to be written to all believers.

Related Posts:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Playdough Scripture 1 Peter 4:8-11

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another go every Sunday to a worship service without grumbling. Each Some of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others during the worship service (usher, sound guy, Sunday school, nursery, worship band, preacher), and everyone put money in the offering plate as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone Listen while the pastor speaks, they should do so as one who because he speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:8-11 (Playdough Version)

OK, sorry for playing too much with our scripture. But here is my questions:

What is the main mark of a Christian? That they go faithfully to church every Sunday? Or that they love and serve each other? I suspect everyone would agree on the correct answer... but if someone never went 'to church' yet faithfully served and loved others and offered hospitality to others would they get judged for it?

When we serve, are we serving each other, or are we serving the church service? What would it look like if we used our gifts to serve each other outside the church programs?

What do we do with a verse like this: "If anyone speaks they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God" ??? Is it possible that all Christians could share this role in some way?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Original Meaning of Christmas

Recently discovery! Here is a picture of an early church Christmas celebration:

"The early Christians did not celebrate Christ's birth because they considered the celebration of anyone's birth to be a pagan custom."

Wait a minute. Aren't Christian's supposed to be fighting to keep Christ as the true meaning of Christmas. Well I think that may depend on which Christmas traditions you are defending...


Many cultures had winter festivals long before Christ. The Romans had a festival called Saturna which occurs 8 days before the winter solstice.

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means "the birthday of the unconquered sun". December 25 was Mithras' birthday, some sort of sun-god. It seems the Romans love for the sun had some influence on the date we celebrate for Christmas. (Just like Roman sun worship played a role in Sunday being the day for weekly worship.)

Gift giving:

- was part of the roman festival Saturna

Visiting friends:

- was part of the roman festival Saturna


- again people in the Roman Empire brought branches from evergreen plants indoors in the winter (before Christianity)

And then over the past 2000 years different cultures have added the Christmas tree, cards, Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, special foods, songs and decorations.

So which Christmas traditions are we defending? I think they are simply a mixture of traditions, some created by the church, and some from various cultures.

Of course not all traditions are wrong. I look forward to spending time together with family, and enjoying some great food together. I look forward to placing special attention to the narrative of Jesus in scripture. And it is great that there is often a special interest in caring for the poor during this season.

I'm not suggesting we need to re-thing celebrating Christmas. I just want to add to our mindset a historical perspective on Christmas and birthdays.

Romans 14:5 (NIV)
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.
I guess in the spirit of Romans 14:5-18, it is not for us to judge others on the basis of if they celebrate a certain day or not.

Some sources:

Related Post:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sign of Unity

(No this is not a real sign, and no, it is not what I believe... but I fear this is often how it works)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Eric on leadership

A blogger brother Eric (former paid pastor) posted some thoughts that fit well with my post yesterday on leadership.
The more I ponder this conversation, the more I see what the confusion was. We were thinking of leadership in terms of how we think of the church. If the church is what the bible describes plus additions such as the big building, the programs, the budgets, etc., then leadership almost has to come in the form of one strong senior pastor. Someone has to be in place to keep track of all of the stuff that the scriptures do not talk about.

However, if church is what the bible describes and no more, then leadership can fall into the hands of multiple people. In fact, each person in the body can show leadership in his or her particular areas of giftedness. The elders should primarily display leadership through being sacrificial examples of servanthood to the body. No one man is needed to take care of all the extra stuff.

How we view leadership in the church necessarily stems from how we view the church itself.
Yes, it will be tough to convince church folk who see a need for buildings, staff, budgets and programs that you don't need someone appointed to oversee it all. So I imagine most Christians will just think I'm some kind of crazy anarchist. :)

But if the church is simply the family of God... I can imagine it functioning with only Jesus as the head.

Monday, December 6, 2010

My 95 Thesis - Point 12 - Leadership

Here's my 12th Point in My 95 Thesis.

Another topic I think the church should dialog on is leadership. Is there a place for hierarchy in the church? Are some brothers a type of leader who have some special authority over the others? And what about titles, positions, and offices? Are we really doing this by the book?

Of course, in any gathering there will be some who lead others. The guy who starts the wave at a football game is a leader. Not because he has any special authority, but because others see what he is doing and want to follow.

What about elders? I understand there were elders in the NT church... just like there were elders in the OT ... society. However the elders in the OT society were not viewed as spiritual shepherds or overseers. I'm not sure how this translated into the NT church. I suspect it was common to look to the older wise men in the community for advice and guidance. However I don't see Scriptural evidence that these elders made decisions on behalf of the rest of the body.

What about pastors and overseers? I find it interesting that nobody in the NT called themselves these titles. It may be that shepherding and watching for and caring for others is more of description of what we are all called to. It may have had little to do with a title for an office or position. Yes, some will be more gifted than others... so they should be leading by example to encouraging the rest of the body to shepherd and oversee as well. In my opinion the only one who qualifies to use the title Chief Shepherd (or lead pastor) is Jesus.

I suspect if anyone was going around calling themselves 'Pastor' in those days, Jesus would have added that to this list in Matt 23:8-12 (NIV):
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Church history is full of people using titles like preacher, pastor (shepherd), bishop (overseer), clergy, deacon (waiter or servant), priest, minister, reverend, archbishop, cardinal.

But I can't find any evidence those in the early church used any such titles. They refereed to themselves servants, brothers, apostles (sent ones), prisoner.... I think they understood their role and position in this new kingdom Jesus was establishing.

HOWEVER... just because I am questioning the use of the titles Pastor and elder, I do not want anyone to think I am against those who use these titles. I pray I can show grace and love towards my brothers who use these titles. My dad is a retired 'pastor'... and of course I still love him dearly. And I have other good friends who use these titles. I recognize that they are passionately seeking to love and follow the same Jesus I am seeking. In my opinion, it may not be so much about what we call ourselves that matters... but what we do. And I know most people who have used the titles pastor and elder have been doing shepherding, caring, feeding, etc. And we should all strive to follow that example.

Related Posts:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Learning one bite at a time

Sometimes I wish Jesus didn't use parables to teach us, or that the Bible was a bit clearer about what doctrines and beliefs are essential.

But there is a beauty in parables, and the narrative style of scripture.

God speaks truth one bite at a time.

There are some things we learn once, and we are good for life. Consider when you learned to count to 10, or how to tie your shoes. It's done. I no longer have an interested in learning more about tying shoes or counting to ten. Since I've mastered the topics, my interest in them have gone.

But not so with the kingdom of God. I don't have it all figured out yet. There are things I just don't understand.

So I enjoy it when God teaches me something new. So I can be thankful it is just a little bit at a time. That will mean there is still lots more to learn for years to come... and even into eternity.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Go into all the world

We live in a strange day and age.

I love to travel. I often wonder if I should quit my comfortable job, sell everything we have, and move to some remote place. But I'm not sure where, or what I would do there. And I'm not sure if it's God calling me, or just my mid-life crisis feelings of lack of purpose where I'm at.

It comes down to questioning if God wants to use me here, or if God wants to use me someplace else. If this ever became clear, I'd love to go. But until then I'll try to make responsible choices for my family.

Anyways, today I realized that in a way I am able to preach the good news to all the world through this blog. I thank God if he is able to use me in this way. I've never been much of a writer, or much of a communicator for that matter. But my blog stats counters shows that in a way I am able to share the good news with more of the world than I likely would by simply moving to some remote place.

Speaking in tongues - I know some people even use Google translate to translate my stuff into their language. :)

Unfortunately I don't get much feedback, so I don't really know how it is received. But I pray God can use it for his kingdom.

(Analytics visitors over past 12 months)

(statcounter.com recent visitors)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gospel in Luke

Continuing the series looking for 'the gospel' in the gospels. All six posts in this series here:
  1. Gospel in the Gospels - introduction and some thoughts to consider 
  2. Gospel in Matthew - verses related to the term gospel in Matthew 
  3. Gospel in Mark - verses related to the term gospel in Mark 
  4. Gospel in Luke - verses related to the term gospel in Luke 
  5. Gospel in John - verses in John that that make similar points 
  6. Gospel in the Gospels - Summary
This time considering what Luke has to say. If Luke was asked "What is the gospel?", how would he respond?

I'll try to organize some scripture snippets, and look for a gospel theme. (All taken from NIV)

Gospel = good news, and good news is a theme in the gospel of Luke.
3:16-18 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

2:10-11 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

4:16-21 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and 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 proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
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. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
7:22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

8:1 [ The Parable of the Sower ] After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,

9:6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

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 their way into it.

20:1 One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him.
In fact Luke records Jesus as saying preaching the good news of the kingdom of God was the reason Jesus came to earth. 
4:43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
So we see that the good news according to Luke (and Jesus) was that of the kingdom of God.

Here are some additional references to this kingdom of God:
6:20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

7:28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

8:10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’

9:2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

9:11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

9:27 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

9:60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

9:62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

10:11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’

11:2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.

11:17-20 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.12:31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

13:18 [ The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast ] Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?

13:20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?

13:28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.

13:29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

14:15 [ The Parable of the Great Banquet ] When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

17:20-21 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

18:16-17 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

18:24-25 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

18:29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God.

19:11 [ The Parable of the Ten Minas ] While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.

21:31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

22:16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

22:18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

22:29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me,

22:30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ”

23:51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.
Lets take another look at what Mary was told about Jesus by the angel:
1:30-33 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.
King of the Jews
19:38-40 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

23:3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied.

23:38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
And many verses where Jesus is refereed to as Lord like these:

(Lord = King, I won't list them all here)
12:42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?

13:15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?
  • Jesus and His disciples preached the good news of the kingdom of God from town to town.
  • This is why Jesus came
  • Jesus is King, Lord, the Messiah (anointed king) the Jews were waiting for
  • But it's not the type of kingdom we are familiar with
  • Some references to the kingdom of God seem to be present tense and something to be part of now
  • Some references to the kingdom of God are future tense
  • Something about this kingdom is especially good news for the poor
  • We must have some child like quality to be part of it
What do you think the gospel was according to Luke?

Anything else stand out to you?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

N.T. Wright on the Atonement Debate

"The real frustration I had was all these great and good from the evangelical world inside the front cover who said this is the greatest treatment of the biblical doctrine of atonement. And so I thought wouldn't it be interesting to see what they do with the material of the gospels. How do they read John 19? How do they read Mark? How do they read Jesus whole ministry in relation to his death. Deafening silence. Virtually nothing in the book on the gospels. And that set me thinking, because as I've said in other places, I really think the western world has forgotten what the gospels are there for. And the result of that is that we take our theology from bits of Paul that we think we know what to do with, and we just grab a line here, a verse here, a passage there from the gospels to fit into that. Whereas Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are all written in such a way as to lead the eye up to the crucifixion of Jesus as the climax of a massive narrative. Which is the narrative of creation, the narrative of Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets. "

This resonates with my experience. When I really read the gospels with an open mind... I started seeing verses that spoke of a good news message I had been taught before. I'd heard many great stories about Jesus. But when it came to my understanding the gospel and essential Christian doctrine, Paul seemed to be more our authority.

"...What did Jesus think about the meaning of his own death?"

Monday, November 29, 2010

Was Jesus as smart as Steve Jobs

Good News from Richard Wilson on Vimeo.

Warning, this video is as long as an average sermon. :) But if you are interested in understanding the good news message that Jesus gave, you may find it well worth the time.

Richard Wilson talks on the topic of the good news. He makes a good case that we should believe Jesus was at least as smart as Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs does an excellent job presenting his message. Followers listen eagerly when Steve Jobs shares good news about the latest Apple product.

Did Jesus have a message to give? Do we know what it was?

I think He had a message to give, and he would have presented it exactly how he intended.

OK, go watch the video if interested.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gospel in Mark

Continuing the series looking for 'the gospel' in the gospels. Six posts in this series here:
  1. Gospel in the Gospels - introduction and some thoughts to consider 
  2. Gospel in Matthew - verses related to the term gospel in Matthew 
  3. Gospel in Mark - verses related to the term gospel in Mark 
  4. Gospel in Luke - verses related to the term gospel in Luke 
  5. Gospel in John - verses in John that that make similar points 
  6. Gospel in the Gospels - Summary

This time considering what Mark has to say. If Mark was asked "What is the gospel?", how would he respond?

I'll try to organize some scripture snippets, and look for a gospel theme. (All taken from NIV)

The term 'gospel' is not foreign to Mark
8:35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

10:29-30 “Truly I tell you,” 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—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

13:10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.

14:9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
The opening sentence is about the gospel
1:1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,
Then Jesus starts preaching the gospel
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 has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Good news of the kingdom of God is described in Parables
4:11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables

4:26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.

4:30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?
Jesus is often refereed to be Lord (ie. King)
1:3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

2:28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

5:19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

7:28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

11:3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

12:37 David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight.

16:19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.

16:20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
More kingdom topics
3:24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

9:1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

11:9-10 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

9:47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,

10:14-15 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

10:23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!

12:34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

14:25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

  • Mar 1:14 - 15 gives a good idea of what good news message Jesus preached from town to town.
  • We could assume this would be the same message that His disciples preached from town to town later before His death/resurrection (and enhanced after).
  • Some references to the kingdom of God seem to be present tense and something to be received now
  • Some references to the kingdom of God are future tense
  • It may be helpful to substitute kingdom of God in these verses with reign, rule, authority or dominion of God
Go and preach the gospel
16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

In context, what is 'the gospel' according to Mark (or Jesus)? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas Food Court Hallelujah Chorus

If you haven't seen this yet, it's well worth it. Enjoy.

Great Lyrics too!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gospel in Matthew

I'll try to answer the question I posed here: Gospel in the Gospels - Did the 'gospel' writers have anything to say about 'the gospel'. All six posts in this series here:
  1. Gospel in the Gospels - introduction and some thoughts to consider 
  2. Gospel in Matthew - verses related to the term gospel in Matthew 
  3. Gospel in Mark - verses related to the term gospel in Mark 
  4. Gospel in Luke - verses related to the term gospel in Luke 
  5. Gospel in John - verses in John that that make similar points 
  6. Gospel in the Gospels - Summary

If we could ask Matthew, "what is the gospel, what good news do you have to share?" How would he respond?

I'll mostly just copy a bunch of scripture with the hope it will become clear. (All references NIV)

We see Jesus proclaimed the gospel (good news) of the kingdom of God as he traveled throughout Galilee:
4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
11:5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.

Matthew talks about the gospel being preaching throughout the world:
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.

26:13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
We should then ask Matthew what this good news of the kingdom of God is.

Note: Kingdom of Heaven = Kingdom of 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 and Luke used the Greek which translates "kingdom of God".

In our modern world we don't often talk in terms of kingdoms.  We may imagine castles and knights when we think about kingdoms.  It may be helpful to substitute the word kingdom with words like reign, rule, authority, or dominion.

Does Matthew have more to say on the topic of the reign, rule, authority of God and Jesus?

Matthew starts off with a geneology... what is the significance of that? To link Jesus to royalty, prove his title as Messiah (anointed king) son of David.

Then we have the magi, coming looking for the king of the Jews.

Then John the Baptist and the theme of God's kingdom:
3:1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Then we see Jesus continuing with the same message John preached:
4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
12:28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Then later Jesus' disciples were sent out to other towns preaching the same good news message:
10:7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

The kingdom of heaven/God seems to be Jesus' favorite topic:
5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

18:3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven
6:10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
13:24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field...

13:31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field...

13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”...

13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."...

13:45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls"...

13:47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.

18:23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.

22:2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son...
Lord, Son of David
(I think 'Lord' = 'King'. Son of David shows royal heritage, and fulfills messianic prophecy)
20:30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

21:9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

There are more verses we could look at, but this should be enough.

Do you notice how Matthew uses the term gospel?

Does Matthew point out the gospel message that Jesus and His disciples preached?

When Matthew talks about sharing the gospel with the whole world, where should we look to understand the good news message that Matthew was referring to?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gospel in the Gospels

For those of you who have worked out a definition of the gospel...

(Or if you are a Christ follower who doesn't know what the gospel is... I'd suggest it's a worth-well topic to study.)

Can you find references to 'the gospel' in the 'gospels'?

These early writers would not have assumed their readers would have access to all the books in our New Testament. They were not thinking, "we will record the historical facts of Jesus life and death, and we will let Paul record the Christian belief system". I would think each of the gospel writers would have highlighted any essential good news message that was at the core of this new movement.

Why shouldn't we expect to see the gospel message clearly written in each of the gospels?

Do you see 'the gospel' in each of the gospels? I'd love to hear your input.

Six posts in this series here:
  1. Gospel in the Gospels - introduction and some thoughts to consider
  2. Gospel in Matthew - verses related to the term gospel in Matthew
  3. Gospel in Mark - verses related to the term gospel in Mark
  4. Gospel in Luke - verses related to the term gospel in Luke
  5. Gospel in John - verses in John that that make similar points
  6. Gospel in the Gospels - Summary

Monday, November 22, 2010

Luther on house church

I don't think Luther ever followed through with these thoughts. But at one point he proposed having three types of gatherings or church services.

"[1] The first, in Latin; which we published lately, called the Formula Missae..."

"[2] Next, there is the German Mass and Divine Service, of which we are now treating. This ought to be set up for the sake of the simple laymen. Both these kinds of Service then we must have held and publicly celebrated in church for the people in general. They are not yet believers or Christians. But the greater part stand there and gape, simply to see something new: and it is just as if we held Divine Service in an open square or field amongst Turks or heathen. So far it is no question yet of a regularly fixed assembly wherein to train Christians according to the Gospel: but rather of a public allurement to faith and Christianity"

"[3] But the third sort [of Divine Service], which the true type of Evangelical Order should embrace, must not be celebrated so publicly in the square amongst all and sundry. Those, however, who are desirous of being Christians in earnest, and are ready to profess the Gospel with hand and mouth, should register their names and assemble by themselves in some house to pray, to read, to baptize and to receive the sacrament and practise other Christian works."

(The German Mass and Order of Divine Service, January 1526. http://history.hanover.edu/texts/luthserv.html)
I find this an interesting mix of 'Divine Services'. Type 1 and 2 would focus on outreach to the general public.

I suspect Luther recognized that the large gatherings was not the best fit for continued spiritual growth. I suspect he was looking at what was modeled by the the New Testament gatherings as he considered a home based gathering of believers.

I find it especially interesting that he proposed having baptism and the sacraments practiced in these smaller house gatherings.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Paul's Letter To Rome, That Caesar was not Lord

Romans 1:1-6 (NIV)
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

I have been reading elsewhere that the Caesar in Rome had servants who he would send out as apostles or messengers of his good news. Paul claims a similar role here.

The Caesar in Rome claimed to be the son of God. The Caesar's ancestors were deified. The son of God Paul refers to is linked to the Jewish king David, but His resurrection proves his deity.

The Caesar in Rome claimed to be Lord and the savior of the world. Those who pledged allegiance to him would live under his rule.

Paul is urging those in Rome to belong to Jesus the Jewish Messiah. Paul bring good news about the the Son of God, the ruler of the world, the savior of the world. Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, is Lord!

A message like this would start a revolution, it will be in opposition to the good news of Caesar. But Paul will not keep silent.

Rom 1:16 (NIV)
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile."

Related Posts:
See also:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Review of The Last Word

I'll share my thoughts on The Last Word by N.T. Wright.

A few years back I read a few chapters of another book that attempted to make a case for inspiration and authority of scripture. I found this previous book didn't really look honestly at the real questions. So I was pleased to see N.T. Wright weigh in on this topic. He goes as deep into the question of the authority of scripture as I could hope for. I may have even understood 20% of what N.T. Wright was talking about. :)

(Disclaimer: Since I only claim to understood a fraction of what N.T. Wright is talking about... some of this summary may be more how my mind is sorting out the pieces, and not an accurate reflection of what N.T. Wright was trying to communicate.)

It is a very important topic. As Christians we tend to place a lot of trust in the Bible. If the Bible says something, we usually try to shape our faith and practice to fit.

However the Bible doesn't claim to be the final authority. In fact, as N.T. Wright points out, the Bible seems to claim that God is the final authority (Rom 13:1, John 19:11, Matt 28:18, Phil 2:9-11). And what kind of authority is in God's Kingdom:

When we say or hear the word "authority," we by no means always think of the sort of thing that the Bible has in mind when speaking of the way in which the one true God exercises "authority" over the world. Scripture's own preferred way of referring to such matters, and indeed to the saving rule of Jesus himself, is within the more dynamic concept of God's sovereignty, or Kingdom. It is not, that is, the kind of "authority" which consists solely in a final court of appeal, or a commanding officer giving orders for the day, or a list of rules pinned up on the wall of the cycling club. This emerges clearly in the gospels, where Jesus' "authority" consists both in healing power and in a different kind of teaching, all of which the gospel writers - and Jesus himself - understood as part of the breaking-in of God's Kingdom. "
... (from pages 28 & 29) ...
"The biblical writers live with the tension of believing both that in one sense God has always been sovereign over the world and that in another sense this sovereignty, this saving rule, is something which must break afresh into the world of corruption, decay and death, and the human rebellion, idolatry and sin which are so closely linked with it. "In that day", says the prophet, "YHWH will be king over all the world; he will be one and his name one" (Zechariah 14:9)
OK... point taken. The bible has much to say about God's authority. God is referred to as King, Lord, Father, ...

So what about our scriptures. Should we view them as authoritative? N.T. Wright suggests we need to also understand Jesus role within scripture.

He makes the point that Jesus fulfills the scriptures that were written before him. It is this scripture fulfilling quality that gives meaning to calling him the Word of God. God spoke through scripture to the nation of Israel, and those words of God were fulfilled and came to life in Jesus. He becomes the Word made flesh.
"The work which God had done through scripture in the Old Testament is done by Jesus in his public career, his death and resurrection, and his sending of the Spirit."
The early church continued spreading the message of Jesus, this Word of God.

OK, so where does the Bible fit in?

Well we know the early church recognized that God exercised His authority through the Old Testament writings, as well as the message of Jesus that were being recorded in those days.

So here is where I think it gets a bit complicated for those from a protestant tradition....

A few centuries of early church goes by, and then a group of church leaders form consensus on which early christian writings are to be considered scripture, and which ones are not. We can not ignore the role tradition has played in the forming of what we view as scripture. We can not pretend that God wrote the Bible, and Jesus delivered it in person to the church. Well, you can if you want, but I don't think that is how the early church viewed it.

So to trust that the Bible has authority, we are placing a lot of trust in church tradition. The leaders of the early church are the ones that wrote it. The leaders a few hundred years later put them in a canon. The church leaders since have told us it is God's words to us.

OK, enough with some of the questions.

How should we view Scripture?

There is enough evidence to agree with this:

God's authority is exercised through scripture.

We can see evidence of God exercising His authority through scripture in the stories of the Bible, throughout church history, in the people around us, and in our personal lives.

I also think N.T. Wright makes a valid point that we can't assume we can do justice to understanding scripture on our own:
"The authority of scripture" refers not least to God's work through scripture to reveal Jesus, to speak in life-changing power to the hearts and minds of individuals, and to transform them by the Spirit's healing love. Though this can happen in the supposed "desert island" situation, where an individual reads the Bible all alone, it normally comes about through the work of God's people, from those who translated and published the Bible itself (even on a desert island, one is dependent on others!) to those who, like Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, helped others to understand it and apply it to their own lives.

"The authority of scripture" thus makes the sense it does within the work of God's Kingdom, at every level from the cosmic and political through to the personal.
... (p.116)
We can't escape the role others play as we read scripture. We all read scripture through lenses given to us by those in our traditions, and others that have influenced our beliefs.

OK, hopefully some of that made sense to you. If you understood 20% of the 20% of what I understood... sorry. If you want to understand more, I'd encourage you to get a copy to read yourself. It was good for me to try to put together more of my thoughts on this topic. Thanks for reading. :)

What do you think? Is it enough to believe "God's authority is exercised through scripture."?

Related Posts:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tithing in the OT

When we talk about tithing in the modern church, what are we referring to?

There are no New Testament references to believers giving a tithe to the 'church' when they gathered. There are references to New Testament believers giving generously to those in need, but nothing sounding like tithe or tenth.

Old Testament passages are frequently used to encourage believers to give 10% of their income to the 'church'. So to understand what they are talking about let's look at tithing in the Old Testament.

What was collected?

Leviticus 27:30 (NIV)
“‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD."
Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (NIV)

Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.
2 Chronicles 31:5-6 (NIV)
As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, olive oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything. The people of Israel and Judah who lived in the towns of Judah also brought a tithe of their herds and flocks and a tithe of the holy things dedicated to the LORD their God, and they piled them in heaps.
We may think... well back then everyone was farmers. So a tenth of all income would be equivalent to a tenth of the agricultural produce.

However we know some people earned wages for their work as well. There would be hired hands, paid workers on the farms, and in the towns. We know they used shekels of silver as payment for services. For some reason fishermen, and carpenters seem to be excluded from theses lists. There were also "millers, bakers, weavers, barbers, potters, fullers, locksmiths, jewellers, etc." (Ancient Israel: its life and institutions By Roland De Vaux, page 77)

I don't know why, but it seems the tithing was not based on the income of all people. It was more of a collection of food.

How often?

Abraham tithed to Melchizedek in Genesis 14 - Once. I'm not sure why this passage sometimes gets used to support current tithing practices. If I gave 10% of last years income tax, a one time gift, that may be equivalent to what happened here.

But for the nation of Israel, from what I understand there were 3 different types of tithes:

It was actually more like 23% annually on average. There were three tithes in the Law of Moses. The first tithe was paid only by agrarian families three times yearly to the Priests in Jerusalem. The second tithe was saved by the agrarian families to support this annual trip. It was called the festival tithe. It was for a family vacation. The third tithe was given every three years to the local storehouse, so it amounted to about 3% annually. This was the poor tithe collected for those in need. This is the tithe that Malachi wrote about. None of these tithes were money. They were only food. Those who earned their livings by other occupations did not pay a tithe of anything. However, they did give offerings required by the Law some of which were in silver, gold, bronze and copper coins. Nowhere does the New Testament change this legal obligation of tithe food for some agrarian Israelites in the Law to money tithing for all Christians.

Deuteronomy 14:24-27 describes this family trip tithe:

But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
Deuteronomy 14:28-29 describes the Levite and poor tithe:
At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Who was it given to?

As we read above, some was used by the families themselves on a trip/festival.

Some was used to feed the Levites, the priests, and the poor.

In Summary

If you think the Old Testament tithing is still for us...

  • Why would you think it is now for all believers and not just for farmers?
  • Do you think 'church' staff today are the same as Priests and Levites?
  • Do you tithe differently every 3 years?
  • And please don't forget the poor.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

I shall never be a heritic

"I shall never be a heretic; I may err in dispute, but I do not wish to decide anything finally; on the other hand, I am not bound by the opinions of men." - Martin Luther


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