Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Playdough Scripture Romans 10:14-15

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone bringing them to church so a preacher can preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet buildings of those who bring good news!"

Romans 10:14-15 (Playdough Version)

Did the early church preach in their church meetings or out in public?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What if Sunday Morning was like an NBA game?

I'm trying to reflect on why this video by BluefishTV.com both humors me, saddens me, and challenges me at the same time.

I guess the humor comes from how close Sunday morning events can resemble a sporting event.

Is there a parallel with the pro players, the spectators, and the sideline commentators?

It saddens me because I wonder if it should be this way.

And I'm challenged by how easy it is to play the role of the commentator. Which I confess I'm doing some right now.

Related Posts:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Playdough Scripture John 12:25

The man who loves his life will lose it live a tormented life for eternity, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life in heaven.

John 12:25 (Playdough Version)

Does everyone live for eternity?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My 95 Thesis - Point 4 - Hell

Here's my 4th Point in My 95 Theses.

Does Scripture say Hell is eternal punishment?

Or does it teach that the wages of sin is death, perishing, being destroyed, a second death, or not getting to live for eternity.

If Scripture was clear, I don't think I'd be asking this question. But there are enough verses to give me doubt. I'd rather admit I don't know for sure one way or the other, than give someone a potentially false image of God.

Here are some questions to consider:
Either way eternal life with Jesus is still the obvious choice. I'm just questioning if the doctrine of Hell, that most denominations support, is clearly true to scripture. To be destroyed or perish may simply mean that those who do not choose life with Christ do not get to live eternally.

I think the traditional teaching on hell deserves a second look, and is worth discussing.

Other Related Posts:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gospel in other NT verses

Most definitions of the gospel are centered around Christ on the cross as payment for sin. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 is frequently used as a main proof for why this message is the gospel. But are there other verses that may give us a different view of the gospel?

In past posts I've noted that the words 'gospel' or 'good news' show up 23 times in 'the gospels' (mostly pre-cross). And Jesus and His disciples went about preaching the good news of the kingdom (or reign) of God from town to town.

What about the rest of the New Testament?

There are many verses that speak of the early church sharing the gospel with others. Here are a few that may help understand what that gospel message was.

Acts 5:42 (NIV)
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
Acts 8:12 (NIV)
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Acts 10:36 (NIV)
You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Acts 11:20 (NIV)
Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.
Acts 13:32-33 (NIV)
"We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:" 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.'
Acts 14:14-16 (NIV)
But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way.
Acts 17:18 (NIV)
A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, "What is this babbler trying to say?" Others remarked, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods." They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
Romans 1 (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 human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NIV)
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
Colossians 1:5-6 (NIV)
the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.
1 Thessalonians 2:8-10 (NIV)
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
2 Timothy 2:8 (NIV)
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel,
Revelation 14:6-7 (NIV)
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."

Thoughts? Is it just me who doesn't see all of these references centered on the cross?

Why don't we center the gospel message on "Christ is Lord... Jesus is King... turn from worthless things and worship God... " Yes the work of the cross marked the end to the old covenant, our sins died with Jesus on the cross. The cross provides us life... it is part of the gospel.

Is the main focus on the Jesus of the past, providing a way to be with Jesus in the future?

Or is the main focus on the Jesus of the present wanting to work in and through us now?

Related Posts:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has snuck up on me again. I've known about this focus on prayer for unity for a few years, but I confess I've never gotten my act together to put it on the calendar and show up. One year I phoned all the churches I could think of in my area, and nobody knew if anyone was doing anything for it (and I was too late to plan anything). This year I see there is one local church participating, but it's the same night as my small group study. I may try to make it to another night at a further location... I'll see if I can find someone to drag along. And it's on my calendar for next year.

Anyways... there's my confession.

Here's info and resources from a Canadian site: http://ecumenism.net/wpcu/

And from a US site: http://geii.org/wpcu_index.htm

And from World Council of Churches site: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/events/ev/se/article/1634/week-of-prayer-for-christ-8.html

Jesus prayed for our unity, we should too.

I will continue to pray for Christian unity, so the world can recognize the One Lord through us. I pray that we will recognize the reality that all who have Jesus as their Lord of their lives are united with Him.

Take a look at the above websites and see if there is a way to participate.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Return to the practice of brotherly love


"Let us therefore, with all haste, put an end to this [state of things]; and let us fall down before the Lord, and beseech Him with tears, that He would mercifully be reconciled to us, and restore us to our former seemly and holy practice of brotherly love. For [such conduct] is the gate of righteousness, which is set open for the attainment of life, as it is written, "Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go in by them, and will praise the Lord: this is the gate of the Lord: the righteous shall enter in by it." Although, therefore, many gates have been set open, yet this gate of righteousness is that gate in Christ by which blessed are all they that have entered in and have directed their way in holiness and righteousness, doing all things without disorder. Let a man be faithful: let him be powerful in the utterance of knowledge; let him be wise in judging of words; let him be pure in all his deeds; yet the more he seems to be superior to others [in these respects], the more humble-minded ought he to be, and to seek the common good of all, and not merely his own advantage."
You'd think Clement was writting about the sad state of divisions that the church is in these days... but no, this is one of the earliest letters we have of the early church (80 - 140 C.E.).

I think it's good words for us today too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My 95 Thesis - Point 3 - God is Love

Here's my 3rd Point in My 95 Theses.

I fear many get confused about God's love.

"He loves me... He loves me not...", we go back and forth.

There is the idea out there that God wants to zap us, but Jesus steps in the way and says: "No, God, you can't touch that one, I've got him covered".

I don't think so anymore. Other religions can have the angry God that needs to be appeased.

God is love.

Related topics:

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My 95 Thesis - Point 2 - Gospel

Here's my 2nd Point in My 95 Theses.

'Evangelicals' believe we are following Christ's command to go into all the world and preach the gospel.

But I suspect the definition used for 'gospel' is different than the gospel Jesus and his disciples preached.

The words 'gospel' or 'good news' show up 23 times in 'the gospels' (mostly pre-cross).

Was the gospel message that Jesus shared something like this?

God - God is Holy - completely without sin and never does anything wrong - He's always right and can't have sin in His presence. Isaiah 59:1-2
Ourselves - we are all sinners - we've all broken God's standard of holiness and perfection - we're all offenders of God. Romans 3:23
Sentence - what we deserve, what we've earned for our offences towards a Holy god - our punishment - is eternal separation from Him forever! Romans 6:23a
Powerless - there's nothing in and of ourselves that we can do to make things right before a Holy God! Isaiah 64:6
Extreme love - God demonstrates extreme love towards us. He sends His perfect and sinless Son, Jesus to take our punishment. Romans 5:8, 2 Cor 5:21
Life - The offer is ours to receive or reject. God in His Love provides a way for relationship with Him. God in His Mercy offers pardon for our wrongdoing. God in His Grace offers us forgiveness of sin and eternal joy and life through His Son Jesus - starting right now! If we choose to receive what God offers us in love, then we need to turn from our sin and by faith, embrace all that Jesus has done. Romans 6:23b, Ephesioans 2:8-9
Or something like this:
Jesus is Lord!
God's kingdom is here!
The reign of God is here!
Change your life, believe this message!

Did you know God's power is available to you? You don't have to do everything in your own strength and wisdom. If you allow God to rule in your life (the work of the Holy Spirit), instead of your selfish ambitions, He will restore your life to what it was intended to be.
I've seen many different definitions of the gospel. Many of them are full of truths. But I suspect they are an attempt to summarize all the key doctrines of their unique brand of Christianity and tag some supporting Bible verses that go along with their teachings... and using the label gospel to create or maintain divisions in Christ's church.

I think it is worth asking:
  • What was the gospel message Jesus and his disciples preached?
  • And would this same gospel message work today?
Related Posts:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My 95 Thesis - Point 1 - Unity

Here's my 1st Point in My 95 Theses.

These questions sum up my concern:
  • How is Christianity doing concerning Christ's prayer for our unity?
  • What role has 'Evangelical Protestants' played in this?
  • What is our track record on unity since the 1500's? Have we stayed united within protestantism or have we divided further over and over again?
  • Are we reaching out to build bridges, or are we drawing battle lines and digging trenches?
  • Who's church? Our church or Christ's church?
  • Who decides who is in and who is out? Our protestant evangelical doctrines and denominations or Christ?
"But the other guys have bad teachings and some follow empty religious rituals"... says the one with a plank in his eye.

Nuff said. (I'd better go check what plank is in my eye now.)

Please join Christ in his prayer for unity between all those who follow him. When we recognize that others are loving and following the same Jesus that we do, it doesn't take much to recognize unity.

Related Posts:

My 95 Thesis

"Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."

I understand Martin Luther's desire with his 95 thesis was not to start a new denomination or branch of Christianity, but to start dialog. My desire is the same. I doubt I'll get to 95, but I do have some points of concern with protestant evangelicalism that I believe are worth dialoging on.

I don't want to create new divisions. I want to start by affirming the common belief of all Christ followers that Jesus is Lord. He is Lord of my life. And this dialog is intended for those who confess that he is Lord of their lives. If we share a common Lord, and He is ruling in our hearts and lives and not our own selfish ambitions, let's put aside our agenda's and seek God as we approach these topics. If we are one with Christ, even in the midst of disagreement I believe He will direct us to maintain unity.

I'm also not assuming I have it all figured out. I may be wrong on a number of these issues. But I ask you to consider my concerns and seek God for the truth.

Point #1: Unity

Are we joining Christ's prayer for unity - or working against it?
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #2: Gospel

What was the gospel message Jesus and his disciples preached?
Would this same gospel message work today?
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #3: God is Love

Does our God love us or hate us? Seems like a simple question, yet God is often portrayed as an angry God who hates the world...
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #4: Hell

Does Scripture say Hell is eternal punishment? Or does it teach that the wages of sin is death, perishing, being destroyed, a second death, or not getting to live for eternity?
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #5: Calvinism

I'm concerned at the level of influence Calvinism has within 'protestant evangelicalism'.
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #6: Membership

I'm concerned that the way we do church membership does more harm to the unity of Christ's body than good.
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #7: Magic 8 Ball

Does the Bible give clear answers on all issues? I`m concerned with the tendency in Christian circles to try to find answers to every question in the pages of Scripture.
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #8: Sola Scriptura

Does Scripture teach Sola Scriptura? Is Sola Scriptura an essential to the faith? I'm concerned we may place a greater emphasis on a book than on the two things Jesus did leave with us to guide us.
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #9: Money

Money for poor is emphasized in New Testament. Money for buildings, staff, and programming... not so much. Does Christ's Church need a budget?
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #10: Denominations

Where do we get the idea that having different denominations is acceptable? Is Christ's church divided? Are we dividing Christ's body? Or are we assuming that our denomination is the only real church?
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #11: Sermon Centered

Why has our gatherings become centered around a sermon? Why does the body of Christ, the royal priesthood, sit passively listening to the same person speak week after week? There is nothing wrong with a good sermon. But are we missing out on something better?
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #12: Leadership

Of course, in any gathering there will be some who lead others. But does the church need leaders who make decisions for the body? Or should the leaders simply be the ones who are living as examples that others should follow? And what about the use of titles common to church leaders?
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

Point #13: Temple Worship

When you look at the Old Testament model it is easy to identify the temple, priests and sacrifices of worship. There are specific holy places, holy people, and holy actions. When you look at the modern church practices and beliefs it is a bit confusing.
Click here for more on this topic, and share your thoughts.

OK, I likely won't get close to 95... and Luther's 95 wasn't really 95 separate issues either... but I may post a few more points here in the future to organize my concerns...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Can God be in the presence of sin?

One of the points of the 'gospel' message that I've often heard (and have memorized and shared with others in the past) is that God is Holy and that means he can not be in the presence of sin. That sin separates us from God.

But wait a minute.

Jesus was called a friend of sinners.

Satan was in God's presence in the book of Job.

I don't think anything can separate us from the love of our God... not even our sin. Jesus came to free us from our bondage to our sin that leads to destruction. He took our sins to the cross.

Consider the story of the prodigal son. Did the father ever stop loving the son? When the son went his own selfish ways he was distanced from the father, but the father was always waiting for him with love.

Yes, when we live our lives ruled by sin we are not living as God intended us to live. But I don't think God was unable to love us in our state of sin, and that he had to kill his son to make a way for a relationship with us. God loves sinners too.

So yes, in a way we distance ourselves from God when we go our selfish ways. But God is always capable of reaching out to us in love.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Don't fear God

1 John 4:18 (NIV)
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
You may respond. "But Jon, there are verses in the Bible that teach that fearing God is a good thing".

OK, yes. Some people should fear God. Those who do not know God and His love for them should at least fear God. A healthy dose of fear does keep people out of trouble.

But it would be much better to know God and know His love. When we live in God's love for us there is no room left for fear.

I don't want my children to fear me... I want them to know that I love them and want the best for them. I want them to follow my guidance because they know I care for them.

Our God is much better at love than I am. I can follow His leading because I know he loves me and has good plans for me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

What I believe version 2010.01

My original 'What I Believe' Post was kind of long. I've noticed it is a page that visitors often check out. I see problems with long creeds, or statement of faiths... so here is my simple faith belief.

Jesus Is Lord!
  • Jesus reigns in my life through the Holy Spirit who lives in and through me.
  • I am united with Jesus, and my selfish (sinful) ways died on the cross with Him, they no longer direct my life.
  • When I walk in this truth, my selfish ways are replaced with God's love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I believe this is the good news message we are to share with the world. I believe all those who follow Jesus share these common beliefs, yet may not recognize it as 'the gospel'... and we all frequently fail living in this truth.

Related Posts:
The longer What I believe version 2009.07 is still supported here.