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, June 30, 2010

Playdough Scripture James 5:20

"remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from premature death and cover over a multitude of sins."

James 5:20 (Playdough Version)

Does death mean death here?

Or does death here mean eternal torment in hell? Christians read death to mean hell in many verses like Romans 6:23. But then what about once saved always saved doctrines?

So if we say premature death... does that fixes it... not if you know of someone who died early with no fault of their own... like the many children that die from hunger every day...

And is that really what the verse says?

Young's Literal Translation reads James 5:20 like this:
"let him know that he who did turn back a sinner from the straying of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins. "
But don't all souls live forever? Either in hell or in heaven?

Maybe death means death here, and maybe in many other verses... Maybe they don't get to live for eternity. No eternal torment... just death... which is still sad enough, I don't want to die, I'd rather live for eternity with my Lord.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thank You Institutional Church

OK, some recent blog posts have been questioning elements of the institutional church. It's time for something positive.

"Exploring Church History" by Perry Thomas is a book I found really helpful. One thing I appreciated about the book was that the author made an attempt to highlight both the positive and negatives of each era in the past 20 centuries. It is common to look at the mistakes of the past and be critical of those people as a whole... but there was often some good that came about as well.

It is a bit of a mystery, but throughout history God keeps using less than perfect people to do His work. Even when we don't have it all figured out, God manages to do His work through His people.

So thank you institutional church for:
  • Bringing the church to the masses. The early church was an underground movement that went against the flow of culture and acceptable beliefs. Thanks to Constantine in 313 for making it a legitimate religion that could be practiced without persecution. First in Rome, and presently in most countries around the world.
  • Valuing education. Many of the fist schools and universities were started by institutional churches, so we must recognize the value organized church has had on our society.
  • Caring for the poor. Historically taking the lead on caring for the poor and needy locally and globally.
  • Being there easy to find. When someone moves to town, or suffers a loss and wants to fellowship with God's children all they need to do is flip through a phone book, or drive around looking for a certain type of building.
  • Being an example of people seeking God. In every 'church' I've visited I've witnessed evidence of people who love God and desire to follow Him.
  • Sunday School. I am thankful for the Bible knowledge children gain from Sunday School programs.
  • Programs for youth. I am thankful that 'churches' give youth a place to hang out and have fun together with the bonus of some good instruction.
  • Being a meeting place. Institutional churches are a great place to meet great people to build relationships with so we can practice encouraging each other, loving each other, accepting one another, teaching each other, praying for each other, serve each other, offering hospitality to one another, not judging each other, ...
  • Having great godly workers. I have no doubt that most 'full time' Christian workers are some of the most dedicated examples of Christ followers around.
Anything else?

So yes, I am a bit torn... and that is why I'm still attending an institutional church. I'm hopeful I can continue to be a part of Christ's Church, play a role in His body, and recognize others in His Church within a 'church' (and outside it).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

History Repeats Itself

I think the Religion of the Pharisees of Jesus day started with the relationship that God had initiated with them but over the years they added so many layers of other stuff that the relationship was suffering. We can see Jesus, Paul and others challenging the Pharisees to abandon the traditions and laws of their religion that were holding them back from the grace and love of a relationship with God.

So Jesus comes to restore His relationship with his children. His followers actually had God's Spirit living in them. Their selfish ways would die, and they would be guided instead by the will of their Father.

But I'm afraid we've added stuff to this. Just like the Pharisees, over time we've slowly accumulated additional beliefs, laws, and traditions. Are some of these things hindering the relationship that Jesus came to restore?
  • Special buildings for places of worship
  • The distinction between clergy and laity
  • Sermons preached to a passive audience sitting in rows
  • Thinking Church is a Sunday morning event, a building, or an organization/corporation
  • The Lords Supper or communion as a small sip and bite instead of a full meal
  • Little room for spontaneity at the Sunday morning event
  • Having large time gaps between conversion and baptisms, or placing participation in some classes as a prerequisite to baptism
  • Christian academic education instead of apprenticeship styled discipleship
  • Focus on serving church programs instead of a focus on serving one another
  • Viewing the Bible as the final authority of our faith
  • Acceptance of denominations and divisions
Anything else?

I won't even attempt to list all the doctrines and/or values that different 'church' traditions would list as essentials. The lists would differ from 'church' to 'church', and most would be longer than the Apostle's creed, and highlight more recent divisions and distinctives.

Am I wrong, but has the Christian church repeated the errors of the religious Pharisees?

Many of these traditions are not wrong in themselves. However I think it is important to first recognize that certain things we do are extras.

I pray we can find a way to restore our faith to be one centered on the relationship our Lord desires to have with each of us personally, and with His body communally.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Playdough Scripture Acts 16:32

"Then they spoke read the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."

Acts 16:32 (Playdough Version)

Is 'the word' something we read and study, or is it Christ speaking to us?

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Monday, June 7, 2010

My 95 Thesis - Point 9 - Money

Here's my 9th Point in My 95 Theses.

Money for poor is emphasized in New Testament.

Money for buildings, staff, and programming... not so much.

I don't want to come across sounding like I'm judging those on the receiving end of regular 'church' giving. But I'd encourage you to consider these questions.

Are we spending our money the way the early church did?

If not is it OK?

Are we giving enough to the poor?

If not is it OK?

Does Christ's Church need a budget?

If we view 'church' as a building, organization, corporation, or even as a event we may think a budget is necessary. However, if we view church as Christ's body... those who live by His Holy Spirit... every day of the week... the 'church budget' may not make as much sense.

I know we live in a different day and age than the early church. I'm still not sure what it should all look like today, but these are some questions I'm struggling through.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Am I a Heretic?

"Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion. The founder or leader of a heretical movement is called a heresiarch, while individuals who espouse heresy are known as heretics. "

If this is how we define heresy, I suppose Jesus was a heretic. He brought controversial change to the religious system of beliefs of his day.

All the reformers like Martin Luther, and William Tyndale were considered heretics in their days.

And for everyone who believes they hold to true orthodoxy there will be others who hold to a different system of beliefs calling them heretics.

So I guess we are all heretics according to someone.

However, I pray I can avoid being burned at the stake (both figuratively in terms of ruined relationships and harm done to Christ's Church - and literally of course). But I can't help think being a heretic may not be such a bad thing. If you think of history, we've all benefited from the efforts of other great heretics.

So go ahead and call me a heretic if you want, but ...
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. "(Matt 7:1-5 NIV)
"Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord."(Rom 14:1-8)
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:37-38 NIV)
“It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Cor 4:4-5 NIV)