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, July 30, 2010

My 95 Thesis - Point 10 - Denominations

Here's my 10th Point in My 95 Theses.

Yes, it is related to unity, which is my 1st point... but I want to focus on a specific concern.

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?

I used to agree that having denominations was a necessary evil. How else could all these different 'church' institutions function considering they all have different traditions and unique beliefs.

However now I am trying to view church differently. Not as a location, event, institution or corporation but as the body of all those in Christ's kingdom. It is not so much where a person spends their Sunday morning, or which group they belong to. If Christ is Lord of someone's life they are part of Christ's one true church.

Is there really a need for denominations? Is there any Scriptural support?

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Are Gentiles to Tithe?

The early church received it's first gentile converts. Some believers were not sure what to do with them. To be a follower of Christ would these new converts need to become Jews? Some of them were instructed to be circumcised... not the best marketing plan there. :)

So the apostles and elders in Jerusalem met to decide what Jewish customs these new converts would need to observe. Here is what they came up with:

Acts 15:23-29 (NIV)

With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.
This would have been a great time to include instructions on observing other Jewish customs and laws... like tithing.

But tithing seems to have been omitted from the requirements of the early church... at least for 500 years or so.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Word Study on The Word

Is the Word something we hear or is it something we read and study?

OK, I'll finish up this 3 part 'word study' posting.
Part 1: Word study on Word of God
Part 2: Word study on Word of the Lord

I'll post another set of verses, this time verses with the word "word". (all verses from NIV)

And give some summary thoughts at the end.

Mark 4:13-15
Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Mark 4:33
With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand.
Luke 8:15
But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Acts 6:4
and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
Acts 8:4
[ Philip in Samaria ] Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.

Acts 20:32
"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Romans 10:8-9
But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:17
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ
1 Corinthians 15:2
By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
Galatians 6:6
Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
Ephesians 1:13
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
Ephesians 5:25-27
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Colossians 1:4-6
because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 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.
Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
2 Timothy 4:2
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction
James 1:18
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
James 1:21
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
James 1:22-24
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
1 John 1:1-4 (NIV)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

Some summary thoughts

Consider a verse like Galatians 6:6 (NIV)
"Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor."
It may seem natural to read this like "Anyone who receives Bible teaching....", but in context with how "word" is used elsewhere it may have another meaning.

Or 2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
This may be read this like "... who correctly handles the Bible.", but was that the original meaning?

So here are some of my observations:
  • The "Word of the Lord" or "Word of God" is often used in reference to God speaking to someone. Yes, what a profound discovery! :)
  • Jesus spoke 'the word' to the people
  • People heard 'the word'
  • Jesus is 'the word' in the flesh... it is like God had/has something to say to His people, and Jesus was/is that message to us.
  • The early church preached the word, the word of the Lord, and the Word of God - they preached Jesus, the message of God (they were not preaching the Bible or from the Bible)
  • The word of faith (Romans 10:8-9) they proclaimed (Jesus is Lord) sounds very similar to the good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus preached.
  • As people believed this 'Word' spread... this Jesus, this message from God.
  • The word of Christ lives in us and still speaks to us
  • In scripture the word was something they heard and spoke, it was not something they read and studied

So my question/concern is this:

Is there a potential problem when we call the Bible the Word of God, or use language like "you need to spend more time in the Word."? Or when studying the Word of God means studying the Bible?

Is there a chance we miss focusing on the Word that lives in us? Learning to seek Him first and listen to His voice.

I do believe God speaks to us as we read the Scriptures with a listening heart. But He also speaks to us at other times. I think the Word of God is simply whenever God speaks to us. Jesus is also called the Word. He was and is God's message to us. Is that the Word we are listening to?

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Word Study on Word Of The Lord

Here is part 2 of a look at what we mean when we say things like "Word of God", or "Word of the Lord".

In the past I would have read this verse:

1 Peter 1:25 (NIV)
"but the word of the Lord stands forever." ...
to mean something like: "The Bible is reliable, it will last forever."

But when you look at Scripture I think there is another meaning.

Have we at times allowed the Bible to be a substitute for the Word of the Lord that is alive with us now and desiring to speak to us personally? Have we sometimes worshiped the book instead of the living Word?

Don't get me wrong, I still love the Scriptures... but they are not the end in themselves. I love them because they have introduced me to my Lord.

There are too many verses from the Old Testament to list here... here is a small sample of verses that use "word of the Lord" (NIV):

Ezekiel 21:8
"The word of the LORD came to me:"
(Many references in the Old Testament like this...)

Acts 8:25
"When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages."

Acts 13:44
"On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord."

Acts 13:48
"When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed."

Acts 13:49
"The word of the Lord spread through the whole region."

Acts 15:35
"But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, where they and many others taught and preached the word of the Lord."

Acts 15:36
"[ Disagreement Between Paul and Barnabas ] Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing."

Acts 16:32
"Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house."

Acts 19:10
"This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord."

Acts 19:20
"In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power."

1 Peter 1:25
"but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you."

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Word Study on Word Of God

When Christian's talk about the Word of God do we know what we are even referring to? I think the phrase is usually used to refer to the 66 books we have in our Bible. But is that how the phrase is even used in the Bible?

For example, I think it is common to read verses like this:

Ephesians 6:17 (NIV)
"Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
To mean something like this: "...use the Bible in spiritual warfare, it is the sword of the Spirit"

Or this:

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
To mean something like this "The Bible is living and active... " and again the sword analogy.

But take a look for yourself. Does the Bible use the phrase "word of God" to refer to itself? If not what could it refer to?

Here are all the verses that have the phrase "word of God" in them (All quotes from NIV translation).

1 Kings 12:22
But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God:

1 Chronicles 17:3
That night the word of God came to Nathan, saying:

Proverbs 30:5
"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Matthew 15:4-6
For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

Mark 7:13
Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."

Luke 3:2
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.

Luke 5:1
[ The Calling of the First Disciples ] One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God,

Luke 8:11
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.

Luke 11:28
He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

John 10:35
If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken—

Acts 4:31
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Acts 6:2
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.

Acts 6:7
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 8:14
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.

Acts 11:1
[ Peter Explains His Actions ] The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.

Acts 12:24
But the word of God continued to increase and spread.

Acts 13:5
When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

Acts 13:7
who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.

Acts 13:46
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.

Acts 17:13
When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up.

Acts 18:11
So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

1 Corinthians 14:36
Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?

2 Corinthians 2:17
Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.

2 Corinthians 4:2
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

Ephesians 6:17
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Philippians 1:14
Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Colossians 1:25
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—

1 Thessalonians 2:13
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.

1 Timothy 4:5
because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Titus 2:5
to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 6:5
who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,

Hebrews 13:7
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

1 Peter 1:23
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 John 2:14
I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Revelation 1:1-2
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 1:9
[ One like a Son of Man ] I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Revelation 6:9
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.

Revelation 19:13
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.

Revelation 20:4
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

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