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.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Community I Desire

Short version: We show up. God leads it.

Medium version:
  • We pick a time and place to meet
  • Somebody brings food.
  • Somebody starts a time of prayer. God's presence is tangible as we seek to connect with him through prayer.
  • A few people share something God is saying to them (share how God is encouraging them, comforting them, teaching them, walking with them, loving them). God's presence is tangible as we listen and observe what He is saying and doing in each others lives.
  • Others reply with Scripture or a word of encouragement or prayer or even a song.
  • Some occasions will require discernment
  • Some Scripture is read (as a group and/or as people share). God's speaks to us during this time.
  • Somebody may lead/share songs of worship
  • In all the above the direction we go won't be a direction any of us planned, but a direction God is leading

Long version:

I'm looking for believers to practice being part of Christ's living body, and looking to how that was was modeled to us by believers in the New Testament.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. "

I'm desiring people to practice:

  • Loving one another (John 13:34-35, Romans 13:8, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:12, 2 John 1:5)
  • Praying for one another (Ephesians 6:18)
  • encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25)
  • Being devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)
  • Honoring one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10)
  • Living in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
  • Accepting one another (Romans 15:7)
  • Instructing one another (Romans 15:14)
  • Teaching and admonishing one another (Colossians 3:16)
  • Serving one another (Galatians 5:13) - this one may usually happen outside our regularly scheduled gathering, at other people's homes
  • Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Singing and making music in our hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19)
  • Submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Bearing with each other and forgiving whatever grievances you may have against one another (Colossians 3:13)

I think if we allow Christ to lead us, every believer can practice all of the things above. Note that teaching can be done verbally as well as by modeling a behavior... even if you don't like giving speeches. Like how a parent teaches a child to draw, swim, ride a bike...

Each of us will be more gifted in certain areas. I'd love to see that coming through.

I'm not saying other study formats are wrong. Of course there is nothing wrong with doing a video series, a book study, a topical Bible study guide, pre-planned devotionals, listening to sermons or singing along with a worship band. Yet as I have been studying the early New Testament church it seems there was less reliance on pre-planned/structured meeting and more on God moving within their midst freely (more like I outlined above). I believe Jesus' Spirit led the early believers when they gathered, and we can experience that more clearly too.

I'm not expecting this to happen at a large Sunday morning gathering, and I haven't sensed God placing this desire on the hearts of any brothers and sisters near to me. Maybe it is something I need to start practicing at home first...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Lord's Supper

1 Cor 11:17 - 33 (NIV)
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.

A few thoughts:

  • When the early church came together, it seems it was around a meal remembering our Lord.
  • This group in Corinthians had a few faults. Some ate too much too quickly and others went hungry. Others drank too much and got drunk. They were not thinking of each other as they ate together.
  • Neither of these problems are present in the typical Lord's supper practiced today. The small morsel of bread or cracker is not enough to feed anyone, and the small sip of grape juice or wine could not get anyone drunk.
  • But are we thinking of each other? Are we recognizing the Christ's body?
  • I've always understood this passage to mean I should examine the sins I've done in the past week, but in context it may be more to do with examining how I'm presently relating to the rest of Christ's body.
Yes we come together, but in many ways we partake alone. The way I've usually practiced the Lord's supper has been in a more individual fashion. I close my eyes and say a silent prayer and partake silently when directed.

Hmm... I'm not sure what to do with these verses now. When I come together and eat with other believers I don't typically view that as the Lord's Supper. However when I take communion or the Lord's Supper at a Sunday morning gathering, I'm not usually doing much relationally with other members of the body.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stop the Revolution Start Plodding

Just came across this in a blog by Rev. Kevin DeYoung, co-author of Why We Love the Church - In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion.

What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.

Does this sound like Jesus' calling for you?

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary.

I have no desire to be the next globe-trotting rock star, but sorry, neither do I want to live my life being just an ordinary church goer... fitting into organized religion.

I used to think going to church was the 'road less travelled' or the 'narrow road'. But lately I've recognized there is a certain amount of comfort and security from fitting into that crowd. I'm prepared to discard the security of following the crowd whenever it distracts me from following Jesus.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Playdough Scripture Luke 10:25-28

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"What is written in this tract? the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

He answered: " I need to understand my sin problem, that my sinfulness separates me from God. That Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. If I believe in Jesus he will save me.

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do Believe this and you will live."

Luke 10:25-28 (Playdough Version)

Do we think Jesus answer is correct, or was He misleading this man? Why would Jesus give a different answer than we typically give?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Playdough Scripture 1 Cor 14:26

What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone sing the has a hymns picked by the worship leader, or a and listen to the word of instruction given by the preacher, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done by one or a few leaders for the strengthening of the church.

1 Cor 14:26 (Playdough Version)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

11th reason

Oops, I published that last one too soon. I have another reason why I'm Not a Fan of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

#11 Like many doctrines, this is used to divide and/or maintain divisions in Christ's church. If we stick to teaching passages of Scripture in context we will find most Christians agree. When we teach a doctrine that requires proof texting (copy and pasting a variety of verses from all over) there will likely be some who object.

I am one of those who object. But I will try to maintain unity with those who love Penal Substitutionary Atonement. I know many of them love Jesus. Maybe they came to conclude this theory from their personal time with my Lord, or maybe they are following traditions and teachings they have received from others.

Either way, I don't think it's so much what you know as who you know that matters. I certainly don't have it all figured out either. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

10 Reasons Why I'm Not a Fan of Penal Substitutionary Atonement

#10 It's a long title that needs describing

Penal substitution is a theory of the atonement within Christian theology, especially associated with the Reformed tradition. It argues that Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished (penalised) in the place of sinners (substitution), thus satisfying the demands of justice so God can justly forgive the sins.

#9 It makes God look mean and angry

Was God's wrath directed towards Jesus instead of towards us? Did God the Father punish Jesus instead of me?

Is God not capable of loving sinners? Does God hate sinners?

Does God ever quit loving us? Did God stop loving Jesus when he was on the cross?

I'm OK with a loving father disciplining his children - but can killing ever be done in love?

The description of a Jesus who paid our debt makes Jesus look like a good guy. But it also makes God the Father out to be a God who requires human sacrifices to appease him (either ours or Christ's).

#8 It gets told over and over again in some evangelical churches

#7 I don't think bearing our burden means punished by God instead of me

The phrase "bearing our burden" is in Scripture but see this post for more on this.

#6 Contrary to popular belief, the Mosaic sacrifices did not operate in a Penal Substitution framework.

See this post for more on this.

#5 You won't find the phrase Penal Substitutionary Atonement in Scripture

#4 You won't find the phrase "Jesus Paid our debt" in Scripture

Scripture uses the word ransom, which I think is different. When you pay a ransom you are paying money to a bad or evil force who has held someone captive. Is God the bad evil force that needed to be paid? Or is it our selfishness/sin?

#3 You won't find the phrase "Jesus paid the penalty of man's sin" in Scripture

#2 Some people think Penal Substitutionary Atonement is the gospel

#1 The gospel that Jesus preached over and over again was about the good news of the kingdom of God.

There may be some truths in the Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory. The work that Jesus did on the cross is a beautiful and complex mystery. But I don't think this theory deserves the emphasis it often gets.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Burn those weeds

Oh no... there are some weeds in the church. We can't have that. We must get rid of them quickly. Those of us who are righteous can't be seen worshiping with those who are doing wrong or thinking wrong.

Isn't there a verse about weeds mixed with wheat?

Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV)
The Parable of the Weeds
Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

" 'An enemy did this,' he replied.
"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

Oh... wait...

So it's not our job to get rid of the weeds? Jesus wants us to leave that task for Him?

Is it possible that some wheat is harmed when we try to get rid of the weeds ourselves? I think that is what the parable suggests.

(Thanks Al for this reminder.)

Related Posts:

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Pilgrim's Progress: The Church's Primary Activity

I've been recognizing lately the need for one another, as active members of Christ's body. I've been pondering the purpose of the gathering. Is the main purpose to be taught by a good sermon, or sing worship songs together that a worship leader selects? I've been bothered by what seems to be a passive audience during most of the gathering.

Why did the early church gather? What did they do? What clues are there in Scripture?

Eric at A Pilgrim's Progress is exploring this question as well:
A Pilgrim's Progress: The Church's Primary Activity

I've understood that the Roman Catholic Church had the Eucharist as the main purpose of their gathering. And there is scripture to support the idea that the early church also celebrated the Lord's supper regularly when they gathered (however it likely looked more like a shared meal than what we typically see today).

Today, most churches I've been a part of have seem to view the sermon as central to the gathering. There may be some singing, prayer, and scripture reading before and after it, but the sermon is often viewed as the main course. If you come late for the singing but don't miss the sermon you didn't miss 'church'. Or if you miss 'church' you can listen to the sermon online or on CD.

I found Eric's observations of a few verses helpful (I Corinthians 14:26, Hebrews 10:24-25, I Timothy 4:13, Ephesians 5:18-21, I Corinthians 12:4-11) :
The above passages tell us something that might surprise us - especially in light of modern church gatherings: When the N.T. church gathered, they did not have a primary activity.

It certainly wasn't preaching. It wasn't singing. It wasn't giving of testimonies. It wasn't reading scripture. It wasn't the Lord's Supper. It wasn't any one thing.
So maybe there are a number of good things we can do when we gather, but we should let one good thing rob us from missing out on more. May we seek to build one another up to maturity in Christ using the different gifts God has given each of us. I believe we need one another, and that is why I want to gather with Christ's body.

Related Posts:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Playdough Scripture 1 Cor 11:33

"So then, my brothers, when you come together to sing and listen to a sermon eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he everybody should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment nobody hears your stomach rumbling.

1 Cor 11:33 (Playdough Version)

What was central to the New Testament church gatherings? A sermon or a meal? What is the purpose of gathering?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Discovering the God Imagination

A short review of a book written by a 'blog friend' who shares a great biblical name :) http://jonathanbrink.com

I agree with Jonathan Brink that there are flaws in how we view God.
That God created us but shortly after allowed us to be tricked by Satan and became evil at the core.
That God could not be in a relationship with his children anymore... that he couldn't love us since we were by nature evil.
That God's judgment towards us will now be one of eternal torment.
That the only way God could get us back was by killing his own son.

Jonathan Brink lists a number of concerns from this story we have created. I have wrestled with the same concerns. Basically it just doesn't paint a picture of a God who loves me the way I am. It's a God I should fear, but not a God to get too close with.

Jonathan Brink proposes we have misread the story. That the fall in the garden wasn't so much us becoming evil, but us losing sight of the good that we are. We have been tricked into viewing ourselves as evil. But we are still the good that God created. We need to understand that God always loves us, that God always sees the good in us - the good that he created - in His own image.

I love that Jonathan Brink is encouraging Christ followers to revisit this topic. I'd love to see more people engaging in the discussion.

The way I've personally sorted it out is this: I'm not sure if we have created the right questions. I'm not sure if we need to decide if our nature is basically good, or basically evil. I'm not convinced that was one of the big questions the writers of Scripture were attempting to answer. I tend to think of us as children. Yes children can do evil selfish things, but they are also capable of doing loving unselfish things. Children are in a learning process being guided by their parents (and others) with the goal of following the right path for each of them. I think I am God's child. He created me, and loves me more than I can imagine. He always has a plan for me. However I often do my own selfish things. That is why Jesus came preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. He wanted to remind us that when we allow Him to rule in our lives our lives can be what He intended them to be. Jesus left us with His Spirit to guide us. The choice is do we rule, or do we allow God to rule in and through us. I don't think people are either evil or good. We are all God's children. Some are in broken relationships with their Father, and others are allowing their loving Father into their lives to guide and direct them. But God loves us all. That's my 2 cents.

But maybe my response is too simplistic for you. If so I'd encourage you to read Discovering the God imagination. Jump into the conversation and wrestle some with the question yourself. What is the gospel? Did the fall make everyone evil, and does God hate evil sinners. Or does He love us all?

Amazon Link.

Related Posts:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Church Leaders

I see two definitions for leadership.
  1. Someone placed in a position of authority who should be listened to or there is some consequence. (A boss at work, an army officer)
  2. Someone who is taking the lead in some project or activity which is observed by others who can learn from them and follow their example. (team captain)

Which type of leadership do you think of when you consider church leaders in 'evangelical churches'?

"Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—" (Matthew 20:25-28 NIV)

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master 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 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matt 23:8-12 NIV)
Leaders in Christ's body are the ones who behave like servants.

We should follow the example of those who serve.

Have we formed our leadership model from the words of Jesus, or have we inherited it from some other tradition with slight modifications?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reflection Romans 1:1-6

Romans 1:1-6 (NIV)

1. Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—
Apostle means one sent forth as a religious messenger and ambassador. That sounds like something I desire to be as well. I don't think I'll start using the title Apostle tho. :)

Gospel of God... I suspect this is the same gospel that Jesus preached. The good news of the kingdom of God. That Jesus should rule and we should not.

2. the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures
What good news promised by the prophets is Paul referring to? Well we know the Jews were waiting for a messiah. An anointed king to rescue them from other powers that ruled over them. And that is exactly what Jesus came to be. Not to set up an earthly kingdom, but to free us so we can be ruled by His will.

3. regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 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.

By being a descendant of David Jesus met a requirements to be an earthly Jewish king. By being the Son of God Jesus meets the requirements to be our spiritual King.

Jesus Christ our Lord... to me this is another way of saying Jesus you are King... reign in my life now and into eternity.

5. Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

This brings me back to the term apostle. Here Paul implies he and others are apostles. How many apostles are there? I thought there were only 12 or 13 if you count Paul. Then I find Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV).

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Until we all reach unity... OK, there is likely still a place for the role of apostle... to be sent out as ambassadors of the good news of God.

Related Posts:

Monday, August 2, 2010

History of Speaking Up In Church

When believers gathered in the early church everyone could speak and share what God was speaking to them (well... the men at least... but that's another topic). It would have been quite different than the type of 'church service' that is common today, where an audience sits passively in rows listening to a few selected speakers.
What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. (1 Cor 14:26-32 NIV)
As the church spread and grew in the Roman empire, it became state run. Somehow things changed and believers became accustomed to sitting and listening to one person give long orations. Over time the common person had little input in what was said at the Sunday gathering.

The 16th century Anabaptists tried to change this.
"The Anabaptists insisted upon the "free course" of the Holy Spirit in worship, yet still maintained it all must be judged according to the Scriptures. The Swiss Anabaptist document titled "Answer of Some Who Are Called (Ana-)Baptists - Why They Do Not Attend the Churches". One reason given for not attending the state churches was that these institutions forbade the congregation to exercise spiritual gifts according to "the Christian order as taught in the gospel or the Word of God in 1 Corinthians 14." "When such believers come together, "Everyone of you (note every one) hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation," etc...When someone comes to church and constantly hears only one person speaking, and all the listeners are silent, neither speaking nor prophesying, who can or will regard or confess the same to be a spiritual congregation, or confess according to 1 Corinthians 14 that God is dwelling and operating in them through His Holy Spirit with His gifts, impelling them one after another in the above-mentioned order of speaking and prophesying".

But the Protestant and Catholic leaders of the day killed and persecuted the Anabaptists.

So where are we at today?

Are we OK with the order of service introduced by leaders in the Roman empire? Should what is said at the Sunday morning gathering be controlled by one or few members, or can we consider allowing the Holy Spirit to lead the many members of the body like we read about in 1 Cor 14?

Related Posts:
(This conversation continued here and here at Alan Knox's blog.)