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, 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.

Other related posts:

External related links:

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


Related Post:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

N.T. Wright on Reformers Perspective of Scripture

N.T. Wright in The Last Word:

"If the Reformers could return and address us today, they would not say "We got it all right; you must follow our exegesis and theology and implement it precisely as it stands." What they would say is "You must follow our method: read and study scripture for all it's worth, and let it do its work in the world, in and through you and your churches" They would not be surprised if, as a result, we came up at some points with different, or differently nuanced, theological and practical proposals. They would encourage us to go where scripture led, using all the tools available to us, and being prepared to challenge all human traditions, including the "Reformation" traditions themselves, insofar as scripture itself encouraged us to do so."

I found this paragraph interesting. I have a picture of some of the early reformers thinking "The scripture is the final authority... as long as you read it the same as I do. Otherwise you are more of a heretic and danger than the Roman Catholic Church... so we will hunt you down and kill you".

But maybe N.T. Wright is Right. Ohh.. people must have fun with his name. Is Wright Right or is he NoT. Right.... I digress...

The Reformers did have a belief in semper reformanda (the church must always be reforming), so maybe many of them would be pleased with some of the questions we are asking of tradition, and how we are asking God to speak through scripture to guide us forward.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Playdough Scripture Matt 28:18

"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me the books you guys are going to write."

Matthew 28:18 (Playdough Version)

(idea stolen from N.T. Wright in The Last Word)

Related Posts:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Choosing of the Seven

I believe some use Acts 6:1-6 to support the current practice of electing elders or deacons.

Acts 6:1-6 (NIV)

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 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. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

What were these men selected to do?

The community of believers was having a hard time taking care of the needs of some of the widows. They decided they needed a few men to focus on this task. They would be servants, waiters, interacting relationally with a specific group of people.

Was it a role of authority or decision making for the rest of the body?

No, not really.

If we were to use this as a model for something in our gatherings, what types of roles could this be a model for?

Best Fit:

  • Selecting people to take food and love to people in need.
  • Many churches have people who focus on this. In some communities they are called a deaconess. However I haven't seen the whole assembly gather to select/elect these people who are going to serve in this way.

If we want to make it fit as a model for other service, what about:

  • prepare food for others
  • clean dishes after a group meal
  • set up and tear down chairs
  • clean the building
  • ushering
  • take care of nursery aged children
  • Or maybe any role where some serve others on a regular basis.
If we are not using this model to select people to serve in other areas, why are we using it to select some to 'serve' as 'leaders' who have some sort decision making authority for the gathering. The context here was definitely serve as waiters and servants. (Which by the way is what deacon meant... but I think we've redefined that.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The First Pastors

I have realized that nobody in the New Testament church called themselves Pastor. Why do we have people using that title today? Who were some of the first people to call themselves Pastor?

So I started to speculate ...

My guess was that it was some guys in the reformation who no longer wanted to use the title Priest. They didn't want to be confused with those other totalitarian leaders. But didn't know what title to use. So they looked through the New Testament in search of a title.

Overseer? That could have described their position where they watched over those in their established congregations. But no... that is what Bishop means and that had already been used.

What about Teacher, or Father? No, Matthew 23:8-12 would be easily used against them.

So they picked Pastor. It only shows up once in the NT, but maybe they could convince Christ followers that they needed to follow someone called a Pastor (or shepherd). Just enough truth to make it work.

OK... enough speculation...

Google searches have let me down. All I can find is reference that John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli were some of the first people to use the title Pastor. I have to thank them for some of their contributions towards the protestant reformation. However this adds to my disappointment as well.

All I can say is I'm glad I'm not living in their day... I would have objected... and that would have reduced my life expectancy.

As always, I appreciate any feedback, even if you disagree with me. I couldn't find many facts on this. Who first used the title Pastor? What motivated them to do this? Do you agree?

Related Posts:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nestorius and the Schism in 430s

We in the West think mostly in terms of the Roman Catholic Church when we think of church history. But what about the Christians who lived outside the Roman Empire. They were not all under the authority of Rome.

History has St. Thomas going to India spreading the gospel message. Similar to the church in the West, they are not all homogeneous. There are different organizations/grouping, and I'm not the expert on this at all so I won't try to give a history lesson based on my quick readings.

What I want to say is this. It seems there was a line drawn in the sand around some theory made by Nestorius. The church of the West agreed Nestorius was a heretic. The church in the East was more accepting of Nestorius.

It seems like it was a big thing. People who supported Nestorius actually moved outside the Roman Empire into Persia where Christians were being persecuted. Was the persecution from the Roman Church worse than the persecution they got from non-Christians?

So what was the issue with Nestorius' theory:

Nestorius' teachings became the root of controversy when he publicly challenged usage of the long-used title Theotokos (Mother of God) for the Virgin Mary. He suggested that the title denied Christ's full humanity, arguing instead that Jesus had two loosely joined natures, the divine Logos and the human Jesus. As such he proposed Christotokos (Mother of Christ) as a more suitable title for Mary.

I must be missing something. This doesn't seem like Nestorius was questioning any essential belief here. He believed Jesus was both divine and human. He thought the title 'Mother of God' was a bit strong for a human.

We sure do have a history of making mountains out of molehills.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Question about Preaching Ratio

Disclaimer: I'm currently a bit confused about the difference between preaching and teaching. Is teaching done brother to brother, and preaching done to those still outside the faith? Or is preaching done by some and teaching done by others? Or is preaching a one way discourse, and teaching can be more of a discussion? I'm not sure. I think we all need to be proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the world. Anyways...

That aside, here is my question.

Is the mega-church trend having a positive or negative impact on teaching/preaching?

As the gatherings grow we need fewer people preaching. If the gathering has 50 members, the ratio of people using their preaching/teaching gifts to those listening is at least 1:50. I would hope higher.

With a gathering of 200, we can go as low as 1:200.

With a gathering of 10,000 it can go as low as 1:10,000.

I understand there are 50 gatherings in the USA with attendance between 10,000 and 47,000. These gatherings typically have one main preacher/teacher. Many of them have their sermons broadcast to multiple satellite locations.

If we as the church want to encourage each other and allow their giftings to grow.... is it better to have a few big gatherings or many smaller gatherings? Do we want a few great preachers/teachers, or a multitude of more ordinary preachers/teachers?

What do you think?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Anabaptists and Zwingli

Been reading about the Sixteenth-Century Anabaptists. Troubling stuff. Makes no sense. Reformation leaders like Zwingli believed the Bible was the prime authority for the church. Yet they murdered their Anabaptist brothers by drowning them.

Why? The Anabaptists saw support in the Bible for adult baptisms, and Zwingli and company didn't. Was it all about control?

The Bible is the authority... as long as you let me interpret it for you!???

(If you have an hour to listen to some history about the Anabaptists, try this link:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Authority of Timothy and Titus

Titus 2:15 "These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you."

1Tim 4:11"Command and teach these things"

1 Tim 6:17 "Command those who are rich…"

1 Tim 6:18 "Command them to do good…"

Is there any evidence to suggest Titus or Timothy where considered elders?

Did they go by the title of deacon, preacher, pastor, bishop, clergy, priest, minister, archbishop, cardinal, ...?

Is there anything to suggest they were given some special authority... or is it possible all believers have been given some special authority?

Shouldn't we all be teaching God's truths with confidence?