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, September 29, 2010

Playdough Scripture Heb 4:12

"For the word of God Bible is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. "

Heb 4:12 (Playdough Version)

Is there anything in the surrounding passages that would lead us to think this verse is talking about the Bible? Why do we read it that way? Tradition?

The verses surrounding this are talking about Jesus.

Jesus was often called the word of God. 'Word' here in greek is λόγος or logos, which is the same used in John 1:1 - referring to Jesus.

Why wouldn't we think this verse is about Jesus?

Jesus is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

True... and challenging. When I read this verse as "the Bible is"... it was only piercing my heart when I opened it to read it... But if this is about Jesus... He can be piercing my heart whenever I'm off track, any time of the day.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy



To lead does not always mean to plan or make decisions for those you want to follow.

Sometimes leading means just doing what you need to do. You may become a leader if others recognize they should be doing the same. If someone starts following, just encourage them as they find their place in the movement as well.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Leadership is not decision making

Alan over at the assembling of the church got me thinking this morning with a re-post of Leadership is not decision making.

He makes the claim that:
When we study the idea of leadership in Scripture, we find that leadership in the church is not decision-making, and decision-making is not leadership. When we study the idea of leadership in today’s church, we find that leadership is primarily about decision-making.

Then he summarized a few passages to support this notion. This caught my attention. Is Alan onto something?

Acts 6:1 - 6 (NIV)
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian 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, 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.


Interesting. The leaders gave their idea, but the whole group took the idea, found workers to solve the problem, and presented them back to the leaders. I have never noticed this before.

I suspect if a similar senerio happened in a typical 'church' group today, it may look more like this:
  • Somebody observes a problem (possibly either lay person or clergy)
  • The problem is reported to the leaders
  • The leaders meet to discuss and pray about a solution behind closed doors
  • If the decided upon solution requires volunteer workers, the leaders will seek out suitable volunteers
  • If the decided upon solution requires more paid staff, the the leaders will seek out suitable staff
  • The leaders will present the solution to the rest of the body
Alan also looked at examples in Acts 15, and 1 Cor 5 with similar observations. But... I am wondering if there are also other examples in the New Testament Church where the leaders imposed their decisions on the body. There may be. However Alan has pointed out these passages that show the leaders didn't assume it was their right or duty to make these decisions on their own.

Is it too much of a pie in the sky idea that we could actually just let Christ be head of His church? That he could lead each of His children individually. Members of His body would give discernment, encouragement, teaching, admonishing etc to one another. Leaders would be examples of those who serve others... leading the the way that others would want to follow... but not leading by lording over or making decisions on behalf of others? I'd like to taste a piece of that pie. :)

Related Post:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thomas on Why I blog

Two verses (from the Gospel of Thomas). Both back to back make me think of why I blog, and also a concern with blogging.


Gospel of Thomas vs. 33 reminds me of my motivation to make my journey public:
Jesus said, "What you will hear in your ear, in the other ear proclaim from your rooftops.
After all, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, nor does one put it in a hidden place. Rather, one puts it on a lampstand so that all who come and go will see its light."

Gospel of Thomas vs 34 reminds me of a potential danger of following a blogger (or following anyone for that matter):
Jesus said, "If a blind person leads a blind person, both of them will fall into a hole."

http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gosthom.html

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thomas on the Kingdom

I'm not sure if I agree with all gnosticism, or if the Gospel of Thomas should be viewed as an equal to the other gospels. However I am pleased to discover that verse 3 of the Gospel of Thomas lines up very well with a theme I see in the other gospels:
  • the good news of the kingdom of God or kingdom of Heaven
  • that we must be born again - a new spiritual birth
  • that we are children of God
  • that God is our Father
  • that God wants to be our Lord/King

Gospel of Thomas vs. 3
Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father's) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty."
http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gosthom.html

So do you know who you are? Do you live it?

When I recognize I am a child of God, I should consider his wishes since I am 'living under his roof' so to speak.

If I think I'm just a child of my earthly parents, now living on my own, my own selfish desires will rule.


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Thursday, September 16, 2010

My 95 Thesis - Point 11 - Sermon Centered

Here's my 11th Point in My 95 Theses.

Why has our gatherings become centered around a sermon? Why does the body of Christ, the royal priesthood, sit passively listening to the same person speak week after week?

There is nothing wrong with a good sermon. But are we missing out on something better?

The way I read the New Testament, most of the preaching was done outside the gathering - directed at non-believers. Yes, when the believers gathered they did teach each other, but:
  • I don't think a 30 minute monologue was the main part of the gathering
  • I don't think it was done primarily by one person
  • I don't believe the listeners were passive, I believe they would have responded with discernment
  • There are many ways to teach. Some of the best teaching is done in one on one conversations and/or modeling a life.
1 Corinthians 14:26 (New International Version)
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.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (New International Version)
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.
1 Timothy 4:13 (New International Version)
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
Ephesians 5:18-21 (New International Version)
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (New International Version)
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
Romans 12:6-8 (New International Version)
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Are we doing church by the book on this one? And if not, should we?

Have we made the sermon the main part of our gathering? Why? Does it need to be? What are the pros & cons? Is the body missing out on something with this focus on the sermon?

I think these are valid questions to discuss.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Playdough Scripture John 4:19-24

"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you can choose one of many worship centers to go to and worship each week (just make sure you pick a good brand) you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

John 4:19-24 (Playdough Version)


A few thoughts...

Jesus says the Samaritans were worshiping a God they did not know. I find that interesting. How/why would they worship a God they did not know? If they didn't know Him, why would they worship Him. Just out of religious duty? Is it possible I've done the same? Is it possible to go to a place of worship, and do whatever worship stuff everyone else is doing, yet not personally know the one we worship?

My other thought is around the location of worship. Throughout history people seem to gravitate to certain places to worship. In ancient Canaan the place of worship was often on top of a hill. On top of the hill it was common to build a tall pole or column, and sometimes buildings. I guess the idea was the taller the structure, the closer to God. Now I know many churches are not built on hill-tops, but I wonder if the common church steeple is linked to this history. Instead of going to a hill-top where there is a tall pole, we go to a building with a tall pointed top.

Does Jesus' words to this Samaritan woman say anything to our perception that worshiping God is most frequently done at certain locations?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Good News of Adoption

We have some close friends who are excited about adopting a child from Ethiopia. This analogy came to mine that may help express my thoughts around our modern evangelical gospel message.

Here are two good news messages my friends could share with their child when they meet her (or when she is old enough and has learned enough English).

Good news message #1:

  • We are a good family.
  • You were stuck in a bad situation.
  • Do you want to understand the legal transactions that allowed us to get you from where you were to our good home?
  • Do you want to know what price we paid to free you and give you a new life?

Good news message #2:

  • We love you and want to give you guidance in a good new life.

Both good news messages are valid, however:
Option #1 could get a bit complex for a young child to understand.
Option #2 could possibly be demonstrated through non-verbal hugs, kisses, and a general loving household.


Option #1 is similar to the standard modern gospel which requires proof texting to attempt to answer the question "How can a Holy God make things right and be in a relationship with sinners?". There are some good things to discuss and complex issues to grapple with, but are we sure this is the most important starting place?

I think option #2 fits with the good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus frequently preached about. That He, the King, wants to adopt each of us as His children, so he can love us and guide us in His kingdom. Yes there will be further discussions as the child grows up, but I think this is a great place to start.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

What I believe 2010.9

Jesus Is Lord and Savior!

Or Jesus is King, Jesus is the Messiah, or Jesus Reigns... however you want to put it.

If you really believe this, you are my brothers and sisters..

God is love. He wants to be in a loving relationship with us. The challenge for each of us is to live it, allow Jesus to rule in our lives and save us from our selfish ways that lead to destruction.

I trust most Christ followers will agree with this basic belief.

Jesus frequently preached the good news of the kingdom of God. I believe his main point was that He was King, Messiah (Christ), Lord and Savior. Some simple keyword Bible searches will show that the acknowledgment that Jesus was Lord, Savior, and Christ was at the core of the beliefs of the early believers, and that Jesus loved to speak on the topic of His kingdom.

See Good News for more on this topic.

(This is my 3rd version of this... previous 2 versions are still available here and here.)

I can't figure it out

Ahh... I can't figure it all out.

I wish the Bible was written like a catechism or statement of faith.

Why do I find more than one answer to the question "What must I do..."? And neither of the answers Jesus gives sounds like the typical evangelical gospel message and sinners prayer.

What is the deal with God's wrath. Does God love sinners, or does he want to torture them for eternity? If God hates sinners can I too? (No - just in-case you think I'm really nuts). But there are verses that speak of God's wrath. I want to ignore them, but they are there.

I don't buy that my sin separated God from me. I understand that when I go my selfish ways, like the prodigal son, I am separating myself from God. But do I ever go so far that God is not able to reach out and love me in my sinfulness? While we were sinners Christ loved us. Satan was even in God's presence in Job. Jesus was a friend of sinners.

Why did God have to kill Jesus? Or was it my sins that killed Jesus? Was it simply to symbolize an end to the Jewish sacrifice system, being the final perfect lamb of God? Or is there also a meaning that I (a non-Jew) need to understand? Because to be honest, I don't understand why a loving Father would kill his own son.

I know God loves me.

I know he wants to reign in my life, be my Lord, and be my Savior.

I know he wants me to respond in love to himself and to others.

I know I need to learn to listen to His voice, and follow.

I'm just not sure what to do with some of our beliefs. Do I focus on the verses that speak of God's wrath towards sinners, or do I focus on the verses that speak of God's love and desire to be in a deep relationship with me.

Do I need to figure it all out? Or should I just start living?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Uh Oh I'm guilty of proof-texting

OK, so I need to point a few fingers back my way. I suspected I was guilty of this, but yeah... I was hoping it wouldn't be this easy to find.

I asked in my last post on proof-texting: "Does your gospel require proof-texting? Or is is plainly written somewhere in one place?"

Well my what I believe page requires proof-texting. It is alot shorter than my first version... but I think I may need to rework this one as well. Each point is based on a verse or passage... but yeah, I guess that's the beauty of proof-texting.

If I were to summarize the most important aspect of the faith, why can't I find one passage in Scripture that summarizes it satisfactorily?

Proof-Texting

Imagine I've written 3 letters to 3 different people about my summer. But instead of reading the letters someone tells you the following:

  • Jon hopes to go tenting across the country with his daughter during the coming school weeks. (Dear daughter verse 3, Dear Mom verse 2)
  • Next week Jon is going tenting across the country with Bob and family. (Hey Bob verse 3, Dear Mom verse 2)
  • Jon wishes he had gone golfing instead of camping (Hey Bob verses 1 & 2, Dear Mom verse 2)

If you just read the verses quoted, they seem to support the statements above. However none of the above is true when you look at the whole letters yourself.


Dear Mom,

1. Our family had a great vacation this summer.
2. We spent time together this summer by jumping in a van together and tenting across the country.
3. I enjoyed exploring parts of our country that we had never seen before.


Dear daughter,

1. I enjoyed the time we spent together as a family this summer.
2. I hope you are ready to get back into the school routine soon.
3. I hope we can find time during the school weeks to spend time together too.


Hey Bob,

1. Sorry I didn't get out golfing with you.
2. Our family got quite busy over the summer with other plans.
3. Looking forward to spending some time with you and your family next weekend.


Prooftexting is the practice of using quotations from a document (often, but not always, a book of the Bible) to establish a proposition. Using discrete quotations is generally seen as decontextualised. Critics of the technique note that often a document quoted in such a manner, when read as a whole, may not in fact support the proposition for which it was cited.

Ministers and teachers have used the following humorous anecdote to demonstrate the dangers of prooftexting:

A man dissatisfied with his life decided to consult the Bible for guidance. Closing his eyes, he flipped the book open and pointed to a spot on the page. Opening his eyes, he read the verse under his finger. It read, "Then Judas went away and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:5b) Closing his eyes again, the man randomly selected another verse. This one read, "Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:37b)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prooftext

Proof-texting does not always lead to the wrong conclusions. And I'm likely guilty of using it too - I'll have to keep a watch on myself on this in the future. But lately I'm learning to be suspicious whenever I see proof-texting done to support an argument. If the early church believed the same sequence of thoughts, why didn't they write it down in one place in one of the letters they wrote.

Does your gospel require proof-texting? Or is is plainly written somewhere in one place?


Related Posts:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fellowship equals Unity

Yes... the light bulb slowly flickers on.

My journey here has started with Unity. That was the trigger that got me questioning some of the traditions and beliefs I have grown up having within protestant evangelicalism. (If interested see my first two posts here and here.)

My journey then took me to believe Unity is an essential to our faith. We find many things to disagree about, and often find a few verses to support the different positions. But there is a very strong theme in Scripture that unity is essential. Our focus on unity needs to be present whenever we approach differences, or we are harming the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lately my journey has lead me to explore the possibility that some of the traditions institutional church has accumulated may not serve the building up of Christ's body well. I've been exploring what it means to gather as a body of Christ, and what sorts of activities serve the building up of each other. I've been trying to look to the New Testament church to see how it was modeled there, and desiring to see some of the same in my life.

Today I was doing a topic search on the word fellowship. And I kept coming across the same passage that got me started on this years ago.

Jesus' Prayer for us in John 17:20 - 26 (NIV)
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
So, when I'm praying for fellowship, and a community of believers where all members participate in being part of Christ's body... I guess what I'm praying for is unity again.

How we fellowship with one another paints a picture of how Jesus is united with the Father, and with how He is united with each of us. And we can look to Jesus relationship with the Father and with us to be an example of how we can fellowship with each other.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fellowship





The term Communion is derived from Latin communio (sharing in common). The corresponding term in Greek is κοινωνία, which is often translated as "fellowship". In Christianity, the basic meaning of the term communion is an especially close relationship of Christians, as individuals or as a Church, with God and with other Christians.

The word κοινωνία (koinonia) was in use in Greek even before the advent of Christianity. In classical Greek, it could apply to a business partnership, to fellowship of life in marriage, to a spiritual relationship with a god such as Zeus, to comradely fellowship between friends, to a community or society.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communion_(Christian)

This summer I've enjoyed some great fellowship around campfires, on friends decks, around dinner tables, and in living rooms. I've had some brief fellowship on Sunday mornings before and after the service. But I think the campfires were the best though. :)

So what do you think the best setting for fellowship is?

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Purpose of Participation

I think Alan Knox has given some good insights here on reasons we should should desire participatory church gatherings:
For the last few yeas, our church gatherings have been more participatory – meaning, more people take part in the speaking, teaching, edifying, encouraging, etc. that happens during our church meetings.

However, participation is not an end in itself. Our goal is not increased participation from the body of Christ. Our goal when meeting together is mutual edification (1 Corinthians 14:26; Hebrews 10:24-25). We allow and encourage many people to take part in our meetings because we understand that God works through all of his children (mutual) in order to help us all walk in maturity in Christ (edification).

So, a participatory meeting is not our goal, but a tool that God uses to build up his children when the church meets.
I think that makes sense. I respect Alan's approach to using Scripture to back how he practices his faith. For me a lot of this is just theoretical brain pain. For now I just wanted to file it here with my other thoughts on participation at the gathering. Thanks Alan.

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