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.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Poll: Holy Days True or False

We have just gone through one of the biggest holidays (Holy Days) recognized by our culture.

I'd like to know if you think it is more of a Holy Day than the rest?

Is there something different about the Christmas season that can not be replicated on other days the rest of the year?

What about other Holy Days like Easter? Or like Sundays or the Sabath?

I've been wondering what most people think on this. I'm not 100% sure myself. Does the New Testament command us to observe certain Holy Days? I'd like to know if I'm missing something.

This Christmas season I've observed that people seem to behave a little different at this time of year. It is mostly a good thing. Most people are a little extra friendly, wishing people Merry Christmas. People are seeking Joy and Peace. There is an extra emphasis on charity and giving to others. And people seem more open to Jesus. All good things.

The extra shopping, greed and gluttony may not be great... but the good may outweigh the bad. :)

But I've been wondering if Dec 25th is really a God sanctified Holy Day? Has God set this day aside to be something special?

Romans 14:5 confirms to me that I'm OK believing every day is a Holy Day. That every day can be one where God's presence is real and active in our lives, and we can respond to Him with worship/love. We should get together with other believers as often as we can to build each other up to become more like Christ.

Is this similar to the shift we see in the New Testament where we see there is no longer special temples where we must go to worship God (John 4:19-24, Acts 17:24, 1 Cor 3:16, 1 Pet 2:5, 1 Cor 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16, Eph 2:19-22). God wants His worshipers to worship in Spirit and truth, everywhere and all the time.

But I'd love to hear from you. Please answer this survey question, and leave comments if you feel you want to explain your answer.






Thanks!

Related Posts:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holidays and Holy Days

"One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind." Rom 14:5 (HCSB)

The word holiday has it's roots with the words Holy Days. It's the idea that certain days are set aside because of some special religious significance.

I think the above verse is fitting for our Christian culture of today. There is a lot of religious focus around the date Dec 25th. I think most Christian's know that this date is not likely the actual date of Jesus' birth, but they want to have a special day set aside to celebrate the significance of our Lord's coming.

However there are other Christians who are concerned that a lot of what happens around Christmas comes from pagan roots, and that a lot also comes from current commercial greed.

Then I consider other Holy Days.

Much of Easter can be traced back to pagan origins.

Sunday as the day the church gathers has links to Sun worship of the pagans.

Paul in Romans 14 was talking about a debate over eating certain types of food. I think what he says has some valuable advice for us regarding holidays or Holy Days. If you struggle with this issue, please read the whole chapter. Here are two more bits:

Rom 14:10-11 (HCSB)
"But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord..."

Rom 14:22-23 (HCSB)
"Do you have a conviction? Keep it to yourself before God. The man who does not condemn himself by what he approves is blessed. But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from a conviction, and everything that is not from a conviction is sin."

I take from this chapter:

  • I may not view certain days as Holy and others as not. To me every day is equally Holy.
  • Other brothers and sisters see things differently, and it is not my job to judge.
  • I see value in each person studying the topics, seeking God, and deciding for themselves what is right.
  • But what is right for you, may not be right for me, so let's keep cool about it either way.


Related Posts:

Alan Knox's post Replay: Jesus is the Reason… for our lack of unity? got me on this topic this morning.



Friday, December 23, 2011

Why a Christmas Tree?


Why do you have a Christmas tree inside your house?

I have an odd sense of humor. This one gets me chuckling at people. I think we are a funny lot. I think it's pretty random that at this time of year people put a fair bit of energy into getting either an evergreen tree, or a fake thing that looks like an evergreen tree and place it in a prominent place in their home.

Why a tree?

Why not a shepherds rod?

A simple stick could be placed in the center of our living room as a memory of the shepherds the good news was shared with. This could remind us that simple folk can also share the good news with others.

We could celebrate by dancing around the pole... OK, I digress.

Why not a feeding trough?

We could decorate a feeding trough with fake hay, and fake animal feed. This could remind us of the upside down nature of the kingdom of God. How our Majestic God chose a humble and dirty place for His coming to earth.

A feeding trough could also have a second meaning, symbolizing how we tend to act like gluttonous pigs during this season. No, maybe we don't want to celebrate our gluttony. I digress again....

Do we know why we put up a tree?

There may be a few origins to this tradition. I'll share a few findings I've come across. There may be many more.

Many Pagan cultures used to cut boughs of evergreen trees in December, move them into the home or temple, and decorate them. Modern-day Pagans still do. This was to recognize the winter solstice -- the time of the year that had the shortest daylight hours, and longest night of the year. This occurs annually sometime between DEC-20 to 23; most often, it is DEC-21. As the solstice approached, they noticed that the days were gradually getting shorter; many feared that the sun would eventually disappear forever, and everyone would freeze. But, even though deciduous trees, bushes, and crops died or hibernated for the winter, the evergreen trees remained green. They seemed to have magical powers that enabled them to withstand the rigors of winter.
http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_tree.htm
Or this account of Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt:

"The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt. In Egypt it was the palm tree; in Rome it was the fir; the palm-tree denoting the Pagan Messiah, as Baal-Tamar, the fir referring to him as Baal-Berith. The mother of Adonis, the Sun-God and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have been changed into a tree, and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son. If the mother was a tree, the son must have been recognized as ‘Man the Branch.’ And this entirely accounts for putting the Yule Log into the fire on Christmas Eve and the appearance of the Christmas tree the next morning. As Zero-Ashta, ‘The seed of the woman,’ ...he has to enter the fire on ‘Mother night,’ that he may be born the next day out of it, as the ‘Branch of God,’ or the Tree that brings divine gifts to men."
http://www.carnaval.com/saturnalia/

Later on in the 1500's

According to the first documented uses of a Christmas tree in Estonia, in 1441, 1442, and 1514, the Brotherhood of Blackheads erected a tree for the holidays in their brotherhood house in Reval (now Tallinn). At the last night of the celebrations leading up to the holidays, the tree was taken to the Town Hall Square where the members of the brotherhood danced around it.[9] In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow wrote of an established tradition of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_tree

Oh, that sounds like fun. This year I'll dance around our Christmas tree, then set it on fire! That will make a great family memories video.... :)

Here is another account, linking it to a feast day of Adam and Eve:
The main prop of a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve was a fir tree hung with apples (paradise tree) representing the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up a paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. They hung wafers on it (symbolizing the host, the Christian sign of redemption); in a later tradition, the wafers were replaced by cookies of various shapes. Candles, too, were often added as the symbol of Christ. In the same room, during the Christmas season, was the Christmas pyramid, a triangular construction of wood, with shelves to hold Christmas figurines, decorated with evergreens, candles, and a star. By the 16th century, the Christmas pyramid and paradise tree had merged, becoming the Christmas tree.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_tree

I just stumbled across this verse that isn't typically part of our Christmas readings. It seems related to an early pagan festival with a decorated tree:
"This is what the LORD says: Do not learn the way of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them, for the customs of the peoples are worthless.
Someone cuts down a tree from the forest; it is worked by the hands of a craftsman with a chisel. He decorates it with silver and gold. It is fastened with hammer and nails, so it won’t totter." Jeremiah 10:2-4 (HCSB)

I'll include a link here: http://www.cogwriter.com/christmas.htm to some interesting quotes from Tertullian (one of the leading 2nd/3rd century church writers). He seemed to be against participating in the pagan winter celebrations.

We do have a (fake) Christmas tree up in our home. I'm not at a place where I'm zealous about getting rid of Christmas trees. I mostly just think it's funny how we all have them without thinking about why we have them.

Kinda like many other traditions we have in life and church life.

If you have a Christmas tree in your home, do you know why you have it? I'd love to hear more stories.


Related Posts:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When Will I Shut UP?


If you are wondering when I'm going to get off my soap-box blog...

I sometimes wonder if I will run out of stuff to say...

We'll see. If the trend of this graph continues... It looks like I'll go back to being quiet in about 2 years.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gospel in Christmas Narrative

In the timeline of Jesus, the first occurrence of the gospel shows up in Luke with an Angel speaking to some shepherds:

Luke 2:10 - 11 (HCSB)

"But the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David."
The Greek that gets translated "I proclaim to you good news" here is euangelizomai, which is related to euaggelizó: to announce good news. Euaggelizó gets translated as preaching the gospel in other New Testament verses.

So shouldn't we start with this first occurrence to determine what the gospel is?

The angels are declaring that Jesus has come. That the Messiah, a Savior, the Lord had arrived. This is good news for all people.

But wait, I just found an earlier occurrence of the term for gospel in the New Testament. Gabriel speaking to Zechariah in Luke 1:19 has the term euangelisasthai which also gets translated as gospel elsewhere. Here the good news is about the birth of John the baptist. It was good news, but should we conclude this is the gospel that we are to share with the world as followers of Christ?

Do you see where I am going with this? There are many verses in the Bible that have the term gospel, or good news. 1 Cor 15:1 is one verse that often gets used as a proof text for a certain emphasis on the good news message.

I recognize that there are many good news messages in Scripture. However will you consider exploring with me the good news message that Jesus and His disciples preached?

Yes Jesus did preach the gospel.

And He taught His disciples to do the same.

The first 4 books of our New Testament are known as the gospels, and have a lot to say on the topic. They are a great place to start. What do you think the gospel is according to the gospels?

By the way... I think the Angels did a great job introducing us to the gospel that Jesus came to share.

(And by the way #2: the whole of 1 Cor 15 fits well within the gospel Jesus preached, likely a future post. I don't see it as two different gospel messages.)


Related Posts:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Would Jesus Celebrate Christmas



What Would Jesus Do this Christmas?
Maybe a silly question. I'm really not sure.

How did Jesus celebrate the day he was born?

He likely cried, ate, slept, and ____ like most babies do.

How did Jesus celebrate the rest of his birthdays?

From what I've read the Jews of Jesus' day did not celebrate birthdays.

What about the early church? Did they celebrate birthdays?

Not according to Origen of Alexandria (c. 185 - 254 AD).

Origen had evidently some similar thought before him when he insists that "of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below" (Origen, "in Levit.", "Horn. VIII", in Migne P.G., XII, 495).
http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Natal_Day

It seems for the first couple of centuries of the early church birthday celebrations were a thing for sinners.

So I think it is safe to conclude Christmas was not celebrated by Jesus or even the early church.

How should we celebrate Christmas?

Since we can't follow Jesus or the early church on this one, what should we do? We could boycott Christmas all together... that would be odd wouldn't be?

Or we can chose to find ways to honor and worship our Lord Jesus, even on a day set aside with an overload of crazy traditions.

Shopping, gifts, Scripture reading, hospitality, trees, candles, baking, turkey, lights, tinsel, singing, snowmen, chocolate, nuts, acts of charity, santa, elves, reindeer...

Consider which traditions are worth making your own. And like the other 364 days of the year worship God and share God's love with others.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I'm not that kind of Christian

Alan Knox got me thinking this morning with a recent post called What Kind of Christian Are You?

Well I agree with Alan on this one. But my goal isn't to become like Alan. Sorry Alan :)

I'm not that kind of Christian.

I grew up a preacher's kid. Baptist and interdenominational.

If you have any preconceived ideas about what kind of person that creates... you may be right in some areas and wrong in others.

But please don't assume I'm that kind of Christian.

I attended Providence Bible College for 2 years before going to University. I wanted to have a firm foundation in my faith before going out into the 'secular' work force.

If you have any preconceived ideas about what kind of person that makes me ... you may be right in some areas and wrong in others.

But please don't assume I'm that kind of Christian.

Most Sunday's you will find me attending a Christian and Missionary Alliance Sunday morning service. My closest friends are part of this community of believers.

But please don't assume I'm that kind of Christian.

I have had open dialog with Christians from various denominations. I have made an effort to attend a number of different Sunday morning services: Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, United, Baptist, Mennonite, Pentecostal. I have respect and love for what I've seen in believers of all types.

But please don't assume I'm that kind of Christian.

I have been influenced recently by books by N. T. Wright, Wayne Jacobsen, Tony and Felicity Dale, Frank Viola. I have been influenced by blog writers like Alan Knox, Miguel Labrador, Jeremy Meyers, Eric Carpenter, Rachel Evans, ... (danger with starting a list like this is I will miss some - sorry).

But please don't assume I'm like all the other Emergent, Organic, Simple, liberal Christians you've heard bad things about.

My goal is not to become like these other Christians.

We often have people into our home. We pray these times are an encouragement to others in their walk to become more like Christ. I see people teaching each other stuff about their faith in God. Usually more of an informal type of teaching. Does that mean we have an house church, or a small group bible study? No.

I'm not that kind of Christian.

My theology doesn't line up well with Reformed theology. But if you conclude that I don't like to fellowship with those with Reformed theology, you are wrong. I just happen to enjoy dialoging and working through some of these topics. I don't judge people based on their theology.

I'm not that kind of Christian.

Every denomination has some traditions that to me seem to over complicate or divide Christ's church. But that doesn't mean I don't love my brothers and sisters who love their traditions.

I'm not that kind of Christian.

If you have a foul mouth, dirty mind, and like to enjoy more pleasures this world offers than I do. Please feel comfortable being yourself around me. Don't assume I am judging you.

I'm not that kind of Christian.

Please don't try to label me and judge me by my background, my theology, who influences me, or what traditions I hold or discard.

I will try not to judge you by your background, your theology, who influences you, or what traditions you hold or discard. I know I am not the judge. I see little benefit in attempting to be the judge on these matters.

I guess if you want to know who I am, you'll have to get to know me.

(But I don't expect everyone on the planet will feel the need or urge to get to know me - and that is OK.)

If you claim Christ as Lord, and our paths cross... Our task is not to judge, build walls, and divide. Our task is to build each other up to become more like Christ.

Related Posts:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom

Part three of Matt 16:15-19. Working through passages dealing with the topic of the kingdom, I come to this passage which is too complex to deal with in one post.

Part 1: On What Rock
Part 2: I Will Build My Church
Part 3: Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom

Matt 16:15-19 (NIV)

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Gates of Hades?

To understand what Gates of Hades could mean we should look at other passages that use a similar phrase. Job 17:16, Job 38:17, Psalm 9:13, Psalm 107:18, and Isaiah 38:10 make reference to the gates of death. It seems they refer to points where someone nears the passage from life to death.

Hades was the ancient Greek God of the underworld, but the term was commonly used to refer to the abode of the dead. Here in Acts 2:27 speaking about Jesus, 'realm of the dead' is the same term translated as Hades elsewhere.

Acts 2:27 (NIV)
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay.
Here is another verse that speaks of keys related to death and Hades.
Rev 1:18 (NIV)
I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven?

I'm going to make a leap that the keys in this verse should go with the gates in the previous sentence. I know there are other ways to read this passage, but this seems to make the most sense to me.

When Jesus spoke about the kingdom of heaven, he was typically speaking about the reign and rule of God - the kingdom of light - the way of life. The kingdom of heaven has a present reality, as well as a future phase.

What sort of keys could there be that can open the gates that separate the realm of death with the realm of life?

Jesus is the keys. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life...

Jesus is the way to defeat and/or resist the powers of darkness, and live under the powers of life.

Bound in heaven?


The HCSB translation may do a better job on vs 19.
Matthew 16:19 (HCSB)
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven."
Peter isn't so much deciding what will be bound, and what will be loosed. The stuff that is already bound and loosed in heaven, that is the stuff Peter is binding and releasing here on earth.

In some mysterious way, Peter played a role in participating in the work that God in heaven had set in motion. We also are in a sense God's hands and feet as we work for the kingdom of God.

I know there are other ways to view this passage. I welcome your thoughts on this.


Related Posts:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Will Build My Church

Part two of Matt 16:15-19. Working through passages dealing with the topic of the kingdom, I come to this passage which is too complex to deal with in one post.

Part 1: On What Rock
Part 2: I Will Build My Church
Part 3: Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom

Matt 16:15-19 (NIV)

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Church?

One of only two passages that record Jesus using the term church (ekklēsia). I've recently studied what Jesus had to say about Church. Here are some summary thoughts:
  • The word church/ekklesia comes with an open participatory flavor. It's roots are with the roots of democracy. All the members at the assembly had an equal voice.
  • Jesus didn't focus much on the topic of church. Maybe as followers of Christ we should also be more focused on the Kingdom than we are on Church.
  • Jesus said He would build his church. He didn't say we would build His church. Jesus did command us to seek His kingdom and to go and make disciples.
  • At the end of the other passage we may have a simple definition of church according to Jesus. Simply where two or three are gathered in His name.
First Post: On What Rock
Next Post: Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom

Related Posts:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On What Rock

Here is the next passage in my series on on the Secrets of the Kingdom. It is a complex passage, so I think I'll break it into a few parts.

Part 1: On What Rock
Part 2: I Will Build My Church
Part 3: Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom

Matt 16:15-19 (NIV)

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
What rock is Jesus building His church on?

Jesus Gave Simon the nickname 'Peter' or Pétros which means a stone (pebble), such as a small rock found along a pathway. Something that can be thrown.
http://concordances.org/greek/4074.htm

There is a second term for rock here. The one which Jesus will build His church is Pétra which means a cliff or large immovable rock.

Jesus is playing with two different words for rock. He is referring to Simon Peter as his nickname 'pebble' (Pétros), and stating he will build His church on an immovable rock (Pétra).

Who is the rock, and who is the pebble?

1 Cor 10:4 uses the same term Pétra for rock to refer to Jesus.

A number of verses refer to Jesus as the cornerstone.

So I'm not sure. I'm not a Greek scholar, but Jesus may be saying here that the solid rock which He will build His church on is:
  • Jesus himself
  • (or) the previous statement Peter made which stated that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
I used to believe this was saying Peter was the foundation rock, but now that I see we are talking about two different types of rocks, it may be worth balancing this verse with the rest of Scripture.

How do you read this passage? Do you believe the church was built upon Simon Peter?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Which Tent Post Is The Cross?


I see the cross in a different light than many Evangelicals.
But is the cross important to me? Absolutely, Yes!
I've previously posted 10 reasons why I'm not a fan of Penal Subtitutionary Attonment (actually 11 reasons). I also don't see the cross as the central part of the gospel message that Jesus or His disciples preached (see Gospel in the Gospels - Summary - 6 part series).


But picture for a moment a tent. What kind of tent would I have if I only used one pole and one peg to support it? There may be one, two or four central posts - depending on the type of tent. But most stable tents have more than one post.

For me the cross may not be the central post, but it is certainly an essential post.

I admit the cross has some mystery to me, but I find a good place to start is understanding what Jesus had to say about the cross.

Matt 16:24-26 (NIV)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew records Jesus saying something similar in Matt 10:38-39, and Mark 8:34-38, and Luke 9:23-27. There is something to this passage that the gospel writers agreed was important.

So what could Jesus be asking of us here? In what way are we to follow Jesus' example of taking up the cross? By taking up our cross is Jesus asking us to pay the price for our sins like he did on the cross... no, I don't think so.

Christ's example for us on the cross is how he defeated sin for us. I think he is asking us to follow His example of defeating sin, putting sin to death. By rejecting the rule of selfishness, and accepting the reign of God, we can find life in Christ. We must denying our own selfish ways and allow God to rule in our hearts and lives.

This tent post gives good support to the good news of the reign of God that Jesus and His disciples preached.

Another verse that speaks to our selfish ways being put to death:

Gal 5:24 (NIV)
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires."
Jesus took our sins to the cross, so we can also put our selfish ways to death and live for Him.

1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."

All of Romans 6 has helped me understand the cross better. Here are two snippets:

Rom 6:11 (NIV)
"In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

Romans 6:9-11 (NIV)
"For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

Related Posts:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Don't Understand Predestination


I'm putting this out there. I am quick to admit I don't understand predestination.

Predestination is a mystery to me.

How can God know the future, and be in control of everything - yet love all of His creation and allow us to have free will.

The way I see it, both Calvinists and non-Calvinists have points where they must admit they don't understand something.

I think Calvinist see other points further down their logic path that become their mysteries.

Calvinist don't have a problem with predestination.

They remove free will from the equation.

They conclude that God is in 100% control of everyone's desires, choices and actions.

They conclude that God has chosen them and they have nothing to do with it, it's all for God's glory.

They conclude that Jesus only died for the elect.

Some conclude that God hates sinners.

For them the mysteries come at some different points in their responses to questions like these:

  • What criteria would God have to predestine some people to a future in heaven, and some to a future in Hell?
  • Why does God predestine billions of people to Hell? Why bother creating them if he knows where he is sending them?
  • If God hates sinners should we?
  • Can't sinners choose to do good, and can't they choose to follow God.
  • Doesn't 2 Peter 3:9 and Acts 17:30 sound like God wants everyone to be saved, not just the elect?
  • Doesn't 1 John 2:2 sound like unlimited atonement?
  • Doesn't Matt 23:37 sound like some resisted God's irresistible grace?
  • Doesn't Matt 6:33 sound like people have the choice to seek God's kingdom?

From my experience, at some point in these conversation you will likely get the response that it is a mystery. We shouldn't expect to fully understand the ways of God.

If we all have points in our logic where we fall back and admit it's a mystery of God...

I think I'd rather pick a point earlier in the logic process before defending some of these other positions.

What's it called when you say something about someone that is false and makes them out to look like a monster?

I think Calvinists are running on dangerous ground, falsely accusing God of hating sinners.

I wouldn't want to go there.

If I'm wrong. I believe I'll be slightly disappointed when I get to heaven and discover I was actually a robot or puppet. I can live with this.

If they are wrong, I suspect they will regret spreading the message that God hates sinners.

So I am OK publicly stating I don't understand predestination.

Related Posts:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Student of Scripture Instructed in the Kingdom


Matt 13:51-52 (HCSB)

"Have you understood all these things?"
"Yes," they told Him.
"Therefore," He said to them, "every student of Scripture instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who brings out of his storeroom what is new and what is old."

Jesus frequently focused on teaching about the good news of the kingdom of God. However He was also very well versed in Old Testament truths. The way he taught and interacted with people is the example we need to follow here.

Jesus was introducing new teachings about the reign and rule of God. Jesus was also well versed in how God had worked throughout the ages.

To be a well rounded teacher of spiritual truths one needs a good foundation in how God has worked throughout the ages, and also accept these new teachings Jesus gave on the kingdom of Heaven.

Just like a host who takes some fresh food from the farm, and also goes to the cellar to get more produce. A full banquet can be prepared by properly mixing something old and something new.

See Secrets of the Kingdom Summary for more posts in this series.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Summary on Elders Overseers Shepherds

Why am I focusing on this topic of leadership? I think everyone is a leader in some way or another. Whatever you do, good or bad, there could be people that follow your example. I think all believers would benefit from taking a look at what Scripture says on the topic of leadership. We all may have more of a responsibility than you've considered before.

If you haven't seen this funny video yet, this may help: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

OK, so here is my summary of what I've learned as I've work on this series of posts.

(Each title is a link to related verses and further details.)

Jesus on Leadership
  • Jesus and the religious leaders of His day did not get along for the most part.
  • In the new Kingdom Jesus established, the first are last, the least are greatest, servants are the leaders that others should follow.
  • Jesus instructed His disciples not to rule over others like governments of the world do.
  • Jesus didn't want his followers to be called things like Rabbi, father, or teacher.
  • Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Biblical Elders
  • The Old Testament is full of references to Elders, this isn't a position the New Testament church invented.
  • They were older wise men who were well respected in the community.
  • I believe the Jewish culture had a role for elders to play within the family and community.
Elders and Overseers in 1 Peter 5:1-4

This passage doesn't need to mean more than this:
  • it was written to elders - older respected men in the community
  • They were told to be shepherds - to care for others in their community
Everyone should care for others, and these elders should be an example of this.

Appointing Elders in Acts 14:23
  • Elders were recognized in the Lystra, Iconium and Antioch community of believers
  • These were likely non-Jewish converts who didn't have elders in place
  • Paul and Barnabas either did the appointing themselves, or the community of believers publicly recognized them in some manner
Overseers in Acts 20:28
  • Paul was addressing the elders here
  • They were told to keep an eye on God's flock, to watch over it
  • They were told to tend to it, and care for others
  • These are things all believers should do. These elders need to be examples of this so the rest can follow.
Elders and Overseers Appointed in Titus 1:5-9
  • Crete was one of the predominately non-Jewish places the early church expanded to.
  • Timothy is given the task to appoint, or set in place elders who would have the responsibility for caring for and watching out for others.
  • God is entrusting these men to manage or be stewards of God's household. A noble task to take care of not just earthly treasures, but to take care of God's family.
  • We have a list of godly characteristics that these men should possess or strive toward.
Deacons and Overseers in 1 Tim 3:1-13
  • If someone aspires to be one who watches out for others, visits them, and cares for others, this is a noble task. Not just anyone can do this, they must meet or strive for these godly characteristics.
  • In the same way if someone wants to serve others in the body and care for the needs of others they must meet or strive for these godly characteristics.
Pastors in Ephesians 4:11

If we translate some of the ambiguous terms into common English this passage could read like this:
So Christ himself gave some messengers who are sent out, some who speak a message of God, some who share the good news, some who care for other believers, and some who teach, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and...

What Titles Did Early Church Leaders Use?

The example we have from those leading the way in the early church is they used the following titles or terms to describe themselves and others: servant, slave, prisoner, brother,sister, elder, and Apostle (or messenger of Christ' or 'ambassador of Christ') .


Some things I would NOT conclude from these texts:
  • Elders or other church leaders had some ruling decision making authority over the other believers.
  • That church leadership models can resemble government or corporation leadership models.
  • Elders would serve a 2 -5 year term after which someone else would take their place.
  • A specific number of elders were required in each community or gathering of believers.
  • That things like baptisms, marriage, and funerals can only be done by elders (or pastors).
  • That watching over, tending, and caring for included any decision making authority for others?
  • That some church leaders should be called Minister, Reverend, Pastor, Priest, Deacon, Archbishop, Cardinal, Pope, etc.

In summary I believe Jesus simply wants his followers to serve each other. The leaders among us are the ones who serve best and model a servant life the rest should follow. Serving can include caring for others, teaching others, going out to unreached people, watching out for others... basically loving everyone in the same way Christ loves us.

However I'm a Simple Minded Man.

I admit my viewpoint seems too simplistic if your view of the church includes buildings, staff, and programs. If church has become more complex than simply people coming together - I agree that you will need to have leaders who manage the organization.

I am not against this. I just want to present a point of view which sees these things as extras. I believe Christ's church does not need to have programs, buildings, or staff. It makes sense that I also don't believe it needs a leadership structure to maintain it.

If your view of the church is simply Christ's body of believers it is easier to see that leadership does not need to be a structure with decision making or authority over others.


Related Posts:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Titles Did Early Church Leaders Use?

I'll summarize my series on leaders/elders/overseers/pastors soon. But first I want to list a bunch of verses that give an idea of the types of titles used by leaders in the early church.

First let's consider what titles Jesus told them not to use.

Matthew 23:8-12 (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.
Jesus was clear he didn't want his followers to be called Rabbi, father, or teacher. Do we think this is an exhaustive list? Do we think Jesus would be OK with His followers using other titles like "King", "Ruler", "Boss", "CEO"? Likely not.

What was Jesus getting at?

How did those leading the way in the early church follow Jesus in their response?

Romans 1:1 (NIV)
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle...."

Romans 16:7 (NIV)
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

1 Corinthians 1:1
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus...

1 Corinthians 3:5
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.

2 Corinthians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

Galatians 1:1
Paul, an apostle

Ephesians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

Ephesians 3:1
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

Philippians 1:1
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

Colossians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

Colossians 1:23
if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

1 Timothy 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

2 Timothy 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus

Titus 1:1
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ

Philemon 1:1
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother

2 Peter 3:15
Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul

Galatians 1:10
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Ephesians 3:7
I became a servant of this gospel

Colossians 1:25
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me

Colossians 4:7
[ Final Greetings ] Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.

Colossians 4:12
Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus,

James 1:1
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

2 Peter 1:1
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

Jude 1:1
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ

Revelation 1:1
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

1 Corinthians 9:19
[ Paul’s Use of His Freedom ] Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

Acts 15:13
When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me.

Acts 21:20
When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.

Colossians 4:9
He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

1 Thessalonians 3:2
We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service

2 Timothy 4:21
Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters.

Hebrews 13:23
I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released.

I think a case could be made for using the following titles for those leading in Christ's church:
  • Apostle (which means sent one)
  • servant
  • slave
  • prisoner
  • brother
  • sister
I think a good case could also be made if someone wants to call an old wise man 'elder'.

As for 'Apostle', it is frequently used for Paul, the first 12 Jesus called, and some less know people like Andronicus and Junia. So I think it would be safe to use as well to refer to someone who is sent out with a message of Christ. The term may have been over spiritualized to mean something else by now. It may be safer to go with a more common English equivalent like 'messenger of Christ' or 'ambassador of Christ'.

Have I missed any?

Do any of these terms come with any decision making authority for others?

By examining the titles used by those in the early church, how can they be an example for us?

Or maybe my list here isn't so much a list of titles, but more a list of words used to describe their characteristics.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pastors in Ephesians 4:11

I want to express a different viewpoint without being judgmental. Is that possible? I think so. But if you don't think so, I'd prefer you read no further. I respect those who hold a traditional view on this, no judgmental feelings aiming your way.

Here is part 7 of a series on leaders/elders/overseers/pastors. Looking at Scripture references typically used to support the traditional models of church leadership. If you haven't read the first 6 posts in this series, here they are. I'd encourage you to first study what Jesus says on the topic of leadership before reading any of these other passages.

Previous Posts in this series:

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his 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. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Verse 11 is the only verse in the New Testament
(in most translations), that uses the term 'Pastors'.

If you want to learn about the office of pastor, Ephesians 4:11 is the verse to look at.

I wanted to include more than verse 11 since the whole passage is a great reminder of how many members of Christ's body function together, with Christ as the head, growing together in Christ's love.

pastors - poimenas - ποιμένας
  • is related to poimenes - ποιμένες which gets translated as shepherds
  • is related to poimēn - ποιμὴν which gets translated as shepherd
  • is related to poimena - ποιμένα which gets translated as shepherd
  • is related to poimenōn - ποιμένων which gets translated as shepherds
  • a shepherd is someone who cares for and feeds a flock

A few initial thoughts:

  • Why don't we translate poimenas in Ephesians 4:11 as shepherd?
  • Jesus is frequently refereed to as the good shepherd and chief shepherd.
  • There is no record of anybody going by the title of pastor or lead pastor until the days of John Calvin in the 1500's.
  • I wonder if Jesus would have added 'Pastor' to his list in Matt 23:8-12 of titles he didn't want his followers using?

Is this passage talking about 5 offices that Christ gave to a select few to build up the body?

Or is it talking about 5 characteristics or gifts that most believers should have in varying degrees?


What if we translated a few more terms into common English:
  • apostles - messengers who are sent out, ambassador
  • prophets - those who speak a message of God
  • evangelists - those who shares the good news
  • pastors/shepherds - those who care for other believers
  • teachers - already translated into common English

Could it be that this is talking about the whole body of Christ? Shouldn't most Christ followers be actively participating in a few of these areas?
Some will be more gifted in some areas than others, and should lead by example so others can grow in that area as well.


The whole passage could be read something like this:

So Christ himself gave some messengers who are sent out, some who speak a message of God, some who share the good news, some who care for other believers, and some who teach, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and...

This passage is about Christ being the head of the body. Many members of the body have different roles to play so that we all Grow up in God's love.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Next post: What titles did leaders in the early church use?

Related Posts:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Deacons and Overseers in 1 Tim 3:1-13

I want to express a different viewpoint without being judgmental. Is that possible? I think so. But if you don't think so, I'd prefer you read no further. I respect those who hold a traditional view on this, no judgmental feelings aiming your way.

Here is part 6 of a series on leaders/elders/overseers/pastors. Looking at Scripture references typically used to support the traditional models of church leadership. If you haven't read the first 5 posts in this series, here they are. I'd encourage you to first study what Jesus says on the topic of leadership before reading any of these other passages.

Previous Posts in this series:


1 Timothy 3:1-13 (NIV)
Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

I want to look at the bold terms and examine their meanings. I'll use http://biblos.com/1_timothy/3-1.htm to help with the Greek.

overseer - ἐπισκοπῆς - episkopēs
  • some translate as bishop
  • the two other times this word is used it gets translated as "visitation" (Luke 19:44, 1 Peter 2:12)
  • The term doesn't need to include any decision making authority for others
  • We don't need to read more into the term than one who visits others, gives oversight, watches out for
(2nd) overseer - ἐπίσκοπον - episkopon
  • We don't need to read more into the term than one who watches out for and cares for others
deacons - Διακόνους - diakonous
  • Waiter or servant
  • From the same family as διάκονος (diakonos) wich gets translated servant in Matthew 20:26 "It shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant."
  • and Matthew 23:11 "But he who is greatest among you will be your servant."
  • and other similar verses.
  • This term does not mean a position or office with decision making authority

(2nd) deacons - διακονείτωσαν - diakoneitōsan
  • to actively serve or wait on tables
  • We don't need to read more into this than to serve and caring for the needs of others

(3rd) deacon - διάκονοι - diakonoi
  • This term gets translated "servant" in all 6 other verses it is used
  • We don't need to read more into this than to serve and caring for the needs of others

Reading this passage through our traditional church lenses we could assume:
  • This passage talks about the qualification for church leaders
  • These overseers or deacons are men who serve the church by ruling or governing it for a limited term
Or we could read it like this:
  • If someone aspires to be one who watches out for others, visits them, and cares for others, this is a noble task. Not just anyone can do this, they must meet or strive for these godly characteristics.
  • In the same way if someone wants to serve others in the body and care for the needs of others they must meet or strive for these godly characteristics.

I suspect this second reading fits better with Jesus' take on leadership.

Related Posts:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Elders and Overseers Appointed in Titus 1:5-9

Here is part 5 of a series on leaders/elders/overseers/pastors. Looking at Scripture references typically used to support the traditional models of church leadership. If you haven't read the first 4 posts in this series, here they are. I'd encourage you to first study what Jesus says on the topic of leadership before reading any of these other passages.

Previous Posts in this series:




Titus 1:5-9 (NIV)
The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

appoint - καταστήσῃς - katastēsēs
  • only occurance of this term
  • could mean: appoint, conduct, make, ordain, or set in order

elders
- πρεσβυτέρους -presbuterous
  • also used in Luke 7:3, Luke 22:52, Acts 4:5, and Acts 6:12 for elders in the Jewish community
  • and used in other places to refer to elders in the new community of believers
  • an adjective here (an office or position title would be a noun)

2nd occurrence of elder isn't in the greek... some translation start verse 6 "if anyone ..."

overseer - ἐπίσκοπον - episkopon
  • This term is used 3 times. Once to refers to Jesus in 1 Pet 2:2.
  • These people are charged with the task of watching out for and caring for others

"Though in some contexts 1985 (epískopos) has been regarded traditionally as a position of authority, in reality the focus is upon the responsibility for caring for others" (L & N, 1, 35.40). http://concordances.org/greek/1985.htm

manages - οἰκονόμον - oikonomon
  • or steward - caring for that which God has asked him to watch over


What I know:
  • Jewish communities had always had elders, and held a place of respect for them in their communities.
  • Crete was one of the predominately non-Jewish places the early church expanded to.
  • Timothy is given the task to appoint, or set in place elders who would have the responsibility for caring for and watching out for others.
  • God is entrusting these men to manage or be stewards of God's household. A noble task to take care of not just earthly treasures, but to take care of God's family.
  • We have a list of godly characteristics that these men should possess or strive toward.

What I don't know:
  • What process were these elders appointed or set in place? Did Timothy know these believers well enough to do the appointing himself, or was his task more to allow each community of believers to set in place the men who were recognized as the older wise men who had this list of characteristics.
  • Were these elders elected or appointed for a specific term. Once they became recognized or appointed as elders did they ever become non-elders before death (or leaving the faith)?
  • Were these elders given some ruling decision making authority?
  • Don't all believers share this responsibility of caring for and watching out for others? Were these older wise men leading by example how the rest should follow?
  • Does Manage mean rule... like the manager of a corporation would? If we consider Jesus take on leadership I think we can conclude that manage does not mean rule here.

What do you think?

If Paul sent Timothy to your non-Jewish community do you think Timothy would get some elders selected? What do you think that process would look like? What roles and responsibilities would they have?

Related Posts:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Overseers in Acts 20:28

Here is part 4 of a series on leaders/elders/overseers/pastors. Looking at Scripture references typically used to support the traditional models of church leadership. (See links below for previous posts.)

I took a 10 month break on this series because I recognized that this topic can come off sounding judgmental and divisive. Yet I think there is some value to posting the rest. As always, I welcome dialog. I don't claim to be the authority on this. And I struggle because I have close friends and family who will see things differently. I still respect who they are and what they believe.

I post with the hope that some will see that my questions with tradition are rooted in questioning if we have really been doing things 'by the book'.

Acts 20:28 (NIV)
"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."

Or Acts 20:28 (YLT)

"Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit made you overseers, to feed the assembly of God that He acquired through His own blood, "

I want to look at the bold terms and examine their meanings. I'll use http://biblos.com/acts/20-28.htm to help with the Greek.

overseers - ἐπισκόπους - episkopous
epískopos (a masculine noun, derived from 1909 /epí, "on/fitting contact," which intensifies 4649 /skopós, "look intently," like at an end-marker concluding a race) – properly, an overseer; a man called by God to literally "keep an eye on" His flock (the Church, the body of Christ), i.e. to provide personalized (first hand) care and protection (note the epi, "on").

"Though in some contexts 1985 (epískopos) has been regarded traditionally as a position of authority, in reality the focus is upon the responsibility for caring for others" (L & N, 1, 35.40).
shepherd - ποιμαίνειν - poimainein
  • A verb, to tend to
  • Not a noun or office title

What I know:
  • Paul was addressing the elders here (who may simply be those recognized as the older wise men in the community of believers).
  • They were told to keep an eye on God's flock, to watch over it
  • They were told to tend to it, and care for others
  • These are things all believers should do. These elders need to be examples of this so the rest can follow.
What I don't know:
  • Were these elders appointed for a short term to govern and manage the affairs of each local assembly, making decisions for an organization or corporation?
  • Does watching over, tending, and caring for include any decision making authority for others?
If we start with what Jesus had to say about leadership, I think the meaning here becomes clearer.

Matt 20:25-28 (NIV)
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— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 23:8-12 (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.

What do you think? Do you think Acts 20:28 supports the traditional office of elder/overseer/pastor? Am I missing something?

Previous Posts in this series:

Related Posts:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kingdom like a Net


The Parable of the Net (Matt 13:47 - 50 HCSB)

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea. It collected every kind [of fish], and when it was full, they dragged it ashore, sat down, and gathered the good [fish] into containers, but threw out the worthless ones. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out, separate the evil people from the righteous, and throw them into the blazing furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom. The secrets of the kingdom of God have been given to us (Matthew 13:11). Jesus came to share this kingdom message (Luke 4:43). So I'm examining different passages related to this kingdom message.

So here we have a large net that represents the kingdom of God.

It seems there may be good fish and bad fish in this net during the present era of the kingdom of God.

There are likely some people that appear to be part of the reign of God now, but are really citizens of another kingdom. Who or what is truly ruling other people's hearts? It is hard for us to judge.

They may be sick or diseased fish, or even dead rotten fish, but they are still in the net.

It is not the job of the good fish to get rid of the bad fish.

At the end of the ages, the angels will collect the good fish, and dispose of the bad fish. There is no value in keeping rotten fish around forever.

This parable seems parallel to the Kingdom and Weeds parable in Matt 13:24-29.

What does this parable mean to you?

Related Posts

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

End Of Religion

Was Jesus of Nazareth an irreligious agitator? Was his message more radical than we’ve been led to believe? I recently read "End Of Religion" by Bruxy Cavey (A teaching pastor and fellow Canadian eh?).

I'd like to share a few of the things I highlighted as I read it. I welcome any feedback.

"The Jesus described in the Bible never uses the word religion to refer to what he came to establish, nor does he invite people to join a particular institution or organization. When he speaks of "church", he is talking about people who gather in his name, not the structure they meet in or the organization they belong to (see Matthew 18:15-20). And when he talks about connecting with God, he consistently speaks not of religion but of "faith" (Luke 7:50; John 3:14-16). Jesus never commands his followers to embrace detailed creeds or codes of conduct, and he never instructs his followers to participate in exhaustive religious rituals. His life's work was about undoing the knots that bound people to ritual and empty tradition."
I don't want to sound judgmental to my brothers and sisters. I truly can not see the heart motivation behind stuff others do. I'm just thinking through the implication of this.

First... do you agree with the above quote? Do you think Bruxy is off track here?

Most Christians wouldn't say you have to be part of a particular institution or organization to connect with God. But isn't it usually highly recommended? Invitations to join a church and come to church are common. Why don't we see Jesus making such invitations?

Most Christians would agree that faith is what saves. Yes, faith in Jesus. However isn't it common that soon following this faith comes a push to accept detailed creeds and/or codes of conduct. Did we get this idea from Jesus, or is this our religious nature?

What about rituals, and empty tradition? The reformation did a good job freeing us from a lot of that. But is there more?


Related Posts:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Did Jesus Come to Start a New Religion

Did Jesus come to put an end to religion? Or to simply start a new one?

I'd love to hear your thoughts?

I guess to answer that we need to define religion, so I'll pick this one from dictionary.reference.com:

Religion:
  • a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

I think a key point is "a set of beliefs". Who defines the set of beliefs that everyone else must agree to if they want in?

Think about how Jesus interacted with the religious folks of His day.

Do we think Jesus wanted to simply change the religion they had?

Do we think Jesus wanted to set up a new religion to replace it?

Any evidence Jesus wanted His followers to create and follow
  • a new set of beliefs
  • new ritual observances
  • new moral codes
As we look back at history, can we learn anything from the failures of religious devotion of the past?

Is there a difference between the Christian Religion and a relationship with Jesus?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.