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, February 28, 2011

Paul's deConversion

I was encouraged to read Jeremy's deConversion story here:

My deConversion story hasn't been as extreme. I haven't been shunned much yet, and haven't lost any employment. Yet I have taken a step away from some past religious traditions. I know my viewpoints are no longer considered safe by some. I used to fit well with the church crowd. Now I'm a bit outside the box.

I see a parallel with Jeremy's story, my story, and with Paul’s deConversion story:

Phil 3:4-11 (NIV)

“though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”

Paul was a good religious guy. He fit in well with all the religious folks in his day. He did everything they expected. He was well respected.

But Paul Continues:

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Jeremy gives advice to those who find themselves going through a deConversion from religion process:
"Though it feels like they are being ripped away from all they know about God and what He wants us to do, the end result will be a relationship with Him that does not depend on an approved list of behaviors and beliefs. Instead, they can simply enjoy a relationship with God just as they would any other person."

I'm with Jeremy and Paul on this. All the work meeting the expectations of religion I now consider rubbish compared to knowing Christ.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kingdom For The Poor

Continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom.

There seems to be a connection between the good news of the kingdom of God and the poor.

Matthew 5:3 (NIV)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 6:20 (NIV)
Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Matthew 11:5 (NIV)
"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."
Luke 4:18 (NIV)
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,"
Luke 7:22 (NIV)
So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: 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.
James 2:5 (NIV)
"Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?"

But God? What about us who are rich? Do you have good news for us too? Can we inherit the kingdom too?

Matthew 19:23 (NIV)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 19:24 (NIV)
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Mark 10:23-24 (NIV)
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

I have struggled with these passages for awhile now. I don't have any easy answers yet. I struggle not because I'm wealthy by North American standards. But I am aware there are billions of people with much less.

As we share the good news of the kingdom, is it a message of good news to the poor?

Related Posts:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Healing Kingdom

Continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom.

There seems to be a connection between the good news of the kingdom of God and healing.

Matthew 4:23-25 (NIV)
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
Matt 9:35 (NIV)
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.
Luke 9:1-2 (NIV)
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Luke 10:9 (NIV)
Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
Divine healing accompanied the message of God's kingdom. Jesus healed the sick as he preached about the kingdom. His disciples later did the same.

According to Mark 16, healing the sick is a sign that accompanies those who believe.

Mark 16:15-18 (NIV)
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
When we teach about God's kingdom, we should expect God's healing powers to be present.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kingdom Secrets

I've started a bit of a series on the secrets of the kingdom. .)

By no means am I the expert. I welcome any feedback and discussion. The topic of the kingdom of God is a topic I am growing to love. It was a central topic to Jesus, so I suspect it is worth exploring.

Matthew 13:11 (NIV)
He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them."
Mark 4:11 (NIV)
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"
Luke 8:10 (NIV)
He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’"

Doesn't this just make you want to know what these secrets are? When we know someone has been telling a secret to others, we naturally want in on it.

I pray for wisdom. I suspect if we seek God for clarity He will give us enough answers as needed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Lord's Supper Then and Now

Dave Black wrote a review of a book dealing with how we celebrate the Lord's Supper. Thanks Alan Knox for reviewing Dave's review.

I've recently been asking myself why I don't celebrate the Lord's supper as a celebration feast.

I frequently feast together with other believers. Sometimes we even share bread, (but rarely wine).

I also participate in large gatherings where we soberly consider our sinfulness and quietly thank God for his grace toward us.

Somehow this second activity gets called the Lord's Supper, and the first one doesn't.

I've joked a few times with believers when we've gathered around a meal and shared bread that it was kind of like the Lord's Supper. But everyone knows I'm nuts, so they just smile and the awkward moment passes.

Dave Black also considers Howard Marshall's findings:
I. Howard Marshall, Professor Emeritus of New Testament at the University of Aberdeen, writing in 1980, summarizes the biblical teaching about the Lord’s Supper. Among his conclusions are the following:
  1. The Supper should be celebrated frequently, if possible each Lord’s Day.
  2. There is no New Testament evidence that would require “ordination” to administer the elements.
  3. Since the Lord’s Supper is a meal, the appropriate setting for it is a table, not an altar.
  4. The New Testament envisages the use of one loaf and a common cup.

I'm not sure if anything else is missing (except a shared cup - which may not go over well in our culture). But I don't know how to make it real.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Change Your Way of Thinking

Matt 3:1-2 (NIV)
"In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Matt 4:17 (NIV)
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Mark 1:15 (NIV)
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
What is the meaning of these verses? What does the announcement of a kingdom have to do with repentance? Was Jesus preaching to "say sorry for your sins so you can go to heaven?"

Helps Word Study gives:
Repent - μετανοεῖτε - metanoeite
3340 metanoéō (from 3326 /metá, "changed after being with" and 3539 /noiéō, "think") – properly, "think differently after," "after a change of mind"; to repent (literally, "think differently afterwards").

I'm not sure if I've used the word repent very often outside of the context of saying sorry for something. But I think it really could be used like this:
  • Repent! Come over to my place for dinner tonight!
  • Repent! Coke (cola) is it!
  • Have you seen the new GMC Acadia? Change your way of thinking. (repent!) Buy domestic!
  • Waiter: Are you sure you don't want desert? Look at this picture, change your mind (repent), it is tasty.
I think Jesus was asking people to change their way of thinking. The kingdom of God is near!

I also want to highlight the context of Matt 4:17. Here are the verses that lead up to the "From that time on...":

Matt 4:14-16 (NIV)
to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”
Another example of the contrast between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. Think differently. God's kingdom of light is near! This is good news!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ideal Church Size

I just wanted to put my thoughts together on the ideal 'church' size.

(Clarification on how I view the term church: There is only one Church. One family of God. We assemble in smaller gatherings which are typically considered separate local churches.)

No matter what size of a building a 'church' group is meeting in, if it is a health community it will grow. Church growth should be the desire of every believer. However when it grows to a size where it no longer fits the building there is a problem. Especially in colder climates where you really need enclosed buildings to meet in comfort.

I see a few options.

Typical wealthy church option:

Build a bigger building. As the gathering grows these buildings cost millions of dollars and can take decades to pay off. This option may seem normal in some areas of the world, but obviously can't be the solution for all gatherings of the Church worldwide.

If we look at the New Testament we see church growth, yet there is no mention of building programs. I do see a New Testament focus on giving money to the poor. I am afraid these multi-million dollar buildings project distract us from some other needs.

Multiple gatherings in one location:

If the group already has a dedicated facility another option is often having multiple gathering times in the same building. Many churches have 2 or three Sunday morning services in the same building at different times. A case could be made for the validity of a Saturday gathering as well. Or a gathering on any day of the week. One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. (Rom 14:5)

In a sense a split of the community does occur. Not that one group doesn't still love and respect the others, but they just don't gather together as frequently as before.

Each smaller group may need to downsize their expectations of the programs the gathering provides as well. If nobody feels called to teach 'Sunday School' on Saturday night, families can be together. We sometimes assume all this extra stuff is needed.. Sunday School, worship bands, ushers, sound, video... but it is not. Two different gatherings don't need to be double the work for anyone.

Multiple Locations:

Consider how your 'church' was birthed. Someone from another 'church' likely planted it. It is common practice to have 'church planters' leave one gathering and go start something new in a new community. They start with a small gathering in small buildings or homes.

So if your church has grown as the result of this past step of faith. Maybe it's time to consider repeating the process somewhere else.

Vision Outside the Box:

Everyone prays and hopes for the church to have impact in their neighborhood and around the world. Some communities dream this will take shape with thousands of believers gathering in one large building every Sunday morning.

Another dream could be many gatherings in different homes. Instead of one gathering of 1000, you could dream of 40 gatherings of 25. Both would have impact in the community in different ways. The original community could be seen as a sort of a missions sending network. Kind of like how you view the organization or group that planted your church in the first place.

Why do we gather?

People have different expectations and reasons for gathering with other believers. For me it is about fellowship, community, and connecting with part of my spiritual family. I believe mutual edification is a great reason to gather. Scripture not only teaches it, but it also gives examples of how the early church built each other up when they gathered. I think this Alan Knox does a good job exploring this: http://www.alanknox.net/2011/01/mutual-edification-and-the-church-conclusion/

Large gatherings offer many good things, but for me I find mutual edification works better in smaller groups.

There is my 2 cents worth on the topic of ideal church size.

Related Posts:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Greatest in the Kingdom

We all know who the greatest in kingdom of heaven is right?
  • Those who study the truths of Scripture the most
  • Those who read the most Christian books
  • Those who spend the most time at Church meetings
  • Those who are role models in the community
  • The ones who give the most
  • The ones who lead the most
  • The ones whose lives appear to have it all together
  • Writers of popular Christian books
  • Popular Christian musicians
  • Successful Christian leaders
Just think for a moment about the characteristics we promote in Christianity. Who else should be on this list?

Then consider what Jesus says here:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:3 NIV)

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:10 NIV)

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 18:3-4 NIV)

All I can say is Jesus has some weird upside-down concepts for His kingdom.