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, June 27, 2011

Early Church Financial Statement Discovered


In a rare archaeological find, what is believed to be the oldest record of a church financial statement has been found. Someone who made his home available for the church to assemble seems to have kept track of all the income and expenses that were collected and distributed.


(Some of you skeptics will notice it is odd that this was done in English. He must have been speaking writing in tongues.)

From what we know about the early church is there anything else suspect about this document. Is anything missing?

Do we think the early church needed a budget or financial statement?

Does Christ's church currently need a budget?

Related Posts:






Thursday, June 23, 2011

Who says we are divided?

If Alan gets to add two posts to this chain blog on the topic of unity, maybe I can too. If I'm not allowed I will become very divisive and start my own chain blog all by myself. :)

Who gets to decide if Christ's Church is divided?

It seems like a simple enough question. But it is a question I have never really considered before.

Do church leaders present and past get to decide if we are one church, or 30,000+ churches?

To unite the church, does every bishop, priest, pastor and theologian have to agree to some new ecumenical statement? Who gets to decide that it's time to put an end to the divisions that have been created over the past centuries.

If the church is made up of institutions and organizations, then church unity will occur when these institutions and organizations merge into one.

If the church is simply people, then maybe church unity can exist whenever people recognize that the church is one. The meaning of the word church (ekklēsía) has changed since New Testament times. When I talk about the church I want to keep in mind that the church is the people - the body of Christ, the family of God. So when I think of church unity, I should be thinking unity between people - not primarily unity between organizations.

Maybe it isn't just up to the leaders of church institutions to decide if we are united.

Maybe we can look to Scripture, and let Scripture be the authority on the question. Does Scripture support the concept of one church, or the concept of many denominations?

So I have a challenge for you.

You don't have to be a church leader to unite the church.

No, I'll rephrase.

You can be a leader in Christ's church by recognizing that Christ's church is united. As you take the lead, I pray that others will follow.

To take the challenge simply be open to building deeper relationships with other followers of Jesus who may have some different beliefs and traditions than you. Take a look and see if you can recognize God's love in their lives. See if you can fellowship with them and build each other up to become more like Christ.

Try to leave divisive topics until later. After you've built a strong relationship, you may be able to handle these discussions better, or you may conclude you don't ever need to discuss them.

You don't need to wait for all the institutions to work towards unity. It may not be up to them to decide this one.

Ephesians 4:2-6 (NIV)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
It is up to each of us to live this truth out.

Related Posts:

—————————————————-

Chain blog rules:

1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.

2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain”. Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog.

3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

—————————————————-

“Links” in this chain blog:

1. “Chain Blog: Dealing with Divisive Issues Introduction” by Alan
2. “Chain Blog: Dealing with divisive issues starts with love” by Arthur
3. “I am divisive” by Jeremy
4. “Chain Blog: Please agree with me” by Jon
5. “Division and our shared humanity” by Andy
6. “Chain Blog: solving the problem” by Bobby
7. “Divisiveness: Acts 2 & Ugly Carpet” by fallenpastor
8. “Stimulating our Collective Memory” by Trista
9. “No, we can’t just get along” by Alan
10. "Who says we are divided?" by Jon
11. “Disunity and the mind of Christ” by Fred

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Clarification: What is essential?

OK. My wife has given me some feedback on my previous post. So I'll add more to try to clarify.

I'm sorry if my post came across to simplistic. As if the only thing we need to agree on is love and unity. I believe love and unity are essentials that are often overlooked. But they are not the only essentials. There are many things all Christ followers do agree on. And many things we disagree about.

So to clarify my point, allow me to ask a bigger question:

What is essential to being a Christ follower?

How about some of theses (in no particular order):

1) Agree that Jesus is Lord
2) Agree that Jesus is God
3) Agree that Jesus became a man
4) Agree that Jesus saves
5) Live a life full of God's Love
6) Live in unity with God's family
7) Live guided by the Holy Spirit
8) Make other disciples of Jesus
9) Pray to God/Jesus
10) Care for the poor


Or these easy ones:

10) Agree that God is all powerful
11) Agree that Luke wrote Acts
12) Agree that Adam was a man
13) Agree that Noah built an Ark
14) Agree that God knows all things

Are some of these essentials?

15) Agree that we should never pray to saints
16) Agree that salvation is by faith alone
17) Agree that Christians should never smoke, drink or dance or hang out with those who do.
18) Agree that KJV is the best translation
19) The gospel that we should be preaching is the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus and His disciples preached
20) The Trin­ity
21) Agree that God loves sinners
22) Agree that God will torture sinners for eternity in a conscious state.
23) Agree that believers should attend a weekly service under the leadership of an ordained minister.
24) Agree that TULIP sums up the gospel.
25) Agree that NT believers should give a tithe to a local church.
26) Agree that infants should be baptized


How can we determine what is an essential?

If something is clearly truth (from my point of view), can I simply claim it is an essential and conclude those who disagree with me are not really saved. I'm pretty sure I'll never find anyone who agrees with me on everything.

What if someone doesn't value unity or love.... I am certain those are essentials... what do I do?

I suspect the ones that are simple, the ones that have massive Scriptural support, are likely the ones that are essential.

Or is it less about agreeing to a list of beliefs, and more about following our Lord?

Maybe I don't need to know with certainty who all is in and who is out?

Thoughts? Do you think I've missed any big essentials? Is it dangerous to make such a list?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chain Blog: Please Agree With Me


I just had to join this chain blog.

Please you must agree with me.

If you are a follower of Jesus you must agree that unity is essential. (click link for some verses you must agree with).

You must agree that love is essential. (click link for some verses you must agree with).

There are a bunch of other things I'm sure we agree on. (See Clarification post: What is essential?)

And I'm sure there are a bunch of topics I'm sure we disagree about.

I agree that you will disagree with me on lots of stuff. But please agree with me that love and unity are essentials to following Jesus.

Before we start our next debate, let's pause first and recognize that we share a bond of unity, based on God's love for us. God's presence in our lives is made visible by the love we have for God and each other... even when we disagree about some other stuff.Are factions/divisions/denominations/labels building up or tearing apart Christ's church?

Have we elevated some issues that could be non-essentials to a point higher than our call to unity and love?

Have we emphasized agreement to our understanding of complex truths more than emphasizing the simple truths of love and unity?


----------------------------------

Hopefully, those questions will inspire someone to write the next post in this chain blog.

So, how does it work?

First, feel free to comment on this post as normal. You can leave any comment that you’d like.

However, if you want to write the next post in this chain blog (that is, the next “link” in the “chain” of posts), then be the first to leave a comment on this post saying that you want to write the next post. (If someone else has already claimed the next post, then simply wait to comment on that next post and say that you want to write the one following that. Okay?)

Then, the person who asks to write the next “link” in the “chain” should write a post in the next few days and leave a comment here with a link when that post has been published.

While comments and discussion can continue on this post, the chain will then jump to that next post and we will continue as I explained above. Hopefully, it will become clearer as we move forward.

If you write a post for the chain blog, you can title your post whatever you wan to call it. I simply ask that you include the rules of the chain blog (below) and a list of all the previous “links” in the chain blog.

So, here are rules in a format that is easy to copy and include in your posts:

—————————————————-

Chain blog rules:


1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.

2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain”. Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog.

3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

—————————————————-

“Links” in this chain blog:

1. “Chain Blog: Dealing with Divisive Issues Introduction” by Alan
2. “Chain Blog: Dealing with divisive issues starts with love” by Arthur
3. “I am divisive” by Jeremy
4. “Chain Blog: Please agree with me” by Jon
5. “Division and our shared humanity” by Andy
6. “Chain Blog: solving the problem” by Bobby
7. “Divisiveness: Acts 2 & Ugly Carpet” by fallenpastor
8. “Stimulating our Collective Memory” by Trista
9. “No, we can’t just get along” by Alan
10. "Who says we are divided?" by Jon

Friday, June 17, 2011

Let nothing be done without the bishop


This quote is from Ignatius of Antioch, the 3rd bishop of Antioch. Antioch was possibly the first city to form a monarchical episcopacy, where there was a single bishop at the top of a hierarchy of other church leaders.

Chapter VIII.—Let nothing be done without the bishop.

See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.

See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as those that carry out [through their office] the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as where Christ is, there does all the heavenly host stand by, waiting upon Him as the Chief Captain of the Lord’s might, and the Governor of every intelligent nature. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize, or to offer, or to present sacrifice, or to celebrate a love-feast. But that which seems good to him, is also well-pleasing to God, that everything ye do may be secure and valid.

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.v.vii.viii.html

Is this the source of what the modern 'church' still follows?

Can any believer baptize another? Can any believer host a love feast (if we knew what one was)?

We may not have a bishop... but have we transferred this leadership model to someone else?

So is Ignatius the one we want to follow on this?

Does this line up with anything Jesus or His disciples taught?

What did Jesus have to say about hierarchy?

Matt 23:8-12 (NIV):
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, 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 instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Similarly Luke 22:24-27 (NIV)
Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.


Related Posts:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Church Etymology


It is common for the meaning of words to change over time. For example not long ago "make the Yuletide gay" meant something different than it does now. Supposedly Awful used to mean ‘full of awe’. Tell used to mean count, as in "bank teller".

Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.


Here are some different meanings for the word church.
  1. a family of believers
  2. a family gathering (of believers)
  3. a building for public Christian worship
  4. a religious service
  5. a religious institution or organization
Here are some of the ways we use the word today. I've tried to match each sentence to the meaning I think is being used.

  • I believe in separation of church and state. (#5)
  • I didn't see you at church yesterday? (#4)
  • What time is church? (#4)
  • Bob and Mary became recently became members of our church. (#5)
  • Do you want to go to the park after church? (#4)
  • I'll pick you up at the church parking lot. (#3)
  • There are many opportunities to serve in our church. (#5)
  • We live across from the church on main street near the river. (#3)
  • They wanted to be married in a church. (#3)
  • The United Church has a different attitude towards homosexuality than the Baptist Church. (#5)
  • Mary sang a solo at church. (#4)
Let me know if you think my number matching is inaccurate. Sometimes there could be a bit of overlap between meanings.

I'd like to do the same matching with occurrences of the word church in Scripture (NIV):
Matthew 16:18 "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." (#1)

Matthew 18:17 "If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." (#1 or #2)

Acts 5:11 "Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events." (#1)

Acts 8:1 "And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria." (#1)

Acts 8:3 "But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison." (#1)

Acts 9:31 "Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers." (#1)

Acts 11:22 "News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch." (#1)

Acts 11:26 "and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." (#2)

When we see the word church in the new testament it comes from Greek ekklesia :

ekklēsía(from 1537 /ek, "out from and to" and 2564 /kaléō, "to call") – properly, people called out from the world and to God, theoutcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.
http://strongsnumbers.com/greek/1577.htm
The word ekklesia sometimes also referred to an assembly, it was used when referring to the beginnings of democracy.

The meanings of words do change. There is nothing I can do about that.

However I think the church (people) should understand that whenever it uses the word church to refer to something other than people they are using a definition that is foreign to the New Testament.

When I talk about the church I want to keep in mind that the church is the people - the body of Christ, the family of God.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Love Feast


I've been doing some reading about the love feast, or agape feast that the early church practiced. It seems the consensus is it was a full meal held on a regular basis. Those who had food would bring it, and everybody would eat. It seems the meal included breaking of bread to celebrate the Eucharist.

It is likely that the early church continued in this way naturally because this is the way Jesus and His disciples had lived. We think of the two records of Jesus feeding thousands in a miraculous way. But we also see the the disciples eating together in other passages as well.

Then of course there is the Last Supper, or Lord's Supper. "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”" Matt 26:26 (NIV). They were sharing a meal together.

Eating together was a regular part of early church life:

"Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts," (Acts 2:46 NIV)
Jude 12 may be the only reference to the love feast by that name: "These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves." (NIV)

1 Corinthians 11:20-34 is a popular passage for describing the Lord's Supper. The context also gives a gimps of some problems that occurred during these shared meals.
"So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. "
Some were being greedy and eating and drinking more than their share. This was completely contrary to the point of these love feasts.

This 1 Corinthians 11:20-34 passage also shows us that the Eucharist, or Lord's supper was a part of a full meal.

Acts 20:7 - 11 is another passage to consider:
On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left." (NIV)
We don't know if preaching or teaching in a formal way was a regular part of these meals. Here is a situation where the church is gathered around the breaking of bread, and Paul uses the opportunity to speak. This may not have been the norm as it is the only record of someone falling asleep during such a time. :) I can imagine however that the early church would have frequently used the meal times as an opportunity to teach one another - even if it wasn't with long prepared speeches. Meals with friends and families are always great opportunities for great conversations.

The Didache (50-120 A.D) also mentions this common shared meal. There is a section about the Eucharist/Lord's Supper/Communion. Following the Eucharist are instructions about a thanksgiving prayer to give after the meal. ”But after you are filled, give thanks this way: ...."

It seems clear that the early church met by celebrating this love feast on a regular basis. The church today meets regularly, but with a different sort of main gathering.

Is there any reasons why we should not follow this example today?

Is there something better about the way we do things now? What sorts of things are we missing out on?

Some extra sources:
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape_feast
  • http://www.scrollpublishing.com/store/LoveFeast.html
  • http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T3930
  • http://www.piney.com/AgapeBrit1911.html
Related Posts:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

It is more blessed to give than to receive


Jeremy Myers (a former paid pastor) makes an interesting observation about the famous quote "It is more blessed to give than to receive". My intent with this isn't just to critique current practices, and contrast them to what is modeled in Scripture. My prayer is that I'll be responsive to God's leading where and when He wants me to give.Add Image

Part of Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian Elders Acts 20:33-35 (NIV)

I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

Does the context say something about this quote?

Is this passage encouraging people to give to Christian leaders, Christian organizations, church staff, programs or building projects?

Or is this passage encouraging Christian leaders to give to others?

It is more blessed to give than to receive. I believe the quote is true. It makes sense that Jesus would say this to His disciples. He asked His followers to serve others sacrificially. Those leading by example (like Paul) are good examples for us all to follow.


Related Posts:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Playdough Scripture 1 John 4:7-8



"Dear friends, let us love teach one another a biblical worldview, for love all truth comes from God. Everyone who loves understands the truth has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love understand truth does not know God, because God is love truth. "

1 John 4:7-8 (Playdough Version)

What is essential?

Having all truth figured out?

Or having God's love?

When someone is new to the faith, what sorts of things do we encourage them to do to grow?

Are these things geared toward gaining an understanding of God's truths, or geared toward growing in God's love?

When we gather, what sorts of activities do we do that build on what is most important to us?

Related Posts: