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, July 25, 2011

Divided Kingdom



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.



First let me tell you a story.

Mary believed in Jesus, and felt the call to serve the poor. She spent many hours serving in a soup kitchen downtown. She cared for the outcasts and less fortunate. She built relationships with many of them, and would often be seen praying with them for their needs. She couldn't fix all their problems, but she knew that God loved these people and could provide for their needs. She gave of her time and resources to partner with God in His work.

However Mary had been tricked and mislead early on by some bad influences. You see, she grew up in a Christian tradition that had a lot of really bad theology. They believed stuff about God and His church that simply were not true. She followed the teachings of some religious leaders that had a strong influence in her life and beliefs. Mary was one of them, and would usually support and teach the same things she had been taught.

Some other Christians heard of Mary's work with the soup kitchen downtown. They knew she claimed to be a Christian. But they also knew about her bad religious background. They knew they couldn't support her, and whenever they got the chance they would find ways to discredit her and her religious background. It was obvious to them that they were not on the same team.


Can you see a parallel between my story and Matt 12:25 - 30 (NIV)?
Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

(Parallel passages in Mark 3:24 and Luke 11:17.)

If you see God at work, then the kingdom of God is present.

IF you need to figure out if someone is following Jesus or not. (Big IF here. In many cases I don't think we need to figure it out with certainty). Look first for the fruit of the Spirit. Don't just look for wrong beliefs. Look for evidence of the Spirit of God at work. And don't look for perfection, God usually picks imperfect people to work through.

If you think God's kingdom is divided... think again.

There is only one Church. You are either following Christ or you are following something else.

If you find yourself opposing God's work... that's a dangerous place to be.

Take another look at the warning about "blasphemy against the Spirit". In context it seems to be a warning for those who are opposing the Spirit of God working through others.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

My 95 Thesis - Point 13 - Temple Worship


Here's my 13th Point in My 95 Theses. Another topic I'd love to see the church dialog around is our view of special places of worship, special people who lead the worship, and special actions done as worship.

When you look at the Old Testament model it is easy to identify the temple, priests and sacrifices of worship. There are specific holy places, holy people, and holy actions.

When you look at the modern church practices and beliefs it is a bit confusing.

Some may see similarities between the Old Testament Temple and our current Church buildings.

Some may see similarities between the Old Testament Priests and our current clergy who go by a variety of titles (Bishops, Priests, Pastors, Ministers...).

Some may see similarities between the Old Testament sacrifices made for worship and our current practices of worship music (or for others the Eucharist or sacraments).

But lets be clear.

According to the New Testament...

What/who is the temple?
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. " (Acts 17:24 NIV)

"Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?" (1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV)

"you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Pet 2:5 NIV)

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;" (1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV)
"What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16 NIV)
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. " (Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV)

Who are the priests?
"you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
...
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
(1 Pet 2:5,9 NIV)
What are the sacrifices of worship?
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Rom 12:1-2 NIV)

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:15-16 NIV)
These ideas are not new. The protestant reformation included the belief in the priesthood of all believers. Yet I know many people practice a form of Christianity that elevates special buildings, special people, and special worship activities.

I fear there are many who get confused.

Related Posts:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Secrets of the Kingdom Summary




This is a summary post for my series on the secrets of the kingdom. I will add to it as I study this topic further.

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.’"
Matthew 13:11 and Mark 4:11 have similar records.

I don't know why Jesus chose to speak this way. Maybe it's because we all love secrets, and we like to share those secrets with others.

So I'm examining different passages related to this kingdom message. Each of the following brief summaries links to larger posts on each passage. I welcome feedback on any of these posts.

Note: We don't need to be thinking castles and knights etc when we think kingdom of God. Thinking more along the lines of God's reign, rule, authority, and dominion may be helpful.
Change Your Way of Thinking - The message Jesus seemed to share was that the kingdom of God was near or here, and He called people to repent, to change their way of thinking and/or living. (Matt 3:1-2)

Greatest in the Kingdom - We all know who the greatest in kingdom of heaven are right? Jesus shares some weird upside-down thinking on this. What type of people does the kingdom belong to? (Matt 5:3, Matt 5:10, Matt 18:3-4, Matt 19:13-17)

Children of the Kingdom - I'm sorry, but if you want to be a king in the kingdom of God, it seems like there is no room in the kingdom for you. That position has already been filled. Children are welcome. (Mark 10:13-1)

Healing Kingdom - (similar post healing and the kingdom) Divine healing accompanied the message of God's reign, rule and authority. Jesus healed the sick as he preached about the kingdom. His disciples later did the same. When we teach about God's rule and authority, we should expect God's healing powers to be present. This is evidence that God's reign is present. (Matthew 4:23-25, Matt 9:35, Luke 9:1-2, Luke 10:9, Mark 16:15-18, Mark 5).

Kingdom For The Poor - There seems to be a strong connection between the good news of the kingdom of God and the poor. I pray for wisdom in this area. (Matthew 5:3, Luke 6:20, Matthew 11:5, Luke 4:18, Luke 7:22, James 2:5, Matthew 19:23, Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:23-24)

Kingdom Come God's Will Be Done - I am now recognizing that the kingdom of God is not just a distant future reality, but an active kingdom that God wants me to be part of right now. (Matt 6:9-13)

Kingdom or Stuff - Where are the desires of my heart? Kingdom focused or stuff focused? (Matthew 6:28-34)

Kingdom of Doers - To enter the kingdom of heaven you must be a doer. Talking the talk just doesn't cut it. (Matt 7:21 - 23)

Kingdom for all Races - Elements of racism have existed in society and the church from time to time throughout church history. But there is no place for racism in Christ's kingdom. (Matt 8:10-12)

Kingdom Confusion John and Forceful Men - A look at what Jesus may have meant when talking about John the Baptist being great, yet lesser than anyone in the kingdom. Also an explanation regarding the reference to forceful men and the kingdom? (Matthew 11:11-15)

Divided Kingdom (similar post Divided Kingdom Blasphemy) - If you see God at work, then the reign of God is present. If you think God's kingdom is divided... think again. (Matt 12:25 - 30, Mark 3:23-30, Luke 11:17-23).

Receiving the kingdom seed - Not everyone receives the message of the kingdom the same way. Which type of soil are we going to be? (Matt 13:3-9, Matt 13:18 - 23, Mark 4:4-20)

Kingdom and Weeds - The kingdom of heaven is also a present reality. I think this passage has something to say about our lack of ability to judging others. My God is a good judge, I`ll leave that to Him. (Matt 13:24 - 29)

Kingdom grows like a weeds (similar post Viral Kingdom ) - A less than desirable crowd was part of a growth that spread throughout the region and around the world. Many people haven't welcomed the growth, but many have taken shelter in it. (Matt 13:31-32, Mark 4:30 - 32).

Kingdom is like yeast - a similar point as the previous passage. The way the kingdom of heaven spreads in our lives and in the world is similar to how yeast spreads through flour. (Matt 13:33)

Kingdom like treasure - What will you sacrifice to seek this treasure? Your own selfish desires? Your pride? Religion? Wealth? Other? (Matt 13:44)

Kingdom like searching for Pearls - Do we recognize the value of the kingdom of heaven? Are we searching for it? Are we willing to give up all we have for God's reign? (Matt 13:45-46)

Kingdom like a net - There may be good fish and bad fish that seem to be part of the present kingdom of God. It is not the job of the good fish to dispose of the bad fish. (Mat 13:47-50)

Student of Scripture Instructed in the Kingdom - A full spiritual banquet can be prepared by properly mixing something old and something new. (Matt 13:51-52)

Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom - What sort of keys could there be that can open the gates that separate the realm of death with the realm of life? (Matt 16:15-19)

Not Taste Death Until Kingdom - Some of the people listening will see and experience the reign and rule of God in their lives and in the world around them. They will follow Jesus and take up their cross. As a result they will not taste death but find life. (Matt 16:24-28)

Rock Star Christians - Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (Matt 18:1-5)

Kingdom Mercy Pay It Forward - I think Jesus was saying the kingdom of heaven is like pay it forward with forgiveness and mercy. (Matt 18:21-35)

Eunuchs for the Kingdom - some are like eunuchs and won't have divided loyalties in kingdom. Others who can't go without family relations should get married. (Matt 19:8-12)

Asset or Liability in the Kingdom - It seems Jesus is saying that money and possessions are not assets in His kingdom. It seems that money and possessions are more like liabilities in the kingdom of God. (Matt 19:16-30)

That Is Not Fair! - A parable that gives an example how the last will be first, and the first last. (Matthew 20:1 - 16)

Kingdom Without Hierarchy - Hierarchy is common in earthly kingdoms or realms of influence. This kingdom doesn't work that way. It is not about climbing the ladder to gain positions of authority over others. In fact in this upside-down kingdom it is the opposite. (Matthew 20:20 - 28)

Entering the Kingdom of God I find the present tense of this passage interesting. Similar to Luke 16:16 it seems people were already entering this kingdom starting in those days. Living under the reign and rule of God is something that can take place in the present as well. And a few more observations from Matt 21:28 - 32.

Kingdom Taken Away - The religious leaders of Jesus day were given responsibility, and the task to produce fruit for the master.  But they claimed the kingdom as their own. Now a different type of people are given the responsibility of caring for the kingdom and producing fruit for the master. (Matt 21:33-46)

Invitation To Kingdom Banquet - It seems everyone is invited.  There were some who were first on the invitation list, but similar to the previous parable in Matt 21:33-46 we see the offer of the Kingdom is taken away and given to others.

Woe To You - if you shut the door of the kingdom for others. This is only 1 of 7 "woe to you" points as Jesus goes on a little rant towards the religious leaders of His day.

Playdough Scripture Matt 24:14 - And the gospel of ____ will be preached in the whole world.... (Matt 24:14)

Parable of the Ten Virgins - mentions kingdom "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins", but sorry I didn't make many firm conclusion on this one. (Matt 25:1-13)

Blood Covenant and Kingdom - This passage seems to be of a future time and place of God's rule. It also talks about a commitment or promise made. (Matt 26:27-29)

Kingdom Good News - Did Jesus preach the gospel? What was the good news that Jesus preached? (Mark 1:14 - 15)

Kingdom Of God Coming With Power - Have you experienced times in your own life where God's power felt near, and His reign felt close? (Mark 9:1)

Kingdom Like Seed Growing - We have a tendency to try to plan and control the service that we feel God leading us into. But we don't need to do all the work. (Mark 4:26-29)

What must I do to gain eternal life? "If God asked me to give it all up would I?  Do I trust God more than I trust my wealth?  To what degree am I OK with letting God alone reign in my life?"  These are questions of faith. Mark 10:17 - 27

More to come...

I pray for wisdom. I suspect if we seek God for clarity He will give us enough answers as needed as we study the kingdom secrets further.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kingdom Confusion John and Forceful Men


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.

Some of these kingdom passages are hard to understand. This is one of them. Let's take a look. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you think Jesus' was saying here.


Matthew 11:11-15 (NIV)
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
The first confusing piece. What is Jesus saying about John the Baptist? He seems to say John the Baptist is the greatest man to ever live. Yet he says the least in the kingdom is greater than him.

Does this mean John the Baptist isn't in the kingdom of Heaven? If John the Baptist is in the kingdom of Heaven, and he is the greatest man to ever live, how can others in the kingdom be greater than him?

Or is Jesus simply re-emphasizing the upside down nature of the kingdom. Is he saying, yes John is great... but don't forget that in the kingdom the first is last, and the greatest is the one who serves.

The second confusing piece of this passage is in vs 12. What's with this forceful stuff???

(NIV)

"From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it."

(YLT)

'And, from the days of John the Baptist till now, the reign of the heavens doth suffer violence, and violent men do take it by force,

Parallel passage in Luke 16:16

(NIV)

"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.

(YLT)

“the law and the prophets are till John; since then the reign of God is proclaimed good news, and every one doth press into it;"


Are some bad guys forcing their way in, and trying to overthrow the kingdom? I don't think this makes sense with the context.
I need some help with the Greek to make sense of these verses

http://biblos.com/matthew/11-12.htm
http://biblos.com/luke/16-16.htm

suffer violence - βίαζομαι - biazó (in both verses)

properly, to use power to forcibly seize, laying hold of something with positive aggressiveness. 971 /biázō ("to advance forcefully") is only used twice in the NT (both times positively).
According to google translate βίαζομαι has a modern definition of 'hurry'

violent men- βιασταὶ - biastai

a forceful, violent man; one who is eager in pursuit.

Jesus may have been making a connection with this passage in Michah 2:12-13 (NIV):

“I will surely gather all of you, Jacob;
I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.
I will bring them together like sheep in a pen,
like a flock in its pasture;
the place will throng with people.
The One who breaks open the way will go up before them;
they will break through the gate and go out. Their King will pass through before them,
the LORD at their head.”
Imagine a wall that sheep are kept behind. A shepherd will breaks a hole in the wall and lead the sheep to green pastures.

Just imagine a flock of sheep breaking through that narrow opening in the wall.

That may be the picture Jesus is referencing here. Sheep following the Shepherd, breaking through into the kingdom. Starting with the days of John the Baptist sheep have been breaking free from the law in a hurry to enter the kingdom.

I'm in. Are you?

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