Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kingdom grows like a weed



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.



Matt 13:31-32 (NIV)

"He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Was Jesus making a contrast to the cedars of Lebanon and/or other large trees that were talked about in Ezek 17:22-24, 31:5-6; Dan 4:10-12; and Ps 104:10-17? These other passages spoke of grand and majestic trees that had large branches to shelter the birds of the air and other honorable animals.

What point is Jesus making when he tells a similar tale but with a mustard seed? The mustard seed was known to spread like a weed. It was against the law to plant it in a garden, because once it started to grow there was no stopping it. It would continue to spread whether you wanted it to or not.

Consider the type of people that were most likely to enter this Kingdom of Heaven. The wealthy and the religious folks seemed to be opposed to Jesus and His message. The good news of the Kingdom of God seemed to spread most quickly amongst the poor, the underdogs, the outcasts, and the less fortunate.

This less than desirable crowd were 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.

What do you think?

Is the kingdom of God still growing? Are people welcoming or opposing the reign of God in our lives and world?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Two Types of Worship Service

A few years ago I got to be part of two different types of worship services in Paris.

First I was fortunate enough to be at the Notre Dame de Paris for a Sunday morning service. I was encouraged to be part of a worship service that gave me a connection with believers from past centuries.

After leaving Notre Dame, I walked alone along the banks of the river. I found a little park nearby to eat some food I had bought. As I was eating I noticed an old man nearby who looked like he was in need of some food. I felt God wanted me to share some of my food with him, so I did. A few moments later I noticed someone else walk up to the same man and share some more food with him.

Was this a different type of worship service?

Romans 12 starts out talking about true and proper 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. " (NIV)
Romans 12 then goes on talking about how as a body we each have different parts to play (making clear divine truths, serving, encouraging, giving, teaching, leading, showing mercy...) . Above all we are called to love others. I suspect the whole of Romans 12 helps define what true and proper worship looks like.

So in my mind, what happened in the park by the river behind Notre Dame was just as much 'worship service' as what took place inside.

Serving others should be done as an act of worship.

What do you think?

What does the word 'worship' mean to you?

What does the word 'service' mean to you?

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't Look - The Pastor Has No Clothes

No picture for this one, and sorry if this sounds slightly offensive.

I always felt sorry for the Emperor in the story of Emperor's New Clothes. It wasn't really his fault that he was walking around naked. Everybody just kept on lying to him and saying that they loved his new clothing. Poor guy didn't know that he was slightly under-dressed.

Anyways, there is a new book out there called The Pastor Has No Clothes. I haven't read it, and I'm not sure I need to. But just wanted to share this link. Read the description for more info:
http://amzn.com/0982744641 (paperback)
http://amzn.com/B005GL93OM (Kindle Edition)

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jesus on Church


Jesus actually didn't seem to talk much about church. Consider that the gospel writers recorded over 100 verses where Jesus talked about the Kingdom. The term church (ekklēsia) only shows up in two verses in the gospels.




Matt 16:18 (NIV)

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.
Matt 18:15-20 (NIV)
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 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.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

The gospel writers Mark, Luke, and John do not record Jesus talking at all about church/ekklesia.

The Greek word Jesus used in the Matthew that we translate as church was ekklesia. This word was not created by Jesus or Christianity. It had a understood meaning in Jesus' days.
"The ecclesia or ekklesia[1] (Greek: ἐκκλησία) was the principal assembly of the democracy of ancient Athens during its "Golden Age" (480–404 BCE). It was the popular assembly, opened to all male citizens over the age of 18 by Solon in 594 BC meaning that all classes of citizens in Athens were able to participate, even the thetes. The ekklesia opened the doors for all citizens, regardless of class, to nominate and vote for magistrates—indirectly voting for the Areopagus—have the final decision on legislation, war and peace, and have the right to call magistrates to account after their year of office."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecclesia_ancient_Athens

Some 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.
  • What do you think about the picture I selected for this post? When we picture 'church' do we usually visualize it differently than what Jesus was referring to?
  • Jesus didn't focus much on the topic of church. Maybe as followers of Christ we should be more focused on the Kingdom than we are on Church. In my mind there is some overlap between the terms. But maybe we should focus less on attending church, starting churches, building churches, structuring churches, planning for churches, setting church vision, promoting church, etc. ??
  • 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 second passage we may have a simple definition of church according to Jesus. Simply where two or three are gathered in His name.
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Solo Christo Copyright Infringement

Taking another look at the points of contention during the Protestant Reformation. One of the points of the reformation was Solus Christus or Solo Christo ("Christ alone" or "through Christ alone").

Solus Christus is the teaching that Christ is the only mediator between God and man, and that there is salvation through no other.

This position was taken to contrast what reformers were seeing in the Catholic church of the time. They were rejecting the idea that they had to go through the Pope or a Priest to be at peace with God.

So what to Catholics believe today?
"480 Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in the unity of his divine person; for this reason he is the one and only mediator between God and men."
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1J.HTM
Or read this article: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10118a.htm

So do protestants still need to protest this one?

Yes, they still have priests and the pope, but most Protestant churches also have Pastors and denominational presidents and boards which may play similar roles. There is a tendency to view the Pastor as the authority, leader or head of a local church. Denomination government structures may also step in to give additional authority and control. Is this really that different today than what we see in the Catholic Church?

So today there is another movement that I think has a similar call to that of the reformers.

Copyright infringement?

Is it OK for this new movement to insist that Christ alone is the head of the church?

Can we join with the reformers and say "Solo Christo!"?


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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kingdom and Weeds



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.


The Parable of the Weeds (Matt 13:24 - 29 NIV)

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
The term for weeds here is thought to be a plant that looks very similar to wheat in its early stages. Roman Law prohibited sowing darnel among the wheat of an enemy. This is likely the imaginary Jesus was getting the crowd to visualize.

The Parable of the Weeds Explained (Matt 13:36-43 NIV)
Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Some thoughts:
  • This passage supports the idea that the kingdom of heaven is also a present reality. The good seed represents people in the kingdom of God, living side by side with people living in the kingdom of darkness.
  • At the end of the age those who are under the reign of God will go on to live with their Father.
  • At the end of the age those who are living under the reign of darkness will have an end similar to weeds burning in a furnace. Note this passage does not give support to an eternal conscious torment in Hell. Weeds burn in a fire and are destroyed forever, but they don`t burn forever. This passage sometimes gets used to support the traditional view of Hell, but it does not speak about the length of the torment. This passage on it`s own does not say how long the weeping and gnashing of teeth will last. It may be that the end result for these evil doers is death, perishing, or destruction. But yes, I am off topic. The weeds will get what they deserve... what that will exactly look like is a separate hot topic.
  • The servants in this parable are not able to safely separate the weeds from the wheat. I think this means we are not capable of judging all who are children of God`s kingdom and those who are not. It`s likely not our task to determine who is in and who is out. If you come across Christians who try to make such conclusions beware of the danger that they will likely be wrong in many of their conclusions and much harm can be done to the kingdom.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

This is Discipling

This is Discipling from The Foursquare Church on Vimeo.



What would it look like if, as leaders, we focused less on the things that make our churches entertaining and more on making disciples? As shown by Kelly Tshibaka at Foursquare Connection 2011.

Exciting to see the church rethink its mission.

Is our task primarily to go and bring people to church?

Is our task primarily to go and build the church?

Or is it to go and make disciples?

What does that look like?

Can we leave the task of building the church to God?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Playdough Scripture John 10:16


"I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one many flocks and one many shepherds (pastors)."

John 10:16 (Playdough Version)


What do you think?

Is there one church or many churches?

Pastor means shepherd. Is there one pastor or many pastors?

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Receiving the kingdom seed



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.

Matt 13:3-9 (NIV)

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Matt 13:18 - 23 (NIV)

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."

(Parallel passage in Luke 8)

I don't know why Jesus chose to speak in parables, and why the secrets of the kingdom were not written down in the form of a creed or catechism... but it is keeping my interest.

So what secrets can I discover here?

  • Not everyone receives the message of the kingdom the same way.
  • Some don't understand it, and the kingdom does not even germinate in their lives.
  • For others the message is received but it has no lasting impact because they are not prepared for hardships that come.
  • For others the message is received, but there is no life changing impact. They get distracted by stuff in this world and the kingdom is not evident in their lives.
  • Others receive the message of the kingdom, the kingdom took root in their lives, and it was evident by the fruit it produced.

I won't try to guess why different people receive the message of the kingdom well and others don't. I don't know how much is our responsibility, and how much is God's grace. And I'm guessing that wasn't the point and I don't need to understand that right now.

But it is interesting that Jesus explains what the different types of responses are? Which type of soil are we going to be?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dave Black on Pastors

I appreciate this article on the topic of Pastors by Dave Black (Professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary).

http://www.daveblackonline.com/pastors_as_shepherds.htm

Here are a few quotes, but I'd encourage you to read the whole article if you are interested in the topic of Pastors in the New Testament Church.

"If we are honest, we must confess that the tradition of a solitary “pastor” is a gigantic obstacle to the participatory dimension of body life found in the New Testament (see 1 Cor. 14). There are at least 58 commands in the New Testament detailing our “one-another” responsibilities but not one command about the pastor taking upon his shoulders the whole weight of the order and edification of the church."

...

"Let us realize, then, that the New Testament knows nothing of a “pastoral office” as traditionally conceived, nor is there any evidence to support the idea of one professional minister leading a congregation. In Eph. 4:11, for example, Paul mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, but one would be hard-pressed to identify a New Testament “pastor” by name. The New Testament calls Paul an “apostle,” Agabus a “prophet,” Philip an “evangelist,” Manean a “teacher,” but it never identifies anyone as a “pastor.” "

...

"Christian shepherds, may the Chief Shepherd help you to tend the sheep in humility and love!"


Shepherding or caring for God's flock is a good and necessary thing. So I don't have a problem with the fact that some people take this task seriously. I think the problem is that the majority of the church thinks this is a job description for a specially trained minority. But caring for others is the responsibility of every believer. Yes, some will be more gifted than others, and those that serve well in this area should lead as examples for the rest of the body to follow. And we must encourage all our brothers and sisters to primarily follow our Chief Shepherd/Lead Pastor Jesus.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

If You Have All The Answers

If you have all the answers.

And you know that someone else doesn't.

Make sure you understand that love is the answer.

If you need to call someone a heretic or false teacher... or if you need to call a group a cult...

Please do so with love.

Otherwise it seems you are at risk of not being a true child of God:

1 John 3:10 (NIV)

"This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister."
1 John 2:9 (NIV)
"Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness."

1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. "
And this lines up with Jesus' words in John 13:34-35 (NIV):
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


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