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, 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.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reformation Day Brings More Reforming

This Monday is Reformation day. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis. Issues he wanted the church to dialog about.

There was a lot of talk, but unfortunately not a lot of healthy dialog.

However, one of the positive results was how the Bible came to be viewed. The Bible became available to the masses, it was translated into the languages of everyday people, and regular people began to read the Bible for themselves.

The Holy Scriptures and how they were interpreted used to be solely controlled by the clergy. Now the Scriptures were free for everyone to use.

I'm recognizing the guts it must have taken for Martin Luther and others to go against the flow of the established church.

Approximately 500 years later many Christians are talking about another reformation that is taking place.

A large part of this new reformation is the desire to place the church body back under the headship of Jesus Christ alone. For the most part the Reformation retained the structure and hierarchy created by the Catholic Church. The new denominations and state run churches severed their ties with Rome, but replaced Rome's authority with other governance organizations and/or individuals.

So the reformation of the 1500's gave the Bible back to the body. This new movement can be seen as giving the body back to our Lord.

Personally I'm not sure the work of the Reformation has finished. There are still more family issues to sort out. Like Martin Luther, my desire is not to create divisions, but to dialog and encourage my brothers and sisters to consider looking past some of our traditions and seeking God's will for us. I'm doing my part by posting my 95 thesis, stuff I'd love to see the church dialog around:

http://jonjourney.blogspot.com/2010/01/my-95-thesis.html

The Reformation put the Scriptures into your hands. I encourage you to study these Scriptures for yourself. Seek the Holy Spirit, and wisdom from respected brothers and sisters. I pray all can be done in love.

I'd love to hear what God is saying to you. God is still at work. God bless!

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Small Is Big



I've been procrastinating on writing a review of Small Is Big (originally published as The Rabbit and the Elephant) by Tony Dale, Felicity Dale and George Barna. The problem with this book is there are so many parts to it that I find encouraging. I don't know if a short summary will do justice. I'd like to say "I like this part", and then quote the whole book, but that may break some copyright rules.

If I were to write a short summary of this book, this is a thought that kept coming to me as I read it:

"This is a record of somebody who is actually living the way I've been thinking lately."

I enjoyed reading their personal stories of their involvement in simple relational church life. I found it encouraging to read stories that had a familiar resemblance to what we find in the New Testament. Tony and Filicity have numerous first hand accounts where the living spirit of Jesus has made an impact on the lives of others and resulted in groups of people following Jesus together. They are actively making disciples of Jesus, building them up, and sending them out to make more disciples.

Unfortunately these stories are too many and too long to include in a blog post here. So you'll have to get your own copy of their book if you want to be encouraged by these stories. (and/or follow their blog here)

I will share a couple of sound bites of what they have learned along the way:

"The phenomenon that is occurring in front of our eyes is a rebirthing of the church - God is taking an event-based institution and re-forming it so that it is becoming life - and relationship-based.".


"The Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus was very focused on His Father's Kingdom, speaking about it more than any other subject. The Gospels include more than a hundred references to the word Kingdom. Jesus preached about it (Luke 4:43) and told people to seek it above all else (Matthew 6:33). He told parables about it (Matthew 13; 25) and said that the Kingdom was near to people who were healed (Luke 10:9)"


"This Kingdom of God is an upside-down kingdom. It takes the world's values and exposes them for what they are: hollow and superficial. And then it sets its own standards: up is down, death leads to life, law is transformed by grace, the poor are rich, leaders serve, and the humble are exalted."

"Liquid church happens when we stop inviting others to come to church and instead we go out into every sphere of society as the Lord leads. We reach out to our neighbors or our coworkers, and instead of asking them to come to church, we get together with those people right where they live or work. In this way segments of society that might never have experienced church life are affected by the Kingdom of God"

"Jesus is far more interested in our hearts than He is in our pursuit of correct doctrine or the right church structure. All who know Jesus as Lord are the body of Christ, no matter which spiritual family they may belong to (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). "

"Non-religious Christianity.... This kind of spiritual life cannot be put into a box or placed on an agenda. It cannot be programmed or reduced to a curriculum. As Wolfgang Simson likes to say "Programs are what the church resorts to when the Holy Spirit leaves."

"One of the biggest paradigm shifts within the simple church reformation is the understanding that when we are following the Holy Spirit, there is little need for organization and no neeed for hierarchical control. Ordinary people can be entrusted with the affairs of the church, and since Jesus is head of the church, we need to be willing to risk letting the Holy Spirit direct things as He wills."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Did Jesus preach the gospel?


Sharing the gospel is a top priority to many Evangelical Christians. They feel a deep urgency to share the good news message with others, with the hopes that some will accept the gospel. Of course this is a good thing. We should all go out into the world and share the good news of Jesus with others.

But could we pause for a moment and take a look at Jesus.

Did Jesus preach the gospel?

Do we think Jesus frequently preached a gospel message like this?

  • You are a sinner
  • God is holy and can not have sin in His presence
  • Jesus paid the debt for your sins
  • Just believe and you will go to heaven when you die
Do we think Jesus preached this from town to town?

Do we think his disciples preached this from town to town?

Do we think the early church preached this from town to town?

My apologies if I've missed or misquoted the gospel message you are familiar with. Everyone seems to have a slightly different version. One problem I see with this type of gospel presentation is that it requires a fair bit of proof-texting. I suspect if this was the gospel presentation made by anyone in the early church, we would find the whole presentation in a number of passages. We would not have to cut and paste verses from different books, mixed together with our own summary, to give the gospel presentation.

What we do find is Jesus preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.

You can not read the gospels without noticing how often the topic of the kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven is on the lips of Jesus. Matt 4:23, Matt 9:35, Matt 24:14, Luke 4:43, Luke 16:16 are a few that link the word 'gospel' with this kingdom message. We also find his disciples were sent out preaching the same message (Matt 10:5-8, Luke 9:1-2, Luke 10:9) . We have 4 books call the 'gospels' that have a lot to say about the good news message Jesus and His disciples preached. Paul and the other New Testament writers continued with the same message and themes.

Following are some links to my attempt to piece together what the gospel was according to Jesus, starting with what is recorded in the gospels. I'd encourage you to do your own study too. I welcome any feedback. I'm certain I don't have it all figured out, but I'm on a journey of changing my way of thinking, that the reign of God is near (Mark 1:15):

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kingdom like searching for Pearls


Matt 13:45-46 (HCSB)

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it."
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.

This short parable in Matt 13:45-46 is very similar to the previous one in Matt 13:44.

Here we have a merchant, a businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others, in order to earn a profit. This merchant was searching for fine pearls, something precious and of great worth. When he found one, he recognized it was a deal of a lifetime. He recognized that it was worth giving up all that he had to acquire this pearl.

A version of the parable also appears in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas:
Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself. So also with you, seek his treasure that is unfailing, that is enduring, where no moth comes to eat and no worm destroys."
— Gospel of Thomas 76, Patterson/Meyer translation
Some thoughts:
  • Are we searching for the kingdom of heaven in our daily lives. Are we seeking heaven's rule, God's ways, God's will.
  • Do we recognize the value of the kingdom of heaven, the reign of God?
  • What are we willing to give up as we discover God's way?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Playdough Scripture 2 Thessalonians 2:15


"Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, either by our message or by our letter by your favorite denominations or movements of the past 2000 years."
2 Thessalonians 2:15 (Playdough Version)



This playdough scripture was triggered by Eric's post today: Some Traditions Really Are Helpful.


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Sunday, October 9, 2011

I am the pizza of life





What Would Jesus Do today? What if the standard meal wasn't boring bread?

Sorry if this seems sacrilegious. Sorry if it offends you.

I want to encourage you to think of who Jesus is beyond the religious traditions you may be used to.

What was He really asking of us here? How should we respond? What was this about?


I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pass the Potatoes for Communion

1 Cor 10:16-17 (NIV)
"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf."
What is communion? For my tradition one type of communion is where some crackers or wafers are shared together with some grape juice. Just a little nibble of a bread like substance, and a little sip of a wine like substance.

Communion also speaks of our relationship with one another.

Of course the communion or Lord's supper practice has a deeper meaning that goes along with this strange custom. We remember Christ's body that was sacrificed for us. We remember that we are part of His living body today. It is usually a quiet solemn time of repentance and prayer.

The early church followed Jesus' command and example of coming together and breaking bread together as a time to remember Jesus. It seems it was usually a full meal, and was often called a love feast.

Why Bread? Well bread was the standard food of substance for that culture. Jesus is the bread of life. He is what sustains and gives life to His followers.

So what if Jesus had come to some Asian culture? Would he have shared rice with his followers instead?

What if he came to one of our homes on Thanskgiving weekend? (This weekend for us Canadians eh?) Would Jesus have made a connection between sharing potatoes and turkey as a way to remember our shared life together, and all that He has shared with us?

What do you think? Have we created some religious symbols and traditions but lost some of the context? In what ways do we participate in the body of Christ as we eat together?

When we gather around a meal with potatoes, can we remember Christ's body? Can we remember His body sacrificed for us? Can we remember that we are now all members of His living body and participating together for His work and His kingdom?

What do you think? Am I being too sacrilegious?

What did Jesus really mean with this activity (recorded in 1 Cor 11:23 - 26), and what did he really want us to do to remember him?

I'd love you hear your thoughts.

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Kingdom Like Treasure


Matt 13:44 (HCSB)

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field."

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.

I like this short little parable in Matt 13:44. I think it is an easier one to understand.

The Kingdom of heaven is of greatest worth. It is like a treasure found that a man gives up all he has to acquire it. It is worth giving up everything for.

Seek first the kingdom of God. Are you seeking to live under the reign of God?

To me there is something neat about the line "buried in a field". It's been there all along, but I feel I'm recently discovering it.

Paul tells a similar story of giving up what he had to follow Christ's Lordship. Paul was an upright religious man who had it all together in the eyes of people in his day. Phil 3:6-10 (HCSB)

"as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ —the righteousness from God based on faith. [My goal] is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, "
Paul sacrifices a lot. He sacrificed his position and status in society as a devout religious man. He ends up going through many sufferings and persecutions as a result of opposition with the religious folks of his day. But he rejoices that he has given up so much, because he has found Christ. Knowing and following Jesus is the treasure Paul is seeking.

What are some things you may need to give up if you seek to follow the reign of God?
  • Your own selfish desires?
  • Your pride?
  • Religion?
  • Wealth?
  • Other?

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