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, December 25, 2011

Poll: Holy Days True or False

We have just gone through one of the biggest holidays (Holy Days) recognized by our culture.

I'd like to know if you think it is more of a Holy Day than the rest?

Is there something different about the Christmas season that can not be replicated on other days the rest of the year?

What about other Holy Days like Easter? Or like Sundays or the Sabath?

I've been wondering what most people think on this. I'm not 100% sure myself. Does the New Testament command us to observe certain Holy Days? I'd like to know if I'm missing something.

This Christmas season I've observed that people seem to behave a little different at this time of year. It is mostly a good thing. Most people are a little extra friendly, wishing people Merry Christmas. People are seeking Joy and Peace. There is an extra emphasis on charity and giving to others. And people seem more open to Jesus. All good things.

The extra shopping, greed and gluttony may not be great... but the good may outweigh the bad. :)

But I've been wondering if Dec 25th is really a God sanctified Holy Day? Has God set this day aside to be something special?

Romans 14:5 confirms to me that I'm OK believing every day is a Holy Day. That every day can be one where God's presence is real and active in our lives, and we can respond to Him with worship/love. We should get together with other believers as often as we can to build each other up to become more like Christ.

Is this similar to the shift we see in the New Testament where we see there is no longer special temples where we must go to worship God (John 4:19-24, Acts 17:24, 1 Cor 3:16, 1 Pet 2:5, 1 Cor 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16, Eph 2:19-22). God wants His worshipers to worship in Spirit and truth, everywhere and all the time.

But I'd love to hear from you. Please answer this survey question, and leave comments if you feel you want to explain your answer.






Thanks!

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holidays and Holy Days

"One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind." Rom 14:5 (HCSB)

The word holiday has it's roots with the words Holy Days. It's the idea that certain days are set aside because of some special religious significance.

I think the above verse is fitting for our Christian culture of today. There is a lot of religious focus around the date Dec 25th. I think most Christian's know that this date is not likely the actual date of Jesus' birth, but they want to have a special day set aside to celebrate the significance of our Lord's coming.

However there are other Christians who are concerned that a lot of what happens around Christmas comes from pagan roots, and that a lot also comes from current commercial greed.

Then I consider other Holy Days.

Much of Easter can be traced back to pagan origins.

Sunday as the day the church gathers has links to Sun worship of the pagans.

Paul in Romans 14 was talking about a debate over eating certain types of food. I think what he says has some valuable advice for us regarding holidays or Holy Days. If you struggle with this issue, please read the whole chapter. Here are two more bits:

Rom 14:10-11 (HCSB)
"But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord..."

Rom 14:22-23 (HCSB)
"Do you have a conviction? Keep it to yourself before God. The man who does not condemn himself by what he approves is blessed. But whoever doubts stands condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from a conviction, and everything that is not from a conviction is sin."

I take from this chapter:

  • I may not view certain days as Holy and others as not. To me every day is equally Holy.
  • Other brothers and sisters see things differently, and it is not my job to judge.
  • I see value in each person studying the topics, seeking God, and deciding for themselves what is right.
  • But what is right for you, may not be right for me, so let's keep cool about it either way.


Related Posts:

Alan Knox's post Replay: Jesus is the Reason… for our lack of unity? got me on this topic this morning.



Friday, December 23, 2011

Why a Christmas Tree?


Why do you have a Christmas tree inside your house?

I have an odd sense of humor. This one gets me chuckling at people. I think we are a funny lot. I think it's pretty random that at this time of year people put a fair bit of energy into getting either an evergreen tree, or a fake thing that looks like an evergreen tree and place it in a prominent place in their home.

Why a tree?

Why not a shepherds rod?

A simple stick could be placed in the center of our living room as a memory of the shepherds the good news was shared with. This could remind us that simple folk can also share the good news with others.

We could celebrate by dancing around the pole... OK, I digress.

Why not a feeding trough?

We could decorate a feeding trough with fake hay, and fake animal feed. This could remind us of the upside down nature of the kingdom of God. How our Majestic God chose a humble and dirty place for His coming to earth.

A feeding trough could also have a second meaning, symbolizing how we tend to act like gluttonous pigs during this season. No, maybe we don't want to celebrate our gluttony. I digress again....

Do we know why we put up a tree?

There may be a few origins to this tradition. I'll share a few findings I've come across. There may be many more.

Many Pagan cultures used to cut boughs of evergreen trees in December, move them into the home or temple, and decorate them. Modern-day Pagans still do. This was to recognize the winter solstice -- the time of the year that had the shortest daylight hours, and longest night of the year. This occurs annually sometime between DEC-20 to 23; most often, it is DEC-21. As the solstice approached, they noticed that the days were gradually getting shorter; many feared that the sun would eventually disappear forever, and everyone would freeze. But, even though deciduous trees, bushes, and crops died or hibernated for the winter, the evergreen trees remained green. They seemed to have magical powers that enabled them to withstand the rigors of winter.
http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_tree.htm
Or this account of Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt:

"The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt. In Egypt it was the palm tree; in Rome it was the fir; the palm-tree denoting the Pagan Messiah, as Baal-Tamar, the fir referring to him as Baal-Berith. The mother of Adonis, the Sun-God and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have been changed into a tree, and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son. If the mother was a tree, the son must have been recognized as ‘Man the Branch.’ And this entirely accounts for putting the Yule Log into the fire on Christmas Eve and the appearance of the Christmas tree the next morning. As Zero-Ashta, ‘The seed of the woman,’ ...he has to enter the fire on ‘Mother night,’ that he may be born the next day out of it, as the ‘Branch of God,’ or the Tree that brings divine gifts to men."
http://www.carnaval.com/saturnalia/

Later on in the 1500's

According to the first documented uses of a Christmas tree in Estonia, in 1441, 1442, and 1514, the Brotherhood of Blackheads erected a tree for the holidays in their brotherhood house in Reval (now Tallinn). At the last night of the celebrations leading up to the holidays, the tree was taken to the Town Hall Square where the members of the brotherhood danced around it.[9] In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow wrote of an established tradition of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_tree

Oh, that sounds like fun. This year I'll dance around our Christmas tree, then set it on fire! That will make a great family memories video.... :)

Here is another account, linking it to a feast day of Adam and Eve:
The main prop of a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve was a fir tree hung with apples (paradise tree) representing the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up a paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. They hung wafers on it (symbolizing the host, the Christian sign of redemption); in a later tradition, the wafers were replaced by cookies of various shapes. Candles, too, were often added as the symbol of Christ. In the same room, during the Christmas season, was the Christmas pyramid, a triangular construction of wood, with shelves to hold Christmas figurines, decorated with evergreens, candles, and a star. By the 16th century, the Christmas pyramid and paradise tree had merged, becoming the Christmas tree.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_tree

I just stumbled across this verse that isn't typically part of our Christmas readings. It seems related to an early pagan festival with a decorated tree:
"This is what the LORD says: Do not learn the way of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them, for the customs of the peoples are worthless.
Someone cuts down a tree from the forest; it is worked by the hands of a craftsman with a chisel. He decorates it with silver and gold. It is fastened with hammer and nails, so it won’t totter." Jeremiah 10:2-4 (HCSB)

I'll include a link here: http://www.cogwriter.com/christmas.htm to some interesting quotes from Tertullian (one of the leading 2nd/3rd century church writers). He seemed to be against participating in the pagan winter celebrations.

We do have a (fake) Christmas tree up in our home. I'm not at a place where I'm zealous about getting rid of Christmas trees. I mostly just think it's funny how we all have them without thinking about why we have them.

Kinda like many other traditions we have in life and church life.

If you have a Christmas tree in your home, do you know why you have it? I'd love to hear more stories.


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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When Will I Shut UP?


If you are wondering when I'm going to get off my soap-box blog...

I sometimes wonder if I will run out of stuff to say...

We'll see. If the trend of this graph continues... It looks like I'll go back to being quiet in about 2 years.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gospel in Christmas Narrative

In the timeline of Jesus, the first occurrence of the gospel shows up in Luke with an Angel speaking to some shepherds:

Luke 2:10 - 11 (HCSB)

"But the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David."
The Greek that gets translated "I proclaim to you good news" here is euangelizomai, which is related to euaggelizó: to announce good news. Euaggelizó gets translated as preaching the gospel in other New Testament verses.

So shouldn't we start with this first occurrence to determine what the gospel is?

The angels are declaring that Jesus has come. That the Messiah, a Savior, the Lord had arrived. This is good news for all people.

But wait, I just found an earlier occurrence of the term for gospel in the New Testament. Gabriel speaking to Zechariah in Luke 1:19 has the term euangelisasthai which also gets translated as gospel elsewhere. Here the good news is about the birth of John the baptist. It was good news, but should we conclude this is the gospel that we are to share with the world as followers of Christ?

Do you see where I am going with this? There are many verses in the Bible that have the term gospel, or good news. 1 Cor 15:1 is one verse that often gets used as a proof text for a certain emphasis on the good news message.

I recognize that there are many good news messages in Scripture. However will you consider exploring with me the good news message that Jesus and His disciples preached?

Yes Jesus did preach the gospel.

And He taught His disciples to do the same.

The first 4 books of our New Testament are known as the gospels, and have a lot to say on the topic. They are a great place to start. What do you think the gospel is according to the gospels?

By the way... I think the Angels did a great job introducing us to the gospel that Jesus came to share.

(And by the way #2: the whole of 1 Cor 15 fits well within the gospel Jesus preached, likely a future post. I don't see it as two different gospel messages.)


Related Posts:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Would Jesus Celebrate Christmas



What Would Jesus Do this Christmas?
Maybe a silly question. I'm really not sure.

How did Jesus celebrate the day he was born?

He likely cried, ate, slept, and ____ like most babies do.

How did Jesus celebrate the rest of his birthdays?

From what I've read the Jews of Jesus' day did not celebrate birthdays.

What about the early church? Did they celebrate birthdays?

Not according to Origen of Alexandria (c. 185 - 254 AD).

Origen had evidently some similar thought before him when he insists that "of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below" (Origen, "in Levit.", "Horn. VIII", in Migne P.G., XII, 495).
http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Natal_Day

It seems for the first couple of centuries of the early church birthday celebrations were a thing for sinners.

So I think it is safe to conclude Christmas was not celebrated by Jesus or even the early church.

How should we celebrate Christmas?

Since we can't follow Jesus or the early church on this one, what should we do? We could boycott Christmas all together... that would be odd wouldn't be?

Or we can chose to find ways to honor and worship our Lord Jesus, even on a day set aside with an overload of crazy traditions.

Shopping, gifts, Scripture reading, hospitality, trees, candles, baking, turkey, lights, tinsel, singing, snowmen, chocolate, nuts, acts of charity, santa, elves, reindeer...

Consider which traditions are worth making your own. And like the other 364 days of the year worship God and share God's love with others.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I'm not that kind of Christian

Alan Knox got me thinking this morning with a recent post called What Kind of Christian Are You?

Well I agree with Alan on this one. But my goal isn't to become like Alan. Sorry Alan :)

I'm not that kind of Christian.

I grew up a preacher's kid. Baptist and interdenominational.

If you have any preconceived ideas about what kind of person that creates... you may be right in some areas and wrong in others.

But please don't assume I'm that kind of Christian.

I attended Providence Bible College for 2 years before going to University. I wanted to have a firm foundation in my faith before going out into the 'secular' work force.

If you have any preconceived ideas about what kind of person that makes me ... you may be right in some areas and wrong in others.

But please don't assume I'm that kind of Christian.

Most Sunday's you will find me attending a Christian and Missionary Alliance Sunday morning service. My closest friends are part of this community of believers.

But please don't assume I'm that kind of Christian.

I have had open dialog with Christians from various denominations. I have made an effort to attend a number of different Sunday morning services: Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, United, Baptist, Mennonite, Pentecostal. I have respect and love for what I've seen in believers of all types.

But please don't assume I'm that kind of Christian.

I have been influenced recently by books by N. T. Wright, Wayne Jacobsen, Tony and Felicity Dale, Frank Viola. I have been influenced by blog writers like Alan Knox, Miguel Labrador, Jeremy Meyers, Eric Carpenter, Rachel Evans, ... (danger with starting a list like this is I will miss some - sorry).

But please don't assume I'm like all the other Emergent, Organic, Simple, liberal Christians you've heard bad things about.

My goal is not to become like these other Christians.

We often have people into our home. We pray these times are an encouragement to others in their walk to become more like Christ. I see people teaching each other stuff about their faith in God. Usually more of an informal type of teaching. Does that mean we have an house church, or a small group bible study? No.

I'm not that kind of Christian.

My theology doesn't line up well with Reformed theology. But if you conclude that I don't like to fellowship with those with Reformed theology, you are wrong. I just happen to enjoy dialoging and working through some of these topics. I don't judge people based on their theology.

I'm not that kind of Christian.

Every denomination has some traditions that to me seem to over complicate or divide Christ's church. But that doesn't mean I don't love my brothers and sisters who love their traditions.

I'm not that kind of Christian.

If you have a foul mouth, dirty mind, and like to enjoy more pleasures this world offers than I do. Please feel comfortable being yourself around me. Don't assume I am judging you.

I'm not that kind of Christian.

Please don't try to label me and judge me by my background, my theology, who influences me, or what traditions I hold or discard.

I will try not to judge you by your background, your theology, who influences you, or what traditions you hold or discard. I know I am not the judge. I see little benefit in attempting to be the judge on these matters.

I guess if you want to know who I am, you'll have to get to know me.

(But I don't expect everyone on the planet will feel the need or urge to get to know me - and that is OK.)

If you claim Christ as Lord, and our paths cross... Our task is not to judge, build walls, and divide. Our task is to build each other up to become more like Christ.

Related Posts:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom

Part three of Matt 16:15-19. Working through passages dealing with the topic of the kingdom, I come to this passage which is too complex to deal with in one post.

Part 1: On What Rock
Part 2: I Will Build My Church
Part 3: Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom

Matt 16:15-19 (NIV)

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 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. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Gates of Hades?

To understand what Gates of Hades could mean we should look at other passages that use a similar phrase. Job 17:16, Job 38:17, Psalm 9:13, Psalm 107:18, and Isaiah 38:10 make reference to the gates of death. It seems they refer to points where someone nears the passage from life to death.

Hades was the ancient Greek God of the underworld, but the term was commonly used to refer to the abode of the dead. Here in Acts 2:27 speaking about Jesus, 'realm of the dead' is the same term translated as Hades elsewhere.

Acts 2:27 (NIV)
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay.
Here is another verse that speaks of keys related to death and Hades.
Rev 1:18 (NIV)
I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven?

I'm going to make a leap that the keys in this verse should go with the gates in the previous sentence. I know there are other ways to read this passage, but this seems to make the most sense to me.

When Jesus spoke about the kingdom of heaven, he was typically speaking about the reign and rule of God - the kingdom of light - the way of life. The kingdom of heaven has a present reality, as well as a future phase.

What sort of keys could there be that can open the gates that separate the realm of death with the realm of life?

Jesus is the keys. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life...

Jesus is the way to defeat and/or resist the powers of darkness, and live under the powers of life.

Bound in heaven?


The HCSB translation may do a better job on vs 19.
Matthew 16:19 (HCSB)
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven."
Peter isn't so much deciding what will be bound, and what will be loosed. The stuff that is already bound and loosed in heaven, that is the stuff Peter is binding and releasing here on earth.

In some mysterious way, Peter played a role in participating in the work that God in heaven had set in motion. We also are in a sense God's hands and feet as we work for the kingdom of God.

I know there are other ways to view this passage. I welcome your thoughts on this.


Related Posts:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Will Build My Church

Part two of Matt 16:15-19. Working through passages dealing with the topic of the kingdom, I come to this passage which is too complex to deal with in one post.

Part 1: On What Rock
Part 2: I Will Build My Church
Part 3: Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom

Matt 16:15-19 (NIV)

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 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. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Church?

One of only two passages that record Jesus using the term church (ekklēsia). I've recently studied what Jesus had to say about Church. Here are some summary 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.
  • Jesus didn't focus much on the topic of church. Maybe as followers of Christ we should also be more focused on the Kingdom than we are on Church.
  • 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 other passage we may have a simple definition of church according to Jesus. Simply where two or three are gathered in His name.
First Post: On What Rock
Next Post: Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On What Rock

Here is the next passage in my series on on the Secrets of the Kingdom. It is a complex passage, so I think I'll break it into a few parts.

Part 1: On What Rock
Part 2: I Will Build My Church
Part 3: Gates of Hades and Keys of the Kingdom

Matt 16:15-19 (NIV)

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 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. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
What rock is Jesus building His church on?

Jesus Gave Simon the nickname 'Peter' or Pétros which means a stone (pebble), such as a small rock found along a pathway. Something that can be thrown.
http://concordances.org/greek/4074.htm

There is a second term for rock here. The one which Jesus will build His church is Pétra which means a cliff or large immovable rock.

Jesus is playing with two different words for rock. He is referring to Simon Peter as his nickname 'pebble' (Pétros), and stating he will build His church on an immovable rock (Pétra).

Who is the rock, and who is the pebble?

1 Cor 10:4 uses the same term Pétra for rock to refer to Jesus.

A number of verses refer to Jesus as the cornerstone.

So I'm not sure. I'm not a Greek scholar, but Jesus may be saying here that the solid rock which He will build His church on is:
  • Jesus himself
  • (or) the previous statement Peter made which stated that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
I used to believe this was saying Peter was the foundation rock, but now that I see we are talking about two different types of rocks, it may be worth balancing this verse with the rest of Scripture.

How do you read this passage? Do you believe the church was built upon Simon Peter?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Which Tent Post Is The Cross?


I see the cross in a different light than many Evangelicals.
But is the cross important to me? Absolutely, Yes!
I've previously posted 10 reasons why I'm not a fan of Penal Subtitutionary Attonment (actually 11 reasons). I also don't see the cross as the central part of the gospel message that Jesus or His disciples preached (see Gospel in the Gospels - Summary - 6 part series).


But picture for a moment a tent. What kind of tent would I have if I only used one pole and one peg to support it? There may be one, two or four central posts - depending on the type of tent. But most stable tents have more than one post.

For me the cross may not be the central post, but it is certainly an essential post.

I admit the cross has some mystery to me, but I find a good place to start is understanding what Jesus had to say about the cross.

Matt 16:24-26 (NIV)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew records Jesus saying something similar in Matt 10:38-39, and Mark 8:34-38, and Luke 9:23-27. There is something to this passage that the gospel writers agreed was important.

So what could Jesus be asking of us here? In what way are we to follow Jesus' example of taking up the cross? By taking up our cross is Jesus asking us to pay the price for our sins like he did on the cross... no, I don't think so.

Christ's example for us on the cross is how he defeated sin for us. I think he is asking us to follow His example of defeating sin, putting sin to death. By rejecting the rule of selfishness, and accepting the reign of God, we can find life in Christ. We must denying our own selfish ways and allow God to rule in our hearts and lives.

This tent post gives good support to the good news of the reign of God that Jesus and His disciples preached.

Another verse that speaks to our selfish ways being put to death:

Gal 5:24 (NIV)
"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires."
Jesus took our sins to the cross, so we can also put our selfish ways to death and live for Him.

1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."

All of Romans 6 has helped me understand the cross better. Here are two snippets:

Rom 6:11 (NIV)
"In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

Romans 6:9-11 (NIV)
"For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

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