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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jesus Has Left The Building

I stumbled across a book titled  Jesus Has Left The Building.  The author Paul Vieira is from the same city as I. We haven't met face to face yet, but we'll have to get together soon.  Paul is now offering the book as a free pdf download at the link above.  I'll share a few quotes here:

"The ancient and original version of Christianity that I believe is returning is not going to happen in the place that you would expect. There is no room for this in the clean and controlled environment of institutional church. It's going to happen out in the manger, in that dirty place, where the poor and the seekers will find Him. It's going to happen outside the building."

"I think many of us have been placed in a wilderness in order to reformat the way we think. God is helping change our perception. There's a preparation going on for what the future church is going to look like."

"We don't want to miss the baby in the manger while sitting in the hot tub over at the Holiday Inn."

"People in the world must be loved by Jesus, served by Jesus, hugged by Jesus, have coffee with Jesus; we may be the only Jesus that they see."
"As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21)

"The church will look like Jesus."

 "In a recent survey reported by Reader's Digest (November 2003), 64% of Canadians say "Yes, definitely," they strongly believe in God. Another 14% say that they "somewhat believe" in God. Almost 8 in 10 people I see everyday, driving in their cars, or walking down the street, believe that God exists. These percentages are even higher in the United States. Yet only 23% of Canadians regularly attend a weekly worship service. Among those who do not attend church, spiritual pursuit is still a high value. 45% of Canadians claim to pray every day. Let's do the math. About 25 million Canadians (80%) believe in God, but only 7 million of them "go to church.". However 14 million are praying. Assuming the people going to church are actually praying, there are at least 7 million people praying every day who don't attend religious services. To explain these trends, one Canadian told Reader's Digest, "God makes house calls."

These are just a few of the things I highlighted. I also enjoyed the personal stories of how God has been at work in Paul's life - being used both in and outside the institution.

If these quotes sparked some interest, I'd encourage you to click the link above and read more.

Related Posts:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Some Conversations With Non-Church-Goers

I've had some interesting conversations lately with people who have given up on going to church, but have not given up on God or Jesus.  These conversations would not have gone well for me before.  Since I've realized following Jesus does not always mean "going to church" God has given me more opportunities than before to discuss spiritual matters with those who have distanced themselves from religion.  I still have much to learn, but I'm thankful for where God is at work.

I can't pinpoint how these conversations get started. I used to pray for opportunities, more along the lines of evangelizing the lost.  I think one difference now is I don't start with the assumption that someone is lost just because they don't "go" to an evangelical "bible believing" church.

It feels like a God thing how these conversations emerge from places I would not expect.

I am getting the feeling there are a lot of people who are open to Jesus, but have been turned off by institutional religion for one reason or another. Some of the reasons may be valid, I see some real problems with how church is normally done.  Others may have given up for reasons that may be more a reflection of the individuals lack of maturity.  I don't know.

I fear some people that have distanced themselves from going to church have decreased their spiritual health as a result.  If that time was the main time they spent connecting with God and other Christ followers, cutting that time out may have stumped their spiritual growth.   I don't know.

However, I wonder what would happen in our culture if the message got out there that following Jesus does not have to include going "to church".  There are many things Jesus commanded His followers to do. Going to church was not one of them.  As we follow Jesus we will hopefully find others who are following and want hang out, encourage, teach, and support each other to follow Jesus better.  But that may look different than what we are used to.

Anyways, I just thought I'd share these thoughts.  I have been encouraged by the work God is slowly doing in and around me, and I am hopeful God can use me more to share Jesus with others.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dec 21 Judgement Day Princess Bride Style

A bit of a re-post here. There is some talk again about an upcoming apocalypse. Could Dec 21, 2012 be judgement day?  I posted this previously for the last big one, anybody remember May 21, 2011?  

(Warning: If you haven't watched Princess Bride, this may not make any sense.)

All right. When is judgment day?
The battle of wits has begun.
It ends when you decide and we both wait and find out who is right...and who is dead.
But it's so simple.
All I have to do is divine from what I know of you:
are you the sort of god who tells us December 21st is judgment day?
Now, a clever god would hint that it may be December 21st just to get everyone to repent. But only a great fool would fall for that since Jesus didn't even know the day or the hour. But I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose December 21st. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not assume it is not December 21st.
You've made your decision then?
Not remotely.
Because there have been so many previous judgment day predictions, as everyone knows, and they have all obviously been wrong, so considering the pattern I clearly can not believe December 21st is judgment day.
Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.
previous predictions.
Yes, previous predictions.
And you must have suspected I would see the pattern and be suspicious this time. You would have expected this, so I can clearly choose the date in front of me.
You're just stalling now.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Is Jesus the Reason For The Season?

What do we mean when we say Jesus is the reasons for the season?

I don't think He is the reason we celebrate with Christmas trees, expensive gifts, fancy turkey dinners, decorations, stockings, candles, and mistletoe.

In Jesus' day they didn't even celebrate birthday's, let alone Christmas. There were at least 300 years of Jesus followers who did not follow any Christmas traditions.

Many of the things we do at Christmas come from different cultures and traditions.  By saying Jesus is the reason, are we trying to steal the fun from non-Christians and claim it as our own?  If Christians can participate in activities that have pagan roots, shouldn't we let others own these traditions as well?

To be fair, I think people who want to say "Happy Holidays", or "Seasons Greetings" or "Give me presents Day" have just as much a rights to own the season as Christians do.  

There are things I love about the season - whatever you want to call it.  I love the emphasis on caring for others that is encouraged. I love how some stories of Jesus are told. And yes, I love the good food, and time with family and friends.  I will still say "Merry Christmas", but I don't claim to own the season more than others.

Or when we say Jesus is the reason for the season, are we saying we think Jesus wants us to celebrate Christmas?  Have you asked Him what He wants you to do this season?  Maybe He wants you to observe most Christmas traditions... but maybe He wants you to focus more on something else.  I can't answer this one for you.

If Christians were simply people who followed Christ... Jesus didn't get worked up defending Christmas...  I'm not sure if He would today either.

This season, and always, can we simply encourage each other to become more like Christ.

One verse I think applies to this is Romans 14:5
"One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. " (NIV)
I think every day is a Holy day. But I'm OK celebrating with others who like to make some days more special than others.

Related Posts:

Monday, December 3, 2012

Healing and the Kingdom

I am continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom. As I'm slowly going through the passages related to the kingdom of God I come across Mark 5.  The word 'kingdom' does not appear in the text, so should I skip over it? Does this chapter relate to this topic?  Yes I believe it does.

We should not overlook the connection between healing and the gospel of the kingdom of God that Jesus and His disciples proclaimed from town to town. See Matthew 4:23-25, Matt 9:35,  Luke 9:1-2, Luke 10:9, Mark 16:15-18.

When the kingdom of God is present, people are restored, repaired, given new life and a fresh start.

Jesus was not simply saying believe and things will be better for you in the next life.  It was more like: God's power is available to you here and now. Allow God to rule and reign in your lives now, enter the kingdom of God.    And along with this message came visible and tangible signs where people were being set free from the powers of the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light.

So back to the text at hand. Jesus spoke of the kingdom in Mark 4.  Although Mark 5 does not mention the word 'kingdom', I believe he is giving a demonstration of the kingdom of God at work.

Jesus heals a demon possessed man. A man whose life was in ruins, is restored to "his right mind" by the authority of the King of Kings.

Jesus heals a woman who had been sick for 12 years.  "She was free from her suffering." (vs 29)

And Jesus brings back to life a 12 year old girl who had died.

In this text are some words of comfort and challenge that mean a lot to our family: “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” (vs 36) Ten years ago our daughter was really sick, in intensive care at the hospital for a week. The doctors said it was an atypical form of Kawasaki disease.  I still can't look at the picture above without being flooded with emotions. We didn't know if she would make it. These words spoke to my wife during those days. And we just hung onto these words as if it was a promise to us.  Don't be afraid. Just believe. We thank God for the healing He brought to our daughter.

Another important part of healing is this:

“Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (vs 19)

Please don't ask me why God doesn't heal everybody. I assume there were some people in Jesus' day that still got sick and died.  The same is true today.  It is part of the human condition. I can't explain why God chose to restore my daughters health.  I am thankful for all that the Lord has done.

Related Posts:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Resolution

I know it's a month early to be making new resolutions.  However I want to recognize a slight course adjustment on my journey.

In particular I am reflecting on the community I desire that I posted about 2 years ago.  Nothing has changed with this desire. However for the sake of sanity I need to consider what direction I need to move in the absence of such a community. What if the vision I have for my ideal community of believers is not going to happen any time soon in my life?

What do I need more of in my life?  

1) Love God
Matthew 22:36-38 (NIV)
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

2) Love People
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  (vs 39 - 40)

I'm recognizing two different types of loving relationships that are essential to growth.

2. a) Loving Mutual Relationships

I need to continue to invest in some mutual relationships with other Christ followers where the goal is to build each other up to become more like Christ. (1 Cor 14:26, Eph 4:11-16)

On a practical level, for where we are right now, this may look different than some ideal I've had in the past. It may not be a regularly scheduled group of believers that gathers and identifies themselves as a unique group by any name.

However what I need can be found simply by getting together with believers.  We are blessed to have many mature believers in our lives. Over the past year we have been making it a regular part of our life to invite many brothers and sisters into our home. 

My desire is that these times we have with other believers will be used to do the 'one anothers' we see in Scripture:   teaching one another, encouraging one another, loving one another, forgiving one another, submitting to one another, singing together, serving one another, and more....
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:33-35 NIV)

2 b) Sacrificial Loving

I also recognize I need to build into others where I don't expect to get anything in return.

Some of these people may be difficult to love.

These may be relationships that are not as easy or natural for me.

I can't expect these people to encourage me to become more like Christ.

However through these relationships growth will occur.  I believe these are the people that Jesus is most passionate about. If I want Christ to grow in me, I need to be investing more into lives that need Christ's love desparately.

In fact, the reason I get together with other believers should be to encourage each other to go out into the world and share Christ's love with others.

If we invest our time and lives primarily into other believers I fear we will become less and less like Christ.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Our Task Quote by N.T. Wright

“Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion...The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even--heaven help us--Biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way...with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, "if not now, then when?" if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, "if not us, then who?" And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?” 

This quote by biblical scholar N.T. Wright makes me stop and consider how Jesus lived his life.  He was about the business of redeeming those who were in bondage, bringing healing to the broken, and proclaiming love to all.

He was in touch with the people in his culture. There was nobody too low, too dirty, too messed up, or too "worldly" that He would not help.

The good news that Jesus proclaimed and lived as he walked this earth made a positive impact on the people and culture of that day.

As followers of Christ, I am challenged to follow and lead others along the Way of Jesus in a way that is relevant to real people yet rooted in the historical movement Jesus started.   Can this movement of Jesus bring supernatural healing to people and our world today?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Winds of Next Reformation

Some of us sense the winds of change in the church, a second reformation. From my side of reading church history it looks like the first reformation accomplished some good.  There were also some negative results.  If we are entering a second reformation how can we navigate the good and the bad that may come?  What might it look like?

Some good from the first reformation:
  • The Bible was put into the hands of common people. It was translated into common languages, and people were encouraging each others to read it for themselves.
  • Believers began to question the authority and infallibility of the Pope.
  • Believers rejected the past practice of the church selling indulgences.
  • Believers rejected the past practice of buying and selling church positions.
  • Clergy were allowed to get married
  • Believers rejected the idea that they received some special grace simply by participating in the sacraments of confirmation, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.

 Some negative results of the first reformation:
  • Believers began to accept the idea that the church was divided. Thousands of denominations or sects have emerged.  The understanding that there is one universal church was for the most part lost.
  • Christians tortured and killed each other to protect, defend, or promote their preferred system of beliefs.  Some of the hatred and mistrust has been past on for hundreds of years, Ireland's conflict comes to mind.

It was a painful time for the church, yet 500 years later, for the most part we are thankful for the results of the reformation.  We should recognize that the Catholic church has also undergone reformations of it's own.

Some good I believe may come during the next reformation. These are some common themes I keep reading in other peoples books and blogs:
  • Priesthood of all believers.  This was one of the rally cries of the first reformation.  But I don't believe the generations that followed have fully understood what it means.  For the most part we still have a church that is run by a special class of clergy.  There has always been a belief that Christ is King and Lord over every member of His church.  But sometimes it seems other men have placed themselves in positions above others, between the church and God.
  • I believe it will become increasingly clear that Christ is the head of His body, which we call the church.
  • Good news of the kingdom of God.  I am impressed that many in this new movement are starting with the message of Jesus as King and Lord.  There is a growing understanding that Jesus did preach the gospel, and that He was the gospel.
  • I believe denominations, sects and divisions will fade away.
  • Believers will be more interested in making disciples than running programs.  There will be a shift towards building relationships over putting together the best show.
  • More believers will become active participants in all aspects of the faith. They will be obedient in caring for others, teaching others, loving others, baptizing others, serving others, and admonishing others.
  • I believe there will be an increased obedience to the command to go out into the world to make disciples.  There will be a shift from come and see, to go and tell.
  • I believe there will be a shift from teaching others to follow us, to teaching others to follow Christ. At times there may be some overlap. The need to control others to become like us will be replaced with a desire to love and encourage others to become more like Christ.
  • Our time and financial resources will shift from investing into buildings, programs and staff, to sharing and caring for people.

Concerns during this reformation:

  • Some people will get hurt.  There will be pain, and misunderstanding. At times it may seem like a battle both for those defending the current systems, and for those promoting change.  I pray it won't be as messy as the last reformation.
  • There will be some bad ideas and false teaching (as has always been the case).  We will need to rely on each other, the Holy Spirit, and our Scriptures to navigate the Way of truth.

Am I just imagining this movement taking traction?

Am I missing any key currents of change?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Reign of God vs the Empire

"The reign of God is in direct opposition to the Empire. In the political sense, if the world had to be operated on the principles of the reign of God rather than the principles of Empire, then there will be less a need for power and control, and more a sense of shared power or even a relinquishing of power. This is where Jesus’ kenotic act of emptying himself provides a glimpse of what the reign of God is all about (Philippians 2:1-11)."

Taken from from Council for World Missions Theology Statement.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this quote. Do you think it fits with the message of  good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus and His disciples preached from town to town?

Thanks Len for sharing this quote earlier on nextreformation.com.

Related Posts:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What Does It Look Like To Follow Christ?

This is a question I have been chewing on lately. I welcome your thoughts.

For most of my life I have assumed people knew I was a Christian.  The first clue would be that I went to church.  I also assumed the type of church I went to would give further evidence to the type of Christian I was.  Yes, hopefully there were some other clues. I didn't swear, smoke, drink or dance, or hang out much with those that did.  And, yes, hopefully there were some other positive clues as well...

But what if none of the above clues are really signs that I am following Christ?

To help answer this question, Imagine if your country closed down all the church buildings.  What would it look like then to follow Christ?  What does it look like to follow Christ in a country where there is no organized church to follow?  What did it look like to follow Christ for the first disciples of Christ in the New Testament?

Here are some initial thoughts, in no particular order:

Loving God -  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matt 22:37-38 NIV)

Loving Others -  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Fruit of Spirit - it seems when the Spirit is at work in us certain fruit will grow out of Christ in us. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22-23)

Listening to His Voice and following it  - to be a follower of Jesus, it just makes sense we should know His voice and follow it. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" John 10:27 (NIV)

I suspect this could end up looking different for each of us.  Are there any other big 'clues' that I'm missing?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Viral Kingdom

I am continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom, taking a look today at Mark 4:30-32(NIV).
"Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it?  It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground.  Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

(Parrallel passage in Matt 13:31-32)

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.
"Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History (published around AD 78) writes that "mustard… is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Mustard_Seed

Consider the type of people that were most likely to enter this kingdom of God. 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?

Did the kingdom of God go viral?  Did it spread like wildfire throughout the world?  Is the kingdom of God still growing? Are people welcoming or opposing the reign of God in our lives and world? 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

See One, Do One, Teach One

Medical students are familiar with a teaching method refereed to as "See One, Do One, Teach One".   It is a format for acquiring medical skills, based on a 3-step process: visualize, perform, regurgitate.  If there is a procedure that needs to be learned, a great way to learn it for yourself is to simply watch someone do it once, then try the procedure yourself, and then show someone else how to do the procedure.

Some logic behind the 'See One' in this method is that the longer a students spends just watching some expert do a procedure the lower their confidence gets in their own ability to do the procedure.  The student will become more nervous and less willing to give it a try.   But if a student is asked to repeat a process after simply being shown it once, they will give it their best effort.

Can the church improve how it teaches one another?

Unfortunately the main teaching method in the church doesn't even start with "See One".  The main teaching is often more of a lecture where someone talks about what should be done.  How do we move to a point where students spend more time observing the Way of Jesus, repeating how they see it lived, and then teaching others the Way.

How did Jesus teach his disciples?  I see a parallel with how Jesus trained His disciples.

See Some: The disciples of Jesus watched their teacher preach the good news of the kingdom of God, and demonstrate the reality of the reign of God as He brought healing to people. (Matt 4:23, Matt 9:35, Matt 11:5, Luke 4:16-20, Luke 4:43, Mark 1:14-15).

Do Some: The disciples were then given authority to bring God's healing to others as they shared the same message of hope that Jesus preached. (Matt 10:5-8, Luke 9:1-4, Mark 3:14-15, Mark 6:7-13)

Teach Many:
After about 3 and a half years with His disciples Jesus leaves them with this command.:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20 NIV)
So it was these disciples who became the next disciple makers in the early church.  I believe they multiplied using similar teaching methods as they had received.

I'm not saying all teaching needs to be done with the "See One, Do One, Teach One" method.  But at some point all students should be expected to go out and do what they have seen others do, and begin teaching others by demonstrating the Way.

How can we move discipleship out of the lecture hall and into the hands on practicum lab of life?

Related Posts:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Leading The Way

This will be a summary post on some questions about leadership in the church. I think a lot of my issues with institutional church boil down to how Christians view leadership.  I've written a number of posts on this topic. I'll try to organize some of my main thoughts here, linking to related posts, and then leave this topic alone for awhile.

I see two different types of leaders in the church.
  • Those who make decisions for others to follow
  • Those who live their lives as examples that others follow 

I know in many cases some people do a bit of both.

1)  I love this funny leadership lessons from dancing guy video.  It shows what leading by example can look like.  Could it be that in the church leadership is not decision making?

2) To form a Christian perspective on leadership, I think it makes sense to start by looking at what Jesus had to say on the topic of leadership.

3) We should also look at the example of the early church. What titles did early church leaders use? It seems many in the early church despised titles of honor.

4) The topic then becomes complex because we do see verses in the New Testament that talk about elders, overseers, pastor/shepherd, deacons. I don't want to overlook these verses.  I did a 9 post series looking at the verses related to elders, overseers, shepherds, deacons.  For each passage I looked at the greek meanings of the terms in question. I looked at what we could conclude from each passage, and what questions were still left unanswered.

5) I took a closer look at the word pastor/shepherd . I don't think anybody used the title pastor in the early church, it seems the first time pastor was used as a title was during the protestant reformation. I concluded I've got the best senior pastor. Jesus is refered to as our Chief shepherd.  We are all called to care for and serve others, following the example of Jesus.  I'd like to encourage you to be a pastor (but I'd skip the title).

6) What do you think Jesus would say about leadership today?

7) Church Hierarchical Leadership is common today.  People like to create flow charts placing some people above others.  It seems this practice can be traced all the way back to the influence of Ignatius.

8) Top-down leadership is likely the most efficient leadership structure as long as your goal is not equipping the saints or mutual edification.

9) I have been encouraged that some pastors are leaving the building of institutional church. They are simply leading by example. The choice to follow is up to us.

So as you can see I've invested some thought into this topic lately. But I don't want this to be the main focus of my journey moving forward.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pastors Leaving The Building

A problem with starting a list like this is I will miss some that should be included.  Please leave a comment and I can update this post. And please correct me if any of my facts here are off.

I want to thank and acknowledge some men who have had tough decisions as they changed their beliefs regarding some church traditions.  Some aspects of my recent journey have been painful for myself and my family.  However I haven't had to switch careers or even lose fellowship with close brothers and sisters.

I keep coming across brothers who used to be vocational pastors and are now part of a movement spreading the message that there is more to church than institutional church.  At some point in their lives they found themselves serving/leading the church as vocational pastors.  They believed that was their calling. They had been trained for this, and had gained enough respect from the church to fill pastoral positions. These are men who the church trusted to teach them and shepherd them in the Christian faith.

So what happens when these men change their way of thinking about the position or office of the vocational pastor?  Let's be clear. They have not lost their faith in Christ, or their devotion for the church.

I must say I have extra respect for these men.  They not only took the risk of losing the approval of man.  They also took the risk of losing their way of earning an income. So I thank these leaders, these shepherds, these teachers.  These men are not simply tired of warming pews.  They have always been leaders in some ways, but no longer desire to lead from the front.

Wayne Jacobsen - Life Stream Ministries. I have been encouraged by his books: He Loves Me, So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore, The Naked Church, and his contributions in The Shack. I also have been encouraged by many of his podcasts.

Dave Coleman - co-authored So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore

Eric Carpenter - I've been encouraged as he shares his heart openly on his blog  A Pilgrim's Progress

Kevin-Neil Ward and Kathleen Ward - I am encouraged by their focus on Church in a Circle.

Jeremy Myers - I respect his dedication to teaching others as he blogs at www.tillhecomes.org and has other book and web projects.

Alan Knox (sort of) - He changed his way of thinking as he was being trained to become a vocational pastor.  He has since been on a journey to discover a different career path while he teaches, cares for, and serves the church. I have loads of respect for Alan. Always wise. Always gracious. And leads well by example as he shares his journey at www.alanknox.net. (And he sometimes reads my blog... so I have to be nice to him.)

Paul Vieira - author of  Jesus Has Left The Building.  A local Winnipeg author I recently discovered existed.

Rob McAlpine - a friend of our family, or family of a friend. Something like that.  Actually the only brother on this list I have met in real life so far.    I love the title of his book Detoxing from Church, a description I think fits well for many of us. I have appreciated how he has shared his journey on different blogs over time, he is now blogging at www.robbymcalpine.com.

Keith Giles - author and blogger at subversive1.blogspot.ca.

Will Rochow - another fellow Canadian blogs at http://rethinkingfaithandchurch.rochow.ca and show his humorous side at  http://theothersideofwill.rochow.ca/.

The truth is none of these pastors have left the church.  They are all still caring for and shepherding others. They are still active members in Christ's church.  And yes, I'm sure some of them still use buildings from time to time. :)   I won't do justice if I try to explain what each of them believe, and how each of them serve the church.  You'll have to check with them if you want more info.

I just wanted to say thanks for being leaders on this journey.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Divided Kingdom Blasphemy

I am continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom, taking a look today at Mark 3:22-30 (NIV)

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.  In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.  I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”
(Parallel passages in d Matt 12:25 - 30  and Luke 11:17.)

This passage is not directly talking about the kingdom of God. It it talking about the other kingdom - the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom where Satan rules.

Jesus was being accused of working for Satan's kingdom.

But Jesus points out it wouldn't make sense for a member of Satan's kingdom to be at work fighting against the kingdom of darkness. Jesus was at work here casting out demons.

It is in the absurdity of this scenario that Jesus uses the strong language of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. How could someone dare attribute God's work to the work of the devil?  Who would do such a thing?

Have you ever heard a Christian judge other Christians to the degree that they are questioning which kingdom they are working for? I think this may be similar to what Jesus was talking about here. If someone is doing work for the kingdom of God, active in battle against the kingdom of darkness, it would be a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to judge otherwise.

Do you think God's kingdom is divided?

If you find yourself opposing God's working in others... that's a dangerous place to be.

I agree it is often difficult to tell who is a member of one kingdom or the other. But in most cases it is not up to us to judge.  I suspect many of us have been guilty of judging other members of God's kingdom - of this we should repent.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Difficult Passage Mark 9:42-49

 I am continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom, taking a look today at Mark 9:42-50 (NIV). If you haven't been following this series, I'd suggest following this link for some of the better posts of the series.

42 “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where
“‘their worm does not die,
    and the fire is not quenched.’
49 Everyone will be salted with fire.

This is a difficult passage. It raises more questions than answers for me.
  • Verse 43 - 47. Has my hand, foot, or eyes ever been involved in sin?  Wouldn't everybody be guilty of these? I hope Jesus is not really encouraging us to do physical harm to ourselves.  I sort of get the point. Let's be serious about sin. But really? I find it difficult to understanding a teaching that sounds like self mutilation or self-harm.  I wonder if I am missing something.
  • Verses 43 - 47. The term behind 'hell' in these verses is Gehenna, which was a valley outside the walls of Jerusalem that was a burning garbage dump and was a place where some children were sacrificed to other gods by fire.  Was Jesus talking about the Gehenna that they knew, or was he also talking about another type of Gehenna?  There had also been other views on Gehenna related to the underworld, Jesus doesn't really work at defining what he is referring to here.
  • Verse 48 is a reference to Isaiah 66:24. Note that the dead bodies do not fit well with the traditional view of hell. "And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”
  • Verse 49. Is this a reference to something like purgatory?  Everyone? I thought only the wicked had to worry about some fire in the afterlife.
So I apologize. As I work through a secrets of the kingdom series, I think I have gained some valuable insights related to the kingdom of God.  But this passage joins with some others that are still a mystery to me.

Feel free to share some light on the matter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jesus Becomes A Member

Is there something wrong if it seems normal to talk about "your church" or "my church"?

Does local church membership promote unity in Christ's one church, or does it create artificial boundary walls?

I suspect the only membership list that really matters is that of Christ's church.

Ephesians 3:6 (NIV)
"This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus"
Colossians 1:18(NIV)
"And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy."

Related posts:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hellbound Movie Night

Some short thoughts after watching the movie hellbound last night.

It is a documentary discussing some different views on hell and how they have been held by different Christians throughout history. The documentary highlighted some of the tension between the different points of view, and brought to light how some Christians are not open to partnering with other Christians with different points of view.

I was impressed that somehow a movie of this nature made it to a big screen. The theater was pretty empty. I'm not sure how many people would be interested.

The main three perspectives on hell that were discussed were:
  • eternal torment - where people are tormented for eternity
  • annihilation - where the punishment results in death
  • universal reconciliation - where somehow all become restored to God in the end
What I liked about the movie:
  • those that recognized the tension, and with humility acknowledge they really don't know exactly how it will play out in the end.
  • some influential evangelicals said they are OK partnering with those of the annihilation camp.
  • the recognition that there are scriptural and historical reasons behind each of the above perspectives.
I was disappointed by:
  • the annihilation perspective was not given much airtime in the movie
  • the bias came out too strong in the last half of the movie
If this movie succeeds at anything, I hope it is this: It is OK to recognize that all Christians do not agree on everything. On this issue there have always been different points of view. If you are passionate about the topic, please spend more time studying the topic from the different perspectives to at least gain a respect for others before judging too harshly.

I'll end by sharing some verses that I find motivating to share the love of Christ with others:
 "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death" 1 John 3:14 (NIV)

 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (NIV)

 "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:40 (NIV)

 "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." John 6:51 (NIV)

"The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." 1 John 2:17 (NIV)

"let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." James 5:20 (NASB)

"There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?" James 4:12 (NIV)

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom 6:23 (NIV)
What motivates you to share God's love with others?

Related Posts:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Be Superficial With One Another

Alan Knox started a chain blog on the topic of  'One Another'.  I wanted to jump into the discussion as one with the others, but my mind was blank. I didn't think I had anything else to say. I recently did a series on the  Five W's of One Another where I asked who, what, where, when, why and how related to the one another verses.

What I have left to say is of little value, but I'll say it anyways.

Please work at being superficial with one another.

When you doubt you have anything of value to contribute, just keep quite.

You don't want to look foolish for asking questions.

People may judge you if you don't look strong.

People may judge you if you don't act like them.

People may judge you if they knew what you were really thinking.

If you show any vulnerability, what will happen if they don't respond in love?

What if they don't accept you for who you are?

What if they don't agree with you?

People may not want to really know how you are, even though they say "Hi, how are you doing."

Maybe you don't really want to know how they are doing either.

Do you really want to know their dark secrets, doubts and pains?

Do you really want to bear their burdens?

Do you really want to love them?

Do you really want to accept them?

Do you really want to be hospital to them?

Do you really want to submit to them?

Do you really want to serve them?

Do you really want to be devoted to them?

Do you really want to love them?

Maybe it is best that we all just act superficially with one another.  We can smile and be friendly and make small talk about sports, weather, or recent shared experiences.  But it is probably best to stick to safe topics.  Do all you can to keep your emotions out of the conversation. If you sense any emotion growing, that is a sign you are going too deep and sharing too much.  Who knows where things will go.  Somebody may get hurt - please do all you can to keep conversations safe and meaningless.

Do you have any other good reasons for being superficial with one another?  We have to admit most of us are pretty good at it.

This post fits well with some previous posts where Alan and I discussed how we should be sarcastic with one another. I hope you can understand. :)

Related Posts:

Links in the ‘One Another’ Chain Blog
  1. Chain Blog: One Another – Alan Knox
  2. Linking One Another – Swanny
  3. What Does It Mean to Love One Another? – Chuck McKnight
  4. The treasure of ‘One Another’ – Jim Puntney
  5. This is how the world shall recognise you… – Kathleen Ward
  6. Accepting one another in love – Chris Jefferies
  7. One Another: A meta-narrative for the church – Part One and Part Two by Greg Gamble
  8. Individualism and “One Another” – Pieter Pretorius
  9. All Alone with One Another – by Jeremy Myers
  10. When it’s OK for Christians to compete – Joshua Lawson
  11. Jesus Christ, the Corner Stone for One Another – Peter
  12. Be Superficial With One Another - Jon
  13. The Unmentionable One Anothers - Alan
  14. Who will write the next link post in the chain? 
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