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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Not a Wimpy Gospel

Please don't read this as an attack on another side. I want to simply clarify my position.

I suspect some Evangelicals view the kingdom gospel as some kind of soft, fluffy, feel good gospel. Jesus loves the world, lets all do good deeds and all will be good. I sense some hesitation to explore it.

The gospel message they want to emphasize is the tough gospel with a greater emphasis on sin, hell, God's holiness and wrath. If you want a serious gospel, you don't want to stray too far from there.

But please consider another way to look at it.

The gospel of the kingdom, as I see it, is a get your hands dirty kind of Gospel.

It is not an academic gospel where you accept a certain set of truths and the rest is up to God. Is is not about believing in God, saying a prayer, and waiting for better days in heaven.

There is a battle going on!

There are two kingdoms at war!

Pick your side!

Put on your armor!

Get out of the grand-stands and join the front lines with your Lord!

This is how I see the gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus and His disciples preached.

I am not saying that Evangelicals do not get their hands dirty, or join in the battle.

My point here is that I'm not ashamed of the gospel Jesus preached. It is not a wimpy gospel.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chart Kingdom and Church Emphasis


I've been wondering for awhile if I've placed too much emphasis on church.

From the Gospels we see Jesus was focused on His good news message of the kingdom of God.

The emphasis shifts with the other books in the New Testament to a greater emphasis on Christ's church.

Yet, across the whole New Testament the term kingdom beats the term church by around 154 to 116.

I think there is overlap between the two terms. I believe church is people of God, and whenever they get together. Those part of Christ's kingdom are part of Christ's church.

Maybe there would be less distinction if the meaning of church lines up with what we see in the New Testament.

What do you think?

How focused should we be on kingdom work and on church work?

Is there a difference?

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Eunuchs for the Kingdom

Should people get married? I'm taking a look at Matt 19:8-12 as I go through verses related to the secrets of the kingdom.

Interesting timing. We just watched a movie last night that sort of dealt with this topic. The couple in the movie was surrounded by poor examples of faithful marriages. They ended up concluding that the concept of marriage was a farce. They ended up making a promise or vow to each other that basically went like this:

I promise to love you for as long as we are in love.

That is the type of love they saw practiced around them. But it was really not much of a promise or commitment at all.

So then to the text I'm looking at this morning.

Some of the disciples were questioning Jesus if it was worth getting married in Matt 19:8 - 12 (HCSB).
He told them, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning. And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

His disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it’s better not to marry!”

But He told them, “Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those it has been given to. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Can you accept this saying?

It was common for eunuchs to play special roles in earthly kingdoms. Eunuchs didn't have divided loyalties between family and kingdom. In a similar way some are called to be this way and play unique roles in God's kingdom. Paul later becomes one of these examples.

Can you be like a eunuch and go without family relations?

If not, I think Jesus is implying it is best for you to get married, and be faithful in your marriage.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pray for Kingdom Unity?

Jan 18 - 25 is designated as a week of prayer for Christian Unity. My prayer for unity has changed over the years. I used to pray that all the true Christian denominations would strike up some merge type deal. I visited with Priests and Pastors, emailed denominational presidents, visited with a leader of an ecumenical organization, and tried to encourage dialog between different Christian traditions. I can't say I made much progress.

I still think such dialog would be helpful. But my prayer for Christian unity has changed.

I no longer view Christ's church as some groupings of a bunch of church organizations.

I view church as Christ's people, and whenever they get together.

I also recognize I've spent too much time focusing on church. We only have two records of Jesus talking about church, but we have over a 100 verses with Him talking about His Kingdom.

It is easy to wrongly assume there are lots of different churches - and see the need for them to unite. The reality is that Christ only has one church - it is everyone who submits to Him as Lord.

But when we think of the kingdom of God, we usually visualize one kingdom. One King, one Lord, one kingdom.

I don't pray that the kingdom unites. It's a no brainer. God's kingdom is united!

Now I simply pray that those who follow Jesus would recognize that we are united. It is not up to the leaders of the different church organizations to decide if we are One. And it's not up to us to decide who is in and who is out.

Here is another recent Prayer For Christian Unity.

How do you pray for Christian unity?

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

God loves a cheerful giver

God loves a cheerful giver. But I've never really considered the original context of the Scripture this quote is lifted from. This is one of a few passages that speak of a taking up a "collection for the saints". Who was this money going to? How often? Why?

In 2 Cor 8:1 - 5 we learn that the believers in Macedonia had begged Paul and company to allow them to send a generous gift to the believers in Jerusalem. It is likely the believers in Jerusalem were in some economic downturn - it may have been a result of a famine around 40 A.D.

It seems Paul sends Titus to the Corinthians to give them the opportunity to care for the believers in Jerusalem the same way. (2 Cor 8:6)

Paul and Titus are helping coordinate the sharing of wealth and resources from some believers who had plenty, to others who were in a time of need.

There was no obligation attached. Nobody was required to give. But there was the recognition that God had bless them with love and life, and they should respond with love to others. (2 Cor 8:8-9)

2 Cor 8:13-14
"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality,"

We should note the plan wasn't for a regular flow of cash in one direction.

2 Cor 9:6-7 (HCSB)
"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

May we also follow the example set before us in this passage. When we see brothers and sisters in a time of need, may we be generous and care for their needs.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Prayer For Christian Unity

Jan 18 - 25 is designated as a week of prayer for Christian Unity. So here is a prayer in advance.

I'm sorry Jesus that your family squabbles so much. We see many dysfunctional families in our society, but God... sometimes your family appears to be beyond hope. But I thank you for not giving up on us, or abandoning us.

Jesus, I want to join with you and pray for unity as you did in John 17:20 - 26. I pray that each of your children would be in a real relationship with you. Then we would recognize how we relate to each other through you. And then the world would be able to recognize you in us, and others would come to believe and trust in you.

In recent years I have learned to respect and love brothers and sisters from different traditions. You have taught me that the issues that we sometimes divide over are less essential than unity and love. The Scriptures are crystal clear that unity is essential and love is essential if we are part of your family.

So I publicly state I respect my brothers and sisters who see things differently with regards to devotion to Mary, purgatory, intercession of and devotion to the saints, and the authority of the Pope. I may not agree with everything, but I see less Scriptural support to divide over these issues than the weight of passages that speak to unity and love. I am no longer protesting over issues like sola scriptura, sola fide, and the works vs faith divide.

And then I consider my protestant brothers and sisters. I may have different ideas on whether Scripture says hell is eternal punishment, how to define the gospel, Calvinism, penal subtitutionary attonment, tithing, typical church leadership, or what is essential to a gathering of the church. Have I now created more walls with my protestant brothers and sisters than I had with the ones we once protested against?

No, I hope not. These are all simply differences in ideas. Agreeing on everything is not what makes people a family. It is our relationship with you our heavenly Father that makes us family. These ideas can be discussed and debated, but they should not negate my relationship with you, and my relationship with others.

I pray that we will recognize that we are one.

I pray we can all grow together to a better understanding of the Truth, and show grace, mercy and love to each other along the way.

Colossians 3:13-15 teaches us to bear with each other, and forgive each other for whatever has pissed us off in the past. Lord please help us to live this way, as it is not easy - especially for me who likes to push some different ideas. Give me an extra dose of love whenever I enter discussions that I know will be controversial.

Ephesians 4:2-6 teaches us that there is one body, one Spirit, one God and Father. I pray we can be humble and be more like children in your one family.

I pray that I'll continue to learn to love and accept my brothers and sisters who are all different than me, just as you have accepted us as we see in Romans 15:5-7.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kingdom Mercy Pay It Forward

In Matt 18:21 - 35 Jesus tells a parable of an unforgiving slave. I'm taking a look at it now as I go through verses related to the secrets of the kingdom.

Matt 18:21-23 sets the stage:
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
“I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven. For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves...
Jesus goes on to talk of a slave who owed his master a huge debt. But the master had compassion on him and forgave his debt.

The slave then goes and finds another slave who owes him a small debt, but has no compassion on him, and sends him to jail until he can pay.

Matt 18:32 - 35 give the implications of this story for us:
“Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And his master got angry and handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed. So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.” (HCSB)
I won't claim to understand the reference to torture here. It may fit into a purgatory type framework, or maybe that is beyond the point of this parable.

But what is clear to me is that I must show mercy and forgiveness to others. If God's love and mercy is real to me, it will flow out of me to others.

Pay it forward.

Benjamin Franklin described well the pay it forward concept in 1784.
I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you [...] meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.

I think Jesus was saying the kingdom of heaven is like pay it forward with forgiveness and mercy.

God shows more love, mercy and forgiveness to us than we can image. In His kingdom he expects us to follow His lead and continue to pay it forward to others. We can't get away with simply loving God back, and being grateful for what He has done for us. We can't just love those who have been good to us, and forgive those who have forgiven us.

We must love those that are not easy to love, and those who have done us wrong. We must 'pay forward' by loving those who don't seem to deserve our love.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Caring For Others Is Essential

Are you actively caring for others in a community of believers? I believe this is an essential part of being Christ's church.

I fear some people believe they are active members in Christ church because they are doing other church activities. They contribute by being video techs, sound techs, ushers, Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders, VBS helpers, church librarians, building maintenance, worship band members, or preaching weekly sermons. These may be all good things, but they are extras. They are not things we find the early church doing. Others simply show up, put money in the plate, sing the songs, and listen to the sermon.

Some typical church activities may help you care for others. They are not all bad. But I hope people don't think participating in these ways makes them active members in Christ church. Christ's church has existed in the past without these extras, and still exists outside these activities.

Here are some of the key activities we find in Scripture:
  • Loving one another (John 13:34-35, Romans 13:8, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, 1 John 4:11, 1 John 4:12, 2 John 1:5)
  • Praying for one another (Ephesians 6:18)
  • encouraging one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25)
  • Being devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)
  • Honoring one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10)
  • Living in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
  • Accepting one another (Romans 15:7)
  • Instructing one another (Romans 15:14)
  • Teaching and admonishing one another (Colossians 3:16)
  • Serving one another (Galatians 5:13) - this one may usually happen outside our regularly scheduled gathering, at other people's homes
  • Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Singing and making music in our hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19)
  • Submitting to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Bearing with each other and forgiving whatever grievances you may have against one another (Colossians 3:13)
Please allow me state this another way, using language similar to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
If I serve in every church program
but do not show love to others
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I make time to study to theology
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
but do not have love for those around me, I am nothing.
And if I give my tithe to pay for church programs, staff and buildings
and if I give all my time to serve these programs
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Loving others is essential. I know it is possible to do some non-essential activities and also do what is essential. I just think every believer should make the essentials a priority.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Paying the Temple Tax

When we think of tithing, most people think of the voluntary practice of giving to a local church. But where does this practice come from? Was it always voluntary? Like it or not, we have inherited many church traditions from our European church history. The tithe in European history has some similarity to a temple tax system in Jewish history.

In France
In France, the tithes—called "la dîme" -- were a land tax. Originally a voluntary tax, in 1585 the "dîme" became mandatory. In principle, unlike the taille, the "dîme" was levied on both noble and non-noble lands. The dîme was divided into a number of types, including the "grosses dîmes" (grains, wine, hay), "menues" or "vertes dîmes" (vegetables, poultry), "dîmes de charnage" (veal, lamb, pork). Although the term "dîme" comes from the Latin decima [pars] ("one tenth", with the same origin as that of the U.S. coin, the dime), the "dîme" rarely reached this percentage and (on the whole) it was closer to 1/13th of the agricultural production.

The "dîme" was originally meant to support the local parish, but by the 16th century many "dîmes" went directly to distant abbeys, monasteries, and bishops, leaving the local parish impoverished, and this contributed to general resentment. In the Middle Ages, some monasteries also offered the "dîme" in homage to local lords in exchange for their protection (see Feudalism) (these are called "dîmes inféodées"), but this practice was forbidden by the Lateran Council of 1179.

All religious taxes were constitutionally abolished in 1790, in the wake of the French revolution.

In Ireland
Tithes were introduced after the Norman conquest of 1169-1172, and were specified in the papal bull Laudabiliter as a duty to: ...pay yearly from every house the pension of one penny to St Peter, and to keep and preserve the rights of the churches in that land whole and inviolate. However, collection outside the Norman area of control was sporadic.

From the English Reformation in the 16th century, most Irish people chose to remain Roman Catholic and had by now to pay tithes valued at about 10% of an area's agricultural produce, to maintain and fund the established state church, the Anglican Church of Ireland, to which only a small minority of the population converted. Irish Presbyterians and other minorities like the Quakers and Jews were in the same situation.

The collection of tithes was violently resisted in the period 1831-36, known as the Tithe War. Thereafter, tithes were reduced and added to rents with the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act in 1836. With the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869, tithes were abolished.
I won't copy and paste all of Wikipedia into this post. You can go there, or research elsewhere, but it looks like much of Europe had systems in place where everybody was basically taxed to fund their church institutions.

The Jews of Jesus' day had a similar tax system for their temples. I believe the response Jesus gives is interesting.

The Temple Tax - Matt 17:24 - 26 (HCSB)
When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the double-drachma tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your Teacher pay the double-drachma tax?”
“Yes,” he said.
When he went into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, “What do you think, Simon? Who do earthly kings collect tariffs or taxes from? From their sons or from strangers?”
“From strangers,” he said.
Then the sons are free,” Jesus told him. “But, so we won’t offend them, go to the sea, cast in a fishhook, and take the first fish that you catch. When you open its mouth you’ll find a coin. Take it and give it to them for Me and you.”
Jesus was questioning if it seems right that His heavenly Father would demand a tax on His children. Even earthly kings don't require their family members to pay them taxes.

But since this was a mandatory tax for a Jew of that day, Jesus complied.

Our governments require us to pay taxes, I recommend complying by paying your taxes to your governments. But the church and state are no longer joined to the extent that we are required to pay a tax to church institutions.

Do you think your Heavenly Father requires a temple tax of you?

Are you a child of God? Are you free?

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rock Star Christians

Can you think of any Christians that are sort of like rock stars in the Christian community? Do they have a following of people who (almost) worship the ground they walk on?

Think about the characteristics that elevated this person to their position of respect and leadership. Are they assertive, funny, charismatic? Was it their gift at teaching, knowledge, or music. Do they have a great looks, great hair and cool glasses?

Do you wish you were more like them?

Who is really the greatest?

Continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom.

Matt 18:1-5 (HCSB)

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Then He called a child to Him and had him stand among them. “I assure you,” He said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one child like this in My name welcomes Me.


The word translated as converted has the meaning of changing direction or turning around. I find it interesting that Jesus calls us to turn around and change so we are more like children.

What adult characteristics do not enter the kingdom of heaven? Jesus doesn't list them here, but I'm going to guess it is things like pride and arrogance. When we act like we are in control of our lives, and the lives of others around us... there is no place for that when living under the reign of God.

To be great in the kingdom of heaven, we must simply let God rule. Children are examples to us in how we can live with simple faith in our Father.

Young children have the natural ability to trust their parents, and follow their direction without questioning or rebelling. As they grow up, they lose that child like faith in their parents and begin to rely on doing things their own way. That is part of the process of growing up.

Jesus wants us to be born again, to become little children, children under the rule of our loving Father.

Instead of wanting to become more like a celebrity Christian, look around for someone following our Lord in child-like obedience... and follow their example, and become this example for others.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

What Would Jesus Say Today on Leading

What Would Jesus Say today on titles for religious leaders?

Matthew 23:8-12(HCSB)

“But as for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven. And do not be called masters either, because you have one Master, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

Do you think He would include the title 'Pastor' today?

What about titles like Reverend, Minister, Priest, Bishop?

My occupation is a teacher in a high school. Should I be concerned with letting my students call me teacher?

Is it OK for my kids to call me father?

What do you think was at the heart of what Jesus was saying here?

P.S. Please do not assume this means I am judging you if you like to use these titles. I am not. I maintain high respect and love for brothers and sisters who don't share my viewpoint on a number of issues. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, and I don't assume I have any authority to judge my brothers and sisters. I simply want to encourage dialog on issues where we may not be doing things by the book.

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Not Taste Death Until Kingdom

If you try to live you will die. If want to live you must die. Some will not die.

Got it?

I'm trying to make some sense of passages related to the kingdom, since it was a major theme for Jesus.

Matt 16:24-28 (HCSB)

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each according to what he has done. I assure you: There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

It can be easy to get hung up on this one. Is Jesus saying that some people standing there with him 2000 years ago would not die before Jesus' 2nd coming? That Jesus was going to come back and take believers to live with Him in heaven, within a timeline of that generation?

Some have concluded this statement did not come true.

But when we look at the rest of this passage there are some other aspects that don't really make sense at first glance either.

There is the idea that if we want to live we must follow Jesus' by taking up our cross. But in those days taking up a cross did not usually increase your lifespan. If we want to live we must deny our life? Now this doesn't make sense. But we tend to accept this hard teaching when we understand that our self centered (sinful) self must die if we want Christ's life to live in us.

Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but if you lose your life you will find it? Another upside down teaching. On the surface it seems backwards. But we can accept it when we understand that if we hold tightly to our life and try to be in control, we will not find the life Christ has in store for us.

Does this help us understand the last part of this passage? Some of the people listening will see and experience the reign and rule of God in their lives and in the world around them. They will follow Jesus and take up their cross. As a result they will not taste death but find life.

I admit this is a tough passage to understand. I am not sure that I have it figured out. There are likely other ways to make sense of it.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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