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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Come Now Is The Time To Worship

I love this song by Brian Doerksen, but I have a concern with how it is often used.

Come, now is the time to worship
Come, now is the time to give your heart
Come, just as you are to worship
Come, just as you are before your God

One day ev'ry tongue will confess You are God
One day ev'ry knee will bow
Still the greatest treasure remains for those
Who gladly choose You now

The words of this song are just as true Monday through Friday as they are on Sunday morning. But I suspect this song gets sung most often as people come into their "time of worship" on Sunday mornings.

What is worship?

I'm going with the definition that worship is a feeling or action showing reverence and love.

Rom 12:1 gives a New Testament description of worship:

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship."  (NIV)

In the Old Testament we see people offering animals as sacrifices to God as their expression of worship. In the New Testament we see people making a different type of sacrifice. Our lives are to be living sacrifices. In a sense we are called to die to our selfish desires, and live under God's rule instead. We are to live our lives pleasing to God.  This is the type of worship God has always desired.  This type of worship is best lived out in real everyday life.  This type of worship service is when we serve our Lord Monday through Sunday.

Jesus describes this change of worship service in John 4:19-24
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (NIV)

Jesus is saying the days when you need to go to a specific location to worship God are over.  He does not want us to go to some mountain top location at certain times to worship Him. He wants us to truly love and respect Him every moment of our lives.

Here are some harsh words from Isaiah that may apply when our worship service is only lip service.

Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)
The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men.
Isaiah 1:13 - 17 (NIV)
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;
wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 58: 3 - 9 (NIV) speaks about fasting, but I think it would apply to other acts of worship that didn't line up with how we live.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

So yes, come. Now, everyday, is the time to worship. Now is the time to give your heart and live your lives in a way pleasing to God.  Now, just as you are, God wants to be Lord of your life and guide you to become what He has in mind for you.

Also Hebrews 13:15-16 (NIV)
"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
I don't want to limit worship to be an activity I primarily do on Sunday morning.  When it comes to worship, how we live sings louder than words.

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photo credit: dtcchc via photo pin cc

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dan Kimball Is Not Your Pastor

It is likely that Dan Kimball does care for and shepherd some people, but he doesn't encourage people to call him 'pastor' or 'lead pastor' anymore.  I came across this quote of his today:
"It happened little by little. It actually stemmed from about when I was actually leading Graceland, a young adult ministry – 1,000 college age young adults. I was at a street corner, I'm getting into my car and a car honked. These college-aged girls were looking over and waving. I'm looking up and I'm like "I don't know who they are." Then the light turns green and they yell in unison "you're our pastor!" as they're driving away. I'm just like, "I'm their pastor? I don't even know who they are." A pastor who shepherds knows their sheep, knows if one is missing. Then I started looking into what is theologically a pastor. It's only written once in the New Testament, the book of Ephesians. It wasn't even a title or an office. It was a spiritual gift of shepherding. And I'm just like "you know, I don't want to mislead people in our church to have them feel like I'm their pastor simply because they come and listen to me teach on a Sunday." There's people in this church that are really pastoring, according to what the Bible says what pastoring is. It's got to be relational, if one sheep is missing, [see] how they're doing. So I just stopped using that term; I don't know if there's anyone on our staff that uses it anymore. It's not that we don't shepherd [or] pastor but we just stopped using the title as to try to really function what I believe is more biblically without that title and to allow people who have pastoring gifts to be exercising those and feel just as valid and important as the person who gets up."
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/dan-kimball-talks-churchland-judgmentalism-restoring-hope-in-the-church-79309/#r2mqF11xYQvm2HVk.99

I'm glad to see others are questioning the use of this term as an office title.

I'm also glad to see Dan Kimball encourages regular people to pastor and care for others in their community.  By sharing this role with all believers, and validating what each member contributes, more believers can mature in their faith.

What do you think?  Is there scriptural support for using the term 'Pastor' or 'Lead Pastor' as a title for a few hired staff?  

If we just read the Bible, would we have come to this practice, or did we get where we are by a different route?

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

What Do You Mean By Church?

When we communicate with others we use words. Sometimes we can be talking to someone, and it seems like we are using the same language, but we are not understanding each other.  When the words we use have different meanings to each of us, we end up just talking past each other.

I often find conversations about church to be difficult for this reason.

What do you mean when you use the word church?

When you say "our church should do this"... what do you mean by 'church'?

When you say "invite them to church "... what do you mean by 'church'?

When you say "what church do you go to"... what do you mean by 'church'?

When you say "after church we are going to go to... " what do you mean by 'church'?

When you say "our church has this great youth program"... what do you mean by 'church'?

When you say "we are meeting at the church"... what do you mean by 'church'?

I have tried to study what the term church or ekklesia meant in the New Testament.  When I talk about my role or my prayers for church, I find it useful to go back to what church was in Scritpure.  I know meanings of words can change over time.   Please read this post for more details: Church Etymology

It seems church or ekklesia   in the New Testament referred simply to followers of Jesus, and also whenever they gathered together (2 or more).  For example the phrase "the church in Jerusalem" could mean all the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem, or it could mean a gathering of some of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem.  We know there were too many followers of Jesus in Jerusalem to fit under one roof for their gatherings, but they were all part of the same church.  I find it helpful to view church more like a family or tribe where some members may not see each other as frequently as others, but they all belong to the same family or tribe.

However I don't think the term church  or ekklesia ever referred  to a building.

I don't think the term church  or ekklesia ever referred  to a organization, corporate identity, institution or denomination.

I don't think the term church  or ekklesia ever referred  to a specific event.  I don't think a gathering on Sunday morning with a certain order of service would be considered 'church' more than a gathering of Jesus followers at any other time or location.

When a discussion gets confusing because we are using this term 'church' in different ways I often try to find other ways to communicate without using the term church.  For example: I feel called to serve and care for Christ's church (the people), but I honestly don't feel the same calling towards some other things that people call 'church'.  I think that can be a source of confusion.

What does church mean to you?  Do you have any advice for me how I can communicate better?

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Taking a Break From Serving Church Programs

I have spent years watching people invest a lot of time and energy into church programs.  Great programs do not happen naturally, they do take a lot of work.  How many hours does it take to prepare a sermon?  How many hours to prepare a Sunday school lesson with some fun activities or crafts? How many hours and how many people does it take to run a successful VBS program? How much energy is put into sound and video?  How many hours of practice and preparation does a great sounding worship band require?  How much work is put into youth programs?  The volunteer list can go on and on.

I know real relationships can be built during church programs, and I know people can be introduced to God and grow in their faith.  I am not concluding that all this time and energy is futile. I know people who have been introduced to God during VBS and youth group programs.  I know programs work sometimes.  However when we look closely at the times when God has worked through programs we can usually see relationships have been present as well.

Please bear with me for awhile as I try something different.

I am wondering what would happen if Christians refocused all that time and energy they put into programs and invested that same time and energy into relationships.

Taken to the extreme... what would happen if Christians stopped doing church, closed the doors for awhile, and went into the world to live as the church?

What if we put our energy into doing the 'one anothers' that we see taught and demonstrated in the New Testament:  Loving one another, serving one another, encouraging one another, being kind and compassionate to one another, offering hospitality to one another, submitting to one another, having humility towards one another, living in harmony with one another, not slandering one another, teaching one another, admonishing (giving advice) one another, agreeing with one another, forgiving one another, singing to one another, bearing with one another, accepting one another.  I think this will keep me busy enough.

What if we focused on caring for people like Jesus did? Caring for the broken, the sick, the poor. Everyone has some needs.  I'm not talking about contributing to a charity or some organization that helps people. What I see in the New Testament is people caring for people, living as a people of grace and mercy. Are there people with needs in our lives?  I suspect that would be a good place to start.

What's the point of all this?  It will require time and energy too. I believe the point of caring for people who don't know Christ as Lord is to introduce them to Christ's love for them.  I believe the point of caring for other believers is to build them up to become more like Christ, so others will see Christ living in them as well.

My family is still connected with a group of believers with a more traditional approach. I am OK with people doing the traditional church programs.  I love and respect them all.  But I have changed, and this has been my prayer and focus for a year or so now.  I can not say I have arrived yet, the journey has just begun.  I am excited about what God is doing in many lives around me, and I want to continue to prioritize relationships.  This is the reason I have taken a break from serving church programs.  I hope you can understand.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Year 1 of Kingdom Secrets

For over a year now I have been slowly working through passages related to the secrets of the kingdom and writing short posts on each.  I have written 35 posts in this series, and have only made it through Matthew. I am now finding some overlap as I look at some passages in Mark and will simply edit my summary page in those cases instead of re-posting the same things.

If you haven't studied this topic, I would highly encourage you to do so.  For some reason Jesus chose to speak in parables, and his favorite topic seemed to be that of His kingdom.

I am keeping a summary page with links to each post here: Secrets of the Kingdom Summary 

I welcome comments or feedback on any of the posts.

Luke 8:10 (NIV)

He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’"
Matthew 13:11 and Mark 4:11 have similar records. 

Don't you want in on the secrets?

Related Post:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Web 2.0 and Church 2.0

We are about 10 years into interacting in a Web 2.0 world.  The legacy World Wide Web was made up of static webpages that were maintained by a small number of people.  Most webpages would have a single person assigned to update the content on a page.  When a visitor viewed a website there was not much opportunity for the user to interact with the content.  You could read it, print it, and click on links to jump to other pages, but you couldn't really contribute to the website in a meaningful way.

With Web 2.0 the internet changed.  Websites that allowed users to contribute content became very popular. The average person had platforms to share their voice.  Tools like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Youtube, TripAdvisor, photo galleries, blogging... the list is endless.  Most of the popular websites today encourage participation and user contributed content. 

Can a parrallel be made with church?

With legacy or traditional church models, there is a small number of people that produce and deliver the content. There is often one man who has more voice than the rest.  The opportunity to interact with the message and contribute content is limited. A message is produced and delivered, and visitors (and regular attenders) for the most part simply take it in.

I believe there is a movement going on today where believers are seeking to have greater participation in gatherings of the church. 

Should we call this Church 2.0?

Although I love the idea. I actually don't think it would be accurate to call this movement Church 2.0.  Although the idea of open participation whenever the church gathers may seem foreign for many Christians, this is not a new movement at all. In the 16th century the Anabaptist movement promoted participation of the priesthood of believers. And I believe the movement can actually find its roots in the New Testament Church.  If we study all the one another passages, we see room for all believers participating in the most important aspects of church life.    We can also look at examples of teaching in the New Testament and note that most of it was done in interactive and participatory settings.

Simple open and participatory gatherings of the Church is not a new or dangerous concept. However what I can't find in my Bible is having someone called pastor preach a sermons every Sunday to a passive audience.

What do you think?  Do you think Web 2.0 has improved your web experience?  

Do you think greater levels of participation would benefit the church?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Forgotten God Highlights

I suspect an area that God desires growth for me is my relationship with the Holy Spirit. A lot of what Francis Chan writes in his book Forgotten God resonates with me.  I'll simply share a few of the pieces I highlighted as I read.

Jesus Himself said to His disciples, "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (John 16:7 NIV). So Jesus is basically telling His disciples, "Yes, I was with you for three and a half years, but it is better that I leave you and the Holy Spirit comes to you"

Yes, I think that is a cool thought. What we have can be even better than what the disciples experienced.

"He who searches hearts know what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." I don't know about you, but I find the thought of the Spirit of God praying for me according to the will of God extremely comforting.

Yes, very comforting.   I often find I don't know how best to pray for something, but I can learn to pray along side the Spirit.

The church becomes irrelevant when it becomes purely a human creation. We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God.
Fair questions:

If the Spirit didn't show up during our gatherings, would anyone notice?

To those who observe my life, is it obvious that a supernatural God is at work?

The fruit of being led by the Spirit of God includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These attitudes and actions will characterize our lives as we allow ourselves to be grown and molded by the Spirit. The Spirit is our sanctifier (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:22 - 23)
Yes, and easier said than lived.

"So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church" (1 Cor. 14:12).
Yes, seems like a good place to start.

We all have to answer the question: Do I want to lead or be led by the Spirit?
Hmm... we may all have the Spirit with us... but who is leading?

Because the fact is that if you were in step with the Holy Spirit, listening to and obeying Him, you wouldn't sin (Gal. 5:16) In any given moment, it is impossible to live in the power of the Spirit and sin at the same time. Sin is wholly opposed to everything that is of the Spirit. They really are mutually exclusive and totally contrary to each other.
The struggle is to let God reign or let self reign... that is a consistent theme in our Scriptures.

In the book of Philippians, Paul writes "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (2:12 - 13). I love the apparent contradiction in this passage. Paul says in one breath, "Work out your salvation," and in the next, "It it is God who works in you." The both-ness here doesn't allow us to escape with a simple conclusion. Yes, it is God who works in you. And, yes, there is work for you to do. Yes, the Spirit empowers you to do the work. And, yes, you do the work.
So yes, I enjoyed reading this book.  Some good information.  But as Francis Chan also emphasizes... the point isn't just to understand stuff about the Holy Spirit... the goal is to grow and live with the Holy Spirit, and learn to listen and follow His ways.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Kingdom Good News

I am continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom and am now moving into the gospel according to Mark.

Early into this good news account by Mark we have this passage that relates the good news to the kingdom of God.

Mark 1:14-15 (NIV)
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.  “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” 
Or... Young's Literal Translation 
And after the delivering up of John, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of the reign of God,and saying -- `Fulfilled hath been the time, and the reign of God hath come nigh, reform ye, and believe in the good news.'

I am sure many theologians wish there were more details here. 

What is the gospel that Jesus preached?

Or maybe the good news that Jesus preached was simply that the King was here.  Jesus is Lord. Repent, believe, change your way of thinking, submit to the King and submit to the reign of God.

Do you think this passage is missing some of the details of the gospel? Or could the secrets of the kingdom be simple enough for a child or simpleton like me to understand. :)

May God's kingdom come, Gods will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven.

That is good news!