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, 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? 
Chain Blog Rules
  1. If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
  2. Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog (both this post and the other link posts in the chain).
  3. When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Are All Traditions Wrong?

I may sometimes sound like I don't like traditions.  But do I think all traditions are wrong?


I like to ask questions like: Can we find evidence of this tradition in Scriputre?  But if I can't find an example of the tradition in Scripture, do I conclude it is wrong?


For example. In our family we pray before we eat a meal together.  We close our eyes, bow our heads, and say a short prayer of thanks. This is a tradition we both grew up with, and it is a tradition we have continued on.  I don't know if this tradition is really rooted in Scripture. But that doesn't mean we need to abandon it.

So why do I care if something is a man made tradition or not. What difference does it make?

I find it gives me the freedom to question if it is the best way of doing something.  If something is a tradition that is not commanded or demonstrated in Scripture I think it is worth asking a few questions about it:
  • When did we start this tradition?
  • Why did we start this tradition?
  • Are there better ways of doing things?
  • What does the Bible have to say on the topic - if anything?
  • Are we OK if some people do things different than us?
I know many people are fine keeping their traditions going.  But I think it is good and productive for them to be examined ever century or so.  So along my journey I've been questioning things like  Christmas, holidays, Sunday as a special day, sermons, hierarchical leadership, elders and pastors, order of service, church etymology, tithing, denominations, membership,  washing hands, and church financial statements.

Some of these traditions I will continue to support, but others don't make a lot of sense to me now. In some cases I think Scripture shows us alternate ways of doing things.  In most of these cases I am OK with other believers continuing with their traditions. But I'd encourage them to consider examining them for themselves.

What do you think.  Are there benefits to questioning traditions?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Big Front Porch

Listening to an interesting podcast of a conversation between Sean Davidson, Bruxy Cavey, and Wayne Jacobsen.

I read Bruxy Cavey's book End Of Religion about a year ago.  I came away wondering how it was that someone who believed Jesus didn't come to start a new religion could end up on the pastoral staff at a large church in Ontario. This conversation I'm listening to today is helping clarify how this works for Bruxy.

It seems Bruxy is most concerned with encouraging believers to grow in their relationship with God and form healthy relationships with others.  The way they 'do church' is to emphasize meeting together in small house size gatherings.  It seems they place a real emphasis on this. 

The Sunday morning gathering then becomes like a big front porch that welcomes new people and encourages them to 'do church' with them... in a home setting.  They tell the people who come on Sunday that they are not a church that has small groups. They are a collection of home churches that also meets on Sunday morning.  When they talk about church... they are talking about the gatherings that occur in their homes.

"And we'll remind people regularly, if you don't have enough time in your week to do both, please skip Sunday mornings."

I enjoyed the podcast, and love seeing God moving people to think about church and religion outside the box of what has been passed on to us.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kingdom Of God Coming With Power

I am continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom, taking a look today at Mark 9:1 (NIV)
"And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”
I wonder if some who were standing there listening to Jesus thought of the song "it's the end of the world as we know it". Did they connect this reference to some final age where they would all go up to heaven to live for eternity? I suspect if Jesus spoke these words today, some would be tweeting similar thoughts.

Mark 9 verse 2 continues with the transfiguration story...
"After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus."
So some who had been standing there in verse 1 did see the power of God come with power, they witnessed the King in His kingdom.

 I also think of the power of God coming on the day of Pentecost a few years later.

Can you think of other examples where the kingdom of God was visible and its power evident?  

Have you experienced times in your own life where God's power felt near, and His reign felt close?

What do you think Jesus was talking about here?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Keep It Simple Sir

I'll keep it respectful here. I won't call anyone stupid as the acronym KISS sometimes goes. So here are some suggestions to Keep It Simple Sir  (or Sister).

1) We should keep it simple so the greatest in the kingdom don't get confused.  We are actually commanded to become more like children.
"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." (Matt 18:3-4 HCSB)
If we've made something so complex that children have a hard time understanding or replicating it, maybe we are the ones missing something.

2) Recognize that church is simply people - the body of Christ, the family of God.  With a little church etymology  we see that in Scripture the term 'church' did not refer to buildings, institutions, or Sunday morning programs.  It simply referred to believers and whenever they got together.  Belonging to Christ's church is more like belonging to a tribe or people group than like belonging to a club or organization.

3) Consider every moment with others a moment to teach.  You don't need to prepare sermons, study books or DVD's to teach one another.  We see mostly interactive teaching in the New Testament. Teaching others may be simpler than you think.

4) Recognize you have a role to play in  disciple making.  I used to think of discipleship as a program or branch of the church that some people got involved with.  But we should consider how each of us can make disciples of Christ. We can watch how Jesus made disciples through living in simple relationships with others.  Discipleship may be simpler than we think.

5) Consider how you can be a pastor or shepherd, one who cares for the needs of others. Are there people in your life that you care for, give guidance, and build up so they mature in their relationship with Christ? This may be the basics of shepherding.

6) Understand that SMALL is sometimes big.  Just consider how rabbits reproduce a lot quicker than elephants.  The same principle may apply to church growth.  Small simple gatherings will be easier to reproduce than larger structures.  Many new small gatherings of believers can be started without multimillion dollar fundraising campaigns. Yes this seems like upside-down thinking, but so was a lot of Jesus' teachings about His kingdom. 

7) Leadership does not always mean decision making. I see two different types of leaders.  There are those that make decisions for others, and claim authority to impose their will on others. However others lead simply by living as an example that others follow. This second type of leading seems to fit better with what Jesus says in passages like Matt 20:25-28, Matt 23:8-12, Luke 22:24-27, Matt 19:30, Matt 20:16, Mark 9:35, and Luke 13:30.  Consider taking some leadership lessons from this dancing guy video.

8) You may want to consider taking a break from serving church programs. Scripture is clear we need to serve and care for people. If you find programs keep you too busy to focus on people, you may want to say no to some activities so you can better serve and love the church (the people).  Could less busy = improved relationships?

9) Simplify your list of essentials. Christians tend to only accept other believers who agree to their list of essentials. Unfortunately many lists of essentials include doctrines that have divided the church over the years. I find by recognizing that love is essential, and unity is essential, I am no longer in a position to judge others over many other disputable matters.

My head is often spinning when I look at church history, and the many church traditions we have today.   But I am finding some clarity when I think of church in simpler terms.

I hope this simple list of how to KISS is helpful to some of you.

Have I missed anything?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Protecting Institutions Quote

"That's the problem with institutions isn't it? The institution provides something more important than simply loving each other in the same way we've been loved. Once you build an institution together you have to protect it and its assets to be good stewards. It confuses everything. Even love gets redefined as that which protects the institution and unloving as that which does not. It will turn some of the nicest people in the world into raging maniacs and they never stop to think that all the name-calling and accusations are the opposite of love."
From  So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore, By Wayne Jacobsen & Dave Coleman

For the record: I deeply love the church... the people.   But I'm not a huge fan of the institutional church.

If this quote is correct, does my lack of love for the institution put a target on me for some unloving reactions from those who love the institution?

Do I need to love the instution to have healthy relationships with the people?

To be fair, I am finding that many of my brothers and sisters still do accept me.  But I am aware of the potential of being misunderstood.

Do you think this quote is accurate?  I'd love to hear your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why Are You Gifted?

Ephesians 4:7-16 lists some of the gifts given to the church.  What is the purpose of these gifts?

Ephesians 4:7-16  (NIV)
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”
 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,  to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

First I think we need to understand what each of the gifts listed here mean. Unfortunately 'teachers' is the only term that gets translated into plain English for us:
  • apostles - those who are a messengers, envoys, delegates, commissioned by another to represent him in some way
  • prophets - those who declare the mind (message) of God, which sometimes predicts the future and more commonly, speaks forth His message for a particular situation.
  • evangelists - those who bring good news, who announce the gospel
  • shepherds/pastors - those who care for other believers
  • teachers - those who teach

This isn't an exhaustive list of gifts of the Spirit. Romans 12:6-8 lists prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and showing mercy. 1 Corinthians 12:8 - 10 lists a message of wisdom, a message of knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, miracles, discernment, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues. There are likely more gifts given to the church than those listed here.

My question is why do you think the church has been given these gifts?

And why does it seem they are given to many different people?

First I'd like to suggest Jesus had all of these qualities.  He traveled around (apostle) preaching the good news of the kingdom of God (evangelist). He spoke the message of God (prophet). He is considered our shepherd. He was a teacher, served others, gave to others, lead, showed mercy, healed, had discernment, and did many miracles.  I'm not sure if we have any records of Him speaking in tongues, but I don't doubt He could.

Now take a look at the Ephesians 4:7-16 passage again.

It looks like the purpose of these gifts is to build each other up to become more like Jesus. 

Is it possible that each of us are to become more like Christ?  Shouldn't we all be messengers of the good news? Shouldn't we all listen for God's voice and speak it into other people's lives? Shouldn't we all care for other believers, teach others, serve others, give to others....

Yes, some will be more gifted in each of these areas than others. But could a purpose of having these gifts be to live as an example to the others on how to exercise that gift?

If you are gifted as a teacher, how can you use that gifting to encourage others to teach?

If you are gifted at giving, how can you use that gifting to teach others to give?

If you are gifted at serving, how can you be an example of service so others grow in this way?

If you are gifted at shepherding, how can you be an example of caring for the needs of others so others will shepherd as well?

If you are gifted at proclaiming the good news, how can you encourage others to proclaim the good news with you?

Obviously there are other reasons to use these gifts.  As a result of using these gifts people get cared for, get taught, hear God's good news message, etc.  But is it possible that everyone should be encouraged to grow in each of these areas to become more like Christ?  If you are gifted, how can you use your gift to build others up so they can exercise their gifting as well?

Do you think you are exempt from exercising any of the gifts of the Spirit?

Do you think it is best if a few people get the most exercise?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.