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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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