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, September 28, 2012

You Should Be a Pastor

I think you should consider being a pastor.  I think the church needs more pastors.  I'm not ranting about pastors because I want less of them. I actually want more believers to recognize that they have this 'calling' too.

Take a look at the one passage from most Bible translations that mentions the pastor.

Ephesians 4:11 - 13 (NIV)
"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  to equip his 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."

Note that it is plural pastors.  Can you find any verses that speak of a singular pastor?  We may be asking too much of one man when we ask them to fill this role on their own.



So what do pastors do?  The term pastor comes from the Greek poimenas which means shepherd, which we can assume means someone who cares for the needs of others.

So my question is this: Is it possible that many more of us should be caring for the needs of others? 

I think of Jesus' conversation with Peter recorded in John 21:15-17 where Jesus repeated asks Peter "do you love me", and then tells Peter to "feed my lambs" and "feed my sheep".  Did Peter become the first vocational pastor? Was Peter the only shepherd of the early church in Jerusalem?  I've never heard that argument. But I believe Peter took these words to heart and did devote his life to caring for other believers.  I believe many believers took these words to heart and followed the example of Jesus, Peter and others.

Peter later writes a letter to believers in other towns in 1 Peter 5:1-4.
"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:  Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;  not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."
The same message that he was given he passes on to other elders (plural).  Note he is not assuming there would be one shepherd or pastor in the group. Keep in mind elders in Jewish culture were older men who had earned the respect of the community, and Peter is writing as one elder to some others.

The term translated pastors in Ephesians 4:11 does show up in it's singular form poimén in a number of other verses. In the other verses it gets translated as shepherd, and often refers to Jesus. The title 'Chief Shepherd' in 1 Peter 5:4 is synonymous with 'Lead Pastor'. So yes, there is one Pastor or Shepherd who is capable of caring for a large flock, and I suspect He wants to enlist many of us to help do this work.

Here are some other verses that encourage all believers to care for others.


Philippians 2:4 (NIV)
"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
Galatians 6:2 (NIV)
"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
John 13:34-35 (NIV)
"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."
Romans 12:10 (NIV)
"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves."

I gotta add that I value and respect all my brothers and sisters who do care for others. I recognize many people are gifted in different degrees in special ways in this area. Not because of a job description or title, but because they recognize God is asking this of them. 

But please don't call me pastor or shepherd.  I am simply recognizing this as an area of growth for us at this point. I think it is possible to work at caring for others and simply be called by my real name.

Do you love Jesus?  If so... feed His sheep.

Related Posts:


Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Cyber Pulpit

If you've read enough of my blog you'll know I question the over-use of monologue, one directional sermons.

But as I took a look at my blog stat's I realize in a way I have my own cyber pulpit.

On average about 200 people each week suffer though reading some of my posts.  I know it's not huge, nothing to brag about, but I think that is a decent audience size.  With larger audiences it makes it tough to connect with everyone.  However, most people may not want to really connect anyway.

There are some differences though:
  • I don't know how many of them drift off to sleep half way through my cyber-sermons and leave the page without getting the whole message.
  • I don't mind if people get up and go to the bathroom, take a phone call, or reply to an email at any point.
  • I welcome and encourage feedback. I love it when people comment. Even if it is just something short, and even when they disagree with me.
  • I don't pass the plate before or after the message.
  • I don't have to get dressed up in a suit.
  • I regularly speak in tongues as this blog gets translated into many different languages around the world. I wonder if I make more sense in those other languages.

But I really don't want to view this as my cyber-pulpit. I'd rather view this as adding my voice to the conversation others are having.  I don't claim to have more authority than anyone else on these topics.

And I really appreciate feedback and dialogue - here, on other blogs, other social media sites, and with real people in real life. :)

Please participate in the conversation somewhere.  By doing so you will personalize and internalize what you believe. 

And thanks for reading. :)


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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Playdough Scripture Matt 28:19-20

"Therefore go and make converts disciples of all nations, baptising them in water and in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them understand correct theology.  to obey everything I have commanded you.(Matthew 28:19-20 Playdough Version)

This is based on a very well known verse. But a blog post by Tobie van der Westhuizen from South Africa got me thinking.  How well do we really know it?

Is there a difference between making converts and making disciples?

Immersion in water is a great way to symbolize immersion into our relationship with God, but we shouldn't assume this verse is talking about water.

Do we spend as much time teaching and modelling how to follow the person and teachings of Jesus as we do on teaching our doctrines? Should we be showing as much as we are telling? Disciple making may be more like apprenticeship than classroom style learning.

Thoughts?


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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Influence of Ignatius

How much influence has Ignatius of Antioch (AD 35 - 107) had on how church has been structured for the past 2000 years?  Taking a look at church history can help us understand aspects of who we are today.  Ignatius of Antioch is considered one of the apostolic fathers, a leader of the early church believed to be a student of John the apostle.  He died a martyr in the Colosseum of Rome.

From what I've read his views on the office of bishop were not held in most other towns and cities during his life.  But over time the church across the Roman empire did adopt many of his beliefs.

So for the sake of understanding history here are quotes from Ignatius. 
"It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself."
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ignatius-ephesians-roberts.html

"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as those that carry out [through their office] the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as where Christ is, there does all the heavenly host stand by, waiting upon Him as the Chief Captain of the Lord's might, and the Governor of every intelligent nature. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize, or to offer, or to present sacrifice, or to celebrate a love-feast. But that which seems good to him, is also well-pleasing to God, that everything ye do may be secure and valid."
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ignatius-smyrnaeans-longer.html 

"He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil."

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ignatius-smyrnaeans-longer.html

"Honour thou God indeed, as the Author and Lord of all things, but the bishop as the high-priest, who bears the image of God-of God. inasmuch as he is a ruler, and of Christ, in his capacity of a priest. After Him, we must also honour the king. For there is no one superior to God, or even like to Him, among all the beings that exist. Nor is there any one in the Church greater than the bishop, who ministers as a priest to God for the salvation of the whole world. "
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ignatius-smyrnaeans-longer.html
  
I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Do you agree with these quotes?

Try substituting the terms bishop, presbytery, deacons with terms like pastor, elders, and ministry leaders. Does this help us understand how we got to a place with church hierarchical leadership structures like we see today?

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Friday, September 21, 2012

The Way


Reading through Acts I keep noticing the way the term the Way is used. So I took a brief  look at the Greek: ὁδὸν (hodon) or hodos which gets translated as way, road, journey or path.

Acts 9:2 (NIV)
and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Acts 19:9 (NIV)
But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

Acts 19:23 (NIV)
[ The Riot in Ephesus ] About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.

Acts 24:14 (NIV)
However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets,

Acts 24:22 (NIV)
Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.”

It seems the Way is used by Luke in Acts in a similar way we use the word Christianity today. Try substituting the terms in the above verses. Does it fit? I find it interesting that the term Christianity doesn't show up at all in the New Testament books. The term Christian was used 3 times to refer to those who followed Christ.

So where did Luke, and I assume other followers, come up with this term to describe this movement or shared journey down this new path?
John 14:4-6 (NIV) comes to mind first
You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
I think these other verses also apply:

Matthew 22:16 (NIV)
They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.

Matthew 3:3 (NIV)
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”



If Luke wrote Acts today, do you think he would have used the term 'the Way' in these verses or would he have used 'Christianity'? Or would he have used a different term?


There is something about The Way that I find attractive and fitting for this new path or journey that Jesus came to show us.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Order of Service

How much structure should a gathering of believers have?

Over the past year or so we have had many gatherings of believers over at our home. Many of the gatherings have had minimal structure or agenda. If hot food is being served, we find it helpful to have a meal time set. But if people come late for that, it usually works OK too.

We have had other gatherings where we have all agreed to a bit more structure. For example in the spring we had a thing going where we were studying through the book of Mark together. That was the plan. For the most part we did OK with that plan, even though we didn't get too far before summer came and we took a break.

Consider the order of service at most Sunday gatherings.  if you attend a Sunday morning gathering regularly you should recognize some of these items from the order of service:
  • Greeting by an someone at the door 
  • Sitting down in your usual row
  • An opening prayer 
  • An opening Scripture reading 
  • Singing for ___ minutes 
  • Money collection
  • Video
  • Special music
  • Sermon for ___ minutes 
  • Singing __ more songs
  • An altar call 
  • Communion 
  • Closing prayer and/or benediction 
From place to place there will be some differences, and from time to time each gatherings will switch it up some. But most Sunday morning gatherings will have an order of service printed somewhere that the leaders follow.

There is nothing really wrong with having some plans.  But I see two main problems with following a rigid order of service when believers gather:
  1. We may miss out on a being lead by the Holy Spirit.  If we know what is going to happen before the gathering starts, we may not even look to the Holy Spirit for guidance.
  2. Most often the clergy and a few other leaders control most of what gets said and done.  The rest of the congregation doesn't participate freely.
So, should I create an order of service to use whenever believers get together at our house?  Which of the above items should be included?

If gatherings of believers are to follow an order of service, why can't I find a suggested order of service in the Bible?

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci


Some may think those fake Lords Supper pictures are funny, but here is the great work of art that is famous for many different reasons. I want to observe and appreciate it for how Leonardo da Vinci imagined this Last Supper to have looked like.

What are some things you notice about the picture?

First I notice da Vinci drew a table with people sitting around on chairs.  From what historians tell us, it is more likely that they sat around on cushions. If there was a table, it would have been much lower. So da Vinci's drawing may not be completely accurate.  But what else can we note from this drawing?

I notice the people look like they are enjoying their time together.

I notice a number of conversations going on around the table. I think 3 people are talking at the same time at the moment this picture captures.   Sort of like what happens naturally when a group that size gets together for a meal.

My eyes are drawn to the food. I like food. I wonder what these disciples are eating while they enjoy this meal together. It could be bread, fish and wine.  I don't know.  The portion sizes are smaller than what my family is used to for celebration dinners like Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But they are much larger than what is served when people pass the communion plate around on Sunday mornings.  It may be that in the days of da Vinci people were not as gluttonous as my family, and this is what a feast would look like for the average person.

I also notice they all look like men, except possibly the one to the left of Jesus.  I understand there is some controversy with this one. Is that a feminine looking John, or is that Mary Magdalene?

The records of Matt 26:17 - 30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-38, John 13:1-17  give us some information about this meal.

  • We know all 12 disciples were present.
  • The disciples argued here about which of them was greatest. They were likely jostling for positions to try to sit at the best seats during the meal, trying to sit close to Jesus.
  • In contrast it is also here that we see Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Teaching them again that the greatest in His kingdom are those who serve others.
  • We know they ate the Passover seder meal together, which likely included wine, unleavened bread, some specific herbs, fruits, nuts, vegitables, lamb and eggs. 
  • They sung a song together after eating, and then went to the Mount of Olives.

When we celebrate Jesus, and remember his words  "This is my body" and "this is my blood of the covenant" do you think it would be fitting to also:

  • enjoy a full meal together
  • enjoy having conversations around the table with many people
  • find ways to serve each other
  • possibly even sing together
Do you find anything missing from da Vinci's image of the Last Supper?

Do you find anything missing from tradition Sunday church's image of the Lord's Supper?

Related Posts:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Playdough Scripture Rom 12:1

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to sing worship songs during a worship service on Sunday morning offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship."(Rom 12:1 Playdough Version)

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fake Lords Supper Pictures

I hope you don't find these pictures too sacrilegious. The intent of this post is to see through the eyes of others for a moment. What do people think about when they think of the Lord's Supper or Last Supper?













I'm not sure if it is helpful to make connections between Jesus and Homer, Ronald Mc D, or iPod Touches. But I think there is something about the idea of the Lord's Supper that is still relevant to our culture today.

Do you see any aspects of these fake pictures that are more true to the original Last Supper than what we see in most church Lord's Supper services?

My next post will take a look at da Vinci's famous Last Supper painting and the Scripture passages that all these images are based on. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kingdom Like Seed Growing

I am continuing my series on the secrets of the kingdom.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.  All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.  As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29 NIV)

This is a timely personal reminder for where we find ourselves. We have a tendency to try to plan and control the service that we feel God leading us into. But we don't need to do all the work.  Sometimes we try to plan and control everything.  Here we see that a farmer has to do some of the work. He needs to plant, and he needs to harvest.  But the complex miraculous growth that occurs is out of the control of the farmer.

We can be reminded of this truth. God's kingdom is well... God's kingdom.  He will ask us to participate in working in His fields, but He won't expect us to do it all.  We can expect God to do the amazing parts.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Church Hierarchical Leadership


Jesus had an upside-down view of leadership.  The basis for this organization chart comes from 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.


However, it bothers me when I see top-down church hierarchy leadership structures like these:








This last organization chart bothers me the most.  It looks as if the Senior Pastor is the link between God and the church.  But we know from 1 Tim 2:5 that the only mediator between us and God is Jesus.

I've often wondered where the church got off course.  I know that to a degree the leaders in the church do serve others, but when did the church get the idea it was OK to have top-down hierarchy structures the same as other institutions of the world.

I came across a research paper yesterday called  The Rise of Hierarchical Leadership. It is an academic paper, not written necessarily for the masses.  It helped identify some of the reasons why there was so much change in this regard in the first 400 years or so of the church.

For example people like Clement of Alexandria and Origen had also been students of Platonism which saw the whole of society separated into classes or levels, and that people were actually predestined to their level in society.  They also thought in terms of dualism, where there was a need for priests and clergy to be mediators between regular laymen and God.  The concept of priesthood of all believers was soon largely overlooked.

There is a lot more to it than this. There are some quotes I may discuss at another time.

I'm not sure why this bothers me.  Some people fight leadership and authority because they wish they were in charge. I have no desire to lead in any manner other than leading by example of what it means to serve and care for others.  Biblical leadership doesn't have to be about making decisions for other people, or exercising authority over others.

Does anyone know of any other good resources that explain well how and why things changed?

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Saint Stephen Was Not a Christian

Stephen was a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5), and a man full of God’s grace and power who did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. (Acts 6:8) He is considered the first martyr of the New Testament.

But Stephen was not a Christian.

How can I say this?

This thought just came to me as I was reading further in Acts 11. It struck me that nobody was considered a Christian at the time of Stephen's death. It was some time later when some Greeks in Antioch came to believe and turned to the Lord. The label 'Christian' was first used in reference to these believers in Antioch. Stephen was following the way of Jesus, but he wouldn't have even heard of any Christians, let alone identified himself by this name.

There are some believers today that are rejecting or at least trying to avoid the label Christian. Some don't like all the religious and historical baggage that goes along with it. I understand in many cultures the term Christian invokes more negative feelings than simply talking about Jesus. There are times I try to avoid labels like Christian as well.  When the word Christian gets used, people may lump me together with all the other Christians they know - this could be good, and it could be bad, but it likely isn't very accurate.  There's a good chance I am not the same as any other Christian.  I'd much rather people get to know me and hopefully see the relationship I have with my Lord.

I also find it interesting that the disciples were "first called Christians" at Antioch. Christians did not come up with this title for themselves.

I guess we can't stop people from calling us what they want.

It would seem we don't need to call ourselves Christians to be disciples of Jesus.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Simple Guide To Hearing God

I'll write a short review of a short free e-book by Felicity Dale called A Simple Guide To Hearing God.

I love the length. At 44 pages there was no hesitation to jump in. With a longer book I sometimes put it off until I feel I have time to commit.  

And I love the price.  Thanks Felicity for your desire to share this message freely.

This e-book is in a different format.  It is a pdf file with links to videos on vimeo.  So you need to read it on a computer or device that supports the linking from a pdf to a video.  I appreciated this format, I didn't mind reading this short book on a laptop.  I appreciated seeing the videos of others sharing their stories and perspectives on this topic.

Here is where I found it. You need to subscribe to the blog, and you will be sent a link to the pdf e-book.

http://simplychurch.com/free-e-book-on-hearing-god/

The topic also is one that I have sensed God has been pushing me to discover more about lately.  It is fitting that this topic that I sense God is talking to me about is the topic of God talking to us.  This summer a few books have come my way, and a few people have been sharing stories with me highlighting the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit. So when I saw this book available, I listened.

I must confess there are parts of this book I am not comfortable with.  I am not saying I disagree with them, but there are parts that go beyond my comfort zone.  For example, I have never spoken in tongues, and I basically don't understand it.  I have seen it a few times, I have some respected friends who claim to do this, and I don't want to judge it, but for now honestly don't understand it.  There is also the element of visions and spiritual warfare with demonic activity that honestly make me a little uncomfortable.  These things have not been part of the norm of my Christian background.

Here are a couple of quotes that stand out to me:
One of the main paradigm shifts within simple/organic churches is the belief that ordinary men and women hear God. They can be entrusted with the affairs of the Kingdom. It does not need specially trained people to manage the church. The Holy Spirit is able to run the church by speaking directly to His people. He will do a far better job of it than our organizations and denominations ever can.
I think this is why I feel God pushing me towards listening more to the Holy Spirit. Throughout my life I haven't needed to rely on God speaking to me directly very often. There have been a few times that I can think of where I felt God has spoken to me in a real way.  But in the day to day Christian life I have been able to get by with God speaking to others, and I have for the most part followed what other Christians were doing.

Now that I am seeing beyond the walls of traditional church, I often feel alone.  But when I feel alone, I realize God is with me and has a plan for me.  I need to learn to hear His voice.  It has been there all along, I just haven't had to rely on it as much before.

So what did I hear as I read this book?

If there is one thing this short book has taught me is that it is important to spend time listening for God to speak.  Our minds are usually full, either with our own thoughts or with audio/visual media we are absorbing.  If I want to hear regularly from God, I should regularly spend time listening for His voice.  I know He can yell over all the other noise if/when He wants to, but it seems like common courtesy in a relationship to devote some time to communicate back and forth.

A common theme from the different experiences shared was that they would frequently attempt to empty their minds of their own thoughts, worries, and ambitions and wait for God to speak through a prompting, impression, or picture.  This can be done in private times, and also when gathering with other believers.

It seems like common sense, but unfortunately it is often not how we as Christians live.

It comes down to who is really Lord.

Do we live our daily personal lives by our own agendas, plans and ambitions?  Or do we listen to and follow the lead of our Lord?

When we gather with other believers, do we follow the agendas, plans and ambitions of some? Or do we listen to and follow the lead of our Lord?

There was more good stuff in this ebook. Instead of me writing more here, I'll encourage you to go get the book yourself.