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.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Image of Bridge

This isn't a 'normal' post.  But I feel like I should post it... so crazy or not here it is. 

An image came to my minds eye as I was praying yesterday. 

I saw a grand old bridge. It was made of concrete. In the distance it had a structure with an archway... it may have been in the center of the bridge.

I was standing on land on one side of the bridge looking down the road that crossed the bridge.

I felt that the bridge was in some way bridging the gap between the ancient church and the present church.

I saw people coming along the bridge towards me. They looked like they were in a hurry. They looked like they were moving quickly, but making slow progress. Like jogging on the spot. They may have been riding horses. It was a mob. They were not dressed well. They were dirty. They were in such a rush that they were pushing each other and many of them were falling off the bridge. It was as if the bridge was not large enough for all of them.

I wanted to turn and see where they were going. I wanted to see what was behind me, but I couldn't turn around.

But I know once they make it across the bridge there would be plenty of room. Freedom for everyone to move without getting in each others way.

I'm not certain why this image came into my minds eye, if it has a meaning, or what it is.

I suspect the bridge is the structures of church that has carried the people of the church from ancient times until now.

If that was the bride of Christ, it wasn't a pretty sight.  But I sense God is still at work and better things are yet to come.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Most Efficient Leadership Structure

"I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient -- efficient in doing almost everything than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership. "
(David Black - http://www.daveblackonline.com/what_does_a_new_testament_church.htm)

What do you think of this quote?

In terms of government systems, I have often heard that dictatorships or single party systems are more efficient than multiparty systems. Some of the most efficient countries in history have had a strong top-down leadership structure. I think the same goes for companies and other institutions.

There are drawbacks of course. I am glad I don't live in Nazi Germany or a single party country like China. Strong top-down leadership structures often do not value freedom of speech when your views are different than that of the leaders.

What is the primary task of leadership?

I guess it depends. In the case of a corporation that produces widgets, efficiency may be the top goal, and a strong top-down leadership structure may help produce the most widgets.

However, when talking about the church, the assembling of believers, what is the purpose of leadership?

If the goal is to run excellent programs a top-down leadership structure is likely what you want.

I believe the goal of gathering with other believers is to build one another up to become more like Christ. I believe Ephesians 4:7-16 speaks to this:
"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."(NIV)

I suspect this building up of one another is best accomplished in mutual relationships.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Playdough Scripture Matt 5:34 - 37

"But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. But you can swear on the Bible that contains these instructions."

(Matt 5:34 - 37 Playdough Version)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Following Jesus and Following Christianity

Lately a recurring thought of mine has been that I simply want to follow Jesus.  There are so many different ideas, traditions and groups that I could follow.  Many of these people are good people with good intentions. It can get complicated.

I wonder if there is sometimes differences between simply following Jesus and following Christianity?

I suspect for many Christians there is overlap. I struggle with this post as I don't want to sound judgmental. I suspect many people follow Jesus as they follow Christianity.  I used to be one of them. I don't believe any of us have it all figured out, there is a lot of mystery in this to me, and I believe God's grace is sufficient.

But as I try to sort out what it means for me to simply follow Jesus I am considering some possible distinctions.  

Following Christianity Following Christ
serving God typically means serving in some church program or Christian organization serving God will mean serving wherever and whenever God directs, it may look different for each of us
is concerned with understanding and agreeing to beliefs about God and Jesusis concerned with getting to know Christ personally and following Him
is concerned with fitting in by conforming to how other Christians live and/or how they want us to liveis concerned with conforming to the image of Christ
is concerned with making more converts to Christianity and members of a churchis concerned with introducing people to Christ
involves following some other people who have placed themselves in positions between you and God, claiming some authority over youinvolves following Christ personally, and includes some mutual relationships with other Christ followers that build each other up to become more like Christ
includes sectarianism and divisiveness as there are so many different brands of Christianity - so many different groups to followrecognizes that all who follow Christ are Christ followers
is submitting to something managed by menis submitting to God.

It is often OK to follow the example and teachings of other Christians, but I think this warning may sometimes apply to us today:

"Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees" (Matt 16:6)

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

I am finding a new freedom as I simply want to follow Jesus.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Playdough Scripture Mark 9:38 - 41

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons teaching in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us part of our denomination.”

Do not Tell others to ignore him if you can't  stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who  is different than us should be trusted, does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is with us joins us. not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward." (Mark 9:38-41 Playdough Version)

Sorry I had to play around with this passage quite a bit to make it fit the Christianity we often see today.

There are over 30,000 Christian denominations. Most of them have some false teachings and/or practices. Of course, I've sorted through all the issues and figured it out better than everyone else. :)

Is Jesus really saying it is not my job to try to stop everyone who is following Jesus in different ways than I am?

Is it possible many of us are actually on the same team but just haven't figured that out. We've been busy trying to steal the ball from each other, instead of passing the ball back and forth to make a great play.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Quotes re Generation X and Postmodernism

A few more quotes from  Jesus Has Left The Building by Winnipeg author Paul Vieira:

"Generation X is making a distinction between spirituality and religion. Maybe it's time for the church to make this same distinction."

"This emerging generation right around the world is ready for the apostolic dream. They are looking for authentic experience with Jesus. Postmodern thinking people need to know truth for themselves. They are most impacted by truth that comes through experience and relationship. They must be able to say, "this is something that I know, not just what I read in a book."  This is perfect, because salvation in Jesus hinges on an experience, a revelation of God. Young people are not looking to know more facts about God. They are looking to meet Him. They want to see Him active in the human experience. This becomes an open door for the gospel. It is a challenge to believers to live out their faith."

If the postmodern person is seeking to develop their own sense of reality, Jesus, who is the Truth, can work with that. The absolute becomes relative. When we stand before the Lord, it's not what we know that matters, but who we know. The intimate knowledge of Christ is the final and most satisfying destination of the postmodern journey."

"Jesus must be our message once again. The religion of "Christianity" is not much different than any other religion. The world doesn't need to hear about our church or denomination. Everything is Jesus and He is everything. Pluralism is providing God's people a backdrop to accentuate how glorious and unique Christ is. The light of a candle shines brighter in the midst of complete darkness."
These quotes made sense to me. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Scheduled Gatherings

A few thoughts about how we like to schedule many of our gatherings.

We like to schedule when we get together. In my culture/circle, people don't just drop by uninvited.  Growing up in the country I remember it was common for people to just knock on someone's door and stop by for coffee/tea and a short visit. We have experienced this on some visits with friends in Mexico too. We have just gone to people's homes, they have welcomed us in, and we have visited, shared some Scripture, shared our testimonies, and more.  But where I live - we like to schedule when we get together with people.

We also like to schedule what we do when we get together.  Sometimes we invite one or two families over for dinner. Sometimes we invite larger groups over, order pizza, have a bonfire, or just hanging out. Sometimes we invite people to go with us for a bike ride, skating, or some activity. Sometimes we invite people to come to our home to study the Bible. Sometimes we get together with the purpose of prayer. Other times we get together with believers for the purpose of singing and listening to a sermon.  I suspect people like to know what they are going to do when they get together before they decide to show up.

I am thinking about the gatherings that we plan.  I am wondering if it is possible to have more spiritual purpose whenever I get together with other believers.  For example, if we invite a family over for dinner, what is stopping us from sharing some Scripture and spending some time in prayer.  What about music? I suspect this may create some awkward moments.

I can't help wonder how it was for the early church.

Maybe we need to first answer why we gather as believers. A blogger brother Alan Knox has focused his studies on the topic of the gatherings of the church in Scripture. His post today is on this topic:
Alan concludes that according to Paul, every gathering of the church (people) should have the goal of mutual edification.

So as I think of the many different get together I have with other believers.  How can I engage in building each other up to become more like Christ?  Some activities and settings may be more suited to this than others, but I don't know if there are any settings where this goal should be ignored.

I also realize this is a different way of looking at gatherings of the church than most of my brothers and sisters are used to.  I should proceed with some sensitivity and care.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gospel Definitions

What is the deal with defining the gospel?  I am sensing there are different camps of Christians pushing their gospel definitions. I confess I have done some of this myself.

Trevin Wax has put together a collection of over 70 gospel definitions he has found here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/category/gospel/gospel-definitions/

There are some that I like more than others.  But if I was asked to give a definition of the gospel I would likely write something slightly different.

So I am wondering if we should back off on pushing our different gospel definitions.

Should we take an honest look and recognize that the terms for gospel and good new get used in many different ways in Scripture.  We don't find one gospel definition in Scripture that gets used over and over again.

Is the problem that we have made the word gospel to mean something more than it meant in Scripture? When we try to define the gospel, are we trying to create a summary of the main points of the Christian faith?

Have we changed the meaning of "good news" into "most important beliefs"?

Consider the example of gospel or good news in Luke 2:10. The angles pronounce good news (gospel) that a savior was born.  Does the use of the term for gospel here give a main summary of the beliefs of the Christian faith?  When we share the gospel with others are we to simply repeat what the angels said here?

I do sense some Christians are hesitant to accept that Jesus preached a good news message about the kingdom of God - and that He sent His disciples out preaching in a similar way. There are at least 8 passages where the terms good news or gospel are linked to a kingdom message in the gospels. To be honest I am not sure what concerns they have over this message. I am trying to sort it out.

I am not ashamed of the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus and His disciples preached. I am also not ashamed of any of the gospel accounts of Jesus. Nor am I ashamed of the good news message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Whenever Jesus and the writers of scripture say "this is good news", I want to agree and share the good news with others.

But I am recognizing there is no record in our Scriptures of a gospel presentation that includes a summary of all the main beliefs of the Christian faith.  If we simply look at all the times the words gospel, and good news show up, we do not see a pattern to piece together such a gospel presentation.  The same goes when we look at different passages where people share the message of Jesus to others.  Even Jesus gives different explanations to different people on how to be saved.

I have some concerns over how much proof-texting is required for most gospel presentations.  If you have to piece together a summary by cutting and pasting sentences from different places... don't you think it is odd that at least one, if not all the NT books had a complete summary like the one you have made? 

It is good to study the Bible and try to piece it together to understand what God is asking of you.  But we should notice that Jesus didn't really put together any creeds, doctrinal statements, or even a systematic gospel presentation that we should memorize, repeat, and spread. 

So as I strive to simply follow Jesus, I think I may be free from needing to have the best definition of "good news".  May Jesus be good news for those around me.

I guess I may need to re-word some of my old posts on this topic.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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