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, January 25, 2014

Recent Church Activities


People use the term 'church' in various ways. When I speak of church I try to refer to Christ followers in the plural. Period. The New Testament church seems to be whenever 2 or more believers assemble together.

To clarify what church means to me, I'll share some recent examples I've had with believers gathering together.

1) Every day I gather with my wife and two children.  We gather around meals. We pray. Some days we read the the Bible together. Some days we sing. We discuss each others questions about God, life, and how we should live. We encourage each other to become more like Christ.  These church activities rank high in my priorities at our current stage in life.

2) Our family has gotten together with two families that have come from a background of being employed by institutional 'churches' and now find themselves seeking to follow God outside those walls. We eat together. We share stories together. We help each other honestly and openly wrestle with issues we don't understand. We encourage each other. We have shared Scripture with each other. We have watched videos together.  We may even sing together next time we get together.  We have only gotten together a few times, but I pray our gatherings encourage each of us to become more like Christ.

3) We get together with my wife's parents regularly. They are an encouragement to us. They are examples for our family as they have dedicated their lives to sharing Jesus with others, specifically people with Muslim backgrounds.  We eat together. Pray together. Share life together, and hopefully encourage each other to become more like Christ.

4) Through facebook I sort of get together with a group who is reading through the New Testament this year. Each day we read a chapter on our own, and share our thoughts with each other through a private facebook page.  We are only a few weeks in, but I am encouraged by how these reading speak to each of us, and we can teach one another as each of us are being taught by God as we read the Scriptures.

5) Some other internet activities may count as well. I have watched some videos where Christ followers have shared their experiences and understanding of God. I have read some articles, and listened to podcasts.  I have interacted with some Christians through emails, blogs, twitter, facebook, and more.

6) I get together with different Christ followers at my workplace, and in my carpool to work. There are a few in particular that often engage in spiritual conversations with me. We share the highs and lows of our spiritual journey, and life in general.  I pray whenever I get together with other Christ followers we can encourage each other to become more like Christ - even at work.

7) I get together with lots of Christ followers most Sundays. There is a 'Sunday School' time where we typically watch a movie and have some conversations about the topic. There is a singing time. There is a sermon.  There is some time between where we can talk with other Christ followers and be an encouragement to each other.

8) We have gotten together with other Christ followers this month as well. It is hard to list them all.  We have been in a few people's homes, and have had a few people in our home.  It has been really cold this month, so we haven't done much outdoors. But in warmer months we get together with believers outdoors as well. Tonight we are having a few families over to eat pizza and watch a hockey game.  I pray we can encourage each other to become more like Christ.

I've likely missed something.

I would encourage you to think about the different activities or interactions you have with Christ's church.

I'd also encourage you to consider your purpose with getting together with other believers.  In Scripture we see different activities occurring when the church assembled.  What activities are of most value to you at your stage of growth? What activities are of value for the others you are gathering with?

 Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV)
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching. "

Note: These instructions for meeting together are sandwiched between two 'one another' commands.  May we be mindful of the relational interactions when we gather as well.

Related Posts:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Repost: We finally Got The Bible Right



source: http://stthomasthedoubter.tumblr.com

"So this is where our movement came along and finally got the Bible right."

"Jesus is so lucky to have us"

This cartoon made me laugh, yet it should make us cry.  Being the week of prayer for Christian Unity, I hope we can recognize how wrong and arrogant an attitude like this would be.

Maybe church unity has less to do with church denominations or movements, but everything to do with the church (the people). Denominations may do a good job promoting unity on a local scale, but they may do so at the expense of creating divisions with those outside their circle.

On the other hand, if Christ's church is simply people, whenever they get together- the way church seems to be defined in the New Testament... Church unity becomes easier to recognize without the 'us vs them' mentality.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Monday, January 20, 2014

United Prayer For Peace in Syria



I'm wondering what it would be like to be part of the minority Christian church in Syria these days.

Here are some quotes from recent news. An example of Christian unity, during the week of prayer for Christian unity.  All Christians around the world can stand with our Syrian brothers and sisters and pray for peace in Syria.

"Church leaders and representatives from Syria, the Middle East Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and the Holy See gathered in Geneva from 15–17 January 2014 for a consultation to address the forthcoming Geneva II peace conference on Syria."
"A statement from churches around the world urging an end to the armed conflict in Syria... was presented to Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations-Arab League joint representative for Syria, by the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit today in Geneva, 20 January."
"Christians have maintained a continuous presence in the land of Syria since the dawn of Christianity. Today, as churches and church-related humanitarian agencies, we are present with the people of Syria on a daily basis both inside the country and amongst refugees. In this communication, we seek to raise their voice."
"As Christians we speak with one voice in calling for a just peace in Syria. To achieve this peace, we are committed to working hand-in-hand with Muslim sisters and brothers, with whom we share a common history along with spiritual and social values. We seek to work for national reconciliation and healing through building trust."
“Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).

"The meeting was accompanied by an ecumenical prayer held on the evening of 16 January, also joined by the members of the international community to express their solidarity with the people of Syria, expressing hopes for peace in the country."
"The service drew attention to the great antiquity of the Christian presence in Syria, as well as the commitment of Syria's Christians, inspired by the New Testament to transform violence and oppression into healing and reconciliation."

http://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/wcc-presents-lakhdar-brahimi-with-statement-from-churches-to-be-delivered-at-geneva-2-talks

http://www.oikoumene.org/en/press-centre/news/joint-representative-for-syria-to-deliver-urgent-call-from-churches-to-geneva-2-talks




Sunday, January 19, 2014

Evangelicals and Catholics Together

As this week is the week of prayer for Christian unity, I thought I'd share this. In 1994 a group of evangelical and Roman Catholic scholars put their names to a document affirming common beliefs and more.  As expected, there were critics on either side who did not agreed with every word put in this document. But I think it leads as an example of recognizing unity where some would not expect to find it.

Here is a short quote:

"Jesus Christ is Lord. That is the first and final affirmation that Christians make about all of reality. He is the One sent by God to be Lord and Savior of all: "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4) Christians are people ahead of time, those who proclaim now what will one day be acknowledged by all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Philippians 2) We affirm together that we are justified by grace through faith because of Christ. Living faith is active in love that is nothing less than the love of Christ, for we together say with Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2) All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ."

The full document can be found here:
http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9405/articles/mission.html

I pray that Christians would learn to recognize their brothers and sisters, and offer grace where differences seem insurmountable.

Related Post:


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Prayer for Unity

This week is the week of prayer for Christian Unity, so here is my prayer:

Dear Father, Son and Holy Spirit in heaven, I believe in your oneness. I pray that the world will see you through your children.  May your reign and rule exist here on earth in the same way as it exists in heaven.  May your will be done.  I understand that your will is that others will know you when they see you in us.

I pray against the lies of the spirit of division.  If two of your children, who have incomplete knowledge, disagree about something, they are still brothers.  It is not up to the children to decide who belongs to your family.  You do not required perfect understanding when you adopted us into your family. I pray we can accept others with the same grace you extend to us.

I've never heard of a family where the unity is based on accepting a common creed or belief system.  I pray your family would recognize that our unity is based on your loving relationship with us.  Thank you for loving us unconditionally.

You only have one church, and it meets in many different places. Many of your children have believed the lie that there are divisions in your church.  That somehow your church is a kingdom divided against itself. From Mark 3:22-30 we see that suggesting your kingdom is divided against itself is the context of the unforgivable blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.  I trust and pray that it will be that lie that falls, and not your kingdom.

I pray that your church would recognize that it exists whenever believers gather together.  I pray that the walls and divisions that have grown over the years would not influence how we define your church.  When believers meet to build each other up to become more like you, that is your church. Your church meets at work. Your church meets in homes. Your church meets in public or private buildings, and outdoors.  Your church meets every day of the week in many different locations.  I pray that your church could open it's eyes to see itself whenever and wherever it is.

I pray that your followers would recognize that unity is essential.  Scripture seems pretty clear that your followers are to love one another and not judge one another. I pray that your followers will not ignore your desire for unity.

I pray these things for the sake of others, that the world would see your characteristics of grace, love, mercy and forgiveness through your children.  May it be in line with your will. Amen.

Some verses to consider:

Jesus' Prayer for us in John 17:20 - 26 (NIV)
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
John 13:33-35 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." 

Colossians 3:13-15 (NIV)
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Ephesians 4:2-6 (NIV)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Romans 15:5-7 (NIV)
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
1 Cor 12:12-13 (NIV)
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
1 Cor 1:10-13 (NIV)
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
 Luke 6:37-38 NIV
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
 1 Cor 4:4-5 NIV
“It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
Matt 7:1-5 NIV
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. "
1 John 4:19-21
"We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Overview of Different Atonement Theories

Considering my previous post, I will attempt to explain what I understand about different atonement theories without being dogmatic.  :)

There are different theories of atonement that attempt to explain how humans can be reconciled to God, or how God reconciles us to him.

Atonement can mean to wipe out or to cover.  Their is also a connection between the terms "kofer" (ransom) and "Kapper" to cover.  The following theories for the most part agree that it is God who does something to make a way for people to be brought into a relationship with Him.  The different theories hold different ways of explaining how God did it.


Moral Influence

The moral influence view of the atonement teaches that the purpose and work of Jesus Christ was to bring positive moral change to humanity. This moral change came through the teachings and example of Jesus, the Christian movement he founded, and the inspiring effect of his martyrdom and resurrection.

The Biblical support for this theory comes from passages where Jesus and His followers give instruction on how to live better, how to love better, how to become the people God intended them to be.


Ransom Theory

According to this view, people were held in bondage or captivity to sin or Satan.  Christ's sacrifice is seen as a ransom being paid to Satan (or the hold sin has on us) to set people free.   Redeeming in this case means buying back. An analogy would be warriors being held captive by another kingdom, and the home king giving something to the other kingdom to get his warriors back. 

Biblical support would be Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45, 1 Timothy 2:6, Galatians 3:13, Galatians 4:5, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Revelation 5:9, Romans 3:23-26, and Titus 2:14 which speak in terms of redeeming and ransom.  1 Corinthians 7:23, Colossians 1:13  speak of rescuing.  1 Corinthians 6:20, 1 Corinthians 7:23 - speak of being bought with a price.

Christus Victor

This theory speaks to Christ defeating the powers of darkness. The view holds that humanity was under the authority of sin or Satan since the fall of Adam.  Jesus strikes a defeating blow to Satan when he defeats sin and death.

Biblical support: John 12:31, John 16:11, 2 Timothy 1:10, Hebrews 2:14-15, 1 John 3:8


Satisfaction and Penal substitution atonement

There are a variety of theories within these two theories, and to me they seem to overlap. 

There is the idea of God's justice being satisfied.  God's character demands that all sin must be accounted for. Since the the wages of sin is death, and mankind is sinful, someone must die.  God's justice is only satisfied if either we are punished for our sins, or Jesus dies as our substitute.  Jesus' death is seen as a payment to God for the debt of sin.

Biblical support: Isaiah 53, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 3:23-26

My Summary

There are parts of each of these atonement theories that are meaningful to me.

I'm hesitant to agree with the 'moral influence' theory, since it may lean more towards human works than God's working.  But I do see some truth in the fact that Jesus did have a lot to say on how to live and follow His example.

To me it seems like the ransom theory makes a lot of sense to me.  The idea of Jesus buying us back from slavery makes sense to me, and looks to me like it has a lot of Scriptural support. 

I also see truth in the Christus Victor theory. The idea that the powers of darkness were defeated at the cross sounds right as well.

I also agree that the wages of sin is death, and than mankind falls short of God's holiness. However I have some concerns with aspects of this theory as I have written about before here.

But yes, as Christians have tried to sort out the mysteries of how God made things right with us there have been different theories used to explain it. People have studied our Scriptures and found different ways to understand this deep mystery.  I tend to lean in favour of some of the theories more than others.  I respect your right to study the different theories and determine what makes the most sense to you.  We may differ on the 'how' God makes things right, but I trust we can agree that God does make things right.


Sources:
http://www.academia.edu/1825599/Views_of_the_Atonement_-_Survey_and_Solution
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2092-atonement
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_influence_theory_of_atonement
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atonement_in_Christianity
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atonement_(Christus_Victor_view)
http://www.mbconf.ca/home/products_and_services/resources/publications/mb_herald/mb_herald_june_2009/features/thinking_about_the_atonement/

Monday, January 6, 2014

Dogmatic Pontification

I haven't read the above book. I just stumbled upon it while considering a graphic for this post. However I'm absolutely certain it accurately addresses this topic.  I know without a shadow of a doubt Judy J. Johnson is onto something.  I know that being dogmatic about anything is absolutely wrong and very dangerous. :)

??

Unfortunately being dogmatic comes fairly natural for many of us.  (My previous paragraph included.)

according to Webster:
dogmatic: expressing personal opinions or beliefs as if they are certainly correct and cannot be doubted
I have been thinking lately about our tendency towards being dogmatic around things we believe.

I have realized something recently. I respect people that study a topic.  If you are going to voice your opinion on something it is good to study it first. My respect grows when I discover they have studied different viewpoints on the topic.  It is good to acknowledge that not everyone who has studied the topic is in agreement.

The challenging part comes next. I admire when someone is able to communicate that they see value in different perspectives on a topic, that the choice isn't necessarily crystal clear, even though they have come to rest favoring a particular position.  I am recognizing the value of approaching debatable topics with a good dose of humility.

In most situations after studying a topic, people will weigh the positions as they see them and pick a side.  This should be expected.  However when we become dogmatic about the answers we discovered, we do all we can to invalidate the fact that there were different positions to consider in the first place.  When we are dogmatic we do not allow others to study the topic freely and openly on their own.  When we acknowledge that we had to sort through some competing positions to arrive at where we currently rest, we give others permission to follow the same process we took to study the topic from different angles, in their own quest for meaningful answers.  When we avoid being dogmatic, we may even encourage them to consider our position as well.

So I have recently recognized this when listening to others. Will I be able to change and move forward applying this to how I communicate with others?  This is my challenge.  I don't know if I need to start by editing all my old blog posts, that would be a challenging activity.

Here is another angle. Since being dogmatic comes naturally for most of us, I wonder if we can consider being dogmatic about different things than we have in the past:

  • What if we were dogmatic about placing the interests of others above our own?
  • What if we were dogmatic about humbly counting others more significant than ourselves?
  • What if we were dogmatic about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
  • What if we were dogmatic about praying for unity and recognizing it when it stands before us?
But that is just my humble thoughts for today. There may be value in being dogmatic about other things as well. :)