Wednesday, December 22, 2010

True Sheep in unexpected places?

I've been wondering from time to time about the mantra heard in many churches regarding those "good people" we all know who will never darken the doorstep of a church for one reason and another, yet they live lives that look more Christlike than that of many professing Christians.

While reading Jesus' explanation of a parable in the book of John, this statement stood out for me:

"But the true sheep did not listen to them..."

It opens up for me the concept that there are still a lot of Christ's followers in the world who have not heard the voice of the True Shepherd in any churchs they may have experienced, yet still they do hear it somehow, at least sometimes, and live accordingly. And when they do eventually encounter The Shepherd more directly and intimately, they will indeed respond more fully yet. Isn't this why Jesus hung out with people outside the overtly religious circles of his day? And might it not explain why he found a better reception there than he did with the Religious Ones?

I'm wondering...

John 10:7-10 (NLT)
... "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. [8] All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. [9] Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. [10] The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"show" ... Not "tell" ...

As part of a committee looking to update and develop the mission for our little cogregation, I am scanning the scripture to clarify what God's desire for his church is as a whole. I notice that here it says "show" ... Not "tell" ...

"... you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, ...". 1 Peter 2:9

Monday, December 13, 2010

Time for a change?

"You were not pleased with burnt offerings
or other offerings for sin." - Hebrews 10:6

I'm often surprised by how often we Christians go running into the Old Testament to find rules and principles to live by, while over-looking Christ's specific teachings and examples of love clearly expressed in the New Covenant.

Why do we fail to grasp that much of what is expressed in the OT was intended to be a temporary agreement between Yaweh and one particular nation? True, it was pointing them to the permanent and ultimate truths of God, but it did so by accomodating some of their needs that Yaweh expected them to "grow out of" just as a child grows out of its need for diapers.

Yet, thousands of years later some of us keep running back to the same old s-tuff... ;-). I wonder why?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Like an army for doing good

I like the image this verse evokes - that God is mustering a people dedicated to winning the world for God, through goodness and selflessness rather than violence.  

This is the Way - the Only Way to win the hearts and minds of the world.

Titus 2:14

"He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds."

See it at

Friday, December 3, 2010

Not Our Favorite Verse

This admonition by Paul in his letter to the Romans is not the most popular verse in the Bible:

"Pay your taxes, too... For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do." Rom. 13:6

Thursday, December 2, 2010

For Good

As I read this passage today: 

"For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone." Romans 11:32

I was reminded that everything God does is salvific. He never gives up on us. Everything he does is intended to win our hearts and minds to (eventually) love and follow him. This is so different from our human nature that sometimes I need to be reminded. When I read a passage that says God punishes disobedience, etc., I tend to envision something harsh or angry going on because that's my human experience. But with God this is not so.

Whenever God corrects or disciplines us, it is always for our good and it is applied with love, gentleness and patience. (i.e. ... Love is patient, love is kind...etc.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Faith is the entry point.

Rom: 4:22
And because of Abraham's faith, God counted him as righteous.

Faith is that little opening into our lives, our character, that God needs to start changing us into his image... So he declares us righteous because from this tiny mustard seed of a start all else He will change.

(By contrast the only unpardonable sin is blasphemy against Holy Spirit, for this is the opposite of faith... This is to declare in your heart that God is worthless and unable to save us.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lawlessness of man...

While reading 2 Thess.  this morning, I got to wondering if the expression "man of lawlessness" might actually be intended as a figure of speech representing the evil influence of Satan within all humans?  That there is a time when God steps back (in response to being rejected by humans) and then our true lawless nature will be revealed... The lawlwssness of mankind as a whole.

It does make for an interesting reading that way, especially in light of what I see happening in the world around us.

2 Thessalonians 2:3

"...For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction."

(insert lawlessness of man for man of lawlessness)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Wonder As I Wander

I am now officially starting my Christmas celebration! As I listened to this song I realized it makes a great theme song for this blog:

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King

Wishing everyone a Wonderful Christmas (& A happy thanksgiving celebration to my American friends.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

God is pro-choice... why?

I was recently viewing a video relating to an attempted protest on a university campus.  Some young people are being arrested for violating the university's instructions to limit their protest to a less-travelled area of the campus.

While I admire the self-control and humble spirit exhibited by the protestors, I wonder about the violence exhibited in the signs they wanted to post.

I'd be more impressed with us Christians if we offered true grace to our fellow sinners rather than condemnation.  How many of us set up homes for unwed mothers where they can find help with the challenges of single parenthood?  How many of us set up homes where the mothers who chose abortion can rest, recover and heal in a loving, grace-filled, non-judgemental atmosphere?  How many Christians set up such homes for young women who will most likely repeat the same thing again and again?

This is what God through Jesus Christ does for all of us every day - yet we Christians fail miserably at extending this Grace to others. It is so much easier to pronounce righteous indignation on 'them' while forgetting our own sins.  We see ourselves as society's fixers rather than fellow sinners in need of constant fixing.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Holy Minstrels

There are some musicians who are blessed with an ability to take the good news message of God right out into the streets, coffee shops, music festivals and even symphony halls of our society.  This is a special gift.  I suspect it happens because these individuals genuinely sing songs and tell stories arising from their souls without preconceived agendas, prejudices or any attempt to manipulate people.

Rather they are doing what all great songwriters and storytellers do.  They are speaking authentically about what they have personally experienced and now believe to be true and strive to live by.  And then they leave us to decide how this fits into our own worldviews.  It's honest.  It shows respect to us as listeners.

I have two illustrations:
This is blues singer Eric Bibb performing from the heart at a Jazz and Blues festival:

And here is a taste of Steve Bell performing with various symphony orchestras in Canada and the US:

The term "witnessing" is often used by evangelical Christians and it usually gets twisted around to involve someone getting in another's face with a big bible, or heralding what others should believe or behave like.  It often leads to Christians trying to put on a show of righteousness, which feels like a show, and leads to Christians being labelled as "phony."  This I believe is all off track and misses the true essense of witnessing as seen in folks like Eric and Steve.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jesus vs. Jehovah

The first part of this video may look a little confusing with respect to this topic, but hang in there to hear what Dr. Greg Boyd has to say.  This may be dramatically different than 'stuff' you've heard up to now about who God is:

Jesus vs. Jehovah (Greg Boyd at The Meeting House | 5-16-10) from WHChurch on Vimeo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Where God Lives - Loving Relationships

My daughter recently had two of her old furry friends pass on.  She posted this reflection:

missing oldy cats
The first full day we had Minion, I really missed Nombly and Sherry. I became conscious of going from my two old boys, to suddenly having two young girls. And then last night I dreamed about Sherry. Sigh. Little Bones, little Nombs.

I posted this comment which I wanted to echo here:

This is to me the ultimate tradgey in death - the broken relationships.  One measure of a person's place in the world (human or animal) is how deep and aware are its relationships and therfore how much it will be missed after death.

And, if I might be permitted a theological insight from my own faith - I believe this is why God says he exists within love-based relationships (i.e. where two or more are gathered in my name there I am... And the Triune relational nature of God as revealed in the NT, etc...)

It's definitely a mystical thing going on.

Lovely kitties ... much missed. sniff ...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Beyond Welfare Religion...

In his book The Great Omission, Steve Saint, son of legendary Christian Martyr Nate Saint, addresses the problem he sees with some Christian mission work:

"...the Waodani “felt threatened by all of the benevolence they were receiving from Christian missions and relief organizations” (p. 18). Initially, the Waodani churches had been self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating, but now they waited for outsiders to build their church buildings and to conduct their Bible conferences."

These three short videos describe Steve's current thrust of transferring appropriate technology along with the ways and means so the Waodani can take up their own part in missions:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

You Don't Bring Me Cookies Anymore...

This video illustrates our childish version of love. "I like you when you give me cookies." And who of us hasn't said (or at least thought) to our parents when they've witheld something from us - "I don't like you!" (or worse)...

Theologians have filled hundreds of pages analyzing the book of Job in the bible. I've seen it summarized as: Would you love God for nothing? That is - when He's not giving you cookies? When He's even witholding "cookies" from you?

This is the difference between human, conditional, versions of love and God's amazing, unconditional love. Enjoy this clip:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Surprise! Surprise!

Theologian Gregory A. Boyd, in his book God of the Possible, discusses the thesis that the future is partly fixed and partly open even to God because the details are unfolding with the participation of free-will agents - i.e. human beings.

Pop writer Dean Koontz captures the essense of this phenomenon - one that any fiction writer can attest to:

"If you give your characters free will they will grow in ways you never anticipated, and they will take the story places you could not have predicted, raising themes you might or might not have intended to explore. Characters shape events; events illuminate the characters. The people in a story begin as seeds, become buds, and blossom in ways that surprise the author, precisely as real people frequently surprise him with their intentions and capacities." (Relentless by Dean Koontz - spoken by the narrator)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Behold What You Are...

Last night I was attacked and I had to fight for my life. Thankfully this was only in a dream.

As I wrestled violently I realised that my survival required shedding any ingrained inhibitions I carry about hurting other people. I sought every opportunity to damage, incapacitate or even kill my assailant as I launched into a no-holds-barred battle to the death.

Thankfully I awoke before the contest reached a conclusion. I listened to the quiet bedroom, where my wife slept peacefully beside me, and thought about falling back to sleep, but couldn't. I didn’t want to doze off still gripped by the vague and troubling echoes of this nightmare.

I wandered in the nighttime stillness of my house and wondered about the dream and what my choice to fight and kill said about me - perhaps about all of us - as human beings.

I am a peace-loving person who hopes and prays to never experience such a life-threatening situation. Yet I realized how easily my entire being can suddenly switch to death-dealing. I can instantly become a killer by the mere belief that my own life depends upon it. I pondered on how entire societies can be manipulated into war simply by the threat, real or perceived, that Some Enemy is out there ready to attack.

How can our world ever become truly peaceful when our inherent natures are so suddenly violent and murderous?

I think our only hope is expressed in a song which is coincidentally, now playing on my computer

(sample linked here - click on Embrace the Mystery)

the lyrics:

Behold what you are

Become what you receive

Take up the bread and wine

Embrace the mystery

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Two Views of the Universe

There are only two ways to view the "universe and everything." Each viewpoint must face The Big Questions:

1. Where do we come from?

2. Is there a point to our lives and our struggles and sufferings?

3. What happens to us when we die?

The Two Views:

1. The background state of everything is lifeless: The universe and everything is comprised of lifeless matter or energy. Somehow it all came into existence at the Big Bang and what existed before that is unknown, but whatever it was, it is lifeless. Somehow within that lifeless universe we must come up with an explanation of how life and consciousness come to be, then we must deal with The Big Questions.

2. The background state of everything is Life: The "universe and everything" exists within a background of Life. Eternal life exists beyond time and space, has always been and will always be. Time and space themselves are constructs that only exist temporarily within this Life. This Life is called God. He is a creator and so, in accordance to our normal experience of this world, Life creates everything else. That is what we see around us all the time. Living beings create and manipulate non-living matter and energy. In this respect, viewpoint 2 is actually more consistent with reality.

Within this viewpoint we can easily handle The Big Questions, but must also face The Biggest Question: Who is this Life - this God? What can we know about him? Can we know her personally? Does she have a name? What is he like?

This is historically handled in at least three ways.

1. By what we see around us. As we can know Beethoven by listening to his music, we can discern God by our observations of the universe and all of creation.

2. By our relationships with one another. As we all share in the ultimate source of life, we must all reflect in some small way the nature of our Creator Being.

3. By revelation. Anytime this Being interacts and communicats with us we have a chance to discover his nature. Sometimes these interactions are recorded for posterity as in the documents collected in the bible.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ways and Means

Questions about Easter traditions arise each year at this time. For example, regarding the easter bunny - this is interesting:

The ways in which Christ overwhelms the world with his new message of Grace have sparked debates for hundreds of years. I've read stories of Christian missionaries who used different tactics to present the gospel. Sometimes this involved a form of cultural genocide - an attempt to wipe out the indigenous culture to replace it with "Christian Culture." (i.e. most native cultures in North America). These sad efforts usually included a lot of mis-guided political and economic motives as well. (the movie The Missionary presents all this dramatically - highly recommended.)

In other cases, the missionaries employed existing culture to explain Christ. I think we first see this in the bible when the council at Nicea agreed that Gentile believers did not have to be circumcised. They were actually agreeing to the changes God himself was bringing about.

Taking it one step further, some scholars I've read say that this is also where the old covenant practices arose as well - i.e temples, priests, sacrifices, holy days etc... The Israelites demanded some way to worship this invisible God (just as they later demanded a King like their neighbours had). They wanted "special" ceremonies and such like their pagan neighbours. So, God in his infinite wisdom, allowed it - for a time.

Ironic isn't it, that in many ways, the new covenant brings us full circle back to the kind of relationship Abraham originally had with God. A face-to-face friendship based on communcation and love rather than religious "stuff." Fascinating. So fascinating.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Debt forgiveness and Slavery?

I've seen several discussions around the net this week about the perpetual history of poverty in Haiti, and the role Haitians and outsiders have played in keeping this country so desperately poor. The topic of debt forgiveness came up and reminded me of the economic system as set out by God in ancient Israel which included slavery for unpayable debts (or servanthood depending upon which translation of the bible we read.) It also included debt forgiveness.

In ancient Israel a Jubilee year was defined ever 50th year when all debts were cancelled and families returned to their ancestral lands. So, selling land in Israel must have been more like leasing it for whatever number of years were remaining to the Jubilee. In the meantime, anyone who fell into unpayable debt would enter slavery - but this is not slavery as we think of it now. It was more of an 'indentured servitude' and there was onus on the servant and the master to train and build up the servant and his forfeited lands towards a return to independence.

If a "slave" did well while working for his master and if the master agreed then the servant could choose to remain in service for life. Not everyone is cut out to be self-employed.

There are ways that an economic system can be designed to build people up no matter what their abilities - but this is not (yet) something we see much of. Our current Western capitalism is based mainly on exploitation.

Apparently there is no record that a Jubilee year was actually ever carried out - how quickly we wander from our ideals.

I guess we need something even better? Like continual grace?