Thursday, October 21, 2010

Timetable for the Book

Hi Guys and Gals
Since my aborted church-sitting exercise I have spent many hours in Bible study and seeking guidance for the future.  As a result, I have made some adjustments to my plans and, as I reported in a recent post, I will become more focused on getting "the book" done in a much shorter time-frame.

Indeed I have now decided to write three books.
The Really Good News, Book 1, God Plans to Save the World.  This describes how and when God will restore everything and have all His creation move into eternity with Him.
The Really Good News, Book 2, Government Secrets Revealed.  This describes the Bible and how to read it so that God's purpose and plans can be correctly understood.
The Really Good News, Book 3, Government Positions Available.  This describes the qualifications and job description of those who will govern with Christ in the kingdom age.

Book 1 has almost two chapters written since my journey north.  I have become very determined to get this done.

The website I was planning will be developed in a different way and in a different order than first thought.  I am writing the books in an informal style for the average reader, with little theology included.  A 'Notes and References' section at the back of each book will include links to web-pages on the website which will develop the ideas in the books more formally/theologically, explain contentious points, explain opposing views and their deficiencies, etc. for those who want to study at a deeper level.

I am setting target dates for one book (and its corresponding web-pages) to be completed per year  On this basis, the trilogy should be completed during 2012.

To lighten up the books for general readership, I want to include cartoons throughout and have plenty of white space on each page.  I feel I have "seen" the final result.

As always any feedback is most welcome.  Barry

Everything must work towards God's Purpose

Many verses that people declare as being incompatible with the G.R.A.C.E. view are really compatible with and supportive of that view, as long as people keep God's overall purpose for the world in mind.

Not keeping that purpose in mind leaves one thinking that each verse on its own serves its own purpose or tells its own story, and this process usually leads to a cocktail of contradictory purposes, plans and outcomes, rather than a more detailed view of God's ultimate purpose for the ages.

So what is God's purpose for the ages?
To head up the universe under His Son, Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1 : 10).
To reconcile the universe to Himself, through Christ, making peace through the blood of Christ’s cross (Colossians 1 : 20).
To become "All in all" at the end of the ages (1 Corinthians 15 : 22 - 28).

For any verse that we study, or that is thrown up to challenge us, we should always ask the question, "How might this fit into God's purpose?" or "What extra detail or understanding of God's purpose is this verse providing us?" before being satisfied that we have its correct or full meaning.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What is Judgement?

One verse that is often thrown up to show me that God will not achieve his purpose of eventually restoring all to himself is Hebrews 9 : 27 which states that people are to die once, and after that to face judgement.  In these people's minds judgement obviously equates to eternal torment in hell or total destruction.

Judgement is only a process - a process for deciding between right and wrong or between guilt and innocence - which then determines what the next course of action will be. 

Some judgements are to free or acquit an innocent person, others are to penalise a guilty person in some way.  In the latter case, the penalty is administered for the purpose of improving the guilty person's behaviour or character so that he/she will eventually be different and as free as the person who was acquitted.

So whatever the result, judgement is a good thing, not a bad thing, as all results of judgement eventually bring freedom.

Believers, who live in the Spirit, are judged daily by the Spirit.  We are judged, convicted of our sin and restored to fellowship with God due to the on-going sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives.  This results in us becoming Christ-like and being made ready to rule with Him in the kingdom age.

Non-believers are judged at the Great White Throne and are purified by the lake of fire.  This also results in God-likeness, but they completely miss out on ruling with Christ in the kingdom, as it is only the believers, the first-born, who have the double portion - reigning with Christ in the kingdom age and residency in the New Jerusalem.

Let's be careful we don't allow people to confuse the process (judgement) with the result of the process as a reason for not considering the eventual good outcome of every one of God's judgements.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How do we come to see truth?

After the pastor of the church I was supposed to look after returned, we had a very nice conversation over the events that had taken place in his absence.  He is a lovely man with a lovely heart for God who now has the task of "restoring order" in the church.

In our two hour conversation we touched on many things, including my "offending" view that all would eventually be restored to the Father.  Our discussion has prompted some topics for a few more posts on the blog.

Here's the first.
Although people might readily agree that God's purpose for the world is "to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ"  [Eph 1 : 10], it is not always easy for them to get to the next step and agree that this means that all of humankind must be reconciled to the Father for that unity to be possible.

They cannot see that unity cannot be achieved if God is enjoying the sweet fellowship of some whilst overseeing the eternal torment of others at the same time.

What is the mental block here? 
Or is it nothing to do with logic, but everything to do with revelation?

We only become believers as a result of God giving us faith, so maybe the only way we see God's truth on this issue (or on any issue) is when God opens our eyes to it.

What do you think?
What's the relationship between logic and revelation?
Or is there no relationship at all?


Friday, October 8, 2010

The kingdom as yeast

It's amazing to discover that when we keep God's ultimate purpose for the world in mind, we begin to see so many bits of Scripture that are aligned with that purpose.

Take the little one verse parable in Matthew 13 : 33.  He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."  [ESV]

If you've done any bread-making you would have seen for yourself how the small amount of yeast you add to the mixture eventually spreads through the whole batch of flour. 

And Jesus says that this is a picture of the kingdom of heaven. 

What other purpose could he have possibly had in mind for telling this one-sentence parable?  None that I can see.

He was telling us that the kingdom eventually spreads through the whole world, through everything, and God will be all in all in the end, just as he purposed. [see 1 Cor 15 : 28]

Let me rattle on.  I have no basis for this next bit other than an imaginative mind.
Why 3 measures of flour, and not another number??

There are three "occasions" for the kingdom (the rulership of God) to be seen.
1.  Jesus' life, ministry and resurrection on the earth.
2.  Us, the firstfruits of the crop, ruling and reigning with Christ in the kingdom age after the first resurrection.
3.  The main harvest, the vast multitudes at the Great White Throne who are to be judged and cleaned up after the second resurrection being made ready to step into eternity.

The kingdom (leaven) will have eventually worked its way through the whole lot of us by the end of the ages.

Isn't that really good news from a little one-liner?  Barry

The Importance of Knowing God

As you probably know by now, my favourite parable is the one of the two lost sons in Luke 15.

I often spend time just thinking about the main characters in the story and this morning I was thinking about the elder brother, especially in regard to the elders in the church where I was church-sitting for a couple of days.

And in my devotions this morning, the author of the daily thought said, "Without a true and proper knowledge of God, we are doomed to failure and condemnation, being sentenced to the bondage of the traditions and doctrines of men."

So the following thoughts began rolling out .....

The elder brother didn't really know the father at all, even though he had been living with him and working for him for years and years. He was surprised and offended that the father would even take the younger son back at all (give him a second chance) let alone celebrate his return in such an extravagant fashion.

The elders at the church were also offended to hear that this might be the case - people who had ignored or offended God might be eventually received into God's eternal family.  They were so offended that they didn't want their congregation to hear such stuff and so banned me from talking further to them, even though I quoted Jesus, Peter, Paul and John to verify what I was saying.

Without knowing God and his ultimate purpose and plans for his offspring we are indeed "sentenced to the bondage of the traditions and doctrines of men".

I am not saying the elders don't know God .... but they certainly don't know his ultimate purpose, the purpose that his unconditional love, his sovereign power and his extravagant grace will achieve.

The only definition of eternal life (life in the ages) I can find in the Bible is what John records as the words of Jesus in John 17 : 3 - "eternal life (Gk. life in the ages) means to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, whom you sent."  [GNB]

Knowing God and Jesus is therefore essential if we wish to have life in the ages, to live and reign with Christ in the 1000 years kingdom age. 

Jesus said that just knowing his name and working for him (an elder brother activity) is not enough.   We need to know him, to be known by him and to be doing what GOD wants us to be doing.  (Matthew 7 : 21 - 23)

Let us determine to know God and Jesus Christ, doing whatever it takes to achieve this, that we might live!  Barry

Monday, October 4, 2010

God's Grand Plan

God's grand plan for the ages is a great starting point for discussions on God's amazing grace.

In Ephesians 1 : 8 - 10, Paul says this about God's plan, which had been a mystery up until then,
"In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head."  [GNB]

In Colossians 1 :  19 - 20,  Paul describes the plan this way...
"For it was by God's own decision that the Son has in himself the full nature of God. Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son's blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven."  [GNB]

Once God's purpose of the ages is clear in our minds, it is then an easy walk through the New Testament to discover how God will accomplish this.  Paul summarises the "how" in Romans 11 : 32 and Philippians 2 : 9 - 11 ....
"For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all."  [TNIV]

"Then God gave Christ the highest place and honored his name above all others.
So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.
And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, 'Jesus Christ is Lord!' "  [CEV]

You'll find some other verses on the same theme in the "Elders Meeting Scriptures" post last month.

By the way, God has other mysteries that he reveals through the Apostle Paul and it's an exciting ride to find these and to meditate upon them.  Most of them involve us, so start looking.  If you get stuck and can't find any, just ask.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Church-sitting lessons

I have been thinking a lot about what I have learned from my recent "botched" church-sitting exercise - botched only in the sense that what the pastor and I planned to happen was not achieved, not that God didn't have and fulfil His own plans. 

Although I have not come to any fixed-in-concrete resolutions yet, I feel I am coming to the following positions....

1.  I will not be a guest preacher for a church again, unless the leadership of that church already believes in God's ultimate plan for the world, as declared in the Bible, or is specifically wanting the church to be taught along those lines.

I see little value in allowing myself to be hauled over the coals and accused of teaching unBiblical stuff by the leadership of churches that worship a God of conditional love whose attempt at salvation at Calvary was too weak to overcome Adam's sin for most of His creation.

2.  I will be more focused and more purposeful in my efforts to spread the good news about the God of unconditional love and sovereign power, who is the Saviour of the whole world, that the Bible reveals.

I am getting too old (have too few productive years left) to think this can just happen whatever/whenever and I need to deliberately set time aside each week to write for the web and the printed publications I had just been hoping would eventuate some day.

3.  I am also wondering if my focus needs to be on the "world" rather than the organised church for sharing this message as the world and fringe church-goers seem to be more ready to embrace these Biblical truths than those who have been unthinkingly saturated by the theology of mainstream christianity, whose leaders don't want their flocks to be exposed to anything or anyone that might enlarge or challenge their thinking, even if it is Biblically supported.

It is so ironic that a "wonderful" church which preaches grace so often, and where God began to stretch my own understanding of His grace several years ago, axed me for preaching how extravagant and powerful God's grace really is.

As always, your thoughts and feedback are most welcome.
But please give them as comments below the post, rather than as reply emails to me (unless you have something private to share), so we can all benefit from the ideas and discussion.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Lake of Fire

So what happens next?  What happens to these new 'pagan' believers as they are placed in the lake of fire? 

I'll be writing in more detail about the lake of fire in future posts, but for the purpose of following up the last post, I'll just share a story which has appeared on the internet over the years in various forms which gives some insight into this question.

I love this story as it helps me appreciate one of God's methods of making us Christ-like in our process of sanctification (sorry for the big word) and also helps me understand the references to  fire and brimstone and God's purpose in using these cleansing agents.

While reading Malachi 3, a group of women in a Bible Study were struck by the reference to God sitting as a refiner and purifier of silver.  To gain a better understanding of this verse, one of the women offered to visit a silversmith, watch him at work, and report back to the group on her observations the following week.

She called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him work, but didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up.  He explained that in refining silver, he needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest in order to burn away all the impurities.

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.  The man answered that yes, not only must he sit there holding the silver, but he also had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire.  If the silver was left in the fire a moment too long, it would be injured in some way.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot sometimes, and began to see the purifying purpose in these experiences under the watchful eye of the Master Silversmith. 

The woman remained silent while she let these thoughts run their course, then asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”  He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — it is fully refined when I can see my image in it.

We were made in His image originally, and we need to be remade in that image for fellowship with Him in eternity.  He does this through the work of His Holy Spirit now, and through his judgements at the Great White Throne.

I think this story perfectly describes the purpose of the lake of fire during the last age - the age of the new heavens and earth.  It is for purifying the new believers.

Most mainstream Christians think that the lake of fire is the hell of eternal torment that they have been taught about in their churches for many years and is the final place of unending punishment for all those who do not become believers by the time they are called to leave this planet at the end of their physical lives here.

I would rather see the fire and sulphur as pictures of the cleansing and purifying processes which God undertakes to make these new believers ready for life in eternity with him. 

Actually, the lake is also called the second death, the death of all that offends God and needs to be removed from those who have not had the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit involved in their lives as we've had.

Different pieces of silver will obviously take different amounts of time in the flame to be purified, depending on how 'unpurified' they were when they were placed there, but when the lake of fire (the second death) has finally finished its work it will no longer be needed and will be destroyed as Paul promises in 1 Cor 15 : 26.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Instant Belief at the Great White Throne

Since getting the sack from my church-sitting assignment, I have spent a large slab of time each day reading, studying and praying.  What a wonderful opportunity God has given me!

God has been showing me so much more about His plan for the ages, His plan to restore everything to Himself and to become "all in all" eventually, and I am sure all of this will filter through my writings in the future.

But right now I just wanted to share one new insight I had this afternoon.  Reading the story of doubting Thomas in John 20 : 24 - 29 gave me a fresh view of the inevitability of everyone becoming believers.

Can you imagine, as an unbeliever - an atheist, agnostic, humanist, nominal church-goer or whatever - being raised in the second resurrection and being ushered in for your judgement before Jesus at the Great White Throne? 

Your eyes would pop out as you were presented to the One you were sure did not exist or who had no serious claim on your life.  I am certain belief would come instantly, just as it did for Thomas when Jesus came through the walls of that room and for Saul on the road to Damascus.

So what do you think?  Do you think belief would come instantly for all unbelievers at the GWT?

Those of us in the physical world are given faith to believe what we cannot see; but those in the spiritual dimension believe because of what they can see.

To continue my imagining, I am now considering that all those placed in the lake of fire will be placed there as believers, having come straight from the GWT.  Has that idea crossed your mind before?

Boy, I'm having fun.  Barry