Friday, December 14, 2012

What is the Gospel?

To answer this question it is imperative to remember that "gospel" means "good news."  
So when we hear evangelists preaching the gospel we expect to be hearing them announcing or explaining good news.  
That is a given, surely.

I guess that's why we see the gospel described in the Scriptures as "the gospel of the grace of God" and "the gospel of Jesus Christ" and "the gospel of the kingdom of God" and "the gospel of peace" and "the gospel of the glory of Christ."

I can't find anywhere anything like "the gospel of the wrath of God" or "the gospel of everlasting torment."  

How absurd to suggest that either of these could be associated with the word "gospel."
Yet how many times do we hear wrath and everlasting torment masquerading as gospel preaching in our churches and on our television screens?

How different is this from Paul's statement in Romans 10:15 ?

As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”  [NKJV]

The gospel is glad tidings of good things.
It is the good news that through Jesus God has reconciled us to himself - he is at peace with us.

God loves us and is on our side.
God holds nothing against us - any of us - whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, whether we appreciate it or not.
What God has done through Jesus does not depend on us in any way.

It is totally his decision, his work.

Now that's good news; that's the gospel; that's what God calls us to preach.
And the Christmas season is a great time to preach it - to explain to people the mission of the babe in the manger.

Blessings, Barry

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Keeping the Right Focus

Several conversations I have had in the last few days have centred around judgement, hell, the lake of fire, punishment, etc.
My conversation partners were so focussed on these topics that they completely missed God's ultimate purpose to reconcile all people to himself.

God made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
[Eph 1 : 9 - 10]

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
[Col 1 : 19 - 20]
When we focus on the judgement, punishment topics, isolated from God's purpose, and isolated from God's love and sovereignty, we quickly get back to the position that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross completely failed for the majority of God's creation, and man's will has usurped God's.

But when we focus first on God's love, will and sovereignty, we can easily see God's judgements and punishments as the correction of a loving Father, in control of his family, moulding his children to become the people he has designed them to be, in the likeness of his begotten Son, Jesus.

We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
[1 John 3 : 2b]
If we saw a parent smacking a child and knew nothing of that parent's love for the child or desire to improve the behaviour of the child for its own well-being we might have a distorted view of that parent and his/her character.
Equally, of course, if we saw a parent belting and belting and belting a child, for whatever reason, we would be horrified and would question that parent's love for the child and the motivation for the punishment.
Unfortunately, many people view God like this, as an angry, incessant "belter" of his wayward children, because they don't know his heart and purpose.

Let's focus on God's character and purpose first and then we will see how easily the punishment verses, correctly translated, complete the picture.

Blessings, Barry

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Progress Report on Finding a Local Church

It's a month since I last posted about this, so I should keep you up to date.  
(Actually it's a month since I posted about anything.  But I warned you that the rest of this year would be pretty thin pickings ..... )

We have been attending the church I mentioned for six or seven weeks now and getting to know a growing number of the congregation. 
The church is warm and friendly and we have been made very welcome.
One box ticked.

Within the church there is a wide range of views and opinions - moral, social and theological - but nobody seems to be side-lined because of the differences.  

I feel that we could say whatever we think about almost anything without being ostracised or asked to shut up. 
This is so refreshing, and suits me really well.  Mature, unemotional discussion of different views on Biblical topics is not encouraged in many churches, especially in those that were "established" to promote or defend a particular doctrinal position or practice.  

Indeed if all churches were like this one in this regard we wouldn't need a new church or a new denomination for every different thought or opinion that exists or emerges.
As you know "churchianity" is not my game, so I am pretty fussy when it comes to finding a group of Christians (a church) with whom I can worship and serve God comfortably and freely, and who will accept people who hold different points of view (that can be substantiated from Scripture).
Another box ticked.

I caught up with the minister for a chat at the church manse yesterday.
He is a very different person to me.  Indeed, I have not served with another quite like him nor been pastored by one like him. 
He announced to the church last Sunday that he was a universalist (and no-one seemed to blink) and that the "coming of Jesus" is more a series of comings of Jesus, some past, some present, some future. 
So as different as we are, we are clearly on the same page in many things.
He is a wonderful man of God who will stretch me in new areas and wrestle with me in old ones.
Another box ticked.

The church is also very different to any we have been associated with previously. 
It's a liturgical church, bases its corporate life on a common lectionary which celebrates the "standard" church seasons, and has a strong 'social justice' emphasis and a multitude of active connections with the local community.
Those who know our Christian and church history will be wondering how we ever came to be even considering a church like this, led by a minister such as this, but we are sensing that God is moving us into a church family that will love us and teach and challenge us in fresh ways that will round out our preparation for service in the kingdom.
Another box ticked.

Will post again in a week or so when we take the final step and "apply" to belong.
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Progress on Finding a Church Home.

Back in February I posted "Can You Recommend a Good Church?" in this blog.

I described a good church, or a church that would be attractive to me, as one that believes and proclaims that God is the Creator and Saviour of the world, and that is preparing believers to be co-rulers with Christ in the Kingdom of God.

That shouldn't have been too big an ask, but it was beginning to look an impossible task until very recently.
I'm not saying too much just yet, but ..... we may be on the verge of finding a church home within mainstream christianity.
No names, no commitment, no final decisions just yet.
But in the last two weeks we have uncovered a distinct possibility.

Here is a one-liner from the service last Sunday.
"See how God loves us!
God loves us enough to swallow up death forever."

Here is another from the Communion service.
"We have come to share in Jesus' kingdom meal.
We eat and drink in anticipation of that great day when we with all people will eat and drink in the Kingdom of God."

And one of the main Bible readings for the day was Isaiah 25 : 6 - 9, one of my favourites.

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine - the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people's disgrace from all the earth.  The Lord has spoken.
In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

I haven't talked to anyone at the church about this yet, but it certainly shows some promise, doesn't it?

I have also attended one of its weekly Bible studies, which was not deep, but very enjoyable.
Here's the Golden Rule for the group.
"Agree if possible, disagree in an atmosphere of respect for the other person, and always listen carefully and thoughtfully to your fellow Bible student."

Wow, what a difference in tone from my other church experiences since retirement, where I've been told not to express any views that differed from the church's published views as that would cause confusion and division, and would undermine the leadership.
(Undermining the Bible didn't seem to cause the same sort of problem.)

Anyway, there's a ray of hope in this town that we'll continue to explore.  I am beginning to look forward to "going to church" again.

Keep you posted.

Blessings, Barry

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Scripture Connections

I spend a lot of time "in the Bible."  I read it, read about it, think about it, doodle about it.
I love making notes about connections I see in it - connections between OT and NT, between promises or prophecies and fulfilment, etc.

So I thought I would share a few of these with you.
They are about God's will, pleasure, promise, oath, and work to save all people.

The first is below, and I'll add the others as comments to this post over the course of the weekend.

God's Will - to save all people
God wills all people to be saved and come to recognise the truth.
[ 1 Timothy 2 : 4 ]

God declares the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying, "My plans will stand, and I will do all my will."
[ Isaiah 46 : 10 ]

Blessings, Barry

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Paradox of Mainstream Christianity

The paradox of mainstream christianity is its view of God - the God of love, forgiveness, mercy and grace - whom it claims to represent.

It's interesting, no, downright embarrassing, to compare the Biblical view of God with the one portrayed by mainstream christianity.

Over the next few days, I'll give some examples of how this paradox works itself out.  I'll add them as comments to this post.

Here's the first to get the ball rolling ....

Jesus told us to love our enemies and do good to them. 
In this way, he said, we would be showing that we were children of God, who is equally kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
He then instructed us to be merciful, just as God is merciful.
[ Luke 6 : 27 - 36 ]

This is the Bible's picture of God as described by Jesus, the person most qualified to know his father's character and behaviour.

Why then does mainstream christianity teach that God will torment his enemies forever in a place called hell or in a lake of fire, if Jesus said God is the model of kindness and mercy we should follow?

Blessings, Barry

Subtle Bible Translations

Many Bible translators have been making their translations fit the teachings of mainstream christianity for a long time.

Most of us are aware that words like 'hell' and 'eternal' that appear regularly in the most popular (and therefore the most influential) English translations have little or no relation to the underlying words in the original languages of the Bible.

But just recently, two new translations have become even more accommodating to mainstream teachings, and in more subtle ways.

The International Standard Version (ISV) is already available on the web in electronic format and will be on the market in print editions before the end of the year.
Have a look at 1 Timothy 4: 10.  Properly translated  this verse says

That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.
Now let's see what the new ISV says
To this end we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, that is, of those who believe.
The meaning of "especially" has been changed to mean "exclusively."

The new NIV (2011 edition) has a subtlety all of its own.  It's 1984 version translated Titus 2: 11 as

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.
which is pretty close to a literal translation.  But have a look at the new edition (the only edition you can now purchase)
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
What was to be 'brought' to all men is now only going to be 'offered' to all men.
Subtle, eh?

It's no wonder we have to spend some time in the strictly literal translations if we're going to properly understand God and his plans.

Blessings, Barry

Who We Are

Sorry I have been out of action for much of the past few months - and I'm afraid the rest of the year could be much the same.
So I thought I would touch base with you very special, chosen people.

One of my favourite passages, 2 Corinthians 5 : 19 - 20, reminds us that

WE ARE Christ's ambassadors or personal representatives whose task is to encourage others to be reconciled to God, the One who is already reconciled to them.

God was in Jesus Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's sins against them.  And the message of this reconciliation has been given to us.  We are therefore Christ's personal representatives, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.

WE ARE to encourage those who follow through on this to "revere God and serve him faithfully with integrity, considering the great thing he has done for them," as Samuel did to the people of Israel.

WE ARE co-rulers with Christ in his kingdom, his ambassadors in a foreign country, following his directions from above.

WE ARE very blessed people, no matter what our current assignment or circumstances, and privileged to have been chosen to serve the King of the Kings during the remaining ages.

WOW !!!
Reflecting on who WE ARE really blows me away.

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Starting Riots

Sometimes, all I have to do to start a riot is quote Scripture.
And I am most successful with church folk!  (You may have noticed)

Here's a couple of riot starters.
2 Corinthians 5 : 19 says .....

God was in Jesus Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's sins against them.
   God doesn't count people's sins against them?
   People don't have to pay for their sins?
   Everyone is going to be judged, you know.
   Barry, you're out of your mind.

..... just quoting Scripture mate.

Romans 5 : 20 says .....

Where sin increases, grace increases all the more.
Romans 3 : 5 and 7 express the same theme ....
our unrighteousness highlights God's righteousness
God's truth super-abounds my falsehood

   That means we should sin more and more so there will be more and more grace?
   Our sinfulness helps people see God's qualities more clearly?
   God doesn't want that from us surely?

..... you've finally said something right, God doesn't want us to sin.

Why would anyone even want to behave badly towards someone who has treated them so kindly and generously.
Anyone who would do so, surely hasn't yet appreciated God's grace.

These scriptures are saying the obvious.

..... the greater the sin, the greater grace is and needs to be - and grace will always trump even the greatest sin.
..... the blacker is the canvas of one's life, the more brilliantly does the radiance or glory of God's grace stand out when painted on that canvas.

The world is quite interested in talking about such things, but church folk, especially church leaders, are quick to reach for their riot gear.
The Scriptures don't fit their beliefs or help them keep their congregations in line.
I should know - I used to be one of them in my younger years.

And the last bit of 2 Corinthians 5 : 19 says .....

And we have been appointed messengers of God's reconciliation.
Ah, that's the ministry I am enjoying, regardless of the riots I start.

Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dreams and Visions

One of Jesus' promises that I love to quote is recorded in John 12: 32.
"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
Some interesting stories are coming out of the Middle East at the moment demonstrating one of the ways Jesus is doing this.
Muslim believers from this area of the world are frequently telling how they came to Christ through dreams and visions of Jesus.
They are saying things like .....

I was content.  I was a Muslim, and all of a sudden I get this dream about Jesus and he loved me and said, "Come, follow me."
God is at work in these Muslim communities in a way that missionaries over the years have never seen before.
While the cost of converting from Islam to Christianity is terribly high in Muslim countries, imprisonment or death for most, increasing numbers of Muslims are coming to Jesus.
Just like you and I were - called and drawn.

I think we are living in exciting times.
Blessings, Barry

Monday, September 10, 2012


I continue to be amazed at the accusation of heresy levelled against me by leaders and others in the mainstream church.

I think God is love and therefore loves all of his creation, yet I'm the heretic.
I think God is more powerful than those he has created, yet I'm the heretic.
I think God's free will is more likely to be achieved than man's "free" will, yet I'm the heretic.
I believe Paul when he told Timothy that God is the saviour of the world, not just believers, yet I'm the heretic.
I think Jesus died for the sins of all mankind, not just those who accept him in their lifetime on this planet, yet I'm the heretic.
I believe Jesus when he said he would draw all people to himself, yet I'm the heretic.
I believe the Bible when it says that at the completion of the ages God will bring everyone in the heavens and on earth together under the headship of Christ, yet I'm the heretic.

So you can see why I was delighted to find this definition of heresy.

"Heresy" is often nothing more than the rejection of widely held error.
Isn't that something?
I'm a heretic, and proud of it.

Blessings, Barry

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Best Poem in the World

Here's a cute poem that was sent to me by a close friend who hasn't yet seen that God will reconcile all to him eventually ..... or is my friend trying to say something to me by sending the poem?   What do you think?

He called it the BEST POEM IN THE WORLD

I was shocked, confused, bewildered
  As I entered Heaven's door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
    Nor the lights or its decor.

But it was the folks in Heaven
    Who made me sputter and gasp--
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
    The alcoholics and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade
    Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbour
    Who never said anything nice.

Herb, who I always thought
    Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
    Looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, 'What's the deal?
    I would love to hear Your take.
How'd all these sinners get up here?
    God must've made a mistake.

'And why is everyone so quiet,
    So somber - give me a clue.'
'Hush, child,' He said, 'they're all in shock.
    No one thought they'd be seeing you..'

Blessings, Barry

Friday, August 17, 2012

That Wonderful Verse ... again

1 Timothy 4 :10 is a great verse, one of my favourites.  I don't think I have blogged about it for a couple of years, so please indulge me.

Paul says in writing to Timothy ...
"That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe."
So often I am told that the bit that comes after the last comma is a denial of the bit that comes before it, so the verse "clearly" says that only believers will be saved.

I confess that I am only a mathematician, but my English grammar skills are good enough to see how ridiculous that sort of interpretation is.

I say to anyone who will listen ...
"I love icecream, especially when it's chocolate coated."
Am I saying that I only like chocolate coated icecream? 
Of course not! 
I am just saying that I like chocolate coated icecreams best.

I have a friend who is mad keen on Holdens and thinks they are all "nice" cars, especially the Calais models.
Is he saying he only likes the Calais models? 
Of course not! 
But there is something special about those models that really appeals to him.

So what is Paul saying in his salvation statement to Timothy?
God saves all people, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross of Calvary, and will be given timeless life at the end of the ages. 
Believers have something extra, something special.  
They are given their life now, during the ages, starting from the time they are given the faith to believe, so they can play their part with God in implementing his plan for the ages.

Aren't we so privileged to have been given faith in our lifetime on this planet?  We have been chosen NOW.
And doesn't that give us a huge responsibility?  
We have "ruling" or kingdom work to do now, and in the age to come.  We have been chosen to partner with God in implementing his plan to bring salvation to all.

And linking this thought with yesterday's kingdom ruling thoughts ..... to be ruling WITH and FOR him means he needs to be ruling IN us.

Blessings to all you chosen, wonderful bloggers, 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Kitchen Sink

One of the mysteries of the Christian faith that many find difficult to understand is how we can be IN Christ and, at the same time, Christ can be IN us.
The Bible declares both these situations to be true.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
[Romans 8 : 1]

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory
[Colossians 1 : 27]

A simple illustration in our familiar physical world will help us understand this spiritual reality.
Suppose you fill your kitchen sink with water and then place a cup into it.
Is the cup in the water or is the water in the cup?
Unless you live in a different world than I, you would have to answer 'yes' and 'yes.' 
Both are true and at the same time.  When you immerse a cup in the water, water fills the cup.
When we are immersed in Christ, we are filled with him at the same time.

I was reminded of this illustration early this morning when I was awoken for a two hour lesson on the kingdom of God.  (It's obvious God lives in the timeless realm of eternity and doesn't realise I should still be asleep at 4 am - LOL)
Bottom line: 
Being in the KOG means ruling with and for God
being ruled by God at the same time. 
(me being in the water means the water being in me)

I can't be ruling for God if I am not being ruled by God !!

Simon the Sorcerer had this pointed out to him by Philip as I mentioned yesterday, and that was the conclusion God reached in his lesson to me early this morning.

I found that both helpful and challenging.  Isn't that usually the way with God?
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Trusting God

Although I finished writing Chapter 2 a long time ago, I am far from finished learning about the sovereignty of God.

One of my "side" studies recently has been about the kingdom of God, and I have been asking the Lord to show me if the kingdom (the millennium) has already commenced or is still in the future.

In the process of this investigation I have been considering the position that the kingdom of God is not a physical thing to be set up somewhere, sometime, but is God's rule in the hearts of people who are committed to him and who trust him.  And it is this kingdom that will spread and cover the earth "as the waters cover the sea" as all people are eventually reconciled to God.

An application of this definition of the kingdom is our willingness to be content with whatever God sends us - good or bad - because of our willingness to trust God's love and sovereignty.
Indeed it could be a good test of whether we are "in the kingdom" or not.  To be worried about anything suggests we are not trusting God in that thing.  And I am so guilty of that - not trusting that God is sovereign in ALL my circumstances.

God loves me and will never send me wrong things.  They may be things I do not like, be extremely unpleasant or cause great hardship, but they are never wrong if they come from a loving God who only wants the best for me and is planning to make me Christ-like.

Whatever God sends me will be beneficial - if I allow it to do the thing God designed it to do.
Remember my translation of 1 Cor 10 : 13 that I shared a couple of months ago?
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide the planned outcome (or sequel) so that you can endure it. [BSV]
It is becoming a key verse in my life.

The greatest evil ever was the murder of Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son.  
But look at the benefit to the whole world that evil brought!

Hope you're learning to trust God in ALL things quicker than I am.
Blessings, Barry

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Prelude to the Main Chapters

After the re-vamp ......

We now have a new "chapter" between the Introduction and Chapter 1, called the Prelude.  It is in the usual temporary spot at

It is a section extracted from Chapter 3 and fine-tuned a little to stand alone before the main chapters get underway, so it will sound familiar to you if you have previously read the draft of Chapter 3.

I won't put the pruned Chapter 3 up again, but Chapter 4 is not too far away.  Your comments and criticisms, as always, are very welcome.  

The re-vamp came about as a result of comment and criticism from you wonderful people.  Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me.

Blessings, Barry

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Salvation Appeals

Sorry for the drought in posts recently.
Was out of town for a week watching grandchildren dancing in an eisteddfod, which was wonderful, but have also been revamping a couple of the earlier chapters of the book.  O the joys of writing for an unknown audience on a controversial and emotional topic !!!

Thank you so much for the feedback on the chapters that I've shown you. 
Your comments help me to think outside the mental box I occupy while I'm writing, and enable me to be more considerate of the positions that may be held by some of my potential readership.

Here's today's thought.
In evangelistic or gospel meetings, what can you remember of salvation appeals or invitations given by the preacher?
I'm guessing you haven't heard one like this.

You are forgiven.
If you've never done this before .....
I invite you to come forward and thank God for his goodness and love.

Just in case someone gets upset about such a "tactic," be ready to remind them that 2 Cor 5 : 19 says
God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's sins against them.

BTW, if you do ever hear a preacher doing this, please let me know.
I would love to spend some time with him/her.

Back to the revamp.  Blessings, Barry

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Story in a Nutshell

At the beginning of Chapter 4, in a section called "The Story in a Nutshell," I have tried to paint a quick picture of the state we humans are in before introducing Jesus as the Saviour of the World.
I found this a tough task.
Would you please look at it and tell me if/how I can improve it while remaining fairly brief?
Thanks, Barry.

God created mankind in his own likeness.
He did this to produce an extension of his divine family that would be responsible to govern the earth for him.
This adventure began with Adam, and his wife Eve, in the Garden of Eden.
You can read about their story in the early chapters of Genesis, the first book in the Bible.

Although the Garden was a perfect, heavenly paradise, it provided a very sheltered life for Adam and Eve.
They could “only” experience the peace and joy of living in harmony with God under his loving care and provision.
They had no idea what the full scope of life had the potential to offer.
They certainly had no idea how well off they were as they had nothing with which to compare their idyllic lifestyle.

God provided a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the Garden knowing that given the choice, Adam and Eve would want to experience its “benefits.”
God told them to avoid this tree, so that when they did touch it, their disobedience would automatically trigger the destruction of their intimate, dependent relationship with him.
They were subsequently removed from their Garden Paradise and given the responsibility of negotiating the outside world of good and evil and providing their own food, shelter and creature comforts.

In that separated state in the outside world, Adam and Eve gave birth to our fallen, human race.
Consequently, all of us have been born into this world separated from God and with a likeness to God that is barely recognisable any more and with little or no interest in governing God's earth for him.
So we start out experiencing what life without God is like, and serving our own interests and governing our own little worlds for our own selfish ambitions.

Because God planned for all this to happen, he also planned to bring it all back into order and have his original purpose and plans achieved.
God's plan, designed before the world even began, was to save us from our God-separatedness (called death in the Bible) and from our inherited Adam-likeness.
This saving would restore us to our original, dependent relationship with God and to our ordained state of God-likeness.

And Jesus Christ, God's first born Son, was and is the key to both of these restoration projects, as we shall see in the next few pages.

Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Understanding Eternity

One of the issues that I seem to be continually addressing with people is the nature of eternity.
Most people seem to think that eternity is a state in which time goes on forever.
This is not an unreasonable idea, but the fact is that the exact opposite is true.

Eternity is time-less.  There is no time at all in eternity.
Everything is in the now.  Everything in eternity just IS.
And God did say his name is "I AM."

God has given us time "down here" so we don't have everything happening at once.
Events happen one after the other for us in our universe. 
Occasionally two things do happen together, simultaneously, and look at the trouble that gives us.  What would it be like if everything happened simultaneously?

We find this idea of timelessness difficult to comprehend, mainly because we have only ever experienced life in which time is an essential and controlling  ingredient.
So I have developed a few simple illustrations to help people see the difference between the eternity where God IS and the ages where we currently live.

The TV series.
An advertisement for an upcoming series on TV says there will be 6 episodes and then shows us a peek preview of the first episode.  It even tells us when the series will begin being telecast.
How does the advertiser know there are 6 episodes, and how can he show us a peek preview of an episode that has not even been aired yet?
The advertiser has already seen the whole series, or spoken to its producers, and knows all about it long before it begins to be shown on TV. (Eternity)
He even knows when the station plans to commence airing the series, whereas we can only see what the TV station shows us after it has begun to show us. (The Ages)

The Train on the Back Fence.
One house in which we lived had a major train line on its back boundary.  Through a knot hole in the fence, we could see trains coming and going, but we could only see one carriage passing at a time.  We never knew how many carriages there were until they had all passed and we had counted them.  (The Ages)
If however, when we heard a train coming we climbed up onto the fence, we could see everything about that train all at once.  How many carriages, what sort of carriages, what sort of engine, were all known to us before the engine had even reached our knot hole.  (Eternity)

The View from the Hot Air Balloon.
Watching vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians approaching a busy intersection from a hot air balloon hovering above and back a little from that intersection tells us everything that is going to happen at that intersection, and from all directions, long before any of it happens. (Eternity)
Standing at the intersection and looking in one direction would give an observer a more limited and sequenced view.  He could only see things as they arrived at the intersection in the order they arrived and from the direction he was monitoring. (The Ages)
Mother's Basket of Goodies.
Mother has a basket of goodies.  When she looks into the basket, she sees all the goodies at the same time. (Eternity)
Mother takes items out of her basket, one at a time, and gives them to her children.  They see the goodies as they are given to them, one at a time, and in the order in which they are given. (The Ages)

The School Teacher's Curriculum.
A teacher plans the curriculum for his class.  The contents, learning methods, tests, remedial classes, excursions, pupil and parent interviews, reporting procedures and the timetable for them are all planned before the school year begins.  When completed, the teacher can see all of these curriculum ingredients at the same time as a complete package. (Eternity)
The student, however, sees all these things as they happen on a day-to-day basis as the year progresses. (The Ages)

The Revelation.
In Revelation 4, John was told to "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."
He was then able to see God's view of things by looking into his basket of goodies.  And his description was like .... "I saw ... then I saw ..... and I saw ..... then I saw .... " as he rattled off in quick succession all the things that caught his eye.  He saw them all "at once" because he was where God IS. (Eternity)
When John returned to earth, he had to wait with everyone else to see where and when each of those events he saw in heaven would arrive on the earth. He was back in the space-time constraint of the ages.  (The Ages)

How many books have been written by Christians, also confined to the space-time realm, trying to establish the order of arrival of all the things John, and the other prophets, have been shown?  
Maybe we just have to get ready for them all, then wait and see.

Blessings, Barry

Monday, June 25, 2012

Will the Real God Please Stand Up

Remember the TV Game Show called "Tell the Truth?"
The show featured a panel of contestants who tried to correctly identify a certain character who was accompanied by two impostors.

As a result of questioning the character and his/her imposters, the panel had to choose which of the three was the real character.
The real character was required to always tell the truth, but the imposters were permitted to lie in answering the panel's questions.

After the panelists had made their choice of which character they thought was telling the truth, the real character was asked to stand up and identify him/herself.
Sometimes the impostors had done such a good job in their deceiving role, the panel was totally surprised when the real character was revealed.

This reminded me of the real God accompanied by the impostor Gods of mainstream christianity.
The Calvinist God has the ability to save all mankind, but doesn't choose to.
The Arminian God wants to save all mankind, but does not have the power or ability to.
The real God, the God of the Bible, has the will, power and ability to save all mankind, and sent Jesus to be the Saviour of the world to make sure it happens.

We need to encourage people, and especially those in the churches, to start asking questions about the character and actions of the presenting Gods, to see if they can determine the real character, the One telling the truth.

Eventually the real God will stand up, much to the surprise of those who have been deceived by promoters of the impostors.

Blessings, Barry

Monday, June 18, 2012

Growth is God's Desire For Us

In a recent comment to the "Trustworthy Sayings" post, I mentioned that Rog's linking of hardships with God's refining fire reminded me of Paul's comment about temptations in 1 Corinthians 10 : 13.

Here's the NIV translation of this verse.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. [NIV]
It is typical of most English translations, but does it make sense?
..... God will provide a way out or a path of escape so that you can endure the temptation ?????
How can you endure something by avoiding it?

Let's think for a moment.
What is your own personal experience of facing hardships, temptations and crises?
Does God usually provide you with a way of escape?
If you're like me, that rarely happens.
He is more likely to provide encouragement, wisdom, strength, endurance or some other way for us to grow and mature and become Christ-like, rather than a way to remain weaklings looking for outs, excuses and escape chutes.

What Bible character was ever given an escape route?
Moses, Joseph, Job, Jonah, David, Hosea, Paul, Stephen, Jesus ????????
Have a quick flick through Hebrews 11.

God sees that the size of the problem is never more than we can cope with, but there is usually no escape from it.
So I began researching the translation of this verse.

Here's my translation.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide the planned outcome (or sequel) so that you can endure it. [BSV]
If God is sovereign, and all is from him, through him, and to him, then we can be sure that any trial that God brings our way will also have its planned outcome in place, ready to be experienced also.
Which also guarantees that everything works together for good, for those loving God and fitting in to his plans.  [Romans 8 : 28]

So we need to trust God in all our trials and hardships, because he will also have the planned outcome ready to be achieved as well - not an escape chute so we can avoid the refining fire and growing experience God desires for us.

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Another Abused Verse

There are so many verses in the Bible that are badly translated into English, poorly interpreted or used without any consideration being given to their context in order to bolster someone's previously-decided point of view.
Hebrews 9 : 27 is such a verse.
Just as the men are destined to die once, and after this a judgement,  [BSV]
Although this verse is usually quoted alone to make a point, notice that it is only the first part of a sentence crossing two verses that has the familiar "Just as ...... so ......" structure that we have run into several times before.
But apart from this small point, what is the verse usually claimed to be referring to?

The common interpretation of this verse goes something like this.....
    All people die once then immediately face judgement.
    The result of that judgement - saved or damned - is final and determines everyone's eternal destiny.
    End of story.
As you well know, there are many aspects of this standard interpretation that are not in harmony with other correctly translated Scriptures.

But, even worse, this common interpretation is totally inconsistent with its context.
Let's have a look at its context.
The book - is written to the Hebrews, to Hebrew Christians, explaining God's new covenant with Israel, and contrasting it with the Old.
The chapter - is discussing the work of Jesus as High Priest of the New Covenant, as compared to the work of the high priests of the Old Covenant.
The verse - is discussing what happens after the inevitable death of "the men."

Looking at this context, what "men" is the verse talking about?
    Clearly it is talking about the high priests of the Old Covenant.
And what judgement follows their death?
    Numbers 35 gives us Gentiles a clue to what these Hebrew Christians would have known instinctively.

Numbers 35 talks about the towns for the Levites (the priestly tribe) and the Cities of Refuge.
Cities of Refuge were for those who were guilty of manslaughter (killing someone by accident, rather than by deliberate intent) so they would not be put to death for their man-slaying.
Such people were to remain in these cities until the death of the high priest.
After his death, the man-slayer was judged to be free of any further detainment or payment for his man-slaying.
He was then restored to his original community.

Interesting - the judgement after the death of the high priest was a restoration or reconciliation!!!

To finish this post, look at the next bit of the sentence that stretches across to verse 28.
Just as the men (the high priests) are destined to die once, and after this a judgement (restoration or reconciliation),
so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; ......

Does this shed some fresh light on this "terrible" verse for you?
Don't let anyone throw you off course with the standard Gentile interpretation again.
And if God leads you to offer this "anyone" an alternative, maybe WITH HUMILITY AND GRACE, you could ask if they have considered the context of the verse.
(I'm still learning how to do this well.)

Blessings, Barry

Monday, June 11, 2012

Trustworthy Sayings

On my journey through Revelation (again), I lingered at chapter 21 verse 5 (again).
I'm a sucker for verses like this one.
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"  
Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
It's a bit like
This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.  
That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.
[ 1 Tim 4 : 9 - 10 ]
What a pity more people don't believe God when he says things like this.
And especially when he tells us that these statements are trustworthy.

This situation begs a huge question for me.
Don't Christians trust God, even with his trustworthy sayings?

I think so many, and particularly Christian leaders, have a lot to answer for.
They disbelieve God.
They discredit God.
They discount God's love and sovereignty.
They diminish the significance and value of Jesus' death and resurrection.

I wonder what these leaders think of God's stated purpose to be the Saviour of the world and to have everyone bowing their knee and confessing the Lordship of his Son.

I've even found pastors who become angry when I suggest that God saving all people might even be a possibility.
Which is a bit like the anger shown by the early workers in the vineyard when they discovered the owner was more generous than they thought he ought to be. (Matthew 20)
Or the disgust displayed by the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 15)

We've got a long way to go before we become Christ-like, haven't we?
Blessings, Barry

Monday, June 4, 2012

Chapter 3

Hi Everyone
The first draft of the next chapter is hiding in the usual spot. for those with failing memories.  :-)

I will leave it up there for the month of June.  
If you can spare me the time, I would love you to read it and give me your harshest feedback.

You are my only reviewers and editors - so questions, comments, criticisms, requests for more information, and plain old, "I just don't like this paragraph because ..... " statements will be most welcome.

Love and blessings to you all,

Saturday, May 19, 2012

5 Good Questions

Mainstream Christians of the "eternal torment" variety often haven't thought very much about what they say they believe.
Just a few simple questions soon gets them to realise this.

In fact, I am beginning to use the following set to actually get some conversations started.
1.  What do you think is God's plan for mankind and the world?
2.  Do you think he will be successful?
3.  Do you think Satan is more powerful than God?
4.  Do you think our will is more powerful than God's?
5.  Whose sins did Jesus pay for?
Most church-goers, regardless of their stated "eternal torment" position, will be inclined to answer these questions in ways that are far more consistent with the universal reconciliation view than with their own.
But they're still reluctant to give up their original position.
Go figure.

Discussion, Bible verses, logic, don't work very often.
Truth just needs to be revealed.
I guess that's never changed.

Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First Fruits

I keep bumping into references to first fruits in the Scriptures lately.
Which is interesting, because one of my current personal study topics is The Feasts of Israel.

In Israel's agricultural economy, the first fruits were the first sample from the crop that were presented to the Lord.
It was a display of gratitude to God for the crop and the fertility of the land which produced it, and a sign that the rest of the crop was pending and also belonged to the Lord.

Jesus is the first fruits of those who are to be resurrected, showing that all believers will share in his new life.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then when he comes, those who belong to him.
[1 Cor 15 : 22 - 23 ]

Believers in turn are the first fruits of all creation, showing that everyone will share in that new life eventually.
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
[ James 1 : 18 ]

Jewish believers were also first fruits, showing that all Israel will eventually be saved.
Speaking of Israel as the olive tree, Paul says, 
"If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches."
[ Romans 11 : 16 ]

The principle of first fruits says so much about our topic of the salvation of all.
Indeed, there are some wonderful lessons to be learnt by looking at God's dealings with Israel, and from the feasts in particular.

Would you like to hear more about the feasts here, even though most are not really relevant to our main topic?
Let me know - yea or nay.
I'm happy either way.

Blessings, Barry

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kingdom vs Salvation

I have possibly discussed this here before, but Rog raised the question in his comment this morning on the Willy Wonka post (20th April), so I'll address this topic here.

As mentioned in my short reply there, I still have so many unanswered questions about the kingdom.
  •     What is the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven (if any)?
  •     When is the kingdom in operation - now or the future or both?
  •     Who are its leaders, who are its citizens without leadership roles?
  •     Is it physical or spiritual, or both?
  •     Does national (redeemed) Israel have a special role?
And I could go on.........

Of course Rog is correct about salvation. 
We will all "get there" in the end because God will make sure he gets what he desires.
He has chosen to redeem us all and THE Sovereign of the universe gets whatever he decrees.
(We've discussed this several times, the book is full of it, and 1 Timothy 2 : 4 - 6 sums it up well.)

Now let me share some of my (current) thoughts on the kingdom.........
The kingdom is for those who have been chosen to believe in this age.
They have been given life in the age and are the first to be saved, a kind of first fruits of the total harvest of souls.
(Many loose translations call this life 'eternal life', but the original clearly is talking about 'eonian life' or life in the age or ages.)

The leaders (co-rulers, administrators, managers,  vice-regents) in the kingdom are those who have used their chosen position to prepare themselves for these roles.
They are variously called
    victorious, see Revelation 2 : 10;  2: 26 - 27;  3 : 21
    faithful,  see Matthew 25 : 14 - 30;  Luke 12 : 12 - 27

So I think the Willy Wonka movie is demonstrating how Satan, as an employee of God, provides the trials and tests over which we have the choice to be victorious, to be faithful, or NOT.
Only Charlie valued his everlasting gobstopper and stayed true to Wonka's requirements, regardless of the tests Slugworth provided, and was thus rewarded with the chocolate factory.
Charlie inherited Wonka's Chocolate kingdom.

Similarly, those who have built works that withstand God's fiery inspection will earn the reward of a position as co-ruler with Christ in the kingdom (the reward is NOT salvation) .
See 1 Cor 3 :  10 - 15 for reward conditions of those whose foundation is Christ.
See also Rev 19 : 7 - 8 indicating that it is the bride's efforts that make her ready to share the throne with her bridegroom.

Salvation is a gift for all eventually. 
The order we are chosen to receive it is entirely up to God, as all gifts are given in the timing of the giver.

Kingdom rulership is awarded to those who have already been given the gift of salvation and who have prepared themselves for a leadership role.
Salvation is a gift; 
ruling in the kingdom is a reward.

What do you think?
Would love to hear from you here on the blog.
Blessings, Barry

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Garden of Eden

Had some interesting thoughts on the Garden of Eden recently, which I am currently exploring.

First, before eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve had no knowledge of evil OR good.
I had always assumed they had no knowledge of evil, but hadn't realised they had no knowledge of good either.
How could they know good, if they'd never experienced anything else? 
You would just think that what you constantly have is IT.

This is true for lots of things.
We never know what good health is until we experience illness.
We never know what wealth is until we experience poverty.
..... or fine weather until it rains for a month .....
..... or a happy marriage until it becomes a nightmare .....
You get the picture.

We only know something is good (or bad) AFTER we have experienced the opposite.
Aussies who return from an overseas trip often comment they didn't realise how good things are here until they had seen the horrible conditions under which so many others have to live.
I am sure Adam and Eve learnt how good things were in the Garden of Eden after they had been expelled and had to work for their food, had to cope with a murder in the family, etc.

Second,  the Garden of Eden may not have been the paradise I first imagined.
Adam and Eve lived in the company of God AND Satan.
They had the choice whether to listen to God or to Satan every day of the week.

While they were listening to God, enjoying fellowship with him, and following his instructions, they had nothing but good.
But as soon as they made the choice to listen to Satan, it all fell apart.

It has occurred to me that maybe the Garden of Eden was not as unlike the conditions under which we live as I used to think.
We live in the company of God and Satan.
We have the choice whether we listen to God or to Satan every day.
Listening to God, living in fellowship with God and following God's instructions is still the way to go.

But let's be honest about this comparison.
Things are harder for us than they were for Adam and Eve,
They did not yet have the sinful nature they eventually passed on to us.
Or did they? 
Was that already built into their DNA that guaranteed their disobedience?
Were they like us in the sense that they could not not sin?
After all, God has said that he has bound everyone over to disobedience (so that he may have mercy on all).

And they probably had fewer sources of evil and temptation around them than we have.
We have so much around us; they only had one snake to deal with.

Third, I wonder how the living conditions in the Garden of Eden would compare with those in the coming kingdom?
At least in that kingdom, Satan is bound.

What do you think?

Blessings, Barry