Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"The Rest of the Story" of the Rich Young Man in Mark 10

My Father taught me this.

Remember the story of the rich young man in Mark 10 who asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life? Christian ministers everywhere tell this story with such sadness (and I just heard it again in a taped sermon yesterday) as an example of what not to follow. But I think there's a much different story to be told here, one that we perhaps should be following.

Mark 10 - Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

The young man went away sad because he had much….

....but here's what I have come to believe happened next.

He went home and took a good look around his house as he considered what Jesus said. He started to give away everything he had as he was told. Because he had much, he would have had a throng of people around him but would have had a building sense of joy as each possession passed to someone who had more need than himself. And when he gave away his last possession, having nothing but a cloth of linen, went and followed Jesus.

We catch up with this “young man” again in chapter 14 wrapped only in a linen cloth for within 4 chapters of a book, he had even lost his status as the “wealthy young man” to be now described simply as the "young man". When the guards tried to seize him they took his very last possession, his cloth leaving him naked thus completing Jesus ask of him, demonstrating a powerful commitment to faith and thereby securing for himself the treasures in heaven just as Jesus promised. I wonder here, even with the enormity of what was happening at this very moment, if Jesus had a trace of a smile on his lips that only he and his Father in Heaven would understand.

Now there's no proof that the man in chapter 10 and the one in chapter 14 are the same man. But I'll offer this, why even bother mentioning some obscure character in chapter 14? Is it possible that Jesus looking at the rich man knew he would heed him despite his initial sadness and that this is precisely why Jesus loved him? Is it possible that while Jesus knew this, it is one more nuance that the disciples missed as they looked on him with pity? Did the Holy Spirit cause Mark to include this seemingly insignificant observation that the Holy Spirit might try us to connect the dots? And is the fact that the knowledge of the identity of the young man kept hidden purposely in accordance with the teaching of Matthew 6 to ensure that the rich young man does not get paid for his faith with the currency of the praise of men and thereby have no reward held for him by our Father in heaven?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Revelation of Recent Events

Revelation 17:4 – The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality.

It has long been supposed by some, to which I include myself, that the Catholic church is the harlot that sits upon many waters and that together with the beast will grant power to 10 kings of Europe to pursue the remnant of the faithful. And as I consider the current ecumenical efforts of the Catholic Church to bring about Christian unity, I take note of a recent joint announcement by Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant church leaders in Jerusalem. Together they say that there is one form of Christianity that they condemn, that of Christian Zionism – the belief in the special status of the nation of Isreal to God and the position that we are living in a premillennial age.

Some of those same few have held the belief that Revelation 17 describes the future rise of a final Empire made up of a subset of the current members of the European Union. An Empire, lead by Germany, that will be the power base through which the Catholic Church will seek out and persecute the faithful. It was interesting to note that the most resent visit by Pope Benedict XVI to his German homeland, that he met with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. After this meeting, Chancellor Merkel announced she will push to reopen the constitutional debate in an effort to reconnect Europe to its’ Christian roots and God, no doubt with the Catholic Church at the center, when Germany takes over the Presidency of the European Union in 2007.

Within that begins the time of Jacob’s trouble for both the House of Israel and the House of Judah…

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Authority of the Catholic Church on Doctrine

The first 4 centuries of the Catholic Church resulted in a number of defining doctrines that have set Christians firmly on the road we now travel. The doctrine and mystery of the Trinity is just one of these. Others include the Catholic Church changing the Sabbath from the 7th day to the 1st day of the week by its own authority as to “not judaiz by resting on the Sabbath” (canon 29 of the Synod of Laodicea ) as if the Jews picked the day themselves. Also, the greatly debated and disputed establishment of and proper observation of Easter to replace Passover. As well as the observance of Christmas to worship the birth of Jesus with the full knowledge that Jesus was not born on December 25th and that the apostles did not ever annually celebrate Jesus birth.

Each of these doctrines of the Catholic Church are celebrated without question and defended as sacred traditions of Christianity. We have wrapped ourselves in the established teaching and practices of “the church fathers” and others who have come before us secure in the idea that our actions are following the path led by Jesus. It is precisely us applying our own traditions to worship God, traditions which God did not establish, that Jesus condemned the Jews for.

Each major Christian denomination that does not consider itself subject to the central authority of Rome has renounced the authority of the Roman Catholic Church even calling it an abomination and as with Orthodox Catholics declaring the pope the Anti-christ. But the questions I ask myself here is, “if the Roman Catholic Church is not God’s one true church as they claim to be, at what point did they cease to be God’s one true church? Was it in the sixteenth century with the Protestant Reformation, the Inquisition of the Middle Ages or perhaps 1054 with the Great Schism between the east and west or was it much earlier? Perhaps 325 AD at the Council of Nicea or was it even before that?” And why despite the many declarations of apostacy against this church throughout the ages do these doctrines continue without question?

When Jesus surveyed the landscape of Judea he found the traditions of the worship of God by the Jews dead works. What would he say of our enlightened traditions of today? Has God’s plea that we would obey the statutes He established changed so much or has God been consistent on this point ?

If the apostles were alive today, would they recognize the church we ascribe to Peter? Or does Jesus’ gospel message of “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” mean a whole lot more than doing 60km in a 50km zone when no one is looking?

The only thing I am really certain of is that it is all happening according to God’s divine plan just exactly as He expected, whatever that might be and we are to do the very best with what we have.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Thy Kingdom Come...Or...Thy Kingdom Here and Now?

I have often heard it described that this church age, this post ascension time is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth described by Jesus Christ and his apostles in the bible. I wonder, was the known history of mainstream Christianity really the plan God had for his church or have we somehow gone down a different path and gotten it wrong yet again? Have we once more misunderstood God and his plan for us?

When the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons in the name of Satan, Jesus used this opportunity to make the point that a kingdom divided against itself will not stand. And for nearly 2,000 years since the time of Jesus, Christianity has been continually divided in its understanding and application of the printed word of God.

Ecumenical efforts of the past 40 years between the Catholic church, the Protestant Reformed churches, the Greek Orthodox church, the Lutheran World Federation and others could one day see, if not corporately, certainly politically, a united Christian front.

And while ideology and doctrine are negotiated in council chambers around the world toward a search for common ground, what are the prospects for its outcome? Will this be the virgin bride or the whore described in the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John? Should we be attempting to tie the branches together, or has Jesus been quietly nuturing a different tree?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Perspective and the Power of Understanding

I am amazed at the power perspective has on our understanding. For example, in the picture above, do you see a young woman, or an old woman? This familiar illustration rather simplistically sums up how different perspectives on the issue of the millennium approach the bible. Each are able to scripturally demonstrate why they believe what they believe and passionately defend it. Each will try to convince the other their interpretation of the image is correct. Can both (or all) interpretations be correct or is there only one right answer?

I also feel compelled here to point out that the millennium issue isn't simply a focus on the "end time". Some would say that's "majoring on the minor" (catchy), and possibly rightly so. But the reason I pivot on this point is that each camp have equally dividing perspectives on issues such as Christmas, Easter, the Sabbath and other Holy Days while all pointing to the same God. I am amazed to see each point to the same scripture to marginalize the other.

While all Christians will "swear on a stack of bibles" to have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, is it possible we don't?

Friday, October 07, 2005

If Not Obedience, Judgment.

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

The bible is full of examples of cause and effect. For Israel, as they drifted away from the laws passed down from God through Moses and conformed to the standards of the nations around them (Ezekiel 11:12), they drew the wrath of God and paid the price for their disobedience.

Canada and the world are on a slippery slope of a declining moral standard rushing towards an "enlightened" model of diversification, open acceptance and tolerance that is very much in conflict with the bible. Is Canada truly better off with the legalization of abortion, gay marriage and the declining influence of God and church in our society?

And if the Old Testament reveals the history of our relationship with God, we can't seem to agree as to what our new relationship with God should be. To a Catholic, no law is required beyond your allegiance to the church. Adhere to the 7 sacraments and you are assured entrance into heaven. To a Protestant, (particularly evangelicals), the law was impossible to keep. Confess your sins, pray the "sinners prayer", be baptized, love God, call on the name of Jesus Christ, be a good person, win the world through your participation, spread the Gospel and you will be with God forever in heaven. Here's a little ditty I came across from a "Reformist" entitled "Mainstream Christianity Wrong on Salvation". Their view is the law is just as relevant today as it was since it was handed down....

And to the rest well....many will tell you to pack your sunscreen because your just SOL.

So if God is "the savior of all men..." as spoken by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4, why has corporate religion failed so miserably to deliver on God's promise?

Monday, October 03, 2005

One Church!

In an article written by Bethe Dufresne appearing on newspaper web site published October 3, 2005, Bethe reports on the message delivered by His Eminence Methodios, Metropolitan of Boston to the Greek Orthodox Church faithful.

Bethe writes…

“Known for his ecumenical outlook, the metropolitan emphasized what he sees as a need for Christian denominations to rally around what unites them instead of squabbling over what divides them….Any alliance that includes the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches and some 500 Protestant denominations would be a powerful force, he said, in a nation he regards as increasingly distant from the Gospel teachings.”

While no Christian would deny that a single Church with God at its head, of one accord in truth, would be a power without equal, I wonder, since we can no longer agree on what is true, “would an alliance require compromises of truth for the sake of unity?”

This leads to what is becoming a recurring follow on question here, “does the truth really matter?”