Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

  • And of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord.

  • He was begotten, not made and is of one essence with the Father.
  • Through him all things were made.
  • Who for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.
  • He was made incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
  • He suffered under Pontius Pilate.
  • He was crucified, died, and was buried.
  • He descended into the place of the dead.
  • He rose from the dead on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
  • He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
  • He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.
  • His kingdom shall have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

  • Who is the Lord, the Giver of Life.
  • Who spoke through the Prophets.
  • Who with the Father and the Son, is worshipped and glorified.

I believe in one holy Church.

  • Which is universal, and for all peoples.
  • Which is the Communion of Saints.
  • It is timeless and beyond the reach of mortal death.

I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.

I look for the resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting.

  • Which is a bodily resurrection.
  • The righteous shall enter the world which is to come.
  • The righteous shall not taste of death again.

Amen.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

For over two thousand years, the universal Church of Jesus Christ has focused itself upon the principal act of Holy Communion. The Eucharist, as it is also known, is the central act of worship for the historic Church. By its very practice, the people of god are edified and made to remember the redeeming passion of our Lord. Without he Eucharist, we deny ourselves the very salvific body and blood of Christ Jesus. Therefore it should be made proper to observe the feast of our Lord on a regular basis, and the Eucharist should always be the foundation of regular Christian worship.

Upon this foundation must be laid the works of the people, to be bricks which are built upon each other to become a habitation place for the Lord our God. A holy temple, built of prayer and worship, that the sacrifices of the saints may be holy and acceptable unto the Lord. The God of our fathers has deemed us worthy to be called his children. Let us therefore offer up to him sacrifices of praise and mercy, that may billow up to the heavens like clouds of incense, aided by the great heavenly host.

In personal practice, and communal, praise and prayer should be offered to God continuously. When there is doubt or uncertainty, feel free to borrow from the rich stores of Christian history, and Scripture. Ancient hymns of praise and despair can be found in the Psalms. Many Christians throughout the ages have relied upon the Psalms when prayer was required, but many Christians have also found it useful to use other prepared prayers as well. It is comforting to be a part of the holy Church, a communion of saints, who have prayed the same prayers in different tongues throughout the ages. An unbroken succession of worship to our Lord and God.

Not to be neglected is a continuous pattern of confession of guilt. As humans we are not perfect, for if we were to be perfect, a need for Christ Jesus would not exist. Therefore we should continuously examine ourselves in our day to day lives and practices, that we may be holy and blameless in the sight of the Lord. However, when there is sin present, it must be acknowledged and confessed before God and man. This is so that the Church may be one in Christ, and that all sins are forgiven before partaking in Holy Communion. For the Scriptures are clear that all must be at peace with each other, and if someone begrudges another yet still partakes of the Holy Supper, they bring damnation upon themselves.

It is proper also, that all members of the body of Christ be baptized for the remission of sins. The water washes away the sins from the body, as repentance washes away the sins from the soul. It is of no coincidence that in the Scriptures those who profess faith in Christ are immediately baptized. For one must be baptized to be born again. It is a sign of the new Covenant of God with his people. To refuse baptism is to refuse the blessings of the people of God. One cannot belong to the Church, if they have not been baptized.

Those who have been baptized into the Church, are also like young children in need of guidance. They are new to the faith, and can be easily misled by false teachers. It is then the duty of the Church to instruct the newly baptized in sound doctrine, that when trials and temptations rear their ugly heads, they may be combated. This more than anything else is pivotal to the continuance of the Church. Without this teaching, the souls of the masses are forfeit. In this way we seek to guard against the attacks of all evil forces, that the truth of Christ might prevail. But this can only occur if we guard up our spiritual children in the whole armor of God, teaching them discernment and truth, and that which has been believed at all times by the Church universal.

There is one other integral part of the Christian life which must be examined: acts of mercy. As we are called “Christians”, it is important that we act in a manner that is consistent with the teachings of Jesus. Time and time again, the Gospel of Christ prioritizes the poor, infirm, and oppressed. Therefore it is not only proper, but necessary, that the body of Christ put forth physical action to evidence their faith. Not only should we pray for those who are at a disadvantage, but we should also help them physically when we see the need. By this we may preach Christ not only by our words, but by our actions as well.

It is in my opinion then, that all of these in conjunction with the exposition of the Scriptures on a regular basis should form the regular worship practices of the Church. This is how the Church universal has behaved for the past two millenia, and I see no reason that it should be reformed in this regard or changed. To do so I believe, would be detrimental to the fabric of the Church. In particular, I believe this to be why so many churches in America are failing. They have forsaken many of the essentials of the life of  the Church, which has led to spiritually immature and vulnerable members.

Read Full Post »

Unfortunately the time in which we live is plagued by fear and war. This is nothing new to the human race, and as Ecclesiastes states, there is nothing new under the sun. Every age of man is full of war, plague, and strife. How can it not be? Man has sunken to the depths of its own animus, barely reminding itself that it is greater than beast. For man looks at those who are made in his own likeness and greets them as brothers, yet he despises those who bear even the slightest of differences from his own appearance or behavior. This too, is nothing new. Our ancestors enslaved others who were not their own. Perhaps for speaking a different tongue, or having a different colored skin, or even perhaps a different religion. Man will find any excuse necessary to cause pain, war, and death. It is the way of the world.

But need it be this way? By all accounts the way of the world is full of strife and is generally unpleasant. When evil is done, it requires not only equal payback, but great wrath upon all who stand opposed. It is for this that the law was written, “an eye for an eye”. Not that justice would be certain to be meted out, but to ensure no greater than equal justice was served. For the wrath of mankind is prone to vengeance above and beyond fair and equal measure.

The Christian voice goes above and beyond this fair and equal measure of violence, and dispenses with it altogether. As the apostle Paul says, we battle not against flesh and blood, but against dark forces. Our battle is against the forces of darkness which control the nations of the world, and which daily battle in the heavenly places. For the message of Christ is that we do not retaliate against those who do us harm, but that we conquer evil with love and forgiveness. As our Lord has commanded us to turn the other cheek, we must obey. For he disarmed Peter in the garden, so has he disarmed us.

Read Full Post »

I have shared more than a few personal stories, and have tried to somehow relate them to a Gospel message that might be encouraging or insightful.  Sometimes I have tried to make them humorous, but others are simply just facts of life where I have failed or struggled with the God to whom all hearts are open. I guess you can consider the stories confessions of sorts.

Who knows? But what I do know is that one of the things that drives all of these stories – is my inaction. Places where I have failed God by my inability to act upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My most painful experiences as a Christian, are those times in which I did not put physical form to the love of Jesus Christ.

Sure, I have faith. Having faith for me is usually the easy part. I have experienced too many supernatural things for me to so easily discount the ability of God to exist. And logically, throughout all of my searching and wandering, I have yet to find a more compelling case than that of Jesus of Nazareth. Not only as evidenced in the Scriptures, but in my own life as well.

The problem with faith however, is that it is useless all alone. It can no more save a man’s soul, than raise the dead. Faith requires a body to enact it. Every time in the New Testament, when Jesus heals someone, he always says that it is their faith that has made them whole. The thing is, he always requires a physical action to prove that faith.

In James, it is written that we must be doers of the word, and not only hearers. Those who only hear the word, are like people who look in a mirror. They look at themselves, and turn away, only to forget what they are like. But those who study the perfect law, the law of Christ, and put it into practice, those people will be blessed. (James 1)

James continues this in chapter two, where he admonishes those who believe that faith alone will save them. For even the demons believe in God. But faith must be accompanied by action. Who are we to disagree? Time and time again, it is proven that a person of true faith will act out on his faith. They will abide by the Lord’s commands: love God, and love thy neighbor.

How can we love our neighbor if we do not show them our love? If I never speak to my neighbor, can I truly be loving him? How will I show my love if I never offer to mow his yard? Or the widow across the street, how will she know my love for her if I never offer to fix her mailbox that has been smashed by renegade kids?

The Scriptures say that they will know we are Christians by our actions. For a healthy tree bears forth good fruit. But inaction is the sign of a tree that is dying from within. It is the fig tree that the Lord curses and which withers away.

According to Ezekiel, the sin of Sodom was that she was full of pride, and had plenty of food. She was prosperous, but did not aid the poor and the needy. Because of this they were haughty, and did horrible deeds. Inaction is just as sinful as physically committing evil deeds.

The Book of Common Prayer portrays this beautifully in the Confession of Sin: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone…” it adds, “We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves…” It recognizes that the two go hand in hand.

Faith without works is not only useless, it is dangerous. For it leads to arrogance and pride. Self-righteousness leads to Pharisaism. It wasn’t the faith that the Pharisees had that he opposed – it was the way they approached faith. Their faith did not care for the poor and the oppressed. It had no action behind it.

God does not wish sacrifices of blood and flesh, but sacrifices of justice and mercy. How can we offer those sacrifices if we do not choose to act on our faith? The faith that teaches us to not only love God, but to love our neighbors as ourselves?

Read Full Post »

One of my favorite things to do, is to go out dancing. Whether you believe it or not, I’m a fantastic two-stepper (and waltzer). It is one of the things we do down here in Texas. And I’m sure you are all quite jealous of all the fun we get to have because of that.

To go dancing generally requires going to a bar. Because there aren’t many places to go and dance where alcohol isn’t served. Mainly because most men are too chicken to get out and dance without any liquid courage. That’s their loss. (To all the men reading this, take it from me: women love a man who can dance proper).

I love dancing. It allows me to get in my exercise (because dancing is a cardio beast), and when I was single, it allowed me to meet (hopefully) eligible women. (I find churches are usually too pious for something so worldly as dating.)

Now, meeting women at dancehalls is a mixed bag. You have women who are not looking for anything with anyone, you have married women just out with friends, you have married women looking to not be married, you have single women, etc. There may be a room full of a hundred women, and perhaps only ten of them might be single. And that is assuming they even want to dance with you, or find you attractive.

Well, lesser men than I perhaps have had that issue. I can’t really comment on what I haven’t experienced.

I’m just kidding, folks. I’ve been turned down more times than I care to publicly admit. Thanks again for allowing me to relive my humiliation for your benefit.

But…the Gospel is kind of the same way. Jesus talks about a farmer sowing his seed among the field. Some seed landed on the road, where the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil, where there was rock beneath, so it couldn’t grow. Still other seed fell among some thorns, where the weeds choked out the fresh new life. But some seed fell on fertile soil, and it produced greatly, and was worth many times more than what had been originally planted. (Matthew 13)

Spreading the Gospel requires us to take chances. Many times people are not receptive to the Gospel of Christ. It requires a lot, and it doesn’t promise much in return. But spreading the Gospel is a lot like asking a girl to dance. At first you’re trepidatious, worried about what she will say, but totally acting nonchalant about the whole thing. Then, as you get closer, you really decide whether you’re going to go through with it or not. And you either turn away at the very last minute, as if you were on you’re way somewhere else. Or, you come face to face with her. And at first, you may stumble with the words, but eventually you become a bit more sure of yourself. Every time though, you’re worried about whether she will accept your invitation, or decline it.

Being a Christian requires us to be uncomfortable. Rejection is never fun. It always hurts. But we must share the Gospel always. Unto the ends of the earth, and even into the dancehalls. Because you never know where the Gospel will flourish.

Ask the girl to dance. Who knows, maybe she’ll say “yes”.

Read Full Post »

The Gospel of John opens with a declaration that in the beginning was the Word, and that all things were created through the Word, and nothing was made without the Word. In verse fourteen, John specifies that the Word took on flesh in the form of Jesus. This hearkens us back to the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures, where God speaks – and from his Word flows forth all of creation. John not only shows us from where Jesus gets his authority, but he also shows us that the Truth of God has always been made evident through Jesus.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus sets about trying to teach his disciples a new way of looking at the Hebrew Scriptures. As a Jewish rabbi, it was his duty to teach his students his “midrash” or teaching, which the New Testament refers to as his “yoke” (Matthew 11:30). If Jesus were just a rabbi, then his interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures was up for debate – which happened quite often. Anytime Jesus is recorded as speaking with the elders and Pharisees, what is happening is a debate upon the midrash of Jesus. They are questioning his rabbinical credentials. However it becomes clear early on, that the Pharisees cannot match wits with the son of Joseph.

The reason that the midrash of Jesus was so questionable, was because from the very onset, it seemed as if he was contradicting everything that Moses had said. When Jesus spoke about the Law, he challenged the core beliefs of his Jewish brethren. According to the midrash of Jesus, revenge was no longer an option. His interpretation of the Law, was not based upon the text itself, but upon the spirit. And from our perspective today, who would know the spirit of the Law better than the Word that it was spoken through?

Jesus had funny ways about how he observed the Law. He didn’t find it sinful to gather food on the Sabbath, in spite of overwhelming disdain from other teachers who thought it should be a day of total rest. Neither did he allow for the stoning of sinners; for who was perfect according to the letter of the Law? Jesus even ate with tax collectors and sinners, the enemies of all religious Jews. The tax collectors because they had sided with the Roman Empire over their fellow Jews, and sinners because they did not live in accordance with the letter of the Law.

While in many ways the midrash of Jesus was more strict, in all, it was more free. The midrash of Jesus required discipline, but it was tempered with mercy. If someone offended you, you forgave them. According to Jesus, it didn’t matter how grievous the sin, nor how many times you had been sinned against. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

It was a completely radical way of re-interpreting the Law of Moses. But ultimately, it was about re-orienting the people of God back to Shalom. It was about bringing man back into full communion with God. This is the meaning of the Scriptures when Christ tells us that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “no man comes unto the Father except through me”. (John 14:6). Paul reiterates this same point later in his Epistle to the Galatians when he says that we are no longer bound under the Law, for we have been set free from the letter of the Law through Christ Jesus. However, if one insists on following the letter of the Law, they must follow it perfectly, for by following the Law they have been severed from Christ. (Galatians 5)

The road we travel isn’t easy. In Matthew chapter seven, Jesus calls the road to reconciliation with God, narrow. It takes a lot of work, and daily prayer. We must re-orientate ourselves back on a consistent basis to the midrash of Jesus. Brushing away cultural normalities, and hearkening back to a voice which cried out long ago, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”(Matthew 3:2)

Read Full Post »

I remember the first time I was introduced to Christian Pacifism. It made literally, no sense to me whatsoever. As an eighteen year old kid (saying that as a twenty-six year old kid), the thought of Christian Pacifism was anathema. The very idea made me sick to my stomach. Pacifism wasn’t Christian in my eyes, it stood in direct contrast to everything I had been taught to believe by my culture.

My parents didn’t raise someone who was so easily turned away from differing viewpoints, however. The more the idea of pacifism disgusted me, the greater I wanted to delve into it and see why someone would commit to such lunacy. It also required me to confront head-on passages of Scripture that not only went against my worldview, but against the very god I believed in.

Having a crisis of faith is never fun. People don’t do this for kicks and giggles. The very bedrock of your faith is shaken to its core, because it was built on something that you’re not sure will withstand the test of time. Jesus gives a parable about this in the Scriptures. Everyone who builds the foundation of their faith upon the teachings and actions of Jesus will be able to withstand all the winds and rains and storms that may come. But those who do not build their faith upon the example of Jesus, will be like a man who builds his house on sand, and the first storm that comes will knock it down. And great will be its fall. (Matthew 7 & Luke 6)

The more I dug into Scripture, and the more I read the words of Jesus, the more my foundation began to crumble. My faith, my house, was built on sand. And the fall was great indeed. I became confronted with the very same question that plagued C.S. Lewis during his own crisis of faith. Either Jesus was a madman, or he was the Son of God.

Fortunately beneath my sand, was a bit of bedrock. That happens sometimes. My house fell, but I was able to clear away the sand, and begin building anew. It took some time, but I knew the foundation was firm (although I do still find granules here and there). My neighbors and friends and family laughed at me. I probably felt a bit like Noah, my faith being mocked. Yet I knew that somehow everything would be alright, because my new faith was built upon a Gospel that was solid. A Gospel of Love.

There have been some bumps along the way. Faith journeys are never easy. And there have been storms, Lord have there been storms. I’ve had hurricane winds blow against my heart and soul, and there have been times when it was all I could do to not give in. But our God is a mighty fortress, and happy are those who put their trust in Him.

The journey isn’t over yet. I still have a long road ahead of me. I’m still learning this path of love and peace, trying to show mercy and grace. (It’s been eight years since I started on this road, and you’d be surprised how little you actually learn in that time). A little something that helps me along in this regard is a quote by Stanley Hauerwas: “I say I’m a pacifist because I am a violent son of a bitch. I’m a Texan. I can feel it in every bone I’ve got. And I hate the language of pacifism because it’s too passive. But by avowing it, I create expectations in others that hopefully will help me live faithfully to what is true. But that I have no confidence in my own ability to live it at all.”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »