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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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It is remarkable to me that there are so many who view the Catholic Church with such disdain, even now. Do not misunderstand me, I’m no Papist. My great-grandfather’s dying words were, “Damn the Pope!”. But surely we have come to a point in the Christian religion where we can disagree on secondary issues, even so far as to call each other out on where we disagree, without questioning the salvific status of the other person.

No man has knowledge of who will enter the gates of Paradise. But I do not see how one can damn another professing Christian, especially when it is a man like Pope Francis who seems so remarkably intent on spreading the Good News of Christ to the poor and the least of these. It seems to me, that Pope Francis is the most Christ-like pope there has been in ages.

Do I have issues with the Church of Rome? Absolutely. For starters, they can begin to renounce papal infallibility when speaking ex cathedra, begin to consecrate women to Holy Orders, and allow Latin Rite priests to marry. But these are not salvific issues. None of them contradict the message of the Gospels, which is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit.

However, I have noticed a remarkable lack of the fruit of the Spirit when it comes to folks who lambaste the Catholic Church and Pope Francis, and refuse to acknowledge his stature and prominence in spreading the Christian religion. They would sooner gnaw off their own foot, than to admit that the Pope may indeed be a Christian, and may indeed be advancing the cause of Christ.

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What does it mean to have faith in God?

The Shema Yisrael (usually shortened to Shema) states, “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The Shema is found in Deuteronomy, and forms the basis of most Jewish prayer services. It is a continual reminder to the Jewish people of the Divine kingship of YHWH. It is both a statement, and a prayer. The statement, continually professes their belief in the Lordship of God. When said as a prayer however, it is a cry for belief in times when one is not quite up to the task of believing.

Throughout Jewish tradition, it isn’t quite so important to get all the answers right, as it is to wrestle with the tradition itself. This is an important part of Jewish education. Learning the Torah and being able to recite it verbatim, is quite useful to the education of Jewish children, because once they know the Torah, they can then begin to dissect and examine it as a whole. Once they understand the Torah, they can question it. And to question, means they have begun the journey of faith.

This ties back all the way to the Patriarch of the Jewish people, Jacob. On his way back to Canaan, Jacob encounters an angel, an emissary of the Almighty. There, they wrestle, and Jacob refuses to let go unless he receives a blessing from the angel. The angel blesses Jacob, and changes his name to Israel, meaning “He who struggles with God”. Jacob and his progeny forevermore have been characterized by this struggle, and God has blessed them for it. The core of the Jewish faith, the core of Israel, is wrestling with God.

Ironically, even though Christianity began as a sub-culture of Judaism in first century Palestine, Christianity has taken an altogether different approach to faith. Most Christians do not find value in the struggle, rather Christians are instead encouraged to put aside doubts, and place their faith in God. This strikes me as being rather simplistic. I am not sure that I understand how one is supposed to place their faith in God, if they haven’t wrestled with God enough to be sure that He indeed is God. Why should I follow His precepts if I do not believe them to be intrinsically valuable? I cannot find them to be intrinsically valuable if I do not first wrestle with them. Thus placing faith in God without confronting Him with my doubts.

Truth be told, if God truly was uncomfortable with my doubts, I’m not sure He would be worthy of much praise as a deity. But a god who can handle any doubts I throw his way, and a god who is totally cool with wrestling with me throughout all of my trials and tribulations – that is a God. That is God, who is totally and completely so powerful and beyond compare, that He encourages us to confront Him head-on. He challenges us to engage with Him, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man that takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

Belief is passive. I can claim my belief night and day, and shout it to the rooftops. I can do my good deeds, night and day, and proclaim them for all the world to see. But faith is done in secret. It requires strenuous activity that is best done when others are not around. Faith requires that we be completely vulnerable to the thought that our lives are not our own, that we may indeed need to be changed or molded by the Truth. Sometimes, faith in God necessitates a renunciation of previously held beliefs – no matter how strongly we believed them. Sometimes, faith in God requires wrestling with anything and everything we thought we knew, just to get a taste of what is real.

Belief is passive. Faith is knocking down the door and saying, “Oh no you bastard, I want what you’ve got, and I’m not taking no for an answer.” Faith is wrestling with God – and winning.

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God Bless the Refugees

To this land they have traversed,
From dangers only God can tell.
Chancing life and limb and sanity;
Daring climate extremes, and living hell.
For a chance at freedom, it was worth it all.
Some lost friends along the way,
They were herded like cattle,
Once reaching Freedom’s shore.
Their entire lives they dreamed,
Of a land that accepted the poor.
The hungry, and the weak they are;
The huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.
And what has America,
The haven of hope, decreed?
No asylum! No mercy!
Send back the refugees!
Yet I cannot help but wonder,
If it is they who should be deported.
Or perhaps those who believe freedom is a birthright
To only we few fortunate.
America could learn a thing,
Or two, from folks such as these,
For the very rocks and I cry out:
“God bless the refugees!”

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