Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Did Jesus Teach Sola Fide (Faith Alone?)

Note: Since the majority of my readers are Protestant and do not accept any higher authority than the Bible, I will confine documentation to that source. Thence,  I will discuss the problems of Sola Fide with Sola Scriptura....(smile.)

Read the differing views on justification by faith alone has swept me up in countless hours of researching these positions. Everything turns to white noise, though, when scholars debate over nuances in ancient Biblical grammar--like verbal binyanim non-infinite, reflexivity conjugations and tenses and the modal, jussive form.  (whew...)
Some claim that justification happens only once simultaneous to sanctification, others claim it happens immediately before sanctification and others claim it is a process. And all assert that their understanding is vital to salvation, indeed, the true gospel rests upon Sola Fide and a proper understanding of when and how it happens.
Is this the simple gospel of the Fundamentalists? If their claim is correct that the Bible is straightforward, what do we do with the exegetical map which looks like the jumbled wires of a 1970 computer board that these theological trailblazers of the Sola Fide doctrine have created?
This layperson must admit she is in way over her head. 
When analyzing these debates I compare it to people deciding whether it is moral to abort an unborn based upon when a fertilized egg becomes a  blastocyst. It is an unnecessary technical point when we see the results of a child being born. 
In the end, what is important? The moment when we are justified or when we stand before our maker in judgement--that moment you are born into an eternal kingdom of seeing God face to face? You aren’t going to be arguing with the Almighty over exegesis. 

So, as fascinating as it is to discuss the segregating theological positions on Justification, why not unify in what is going to happen at the end of our earthy lives? 
What did Jesus teach about judgement? Did Christ teach that when we stand at the throne of His Father that faith alone will be the criteria for our eternal salvation? 
To make the question as clear as possible: if Jesus said there was anything necessary at our judgement other than faith, then we must admit Sola Fide isn’t a good theological working model. Because if faith isn’t the only thing God is expecting from His children, then we aren’t giving the full gospel. 
Diving into the gospels, we find that in His first recorded sermon Jesus gives a litany of those who will inherit eternal life--the poor in spirit, the meek, pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted because of righteousness. Nothing about those who have faith in Him. This list is about our characters or our deeds.
Later Jesus commanded His followers to love God, our neighbors and even our enemies! (Matt. 5: 44, 46; 19: 19, 22, 29; 22: 37, John 8: 42)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13: 35
Love is a commandment, not a suggestion.  And before Jesus breathes a word about faith He calls us to perfection. 
Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matt. 5: 48
Jesus tells us to seek righteousness first and that, rather than being judged by faith we will be judged by how we judge others! 
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matt. 6:33... 
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again . Matt. 7: 2
Read one of Jesus’ first parables: 
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Matt. 7: 24.
Where is this idea that our deeds will  not be judged?  And our actions do receive a reward:
He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. Matt. 10:41 
Sts Matthew and John record the words of Jesus which show that our righteous actions, our deeds are a very important part of being God’s children and will be weighed in deciding our eternal destination
The Gospel of St. Matthew

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 16: 27
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 19:21
When the Son of man shall come in his glory... before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungred , and ye gave me meat : I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in : Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick , and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. ...And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.  Matt. 25: 31-37, 46 [Note: they were separated by their DEEDS!]
The Gospel of St. John

This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. 3:19-21

And when he is come , he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 16: 8, 10.

All mainstream Christians agree on the point that we are Justified by faith and that it is through the merits of Christ’s death that we are saved.  Having said that, we have quite a few biblical texts that talk about the importance of Christian behavior, deeds, actions or righteousness. I didn’t begin to list the scores of texts written by the Apostles and St. Paul.
Rather than separate upon the technicality of merits or non-merits, (imputed or imparted, sanctified or justified) of Christian works   ... Should we not, for unity sake, admit that the obedience of faith, which brings fruits of righteousness ARE important to the Christian? Should we not admit that Jesus warned us that when we stand before the Father in heaven, that our deed will be reviewed and judged.

If nothing else, the words of Christ should cause us to wonder about the use of the doctrine of Justification by faith alone. While these arguments are fine for the erudite, what are we teaching the Christian about God’s earthly and heavenly expectations and his final judgement?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Joys of Catholic Forgiveness

I have spent my entire life excusing sins, imagining that I was being kind and forgiving. 

When someone was hateful to me, I would calm myself and by sheer willpower control my desire for retribution. I would begin self-talk such as “Oh, this person had a bad day” and try and shake off the injustice or behavior towards me. If someone truly wronged me, I would call upon a mantra of excuses in order to sooth the feelings of resentment building in me.

“They are immature, they didn’t mean it.” 

“They are ignorant of how to behave correctly. They weren’t raised as well as I was.” 

“We’re all sinners in need of a Savior, this person just doesn’t know Jesus.”
As nice as it is to give someone the benefit of the doubt, in essence, I wasn’t truly forgiving them, I was just excusing sin. I have been under the impression that forgiveness was a cessation of bad feelings towards someone--that it was an emotional response to a sin against me. But I have been very wrong, as all I have been doing is deflecting the sin--not forgiving it. The forgiveness wasn’t about doing anything for them, but for me. I needed to feel better and when I felt better I thought I had forgiven them.
Over the course of one’s life, excusing sin shoves resentment to a subconscious level and a righteous injustice turns into an unseen raging furnace, like an underground fire. 
Nice feelings towards a person who has sinned against you isn’t forgiveness. We need to undo their sin.
I asked God, “Now how on earth can I, who cannot control anything hardly in myself, going to undo a sin? Didn’t Christ do that on the Cross?” 
Of course Christ did, but He also commands that He will forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us! Christ didn’t just forgive us by extinguishing His emotional wrath and turning it to a good warm fuzzy feeling for us. He took upon Himself the eternal--the spiritual--punishment for our sins. Forgiving sin is more than feelings, it is undoing the effects of the sin. And sin hurts much deeper than our emotions.
Sin, no matter how big or small, causes a wave that emanates out effecting all those in its path. It not only hurts the sinner, but God, the Body of Christ (Christian believers) and anyone it is directed at. There is simply no such thing as a private sin. Sin’s destructive path ripples in concentric circles.
While Christ has paid the eternal consequences, there is always a residue of sin here in this temporal abode that must be cleaned up. Sin is a contagious poison. True forgiveness is the antidote.
To truly forgive, we must not excuse, deflect nor minimize the wrongful act, but have the courage to see the depth of the offense. Then consciously, freely and with the grace of God--intentionally bear the temporal consequences of the sin. Without too literal a comparison, it is like offering the sinner a personal indulgence. 
We become little Christs, living sacrifices for that person, by bearing the hurtful effects of the person’s trespasses. We willingly, lovingly accept the suffering of the sin. Though it was involuntarily forced upon us, for love of God and our neighbor, we take the punch of the sin and stand against the crashing wave of pain and injustice. Thus, at least allowing the suffering to go no father in your direction.
When someone has harmed you, fall to your knees and lift the sin up to Christ. Offer up the pain you feel as a sacrifice of love for the one who sinned against you. You may even feel called to perform an act of penance in behalf of the person’s sin, such as fast a meal, give a monetary gift to charity... say a rosary for them. Prayers and charitable actions will avail much, for you are acting as a righteous person.
Don’t misunderstand. I am certainly not suggesting you go to jail for another person’s crime or pay any civil penalty or take the blame for someone else. What I am talking about is accepting the offense against you, personally as a Christian and acting in love in return. It is about acting in behalf of the sinner, not simply calming the emotions as if that wipes away the sin.

 And, we cannot bear another’s sin without doing as Christ did. 
With the obedience of faith and love for His Father, Christ offered up the sin. And we must do that too. With Christ, we offer the sin up to the Father in behalf of the sinner. We take the offense and lift it high in prayer to God. It is only then that the fires of love can consume the sin and its effects can be destroyed. It must be offered to the Father, through the sacrifice of the Son. That is forgiveness. 
Don’t worry too much about reoccurring emotions against the sinner. Reacting in love by a peaceful offerings to God will eventually subdue the feelings and they will be replaced by a holiness and not just a controlled anger. Keep focused on the crucified Christ and remember it is what He has done for you. We break ourselves for others, just as Christ has broken Himself for us. If it is just too much for you to do it for the sinner, do it for love of God. Focus on your love of Christ, rather than the offense and it makes it so much easier. 
We extinguish the raging fire of sin, not by excuse, nor deflection, not by reducing the offense in our minds, but accepting the offense with a full understanding and taking the effects upon us as a sacrifice to God. 
What about abuse and grave sin? I am certainly not offering advice about how to deal with the abusive person or suggesting you continue to allow someone to abuse you. This is only about how to forgive them. 
What about someone who sexually abuses children? What about someone who is unfaithful to a spouse? Or a thief or murderer? 
With such diabolical, momentous sins, forgiveness is only a gift of the abundant grace of God. Only on our knees we can receive such power to forgive. But forgive we must. Yes, it is a shocking injustice we are asked to bear. 
But true forgiveness rights the wrongs through Christ. The person you are interceding for will one day fully see what you did for them. Do not think I am minimizing the inferno of pain. God’s grace must overwhelm you to sustain you in such moments. For we cannot fully comprehend the deep horror of sin until we battle it spiritually.Yet, as we act in faith as little Christs, our fervent prayers will heal us as we are forgiving those who have destroyed, deserted and betrayed us. 

The impossibility of this becomes miraculously possible in Christ. And it creates within us a divine love and mercy that can only come through the suffering of forgiveness. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Rich Man and Lazarus

When at the St. Sebastian Catacombs in Rome, I placed a veil over my head and knelt in prayer before the altar in the chapel where the body of St. Sebastian lie. After rising, I noticed we were alone except for an American couple. They had glanced at me when I removed the veil.

I felt impressed to started a conversation.

They were nice and Protestant, so naturally--for me anyway--I began a discussion about religion. They, of course, were quite dumbfounded as to why we, who had been Fundamentalist-Protestant-Born-Again-Believers (and claim to have a vibrant relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ), would ever become.... (gulp) C... C... Catholic (wheeze!). The response is both typical and expected, after all, Protestants believe Catholics stubbornly ignore the plain teaching of the Bible--right?

They were knowledgable about scripture, so they graciously took some time from their vacation to “reason together” with us about Christianity and faith and scripture.

Most likely in response to my praying in front of the tomb of St. Sebastian, the woman gently pointed out that Jesus’ parable of Lazarus proves there is no communication between earthly Christians and saints who have died. She referred to this verse:

"And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot ; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."

There was no time for a full Catholic response to them at that moment, so I thought I would explain it briefly here (and link this to their email address):

In fact, the parable solidly supports four basic Catholic doctrines--including the doctrine of the communion of saints repeated since the fourth century by Christians in the Apostle's Creed. But first let's read the parable in Luke 16:

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Please note: I am not saying Protestants will agree with the Catholic interpretation of Jesus’ parable, but at least Protestants should admit that Catholics (rightly or wrongly) use the Bible to support these doctrines.

Point 1 Addressing Church Leaders as “Father”

Jesus addresses Abraham as “Father.” Why would Christ address him thus in light of His command:

“And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” Matthew 23: 9 KJV?

Since Christ clearly calls Abraham "father" in His parable, is He contradicting Himself? Do a Bible search for how many times Christ and scripture uses the word "father" to describe our male parent. If it was wrong to do, why would He do it? See Rom. 4:1, 11-18, 9:10; Phil. 2:22; Thess. 2:11; I Tim. 5:1.

Without a lengthy explanation as to exactly what Jesus meant, suffice it to say it was not a command about technically calling someone "father" as Catholics refer to their pastors. It was more meaning that Israel should not claim the "fathers" (the Patriarchs) as their proof for God automatic favor anymore than a Catholic can point to Father Peter as proving their automatic favor with God. So this text cannot be used by Protestants to claim it is wrong to call a priest "father" for Christ entitled Israel's leader Abraham "Father."

Point 2 Purgatory

Neither Abraham nor Lazarus in this parable are understood to be in heaven, yet they are clearly not in hell. This parable speaks of another place, called by the Jews “Abraham’s Bosom” and later by the Catholics “Purgatory.” It is a place of purification we go to for sins we were not repentant for, sins we clung to in this life. That is where both Father Abraham and Lazarus were awaiting heaven.

This statement by Father Abraham, “between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot ; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence,” is used to support the Protestant idea that petitioning the saints in heaven to pray for us is not possible because of this fixed gulf.

In fact, this passage does not address communication, as there is proof by the rich man speaking to Father Abraham that communication is possible past the fixed gulf. Father Abraham’s response is not about communication but about Lazarus, in Abraham’s Bosom before the cross and the New Covenant, who cannot physically returning to the earth to warn the rich man’s brothers.

Point 3 Oral Tradition

Nowhere in the Old Testament is the doctrine of “Abraham’s Bosom.” It is not found in written scripture before Christ refers to it as if it is well-known. Abraham’s Bosom is part of the Hebrew’s oral tradition. Jesus several times in His earthly ministry refers to the oral tradition, citing it as truth.

Point 4 Praying to Saints in Heaven

Protestant argument:

Even if a dead saint is up in heaven – he or she has no power to answer a prayer. Maybe, at best, they could pray for you but... come on...? Why waste your time praying to a dead saint when you can go straight to God? Jesus directed His prayers to God and told us to pray "our Father." Nowhere in scripture does it say we can pray to a saint or they can listen to us.

Catholic Biblical response:

Notice in this parable that Lazarus is praying (petitioning) someone who is supposedly dead (Abraham)! And the dead rich man is asking something of Father Abraham which is assumed that Abraham can actually do for him!

"Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house."

Why would Christ use such a parable if it taught such an abominable practice such as praying to the dead? Of course He wouldn’t use a devilish practice to make a heavenly point! It is because those who die in Christ or in the favor of God do NOT go to hell. They are not technically dead but asleep as Christ said about Abraham in Matthew 22: 32:

“I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob' ? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

Catholics petition those saints in heaven who are there interceding to God in our behalf. That is their heavenly “job” until Christ comes again. They are actively participating in the salvation of mankind in the same way we are on earth today! They pray for us in the same way that our brothers and sisters in Christ pray for us. Why would Christ tell us to pray for each other, intercede for each other, if it were a “waste of time” as Protestants suggest?

The NT is full of Christians and non-Christians asking for the believers’ prayers, even as a direct command from Christ! And please note that it is not just an empty ritual, prayer by Christians is assumed to have great power!

Pray for me to the Lord... Acts 8: 24
 ...pray for them which despitefully use you...Matt. 5:44
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him... James 5: 14
...we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. 2 Cor. 5: 20
Pray for me. Pray strenuously with and for me. Rom. 15: 30

... pray for me that when I speak... Eph. 6:19
Pray for me...this will all turn out for my deliverance. Phil. 1:19

...pray for me... Col. 4: 18

Brethren, pray for us. I Thess. 5: 25

Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified. 2 Thess. 3:1
Pray for us.... Heb. 13:18

When Catholics petition saints in heaven for things, Jesus Himself gives credence to this practice in His parable of Lazarus. It is assumed that the patriarch Abraham can and will be able to perform a task asked by someone in torment.

None of these four doctrines have anything to do with the point of Christ’s parable, which is prophecy of Israel remaining in disbelief even after Christ raises Lazarus from the dead later in His ministry. Yet, the parable does have doctrinal issues that are assumed and these need to be pointed out as backing up Catholic doctrines.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pilgrimage of Miracles 2011

It is impossible to return in any way but physically...

It feels like a drowning. But no, even more...

We have been baptized in angelic wonders--transformed and our world no longer fits.  Home ceases to refers to any earthly abode. We feel distant and lonely, like we shall be forever falling till we have been given wings. Time is no longer constant, but expanding.

Songs fall still and prayers give way to wordless adoration. The universe is filled with an overpowering, reverent and terrifying silence. The darkest and the lightest become a white hot furnace of pure love.

Senses struck senseless with new eyes to see the horrifying struggle between the cancerous meaninglessness of sin against the beauty and holiness of a Sovereign God.


Miracles are not comfortable.

Miracles make demands upon you.

Do NOT pray for a miracle unless you are prepared to give up this world and live a new life. Miracles sweep away your identity, your worldview, your comfort and leave your existence fundamentally changed.

Miracles are not given for our spiritual entertainment, nor are they necessarily given to strengthen our faith, for most happen when Christ says, "Your faith has healed you." Miracles are given to stretch us, sear us and bring us into the holiness of saints. 

Miracles either burn, heal, and make you a saint or make you an atheist. That must be why God doesn't give them often. You either embrace the supernatural and give glory to God or you analyze them, your heart rejects such powerful grace and belief diminishes and dulls.

There are many many who claim Christ as their best friend out there who are atheists.

Photos of our Pilgrimage of Miracles 2011. More to come... (All photos-- copyright held by Arthur Beem, 2011)

 From the Queen Mary 2 transatlantic voyage from NYC to Southampton, England

                                                             Westminster Abbey

                                                            Westminster Cathedral

                                  Scene from my window in Langley Castle, Hexham, England

Saturday, October 1, 2011

From Goddess Liberty To God

I am taking a cyberspace sabbatical to work on a novel until Christmas. I ask for your covering in prayers during this time as I will be dedicated much of my time to prayer also not only for the novel itself but for its readers. After Christmas I am returning and only then will I be able to review and post any of your comments. Please feel free to comment, just understand no comments will actually show up until I get back. God bless you all and I leave you with a poem I recently wrote:

(Note, this is not a political statement)


From Goddess of Liberty to God

Consciences burn with holy lights,
The Cross, blood shed for sacred rights.
O hallowed choice to pluck from tree 
The pleasing fruit of liberty.
Saint of exiles, heavenly flame
To her the yearning masses came
Autonomy burned in every breast, 
The only worship God has blessed.
God’s freedom to choose and happiness gain,
Decides good and evil by personal reign
To follow one’s heart is the holiest right
in the red, white and blue, it’s not black and white.
Allot, Relativism--cunning tyrant, what’s true!
Within each soul’s breast a new truth doth debut,
Stamped with the seal of “Jesus and me.”
Reminding us God died that the truth may be free.
Oh glorious rights, to thee proudly we sing,
Righteous tolerance and diversity bring,
On Luther, on Calvin, on Zwingli, on Knox
Peace thou hast brought us, recorded by Foxe
Another dies for believer’s baptism
His heart commanded a glorious schism
No pope, no priest, God doesn’t require
A leader, he vows till the heretic’s fire.
Once saved, always saved, there is no condemnation
Genuine Christians impute justification.
Only sixty six books from the King James,
All others versions need set to the flames. 
Scriptures teach Adventists, “touch not the swine,”
Conscientiously rejecting a Coke, beer and wine, 
Each Sabbath gathering with thankful tear,
Cherishing freedom to proclaim time is near.
Pressed and tied boys on their bicycles roam,
To shake off the dust of their feet at each home.
Piously suffering the child who has died, 
Parent refused blood the Lord had supplied.
To him bread’s a symbol, to her wine is real,
If we truly love Jesus, it’s about how we feel.
The spirit tells some that to judge is to hate,
as long as we love, we can all fornicate.
As God brought to Adam all creatures to name,
He honors my viewpoint, that I’ll feel no shame.
Then we all can be happy, we all can be saved,
Nothing is evil, nothing depraved.
The brilliance of gods, brought to each Christian mind.
Infallible freedom could never be blind.
Enlightenment promises not to deceive,
Stand firm! Trust your heart and believe.
Unfaithful servant, whom dogma has bruised
PRAY! For the Spirit is clear, not confused.
Lord Scriptures, thy master, is thine only law.
Within it, perfection, no chaos, no flaw.
The fruit of such liberty, crystal to see,
The blind leading blind, and the blind one is me.
I fall to my knees, for freedom enslaved,
Naked and wretched, for this I was saved?
For truth to be truth, it must reign from outside 
my weak understanding. Oh where is your Bride?
We need a pillar, foundation and rock,
For fear false shepherds are guiding Your flock.
The Bible’s my shepherd? I shall not want,
That I may baptize in my own knowledge font?
I am the church? My rock, faith alone?
What I loathe, You rebuke, what I like, You condone?

To draw us to unity, Apostles You chose
A kingdom of God from a seed it arose,
Forewarned church militant holds wheat and tares,
False shepherds exposed not in schism but prayers.
Broken men, fallen leaders, God’s nevertheless,
The church instituted, so it’s not someone’s guess.
Bound by the oath in the bread and the wine,
Grace pours unity, the world sees love’s sign.

For freedom of conscience the remnant has sliced
into bite-sized theology, the Body of Christ
awakened I find I am not at The Tree, but
prostrating to the goddess of my own liberty.
Give me not happiness, Father I plead,
But holiness found in your Word and Your Creed.
Oh, give me freedom at thy feet to lay down,
My desires, my rights, my liberty’s crown.
The goddess lifts scepter lighting self-sovereign seas.
The Cross, God out-stretched, bids us fall on our knees
Wither thou goest, Lamb of God, Son Divine,
There I will follow, not my will but thine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A         RC  H     Y             RULES!!


And what I mean by that is that I am a devoted Roman Catholic who promised faithful submission to God’s appointed leaders the pope and Catholic authoritative traditional interpretation of the infallible written Word of God.

Hey, this is America and I have a right to believe anything I want and call myself anything I want. Being a Total Anarchist words have no other meaning than what I personally recognize. And being a Total Anarchist, words should never have a consistent meaning because that would be too structured, so tomorrow I’ll probably define Total Anarchist as a Fundamentalist Baptist who is faithful to the pope and only wears tie-dye t-shirts.

Being a Total Anarchist, I don’t care if this makes any sense to anyone else but me. Indeed that is a fundamental principle of anarchy. Chaos.  Duh mooooor kayyyoss zee butter. Shoot, that was way too clear, let me try again--”me no love chaos, you Jane.”

Huh? you react. Yep, then I’ve done my duty.

Okay, here’s my point:

In today’s culture we all consider it our right to self-label no matter how far from the traditional meaning a label is. We create our own personalized dictionary and we don’t care whether it remotely resembles how society takes it.

“I am a Calvinist,” he casually tosses out. But really that person is meaning that he was baptized in a three point, neo-Dutch Calvinist, but he neither attends church and knows more about Calvin Klein underwear than Calvin’s doctrine.

“I’m a Seventh-day Adventist” another person claims and then the hearer assumes that the speaker’s beliefs resemble something of the 28 Fundamentals and then puts a check mark in their brain such as, “do not ask this person to join me in a shrimp cocktail at the fashion show next Saturday.”

Yet, actually it is a Progressive Adventists who would love to join the hearer in a shrimp cocktail next Saturday at the fashion show.

Very confusing.

Words have lost their meaning. Faith, salvation, grace, born-again, law--all these terms have radically different meanings to different religious traditions. Communication is hard enough without creating an anarchy within our religious terms. And yet that is exactly what has happened.

Being a Catholic means that you submit your opinions, your interpretations and your rights to God’s appointed authorities in Rome. So why are so many Catholics out there claiming you can be pro-choice, pro-same-sex marriage when the church has always been clear on both points for its 2,000 year history? Being pro-life and pro life-long monogamous marriage between one man and one woman is a dogma that can never change no matter who is sitting on the pope’s seat. 

People who claim they are Catholic or SDA or any other religion but don’t agree with the basic tenets are creating their own mental church and labeling it anything they want.

It would be much simpler if we would all just call ourselves what we really are. If you are not in agreement with the 28 fundamental beliefs of the SDA church--say, perhaps you don’t believe Ellen White was a prophetess, why not just call yourself a sabbatarian or a levitical law sabbatarian. Why label yourself as SDA and confuse everyone?

You have a right to label yourself anything, but why not label yourself where others can know what you believe. Otherwise you’re technically an anarchist.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Joys of Hope

As Christians, we pick up our crosses and follow our Savior. And that often means suffering. 
I am naturally very naive, idealistic and positive. Almost every morning of my life, I wake up with happy expectations, a little tingle of excitement about what fun and adventure the day will bring. If there are a few thin clouds, I know the sun is always just about to burst out in my heart. My life is a musical, as I tend to have some beautiful song always playing in the background of my mind.

With great gratitude to God, I look at my life, for my life has been so, so easy and comfortable compared to others.

Yet there have been times when I have been given my dose of pain and tragedy. When all my human efforts, all the inspirational reading and praying and Bible study and worship and behaving righteously bring no relief from the despair.
When days of pain, turn into weeks of pain, then months and even years of confused suffering, one tends to loose hope. You search for God and He is not there where you can feel Him, either in your heart or soul or spirit. You feel abandon. 
The devil tries to convince you that your light of joy has been extinguished forevermore and you are trapped in a dark, hopeless prison.

At those moments, you may feel your only choice is to sin. God’s power to go on and fight the good fight has imploded inside you and you are left with what seems only bad choices for survival. Your flesh is weak from relentless torment and you cry out to God only to hear the echo of your voice dissipate into the cosmos without an answer.
Forgive me if this seems a trite statement but what I wish to say to you is, do not sin. It will only make things vastly more complicated when the temporary comfort it brings is gone.

No matter what you are going through, though it may seem the very depths of hell, the valley of the shadow of death, do no evil. Defy the abyss Satan is wanting to throw you in, hang on with the words, “though He slay me, yet will I serve Him.” Never, ever give up hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dark it may seem.  Giving into the temptation to sin will only prolong the struggle.

God’s grace is sufficient. Hold on to that hope though the battle be fierce within your soul. Though the temptation feels overpowering, fall to your knees each time and behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The cross you carry following Christ is leading you to a place where you too will suffer and die. You too may sear with the agony of temptation until you have sweat blood. Where did you think that cross you were carrying was taking you? Not to a comfortable easy chair and refreshments. The eternal promise of God's Faith, Hope and Love do not come with the promise of tranquil cosiness. We are in a battle.  

But fear not, for God is with you. He will uphold you with His victorious right hand.

You will survive the pain, the temptation, the despair if you drop to your knees and suffer with Christ at your side. Pour out to Him, offer to Him the desire, the temptation to do evil. Earth’s purgatory lasts only a while and then, you will taste heaven.

Cling to hope, cling with faith when Satan’s vast army appears over the horizon. Don’t give up, you cannot see it yet, but as a Christian, there is a vast host of heaven behind you. Do not think a little sin will not hurt you and others. Do not be deceived that you must sin, it is your nature.
If the future could open up in front of your eyes, you would never make the choice to sin, no matter how strong and torturous the temptation.    

God’s grace is there for you. It is power. 
It is HIS sword He will give you. Stand and fight. For YOU MATTER!! You are an everlasting soul with great significance. Your tears, your heartbreaks fill heaven. Your battles, your failures and successes are watched with loving and merciful wonder. Heaven is FOR YOU, because God so loved you that He sent His only Son to hang on for you.

Never, never ever lose hope. The light is there, believe.