Friday, March 25, 2011


I AM: YHWH, the Tetragrammaton.
I will Be Who I will Be,” replied God to Moses (Shemot/Exodus 3:14). 
At the base of Mount Sinai, the Lord revealed the Hebraic Divine Name, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh (I will Be Who I will Be); not a noun as might be expected, but a third-person, masculine verb  hwhy “to be.”

To the nation of Israel, His choice of entitlement announced His absolute existence outside of man’s perception of time. As one God, His name claimed exclusivity. YHWH conveys that no one else is as He is: the eternal creator. He is life and existence; He is Being.
The English translation of the Tetragrammaton is “I AM.”
 When our faith fails and we forget the I AM, we are set adrift in an universal existential odyssey. Against the dark, despairing drift into angst, He tells us that He IS. God’s name powerfully contrasts man’s search for being and confidently points us away from ourselves for the ultimate answers. You are because I AM, is His reply. And when He is not enough for us, we continue to seek for human answers.
The quest to understand the phenomenon of mankind’s being has consumed philosophers from the ancient Greek Protagoras (“Man is the measure of all things”)  to Descartes (“I think, therefore, I am”) to Thoreau (“Being is the great explainer.”) Even our British Bard-of-Avon had his turn with the probing existential dirge of Hamlet:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep...

 Yet the challenge to understand the purpose of mankind’s existence did not originate with Shakespeare, nor even the wily serpent of Genesis. It is the most primordial, cosmic self-examination that Lucifer himself asked and continues to coerce an answer from each of us today:  
“YHWH or not YHWH?” I am not questioning God’s existence, nor is this a question of evolution versus design. What I am addressing is our 21st century Christian worldview that makes ourselves god. God’s claim is that He is Being, the “I AM.” Are we really responding “I am not ?”

Most Christians will recoil at the statement that American Christianity is substituting the individual for God. However, when you study the Enlightenment (including empiricism and rationalism) which has become the lens by which we process information, atheistic philosophies emerge.  Based on the writings of Voltaire,  John Locke and the deadly-penned Thomas Paine (“My own mind is my own church,” from The Age of Reason), western culture has rejected all authority besides self.  The Declaration of Independence affirms, with the term “the law of Nature and Nature’s God,”that man’s reason alone is capable of conclusive judgment.  This democratic experimentation seeped into America’s religious theory and was adopted by the Puritan population.
Many Christians would be astounded that the idea that truth (“essences”) being buried within the soul is Platonic epistemology. Post Enlightenment Christianity has taken the Greek conception of a Divine Spark within man and adopted it with a minor modifications. Where Plato chose an interrogator to pull out of man his inner genius, many Christians today chose Sola Scriptura as a method to bring us to God. The idea of Jesus and me--or even the Bible, the Holy Spirit and me--cannot be found within scripture or anywhere in historical Christianity.
Americanism has crowned the individual--no matter the intelligence, maturity or educational level--as the primary source for authority. Infused into our American spirit is a religious fervor for equality and liberty erroneously broadened to suppose a divine right to follow our own spiritual path.  It is now almost universally accepted among Christians that the Holy Spirit infuses complete faith and the full understanding of the Bible directly into the heart of the born-again believer. This has never been the orientation for the followers of Christ. Christianity theology has never supported an autonomous understanding of the Word of God.

Scripture clearly teaches that God appoints shepherds and teachers, authorities of His choosing who help us to understand our faith. Nothing within us--independently--even after being filled with the Holy Spirit, implants within our breasts the completeness of God. He binds us together as the body of Christ and it is within that body--dependent upon God’s authorities and authoritative interpretations of scripture--that we discover the rich, vibrant clarity and intensity of truth. Grace is freely given so that when we find truth from without ourselves, we will have faith in it.  We do not look within for our own understanding. This is anti-scriptural. (Judges 21:25)
Now post-Enlightenment man was free to see himself as God. The Father of Lies has convinced an entire Christian culture that we are each the “I AM.” We are like God, having tasted the seeming freedom of deciding within ourselves what is good and evil. We have chosen in effect, even if  subconsciously, to be God. 
Am I the I AM? Am I YHWH? Very often we confuse our personal interpretation of scripture with God’s truths. In actuality we have become our own authority, as Paine, believing “my own mind is my own church.” With prideful spiritual independence, we argue that we have been given theological freedom and sovereignty. Yet, scripture and the vast span of Christianity from its inception declare that our personal opinion of God’s laws and desires are irrelevant. 
I AM not the one to decide whether babies should be baptized. 
I AM not the one who decides whether the communion wafer is the real presence or a symbol.
I AM not the one who decides whether we worship on Saturday or Sunday or every day.
I AM not the one who decides whether God is a Trinity.
I AM not the one who decides whether Jesus was fully God or dictate on His divinity.
I AM not the one who decides whether the worship music is what God enjoys.
I AM not the one who decides whether unclean meats are now clean.
I AM not the one who decides if there is a real hell.
I AM not the one who decides who is saved or is among God’s children.
I AM not the one who decides if I have a calling to be a minster of God.
As if God parades His sovereign truths in front of us for our approval! You see, Christian individualism is careening across scripture with chaotic understandings, authoritatively pronouncing that each inspiration is infallibly given by the Holy Spirit. Today’s Christianity has tempted many to fall to the ultimate deception, that we do not need anyone, not anything but scripture-- “just Jesus and Me”-- which practically speaking turns our Christian spirituality into making us the I AM.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Dumbing Down of Everything

The National Catholic Register

 Friday, March 18, 2011 11:15 PM Comments (35)
It is somehow fitting for the oxymoronic age in which we live that we call the uniform distribution of mediocrity, progress.
Anyone who has ever had the good fortune to watch Ken Burns’ documentary on the Civil War cannot help but be taken aback by the simple eloquence of men of little formal education and the surpassing eloquence of some of the educated.
Illiteracy was widespread 150 years ago.  Yet, those who were literate, even with just a fourth grade education, had such a facility with words that this blogger is put to shame.
Take for instance the letter of one Samuel M. Potter to Cynthia Potter, December 10, 1862.  Potter, writing to his wife makes evident his lack of education but yet his writing elevates.  He writes of the mundane aspects of his work in a hospital and signs off his letter this way.
  Josey must be a good boy to his little brother & nurse him for me & I know Lucy & Bell will like the boy they have got. Bell be a good girl & Lucy must be good to her sister Bell as well as her little brother. Well Mary I feel proud of the compliment the old doctor paid you. You are deserving it. May God bless you Mary & enable you to grow in grace, to adorn the Christian character & to hav your hope in heaven. Well Cynthia let us all still put our trust in that Almighty power that has kept us all in the hollow of his hand & we will be happy. No more at present but remain
Your affectionate husband
S.M. Potter
Are there many men today who could, even without the broken prose of Mr. S.M. Potter convey as much love and affection?  It hardly seems possible.  So much more so is the writing of an educated man of that era.  Sullivan Ballou, a lawyer from Rhode Island wrote this to his wife on the eve of a battle that would take his life.
I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .
Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .
These are amazing fruits of an era of illiteracy.
150 years later we have almost universal literacy, but is it a literacy without anything to say?  What average man of even a college education today could write as well as Mr. S.M. Potter?
But what seems worse is that in our world of universal this and universal that, why do we produce only mediocrity?  With all these “educated’ people walking around, why are there so few S.M. Potters, never mind Sullivan Ballous?
It seems a sad mark of progress that mediocrity must be the rule, that in order to level the playing field, all that elevates must be bull-dozed.  This may be as true of literacy as it is of liturgy and even healthcare.
Perhaps these are merely the curmudgeonly musings of natural born conservative.  William F. Buckley once wrote of his conservative magazine that its mission is to “stand athwart history, yelling stop.”
But I can’t help but feel that we could do with a little less progress.  I stand athwart history so that all that still elevates is not flattened into the parking lot we call progress.
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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Does Your Church Resemble the Early Church?

These are some general descriptions of earliest Christianity and how the first generation of Christians fellowshipped and worshipped. Does your church look like the earliest church? 

The earliest church had (or did) the following: 

Acts: 1:2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he [Christ] had chosen. 

Acts 1: 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. 

Acts 2:42 [The Fellowship of the Believers] They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Acts 6:7: So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. 

Acts 21: 8, 9 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. 

ELDERS (presbyters/priests) and DEACONS: 
Acts 6:2-4 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."

Acts 20:27-30 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

Acts 8: 29-30 The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."
Acts 19:8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Acts 2: 38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins ; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.

Acts 10: 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

Acts 2: 3-4 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Acts 8:17-19 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.
Acts 19: 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

Acts 2:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul...  

Acts 1:13-14 And when they were come in , they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John.... These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. 

Acts 2: 42 And they continued steadfastly.... in prayers.

Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread....

Acts 2:46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

Acts 1:23-26 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell , that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Acts 2: 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

Acts 3:4-8 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him... In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk...and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood and walked and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God.

Acts 5: 12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people;

Acts 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy , and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams...

Acts 2: 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 

Acts 2:34-37 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

Acts 5:9-10 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth , buried her by her husband.

2 Thess. 3:14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.

Acts 5: 12-14 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people;... Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.  

Acts 19:11,12 God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

Acts 2:44,45 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;  And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 

Acts 2:32-34 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. ...Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold.

Acts 2:46,47 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favor with all the people.  

Acts 8:1-3 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. ...But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.

Acts 16: 37 But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison ; and now are they sending us away secretly ? No indeed ! But let them come themselves and bring us out."

Act 15:1-2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 

Act. 16: 4,5 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Acts 19:18-20 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

Rom. 1:29-32 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.