This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Statement of Faith

I wanted to take a different approach this week than I have been, as you all needed a little break also from the "heavier" stuff, so what I wanted to do was to explain a little bit of what this page is about, what beliefs it expresses, and also a little background on how it developed.  It is a little history lesson of my own ministry efforts thus far, and will give you an idea of where I come from.

How It All Began

I accepted a call to the ministry back in July of 1986, when as a 16-year-old and a new Christian, I was attending a church camp in Cowan, WV.   The night was interesting I recall, because I had recently - January 27th of the same year - come to Christ and was a new Christian.  A lot of things were battling inside me then, including a fear of the book of Revelation (my mother is largely to thank for that, as her theology was mixed with junk like The Omen and other occultic movies, which scared me) as well as getting a lot of opposition at home from my mother and others who seemed to want to nit-pick and find fault with every aspect of my newly-acquired faith.  Fortunately, I had some good early influences, including the pastor who led me to Christ, the late Olen Phillips and his dear wife Linda.  Pastor Olen and Linda were practically like a second set of parents to me, and they took a great interest in my discipleship when I was a young Christian.  Olen went on to his eternal reward a few years ago, but I owe him a great debt for leading me to Christ, and this is where it started.  As to the camp night, it was I believe the last night of the week we were at camp, and around a big bonfire the many ministers and counselors at the camp led us in a rededication service, and it was that night that I received my call.  However, it would not be fully realized until a church convention in Ceredo, WV, in November 1987 when the call was clear and strong within me, and it was then I really began pursuing it. 

Upon graduation from high school in 1989, I went off to Bible college at a little tiny Baptist school in the panhandle of Florida called (then) Baptist Bible Institute.  Located in the tiny town of Graceville, it was there I would begin to really discern some things I would see later.  However, that previous summer - on June 21, 1989 to be precise - I had begun to open up some to my Pentecostal past, which since I had become a new Christian I had rejected due to some very negative experiences and a faulty example my mother and some other people had set.  Warming up to and becoming more curious about that, I attended services at a little Pentecostal Holiness congregation on Newcastle Street in Brunswick, GA, that summer (my father had lived in Brunswick, and I was staying with him and working to earn a little cash for the coming school year) and on this particular night, a Thursday, the church had a visiting evangelist from Michigan who was ministering, and he was talking about the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.  As the man was preaching, I recall, I felt like he was preaching at me!  And, as he did so, I got this strong urge to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  So, when the call was given at the end of the service, I was ready and went forward.  A group of old Pentecostal ladies, glory buns and all, began to lay hands on me, and the lady pastor of the church, Sis. Ann Mayfield, began praying along with the visiting evangelist.  As they did so, it was as if I had a spring inside my gut that started gushing upwards, and the next thing I knew I was speaking in some language that I had no idea of.  Little did I know that this was what "speaking in tongues as an initial evidence" was about, and after that night the Holy Spirit really began to accelerate things over the next couple of years.

Another major step in this happened the following year, after I had decided to leave the Baptist denomination and become part of the Foursquare movement, due to the influence of Dr. Jack Hayford, whose ministry really touched me then and provided something I could relate to.  I began in early 1990 attending a small Foursquare congregation in Dothan, AL, and on April 21 of that same year, I was about to have another experience that would rock my world spiritually.  That day, a very spiritually dynamic lady evangelist, Sis. Shirley James, was speaking at the church, and she operated in the gifts of word of knowledge and healing.  As she began to close that service that day, she began to operate in the Holy Spirit, and before long He told her to call me up to be prayed over.  So, up I went, and she began to pray; as she did so, the Holy Spirit began speaking to her about healing a speech problem I had (although I was 20, I talked like a 12-year-old then because my voice had not changed) as well as telling me that I had a calling to work with young couples.  After speaking that over me, Sister Shirley laid hands upon my head, and all of a sudden I was flat on the floor!  I found out later that this was something called "being slain in the Spirit," and it was something else, as nothing like that had ever happened to me before.  Then, it was as if things started really coming into perspective for me, and it would be an interesting ride from that point onward.

In late 1992, I transferred to Southeastern College, and after a couple of really deficient church experiences, something began to awaken within me bringing me back to a feeling, a desire, I had had many years previous.   When I was but a young kid, I remember my cousins in Baltimore taking me to this big Catholic church somewhere off Pratt Street, and I remember the feeling I had of going there.  The liturgical/sacramental expressions of Christianity had always been something that I had felt a drawing to for many years, and I even incorporated elements of it in my own ministry when I used to itinerate and speak at churches.  There is something about the symbolism, the order, and the holiness of sacramental worship that makes it more approachable than a lot of the abstract spirituality of my earlier Protestant fundamentalist upbringing, and in college I began to explore that more in-depth.  It even started back in high school when my sophomore history teacher, Ms. Robb, piqued an interest with me in the Byzantine Empire and also Eastern Orthodoxy.  That, of course, led me to more ancient expressions of Christianity, starting with the Armenians and later with the Assyrians.  I wanted, of course, to incorporate this into my own ministry as a Pentecostal clergy, and in late 1989 I even felt like I had a call to the Assyrian people; little did I know that it would be them who ministered to me though later on!  This of course caused some interesting situations to arise within the Pentecostal circles I was part of, because unfortunately Pentecostalism is very anti-sacramental and anti-liturgical, although in all honesty they actually have more of a sacramental understanding of the Lord's Supper than many Catholics do, which was also surprising to find out!  At around the same time, a number of other Pentecostals and Charismatics were being led in a similar direction, and like myself they wanted to retain the best of their Pentecostal past while at the same time adapting a more liturgical/sacramental form of worship.  The resulting situation of that became something called the Convergence Movement, and I was fully aboard with it by the mid-1990's.   By early 1995, as a matter of fact, I had begun to attend liturgical services, starting with an Episcopal charismatic congregation in Lakeland, FL, and later in full communion with a "Continuing Anglican" body until the year 2000, when on Easter Sunday I was received into the Catholic Church as a Maronite-rite faithful.

That all leads up to the present day, when over the past 10 or so years I have done a lot of re-evaluation and soul-searching.   I have grown much in knowledge since those early days, and although I have probably become more of a staunch Catholic in my personal beliefs, I have also found that there are flaws in what is considered to be the "Historic Catholic" Church, meaning in a broad sense both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodoxy.  The Roman Catholics, for instance, I have found to be somewhat complacent, compromising, and even ambivalent toward conservatives and traditionalists among them (once, when contemplating pursuing the permanent diaconate with my Maronite Eparchy, I was told I was "too conservative" as a matter of fact for the clergy), and many Catholic priests are so detached from their congregations, so uneducated in basic Catholic teaching, that to be honest I don't feel I need to formally be a part of it anymore.  I also have been greatly disappointed by the Eastern Orthodox - I still have a great love for their liturgy and their spiritual legacy, but there is a pharisaism, legalism, and a triumphalist attitude that they are the only true Christians and everyone else is going to hell, that I cannot in good conscience be a part of the "Canonical" Orthodox Church because I know I am a Christian, and have been one since 1986, and I also know that there are many people who are not Orthodox who love the Lord, who serve Him faithfully, and in whom the Spirit of God dwells without question, and these people cross all denominational lines.  Although my spiritual mentor, Fr. Eusebius Stephanou, and other men of God like him have called the Orthodox to task on this for years, many of their parishes remain ethnic ghettos, and their people think they are God's gift to the human race.  That to me is not of God, but is a religious spirit and a deception of the enemy, and that is why I refuse to be part of any church that doesn't know how to discern God's people.  Therefore, in recent years I have opted more for the independent Catholic movement, and at present time am part of a vibrant new jurisdiction called the Synod of Saint Timothy.   They are a wonderful, spiritually-sensitive group of Christians that have caught a vision from God and have followed it faithfully, and although few in number, the Synod is a vision of the Church of tomorrow as it should be, and also a reminder of the Church's spiritual legacy of the past. 

I don't know what God has in store for my ministry as a whole, as even now I have had to go through some re-evaluation of my own convictions and am currently seeking direction as to what I should do as part of the bigger picture.  However, I do know God has gifted me to write, and that is what this particular ministry is about.  That being said, this ministry has went through some growth and restructuring over the 20 or so years it has existed, and I want to talk now specifically about that.

How It All Began

This writing ministry is a new step in a journey that started back around 1993 or so, when I felt the call to minister more actively.   At that time, I called the ministry Saint Isaac of Nineveh Ministries, named after a tenth-century Assyrian Church Father who wrote a lot about personal consecration and spiritual renewal.  The early part of that ministry was mostly speaking in churches and publishing occasional articles as I was able to do so, and between 1993-1996 I had spoken in over 25 churches of all denominations in 5 states, including ethnic churches such as African American, Assyrian, Armenian, Indian, and other groups.   Due to some challenges that hit us back in 1996, the ministry itself lay dormant for a number of years until God started dealing with me again in early 2001.  It was at that time my ministry took on a different facet, as I began publishing the Present Truth Trumpet magazine in late 2001, and continued to publish until the end of 2003, when the financial burden of it, and also a lack of support from the readership, forced me to discontinue it.  However, I did have regular access to the internet, and began to see that this is where I could have the most impact and reach the most people.  So, beginning in 2007, I started to randomly publish teachings and writings on two pages I had set up, and that eventually led to this page being set up at the beginning of 2010.  As of late, this has proven to be my most effective ministry venue, and in the future perhaps God will use it to open other doors for me.  Any rate, that is the story.

What We Believe

The Sacramental Present Truths blog, and its writer, uphold first of all the historic Creeds of the Church Catholic, namely the Nicene, Apostle's, and Athanasian Creeds.  And, being influenced by the Christian East, we subscribe to the Orthodox rendering of the Nicene Creed without the ex patre Filioque.  That being said, there are also some specifics we hold to as well

1.  This blog upholds the inerrancy, infallibility, and divine Authorship of the Holy Scriptures.

2.  This blog, and its editor, uphold that salvation is through our faith in God's grace, and that the Cross of Christ is central and the only way to salvation.

3.  The Trinitarian Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is upheld and maintained.  The Athanasian Creed expresses the Trinitarian doctrine well, and therefore our belief refers to that.

4.  The personhood, Godhood, and Lordship of Jesus Christ is upheld and maintained - Jesus was born of Mary Ever-Virgin, was crucified by Pontius Pilate on the Cross, was buried, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven, and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Jesus is both the Son of God and God the Son, fully human and fully God.

5.  The importance of the Holy Tradition of the Church Catholic is upheld, and thus with Scripture and the present-day inspiration of the Holy Spirit our faith as Christians is defined.  We realize that on minor issues the Church Fathers did vary in opinion, and these issues are not matters of faith and one can hold to those things according to conscience.  However, fundamental Christian doctrine, as stated in #'s 1-4 above, are not negotiable.  And, neither is the faith as expressed in the historic Creeds of the Church - that is basic Christianity, and as such is foundational to our faith.

6.  We believe in the reality and person of the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father through the Son and with the Father and Son is to be worshipped and glorified.  That being said, we also believe in the present day work and ministry of the Holy Spirit, and that He does actively work in the life of a believer and all of the gifts of the Spirit - I Corinthians 12 - are valid and active today.  We also believe, as Joel 2:28 prophesied, that the Holy Spirit will in the latter days be poured out upon all flesh, and there will be more manifestations of the Holy Spirit as the Second Coming draws near.  We also affirm the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is received through the Mystery of Chrismation, but also the infilling of the Holy Spirit and evidence thereof according to Acts 2.

7.  The Church, we believe, is the mystical Body of Christ.  It is Holy, Catholic, and endowed with Apostolic authority to administer the mysteries (Holy Sacraments) of the faith.  The two major Mysteries are of course Holy Baptism and the Eucharist, but also there are 5 additional Mysteries - Annointing of the Sick (Unction), Dispensing of Holy Orders, Reconcilliation, Holy Matrimony, and Chrismation.  As to the Eucharist, we uphold that Jesus Christ is really present in the elements of the Eucharist, but do not attempt to define or explain this as it is a Mystery of faith that we witness to and receive.  The Mysteries are not to be taken lightly, but are impartations of divine grace.  To not partake of the Eucharist seriously can have devastating consequences.

8.  We believe in the reality of angels and demons.  Angels are God's ministers on earth, and are sent to protect and minister comfort to the faithful.  Satan is a real fallen angel, and there are angelic and demonic princes and principalities - however, a demon is distinct from a fallen angel, as it is a disembodied spirit of a nephilim or other ungodly creature that resulted from hybridized angel/human unions.  Demons are the slaves of fallen angels and of Satan.  Satan however is not equal to God, but is rather a created being and ultimately will face defeat.  That being said, we believe in the reality of the spirit world, and that demons can oppress and/or possess people open to their influences; only the Blood of Jesus Christ assures this cannot happen.

9.  Heaven is a real place, and so is hell.  Hell was created as a prison for Satan, but due to man's deception and fall, and subsequent sin nature, it is the ultimate penalty for our sins.  Only Jesus Christ and His shed blood can save us from that fate.  Also, God does not send people to hell, but we send ourselves there by our disobedience and separation from God.

10.  We uphold the three-fold Apostolic ordained ministry of deacons, presbyters, and bishops.  Also, although these offices are not available to women, they can minister in other ways, and therefore there is also the office of deaconness.  In addition to deaconnesses though, women can be gifted to preach, and can be lay exhorters or evangelists, as well as functioning as teachers and in the gifts of prophecy, discernment, and words of wisdom and knowledge.

11.  We affirm Holy Baptism as the rite of initiation into the Church, although through Chrismation a person becomes more spiritually aware and accountable for their faith.  However, we also affirm the reality of the born-again experience, and that it is the first event on the pilgrimage of salvation.  Salvation is a process, not a one-time experience;  we are saved from past sin when born again, we are being saved daily as we walk with Christ with a living, active faith, and we will be saved once we pass on to our eternal reward, be that by Rapture or repose, and we do so in a state of grace, meaning that we have a living relationship with Jesus Christ.  Those who do die in a state of grace will inherit eternal life; those who reject, apostasize, or otherwise die in their sins will face everlasting punishment in hell.  The Bible is clear on this, and thus it is not a matter of debate.

12.  The Church is multi-faceted, and as such we believe in the communion of saints, which is called the Church Expectant.  The saints departed this life can still agree in prayer with us, intercede on our behalf in prayer, and can be totally cognizant of what goes on in the earth.  We, as living Christians, are the Church Militant.  Upon the return of Christ for His Church, the Church Militant and the Church Expectant together will become the Church Triumphant, the spotless Bride of Christ.

13.  Based on #12, we also affirm some things about Mary, Mother of Jesus:

       a.  She is the Theotokos, or "God-Bearing vessel," of which the Ark of the Covenant was an icon.
       b.  She is Ever-Virgin, and had no other children of her own besides our Lord.
       c.   Upon her death, she was bodily assumed into Heaven, a picture of the resurrection our bodies will   experience one day
       d.   She has, like the rest of the Church Expectant, an intercessory ministry of prayer.

       These are doctrines regarding Mary that were affirmed by the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, but that being said it must be emphasized that later doctrines of the Roman Church,  such as the Immaculate Conception, Mary's sinlessness while on this earth, and the so-called "Queen of Heaven" doctrine, are not substantiated by either Holy Tradition or Holy Scripture, and are thus rejected by this ministry.

14.  The Second Coming of Christ, which is to be immanent and personal, is both affirmed and proclaimed by this ministry.

15.  We affirm that God created the heavens and the earth, all that is visible and invisible, and that evolution is not compatible with our beliefs as Christians.  Although advocating an "old-earth creationist" view, this ministry nonetheless upholds that this earth, and that we as a human race, have divine origins and are not evolved from monkeys or anything else.

16.  Being we uphold the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition of the Church, there are certain lifestyles and attitudes we do not believe Christians should involve themselves in or support.  Therefore, this ministry rejects homosexuality, abortion, pornography, racism, slavery of others, drug and alcohol abuse, certain forms of worldly entertainments, defacing our bodies with tattoos and such, occultism, and conformity of the Church with the world.  We also reject commercialism, fads, and other abherrations that have plagued contemporary Christianity, and therefore we do not support such things as "seeker-sensitive Christianity," Rick Warrenism, the so-called "Gospel of inclusion," and "word/faith theology," among other things.  These things seek to water down the Gospel of Christ, and they seek the approval of the world rather than consecration to the Savior.  Therefore, they cannot be accepted by sincere Christians. 

This is only a partial statement of our beliefs and convictions with this ministry, and although it may not cater to everyone's fancy, that is not the purpose.  I preach conviction that I have been given about these matters, and that is what this ministry is about.  May you go with God, and look forward to talking with you again soon.