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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Persecuted for Righteousness' Sake

In this day and age we live in, a lot of things are assaulting our culture, and more now than ever before we see some things happening among professing Christians that would have been unthinkable only 20 years ago even.   As a result, many sincere believers who have made a strong stand against some things that are contrary to Scripture are all of a sudden finding themselves in violent firestorms of attacks coming from "friendly fire."  However, this should not be surprising, as Scripture itself has foretold some of this, and therefore I feel it needs to be addressed.

I have a very good friend, Johnny Lee Clary, who is a wonderful man of God and a great warrior for the faith.   Johnny has quite a turbulent past, as at one time before the Lord transformed his life he was involved in one of the most evil groups of people, the Ku Klux Klan, and even was a high-ranking member of the organization in his home state of Oklahoma.  However, through the fervent prayers and intercessions of a godly Black Baptist minister, Rev. Wade Watts, Johnny Lee was touched by God and was born again.  And, when Johnny was born again, he gave up that horrible past and became truly a new creation - today he is a vibrant minister of the Gospel and is an ordained elder in the Church of God in Christ.  And, Johnny is a voice of truth against some of the apostasy and false teaching that has infested the Church today, which has of course brought him some opposition from some of the apostates who try to drag up his past and discredit his ministry.   Yet, I have known Johnny as a friend and brother in Christ for about 4 years now, and I can personally say he is a man of great integrity and sincerity, and God indeed will have great reward for him one day for standing for the truth.  I too have endured slander, persecution, and outright hostility for standing up for the truth, and at times it can wear you down.   It isn't enough that the world around us often hates us, but with this laxity in the American Church today, it seems like there are many accusers among the brethren who, for some reason or another, find it necessary to accomodate the world and sin, "baptize" it into the Church, and then try to compromise the truth of God's Word to fit their image.   These people honestly make me sick - I expect, and even at times am thankful, for the fact the non-Christians do that, but for a professing Christian to do and say such things is unthinkable yet it happens.  There are so many other cases of this too - recently, a number of good prophecy teachers were blackballed from the Trinity Broadcasting Network for taking a stand against Islam and the heresies perpetrated by false teachers like Rick Warren, and the "officials" in the Catholic Church - mainly so-called "directors of vocations" - have been denying orthodox Catholic postulants the privelege of studying to pursue the calling God laid on their hearts to be priests.  And there are others whose ministries have been attacked, misrepresented, and maligned because they stood for the truth - men of God such as Bill Keller, Mike Warnke, Bob Larson, and others come to mind here.   Yet, as I read Scripture, this is unfortunately a sign of the times, and I now want to examine some of those verses to show what I mean.

Matthew 5:10 is the first verse that comes to mind, as it says that those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness are blessed of God.   John 16:2 states that many of the persecutors will put people out of the churches and think they are doing God a service (sounds like Rick Warren's "Purpose-Driven Church" program don't it - read up on that some more and you will see what I am talking about).  I Thessalonians 2:1 talks also about a "great falling away," or an apostasy, taking place in the latter times just before the Antichrist "("man of sin") appears on the scene, and a lot of Catholic saints and visionaries over the centuries, including Pope Leo XIII, noted this happening in the future.   That "falling away" is also alluded to in Revelation 3, where Christ addresses the Laodicean Church (which is also a picture of the latter-day Church) and rebukes their lukewarmness - I have been saying in my teachings for many years that the Laodicean church of Revelation 3 is the precursor of the "Mystery Babylon" religion it talks about in later chapters, and complacency is indeed the road to apostasy.  Take all of these Scriptures now, tie them together, and then compare it to recent trends you see in the American Church - the similarities will scare you.  It is amazing, for instance, at how things that were once preached against in many churches - meaning conservative ones too - are all of a sudden not only tolerated, but embraced!  You have heard me talk before about these things, as I mentioned the New Ageism that courses through both Rick Warren's material as well as this new "Emerging Church" movement, and therefore you can reference that from my earlier articles.  What I didn't go into however was how many of the forces behind that are the same people who persecute the Remnant Church - the splits, divisions, and general mayhem caused by churches of all denominations adapting this Rick Warren nonsense cannot even be covered in the course of a short article like this, but the stories testify to the fact that many faithful, Spirit-filled people who are the pillars of what used to be strong and vibrant congregations are now being forced out of churches they have invested time, resources, and sacrifice into all because of some faddish, stupid Rick Warren crap (excuse the veracity, but this is a sore subject with me) that attempts to deconstruct Christianity, re-create it in its own image, and then use it to boost butts in the pews and bucks in the minister's pocket (not to mention boosting Warren's book sales - talk about the ultimate con job!!).  Lord help us all!  But, especially help those of us who, in standing for the truth, have found ourselves fired upon by those who are supposed to be our fellow brethren.   However, the reality of the situation is this - if they hate the truth and those who proclaim it, they are not our brethren, but are rather apostate and the "wolves in sheep's clothing" the Bible talks about.   And, we as true believers are to have no fellowship with them - we love them, pray for them, but they are not fellow believers and cannot be treated as such (remember, Satan believes in God too, so believing in God is no litmus test of true Christianity).   That being said, let me now offer up some encouragement to those who are being persecuted for righteousness and standing up for the truth.

First, we who do believe in the truth of God's Word need to mutually support each other and give encouragement, because the battles we face can burn us out quickly if we try to go them alone.   We need to work - see Romans 12:4-5 - together as a Body of the Remnant Church, and support financially and spiritually those ministries who are laying it on the line for God's Word every day.   The Holy Spirit is the tie that binds us all together, so we need to stay strong in the Spirit in order to stand our ground.  If we do that, one day Christ Himself will reward our faithfulness.   Therefore today, if you are one of those warriors for the truth, be encouraged that you are not alone - there are more of us out there, and we will stand with you.   God bless you all, and until next time may God Himself endow you with His strength and peace in Christ's name.  Amen.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thoughts on Continuing Anglicanism

I have for the past couple of months been posting some articles on other subjects than I originally planned, but at the present time we are in the process of a move, so unfortunately most of my library is packed up at home at this point.   Once moved and settled I plan on doing the second part of the Ethiopia in Prophecy study I promised, but until then I wanted to address a few other things that are of interest as well as having some relevance as current issues.   Therefore, please bear with us as we get settled into a new house and all, and in the meantime enjoy these other articles. 

One of the interim issues I wanted to address today is actually something really encouraging, as it relates to our local parish we attend and the communion it belongs to.   Although Barb and I are actually part of a small independent Catholic jurisdiction, we attend what is called a "Continuing Anglican" parish near our home as we don't have any parishes of our own diocese close by, and the "Continuing Church" is pretty much one in faith with us anyway (plus, Saint Philip's in Pinellas Park, FL, where we currently attend, is a fantastic parish, and we love the people and the parish priest there like family).  I have been involved in the "Continuing Church" movement before, and I must say that as a Christian community they are small in number but abundant in faithfulness, and the stand many of these churches have made for the truth is commendable.  As I have gotten to know this particular group of churches over the past 20 or so years, I have learned much about them, and today I want to share with you some of that as well as some recent developments that I personally see as a good thing with them. 

The "Continuing Church" movement started in the late 1970's as a reaction against a lot of apostasy and liberal politics going on in the Episcopal Church USA (hereafter we call ECUSA for short), and in 1977 a group of these concerned clergy met in St. Louis and drafted a strong statement called the "Affirmation of Saint Louis" that upholds traditional Anglican belief and practice and affirms Biblical doctrine.  As a result of that meeting, a number of jurisdictions were formed that, unfortunately, often had more splits over the years due to personality conflicts, etc.   Some of the major groups of the movement today include the Anglican Catholic Church (or ACC), the Anglican Province of America (APA - this is what the parish we attend is part of), and the Anglican Church of America/Traditional Anglican Communion (ACA/TAC) - there are many others, but these three are some of the larger and most visible ones.   All of these groups have in common the 1928 Book of Common Prayer as the basis of faith and liturgy, a Catholic understanding of that faith, and a fidelity to traditional Biblical and Church teaching on the fundamentals of doctrine and practice.   If you wish to read more on the history of this movement, I highly recommend Douglas Bess's book Divided We Stand (2006, Apocryphile Press) which is one of the most comprehensive studies on the movement.   Any rate, I guess the bottom line is that as a movement, the Continuum has its positives and negatives, the positive being faithfulness to historical and Biblical teaching while the negative being its splintering and division, as well as also a number of people I have encountered who are more interested in maintaining the "status quo" of preserving the heritage while not being infused with the life of the Spirit.  That being said, I want to share some thoughts on a couple of recent things that got my attention.

A couple of years ago, there was a bit of furor among the Continuum when a number of their Churchmen began to petition to be accepted into communion with the Roman Catholic Church.  The result of that was a Pastoral Provision initiated by Pope Benedict XVI called Anglicanorum Coetibus, which more or less proposed an Ordinariate being established by Rome itself for the purpose of receiving these Anglican clergy and Churchmen into the RCC.  One of the major players in this is a personal friend of ours, Bishop Louis Campese, who as of the beginning of this year has departed from the ACA, of which he was formerly the diocesan bishop in this area, to establish what is called the Pro-Diocese of the Holy Family in order to transition to full communion with Rome.   Many Continuing Anglican parishes and people joined in this effort, and to be honest, I have reservations about it.   I myself am a validly-chrismated Catholic (I was chrismated Maronite-rite on Easter 2000 by Bishop Robert Lynch) and as a Catholic myself I very much am a traditionalist in many aspects.  However, I also have not liked what I have seen happening to the Roman Catholic Church in recent years, and the reason I don't attend a Roman parish now is very simple - Rome left us in faith, rather than we leaving it.   Many Continuing Churchmen are staunch in being traditionalist and conservative, as I am, and I feel the ones who are pursuing Anglicanorum Coetibus may be setting themselves up for a disappointment, for Rome is not the same Church she was even 40 years ago - it says one thing officially, but in practice its clergy and laity are often at odds with both Scripture and the teachings of the historic Church as Jesus established it.  As a matter of fact, Rome now has more in common with ECUSA in many cases than it does with the Continuum, and that is alarming in itself - that is not to say that there are not wonderful Roman Catholic priests (Frs Norman Weslin, Frank Perkovich, Mitch Pacwa, and Frank Pavone, among others, come to mind, and there are great organizations such as the Association of Hebrew Catholics and Priests for Life that are making great stands for the truth) who really do stand for the Word of God and the Holy Tradition of the Church, because they are in great number, but the overall state of the Catholic Church in the US is sad to say the least - that is why I don't think that Bishop Campese and other Churchmen - although of good intention - are exactly making the best decision on this.  That being said, an official split has occurred as a result - 20% of the ACA, which Bishop Campese formerly served as local bishop, is now pursuing this course.   But, out of it some good has come, and that is where we are going next.

I got word yesterday that in November there is going to be a World Consultation on the Continuing Anglican Churches being held in Boston, and participating in it are the largest jurisdictions in the Continuum - ACA, ACC, and APA.   And, recently, the APA and ACA have agreed on an Intercommunion covenant with each other, which is also a promising sign (very promising, considering that about 15 years ago the APA and ACA split over some personality conflicts which, in retrospect, were rather petty).   This call for reconciliation among the various groups in the Continuum is an encouraging sign, for as a united witness they could do so much more.  The Continuum is small in number, true enough, but it is also made up of a lot of faithful, staunch people who uphold the historic Catholic faith and wish to preserve it for generations to come.   Those of us who are of "like precious faith" with the Continuing Anglicans also need to give our support to these efforts, because we are the Remnant, and we need each other for spiritual support in this day and age when society as a whole is particularly hostile against Christianity and its message.   It is my hope and prayer that in good time the various jurisdictions of the Continuum will lay aside petty matters (all of them are of one faith, but they are divided over petty issues that really don't mean a hill of beans in the greater scheme of things) and work together as one church, united under one Lord, and baptized by one baptism (Ephesians 4:11) into one Holy Spirit.  And, for those of us outside the Continuum who share the same faith, may we also forge closer bonds with our Continuing Anglican brethren in order to be the one Body of Christ we are called to be.

That being said, I conclude by saying we need to give our support and prayers to the bishops of the Continuum - Bishop Grundorf of the APA, Bishop Marsh of the ACA, and Archbishop Haverland of the ACC, as well as many other faithful bishops and clergy of other Continuing Anglican jurisdictions - as well as praying God's protection over Bishop Campese and others who chose to be in communion with the Roman See, that they would stay steadfast in their faith and not let forces in the RCC influence or destroy them.  Therefore, I watch now with interest as things begin to unfurl, and maybe will update you all on this issue from time to time.   God bless until next visit, and hope that this article was informative to you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Paradoxical Paradigm Shift of Pentecost

Trends come and trends go, and often some strange evolution of circumstance results from the influence of such trends.  The Church world - fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the situation - is no different.  In some reading I have undertaken recently, I have felt led to reflect on a couple of issues I have been reading up on.   I have mixed feelings on some of the stuff I have read, as I can see both positives and negatives, but nonetheless this whole subject does interest me and that is why I feel the importance of addressing it.

Two recent articles I have read in Christianity Today chronicle some shifts that are occurring in the Pentecostal/charismatic tradition of the Christian faith.   I have a personal interest in this, for although I am a Catholic myself now, I was raised in an Appalachian Holiness/Pentecostal environment, as well as graduating from an Assemblies of God college and ministering several years in another Pentecostal denomination, the Foursquare Gospel Church.   And, although I am now Catholic, there are many facets of my Pentecostal upbringing I still hold to spiritually if not theologically, so I guess if I could be categorized by terminology, I would be what is called basically a "sacramental Pentecostal/Primitive Catholic."  The changes and shifts discussed in both articles I have read affect me in many aspects, albeit in different ways, and that is another premise for my own address of this subject.

The first article of note was from the current (August 2011 as of this writing) issue of Christianity Today entitled "A New Kind of Pentecostal."   Written by Dr. Robert Crosby, a professor of theology at my old alma mater, Southeastern University,  he establishes his premise by noting the following trends that have taken place in Pentecostalism over the past several years, and they are as follows:

1.  A marked decrease in the public practice of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) in the public worship of the typical Pentecostal church.

2.  "Fresh" developments in eschatology (some of this is not so good, but I digress...)

3.  A broader engagement in compassion ministry and social concern.

In regard to the third trend, Dr. Crosby devotes a considerable amount of attention in the article itself, and what he writes has both positives and negatives.   Another thing he notes in th article too is that Pentecostalism's center has shifted more to the Third World, an observation I feel is valid.   The same thing is pretty much happening across the board with all Christian traditions, and one of note aside from Pentecostalism is the mainstream Anglican Church, which at this point is both doctrinally more conservative and numerically stronger in what is called the "Southern Cone," encompassing Africa, the Middle East, and south Asia (many disaffected Episcopalians, correctly assessing the apostasy of the Episcopal Church in the US, are seeking out bishops now in Rwanda, Uganda, and Nigeria for spiritual covering, resulting in a whole new communion of Anglican conservatives in the US) .  This is ironic, as we in the "enlightened" West often call these people "backwater" and "under-developed," yet apostasy is rampant among European, American, and Canadian churches, which are emptying - even conservative churches, as noted in one of the articles I have read, are starting to level off in membership in the US and other "developed" nations.  Although the situation is not as dramatic as among American Episcopalians, Pentecostals have been affected by this too - as Crosby notes, there is a leveling-off of membership in many larger US Pentecostal groups, although minority/ethnic churches are experiencing a growth trend.  As he continues, Dr. Crosby sees this trend being a result of ethnic/minority churches ministering more to temporal needs as well as being more urban in demographic - I beg to differ here with a couple of points of my own.   First, the reason numbers are leveling off in predominantly White Pentecostal (as well as other Protestant Evangelical) churches is due to the fact many of them have lost their spiritual vision, and a spirit of entertainment (thanks in part to this Emerging Church/Purpose-Driven/Seeker-Friendly movement) has taken over many churches and their people are hungry for the truth.   And, as a result, many are starting to seek out a more sacramental/liturgical form of worship that re-introduces Christ as the center rather than chasing fads - that is my own story as a matter of fact, and there are thousands of others with similar experiences.  As a matter of fact, if any of you were asked which Christian denomination has the most effective outreach to people dispossessed by Evangelicalism, what would you say it is?  I can tell you exactly what it is actually, and it has been something this body has been doing for close to 30 years - the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese!  The disaffected are also finding new homes and spiritual growth in the Continuing Anglican Churches, as well as independent Catholic communions that have arisen over the past several decades.   THAT is where people are getting fed and ministered!  And, for those of us who are former Pentecostals, it has both restored something we have lost as well as giving us a renewed vision for God's plans in our lives.   Many Pentecostal and Evangelical denominations will not admit this fact too readily, but the evidence speaks for itself.   The other thing that Crosby may have overlooked - although to be fair he may not have thought of it, which I can concede - has to do with the focus on urban growth.   People who focus too much on urban ministry and trends tend to neglect that in certain areas of the country, classic, traditional Pentecostal and Baptist churches are not only alive and well, but they are thriving!  I am a native of West Virginia, for instance, and am part of the whole Appalachian Holiness/Pentecostal ethos, as that is how I was raised and many of the convictions it gave me I still hold dear today.   According to some very credible Appalachian scholars - Deborah Vansau McCauley, Dr. Loyal Jones (a personal mentor of mine), and Dr. Howard Dorgan - the Holiness/Pentecostal tradition, by plurality, is the largest Christian denominational presence in the mountains, and is the product of rural, agrarian communities.   Although consisting of small congregations (a significant percentage don't even average a membership of 100 parishioners) they are numerous nonetheless - megachurches and church growth techniques learned at expensive seminars don't always apply, as God's Holy Spirit tends to measure success differently from us.   And, this despite the stereotypes, condemnation, and assaults by generations of "agents of uplift" trying to "evangelize and civilize" (interpretation - trying to cookie-cut us in their image) our people while they themselves often did not have a vibrant faith in the Lord.   My fellow Appalachians, as a matter of fact, are very much on par with the non-White "Developing world," yet it is us and the "developing world" churches that are alive, vibrant, and growing while a lot of the White urban demographic is apostasizing.   Yet, excepting the good efforts of capable scholars of Appalachian studies (most from a sociological rather than a theological perspective), it seems as if the Appalachian Holiness/Pentecostal traditions have been largely ignored, snubbed and deemed not worthy of scholarship yet subject to unfair stereotypes (this despite the fact one of the largest Pentecostal denominations, the Church of God, has the same roots!).  This is something I would love the chance to sit and chat with Dr. Crosby over coffee about sometime, as I feel it would be a stimulating discussion.

The other article of interest was published in April 2006 and entitled "Pentecostals:  The Sequel," and was penned by noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Grant McClung, whose work I am very familiar with and have a high regard for.  He notes that Pentecostalism is on the verge of crossroads as it enters its second century (2006 was the centennial of the Azuza Street meetings, which in 1906 was where many Pentecostal denominations trace their heritage).  McClung more or less corroborates Crosby's article of previous note with a considerable amount of statistical/demographical data, and also noting Dr. Cecil Robeck's observation of the centrifugal growth of the movement from Azuza Street to the rest of the world.   At the conclusion of his article, McClung shares some of his concerns for the future of Pentecostalism, which he shares in the form of prayer - I especially was interested in his petition that the Pentecostal movement continue to have Christ at the center of the movement, as well as anacknowledgement that Pentecostals don't have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit and His work or His giver (Jesus Christ) - in other words, there are other Christians with the same spiritual passion who can proclaim the Gospel to the nations (see Acts 1:8).   That all being said, time to share my thoughts on these issues.

McClung is a highly capable Pentecostal scholar whose books and other writings I have read and I acknowledge that his caliber of scholarship is high.  I express the same admiration for Dr. Crosby whom, although he was not at Southeastern when I went to school there, nonetheless is a man who knows his material and has a good perspective on the issue, although on some points I would surely differ.  Again too, as a former Pentecostal myself I can still appreciate much good that came from the movement, as it has offered much to me personally and I am indebted to it for a lot of things.   That being said, here are my observations.   Dr. McClung expresses, in so many words, a desire to preserve the best of Pentecostal distinctiveness while moving forward, which I also feel could benefit the movement as a whole.   That being said, I wish to build on both Crosby's and McClung's thoughts as I realistically note a couple of things that concern me.  Over the past few weeks, Barb and I have been unable to attend Wenesday Bible study at our parish due to the fact our vicar is recovering from bypass surgery and the service has been cancelled until September.   In lieu of the formal Wenesday study at the parish, Barb and I have been either listening to a CD teaching or watching some teaching DVD's I have in my library, as it is important to keep the spirit fed.  Any rate, many years back I had gotten a series from a teacher/evangelist named Roberts Liardon called "God's Generals," which focuses on the lives of about a dozen Pentecostal/charismatic pioneers and evangelists from ages past.  I have long since given away the VHS copies of this I used to have, and a few months back I got one of the best ones of the series, on the life of Kathryn Kuhlman, on DVD.   Many of these great evangelists of the past, though not without shortcomings, did have a tremendous calling on their lives, and Kathryn Kuhlman has always been someone I have admired and respected for the unique ministry she had.   Back when I was very little, Mom used to listen to her on the radio when she had a show many moons back, and even then I found her fascinating - her speaking style sounded funny to me, but once I became older and understood the power behind the speaker, I grew to appreciate her unique mannerisms and also came to identify with many of them - she was a person who believed the Holy Spirit was her best friend, and the meetings she conducted were always first-class by even worldly standards because she didn't want to make the Holy Spirit's presence offended.  That is something, as a sacramental/liturgical Christian, I can understand and identify with well - and, I am about to address this as a point shortly.   Another thing about her ministry that really impressed me was a quote she often repeated - "God doesn't want gold or silver vessels, but yielded vessels!"   These things about Kathryn Kuhlman's ministry, as well as viewing the DVD the other day, basically got me thinking about something in relation to these two articles - it is tragic that many of today's Pentecostals and charismatics have lost this unique but very real dichotomy; a simple Gospel message of salvation acompanied by signs and wonders, something that often followed many of the earliest Pentecostal and charismatic pioneers.  The great evangelists of the past - Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, H. Richard Hall, and many others - were really not necessarily people who "claimed" special gifts, but rather they did what the Spirit told them and things happened.  This was also true at the Azuza Street meetings, where it was said that William J. Seymour, the pastor of the Mission, often spent most of the services kneeling with his head inside the pulpit, yet great things happened as a result.   Today, it is as if most Pentecostals are ashamed of this heritage, and even Dr. Crosby notes that there has been a decrease in public practice of glossolalia and other traditionally Pentecostal manefestations in the public worship of the average mainstream Pentecostal church today.  A good friend of mine, evangelist Perry Stone, has noted this as well, as he has stressed in many of his books that affluence and comfort have brought as sort of staleness to many Pentecostal churches.   Unfortunately (I should say tragically) as a result strange things have happened.   Many churches in the Western world, for instance, seem to be hell-bent on adapting rock music, tactics from the corporate world, and even outright New Age/occultic practices (via Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, the "Emerging Church" movement, and James Rutz, to name a few), yet they are ashamed of healings, deliverances, and the display of prophecy or tongues in their churches!! And the results are dramatic as to what has happened to the average Pentecostal church in recent years - there are high percentages of divorces, adultery, homosexuality, dabbling in occultic practices (horoscopes, for one thing), and alcohol abuse among Pentecostals that rival even their secular counterparts at times.   The correlation between the demise in Holy Spirit presence and the rise in unbiblical behaviors cannot be overlooked, and although some would deny it, the evidence speaks volumes.   Another area Crosby notes is a "fresh" perspective in many sectors on eschatology - many Pentecostals today are so worldly that they don't even preach about the Second Coming anymore, and even TBN has censored prophecy teachers on its network.   However, they forget something - Pentecostalism is an apocalyptic movement, and its early proponents saw the supernatural move of the Holy Spirit being tied into the soon-coming of Jesus Christ in glory; as a matter of fact, a whole discipline called the "Latter Rain Teaching" grew up around that.   And, it is Biblical - the Church has taught for centuries that one sign of the Lord's coming would be Christians being gifted in supernatural ways by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel, in particular heralding the soon coming of the Lord.   More importantly, early Pentecostals paid a hefty price for that message - many of them were persecuted, their churches burned, their persons egged, and they were often denounced as "cults" and as being heretical by the established churches of their day.   Many of their early missionaries were martyred too - they share much in common with the early Church of the first four centuries.   Again, we go back to Kathryn Kuhlman, who often said that to accept the call of God, there is a great cost - everything!  To be great in God is to be humble in self, dying to self, and diverting attention from self, and a true servant of God who moves in supernatural signs of the Holy Spirit will understand it, because ego can be boosted thus opening the temptation for us to take credit for the Holy Spirit's work.  And, that is the big problem with the Rick Warren movement and the "seeker" churches - in their arrogance, they think they can do the Holy Spirit's job better than he can, and that is where they make a fatal error.   Unfortunately, that is an error many Pentecostal congregations have become caught up in, and that is going to be the undoing of the movement in latter years, should the Lord tarry.  Ambitious programs and megachurches may draw people, after all, and rock music with a "Jesus" or two thrown in may make people jump up and down to its seductive rhythms, but in the long run the question must be asked - does it truly reach people??  As Dr. McClung points out, we need to look back to Zechariah 4:6 - "not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord."  

The bottom line here in this whole discussion is simple - in order to move ahead, we need to look back to the landmarks that have guided us as Christians over the centuries.   We need to rediscover them, know what they are about, and then restoration will happen.   Our witness is measured by what we remember, not by what we abandon.   May we take this as a valuable lesson and begin by really seeking the face of God in our churches, and thus by allowing members to be yielded to the Holy Spirit, God can be revealed in us.   Therefore, his revelation in that way will empower us to reach the world with the Gospel and its life-giving truth.   Our time is short, and may we begin to get back to our roots - that is my prayer for you today.  God bless until next time.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Sanctity Of Marriage - An Informal Discourse

I was going to concentrate this week on doing the second part of my Ethiopia in Bible Prophecy series, but a couple of things have gotten my attention and need to be addressed.   This is a highly-loaded subject, and therefore it may stir some emotions if read, but what must be said, must be said, and therefore it is worth the risk.

At the large lawfirm I work at in Tampa, there are a number of paralegals and legal assistants who, during my lunch hour, often sit at an adjacent table and engage in a lot of meaningless conversation - one woman thinks Charlie Sheen is the most perfect man since sliced bread was invented, and the same woman and a couple of others obsess over the recent Casey Anthony trial so much that you can easily tire of hearing about it.   There are a lot of crazy things that get said in that meaningless banter, in other words, and for the most part it isn't worth the time to take seriously.   However, a couple of weeks back something really disturbed my spirit in regard to three of these people, and it regarded the recent hullabaloo over "gay" marriage.  It is that conversation that really inspired me to write this.

The people in question who were espousing some of the stuff I am about to share were two women, one a supposedly professing Catholic and the other a member of a Southern Baptist church of some nature, who more or less by their opinions defied the teachings of their own churches on traditional marriage, and it was distressing as it was yet another sign of what II Timothy talks about as a "great falling away."  Basically, they more or less unilaterally condemned conservative Christians as 'lunatics" while espousing the "do not judge" mentality, and both said that they think gays are "created by God as gay" and therefore they also supported openly the ideas of so-called "gay marriage" and other absurdities.  Now, both the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention have come out as officially condemning "gay marriage" as unbiblical and against human nature as God created it, and both denominations affirm the traditional Christian (and Biblical) view of marriage as a monogamous union between one man and one woman.  Yet, these supposedly active, professing church members defy the teachings of their own churches on this issue!!  The Catholic lady in particular was very offensive in her attitude, and ironically she makes a big deal over eating meat on Friday during Lent yet she defies every other teaching of the Church - my advice to this woman is to just go out and indulge in a T-bone steak during Lent, because church and fasting are vague exercises in futility for such people.  Unfortunately, this woman represents something I have talked about before and was foretold by many great visionaries, saints, and Fathers of the Church, both East and West, over many centuries - the apostasy of the Gentiles.  Many people, whom my spiritual mentor Fr. Eusebius Stephanou rightly calls "baptized pagans", are in this mentality these days, and it is scary to see the true Remnant of Christ dwindling in the Western world so fast, yet it should not be surprising.   However, despite these people attending church, going through the motions, etc., they are still tares in the wheatfield, and are not truly born again in Christ.   It takes a discerning eye these days to tell the difference, and even many good Christian folk are being deceived by this stuff, and many more are being seduced into accepting what the world and man's reasoning see as "good" over what God's Word says.   Tragic.  And, that leads to the "meat" of our discussion.

Marriage, as recognized by the Church and the Bible, is a sacrament.  and a Catholic priest by the name of Fr. John Hardon states there are four elements common to natural marriage:

1.  It is a union of opposite sexes.

2.  It is a lifelong union, ending only with the death of one spouse.

3.  It excludes a union with any other person so long as the marriage contract exists.

4.  Its lifelong nature and exclusiveness are guaranteed by contract (covenant is the more appropriate word here)

In other words, Biblical, traditional, natural marriage is a spiritual as well as a conjugal union, and is for the purpose of procreation and mutual love.   And, it is an icon of the divine union of Christ and His Church, and thus a picture of the Second Coming of Christ in a prophetic sense too.   That being said, any deviation from the above, including so-called "gay marriage," polygamy, adulterous relationships, whoredom, or so-called "group marriages," is a sin against God and defies His divine order of things.   That is why no Christian should be advocating for homosexual marriages, because a Christian who does is compromising with the world and its standards.  

Likewise, the state has no right to dictate or define marriage, being that marriage is a sacramental union and thus is under the jurisdiction of the Church, and not the state.   When homosexuals and others try to impose their flawed views of marriage and family on the society, they are acting in defiance of the Church and its teachings.   And, when the state tries to define what marriage is, it oversteps its bounds as well - I find it curious that atheists and others have such a big issue with crosses displayed in public, but they have no issue with asserting their agenda in the Church's realm of influence as many of these godless people advocate "gay marriage."   Marriage is not something an atheist needs to assert authority on, because it is a sacramental concept and beyond their worldview and beliefs and thus they need to stay out of it.  The same needs to be made clear to our government - the Church over the centuries has said that "gay marriage" is against God's laws, and God's laws are beyond the scope of man-made authority and they supersede it.  It is one thing, for instance, for the state to recognize marriage with a license, etc., but quite another when government thinks it can define what the institution of marriage is.   Our government today then, by advancing these agendas, is contrary to the Founding Fathers of this nation, God's natural order, the Bible, and the Holy Tradition of the Church on this issue.  Politicians are not paid to be priests, pastors, rabbis, or bishops - that being said, they need to butt out of the arena when it comes to the definition of marriage, because they have no authority to speak on the subject; only God, through His Church, does.   Enough said!

That being said, this does not give us license to persecute gays - gays are sinners in need of deliverance, just like the drunkards, drug addicts, and others bound by the nature of sin and death.  Jesus died for gays too, and He loves them and will always receive them with open arms if they choose to deny themselves and profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior.   However, compassion does not mean acceptance of their sin or what they do, and when their activists do something in defiance of the Church and God's laws, it is our duty as a Church to make a stand for the truth.   A lot of what gays are doing they do in a misguided attempt to reach out for acceptance and love, as their unnatural desires and lusts are not fulfilling them.  Only one thing can fulfill that need for them and anyone else, and that is the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross for our sins.   Only through the Cross can  we receive true love, acceptance, and fulfillment, and only in the sacramental union of Holy Matrimony - monogamous, enduring, and Christian marriage between one man and one woman - can true conjugal love be found.  All other attempts are foolish and lead to destruction, because they are not the will of the Lord.   That being said, our prayer for renewal and reform in this nation must be first started with prayer for the renewal and restoration of the traditional family unit, for its restoration will lead to the healing of our society.  Amen.