Friday, January 28, 2005

Charming God....

For years I miss understood the Christian life. I grew up in the house of a very conservative pair of ministers, and did not understand why people didn't live in the same style that I did. I also did not understand other styles of worship. In kindergarden my best friend was Catholic, when I heard about some of the things and rituals that he did in church I was confused.

Catholics believe that salvation is about what you do, and doing those things right. If you have been to a Mass, you see that this is true. The whole service is printed out in a little booklet, so that everything is done just right. It is not about feelings or emotions, but that you do Mass right. The result of doing things right in mass is Transubstantiation.

Transubstantiation is the belief that when taking communion that the bread and wine are turned into the blood and body of Christ. This they believe takes place when a properly lead Mass has been performed. The whole service is pointed towards this happening. The message is short, there are not many songs, and all the prayers are recited from the books. Literally the largest part of the service is the serving of communion. So when Catholic people leave the service they leave believing quite literally that God is in them.

At first I thought that this was so odd and wrong, but after thinking about it I believe that many evangelical churches have the same type of thinking. Instead of having the body of Christ in our stomachs, we are looking for the Spirit to come upon our beings.

I know what you're thinking "yeah....that's a good thing, what's your point?" But we try and induce the presence of the Spirit among us by singing the right songs, or by singing this way or that way. All of which are good things but not the only way to do them. We feel that if we don't sing chorus' or if we have just a guitar or just an organ for the music we're gonna miss out on the working of the Spirit.

I believe that there is nothing wrong with wanting the Spirit in our lives, but isn't He already there? That's the beauty of Christianity, "Christ in you, the hope of glory!!!" When we are saved the Holy Spirit comes upon us and takes residence in our beings. We don't need to do the right things because he's here.

So where does this concept leave us? I guess it should make us stop and think about what we really are doing in worship. What is it about the order of worship in our service that makes us. Why do we do the things we do? Should they stay that way? Are they truely acts of worship or are you trying to "charm" God to be present?

I think we need to totally rethink our stance on church and our lives. What do our acts of worship really mean? Why do we do them? Are you like the Catholic trying to call God upon yourself? Or are you using whatever acts you're doing to truely worship God for who He is and what He has done?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Roman Catholic Faith

The Roman Catholic Church at the beginning of the 16th century was in shambles theologically. The teachings of the church were very far away from the truth and they were leading people into a false faith, and in essence damming them to hell. Here is a breakdown of what was being taught.

There was a comparison in their view of salvation to that of a scale; the good you do, and the other the bad For a person to go to heaven the good needed to outweigh the bad.

The bad side of the scale is weighed down by mortal sins and by venial sins. Mortal sins are the deadly sins that send a person to hell. These sins can only be forgiven by God. Venial sins are just things that are bad for you but won't damn you to hell. If any venial sins are left unconfessed and unforgiven the sinner is sent to purgatory where the penalty is worked off.

The Good side included all the good works that you did and the work of Christ on the cross. Both are necessary for salvation. But the work of Christ is not enough for your salvation. There must be good works in your life, works that will tilt the balance of the scales toward the good. Any venial sins that are unforgiven are accounted for by good works.

The Catholic church dicatated what these good works were and also reserved the right to openly forgive any and all sins. This lead to the rise of indulgences. Through a progression of sorts that arrises out of the crusades which at the end, a person could buy forgiveness for venial sins and other trivial matters. This climaxed when a monk began to sell indulgences for any sin; mortal or venal.

Martin Luther was reading throught Psalms 31 and the book of Romans and he said that the just live by faith. He saw what the Catholic Church was doing when it was selling indulgences and saying that your good works out weigh your bad works, and said it was wrong. It is faith in Jesus' work of redemption that saves us, not through good works not through buying indulgences from the church, and definately not through our own merrit.

He published his problems with the practice of indulgences in his 95 Thesis which he wrote in 1517. His work led to the Prodestant Reformation, which lead to the fall of the power of the Roman Catholic Church. This reformatation also lead to the movement which the church I now attend is a part of.

I sit here today almost 500 years later, and i catch myself falling into the pattern of the Catholic's of Luther's day. I try and base my salvation on what I do. But the Bible says that all our righteousness is as filthy rags, so obvously that won't work for us. We have to place all our faith in God, and not what we do.

But I continously forget this, and try and work my way into being a good Christian. I forget it's about my faith and in Christ and i make it how good I am. And when I have not been good, I wonder if I am no longer a Christian. It is not about my actions as much as it is about my faith.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Am I really a Soldier for Christ?

The Christian church has been inundated with the message; "you're a soldier fighting evil for Jesus." It's a very romantic word picture, and at some levels I like the thought. I see myself dressing in my "armor" and going out into the world fighting the devil where ever he may be. I hear the church bells ring and i run to fight, and willing to lay down my life for the cause. But while parts of this model for a christian life fit, overall I think it's a bad way of looking at my christian life.

What is a soldier? A soldier is a person who joins an army to fight or to die. He stands ready to sacfrice his life at the command of those in authority above him. He is armed to the teeth with the most advanced weaponry available and is programed to kill whatever enemy that comes in his way. He does not have the same rights that a normal citizen has. Yet he has less responsiblity to provide for himself that a normal citizen. Finally, a soldier's posture is to show no remorse for the enemy, his enemy is to be defeated at all costs.

While yes I believe that Christians just like soldiers are fighting for a greater cause. I believe that we should submit to those in authority of God. We have given up our rights and our lives just like a good soldier must do. That we are in a battle between good and evil for the world; and we must take up our spiritual weapons to fight the evil one where he may be. While all these descriptions that line up do line up, the posture we must take is not one of a soldier.

What we are in a war agaist evil, a war in which we as Christians are active participants, and we're not supposed to be taking the posture of a soldier? What's this I say? Yes you heard me right, we're not supposed to be taking the posture of soldiers. So you may ask what posture should we take then? A posture of love and a posture of prayer.

While we are active participants in this conflict, we are not the ones fighting. Jesus' won the fight already, His death on the cross so many centuries ago sealed the deal. So we dont' need to fight. What we need to do is show love. This is commandment that Jesus gave for us to follow, love your neighbor. Our fight is against powers that we cannot see, not our neighbor. Our weapons are not the Bible nor the church's doctrine, but prayer and love. When we take the posture of a soldier, we find ourselves fighting the people we're not supposed to be fighting.

What would happen to our way of approaching a lost world if we quit thinking of ourselves as fighting a fight against sin in the world, and started to think of ourselves as the medical staff applying the love of Christ. If instead of using the word of God as a weapon to defend our positions, we use the message inside as bandage for the wounded. If instead of using prayer to make us feel better about ourselves, we pray for others around us.

Am I really supposed to be a soldier?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

HUH?!? Made In God's Image?!?!

The Bible says that we're created in the image of God, but I struggle with this concept. How are we made in God's image. There are many different ways that I have thought about that we could be made in His Image.

God is all powerful, all knowing, all good; and we as humans have none of these traits. Here is God infinate, and we as humans are on the other side of the spectrum. We cannot even begin to understand God's characteristics because we cannot view the world outside of our limits. I've tried it, I cannot imagine a line that never ends, I can theorize it but I cannot visualize it. I always in my head make an end to the line. It's because in my finiteness, everything that I know and understand has boundries.

Maybe it is in the way that God rules over the world. No, because God has absolute control. His will, will be done. There is no and if's or buts about it. God is soveriegn. Man does not control everything. Man tries to control what he can, but that power has limits, and it really isn't real control. Nature cares little about man, it moves how it wants to move, and nothing can stop it. Man cannot even control his fellow man completely. Only through cooersion and manipluation does man's power stand among other men. So man has some power, but just a concept compared to God's power.

God is emotional. Maybe this is going somewhere. But wait, God is never offbalance in his emotions. The root of all his emotions is Love. His love for man is the reason that he hates sin, because sin destroys man. But his emotions never get the best of God. God never has mood swings; he keeps an even keel. Man on the other hand has emotions, but nobody keeps them under control. So while God is emotional, man's emotions are raging out of control.

God knows everything, so this can't be the way that we're like God. But man does have the ability to comprehend somethings. But not near like God does, there is nothing that God does no know, man with man on the other hand, there are things that he does not know. Ok there are many things man does no know.

In all three of these ways that I have described I have begun to notice a pattern. While we are like God, in part, we are not completely like him, almost like he is the model, and we're minature pieces. But is there another way we're made like God? Is there a way that we humans are like God?

I think it's that we want relationships in which we can pour out our love and affection in. I believe that God created man to love and have a relationship with. Not to rule over like a dictator, but to be in communion with and share our lives with His life. I think that this is the reason that we as humans are always trying to find the perfect relationship to be in. We long to share our experiences with somebody else, and its as if when we find that intimacy, something clicks, it's almost like we feel complete.

God created the world, as a perfect paradise for Adam to live in, and I believe that He created Adam to commune with and to love. This to me helps me understand why the punishment for sin had to be death. Because if the relationship between Adam and God was the reason for creation, then sin destroys that relationship, SIN would be the ultimate act of adultry between man and God. Not only would it be the ultimate act of adultry, but sin would destroy the purpose for God's creation. Thus God took the sin problem seriously, and did everything that he had to do to solve it; even come to earth as a human and die the worst possible death.

So we were created in God's image. That makes me smile.

Monday, January 03, 2005

For Good or For Bad

I have grown up a W.A.S.P. (white anglo-saxon prodestant) like the majority of Americans. I have been a lawabiding citizen, and I and an overall good person. I go to church, and want to be a pastor. I am not a racist, and i support helping out people who are less fortunate as I am. I support the demise of all opressive regiems and I believe that these downfalls should be done as peacefully as possible. I condem terriorism as evil, and I hate it when the bad guys win. I cheer for the underdog, along with despising it when the big guy gets bigger and bigger every year. I do not drink nor do I smoke or do drugs. I have never had a traffic citation, nor have I ever been arrested.

From that list it looks like I'm a good guy, yet I am not. I am lazy, often unmotivated, and very undisciplined. I do not have a job, and I am in debt up to my ears. If given the choice I would probably decide to take the easy way out or the path of least resistance. I have lied and cheated often in my life, and many of my accomplishments have been the result of other people's hard work. I am not always good because I want to be good, but because I am too scared of what will happen to me if I get caught being bad.

Who could love a person like me if they really see me deep inside? Is there anything that would make a person love me? I am so flawed and stupid, so simple and vain, that i make myself sick. I do not believe that I am alone in my plight. I believe that I am just one in a sea of people who see themselves in such dier straights.

What will become of me if I am left to myself i do not know. The only escape I have from myself is to be cured by something outside of myself. But another human being cannot help me because they have the same problem I have. So the solution to my problem must come from outside of myself, and must be something not human.

This is root of all human experiences; this quest that we take, the quest of life, is based upon this feeling of missing the mark, that somehow there is something missing from our existence. That somehow no matter how we try, life misses the point. We need something to live for, something that fills the gap that we have in our lives. That something is defined in different ways by different people. Some people try all the rushes that they can, whether it is drugs or high risk events. Other people try and find their purpose by doing as much as they can or owning as much as they can. Some try and find it in other people and the popularity that they come with. Still others try and find the meaning of life through religion. Finally people mix and match these groups.

For this reason Christianity sticks out. No I am not talking about the religion of Christianity, I am talking about the teachings and life of Jesus that, years ago, men tried to make into a religion. Of all the major religions (and i only say religion here because it's the only way i know to describe it), Christianity is the only world religion where salvation's first step was from the diety. If you hunt and search you'll not find a religion like it. Because religion is defined as man's pursuit of God. The Bible teaches that there is nothing man can do to come before God, unless God makes the first step. And He did. Jesus, because he loved us, came to earth to die for us to give us a way of salvation. Thus Christianity ceases to be about what we do, and about what Jesus did.

To a human who cannot see out of his walls of filth, this is the only way I can see out of my hole. There is no other answer out there that makes sense quite like Jesus' love for me.