Saturday, June 27, 2009

Speak the Truth

I read this quote this morning from the Catholic Education Resource Center (CERC) site.

"Shortly after being made a bishop in 1969, Edouard Cardinal Gagnon was in conversation with Pope Paul VI who told his new bishop:

"Error makes it's way because truth is not taught, we must teach the truth whenever we see something which is against the truth. We must teach the truth, repeat it, not attacking the ones who tell errors because that would never end; they are so numerous. We have to teach the truth."

Cardinal Gagnon writes:

"He told me truth has a grace attached to it. Anytime we tell the truth that is in conformity to what Christ teaches and what is being taught us by the Church, every time we say the truth there is an internal grace of God that accompanies the truth. He said error does not have grace accompanying it. It might have all the external means, but it does not have the grace of God accompanying it."

It's a message for our time. - J Fraser Field"

I read this quote and thought it was so appropriate to consider when reading all the stuff on the web. We are bombarded with a host of different ideas, variations of beliefs, theologies and heresies. Yes, I said heresies, that forbidden word that can't be used in many of the "new" evangelicals. After all, we must "love" one another and not offend. Well, excuse me if I say, that is a bunch of bunk. Love sometimes hurts and sometimes divides. And truth spoken in love will sometimes hurt. A good example of this can be found in Mark Driscoll's powerful message on Doctrines From False Teachers from his Trial series from the books of Peter. I don't think there is a toe he doesn't step on there, but it is all truth. I encourage you to listen to the sermon and follow along with his notes. Mark's sermons are long...45 minutes to an hour. But they are full of great theology and truth. I urge you to listen to this sermon as our modern church, both Catholic and Protestant, is being literally ripped apart by false doctrines that have their roots in early church heresies.

I know this may be hard to believe especially for those seeped in the term love, but this is a message of love with steel knuckles.


Enjoy

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Disclaimer

Today's World of Mysteries page on my blog list contains some material that you (and I) may find objectionable. I have no control of what that blog contains. For the most part, the blog is very interesting and a fun diversion from the normal content of the my blog. If they continue to post objectionable material, I will remove them from my site.
Otherwise, except for some of the places they mention, there are some interesting spots to visit.
Thank you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

There's A New Sheriff In Town



I couldn't help but think of this video when I look at this scenario John, the apostle, lays out for us between the Jewish leaders and Jesus.
Let's review a moment where we've been. Jesus has just cleansed the temple in John 2. He had, by now, gained a
substantial following. The Jewish leaders, who were upset over his actions in the temple as well as disturbed by the cleansing of the temple, decided to confront Jesus.
After all, he was threatening their authority and possibly their relations with the Romans. He had to brought into line or be eliminated. He had to justify himself before them and prove that
he was what he claimed. He had to prove his authority.

But, there's a new Sheriff in town. Jesus threw them a curveball and gave them an answer they didn't expect. They demanded proof to validate their faith.
Jesus reversed the order of things and threw their question back into their faces. They wanted a measuring stick. He answered with love.
Faith is not something dependent upon what is perceived, seen. His answer to these self-righteous townspeople was to put a gun to his own throat, as it were, by exposing
their own sin of unbelief.

John 2:19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

There response revealed their unbelief.

John 2:20 The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"

As Ms. Speyr says in her book, The Word Becomes Flesh Vol I, "They had asked for a miracle, a sensational one, to balance the Lord's unbelievable demands." They wanted a sign, a sensational miracle to pin their faith upon, in their own terms of belief. Jesus would have none of that. He is a man of a different color. He is the new sheriff. He is now making the rules.

Their question avoids his obvious answer and continues to focus on their expectations. Their measure of faith which is based upon tangible evidence. They looked at the temple around them and focused upon the visible. Jesus sees this and knows what they are thinking.

John then reveals the mind of Jesus.
John 2:21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

The next verse explains
"After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken."

I don't think even John at this time fully understood Jesus' words. But I'm not convinced the Jewish leaders didn't understand. I'm sure they did which explains why they avoided Jesus' answer directly. Jesus challenged them. His answer vividly highlights their lack of faith by focusing on the only true question and answer that could be responded by faith.

It's like the townspeople in that absurd scene from Blazing Saddles. They are looking for a young white saviour, a new sheriff that will solve all their problems. Then they see someone totally out of the realm of possibility. A black man. Mel Brooks has always pushed the envelope and here he does it masterfully. The black man comes in and plays a stupid game of on the one hand, appearing to be someone he isn't while at the same time presenting himself as the victim. It's a great scene that confuses the devil out of the public while at the same time showing their absurdity.

Jesus is doing the same thing. It is absurd to think that belief and faith rise from what we understand and see. His offer of his body, using the temple as the backdrop, as the subject that will be torn down and raised to new life in three days is absolutely impossible and absurd to the Jews. So they refuse to bite and believe. But Jesus is saying that faith isn't something you measure by tangible means of reasoning.

Faith first comes to us as a gift of love from God. Here Jesus is offering his body. He's saying to the Jews, tear my body down and in three days I will raise it up. They were being forced to take a step of faith, something offered to them, and return that love by faith to him and ultimately to the father.
Faith is measured by a response of love. Faith is only understood in a response of love. Faith is a response of love to love and the faith and love offered is what has been supplied by the object of faith and love.

The temple was only a symbol. His body was the real offering. That which kept them from understanding and accepting was, as Ms. Speyr says, sin. That three little word that nobody wants to say anymore. But it was unbelief, sin that nailed Christ to the Cross. But it was his resurrection that destroyed sin forever. That made room for faith. Faith is only possible through the resurrection. Now that Christ has risen from the dead, sin no longer has dominion over us. We can, through faith, overcome sin when it rears its ugly head. And that faith is offered to us in love by Christ because of his resurrection. Only then can a person understand and comprehend love in all it's fullness in God.

Ms. Speyr then teaches in later passages that the love given to us by God is then exercised in love by us. First in our adoration of our Lord and through others. The greatest experience of love for God is returning his love in faith through people we encounter daily. When we love others through faith, that faith is received by God in it's fullest sense. We die to ourselves in the lives of others that love may have it's fullest expression before the Father.

As vs 22 we're told the disciples remembered what Jesus had said about his body and it was only then they understood. They remembered after the fact. The remembrance increased their faith. Just so in us, remembering, practicing those things that remind us of what Christ has done for us, strengthens our faith. So Bible reading, prayer, communion, and for Catholics, the Eucharist and Adoration, all add to our faith being strengthened. Remember. And let your faith grow.

And get to know the new Sheriff. He's full of surprises.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Plug for a Friend

Friends, I'm breaking in the middle of my discussion to plug the website of a good friend of mine. This week is really hectic, so haven't had time to study and develop much of a commentary.
David Armstrong is a well known Catholic Apologist. He and I have debated, discussed and otherwise wrangled with each other over the Catholic faith. I've developed a great appreciation for his knowledge and devotion to the Catholic Church. He studied under the great Fr. John Hardon, one of the great priests of the 20th Century. Dave is a convert from Protestantism and is an able defender of his faith. His books are numerous and very interesting. (I have nearly all of them, I think. His favorite method of teaching is using the Socratic method of questions and answers, debates with often times imagined opponents. However, even though he may be debating an imagined opponent, he tackles questions common to people looking at the Catholic faith.
He is also the staff apologist for Marcus Grodi's Journey Home website and continues to grow in his faith and love for our Lord. Dave is a sound, solid born again believer and a great asset to the growing apologetic movement in the Catholic Church.
There is a renewal occuring in the Catholic Church and Dave is one of it's leaders. Check out his website at http://socrates58.blogspot.com/. You'll be challenged, but you will also learn what the Catholic church really teaches as opposed to many of the false accusations, distortions and downright lies fostered by many Protestants against the mother Church. Dave hasn't convinced me, but he has given me a great respect for him and the RCC despite all her failings.
Enjoy

P.S. Oh...buy his books please!!! A man's gotta make a living you know, and his books are worth the price.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

If You Will...I Will

Yesterday, I broke all the rules and engaged a study of a chapter out of Adrienne Von Speyr's book The Word Becomes Flesh, Vol 1.  Most people, if doing a review would begin with Chapter 1.  But I began my reflections after reading nearly half the book.  Why?  Because it's taken me nearly six months to get that far.  Partly because I'm always reading other books and partly because Ms. Speyr is so dense in her writing, I need time to reflect on what I've read.  Why now?  I guess I've reached a point where her thoughts have become so profound, I've found it necessary to put my thoughts in print to try and get a more fuller understanding as well as personal application for my daily life.  In a sense I've opened up my thought processes to allow you to look over my shoulder as I wrestle with these concepts.  
Also, I guess I'm a bit sensitive about  some I've read recently who claim that those of us who blog have problems with narcissism and need to get people to pay attention to us.  That may be true, but I can't help feel this new medium is an avenue for many of us to carry on a time honored practice of writing down our beliefs much as countless of nameless men and women have done over the centuries on parchment.  
Having said that, I want to return to my thoughts of yesterday.    

I ended up reflecting on Ms. Speyr's statement 

“A faith that rests only on the calculation of what is seen is not faith.”

Don't we all do this?  I mean, isn't this a part of our nature?  If you perform (Fill in the blank), then I will (Fill in the Blank)
You even see this in animals.  We have adopted, or rather, we have been adopted by a stray cat.  She's a gorgeous little critter, a grey kitty we've called "Smokey".  For nearly a year we have been working to domesticate this furry feline.  We finally captured her one day and took her to the vet to make sure she was healthy.  We hope to integrate her with our two black indoor cats someday.  We don't believe in outdoor cats.  
Anyway, this domestication process is not easy.  She obviously was abandoned and so has gone semi-feral, if that is a word.  It's a major process to gain her trust.  But, she's finally to the point where she welcomes our lap and will spend hours purring and sleeping on our warm laps.  But, we have a few scars from learning her limits.  Her tummy is definitely off limits.  Rubbing her tummy can guarantee a painful bite.  
So how did we gain this much progress?  You've probably guessed it.  Food!  
Like all animals, food is the great leveler.  We began to feed her.  And slowly over time, she allowed us to get closer until we could touch her, then pet her carefully and now, finally to become a very loving cat who cherishes our lap.  Or might I say, gives us the privilege of her presence on our laps.  
Now what does all this have to do with our subject?  Simple.  Her measuring stick was, "If you feed me, I'll grace you with my presence."  
Don't we play the same game?  If you provide my desire for contemporary music at church then I'll be able to worship.  Or most likely for us traditionalists, I can only worship if the music is traditional.  Or, I'll come to your church, if the pastor is an expository preacher, or a topical preacher, or if he's charismatic or..or...or...
Do you see what we do?  We set up measuring sticks, just like our little Smokey.  Our faith, our worship, our devotion to each other is contingent on whether or not our personal tastes are met by another.  
But here in this verse Ms. Speyr is saying, Jesus doesn't bite.  He doesn't play this game.
Faith is not dependent upon a measuring stick.  
Faith is a gift of Love from the Lover and our participation of  exercising this gift is an equal response of love that is a choice we make regardless of the outcome.  Faith doesn't require proof.  It simply is a response.  
Well, I've milked this more than I'd planned so will continue another time.  I want to expand on the implications Ms. Speyr draws from this truth.  So until then...maybe six months from now???  
No...as soon as I can digest the pages of the book.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Prove It!

Prove it!!

Who says there is a God? Prove it!
There is no God. I don’t believe what I can’t see. Can you hear him/her? Can you touch God? No you can’t. So prove it.
Only the narcissist believes in a personal God.
I accept you believe in a God, but that’s your belief or idea. It’s not mine.

Ever heard those statements before? I’m sure you’ve heard many like that and more. They all demand some kind of empirical evidence to satisfy our personal belief system. Basically, all are saying, “Prove it.” Prove there is a God. Prove Jesus was crucified and arose from the dead. Prove that he was nothing more than a disillusioned Jew who had grandiose ideas of his mission in life.

These questions have been asked for by millions for centuries. Consider these words penned by the Apostle of Love.

John 2:18 The Jews then said to him (Jesus), “What sign have you to show us for doing this?”

Jesus had just cleansed the temple and the Jewish leaders were furious. They wanted Jesus to justify his actions and speech. What right did he have to go and disrupt the order? What made him so righteous as to pronounce judgment upon them? What made him so great? Prove you are from God.

They set up a measuring stick. If you can prove, visibly demonstrate, intellectually justify, your actions, then we may believe what you say. His actions disrupted their idea of order. It didn’t fit their measuring stick belief. They had to have a defensible reason for his actions. After all, they were the religious leaders of the temple. They had been embarrassed. Their position as the righteous leaders of Judaism had been challenged and shamed by his actions against them.

They needed atonement. Jesus had to pay for his actions by proving he who he was and that he had indeed been sent by God through deeds of justification. How generous!! How Petty!!

Don’t we do the same thing today? Our society demands some kind of tangible, intellectual, work of justification to prove our faith. They want a sign, something that fits our intellectual understanding.

So how does Jesus respond?

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”



Jesus turns the tables on them. He answers their challenge with a challenge of his own. What a stroke of brilliance! He recognizes they have abandoned faith. As Adrienne Von Speyr, from whom I depend for this meditation, says

“A faith that rests only on the calculation of what is seen is not faith.”

Wow! We know that 1 plus 1 equals 2. 2 plus 2 equals 4. Ms. Speyr points out that faith isn’t something that has an equal answer. Now we can gain faith from miracles or tangible proofs, but faith is never, never dependent on those signs. No one can demand that faith be proved by signs. It is not in our rights. God will not be bartered.

Nor should we who claim to be Christians demand that the evidences of God working in our life proves God. That is not our claim to make. God will not bargain with us for faith. It doesn’t make any difference how God wants to reveal himself to us, God still demands faith. When he offers himself to us, he is the one who provides the faith. But we aren’t the ones to demand he prove himself. This is what Jesus drove out of the temple. People were bartering, to prove their faith. Jesus will have none of that.

Every time Jesus does something, it’s an offering of love. If we overlook that offer we will be refused faith. So when a Christian shares his faith, the only response of love that provides a benefit to the other, is a response of faith. Otherwise, God cannot be known.

I’ll have more to say down the line. But this is a crucial idea. I hope you appreciate my contemplations upon my reading of Adrienne Von Speyr’s book The Word Becomes Flesh.” http://www.amazon.com?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Music Wars

We are at war. Traditionalists want their hymns. Their cries for traditional worship and music are drowned out by the drums, the clashing and clanging of loud cymbols, electric guitars and loud speakers turn up so high as to guarantee the next generation will insure the wealth of those who sell hearing aids. Should we keep the organ and replace it and the grand piano with a cheesy electronic piano. (careful Richard, your bias may be showing)

Hymns with great theological understanding are being replaced by songs with repetitive phrases ad nauseum containing little theology and absolutely inane narcissisic emphasis. Fortunately, some of the new stuff is quite good containing scripture mingled with occasional music with some kind of harmony.

O.K. O.K. I know. I'm exaggerating. There is some good stuff out there and I'm not totally against contemporary music in the church. There is a time and place for everything. But there is a war going on and it has gone on since the beginning of the church. Each generation has complained about the "new" music being introduced into worship. We've all heard how Martin Luther used bar or tavern tunes to compose his music. However, that idea has been disputed by a number of recent musical historians.

I want to look at one person who made a profound empact on music in the church. He was one of the greatest poets the church has ever seen. Many Christians just celebrated his life this past Tuesday. It is said that he wrote three million lines of poetry...all in long hand, mind you. He is the most prolific poet that has possibly ever lived. Of course, being a Catholic, his life was wrapped up in the love of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He was a keen observer of what was going on around him, a profound theologian and, as his poetry and songs indicate, a master of prayer. He was an ascetic, but also very socially active. He believed faith and love only has meaning in interaction with humanity. So he fought long and hard for the less fortunate. His music was powerful and comforting, especially to those who suffered under severe persecution.

His name? We know him as St. Ephraim. The doctor of deacons and poets. He died in 373 A.D. Apparently he turned down the opportunity to become a priest, although we are not sure why he never became one. In Syria, his home country, he is known as the "Harp of the Holy Spirit". He is the only deacon in the history of the Catholic Church to have been designated a "Doctor" of the church, a very high honor. Millions of today's Syrians hold him up as a patron saint.

St. Ephraim, as I said, was an astute man. He looked at the people around him, saw and heard the music sung by the population, especially those who were in the "heretical" movements. He then took the common music and the songs of the churches that sang corrupt hymns and exhanged their words for his own. He had tapped into a very important clue for gaining a following and for then teaching the truth. It was a method adopted by musicians down through the centuries until today. He took bad theology with it's accompanying music and exchanged it for good theology and teaching.

If St. Ephraim lived today, he'd be right at home with many of the new musicians of today. The major difference I see, is that his music would teach great theological truths as opposed to empty narcissitic phrases. Oh, probably simplified to meet the generation we have today, of course. That's what he did. The result? Well, history tells us the result. St. Ephraim is remembered today by millions, especially in the East. His poetry has an enduring quality.

We might not enjoy his music today in our heavy metal culture, but we most definitely can enjoy the impact he made on the church universal and down through history.

Oh..just a note for my Protestant friends. Get to know your Catholic heritage. You may not agree with all they say, but these are holy people who compiled, edited, canonized and gave us the Bible and most of our church music. The aberrations and sin many fell into in the Catholic church are acknowledged by the Catholics. We have as many aberrations in Protestantism as well, only we do a better job of covering it up. So learn, open your mind and you will be blessed.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Memorization

How's your memory? If your like me, it seems to fade occasionally, even more often as I grow older. Have you ever said, "I have a bad memory."? I'm sure we all have from time to time. It has been mentioned to me that my pastor, John Ortberg, has a photographic memory. I don't know about that, but I do know it is phenomenal. He seems to be able to quote anything he has read. But as for me, I'm lucky to remember what I wrote a minute ago.
I've always struggled with memory. Even when I had to memorize long passages to sing and narrate, it was a momentous struggle. And whenever nerves set in, I was at a loss for memory.

Those of us who have grown up in the church are told to memorize scripture. Well, if you are like me, that is the hardest thing to do. I struggled for years to memorize scripture and couldn't get much past John 3:16. But then something happened. I began to pray scripture in the liturgy. I started with Phyllis Tickle's great series of books on liturgical prayers called, The Divine Hours, a trilogy of books containing daily Morning and Evening Prayers that cover all the seasons of the years. After using those books, I found a number of other liturgical prayer books that were even more detailed and uplifting. Presently I'm using the Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, commonly used by the Catholic church, but also used by many other faiths as well. As Scot McKnight points out, these are some of the greatest practices for our faith.

But something marvelous has happened. Some of the prayers are prayed on a daily basis. For instance, the Benedictus, The song of Zachary (Zachariah) in Luke 1:68-79. This is the prayer sung by Zachariah regarding his the future of his son John the Baptist. I have prayed this passage in my Office of Readings every morning for several years now. And guess what, I can pray it from memory. It is locked into my head. Oh sure I stumble now and then and have to look, but never-the-less I know it. And other passages have become a part of my memory. I am now close to being able to recite Mary's prayer, called the Magnificat. It is sung every evening in the Liturgy.

So what? You may say. Big deal. Well, it's a big deal with me. I would have struggled for years trying to memorize even one of these verses. But after daily reading and praying these verses they have become a part of me. And because they have become a part of me, something else has happened. My life has been transformed. You see, daily reading of a liturgy is not vain repetition or an empty ritual to be endured. The word has worked its way down deep into my heart and has become the living Word.

Slowly but surely, my life has become more and more Jesus shaped. Oh, there is nothing spectacular. And I'm not Mr. Supersaint. But attitudes and habits have changed without me trying to do anything. God has made the word alive in my interior being and the Holy Spirit has gained more and more of a foothold in my life.

It can for you too, if you are patient. Get a prayer book. Read Scot McKnight's book on Praying With The Church and learn of the many avenues you can take to develop a liturgical prayer life. Who knows, all those verses you struggled with, may end up becoming a natural part of your life without even trying. Try it. I think you'll like it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Baby Tragedy

Yesterday, a four month old baby died. What made it news? The father of t he baby apparently was in a rush to get to work and forgot his little boy was in the car. Daddy was to drop the boy off at a friends house who regularly babysat for them. But daddy, somehow got caught up in his own little dream world and forgot about his son. The boy was locked up in daddys car all day. Now, it wasn't hot here yesterday, but warm enough for the car to approach 100 degrees which was deadly for the little boy.
When the boys mother went to pick up her little boy, she was shocked to discover her baby was not where he was supposed to be. I don't know what prompted her to go to the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station but she decided to go there to look for her boy. Put yourself in her shoes when she found her husbands car and discovered her little baby inside dying from heat exposure. The tyke died from the heat.

This tragedy is happening more and more. It seems daily, if not weekly, we hear of parents who somehow "forget" their child is in the car. And so they leave the poor infant to die a horrible death. But that is not what hit me as tragic as it is. What hit me even more was the outrage.

Now, I understand the outrage. We ought to be outraged at this kind of thing. What kind of parent would ever, ever forget that a member of their own flesh and blood was with them? The news media is all over this. Talk shows are filled with angry voices at the parent(s) who allow something like this to happen. I'm angry over this kind of carelessness.

But, stop and think. Isn't this a bit hypocritical of our society? Isn't this a natural result of a society that puts little value in life? Isn't this the natural result of a life philosophy that which says all we have is the days we live and then after that there is nothing? Isn't this the natural result of that nihilistic philosophy? Isn't this the pattern of all society, down through the centuries that considers children as commodities or objects to trade, barter or a way to measure how successful we are? Isn't this the natural result self centered thinking that demands that everything and everyone meets my own personal needs, desires or pleasure?

What kind of thinking is it that says we can abort (kill) millions upon millions of pre-born infants and think nothing of it, yet gots all hot and bothered when one little boy fries in a hot car?
I'll tell you. It doesn't come from Christianity. Or at least, it doesn't come from God. The natural man left to their own world, devices, wants, wishes will always, always turn to self destruction and ultimately death making decisions.

Christianity is about life, love, respect for others. Babies are God's gift to us and are precious in his sight. Over and over again in the scripures we read statements like, "You knew me in my mothers womb." Considered the treasure in Elizabeth's womb who jumped for joy when Mary came to visit her. That little baby inside of her was touched by the Holy Spirit long before he breathed his first breath. And consider the words of Jesus who said in a society that looked at children as mere tools or commodities of little value, "Let the little children come to me."

Jesus says that he came to give us life, and life more abundantly. Life is the message of Jesus. Not death. We who follow Christ have a message of life. We put value on life, not death. Oh, sure, we who profess Christ have our death messages. We've made ourselves a stench at times. But Jesus remains the same. He is life and his message is life. When we follow him, life gains purpose. We live for life. Our children have hope and don't need to fear a purposeless death. Parents who follow Jesus treasure their children, because they know that they are precious for who they are...children of God.

What is our answer to this tragedy, to this mother? We weep with you dear mother. Your child was precious and it is a tragedy he had to suffer this horrible death. But there is hope for you dear friend. Your baby is in the arms of a loving saviour and will never suffer again. He lives and is probably skipping around laughing and singing with our Lord. I know that probably doesn't do anything for the hurt and anger. But hopefully, someday, a light of love will shine on you and you will experience a living Christ and a church, a group of loving Christians who will enfold you, love you and give you hope for a future at the end of life where once again, you'll hold that precious child of yours in your arms.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thoughts on Idolatry

Just a brief post.  I just listened to one of the best theological sermons I've ever heard.  You can hear it at John Piper's Desiring God website.  The sermon is "Ministry Idolatry" and was given by Mark Driscoll from the Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  This sermon was recently given at the Advance09 seminar last week and is typical of Mark's hardhitting, straight thinking, and soundly theological approach.  Whatever you may think of Mark Driscoll, this sermon is well worth your time.  While Mark speaks the hard truth, his heart is filled with a love for God, the church and especially pastors.  
You may not be in the ministry, but these thoughts on idolatry are well thought out and need to be heard.

Enjoy

Saturday, June 6, 2009

No Excuse for Abuse

I'm an incurable channel flipper.  Give me a remote and my fingers automatically flip channels.  I guess it's a man thing, or in my case, trying to find something on the one eyed monster that doesn't bore me silly.  I guess that's why it's off most of the time.  Books are so much more entertaining for me.  But this morning I stumbled across a channel I've never paid attention to before.  It was Grit TV  and the show caught my attention.  As I listened, I grew angry.  At first my anger was directed to the obvious anti-Christian feminist stance of the host and and guest, but then I realized my anger was a reflection of my finger pointing at the screen.  I had one finger pointed at the TV and three pointed directly back at me.  (No...It wasn't THAT finger I was pointing although it may as well have been)
Let me explain.  The host Laura Flanders was interviewing Kathryn Joyce regarding her new book, "Quiverfull, Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement".  I had never heard of the Christian Patriarchy Movement but apparently there is this small group of people who follow Psalms 127:3-5 where it says that the blessed man is one who has lots of kids.  But beyond that, that blessed man is the king on the throne, so to speak.  He's the King Tut of the household, the Big Kahuna, the one everyone should obey and serve.  This book is a direct attack on a secret sin of the Christian church called the Patriarchy movement.  It is an uncomfortable book because it underscores the underbelly that goes beyond this crazy little sect that she puts under the magnifying glass.  

Even Rick Warren and his Saddleback Church is linked to this movement which is, I think, a bit of an unfair shot.  Never the less, what is clear is that even in his church male dominance can be a problem.  See the sad story on the Double X webpage, "Does Rick Warren's Church Condones Domestic Violence"?  Now, I'm sure there is a lot stretching of the truth in that article, but the fact remains, this is a major problem we evangelicals must face.  And it takes a non-believer to highlight it.  Also see the Christianity Review article on the book entitled "Deconstructing the Quiver".  

Now I confess, I haven't had time to read the book yet as this is the first time I've heard of it.  But, I've been very aware of this dirty truth that stains our testimony to the world.  I want to address primarily spousal abuse rather than the whole family as a tribe issue.  This accusation of patrimony along with spousal abuse is well deserved.  Far too many of us men are guilty of "lording it over our wives/women."  We think we are the God given heads of our households that everyone must serve.  That is a blatant  lie and mistranslation of Ephesians 5:22 and other verses.  While that verse calls for submission we forget that in the previous verse  Ephesians 5:21 we are to submit to each other in love.  There is a mutual submission with Christ as our example.  That rules out all acts of subjugation or taking advantage of each other.  It is an act of love that calls for a responding act of love.  

Now, this is a hard subject for me to discuss, but I must.  This hits close to my heart.  I grew up in a very strict patriarchal home where dad was the king of the house.  It was one of those homes many of us grew up in where what dad wanted he got.  If he wanted a glass of water, mom would have to bring it to him rather than he get out of his lounge chair and get it himself.  His world was law and not to be questioned.  As a result, he was often harsh and demeaning.  Now in his defense, that's all he knew.  Many in society and especially Christian circles were brought up steeped in the strong male authoritarian philosophy.  That was, for him, is how he expressed his love.  

But that kind of love, which isn't love breeds domestic violence.  At the worst, physical abuse, at the least verbal abuse which can be even worse.  And it is how I learned to deal with women.  I believe my first marriage failed because I had carried this kind of patriarchal, lord of the house, verbal abusive attitude into our relationship.  I was inattentive to my first wife's cry for attention and verbally abusive.  It's no wonder she left me and found a man who would listen to her cries and love her.  It was a hard lesson for me to learn and would take years for me to understand.

But thank God, the second angel I married was strong enough and smart enough to not put up with that kind of garbage.  And because I was broken, she lovingly put my pieces back together and taught me how to love.  She was God's gift to me.  But enough about me.  I only use my personal testimony to illustrate how devastating this kind of thing is and pray that something I say may shake someone caught in this web of abuse.

Men, wake up!!  There are thousands of wives in the Christian community who are nothing but doormats for their husbands.  Men, you will be the last to see this and it may take a brave woman to say enough is enough and walk out on you.  This is not God's way.  I especially speak to pastor's wives, many who have absolutely no self identity left, thanks to a domineering, Bible thumping monster who is both your husband and pastor.  You don't have to live under that kind of abuse.  And pastor, if you are domineering your wife in this manner, repent, get out of the ministry and seek help.  You will destroy yourself and bring down your entire family in the process if you don't.  

Ms. Joyce's book may be God's way of using an outsider to expose this dirty truth in our midst. Let's do all we can to rid ourselves of this patristic notion that women must cowtow to us because the Bible tells us so.  Baloney, we are to submit ourselves one to the other in love as Christ submitted himself for us in love.  That is the only way to break out of this problem of abuse.  May God use this message to awaken some hurting people to break this pattern of abuse that is wrecking so many lives.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

No Room For Individualism

"The Word made flesh means,...that the Word proclaimed must become an act of charity....Charity here is to be understood as a concrete act of love."

Those two statements are taken from a paragraph in Adrienne von Speyr's marvelous book, "John Volume I: The Word Becomes Flesh ." I'm a big fan of von Speyr who was an associate of Urs Von Bathazar. She was a Catholic mystic philospopher who had an enormous impact on her church. Her books are not easy reads. This book is taking me weeks to read. I pick it up, read a few passages and put it down to mull over. Then I'll pick it up, either reread what I've read to make sure I understand it or proceed to stumble through a new passage. It is not recreational reading.

But despite the difficulty of reading her book, I've been profoundly challenged. The chapter I quote from at the beginning of this post really hit me. So much of my faith tends to slip into an individualistic, God and me, we are tight, personal faith that excludes rather than includes others. I was brought up under the belief that Christianity was about a "personal relationship" with God, so the emphasis was upon the building of a vertical personal worship pattern of prayer and study. It is highly individualistic and, as I've discovered, very selfish.

Ms. Speyr really explodes that view. She shows how John, in his book, illustrates that when the Word, who is Christ, comes to us, we are changed and pulled into the interpersonal life of the Godhead who is love. But the key point is that love is an interpersonal thing. It is shared. Just as love is shared in the Godhead, when we are filled with God's Spirit we are filled with the same love. It is a communal love. So when I'm filled with Christ, I am given the Love of God which searches out for a corresponding love of his image in others. That love compels me to love others taking me out of the individualistic religion of faith to a communal life of relationship with others. And, as Ms. Speyr points out, it is accomplished through individual acts of mercy and kindness shown to people we come in contact with.

I wish I had understood that many years ago. It probably would have saved me a lot of grief.
So, take this thought with you today. If you are filled with Christ's Spirit, you are filled with God's love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That love is dying to be shared. Shared with everyone, our friends, our enemies, our family, our co-workers, the hurting, the dying, the hungry, the outcast, the gays, anyone who is alive and breathing.

Read Adrienne Von Speyr's book if you dare. Yes, it's not a Dick and Jane read. It's tough sledding, but well worth the read. And for my Protestant brethers and sisters, get over your prejudices against Catholics and read this one. It will make a lot of your books look like sawdust.
This is red meat.

God bless.