Tuesday, January 13, 2009

WHAT!!!!! CHARISMATICS DON'T BECOME CATHOLICS!!!! (or do they?) PT9

"I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one"-John 17:20-22


So I want to back up for a little bit to December, 2003, I believe. I remember that Sunday well. Laura and I had been attending McIlwain Memorial Presbyterian Church for several months and we had been through the New Members classes. We had made the decision to become members of the church. We were on top of the world and were very happy. There was no "liturgy" so to speak in the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America), but there was an Order of Service-and Advent. It was the first time in my life that I had celebrated and understood Advent, I loved it. This was what I wanted for my family. I do remember standing in front of the congregation with the other new members and agreeing to a series of questions posed to us by Rob our pastor. One of them was an agreement by us that we as members of the congregation would agree and submit ourselves to the elders and leadership of the church.

It wasn't until later in 2004 or early 2005 when that whole concept began to raise questions with me. At that time, Rob and I had began to have lunches on a semi-frequent basis and I remember asking him this question: "Rob, if somebody disagrees with the elders or if they are punished by the leaders, they just leave and join another church...why is that?" It seemed to me that not just the Presbyterian church, but all churches had an issue with the members not submitting the authority that their church held and their commitment to their church. Growing up in the my whole life, I have seen the scenario happen over and over. What generally happens is that someone gets some epiphany, revelation, or leading of the Spirit on a certain direction, or teaching. At that point, if it is not accepted by the leadership of the church they are a member of, they will proceed (if they feel strong enough about the issue) to either leave and join another church, or if they have enough charisma, they might start their own church. In another situation, a church leader would be removed from their position for whatever reason, then he would proceed to begin his own church. This had been a serious concern for me due to the fact that sometimes these leaders were gone for reasons that were not pleasant and they had no business in leadership over anybody....but there was no governance...no body to answer to. In addition, this reflects a very widely held view within Western Christianity which is that we all have the Holy Spirit, so therefore we are all "our own Pope" so to speak. There is no true submission to any form of Church government in any denomination, the Catholic Church included. This seems to be more of the fault of the influence of Western Culture on Christianity rather than the churches or denomination themselves. So often as Western Christians we believe that the same chains that we through off with England we can throw off with our spiritual lives. We only need Jesus and what we believe He has revealed to us. We don't need to submit to any other authority if we don't agree with them or they cross our beliefs. Our freedom and pleasures often rule supreme...even in our spiritual lives. When these splits occurred, I would hear: "Well God used what is bad to create another body of believers" and I personally believe that is complete hogwash! God would NEVER divide his body, which brings me to the subject of this post.






I really never had contemplated denominations previously to this point in my life, it was just a fact of reality. I knew that we weren't Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopal, Church of God, Church of Christ, Assembly of God, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist or any of the other denominations...we were in fact NON denominational. I was always told that all of us "agreed on the major issues", but I never did stop to think....who was the "governing body" that determined what issues were MAJOR and which ones were MINOR. Was baptism, for example necessary for salvation, or was it just a symbol? Did you HAVE to go to church, or was it just a nice thing to do? Were the charismatic gifts of the Spirit "extra" and if you didn't have them, did you have a lesser share in the Kingdom of God? All these were questions that I pondered during this time, but this time, there was more of an answer. Again, the New Testament can never be fully understood outside the context of the Covenant that God had through the Children of Israel and the Old Testament. The structure that God intended was for ONE people united. He started with a couple in Adam and Eve. That covenant expanded to a family with Noah. A tribe received the covenant through Abraham and finally a nation received the Covenant through Moses. It was God's desire to bring the entire world into the Covenant and He did so through Christ. Look at Christ's words again in John 17:

so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one,


Read it again, and again, and again. Put aside your denominational walls and read the words of our Lord. Just like the Father and the Son are one in the same, they cannot be divided...That is Christ's desire for His Church, His Body. Christ's body is not meant to be split into thousands of different shapes and forms. There is nowhere in Scripture that God has given us the concept of an "Invisible, Universal Church" . Quite the contrary, Christ prayed that we would be visible, a "light on the hill". Paul said it again in Ephesians 4: 3-5


striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

Are there any other references in Scripture to just "one" Church? Let's look at the Gospels and how Jesus tells us to handle "conflict resolution" in Matthew 18:15-18:

"If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. "

Now this is quite an interesting instruction here in the modern day. If I am a Catholic, and you are a Baptist we have a conflict of some sort, I steal your car, knock you in the face, or something that nature. According to Our Lord, if I refuse to listen to you, we are to go to the church. But what church would that be? Your Baptist church has no hold on me and my Catholic Church has no hold on you. So what happens, we wind up going to see Judge Wapner in civil litigation. Is this what Christ intended?

The reason that the Christan Church as a whole doesn't have "power" as some like to speak of is not due to the fact that we don't have enough "faith", but a major reason (in my opinion) is that all the outsiders see is us fighting among ourselves and all the thousands of denominations we have. Look at your individual church for a moment and study the history. How long has it been around? 30 years? 50 years? 150 years? When you look at this I guarantee that what you will find is that your denomination was formed out of disagreement with the previous denomination and their interpretations of Scripture. When you run history in reverse..All roads lead to Rome. Until the time of the Reformation, you had NO choice. If you were a Christian, you were a Catholic...PERIOD. There is nowhere in Scripture that God has ever given precedence for us to become cafeteria Christians--including Catholics. The Catholic Church has its share of issues, believe you me, and I could give you a litany of them. By no means is it perfect and it is also not monolithic in it's teachings. You do have rogue priests who don't adhere to the teachings of the Church, and you have the same with Bishops. But Jesus foretold of this in his parable of the wheat and the tares:


The slaves of the householder came to him and said, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."--Matthew 13:27-30


Contrary to what you may think, this parable is about the Kingdom of God, not the world in general. There will be weeds (tares) in the Church and at the end of the day, they will all be sorted out by Our Lord. Our responsibility is to follow him.


"there are now as many doctrines as there are heads"--Martin Luther

This was a quote that was made by Martin Luther towards the end of his life, and how true it is. No matter what your stance is on the Catholic Church, whether you are a lover or a hater, or somewhere in between, there is no mistake on what the Church believes and what it teaches. On the issues of Christ, Salvation, Scripture, The Eucharist, Marian doctrines (not taking that on right now ;-) ) and most importantly on Life, the Church has NEVER, NEVER moved. PERIOD! As an example, did you know that until 1930 EVERY Christian Church denounced artificial contraception as a sin? Now there is ONLY the Catholic Church and maybe a handful of others that have maintained the stance. And now we see the slope getting even more slick. So called Christian Churches accepting same sex "marriages", Divorce is rampant in all Christian Churches (Catholic included). But what we must look at is what does each church teach? Why has the Catholic Church been so steadfast on her teachings? Because for 2000 years we have had the guidance of the Holy Spirit through Apostolic Succession. This means that the Catholic Church is the ONLY Church that can trace it's roots back to Peter. (There are some other Eastern and Orthodox Churches that claim some form of Apostolic succession, that are in communion with Rome, but that is also another conversation for another time.) The same anointing that Christ gave Peter has been passed down through these 2,000 years to each Pope, ensuring that there is One head, One Body, One Teaching. The Holy Spirit has continued and will ALWAYS continue to guide her until Our Lord returns for His Bride.

Finally, I had to come to ask myself one question when I was discerning the direction I was to go on my journey: What church did I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was teaching 100% correct doctrines, no questions asked. And to take it one step further, was there any pastor that I knew of that was teaching 100% truth. Was there any? I knew that I had found it. Once I saw and realized what Christ had intended, I had no choice. I had to humble myself to Christ and the one He had left at the helm in his absence. I knew I was on the way Home, sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

WHAT!!!!! CHARISMATICS DON'T BECOME CATHOLICS!!!! (or do they?) PT8

Where a lone man may be overcome, two together can resist. A three-ply cord is not easily broken. --Ecclesiastes 4:12


Wow....I know that I have written much in regard to how I came to embrace the three fold cord of Sacred Tradition along with The Magisteruim and Sacred Scripture, but to me, once I realized how they all work together, it seemed as though I was finally able to rest. I was not resting in what I understood about Scripture, or trying to defend what God had shown me. I was resting and taking refuge in the Body of Christ which he had established--The Catholic Church. For so much of my life it seemed as though I was working so much in my relationship to God. Going to hear this person, hoping that somebody had a word for me from the Lord, trying to be this or that and now all that just fell away and it was all coming together. It was thought I had now discovered Christ again for the very first time and I was able to identify with Him when he spoke about becoming like a child. Becoming a Catholic for me took a step of humility. I had to finally step back and admit that I didn't know it all. I was not my own Pope and that I needed help and I needed guidance--I was beginning again almost from the ground floor up and I was loving every minute of it.


"Re-Sacrificing of Christ", "Idolatry", "The Death Cookie": All things I had heard through my life about the Catholic Church and their doctrine the Eucharist. I really didn't have any connection with the Catholic Church throughout my life, so I had nothing to counter it with, and anything t0 base it on, until now. Symbolism...all symbolism. That is what I was raised to believe as a Protestant. There was nothing "magical" or "transformative" about communion. It was a symbol of the unity of the " invisible universal Church". There was no special formula to be used or no special elements that were needed, just grape juice and crackers, or wafers, or bread, or matzoh whatever was used at that Church. When I started reading, however, I wanted to really know what the early Church thought and believed. After all, it seemed to me that they were the closest to Christ, so they should have some insight, right? What I began to study is the Old Testament, first. I soon saw what Christ meant in Matthew when he stated that he had not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. The Old Covenant was not done away with and tossed to the side when Christ came on the scene, but rather fulfilled, I like to explain it like a structure with no walls, no roof, just the steel structure. In this example the building is there, but it has no way to do what it is intended to do. What was not possible through the Law, now had power through Christ. When Christ came he fulfilled, or completed the Structure and the method that God had implemented. In regard to the Eucharist, It is shown over and over in the Old Testament, in Symbols. It is very interesting that when we read the beginning of Genesis, we see that Man brought sin into the world through the consumption of a fruit. Our Redemption
was began to be shown through the Manna that God provided to the Children of Israel through the desert. It was also shown through the water that sprung through the rock. But the most deliberate symbol of our salvation was shown in the Exodus of the Children of Israel. The entire Exodus is a complete showing of us leaving our lives of sin and our escape from the shadow of death but before they could leave, they had to partake in the Passover meal. Their redemption came through the consumption of the lamb--all of it. Further more, according to Exodus 12: 24:




"You shall observe this as a perpetual ordinance for yourselves and your descendants. "



For centuries this meal had been celebrated by the Children of Israel as a remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt. Now, how does this translate to us as Christians. Christ fulfilled this, gave power to this as HE became the Lamb. That is what I began to see through John 6.

In John 6, we see Jesus first feeding the multitudes, multiplying the loaves and fishes. Then Jesus begins to gradually teach his disciples about himself. In verse 35, Jesus states:

35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."


From this opening statement, the crescendo grows stronger moving to how God provided for the Children of Israel in the desert:

49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.

Notice that through out the chapter Jesus has been dealing with physical food; feeding people, referring to himself as bread, then recalling how the Children of Israel had been physically fed in the desert. Beginning in v. 51 and moving forward, Jesus now with no doubt reveals himself as the new Lamb of the Passover. Just as the Children of Israel had to consume the Lamb, Christ himself now had to be consumed, physically:

51
I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." 52 The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" 53 Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever."

Wow. This was extremely offensive to the Jews that were in Capernaum listening to Christ. Eating human flesh was a sacrilege to them, yet the words that Christ used in this were the same words used for the consumption of the bread in the desert. Christ was not using symbolism or hyperbole in this. He was telling us that as sin came into the human race through the consumption of fruit, our redemption would now come through the consumption of his Flesh and Blood. If at this point you feel the hair standing up on the back of your neck, and you are offended at the thought of this, you are probably feeling the same thing that some of Christ's disciples felt:

60 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"
61 Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? 62 What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. 65 And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." 66 As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.


After the some of them leave, we don't see Christ running after them saying: "Hey guys...come on back! I am just talking in symbols! You don't understand!" Not at all, he let them leave, while others stayed. They had faith in Christ though they didn't understand what he meant or how it was going to work out:

67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" 68 Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."




So they stayed with Christ through the end. When did they understand? When did they know what Christ meant? Christ clearly defined what he meant.....At the Last Supper:




26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." 27 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.


Can you imagine the thoughts of the disciples as the pieces came together for them? Jesus WAS the Lamb of God that would take away the sins of the world! Our Lord NEVER did refer to the bread and wine as a symbol, but rather he said: "This IS my Body.....This IS my Blood" These words were not spoken by a man, but by God Himself. The same God that spoke the universe into existence by his words. The same Almighty that parted the Red Sea and met with Moses on the Mount. This same God was now sitting in the presence of His Disciples speaking into existence our Salvation. Could this REALLY be? We believe that God created the world from nothing, we believe in a Virgin Birth, we believe in a Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit, but we find it impossible to accept that our Lord can or WOULD give Himself to us under the form of Bread and Wine?
This is what is termed in Catholic Theology as the REAL PRESENCE. In the Bread and Wine, we believe that (once consecrated) Christ exists Body, Blood, Soul and divinity under the guise of bread and wine. Furthermore, this is the teaching that was passed down through the Centuries of the Early Church, beginning with St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:16


16
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

and again in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29

23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread,
24 and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

What is so dynamic here is that St. Paul doesn't even refer to Bread and Wine, but rather the Body and Blood of the Lord: That is what he believed it to be and even said so in the last three verses. If the bread and wine were just symbols, then why did St. Paul offer such a strong warning about taking the Body and Blood unworthily? How would we be accepted to answer for just symbols? And how can you eat and drink judgment upon yourself with just symbols? These teachings were further taught to the early Church by the Church Fathers:

Ignatius of Antioch-Ignatius of Antioch (also known as Theophorus) (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117) and was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle.
"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God..."They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 6:2; 7:1 [A.D. 110]).


Justin Martyr-Saint Justin Martyr (also Justin the Martyr, Justin of Caesarea, Justin the Philosopher, Latin Iustinus Martyr or Flavius Iustinus) (100–165) was an early Christian apologist and saint. His works represent the earliest surviving Christian "apologies" of notable size.
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined."For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66:1-20 [A.D. 148]).

Irenaeus-(2nd century AD - c. 202) was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire (now Lyons, France). He was an early church father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. He was a disciple of Saint Polycarp, who was said to be a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist.
"He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be his own blood, from which he causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, he has established as his own body, from which he gives increase unto our bodies."When, therefore, the mixed cup [wine and water] and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life--flesh which is nourished by the body and blood of the Lord, and is in fact a member of him?" (Against Heresies 5:2 [A.D. 148]).
Do these writings really mean anything? Are they important, or should they just be forgotten and buried? St Ignatius was said to be a disciple of John the Apostle. Irenaeus is said to be a disciple of John the Evangelist. If this is the case, which Sacred Tradition has held since the beginning of the Church, this means either one of two things. First, it could mean that the Promise of our Lord to the Apostles in the promise of the Holy Spirt was wrong. Jesus stated very clearly in John 14:26

26 The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name--he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you.
Could the Church have gotten lost that early on? Could the first 1500 years of Christianity been so out of control of the Holy Spirit that it took Martin Luther and the Reformers to bring it back to "Truth"? I think not. I choose rather to believe what Christ spoke and what was taught my the Early Church. We must partake in the Body and Blood of Our Lord..or we have no part in Him.
Our Lord has given us a wonderful Blessed Sacrament. A sacrament that is not a "re-sacrificing" of Christ as that can never be done, as stated in Hebrews 10:12:
12
But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God
Rather the Mass is a RE-PRESENTATION of Christs Sacrifice. By the power of the Holy Spirit, our Lord makes Himself PRESENT and real for us, His Body once again upon the altar and once again gives Himself to us to continually redeem us from our Sins. You see, the Sacrifice that Christ gave to us is eternal...it continues to this day. Yet Christ and the Holy Trinity have chosen to allow us to partake in that Sacrifice --Everytime we partake in the Mass. Being able to recieve the Sacrament has been the greatest joy in my life. Partaking in the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of our Lord. Why did he choose to do it this way? We may never know until we see him face to face.

I think that it was at this time that I realized that the greatest gift that our Lord left us was Himself. In the Mass Catholics all around the world are focused on the center of our Faith and our Salvation, the Sacrifice of our Lord. Inspiring messages are great and necessary (St. Jerome said that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ), but that is not what Christ left us. The greates thing that Christ left us was himself. We were promised that Christ would never leave us or forsake us and with the Sacrament of Holy Communion, he has fulfilled that. Everytime we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass we once again are given the opportunity to come into complete communion with Our Lord and receive all the graces that entails. And even more than that, the Sacrifice is being continually lifted up before God thousands upon thousands of times a day from altars around the world.