Monday, March 31, 2008

Creeds


I started thinking about the creeds, Apostle's and Nicene, and why they were created. The Nicene Creed was created to combat the heresy of Apollinarianism in the church. To make a long story short, Emperor Constantine convened an Ecumenical Council to deal with the issue. And one of the results of the Council of Constantinople was the Nicene Creed, which is still used in Eastern Orthodox and some western church liturgies. The Creed is below:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.


I say this not to provide an interesting history lesson into the decision-making process of the ancient church. Nor to provide info on ancient heresies. But rather, I wonder if an Ecumenical Council is needed today to deal with heresies in the church? Could the church, as a global body, even get together to talk right now? That is a good question and a source of amusement to the enemies of our souls.

There are some seriously flawed teachings in the church that could use a good hearing in front of the Global Church. Marxist Liberation Theology is one of them. I would like to see a good review of the Prosperity Gospel by the ecclesiastical authorities. The idea of lavish lifestyles for pastors seems to fly in the face of the New Testament church, the Apostolic Tradition, and church history. True, God does bless people. But I don't think we can build a theology on that.

I wonder if the individualism that is so prevalent in the Western Church would prevent this from happening. I imagine those whose theology is being attacked would just use the "Who are you to judge me" line and just keep doing what they are doing.

But let's pretend that they would play nice and allow themselves to fall under the discipline of the Church of Jesus Christ. What other heresies/teachings do you see out there that could be investigated? Share them as comments and I'll send a note to the Pope and the Eastern Orthodox leaders.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

What do we believe?

In my Christian Discipleship class at Nazarene Theological Seminary I have been asking that question a great deal. What do we believe? How well do we convey what we believe to those new to the faith and to children. I've also been giving some thought to catechism, and the valuable teaching and integration of faith that it provides. So many of us know stories about Jesus/God, but how many of us know the Story of God? That narrative that transcends time from creation through the present on into infinity where God has set out a plan to "make all things new." We know stories of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus, and John the Baptist. But how does all of that fit together? And how do we live the message that is contained within all of those stories?

The Apostle's Creed is a pretty good summary of the basics of Christianity. Sadly, in many of our churches, we do not recite the creeds any longer. If you haven't read it lately or heard it, here is the modern English version to reflect upon:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.

And if you feel up to it, Rich Mullins did an excellent job of putting the Creed to music. The link is below if you want to listen.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

St. Patrick's Day


I know I am a week late, but I came across this post on a blog called "Stuff White People Like" and I found it funny. I've never quite understood the appeal of St. Patrick's Day. To me, it is the bar owner's version of a Hallmark Holiday. Just another reason to get us to spend money on something that is not particularly valuable.

The opening paragraph of the article is what caught my eye:

Normally if someone were to wake up at 7:00 in the morning, take the day off work, and get drunk at a bar before 10:00 a.m., they would be called an alcoholic, and not in the artistic, edgy way that white people are so fond of.

That, in a nutshell, is St. Patrick's Day. Are we sure he isn't the patron saint of beer brewers?

Friday, March 21, 2008

This just never goes away

I was reading my paper and drinking my morning coffee when I came across this headline. It seems the U.S. Attorney's office in Detroit has broken up a child prostitution ring in metro Detroit. With all of the attention that the Governor Spitzer affair generated, and the millions of dollars in dubious job offers pending for the 22 year-old prostitute that was attending to the Governor's needs, I'm concerned that young girls may see this as a means to fame and fortune. Sadly, it usually ends in addiction and death.

This weekend, as we attend Good Friday and Easter services, pray for these young ladies and young men, who are lured or forced into prostitution. They need a redeemer so badly. They need Christus Victor to come and set them free from the bondage they are in. They need to know that He has broken the power of sin and death for them. And they need to know that they have worth outside of what they can do with their bodies. This isn't overseas. It's in the suburbs of Detroit. It happens in nice neighborhoods as well as the inner city. And it is a horrible stain on our society. Pray that the strongholds can be torn down and the captives will be set free. That is what Easter is about. Setting the captives free to live in harmony with God.

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for kids who might be vulnerable to this. This site has some good information on the topic

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Realizing how Ancient I am


No, this is not a post about me turning 40 last year. Rather, it is about God's timing. Last week my wife made a comment about me being "traditional" but not in what is considered the norm for traditional in the church. Rather she was talking about me falling back to traditions that predate the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Tradition in the ancient sense. This all came about as I was shopping for Orthodox Icons online.

Then I saw this article in Christianity Today about the revival of interest in the ancient church, especially among the younger evangelicals. It touches on an interest in a faith that seeks to do more than just explain the world (the Enlightenment model) but rather one that truly sought to Incarnate the Word (Pre-Constantine church). I encourage you to read the article, especially the cautions offered when looking at ancient practice. The dangers are:

1. Anachronism: Naively interpreting the tradition in light of contemporary assumptions;

2. Traditionalism: Being unwilling to see the flaws in the early church's traditions;

3. Eclecticism: Selectively appropriating ancient practices without regard to their original purposes or contexts.

We must, as Eastern University's Christopher Hall put it in his plenary address, attend carefully to "best practices" for drawing on the insights of the Christian past, while approaching earlier periods "honestly and openly."

I do find myself chafing at the shallowness of much of what passes for evangelicalism today. I am guilty of participating in this, so I am casting stones at myself here. Some of what we experience comes from the church in the USA being on the top side of power, not the underside as the early church was. Constantine changed all of that when he made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. When that happened, the church embarked on a process of acquiring power and influence and maintaining that power and the institutions it created.

During Holy Week, I encourage you to take a look at some of the ancient practices and see them for what they were. The way we do church has greatly evolved since then, but there is a lot we can learn from those who came before us.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What was he thinking?

Read this story from our county and see if you can figure out when this became a good idea. If you are going to steal gas from a car, make sure it's not a sheriff's car. It generally will not end well.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Two of the better publicity stunts I have seen

Most of you know I am in the public relations industry and have a somewhat critical eye toward these things. But these two clips are masterpieces of resurrecting somewhat flagging reputations.

Enjoy



This is one is older but worth a watch



U2 and Johnny Cash. It doesn't get much better than that.

A call for the redemptive power of Christ



The video link will take you to a thought-provoking song. I love the line "Love will come set me free" which speaks directly to Christus Victor, the image of Christ that resonates most strongly with me. As we enter Holy Week, I'm reminded of the power of what Jesus did, not just his suffering. He broke the power of sin, death and Hades and set the captives free.

As you watch the video, think about the sweatshops where clothes are made. Think about children hiding under their beds from fear of armed conflict and falling bombs. And pray that the Risen Christ can set these people free. And ask him how you can help. We are the incarnation of Christ in this world. I'd like to start living like He did.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This is pointless but cool

Just click on the link and turn your volume up.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Who are the bigots?


I always thought the Republicans were cast as the racists in general elections. But thanks to Geraldine Ferraro, that may not be true. It seems that Ms. Ferraro, a member of the Clinton campaign, said that if Barack Obama were not black, he wouldn't even be in this position. Hmmm.

Is she saying that her party is potentially nominating an unqualified candidate because he is black? I shudder to think of the furor if a Republican said that. But they seem to have more sense than that this year. I wonder how she would have reacted if they had said her gender is what put her on the ill-fated 1984 Democratic Party ticket.

Thanks Geraldine for showing your true colors.

Write your member of Congress

You can go here to email your member of Congress if you want. I sent a note to member-for-life John Dingell, who chairs the Energy and Commerce committee in the House. I don't expect much, but it is about all I can do at the moment.

$4 gasoline?


Read this article and scratch your head. I've touched on this before, but we have oil reserves we are not allowed to tap because of Congressional mandates. If that oil were brought online, we would not be funding dictators of regimes that support terrorism. Nor would we be converting our food to fuel. But this is what the Congress wants.

Now we learn that our leading source of oil, Canada, may not be able to ship the oil from its tar sands to the U.S. because they do not meet the criteria of "renewable energy." It seems as if we are rushing pell-mell to cripple our own economy.

Something weird is afoot here. In the words of Deep Throat, I think we need to "follow the money." In the meantime, the price of gas continues to climb as demand drops. That is not how free markets work.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The underside of power


My small group just finished a study of Revelation, and there is one thought that keeps recurring to me. The author of the book we were using as a guide said that Americans have a hard time understanding Revelation because we are no on the underside of power. Revelation is a letter written to an oppressed people who were on the underside of Roman power. They were being squeezed economically, politically and judicially. We as Americans are the top dog, and they were not. The message of hope that John is sending to the people in the seven churches in Chapters 2-3 may not resonate like it would with illegal aliens, slaves, homeless, or addicted people.

The next time you read Revelation, try to read it from a Native American point of view. It will be different. It might get you to stop looking for the Anti-Christ behind every bush.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Praise the Lord for Global Warming


I don't know where we would be without it. Just read this and then call Al Gore and tell him to back off.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Human Trafficking


Lest you think it doesn't happen here, read this. I've excerpted the first two paragraphs of the report below:

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimates that 50,000 people are trafficked into or transited through the U.S.A. annually as sex slaves, domestics, garment, and agricultural slaves. [map]

The United States is a source and destination country for thousands of men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation. Women and girls, largely from East Asia, Eastern Europe, Mexico and Central America are trafficked to the United States into prostitution. Some men and women, responding to fraudulent offers of employment in the United States, migrate willingly-legally and illegally-but are subsequently subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude at work sites or in the commercial sex trade. An unknown number of American citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country primarily for sexual servitude and, to a lesser extent, forced labor.


This is an issue that we as the church need to urgently pray about and take action when we suspect it is happening. Raising our awareness and praying for ways to intervene are good starts. You can also go to:

Stop the Traffic

International Justice Mission

For more information

Lent

I subscribe to Soul Care, a daily email from the Church of the Nazarene Office of Clergy Development. Today's email just struck me with its description of the season of Lent:

Wisdom from Fellow Pilgrims

In the daily round of life, dust and cobwebs accumulate in our souls. The hidden corners of our hearts become encrusted with grime or filled with forgotten debris. During the weeks of Lent, God's Spirit is given opportunity to clear away the clutter, sweep away the dust and wash us clean. We are invited to prepare ourselves heart, soul, mind and body for the new life of Easter.

— Marlene Kropf

Take some time to use contemplative prayer, to earnestly seek the Lord during this season of preparation as we wait to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Come and listen


The video clip below is of the David Crowder Band song "Come and Listen." I invite you to let it play and think about the implied message of the song. "Come and listen to what He has done" is an provocative statement for me. It implies that 1) someone is telling what God has done for him/her, for you, and for us; and 2) the "us" is a welcome trip into the world of corporate worship that veers away from the "Jesus and Me" individuality that has so infiltrated American Christianity.

"Come and listen. Come to the waters edge all you who know and fear the Lord." That is worship my friends. Listening to what God has done for us, sharing what God has done for us, and celebrating what God has done for us. In all of this the focus is on what God has done for us, not what we have done for God.

Dwell on this song a little during Lent. Let that thought process of "what God has done for us" take root in your mind. Meditate on what God has done for:
  • you
  • your family
  • your church
  • your neighborhood
  • your job
  • your town
  • your state
  • your nation
  • and your world
Make that a focus of your prayers and it will help balance some of the fear, doubt, resentment, bitterness and other negative emotions that take root from time to time. It's not that they are not real, but perspective on what God has done for us will shine a light of peace and truth into the dark recesses of your soul and your mind.

Here are some links to meditative/contemplative prayer sites if you would like some assistance on how to do this. It is well worth your time.

Centering Prayer

Listening Prayer

A Prayer Labyrinth

Lectio Divina or Divine Reading

This is but a sampling of the types of contemplative prayer. There are many good books in your local library and church that can help you with this.

Take the season of Lent to reflect on what God has done for you. And celebrate it at Easter.