Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The “Universal” Lie

Reformation of Unity

Some might ask why Christians need to be united whenever most acknowledge that we are all part of the universal, catholic (with a lowercase “c”) church. Select denominations event recite it in their versions of the Apostle’s Creed.

While it may be true that we all accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are not universal to the extent that Christians can put the names of all their local churches in a hat, pull one out, and readily attend it. Here are a couple definitions of universal before I move forward with this argument:

“Including or covering all or a whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception” -Webster Dictionary

“Of, affecting, or done by all people or things in the world or in a particular group; applicable in all cases” -Oxford Dictionary

Now ask yourself, are there any churches I would not attend/visit. Keeping your…

View original post 634 more words

What Being Prostestant Did and Did Not Teach Me

Nothing made me appreciate God’s call for church unity more than being Protestant. It was during my years of identifying as nondenominational that I came to appreciate many types of Christians. But this was also when I asked myself “Why is there division in the first place?”

As a result years later, I created this blog with hopes of showing that having different denominational names does matter, and this “diversity of doctrine” is at direct odds with the concept of a true Universal Church which can only exist through the efforts of the Holy Spirit, love, and our willingness to be obey God’s commands. That is not to say that every Christian community should look alike, but they should not have conflicting religious beliefs!

Even more importantly, Christians should desire to be united with all members of Christ body, not operating without connection with its other members. St. Paul warns us that the body cannot function properly unless all of its members are working TOGETHER. Sorry Christians, but our only job is not to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and the spread 20 different versions of “the Gospel”. We are also called to live in obedience to God and unity with one another, which leads me back to the things I have learned from being Protestant.

1. An appreciation for the Bible. Nothing gets a Protestant going like the ideas born from the Protestant Reformation. Solo Scriptura is the motto of most denominations, and my Baptist schooling taught me immense reverence for the Word and a responsibly for knowing scripture.

What being Protestant did not teach me was that the Word is not subjected to EVERYONE’s interpretation. Sure it can have personal meaning to an individual, but the teachings on salvation are not up for multiple interpretations. Unfortunately, the existences of conflicting doctrines around salvation implies that it is. Some who believe in double predestination would argue that salvation and damnation was predetermined, while others only believe you receive salvation by a specific verbal prayer accepting Jesus to be your Lord and Savior. Still others would say it doesn’t count unless you get baptized (some very specific about the way you get baptized)….and the list goes on. Since these denominations do not believe in a hierarchical systems they have nothing to establish authority of their doctrine over others except for a claim that they are guided by the Holy Spirit and some powerful reformer that God sent them.Still some would say these petty argument do not matter, that one only needs to love and believe in Jesus. If I were being led to convert this would rise the significant question of “What is salvation?” I would wonder if the meaning was relative in a religion that was supposed to be offering me some absolute true.

Catholics taught me the necessity of Tradition and Apostolic authority in protecting the interpretation of the Bible and discernment of which interpretations guided by the Spirit. In the Bible, God calls people to specific roles, and to the Apostles and those they trained, he gave exclusive authority over His teaching (The New Testament). The Apostles did not just let the people interpret for themselves how things in the church would be carried out. While the Holy Spirit would give these people and understanding, the Apostles were the only ones with authority to preserve and interpret God’s Word. They policed the believers. Their letters were either praising or reprimanding converts on how well they were following the teachings and obeying God’s will. The Bible (Jesus’ teachings) are important, but are not the only authority Christians need to look to besides God. Believing in the authority of the Bible means that you also indirectly TRUST the authority of the men who compiled the teachings and the specific role the Holy Spirit played through them. This is a specific role still given to members of the church today, BUT NOT EVERY MEMBER. It is given to through Apostolic session which is overseen by the Holy See–one of the only church governance to acknowledge the continued authority of the Apostle calling to preserve truth. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit does not use other to correctly interpret; it just means that policing power can only lie within the governance that acknowledges that the office of the Apostles is still necessary and relevant as a source of authority.  Even the Ark of the Covenant was not left without the protective forces of the high priest in the Old Covenant. Only pride gives us the idea that God calls everyone to their own understanding of the Word. No. The Holy Spirit helps us understand, and God calls a few to police the interpretations. We each have different roles, and not everyone should interpret as he pleases.

What I learned: The Bible is authoritative.

Extension of my knowledge: Solo Scriptura can only exist if God had not included man in the construction of the Bible (which He could have chosen to do as He did with Moses and the Ten Commandment Tablets). Therefore, the history of Christianity shows that The Bible AND the Apostolic session are authoritative under God’s New Covenant. This belief requires a strong faith–one in God and one in His will to work through specific roles he designated for member of His church. In this structure God calls up to have faith in Him and each other–the different members of his church body.

2. The importance of fellowship or what Catholics call communion. One thing that I enjoyed about being Protestant was the emphasis on community and experiencing life with other Christians. While Catholics do this as well, I particularly like the readiness of Protestants to pray for one another, ask for prayer, and form support groups for one another. I experienced my spiritual walk with other Christians on a daily basis. As a result, I was more open and built strong relationships with my Christian community. I was also always ready to talk things through and consult them for spiritual insight.

What I failed to learn was how to grow without relying on people.

While I learned that it was always important to have personal relationship with God, Catholics taught me the importance of internal transformation. Nothing was more frustrating than attending Mass and discovering that a lot of the work was left up to me. While prayers and liturgy were said in unison, the whole system of worship required the participation of my heart in mind in a way that seemed alien to me. I had to pay attention on my own without someone trying to engage me or entertain me with jokes and stories. I would have to will my heart and mind to worship and want the things of God. Though I still believe fellowship is important, I also realized how essential it is to have moments of Adoration and contemplation where I close off everyone and sit silently with God. The same joy I felt engaging in community was intensified when I placed myself in the presence of God just to adore and listen without my mind wondering or my heart concerned with other things. This type of discipline has also developed in me a desire for living righteously in a way that is counter cultural, denying myself so that I can better submit to God’s commands. Without this spiritual discipline and the Holy Spirit, I do not believe this type of growth could have occurred.

What I learned: Fellowship and communion with God’s community is important and fosters spiritual growth.

Extension of my knowledge: Internal discipline and time alone with God in Adoration and contemplation deepens growth in faith, the desire for righteousness, and love for God.

3. Courage to share my faith. While my experiences differ from others, there is no fear is entertaining faith based dialogue in the Bible Belt. While religion is said to be a taboo topic to talk about, being Protestant taught me the joy of not holding back. I agree that no one should force their faith on others, but I also believe Christians have the same free speech as everyone else. At some point we are all guilty of feeling the need to say things like “I will keep your family in my thoughts” instead of what we really thought, “I will be praying for you.” Often these changes have nothing to do with making the other person uncomfortable, but instead stems from a fear of being judged. This is pride, and I am going to assume that it offends God since pride is a sin. It is true not everyone thinks in this way, but for those of us who naturally desire to express ourselves in terms of faith, it is okay to glorify God in this way. I am no longer hesitant to share a blessing or thank God openly as that is often the way the good news was spread in the early church. What I find even more shocking, is that Christians often do not share their faith with each other as an encouragement or support! Almost everyone has an acquaintance that they know is Christian but never discuss their faith with. It may not be appropriate at all times, but if we are afraid to talk about Christ with each other and build brotherly love, how can we even began to show others His hope, grace, and mercy when we do not share our stories and spiritual journeys. Being Protestant taught me that is okay to say “Thank God” and “Have Blessed Day”. Most importantly, it taught me that is is okay to share my spiritual struggles with a friend or ask them how things are going at their church and in their spiritual life. It is okay to discuss God outside of Mass or Bible study. You can even invite friends to join you at Christian events.

What I did not learn is that different Christian philosophies influences how comfortable Christian feel expressing their faith.

In the United States, most Christians outside of the Bible Belt including most Catholics are not always open to sharing their faith and view their spirituality as personal. While not everyone is the same, what I have learned from Catholics is that more work could be done by parishioners to share their faith with others. Catholicism might be one of the most misinterpreted and misunderstood religions. This won’t change unless people are willing to lovingly enlighten others and open up about faith in their friendships. It might be good to explain why you walk around with ashes on your head on Ash Wednesday or what a scapular is if you are wearing one because we are all wondering (I’m just saying). These are small steps of sharing your faith. Sure people can research this own their own, but do not forget that you should be a walking reference. Restricting yourself to silence is self persecution. You are given freedom to express your faith is varying capacities. Do so.

What I learned: I have the freedom to express my faith with others.

Extension of my knowledge: We can work on embracing and exercising this freedom more.

Challenging you to be challenged by God.

L.M.

What about Catholics?

ca chart

One main question some people may have about my previous post on the Protestant-Catholic Connection is:

“What are Catholics doing?”

My pyramid appears to have not addressed Catholics’ role in promoting Christian unity. In fact, it appears to be a conversion flow chart with conversion being the top priority–not so. Although a pyramid structure is used, each level of support is equally important in promoting ecumenical unity among all Christians. In addition, the “top” triangle consists of both Catholics and converts. So if you were looking for the Catholics, they were already built in (sorry I didn’t clarify).

RefUnity Chart*Depicted again to refresh your memory.

Catholics are also encouraged to take part in all of the other levels of support as well. In fact, the model would not work without both Protestants and Catholics participating. For the sake of a visual, Protestants typically will move up the pyramid while Catholics can either move down it or be present at multiple levels in no specific order. While the “top” of the triangle symbolizes conversion for Protestants, it also symbolizes knowledge of and devotion to the Church for Catholics (“Being a true Catholic” for the lack of better phrasing).

What does this mean? This “state of being” calls Catholics to read their catechism, know their faith, and embrace it. An educated Catholic laity is essential to the unity process since division is often affected by misconceptions and misinformation. The same is to be said for Protestants; it is important for Protestants to know where their beliefs come from and the history around their doctrine. Otherwise, an honest dialogue on unity cannot begin among Christians. It might be a good start to ask yourself, “Why am I ____________?”, “What does it mean to be __________?”, and “What doctrines do I believe that gives me this identity?”

Think knowing all the details and history is not important?  Well consider the following verse:

2 Peter 1:5-9 “5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind...” NIV

Let me remind you that while God does not want us to be scholars without actions and love, the word theology means the study of the nature of God and religious belief. Essentially, it is one of the ways to gain knowledge of God with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. The point I am trying to make is KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN AND THE HISTORY OF IT. Satan uses our ignorance and misconceptions of each other to keep division among God’s people.

…Now Catholics, back to your defined responsibility/knowledge you should have in relation to unity…

My pyramid ripped straight from Alan Schreck’s (1999) The Essential Catholic Catechism pages 143-144 (directly quoted) :

catholic cat“Decree of Ecumenism”

1. Catholics bear a share of the blame for the division among Christians and ask for forgiveness of God and out fellow Christians for this sin.

2. The primary duty of Catholics in promoting ecumenism is to seek the renewal of the Catholic Church…

3. Catholics consider that all those who are baptized and believe in the Trinity and in Jesus Christ and Lord and Savior “have a right to be honored by the title of Christian, and are properly regarded as brothers in the Lord by the sons of the Catholic Church.” Thus the Catholic Church considers other Christians as “separated brother and sisters” in Christ, NOT AS HERETICS OR SCHISMATICS.

4. The Catholic Church  recognizes other bodies of Christians as churches or ecclesiastical communities that “the Spirit of Christ…has not refrained from using as means of salvation…”

5. Catholics can genuinely learn and receive support from other Christians…Catholics are encouraged both to study the beliefs and backgrounds of other Christian Churches in order to understand them better and to meet individually or in groups to pray with other Christians. Catholics may attend the worship service of other Christians…

6. In discussing our beliefs with other Christians, Catholics should state the teaching of the Catholic Church clearly and nondefensively.

7. Finally, Catholics are encouraged to join with all Christians in professing to the whole world our “faith in God, one and three, in the incarnate Son of God, our Redeemer and Lord.”

[End of Quotation]

So there you have it.

Protestants and Catholics, let our brotherly love for one another grow strong as we begin to understand each other and share in our faith. Finally, let our prayers, actions, and the Holy Spirit bring us together in unity.

John 10:16 “I have other sheep that are not in this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.”

Reformation of Unity

Ref of U starts with you!

Follow @ https://twitter.com/RefUnity

L.M.

The Protestant-Catholic Connection

As you may know, I post interesting commentary on attitudes and factors affecting Christian unity, but I don’t think I emphasize what Reformation of Unity is or its goals enough. Of course, this information is on “The Movement” and “Mission” pages, but in case you missed it, I will refresh you on our purpose.

Our mission is to help followers align and unite in thought.

Basically, this movement encourages unity among all Christians and fosters that interest at every level. The end faith goal is that Christians will embrace Jesus’ prayer that we all be completely united and of one mind to carry out the Great Commission (John 17:23). While encouraging other Christian efforts of unity, this movement suggests that unity is most likely to occur by Protestants and Catholics uniting under the structure of the Catholic Church, which emphasizes the authority of the Bible in Christianity and provides apostolic protection for the interpretation of scripture. The second element is necessary for sustaining unity, as interpretation is often the reason for schisms. This shift of all Christians under the Catholic structure and doctrine will lead to the redefinition of the Catholic, Universal Church. Importantly, the term Christian will have a clear connotation that the outside world, which will improve Great Commission efforts in secular developed societies (What Jesus prays for in John 17:23 makes perfect sense). Unity will also give Christians a larger capacity to respond to social issues when efforts are not divided. Ultimately, the motivation of the movement is to bring glory to God through our obedience to His request. Complete unity is what he wants for us, and apostles repeatedly emphasize being of one mind and letting no division be among us (Philippians 2:2).

Below is a pyramid of the different ways Christians can be a part of the movement. There is capacity for all to be involved in some way in ways as they pray about the issues surrounding true universal Christian unity (Click here to view my post  The Ecumenical Lie to understand how I define unity).

The entry levels involve engaging in positive interdenominational interactions between Protestants and Catholics. This interaction generally leads to friendships and the attitude remodeling stage where we as Christians stop seeing each other through the us-and-them paradigm and recognize that we are all seeking truth in Jesus Christ. The intermediate level involves deeper investigations and requires theological and doctrinal research and comparisons coupled with constant prayer about the issue. The “immersed level” is where the action occurs. At this stage individual launch effort and events that educate others, foster positive community between Protestants and Catholics, and in some cases even convert to Catholicism with the belief and faith that unity can be established in this structure.

There is room for any Christian to be involved at some stage of the Ref of U movement. If you agree please share what this movement is about with your friends. Please do not underestimate the importance and revolutionary influence complete unity can have on the Christian community. Finally, be willing to encourage others to embrace being of one mind with other Christians out of obedience and love for Christ. Only by having real love for one another in the Christian community can we truly be united (Colossians 3:14).

The beginning stage is THE MOST IMPORTANT. When we interact with one another intentionally, we cannot help but love one another. The key word is intentional; you have to act—choose to love God through obedience (To love God is to obey His commands 1 John 5:3), choose love your neighbor as yourself (the second most important commandment Matt 22: 36-40)

Reformation of Unity

Ref of U starts with you!

Follow @ https://twitter.com/RefUnity#

L.M.

“Disclaimer: The conception of this movement occurred during a time I identified as Protestant. Check out the “Our Stories” page for more details. Currently, I am in the 3rd of supporting unity and now identify as “Cathotestant”.  My intention is not to start a right or wrong debate but draw attention to a structure God has consistently used to preserve principals of Christianity and one that has most effectively maintained unity. History and God’s Word speaks for itself. I hope this blog encourages you to do research on Christian history and the history surrounding the construction of the Bible. But remember none of these efforts will matter until you pray about this and ask for Holy Spirit guidance. Your goal should be on how you can exhibit love for God by gaining an understanding that will allow you to better obey His commands when you begin these interactions and research.”

Proof That the Movement is Taking Off

Proof That the Movement is Taking Off

Catholic-Lutheran Unity to come in 2017

What is Love?

love-heart-beat-abstract-widescreen-graph-desktop-free-wallpaper

As Christians we often find ourselves asking the same question as Haddaway: What is love? The default answer of course is “God” for those philosophical, deep Christians who tend to lean on the poetic side. They often go around saying God is love, which is true! Do not get me wrong, but looking at the Christian community and how we express our “love” for one another, I think it is time for a more comprehensive answer. Better yet, we need to be asking a different question:

What does a loving Christian community look like?

Let me make the answer and agenda clear here–UNITED (Colossians 3:14/ see “verses” page).

This remark can be taken at a small scale, looking at individual congregations and parishes, or at a larger scale for Christians in general. Virtuous love brings about a togetherness that makes people inseparable; it makes them willing to sacrifice even when that means compromising comfort for the betterment of others. A perfect illustration is seen in God’s love for us in sending His son so that we may receive redemption to be CLOSER to Him. Notice that love changes your original state. You do not simply remain, but you’re drawn CLOSER, UNITED, no longer in separation if you get my drift. When you commit to God, you commit to loving His community and others as He does. This means attempting to love EVERY Christian equally as you love yourself. Talk about a pride blaster when you think of how incompetent we might be at loving or even thinking of anyone outside of our immediate family or friendship circles.

One may be overwhelmed at the thought of how much energy it must take to serve and devote time to as many people as we encounter. Some might even be convicted as they realize their judgement of other Christians out weigh their love for the Christian community. Don’t think this is you? Create a list of “hypocrites who mar Christianity’s name”. Now create a list of Christians who are not your immediate friends or family that you prayed for this week (Prayer is important people, but of course I’m not judging!) The good news is that we are not perfect, and it is not God’s intent for us to pray for every single name in the phone book (an artifact that I am sure will be obsolete soon). But He does offer just the right amount of challenge with those we come across in our daily lives, or those we are called to actively seek out (Yes, God may not drop them all in front of you, but may require you to go find certain people or particular groups).

Nevertheless, this love is necessary to establish complete unity among us. Unity is not given as a gift; we actually have to work and love (yes love is also an action verb) to establish and keep it, obviously a task we cannot do without God’s help! Yet, still some will argue that we should focus less on “Christian bonding”, and instead channel our love to nonbelievers. They should consider 1 Timothy 5:8:

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” ESV

The premise of this reference is that we need to cater to our households, including spiritual households as well, first. What does this look like?

Actions:

a willingness to help and serve others. On a small scale this may mean chipping in to take care of a family in need in the congregation. On a large scale this may mean dedicating funds or resources to another churches in need regardless of denomination.

praying for other Christians and churches. This might require a little effort of seeing what missions and ministries other churches are committed to and promoting and praying for those. This can be the congregation of another family member or one your church frequently interacts with. Also, we can simple pray for fellow brothers and sisters.

hosting more joint events. There is no need to reinvent the wheel if someone else has something going on or a ministry in place. We as Christians should not be afraid to work together in promoting and responding to similar causes.  Like in any loving relationship, we should be willing to work together.

Attitude:

having respect for one another. While we are still in a stage where Christians embrace different doctrinal beliefs, it is important to let our love be balanced with our discernment for each other. At no point should we ever treat each other as unequal or as if our beliefs make us better. This attitude may be hard for those that like to be right. Newsflash: Only God is completely righteous. It is His job to judge. Your job is to be obedient and “love thy neighbor as thyself” (in Old English at the courtesy of King James).

having compassion for other Christians. It might be hard to have feelings about or for other Christians who are different from you or who you may view as immoral or misguided. If they are trying to love and follow Christ, it is your job to willingly encourage them in their journey and to grow. This does not mean turn into a control freak and try to change them. It means rejoicing in their growth, mourning with them in their failings, and when one feels led, providing LOVING guidance. No matter who the believer is, we should have excitement and interest in others’ walks. This compassion helps drive prayer, making us feel closer to one another.

having a willingness to be uncomfortable. To love means going outside of your comfort zone for someone. We have to willingly embrace discomfort. This means being willing to support a friend who may need a buddy to church hop with until they find a home church even if they do choose “the crazy churches”. It means not frowning when a Catholic, Baptist, or a Pentecostal invites you to their church for a special ceremony or event to support them. It means being WILLING.

I can tell you what love does not look like–division, self-righteousness, and total comfort. The list is a whole lot longer (see 1 Corinthians 13). The opposite of love is fear. So if those points seem challenging, be willing to slay your fear in order to love in away that draws all Christians together, not letting us remain simply where we are.

Christians, we got a whole lot of moving closer to do.

Join the movement.

Don’t just remain.

Love creates change!

“Challenging you to be challenged by God”

L.M.

The Christian Identity Crisis: A World Without Denominations

So how is it possible for Christians to unify under one doctrine for complete unity? Some may ask this question with little hope that it can be done or should happen. For those who follow the blog, we know that it should be done from Jesus’ prayer and out of obedience to God’s will. I have the confidence and faith that it can be done through the Holy Spirit coupled with our obedience. But back to the question of how this is possible. The most logical way to do this is by:

  •  First, creating a tight bond of love among Christians (This step seems easy, but as we learned from the last post it may not be) This will create genuine care for our community and a motive for closer association with all members of the Christian community.
  • Second, encouraging a loving and respectful discussion about doctrine in relation to scripture. This dialogue needs to happening in the laity as well as  among clergy and pastors.
  • A list needs to be compiled with churches and doctrines that appear to align with the Bible. Afterwards, the small differences need to all be noted to see if there are overlapping or replicated denominations because I’m betting some of the 1,5000 are redundant.
  • Then the denomination slashing needs to begin. This stage will continue until we compile a comprehensive doctrine backed by scripture and based on truth and by eliminating denominations and doctrines established primarily on minor preferences. This will take guidance from the Holy Spirit, prayer, and faith.

SAY WHAT? You were probably following along until I suggested slaying your denomination. But what about my church’s history and our beloved traditions? You know who else asked those questions and missed out on a great opportunity? The Pharisees. So yes, I am suggesting that you be open to surrendering your current identity. This should all be easy if we were truly following the first step and loving our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves.

You may be wondering what love has to do with with doctrine. We love to use the expression that someone is like family whenever we feel close to them. By family, we mean people that we want to be affiliated with and want others to know are of great significance to us. Family shares a last name (for the most part). How weird would it look for a loving, loyal family to all choose different last names for themselves and take pride in their independence from one another? In a sense, this is what denominationalism is like. The closer to get to someone the more you want to identify your loyalty to them. I have come to realize when you finally get to this point of love with a variety of God’s people the term Christian is not enough; it is the only label that should be used to link us. It is the family name, not Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal, Calvinist, Fundamentalist, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, or AME. For Paul says:

12 Now this I say, that every one of you said, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

But It can also read:

12 Now this I say, that every one of you said, I am of John Calvin; and I of John Smyth; and I of John Wesley; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? Was John Calvin crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of John Smyth?

Yep, unity means surrendering your histories and some of your traditions based on man. It means having an identity crisis until our family comes together in love and loyalty. Some may feel that it is better to agree to disagree. If you feel that way, please browse the Bible verse section. My intent is not to criticize anything but our disobedience as Christians and to encourage us to love and be one body as Christ calls us, not the universal lie as we claim to be (view this argument in the previous posts).

It is okay to enter a love spurred identity crisis. I’m in one now as I review doctrines and worship with my brothers and sisters whose churches I never dared to enter when they weren’t apart of my denomination.

The only identity I have now is Christian. That is the way it should be.

“Challenging you to be challenged by God”

L.M.