Month: September 2013

Today’s Sermon: The Truth Is In The Trinity

Trinity Baptist Church, West Point

We need to be very careful of the ministers and ministries we follow.  Not everything that proclaims Jesus Christ is Christian.

THE TRUTH IS IN THE TRINITY
Luke 3:21, 22

From the time of the apostles to the foundation of the Baptist church, all Christians believed in that God revealed and reveals himself in three persons; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” I offer you two sources. From our own Articles of Faith we have these words: …that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; equal in every divine perfection, and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption. As the early church fathers established Christian doctrine, St. Basil of Cappadociea gave us this standard from the scriptures: The Holy Spirit is one and we speak of him as unique since…

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Today’s Sermon: Antioch Still Matters

I declare my solidarity with the Patriarchate of Antioch.

Trinity Baptist Church, West Point

ANTIOCH STILL MATTERS
Acts 11:25-26 & 13:1-3

Two thousand years ago, there was a city and a region in eastern modern-day Syria called Antioch. The city, which no longer exist, was on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the land was between the coast and the city and region of Damascus, which is still the capital of Syria. After the stoning of the deacon Stephen in Jerusalem, the early Christians scattered to various parts of the world. Some like James the brother of our Lord remained in the city. But, some went to Rome, others to Alexandria, others to a tiny village called Byzantium which would later be called Constantinople. Still others went to nearby Antioch. These cities became the five major headquarters of the Christian Church each with its own bishop.
Since then, the church has had many divisions. The bishop of Rome felt himself more important than…

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DropTheFilioque.org

“For Protestants the Nicene Creed is primarily descriptive. They believe that the Nicene Creed does not have authority in itself but is derived from the Bible. In other words, the authority of the Creed is derivative, not substantive. So long as the Nicene Creed is in agreement with Scripture then it is to be accepted. This is consistent with sola Scriptura. However, if a better interpretation of Scripture emerges then it is allowable to amend the Nicene Creed or make an altogether new creedal formula, hence Anglicanism’s 39 Articles, Lutheranism’s Augsburg Confession, the Reformed tradition’s Westminster Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Second Helvetic Confession, etc.”
Because we prefer to see the creed as a description rather than the prescription of who God is, we are the first ones joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Jakes & Perry Circus: An Answer To A Friend

I see the Holy Spirit blessing in this. I don’t believe Tyler Perry was playing. He’s a blessed man of God who told the truth. God wants us to share our riches. People are so use to seeing Perry as Madea, we need to also look at how God has blessed him and rejoice with him. He’s smart, anointed, and trusts God. I don’t know about you, but I pray that God will bless me enough to write million dollar checks. Like he said, God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. Don’t hate, appreciate. Anticipate the blessing that God promised. You never know who God may send the blessing through or to.

My Friend,
It is silly ministry stunts like this so common in modern Protestantism that has driven me to the path of Orthodox Christianity. I could attack this ridiculous pep rally in a few different areas. But, let me focus on one major point that we have received from Jesus Christ himself:
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”   Matthew 6:1-4

What our Lord taught on the Sermon on the Mount is the direct opposite of the circus in this video. I don’t curse Tyler Perry and his success. Nor do I have anything against him giving any amount of money to any cause he sees fit. The problem is in the way that he did it. Had he simply mailed the check, or transferred funds to TD Jakes’s account with no fanfare, according to scripture, the Father in heaven would have blessed the gift. Indeed, doing the will of the Father by obeying the words of the Son (Matthew 7:24-27) means that the Holy Spirit blesses the act as well as all three persons of the Holy Trinity are co-equal and consubstantial.

Sermon on the Mount

Yet, look at what happens in the video. A famous entertainer is on a major stage with a famous minister in a large congregation mentioning another large conference also produced by the said minister. So, he is clearly in a place to be seen among the righteous religious leaders even though (to my knowledge) he has no clerical credentials. What does he do? He announced his contribution of money that the average attendee of this service obviously cannot afford to give. The announcement is made with loud praises and tongue speaking. It was as if a whole band of trumpets were sounding. Oh sure, they all may have been saying “praise God, hallelujah,” and other Christian expressions. But, Perry still was disobedient to the commandment of Jesus Christ! He did a charitable deed before men to be seen by them and received glory from men! Thus, as he has violated the word of the Son, he has no reward from the Father. And as this act was against two persons of the Trinity, why would the third person, the Holy Spirit, bless such a thing?
Let me not be critical of Perry’s sincerity. He did a good thing giving money to TD Jakes’s youth center. But, had he read the scriptures, he would have known it would be better for him to do it in private as Jesus instructed. Here is the danger in what he has done. Now the masses that were there looked up to the famous man who gave the large amount. They praise God and celebrate such a wonderful gift. But, what about the person who doesn’t have nearly as much to give nor the ability to give? Perhaps there was a “Tonya Perry” in their midst who despite being on welfare, gave whatever was in her penny jar to help this youth center. In the eyes of Jesus, who gave the most (Mark 12:41-44)?
“Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had, her whole livelihood.” (Mark 12:43-44)
So, what we have is a mass of people (ministers as well as laypersons) who’s praises are more focused on the fame and fortune gift and ignoring the word of the Savior they serve (Matthew 6:19-24). Again, the words of the Son have been ignored. Needless to say, the Father whom He is One with has been overlooked as well. Thus, with the Father and Son being in the co-equal and consubstantial Trinity, could the Holy Spirit be involved in this?
I do not think Tyler Perry is a bad person. Despite my doctrinal differences with him, I respect and honor TD Jakes for his effort to do something for young people. But, this was an unfortunate circus act allowed by ministers who failed to stand on the teachings of Jesus Christ. A left-field, out of context reference to the 23rd Psalm did not impress me (who was stopping Jakes from building a youth center?). Using the name of the Lord and spiritual expressiveness does not hide facts that the wrong method of giving was used and the wrong concept of giving was shown.
I have serious issues with pop-media Christianity, especially as it tends to stray away from the way the holy scriptures had been interpreted since ancient times. Too many of us are being fooled by any and everything that sounds religious and stirs us up. Paul teaches us to be sober as we wait for that Day that comes like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). I have no problem with people being joyous nor having plenty of money. But, it is possible for people to get drunk on these things as quickly as liquor or wine. Perhaps I am a bit of a critic, and please forgive me if I have personally insulted you or anyone else I know or don’t know. But if being sober minded in faith and true to the scriptures means being a hater, what is the definition of hate?

There Is An Alternative: Letter To A Frustrated Friend

I’m thinking about crossing over to the easy happy-side of “gospel” where there are no requirements only rewards.

Dear Cotton-Candy Christians: God is not an ATM. The Commandments are not suggestions. And Church is not a pep-rally.

What is the point of the gospel if we keep moving the boundaries to fit around our desires & actions?

Dear Terrance,

Please forgive me for addressing you on my blog.  But, look at the bright side.  I did change your name to protect the innocent 🙂 .

All jokes aside, reading your statements on Facebook yesterday reminds me of the questions I have asked myself for years about our Protestant church and the direction it is heading in.  You always considered me a “hard brother” in part because I used to cut against the grain of what was popular among ministers and ministries.  I was hardened by the fact that I didn’t like what I saw in many areas of our faith and practice and could not find any firm alternative.  It seems that you are coming around to my realm of frustrations of our modern Christianity.  But, I am not as frustrated as I used to be because I have found the answer.  Let me address each of your gripes listed.

Me with St. Cyprian of Carthage (© John Gresham)

Me with St. Cyprian of Carthage (© John Gresham)

“I’m thinking about crossing over to the easy happy-side of “gospel” where there are no requirements only rewards.”  Of course, we know that Christianity was an outlaw religion during the first 300 years of its existence.  Yet, there were believers like Anthony were so dedicated to the Gospel that he left his desert hermitage to visit his imprisoned brothers & sisters with the hopes that he too would be martyred.  Then a funny thing happened.  Some guy name Constantine became emperor and legalized Christianity.  Not only weren’t people scared to be Christians, they readily accepted the faith because it was the “in” thing to do.  Folk thought it would look good on their resumes and social networks to practice the faith that the emperor just legitimized.  Hardcore believers like Anthony went right back to the deserts and built wilderness monasteries to get away from the “rah-rah” believers.  Those who could not afford to make such a drastic move visited and learned disciplines of prayer, fasting, reading the scriptures, and made it a point to live to love and do good to others.  Of course I see the sarcasm of your statement.  Apparently, the model of Anthony who truly followed Christ fits your walk better than the Joel Ostiens of what passes for Christianity.

I absolutely loved your second statement.  “Dear Cotton-Candy Christians: God is not an ATM. The Commandments are not suggestions. And Church is not a pep-rally.”  You mean there should be something more to our faith than sugar and fluff?  As you know, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  St. Isaac the Syrian’s words cut across the grain of the “cotton-candy” of his time.  Our lives are given to us for repentance, the very first thing Jesus preached after his fasting and temptations and going into Galilee.  Repentance doesn’t attract people the same way revenue does.  Repentance used to be a part of the church life of the Christian.  The Catholics abused the practice.  We Protestants threw it out of the church completely.  Well, that left a vacuum that is now being filled with rich preachers telling people they can be rich if they make them rich first.  Commandments?  Why do that when one can coddle and comfort?  When people are coddled and comforted, they are more likely to give up the cash.  And what makes crowds feel like giving into empty promises like a good pep rally?  If it is “anointed” and “spirit-filled”  people can put their mortgage payments on the pulpit knowing that the pastor will bless their offering.  Only latter they will find themselves homeless as pastor flies away in his new jet.  The empty and meaningless pursuit of wealth is one of the vain things Christ tried to warn us against in the Gospels and through the saints.  There is another quote from Isaac that when applied to one’s walk protects us against sugar coating like a fluoride tooth paste:  The man who follows Christ in solitary mourning is greater than he who praises Christ amid the congregation of men.  

And now for the most cutting question you raised. “What is the point of the gospel if we keep moving the boundaries to fit around our desires & actions?”  In 1054, the Bishop of Rome wasn’t satisfied with having only a position of honor among his brothers and the concept of three equal persons of the Trinity.  So, he shunned his fellows and made himself the head of the whole church and relegated the Holy Spirit as being subject to the Father and Son.  Later, a ticked-off German monk with some nearby printing presses felt it was fine for everyone to interpret the Bible with or without the Holy Tradition that put the books together in the first place (he made his point by replacing the apostle’s version of the Old Testament with the one made up by later Pharisees).  Then a Swiss lawyer came up with the idea that one is blessed or damned no matter what they say or do.  And today, we have 33,000 different churches based on whatever popular man or woman says, “MY BIBLE TELLS ME.”  In such circumstances, the gospel is little more than one’s source of entertainment and self-assurance.

Terrance, I am not asking you to do anything drastic.  But, I have found Eastern Orthodox Christianity to be the perfect and only real alternative to the circus that is modern Protestantism.  This is the faith, practice, tradition, and worship that was handed down from Jesus Christ to the apostles, to the church fathers.  The church has not changed from the seven ecumenical councils and is still alive today.  Why not take the time to explore Orthodoxy for yourself?  You like comparisons and putting one side vs. the other to make the best choice.  Father Andrew Damick put up one of the best side by side comparisons you’ll find anywhere.   http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/orthodoxyheterodoxy.  There are several Orthodox Churches within a 15 mile radius of your home.  Call the priest and visit when you can.  With your education, I don’t suspect you to convert quickly, if at all.  I suspect you will make rational arguments against the faith.  But, I have told you about my journey months ago and you have been strangely silent.

If Orthodox Christianity is not the alternative to the “tom-foolery” that you railed against last night, please write back and tell me what is wrong with the direction that I am walking.  Because some time after 2015, I could convert.  But if you cannot come up with an alternative to the persistent degeneration of the Protestant Christian faith into sugar and fluff, may God make a way for you and I both to embrace the ancient faith.