law

The Flaw of Faith Alone (Part Two): Lack Of Support

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:42

A blessed Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.  If you haven’t read it, please refer back to my first post on this topic.  Faith Alone gives us freedom from the legalistic Judaism that the Apostles had to preach against and from the Catholic abuses of the Dark Ages in Europe.  But, with freedom comes responsibility.  If we are irresponsible with our freedom of faith, we will be enslaved by our passions, complacency, and even our virtues.  Let us be responsible with our faith in Christ Jesus so that we may grow in spirit and in truth.

Continue To The Light (© John Gresham)

THE FLAW OF FAITH ALONE (Part Two):  LACK OF SUPPORT

(Introduction) The purpose of Faith Alone was to counter the Medieval Catholic sale of indulgences requiring people to give “X” amount of contributions to particular causes or do other questionable acts for the sake of salvation.  It was a doctrine of freedom from abusive priest, bishops, and other hierarchical clergy.

(Antithesis)  We too often use Faith Alone as an excuse from participating in actions and doctrines handed down through the scriptures and early church to help us build and strengthen our faith.  Our typical excuse is, “The Lord Knows My Heart.”

(Thesis)  Faith Alone cannot stand alone.  Without proper support, faith becomes a hollow shell ready to collapse.

(Relevant Question)  What else does faith need to be fulfilling, enduring, and growing?

(Points)

  • Sound Doctrine, not doctrine that sounds good
  • Christ-centered fellowship, not celebrities and fans
  • Prayer life, not lip service

(Conclusion)  Continue daily and steadfastly

A Diary of the Apostles Fast (Second Tuesday): Something Special From The Ordinary

When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), …

John 2:9

(This is a part of my Bible Study series “A Pursuit of the Spirit of Christ)

A Stream (© John Gresham)

Though we can see it as an embarrassment, to run out of wine at a wedding party was no major catastrophe.  Miscalculations and over-indulgences are typical factors of life.  Having special vessels or other objects set aside for religious ceremonies is nothing new either.  Nothing lives without water.  And when the good wine is gone, the prudent will stop drinking while the foolish will drink the worst of the beverage.  Jesus came to save our souls.  Rescuing wedding receptions from disaster by misusing holy things with a common element so people can keep drinking doesn’t seem to fit his mission.  “Woman, what does your concern have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come.”

The woman who brings this problem to Jesus is his mother, Mary.  Despite his words, the Son heeds the intercession of his mother as written in the law of his culture.  As he is Holy, he uses the jars of purification to house the miracle.  The material for the miracle is water no different from for drinking for sustenance.  But, because Jesus gives directions to the servants and they follow them, what was ordinary has now become extraordinary.  Not only does the ordinary become extraordinary for the sake of it’s making.  This best wine is given when there was no hope for anything better.  When guest would have either exercised prudence or wallowed in drunkenness.  And it was the obedient servants who were the active participants in this change.

Yes, we should have others to pray for us as we seek Jesus for ourselves.  Our Lord is merciful in our times of miscalculations and over-indulgences.  He can use the best and the base of what we are to enliven us in ways that are unexpected.  Something greater can be made from us that will give new hope and direction to those around us.  All we have to do is obey his uncomplicated directions.

 

A Pursuit of the Spirit of Christ: In the Beginning

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

John 1:1

A Douthat Sunrise (© John Gresham/DCR)

The opening 18 verses of John’s Gospel is the glory of Jesus Christ in a nutshell.  Jesus is described as the light and giver of life.  Though John the Baptist may have revealed the light, he isn’t to be confused as the light.  Belief in the light is what gives us rebirth not as physical creatures.  We become children of God.  It is impossible to truly pursue the Spirit of Christ without accepting this introduction of who Jesus is.

Before anything else existed, the Word existed.   In many religions (and among many Christians), things such as commandments, law, and morality are put at the forefront of faith.  Word is far more meaningful to true spiritual pursuit than these things.  Commandment, law, and morality are useful as they set limits of behavior and practice for the good of individuals and society.  There can be no civilization and community without them.  But, they were not there in the creative process of God and only appeared after creation took place.  Adam was given a commandment after the Lord God made him and placed him in the garden with the tree that he was forbidden to eat from.  The Law of Moses was given after the Lord God made the promise of land to Abraham’s descendants and they were free from Egypt and slavery.  So, to have a faith where the morality and the Word are one in the same is wrong.  Morality is secondary as it is a created boundary.   A true pursuit of Jesus must focus on pursuing the Word.

The fact that the Word became flesh goes above and beyond the latter boundaries.  For the creator to take the form of the created ends the wall of separation between the two.  The creator can easily reject the created because of its flaws and faults.  He who made the flesh has every right to condemn it for its constant infringements of commandments, law breaking, and immorality.  Yet, this Word possesses light and life.  These qualities have no rejection in themselves.  But, they offer renewal to anyone who is willing to accept them.  And as these qualities are a part of the Word that was with God and is God, light and life are far more desirable, powerful, and merciful than the secondary boundaries of commandment, law, and morality.  According to these, we should all die in our sins.  The Word gives us light and life in the fullest as it became flesh and dwelt among us.  A true pursuit of Jesus calls for us to behold his glory. 

 He came first to those who had all of the necessary boundaries for righteousness in individuals and society.  But, they held on to their law and ancestry rather than receive him and believe in his name.  Adhering to Mosaic Law and claiming Abraham as their father were the spoken grave mistakes of the Jews in the Gospels.  We run the risk of being just like them when we cling so tightly to morality, race, and nationality that we cannot accept the Word that created all things.  Our righteousness is limited to ourselves and what we believe should be done.  The righteous Word is all merciful and reaches out to all that will accept his authority over their lives.  Our boundaries govern those born of flesh.  To receive him and believe in his name is to be born of God.

May we be born of God, pursue the Word, and behold His Glory.

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Fifth Thursday)

… “I have faith.  Help my lack of faith!”   Mark 9:24

The boy’s father is so much like most of us today.  Our distress seems incurable.  Our ailments are traumatic and have lasted for years.  The best representatives of God fail us.  Thus, when we are in his presence, we don’t expect much.  We believe in Christ.  But, we have been accustomed not to expect much.  Marriages fail, addicts relapse, friendships remain broken, goals are unfulfilled, and hope is dashed to pieces because we have been accustomed not to expect much.

Cleat on the Creek (© John Gresham)

Jesus gives rebuke and retort with restoration in this case.  He bemoans faithlessness.  Not just the father, disciples, and scribes.  The entire generation is criticized for lack of faith.  A blind man believed with no doubt.  So did a lame man who may or may not have been seeking a physical healing.  Yes, Jesus was merciful and healed the son.  But, mercy should not be taken for granted.  We must come to the presence of God believing in him for who he is and that he is able.

Along with faith, let us also be dedicated to the power granted to us through prayer and fasting.  A disciple must be disciplined to grow in communion with God and be disattached from the things of this world.  Faith alone may be enough for some peace in mind.  But, without strong communion with God and disattatchment from the world, adverse spirits will confound us.

Yours in Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Fifth Wednesday)

Elijah appeared to them with Moses and they were talking to Jesus.    Mark 9:4

Law and prophecy are important elements of any established religion.  One to set guidelines for moral behavior.  The other to give us the current and active voice of God.  The Jewish religion was firmly founded on these separate concepts.

Glory in Growth (© John Gresham)

After a few days from Peter’s correct definition and failed attempt of rebuking his mission, Jesus reveals the glorious supremacy of his divinity.  The Christ is the embodiment of law and prophecy.  He is the standard of righteousness and the current voice of holiness.  True faith must never separate the two.  A standard uninformed by a God who speaks at the present is stagnant and dying.  A constantly moving voice without a standard is easily misled to death.  Jesus is the foundation of Moses and the voice of Elijah.  He is complete.  The transfiguration confirms that he is purity, spirit, and the Son of God.  His very being is too great for us to bear.  His compassion allows us to draw near and follow him.  So much for Peter’s attempted subversion.  Alas for anyone who is ashamed of him.

If one’s walk with Jesus can be co-opted by human ideas or cast aside by worldly fear, the walk is false.  No, true faith sees the fullness of the mysterious power of God.  With reverent fear we are to embrace and follow Jesus as he is so much more than we can imagine.  His synthesis of law and prophecy is the reason we carry the cross.  His love and compassion gives us the strength to do so.

Your Brother in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

 

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Third Tuesday)

“Nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean; it is the things that come out of someone that makes that person unclean.  Anyone who has ears for listening should listen!” Mark 7:15, 16

There is a great concern among many about the outward appearance of religion.  That the rituals we perform in public are of an utmost importance.  Lent is a traditional time of fasting.  Those of us who observe it certainly don’t want to be seen with a barbecue sandwich in our hands or something else we are restricted from eating.  Strict observance of such dietary rules do not make us  any more worthy of salvation than those who don’t.  The discipline of fasting is a tradition we are free to accept and reject.  We walk by faith and not sight.  We all see food in front of us.

Higher Ground above fog (© John Gresham)

Vigilance against the things within us is not optional.  We all have capacity to think and act out evil.  Fasting from our unclean ambitions and urges is far more critical to our walk in the spirit than eating red meat after Mardi Gras.  If I were to eat a hamburger today, it will leave my system soon enough.  If I don’t indulge in such eating and exercise, there are no consequences to either my physical or spiritual health.  Lust is different.  It is not excreted from the bowels.  It leaves an imprint on our personhood that affects the way we respond to others.  By its very nature, lust demands more of who we are.  Relationships are broken, responsibility is cast aside, growth as a creature of spirit is stunted.  If left unchecked, it is acted upon in the worst ways.

Take upon whatever tradition you wish and do so in faith.  But, don’t let such things become more important that what we all must fast from.

Your Brother in Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

 

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Second Wednesday)

… “Is it permitted on the Sabbath day to do good, or to do evil, to save life, or to kill?”  Mark 3:4

Tradition and law help to define human culture.  These practices and principles allow mankind to live in order by defining rules of behavior.  Breaking these for the purpose of selfish gain or pleasure violates the spirit of humanity in the whole community.  Such rebels should and must be corrected and, if need be, duly punished.

Croaker Pier (© John Gresham)

But, what happens when tradition and law are broken for better purposes?  Should fasting be universally mandated to all in the same way, or is it a practice of individual conscience as long as he or she is on a path to spiritual truth?  Must people be denied the things they need for the sake of maintaining a certain ideology?  Shall people be left broken because to heal them would break a certain law?  Jesus broke the tradition and law of his people.  But, he did these things not to feed his greed or lust, which he didn’t have in him.  No, he rebelled for the sake of spirit and humanity.  The pursuit of holiness is more than self-denial of necessary nourishment.  The needs of people should be met no matter what day it is.  It is never the wrong day to do good, heal, and save.

Some misguided blacks as well as racist whites thought that Dr. Martin Luther King should have been patient and waited for the day of integration and racial reconciliation to come.  But, from the Birmingham City Jail, he made us quite aware of the fact that no one should wait to bring about the goodness of God.   It was illegal for Maximilian Kobe to give aid to persecuted Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland.  This man with a German name could have easily avoided death at Auschwitz.  But, he offered his life in the place of another.  These and many others didn’t break the law for their own personal benefit.  But, they did so in pursuit of spirit to give freedom and life to a suffering humanity.

Let us obey tradition and law that does maintain proper order for a functioning society.  But, when they prevent people from receiving the fullness of spirit and life, God calls us to rebel and do so in the holy love of Jesus.

Your Brother in Christ our Lord,

Cyrprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene