Ordinary Holiness ??


Love of our Lord reveals itself in the profound ordinariness of a holy life.  —  Leaving Faith “at the doorstep” is impossible if we truly follow Christ, because True Faith unavoidably influences how we live our lives.

Salvation is through Faith in the free gift of God’s Grace, given through Jesus; the Father’s only begotten Son and our Christ. (Galatians 2:16)  Yet, IF that Faith is real, it will be evidenced through the fruit of Good Works. (James 2:14-26 )  So, if our day-to-day life does not reflect Christ and His commands, our claim of Faith in Christ may actually be false… AND our Salvation may be in question….  (1 John 2:3-6)

That said, growing in Faith and growing as a Christian is a process… and, sometimes, simple tools can help us along this journey…  In today’s divided, uprooted, and hectic society, a surprising number of Christians are re-discovering the benefit and blessings of voluntarily submitting to a Rule of Life.  Striving to keep a Rule of Life is a response to God’s love and is a personal commitment to the guidance of His discipline. A Rule calls us to a standard of practical foundations, which strengthen our relationship with our Christ, provide the quiet of soul needed to hear His voice, and improve our witness of His love for the world.

In the 1st letter of John, we’re reminded; “15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[d] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever… (1 John 2:15-17)

A Rule of Life is a calling; it is embraced, rather than enforced. Its daily obligations call us away from distractions and turn the soul toward wholehearted Christian life. A Rule is a pilgrimage; a continued expression of love and faith in God, a daily witness to His Presence, and a focal point in daily renewal of relationship with Christ.

I offer these Ordered Precepts of life and ministry for your prayerful consideration……

A RULE of LIFE

+  Remember that we have freely chosen to become property of the most high God and that, through Baptism, we bear His mark. Therefore, we and our lives no longer belong to ourselves, but become our own freewill offerings (sacrifice) to Jesus our Christ. (James 1:1 / Philippians 1:1 / Rom 1:1 / Jude 1:1/ 2 Peter 2:19 / 1 Cor 7:22 /Dt 15:16-18)
+  Remember that our God works within and through time, and that His Spirit guides His people in “history.” We acknowledge that our God of History has revealed His Word through men, and that His Holy Spirit actively caused Scripture to be trustworthy, to be codified, and to contain the Words of Life. We pray for wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit as we seek to understand His Word. Our interpretation is also informed through both Reason and Tradition. Yet, we must always confess that this living Word of God is uniquely above both Reason and Tradition, and that it serves as their judge. (John 1:1-3 / Luke 16:16-17 / Matt 5:18 / Rev 22:7-21)
+  Abide faithfully within the order of creation and the complementarity revealed in Scripture. The Father creates us each intentionally, and how we are made is part of His call upon our lives. (Genesis 2:18-24, 5:1-2 / Eph. 5:22-33 / Titus 2)
+  Let all of you live in oneness of mind and heart, mutually honoring God in yourselves, whose temples you have become. (1 Corinthians 6:19)
+  Be assiduous in prayer (Colossians 4:2), at consistent hours and times that are set aside.
+  When reading the Word and when praying to God in Psalms and hymns, think over in your hearts the words which enter your eyes and come from your lips. Let the Lord’s Word fill your hearts and speech. (Psalm 1:2 / Luke 6:45 / Psalm 49:3 / James 1:22-25 / Psalm 77:11-13)
+  As appropriate, and as health permits, make an offering of your will and discipline to the Lord by refraining from food, drink, or small indulgences. Abstinence is a strong complement to times of prayer, listening, and seeking our Lord’s guidance. (Luke 2:37 / Acts 13:2, 14:23) As Scripture advises (Matt 6:16-18), it is most appropriate for this to be a private matter that draws no attention.
There should be nothing about your clothing to attract attention. You should not seek approval by your apparel, but by a good life. (James 1:9-11 / 1 Peter 1:23-25)
+  Strive to master the tongue and to keep your speech moderate, for this honors the Lord and strengthens your witness. (Matt 15:18 / James 3:4-6 / James 1:19-21, 26)
+  In your walk, deportment, in all actions and decisions, avoid being a cause of offense to anyone who sees you. Let your actions be a witness of Christ, whom we serve.. (1 Corinthians 8:9 / 2 Corinthians 6:3)
Give no place to temptation and exercise care over purity of life. Guard your eyes, that they may not become an avenue of sin. Dwelling upon unGodly thoughts or resting our gaze upon a tempting view creates opportunity for sin. (Job 31:1 / Proverbs 5:15-21 / Proverbs 27:20 / Mark 14:38 / James 1:13-15)
If you notice wantonness of the eye in one of your brethren, admonish him at once and offer mutual accountability, so that the beginning of evil will not grow more serious but will be promptly corrected. (Galatians 6:1)
Let our work and ministry both be prayer and be a partner with our prayer. Find joy in the work that God sets your hands to, for in this we share and partner in His creation. Work is sanctified when it becomes a prayer, an offering, and a service of love to God and to others. Let it be the mark of Christ that is on our foreheads and our hands.  (Psalms 8:3-9 / Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 / Hebrews 2:6-8 / Revelation 14:1,9-13)
+  Rest is a gift from God and not to be neglected; He knows how He made us and what we need. Therefore work without rest is not a Godly thing. Honor the Sabbath principle by resting and recreating as appropriate. (Genesis 2:3 / Exodus 20:8-11 / Mark 2:22-29)

How to Approach a “Rule”….   When you find that you are doing all within the Rule, give thanks to the Lord, the Giver of every Good and continue striving to put Christ on, daily. But when you find that you have failed on any point, simply offer true contrition for missing the mark, be on guard for the future, and pray that you may walk more faithfully, not be led into temptation, and that you may serve our Christ all the more fervently

May our Lord grant that we may faithfully observe these precepts in a spirit of love and charity, and thereby offer witness of Christ through our lives: not as slaves living under the law, but as men living in freedom under grace.

Shalom…. Michael+

AUXILIO DEI

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Cultural Jihad – Can We Live Within Sharia, but Remain Christian?


 So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Mt. 10:32-33 / RSV)

With riots in Egypt, Bahrain, and probably soon Saudi Arabia, we see a growing unrest in the Muslim world, calls for the overthrow of Israel, and even hear calls for a global Islamic Caliphate by leading proponents (such as the Muslim Brotherhood) of that very unrest. With allied support for these efforts from within our own government and worldwide socialist organizations, these efforts seem to be making progress.  Many commentators, even secular ones insist that this poses no concern for Christians. Yet, in an increasing number of countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Somalia, Kenya, India, and Indonesia, we are witnessing Islamic persecution of Christians growing sharply.

Even in our own country, we see increasing efforts by CAIR and others (like the groups in Dearborn, MI) to undermine our Constitutionally protected religious freedoms by pressing for Sharia (Islamic Law) to become the governing law of the land. After blithely ignoring guarantees of religious freedom in the U.S. Constitution, proponents and protectors of Radical Islam insist that this is really a good thing for everyone and presents no problem; asserting that fellow “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews), would be “protected” with Dhimmi status, in any case.

These events force consideration of two questions; (1) What has Dhimmitude under Sharia looked like so far in Muslim countries?, and (2) is this a status that Bible-believing Christians could accept, in good conscience?

First, a bit of background…

Jihad is the Islamic struggle to bring the world into union with the will of Allah. In Classical Islam, the theology/ideology of jihad has been formulated and clarified by Muslim theologians from the eighth century onward. The theology of jihad consistantly separates humanity into two competing blocks; Muslims, and the Infidels (non-believers). According to proponents of jihad, Allah commands that Muslims conquer the Infidel world and apply Allah’s Koranic laws. In this form of Islam, war against the Infidel or Kafir (Arabic: كافر ; plural كفار ; a term for non-Muslims meaning “concealer of the truth”) only ceases when they are dead, when they convert, or when they “submit.”

When non-Muslim peoples are conquered and colonized by jihad, they are forced to live under Sharia.  Sharia (Arabic: شريعة‎ “way” or “path”) is the sacred law of Islam.  In Islamic nations, a dhimmi (Arabic: ذمي‎ ), (collectively أهل الذمة ahl al-dhimmah, “the people of the dhimma or people of the contract”) is the non-Muslim subject of a state which is governed in accordance with sharia law.

In return for taxes, intended to demonstrate “submission” to Allah and to Islam, Dhimmi are excused from specifically Muslim duties, but have fewer legal and social rights than Muslims.

OK, now on to our two questions….

(1) What has Dhimmitude under Sharia looked like so far in Muslim countries?

Recognizing that there are regional variations, the dhimmi has traditionally been forbidden to possess weapons, forbidden to defend against aggression by a Muslim, forbidden to give testimony against a Muslim, and is generally put in a position of vulnerability and humility. These rules specifically address the Sharia mandate that the implementation of dhimma must enforce the Qur’an’s command that the Infidels “feel themselves subdued” (Sura 9:29). Submitting to the Dhimmi Tax functions as legal acknowlegment of being “subdued.”

Under Sharia, paying the tax required to become a Dhimmi fulfills the Qur’an’s Sura 9:29 mandate of “submission” by symbolically acknowledging that Allah is the only true God and that Mohammed is God’s true prophet. [Note: By placing variations of the word “submit” in quotes, I am indicating that I am using the term according to the Islamic understanding of the word.]

In countries ruled by Islamic Law, the news reports almost weekly that when a Christian or Jew insists upon their own religious “rights,” or dares to question, or respectfully disagree with an Islamic assertion, Sharia routinely deems them non-“submissive”, accuses them of blasphemy, and punishes them with death. Forced conversions are routine, and a death sentence awaits anyone who becomes Christian. In Iran, Christians have even been subjected to 80 lashes, for participating in Communion.

Followers of Sharia often deny that persecution exists. Sometimes they’re simply lying….  However, more often, they actually have an inverted view of reality; what we see as persecution, they simply re-label “justice.”  This has recently been exemplified by the recent actions of Egypt’s President Morsi, in reference to the open persecution of our Coptic Christian brethren.  From his own words and actions, it’s clear that he doesn’t consider the murders, rapes, false accusations, and church burnings to be persecution. When the Copts were being forced to leave Rafah, under threats of violence, President Morsi’s appointed Governor simply offered to help them find another town to live in.

(2) Does Biblical Christianity permit us to “submit” to Allah and Islam??

Remember; according to the teachings of Islam, when a Kafir “submits” by paying the tax to become a Dhimmi, he is symbolically acknowledging that Allah is the only true God and that Mohammed is God’s true prophet. This creates a direct conflict with Christianity…

In Paul’s letter to the Galations we are told “…even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galations 1:8) Over 500 years after Paul wrote this, under the inspiration of the God’s Holy Spirit, an angel (claiming to be the angel Gabriel) appeared to a man named Mohammed and “revealed” a new gospel to him, verse-by-verse.  Coincidence?

Although Politically Incorrect, it is impossible to avoid recognizing that God’s warning in Galations clearly applies to the founding of Islam, as well as to the iman (Arabic: إيمان‎ ;faith) of its mu’min (Arabic: مؤمن‎ ; believer). Unless we claim that the Bible is false (which, by the way, is what the teachings of Islam claim), we are left with no option but to recognize that the god of the Koran is NOT the God of the Bible.

The 3rd Chapter of the Book of Daniel records that, even under threat of torture and death, three young Hebrew men refused to “fall down and worship” the golden idol that King Nebuchadnezzar set up. Nebuchadnezzar’s idol was a false god and they were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their God; the God who is above all gods. We are called to live up to this witness.

Even more bluntly, in Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus tells us that “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” In verse 34, he continues;Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.

“Submitting” to Islam not only ruins our witness to the world, according to Jesus our Saviour, it also imperils our Salvation. No… Biblical Christianity does not permit us to “submit” to Allah and Islam!

If we “submit” to Islam, we deny Christ by bowing down and worshipping (by way of a monetary sacrifice) a foreign god. This sort of false peace is not the Shalom of Jesus; our Christ and our God. Indeed this is precisely what He is at war with; those who are anti-Christ are His (and our) enemies… not our friends.

IF, we love Christ and bear His name, we MUST strive against the bald-faced call to for us to bow to evil, which both Sharia and Dhimmitude represent…. Understand, we do not serve a milk-toast God! Jesus could not have been killed on the cross unless He permitted it (Matthew 26:53), He will return one day in judgement (Revelation 2:12-29), and in the meantime He has authorised us (Luke 22:35-38) to defend ourselves!

Our relationship with the one and only Living God depends on whether we publicly serve Him and stand for Him (Matthew 10:32-33). We must call one another to courage and to uphold the Cross of Christ, even if we must stand in the fire (Matthew 24:9-13).

As with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, our God will not make us stand alone…. He will stand with us!

Shalom!

Michael+, MSJ

AUXILIO DEI

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Inequality is the root of social evil… Inequality? Really??


“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies (just) because they become fashions.”- G.K. Chesterton

The Vatican has created a Twitter feed for Pope Francis.  It’s not clear whether Pope Francis sends out his own Tweets, has a secretary do that for him, or whether he employs a ghost writer, as so many mega-church pastors are prone to do.  However, it seems clear that these brief missives do, in fact, represent messages approved by this modern, Franciscan-trained Pope.

On April 28th, Pope Francis [@Pontifex] Tweeted; “Inequality is the root of social evil.”  Unfortunately, this is a false statement!  Claiming “inequality” as the root of all of societal evil is precisely the same as when an adolescent complains; “It’s not fair!!”

As recorded in the third chapter of Genesis, the Father of Lies appealed to this same childish emotion of ours, in convincing our ancestors that it wasn’t fair for God to forbid eating of the tree in the middle of the Garden; “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Gen. 2:15-17, Gen. 3:1-13)  The root of the problem was not “inequality,” but rather the coveting of something which was not ours.

Pope Francis’ Tweet fits the fashion of our globally neo-communist pop-culture but it sadly ignores what Scripture teaches. Truth does not change….   Perhaps his Holiness needs a new ghost writer….?!?             ;)

Fair vs. Appropriate (Hogen [הוגן]) = Man vs. God

There is an ancient truism of learning; “precept builds upon precept.”  Language is important because it builds a foundation of how and which foundational precepts can be conveyed. The language which we are raised within creates the basis from which we relate to the world; it tends to open our eyes to certain ideas, while minimizing the value of others.  If we trust that the Creator of the Universe could have chosen to reveal Himself via any language on the planet, then His choice of Hebrew appears intentional… and the conceptual foundations created by Hebrew also seem intentional.

If our Creator reveals himself in Hebrew thought patterns, then it begins to seem rather important that Hebrew has no word for “fair.”  Although the Hebrew word “Hogen” [הוגן] is sometimes mistranslated as “Fair”, in proper context, it actually means something more akin to “appropriate” or “upright.”  Upright and Appropriate are profoundly different from Fair!

This is why Rabbi Daniel Lapin explains

“In Israel you might hear a youngster protesting to his mother in Hebrew, Zeh Loh Fair.  The first two words mean “This is not…”  The third word means exactly what it says in English—fair.  The juvenile is saying that his mother is unfair.  You see, there is no word in Hebrew for the concept of fair.  He had no choice other than using the English. This is because “fair” is a false concept with no reality….  For millennia, Hebrew has had an unbroken history of effectively conveying both verbal and written information.  Its power lies not only in what you can communicate in Hebrew but also in what you can’t.”

Since “fair” is so impressively absent in the primary language God chose for Revelation, it is reasonable to infer that “fair” is not a God-given precept… The concept of “fair” is a man-made construct which is entirely absent from the Old Testament, and it even fares poorly when it is briefly mentioned in the New Testament.  In Matthew 20:1–16, the workers complain that those who began work late should receive less pay than those who began work early.  I can almost hear their cries of; “It’s not fair!”  However, the answer from the vineyard owner (representing God) is that He paid each what was previously agreed to, and had the right to do as He wished with his own money.  In fact, He rightly accused them of envy!  God’s measure of justice is not “fair”…. but it is “hogen” [הוגן].

 The genuine Root of Evil = Covetousness

Additionally, the principle of God-given private property is founded in Scripture, which is why historic Christianity and Judaism have always supported this as a primary value. The teaching of the First Fruits (aka. the Tithe) recognizes that nothing we “own” is truly ours, but rather it is all given to us by the hand of God.  Although we are merely stewards and we will be judged regarding how we use what God has provided,  what we each have is ours to dispose of… either until He comes again or until we go to meet Him.  There is nothing in Scripture which supports man forcibly taking from one and giving to another.  That is God’s purview… not ours!

On the contrary, we are told repeatedly throughout Scripture that evil is rooted in coveting that which is not ours; Coveting the Forbidden Fruit (Gen.3:6), Coveting a Birthright (Gen.25:31), Coveting fields and houses (Micah 2:2), Coveting the works and labor of others (Nehemiah 5:1-11), Coveting another man’s wife (2 Samuel 11 ), and on and on…

Covetousness is so important that our Lord broadly forbade some of the most common and egregious instances: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)

When the Holy Spirit inspired St.Paul’s guidance to the young bishop Timothy, he bluntly stated that “love of money is the root of all evils”. (1 Timothy 6:10)   Love of Money… Lusting after Money… Coveting Money… 

Evil is evil… “social” or otherwise.  The Tweet that “Inequality is the root of social evil” contains a very subtle lie; the almost-hidden implication that the true Sin is in allowing Inequality… When, in truth, the true sin is in nurturing our un-Godly response of a covetous Heart!

Demands for wage mandates, for others with more money to “pay their fair share”, for income equality, for universal health mandates, and for various other sorts of “redistribution of wealth,”  are all manifestations of envy… of covetousness… of lusting after that which belongs to our neighbor.  Inequality is not the root of evil… Covetousness is!

This illustrates the unpleasant reality that terms such as  “social justice” only serve to hide covetousness under a mantle of so-called good intentions, and are nothing more than euphemisms for neo-communism.  Even worse, communism (neo or otherwise) is man attempting to replace God, and unabashedly placing himself (via the government) as a false god, before the true God….  as evidenced by calling man our provider, rather than God as our provider…  This violates the very first commandment that our creator gave us: “You shall have no other gods before me.

As Jesus observes in Scripture, inequality will continue until Christ returns. It is true that Godly stewards of the goods on this earth can (and should) serve Christ by ministering His provision, from their abundance.  However that does not mean that sanctioned theft is Godly… Nor does it mean that Inequality creates Evil. The root of ALL evil, is the state of our hearts in responding to inequality…  “You shall not covet… anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)

In responding to inequality with covetousness draped in the trappings of “social justice”, we are simply lusting after that which is not ours.  This is sin!  IF we, as minister’s of Christ’s gospel, falsely baptize these upside-down, un-Godly ideas and mis-identify the root of sin, we become the very deceivers described in Isaiah 5:20-21.

Inequality is an unpleasant reality.  Amongst the reality of inequality, it’s easy to be dissatisfied if we get our eyes off of Christ and adopt the world’s values.  Instead of complaining that the world should be “fair” and demanding equality, let us call the world to shun the fashionable excuses for covetousness….   Rather than advocating false “solutions” based upon envy, let us encourage one another to trust to the Lord’s provision rather than man’s, and be voluntarily generous stewards of what our Lord has given to each of us.

‘Offered for your prayerful consideration….

Shalom, Christ’s peace!!  — Michael+

AUXILIO DEI

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Commitment of Heart


Simplicity – Chastity – Obedience

For most of the history of Christendom, it has been readily acknowledged that voluntary adherence the “Evangelical Counsels” of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience helps us to to devote ourselves to the service of God.  Yet, for most of us, it is also true that our Lord calls us to serve amidst the practical necessities of living in a Secular Society, and while continuing to honor already-made covenants to spouse and family.

Intended as tools for our spiritual growth, the Evangelical Counsels do not have to create a roadblock…  Instead, as demonstrated by some ancient military, hospitaller, and secular religious orders, some Tertiary (3rd Order) groups, and amongst the early Norbertines, these vows can be adapted to our existing stations and calls. This allows us to honor those pre-existing covenantal commitments while still strengthening our walk with Christ, that ministry that our Lord sets before us, and our Witness to His Good News.

So, to complement the previously posted, non-monastic Rule, here is a possible adaptation of those ancient counsels of Poverty, Chastity, and obedience :

+ Poverty is emphasized through a promise of Simplicity. Regardless of financial status, Simplicity is understood as staying constantly mindful that our real treasure is not of this world and that we are simply stewards of God’s gifts and provision. We are called to devote both time and the fruit of our labor to the service of God, to be contented with what is necessary for our own use, and to actively avoid inappropriate priorities or distractions. If our treasure is truly in heaven, we avoid temptation to idolatry and are freed to serve God rather than mammon. Simplicity of heart helps us to find joy and peace in Christ, who is, and must be, our heart’s true treasure. (Mt 6:24 / Lk 16:13 / Mt 13:44 / Lk 18:22)

+ Chastity is understood as being decent, modest, and striving to be morally pure in both thought and conduct. It calls us to live with all in true fidelity and love, without possessiveness, selfishness, or the desire to control. A chaste and virtuous life is of thought and word, as well as of deed. It finds joy in pureness of heart, and schools itself in offering grace to other souls. Therein providing a singular witness to the love of God in a world crowded with self serving demands.

NOTE: We bear witness that a faithfully chaste Christian life has only two expressions; within the bounds of chaste singleness or within the faithfulness of holy marriage between man and woman. (1 Cor 7 / Proverbs 4:18 / Proverbs 20:7 / Titus 2:11-14)

+ Obedience is understood as setting aside self-will, to faithfully seek and follow the call of God. As we see witnessed by our Lord Jesus, on the Mount of Olives (Lk 22:42), the path of Obedience calls us at all times to seek the will of God, rather than our own.  We walk out our obedience to our Lord while prayerfully and seriously considering admonitions of Scripture, guidance from brethren and elders, and honoring covenant commitments to Family, Order, and Church.

The ancient Christian tradition of Obedience provides a strong means of following our Lord’s teaching that “he who loses his life for my sake shall find it.”  (Mt 16:24-27 / Lk 9:23-26)

…….These are offered for your prayerful consideration.

Shalom, Christ’s peace!!  — Michael+

AUXILIO DEI

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The Colors of Witness – A Lenten Reminder


“Martyr” means far more than most people think it does…

The power and subtlety of English is largely due to its wide-ranging propensity for embracing words from other languages. In recent years, though, political pressure from non-native speakers has combined with questionable teaching methods to “dumb down” the language, in the name of making English “more accessible.”  This excessive simplification sacrifices nuance… and frequently renders hundreds of years of literature badly confused or even useless.

The ancient word “martyr” is an excellent example. Radical Islam abuses the term, newscasters parrot those who abuse it, most modern, Christian teachers/preachers avoid anything that smacks of controversy, and many Bibles no longer even translate the word out of Greek.  As a result, “martyr” has become popularly misunderstood as solely meaningsomeone who dies for their faith.” This definition entirely misses the richness, power, and actual meaning of this ancient Greek word… More importantly, it prevents Christians from properly understanding how we are ALL called to live!

The Greek word “martyr” (Gk: μάρτυρας) came into English via Latin, and simply means “Witness.”  As he ascends to the Father (Acts 1:7-9), Jesus calls us to witness to Him “…in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” His Universal Call was not to teach or to preach…. it was to bear Witness.  A witness conveys that which they know to be true or that which they have personally experienced. This requires no special skill. It is something that we are all capable of doing…. and something to which ALL Christians are called to do; be witnesses. Early Christians carried their witness everywhere that they went. So much so that, within a very short time, communities of Christians grew within all primary centres of the Roman Empire and even well beyond the Roman frontiers.

This teaching to “be witness” was well understood.  For earlier Christians this was simply their way of life and, as they lived out their witnesses, three colors came to describe distinct patterns of that life-witness.  Over the centuries, “witness” came to be divided into: red martyrdom — sacrificing our lives in favor of committment to Christ; white martyrdom — forsaking one’s home for the sake of mission or due to persecution in the form of imprisonment/ exile; and green martyrdom — actively living a daily struggle for goodness, purity, and service to Christ, regardless of difficulty and whether on a mountain top or in the midst of the world.

Because so many of the early witnesses to Christ were killed for their faith, martyr often came to carry the added implication of the “Red Martyrdom” of a blood-witness.  Since the most striking witness that Christians could bear to their faith was to die rather than deny it, the word soon began to be used in reference to one who was not only a witness, but specifically a witness unto death. In fact, this usage is implied in Acts 22:20 and Revelation 2:13.  Understand, however, this is not the same as saying that the primary meaning was lost in Christian teaching and understanding.

One form of White Martyrdom sets aside common freedoms by consecrating one’s life exclusively to Christ alone. This can begin with vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience…. or it can simply begin with a journey, to witness Christ in a far land. Another common form of White Martyrdom involves choosing to accept imprisonment and/or exile, rather than denying Christ before man. (Matthew 10:33) In the old USSR, White Martyrdom (and, far too often, Red Martyrdom as well) was seen in the white snow of Siberia and the Gulags. These are constant reminders of the potential price of living as witness to Jesus.

Green Martyrs set aside the comforts and pleasures of secular human society to study Scripture, commune with God, and strengthen the witness of their lives. We see distinct illustrations of this in the lives of Anchorite Monks, who lived as hermits in the Egyptian desert, the later, more social Augustinian and Benedictine monastics, and even in orders of Friars, who witnessed the monastic heart as they shared the Good News in their travels. Many of the early Irish monastics, from whom we get this term, were well known for their fasting as well as physical and social sacrifices. However, this form of witness (and even the persecution that comes with it) is something that we are ALL called to. Many of those whom we publicly name as Saints are simply men and women who exemplified a simple day-in and day-out choosing of God over Mammon (Luke 16:13), without regard for how they were treated.

Witnessing Christ to the world also means enduring persecution. (Matthew 5:11, John 15:20)   In many Islamic lands, we’re seeing a dramatic increase in examples of Red and White Martyrdom. However, even in western countries, increasing hostility to Christianity is making Green Martyrs of Christians….   The secular world’s call to compromise and comfort is difficult to ignore; it demands that we “go along, to get along.” We have recently seen a senior high-tech manager who was fired for upholding traditional, Christian  teachings outside of work….  a British Airways employee and a Nurse who were ordered to remove her cross at work… demands by the U.S. government for Christian medical providers provide sterilization, abortifacients and contraceptives, in violation of their beliefsl… and even demands that peaceful, Bible-believing Christians should be labeled terrorists!

To be a martyr is uncomplicated but hard… that is to say that it requires courage and dedication; it is nothing more or less than living as a witness to the Good News of our Christ… our Messiah… our Savior. The early Christians were well aware of the eroding character of comfort and routine on the spiritual life. They intimately understood  that “dying to self” (Philippians 3:7-21 )witnesses to others and helps us grow nearer to Christ, by following Jesus’ admonition to “take up your cross and follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

Persistant practice helps us grow into life as a witness.  Begin with simple choices… begin with yourself… begin by addressing even one daily action or habit which prevents others from seeing Christ in you. Commit to spend a bit of time in Scripture each day, especially the New Testament; it becomes easier to love our Lord, to serve Him, and to witness Him well if you spend time getting to know Him….

IF we truly claim to follow Jesus, our Christ, then we are called to sacrifice every aspect of our lives in witness to Him, to those around us!  Remember…. be witnesses!  (2 Cor 4:1-7, Acts 14:3)

Shalom; Christ’s peace to you!

Michael+

AUXILIO DEI

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Brothers and Sisters with EVERYONE??


When the new governor of Alabama recently attended a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally, he acknowledged that fellow Christians of all colors are his brothers and sisters and expressed a wish that all could share that status. The public outcry that followed, revealed truly impressive levels of Politically Correct prejudice and Biblical ignorance.

The 1st Amendment of the USA Constitution formally states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech…” Ignoring the obvious reality that this is addressing the Federal government (in the form of Congress), rather than state or local governments, this Amendment clearly places restrictions upon governmental actions in the form of “law.” It does not address statements of opinion or statements of faith. In fact, if legislative-law OR bench-law were to restrict an individual working for the government from making those statements of opinion or faith, a strong case could be made that this governmental action would actually be “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” as well as “abridging the freedom of speech.” All of the caterwauling claiming otherwise is founded in Politically Correct bigotry against freedom of religion, in general, and against Christianity, in particular!

Surprisingly, even Political Pundit, Glenn Beck asserted, “A true messenger of Jesus Christ must consider every person a brother or sister.” He later added; “Governor, you are sadly mistaken about your Christianity.” — On the contrary, Mr. Beck, either you are being unusually sloppy in your language or Governor Bentley is more familiar with what Jesus actually said than you are. — Even more revealing of the sad state of our country, though, is the fact that Evangelical Christians nationwide (who claim to be orthodox Christians and who also claim to be educated in Scripture) are also parroting this same anti-Scriptural half-truth.

I have a radical proposal; I suggest that Christians should actually read the Bible! If they do, they might actually begin to grasp the differences between the Biblical concept of “brother/sister” vs. the Biblical concept of “neighbor.”

As to whether or not every person is in fact my brother or sister, I suggest that we defer to Jesus himself, as recorded in Scripture…

The Gospel of Mark (Mark 3:32-35) records Jesus as saying; ‘“Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”’ This is repeated, nearly word for word, in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 12:46-50) .

Brothers and Sisters share a common parent. As Paul explains (Romans 5:12-6:11), we are initially born of the lineage of Adam. However, when we accept the sacrifice of our Christ, we are “Born Again” through Baptism and become new creatures; re-born into the lineage of Jesus, with God as our true Father for the very first time. We begin our lives sharing a parent with all of the unsaved world. Through Jesus, we trade our old family for a new one; spiritually and truly, we then no longer share a common parent with the unsaved. This is why Paul continues; “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God… you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…” (Romans 8:12-17).

Anyone with a mission-oriented heart resonates with the reality that “a true messenger of Jesus Christ” must desire God’s best for each person. However, this is most accurately reflected in the Biblical concept of the “neighbor.” Unlike most religions, Christianity teaches that we are to love and seek the best for our neighbors, not Just our brothers and sisters (Matthew 22:37-40). When a man asked; “who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered with the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus then asked the man; “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

IF we are truly born again followers of Jesus, our Christ, it is our fellow believers everywhere who form the Body of Christ, who form the true Church, and who our real brothers and sisters. All non-believers are our neighbors, and we should love them enough ti bear witness to the gift that God offers so freely; salvation and new life.

Governor Bentley was right… he made no implication of inappropriate governmental action and he did no one a disservice… In fact he made the very kindest wish that any faithful Christian can offer; he publicly wished that non-believers could become our family, by voluntarily accepting that greatest gift that God has ever offered to mankind: the only and true Messiah… Jesus, our Saviour.

Shalom; Christ’s peace to you!

Michael+

AUXILIO DEI

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Cheap Faith


They proclaim; “There are many paths to God… There are many roads to Salvation!” — Whether it’s the gospel according to Oprah or the controversy-averse, positivist ponderings of Joel Osteen, those who like to call themselves “christians” flock to populist theorists who embrace nearly any idea or concept… as long as it doesn’t make waves… or question the preconceptions of those “believers” … or, even worse, challenge them to change their behaviour.

We like to have our own way and believe what we wish to believe. However, Proverbs 14:12 tells us that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

If I live in a henhouse and loudly proclaim that I’m a chicken, I’m still just a man. The sad truth is that these followers of popular religiosity are not living in reality. In spite of their self-proclamations, they are no more a christian than I am a chicken. Even more sadly, that Cheap Faith (that faith of convenience) is actually leading them away from the free gift of Salvation offered by Jesus, the Christ (Christ means “Savior”).

Reality is based in Truth. Truth is not Subjective…. real truth is Objective. It either “is” or “is not.” Granted, it is rather narrow-minded to insist that the Sun rises only in the East and sets only in the West… It is, nontheless, true! Scripture, the Revealed Word of God in the form of the Christian Bible, illuminates the true path for our Pilgrim feet… the path toward Christ… the path of Salvation!

At the beginning of the 14th Chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The clarity of this statement makes waves… it offends those who wish to believe otherwise… it’s inconvenient to those who want more options… It is, nontheless, true!

Much like today, in the earliest days of Christianity, false teachers were common and decieved many. So, to reduce confusion and to remind the faithful of what Scripture taught us, statements of faith were assembled. These came to be called creeds (from the Latin word “credo,” meaning “I believe”).

The creed attributed to the Apostles (The Apostle’s Creed) served as a summary of Christian doctrine for baptismal candidates in the ancient churches of Rome. Hippolytus (a 2nd century Christian bishop and theologian) recorded that it was used in a question and answer format, with the baptismal candidates responding that they believed each statement. Many Christian Churches still use this during their Baptisms, as well as occasionally during services.

The Nicene Creed is the profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because it was first adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first Ecumenical Council (a conference of the bishops of the whole Christian Church, which convened to discuss and settle matters of Church doctrine and practice), which met there in AD 325. The Nicene Creed has been normative to the Anglican, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic Eucharistic rites as well as many Orthodox liturgies.

Over time, these two most fundamental creeds also became the most widely used and accepted. Among Bible-believing Christian churches, these two creeds still desribe the foundational faith of every true Christian.

As we stand in the doorway of this Year of our Lord two-thousand and eleven, we need to remember what we, as Christians, truly believe! Let’s stand together with 2000 years of our fellow Christians and proclaim the essence of our our Faith…

(The Nicene Creed)

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 (a word referring to “the entire Body of Christ”), 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.

Shalom… May the peace of our Christ be with you throughout this New Year!

Michael+

AUXILIO DEI

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