So, rather occupied today.
May the Lord Bless you and keep you.
So, rather occupied today.
May the Lord Bless you and keep you.
I posted two posts in the last two days: one about teaching (catechism) and then the other about prayer/scripture. They feel like solid pieces. Which left me thinking: So, how do I follow them up?
One foot in front of the other.
There is an old saying: “Christianity hasn’t been tried and found wanting, it has been tried and found difficult and then abandoned.”
I have days where I agree with this assessment and others where I do not.
It’s easy when I’m “trusting in Christ”. It’s easy when things are going rather well. It’s easy when I’m ignoring a problem.
It’s hard when the Lord is testing me with events around me. It’s hard when the prayer goes unanswered. It’s hard when the knife I put to my own will doesn’t want to go in so easily today.
Writing and talking about catechism and prayer/scripture reading is easy. Encouraging others to do it is fairly easy. Doing it, well, that’s a little tougher. Because it requires engaging my mind, my will and my soul. If all three are not focused on the task, then it is in vain. My affections must be focused on Him. My doctrines must be focused on Him. My practices of life must be focused on Him. But remember, the strength to do all of this comes only from Him, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I’m really trusting in Christ when I dig that knife into my own self will.
Discipline. We Americans have a love/hate relationship with the word. We like it in certain settings. “She is very disciplined”, referring to someone who exercises regularly or keeps a healthy diet. “He is a disciplined investor”, and we are in awe of the person’s ability to accumulate wealth.
However, if I say “Spiritual Disciplines” I will be met with mostly blank stares. Even in church this seems to be a lost art. And truth be told, I am a fairly recent “convert”, as it were, to this most ancient of practices. Our current American culture generally dislikes serious thought. It is obsessed with the “easy answer”, how many times have you heard the phrase “just google it”? Now, there are a multitude of things for which that is a reasonable solution. “How to change the oil in my car?” “What is the nearest Fast Food place?” “Who is the lead singer of ‘Toad the wet sprocket’?” But for serious questions, it is insufficient: “Who should I marry?” “Why does the universe exist?” “What is the best way for a society to organize itself?”. But for spiritual matters it is even seriously more unsuited: “Is there a God?” “Why does God care what I do?”
Even more than serious thought, our culture disdains serious application of Faith. And that is capital F Faith. If one is a modern spiritualist and dabble in Eastern Mysticism and combine it with Environmental Worship, then hey, you are an enlightened human being. But if your religion claims to have the ultimate Truth that are not malleable to the current “hey if it floats your boat” mentality and you base your life on those truths, then you are a closed minded bigot. The modern equivalent of shunning.
Which is why this post follows hot on the heels of my post Catechism: Lessons in Truth. In the book Grounded in the Gospel the authors make a very clear point: one of the greatest arguments for catechism is that the world is ALWAYS catechizing us. It screams: “Buy our car”, “buy our food” “use our services” “greed is good” “make your own heaven on earth” “our product will make you feel better about yourself” “people will like you if you buy our clothes” “whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” “look at naked women, it doesn’t hurt anyone” and it only gets more sordid from there. We are pounded constantly with this chatter.
God knew this would happen. In Deuteronomy He commands “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Here of course He is referring to the Law as given to Moses. We have someone even greater to teach us, Yeshua Messiah, Jesus the Christ himself. Deuteronomy is the second most quoted book by Jesus, with Psalms being the first (which if you want to understand the power of His prayer life, this is a primary indicator of its source).
God knows we need instruction. Through the Apostle Paul He commands us to “put on the mind of Christ” and “Put on the full armor of God.” And by the Apostle Peter He warns us “Satan goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he should devour.” Spiritual discipline is necessary because an enemy seeks to harm us. Satan prefers to find us unarmed and unready.
Jesus shows us the primary method of being disciplined: prayer and scripture. He prays in the morning before anyone else is up. He prays all night at Gethsemane. Hand in hand with this is knowledge of scripture. He can quote it. Just as God is both Three and One, I am sure that Prayer and Scripture is also a both/and combo. One feeds the other which feeds the other, which feeds the other. Pick one and the other will follow. It takes discipline. It means cutting out the time needed to engage in the practice.
It’s why it’s called Spiritual Discipline.
So, like I said in my Tinker Bell post, I am reading a lot.
The current book is titled “Grounded in the Gospel” a book on teaching the basics of the Gospel. “Building Believers the old fashioned way” is the subtitle of the book,.
I really, really like this book. So much I bought my best friend a copy. And, since I had bought it on kindle, I bought myself a paperback copy too. I plan on using it, marking it up and otherwise.
The book also includes a short chapter on church history. Specifically the first four centuries of the church. I thought I knew some of it. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. It was a needed assault on my worldview. I, like many of my peers, have a truncated view of the world. Not just physically, but chronologically speaking. In a way we do this: creation, Adam, Abraham, David, Jesus, Fall of Rome, Reformation, Enlightenment, American founding, steam engine, world war, and then everything that matters like computers and internet and smartphones.
Four hundred years is a very long time. It seems absurd to even say that, but we have a tendency to treat antiquity with something on the level of polite disdain. As though they were uneducated yokels. I will venture to say that we “modern, western Christians” are more the uneducated yokels than they were.
We say insipid things like “the wrong side of history.” Is history a vinyl record with a B side? We stand on the shoulders of giants, Sir Isaac Newton is reported to have said. He was referring to the massive contribution of science by all those who had gone before him. We have this silly view that things MUST “progress”, or improve. Star Trek and all it’s attendant spin-offs are examples of this thinking. Arthur C Clarke and his “the future is better than anything we have imagined” silly talk is yet another example. Of course, it’s all a result of the theory of evolution. That we came from primordial ooze and now have conscientiousness. All by random chance. And the world came from a big bang, also a something from nothing scenario. An event that violates every known law of physics created the laws of physics after it was established to keep itself running in an orderly fashion after a rather disorderly entrance. But really I digress from my point.
Our church fathers (and mothers, but fathers in the all encompassing sense) endured the kind of persecution we modern westerners routinely ignore on the nightly news in Syria and Iraq (another blog for another time). They were teaching Christ in a time when it could really cost you. If it might cost you your life, would you believe on Christ Jesus? What was necessary to be saved? What were the central tenets of the faith? What does our Lord require of us? How do you live in this world while you wait for release to the next?
Our ancestors thought long and hard about these questions. They endured trials and tortures. They developed methods to teach the new comers. And the new comers learned. And then the new comers became the teachers to the next new comers. And it was serious stuff. Again, because you could suffer for being a follower of Christ.
They developed methods of teaching to aid in building believers, they were called catechisms. We might prefer a more modern word: lessons. The things of faith were taught, repeated and then taught again. Because we need them. God is Holy. The world screams that He is not. God seeks and saves the lost. The world screams he is a kill-joy and mean taskmaster. God the Son humbled himself to come to earth to die in our place on a cross. The world screams Jesus was just a good teacher. We must be taught and retaught Truth. Because the world needs to hear it and we need to believe it, because our lives depend on Him.
What are they you ask. Well, some are simple and some are more in depth. But I’d venture to wager that you know some of them already. The Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed are probably the two easiest examples.
The Nicene Creed:
There is a lot of truth in there. It’s also nothing but truth. Distilled, undiluted capital T truth. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t more to be taught but this is essential stuff here. Jesus as misunderstood teacher doesn’t fit in here. Jesus’s miraculous birth is in here. This creed is a great starting point for analyzing the things the world is telling you. If what you are being told doesn’t fit with this creed, then it isn’t truth you are being told. Respond in love however. We are a joyful people because of the great hope that resides within us. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come!
The Roman Catholic Church has developed many catechisms. The Reformation brought us the Westminster Confession of Faith , The Westminster Shorter Catechism , other Church Documents and the 39 Articles of Faith . The whole New Testament is instruction as well. So pick up your bible and be taught by God.