Friday, July 27, 2007


“So i'm going to move in with Steve. It's my only option at this time. We're looking into an upstairs apartment in the middle of town that has "us" written all over it. I've been praying about this solution for a while. I know it's going to SHOCK alot of straight laced people that I know. And i've always been one of them so i completely understand where they're coming from. But I wasn't blessed with a functional family, or the $$$ to get where I truly want to go in life. So what am i supposed to do, be homeless??? I'm sure God doesn't have that in his plan for me… Of course I want to please God. And I know I am. But I know there are fellow believers out there who totally disagree with my philosophy…”


-An excerpt from a blog a girl in her early 20’s, a friend of mine, posted this very week.
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“So you believe that Joseph Smith was actually a prophet of God?” I asked. They both smiled and without hesitation said, “absolutely” and “yes sir, I do.” I have been a casual student of body language over the last several years and could easily tell by the way their eyelids slightly closed…showing their directness and focus…and how they slightly leaned forward and slightly nodded their head that they were sincere and dead serious. I could even hear it in their voice…they were true believers. I then asked them, “how do you know? What makes you so sure?” Elder Barnet took the lead and said, “well Gary…I wasn’t sure always. I was raised in the Church but there came a point in my life where I needed to know for myself, you know what I mean?” Of course I did and I nodded affirmatively. “So I took the Book of Mormon and I began to read it with an open heart. The Apostle James wrote that if anyone lacked wisdom that he should ask it of God and God would give it to him! So I would ask God, ‘if these are your words and if Joseph Smith was your prophet please show me’. As I did those two things…as I read the Book of Mormon and prayed…I became convinced that these were in fact Gods own Words and Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God!”

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I sat at the picnic amazed at what I was hearing. This young, educated and wonderful couple explained to me the path they have walked which led them out of evangelicalism and into Eastern Orthodoxy. Of course he explained his frustration and struggle…even throwing Eastern Orthodox books in frustration. It was an amazing story which ended with his wife saying, “…and then we finally walked into an Eastern Orthodox church and the moment I did…I knew this was the Church founded by Christ upon the foundation of His Apostles and Prophets.”

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“I have never seen God…I have never heard from God and I have never felt any ‘presence’ of a god or gods…not like you say you have felt. I’ve never felt that. And I don’t feel guilty for my life and I don’t think I need forgiven for anything big…I’m a good person and I don’t think I lack peace. I am a happy person and I’m an atheist.” With that the buzzer sounded and we knew we had five minutes to get back to our machines…our lunch break was over.

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He Lives!


“I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;I know that He is living, whatever men may say; I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him, He’s always near!


He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me A-long life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!


In all the world around me I see His loving care, And tho my heart grows weary, I never will despair; I know that He is leading thro all the stormy blast, The day of His appearing will come at last. He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me A-long life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!


Rejoice, Rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King! The Hope of all who seek Him, the Help of all who find, None other is so living, so good and kind!


He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me A-long life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!”

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It is easy to be critical of a Mormon, Eastern Orthodox, the girl I know or the atheist I used to work with...all who base the final decision they make regarding faith upon personal experience…but how many of you have sung the song ‘He Lives!’ with exuberance and conviction? I have! Is that wrong? Is it not true that at the end of the day…when you lay your head upon your pillow in your own bed…that you are a Christian because of you have seen, felt and experienced God’s activities in your life? Are you saved because somebody beat you in a debate? Or are you saved because you felt God invade your very soul with both conviction of your sin and grace, mercy and love?

The sons and daughters of the Reformers are so incredibly uncomfortable admitting how profoundly experience has been as a source of truth in our lives are we not? Yet the vast majority of our behavior and values are a direct result of experience. There is a reason why we use oven mitts when pulling trays out of the oven. It is not because we read in a science book about conduction and the concepts of heat resulting from the speeding up of atoms…no…most of us have purposely touched something very hot only once in our lives for a very good reason. The experience of pain was so profound and so real that it has literally shaped our behavior.

Or what about the person who lies next to you at night in your bed? Did you read their biography before you married them? How did you know that they were the right one? Was there a mathematical formula that calculated compatibility that you used? Did you rely upon the logic of science and reason? No…you probably said and hopefully will still say, “I don’t know how to explain it…I just knew.”

Let me again mention your own conversion. Where was it? What led to it? Or…how do you know that Jesus Christ is Lord? How do you know He hears your prayers…how do you know that all of your sins have been forgiven? Has not the greatest evidence that supports our faith not been what we have “seen and heard” both in our lives and hearts? Do we not say that when we were born again by simple child like faith alone that the heavy burden of guilt and shame was lifted from us?

Yes, yes and YES! Experience and intuition are a powerful sources of gaining truth! Not only are they powerful but they are the one most often run towards and rely upon. God speaks to us through our experiences and intuition daily. He uses them to teach us about Himself…that is undeniable. How can we comprehend to any extent His unconditional love for His people if we have never experienced and given unconditional love?

The problem with experience and intuition is that neither source is infallible…and because of that many people have had the wheels of their carts fall right off. Both are incredibly easy to misinterpret.

I will continue to provoke some thoughts about sources of truth but as I do this is a point I want to drive home…I want to hammer and hammer and hammer…that all truth is God’s truth AND no two truths will ever contradict themselves. Will we experience the tension created by mystery…absolutely. But never will we have two truths in conflict…and that is how all of these sources are balanced out. My friend who posted her blog about cohabitating with her boyfriend is a prime example of being out of balance. I’m sure she feels fine about her situation. I’m sure she has prayed. I’m sure thinks and “knows” that God is ok with her decision. The problem is that her “truth” is in conflict with other sources of truth…namely Holy Scripture and the historic teachings of The Church. You see…her “truth” and the “truth” revealed both in Scripture and the Church can not all be “true truth” at the same time. Because while she feels fine about it, Scripture and the Church are clear…sexual immorality is a sin and God is disgusted with it every single time and in every single situation...even in hers.

I will get into the concepts of “infallible” and “inerrant” sources of truth later…but suffice it to say…while both experience and intuition are legitimate and very real sources of gaining truth…and we use them both every day to our great benefit…neither experience nor intuition is infallible or inerrant. Without a doubt…Scripture is. Of course I will get into that in detail later. Therefore, experience and intuition must submit to Scripture (and perhaps the Church…we’ll also get into that later) because by very nature they are both inferior. If this girl is going to live in harmony with the truth...with God...she, like YOU and I, must fix this imbalance. So in this case…at the end of the day…it does not matter how she feels about her lifestyle…she must submit herself to Scripture.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8 niv

9 comments:

Tim said...

Very good words bro. You above all people know how frustrated I get as the strange blend of "Baptist and Pentecostal" as you put it, by the fact that some people think that any hint of emotion and "flesh" in worship of God is wrong. Yes emotions are not inerrant and they can (and do) lead us astray. On the other hand, God created us as emotional creatures. I love the experience of worship we enjoy at Southside and the experience I have in my own prayer time.

But what about those times when we don't feel anything in worship? Does that mean that God is not present or that He is not pleased with our worhip or doesn't hear our prayers? I know due to the objective sources of truth like the Scriptures that it doesn't matter how I feel, the Lord hears and he cares.

The bottom line is that feelings and emotions aren't bad things. They were given to us by God to serve us. We just have to realize that they're not infallible. Our emotions are not the truest deciders or indicators of truth.

irreverend fox said...

Tim,

thanks man...you said:

"But what about those times when we don't feel anything in worship? Does that mean that God is not present or that He is not pleased with our worhip or doesn't hear our prayers? I know due to the objective sources of truth like the Scriptures that it doesn't matter how I feel, the Lord hears and he cares."

this is the way I interpret those times...whenever I gather with our family for worship and I don't "feel" His movement like I would normally I feel it...for me...I take that as a sign of something going on in my head, heart...or my body. my experiences have taught me that when I'm not feeling near to Him...it is not because He is literally far...but it could very well mean that something is distracting me...sin...worry...stress...physical weariness...whatever.

I think experience is still a source of truth in those situations...that experience and intuition may very well be telling me that something is going on within me that needs examined and dealt with.

Like you…I know objectively that God is near to me by His grace regardless of how I feel…I think it is me and my heart that is the issue during those dry and “distant” periods.

what do you think?

Zac said...

Gary,

Wanted to let you know that Orthodox celebrate the Feast of the Lord's Transfiguration on August 6th, which is Monday this year. I won't be able to go to the morning liturgy, but Sunday evening there will be Great Vespers, if you are interested in coming.

Tony Myles said...

"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" - Jeremiah 17:9

irreverend fox said...

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

Psalm 51:10-13 niv

Zac said...

Psalm 51 (actually for the Orthodox, Psalm 50 because of the Septuagint numbering) is a major part of our worship tradition.

Well, in fact, much of our services-- liturgy, the "hours", morning and evening prayers, vespers, matins, etc.-- are simply chanting the psalms. Actually when you asked me about Orthodox prayer books at one time I should have said that you own one already! The Psalms are very much the Church's hymn book, and we get so that we learn many of them by heart because of their repetition, either daily, weekly, or seasonally.

The fathers of Orthodoxy have a vast tradition of interpretation of the psalms... I should loan you my copy of "Christ in the Psalms" by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon. It's a very good (and long!) work on the background of each Psalm, and how the Church has understood it through the ages.

Psalm 51 (50) is very important to us Orthodox. You know for Protestants, Psalm 23 is the one that everyone knows. But we only pray that one about once a week-- it's part of the prayers that we say before we take the Eucharist. But the Psalm 51? It's always on our lips: morning prayer, evening prayer, matins, liturgy, etc. It's the one psalm that any marginally devout Orthodox Christian should know by heart and, most likely, will have on his lips all through the course of the day.

During the Liturgy, the priest whispers this psalm at the altar (it is inaudible to us) before he prays for the Holy Spirit to come and change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. It is strange to me that such would be the case-- the prayer of an adulterer and murderer, and yet this is how we must pray, even how our priest must pray-- using this cry from the lips of Christ's ancestor in the flesh before His deified flesh is made present for us.

Anyway, I am sure that for you this psalm also has a special place. Do you use the psalms in your worship services at Southside or Coram Deo?

irreverend fox said...

hey Zac! thanks for contributing to the discussion! your perspective is always helpful!

yes we do...although not as repetitiously as the Eastern Orthodox I presume...but we do publicly read the Psalms each week...or I should say most weeks...the elder who has the high honor of publicly reading the Holy Scripture has been reading through James lately...to our benefit.

I encourage everyone to read 5 chapters of Psalms and 1 chapter of Proverbs every day...if you do you'll enjoy the entirety of each both every month.

Zac said...

Gary!

Thanks so much for the dinner conversation last night. Please excuse my own passion for arguing, and I hope that somehow despite my inadequate words that you perhaps got a better perspective on Orthodoxy.

For your consideration, I just want to give you this link to a weekly podcast on an Orthodox Radio Station ("Ancient Faith Radio"), by Matthew Gallatin. He is a former protestant pastor, and expresses very well what I can only mumble a few words about.

Here is the link: http://www.ancientfaithradio.com/podcasts/pilgrims/

I recommend listening to the second most recent: "Pause for Questions". It really explains the different approach to theology that Orthodox have, as opposed to Western Christians.

Tim said...

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" Eze. 36:26