Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"It's Fine For You, But It's Not For Everybody"

"Well..." they begin to say as they become more and more put off by your convert enthusiasm, "...it's good for you but it's not for me." I often heard this when I became 'born again' back in the early 1980's. They would say Jesus isn't for everybody, or they might even say Jesus can't be the only one true Savior. What about those who have never heard?

Now, my new convert enthusiasm is from discovering Orthodoxy. I began telling all of my Christian friends - friends who used to pass out tracts with me as we witnessed to the lost out on the street corners and who heard all of the same excuses - about my great find in discovering the Orthodox Church. And now, they are saying, "Well, it's good for you but it's not for me." and "There can't be only one true church. What about all of the other Christians?"

Ironic, isn't it? I guess it goes to show people are pretty much the same when they don't want to have their minds changed about something. We all make excuses for why we don't want to change. The non-believer says, "As long as we all believe something, and are sincere about it, that's all that God cares about." And the Christian, when confronted with the big, scary, historical, beautiful, Orthodox Church, says "As long as we all believe in Jesus, that's all God cares about."

I am certainly over-simplifying here and mean no offense to anyone, but it has been almost comical to me to get pretty much the same reactions and hear the same lines from my Christian friends when I present to them the very thing that would complete their Christian faith. I know I have said this before, and others have said it too, but it truly was like finding a treasure hidden in a field - a treasure with no end to its riches.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why Pray To Mary and the Saints?

There has been a recent discussion about Mary on The Path blog. I really enjoy his honest inquiry. This discussion about Mary generated quite a few responses, two of which were from me because, like many former Protestants, this whole idea of Mary and the Saints is a huge deal. From the outset of my journey, it was one of the most distasteful things for me. I thought, "Why can't they just leave that part out - it is just so unbiblical!"

It wasn't until I read a response from Perry Robinson that it hit me. Here is a snippet of Perry Robinson's comment followed by what I posted:

"The saints are deified and enjoy participation in the divine life to a fuller measure. Consequently they not only enjoy holiness and immortality but other divine powers also." Of course, this is exactly it! If they were great prayer warriors here, how much more so there? If they were great miracle workers here, how much more so there? And if Mary was the God-bearing, God-honoring, God-fulfilling worker of His divine will here, how much more so there? I can picture it. We don't become less and dissipate into the fog when our life ends here, we become greater; we see Him face-to-face and become just like Him, for we see Him as He is: An interceding high priest before our Father in heaven, working miracles for the glory of His Name.
I then remembered Jesus stating that wherever He is, His servant is there also - how much more so in the heavenly realm! As Christians, it only gets better for us. Knowing concretely we have this great cloud of witnesses, of intercessors, of miracle workers and protectors, how much more dynamic and rich does that make our walk with God? This is a great relief for me. This is the kind of answer I was hoping for, one that would make me say, "Aha!" I thank God now more than ever for bringing me into Orthodoxy. This is such a milestone moment for me in my journey. I no longer have to internally wince when I hear a saint answered a prayer or Mary performed a miracle - they are His Body, His city and His heritage, living stones in His spiritual household and pillars in the temple of God unto the ages of ages, Amen.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

To Blog or Not To Blog...

I recently felt convicted about being out here blogging my heart out. This conviction came when I was reading this post and its comments on The Path. Even before I read it, I had thought about closing down shop. I started the blog last year, and it is really just a hobby. As far as feeling 'compelled to share my story', I have had plenty of outlets for that. For instance, I have been in many email conversations with my Protestant friends; the local major newspaper in our area has allowed me to write about my Orthodox journey in their Faith section; I recently completed my college degree which required a final project and a paper explaining the vision of my life - both highly engaging and involved writing projects that more than met this need for sharing. My former pastor also wanted me to write to him explaining my journey as completely as possible so he could understand why I made the jump.

So, did I need this self-indulgent, vainglorious blog? Did I really need to spill my private thoughts to the world. Did I really need another way to be accountable for all of my idle words on Judgement Day?

I am beginning to think Marshall McLuhan was right when he said that in the electronic age, we lose our privacy. It seems as if the internet with YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook, Blogger and all of the other outlets available to become a self-made superstar, are making his statement true - and we are doing it willingly!

But, on a positive note, perhaps this blog and others like it provide a word of encouragement, a new and refreshing way of looking at the world or understanding the Faith, or just enough of a nudge to cause you to write something worthwhile and helpful on your own blog.

My personal feeling is that if you write a blog, that it isn't necessarily a self-indulgent thing (although it certainly can be), but that, like the servants who were given talents to put to good use until the Master's return, bloggers believe they are contributing something to the world that the Master has given them. We may not be able to necessarily double our efforts as they did in the parable, but we aren't burying them either. We are sharing our unique perspective endowed by our All-Holy God who brings Life to the world.

I am no Hemmingway or Shakespeare, but by God's life-giving Grace, I pray I do what I can with what He has given me.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Steal, Kill and Destroy

One of the things I found to be a huge contrast between the non-denominational Protestant church I used to attend and the Orthodox Church is how much is simply 'not there' in the Protestant church. If you look at the Orthodox Church, you have the Eucharist, the Mysteries, the icons, the vestments, theosis, the Liturgy, the spiritual displines, the major feasts, the minor feasts, the Bible with the Apocrypha, the teachings of the Church Fathers, holy water, and so much more I have have not included on this list. Basically, the historic fullness of all that is truly Christian.

In comparison, the modern non-denominational Protestant church looks like a drastically scaled back version of the Church. It has the 'abbreviated' Bible, only symbolic sacraments in baptism and communion, no art to speak of (but that is changing somewhat), no altar - basically not much to anchor you to the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. I only say this as a comparison of the outward look and feel of this version of Protestantism, because there is no doubt sincere believers in Christ there - I just think they are getting short changed.

The reason? Because the enemy has done exactly what Jesus said he would do - steal, kill and destroy. He has honed down, watered down and extracted from the Faith its glorious fullness, and the result is sincere believers are not getting the powerful presence and reality of the Lord they love. So much has been done in the way of setting up road blocks through Western history that it seems like an insurmountable task to clear the way for my dear friends to see the fullness of the faith and how much has been stolen.

Be that as it may, I pray for them. I am still in close relationships with many sincere, true Protestant believers, and I love them dearly for their zeal and commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ and the salvation of souls, and I desire so much for them to see the greatness of our God in the historic and life-giving fountain of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Orthodox Church, the visible and tangible Body of the Living Christ on earth.