Faith versus Works

In reading the Orthodox study bible, I came across the commentary on Romans 5.  It states, “In Western Europe during the sixteenth century and before, justifiable concern arose among the Reformers over a prevailing understanding that salvation depended on human works of merit, and not on the grace and mercy of God.  Their rediscovery of Romans 5 lead to the slogan sola fides:  justification by faith alone.  This Reformation debate in the West raised the questions for the Orthodox East:  Why this new polarization of faith and works?  It had been settled since the apostolic era that salvation was granted by the mercy of God to righteous men and woman.  Those baptized into Christ were called to believe in Him and do good works.  An opposition of faith versus works was unprecedented in Orthodox thought…..Rather than justification as a legal acquittal before God, Orthodox believers see justification by faith as a covenant relationship with Him centered in union with Christ.”  And, if I may springboard of that, works will then automatically follow.  It must.  Works are the natural outgoing of a covenental relationship with God that is based on love, faith, and hope.  God’s role in that is justification of our sin and our role in that is to believe it because we didn’t earn it.  Works comes when these two points connect in covenant.  I think this is James’ point (James 2:18).  This also seems to reflect first century Jewish/Christian thought on the covenental relationship between God and His people.

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Fear and Expectation

Rina and I recently have been attending marriage counseling.  We needed it.  Not because we were on the brink of divorce but because we had become complacent in loving each other.  This, of course, leads to conflict where I am, always, right.  Or so I think.  If she would just do what I wanted/needed/expected her to do, all would be well.  She just wouldn’t do it.  This would fuel a desire inside of me to fix her or should I say conform her unto my image for her.  If she would just sit down for 5 minutes and listen to the voice of wisdom and reason, she would see all this my way and start doing what I expected.  She just wouldn’t do it.  She really has got some problems! What I didn’t understand was the she wasn’t the problem, the problem was me.  Unbeknownst to me, I had also done the same thing to God.

I had certain expectations for God.  God should be blessing me, watching over me, and be on the verge of making me a millionaire over night.  “What are you waiting for?”  I would say to God through a prayer of doubt.  My current financial situation is a bit of a disaster. I do know that He will sometime deliver me financially because He has told me this on several occasions.  He just isn’t doing it up to my expectation. This triggers one of my core fears which is a fear of failure.  I have this fear of not being able to pay my bills and so I beg God for deliverance but I really don’t believe He will do it because if He were going to do it He would have done it by now.  I do know that He will do it He just isn’t doing it right now.   Do you see the insanity in all this?  I didn’t.  When He doesn’t meet my need according to my expectation I am barely capable of being grateful what He is doing.  Then, when He doesn’t live up to my expectations, it triggers my other core fear.  The fear of rejection.  I feel rejected by God because if He loved me He would’ve rescued me from this terrible disaster by now, but He hasn’t because He doesn’t like me.  He only has to tolerate me because of what Jesus did for me but If He had another option, He would cast me out of His sight forever.  Isn’t this nonsense?  Yes, but it’s how I felt.  Here is what counseling has helped me realize.

God will not serve my fears or my expectations and neither should my wife.  He will not bow down to them and neither should she.  I had to let fear and expectation both go.  Let God be God and Rina be Rina and just love them and allow them to love me as they see fit not as I expect.  Rina triggers my core fear of “being controlled.”  There are certain things that I do that trigger her core fears which leads her to respond with an effort to control.  This is the dance that we have done for a number of years and we’ve decided to stop dancing.  I don’t dance all that great nowadays anyway, since about 1985 (I danced pretty good back in the day but that ship has sailed). I am not responsible for either her reactions or God’s actions.  I can only control my reactions and actions and I have chosen to love them both regardless of what they do (Rina and God).  For me , this was a tremendously freeing revelation and simply, just a better way to live.

Books that are helping:  DNA of relationships Gary Smalley

Telling yourself the truth:  William Bachus and Marie Chapain

Our therapist

The Work of the People

This year, I’ve been reading the Eastern Orthodox Study Bible that my good friend Alan bought me.  I like this Bible because it is an updated English translation of the Greek Septuagint (LXX) as the orthodox hold it, and not the Masoretic text, as their “sacred.”  I am very excited about this fresh perspective on the Old Testament.  So, here is my first post of “stuff that I get from this book.”

In numbers 1:50, God tells Moses to take a census of the Levites so they can “minister unto the Lord.”  The Septuagint uses the Greek word “leitourgountwn” (this is a transliteration as I can’t find the Greek font on this new fangled wordpress thing) and it means liturgy or the liturgical ministry.  The orthodox commentary states, “The word liturgy means ‘the work of the people'”.  The usage of this verb is telling.

After the exodus, God wanted to make Israel a nation of priest and prophets to minster liturgically unto Him. (Exodus 19:6)  However, the people rebel and Levi was chosen (Exodus 32).  So, the Levites were called upon to do what the people should have done and thus, the priesthood was born.  But this was not the Lord’s original intention.

Again, with the inauguration of the New Covenant, God intended for all of His people to minister liturgically to Him. (I Peter 2:9)  We see this played in Acts 13:2 as the same Greek word is used here as was used in Numbers 1:50.  The church at Antioch was ministering to the Lord with prayer and fasting.  It was the people who ministered to God, not a special social class of folks identified as clergy.  It was all the church ministering unto God not seminary graduates.  It was this ministry that birthed the first evangelical mission of the Apostle Paul.  He and Barnabas were commissioned as the people ministered to God.  That’s what New Covenant Christianity is all about.  Once the people of God took their rightful place as minister unto God, the priesthood would no longer be necessary.  Messiah would be the High Priest and all of us His ministers.  And yet, a class of clergy continues to exist in every single Christian denomination doing the work that the People of God ought to be doing!  Why?  There are probably two reasons

First, the people of God continue to live in rebellion and this continues to necessitate a  priesthood to do the ministry unto God.  Secondly, clergyman are not quick to release the power and control that comes with positions of authority, respect, and esteem.  Nonetheless, I say, it is time for the people of God to minister unto Hims with prayer and fasting as the church at Antioch did in Acts 13.  It was the work of the people, their liturgical ministry unto God as priest and prophets that birthed that first apostolic ministry.  It is time for the church of God to again birth Apostles through its own work unto the Lord.

I’m back! What’s the point?

Howdy, I’m back.  Its been 2 years since I’ve written anything on this blog.  One might say that I had a bit of a faith crisis or that I just didn’t have anything else to say or that I shut down.  Wanna know what happened?  A little bit of all of that.  I used to run a small church group at work, be in a ordination program, and do some home churching on the side.  Why?  Because I had some expectations that I was going to lead world revival and social reform.  God shut all that down because I had missed the point.  When He shut that down, I shut down.

When I was asked to stop leading the church group at work, I thought “what’s the point”.  What was the point of studying scripture, ?Greek, Hebrew, Latin, apologetics; and archaeology if there was no audience and no revival to lead?  I had missed the point.

You will notice, on this blog, that there is very little (outside of my testimony) any real personal information.  This will change.  This must change.  For who?  For me.  What I have discovered over the last two years of desert dwelling is that writing is creative.  It is personal.  It is spiritual and it connects me with God.  The purpose of my study, writings, and learning should never be with the idea of preaching, publishing, and saving the world in mind.  It should be done because it brings me and God closer together.  It is about intimacy with God and nothing more.  I’ve started writing again as a spiritual exercise.  This is the point. This is what I have missed for so many years.  I should not put expectations on God to do something grand with what He reveals to me.  It’s for me.  It’s not really for anybody else, it’s for us.  So, why have a blog?  In short, it is a great place to store writing for a good long time.  I’ve journaled in the past only to have them lost, damaged, destroyed, and be unable to read my own handwriting when I would review them.  Blogging solves those problems.  That’s why I’m back in the blogosphere.  For me and my relationship with God.  If reading something here blesses you.  Good, Writing it really blesses me.  This is the point.

To catch some of you up.  I still work at a psychiatric hospital.  Still work with addiciton.  Still am clean for alcohol and other drugs.  Still am married to by darlingest.  Still have a bunch of kids.  Love to lift weights, shoot guns, fish, farm, trap, and hunt.  I you want to know anything more than that, visit my wife’s blog.  She’s a better writer anyway.