Looking for Home Chapter 19-21

                         Chapter 19   

After the events at the church, concerning our oldest daughter’s Sunday School teacher, we left that church. We only told our fellow musicians and singers in the praise band, after the Sunday morning service. Because of our obligation, we played that Sunday night. I wrote a letter, and set it in the office, instructing them to remove our family’s name from their membership records. With that, we were off!

Off to visit churches, each and every Sunday.(Hoooooray). Though for me, because of my work schedule, was every other week. We visited 4 different Baptist churches and 1 non-denominational church. Deanna and I settled with one of the Baptist churches, basically because she had a friend there. So there was a certian amount of ease and comfort for her, particulary since I couldn’t be with them every week.

We ended up joining that church primarily for the kids. Deanna and I thought it best to join as a family, to give them some stability from the volitile situations of the past 2 months. Don’t get me wrong, the pastor was nice, very friendly as was the rest of the congregation. But, Deanna and I knew deep down, that this was just a transitional place. We knew it wouldn’t be where we stayed.

We quickly picked up where we left off, Deanna joined the choir, I played in the band when my schedule allowed and even ended up teaching a median adult couples Sunday School class, as well as some other discipleship classes. The kids were settling in as well, making friends and adjusting to their new surroundings.

We joined this church in January 2005, but I do need to back track, just a little.

Along with the leadership (lack thereof) issues in the former church, there arose other questions over scripture and it’s interpretation. I was starting to have a crisis. Not a crisis of faith, but a crisis of truth. So, this is what set me out on, my quest for truth. There were several premises involved in this quest, and several questions that could only be answered by 1) myself, and, 2) my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit. This quest started before we left the “problemed church”. Some of the first questions I asked myself were,”Why do I believe what I believe”, “Who has the authority to interprate scripture” and “Wouldn’t the Church that Jesus started, still be in existence today, and if so, which one is it” and lastly,”Since Christianity was a sect of Judaism, and Jesus Himself a practicing Jew, wouldn’t this “true Church” (if it exist) resemble Judaism in a more significant way, than in the tradition I was brought up in?”

And this is where I started my quest. Judaism. As a Christian, I wanted to embrace that which I had come from. So, to me, to understand Judaism better would help me to appreciate my Christian heritage all the more. So, I went down to the bookstore, and got a copy of a “dummies” book on Judaism. It’s a book I still reference today. It brought such a deeper understanding to me, particularly in their celebration of the Passover. With Christ being our Passover, I wanted to reverence Jesus as our Jewish neighbors reverenced ( and still do) God. This is what the main catalist was for preparing me for the Most Blessed Sacrament.

                          Chapter 20     

Two things I found very helpful in studying Judaism was 1) their sense of participation in the Exodus event (Passover) itself, and 2) the fact that it wasn’t just a personal participation, but a familial or even a national (for lack of a better term) participation in God’s salvation. I developed a mental picture of this; Christians are in lifeboats, it’s just me and Jesus in this lifeboat, I have no connection with the other Christians, yet there are millions of other Christians in lifeboats in this “sea” of Christianity. Each is on a personal journey, yet moving so independantly there is no order or leadership. Judaism however, appeared as an oceanliner, carrying all God’s people (personally to be sure and corprately at the same time) seeming to me to be a more unified expression of fatih. To which my reaction was,” Where can I find an expression of Christianity like THIS!!”

I was also discovering that within Judaism, they pray for their dead, and they hold the oral tradition of the Torah as the “word of God” as much as they do the written Torah. As I look back now, I can see that God was preparing me for something way out of the realm of my faith formation, and I was not informed enough, at this time, as to what the Catholic Church actually taught and believed, to consider it at this point. All I knew at this point was, Judaism had given me some identifiable signs, that I could look for in a Christian tradition.

I then had to tackle the question,”Why do I believe what I believe?” Again, this was not a crisis of faith, it was a crisis of truth. I knew Jesus was “the way the truth and the life”, I was on “the way”, I had recieved “the life”, but I was still in need of His” truth”. Within this time frame, I can’t tell you the number of times I heard it said, “Well, I think we all (Christian denominations) have a little bit of truth.” To which I would think to myself, “Your god must be very weak. If  God created something like the Church and said that the “gates of hell would not prevail against it” was He a liar? Is He weaker than man, who had corrupted or distorted His teachings to the point that it would take fifteen hundred years for Him to reveal it to “thoes men” who could be trusted? I couldn’t believe in that god. My God is an awesome God!!

 So anyway, when all was stripped away, I believed what had been handed down to me by my parents and the church my parents took me to. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m just saying that this was my starting point. All “faith” needs to be handed down from parent to child, but as faith grows, it must become not just a hand-me-down faith, but a living, vibrant faith that we call our own.

So, what I needed to do was, to decide for myself (with the guideance of the Holy Spirit) what the truth was concerning His Church. Was it truely a super-spiritual invisible entity where doctrinal matters, didn’t matter? Was it a visible entity created by God, to be “a city set on a hill”? Or was it both?

After delving into Judaism, I did what any good Baptist would do; I skipped the next 1,550 years of church history, to Martin Luther and the “Reformation” period. This is where it all began, right? For the most obvious reasons I started here; to study his teachings and his reasons for starting the Protestant Reformation. A commentary I have states of Luther,”one of the greatest men of all time”. This lead me to study the life of Luther. Over the course of a few months, I realized that Luther wasn’t trying to “break away” from the Church, he was trying to hold the leadership accountable for their actions. Pope Leo X and so many of his cardinals and bishops were corrupt at the time, Luther had to act. His call to reform turned political and by then, it was to far gone. Please read his 95 thesis. It is an indictment of the leadership, not a list of teachings perceived to be false.

Anyway, all this did bring to mind other questions, “Why isn’t there just the Luthern church and the Catholic Church?” “Why the continued divisions over the next 400 years?”

There was going to be even more investigating to do!

                       Chapter 21    

I found myself sympathizing with Luther. Studying his life made him more real. Before, he had just been a name, not a person. I found a couple of things I could even relate to with him. By the way, there is a movie called “Luther” that is a pretty factual account of his life. I watched it about this time.

I could feel his pain, as he tried to “earn” his fathers approval (this is where I believe he developed his theory of justification by “faith alone”). It also so pained him, as well as angered him to see the Church in such a defiled state, with no one attempting to reform her and challenging it’s leadership to live the gospel (I had lived that myself, not so long ago). I then looked into the life of Pope Leo X, and from what I’ve understood in my studies, his greed was his greatest character flaw. Well, that and pride. Because when he was confronted by someone he felt was inferior, instead of humbly submitting to Christ and His Church as their servant he hardened his heart and acted as “head” instead of “vicar”. As stated earlier, once it turned political, it was to late. Neither side would budge.

Now, what I had to do, was ask the Holy Spirit to help me discern the truth about the Rebellion (Protestant Reformation) and ask Him to help me find in scripture, as well as the history of the Church, the correct theology concerning “sola scriptura” and” sola fide”.

This is when I made a brand new (at least to me) discovery. There are actual documents (letters, sermons) from actual Bishops and Church leaders from the late first century, all the way up to the great rebellion. I read these letters and teachings with great interest, praying they would shed some light on these subjects.

I found myself delighted and upset at the same time. Why was this treasury of teachings, letters and historical information about the early Church, kept a secret from me? How we had longed for in our small Bible study group, to transform our church into an Acts church! To change the world for Christ, bold and undaunted. Meeting everyday for Worship and fellowship. And I was reading letters of the first century leaders, teaching their congreations how to continue in this way.

Delighted I’d found these writings and angered that they had been kept from me, for all this time. Apparently, my faith tradition “threw the baby out with the bath water”. What was passed on to me was a hodge-podge of beliefs, picked by only the finest “reformers” available. Because everything prior to the Rebellion WAS Catholic. Everything elese that had brought division or was not taught by the apostles or their successors was heresy….period. Since the rebellion though, I could pick and chose my beliefs, consider myself a Christian and be my own authority. In retrospect, I saw that Luther, intentionally or not, set himself up as a pope and all protestants have followed suit ever since. It went deeper than the sale of indulgences, and clergy corruption, it went to the Sacraments, the Magisterium, interpretation of scripture, eventually doing away with everything that was deemed Catholic. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of blame to go on the Catholic side of all this and it was addressed and corrected at the Council of Trent.

This lead me to the “sola scriptura” thing.

Example: The Trinity; The Trinity is not taught in the Bible, it is alluded to, but not explained in the scriptures at all. This is what I meant when I said earlier about throwing the baby out with the bath water; Why has this teaching been taught from the beginning, as a tenet of the faith and it isn’t even explained in scripture? It was at the Council of Nicaea that this dogma (doctrine) of the Trinity was defined. Defined by the Catholic Bishops of the day, through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be sure. It had to be defined by theCatholic Church, there was no other ecclesial body of Christians, except for the heretics who at the time were arguing against the Trinitarian concept.

So, I’m expected to believe in a tenet of the faith, discerend by Catholic Bishops in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea, yet, the Bible is the sole authority of my belief system. The books of the new testament were not even recognized as authoritative until 367 A.D. by, guess who? That’s right, Catholic Bishops at the Council of Carthage. How could the Church survive 330 + years, without a new testament, unless the Church was the creation of God Himself? It couldn’t. So to deny the existence of a one true Church, makes no sense to me anymore.

Another thing that made less and less sense to me was the theory of “sola fide”. Faith alone, once saved, always saved. Luther taught faith alone justifies, as well as saves. These are two different things. James says that we are not justified by faith alone, but also by our treatment of others. Jesus Himself said if we forgive others we will be forgiven, if we don’t forgive others we won’t be forgiven. He also said that if we didn’t abide in Him, like branches on the vine that dry up, we will be cut off and cast into the fire.

This time, the issue was fueled by real life circumstances. The one of our former pastor, and now by close family friends, who had moved north,and now the wife was having an affair. How could these people, once so dedicated to God, now turn away from Him and toward adultery and think they could enter heaven? The Bible clearly states that no adulterer will enter the kingdom of heaven (I Cor. 6). So what gives? Is God bound by a prayer said a few years ago and not the path of that individuals life?

The Biblical answer is perseverance. We must endure until the end of our lives being faithful to God. If we “grow weary in well doing” and quit, we forfeit what we had. Yet God is ever calling us to repentance, to come back to Him. Some, like our former pastor, have made strides to come back to God, and others like our friend the wife, have not. I’m not judging their hearts here, please don’t misunderstand me here. I am judging their actions, their actions were sin, but only God can judge their hearts. And I pray for God’s grace and mercy to continue to work in their lives, bringing them all the way back to Himself.

Much like the Passover story tells us, all accepted deliverence but all didn’t endure to the promiced land. Much like Jesus tells us, “Pick up your cross daily and follow me.”

We have a choice to make: follow or forfeit. I want to follow!

7 Responses

  1. Tim,

    Once again, your honesty almost relieves me. In the world wide web, it’s so hard to find someone who just speaks the truth about himself. A positive blog, a journey.

    I also love the view you have of God. That He is Awesome. I don’t think a lot of people realize this.

    Also, being baptized Russian Orthodox and raised Catholic (We are Assyrians and speak Aramaic), I am astounded at how much time you have put into studying all aspects of the major religions. Admirable.

    Thank you again and yes I will continue to read!

    I have a wonderful version of ‘Exodus’ (song) by The Platters. With Deanna’s permission, I would be happy to send it to you because I see the email link above. It’s beautiful. Only with her permission!

    God Speed!
    Harlequin

  2. She said that would be fine. I can’t wait to get it! Thank you.
    You can check out Deanna’s blog, it’s called “Resigning the Game” and it’s on my blogroll. She’s writing the story from her perspective.
    And thank you for all the kind words.
    Bless you.

  3. I definitely will!!! Thank you for the positive nature of your blogs. I’m looking at how many hits you have had, and it disappoints me that since you aren’t bellyaching, not enough comments have been posted. The world of blogging I suppose.

    Song is sent!

  4. Thanks Harlequin! I can’t wait to hear it!

    I pray that as I do what God calls me to, He will send the readers that He wants to read it. As long as I’m faithful on my end, that’s all I can do.

    But yes, if I was bellyaching over politics, culture and of course talking about sex, I’m sure I’d get more hits. But that’s OK.

    God bless you,
    Tim

  5. I love this part: “…He will send the readers that He wants to read it. As long as I’m faithful on my end, that’s all I can do.”

    I hope so, I really hope so. After the Pine Sol craze I will have today, I have to delve into the next chapters of The Conversion and then start on Deanna’s blog!

    God Speed,
    Harlequin

  6. She’s writing the story from her perspective.

    And I thought I was almost done.

    I love this part: “…He will send the readers that He wants to read it. As long as I’m faithful on my end, that’s all I can do.”

    There were a couple of things that before reading this today I’ve all but given up hope for. I’m encouraged.

  7. Richard,
    Thanks for the comment. I’m glad God could use me and my story, to encourage you today!
    That encourages me! Thanks again. And keep up the fine work on your blog.

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