Saturday, May 16, 2020

Coronavirus and Separation of Church and State



Over the past few weeks, I have learned something about many Christians. They think the church is inside a building. They believe if they can't congregate inside of a building they're rights are being infringed. They believe that it's their body and they can do what they want. They want to put their own rights above everyone else--kind of like our left wing brethren. They have forgotten that we are the church whether we congregate inside of a building or not. Many are decrying separation of church and state citing the first amendment.

It has become like the religious right has decided that our nation is a Christian Nation, and depending upon the poll, a little more than half the American people agree with this statement. But it is not true. The United States of America is not a Christian nation, legally and constitutionally.


Yes, most of our founders were religious folk of some ilk, but they did not want to impose their own religion by law on others. And they certainly thought that a religious citizenry was important to good government; but they did not intend to set up a Christian regime under our founding documents. Our civil compact, the Constitution, is a decidedly secular document. It never mentions “Christianity.” Even the word “religious” is used only once in Article VI to ban religious tests for public office. And then two years later the Bill of Rights starts off “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This language dispelled any lingering doubt whether America was intended to be a Christian nation when it prevented the federal government from advancing or inhibiting any religious tradition.
Today, no one can deny that Americans are a very religious people. A 2007 Pew Forum poll showed that about 75 percent claims to be Christian. So, yes, demographically speaking, we may be Christian, but we do not have anything approaching a theocracy, Christian or otherwise. We have a constitutional democracy in which all religious beliefs are protected. The same Constitution that refuses to privilege any religion, including Christianity, protects all religions and the right of other American citizens to claim no religious beliefs at all. As a result, we are a nation of Christians sociologically because we are not a Christian nation constitutionally.

However, what angered me the most is that Christians are putting their own rights above those of others. Like "If I can't be in church, then my rights are being infringed." Someone please tell me how your rights are being infringed. Rob Boston stated "In normal times, when a house of worship holds its services, how many people attend and what form that worship takes would be none of the government’s business. These are not normal times. The coronavirus has reached the level of a pandemic, and states and cities are taking unprecedented steps to curb gatherings of people. Most schools have closed and events like concerts, plays, lectures, movies, sporting matches, social functions and others have been shut down. The restrictions include houses of worship, and the vast majority of religious leaders are being responsible and have either moved services online or canceled them outright. Some religious leaders have issued thoughtful statements about the need to behave in a way that protects us all during this difficult time." 


This is my church where I can meet
with my God and worship him. 
No where did I see our Bishops in the UMC tell us "You can't have church, instead they said "Follow the governments orders, and worship differently." Personally, I feel like the pastor's who kept having church in light of the government orders weren't having church to feed a flock, rather to feed their egos. All one needs to know is that the coronavirus is highly contagious, can be passed to people from carriers of the virus who are asymptomatic, and can cause serious injury or death not only to our most vulnerable populations but even those who are young, otherwise healthy, and full of potential. We are in virtual lockdowns across the country not merely out of a paternalistic desire to protect people from their own recklessness, but also, and more justifiably, to protect innocent bystanders against the reckless misconduct of those who insist on “life as normal,” including religious services. Some people have claimed a constitutional right to freely exercise their religion in large groups despite the negative health consequences of doing so. The Supreme Court has held, however, in an opinion authored by none other than the late Justice Antonin Scalia, both a devout Catholic and a fierce defender of religious liberty, that Americans do not have a constitutional right to disobey generally applicable laws that were enacted without an intent to discriminate against religion.
Michael Moreland, director of the Ellen H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University said “States have ... the power to enact regulations that are necessary for public safety." And in this instance that is what has happened. As The leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals and Christianity Today have issued a statement that will likely resonate with many religious people: Believers aren’t being asked to stop worshipping – merely to do it differently."

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Bearing False Witness has Eternal Consequences

Recently I was in a chatroom speaking with some friends and someone asked me if I had ever heard of Perry Stone. I answered “Of course, I had heard of Perry Stone, and I found some of his teachings questionable—as I do many pastors. The admin in the chatroom said “Well…every time you open your mouth randers33 we question you and your teachings. Why, just a few weeks ago, I heard someone say you were in a lesbian relationship.” Then Chainbreaker got up on the mic and told the entire room “You need to realize that randers33 is a liar and fraud.” 

I sat there stunned, why would these people attack me? I put the room on ignore. Since I couldn’t hear them they chose to sit there and hurl insults at me. So another in the room pulled me aside and said “Randers33, is it true? Are you a lesbian? And what MetisHebrew says, “Did you really have dinner with Princess Diana? And what about Tom Dooley? Did you lie about that?”
If I hadn’t been so upset by the lies, I would have probably thought the question about Diana was comical. Here were 3 so called upstanding Christians attacking someone because they have no love in their hearts for the truth. I answered the lady. “No, I am not a lesbian. I have dated several guys in my life, none that I would marry. I had a very close female friend, as most girls do, that I took day trips with and such, but that doesn’t mean we were amorous.” I am not a fraud, Tom Dula is my 1st Cousin 6 times removed. And as the Diana story, let me tell you what really happened…” 


Before bed, I laid down and I prayed for Troy (His_Kid_1), MetisHebrew and Jesus-is-a-chainbreaker. I prayed that God would give them whatever peace they needed in their lives. Because all I can think is that they are so unhappy that they have to make others unhappy. And I thought about bearing false witness, and how even though the tongue is so small it can do major damage. Rev. Rhonda Feurtado, of the Louisiana Conference, UMC says in her sermon “Your Nail” 

Small as it is, the tongue is one of the most powerful organs in the human body. With it we can do great good – defending other people, encouraging other people, speaking words of comfort and hope to them. The tongue can also be one of the most dangerous weapons w eposes. Without touching other people physically, we have do great damage to them and hurt them very much by the way we talk about them - by betraying, slandering, or lying about them. Even when silent, the tongue and be an instrument of evil – if we fail to speak up to defend someone when others are talking about them or when words are needed and we can make a difference.

When I woke up this morning, I immediately started thinking about the Rich man and Lazarus. I thought about what kinds of things this rich man may have said about Lazarus when he saw him begging at the gate of the city. Did he mock Lazarus? Did he make up stories about Lazarus? Did he bear false witness against Lazarus? It’s quite possible he did all of these things. I think that the rich man probably fulfilled Proverbs 19:5 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.

If we look at Luke 16:19-31 we see that the Rich man gained good here on earth, and those that were bearing false witness against me, have received good here on earth, but it’s meaningless if their treasures are stored up here on earth. What will they have in eternity? And Lazarus? He got bad things in life here on earth, but his treasures were stored up in heaven. 

Suddenly it was clear to me, living as you belong to Christ stands opposed to worldly living. The world values wealth and possessions, while real Christian living obeys God’s Word instead of the world’s worth.
I really like like Trent Butler puts it in the Holman NT Commentary: Luke. 
Kingdom living starts in this world. Members of the kingdom must live with the same resources and challenges as the secular person. Too often secular people outsmart kingdom people in their use of the world’s resources to get ahead, plan ahead, and influence other people. Kingdom people also need to use the world’s resources with acumen and wisdom. Kingdom people have a clearer vision of the future; they point toward eternity, not just toward tomorrow. Thus, kingdom living means using the world’s resources to help those kingdom people Jesus consistently pointed to—poor, lame, blind, crippled. Using world resources generously to help Jesus’ people is wise planning for the future. It leads to meeting those people who are waiting to greet us in heaven. 
Kingdom people are single-minded people. They do not hold to both the world and the kingdom. They know no one can be a slave who obeys two masters. Nor do they need to justify their kingdom existence before other people. God justifies. People do not. What people see as justification, God sees as detestable, reprehensible. 
Kingdom people live out of new resources the world does not have, even the world of the religious and pious. Kingdom people have entered Jesus’ kingdom, something new beyond the authority and life of Moses and the prophets. They do not destroy the old authority. They fill it full. They may interpret the law in stricter terms than even the Pharisees and rabbis. 
Kingdom living often means earthly poverty and suffering. It means being ignored by those who are enjoying the world’s blessings and comforts. This enjoyment is temporary. Death soon comes and cuts it off. Then you must face eternity. What will you face? Life on Abraham’s side or life in torment in Hades? The question is, Have you truly believed the law and the prophets? Have you seen that they point to Jesus and his kingdom? Have you entered eternity as a kingdom person or as a self-justifying legalist? Must you have a great sign from God to believe the true purpose of Scripture? Or will you humbly believe with those like Lazarus? Kingdom living is living Christ’s way. Are you living the kingdom way today?”(1)
As it is, I have learned that someday, some folks are going to be in for a rude awakening, they are going to say "Lord, Lord!" And Jesus is going to look at them, and tell them, "Depart, I never knew you."

 1. Trent C. Butler, Luke, vol. 3, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 268–269.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Unfamiliar Christianity: A Response


This week a friend of mine, Brother Thomas, a Benedictine Monk sent me a gift of a Catholic Rosary. He ordered it through christiancatholicshop.com. After I received my gift, I began reading christiancatholicmedia.com. I ran across an article that I feel I should respond to. It’s called Unfamiliar Christianity-What Protestants are Missing. 

In the article, it says “They [Protestants] are missing Christ in the Eucharist also known as Communion. The Sacrifice of the Mass Instituted by Christ our High Priest and can only be celebrated by a Priest with authority of Christs Church.”

So on Facebook I commented “Speaking as a protestant, I can tell you that our communion is not missing Christ. We do not celebrate communion weekly because it becomes mundane and loses it’s meaning. I certainly wish that we celebrated more often than once a month or even once a quarter, but you can hardly say that we are missing Christ.” Today while speaking with Father Thomas, I went to show him my comment; and it is gone. It is not on the Facebook post. So I decided to write about how, we, Methodists see the Sacrament of Eucharist/Communion. 

First, let’s look at how the author of the article looks at Communion. Catholics view this as the literal Body and Blood of Christ in the form of Bread and Wine, not a mere symbol or spiritual sign. It is both Biblical in the readings of the Last Supper, Road to Emmaus and others  and also historical, written by the first Christians on how to celebrate this Sacrifice as handed down by the Apostles.

Given this information I can see where he [the Author] believes that Protestants have an unfamiliar Christianity. 

The protestant church, and Methodist in particular use words like Holy Communion, Eucharist and Lord’s Supper. Each of these places emphasis on a particular view of the spiritual nourishment of this ritual celebration. 

Holdy Communion focuses on the holiness of the gathering and sharing as the body of Christ. Eucharist, from the Greek for “Gratitude” emphasizes giving thanks as Jesus gave thanks for the bread and wine and the term Lord’s Supper, refers to the last supper as he recalled it (1 Corinthians 11:20, 23-26. 

Just as in the Catholic church, Holy Communion is important because it is a time when we encounter Jesus Christ. Gayle Felton says “Christ is present in ways we simply can not explain.” To me that is saying more than the explanation of transubstantiation. For Methodists, and I am sure other protestant denominations, and I hope within Catholicism also, Holy Communion is a place of grace, it’s a place of forgiveness. In our liturgy for Word and Table the first thing we do is pray for forgiveness of sins. We confess to almighty God that we have not loved even Him with our whole hearts, we have failed to be obedient and have not done His will. We have broken His law, rebelled against His love, have not loved our neighbors as we should and we have not hear the cries of the needy. We ask for his forgiveness.

Even in our time of silence, we continue to pray for particular sins and we even ask God to be with us there in those holiest of moments. We invite his Holy Spirit to be present. Now I am sure this is where many Catholics would say “That’s right you invite his Holy Spirit, we invite Christ.” 

Going over the liturgy with Father Thomas he asked me “What is said when you are handed your wafer?” I quickly corrected him and said “Kings Hawaiian bread!” (I have to say we laughed)…I showed him our liturgy and said “The Pastor presents the bread to the person, and says “The Body of Christ, given for you.” Father Thomas then asked “How do you see that wafer, is it literally the body of Christ?” Knowing the answer to his question was to be “No.” I explained how I see the bread and wine. “While I do not see the bread and wine as literal flesh and blood, I do see them as the very presence of Jesus in that moment.” Evidently this was an answer that no Protestant has ever given to Father Thomas. He was impressed.

The second way that Methodists see (or should see) Communion is as for for our spiritual journey. John Wesley once said “This is the food of our souls; this gives strength to perform our duty and leads us on to perfection.” Now Catholics don’t see it as spiritual nourishment; but it is. It is our way of drawing closer to Christ. 

Thirdly, when we receive Communion, it transforms the receiver. It puts us in touch with God and then He is able to make us into who He wants us to be. Fourth, communion is a time of reconciliation. It’s a time when God draws us closer to Him. He is reconciling us to Him, He is reconciling us to each other and it doesn’t stop just to those within the four walls of the church, but around the world. 

Lastly, Communion prepares us and propels us into Mission. It provides us grace to be able to share Christ’s love with the world. 

Articles like the one on christiancatholicmedia.com does more harm than good. It keeps the body of Christ separated instead of trying to see the relationship between both Protestants and Catholics. Luckily, I am not the only person who thinks that focusing solely on the differences can do more harm than good. Dr. Mindy Makant, assistant professor of religion at Lenoir Rhyne University, a Lutheran school in Hickory, N.C., states in an article from Oblate School of Theology, “We are called to be in unity with one another for the sake of the world, with the United States more divided politically than ever, many Christians believe it’s absolutely critical that Christians stand together. For 450 years after the Reformation, Protestants – particularly Lutherans – celebrated the schism; but for the past 50 years, we’ve been able to stop seeing schism as something to celebrate and instead to see it as a wound to be healed…we can honor the gifts that have come out of the Reformation without celebrating it as a schism,” she explained.

What the author of the “Unfamiliar Christianity” article doesn’t realize is that Holy Communion is the same for everyone—it is the great mystery that is summed up in “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Praying Life


Recently I spent the Lenten season in prayer. I spent each of the 40 days praying through 1 Corinthians 13 and other scriptures to find out what God was saying just to me. Then I blogged them so that I could remember the journey I had with God--but also so that I could share them with my online family.

What I really learned through Lectio Divina was how to listen to what God was saying to me. Not what the pastor said God was saying; not what my friends said God was saying; what God, Himself was saying. By studying 1 Corinthians 13 and really listening to what God was saying, I became a more loving person.

I look back and my mom asked me "Why don't you get angry at C? I mean here is what they did to you...my child! I hate them!" I looked at her and said "Love doesn't keep a record of wrongs." I had heard that my entire life, but it wasn't until I started to really study what God's word said that I realized that "yes, that person hurt me. I have a right to be angry. I don't have a right to harbor un-forgiveness." because love doesn't keep a record of wrongs.

However, what I took from this experience is that while Bible study is great; and church is amazing, I am looking forward to spending this next year exploring prayer.

Earlier this week, a friend of mine from Belmont Abbey (A Benedictine Monastery) gifted me with two prayer cards of two of my favorite Saints. St. Christopher and St. Pope John Paul II. He also sent me a St. Benedict Rosary.

I already have a few ideas. I plan on exploring the Benedictine idea of prayer. I plan on praying the Catholic Rosary; spending time with the Anglican Rosary; as well as the daily office from the 1663 Book of Common Prayer and the Christian Community in Northumbria, England.

I plan on posting here my regular articles as they come up, but if you want to follow my prayer journey and teaching, please join me at The Praying Life. I'll also set up a contact card where you can send in your prayer requests.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Following Jesus Christ: The New Testament Message of Discipleship for Today

As many here know, I write book reviews every so often. I recently was asked to review a book for Kregel Publications, and I ordered the book back in January and not sure what happened, but it arrived 2 weeks ago. That being said, I have look forward to reviewing this book.

Following Jesus Christ: The New Testament Message of Discipleship for Today really touches some under explored scriptures in part one on what the Bible actually says about discipleship. The book comes in at right at 350 pages, or 20 chapters that have been edited by John Goodrich and Mark Strauss.

The first part of the book is around 17 chapters look, each chapter explores a book in the new testament and what that book(s) say about discipleship. It is definitely a huge undertaking which is why the book is so important for Christians and ministry leadership. Once I started reading, I found the book hard to put down.

Discipleship and discipling are such strong words in Christian-ese that I think we lose sight as to what they meant to early Christians and the early church. In it's exploration of the scriptures this book does a great job at giving us a foundational understanding as to what discipleship and discipling means.

The last three chapters of the book look at discipling in the modern church. This section should have been longer, I felt like it was rushed. If it couldn't have been longer, then it should have been left out of the book all together.

Overall, I feel this book is a great addition to any church's professional library. While written very much in a text book style, it is a book that is both engaging and well thought out.

**I received this book from Kregel publishing for an honest review. It will appear here as well as Christian Book Distributers.**

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Why learning the Biblical Languages is important...

During Holy Week I wrote a blog about forgiveness. In the blog, I used the example of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing and the perpetrator Timothy McVeigh. This week, I had some folks take it upon themselves to treat me like I don't know the scriptures. Which is fine, except that I do know the scriptures and I carved out a very traditional theological education for myself at Liberty University for my MA in Religion. 

One of the things that I did was take Hebrew and Greek. It was important for me to know the Hebrew and the Greek so that I would know what I was reading. It is, however, not always important for people to know Hebrew and Greek, beyond what the Strong's Concordance teaches. And certainly, a person doesn't need to know Hebrew and Greek to know what the scriptures teach--after all we have the Holy Spirit. 


The argument was because I kept a disclaimer in my article "Please note that this article is not saying what Timothy McVeigh did was okay; it definitely was not okay. However, forgiveness is a huge topic and this was just a short introduction to how I looked at the death of Timothy McVeigh. Yes, what he did was evil, but I don't think that made him an evil person, especially in light of him calling for a priest--even if it was a moment of desperation." 


This one sentence has caused a lot of contention. I believe it causes contention not because of what it says, rather what people think I am saying; just as what they believe in their modern understanding of language the bible says.

The new testament uses three words for the adjective "Good." They are:
Kalos: which means something that is free of defects and is beautiful.
Agathos: Moral excellence, something that is worthy of admiration.
Chrestos: Something that is useful, profitable and serviceable, later coming to include kindness and goodness of heart.

One person pointed out "What of it that Jesus says only God is good. Don't you believe that?" Of course, I believe it, however, I can't say that what Jesus was saying is "the modern definition of good." When Jesus tells the young ruler this, He's saying "Only God is morally and ethically virtuous." You see the Greek here employs the word Agathos. 


Agathos: Greek: means "good" in a broad and general sense, and had no particular physical or aesthetic connotations, but could describe a person's excellence of character (ethical virtue), for example their bravery. It also describes what originates from God and is empowered by Him in their life, through faith. 


An example of this is the word love. In Greek there are 6 different words for love.
Agape: which is charity, the love of God for humanity. 

Eros: Love, mostly of the sexual passion type.
Philia or Philos: Brotherly love, love between friends, equals.
Storge: Love/Affection between children and parents
Philautia: to love oneself
Xenia: hospitality --the reciprocal relationship between a guest and a host. 

Martin Luther said 
Let us be sure of this: We will not be long preserve the gospel without the language. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit [Eph. 6:17] is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored...If through our neglect we let the languages go (which God forbid!) we shall...lose the gospel.
I personally like the analogy of a basic TV vs. a curved 80" UHD 4K television with stereo surround sound. 
Reading the Bible without knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a basic television, while reading the Bible knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a curved 80" UHD 4K television with stereo surround sound. You can fully understand what is going on with the basic television, but the curved 80" UHD 4K television with stereo surround sound gives added depth and clarity. With the help of the Holy Spirit, anyone can accurately understand the Bible in English. However, knowing Hebrew and Greek helps to better understand the nuances and richness of the biblical texts. 
I completely agree with the gospel coalition when they say that not everyone has to know Biblical Hebrew and Greek.  That being said, I think it is beneficial, as it lends context to the scripture, it allows for deeper understanding, for me, it brought the book to life, I could hear the people speaking and chatting to each other. It, as the analogy stated provided me a better understanding of the nuances and richness of the Biblical Texts.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Forgiveness...

**Please note this article may contain triggers.**

I have recently been reading a book called To the Moon and Back by Karen Kingsbury. It's a work of fiction, where the background of the two main characters is the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. An event that I remember well as I was just a freshman in high school. I have never been to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, nor have I been to the memorial after the bombing. I did once hold a piece of rubble from the site at a highland games when we took time to remember all the lives lost in Oklahoma City.

This post, however, isn't about the bombing or visiting the memorial; it's about something that happened to me on June 10-11, 2001. These dates probably don't mean a lot to most people. It was a regular spring day, the news carried footage of the bombing, because on June 11, 2001, Timothy McVeigh, the home-grown terrorist was going to die. He was finally going to get what he deserved. Everyone around me was happy, because why should he live when 168 people, children included, died. 

I remember at one point Mr. McVeigh's picture flashed up on the screen; the image of him walking
McVeigh getting ready to walk out of the Noble County Courthouse
out the Noble County Courthouse. I remember my neighbor Kelly walked to the door of my apartment and saying "Good, one less criminal we have to keep up." But something in the look on McVeigh's face showed that he was remorseful. Maybe not to the point we should think that he would have been, but something within me said "This is someone's son, someone's brother, possibly their uncle and maybe even someone's father (even though we do not know if he had children). 


After Kelly left, I called my parents, and I remember asking my mom "Is it okay if I cry when they execute Timothy McVeigh? Is it okay that I feel bad for him?" My mom must have been confused, but she never let it show, she said "Well, yes, it is okay to feel bad for him, and it's okay to cry." I guess I realized what a silly girl I sounded like, so I explained to my mom, "Ya know mom, I get that he's a terrorist, I get that he hurt a lot of people, but what if he truly is sorry? What if he asked God's forgiveness? And no one mourns his death because we are so caught up in the evil that he did before he knew Jesus?" 

Most people would say that there is no forgiveness for what Timothy McVeigh did. However, according to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 
You see there isn't one sin that you can name that Jesus Christ can not forgive.  So why do we find it hard to believe that Timothy McVeigh would be forgiven. Matter of fact, I learned tonight, that McVeigh sought forgiveness. "Tim asked to have the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or Dying, if facing imminent death, at around 4 or 5 in the morning," Ashmore said. The chief biblical text concerning the rite is James 5:14–15: "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (RSV). Father Ashmore, went on to state he[McVeigh] knew what he was asking to do--to stand before God, seek his pardon and forgiveness and to fill him with God's grace and lead him to life eternal and feel God's love."

1 John 1:9-10
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 
1 John 2:2 
2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
You see as we enter the Holy Week before Easter Sunday, it is time for us to reflect on our own lives, and how we could have been such as McVeigh, but by God's grace we have not fallen into that place. It is also a time for us to reflect on un-forgiveness in our own lives and look for the times that we could have or should have and possibly can still forgive others. 


Please note that this article is not saying what Timothy McVeigh did was okay; it definitely was not okay. However, forgiveness is a huge topic and this was just a short introduction to how I looked at the death of Timothy McVeigh. Yes, what he did was evil, but I don't think that made him an evil person, especially in light of him calling for a priest--even if it was a moment of desperation. 

Coronavirus and Separation of Church and State

Over the past few weeks, I have learned something about many Christians. They think the church is inside a building. They believe if the...