I’ve found that the longer I go without reading at least a bit of scripture, the further I drift from fulfilling life. I’ve just started using some online commentaries to help me try to understand verses that confuse me a bit. This has been very helpful, yet, also very frustrating. It does seem like any verse can be used to support multiple positions. But, then I realize that there is a constant, identifiable thread of truth when the bible is looked at as a whole and not in dissected, distorted parts.
My family is bi-denominational. As a family we alternate weekly attendance to a Catholic church (my wife) and a Presbyterian church (me). She does so very much because it is familiar to her and is tradition while I, though I admit this view could be considered slanted, attend hoping to really come closer to God’s will for my life. She doesn’t seem to have any real rationale for following the Catholic template, but, refuses to let go.
This family dynamic provides a lot of opportunities for me to raise questions, though. By referring to a couple of online commentaries, reading the scripture in different translations, e-mailing my wife’s priest and my pastor, I have resolved my confusion about Matthew 16 when (as the Catholic interpretation implies) Christ named Peter the leader of the church and established the beginning of what Catholics would come to refer to as apostolic succession. Basically, there is no evidence in scripture that Peter was ever the high leader of the original church. Under the concept of ‘sola Scriptura’ (scripture alone), if its not in the scripture, it is not valid. Therefore, the concept of apostolic succession is not valid.
Once you peel back the legitimacy of the foundation of Catholic doctrine (a perverted series of traditions established by fallible men and not “holy fathers” or “popes”), the real power of Martin Luther’s break and the superiority of scripture over religious bureaucracy is evident.
My legs are uselessly weak after trying to kick free from this demon up to this very moment
The fork of my freedom remains
Her back to the Light that shines on the dark
The dark that has been redeemed by the Light
But, because I cried, “Lord, save me,”
“Immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand,”
He caught me
Though the demons goad me
Floating on a sea of grace
From Matthew 14:25 KJV
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boysterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
From the July 15 entry of Brennan Manning’s Reflections for Ragamuffins: Daily Devotions
Peter writes in his first letter: “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s almighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:5b-6).
These words are both frightening and consoling. God resists, refuses, rejects the proud. But he delivers himself up, he gives himself totally to the humble and the little. Not only does he not resist them, but he cannot refuse them anything. The story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28 is a shinging example. “Yes, Lord,” she said to Jesus when he pointed out that his mission was to Israel alone, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the masters’ table.” She humbled herself, and Jesus exalted her. “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”
Jesus couldn’t resis the humility of this foreign woman, of the good thief, of Mary Magdalene.
“A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.” Proverbs 29:23
This reading reveals a characteristic of Jesus which, in my opinion, is profoundly beautiful and right. I often get caught up in the idea that something that I do or don’t do can either bring me closer to or push me further from God. His Love is infinite and his wisdom omniscient. All that we can do is come to him in utter humility, admit our powerlessness, and allow him to infuse us with His power so that we can live in faith, soaked in grace, and let our lives more resemble Him. This is life lived more abundantly.
The past still haunts me from time to time
My eyes drift away from His gaze
I feel my legs sinking below the surface
But, He went to such lengths to forgive
Here I stand too desensitized to notice
The me that catches my own backward glance
Is not the self that wrestles today
Lord God Almighty Christ
Infuse my muscles with enough holy power
To kick free from this wheezing demon
And dash forward carried by the fire of grace
Grant me the faith to not look back
But to love forward
I believe that it must have been easier to live as a Christian prior to modern times. There are so many distractions that divert our attention from what is real and true. I know that I am at my worst when prayer and devotion hasn’t been a high priority in my life. This is not to say that with prayer and devotion I am invincible. Far from it! But when I keep my eyes on Him who is invincible, my Faith is proven to have been well placed.
When He came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed Him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before Him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Matthew 8:1-3
If you don’t believe in God, why are you so concerned with hashing out the idea that He doesn’t exist in a blog? I ask this knowing that the times in my past when I’ve most wanted to stand up for the perspective of atheistic life were times when my own conscience shivered – because something was touching a sensitive nerve buried deep in my soul. If God doesn’t exist and doesn’t matter, why not blog about something else?
Christianity is a strange animal. In one sense, the reality of God’s grace and the turn that he brought me to are as real as the chair that I’m sitting on. On the other hand, the line that separates sin from righteousness can become an idol that distorts faith to the point where I come unglued. The mystery that exists in how I can go from praying to fuming about an e-mail I received within the course of ten minutes completely befuddles me. Though, it is also interesting that within minutes of my realization of this personal contradiction, I came across this excerpt written by the late Rich Mullins:
“I would rather live on the verge of falling and let my security be in the all-sufficiency of the grace of God than to live in some kind of pietistic illusion of moral excellence – not that I don’t want to be morally excellent, but my faith isn’t in the idea that I’m more moral than anybody else. My faith is in the idea that God and His love are greater than whatever sins any of us commit.” (Rich Mullins: His Life And Legacy – An Arrow Pointing To Heaven, Pp.156)