Many evangelical groups today are proposing that we abandon “traditional” models of “being the Church,” and instead replace that stodginess with what is presumably a more “New Testament” model: that of the “house church” or “cell church.” Essentially, they are promoting that the local Church be a de-centralized assembly, meeting in the homes of various individuals, proportionally scattered throughout a city. The presumption is that this is the “Biblical” model for both fellowship and discipleship, being derived from the New Testament itself.

The anti gun media, with their sensationalism will go on and on about how unarmed people acted bravely as they died at the hands of a lunatic, but nary a word about an armed person stopping a massacre before it barely begun.

I’m speaking of the actions displayed by Nick Meli. Actions that gun control zealots and the media would have you believe didn’t exist. You see, before the Gun Free Zone facilitated 27 murders in Newtown Connecticut, there was an attempted mass murder clear across the country in Portland Oregon.

Gun Owners of America

Or at least that is what the press would have us believe.

The anti gun media, with their sensationalism will go on and on about how unarmed people acted bravely as they died at the hands of a lunatic, but nary a word about an armed person stopping a massacre before it barely begun.

I’m speaking of the actions displayed by Nick Meli.  Actions that gun control zealots and the media would have you believe didn’t exist.  You see, before the Gun Free Zone facilitated 27 murders in Newtown Connecticut, there was an attempted mass murder clear across the country in Portland Oregon.

A masked man stormed into the Clackamas Mall and opened fire, killing 2 and injuring 1.  The shooter had no intentions of stopping.  That is when Nick Meli made his move, drew his concealed pistol and lined the shooter up in his sights.

As with many of…

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I hope Evangelicals will listen to the young ones as well…

Catholic With A Vengeance +++

Attention Pastors, Youth Pastors, Music Directors, Deacons and Catechists:

 

I have oft heard the complaint from you that “The young people aren’t interested in Catholic faith, they don’t come to Mass and they don’t volunteer to sing, lector or help with ministries…it seems there is little hope these days!”

I’ve come to tell you, there is hope! The young people can be drawn to Catholic faith, Mass, choir and any church-related ministry. You can get them interested!

 

The Problem:

Frequently, young Catholics feel ignored, not that they aren’t being pampered or praised or given special attention, I mean they are trying to tell you exactly what they like, what they expect from the Church, what they are yearning for deep in their souls… but you simply aren’t listening.

I am in my twenties, part of the tail end of what they call “the John Paul II generation” I…

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“There are many things we could say about the spiritual basis for what happened in Newtown, which of course is now at least the seventh killing spree we’ve had in America this year. We should rightly point out that such things are simply another extension of the culture of death that our society pursues. Is it any wonder that human life occasionally can mean nothing to someone in our nation, with decades of pursuing a foreign policy in which we have trained young men and women pre-emptively to kill an “enemy” who has never attacked us, with decades of pursuing a national lifestyle in which the lives of the most innocent and helpless of us all are at the whims of “choice,” with presidential “kill lists” and drone assassinations, with the dehumanization of nearly anyone accused of a crime as an “animal” or a “monster,” with the militarization of our police forces who all too frequently conduct SWAT team style raids on the wrong houses and kill and traumatize innocent people with near impunity, with the subjection of the God-given sanctity of the human person to the whims of social redefinition and the shifting winds of culture? Is it any wonder?”

Common depictions of the Christian doctrine of hell, perhaps borrowing images from classic literature and Dante, portray it as a place of literal fire, where tortured souls repose in anguish, a vision much used by itinerant evangelists and manipulative preachers.

A further degradation of this cartoon vision finds human souls not only suffering extreme torture, but prodded by red devils with tiny horns, cloven hoofs for feet, spiraling tails, and pitchforks at hand, a caricature used to both trivialize the concept as well as mock the very idea of hell.

Orthocath

My friend Eric Simpson gives a succinct overview on a difficult subject:

Hell and God’s Love: An Orthodox View

By Eric Simpson

Common depictions of the Christian doctrine of hell, perhaps borrowing images from classic literature and Dante, portray it as a place of literal fire, where tortured souls repose in anguish, a vision much used by itinerant evangelists and manipulative preachers.

A further degradation of this cartoon vision finds human souls not only suffering extreme torture, but prodded by red devils with tiny horns, cloven hoofs for feet, spiraling tails, and pitchforks at hand, a caricature used to both trivialize the concept as well as mock the very idea of hell.

In the Revelation of John, we discover a lake of fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, as an abode of punishment, as well as a bottomless abyss. Jesus himself, of course, named hell as the place…

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Of Doubt and Belief

ImageSøren Kierkegaard once said, “Every mental act is composed of doubt and belief,but it is belief that is the positive, it is beliefthat sustains thought and holds the world together.”

 

I believe Mr. Søren Kierkegaard is onto something.

 

I think the number one thing I learned while doing my mentored internship is that I am not yet ready to become a priest.  I have learned that I am grossly unprepared to minister to people and to love them.  I have learned that I am but twenty-five years old and know absolutely nothing about leadership, ministering, counseling, or shepherding a flock.  Sitting at the feet of Father Stephen, a ripened old priest full of wisdom and humility has brought to light these revelations.  These revelations are not a bad thing in and of themselves.

 

In fact, I am glad I have seen these.  I am not ready to become a minister.  There are several reasons why I have chosen not to pursue priesthood right now (not sure if it is something one pursues or is pursued by), and why I have chosen to hold off on going to seminary: 1) I am new to the Orthodox Catholic Church and would not be permitted to go for up to two years after being chrismated.  This is the most obvious reason why I am holding off on these journeys for the time being, 2) I am but twenty-five years old.  I have no experience being a shepherd.  I have no wisdom to give to anyone as a spiritual shepherd.  I do not feel prepared to minister to hurting people, and 3) I am still very immature in many areas.  I feel a man ought not be a minister until he is into his thirties.

 

Seeing how experienced, wise, and humble Father Stephen is has caused me to stop and pause and ponder my vocational choices.  As I sit here typing this paper, the thought that is running through my head is one of doubt.  Doubt towards whether or not choosing Preaching and Church Leadership was the right choice for me.  I wonder if I have pursued the right degree in accordance with the gifts He has given me.  I see the experience of a man like Father Stephen and wonder if I have what it takes to do that.

 

These doubts coupled with the unpreparedness for ministry are the reasons why I have chosen to do my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy.  I have thought this out deeply.  Something Dr. Owens said made me think a lot about pursuing a counseling route.  He told us in class one day that Johnson taught him how to preach, but it was Emmanuel that taught him how to minister.  I did not choose the Preaching/Church Leadership route to necessarily become a fancy homiletician or C.E.O. pastoral leader, but to be in the position to help other people.  That is what I want to do.  I am pursuing a Masters in Marriage and Family for two reasons: 1) I do not want a horrible job come May that I will not enjoy doing, and 2) I can use this vocation as a bi-vocational priest should I be called to be one and it will only enhance my ministry allowing me to minister to people.  If I do not become a priest then I will have a vocation that I will enjoy doing and still get to help people

 

The experience has taught me much.  I strive to be a wise old priest like Father Stephen one day.  I struggle with the thought that if I do not become a priest that I wasted five years of my life in undergrad pursuing a degree that is ultimately not of use to me while I could have been pursuing a counseling background.  I hope these doubts will clear up and that God will grant me clear direction.  I am thankful for the experience of Father Stephen.  A man needs to think deeply about his experiences and about pursuing ministry.  I just hope I am fit for the job if I get it; if I am not I pray His grace covers me.

 

I believe this has brought me into a place of being less confidant of my calling to ministry in a clergy position.  That is not to say the experience with Father Stephen on a weekly basis was a bad one.  I have seen that ministry is tough.  Father Stephen has been doing this for almost thirty years.  His experiences have helped shape and mold him into the humble priest full of wisdom that he is.  Seeing his humility has taught me that the best approach to ministry is humility itself.  I believe that whether or not my doubts are true is hardly the point.  I have struggled with these doubts for awhile, especially since joining the Orthodox Church where I feel most at home.  But the point is if I become a priest is to seek humility and to seek wisdom.  Part of my weaknesses at this current time is that I have neither of those things.  I often see myself as the prideful charlatan rather than the humble student.  I need to seek His grace in the sacraments and to allow Him to transform me more before I even think more about becoming a priest.  I also just want to live and experience Orthodoxy and get the western cotton out of my ears so to speak.

 

The oddest thing all this has remembered me of is that I do not want to be a preacher.  I did not want to join the Preaching and Church Leadership degree program, but I felt a strong genuine call from the Lord that that is the move I needed to make.  I do not have the gifts it takes to be a fine preacher.  I do not even know if I have the gifts to be a shepherd at this point.  This was all something I want to avoid, but I felt a huge relief and a sense of peace for obeying what I felt was that calling.  And if the Church and the Lord call me forth to become a priest I will gladly serve since it will confirm what I have felt is a calling.  My prayer is that I will become equipped to truly shepherd, but that I will also become humbled and wise.  I desire to be a man full His humility and His grace whether or not I am a priest.  I have learned much from sitting at Father’s feet.  He is a wonderful example of a godly priest who is humble and wise.  I am sure with him and my faith community and the Spirit by my side that my path shall be made known to me as I work out my salvation daily.

 

I need to focus on getting to know my Shepherd! Archbishop John Shahovskoy writes in “The Orthodox Pastor”, “Only those who know the One Shepherd can be shepherds on earth or in heaven.” To be a pastor of Christ showing His presence to the flock and to the world, one must know the Shepherd. I must work out my own salvation first and foremost before and during priesthood.  I must learn via the disciplines to silent the craziness of my thoughts and mind and to enter into the place of the heart where my true self lies.  It is there that I will begin to know God and be known by Him.  The Archbishop also said, “True pastorship is Christ’s life continuing in the world.”  I believe for this to be true Christ has to be working in and through me first.

 

So I have my doubts, but I have my beliefs.  And it is in the fact of those doubts that beliefs hold the world together for me.  No matter what happens or what becomes of my doubts I know my beliefs  shall remain and that God is a good God who loves mankind.  He is the Good Shepherd who will lead me beside the still waters and will make me to lay down in green pastures.

 

Of these doubts and beliefs, I choose belief, and I know everything will be alright.

the reason I’m writing now is that during the past election I was disappointed to see the president’s campaign utterly abandoning these ideals of treating your opponents as you yourself would wish to be treated. Good people with principled and profound convictions about when life begins were cynically demonized as “enemies of women.” Americans who had worked hard to build businesses, and who had given millions to charity and to the government, were denounced as fat-cats who weren’t “paying their fair share” and whose wealth was ill-gotten gain.

These scorched-earth tactics were not presidential, much less Christian, and because the president openly professes a Christian faith, I feel I must speak about this.

CNN Belief Blog

Editor’s Note:Eric Metaxas is the author of “No Pressure, Mr. President! The Power Of True Belief In A Time Of Crisis: The National Prayer Breakfast Speech.”

By Eric Metaxas, Special to CNN

(CNN)–Imagine that the president of the United States had to sit and listen to you for 30 minutes in a public setting. Imagine that he couldn’t escape and had to endure whatever you said. If you disagreed with him politically, would you try to embarrass him? What would you say?

Well, this actually happened to me. A year ago I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, an event attended by the president, first lady, vice president, and 3,500 other dignitaries. No one was more shocked at the invitation than I. Previous speakers include Mother Teresa, Tony Blair and Bono. No pressure.

By the way, I disagree with…

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