A Nice Day Off

Debbie and the kids have been off the last week for spring break. So I decided to take today off and take the family on a day trip. We went to Crystal Cove State Park and had a wonderful day. The weather was beautiful and the entire day was very relaxing and nice. Aaaahhhh…

You can check out some of the photos we took by clicking on the Flikr widget in the sidebar.

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The Fullness of the Church

I want to broach a subject that I know is fraught with controversy. And I know it’s a subject that I am very inadequate to discuss. However, a comment in a recent post got me thinking about an area of Eastern Orthodoxy that was initially a major hang-up for me. It’s the idea that the Orthodox Church is the true Church. Anyone exploring Orthodoxy will bump up against this concept very quickly.

At this point, I don’t have much to offer to any theological debate about this topic other than my limited experience thus far in the Orthodox Church.

I had voiced my discomfort with Orthodoxy’s ecclesiological claims several months ago to an Orthodox friend while we were discussing my interest in exploring Orthodoxy. He advised me to view Orthodoxy’s ecclesiological claim as being the “fullness of the Church” rather than being “true Church,” a phrase that I kept hearing as “the only and only real Church.”

As I have been exploring Eastern Orthodoxy the last couple of months, I’ve discovered something. So far in my experience, Eastern Orthodoxy lacks nothing good, beautiful and true that I had known previously in my experience as a Protestant Charismatic Evangelical Christian and pastor. In fact, I believe Eastern Orthodoxy possesses a fuller version of all that I had previously experienced, plus abundantly more goodness, beauty and truth.

In other words, not only do I find a parallel commitment to biblical study and praxis, mission, sound theology, life in the Spirit, community and worship, but all of that is enhanced with deep historical connectedness, real communion of the saints, art, music, liturgy, prayers, icons, ascetic practices, spiritual direction, spiritual formation, sacramental life, and much more.

And the few aspects of Protestant Charismatic Evangelicalism that I miss are either stylistic preferences, areas of personal comfort or peripheral issues.

This makes the alternative of my past experience pale in comparison. For example, as a member of the Vineyard denomination, my church history only goes back about 30 years. As a Protestant, it goes back about 500 years. Even with my best intentions to be a missional community, I couldn’t dismiss the fact that when our house church gathered, we were completely disconnected historically. We were a small group that had splintered off of a larger splinter, which had come from a larger splinter, which came from a larger splinter. But in Orthodoxy, I am deeply connected to the wisdom, teaching, example and communion of the entire Church all the way back to its beginning.

Another example is my experience in worship. As a member of the Vineyard, corporate worship was practically experienced as 30 minutes of singing followed by a 45-60 minute sermon. Even our attempts at constructing a more liturgical worship in our house church ended up being disjointed and disconnected from anything historical. In Orthodoxy, I engage in full-sensory, liturgical worship that has been practiced for twenty centuries and rooted in the full life of the Church.

Is the Orthodox Church the “true” Church? All I can say is at this point in our journey east, the Orthodox Church certainly seems to be the fullest expression of the Church.

If you’re interested in exploring this a bit more, Father Stephen has a good podcast about this subject. You can listen to the podcast HERE.

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My Choice

An Orthodox prayer that I’ve been praying lately at the ninth hour snapped this into focus: “O Christ, at the ninth hour You tasted death in the flesh for our sake: mortify the rebellion of our flesh and save us! In the midst of two thieves, Your cross was revealed as the balance-beam of righteousness; For while the one was led down to hell by the burden of blaspheming, the other was lightened of his sins to the knowledge of things divine.

The other day at a theology book store (I know, I’m a theology-geek), I saw a guy wearing a shirt that said, “Arminianism: I chose this shirt.” That made me chuckle.But lately, I’ve become starkly aware of my choices. Not of the shirt I choose to wear, but of attitudes, actions and words that are filled with my own selfishness, brokenness and rebellion against God. I choose to be impatient and snap at my children. I choose to be stressed. I choose to be greedy. I choose to be lustful. I choose to be proud. I choose to be lazy. I choose to be gluttonous. I choose.An Orthodox prayer that I’ve been praying lately at the ninth hour snapped this into focus:

O Christ, at the ninth hour You tasteddeath in the flesh for our sake: mortify therebellion of our flesh and save us!In the midst of two thieves, Your cross wasrevealed as the balance-beam of righteousness;For while the one was led down to hell by theburden of blaspheming, the other waslightened of his sins to the knowledge of things divine.O Christ our God, glory to You!”

Two men on crosses. Physically closer to the crucified Christ than any other human beings. One chose repentance and consolation. The other chose rebellion and destruction. While I may be separated geographically and historically from that actual event, God’s All-Holy Spirit makes the crucified Christ real every moment of my day. And his cross is revealed as a balance-beam of righteousness as I choose: Impatience or peace. Stressed or trusting. Greedy or content. Lustful or virtuous. Proud or humble. Lazy or active. Gluttonous or self-controlled. Faithless or faithful. Will I choose to participate in a hellish life, driven by passions or choose to participate in the divine nature filled with love and holiness?Each moment, I can choose.Lord, have mercy! Mortify the rebellion of my flesh and save me from my passions.

Sixth Hour

Here’s a portion of the prayer that I really like: “Deliver us from every dark and harmful transgression and from all the visible and invisible enemies which seek to destroy us. Nail our flesh to the fear of You, and do not incline our hearts to words or thoughts of guile. But wound our souls with Your love, that ever looking to You, and guided by You in the light, and beholding You, the Light ineffable and everlasting, we may offer ceaseless praise and thanksgiving to You: To the Father who has no beginning, together with Your only-begotten Son and Your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.

As I have been praying through the hours each day with A Manual of the Hours of the Orthodox Church, I find my mind and heart drawn to the Sixth Hour. During that hour, a prayer of St. Basil the Great is used. Here’s a portion of that prayer that I really like:

“Nail our flesh to the fear of You, and do not
incline our hearts to words or thoughts of
guile. But wound our souls with Your
love, that ever looking to You, and guided
by You in the light, and beholding You, the
Light ineffable and everlasting, we may offer
ceaseless praise and thanksgiving to You.”

This portion of St. Basil’s prayer reminds me of some thoughts I heard from Frederica Mathews-Green in an interview she gave. She describes God’s love as healing, much like surgery is healing. When we are left to ourselves, what we want is comfort. In our loneliness and pain, we think that we need more stuff to consume, believing that somehow our indulgences will bring the comfort we need. But God’s love, experienced by following Christ on the path of self-death and new life, delivers us from our selfish and self-destructive habits and the pain that generates them. God’s love doesn’t merely pay the penalty for our sins, but rescues us in the most practical way from Sin.

That’s why I love the lines “Nail our flesh to the fear of You,” and “Wound our souls with your love.” These lines express the desire for and trust in God’s healing and rescuing love and not my selfish desire for comfort. We need God to not simply give us a comforting blanket, but to go deep into our brokenness and shine his light and love.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Interview with Scot McKnight (2)

Dr. Brad Nassif has posted part two of his interview with his friend and colleague, Scot McKnight…. The interview reminded me of one of the gems of Eastern Orthodoxy — their emphasis on the Ransom Theory of the Atonement.

Dr. Brad Nassif has posted part two of his interview with his friend and colleague, Scot McKnight. They discuss McKnight’s two books, A Community Called Atonement and Embracing Grace. The interview reminded me of one of the gems of Eastern Orthodoxy — their emphasis on the Ransom Theory of the Atonement. “Jesus became like us so we could become like him!” Man, I love that line.

One of the things that I like about McKnight, (and they mention this in the interview) is that he takes the wisdom of the Church Fathers and reintroduces them to the evangelical church in such a winsome way. By doing so, as an evangelical Protestant, McKnight is introducing evangelicalism to the beautiful theology of Orthodoxy.

Enjoy the podcast HERE:

Praying the Hours

I’ve downloaded into my iTunes the audio version of the Hours from the Eastern Orthodox site called Ancient Faith Radio…. At the appropriate time, iTunes Alarm begins playing the prayer, which I pray along with from the manual.

Recent changes in our family’s schedule have required me to develop a new “rule of life.” One of the things that I’ve begun and have found to be very enriching is praying the Hours. I’ve experimented with this over the years, but this new way has proven helpful.

I’ve downloaded into my iTunes the audio version of the Hours from the Eastern Orthodox site called Ancient Faith Radio. (They also have some great podcasts available on the site too.) And I also purchased the Manual of the Hours from which the prayers were taken.

I then set up each hour as a specific playlist in my iTunes. I downloaded a freeware called iTunes Alarm and set up a separate alarm for each Hour. At the appropriate time, iTunes Alarm begins playing the prayer, which I pray along with from the manual.

I also use another podcast prayer in the morning that I like. I especially enjoy using this prayer on my iPod when I’m walking or at a coffee shop.