Friday, November 20, 2015

Christian Compassion Vs National Security

With the recent attacks perpetrated by ISIS and Al Qaeda and their affiliates around the world (Russian plane, Paris, Nigeria, and Mali, etc.), it is appropriate to initiate a discussion on how to find a balance between Christian compassion and national security with the regard to the so called Syrian Refugees.

Compassion or security? This is the question every American, especially every Christian should have in their mind. We must ask ourselves how Jesus would answer this question and how therefore He would love to see us answer this question.

As Christian, we have the obligation to fulfil the Great Commission, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19). To do that we must keep in in the words of Jesus Christ how he said: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11: 28)

We are sent to make disciples by bringing to Jesus all people of every nation, race, languages, and cultural background. This includes the Syrians fleeing their country and even ISIS. We are sent to minister to them.

But we are also Second Amendment believing citizens who must NOT give away the right to protect ourselves. So question facing every American Christian is how to balance compassion with safety or even national security.

First of all we must not forget that the One who sent us knew what we were going to face. He faced the same thing and he died on the cross because of human cruelty. He knew that we would experience the same kind of hatred he dealt with. That’s why He gave us this warning:

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles." (Matthew 10: 16-18)

We also know that our Lord Himself had to flee the massacre of Herod and had to live many years in Egypt as an immigrant and refugee (Matthew 2:13). But He did pose any threat to the land of Egypt where He lived. There are many others examples in the Bible about God’s people who lived in foreign countries without causing any security problem. This is not true about the so called Syrian Refugees that Obama with his head-in-the-sand policy vowed to bring to America.

Surprisingly, the majority of these Syrians are young men who can fight against ISIS and take back their country. It had been proven that some of the terrorists who attacked Paris had a Syrian passport. American Border Patrols have arrested a couple of Syrians trying to cross our Southern border.

All this indicates how crucial it is to properly vet everyone that comes to our borders before we they them in. Anyone that is found in connection with a terrorist group must be sent back. As individual Christians, we are called to show compassion and love to those in need, applying the lesson of the Good Samaritan to our daily life. However, we need to let our elected officials know that it is their responsibility to protect our country. And this starts with securing the borders. Our duty of compassion doesn’t mean that we expose ourselves to those who have an evil intention to come and destroy our lives. As individual Christians, we can pray and get involved in the relief programs around world; we can forgive and reach out to the needy. But it is the responsibility of our government to secure the country.

There is no shame in building the walls to protect our country. We often read in the Bible of gated cities or cities with walls. The books of Deuteronomy and Joshua present Canaanite cities as fortified and walled (e.g., Nu 13:28, Dt 1:28, 3:5, 28:52; Jos 2:15, 6:5, 6:20, 7:5, 8:29, etc.). God’s plan is that men and women live secure within their land. In Acts 17: 26 we read, "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation".

It is God that sets the boundaries of the nations and it’s the job of the elected officials to secure those boundaries and assure the safety of the inhabitants.

Make no mistake, we are to love and show compassion, but NOT be naïve!

We are to care for those in need, but NOT to expose ourselves to the evildoers!

Compassion and security are not contradictory. Self-defense is not only legal, it’s biblical: Psalm 82:4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked

Proverbs 24:11 Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.

Ezekiel 33 "... 6 'But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand.'

We need a real commander in chief. And for that let’s pray:

O LORD our Governor, whose glory is in all the world; We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Peace and blessings!
Fr. Thierry

"For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay"(Habakkuk 2:3).



Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why do we pray with saints?

In this post, we discuss the question of prayer in reference to the saints. Why do we pray to the saints?  As I travel, I come across several misconceptions that have nothing to do with our relationship to the saints.

These misconceptions rise in part from the loss of understanding of the phrase “communion of saints” which is very important article of the Apostles Creed. What we see in these objections of asking the prayers of saints is an uninformed view of what heaven is all about. Discussing the question of afterlife in his book "Theology and Sanity," Frank Sheed argues that sanity depends on an accurate appreciation of reality, and includes an accurate appreciation of what heaven is really like, and once known, the place of asking the prayers of saints follows.

It is important to discuss the biblical foundation of prayer to the saints before examining the historical understanding of the practice. We take up the misconception that the saints are only those who died and are now in heaven.
"... golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints.”

The Bible teaches us that the Saints in heaven continually offer prayers on our behalf.  Revelation 5: 8 indicates that “…when He [the Lamb] had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” This plainly means that the saints in heaven are aware of our prayers and they intercede for us. We, the saints on earth, are asking them to collect our supplications and prayers in “golden bowls” and offer them to the Lamb, our Lord and Savior.

Likewise, the saints on earth intercede for one another. In 1 Timothy 2: 5, Paul says this: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men”.

In his epistles to the saints, Paul asked them to pray for him: (Rom.15:30–32, Eph. 6:18–20, Col. 4:3, 1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1) He also assured them of his continual prayers (2 Thess. 1:11).

Most importantly, Jesus asks us to pray for others, even for our enemies (Matthew 5: 44). Also, He does not ignore the prayers made by people on behalf of others. He uses the faithful prayer of one person to act on another person (Matt. 8:13, 15:28, 17:15–18, Mark 9:17–29, Luke 8:49–55).

There are many other passages in the Bible that suggest that saints should pray for one another. The bible does not limit us to the material but speaks to both the visible and invisible.

Let us now address the misconception that saints being dead and gone makes communication (not to be confused with Biblical edicts against necromancy for by very proximity to God saints in heaven logically must be holy) quite impossible and therefore believing them to hear invocations and petition is a vain thing fondly held.  This idea, that saints are unconscious and incapable of hearing petitions of those in flesh, is unbiblical and quite unknown to the Apostles and early Church.  It's an idea of the Enlightenment not a doctrine of the Bible.  Jesus admonished the Sadducees ( Matt. 22:29-32) that the description of God in the book of Exodus (3:6) as the God of those who had departed this life was a sign that they were alive and conscious. See also Isa. 14 9-10; Isa. 1 & Eze 2 (conscious disembodied souls); Eze. 31:16-17Heb. 12;1Luke 23:43Luke 16:19-31.

Yet another misconception is that people believe our ability to address God through His Son negates any need for additional mediation.   Do you see the false dilemma?  The allegation here is that some people see asking the saints for their intercession as violation of the mediatorship of Christ and therefore must be off limits.  But God never says either or!  1 Tim 2: 5 is employed as a proof text where in Paul says “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus".  But used in this manner the verse does violence to the scriptures cited above by assuming it is the body (dies) and not the soul (eternal) that is operative in interseccion.  This is the same abuse of empiricism atheists use to question faith, and as stated earlier, a presupposition stemming from the Enlightenment.

The early and undivided Church (guidance by the Holy Ghost John 14:16;18;26) strongly encouraged the practice of asking the saints to pray for us. It would be useful to mention a couple of them.

Cyprian of Carthage
"Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides [of death] always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy" (Letters 56[60]:5 [A.D. 253]).
Gregory of Nyssa
"[Ephraim], you who are standing at the divine altar [in heaven] . . . bear us all in remembrance, petitioning for us the remission of sins, and the fruition of an everlasting kingdom" (Sermon on Ephraim the Syrian [A.D. 380]).
"You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterwards when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard. . . . But if the apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought to still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs?" (Against Vigilantius 6 [A.D. 406]).
These examples show the importance of prayer within the body of Christ. We are in communion with each other, both here and in heaven. Our liturgy uses the term, “whole state of Christ Church” to signify that the prayer is not only made for those who are within the Anglican Church but also everywhere, always, and for all.

Peace and blessings!

Fr. Thierry
John Dixon

"For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).

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