A little insight to Fr. Frog's faith and relationship with God. This is my personal theology and does not necessarily have any relationship with any particular denomination, doctrine, or dogma, except by accident, nor does it disparage them.
I believe that...
God created everything, but not in our time frame. It took billions of our years to go from "nothing" to the present state and it is no less a miracle than the purported 7, 24 hour human earth solar days or 1 "week" given in the Genesis stories (yes, there a 2 versions), not to mention that a "week" has had different lengths in different cultures.) Getting hung up on how long it took or the exact process is stupid and the creation process can be seen still going on. Ignoring scientific observations and evidence is stupid too, and science is NOT the work of the devil. God still did it. (Remember that not too long ago major church leaders said that the world was flat and/or that the earth was the center of the universe and they ridiculed and persecuted those who believed differently as heretics.) As an aside, consider this.
Some fundamentalist groups claim that the earth (or universe depending on their philosophy) is about 4500 of "our" years old (I recently heard times from 8,000 to 10,000 given too), based upon their supposedly counting of biblical events (of which a lot of things and time frames are missing.) We are also told in scripture that "a thousand years is like a day" to God. OK. If we take all that literally then...
4500 years x 365 days per year = 1,642,500 our days
1000 years per God's day x 1642500 days = 1,642,500,000 years
That's 1 billion, 642 million, 500 thousand (plus or minus) years. If we use the 8000 figure it then comes out to 2,920,000,000 (2 billion, 920 million - call it 3 billion, and if the 10,000 is used we get 3.6 billion.) A VERY long time. Interestingly, there is a lot of scientific evidence that "life" first arose on earth about 1.6 billion years ago, that the planet itself is about 4.3 billion years old, and the "universe" about 14 billion.
And the problem with the timing is...? I'm sure God doesn't have to check his wrist watch (which I doubt is synchronized to the National Bureau of Standards time signal on Earth), nor does he worry about what time we think it is. All of this conflict could have been avoided if the Old Testament writers had just said, "First God created the universe. Then he created ..., then he created ...."
Folks get so wrapped up in this debate that they forget what is really important. God created everything; He gave us salvation through His Grace and Christ's sacrifice of the cross; We need to live our lives according to His will, and to trust in, and worship Him. THAT is the truth of the Bible. All the rest is just PII (preoccupation with inconsequential increments) as well as the basis for selling theological books.
We are inherently good by our initial creation (We were created by God and thus initially good) but eternally sinful by stupidity which led to greed and our fall (usually referred to as "original sin"). In His love for us, God provided a way for redemption by His Grace through Jesus Christ (and not through anything we do), and gave us guidelines on how to live properly in the Scriptures. He gives us further guidance and encouragement through the Holy Spirit. We ignore all these at our peril.
We do good works because we are saved by God's grace, and are thankful for it. We are not saved by good works, although they are a sign of our faith.
"God created US in His image" does not mean God looks like us. I believe that there is other intelligent life "out there" that He created too. "In His image" means, I believe, that we have the capacity to love others in spite of what they are like. As human Christians we refer to the triune God as " Father, Son/Jesus, and Holy Spirit," and depict Him in "our" form, but somewhere out there He may be known as ZX*ДЖΨ', Bahd¬agazõk, and ÐCræblitz, and His story may be a bit different there than here. This should give theologians on both sides hours of entertainment when we meet an extraterrestrial civilization. He is still "God." Note that we cannot make God in our image.
God doesn't have a problem with hobbies and interests, science, medicine, alcohol, food, dancing, working hard, playing cards, being wealthy, prosperous, being famous, enjoying sex, the exact day you set aside for rest and worship, being proud of what you have done, skill at arms, or the format that you choose to worship with. He gave us all of these things, and He rejoices that we can enjoy and do things. He does have a problem if we abuse such things or become mindless slaves to them.
God doesn't care what denomination you are, but rather how well you follow HIS directions (in spite of what some denominations claim).
If certain words, prayers, actions, customs, gestures, or format of worship, are meaningful to you in your worship and life, use them; if not, don't sweat them--but don't belittle those who use or don't use them.
God gave us minds to think with, and muscles to work with, and hearts to love with. We need to use all three--all the time, and not just say, "God take care of this for me." While relying on God, we must not neglect to be prepared to take care of ourselves and our families with the gifts and skills God has given us..
Only God knows where heaven is.
YOU cannot forgive someone who has hurt or wronged another person. Only God and the aggrieved person(s) can offer forgiveness to the offense and the offender.
Speaking of baptism. Baptism is the initiation rite of Christianity through which you receive the Holy Spirit and God's grace. You are baptized into the "Christian Faith" and not into a particular denomination. You may, if your denomination has a "confirmation rite," be confirmed as a Christian member of that denomination. Infant baptism is a good thing, but the parents have to remember their part of the Baptismal vows to raise the child and encourage them in the Christian faith, something few parents accept..
The Communion Table is God's table and not the property of a denomination. It should be open to all baptized Christians who wish to receive. While some denominations have membership, age, or educational requirements to receive Communion, in my experience most "uneducated" young children understand Holy Communion better than most "learned" adults or theologians. Besides, going through a class or being able to recite statements does not mean you understand or truly accept anything. Note that Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me," and not "Do this in remembrance of me if you have been approved by some human authority." It is between God and the individual--not God and "the church" nor "the church" and the individual. Besides we are told not to put a stumbling block before children. God doesn't need us to protect Himself from us.
Whether the bread and wine of the Eucharist becomes the actual Body and Blood of Christ, contains the actual Body and Blood, is described as simply the "real presences of Christ," "under the form of...," or are something else, is not worth arguing about unless you are a theologian with time on your hands and some single malt. Who really cares? It is a mystery of our faith, but much blood has been spilled debating this. Something special takes place in a real and personal way at the Communion Table--Christ is present for those with an open heart to Christ's Body and Blood. Come, and receive!
Yes, the Ten Commandments ARE black and white, right and wrong, and no, they are NOT suggestions. The "Two Great Commandments" in the New Testament sum up what the original 10 tell us, in a new covenant. Just because we want something to be OK and try to make it so, does not mean it is, nor should be. Political correctness and trying to soft peddle hard things are the work of the evil one and turn us from right paths.
In our rush to make ourselves think we are in charge, we have no doubt violated the lost 11th Commandment. "Remember that I am God. Thou shall not take yourself too seriously."
While there are right and wrong behaviors WE do not have the right to judge and condemn others because they are different than what we believe. That's God's job. We can, however, stand up for what we believe, choose who we and our families associate with or are influenced by, and how to live our own lives and raise our families within our standards. That doesn't make us evil nor bigots.
Showing God's love to all does NOT mean that we have to accept everything that someone wants or does, as acceptable or right. We do not have to have our families and children exposed to or influenced by others contrary to our beliefs, to allow them walk over us, have them demand "special" status from us, nor to be put in positions of authority over us. It does mean that we still have to treat them with love and kindness, even if we hate what they do or stand for.
We need to make sure our own house is in order before we take care of those in foreign places. (Refer to the story of the "mote and the beam.") The first priority of helping the needy is to help those here in our country and not to send huge sums of money and aid overseas. We have plenty of poor and needy, and unchurched that are neglected in our own country. If all the churches put as much money and effort into locally helping people as they do those overseas we could pretty much end poverty here, and then start helping other countries.
Christianity is not, and has never been, socialism, despite what the liberal, PC crowd may claim. We are not ordered to give up what we have worked for to benefit others less ambitious. We are encouraged to help those less fortunate when possible, but we are not required to let them live on the dole and reap benefits the rest of the people work for, nor are we required to give to them at the cost of our own welfare. Holy scripture refers to the care and feeding of "widows and orphans;" in other words those who are helpless. We are under no obligation to help (nor continue to help) those who are capable of working but who refuse to do so and who fail to avail themselves of opportunities to help themselves to a better position in life. No one is entitled to anything they do not try to work for.
"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." -- 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10
God does NOT cause or allow tragedy to happen. We do that well enough ourselves. He does provide the means for us to get through hardships and to learn from the experience. This fact is frequently forgotten, even by many "clergy."
Christianity is NOT a pacifistic religion, but a religion of peace. We are enjoined to try our best to live at peace with others but we are not required to allow others to walk over us or to harm us or those around us. The use of lethal force to defend one's self or someone else against a potentially lethal attack is NOT murder and is NOT a sin. There is nothing unchristian about skill at arms. "Turning the cheek" refers to insults and not violence.
The best sermons are lived, not spoken.
The best witness is simply joyfully living your faith.
The greatest threat to "the Church" is politics (a.k.a. political correctness), both internal and external., and not standing up for our beliefs.
The second greatest threat to "the Church" is church leaders (particularly those in high positions), or church members who think that they are God.
The third greatest threat to "the Church" is church leaders or church members who think that their denomination is "better" or holier" than all the others (refer to the Pharisee's attitudes) and who refuse to work with other denominations doing God's work.
The job of the Church is NOT political or social activism. It is keeping God's law and Grace in the forefront of the minds of the people and their chosen leaders, spreading the Good News of the Gospel, and showing the love of God to others.
Not all theologians and clergy are "holy men" or "holy women." Unfortunately, there are/were plenty of scoundrels out there with their own personal agendas and by their works and actions shall ye know who is who. Clergy must be shepherds and not dictators, and they must be faithful to Holy Scripture and not to politics or their own desires.
Blind, mindless, obedience to a particular dogma or doctrine (and dogmas and doctrines were created by human theologians) is as bad as having no faith guidance.
There is more faith in honest doubt than in all the Popes and Bishops in Rome.
The big problem with theology is theologians--especially those who delight in using obscure words in abundance to confuse simple things and who argue about trivial things.
Frequently people who would make the best ministers / pastors / priests / deacons / bishops / vergers / elders, or whatever, are kept from becoming them by the politically correct hierarchy of a denomination and by clergy who are "afraid" of upsetting someone in the congregation (especially someone who gives a lot of money), just as sometimes truly unqualified people are ordained or commissioned by them. In addition, people who have a call to more formally serve in the lay ministries are usually forced to spend large sums of money and have background checks, psychological evaluations, and then pass all kinds of tests and interviews in order to serve in a titled, non-stipend lay position. When Christ called His disciples He did not require them to jump through hoops and to be humanly "certified" before serving.
God seldom calls the qualified, but He does qualify the called.
Fear and despair are the devils greatest tools.
"Ministers" need to be ministered to. (Applies to minister's spouses, and those in lay ministries too.)
Life is a gift from God. If you are too dumb, too stupid, or too lazy to use a method of birth control when you have sex, you do NOT have the right to murder the unborn baby because it is inconvenient to you. There are better solutions that don't kill the baby, including self-control.
Tithing does not mean giving 10% of your gross time, treasures, and talents to the "church." Tithing means giving 10% of your gross time, treasures, and talents to God's work which can include the church, charities, and direct giving to a need--again something churches have forgotten. Note that we are not blessed because we give, but rather we give because we are blessed.
What we want and what God wants are usually different things.
When one door closes, God always opens another one. Our job is to go through the new door. Or in another vein, "God doesn't expect us to walk on water alone. He just wants us to step out of the boat."
Prayer is a conversation with God. Pray often and don't forget to pray for your own needs too. Remember to give thanks for all the challenges He gives you that help you to grow, as well as the blessings that make life easier Remember that blessings can be large or small. Keep in mind that as with any conversation you need to be a good listener too.
All prayers are answered. It is just that sometimes, not in the time frame we want nor in the form we expect or want. Sometimes the answer is "Yes." Sometimes the answer is just giving us the strength to get through the problem--and many times we don't hear the answer because we are too busy talking; sometimes the answer is "Wait;" sometimes the answer is "No, and very occasionally the answer is "Hold on to your hats and hang on."
"Go forth and preach the Gospel; if necessary use words." -- Saint Francis of Assisi
Now if you disagree with any of the above, that's fine with me, but they are what shape my faith and that of many of my friends, and they help me to get through life's journey. Please don't email me with rabid denunciations and condemnations--go and live your faith as you feel comfortable. God still loves all of us.
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