I was raised Catholic, but there was something about the church that did not seem right, so right after high school I stopped attending. I felt that I knew who Jesus was, but what I was learning at church did not seem right to me. Due to some other things going on in my life, I began to lose hope about life and became depressed. I had tried to live my life the way people said that I was supposed to: I got a degree in business and planned on working in the business world, but my initial experiences there were not as good as I had expected. I was now twenty-eight years old, unemployed, and without a spouse. I knew that something was not right in my life so I tried to find happiness in the places that culture says to find it: alcohol, dance clubs, and everything that normally goes along with the two. But I still was not satisfied. Something was missing. I turned to self-help books to try to find the answers, but what I was looking for was not there.
A good friend was consistently inviting me to a Protestant church, but I kept refusing. I had tried the church experience earlier in my life and did not feel like there was anything there worth going back to. Eventually, though, he begged me to assist in setting up for some big-name Christian bands who were going to play there. I helped and attended the concert, but it did not change my mind about religion. Not only did the concert not really seem different than a regular concert (except for the lack of drugs, fights, and other things that typically go along with similar events), but it did not really seem like church. I continued to go to night clubs. I knew I would never find my wife there, but was hoping to fill the loneliness in my heart somehow. This was the only way I knew to do so.
One night the strangest thing happened: women that I had just met at a dance club began talking to me about Jesus. It was strange because I had never had nor heard of people talking about Jesus in an environment of alcohol, tobacco, and very close dancing. When the topic of Christian music came up, I was able to engage in the conversation due to my experience at the concert. On another night at the dance club, another woman began telling me of all the great things God was doing for her. A trend was occurring. Looking back, it seems that God was trying to get my attention again, but I was not fully listening and my depression was getting worse. Consequently, I scheduled an appointment with a psychologist.
I was not surprised when the doctor immediately wanted to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist so that I could be prescribed medication. I told the doctor I preferred to have a few appointments with him first and that we would decide from there. He agreed. After the third appointment, he declared there was nothing wrong with me and began sharing about Jesus as much as he could in the secular environment. He was generically talking about “religion,” but since his words were the same words verbatim that my friend used previously, God finally got my attention. It was now time for me to give him mine.
Through these numerous conversations I had learned that the Bible says that everyone has broken God’s laws; no one is completely perfect. I also learned that there is a penalty for breaking God’s laws: not having eternal life. But Jesus Christ paid this penalty through his own death on the cross, becoming the substitute for anyone who believes that he did so. This was much different than what I had learned in Catholicism, but something that I always felt deep within my heart based upon my own experiences reading the Bible at a younger age. But I had never acted on it. Now I would.
I attended church with my friend on the very next Sunday. At the end of the service when the pastor explained what others had already told me about who Jesus really was and what he did for those who believe in him, I responded to the pastor’s invitation to come to the front of the church to pray, and to turn my life over to God. I began attending services every Sunday, and even ran the sound equipment for the youth group. As I was serving God, I began to see the blessings in my life. My depression had turned to joy.
It was on a Valentine’s Day that I was asked to run the sound equipment for the church’s kickoff event for their new couples ministry. Since their lead sound person was married, they wanted him to be able to attend the event with his wife. I was single so they asked me to help. Since I still had longing feelings for a spouse, I agreed because I figured it would be better than being home alone on that night. I had prayed that if God wanted me to be married, that he would give me a wife who wanted to serve him and that I would immediately know who she was when I met her.
About two weeks after Valentine’s Day, my mother approached me about a woman she thought I should meet. My mother had reservations about this—she never tried to “set me up” with anyone in this manner and did not know what my reaction would be. I have to admit that my pride would have gotten in the way in the past, but this time I had a feeling inside of me that told me that this was okay. The next day my mother supplied me with a picture of the woman. I had already decided to meet her, but this picture further encouraged me to do so!
That night I called her. Two days later we met each other. One week later we were engaged. About five months later we were married. We had confirmation from God, each other, our premarital counselors, and the pastor that performed the ceremony that this relationship was a “God thing.” She had even prayed a similar prayer at about the same time I had prayed mine. We were married in 2003, have a beautiful daughter, and a son on the way. I thank God daily for bringing all of them into my life, but the greatest benefit is that I know that I have eternal life.
I’d like to thank all of my faithful readers. I’ve looked at my statistics and seen that many of you still visit even though I have not posted in a couple of months. I apologize for vanishing for a bit, but I’m coming back and will have a bit more explanation later. In summary, this is what has occurred in the last few months:
- Still working on my M.Div.
- Learning Ruby On Rails for a new blog and a new project that I think you’ll all like (and I’m sorry for not keeping up with the Bumpzee group. Casey, if you’re still reading, would you like it?).
- We had a baby in December. That makes two children each with a December birthday.
Expect more soon, but I’d like your feedback: what is is that you, as Christian bloggers, are missing? What will help you to get your message out?
Also, since I’ve been away, I’ve noticed a lot more blog spam. Is this because this blog became not active, or is it a trend across all blogs lately?
Anthony was a selfish hermit. Instead of staying within society to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), he withdrew to a life of solitude. Although his intention was to get closer to God, he actually got further from God by abandoning His people (Psalm 133:1). The hermits saw the German invasions occurring at the time as a judgment of God so instead of seeing the evangelism opportunity that the bishop of Rome eventually recognized (even for selfish motives), Anthony and the hermits ran away to live in caves and be “holy.”
It is unfortunate that many felt that the hermits received special revelation from God in their solitude and began visiting them for advice, as if God is not powerful enough to give us a message unless we are being really holy and quietly listening. Although meditating to hear God’s voice is popular in our culture, I am not aware of any place in the Bible where God was trying to talk to someone, but that person was not paying attention so God could not get His message through. Imagine the silliness of thinking that God wanted to tell Noah to build an ark, but whenever He tried, Noah was just too busy.
Pachomius, though, saw the value of community, but still encouraged withdrawal from society. The purpose was to still get holier by getting away from the society that we are commanded to evangelize. The positive aspects of this community were accountability and encouragement. If one is alone, there is no one there watching over you or assisting you through troubles. What a glorious blessing it would have been if these monks even more actively blessed secular society. One could be not like the world, but still live in it. One does not have to live a life of poverty to be holy or to cure materialism. This form of monasticism feels almost Pharasaic.
The best value that a contemporary Christian can discover through the study of these forms of monasticism is not to do it. To do so abandons our evangelistic calling and may open the door works-based salvation.
After Diocletian’s persecution of Christians, many of the later Roman emperors, including Constantine, saw Christianity as an ally instead of an enemy. In 313, when the only other emperor was Licinius, Constantine arranged an agreement between the two of them so that Christianity was no longer an illegal religion. This was known as the Edict of Milan. Later, in 323 when Constantine defeated Licinius to become the sole emperor, he made Christianity the preferred religion (which means he still allowed other religions, including emperor worship).
Constantine was not a theologically strong Christian, even waiting to be baptized on his deathbed with the belief that more sins would be covered, but he still had a large impact on the Christian movement. In the short term, the initial permissiveness toward the movement under cooperation with Licinius and the later preference allowed Christians to more openly profess their faith without fears of persecution. Chrisitianity was formerly in the public square in the form of executions, but now it was in the public square in the form of legal discourse.
In the long term, the effects were not so good. Constantine not only allowed Christianity, but he also wanted to govern it and proclaimed himself the bishop of bishops. This led to many decisions regarding the direction Christianity was to legally move in being made by someone who did not know much about Christianity. As an example, in the debate between Arius and Athanasius, Constantine changed his mind multiple times, always siding for the person he felt would bring the most peace among the people. He did not care about orthodox theology as much as he cared about politics and securing his own power. The good part of this incident, though, were the decisions that came out of the Council of Nicea which Constantine organized, regarding the divinity of Christ.
Although there was a bishop in Rome, where Constantine first lived, the idea that someone in Rome was to control the church was born with Constantine’s rule as head bishop. The bishop of Rome, though, was the bishop that was the most geographically close to Constantine so his opinion became elevated amongst the bishops due to this influence upon the emperor. The bishop’s influence became so elevated that when Constantine moved the capital of the empire to Constantinople, the Roman bishop was in the position to assume control over all of the other bishops. As the lectures indicate, there were many other factors that led to this and the eventual creation of the papacy, but this one cannot be forgotten.