Tag Archives: scripture

Devotional practices.

This is less theology, I suppose; or rather it’s a practical application of theology. I wanted to spend a few words on devotional practices, and invite you to comment on your own practices as well. I will shamelessly incorporate any good ideas into my own spiritual life. I hope the tone of this doesn’t come across as braggadocios. My devotional life is certainly not worth bragging about. I often lose myself to work and school and social events, and don’t set aside proper time for God. Remember that someone’s “instagram” life and their real life are very different. This is me on my better days.

Scripture study.

The study of Scripture is very important to me. I try to read daily, but I’m not a very organized study kind of guy. I usually approach topics and themes, or books individually. While I’ve read the entirety of Scripture, I don’t think I’ve ever read cover-to-cover straight through.

Right now I’m taking a little time each day to work on a translation of the Vulgate. My Latin training isn’t quite finished, so there are plenty of parts with which I struggle, but I have found that the translation process is quite illuminating. I’ve been working through John and I’m considering putting my translation up if all goes well.

The important thing for me when reading Scripture is context. I don’t read verses individually, I read stretches and passages and chapters and books. I try to parse the arguments of Paul, or the narrative flow of the Gospels. I read seeking understanding, always trying to use the text to challenge my beliefs.

Prayer.

As with most things in my life, my prayer life is also less organized than it ought to be. I try to spend a little time each day with a personal liturgy-inspired prayer: The Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer from the Small Catechism, a time of silent meditation. I find that liturgy focuses my mind and follows a evermore familiar rhythm. I have to submit my ego to the Word of God. It’s very freeing. My wife and I have a little family liturgy before bed. When baby gets here, we’ll have a liturgy for three.

Fasting.

I’ve written about fasting before, so I won’t rehash all of that here. I bring this up more to say that I have found fasting to be an incredibly useful discipline. I like the extra time it gives me and the mental sharpness I develop.

Church Fathers and other saints.

I think a sad fact is that many Christians neglect the Church Fathers. Now, I’m not saying that we should approve of everything that they said. I disagree with them about veneration of the Saints, for instance. But these are men who have walked the entirety of this path, and from whom we may learn much. They knew Scripture in ways which we could only hope to know it. Many of them faced persecution, exile, and martyrdom, and were rewarded with the crown of righteousness. To read the Fathers is to drink from deep springs.

I love Chrysostom, personally. Every Easter I hear his famed Paschal Homily as many times as possible. Right now I’m also trying to translate St. Anselm’s Proslogion, which is very slow going because his Latin is, in many ways, far beyond my grasp. I may have to come back to that after the semester is out, but it is a fun challenge, at any rate.

One devotional tool I really enjoy is the Treasury of Daily Prayer. It combines liturgical readings of the Old Testament, a Psalm, the New Testament, some hymnody, some quote of a Lutheran reformer or Church Father, and prayers. It also reminds you of feast days for saints (which is another helpful devotional tool in my opinion) and other important events in the Christian Church. It comes with helpful layouts for various liturgical settings as well. There’s an iPhone app called PrayNow for $8.99 which is, to my knowledge, the same content, but interactive. I enjoy the physical book, personally.

That’s it for now, I suppose. If you have any particular practices you find helpful, feel free to share them below. Of course, please note that the comments below do not necessarily have my endorsement. Anyone can put anything they want on the internet.

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Filed under Devotional, Theology Thursdays

Conversations with Latter Day Saints.

You’ve seen them before: Two young men, dressed in black slacks and a white button down, faces shaven (or likely still bare with youth) and shining with excitement. They introduce themselves as Elders, despite the fact that they are at least 3 years your junior, and ask how they can help you today. They talk about Jesus, and our Heavenly Father, and the Plan of Salvation.

Mormon missionaries are a mission field to themselves. They show up on your doorstep, often without warning, offering another gospel to you, ostensibly shared by an angel from heaven. Of course you’ve read Galatians 1 and remember Paul’s prophetic warning against the followers of Joseph Smith. The question of how to engage Mormon missionaries is a tough one.

One of our primary goals when talking with Latter Day Saints should be to establish a shared epistemology. Epistemology is a fancy word for “how we know what we know.” So in plain English, we must both agree to a way to find out if a claim is true. Unfortunately, Mormons insist that their subjective experience is the way to know truth. They will ask you to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. I encourage you to ask them what the spirit feels like some time — they will describe (much like Pentecostals and Charismatics) a feeling of peace, warmth, love, happiness, or joy. Of course these are all good things, but they are not proof of the truth or falsity of a particular proposition. Many things which are untruthful may, in fact, make you happy. For instance, we have all shared the elation of a well executed movie, as the rising action climaxes and the story resolves. The story was a good one; it was not necessarily a factual one, and in many cases may be counterfactual. Many more examples could follow, but for the purposes of our discussion here, this will suffice.

So we must not be fooled into thinking that a good feeling is a truth-telling feeling; after all, our hearts are desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9), and from them all manner of evil flows forth (Matt.15:19). But the truth is found in God’s Word, for His Word is truth (John 17:17). How then do we communicate this to our Mormon friends and neighbors in a way that is winsome, charitable, and convincing? I have found that the best way to do this is by having them do it for you.

When I sit down with some missionaries, I try to get to know them. I learn about their lives before their mission, where they’re from, and what they do for fun. As we talk things inevitably turn to spiritual subjects — after all, you’re both there evangelizing. The killer question to ask: “What is the best way to learn spiritual truths?” Missionaries invariably respond something like “pray about it.” This is a good place to ask them what the spirit feels like, as I mentioned earlier. Allow them to share, and genuinely listen. Get them to clarify that they think prayer is the best way to understand what God wants from us.

The next question is something along the lines of “Should I pray about whether or not to commit murder?” You can substitute “break the law,” “cheat on my wife,” “lie to my husband,” or any other sin that you know they will not affirm. If they don’t outright say it’s wrong to do whatever you ask about, make them clarify why it’s wrong. Often their response will be something along the lines of “Because God revealed it to us; we don’t need further guidance about that.” If they say this, of course, they are overthrowing their own emotionally-driven epistemology for a Scripturally-driven one — they’re moving from feeling alone toward the truth of God’s Word. At this point it’s a simple matter to clarify: “If God reveals something in His Word, we don’t need to pray for further guidance about it, right?

Turn with them then to Isaiah 43:10; this is probably the most important verse in Scripture to share with missionaries. A great way to introduce it is to say “God revealed His testimony about Himself through the Prophet Isaiah.” Have one of them read what God says about Himself there. Then remind them that they just said if God reveals something in His Word, we don’t need to pray about it. We already know that anyone or anything that contradicts God’s testimony of Himself is wrong. From this point on in the conversation, any time they try to contradict the Scriptures, they have contradicted themselves.

This is not a cheap shot to win an argument. This is a powerful tool to overturn a worldview and to set people on the path away from error. You have planted a seed of truth: God’s Word trumps all else. When you part ways invite them over for a free meal. Ask them to bring answers to your questions. Build a relationship with them. And above all pray for them fervently.

I hope that this example helps you communicate the truth in love to the next pair of missionaries you run into. For more information about the LDS church, check out http://www.mrm.org. If you have questions, please comment with them! I’d love to talk more about the subject. Also, please leave your favorite question to ask missionaries below!

May God strengthen and keep you in the true faith, once delivered for all the saints! Amen.

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Filed under Apologetics, Evangelism, Theology