The Emmanuel Communion
THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES
THERE IS A TREND IN TODAY’S CHURCH TO BE MEMBERS FOR IDENTITY AND NOT NECESSARILY SUBSCRIBE TO THE CHURCH’S TENETS AND FOUNDATIONAL BELIEFS. RELIGION, PER SE, IS BEING CHALLENGED FOR THE SAKE OF THE HIGH MINDED TERM “SPIRITUALITY.” IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, THE STATEMENT “I’M A VERY SPIRITUAL PERSON” HAS BECOME QUITE POPULAR. UNFORTUNATELY, I’M STILL STRUGGLING TO UNDERSTAND EXACTLY WHAT THAT MEANS. THE IMPLICATION IS THAT THE PERSON HAS A CERTAIN DEGREE OF INNER SOPHISTICATION THAT WOULD EXEMPT THEM FROM ANY FORMAL COMMITMENT TO A SPECIFIC BELIEF SYSTEM. THEY SEEM TO IMPLY A CERTAIN INNATE ABILITY TO DISCERN SPIRITUAL MATTERS WITHOUT ANY FORMAL EDUCATION OR MENTORING PROCESS BEING NECESSARY. THEY ALSO SEEM TO BELIEVE THAT SUPPORT FROM LIKE MINDED BELIEVERS WHO ARE “IN ONE ACCORD” AS THE APOSTLES WERE, IS NOT NECESSARY TO SUSTAINING THEIR SPIRITUALITY, NOR TO THEIR GROWTH IN SPIRITUAL MATURITY.
I BELIEVE THAT 2 TIMOTHY 3:17 DESCRIBES SOME OF THEIR SITUATIONS AND WOULD URGE THE READER TO LOOK AT THAT REFERENCE. WE ARE FINITE BEINGS TRYING TO COMPREHEND THE INFINITE MIND OF GOD. THE CREATION TRYING TO OUT-THINK THE CREATOR. MANY OF THE PEOPLE I AM SPEAKING OF ARE NOT NECESSARILY SEEKING A GODHEAD CREATOR IN THEIR SELF-ESPOUSED “SPIRITUALITY.” SOME COMMUNE WITH NATURE … TREES, SKY, EARTH, WATER… WHILE OTHERS LOOK FOR ANGELIC VISITATIONS, PRACTICE SÉANCES, AND OTHER OCCULT RITUALS THAT ARE BEING BROUGHT IN FROM SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST. THEY ALL COME UNDER THE HEADING OF “SPIRITUALITY.”
IN ISAIAH5:20-21 IT SAYS …WOE TO THOSE WHO CALL “EVIL” GOOD, AND GOOD EVIL. WHO PUT DARKNESS FOR LIGHT, AND LIGHT FOR DARKNESS; WHO PUT BITTER FOR SWEET AND SWEET FOR BITTER… :21 “WOE TO THOSE WHO ARE WISE IN THEIR OWN EYES. AND PRUDENT IN THEIR OWN SIGHT.” THE PROPHET ISAIAH COULD HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT TODAY’S SOCIETY. WATCH THE NEWS. READ THE PAPERS. THESE SITUATIONS ARE BEING LIVED EVERY DAY.
THE POINT TO THESE OBSERVATIONS IS THAT WE, THE CHURCH, ARE LIVING IN CHALLENGING TIMES. WE HAVE BEEN PLACED IN A POSITION OF UNPRECEDENTED RESPONSIBILITY. WHEN I SAY “THE CHURCH” I MEAN THE ACTIVE, VIBRANT, GROWING BODY OF CHRIST THAT HAS ACCEPTED THE GREAT COMMISSION WITHOUT RESERVATION, AND IS WILLING TO PLACE ITS PRIDE, SECULAR REPUTATION, STATUS, AND POSITION IN THIS SOCIETY ON THE LINE FOR THE SAKE OF THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST! THERE ARE MANY “CHURCHGOERS” THAT WE USED TO CALL PEW WARMERS. THEY OBSERVED THE SUNDAY MORNING OBLIGATION EXPECTED OF THEM TO ATTEND THE SERVICE, AND THEY LEFT THE SAME WAY THEY CAME IN … SOCIALLY SATISFIED AND SPIRITUALLY BANKRUPT. I DON’T SAY THAT IN A MALICIOUS OR JUDGMENTAL MANNER. I SAY IT WITH GREAT SADNESS AND REGRET. SCRIPTURE TELLS US THAT GOD WANTS ALL TO BE SAVED. UNFORTUNATELY, THAT ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN. HARDENED HEARTS AND POOR TEACHING WILL SEE TO THAT. I WISH GOD WOULD RESCIND FREE WILL AND MAKE US RECEIVE THE TRUTH OF SALVATION IN JESUS. BUT, IF HE DID, JESUS’ SACRIFICE WOULDN’T BE NECESSARY.
IN EZEKIEL 37:1-14 THE PROPHET EZEKIEL WAS SET DOWN BY GOD IN A VALLEY FULL OF HUMAN BONES. THEY WERE VERY DRY AND PARCHED, AND GOD SAID TO EZEKIEL “SON OF MAN, CAN THESE BONES LIVE?” EZEKIEL GAVE THE RIGHT ANSWER … “O LORD GOD, YOU KNOW.” GOD COMMANDED EZEKIEL TO PROPHESY TO THE BONES AND SPEAK LIFE INTO THEM, TO COMMAND THEM TO LIVE, AND IN THAT PROCESS THE BONES WOULD KNOW THAT GOD IS TRULY THE LORD. FOR THE SAKE OF SPACE I HAVE NOT WRITTEN THE ENTIRE ACCOUNT HERE. I URGE YOU TO READ IT FOR YOURSELF. THIS VALLEY OF DRY BONES IS THE SOCIETY WE ARE LIVING IN, THE SOCIETY THAT HAS REMOVED GOD FROM SCHOOLS, HOLIDAYS, PUBLIC VENUES AND CONTINUES TO TRY TO ERADICATE GOD’S INFLUENCE FROM EVERY ASPECT OF OUR SOCIETY.
WE, MY FRIENDS IN THE BODY OF CHRIST, ARE THE NEW EZEKIEL’S. GOD HAS PUT US HERE NOT TO JUDGE THIS SOCIETY, BUT TO PROPHESY TO IT. TO SPEAK LIFE, FLESH, BLOOD AND BREATH BACK INTO IT. THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES. MESSENGERS WITH UNPOPULAR MESSAGES ARE NOT EASILY ACCEPTED. NOW SOME OF YOU READING THIS ARE THINKING … “IT’S NOT REALLY THAT BAD. THERE ARE SOME GOOD THINGS ABOUT THIS SOCIETY.” VERY TRUE. MANY PEOPLE HAVE ACCEPTED THE PRACTICE OF CALLING GOOD EVIL AND EVIL GOOD BECAUSE THEY JUST DON’T KNOW ANY BETTER. ISSUES THAT MAY BE JUST A “LITTLE” BIT OF TOLERANCE MAY SEEM HARMLESS, BUT THEY LEAD TO MORE AND MORE TOLERANCE. A BIG, COLD GLASS OF WHOLESOME FRESH MILK IS GREAT ON A HOT DAY, BUT WHAT IF I INTRODUCED JUST ONE LITTLE TINY DROP OF STRYCHNINE POISON INTO IT? WOULD YOU STILL DRINK IT? REMEMBER, THERE IS A VERY FINE LINE BETWEEN TOLERANCE AND COMPROMISE, BETWEEN “SPIRITUAL” LIFE AND DEATH.
HOW DO WE SPEAK TO THIS VALLEY OF DRY BONES? DO WE CRITICIZE, CONDEMN AND REBUKE IT? IN SOME CASES, THAT DEGREE OF INTERVENTION MAY BE NECESSARY. FOR THE MOST PART, WE SPEAK TO THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES WITH OUR LIVES! ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI MADE A STATEMENT. HE SAID “IN EVERYTHING WE DO WE PREACH THE GOSPEL. WHEN NECESSARY WE USE WORDS.”
ARE WE BEING THE EZEKIELS THAT GOD HAS RAISED UP FOR THIS HOUR? ARE WE WILLING TO RISK OUR POSITION IN SOCIETY TO BRING IT THE MESSAGE OF SALVATION? THE GOAL IS TO HEAR JESUS SAY “WELL DONE MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT.” PROPHESY TO THE DRY BONES IN EVERYTHING YOU DO. SPEAK LIFE AND NOT DEATH, GOOD AND NOT EVIL, HOPE AND NOT DESPAIR. EZEKIEL 37:14 … I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT IN YOU, AND YOU SHALL LIVE, AND I WILL PLACE YOU IN YOUR OWN LAND. THEN YOU SHALL KNOW THAT I, THE LORD, HAVE SPOKEN IT AND PERFORMED IT “SAYS THE LORD.”
Have we really reached a place in our society where we are seriously considering "postpartum abortion?" Our American liberal left has become so self centered and egotistical that they are not only removing God from society, but they really think they can replace Him!
Abortion in any form is repugnant and disgusting, but late term and post delivery abortion is an insult to human dignity and should be an abomination to any civilized human being. This is not to mention that the convenience killing of a living human entity is classified as murder.
We of the Emmanuel Communion do hereby declare our position on abortion as follows:
Physical life begins at the moment of conception based on our understanding of scripture. Any intentional interruption or termination of that life process is morally abhorrent and in direct violation of the laws of God.
This statement is by no means an exhaustive explanation of our views on abortion, but merely a declaration of our disagreement with the current controversy.
September already! 17 years ago our Great Nation was subjected to a despicable act of violence just because we have freedom. I remember watching on TV as the second plane hit the Twin Towers and immediately going to prayer for the victims. It was so obvious that the whole thing was a premeditated action. The question that was on everyone's lips was WHO? When the truth was revealed I realized that the world as we knew it was no more. Atrocity in the name of religion was almost unbelievable to a country accustomed to peaceful acceptance of each others right to believe as we choose.
Violence in the name of God is not new. History is replete with holy wars fought because each side knew they were right. How does humankind expect a God that created every one of us to choose sides? The real source of the conflict is basic human pride. It's simply part of our sinful nature. 1 John 2:16 tells us ..."For all that is in the world--the lost of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world (NKJV). Lucifer is the lord of this world and God gave him freedom to roam it as he pleases. God also gave man free will...the greatest blessing or the greatest curse we have ever received. I believe that the wars fought over religion were really fought because of PRIDE. Religion was the catalyst, but man's ego was the accelerant.
I make this point because so many people have asked why God allowed such a disaster. It goes back to the very basic root of the Garden of Eden and man's disobedience. Original sin? I don't know if that is an accurate description. I believe a more accurate identifier would be "original sinfulness," the tendency of man to take the path most pleasurable, comfortable, ego satisfying and personally safe. Matters not whether it is truth or lie, if it gets us out of the situation or satisfies our deepest lusts as described in the passage from 1 John (above), it will do.
Unfortunately, man will continue on this self destructive path until Jesus returns. Fortunately (actually it is divinely appointed) we have a way to be redeemed from the curse of this world through the atoning blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Will all come to the foot of the cross and accept the offered redemption? Probably not. The distractions of this society, the lies of the devil, the lusts of human nature will be stronger than the inducement to repent, mainly because of unbelief but also because they have not heard!
Will you come to the foot of the Cross? Will you share the truth of the Gospel of Salvation or will those human prides make your religion "a personal and private thing?" This Communion was birthed as a vehicle to propagate the truth of... "Emmanuel...God With Us!" That is our battle cry. Together we are to raise that banner and carry it into the world of our daily lives with no compromise, not out of pride but out of a sincere and loving desire to see every human being have the opportunity to come to the Cross and be saved. Will you?
Change - September 2, 2017
Change is usually uncomfortable. There are times when it brings relief, times when it brings conflict and times when it brings both. We of this humble Communion are experiencing changes in our identity which clarify our beliefs a bit more but which might make some of our friends in ministry a bit uncomfortable. These changes are not meant to be critical of others but more stabilizing for us. There are practices and beliefs which other fellow Christians maintain that do not resonate with the EC's ethos, thus our reason for dropping the Anglican identity from our name. That doesn't make anyone right or wrong, just different. The "bottom line" remains very true and very basic... there is NO salvation without a professed belief in Jesus Christ!
Pro-Life...or...Pro-living? June 9, 2017
As the world continues to turn, and God has given us one more day, we continue to struggle with the moral issues of society which conflict with our spiritual principles. Abortion seems to be a unifying issue among Christians of various denominations. We champion the unborn, fight for their right to be birthed, pat ourselves on the back for another successful "save" and move on to the next terrified mom to be. Please don't misunderstand, we must stand for the rights of the unborn. If not us, who?
I recently heard a Pentecostal brother make a much broader point of being Pro-Life. There are many thousands of children in this country whose mothers were counseled to make the moral choice to give birth, but never escaped the prison of poverty. They simply made a little room in their prison to accommodate the new life that came forth from them. Now they share their misery with a helpless child that may never know anything else.
Jesus said..."the poor you will have with you always"... but I don't think He meant for us to let them suffer in their state of want. Some of us need to take up the torch of the newborns that are saved through the Pro-Life movement. Many of them are put up for adoption, but not all. Maybe we need to start a Pro-Living movement to save the "rescued" from a life of hunger, drugs, prostitution and all the poison that come from living in poverty.
Many of us are already taking positive action in that direction. Is it enough or do we need more "troops" in the trenches? We can't continue to complain about all of the people on food stamps and other government programs if we aren't willing to do something about it. Maybe it shouldn't be "Pro-Life ...OR...Pro-Living."
Maybe it needs to be "Pro-Life...AND...Pro-Living."
He is Risen!!!
We hear this declaration every Resurrection Day and run the risk of taking it for granted. Has it just become a familiar greeting, or do we really internalize the magnitude of the statement? there are Christian church goers who have doubts about the veracity of the resurrection. They claim to love Jesus and accept Him as their Savior, but are skeptical of the Resurrection. The Apostle Paul addresses this issue quite clearly in 1 Corinthians 15. Without the Resurrection of Jesus...what's the use?
I know some tough men and women that could probably go bravely through the beatings and crucifixion Our Lord experienced. In the Philippines and some other countries there are brave souls that reenact the crucifixion with great accuracy, not quite to the point of death, but very close. As horrendous as the torture is, Jesus did suffer it for atonement of our sins, but until He died and rose again it was not complete. Most great religions of the world have a central figure or figures that they venerate and look to for example. NONE has a RISEN SAVIOR aside from Christianity. Without the Resurrection, death and the grave would win, but Jesus overcame them. Because of His Resurrection, we have eternal life. If you don't believe it ... just say Happy Easter! ... and go find some eggs.
HE is Risen Indeed!!! Hallelujah!!!
"Remember thou art dust...and unto dust thou shalt return."
Just when we think we have a handle on who we are and where we're going, reality hits us head on. Every year the Lenten Season helps us to get ourselves and our egos in perspective. The worldly views of success, fame, notoriety and influence become temporary concepts in the scope of eternity. Of course, to the secular world, these temporary rewards are the best they can hope for, but as believers we look to the higher calling in Christ Jesus.
This forty days of Lent gives us an opportunity to reflect on our lives, our spiritual growth and, our relationships, both with God and with each other. We see this as a time of deep introspection and self examination. There is an old expression..."the eye can not see itself." How difficult it is for us to see our selves objectively. This is one of the reasons we are admonished to "confess your sins, one to another..." (James 5:16); because we are our own best defense attorneys! Our basic human sinful nature makes it difficult to admit we have done wrong, but in Christ we are new creations and, as such, have the capacity to recognize and admit our shortcomings through God's Holy Spirit. As difficult as it is, we would be wise to find a trusted brother or sister in Christ to whom we can be accountable; a friend that we know will be honest with us in sharing the things they observe about our Christian walk.
As we take this time to evaluate our spiritual growth and the effectiveness of our witness, keep in mind that what we do speaks so loudly, people can't hear what we say. Let's take this Lenten season as the opportunity it is to renew and revise our spiritual lives, to do an honest inspection of our own beliefs and actions, and to lay all of our transgressions at the foot of the cross. Jesus said..."Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."(Matt 11:28)
Have a blessed and productive Lenten Season,
Archbishop Edward J. Skiba, OSB
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