Friday, November 28, 2014

Praying to the Dead? Invoking the Saints in Christian Prayer

Mark's Latest Release
 Volume Three of the 
Ancient Faith Matters Series
It's here friends!  And it's FREE for a limited time on amazon!  Click on the link below and download your free copy today! 

Please feel free to "like" tweet" or share with any of your friends who may be interested in or wrestling with the question of "praying with the saints"...

In the Lion, In the Lamb,

Mark Whitten

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Friday, October 31, 2014

All Hallows Eve

On the Eve of All Saint's Day or All Hallowed's Eve (Halloween)  I thought I might re-post one of my more controversial articles on "Praying to the Dead?" I felt as if this season might prick an extra curiosity about an often misunderstood and miscommunicated topic that is quite significant to our living faith.

So click here to enjoy a new twist on the topic of "Praying to the Dead" .

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Didache: An Ancient-Future Catechism
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In a world where everything we thought we knew, seems to be shifting beneath our feet, it is comforting to know that our Christian faith is an unchanging and ancient one.  With knowledge increasing exponentially, how can we expect to keep up?  How do we find solid ground in the midst of fundamental transformation? How can we get the answers we need for our daily Christian life without sifting through a thousand different interpretations and opinions of armchair theologians? 

Reliable, relevant, and historical guidance can only be found in one place…its original source.  We must go back and uncover the ancient wells of our faith to find what is true, what is certain, what is rooted.  Too often, we hear of "how things were done in the early church" by preachers and teachers using scant portions of the Bible (often out of context) to formulate a theology for Christian living in postmodernity.
Although Scripture gives us glimpses of that daily life and forms a foundation of principles to live by in the New Covenant, it does not explicitly show how the early church trained its new converts, administered its sacraments, or organized its government.  Didache: An Ancient-Future Catechism uncovers the primitive protocol of our faith’s most original members, and offers it as an anchor for grounding personal and corporate worship practices.   Whether you are looking for an ancient source of practical, spiritual wisdom, or an ancient-future primer for new converts, Didache: An Ancient-Future Catechism will not disappoint!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Why Mary Matters: Understanding the Place of Christ's Mother in Christianity
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Two years ago, the boys and I fixed French toast smothered in syrup, covered in peaches and sprinkled with powdered sugar, and an omelet filled with chopped onions, ham and cheese, and brought it to my wife in bed as she was waking from her slumber.  A glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, a flower from our garden, a pecan pie scented candle, a hot cup of coffee, a gift certificate for a pedicure, and some heartfelt cards for Mother's Day also accompanied our entourage. She was blessed, not because she thought she deserved it, but because we chose to honor her for her role in our lives and in our home.
Of all the mothers who were honored amongst Protestant Evangelicals this past Sunday, I cannot help but think of one mother who was most likely ignored on this special day set aside to honor those who bring us into this life, who nourish us as tender shoots, and help carry us through this thorny trek we call life.... Mary...the mother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

To mention her name among most evangelical Christians, conjures a variety of mixed thoughts and emotions; unfortunately, many of them are negative. Almost immediately, our "anti-catholic" radars are set off like air-space defense alarms in our fundamentalist minds to quickly shoot down any proposition that may cause us to think anything but suspicious thoughts about this woman we often ignore in Scripture. As evangelical Bible-believing Christians, we have oft been guilty of bearing an almost haughty attitude towards all things Mary, going so far as to highlight the times when Jesus supposedly rebuked his mother as our only recollection of this woman in Scripture. Because of our ignorance of, and lack of due-diligence in researching more "catholic" expressions of Christianity, we quickly assume that these "sub-Christians" are engaging in some sort of perverted pagan or tribal goddess worship when Mary is given a place of honor in their church experience. While, some extremes do and will always exist, we can no longer immaturely ignore 2,000 years of Church tradition or certain Biblical mandates to venerate Mary. It is much to my chagrin that I myself, in the past could even imagine an afterlife where Mary did not exist, or was somehow hidden away in some distant corner of heaven so that I would not have to deal with her in the eternal reality. Oh how foolish I was!

Click here to read more of Why Mary Matters!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Icons: Part One

"The icon is a song of triumph, and a revelation, and an enduring monument to the victory of the saints and the disgrace of demons." 
 ~St. John of Damascus

I will never forget the first time I experienced worship in an Eastern Orthodox church.  As I entered the Nave through the large wooden double doors, it was as if I was stepping out of this world and into another.  My senses were overcome with the unexpected beauty of sights, sounds, and smells that crashed into my cognisance.  I was awed...elevated...transported to a different realm...a realm of transcendent beauty and holiness that has yet to be matched in my earthly experience. 

Everywhere I looked, my eyes feasted on the images of the faith I hold dear to.   No matter where I turned or what I attuned my ear to, the landscape of heaven and the symphony of the saints drew near to me in rapturous occasion.  While each corner and every wall held some mystery worth exploring, I could not help but thinking that this was the heavenly shadow or copy that Hebrews 8:5 speaks of.  The congregants moved freely about the nave as being led by an invisible wind, stopping to pray, to bow, to meditate, to kiss, or to venerate some saint or holy object.  The priests and deacons moved in a similar fashion in what seemed like perfect harmony to and from the sanctuary as they began preparing the Holy Table, while the readers and choir filled the hall with the chanted canticles of scripture and antiphonal singing.  The activity of this place was constant and vibrant, yet the organic participation afforded by the Divine Liturgy gave one not only the sense of incredible freedom, but perfect order.  Even the repetitious litanies served to instill a sense of timeless wonder and sacred worship that I yet to find elsewhere.

On the beautifully carved Iconostasis the life-sized icons of Christ the Pantocrator,Mary the mother of our Lord, John the Baptist, the patron saint of the church, and the two archangels Gabriel and Michael, stand as both guards and hosts to the sacred table behind it.  Their rich colors and glorified figures paint seemed to shout that we had indeed "...come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born who are registered in heaven, to God the judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant..."  I was it a great cloud of witnesses. 

Growing up as a protestant evangelical, I had been subliminally taught that the senses were unsanctified creatures that needed to be denied in order to achieve holiness. Touching, tasting, seeing, and smelling were ways to get around in the world, not a means to encounter God.   I thank God however for the witness of the ancient church that seems to say, that if faith comes by hearing, then how much more can it come through seeing, tasting, touching, and smelling!