The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Category Archives: Christian Rituals

Why Christians Shouldn’t Celebrate Communion (aka The Eucharist)

271

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Holy Communion.  The Holy Eucharist.  The Lord’s Supper.  These are all names that Christians use to refer to a religious sacrament which involves a group of believers coming together and sampling two edible elements: some kind of bread product, and some grape related liquid.  Sometimes a loaf of bread is passed around and everyone rips a bite sized piece off of it.  Or sometimes a plate of small crackers are passed around like an offering plate and each person takes one.  Sometimes the liquid element is actual wine, other times it’s just grape juice.  Read more of this post

Rethinking Christian Rituals: Water Baptism

270

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

THE ORIGIN OF BAPTISM

Read through the Old Testament and you won’t find a single mention of baptism.  The bizarre tradition of a grown man briefly dunking individuals into water first shows up in the New Testament with a guy who made such a career out of dunking people that he became known as John the Baptist.

Now John was an ethnic Jew and a devoted follower of Yahweh.  The religion he practiced was Judaism, and he lived in the land that had once belonged to the nation of Israel, back when she was a sovereign nation.  But Israel had lost her independence centuries ago, and in John’s lifetime, she was considered part of the territory of the Roman Empire.  Read more of this post

Understanding Verbal Blessing & Cursing: So Much Hype, So Little Power

267

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

In this post, you will learn everything you need to know about the human practice of verbally blessing and cursing other humans.

HOW HUMANS VIEW BLESSING & CURSING

There are two main ways that humans view blessing and cursing.  For non-serious users, the phrase “Bless you!” is the same as saying “Thank you!” or “I like you!” or “Wow, you seem like such a nice person that I hope things go well for you in the future.”  Alternately, to say “Curse you!” is a way of saying “I hate you!” or “You’re such a jerk!” or “I hope rotten things happen to you because you’ve upset me!”  For non-serious users, blessing and cursing people or objects is just a way of expressing personal joy or anger. Read more of this post

Rethinking Your Christian Rituals

166

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Fasting. Tithing. Signing the cross. Kneeling when you pray. Honoring a Sabbath day.  Daily devotions. Kissing pictures of Jesus.  Bowing before crosses.  Taking vows of silence.  Taking vows of celibacy.  Prayer retreats.  Setting up prayer closets.  Memorizing verses.  Attending church.  Taking Communion. Using formal language when you pray.  Hanging crosses on your wall and around your neck.  Going to confession.  Praying the rosary.  Praying with other believers.  Dressing your best on Sunday morning.  Attending Bible study.  Doing community service.  Witnessing.  Getting Jesus tattoos.  Putting a fish on your car.  What is the purpose of doing these things?  What does Christianity mean to you?  Why are you engaging in Christian rituals?  Whose benefit are you doing these things for? Read more of this post

Guidance for Serious Catholics: What does God think about Lent?

127

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies and pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).” (CCC 1438)

So what does this mean exactly?  Well, here it’s being suggested that we should view certain events on the Church’s cycle of Christian traditions as opportunities to kick our pursuit of God into high gear.  How does the Church suggest that we do this?  By engaging in things like abstinence, fasting, the confession of sins, and acts of mercy.  In other words: do stuff that we normally don’t like to do.  Let’s be honest: humans reserve the term “abstinence” to refer to holding off on activities which are pleasing to their flesh.  This is what makes abstinence a difficult concept.  Self-denial would be a breeze if we were denying ourselves the right to do something painful, like hit our thumb with a hammer. Read more of this post

Christian Prayer Groups: Why God Isn’t a Fan

122

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Social bonding is an important element of any human relationship. To form positive relationships with each other, we need to spend time talking together and sharing our different perspectives. The experience of feeling listened to and empathized with is so intensely positive and uplifting to the soul that we are willing to pay counselors to provide this service for us. But it’s much better when we can find people who are willing to listen to us and care about us free of charge, and this is what makes Christian prayer groups so very popular. Read more of this post

The Laying On of Hands

138

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Does God need someone to touch you before He can help you? Of course not, He’s God. So what’s this business about laying on of hands? Well, this is one of those things like fasting that we pick up from things we read about in the Bible. We pick it up and then we won’t let it go, because we think we’ve found a way to manipulate God. Read more of this post

What’s holy about holy water? (Understanding Labels in the Church)

114

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

Let’s play a game. If you do everything I say, I’ll give you a million dollars. If you don’t, I’ll kill you. This is a game with high stakes.

Now the game starts with me sitting in a tent that I’ve put up. That tent is special. Why? Because I said so. In this game, I define what special is. Now I want you to bring me special gifts. Outside of my tent there’s a picnic table with ordinary things on it: bowls, cups, cooking utensils, water, food, etc.. I want you to bring me some of those things. You see, the way this game works, you have to bring me something special every 30 minutes. I won’t take just an ordinary object, it has to be special.

So what makes an object special? Well, if you hop up and down on your right leg ten times in a row and then you touch one of the items on that picnic table, that thing will become special. But you can only make one thing special at a time, so you’ll have to do a lot of hopping. The first thing I want you to bring me is a special cup. That means you have to hop up and down on your right leg ten times, touch a cup to make it special, then bring it to me in my special tent. Now you’d better not try to cut any corners because I’m watching you. If you get tired and decide to skip the leg hopping step and just bring an ordinary object into my special tent, I will shoot you. I have a gun in my tent and I won’t allow anything ordinary to come in here. I’m special, my tent is special, and everything you bring to me had better meet with my definition of special. So get hopping.

In this little game of ours, what determined whether something was special or ordinary? You going through some silly ritual. Did the physical properties of the objects that you made “special” ever change? Not at all. When you hopped up and down and then touched a cup, it was still just a cup. I was the only reason the cup was considered “special”, because I had made up these silly rules. This whole game is nothing more than me making you go through a bunch of meaningless motions just because I said so. It’s just a means of me bossing you around. I don’t really need you to bring me things in my tent, I just want to see you submitting to my authority. What’s your motivation for bothering to play such a strange game? In fact, why should you bother with doing anything that I say? Because if you don’t, I will kill you. Read more of this post

All About Fasting

All About Fasting

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

There’s nothing holy about having an empty stomach. God designed human beings to be dependent on food. Not only do we need to eat, we need to eat on a regular basis. To encourage us to do this, God has equipped our bodies with many ways of complaining if we go too long without refueling them. Painful hunger cramps, salivating mouths, headaches, head rushes, weakness—these are just some of the ways our bodies shout at us for more food.

So then, how well can you concentrate when someone is shouting at you? Does it make sense that we teach people that praying—an activity which requires concentration—is somehow enhanced if we do it while fasting? Not at all. For a small minority of us, fasting will prove to be a strange plus that actually helps us concentrate better. But for most of us, it will only be a major detriment. So if fasting sounds like a bad idea to you, then that’s because it is. Eat with a clear conscience. God does not find you spiritually deficient because you are doing what He designed you to do. Read more of this post