Author Archive

If I only had this!

Posted: June 26, 2014 by boydmonster in Uncategorized

            “I’d work harder if my boss would get off my case.” “I wouldn’t yell at my kids if I could just get more sleep.” “I wouldn’t look if she didn’t dress that way.” “I would eat better if I could afford better food.” “I wouldn’t get so mad if my husband would just get a clue.”

            We all know we fall short of the mark in many different ways. Yet when we try and figure out why we do, all too often we assume that the problems are external. However, the Apostle Peter tells us “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”(2 Peter 1:3 NIV) Which is it? Have I been given all I need for life and godliness? Or are my circumstances and experiences hindering my pursuit of godliness?

            My experience tells me the latter is what is true. I feel like if I had everything I needed to be godly, then I’d have my anger under control, I’d never be tempted to lust, I’d work diligently and rest peacefully. In fact, at times I’ve even been tempted to wonder if God wants me to act a certain way why doesn’t He give me what I need and take away what holds me back? John Newton expressed this disillusionment perfectly in his hymn “I asked the Lord.”

 

“I thought that in some favored hour

At once He’d answer my request

And by His love’s constraining power

Subdue my sins and give me rest.”

           So far, this has not been my experience. Has God, then, let me down? Has He withheld some thing that I need in order to follow Him? In other words, is it really Him who’s tempting me since He’s the one who is in charge of my circumstances?

            James tells us clearly “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.”(James 1:13) In other words, “temptation is not external, it’s internal.” If we were pure of heart, circumstances wouldn’t be tempting to us.

            Some use this verse to say that God doesn’t control our circumstances because that would be tantamount to tempting us. That misses the point of the verse and a major theme in James. God allows temptation to come along not to deceive us into sinning. Rather, because He knows sin lies in our hearts, He graciously allows us to enter into circumstances that reveal what is already in our hearts.

            What’s the point of all this? Again, Newton says it well:

“These inward trials I employ

From self and sin to set the free

To break thy schemes of earthly joy

That thou may find thy all in me.”

Don’t forget to hide your shame!

Posted: June 25, 2014 by boydmonster in Uncategorized

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.

James 1:9-11

But let Him who boasts, boast in the Lord. 2 Corinthians 10:17

You all know that guy. The one who is always bragging. The one who seems to be a superhero in his own eyes. The one who you’re pretty sure is either making up stories or using other people’s stories as his own. You all know how ridiculous his efforts are. The thing is that if he just stopped with all the posturing, if he were just himself, if he didn’t try so hard, people might like him a bit more. It’s ironic, isn’t it? He wants admiration so badly that he drives it away.

shame_online_preview_original_original

Are we all that different though? Ever get in that conversational game of “That’s nothing” to prove your story is better than theres? Don’t you know what it’s like to talk about how busy you are and how you don’t have a second to yourself all the while thinking subconsciously that busyness proves your worth? What do you say when someone asks how your day is going when it’s not going that great and you don’t have a good reason for it?

Why do we do this? We do it to cover our shame. Shame, it has been said, is the universal human experience. There isn’t a person on the planet that hasn’t had the desire to have the earth swallow them up alive. Each of us has some corner of our life that we’d rather die than have exposed. We all have the sense that somehow we’re inadequate. Even those who seem most confident often appear different on the outside than they feel on the inside. Their boasting is just a fig leaf to cover up their nakedness in the hopes that it can distract others. They boast not because of their confidence, but because they’re terrified of being exposed.

James tells us “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation and the rich in his humiliation.” As we said this past Sunday, we normally do the exact opposite of this. If we are poor or lowly, we boast that we haven’t been born with a silver spoon. We only have what we’ve earned. Or perhaps our boasting looks more like contempt. “I deserve better than this.” We’re sure that we merit something better than our lowly conditions. If we’re rich, we boast in that. Perhaps we talk about how ‘blessed’ we are. Or we look down on others who aren’t willing to make the sacrifices we’ve made to get where we are. We try to salve the guilt we feel for having more than others by focusing on how much we give. Or how down to earth we are, not like those other rich people. Perhaps our wealth comes with enough social capital that we walk through life thinking our opinions and desires are more valid than others. “Do you have any idea who I am?” In either case, we have some shame. Shame that we are not like others.

What is James telling us to do? He’s telling us to be honest with our current condition and remember our eternal condition. Don’t try to make your condition appear as if it’s something different than what it is. If your condition is lowly, own it. You make your boast in this, that you might have nothing in this life, but you are destined to inherit the Kingdom of God. If you are rich (and, but the way, compared to the rest of the world most people in America are rich) admit it. And boast in your lowliness. “You think I’m rich? Do you know how much care it takes to deal with this? I’m going to lose all of this and I don’t even know when. Oh could devote more of my care to the kingdom.” You see, what we normally think is to our glory is usually to our shame. But the Lord Jesus Christ, who is rich in mercy, has taken our shame upon Himself that He might clothe us in His glory.

Do you have what it takes?

Posted: June 25, 2014 by boydmonster in Uncategorized
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“For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you might be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives generously to all without reproach and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:4-8

 

Do you have what it takes? Or do you sometimes feel woefully inadequate? As w grow in our Christian walk, we see just how important it is to bring the different areas of our lives under Christ’s lordship. Sometimes this can be overwhelming.

When we think of parenting our children so that they’ll be faithful to Jesus.

When we entertain the idea of sharing our faith in our neighborhoods or at work.

When we’re called to leadership in the church.

When we’re called onto the mission field, even if only for a short term mission.

Yesterday, James told us that in our trials, God is working to give us a steadfast joy by giving away our transitory joys. Today, James tells us to let this steadfastness work its course so that we can be perfect (literally, completed) lacking nothing.

            He then goes on to show to things we don’t want to be found lacking in, faith and wisdom. Incidentally, both of these qualities increase in us only as we go pass through trials. He zeroes in on these two qualities because of how essential they are in our walk with Christ.

            First, he tells us, if we lack wisdom, we can simply ask of God who gives generously to all without reproach. It bears asking what wisdom is though. When I hear Christians talk about wanting wisdom, it sounds to me like what they really want is good advice. In other words, they want wisdom to buy the right house, take the right job, say the right thing, find the right spouse, etc. However, in the biblical literature, wisdom has much more to do with who we are than what we do. Later on, James will compare the meekness of wisdom that shows itself through good conduct with bitter jealousy and selfish ambition that leads to a denial of truth.(James 1:13-14)

            Remember what James is aiming at for us here though. Perfection. The request for wisdom is directly attached to the steadfastness that comes from trials. James is encouraging us that if we find ourselves in the midst of trials, then we can ask God to make us the sort of wise people who joyfully endure trials knowing that God is working something greater for us through them.

We cannot make this request, however, without faith. Faith is not, however, the secret decoder ring for gaining the entry into wisdom. Rather, faith is the essential ingredient for wisdom. The Heidelberg Catechism defines true faith with these words “True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; it is also a wholehearted trust, which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation. These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.” In other words, faith is not simply trusting that God will give you what you ask for, but trusting Him as a person. Tim Keller once said that many of us put God on the level of a consultant. He then defined a consultant as someone we pay tons of money to so that we can ignore his or her advice

Do we trust God’s word? Or is God only a consultant for us. If so, we will not become wise. We will live our life according to our own wisdom, which as proverbs reminds us “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is death.”(Proverbs 14:12) Do we trust God to take care of us? If not, we will be as foolish as Chicken Little, crying about the crashing heavens at every trial. Do we trust God’s forgiving grace in our lives? If not, we will be fools chasing at the empty approval of the world like Peter Pan chasing his shadow. Today ask God to give you wisdom, but even more importantly, ask Him to help you to trust Him so that you can become wise.

When this thief comes, rejoice!

Posted: June 23, 2014 by boydmonster in Uncategorized
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We’ve all been visited by a joy thief.  One thing is for sure, having your joy stolen isn’t any fun.  When this thief comes, he can wear many different costumes.    

When you lose something precious to you.

When a treasured friendship inexplicably ends.

When you see that person you simply cannot please.

When you did everything right and it still didn’t work out.

It’s different for each of us, but we all have a tipping point.  Having your joy stolen looks different for each of us as well.  Losing your joy may drive one person to quitting and another to manic effort.  It may push one person to explosive anger and another to disheartened submission.  Perhaps for many of us, it has been so long since we’ve really known abiding joy that anger, control, manipulation, shame and despair have become normal.  

What would it be like if we had a joy that couldn’t be taken from us.  A steadfast joy.  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”(James 1:2-3)  James is telling us here that it is precisely when our joy is being stolen from us that God is working to develop in us a steadfast joy.  

When the economy tanks and all our hope for financial soundness is lost.  When we get stuck in traffic.  When we get passed over for that promotion.  When that person betrays us.  When we just can’t seem to get the laundry done and its driving us mad.  When the person we thought we were going to marry tells us they are moving on.  When our children don’t turn out how we wanted them to.  When we lose a parent.  When we lose our temper.  When we lose our will.  God tells us “These inward trials I employ from self and sin to set the free that though may seek thy all in me.”(John Newton, I asked the Lord)  

Therefore, James tells us, when our ability to trust God and be joyful in Him is put to its limit, we are to take out our spiritual calculators and “count it all joy” because “blessed is he who remains steadfast under trial.”  Are you being tested?  In the midst of your pain, rejoice. God is preparing you for more joy than you ever thought possible.  

 

He Made His Brother His Slave

Posted: June 22, 2014 by boydmonster in James

imageAs we enter into our summer series on James, I thought I’d try something new and give some short devotionals on the previous Sunday’s sermon text.  We’ll see if I can keep up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

James 1:1 “James the servant of God and of The Lord Jesus Christ to the Twelve Tribes in the Dispersion.  Greetings.”

Although Paul encourages the young pastor Timothy that “All Scripture is God breathed,” we don’t always act as if that is true when it comes to the introductions and conclusions to the New Testament epistles.  Here James’ words are easy to pass over, but we do so at the peril of losing some precious truth.

We learn from this verse who has written the epistle and to whom he is writing.  However, what looks simple on the surface is more complicated when we look into it.  We know the book is written by James, but which James?  The simple moniker “James, the servant of God and The Lord Jesus Christ” presumes that the original audience would have known who he was.  Most scholars for the past two thousand years have narrowed who this James is down to three people.  James the Just, the brother of Jesus, James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus.  James the son of Alphaeus we know was martyred early in the church’s history, and so it is unlikely he wrote it.  We know so little of the son of Alphaeus that it is hard to imagine that he would have signed his name without saying that he was the son of Alphaeus just for clarification.  That leaves the brother of our Lord.

But why, then, doesn’t he sign the letter “James, the brother of Jesus?”  I think this says something deep and profound about the character of James as it had been formed under the Gospel.  To be able to claim a real and familial connection to Jesus would have instantly given James credibility before his hearers.  However, James knew what kind of brother he’d been to Jesus (Mark 3:21, John 7:1-5), refusing to believe in Him until after he’d seen Him risen from the dead.  He would not take advantage of what was actually to his shame.

Rather, James has only this to boast in, that He is a slave to Christ.  He has been bought by the blood of Christ.  The Lord Jesus now owns him and has total authority over his life.  This is all of James’ glory, power, and authority.

Do we see ourselves as James did?  Or do we cling to our titles, our boasts, our accomplishments, our connections?  Can we truly say that  we boast in nothing but the cross of Christ?  Then let us find our boast only in this, that Jesus owns us and we live to do His bidding.

What your delegates will be voting on…

Posted: March 11, 2014 by boydmonster in Uncategorized

Hey Church, as many of you already know, the convention of the Diocese of South Carolina is coming up this weekend.  I still remember travelling to one of my first diocesan conventions as a junior at The Citadel (interestingly, that convention was held here at Trinity.  It was my first time here!)  Before we left, my chaplain, Doug Petersen, looked at me and said “Iain, just remember, laws are a lot like sausages.  Everyone knows they’re good, but nobody should ever have to see them get made.”  I assure you, diocesan conventions in South Carolina aren’t just legislation machines!  This year’s convention will begin with a series of workshops with some top notch presenters.  These are open to the public, so feel free to register and come on down!  http://www.diosc.com/sys/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=554:223rd-convention-workshops&catid=144:conventionnews&Itemid=257

Also of note are three particular resolutions the convention will be voting on.  Resolution R-1 is a resolution for the diocese to become a member of the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans by signing onto the Jerusalem Declaration, a statement of faith addressing contemporary issues of faith for global Anglicans today.  I see this as a very positive step as Anglicanism was originally constructed as a confessional and liturgical church centered around the 39 Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.  Over the years, many have drifted away from these standards.  It is heartening to see them returning to the central place they deserve. Not only that, this aligns us with literally millions of Anglicans around the world who desire to stand together in proclamation of the gospel.

In the meantime, the second resolution calls for the formation of a committee to be made by Pentecost of this year to begin the discernment of our future affiliation as Anglicans.  You can see both of these resolutions here: http://www.diosc.com/sys/images/documents/conventions/223_conv_resolutions.pdf

The third resolution of note is a resolution from the floor, Resolution R-3.  This resolution is in response to happenings that have developed since the first resolution was proposed.  The Global South Primates have offered primatial oversight to The Diocese of South Carolina.  What this means is that while South Carolina discerns its pathway for affiliation in the future, (to be prayerfully sought out by a committee formed by resolution R-2) we will have pastoral oversight from the archbishop of another province of the Anglican Communion.

I see these resolutions as encouraging steps towards what Anglicanism is at its best.  For centuries, Anglicanism has been known as a sort of Reformed Catholicism. We are reformed in our doctrine, which is to say that we are a church that looks to the Scriptures as the supreme authority over faith and life and see in those same Scriptures the centrality of Jesus Christ and the gospel.  And we are a church in catholic order, which is to say we have a polity like the historic church with Bishops in communion with one another in global fellowship.  It is my opinion that these three resolutions honor these commitments to reformed and gospel centered faith and catholic order. If you have further questions feel free to call or contact your convention delegates, John Ed Copeland, Tom Webb, Danny MacDonald, and Bob Bell.  In the meantime keep me and your delegates in your prayers!

I read once — but cannot remember where — a children’s story of a king who had an infestation of mice in his palace.  He went to his counselors who advised him to hire some cats.  Soon the cats cleared the palace of the mice but the cats multiplied. He returned complaining about his infestation of cats.  So his wise men counseled him to get some dogs.  Well the dogs soon supplanted the cats, sleeping upon the king’s bed and being a general nuisance—howling at night and barking at his guests.  So returning again to his counselors to get rid of the dogs they all agreed that lions would scatter the dogs—which of course they did.  But before long the lions were lounging on the beds and couches and eating his store of fine meats.  “What am I to do now?” he quizzed his wise men?   They said, “Get some elephants!”  Well the elephants drove out the lions but then they played havoc with his Great Room and hallways, leaving unseemly droppings and crushing furniture.  “Now what?” he asked his advisers.  “Bring in some mice” said the wise men, “they will scare the elephants away!”  Far too often we try to deal with our problems with solutions that only lead to other problems and we end up back with the mice because we never bothered to ask the question, “Why are the mice in the palace in the first place?”

Read the rest here… 

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Annual Address 2014: Writing the Song of Moses

Posted: January 29, 2014 by boydmonster in Uncategorized

The following is the text of the address I made Monday night at our Annual Parish Meeting.  

“This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day.”

So spoke Shakespeare’s Henry V on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt.  This speech has echoed down the ages as a prime example of mideival leadership.  In it, he spurs his troops onward with the thought of the ongoing glory they will enjoy for years to come.  John’s Revelation records a similar song where the saints of God sing the glory of the victories won in Revelation 15:2-4.

“And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb…”

It is interesting that the saint’s song is here called not only the song of the Lamb, but the song of Moses as well.  Isn’t God alone to be praised in heaven?  Of course.  However, the great acts of salvation are brought to bear in real life through God’s use of weak, empty, earthen vessels like Moses, you, and me.  What this means is that each of us will spend eternity recounting before God all the great acts of His salvation even as He has worked it through His own servants.

Forever, I will sing the praises of God for how He worked salvation in my own life not only by the accomplishment of my redemption on the cross, but of how His servants proclaimed that good news to me when I was lost in darkness, and how I persevered in faith because of the faithful ministry of His people.  I will forever praise God for sending a young undergraduate named Robert Sturdy to share the Gospel with me, so that for the first time in my life I understood that we are made right with God by faith and not by works.  I will praise God for the ministry of The Reverend Sandy Key, the chaplain at The Citadel who first showed me what godly character in ministry looked like so that I believed him when he told me about Jesus.  I will praise God for the ministry of saints at Trinity like Rod Sanders and Frank Sloan who have kept me encouraged through the trials of ministry.

Likewise, each of us will sing the praises of God for the work of His servants in our lives.  The question is, will God’s praises be sung because of our lives works?  Are we laboring for that which will result in eternal glory?  The mission of Trinity is “to Share the Gospel and make Christ-centered Disciples.”  This means nothing other than equipping each of the saints to so labor that their works will be to the eternal praises of the one who has saved them.

This work happens in unassuming ways.  Small groups, bible studies, one on one bible reading are all means by which we are training one another for the work of the ministry.  It is our desire not only that every person at Trinity would be trained and equipped to follow Christ, but that each of us would be trained and equipped to exercise our gifts to help others to grow as disciples of Jesus.

In the course of the past year, it has become increasingly obvious to me that our ministries are currently overextended, hampering our ability to fulfill this mission.  Chris Bear and I began discussing how to resolve this last fall.  It became clear to us that Trinity did not have the strength or the momentum to continue to support Coastal Fellowship and move forward with our mission.

After much prayer and discernment, Chris and Zhenya Bear have decided to go off staff at Trinity and make Coastal Fellowship a mission of the Diocese independent at Trinity.  From now on any support Trinity gives to Coastal Fellowship will be given as support to another ministry as outreach.  Chris will stay on our staff through May to help support me as I search for a new associate and Coastal Fellowship will continue to use the space in our chapel.

I applaud Chris and Zhenya for this step of faith.  They have courageously stepped out in obedience to where they feel God is leading them.  Let us not be guilty for not supporting them in prayer.  The congregation of Coastal Fellowship is to be applauded as well.  They have stepped up to the plate pledging to support Coastal Fellowship to the tune of $50,000.  I have been amazed at what has been accomplished through this enterprise in the last year and a half and I think that Coastal Fellowship will benefit from having Chris full time as their pastor and Trinity will be blessed as well having an associate who’s energy and time isn’t split between what is effectively two churches.

This associate will be tasked with creating the structures needed to produce a culture of discipleship at Trinity so that existing members can be resourced for spiritual growth and mission and new members can be grafted in to our body.  Please keep this search process in your prayers.  As you know, the associate’s position at Trinity is essential to our health and engagement in the mission of the Gospel.

And so as we enter on a new year of ministry, I am once again amazed at God’s grace and his working in this parish.  I look forward to seeing what He has in store for us in 2014!

Know Thyself

Posted: July 9, 2013 by boydmonster in Uncategorized

I’m speaking tonight at the Men’s Night for Campus Outreach Greenville’s Summer Beach Project.  We’ll be talking about what Gospel-Centered sanctification looks like.  Essential to a Christocentric understanding of sanctification is a knowledge of the governing idols of our hearts.  I have compiled a list of 10 questions for them to work through to discern the idols of their hearts.  In addition to these questions, I’d like to encourage your slow and prayerful working through of two other documents.  One is a list of ‘x-ray questions’ published by David Powlison originally in “Seeing with New Eyes,” and later in “How People Change ” by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane.  The other is the orphan vs child of God worksheet published by World Harvest Mission in their Sonship Training.  Here’s my feeble attempt at something similar.  Enjoy.

Idols of My Heart:

  1. What do I ultimately live for?  What do I strive to avoid?
  2. What do I want people to remember me for?
  3. What has the power to “make or break me?”  What is it that I am only ok when I have it?
  4. What circumstances have the power to illicit extreme behaviors from me i.e. despair, outbursts of anger, frantic pace of work, bitterness and unforgiveness, etc?
  5. What has the power to make me anxious?  What can occupy my mind against my wishes?  Over what do I lose sleep?
  6. What is the first thing I think about when I wake up?  When I go to bed?
  7. What criticism can I be crushed by?  This is my identity.
  8. Finish this sentence: “If I only had _________________________________ then I would finally ____________________________________________________________________________.”
  9. Finish this sentence: “I have a hard time loving people who _____________________________.”
  10. What do you have a hard time forgiving or getting over?

Yesterday our Bishop, Mark Lawrence, preached on Luke 7:36-8:3.  This section tells the story of a promiscuous woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and annointed them with oil.  Mark handled the text wonderfully showing the tender love of Jesus for the most marginalized of sinners.  When the Pharisee who’s house Jesus is in complains that Jesus is allowing Himself to be associated with such a woman, Jesus informs him that “He who has been forgiven much loves much.  He who has been forgiven little loves little.”  As he was preaching, something else stood out to me about this text.  

Luke makes a point of recording in Jesus’ reply the Pharisee’s name.  When the Pharisee is considering how scandalous it is for Jesus to be involved with this woman, Jesus says “Simon, I have something to say to you.”  Why give this detail?  Jesus confronts scores of Pharisees who disapprove of His friendliness towards ‘sinners.’   Why record this one?  One simple answer is that that is what Jesus said.  I think Luke intends more than this though.  

Emerging scholarship has begun to recognize the use of a sort of name dropping as a means of what we would today consider academic citation.  So, when Luke is telling a story, he tells you one of the key players as a way of saying “This is my primary source.  If you want to verify my story, go talk to him.”  What if this is the case in this passage? What if Luke is recording Simon the Pharisee’s name because Simon was his source for this particular story?  I think it changes the thrust of the story significantly.  

Imagine Luke the historian interviewing Simon the Pharisee.  Imagine Simon telling him this story.  I cannot see Simon telling him the story grimacing around the name of Jesus.  I cannot see him telling Luke about this day inserting commentary on how inappropriate it was for Jesus to be with this woman.  In other words, I think it is highly likely that this conversation did something to Simon or else he would not have been telling so many people about it that it attracted the attention of someone wanting to verify the details about Jesus’ life.  

If I had to guess, I would think that Simon would tell the story something like this: “I had heard of Jesus and I had my suspicions.  I invited him into my home to see if He was as dangerous a heretic as He was made out to be.  He came to my door and I didn’t offer him water to cleanse his feet, oil to refresh himself with, or even the courtesy of greeting him with a kiss.  I wanted to vet him out first before I offered him any hospitality.  Then this woman comes in.  She was obviously a lady of the night.  She begin to weep over his feet, annointed them with oil, and dried them with her hair.  I thought ‘How scandalous!  Some prophet.  He can’t even identify a prostitute when he sees one.’  It was as if Jesus saw into my soul.  Immediately he explained to me that those who are forgiven much love much.  I saw how wrong I had been not only about this woman, but about myself.  Jesus knew this woman’s sin better than I did, and yet he forgave her.  Her heart was bursting with gratitude, but despite all my theological and moral precision, my heart was as cold as a cadaver!  He who has been forgiven much loves much?  How true.  I slighted Jesus.  I despised those He loved.  I was too self-righteous to ever seen my need for grace.  He loved me and forgave me despite all this.  You can’t imagine how much I love Jesus now!”  

This is the great beauty of the grace of God revealed in Jesus.  No one, not the most profligate sinner or the most precise Pharisee is too far from God’s grace.  We often speak of God’s grace as if it’s only for the prodigal.  But God is as pleased to forgive a stony hearted religious zealot as He is to welcome the most broken libertine.  When I came to Christ in college, there was no denying that I needed grace.  My life was as worldly as anyone’s.  However, I continue to need that grace as much today as ever I did, if not more.  I have been the Pharisee and the Sinner.  Thank God His grace extends to both!

Phil is a friend and brother in Christ serving Christ and the people of St Michael’s ACNA in the arctic tundra of southeastern Wisconsin.  He is a doctoral candidate in Lutheran studies at Marquette University.  His zeal, knowledge, and thoughtfulness not only on the Gospel and the Scriptures, but on historical Anglicanism have been a real encouragement to me.  I hope you enjoy!

 

“A High Reformation Principle for Sorting Out Vexed Issues in the Church Today”

by Phil Anderas +

Confessing Anglicans today are divided on the question of whether women’s ordination is in accord with the teaching of Scripture and consistent with the doctrinal heritage of the Church. On the one hand, there is great exegetical disagreement regarding the status of women in pastoral ministry in the New Testament itself. That, certainly, is the really decisive question for a Church committed to the authority of Holy Scripture. On the other hand, there is disagreement about how the Church should relate exegetical findings to the received traditions those findings sometimes challenge. This second problem is more subtle, and less frequently addressed today. But the question itself is an old one. The Reformers had to face it head on. And they did. In this short essay, I explain the practical principle that Martin Luther formulated as a solution to this problem, in hope that it will help confessing Anglicans faithfully navigate the theological challenges we face today.

 

Quick aside to those Anglicans who aren’t keen on brother Martin: while I learned this principle from Luther’s 1539 treatise On the Councils and the Church, Luther is the first to admit that the principle isn’t his own invention. In substance, he borrowed it from Augustine. And the great Reformers to the south and to the west of Wittenberg—including the Reformers of England—borrowed it too, either directly from Luther or Augustine or often enough, from both. Hence John Calvin’s Reply to Sadoleto (also 1539) and John Jewel’s Apology of the Church of England (1562) do not differ substantively from Luther’s On the Councils and the Church in the articulation and application of this principle. Indeed, in their attempted adherence to it, a real consensus amongst the magisterial, high-church, or conserving wing of the Reformation comes to the fore. Not, to be sure, that the principle was entirely irenic in either its formulation or its effects: for this consensus differentiates the Lutheran, Reformed, and English Reformation—conserving Reformers, all—from the papal traditionalism of the Church of Rome on the right hand as well as from the radical or Anabaptist application of sola scriptura on the left.

 

But back to the matter at hand. The practical principle can be summed up easily enough: a conserving Reformer assumes the basic trustworthiness of the tradition he has received. Even so, he tests everything he receives in the clear light of Holy Scripture. In the event of a manifest contradiction, he rejects tradition and holds fast to Scripture. But if the received tradition is either supported by Scripture, or is at least not contradicted by Scripture, it is retained. So there are three steps: (more…)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

1 Peter 2:9

“So, what are we now?”  I have been asked this question countless times in 2013.  Of course, by now, though I’m not quite sure how to answer it, I at least know what the question means.  It means, “Are we Episcopal?  Are we Anglican?  If so, what kind of Anglican are we?”  What lies behind that question, however, is more varied.

For some, it is simple curiosity.  They love being a part of Trinity, and the broader association of our church is less important to them.  For others, it comes out of a place of grief.  Our entire spiritual and religious life has been formed in The Episcopal Church.  We feel a bit like people without a country.  For still others, we are finding it hard to invite people when we don’t know who we are.  As varied as these concerns are, they stem from the same root.  Identity.

I think few of us really give the issue of our identity its due attention.  Who we think we are sets the course for our lives.  When people never get a secure sense of who they are, they can spend their lives in an aimless kind of wandering, never really knowing where they fit in.

Our identity begins forming early in life, and continues to do so based on who we are, what we do, where we live, what we like, etc.  I have a cousin who years ago dropped out of college despite the fact that he had walked onto the football field and was making decent grades.  When another family member asked him why he said, “You and me, we’re just not the kind of people who go to college.”  Despite having the ability and talent to succeed in college, his identity was wrong.  That’s why that question “So, what are we now?” is so important to answer well.

In his epistle to the churches, the apostle Peter addresses the identity of the church.  He tells them, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [Christ’s] own possession.”  Who are we?  Peter says we are a chosen, royal, and holy possession of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He says we are a race of people formed into a nation of priests who live in the service of the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Who are we?  We are Christ’s.  We are His treasured possession.  We are honored dignitaries in His service.  Before we are Smiths, or Jacksons, or Petersons, or Americans, or black, or white, we are Christ’s.

Having our identity in Christ makes all the difference.  When we understand that we are Christ’s, then we understand that we are not our own.  We were purchased at a heavy cost.  We are not a people who stand on our own merits, but we are a redeemed people.  We are not failures, rejects, or victims, but beloved adopted children, “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”(Romans 8:17)  We are not individuals, but we belong to the body of faithful people throughout the ages, those who have lived by faith, not by sight.  We have a family joined together not with blood of genetic heritage, but by the shed blood of Christ.

Because this issue of our identity is so important, I’ve invited our Bishop to address just that at a luncheon forum following our 11 o’clock service.  Bishop Mark Lawrence will be addressing the question “Who are we?”  in a presentation followed by a brief time of Q&A.  But remember, no matter who we are, no matter what we call ourselves, no matter who we are related to, our identity is first and last in the Lord Jesus Christ.

To the Dregs

Posted: March 30, 2013 by boydmonster in Hell
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A mortal man spending eternity in hell, being mortal and therefore finite, will still not have endured all of its torments. Christ however, being eternal God, drank to the dregs the justice of divine wrath. The result being that the torments He endured on the cross on our behalf were infinitely more severe than all the torments of all the damned combined. In order to free us from the penalty of our sins Christ suffered infinitely on the cross.

Where was God today?  How many people have asked that question through the ages?  From young parents losing a child, to victims of the horrors of war, to young teenagers having their hearts broken for the first time, almost all of us have wondered where God was when the pain came.  When Jesus hung on the cross, His detractors asked similar questions, “He saved others, let Him save Himself,” they said, “If you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross.”  Jesus’ only response, if it can be considered a response, came as He quoted psalm 22 before His death, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabacthani!”  Translated “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me!”  The crowds who heard him misheard his words and thought he was calling for Elijah (Eloi and Elijah being pronounced similarly enough in Aramaic that when a crucified man screamed them they could be confused).  Thinking that he was calling for Elijah they gave Jesus one last chance, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take Him down.”  While they may have misheard Jesus’ words, they misinterpreted what was happening on the cross.  They thought the only evidence of God’s action in the crucifixion would have been if Jesus was taken down from the cross.

Likewise we only see God’s hand when he takes us down from our little crosses.  When He spares our child, gives us the grade, provides for our budget, or heals our disease.  In 2 Cor 5:19, Paul says “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins against them.”  What Paul is saying is that God was not less present in Jesus’ abandonment on the cross, but by leaving Jesus on the cross to the death, He was more present and more active than at any time in history.  God was there, in the abandoned Christ, working redemption and forgiveness.  Where was God on Good Friday?  He was in not only in heaven, judging our sins in the man Christ Jesus, but He was in Christ, atoning for us through His sinless life and death.  He was there at the cross glorifying Himself more than He has in any healing, military victory, or miraculous delivery.  The God we worship is not only present when we are delivered and relieved, but He is ever so much more present through our suffering and pain, working a redemption better than we ever could have hoped for.  

“No man’s sufferings ever have been, or ever can be, as voluntary as were the sufferings of Christ… It is the divinity of Christ that tests his human heroism on a pinnacle beyond the reach of any rivals in heroic martyrdom… He only had complete and absolute power to save himself all through his Passion, and all through it at every second he actively refused to do so. This magnified beyond conception the intensity of his ordeal. The crucifixion is the unique example of an entirely and totally voluntary acceptance of extreme suffering and of agonising death in the presence of total ability to escape them at any moment.”

K.C. Thompson, Once For All quoted in Michael Green, The Empty Cross of Jesus.