Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sign of the times at St. Anne’s Anglican Church in Byron

All they wanted to do was change a few panels on their sign.

What the parish at St Anne's Anglican Church in Byron got, however, was a state-of-the-art LED sign that catches the eye of pedestrian and motorist alike.

According to Peter Hawkins, coordinator for the project, the old sign was labour intensive. It was a struggle just to slide out the panels and set up letters to display what was taking place at the church that week.

If was raining, the person changing the sign would get soaked. In the dead of winter, well, forget it, as everything would be frozen solid.

Then approximately three years ago, parishioner Noble Collins went to a seminar (Andrew Weeks Magnetic Church) and came back with a remedy to fix the aging sign

To read more, click here.

So You're a Baptist—

What might that mean?

In 2007, the Baptist World Alliance reported that there were about 53 million Baptists in the world, with about two-thirds of them located in the United States. When compared with Catholics, Anglicans, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, and other Christian groups that in recent decades have become thoroughly international, this concentration of the Baptists in one country is striking. Yet comparison with the situation a century earlier shows that Baptists too have been experiencing the globalization that is now standard for other Christian movements. Early in the 20th century, only 3 percent of the world's Baptists lived outside of the United States, Canada, and Britain. Today that proportion is about 30 percent.

What is the best way to take account of the world's self-described Baptists? Do they constitute a movement with any real cohesion? Or is the term "Baptist" so flexible that it designates only a loosely defined collection of heterogeneous fragments clustered haphazardly in one vaguely outlined section of the world Christian landscape?

One way to illustrate the problem of Baptist identity is simply to start listing the various groups that call themselves by that name. In the United States we have, as only a partial list....

To read more, click here.

How to Offer Criticism: Part 5

I have been attempting to encourage healthy, honest dialog, and fruitful criticism in the Christian community through this series on how to criticize well.

Here is a look back at previous posts:

1. Critique What One Actually Believes
2. Critique Fairly and Charitably
3. Wait
4. Check Your Motive and Goal

Today, I'm wrapping it up as we focus on the need to admit when we are wrong.

#5 Admit When You Are Wrong

We all engage in criticism, and because we are fallible human beings there will be times when we make mistakes in our criticism of others. So, beware of the person who is constantly criticizing others, yet never admits when they have got it wrong. And more importantly, keep a close watch on yourself. When was the last time you admitted that you missed the mark in your evaluation of another, or lacked balance and charity in your remarks?

To read more, click here.

Watching Muslims profess Christ -- in the face of persecution

Recently, I had the privilege of helping lead a missions team from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to a country in South Asia. We spent 10 days in a nation with a population four times larger than that of California, but where far less than 1 percent of the population professes faith in Christ. It is one of the poorest places in the world.

Almost 90 percent of the population claims the Muslim faith, though the average citizen adheres to what might be called "Folk Islam," which is a mixture of traditional Islam and animistic superstition. Most of the rest of the population is Hindu.

During our time in South Asia, our team of eight students and two professors were able to minister in a number of ways. First and foremost, we shared the Gospel, both through personal evangelism and evangelistic teaching. We also conducted discipleship training with recent converts from Hinduism, most of whom had recently been baptized or were preparing for baptism. We were able to celebrate the Lord's Supper with some of these brothers who had already become baptized church members.

My faculty colleague and I had the chance to engage in some theological training with our translators, all of whom are native evangelists who work closely with our International Mission Board personnel. I doubt I'll ever have a seminary classroom experience as difficult as trying to teach the doctrine of the Trinity, through a translator, to a group of former Hindus and Muslims.

But the highlight of our time in South Asia was seeing six Muslim men come to saving faith in Christ and publicly testify to their newfound faith through believer's baptism. We had heard there were some Muslims interested in talking about Christianity in a particular village, but when we arrived there, an imam disrupted our attempts to share the Gospel. We left their village, but not before secretly passing word to the inquirers that we would meet in another location.

About a half hour later, we reassembled under a bridge, which was out of public view. About a dozen Muslim men came to hear us teach about Jesus. Two students and I shared the Gospel with the group, while our IMB missionary and one of our translators answered questions raised by our Muslim friends. Over the course of the morning, several of the men indicated they had trusted Christ as their Savior and they requested baptism.

To be honest, we were surprised by their desire to be baptized. One of the Muslims warned the new Christians that it would not go well for them if they went under the water. This was no idle word.

To read more, click here.

Online tool aids small church, bivocational pastors

Gary Mitchell spent 20 years as a pastor in small, rural congregations. Like many church leaders across the country, Mitchell held a full-time job to support his ministry.

"I've been bivocational my whole life," said Mitchell, who is 68 and "retired." He now trains, equips and networks with the nearly 1,000 bivocational pastors in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

"The vast majority of churches are led by a bivocational pastor," Mitchell noted. Nationwide, the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network estimates there are about 37,000 smaller church pastors, most of whom are bivocational, within the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Most bivocational pastors are looking for affordable study tools to assist them in their sermon preparation," Mitchell said. "They are starved for information and resources. I constantly search for study materials that are easy to use and not overwhelming. Bivocational pastors have limited time and resources."

One of the main tools Mitchell tells pastors about is, a robust online Bible study tool launched in 2010 by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"I love the format of," Mitchell said. "All the tools are in one spot."

To read more, click here.

Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism

It is important to begin with two comments:

1) This paper was inspired by something J.I. Packer wrote in 1995

‘Speculating in Anglican Futures’. I have added to it, but Dr Packer must not be blamed for my additions, or the final form this brief paper has taken.

2) I need to define ‘Anglicanism’. You will notice that I qualify it as ‘historic’ Anglicanism. What do I mean? I mean the Anglican way – the way of the Church of England as defined by the three historic documents:

the Book of Common Prayer (1662); the Ordinal (for Bishops, Priests and Deacons); the 39 Articles of Religion. We find the doctrines, beliefs and ethos of historic Anglicanism in these documents.

Let me now turn to these ten elements.

To read more, click here.

Sydney and Anglican: A Fresh Look at Mission

“My conviction is that not only is being evangelical the most authentic way of being Anglican – we’ve been saying that for years – but also that being Anglican is the best way to be evangelical in Australia in the 21st century. Our Anglican identity is, by grace, a precious gift which teaches us to stay true to the central convictions of the Christian faith without losing our missionary zeal.”--Michael Jensen

Audio files and handouts are available on their new website.

Troubling Questions Raised by Bishop's Acceptance of Child Molester to Be Priest

A recent lawsuit filed in Missouri over child molestation and abuse charges against a Catholic monastery there contains allegations which, if proved, raise troubling questions about the conduct of ECUSA's Presiding Bishop when she was the Bishop of Nevada from 2000 until her election to the national post in 2006. The lawsuit alleges that one of the abbey's Benedictine monks, Bede Parry, molested the plaintiff and several other young men over a five-year period between 1982 and 1987 while they sang in the Abbey Choir, of which Parry was the director. (See this news release for a link to download a .pdf of the petition - h/t: Pageantmaster.) When the facts of the abuse came out in 1987, Parry left the monastery for a course of treatment, and then used his position as a Catholic priest to work at a variety of Catholic and Lutheran parishes in the southwest.

In 2000, Parry apparently applied to join another Catholic monastery, and underwent psychological testing and evaluation. "The results of this testing revealed that Fr. Parry was a sexual abuser who had the proclivity to reoffend with minors," the lawsuit alleges. Instead of joining the monastery, Parry was hired as the music director at All Saints Episcopal Church, in Las Vegas, where Jefferts Schori was the diocesan. (She did not need to be consulted about his hiring, and Parry now says that he did not disclose the test results to the clergy at All Saints.)

To read more, click here.

Lawsuit charges US Presiding Bishop knowingly ordained a paedophile

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has declined to respond to questions concerning her ordination to the priesthood of a paedophile. Her silence has prompted questions from liberals and conservatives in the church about what she knew of the Rev. Bede Parry’s confessed abuse of boys, and when she knew it.

Last week Fr. Parry resigned as an assistant priest on the staff of All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas. On June 23 he was named as a sexual predator in a lawsuit filed by a Missouri man against Conception Abbey, a Roman Catholic monastery and seminary in Missouri.

Fr. Parry admitted he had abused the victim in 1987 in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Kansas City Star, but told both newspapers he had not reoffended since that time.

To read more, click here.

Practical Religion: J. C. Ryle on the Christian Life

Chapter 11: Formalism

"Having a form of godliness but denying its power."--2 Timothy 3:5

"A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical." "No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." Romans 2:28-29

The texts which head this paper deserve serious attention at any time. But they deserve special notice in this age of the Church and the world. Never since the Lord Jesus Christ left the earth, was there so much formalism and false profession as there is in the present day. Now, more than ever, we ought to examine ourselves, and search our religion, that we may know what sort it really is. Let us try to find out whether our Christianity is a thing of form or a thing of heart.

I know of no better way of unfolding the subject than by turning to a plain passage of the Word of God. Let us listen to what Paul says about it. He lays down the following great principles in his Epistle to the Romans: "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God" (Romans 2:28-29). Three most instructive lessons appear to me to stand out on the face of that passage. Let us see what they are.

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Understanding youth culture and their faith

“A story with the power to change the direction of your story.”

Have you ever wondered if there is a bigger plan to your life or if everything just happens by chance?

In his newest book, The Blackberry Bush,David Housholder will take you on a journey across two continents to discover that your life may be bigger than you think and that even the worst of mistakes can find redemption. While on this journey, he will also examine today’s youth cultures and their complex relationship with the Christian faith.

Through his book, Housholder hopes to help adults better understand the teen cultures of today. He also helps parents whose teens and young adults aren’t going to church, but are looking for a way that might nudge the children back “home” to church without being “preachy.”

Housholder is an experienced radio host, so if you have any hesitation about doing an interview on a novel, he is skilled in being able to stay on topic without giving away too much of the story. Summer is a great time to recommend novels for vacation reading, and giveaways are available!

To read more, click here.

Human Trafficking Report: 'Obama Playing Politics,' Says World Vision

Christian humanitarian organization World Vision had some harsh words against the Obama administration soon after it released its latest report on the human trafficking epidemic Monday.

World Vision and other organizations had previously expressed concern about the risks of improperly implementing an automatic downgrade provision that would demote countries which have not made progress in combating human trafficking. Congress introduced the automatic downgrade provision when it reauthorized the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2008.

The concerns over the provision were expressed in a letter sent to the White House administration in March. Other than acknowledging the receipt of the letter, the concerns were ignored, say World Vision officials.

"The Obama administration is playing politics with the lives of children around the world,” said Robert Zachritz, World Vision’s director for advocacy and government relations. “Now, those of us in the anti-trafficking community are gnashing our teeth because we realize what we hoped for, simply has not happened."

However, there are some positive aspects to the government’s latest efforts in combating human trafficking and child slavery, Zachritz told The Christian Post. “The legislation is making a difference, and as the Secretary of State said yesterday, we are bringing the issue to the governments of other countries attention,” he said. “Having the law is the first step. The second step is implementation and accountability.”

The U.S. State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report included an update on Uzbekistan. The country remains on the Tier 2 Watch List due to failure to eliminate the state-sponsored practice of forced child labor in the cotton industry. “Trafficking" as defined in the report includes any form of coerced labor.

To read more, click here.

Albert Mohler: Why God's Law Shows His Love for Mankind

Prominent theologian R. Albert Mohler, Jr., laid out seven purposes for God giving mankind the law, arguing that counter to popular belief, the law is an expression of God’s love.

Without the law, humans cannot know what is sin and we would “celebrate it and wallow in it and dive into the deep end of the pool,” said Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., at the 2011 Resolved Conference on Monday evening.

The law shows that God loves mankind because the commandments tell us what is good for us. It also is proof that God has not abandoned humans because of our sinfulness, preached the Southern Baptist leader to some 3,200 college-aged students.

“Folks, one of the most important ways that God shows His love for us is in showing sin to be sin,” stated Mohler during his hour-long sermon in Palm Springs, Calif. “We are not smart enough or wise enough; we are so sinful that we rebel against the truth.”

In contrast to modern-day complaints against the law – that it restrains and blocks people from enjoying their lives – Mohler pointed out that in the Old Testament, the Israelites were actually thankful to receive the law because it showed they were special (no one else had the law) and were loved by God (prohibited killing of children as sacrifice, among other rules).

The title of Mohler’s Monday night message was “So I really do need the law?” He contended that one cannot talk about the Gospel without the law – that they are two sides of a coin. Mohler began his address by noting that many churches do not have the correct balance between the law and Gospel, often emphasizing one side and dismissing the other.

To read more, click here.

A Time of Troubles

A Study of History by Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975) is acknowledged as one of the “greatest achievements of modern scholarship.” Toynbee’s book, huge in scale, achieved wide prominence but he was more admired by the history reading public than by his fellow historians, who criticized him for contorting information to fit his alleged patterns of history. I suspect this criticism stems largely from the fact that Toynbee likely viewed the patterns of history through the redemptive theme of Scripture.

In A Study of History, Toynbee details the rise and decline of twenty-three civilizations about which he wrote, “Of these, sixteen are dead and nine of the remaining ten-all, in fact, except our own are shown to have already declined.” He did suggest then that we may have passed our zenith. Were he alive today he would likely move Western civilization into the category of those in decline.

Toynbee’s over-arching analysis centered on the moral and religious challenges within a given society, and the response to such challenges, as the reason for the health or decline of a civilization. He described parallel life cycles of growth, dissolution, a “time of troubles,” a universal state, and a final collapse leading to a new genesis. Toynbee argues that our own time of troubles began during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, which produced a tolerance, “based not on the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity but on the Mephistophelian (devilish schemes) maladies of disillusionment, apprehension, and cynicism.”

I dare say that these devilish schemes have, with nearly unabated force, led us to the tolerance of that which was once thought to be morally repugnant such as abortion, pornography, sexual licentiousness and more recently the legitimization of homosexual behavior at the expense of marriage.

Toynbee added that civilizations arose in response to some set of challenges of extreme difficulty prompting “creative minorities” to devise solutions that would reorient the entire society.

When a civilization responds to challenges, it grows. Conversely civilizations declined when their leaders stopped responding creatively or with wisdom. Our culture today is rife with moral and religious challenges and scarcely do our leaders demonstrate a coherent understanding of the challenges much less offer real wisdom. All too frequently, the emphasis within the church tends toward technique and methodology instead of intelligent theological teaching and wisdom. Toynbee points out that in the wake of such an inadequate response, the civilizations in question sink due to nationalism, militarism or the tyranny of a despotic minority.

It seems that we, as a nation, have arrived at the level in which a “despotic minority” is in the process of reorienting our entire society, that minority being those who advocate a natural and now constitutional right to homosexual behavior.

To read more, click here.

Minnesota Next Battleground for Homosexual Marriage

Bachmann and Pawlenty played key roles in prior debates

Coming on the heels of New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage, Minnesota is set to be one of the next battleground states for this controversial issue. A proposed constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot would limit marriage to one man and one woman.

Although Republicans who were strong-armed by Governor Andrew Cuomo were key to same-sex marriage passing in New York, voters are a much harder sell. Pro-marriage organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council have a 31-state winning streak on their side when it comes to putting the issue before the people.

Interestingly, former Governor Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann will each have their own say in the matter since both are registered voters in the state. Both Pawlenty and Bachmann support a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

In 2004, then state Senator Michele Bachmann introduced a marriage amendment that was defeated. The state’s governor at the time was Tim Pawlenty who promised to sign any pro-marriage legislation that crossed his desk.

Chuck Darrell of the Minnesota Family Council applauded state legislators for putting the issue on the ballot.

“Our legislature wisely decided to let the people decide the issue of marriage – not politicians or activist judges,” said Darrell. “For an eighteen month period people are going to talk about the issue around the dinner table, at work and at the coffee shop. I’m confident Minnesotans will come to the conclusion that marriage is important and needs to be protected. We’re looking forward to a civilized debate on the issue.”

To read more, click here.

All Gay All the Time

A Martian who visited modern America today might well think that half the population was homosexual-and the other half wished it were.

This is bizarre, especially when you look at the actual statistics which show that as few as 2% of the general population identify themselves as “gay.”

Writing last month in USA Today, conservative radio host Michael Medved noted, “UCLA's Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy offered a new estimate of homosexual identification: concluding that 1.7% of Americans say they're gay, and a slightly larger group (1.8%) identified as bisexual....”

Despite the small numbers (and Medved cites a different study that puts the number at only 1.4%), this issue seems front and center everywhere.

When The Flintstones theme first crowed, “we’ll have a gay, old time,” it would have been difficult to imagine how the meaning of that phrase has changed to a cultural phenomenon sweeping the nation.

June might have been the wedding month of yesteryear, but this month the president declared, “NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2011 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.” [Emphasis his]

To read more, click here.

Hoax claims SBC backs 'gay marriage'

An elaborate hoax Tuesday claimed that the Southern Baptist Convention was on the verge of formally supporting "gay marriage" and repenting of its stance on homosexuality, and the hoax backed up the false claim with a press release, phone number and website.

The stunt was pulled off by a group calling itself the Center for Responsible Christian Living, but the group didn't identity itself until later in the day and only after one major Catholic blog had posted the release as legitimate. The blog soon pulled it. No major media outlet reported the news as real. Several media members, in fact, called the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee to make sure officials knew of the hoax.

The Center for Responsible Living -- which does not have a website -- said the hoax was to "highlight the Southern Baptists' anti-gay stance as both irresponsible and unchristian." The Center for Responsible Living's press release did not list a phone number or a spokesperson. All the quotes were of "anonymous" spokespersons.

Roger S. ("Sing") Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations for the SBC Executive Committee, said the SBC's approach to homosexuality is not only biblical but loving.

"Southern Baptists do not think it irresponsible or unchristian to uphold clear biblical teachings on human sexuality and marriage," Oldham said. "God’s expectation of sexual purity is woven throughout every part of Scripture, across generational and cultural lines. The Bible is equally clear that all who receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, those who repent of their sins and trust in Christ alone, will be forgiven and delivered from the bondage of sin. To deny such a fundamental biblical teaching as God’s redemptive purpose is the height of irresponsibility and would clearly be un-Christian."

To read more, click here.

There’s a good reason marriage is a hetero thing

What with New York legislating same-sex marriage, and Labor state conferences toppling like dominos, it appears that same-sex marriage activists have adopted a new tack: “momentum rhetoric”.

The most blatant momentum rhetoric sprang up around the recent Galaxy Poll, wherein 75 per cent of respondents agreed that same-sex marriage is inevitable in Australia.

It was an odd poll - more Nostradamus than Aquinas - on what really is a complicated political and moral issue. No engagement with the issue itself, just speculation as to where we might end up.

Then again, perhaps the poll sits comfortably with a debate in which two sides spend a great deal of time arguing about completely different things.

For same-sex marriage advocates, it’s about equality. Or as Senthorun Raj put it with crystalline clarity yesterday: “Marriage equality is an issue about respect and visibility.”

Activists like Raj want to use marriage law to achieve the social and cultural objective of increasing respect and visibility for men and women who identify as homosexual.

As far as the objective goes, Raj is unlikely to court much opposition. He certainly won’t get any from me: I too believe that respect and visibility must be accorded to all members of society, without regard to gender, race, religion, sexual preference, etc.

What concerns me is the means that Raj and others are advocating for achieving this outcome, namely, the radical modification of the institution of marriage.

This is why those on my side of the debate tend to focus our argument on the institution itself: why it is the way it is, and why changing it is a bad idea.

And so while the recent momentum rhetoric is all clinking champagne glasses and anticipatory excitement, allow me to offer a glass of cold water to the face, and a snap back to the reality of the institution we call marriage.

To read more, click here.

Clergy find joy, but plates runneth over

When it comes to keeping off excess weight, it appears that members of the clergy don't have a prayer.

A recent study funded by Duke Divinity School found that, on average, ministers make up the chubbiest profession. But this is one of those good news/bad news deals: The good news is that a separate survey by the University of Chicago found that preachers also tend to be the most-satisfied workers.

Yes, we're talking about people who embody the stereotypical image of someone who is fat and happy.

"It's a great job," said the Rev. Christ Enstad, senior pastor at Elim Lutheran Church in Robbinsdale. "Who else is welcomed into other people's lives, from birth to death and everything in between?" After a well-timed pause he added: "And we get to wear black, which is supposed to be slimming."

To read more, click here.

Homosexuality: Okoh urges FG to quit UN

The Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to pull out of the United Nations Organization, UNO, if it continued in its recognition of gay marriage in the guise of promoting fundamental human rights.

The Primate, who made the call in Abuja at the human rights consultative forum to define the stance of the church on the issue of human rights and homosexuality, described as a wolf in sheep clothing those championing homosexuality under the guise of human rights advocacy.

His words: “In reaction to the role of the UN human rights groups who were using that platform to fight for the two Malawi boys who got married as homosexuals, I said that if the UNO is now an organ for the advancement of homosexual lifestyle, it was time Nigeria pulled out of that organisation in order to protect the moral health of our nation.

To read more, click here.

Related article: Homosexuality: Nigeria's Anglican church calls for pull out from UN

Say 'No' to Sharia Law, Say Bishops

14-year-old rape victim flogged to death--a victim of brutal Sharia law

Church leaders in the US and UK have called upon their governments to take a stand against Sharia law,

On June 9 the former Bishop of Rochester urged the government to support legislation outlawing the use of Sharia law in Britain when it conflicts with English law, while an American bishop has written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voicing his dismay over NATO negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Bishop-elect Julian Dobbs of the Anglican Church in North America, and founder of the Church and Islam Project, told Mrs. Clinton that too many people were willing to ignore the implications of Sharia law and believe that Islam is a religion of peace.

“If negotiating peace with the Taliban is now part of US strategy in Afghanistan, I petition you to urgently consider the plight of Christians who are currently the target of inexcusable and indefensible atrocities perpetrated by the Taliban, all in accordance with the US sponsored constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” wrote Mr. Dobbs on June 18.

The ACNA leader denounced US complicity in the persecution of Christians by the Afghan Government of Hamid Karzai. “In an increasingly virulent campaign to win ‘hearts and minds’ by proving their loyalty to Islam,” the Karzai government was now targeting Christian converts.

While NATO forces “protected their capital and outlying provinces against revitalized Taliban incursions, the Karzai regime continued arresting native Afghan Christians; holding many of them behind bars today facing possible execution for ‘apostasy’,” Mr. Dobbs wrote, noting that “an outpouring of indignation and protest on this issue from those who enjoy religious liberty in the West is long overdue.”

To read more, click here.

Practical Religion: J. C.Ryle on the Christian Life

Chapter 10: Happiness

"Blessed [Happy] are the people whose God is the Lord." Psalm 144:15

An atheist was once addressing a crowd of people in the open air. He was trying to persuade them that there was no God and no devil, no heaven, and no hell, no resurrection, no judgment, and no life to come. He advised them to throw away their Bibles, and not to pay attention to what preachers said. He recommended them to think as he did, and to be like him. He talked boldly. The crowd listened eagerly. It was "the blind leading the blind." Both were falling into the pit (Matthew 15:14).

In the middle of his address a poor old woman suddenly pushed her way through the crowd, to the place where he was standing. She stood before him. She looked him full in the face. "Sir," she said, in a loud voice, "Are you happy?" The atheist looked scornfully at her, and gave her no answer. "Sir," she said again, "I ask you to answer my question. Are you happy? You want us to throw away our Bibles. You tell us not to believe what preachers say about Christ. You advise us to think as you do, and be like you. Now before we take your advice we have a right to know what good we will gain by it. Do your fine new ideas give you a lot of comfort? Do you yourself really feel happy?"

The atheist stopped, and attempted to answer the old woman's question. He stammered, and shuffled, and fidgeted, and endeavored to explain his meaning. He tried hard to return to the subject. He said, he "had not come to preach about happiness." But it was of no use. The old woman stuck to her point. She insisted on her question being answered, and the crowd took her side. She pressed him hard with her inquiry, and would take no excuse. And at last the atheist was obliged to leave, and sneak off in the confusion. His conscience would not let him stay: he dared not say that he was happy.

The old woman showed great wisdom in asking the question that she did. The argument she used may seem very simple, but in reality it is one of the most powerful that can be employed. It is a weapon that has more effect on some minds than the most elaborate reasoning by some of our great apologists. Whenever a man begins to speak against and despise old Bible Christianity, thrust home at his conscience the old woman's question. Ask him whether his new views make him feel comfortable within himself. Ask Him whether he can say, with honesty and sincerity, that he is happy. The grand test of a man's faith and religion is, "Does it make him happy?"

Let me now warmly invite every reader to consider the subject of this paper. Let me warn you to remember that the salvation of your soul, and nothing less, is closely bound up with the subject. The heart cannot be right in the sight of God which knows nothing of happiness. That man or woman cannot be in a safe state of soul who feels nothing of peace within.

There are three things which I purpose to do, in order to clear up the subject of happiness. I ask special attention to each one of them. And I pray the Spirit of God will apply it to all the souls of those who read this paper.

To read more, click here.

Man admits stealing 300-year-old bell

An unemployed 29-year-old man has admitted stealing Otorohanga's historic 300-year-old church bell.

Steven Robert Nicol appeared in Te Kuiti District Court today charged with a number of offences, including the theft of the bell, the Waikato Times reported.

The bell was stolen from the St Bride's Anglican Church in Otorohanga two weeks ago.

To read more, click here.

St. David's Anglican grows connection with community

Fresh food garden to assist local food banks

There's something good growing at St. David's Anglican Church.
In an effort to connect with the community, the church has decided to turn an unused lawn into a garden where volunteers will grow good food for those in the community who are in need.

"It sprang from the church itself because St. David's sat down to do some self-assessment and they realized they weren't as connected to this community as they wanted to be," said Trish O'Reilly-Brennan, the food garden co-ordinator.

The church had the resource in the small plot of land - a rare commodity for a building near Danforth Avenue - and members thought they would be able to get the labour.

"We were fairly sure there would be volunteers from the community outside the church," O'Reilly-Brennan said.

They were right.

To read more, click here.

Members of my small group have joined with members of the community to start a community garden on a vacant lot near our local Art Association's building. The short-term goal is to grow fresh vegetables and to donate them to the residents of the nearby housing project; the long-term goal is to involve the housing project residents in raising the vegetables and to make garden plots available to them in which they can grow their own fresh vegetables.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Anglican Church in America: Roman Catholic Offer to Traditional Anglicans Receives Lukewarm Reception

A formal offer to the world's 90 million Anglicans by the Roman Catholic Church to join with Rome has been received with lukewarm interest by a large group of conservative Anglicans in the United States , the Anglican Church in America.

The formal offer was in response to several requests by various Anglican Church bodies for inter-communion which was sent to the Vatican several years ago. The Vatican 's reply, known as Anglicanorum Coetibus, prescribed a means by which Anglicans worldwide could become Roman Catholic but offered no recognition of Holy Orders nor guaranteed that Anglican Rites would be fully preserved.

"Our desire has always been to approach Rome on an equal footing," said the Rev. Jeffrey Monroe, Special Assistant to the President of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church in America . "It seems that the concept of unity is more focused by our Brothers in Rome on absorption rather than equal unity." Nationwide, fewer than 15 parishes have indicated an interest in accepting Rome 's offer. "Our desire was to rejoin our Christian Brothers and Sisters in the Roman Catholic Church as equal partners in following the path our Lord set out for us that we all be one," continued Monroe. "We have a deep and rich tradition that dates back to the 1st century and we have found the provisions of the Roman Catholic response to be very challenging."

To read more, click here.

Cambridge Church turns it property into a park

After the Rev. Jay Fowler of Cambridge Church in Overland Park had collected $1.5 million in pledges, he strolled into a bank fully expecting to get a loan for the rest of the money he needed to build a church.

But the answer was no. And it was no again and again at other banks.

That was in 2009, when the economy was heading south, and banks were more persnickety than ever about loaning money.

The proposed church building was to cost close to $4 million, and it was to be built on property the church bought in 2006.

“We were really disappointed,” said Fowler, the senior pastor.

The church, part of the Anglican Mission in America, is 15 years old, with an average Sunday attendance of 200. Over the years it has hopped around to various locations, landing at Blue Valley Middle School for the past five years.

When the church started, it met at the Martin City Melodrama with about a dozen families.

The congregation chose the property for building carefully, settling on a 16-acre plot at 16301 Roe Ave., near Blue Valley Middle School.

“We thought we would get the bank loan and build on the property,” Fowler said. “But even with the pledges, banks wouldn’t meet our needs.”

So what to do? The choices were few.

Keep collecting pledge money, squirrel it away and wait for the economy to turn around? Or continue meeting in other locations while the property stayed bare, at least for the time being?

Neither solution seemed to fit the mission of the church.

“We always felt God wanted Cambridge to be involved in the community,” Fowler said. “Among other things, we regularly volunteer and raise money for a ministry to the homeless, and every year we send a group and money to Rwanda.”

So the congregation decided to use the property to serve the community.

To read more, click here.

This article tells how one Anglican church dealt with a problem that may face a number of new Anglican churches in today's uncertain economy. The church bought land for a building of its own and collected pledges from its members, only to discover that the local banks were unwilling to finance what they considered a too risky venture.

Spiritual Growth

Robert Green describes planting a church as not only rewarding and important but also fun - a word not always associated with corporate worship.

“There’s just something fun about starting something new. Any new venture is compelling in and of itself,” said Green, pastor of Fondren Church - a brand-new church plant that will start holding weekly Sunday-morning services in the Duling School Auditorium on August 7.

Fondren Church is one of a dozen or more church plants that have popped up in the Northside in the past decade, as church planting has become a nationwide trend in Christian ministry.

But it’s not just a fun little fad, pastors say. Church planting is crucial for reaching people who might be interested in Jesus but not in established, traditional churches.

For the most part, that means young people.

“Even the ones that grew up in the church - 70 percent, I’d say, from the age of 18 to 22 drop out of the church,” said Eric Smith, pastor of North Ridge Church in Madison.

“If the church does not move and get off its butt and start engaging people…it’s going to be a bad situation,” Smith said.

Smith and others started North Ridge, which meets at Rosa Scott High School, with a burden to reach the 18-35 demographic. But they’re “not just entertaining people at worship services. We’re a missional church.”

Once a month, the North Ridge congregation goes into the community and does mission work instead of meeting in a building. The service is called Take it to the Streets.

“[Recently], we had 100 people helping with the children’s home and helping with a ministry for women that just got out of prison. There’s no way I can preach a sermon that can be that effective,” Smith said.

“It may hurt our growth numerically when we go out on the streets on Sunday morning. But spiritually, it takes us to a whole other place.

“Can you imagine if every church in the city said, we’re going to go do mission on that day? The impact you could have - it would just be phenomenal,” he said.

To read more, click here.

Campsea Ashe: Bells a blessing for church after theft

When a gang of thieves stole a set of church bells from a factory, it was crushing news for villagers who had raised thousands of pounds to get them restored.

The cast iron bells were due to be hung at St John The Baptist Church at Campsea Ashe, near Wickham Market, when they were taken in a raid on a Dorset-based business in September.

But, after an insurance pay-out, a new peal of bells were cast and they were hung at the church just before Christmas.

And, on Friday night, the Rt Rev Clive Young, the Bishop of Dunwich, led a special dedication service at the church to bless the bells. About 100 members of the congregation attended the service and listened to the sound of the bells ringing out across the village.

To read more, click here.

The Lord’s Supper

The following article is taken from Prayer Book versus Prayer Book, written by the Rev. Benjamin B. Leacock, and published in 1869. Leacock was an Evangelical in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA and the book reflects the concern of Evanglical Episcopalians with the growth of Sacramentarianism in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century. Leacock with Bishop George David Cummins and others would eventually leave the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1873 and form the Reformed Episcopal Church. They sought to establish “a Reformed Church with a Reformed Prayer Book.” Leacock’s views on the Lord’s Supper are characteristic of his fellow Evangelicals and co-founders of the Reformed Episcopal Church.

I am posting this article because the Sacramentarianism against which Leacock inveighs in his book includes the view of the Eucharist that the Rev. Novak champions in his article, “The Holy Eucharist: Christ's Great Gift to the Church, which I posted yesterday. In the closing decades of the twentieth century and the opening decades of the present century Sacramentalism has crept into the Reformed Episcopal Church, facilitated largely by the denomination’s current generation of leaders. The result is that there is no longer any Reformed Evangelical Anglican witness in North America beyond a few churches scattered among the several Anglican bodies that comprise the North American Anglican Church.

Here, again, the two parties are arrayed against each other, and the Prayer Book is the battle-ground. The Evangelical regards the Lord's Supper as a memorial rite. The consecration sets apart the bread and wine from ordinary uses, and gives them a memorial character--nothing more. He believes that in the reception of this sacrament, Christ is present in the heart of the believer, as in the reading of the Word and in prayer; that in proportion as the recipient grasps the great doctrine of the atonement, intended to be set forth in this sacrament, and applies it to his heart and conscience, so does he feed on Christ; and that like baptism, it is a means of grace by virtue of prayer to God. To sustain this view, the Evangelical appeals to the Articles.

The teachings of Article XXV, "Of the Sacraments," has been already considered.

Article XXVIII, treats of the Lord's Supper. It speaks of it,

1. As a sign of the love that Christians ought to have one to another.

2. As a Sacrament, i. e., a sign. (See conclusion of Article XXIX,) of our redemption by Christ's death.

3. As to the worthy recipient, a partaking of the body and blood of Christ.
4. It repudiates the Popish doctrine of transubstantiation.

5. It explains that the eating of the body of Christ is after an heavenly and spiritual manner.

To the question in the Catechism, "Why was the sacrament of the Lord's Supper ordained?" we have the answer: "For the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby." Similar teaching we have in the two warnings to the Communion, and throughout the service.

The Sacramentarian's theory differs very essentially from this. He agrees with the Articles so far as they go. But he holds to a great deal more in reference to this sacrament than they teach. In his estimation the Lord's Supper is not only memorial, but sacrificial. He regards the officiating minister as something more than a servant and teacher in the Church. He claims for him a priestly character, and a sacerdotal office. In administering the Communion, he considers him acting as a priest, and offering a sacrifice. By consecration, the bread and wine change not their proper substance, but by the power of the Holy Ghost, they become the body and blood of Christ, the forms under which his glorified body is present, is taken, and is eaten. This is admitted to be mysterious, inexplicable. The earthly priesthood thus offer the body and blood of Christ as an oblation to the Father: those who rightly partake of these consecrated elements, eat the body and drink the blood of Christ--his glorified humanity--and obtain thereby forgiveness of sin.

That this presentation of doctrinal views is not an exaggeration, let us consult the "Manual "already quoted. This remarkable production speaks of the "twofold character" of the Lord's Supper. It says of it: "It is called pre-eminently the Divine Liturgy, as including and comprehending all acts of worship and religion, and as being the first and chief of all rites and functions; and it is both a sacrifice and a sacrament.

"It is the great commemorative sacrifice of the Church, unbloody, mystical and spiritual; accompanying the perpetual oblation of Himself, which our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, makes in heaven, where he ever liveth and intercedes for us. In it the Passion of Christ is perpetually shown forth to the Almighty Father, and HIS PRIESTS ON EARTH UNITE IN THE OBLATION WHICH HE MAKES AT THE MERCY-SEAT "(p. 52).

Certain explanations are given:

1. "The sign: called Sacramentum. Bread and wine: simply elements of daily sustenance. These remain in their proper substance after consecration, retaining their proper nature; and yet they undergo a mystical change whereby they become the FORMS UNDER WHICH CHRIST IS PRESENT.

2. "The thing signified: called Res. The body and blood of Christ; His glorified humanity, which after a manner inexplicable and without any parallel in the range of our knowledge, becomes present after consecration, not locally or physically, according to the laws of material and carnal bodies, but super-locally, hyperphysically, and spiritually, in some way believed on by the Church, but known only to God "(p. 53).

We have seen that there is nothing in the Articles to give the least coloring of approval to such views. How is it with the offices? Will they authorize it?

In the Communion Office there is a portion called "the Oblation." This word signifies primarily "an offering." It is so used in the prayer for the Church Militant--"Accept our alms and oblations." It is also used in the sense of "a sacrifice." This is its meaning in the prayer of consecration: "By his one oblation of himself once offered," and it is in this latter sense, according to the Sacramentarian, that the word oblation is attached to this part of the service as a title or designation. The Sacramentarian here plants himself upon "the teaching of the Church." As we look into this prayer, we find that it is an offering of bread and wine, not to the Triune God, but to the Heavenly Father. The prayer reads: "We thy humble servants, do celebrate and make here before thy Divine Majesty, with these thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto thee, the memorial," etc. It is the people who make the offering, but through a divinely-appointed representative. And who is he? The Prayer Book calls him a Priest, and our Church has specially set him apart for certain specified duties that he only can perform. One of these duties is to consecrate the elements, and to make the oblation in behalf of the people, as set forth in this prayer. He and he only can consecrate. Without his presence there could not be a sacrament. Neither layman nor deacon could make it. Even the Evangelical would shrink from receiving elements that had not been consecrated by a "priest." As a part of this consecration, he offers these "holy gifts "in the behalf of the people, to the Heavenly Father. Here are two features of the priestly office distinctly brought out. A priest is one "taken from among men, . . . . ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins "(Heb. v, 1). Here is an officer taken from among men, and ordained to offer gifts to God for men. But does that gift partake of the nature of a sacrifice? Is it for sins? The Sacramentarian says, Yes. In a certain sense the Christian body is a priesthood, and there are certain prescribed gifts, which all Christians are required to offer. But here is a divinely-appointed officer, that supersedes them in their office, and who is appointed to offer a gift that they may not offer. This offering must therefore be something more than a gift--it must be a sacrifice, and if a sacrifice, then it must be for sin. From this reasoning we have the Sacramental theory:

1. "The office of a priest is a pastoral and sacrificial one" (p. 40, Manual, etc.)

2. "The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the Great Commemorative Sacrifice of the Church, unbloody, mystical, and spiritual," etc. (p. 52, Ibid.)

3. "Through the Holy Ghost, we receive the remission of sins, . . in the Holy Communion "(p. 39, Ibid). "Ques. When do we receive forgiveness of sin after Baptism? Ans. By Absolution and the Holy Communion" (p. 86).

And these deductions from this portion of the communion office are not strained. The Edwardian Reformers felt the force of them, and convinced of the dangerous tendency of this Oblation prayer, removed it from the communion office of the English Prayer-Book. Nor with all the High-Church tampering with that Book, has it ever been restored. Unfortunately, Bishop Seabury's influence placed it in our service from the Scottish Prayer Book.

Then, again, we have the "Invocation" prayer. It follows immediately after the Oblation. In this prayer the merciful Father is asked to bless and sanctify with his Word and Holy Spirit the bread and wine. The natural inference here is, that some miraculous operation is invoked upon "the bread and wine," through the agency of the "Word and Holy Spirit," and we are left in no doubt as to what this agency is: it is to make this "bread and wine "to the recipient, the body and blood of Christ. "Bless and sanctify with thy Word and Holy Spirit these thy creatures of bread and wine, that we, receiving them according to . . . Christ's holy institution . . may be partakers of his body and blood." And here again the Sacramentarian takes his stand, and feels himself authorized by this prayer to use such language as this: "The sacrament is complete in itself when, by the power of the Holy Ghost, and by the words of consecration, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ." "The body and blood of Christ; His glorified humanity" (Manual, p. 53).

And such teachings are not unnatural from the spirit and intent of the prayer. The Reformers saw the drift of it, and wisely omitted the words, "Of thy Almighty goodness, vouchsafe to bless and sanctify, with thy Word and Holy Spirit, these thy gifts and creatures of bread and wine." They have never been restored to the English service. For their use in our Prayer Book, we are again indebted to Bishop Seabury.

Going Deep

Cultivating people of spiritual depth is a pastor's top priority

Recently I have been drawn to the word deep as a descriptor when I speak of mature Christians. My earliest appreciation for the term came when I read a comment by Richard Foster: "The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."

What does it mean to be a deep Christ-follower today when unlimited options, noisy distractions, and a million versions of truth swamp the soul? How is it possible to be a deep person while being swept up in a 50-60 hour work week (if you're working), community and school events, shopping, networking, laundering, family-building … oh, and staying on top of things at church too? Is deep even thinkable for anyone living outside of a monastery? I'm just asking.

Of course we can't even attempt to answer these questions until we explore what deep means. Here's my working definition: Deep people are those whose lives are organized around Jesus, his character, his call to a serving life, and his death on the cross for their sins. The abilities (or giftedness) of deep people may be quite diverse, but each has the power to influence others to follow Jesus, grow in Christ-likeness, and live a life of faithful service. They love the world, mix well with people, but are wary of spiritual entrapments. They are known for their wisdom, their compassion for others, and their perseverance in hard times.

The Role of Hierarchy in Modern Discipleship

Does spiritual growth require a rabbi/disciple relationship?

How does one grow to fullness in Christ? It is the work of the Holy Spirit to be sure, but does the Spirit, like an artist, make use of a preferred medium?

The gradually rising tide of books, blogs, and sermons on spiritual growth would suggest that personal self-study is the medium most Western Christians would prefer. This is sometimes augmented by the guidance of a spiritual director or the presence of others in an intentional community of individuals earnestly desiring to grow as well.

But the Scripture and Christian history, while in no way denying that the Holy Spirit uses such tools, bear consistent witness to divine employment of a far more prosaic preferred medium—namely, each maturing Christian.

To read more, click here.

A Missing Element in Local Church Discipleship

I once told my wife that I was thinking about writing a book on mistakes I’ve made in ministry. She suggested that I reconsider since it would have to be a multi-volume series.

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I served as pastor of four churches was failing to emphasize the importance of every member being in the Word every day. Brad Waggoner, in his well-researched book, The Shape of Faith to Come, notes that regular Bible reading is one of the highest correlates for spiritual maturity. To state it more succinctly, when members read the Bible every day they are more likely to demonstrate spiritual growth in a number of areas.

To read more, click here.

Not Amazed With Your Conversion? You Should Be, Pastor Says

You grieve God the most by not believing that He loves you, often a result of forgetting how God called you whether it was dramatic or not, said Pastor C.J. Mahaney at a very moving session that marked the conclusion of the 2011 Resolved Conference in California Monday evening.

“Some tend to think of God as merely tolerating them, often disappointed with them and eager to discipline them,” Mahaney, former pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., said during the last session of the four-day conference in Palm Springs, Calif.

“If He had not called you, where would you be this evening?” asked Mahaney, who leads Sovereign Grace Ministries. Isn’t that a “frightening thought?”

To read more, click here.

Related article: America Is Unraveling Like a Cheap Sweater, Pastor Says

From ancestors to Jesus

Bishop Edwin Ngubane on his conversion from Zulu ancestor worship and gospel work in Johannesburg.

To view this video, click here.

Virginia Anglicans Accepted as Member Diocese within Anglican Church in North America

College of Bishops Affirms the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey as First Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic

The Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic was accepted as a member diocese within the Anglican Church in North America, and the Rt. Rev. John Guernsey was confirmed as the elected bishop to serve the new diocese.

At the Anglican Church in North America's annual Provincial Council meeting, June 21-22 in Long Beach, Ca., the Council recognized the formerly named Anglican District of Virginia as a new member diocese across the Mid-Atlantic states.

The Rt. Rev. John Guernsey was confirmed as diocesan bishop by the College of Bishops on Wednesday, June 23. The Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic consists of 31 member congregations and nine mission fellowships.

Bishop John Guernsey, the first bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, has served in various clergy roles during his years of ordained ministry in Virginia. He served as rector of All Saints' Church in Dale City, Va., for 29 years before serving as the head of the Diocese of the Holy Spirit in the Anglican Church in North America.

To read more, click here.

Seeds of the Anglican Ordinariate are Beginning to Sprout

There have always been Anglicans "on the journey" to the Catholic Church and many have come into full communion over the years. With the exception of a handful of parishes that entered through the Pastoral Provision, most had to come in through a solitary journey and those who were clergy wondered if there might ever be another opportunity to offer the sacraments.

The Anglican Ordinariate, however, through to the terms of the apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus, has given pilgrims a real sense "welcome" and expectation while they are on their way." Catholic parishes are opening their doors to Anglican Use liturgies and inviting Episcopalians and other Anglicans to come and see.

One such example took place on Sunday evening at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale, Virginia. I was present with 140 other attendees for Solemn Evensong and Rite of Benediction (for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi), sponsored by the St. Thomas of Canterbury Anglican Use Society of Washington, DC and Northern Virginia (STCS).

To read more, click here.

Why Did Jesus Have To Die? What Actually Takes Place On The Cross?

In a new 5 minute video from The Gospel Coalition, David Short is asked, “Why did Jesus have to die? and What actually takes place on the Cross?”.

To view this video, click here.

For me, for us, for God

A few years ago, I volunteered to be a counselor at a youth camp. During the bus ride to camp, I had a conversation with one of the other counselors. She told me the tory of how she came to faith in Christ. "I grew up going to Catholic school and church," she said. "I knew who Jesus was. I had an awe and fear of God instilled in me. I believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world."

Then she stopped, her lip quivering, "But I never really understood that Jesus died for me." She went on to tell me about how she attended a Christian concert where she heard the message of the Gospel. All of her Christian knowledge about Jesus became personal. Her heart was captured by the glorious truth that Christ died for her. Martin Luther made much of the phrase "for me," and rightly so. That phrase is at the heart of the Reformation, for God's personal love for us penetrates our hard hearts and brings lasting change.

To read more, click here.

A doubtful win against Muslim blasphemy demands

After being acquitted on five criminal charges of hate speech against Muslims, Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders told reporters: "This is not so much a win for myself, but a victory for freedom of speech." While Wilders was understandably happy and relieved he is not going to be spending the next 16 months behind bars, the significance of his June 22 victory seems overstated.

[Wilders, an outspoken conservative leader in The Netherlands, was charged in January 2009 with inciting hatred and discrimination based on statements he made about Islam in speeches, in articles, on the Internet, and in his controversial 2008 film, "Fitna," which mixed verses from the Quran, Islam's holy book, with video footage of extremist attacks.]

The Wilders case demonstrates the continued willingness of authorities in Europe's most liberal countries to regulate the content of speech on Islam in order to placate Muslim blasphemy demands. Wilders' acquittal does not change that.

To read more, click here.

Practical Religion: J. C. Ryle on the Christian Life

Chapter 9: Freedom

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”--John 8:36

The subject before us today deserves our attention. It should ring in the ears of every person like the voice of a trumpet. We live in a land which is the very cradle of freedom. But are we ourselves free?

The question is one which demands special attention during the present state of public opinion. The minds of many are absorbed in politics. Yet there is a freedom, within the reach of all of us, which few, I am afraid, ever think of--a freedom independent of all political changes--a freedom which neither the prevailing government, nor the cleverest politician can bestow. This is the freedom about which I speak today. Do we know anything of it? Are we free?

In opening this subject, there are three points which I wish to present.

To read more, click here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Holy Eucharist: Christ's Great Gift to the Church

Note: The author of this article is the Rev. Victor E. Novak, a priest of the Diocese of Mid-America of the Reformed Episcopal Church/Anglican Church in North America, and the rector of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Omaha, Nebraska. I am posting this article because it reflects the changes in the view of the Lord's Supper that have been occuring in the Reformed Episcopal Church.

"How I hate this folly of not believing in the Eucharist. If the Gospel be true, if Jesus Christ be God, what difficulty is there?" - Blaise Pascal

Dom Gregory Dix, the great 20th century Anglican Benedictine scholar wrote, "At the heart of Christianity is the Eucharist, a thing of absolute simplicity - the taking, blessing, breaking and giving of bread and the taking, blessing and giving of a cup of wine and water as these were done with their new meaning by a young Jew before and after supper with His friends on the night before He died. He had told His friends to do this henceforward with the new meaning for the recalling of Him, and they have done it always since."Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable need, from infancy and before to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacles of earthly greatness to the refugees in the caves and dens of the earth.

Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and a bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a crop of good wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus out to discover America...

"And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this..."

To read nore, click here

Multi-Site Churches Go Interstate

Mars Hill Church is coming to town.

Pastor Mark Driscoll's megachurch recently announced plans to expand into Portland, Oregon, and Orange County, California, using multi-site campuses that feature live bands and a sermon piped in from the main campus in Seattle.

The move is part of a trend among megachurches to extend their brand of church to new communities, in hopes of reaching unchurched people with the gospel. But critics fear the out-of-state campuses turn churches into franchises like McDonald's or Starbucks.

The reason for the new campuses is simple, according to the Mars Hill website.

"Oregon needs Jesus Christ," claims the introduction of the new location. "The city of Portland is known for many things, but the gospel of Jesus is nowhere on the list."

Bob Hyatt, pastor of the Evergreen Community in Portland, agrees that people in his city need to hear about Jesus.

But he has some doubts about Mars Hill's method, which seems to him more like corporate expansion than church planting. "If you are a church planter in Portland, it's a bit like reading the notice that Wal-Mart is coming and you are the mom-and-pop store," he said.

Hyatt is also concerned about the long-term health of the out-of-state campus model. Rather than building up a local body of believers, he said, these campuses are dependent on having a celebrity pastor for their survival.

"It's not just an extreme example of the church-celebrity model," he said. "It's complete capitulation. It's enshrining that into the DNA of the church."

To read more, click here.

Understanding Servant Leadership

How do those two words go together?

There are many examples of leadership in our world. There are military leaders who make the tough decisions on where to send troops. You have the President and congress, who give leadership to the country by writing and passing laws in an effort to represent their constituents. And we can't forget those brave individuals who provide leadership to children as teachers and administrators in our nation's schools.

Those are just a few examples of how leadership is represented in our culture, but they all share a common denominator: they are authority-based. Those individuals have the influence they do because of election, appointment, hierarchy, or climbing the leadership ladder.

However, when it comes to how small-group leaders can live out Jesus' teachings on leadership, the examples our culture provides are found wanting. That's because when Jesus taught on the subject of leadership, he brought a new paradigm—one of leadership not based on authority, but rather service.

To read more, click here.

Is Christian Prayer Different?

Pretty much everyone prays.

Prayer is a nigh-on universal human activity in which human beings seek to communicate with the divine. In Plato’s Timaeus for example we read of the necessity of prayer to safeguard all human endeavours:

Socrates: And now, Timaeus, you, I suppose, should speak next, after duly calling upon the gods.

Timaeus: All men, Socrates, who have any degree of right feeling, at the beginning of every enterprise, whether small or great, always call upon God. And we, too, who are going to discourse of the nature of the universe, how created or how existing without creation, if we be not altogether out of our wits, must invoke the aid of gods and goddesses and pray that our words may be above all acceptable to them and in consequence to ourselves.

The philosopher William James, in his justly famous book The Varieties of Religious Experience attempted by means of an exhaustive study of religious phenomena to get to the essence of the religious impulse in human life in a non-theological and non-ecclesiastical context.

Comparing accounts of prayer across religious traditions and moments in history, he determined that prayer was the vital heart-beat of all religious consciousness. Religious individuals claim to have intercourse with a higher power – and so must rest on the belief that prayer does something: ‘energy which but for prayer would be bound is by prayer set free and operates in some part, be it objective or subjective, of the world of facts’. A ‘scientific’ analysis of prayer ought at least in theory to be able to observe some difference being made by prayer.

In many ways Christian prayer does not differ from prayer in other religions, or taken as a general phenomena of human existence. Notwithstanding that many scientists of religion have had Christian paradigms, and so articulated what they found in non-Christian religions in terms congenial to Christianity, making the unfamiliar perhaps more familiar than it really is: still, prayer is above all a normal and even ‘natural’ human activity.

To read more, click here.

2011MD Asteroid to Glide Past South Atlantic Today

Asteroid 2011MD, measuring about 10 to 50 yards, will be passing Earth on Monday at a distance close enough to have drawn the interest of scientists.

This distance is approximately 30 times closer to Earth than the existing distance between the planet and the moon, which is approximately 240,000 miles.

At 7,500 miles or 12,000 kilometers, the asteroid poses no real threat to the planet but since it will be flying at the same level several satellites’ orbits are located, NASA announced chances of it hitting one of them.

To read more, click here.

Churches' Dilemma: 80 Percent of Flock Is Inactive

There is a secret inside many churches. According to researchers Scott Thumma and Warren Bird, most churches – mega-sized and small, black and white – are actually run by 20 percent of the congregation. The other 80 percent, they say, tend to act like spectators: they are minimally involved and attend infrequently or not at all.

A National Congregation Survey shows the Southern Baptist Convention had a membership of 16,160,088 people in 2008, but a yearly attendance rate of 38 percent. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had a membership of 4,542,868 in 2009, but the yearly attendance rated rested at 28 percent.

Though many churches are struggling to boost attendance and participation, Thumma states, pastors and church leaders rarely address the issue.

"So many pastors that I've talked to recognize the problem, don't know what to do about it and then instead of trying to tackle it, they kind of put it aside," described Thumma.

He and Bird traveled to 12 different churches, interviewing congregants to learn why some are involved in church ministry and others are not. Thumma said they found that "almost all congregations were operating below their potential because they (the churches) weren't finding ways to invigorate and keep their own membership interested, involved and committed."

In the book The Other 80 Percent, the researchers use their findings to help church leaders find the root of the problem.

To read more, click here.

Human Merit Has No Role in God's Election, Says Pastor

Pastor Steve Lawson, speaking at the ongoing Resolved Conference in California Sunday, said the notion that God’s election is based on His foreknowledge of who would choose His Son Jesus Christ on their own was flawed.

The idea that “God looked down the proverbial tunnel of time to see who would choose His Son” and then “in a reflexive manner” He chose them, is “grossly ignorant” of two views: the view of God and the view of man, Lawson, pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, Mobile, Ala., said.

“God’s knowledge is infinite; it is perfect … Whatever God does, He has already foreordained it,” the pastor said. And man, he explained, had a “moral inability to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.”

So how could God foresee anyone accepting His Son? Lawson asked the audience at the four-day 2011 Resolved Conference in Palm Springs, which will conclude Monday.

Lawson said when he was at seminary, his professor asked, “What can a dead man do?” And a student replied, he can “stink”…“that’s what a dead man can do ... The world is spiritually dead and unable to believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ.” “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins …,” Lawson reminded the audience, quoting Ephesians 2:1.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them …,” Lawson now quoted John 6:44, pointing out that the word “can” refers to inability. “God chose by Himself and for Himself.”

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