Romans 8:37

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors [hupernikomen] through him who loved us. Romans 8:37

Monday, October 24, 2016

Gossip and Verification

The following words of wisdom remind us of the admonition from James chapter 3 about the danger of an ungoverened tongue. We are also reminded of the direction from Jesus to talk directly with the person who may have offended you. This gives him the opportunity to repent or correct a misunderstanding. 

Below, the teacher is warning us that a rumor we have heard may not be true. We must verify it with the source. Along with James, the teacher reminds us of the destructive nature of gossip, and our weakness in keeping secrets. 

Christian leaders especially must be faithful in holding words shared with them in confidence. Priests are bound by their vows to keep confessions in absolute confidence.

Gossip is corrosive. We know this from personal experience as well, don't we? So, why do we participate in it? The teacher tells us, the one who hates gossip reduces evil!

Ecclesiasticus 19:4-17
4 One who trusts others too quickly is lightminded, and one who sins does wrong to himself. 5 One who rejoices in wickedness will be condemned, 6 and for one who hates gossip evil is lessened. 7 Never repeat a conversation, and you will lose nothing at all. 8 With friend or foe do not report it, and unless it would be a sin for you, do not disclose it; 9for some one has heard you and watched you, and when the time comes he will hate you. 10 Have you heard a word? Let it die with you. Be brave! It will not make you burst! 11With such a word a fool will suffer pangs like a woman in labor with a child. 12 Like an arrow stuck in the flesh of the thigh, so is a word inside a fool. 13 Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything, so that he may do it no more. 14 Question a neighbor, perhaps he did not say it; but if he said it, so that he may not say it again.15 Question a friend, for often it is slander; so do not believe everything you hear. 16 A person may make a slip without intending it. Who has never sinned with his tongue? 17Question your neighbor before you threaten him; and let the law of the Most High take its course. -- RSV

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Grace in Pilgrim's Progress

“God's grace is the most incredible and insurmountable truth ever to be revealed to the human heart, which is why God has given us His Holy Spirit to superintend the process of more fully revealing the majesty of the work done on our behalf by our Savior. He teaches us to first cling to, and then enables us to adore with the faith He so graciously supplies, the mercy of God. This mercy has its cause and effect in the work of Jesus on the cross."

- John Bunyan: Pilgrim's Progress

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mary Sumner - Founder of the Mother's Union


The Mother's Union, which celebrates its 140th anniversary this year (2016), is well known in the UK and Africa. Its founder, Mary Sumner, is remembered in the Anglican Church's Festival Calendar on August 9th. Being an American, and unfamiliar with Mary Sumner, I decided to do a little research and found the following quotations that reminded me of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 20, 21:

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. . . . 20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. [ESV]

Mary Sumner's advice in the following excerpts is directed at mothers and assumes the father of the home is too busy working outside of the home to be involved overly much in the nurture and education of children. However, God's commandments to Moses in Deuteronomy are directed at fathers, as well, if not primarily.

Even so, Mary's advice is wise, biblical and worth recovering, especially at a time when God's role for fathers, mothers and the family are being redefined by a culture who does not know God and often rejects righteousness.

Message at Portsmouth 1885 (excerpts)

" Rich homes and poor homes — all alike — must be won for our God ! It is a call to every one of us to live in prayer, that His help, His blessing and His inspiration may rest upon our earnest efforts."

And again:

" Let us settle it in our hearts that the greatest work we can do for the nation is to strive to bring the Church into the Home; which means Christ Himself into hearts and homes; Christ must be in every home, if it is to be in any way a home of peace and love ....

" . . . . God's plans are better than our own, and He has ordained that the training-place for His human creatures should be the home: the training-place for parents as well as children ....

" . . . . Our task is to restore true family life — for it is God's own institution, and therefore a divine thing — and to convince all our members that there are these two Divine Institutions in the world — the Church and the Home. The Home is God's institution as truly as is the Church: let that be the truth that we proclaim ! "

Conference of November 1887 (excerpts on principles)

" The Principles upon which we would build our work are these: —

" That the prosperity of a nation springs from the family life of the homes.

" That family life is the greatest institution in the world for the formation of the character of children.

“ That the tone of family life depends in great measure upon the married life of the parents — their mutual love, loyalty and faithfulness the one to the other.

" That religion is the indispensable foundation of family life, and that the truths of the Christian faith should be taught definitely at home as well as at school.

" That parents are themselves responsible for the religious teaching of their children.

" That character is formed during the first ten years of life by the example and habits of Home.

" That example is stronger than precept, and parents there fore must be themselves what they wish their children to be.

" That the history of the world proves the divine power given by God to parents, and to Mothers especially, because children are placed in their arms from infancy, in a more intimate and closer relationship with the Mother than with the Father, and this moreover, during the time when character is formed.

" That the training of children is a profession.

" That it needs faith, love, patience, method, self-control, and some knowledge of the principles of character-training.

" That it is the duty of every Mother with her own lips to teach her child that he is God's child, consecrated body and soul in Holy Baptism to be our Lord Jesus Christ's soldier and servant unto his life's end.

" That every baptised child should be taught the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments .... and all other things which a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul's health."


Excerpts from archive.org here.


Mary Sumner's Prayer

O Lord, fill us with thy Holy Spirit, that we may firmly believe in Jesus Christ, and love him with all our hearts. Wash our souls with his precious blood. Make us hate sin and to be holy in thought, word and deed. Help us to be faithful wives and loving mothers. Bless us and all who belong to the Mothers' Union; unite us in love and prayer and teach us to train our children for heaven. Pour out the Holy Spirit on our husbands and children. Make our homes, homes of peace and love and, may we so live on earth, that we may live with thee for ever in heaven; for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen

From: A biographical companion to Common Worship, by John H. Darch and Stuart K. Burns

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Blessed are the meek, or the weak?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” - Jesus, Matthew 5:5


But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” - Psalm 37:11


What does “meek” actually mean? It rhymes with weak and seems to fit in the sentence all right, if “weak” were substituted for “meek”. But the meaning is very different. Meekness has no companionship with weakness, whatsoever.

Russian Orthodox author, Jim Forest, in his book titled The Ladder of the Beatitudes, provides the pre-Christian or Classical Greek meaning of “meek,” which sheds some light on the New Testament understanding, “The Greek word translated as “meek,” praus, was used to describe a wild animal who had been tamed and made gentle: a horse that would accept a rider, a dog that would tend sheep.” Clearly, a horse can overpower its rider and the dog could terrorize the sheep. In fact, the dog’s natural desire might be to attack and kill the sheep. Neither the trained horse nor the dog respond the way they do, because of weakness. A professor of Greek once defined “meekness” as “power under control.”

Jim Forest continues by describing the context of “meekness” for Jews, “meekness is the essential quality of the human being in relationship to God. The equivalent Hebrew word, anaw, is often used in the psalms to describe the stance of a man or woman aligned with God.”

Jesus uses the term “meek” to describe himself in Matthew chapter 11, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle (praus) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” No one who knows even a brief account of the life of Jesus would make the mistake of thinking that Jesus was weak. What Jesus represents to us through his humility, is one who is subject to the will of the Father. In the Gospel of John (6:38), Jesus specifically said, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but the will of him who sent me.”

Jesus’ strength is in his relationship with the Father and with understanding God’s will and purposefully submitting to that Will. Paul told the Philippians (2:1-8) that they should, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only unto your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Likewise, we are told that our “attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus . . . [who] humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Our Shepherd was so meek –so strong in his obedience, that he was not even distracted by death.

Meekness is not a desirable quality from an earthly perspective but “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 3:4-7

Monday, July 25, 2016

Act of Conscience versus Act of Supremacy


Thomas More, Henry VIII, and the Future of Anglicanism

by Fr. Van McCalister

On July 6, 1535 Sir Thomas More was beheaded because he was unwilling to agree with the conscience of King Henry VIII, as enforced by the Act of Supremacy, since the King's conscience opposed the Conscience of the Church, as More understood it.

The 1534 Act of Supremacy declared, in part:

Be it enacted by authority of this present Parliament that the King our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted and reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia, and shall have and enjoy annexed and united to the imperial crown of this realm as well the title and style thereof, as all honours, dignities, preeminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits and commodities, to the said dignity of supreme head of the same Church belonging and appertaining.

Thomas More defended his refusal to sign the oath acceding to Parliament's Act of Supremacy because:

  • The Act of Supremacy contravened God's Law.
  • English subjects could not be removed from the corps (ie. body) of Christianity by an act of parliament.
  • That corps is represented by the General Councils of the Church (over king and pope).

Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Audley ruled against More stating, “if the Act of Parliament be not of unlawful, then the indictment is not in my Conscience invalid.” In other words, with some obvious sarcasm, if the acts of Parliament were valid, than the verdict stood. The audacity of Audley: we want it to be so, and so it is. Audley ignored the entire point of More's argument, which was that neither the acts of Parliament, nor the King could overrule the corps of Faith, as held by the Conscience of the Church.

When More defended his inability to defy conscience, it was not in defense of an arbitrary personal conscience but the conscience of the Church, which was proclaimed and protected by the Councils of the Church. More did not elevate the Councils of the Church above Holy Scripture, but saw them as the guardians against the whims of individuals. It may be that Sir Thomas viewed the “Corps of the Church” as protected by the Councils of the Church with the Pope presiding, or at least that the pope was the instrument of unity. And from that perspective, it must seem odd and historically impossible to defend Anglicanism. But the goal here is not so much to defend Anglicanism, as it is ancient Christianity and the inheritors of the Faith. Thomas was defending his faith as a Roman Catholic because he believed the Roman Catholic Church represented the root of Christianity. It is his defense of the root of Christianity, and his argument against those who would arbitrarily claim that root for themselves alone, to which we appeal.

Thomas More's act of conscience is still relevant today on at least two points: (1) as we view his argument from the knowledge that the Catholic Faith predates Roman catholicsm, and Anglican catholicism. (2) National expressions of catholicism are subordinate to the apostolic catholicism of the New Testament and Early Church, from which we receive the corps.

Contemporary Anglicans would do well to follow More's example. We rely too much on a sense of individual personal conscience, without first exploring and submitting to the conscience of the Church. North American Anglicans did well to recognize that the leadership of The Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada abandoned the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church, and reoriented themselves back toward their Anglican roots where the authority of Holy Scripture is honored.

However, this reorientation is incomplete and confused. Some are reorienting themselves to the Reformation Movement with particular respect to Thomas Cranmer. Some are reorienting themselves toward the Roman Catholic Church. Some are orienting themselves toward a form of Evangelical non-denominationalism. Some are finding their identity in the Global South – so long as it doesn't require too much submission. And, some look to 1662 or 1928 as their defining ethos. Others look to Canon Law to define who they are.

Even as we endeavor to re-embrace a genuine and orthodox Anglicanism, we are struggling with our identity. We are so accustomed to being western individuals that we struggle to be authentically Catholic. In other words, submission to our ancient catholic corporate identity does not come naturally to us. We value Apostolic Succession in our catechisms but have difficulty honoring it in actual practice.

There is much that we can learn from all of the post-reformation expressions of Christianity. However, these are not our roots if we are a Catholic Church. Our catholic legacy did not begin with the Reformation Movement, but with Pentecost, and the Apostles, and was carried to us by the faithful Church Fathers. This is evident as we read the history of the Church in the British Isles from the Third Century onward, as well as from the writings of so many of the Anglican Divines, who constantly referred back to the Church Fathers as the source of Anglicanism.

Anglicanism is not the illegitimate child of Henry VIII. It is not the invention of Archbishop Cranmer. Anglicanism is no longer ethnocentric and imperialist. Anglicanism is not a pale reflection of Roman Catholicism, as though there never was an undivided Church.

The primary emphasis of Anglicans in North America over the past several years has been to re-establish Biblical orthodoxy, which must be our first concern. This led to a variety of Anglicans, with different identities, banding together for the sake orthodoxy – but not always unity. While agreeing on Biblical orthodoxy, numerous debates have ensued over the Instruments of Unity and other Anglican distinctives. Discussions and meetings about canons and covenants still occupy a considerable amount of attention throughout the Anglican Communion.

It is going to be extremely difficult to overcome these differences (if not impossible) until we come to an agreement on who we are and what our lineage is. If we continue under the mistaken identity that our patrimony is Henry VIII, Thomas Cranmer and the Reformation Movement, then we will be hopelessly embroiled in all the personal conscience issues that those embody. If, however, we recognize, as did Thomas More and the Anglican Divines, that our identity and lineage is to be found in the corporate conscience of the Fathers and Councils of the Church, we will find an appropriate standard through which we can find catholic unity, not only for ourselves, but also with the Churches of Rome and Constantinople.

Anglicans may be pleased to look back at the Act of Supremacy and see a moment of liberation and so find our identity as a distinct entity. And, it was a moment where the Church in England began a process of re-discovering her ancient Catholic roots, but it is not helpful to corporate Christianity to view that as our “birthdate”. It is helpful when we look through that moment and other historical moments as lenses through which we view the real birth of the Church at Pentecost. But to give the Act of Supremacy and King Henry the VIIIth, any more value than that, is not all that different from recognizing the illegitimate authority of The Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada. Henry never had the authority to redefine the Corps of the Church, nor do we.

. . . And, therefore, since all Christendom is one corps, I cannot perceive how any member therof may, without consent of the body, depart from the common head. And then if we may not lawfully leave it by ourself, I cannot perceive, but if the thing were a treating in a General Council, what the question would avail, whether the primacy were instituted immediately by God, or ordained by the Church.
As for the general councils assembled lawfully, I never could perceive but that in the declaration of the truths it is believed to be standen to; the authority thereof ought to be taken for undoubtable, or else were there in nothing no certainty, but through Christendom upon every man's affectionate reason, all things might be brought from day to day to continual ruffle and confusion, from which by the general councils, the spirit of God assisting, every such council well assembled keepeth and ever shall keep the corps of his Catholic Church. (Thomas More to Thomas Cromwell – March 5, 1534)


Note: The historical references are from lectures by Prof. Dale Hoak of Wm and Mary College; The Last Letters of Thomas More, Letter 5 “To Thomas Cromwell, Chelsea, 5 March 1534.” Edited by Alvaro de Silva, and Life and Writings of Sir Thomas More,.by Thomas Edward Bridgett

This article originally published: December 20, 2011 (Revised July 25, 2016)


Bind and Loose - Freedom for the Captives


One of the passages that Christians frequently wrestle with, and sometimes argue over, is the statement by Jesus in Matthew 18.18, "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." [See also, Matthew 16.19, John 20.23 and 2 Corinthians 2.10] These verses grab our attention, since the implications are serious.

Because of this, Psalm 146.7, as it is presented in the Psalter from Common Worship, caught my eye recently: "The Lord looses those that are bound; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind." The English Standard Version (ESV) translates that same phrase as, "The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind."

The idea of freeing prisoners recalls the revolutionary announcement that Jesus made as he stood in the synagogue in Nazareth and proclaimed to an astonished crowd that he was the Messiah by quoting Isaiah 61:1, 2, which Luke records as, "He sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." [Luke 418b, 19] Next, he firmly declared that "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." [Luke 4.21b] After saying this, Jesus sat down with no more commentary. Presumably to make the silence punctuate what he said and to let it settle into every one's disbelieving ears. As the Messiah, as the Son of God, he had the authority to make such a declaration and there was no reason for debate. It didn't matter whether or not anyone agreed with him. It was a fact; not a dialogue. I am reasonably certain that for the next several minutes the synagogue was filled with shocked and clarifying whispers, "Did he just say, . . .?"

The older I get, the more I realize how prone Bible readers are to getting stuck in a loop with a mysterious verse, while forgetting or missing the plain truth that surrounds it. Matthew 18.18 is one of those passages. You don't need to spend very much time in a Bible study, or at church, before someone asks about this passage, wondering how this might relate to the sacrament of reconciliation, and to the priest and absolution. Who really has authority to grant or declare absolution? Is that even what Jesus meant when he told the disciples whatever they loose on earth will be loosed in heaven?

Certainly, it is very important for us to wrestle with the Church's teaching on reconciliation and absolution. But while we are asking those questions, or maybe before we ask those questions, we would do well to look at the context of Matthew 18.18 and compare that with Luke 4.17-21 and discover what Jesus was saying first to those people, before the Church looked back at those moments and carried them forward into the continuing ministry of the Church.

This is valuable because Jesus not only made an astonishing announcement in the Synagogue of Nazareth, he also provided a personal mission statement: He came to proclaim good news, which is liberty to the captives and the oppressed! His purpose was to liberate the imprisoned. Likewise, in Matthew 18.18, when Jesus declared to the disciples that they will have authority to bind and loose, it is in the context of people coming together to clear up a fault. The goal is to bring freedom to relationships that have been bound by offense, sin and misunderstanding. The Lord's teaching on reconciliation in Matthew 18.15-20 follows directly after he told the the parable of the one lost sheep that the Good Shepherd went in search of to bring home, to be restored to himself and the other 99 sheep.

The proximity between the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lord's instruction on how to be reconciled with someone who might have sinned against us are surely no accident. They both communicate the Lord's desire to free us from captivity. To liberate us from what binds us. To open the eyes of the blind. The lost lamb, while seemingly free to move where she pleases, is unwittingly heading toward her own destruction, a place where wolves devour and consume.

Jesus revealed that captivity, blindness and wandering aimlessly will lead to destruction, unless the lost is found, the blind given sight and the captive liberated. The authority given to the disciples to bind and loose, is to continue the mission of Christ to free captives. Even binding the offender where he is unwilling to repent continues to punctuate the need for repentance and magnifies the fact that we are captive to sin. The lost, blind and unrepentant on earth are more significantly lost to heaven, because they have chosen to remain under the rule of the kingdom of this world. Those who repent on earth are more significantly free to enjoy the fellowship found within the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus it would seem, stated a clear fact: those who are bound on earth are bound because they have chosen to remain under the reign of darkness and captivity. While those who have been liberated are free because they have followed the Liberator.

When Jesus quoted Isaiah 61.1, 2 proclaiming good news and liberty for the captives, it was more than a proclamation, it was a resolution that was being fulfilled that very moment. He was calling his listeners to follow him and know freedom from captivity. Jesus gave his disciples (and still gives them) authority to invite people to follow Him and declare freedom from captivity. The lost sheep, of which we are, is loved and searched after in order to be brought home and restored to the family. The declaration of absolution after a sincere confession is the loosening of one bound by sin and grief. It is the pardon of Christ; the release from prison; the return of one home to her family.

We would do well to consider what captivates and blinds us now. Are dealing with sin on our own, or with trusted Christians? Personally, I think the arguments over whether or not priests have the authority to bind and loose, and, do we really need to go to confession, distract us from the gift that Jesus gives us through the Church.

During Lent this year, I offered a number of no-appointment-needed hours for folks to make their confessions. The only visitor I had was a lady bug. Do I think that people must come to a priest in order to receive forgiveness? Absolutely not! All Christians have direct access to Christ. However, I am concerned that we do not fully appreciate the value of the Church's role in aiding the loosening from bondage. We impede the Church's role when we gossip and do not keep confidences about others' mistakes. We miss out on the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation when we are too shy or too proud to make our confession to a priest.

Clearly, Jesus sees the Church involved in this process. That is evident, not only in Matthew 18:18, but also in James 5:16. No matter how uncomfortable it makes us, Jesus wants us to be involved together in prayer, confession and reconciliation. Our needed response is to be trustworthy as those who listen; humble and obedient as those who make our confessions. The resulting gift is immeasurable: release from captivity and healing from spiritual blindness!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Prayer needed even in the "obvious" decisions.

"So the leaders partook of their provisions, and did not ask direction from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them, guaranteeing their lives by a treaty; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them."  Joshua 9

Here we see Joshua sizing up a situation that seems so obvious and straightforward,  that he doesn't think to seek God's will in it. However,  the true story was entirely different than what Joshua perceived. This is a lesson to us that we cannot rely solely on our own senses and logic, but need to seek the Lord in all matters, even those that seem to be "no-brainers".

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Holy Spirit from Jesus' Baptism through Pentecost.

The following notes mostly follow a line of thought presented in F.F. Bruce's commentary on the Gospel of John, where he emphasized John's teaching on the Holy Spirit as it developed throughout the Gospel, and especially in the Upper Room Discourses. Since the origin of this understanding is provided by Jesus and manifested through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the Acts of the Apostles, we are not surprised to see the theme carried consistently through the Acts and Pauline letters. 

Below you will see a summary of the activity and statements about the Holy Spirit in John's Gospel, (following Bruce's outline), and the powerful emergence of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  These short statements provide a bird's eye view of the Holy Spirit from Jesus' baptism through Pentecost and in consideration of the Fruit of the Spirit in Paul's letter to the Galatians.

BACKGROUND

Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit [John 1.32f; Cp. also Acts 2:38]

Only those born of water and the Spirit may enter the kingdom of God [John 3.5-8]

True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him [John 4.23f]

It is the Spirit who gives life. Jesus' words are spirit and life. [John 6.63]. There is unity and cooperation between the Son and the Spirit.

Spirit will come after Jesus is glorified [John 7.39].  The Spirit seems to delight in seeing Jesus glorified. Conversion glorifies Jesus. Note: Re-birth makes a new creature in a new kingdom. We are meant to worship in spirit and truth. Spirit gives life in the Word. Spirit came in power after Jesus was glorified [Cp Acts 1:8; 2:4]

UPPER ROOM

The disciples will do greater works [John14.12] Cp Day of Pentecost – there were more conversions on Pentecost than when Jesus was humanly present. The greatest work is being instrumental in others coming to Christ.

Disciples know the Spirit because he dwells with them and in them. [John 14.17]

I will come to you. (1) Presently through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, (2) Eternally, through the Resurrection [John 14:18]

You [will] see me. The present tense “implies continuity stretching indefinitely into the future.” [Bruce, p. 303] After the ascension the world no longer sees Jesus, but his followers will see him. Because he lives; we live. [John 14.19]

Love for Jesus includes keeping his word and receiving the Trinity who makes His home in us. [John 14.23]

Jesus breathed on them. Disciples indwelled by the Holy Spirit will have authority to forgive and withhold forgiveness [John 20:22, 23]

Ascension. When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be my witnesses. [Acts 1.8]

Peter to brothers: the Holy Spirit inspired old testament prophecy by the mouth of David. [Acts 1.16]


PENTECOST

Spirit filled them and gave them utterance in multiple languages [Acts 2.4]

Spirit drove people to repentance and conversion [Acts 2:38-41] The Church grew.

UPPER ROOM DISCOURCES

“But the fullest teaching about the Spirit . . . is given in five passages in these upper-room discourses: (I) John 14:15-17; (ii) 14:25 f. ; (iii) 15:26 f. ; (iv) 16:4b-11 ; (v) 16:12-15. In these the Spirit is presented successively as helper, interpreter, witness, prosecutor and revealer.” - F.F. Bruce [The Gospel of John]

  1. John 14:15-17 HELPER - Another helper (Jesus is the first). Forever. Who dwells with you.
  2. John 14:25 f. INTERPRETER – He will teach and remind you.
  3. John 15:26 f. WITNESS – He will bear witness about Jesus.
  4. John 16:4b-11 PROSECUTOR – He will expose and convict the world of sin and righteousness.
  5. John 16:12-15 REVEALER - Guide you into all truth [13]. Declare (a) things to come, (b) what is mine from the Father [13-15] . Glorify Jesus through the declarations given to the disciples [14].


CONCLUSION

  1. Jesus' followers are recipients of these promises.
  2. Spirit-filled followers, and a Spirit-led Church will exhibit these traits (fruit) of the Spirit. (See I-V above.)


FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

Galatians 5:22-23 New International Version (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. [Ephesians 4.30]

Quotes and references are from FF Bruce – The Gospel of John on chapter 14 [pg 302-303]

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sobering Warnings to Preachers and Pastors, (and to those who hear them).


This week I happened to be studying both Ezekiel and John 10 and was struck by the importance of the sheep hearing the voice of Jesus well so that they can follow him, and the sobering responsibility of pastors, preachers and watchmen to convey God's messages accurately and completely. The Lord emphasizes this life and death responsibility repeatedly in Ezekiel, and that responsibility continues to be revealed in the New Testament, as the reader will observe below.

You might read the passages below and think, the focus is unbalanced toward the “negative” warnings and you would be correct in the sense that I focused primarily on God's warnings to preachers and those who listen to them. That was done in response to hearing God's repeated warnings to Israel, particularly in Ezekiel, and to my own recognition that I have not listened to this message as much as to the encouraging words offered to pastors and preachers in contemporary books. Sure, we need encouragement, but if we are ordained as pastors and preachers, we had better pay even greater heed to what God has to say to us about our ministries. I am convicted to study my Bible more vigorously and to communicate the Word of God more fully because of the Word of the Lord that I have received this past week. I pray that I may not lose my resolve. With that thought in mind there is a sad reminder of one who began so well, who was so greatly blessed, and then ended his life so poorly: Solomon. Consider all that Solomon accomplished with God's help, but his is how he ended:

4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. 9 And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. 1 Kings 11:4-9 (ESV)

Having studied and compiled these verses this week, I am also convicted that it is too important not to share with others. So, here are the passages that have been on my mind this week. May the Lord convey them to you and stir you up as He sees fit.

The Sheep follow Jesus
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10.27, 28 (ESV)

Discipline and preaching
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9.27 (ESV)

Leaders will give an account
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13.17 (ESV)

Shepherd eagerly as an example
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (ESV)

Prophetic word is from the Lord
19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2.1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 Peter 1:19-2:1 (ESV)

Speak whether or not they listen
And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.” Ezekiel 3:11 (ESV)

The watchman must warn
“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. Ezekiel 3:17 (ESV)

Preaching to a rebellious house
2 “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house. 3 As for you, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile's baggage, and go into exile by day in their sight. You shall go like an exile from your place to another place in their sight. Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious house. Ezekiel 12:2, 3 (ESV)

The Lord's Sabbath
Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them. Ezekiel 20:12 (ESV)

Watchman's Warning
6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand. 7 “So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. Ezekiel 33:6, 7 (ESV)

Listening but not transformed by preaching
30 “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ 31 And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. 32 And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. Ezekiel 33:30-32 (ESV)

Lazy Glutenous Shepherds
34.1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. 6 My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. 7. “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. Ezekiel 34:1-10 (ESV)

Android Aps for Bible Study

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the God.” Matthew 4.4, (quoting Deuteronomy 8.3 in the context of being fed by God with manna, then to cross over into the Promised Land!)  The Bread of Heaven is Jesus feeding us in BOTH Word and Sacrament.  We are starving to death without regularly feeding on the Word of God.

bibleDuring an overview of Jeremiah and Lamentations for adult Christian Education on Sunday, I mentioned that I am using my phone to listen to the Bible on Bible Gateway, while also having the Blue Letter Bible Ap up to make bookmarks. I thought it might be helpful to list them and how I use them.

There are a number of Bible editions and audio versions available on Bible Gateway. I listen to the New International Version (NIV), read by George W. Sarris, while reading the Holman Study Bible (HCSB) on the Blue Letter Bible. I read the HCSB on my phone because it does not require a download or online connection, and it is a reliable translation of the Bible, similar to ESV and NIV.  The English Standard Bible (ESV) is the physical Bible from which I most often read and preach.

While listening, if a text grabs my attention, I book mark the text on BLB, which is as simple as touching the verse and then touching "Bookmark This Verse".  (You don't have to pause Bible gateway audio to do this - just keep both aps active at the same time.) Afterwards, you can scroll through your bookmarks and read the verses that you marked.  BLB gives you the option to make different categories of Bookmarks. So far, I am just using the general category. But I can see the benefit in dividing them up, if you sue the BLB ap over a long period of time. I also use my bluetooth regularly, so that I can listen while driving or walking. We really have no excuse for not studying our Bibles when it is this easy. Also, if you don't pause the audio very often, you will be amazed at how fast you get through a book of the Bible, and I find that I gain a better sense of the whole flow and theme of the book this way. With my leather Bible, I linger more over specific passages and don't see it as well on the overall context. Both of these methods are valuable.


The links to the websites are included above. The Android Aps are listed by the same names in Google Play on your Android device. If one of you reading this is Apple savvy and knows of similar links for Apple devices, please add those to the comments.

I pray this is a blessing to your Bible study. I’d love to see your comments about what is working best for you.

Fr. Van McCalister

Friday, February 26, 2016

Who are the Hypernikomen?


Hypernikomen+

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. - Romans 8.37

Calling all men to be victorious Hyperniko-men!

What does it mean to be one of the "Hypernikomen"? Or "hupernikomen" depending how you prefer to transliterate your upsilon. Hypernikomen  is the Greek word translated into English as "to be more than conquerors", or "to gain surpassing victory"* as in Romans 8:37, "But in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." This is the only place in all of the New Testament where hypernikomen appears. That, combined with its context in Romans chapter 8, make it worthy of serious reflection.


Hypernikomen combines two Greek words "hyper" (huper = above, beyond, more than) and "nikomen" (nikao = to conquer, overcome, prevail, get the victory). 

While the Greek hypernikomen seems to include the word "men" (as in "guys"), that is just an interesting coincidence, and only reflects a particular verb-ending (present active subjunctive, plural) not a gender. However, we're taking advantage of the coincidence to apply the word hypernikomen  to men as encouragement to excel as men victorious in Christ. The “plus sign” at the end of “Hypernikomen+” is not part of the Greek but is added here as a symbolic reminder to emphasize that we are ministers of Christ. Christian clergy traditionally sign their names with a cross at the end to emphasize they are servants of Christ.


To help us remember the meaning and the application of hypernikomen, let's consider the Greek meaning along with the English words "hyper" and "men", so that we might associate this word with a state of being in Christ, with a faith that is energized and over-the-top. That faith is based on the middle part, the "niko" part, which is victory. But it isn't just a common victory – it is a super victory that we share in the midst of “all these things.” More than that, the subjunctive verb indicates that it is a victory contingent on something or someone else. That someone is Christ. As noted above, hypernikomen refers to everyone who is victorious in Christ, not just men.  But, through the use of this play-on-words, we as men can be reminded to seize this super-abundant victory!

Men who are married would do well to recognize the challenge of being victorious in Christ, in relation to how we lead our families. Consider Ephesians 5.25, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her . . ."  Victory for Christian men is courage and discipline through love, humility and self sacrifice. In other words, being like Jesus.


What are all these things in which we are victorious? The answer is found in Romans 8.18 where Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” [NIV]. We are frustrated and groaning along with all of creation because of the consequences of sin. [See Romans 3.23] Sin creates bondage, frustration, decay and groaning but God wants to adopt us out of that and provide freedom, which is victory through the love of Jesus. Therefore, we can be hyper-victorious Christian men through the love of Christ! Whatever sin might leads us into failure and subjugation, we know that in all those things we find abundant victory through Christ, because he loves us.


Paul wants to make sure we don't miss the point – he goes on to say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” [Romans 8.31, NIV] If God went so far as to give up His only Son for our sake, what more could we ask for? There is no limit to what God will do to help us to be victorious over sin! Stop reading for a second and make sure that sinks in: God gave His one and only Son for you and me, so that we can experience victory!


Paul emphasizes further, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” [Romans 8.32-35, NIV]. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ” is a leading question with the anticipated answer, “no one will separate me from the love of Christ!” This is why we can confidently answer, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” who loved us to the point of suffering at the whipping post and dying on a cross. [See John 19.1, Luke 23.34]. That same person is saying, “I suffered all of that, so that you might have freedom.” [John 3.16, 10.10].


In fact, Jesus is interceding for you right now. He is hearing the accusations of Satan made against you [Rev. 12.10-12] and he is telling the court, “I've got that covered, because I love that guy and shed my blood for him.” The court replies, “The penalty has been paid.” And the charges are dropped!


Paul concludes this part of his letter by stating emphatically that not even the most powerful forces in heaven or on earth – not even death – can separate us from the love of Christ. That is how we can be conquerors in all things.


So what has you bound up, groaning with frustration and suffering? Turn to Jesus and become one of the Hypernikomen+ and experience victory.


*Interlinear Greek New Testament Bible" by Frederick H. A. Scrivener

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Worshipping with the Liturgy

"The Meaning and Symbols of Holy Eucharist" was written as an introduction to ancient liturgical worship.

Worship is not a performance, but the expression of hearts, mouths and actions of human beings directing themselves toward God for His glory.  
 
Here "liturgical worship" refers to a form of worship that frequently uses a prayer book or some other written worship that dates back to the earliest forms of worship in the ancient Christian Church.

As one who grew up in a fundamentalist denomination, the author understands the difficulties in understanding and relating to this form of worship. The book provides historical and scriptural background for liturgical worship, with an emphasis on improving devotions and drawing nearer to Christ.  The topics covered are instructive to those new to liturgical worship as well as those who have worshipped in this way for many years but are not sure of the significance of the many prayers, gestures and movements of the Liturgy. 
  
Here is a partial list of the topics discussed in the book:

Liturgy: The Work of the People
Seasons, Colors and Vestments
Saints and Martyrs
Common Symbols
Introduction to Holy Eucharist
Scriptural and Historical Background
The Real Presence
How to Receive Communion
An Instructed Eucharist
Devotions
Preparation for Holy Communion
Prayers for Private Devotions
Private Prayers offered by the Celebrant
Anglican Identity
Frequently Asked Questions about Anglicanism
The Prayer of Hippolytus
Collects and Preface
Praying the Daily Office
Outline for Morning Prayer Rite II
Glossary of Terms
Bibliography

The book is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Discipline: preaching in action.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9.24-27 (ESV)