Mothers’ Day

Posted by ajenkins on July 26, 2013 under Good News, Jerusalem, Jesus, Sabbatical | 2 Comments to Read

Today was Mother’s Day at Saint George’s College. We spent the day just in the outskirts of Jerusalem at Ein Kerem and Bethlehem. While in Ein Kerem we visited the Church of the Visitation where the angel visited Mary and told her she was to be a mother. “Let it be to me according to your will.” Isn’t that the response God would ask of us all? Our typical reaction is, “yes according to your will, but….” The greatest thing about submitting to God’s will for us is  that He knows what’s best for us and will never ask anything of us that would do harm. I love the great phrase from one of the prayers in Morning Prayer. “In whose service is perfect freedom.” To “let it be according to your will” is to find perfect freedom. Yes, it sure may stretch you, but it will also comfort you and provide for you.

Following the Church of the Visitation we then visited the Church of John the Baptist. While there a group of Hatian Christians were also visiting and began to sing in the shade under the trees surrounding the church. Amazing! Glorious! I wanted to join in but it was in French. No matter, the worship was blessed.

From Ein Kerem we traveled to Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity. Now you can be sure this holy spot is on every pilgrim’s tour in the Holy Land. And they were all there today. No matter, the wait, it was still an amazing moment to go through the gate of humble access (that’s a low door) and then descend below the altar of this Franciscan Church to the small grotto that has become the traditional site of our Lord’s birth. The place is wonderful, but remember, it is the people who are holy. Their reverence was inspiring.

Tomorrow we travel to the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of the Beatitudes and the Church of the Multiplication. I have been chosen to preach at our worship service tomorrow evening. Preaching by the Sea of Galilee. What a personal moment. I can’t wait.

While we have been here in Jerusalem the Moslems have been celebrating the Holy Month of Ramadan. Today was the third Friday of Ramadan, the holiest day. There were 200,000 Moslem pilgrims in Jerusalem. Yikes. You can’t imagine the traffic jams and the people jams. I guess the Holy Land isn’t always so holy.

Good Night from Jerusalem.
With my love and prayers for you,
Arthur

Holy Land. Holy People.

Posted by ajenkins on July 24, 2013 under Devotionals, Good News, Jesus, Sabbatical | 2 Comments to Read

Today, Tuesday, was a recovery day for us after 24 hours of travel and the 7 hour time change. This gave Kay and myself the opportunity to go into the Walled City. Entering the Old City through the Damascus was quite an experience. Entering the gate while thinking of the Psalm 122 was most moving. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord. Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!” Wow, and my feet were standing within her Gates. Even with that wonderful moment, it was also a bit disconcerting that upon entering the Holy City we had to fight way through the Souk. That’s the market. While winding my way through the very narrow labyrinth of streets filled with shops and shopkeepers hawking their goods, the Holy City seems far from Holy. Then I walked out of the dark street and into a sun filled courtyard and stood before the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I will not try to fully describe our brief time in this very holy place. Yes, we were drawn first to go up the very narrow, steep steps to the Rock of Golgotha. There, just as other pilgrims, I could crawl down, under the altar, and reach through to touch the rock upon which Jesus was crucified. What a moment of humility and thanksgiving. Because we were alone and not with some tour, we could tarry. I use that word because it fits. We tarried, just as Jesus asked the Disciples in Gethsemane. We sat. We prayed. We talked. We looked. We rested. We soaked. We than went around to the Holy Sepulchre. I must admit the power and the holiness of this spot was a bit diminished because it was inundated by such crowds. It was hard to get even a moment at the place where Jesus Christ burst froth from the grave. Thankfully I will have several more opportunities to visit the Holy Sepulchre during this class and following.

With all that the Holy site contains, Golgatha, the Tomb, the Resurrection, I have to tell you the holiest moment I had was at the rock that is called the Stone of Anointing. This stone commemorates the slab on which the body of Jesus may have been lain so that it could be anointed before burial. Please understand. It is only hopeful that this may be the very stone upon which Jesus was laid. But, as I stood and watched the people come to kneel and pray, as they came to place objects on the stone to be blessed, as they knelt and touched it with their lips and their prayers I realized the holiness was not in the rock. It was in the people. Then hesitantly I too knelt and kissed the stone and touched it with my forehead and the holiness invaded me. I stayed their too long. There were many who wanted a moment at this place. Yet, I couldn’t leave. Thanksgiving. Sacrifice. Redemption. Joy. Life. Hope. These were just a few of the many words and emotions that poured over me. I didn’t touch the heart of Jesus. He touched me.

I pray for you all, for a holy moment of your own. Here in the Holy City, I experienced it. The holiness doesn’t reside in the place. It resides in the people. You too are holy. Always remember “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of Glory.”
With my love,
Arthur
Philippians 1:3

Good Night from Jerusalem

Which Sabbatical? How To Choose?

Posted by ajenkins on July 20, 2013 under Devotionals, Jesus, Just A Thought, Sabbatical, The Parish | Be the First to Comment

As I begin this last day of preparation and packing for the next stage of my three month sabbatical I am amazed and thankful at how this has all come about. The evidence of God’s guidance and sovereignty is overwhelming. One of the hallmarks of the Twelve Step Programs is the trust that “God can do for you, what you can’t do for yourself.” That has been so evident in this journey of choosing which sabbatical am I to take? When one begins with a open season of time and a blank slate the possibilities are endless. At first this seems attractive. Then it becomes overwhelming. The question initially seems to be this. Where to go? What to do? What to study? Then I recognized that is not the primary question. The primary question is, “For whom is this sabbatical?” Is it for me? Is it for the people off Saint James? Is it for God? Is it for shared ministry? Of course the answer to all these questions is yes. Then prayerfully I came upon a more basic question. Is this sabbatical about mission or study? Do I spend this time on a mission to serve others? Or do I go and study and learn more about mission and ministry? As I made the choice to travel to Jerusalem and the Holy sites of Israel I began to feel a bit selfish. I had to wrestle with the possibility of being a missionary tourist.

As I made my decision to take a study sabbatical and not a missions sabbatical I had to answer the question of the why of my sabbatical. These are the questions first mentioned above. For whom is this sabbatical? I would love to be going on a mission in this sabbatical. It would feed my soul. With that, my decision to take a study sabbatical comes from God’s leading and the desire to be more useful and useable to the faithful of Saint James to lead them to a life of missions. There are too many of us, Christians all, who spend our time studying about our faith and never enter the mission of our life-in-Christ.

I am going to Jerusalem and Israel at-large to be renewed, to be challenged, to be inspired. I also go for Sabbath Rest. All of this is for one purpose and mission. That is upon my return I may lead you, my friends, family and faithful of Saint James on a life of mission. We are on a mission you know.

With God’s help I will live out Saint Paul’s parting mission for the Christians of Ephesus. “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Acts 20:28

A GOOD FRIDAY DEVOTIONAL

Posted by ajenkins on February 5, 2013 under Devotionals, Jesus, Just A Thought, Repentance, The Parish | Be the First to Comment

I WILL GIVE YOU A NEW HEART
Protection. Sometimes it seems as if all of life is about protection. Finding safety in the midst of danger. How can I protect myself from all the violence I see in the world today. In the world? Hah! How about protection from the violence and murder in our cinemas and even in our schools. There seems to be a new incident of senseless revenge-filled murder every day. While this is horrible and frightening, this violence seems to pale in comparison to the danger we experience daily through the judgment, the hurtful words of others. How can I protect myself from the hurts of others? Either I have to face them or ignore them. Facing them is too frightening, too dangerous. I’ll just ignore them. That’s it. I’ll just harden my heart towards them.
God recognized the hardness of heart of His people. He recognized that their only means of protection, of coping was to harden their hearts and to become desensitized to the horrors and dangers that surrounded them and even that which was in their own hearts. He spoke through the Prophet Ezekiel and gave them a great promise.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you…”        Ezekiel 36:26
Good Friday represents so many things to me. It reminds me of our Lord’s taking my place in the punishment I deserve. It reminds me of the price that must be paid for restoration – restoration to God, my Creator; restoration to those whom I love and have hurt; restoration to those for whom I don’t care; restoration to myself, my conscience, my life. Good Friday represents so much honesty.
Most personally and regularly, Good Friday breaks my heart. Jesus enduring the Cross for me breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to heal my heart. No matter how much I know or how hard I try, I still harden my heart as a means of coping with the hurts from others. I too easily demonize and diminish the people who hurt me. I think, “They don’t matter.” or, “If they only knew what I know.” It is in the moment of Christ’s dying proclamation, “Forgive them, they know not what they do” that His compassion and love for people convicts, breaks and restores my stony heart. Jesus gives me a new heart. A heart for people. A heart for life. A heart for Him.

A Word for Lent from Archbishop Eliud Wabukala

Posted by ajenkins on February 22, 2012 under Anglican Events, Devotionals, Jesus, Judgment, Reformation, Repentance | 2 Comments to Read

From Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya
Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith!
The disciplines of Lent, which begin on Ash Wednesday, are not intended to be burdensome, but to open our lives more fully to the transforming power of the gospel. Our mission as the Anglican Church of Kenya is simple, yet powerful: it is ‘to equip God’s people to transform society with the gospel’. This is an holistic transformation much deeper and more lasting than any government or international agency can bring because it addresses our deepest need, that of a restored relationship with the God in whose image we are made and whose workmanship we are.
The glorious truth of the gospel is that we are justified freely by God’s grace alone, but far from making us complacent about doing good, the abundant grace and full forgiveness we have through the blood of Christ should be a great spur to Christ-like living, to walking in those good works ‘which God prepared beforehand’.
Imagine the transformation if our nation heeded this call. As we prepare for general elections which will test the cohesiveness of our civil society, Christians need to model what it means to live in peace, practicing tolerance and forgiveness, with a new sense of urgency. Moreover, the foundation of our civic life is the family so it is vital that the love of Christ deeply infuses family relationships and that the shameful violence being reported in the media, not only of husbands towards wives but now even of wives towards husbands, is replaced by the kindness and gentleness of Christ.
Our Christian faith can also have an impact on the scourge of unemployment; although the immediate causes often lie with economic forces beyond our control, the Christian values of hard work, thrift, enterprise and honesty have the capacity to bring long term prosperity.
These things are not easy. They call for the spiritual depth which comes from a real and growing awareness of Christ’s presence in our personal lives. Otherwise, the good works God calls us to do will simply feel like burdens and we will not sustain them under pressure. During this Lenten season, whatever particular disciplines we adopt, our first aim should be to draw near to God in prayer and through his Word, beseeching him to make in us new and contrite hearts, hearts that will desire the things of his heart.
Without this joyful discipline, we will be vulnerable to taking short cuts that lead us away from the truth of the gospel. Some church leaders seem to think that the transformation of society will simply come through commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and at home in Kenya, the Vision 2030 initiative and the new constitution. While it is obvious that such good things as feeding the hungry, fighting disease, improving education and national prosperity are to be desired by all, by themselves any human dream can become a substitute gospel which renders repentance and the cross of Christ irrelevant.
Moreover, we need to be discerning about the values behind these visions. For instance the Millennium Development Goals have grown out of a secularised Western culture which is pushing Christianity to the margins and uses the language of human rights and equality to promote irresponsibility in social life and diminish personal responsibility.
So this Lent, let us seek to experience a renewed walk with Christ in those good works that God has prepared. The good news of the gospel is that transformation begins with ordinary men, women and children, however sinful or insignificant we may feel. It is not a responsibility we can leave to governments and agencies, but a challenge to fulfil the purposes of Almighty God in our place for our time.
May the Lord establish your hearts in every good work as you trust in Him
Amen
Archbishop, Anglican Church of Kenya

Christmas: An Inconvenient Truth

Posted by ajenkins on November 20, 2011 under Devotionals, Good News, Jesus, Just A Thought, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

In 2008 former Vice President Al Gore grabbed the headlines as the narrator of a film about the environment and global warming entitled An Inconvenient Truth. This short word from me is not about this film or even global warming. The “inconvenient truth” about which I wish to write is the inconvenient truth proclaimed by the truth of Christmas.

Christmas is not a shopping season. It is not a family get together to eat season. It is not even just a season to share and give charitably. Christmas is the celebration of the birth, the incarnation of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. I know that doesn’t surprise any of you, especially as I write this in a church newsletter. I am sad that it may surprise you when I tell you in all seriousness that the birth of Christ has become an inconvenient truth.

The premise of Al Gore’s movie is that we Americans see any sacrifice, no matter how slight, which might care for our environment as inconvenient. It would be inconvenient to our lifestyle, to our comfort, to our plans, to our striving for the American Dream. This is also, exactly what has happened with Christmas, the Birth of Christ and the Gospel. Scripture is filled with what have become seen as inconvenient truths because these truths may be detrimental to our lifestyle, our comfort, our plans, our striving for the American Dream.

When a society prospers and enjoys great security it is inevitable that false ideas about life, death, truth and God will flourish with little resistance. Conversely when tragedy strikes those same people no longer want what once ticked their ears, but they want answers and truth.

Sadly this is true for the visible church (meaning, the institution). As American Christians continue to gluttonously indulge themselves on the riches and excesses of life that the West has to offer, they tolerate and even welcome all sorts of twisted ideas about life, death, truth and God.
Some segments of the Church will tell you that God wants you to be rich and healthy and that if you’re not, you must be lacking faith. Another segment of the Church will tell you that no one can know anything for sure (emerging church and nature worshippers). And yet another segment will sacrifice any inconvenient truths of Scripture for popularity and the ever increasing appeal to entertain their members and the desires of society.

However, when your child is diagnosed with leukemia, when your spouse is killed by a drunk driver, when a global famine strikes or the stock market crashes or even when you finally recognize your own weaknesses and limitations, will the hard sayings (John 6:59-60) of Jesus Christ still seem inconvenient?

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”
“If anyone would come follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul.”
“If anyone says he has no sin, he deceives himself and the truth is not in him.”

These and more inconvenient truths are embodied and proclaimed by the Angels at the celebration of the Birth of Christ. “For unto you is born, this day, in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” It has become an inconvenient truth for many and for much of the Church that we are in need of a Savior. That we are sinners in need of forgiveness and restoration to our Creator.

This year at Saint James, as in every year, we will celebrate the inconvenient truth that we are in need of a Savior. That “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” I pray you will join us.

Arthur

SHRINKING JESUS and BETRAYING THE FAITH

Posted by ajenkins on November 13, 2011 under Anglican Events, Jesus | Be the First to Comment

The following article was submitted by the Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, XII Bishop of South Carolina, Retired

What caused the crisis now being faced not only by the Diocese of South Carolina but by the entire western Christian Church? It’s more than an issue of sexuality. It’s one of pandering to the secular culture, of shrinking Jesus and betraying the faith.

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan are two remarkably popular theologians who teach a version of Christianity that reduces the Christian faith to contemporary secular assumptions. For Crossan, Jesus was an illiterate Jewish cynic. No Incarnation no Resurrection. The Easter story is “fictional mythology” (p. 161, Jesus a Revolutionary Biography). Borg claims that Jesus was only divine in the sense that Martin Luther King and Gandhi were divine.  Borg dismisses the creeds (p.10, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time) Jesus was a “spirit person,” “a mediator of the sacred,” “a shaman,” one of those persons like Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, et al. (p. 32)

Recently Borg and Crossan have collaborated on a book, The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem.  Their Jesus is a semi-revolutionary leader of peasants and outcasts against the priestly elite and those who accommodate to the dominant system of Roman coercive authority. It was not our sinful condition that demanded his crucifixion but this elite.  Borg and Crossan’s Jesus does not come from God to take away sin but arose from among the innocent to teach us how not to be a part of the dominant systems. They fail to understand the depth of sin in all of us at all times, including peasants, as well as the elite. More importantly they lose the assurance of ultimate mercy and forgiveness.

Speaking of elites these two “scholarly authorities” purport to tell us, “What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus.” They pander to an increasingly secular culture and to the human itch to find some undemanding simplicity that now finally explains everything.  And they do this while ignoring, and without reference to, the multitude of superior contemporary scholars such as Richard Bauckham, Raymond Brown, Luke Timothy Johnson, N. T. Wright, Richard Hays, Leander Keck, Christopher Bryan, and scores of others whose works reflect the faith of scripture and the creeds.
In addition to the academic arrogance of claiming that everyone has been wrong about Jesus until now, Marcus Borg, who is a member of the Episcopal Church, denies, in his writings, the creeds and doctrine he affirmed at his confirmation and in his present worship.  It is the same moral issue as that of Bishop Jack Spong who was asked by one of his clergy, “How can you, as a bishop, ask those you ordain to swear to doctrine that you expressly and personally deny?” Crossan, on the other hand, showed some moral integrity when he resigned his Roman Catholic orders.  These are not times when people readily think in terms of doctrine or of honor.

Christian faith, but not secular faith, now effectively banned from schools, colleges, and universities, has been relegated to the private and subjective arena.  The result is the growing popularity of any who eliminate from Christian faith all that secular trust finds incompatible: miracles, the radical nature of sin and the consequent radical nature of grace, transcendence, holiness, and our human desperate need for God’s initiative action in Jesus.
The consequence of this secular replacement of Christianity over the years is that otherwise educated people can be bereft of any substantial grasp of scripture. One glaring example is Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori who tells us that Marcus Borg “opened the Bible to me.” (Acknowledgements A Wing and a Prayer). The Christian creed’s affirmation, to which she has repeatedly sworn, (but Borg negates) is that Jesus Christ is:
“the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made . . .”

Borg has not opened the scripture for Bishop Jefferts Schori but closed its revelation of Jesus’ divinity. One must ask how such apostasy has come about in the Episcopal Church.  One answer is given by the new bishop of Connecticut, Ian Douglas.  He accurately claims,” The Episcopal Church does not readily think in terms of doctrine.” As one thinks carefully about this statement the spiritual pathology of TEC becomes apparent.?

Doctrine is “that which is taught, what is held, put forth as true” (Webster). Doctrine is a synonym for teaching.  When we “do not readily think in terms of doctrine” we are unaware and ignorant of Christian teaching. This is true of both “liberals” and “conservatives.” We were warned in scripture about losing our grasp on doctrine and the danger of false doctrine;  (“. . . so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by cunning men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.” Eph. 4:14  (see also Titus 2:;7, I Tim. 1:3, and 4:16, II John 10,  II Tim. 3:16, 4:2)

Bishop Douglas’s statement, however, is only true of Christian doctrine.  The Episcopal Church does indeed think in terms of doctrine: doctrines of litigation, abortion, divorce, sexual behavior outside of marriage and all kinds of current politically correct doctrines, as well as teachings that Jesus is reduced from the Son of God to a “subversive sage.” (p. 119, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church personifies this sad reduction, this shrunken Jesus, this betrayal of Christian faith. Her claim that “salvation is attained by many ways – Jesus Christ is a way, and God has many other ways as well. . .”(italics provided) (Interview, Time Magazine, July 10, 2006) is a violation of her ordination and consecration vows regarding the church’s creed (p. 519, Book of Common Prayer, , 1979). It is also sadly bereft of the Good News that salvation is never attained but freely given to those who believe. As to her belief in eternal life, she is unsure it exists and she contends that Jesus was more concerned with heavenly existence in this life. (Arkansas Democratic Gazette, Jan. 7, 2007)

This sad result reduces Christian faith to the secular assumptions of this age while this age is in desperate need of the very faith that has made it great. Dean William Inge’s famous warning has never been more apt than today: “The Church that marries the spirit of the age will find herself a widow in the next.”  We thank God that the leadership of this diocese not only thinks in terms of Christian doctrine but is courageously committed to the sworn faith of scripture and creeds.
When Episcopalians do not think in terms of Christian doctrine they consciously and unconsciously conform to speculations of the current age.  When the creedal and biblical affirmations of Jesus’ full humanity and divinity are given up we lose the promised assurance of God’s mercy.  The sad secular substitute for divine mercy is a culture destroying permissiveness, lowered standards of morality in society, and diminishing honor in human character.  Permissiveness is no substitute for mercy.
Let’s be clear – the doctrine of Borg, Crossan, and Jefferts Schori makes nonsense of the Eucharist:

Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the God and Father of all. He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself, in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole world. (p.362 Book of Common Prayer 1979)
The doctrine of “mere man” (like Martin Luther King and Gandhi) is indeed a widespread heresy in modern times but finds no reflection in any of the major heresies.  It was so rare that only a specialist is apt to know its name: psilantropism.  One of the outstanding contemporary scholars, Timothy George, has this to say about heresy:

Heresy is a deliberate perversion, a choice (hairesis in Greek), to break with the primary pattern of Christian truth and to promulgate a doctrine that undermines the gospel and destroys the unity of the Christian Church.  A Church that cannot distinguish heresy from truth, or, even worse, a Church that no longer thinks this is worth doing, is a Church which has lost its right to bear witness to the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ who declared himself to be not only the Way and the Life, but also the Truth.

Rest assured the Bishop and Diocese of South Carolina, in the face of heretical assault on the Church will be faithful to the “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.” The challenge for us at this time is the opportunity to recover the neglected duty of “thinking in terms of doctrine” and to show the cruelty of heresy and declare the Gospel good news of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior.

Opening Closed Doors

Posted by ajenkins on April 21, 2011 under Devotionals, Good News, Jesus, Just A Thought, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

From the Bishop of South Carolina, The Rt. Rev’d Mark  Lawrence

Dear Friends in Christ,

When Marjorie Goff closed the door of her apartment in 1949 she was 39 years old.  For her the door stayed shut for the next 30 years.  To be accurate there were a few exceptions.  She went out in 1960 to visit her family, two years later for an operation, and once in 1976 because a friend came to her apartment to take her out for some ice cream.

Marjorie suffered from that metaphor of the human condition known as a phobia.  The list of recognized human phobias is legion.  There’s agoraphobia, aerophobia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, pyrophobia, thanatophobia—just to name a few.  Robert L. DuPont a past director of the Washington Center of Behavioral Medicine called phobias, “The malignant diseases of the ‘what ifs.’”

“What ifs” add up to fears, and fears are right smack dab in the middle of the Easter story.  Matthew’s gospel tells of the chief priests’ and the Pharisees’ fear of a hoax by the disciples.  So they pressured Pilate to send a guard of soldiers to secure the world against a scheme (Matthew 27:62-66).  I’m reminded of Houdini, that renowned magician of another era, who told his wife as he was dying that he would find a way back.  His widow waited, but he never came.  You can secure the world against a scheme or even a magician, but you can’t secure it against a miracle.  Mary Magdalene however didn’t know this, so she was fearful for quite other reasons than  the priests and Pharisees.  When she returned a second time on Easter morning to the empty tomb and to face a fearful future without even the dead body of Jesus to console her, the “what ifs” got the better of her.  The Gospel of John recounts how she mistook the risen Jesus for the gardener.  “Sir,” she queried, “if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him…”  Our fears and “what ifs” as did hers may well hide from us the presence of the risen Christ.  No wonder in the Easter narratives the attending angels and the risen Jesus tell the disciples “Do not be afraid.”  It is Christ’s victory on the cross and in the tomb over every mortal enemy of humankind that makes these words have substance and therein makes them liberating.

“Christ is risen—Jesus lives” that is the telling message of Easter:  even in the face of Death, Sin, Hell, Judgment, the Devil, and all the “what ifs” of fear— Jesus lives!  After all these enemies of mankind have done their worst, He still Lives—and He still delivers.  This is what gives truth to those wonderful words of Julian of Norwich, “All is well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  She too lived like Marjorie Goff in a room with a closed door.  She was an anchoress.  Her room was attached to a cathedral.  She had only two windows in this room.  One looked in towards the altar of the Norwich Cathedral.  The other looked out to the world.  Unlike Marjorie, however, it was not fear that kept Julian behind a closed door.  It was love—love for Christ and love for a needy world.  It was for this world that Jesus died, and for which He now lives to make intercession, and within His love and intercession she presented her intercessions and so can we.

C. S. Lewis once wrote of Christ’s resurrection:  “He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man.”  It is this opened door that made Julian of Norwich free, free enough to be joyous in a single room, two windows and a closed door so she could live devotedly with an open door of abiding prayer (Revelation 3:20).  It is the Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection that when rightly heard and understood will open the doors and lives of those like Marjorie Goff who have lived in the fear of “what ifs.”  I encourage you to invite a friend or acquaintance to join you at church for the Easter Day Eucharist so they might hear this Good News and of the door that Christ has opened for you and keeps open for them as well.

Blessings in Christ our Savior and Lord,
+Mark Lawrence
South Carolina

The BackLash of Judgment

Posted by ajenkins on April 15, 2011 under Devotionals, Good News, Jesus, Judgment, Just A Thought | Be the First to Comment

Matthew 7:1-6

It is ironic that no command becomes a greater focal point of division than Jesus’ great command to end it. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” is a lightning rod of controversy and a bludgeon used both by legalists and libertarians who justify their hate of others. The wicked boomerang, “Stop judging me!” is often just as sin filled as the straight-forward, “garden variety” “You’re damned to hell you wicked sinner!” Whether couched in false humility feigning victimization or launched from the stereotypical angry brow with outstretched finger, both judgments are equally evil.

This is why it is eternally important that we get Jesus’ words right. Here is a classic example of where a right or wrong understanding of Jesus’ teaching determines whether the “eye of body”  (Matthew 6:22) sees well or remains faulty. And our understanding of this truth will determine whether we will deny the faith and cling to unbelief under the Law, or whether we will embrace the righteousness in Jesus Christ that comes by faith.

So what exactly is Jesus saying?

Words are sometimes imperfect vehicles to convey the true meaning of things. Only in this case, it is our modern use of the word judge that causes confusion. When Jesus says, “Do not judge…” he is not saying “Do not compare truths and make distinctions” he is saying “Do not condemn.” This is a key distinction for us because humans make judgments about everything everyday. So what Jesus is saying is that we ought not to make a final decision about anyone and we should never give up on anyone when it comes to preaching the Gospel. For who are we to presume that God’s kindness will not lead the legalist, the homosexual, the false prophet, the glutton, the gossip or the atheist to repentance? Who are we to act as if we control the grace of God? We should not and we cannot presume these things if we would believe ourselves to be firmly kept in the faith. Now this does not mean we should not warn unbelievers about hell, but it does mean that there is a difference between saying “The Gospel says that your unrepentant sins will lead you to hell” and saying “You’re already hopelessly damned to hell on account of your unrepentant sins.”

If Paul’s former life, and what God rescued him out of, doesn’t humble us to hope that a better end awaits the hardest sinners we know, then we should suspect that we are these hardened sinners ourselves. We should suspect that we are the kind of people who somehow sees sawdust through two-by-fours.

By nature, we are a people who are in need of corrective vision. We need to have the eyes of our heart surgically repaired (or circumcised a better theologian would say!) in order to see clearly.  We need the kindness of the Spirit in our hearts in order to gently correct the error of others.

When we condemn other people, when we place them in our horrible stereotypes and use them to justify our stinginess and with holding of our love, we condemn ourselves by the same measure we use. Remember that every soul under the Law of God will perish by that Law. When we condemn by the Law, we live by the Law. And those who live under the Law are already spiritually dead and will be judged according to its perfect demands.

No Regeneration Without Reformation

Posted by ajenkins on March 24, 2011 under Good News, Jesus, Just A Thought, Reformation, Regeneration, Repentance | Be the First to Comment

In the Bible the offer of pardon on the part of God is conditioned upon intention to reform on the part of man. There can be no spiritual regeneration till there has been moral reformation. That this statement requires defense only proves how far from the truth we have strayed.
In our current popular theology pardon depends upon faith alone. The very word reform has been banished from among the sons of the Reformation!
We often hear the declaration, “I do not preach reformation; I preach regeneration.” Now we recognize this as being the expression of a commendable revolt against the insipid and unscriptural doctrine of salvation by human effort. But the declaration as it stands contains real error, for it opposes reformation to regeneration. Actually the two are never opposed to each other in sound Bible theology. The not-reformation-but-regeneration doctrine incorrectly presents us with an either-or; either you take reformation or you take regeneration. This is inaccurate. The fact is that on this subject we are presented not with an either-or, but with both-and. The converted man is both reformed and regenerated. And unless the sinner is willing to reform his way of living he will never know the inward experience of regeneration. This is vital truth which has gotten lost under the leaves in popular evangelical theology.
The idea that God will pardon a rebel who has not given up his rebellion is contrary both to the Scriptures and to common sense. How horrible to contemplate a church full of persons who have been pardoned but who still love sin and hate the ways of righteousness. And how much more horrible to think of heaven as filled with sinners who had not repented nor changed their ways of living.
A familiar story will illustrate this. The governor of one of our states was visiting the state prison incognito. He fell into conversation with a personable young convict and felt a secret wish to pardon him. “What would you do,” he asked casually, “if you were lucky enough to obtain a pardon?” The convict, not knowing to whom he was speaking, snarled his reply: “If I ever get out of this place, the first thing I’ll do is cut the throat of the judge who sent me here.” The governor broke off the conversation and withdrew from the cell. The convict stayed on in prison. To pardon a man who had not reformed would be to let loose another killer upon society. That kind of pardon would not only be foolish, it would be downright immoral.
The promise of pardon and cleansing is always associated in the Scriptures with the command to repent. The widely used text in Isaiah, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18), is organically united to the verses that precede it: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (1:16–17). What does this teach but radical reformation of life before there can be any expectation of pardon? To divorce the words from each other is to do violence to the Scriptures and to convict ourselves of deceitfully handling the truth.
I think there is little doubt that the teaching of salvation without repentance has lowered the moral standards of the Church and produced a multitude of deceived religious professors who erroneously believe themselves to be saved when in fact they are still in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. And to see such persons actually seeking the deeper life is a grim and disillusioning sight. Yet our altars are sometimes filled with seekers who are crying with Simon, “Give me this power,” when the moral groundwork has simply not been laid for it. The whole thing must be acknowledged as a clear victory for the devil, a victory he could never have enjoyed if unwise teachers had not made it possible by preaching the evil doctrine of regeneration apart from reformation.

A.W. Tozer, The Root of Righteousness