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

Arthur Has Left The Building

Posted by ajenkins on July 4, 2013 under Good News, Just A Thought, Sabbatical, The Parish | 2 Comments to Read

I can hardly believe the time has come for me to leave Saint James for a season. The sabbatical that all of you have so graciously granted me has arrived. I am both excited and appropriately hesitant. I am excited for all the possibilities and adventures that await me. I am hesitant due to all the possibilities and adventures that await me. You understand – it’s called the unknown.

Sunday, June 23rd is my last Sunday at Saint James. During the first several weeks of July I will take some personal time to prepare for the heart of my sabbatical and see my family. I must be a good son and go see my mother who lives in Raleigh, NC. She turns 90 soon and mostly is doing quite well. She had a real slump of health issues the past several months, but has rebounded somewhat is has some renewed quality of life. While I’m gone I certainly covet your prayers for her – Mildred Jenkins.

Also during this personal time I hope to take a motorcycle trip. I know, I know. Remember my reply whenever I’m asked, “Where do you go on that thing?” I always say, “Nearer my God to Thee.” In addition to this there is lots of preparation, a little packing and at least six books I am to read before arriving in Jerusalem.

On Sunday, July 21st, I hope to return to Saint James for the 10:30 worship that Louise and Andrew may send me out with the commissioning of the Holy Spirit and with your prayers. Please know how much your support will be needed that we all might realize the potential of this trip. This Sabbatical is not just as a vacation for me or a time of study and reflection. This can be a renewal from which all of us may benefit. I hope to return filled with memories, moments, places and people that will have impacted me, the Holy Scriptures and the prayer that it will bear much fruit in my teaching, preaching, leadership and pastoral care. I can’t wait to go and I can’t wait to return – to you.

While in Jerusalem I will take two courses of study at St. George’s College. Founded in 1887, St. George’s College and Cathedral is the oldest ongoing Anglican presence in Jerusalem and is the seat of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

The first course I will take (the one for which Kay is joining me) is the entitled The Palestine of Jesus. It is a 14 day study tour of Holy sites and class room work with both academic and devotional aspects.

The second course I will take at St. George’s is a offered for the first time this year. Its title, The Children of Abraham. This Course will focus on the three Abrahamic faiths:  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and their theologies, histories, relations, and common heritage in the Holy Land.  The course will cover aspects of the following elements in the theology of the three traditions:  Israel; Covenant; election; Promise; and Faith; and will focus on convergence and divergence in the relations between the three religions. I can’t think of any topic that has greater impact on God’s story through the Hebrew Nation and greater implications for today’s geopolitical issues, cultural issues and faith issues. Again, I can’t wait.

During the interim between these two courses, from August 6th through September 6, I will live with Rabbi Natan Ophir in his flat. I met the Rabbi on an internet site; Airbnb. Basically it is an internet bed and breakfast system. After corresponding for a time he agreed to host me for the month between courses at St. George’s.

Obviously I am excited at the possibilities of being a resident for a time in Jerusalem and the interaction I will be able to have with this Rabbi and professor at Jerusalem College of Technology. He grew up in Philadelphia, emigrated to Israel in the mid 80’s and received his PhD from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1993. Dr. Ophir is also a knowledgeable guide of the Holy Lands. I am looking forward to the discussions we can have and his directions as to the places to go in Israel.

This extended length of time in Jerusalem, Israel and beyond will allow me to move from being a tourist to the life of a pilgrim. The faithful have been making pilgrimages to the Holy Land for thousands of years. A pilgrimage is always made seeking Holy revelation. The tourist takes a tour, but the pilgrim takes time. I am going to the Holy Land not just to see the sights, but to hear from God. Speak Lord!

Arthur,  John 10:27, Acts 20:28

HE LEFT A MARK AND IT IS GOD’S MARK

Posted by ajenkins on May 1, 2013 under Just A Thought, The Parish | Be the First to Comment

Saint James’ Epistle, Newsletter for May

Southerners, especially Charlestonians know the expression about the difference between a Yankee and a **** Yankee is that the latter doesn’t go back North. For the last five years we have had one of those Yankees. In fact, it may be worse. Bruce McDonald has not only been a Yankee that didn’t go home, but he is a Canadian that didn’t go home. And for that, I am thankful to God.
For the last five years Major Bruce McDonald, Canadian Army Retired, has been our Senior Warden, the Rector’s Warden at Saint James and he has left just a good and Godly mark that I will be forever thankful to him and for him.
Now first, let’s be honest about the means God used to draw Bruce to Saint James and the ministry we all share. It was love. Yes, love of God and from God. But also it was love – of a beautiful blond across the aisle. Some years ago when Bruce was visiting Saint James and his friend Bill McDaniel, they were at worship when Bill said, “Hey, what about the blond across the aisle?” Eventually Bruce and Rosalyn, the blond, married and began life on James Island and at Saint James. Now isn’t that just how God works? God uses love of all sorts to get His work accomplished.
As Bruce had been a lifelong Anglican and had served and even been part of planting a church in Canada, God and we, of Saint James quickly recognized that here was a leader for “such a time as this.” Bruce was chosen for fulfill an unexpired vestry term and then reelected, therefore serving five years as our Rector’s Warden on the Vestry.
During his tenure Bruce has left not only his mark, but he has left God’s mark.
Bruce has continually told me how he doesn’t like the finances, math and budgets of the business side of church ministry. Yet, it was Bruce who recognized the possibility and importance of our using endowed funds to payoff the mortgage on the Ministry Center, making Saint James, not only debt free, but positioned for ministry. That not only made it possible for us to balance the budget, but gave us all the incentive to do so. Bruce also reorganized the Vestry, creating a Finance Team which worked with the Endowment Committee to make decisions and recommendations for the Vestry’s approval, thus freeing the Vestry to be a more vision oriented, ministry minded group. For someone that doesn’t like finances and budgets, that’s leadership.
Bruce continues to leave God’s mark on our Diocese. Bruce currently serves on the Diocesan Council, basically the vestry of the Diocese. Last year he was elected to the Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese. This Court is formed to be the judges and jury of any charges which may be brought against the clergy. Thankfully there have been none recently. Bruce has also just been selected by our Bishop to serve on a Diocesan Communications Team who will help us respond to all the news articles and spin currently in the local and national media and international blogosphere. Again, Bruce left God’s mark, a man for such a time as this.
There is much more to say to bless and embarrass my friend Bruce, but I must have a personal note here. It was Bruce, along with the Vestry and thirteen sacrificial and generous givers who have made my sabbatical possible. Bruce along with our People’s Warden Virginia (another blessing) who asked a few folks to contribute to the sabbatical fund in order that the expense not use the precious resources we have for ministry. I am going to Israel for two months for education and renewal that I pray will bless us all. Bruce is still leaving God’s mark. Bruce continues to be a valued friend with that curious and sarcastic wit of his. I love him.
Lastly and most importantly, Bruce takes seriously James’ admonition (the brother of Jesus), “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them… And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well…” (James 5:13) Many times Bruce has called on me to join him, to go pray for someone who is sick. The results have been miraculous, even to the point of one our members who was certainly close to death. Bruce continues to leave God’s mark. Thanks be to God.
Arthur
1 John 4:19

Rector’s Annual Report Annual Meeting for Ministry, 2013

Posted by ajenkins on under Anglican Events, Faith At Home, Just A Thought, Regeneration, Sabbatical, The Parish, Uncategorized | Be the First to Comment

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

TO BE AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST
by
LOVING GOD.     LOVING PEOPLE.     BUILDING COMMUNITY.

THANKSGIVING

We continue to be a congregation of Thanksgiving. I know you have heard my refrain, “Let your thanksgivings overwhelm your complaints.” As there is always something about which to complain; by faith, there is also always something for which to give Thanks. Remember, we call the prayer of consecration at the Holy Communion, “The Great Thanksgiving.” I pray that you have been blessed and awed by the thanksgivings offered. For me these thanksgivings are humbling and encouraging. The testimonies to God’s goodness and action in our lives are to many to mention. We have joined the thanksgivings of our brothers and sisters-in-Christ for everything from birthdays to the birth of a child or a grandchild to the answer of prayer for healing from cancer, resurrection of a marriage and new faith and life. Yes, people have come to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Yes, I start this report with thanksgivings because expressing our thanks and recognition to God is changing who we are and our life together.

SHARE OUR SACRIFICE

Our stewardship, our Christian giving during 2012 was marked by the Share Our Sacrifice request. It reminded us of the power of Biblical solutions over financial solutions. It reminded us that as the Body of Christ we look for family solutions and not business solutions. It reminded us that as the Body of Christ we are an organism and not just an organization. Several of you have asked me why we didn’t continue that request this year. My answer continues to be two-fold. First, we did continue it. I asked you to simply add your increased sacrifice to your tithe. That’s what Kay and I did. The second part of the answer is that your Staff doesn’t have anything more with which to sacrifice. We sacrificed to  make a point, that is, if we all share in the giving there is very little sacrifice in it. Have you experienced the joy and peace of tithing, of giving intentionally to God and this ministry we share? Try it.

PREPARATION FOR A NEW ASSISTANT RECTOR – WE’VE DONE IT!

We’ve done it and I am so proud of you all. We have prayerfully and I think, faithfully called a new assistant pastor. The Rev’d Andrew Williams and his wife, the Rev’d Jill Williams and their two sons, Jude and Joshua will join us this Summer. Andrew will join us for his first Sunday on June 9th, the same Sunday our Bishop, Mark, will be with us. Jill may need to stay in Massachusetts for a time to sell their home and finish up some of her own ministry within the Diocese of Western Massachusetts. Andrew will bring a new energy and perspective to our clergy staff. Andrew thinks about car seats and soccer matches, while I think about reading and naps.
This new method of ministry transitions has been blessed and encouraged by our Bishop. In the past it was traditional and understood that no assistant could or would move into the leadership role upon the senior pastor’s retirement. This made for transitions that always depended on bringing someone from outside the parish family, outside the ministry organization to become the new spiritual leader. While this was done carefully, prayerfully and with a discerning search committee, it still was often marked by great change by not fully knowing what you were going to get. By growing up the pastoral leadership from within our ministry and life together will not miss a beat. But that is why we are bringing Andrew into our clergy staff now instead of 7 years from now. With God’s help and your understanding this next seven years will be a fruitful season of life and ministry at Saint James.

LOUISE WELD

As we prepare joyfully to welcome Andrew to our church I want to be very clear about my plans and prayers for the ministry I share with Louise Weld. I want you to keep her. I want you to give of your tithes and offerings that we might be able to keep Louise on our staff for as long as she can and will serve. Yes, I want us to allow Louise to have a more part-time ministry as she wishes at the same time recognizing that we need her. Louise and her ministry is impacting us at Saint James and also our Diocese. She is about to play a major role in the understanding of women’s ministry and ordination as we reorganize our diocese. She is a symbol of the fullness of ministry that is to be shared by men and women, husbands and wives and parents. I fully believe that Louise and I, clerics male and female, perfect and imperfect, represent a small part of how the Kingdom of God, the Jesus Culture and the Body of Christ works. That representation is important for our Diocese at this critical time.

FAITH AT HOME

Building Faith by building families of faith continues to be the vision and goal of our staff and myself. I recognize this contradicts many of the teaching, standards and expectations of our society and even many of the practices of the church in the past. Just one of the lies that continues to be propagated by society is that you, the parents, have very little influence over your children. This is such a sad lie and completely opposite of Biblical truth and God’s created order. God has given parents power and authority over their children’s hearts. And, as we often say by quoting Dr. Rob Rienow, “IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.”
We are starting to see some of the fruit of this dramatic shift in how we teach and make disciples and how we structure our ministry. I want you to know that many parishes in the Diocese are copying Saint James. Our invitation for fathers to pray over their children at baptism, confirmation, graduation and more is being used across the diocese and more. The Rev’d Mark Holmen, of Faith At Home Ministries is sharing this idea and more across the country. To God be the Glory & Honor.

ANGLICAN EVENTS

Last year I told you that “we have been living as a step-child within The Episcopal Church (TEC) for the last eight years.” Well, now that has ended. To quote our Bishop, The Right Reverend Mark Lawrence, “we have moved on.” During this past year charges of abandonment of communion and judgments of inhibition and deposition were brought against our Bishop. Knowing that if our Bishop were removed we would not be allowed to chose another, our Diocese left TEC. I have been asked by many times, “where are we going?” My answer has been and continues to be, “No where.” We are not realigning with any Anglican entity at this time. We will simply remain the Diocese of South Carolina. Remember, we were a Diocese before there was a TEC and we are one of several dioceses who formed TEC. Obviously and sadly this will all decided in court. Again, I remind you that your leadership, the Vestry and many parish elders have made wise, faithful and effective preparations for whatever may come.
Meanwhile, we continue to keep the main thing, the main thing. That is the worship and ministry of our Living Lord, Jesus Christ. For me, that is most clearly expressed in the Apostle John’s words in his first letter. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also my have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.    1 John 1:3

THE DIOCESE AND THE STANDING COMMITTEE

The next several years will be significant and historic for our Diocese. Because we are now an Anglican Diocese, no longer restricted by TEC traditions or canons, we can and will reorganize ourselves and reclaim some of the Biblical ground that has been lost. Just one small but profound example of that is membership. Canonically speaking, TEC has defined a member for the last many years as “one who attends church and receives communion at least three times a year.” Doesn’t that seem like a pretty meager definition of membership? I have been blessed and challenged to be elected to the Standing Committee of the Diocese for the next three years. As a member of the Standing Committee I will be on the forefront of our reorganization and identity as a Biblically based church and a member of the Anglican Communion.

SABBATICAL

I can hardly believe that my sabbatical is almost here. I must bear witness to you of God’s grace and provision in this. The timing is certainly providential. Yes, I admit I have wanted, even needed a sabbatical for many years. Please remember, a sabbatical is more than a rest or a vacation. It is more importantly a time of renewal, education, reflection and ministry direction. I can’t imagine a better time than this as we all plan for the future and I as I consider the direction and importance of my waning years of ministry with you. The place is also providential. Obviously I had considered possibilities and places for a sabbatical for years. Thoughts, daydreams, listening to other pastors who had traveled here and there and focused on many differing areas of study and ministry. And then, as this sabbatical became a real possibility the door just opened to Jerusalem, Israel and the Holy Land. Two courses of study at St. George’s College and then a month with a Rabbi living with him in his flat (that’s what they call an apartment). I will literally be able to cross that line from being a tourist to be a resident of Jerusalem, even though just for a short time. I will be able to leave the tours and structured itineraries and go to some of the Holy Places and just be. One of the several things the Lord has put on my heart is to go the the Mount of Olives, take with me the list of members of Saint James and pray for you each by name. I can’t wait to name you, your family, your children before the Lord in that place where our Lord prayed, “Make them one as we are one.” John 17:22. Also, the finances have been providential. Last year, Bruce and Virginia, our Wardens, sent out a request to some of the members of Saint James and they graciously funded my sabbatical. I am so grateful and humbled by their generosity. Also, I am blessed that this didn’t take away from the ministry budget and resources we so carefully steward at Saint James.
My greatest prayer for my sabbatical is that it will not be all mine. My prayer is that this will be a time of ministry review, renewal and reflection that will bless, encourage and guide us all. I can’t wait to  return with stories, revelations and places to share.

Lastly – FIFTEEN years  (I write this every year to remind us both)

I am coming to the end of my fifteenth year with you as your Rector and Pastor. I remind us both of this because being a long-term pastor is so important to me. I believe when God calls pastors to the ministry He calls us to the same commitment as when married. God calls us to monogamy. When Kay and I talked and prayed about returning to Saint James in 1998 we both knew that this was not a stepping stone, but God’s invitation to be part of Saint James either until I retired or was told to leave. For me, what we do and share together will be my life “well spent.” That is a blessing to me as I pray it is to you.

Arthur
Ephesians 3:14-21
Prayer BCP, pg. 562 & 563, bottom of the page

Why I’m Going To Tel Aviv

Posted by ajenkins on February 19, 2013 under Good News, Just A Thought, Sabbatical, Sermons and More | Be the First to Comment

“Why Tel Aviv?” To understand the answer to this question and the importance of this city for the Kingdom of God one must look at its past, present, and future.

Tel Aviv-Yafo is a city composed of both the ancient and the modern. Yafo (Jaffa, Joppa), the southern part of our city, is almost 4,000 years old and was, for centuries, the main port city on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Tradition tells us that one of Noah’s three sons, Yefet (Japheth), founded the city of Yafo.  Later, the famed cedars of Lebanon were shipped through the city on the way to Jerusalem in order to construct the doors of the Second Temple (Ezra 3:7). This port city was seen as such a strategic location, the gateway to Jerusalem and to the east, that it was conquered multiple times throughout history by various empires: Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Turkish, and even by Napoleon. In addition to its economic significance, Yafo frequently served as a military beachhead, the land that is captured first to take the rest of the territory.

Yafo also has a great biblical significance, as a gateway for messengers of God’s love and redemption. The Prophet Jonah was called by God to go from Yafo and bring His mercy to the Assyrian people of Nineveh (in modern Iraq). This is the example in the Bible that shows God’s love for people who are not Jewish. Similarly, in the book of Acts, Simon Peter, after raising Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead in Yafo, sees a vision to take the Gospel to the gentiles for the first time. Almost immediately, he is led to Caesarea and preaches the good news to Cornelius and his men (Acts 9-10).

Tel Aviv, Israel’s modern and secular city, was founded in 1909 on the sand dunes north of Yafo. By the 1930’s the city had become another Mediterranean metropolis, designated “The White City” for its sandstone facades and Bauhaus architecture. In 1948, Israel declared its independence in Tel Aviv and supplied food and ammunition to Jerusalem in the War of Independence. It is currently Israel’s center for commerce and trade, high tech, and the military; but is widely known for its avid nightlife, white beaches, sports, and café culture. With an inner city population of 400,000 and a greater area population of 3.3 million, the Tel Aviv region contains more Jews per capita than any place on earth.

And yet with its biblical past and its abundance of modern life, most of Tel Aviv remains in darkness, spiritually dead. Though Jewish by blood and culture, the majority of people has little faith in God and has turned to the occult for guidance and spiritual food. In the book of Joshua, the area of Tel Aviv was allotted to the tribe of Dan.  Sadly, they later gave up their inheritance to the Philistines, moved north, and turned to idolatry. This idolatrous spirit continues to pervade the modern city with its large homosexual population and rampant materialism. While the number of Messianic Jews is increasing, only 0.2% of the Jewish population of Israel believes that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah.

Our hope is in the Lord and He is preparing the harvest. Tel Aviv-Yafo is still a spiritual gateway; as God sent the Gospel from this city we pray that it will return here and form a spiritual beachhead for His Kingdom to take the rest of the country. In Psalm 87: it says, “the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob,” and Tel Aviv-Yafo is one of these gates. May the Lord open up these ancient doors and transform our city to truly become His “White City;” the gateway to Jerusalem.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.” Psalm 24:9

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.

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

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