Tuesday, March 31, 2009
JI Packer Speaks To New Christians from Mike Anderson on Vimeo.
Monday, March 30, 2009
posted at Christianity Today
A friend was involved for years in a weekly service intended to reach out to inner-city kids, the majority of whom had little church experience and no acknowledged relationship with Jesus.
If it had been up to me, I would have made those events "seeker-friendly." I'd have focused on building relationships, avoiding anything too religious or high pressure. But my friend went a different way. Every week, he led worship, one song after another, always unabashedly about—or to—Jesus.
I'm sure some of the kids walked away and never looked back. But hundreds stayed. Many made decisions to follow Christ.
Some ministry leaders were concerned that teens who didn't know Jesus were being asked to participate in worship. My friend would reply, "How else are they supposed to get to know him?"It's a good question. People come to the Christian faith via many different highways, but the eventual crossroad is always an encounter with Jesus. I wonder if my attempts to keep my witness nonthreatening and accessible sometimes end up shielding the unchurched people around me from their own crossroad. Jesus can certainly meet them without my assistance.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
by Matt Kennedy
text: 1st John 2:12-17 (fourth sermon in an expository series on 1st John)
Being a Christian is the hardest and easiest thing you'll ever do. On the one hand it's easy because the great work, the great battle, to break the hold of sin and death has already been accomplished and won. Jesus’ righteousness, Jesus’ faithfulness, Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension—Jesus has accomplished the work of Justifying sinners and reconciling sinners to the Father. And God promises that all who repent, turn around, and commit their lives to him, trusting in his Work, and trusting in His Person will be forgiven and credited or imputed with his righteousness. So Christianity is very easy in the sense that the necessary work has already been done. What makes it difficult is that committing to Christ is not a half-way deal. The person who says: “Well I really like coming to church on Sunday morning and I agree with what this church teaches and its a comfortable place and my friends are here, its good for my kids. I definitely like that forgiveness of sins stuff, I’d like some of that, but my life is my life, my time is my time, my future is, my future, my stuff is my stuff...Jesus is my helpful advisor and comforter and takes away my sins but don’t step on my toes...” ...That's not the faith that justifies because it's not a commitment to Christ it's just a deeper commitment to self with Jesus’ name slapped on top of it. That's not discipleship, that's a hobby. With Jesus it's all or nothing. “Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”(Matt 10:37) There's no halfway commitment, no in between, moderate, centrist, kind of discipleship. Commitment to Christ costs you your life.
That's what John has been pushing all along in this letter. You're either walking in the light or you're walking in the darkness. If you're walking in the light then your life will be marked by various characteristics and Micah did a great job of charting them out last week and the sum of those characteristics is this: if you're in the light then your life will be characterized by continuous warfare against sin. If you're at peace with sin then you're not in the light. “No one who is born of God” John says 3:9, “will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” He's not saying that believers do not sin. He's saying that we do not continue in sin, we come out of our sins. We gain victory over time because Christ is in us. Like any war there are ups and downs, there are losses and gains, there are defeats and victories, but for the believer who is walking in the light, the battle field continues to advance. It goes deeper and further in.
The new believer, for example, who struggles with sexual promiscuity, as he grows in Christ, will gain victory over that. But in the aftermath of that victory he'll may be compelled to to open up a new front against his habit of pornography, and after a long hard struggle he'll gain victory over that but he'll still have this tendency to look a little too long at members of the opposite sex. The guy who overcharges his clients and underpays his employees, will begin to charge fair prices and pay right wages, but he’ll struggle with fair tax reporting, and then he’ll get his taxes in order but he’ll have this tugging pull toward greed. The battle ground shifts, but the warfare continues. As battles over the most vile and pressing sins are won, deep strong roots of sin, continue to be exposed because you're walking in the light.
The Christian life is one of repentance and struggle. It's hard and it can be discouraging. Turning to our text this morning from 1 John 2 beginning in verse 12, discouragement, I think, is what John addresses in his readers. He wants to encourage them. You're walking in the light. You've committed to Christ. Your struggles testify that you're in the light. Setting aside the particular groups he addresses, look at the declarations John makes in verses 12-14. Your sins have been forgiven (12). You know him who is from the beginning (13,14). You’ve overcome the evil one (13). You've known the Father (13). You're strong (14). The word of God dwells in you (14).
John's not in doubt about the spiritual state of his readers. He’s not wondering whether they're walking in the light. He sees clearly that they are but he writes this song, this poem, whatever it is, because due to the nature of the Christian life, they may not see it about themselves. He's either addressing every age group, from small children to young men and fathers or he's addressing people in the congregation in each stage of the believer's journey, from baby Christians to those elders in the faith—either way, the thrust of the exhortation, the point of the declaration is for the entire community from the least to the greatest, weak to strong, old to young: You're in the light. The word of Christ is dwelling in you. You've overcome the the evil one. This is not the time to shrink back or give up or fade back into the darkness.
There are hints of discouragement in 1st John—not on John's part but on the part of the congregation. In the first sermon of this series we spoke about the problem of the false teachers, the Gnostics who infiltrated the church denying Jesus' full humanity, denying the incarnation, the bodily resurrection—essential doctrines given by John and the other apostles. Those teachers caused a great deal of turmoil. In fact, they succeeded in seducing some members of the church to leave. Look down at verse 19 of chapter 2: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” Some went out. Some left the church following false teaching and false teachers and the very act of going out, of turning their backs on the light reveals, says John, that they were never really in it. You've remained in the light even though it is painful. That's the mark of discipleship. Those who are not of the light cannot remain in the light. We know what John's readers were going through. People, families, friends we've known and loved have left this fellowship. Friendships have been broken and even families divided because of false teaching.
In the aftermath discouragement is natural. We're smaller now. Many have gone. Those of us who are left, are maybe not the A team. We struggle with sins and our own darkness seems sometimes to overwhelm us and so we wonder. Are we in the light? Is this what it’s like to be in the light? I don’t feel like I’m in the light? Shouldn’t we be a bigger? Shouldn’t there be less division? Shouldn’t I be struggling with fewer sins? Why do the false teachers seem so successful and prosperous while everything is so difficult for us. And into that discouragement John says: You’re sins have been forgiven, you know the Father, you’ve overcome the evil one. You're strong because the word dwells in you. Whether you're a child, a student or an old person, do not feel beaten down by sin and darkness and trouble—your struggles in fact, do nothing but show that you're in the light because the darkness is very very comfortable.
People living in the darkness often seem better off. It’s a lot easier and more peaceful to drift along with a strong current than to stand up against it. As a believer, Christ has given you his grace and power to stand up in a rushing current, a surging torrent upon which most everyone else is happy to float. As you stand there struggling and you watch the party boats float by it's very tempting to hop on. Even if you resist that temptation it's hard not to envy those people who drift by comfortably and to be discouraged at the constant rush and strength of the current itself that seems sometimes ready to bowl you over. But John says, stand. You have the power to stand because the word of Christ lives in you, you are standing because you know the father, and you must continue to stand. Don't envy those who follow the current because the current is strong for a reason. It’s headed somewhere you do not want to go.
Friends, John says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”(15) You can misread that passage as a condemnation of the created order but when John writes about “the world” he's not referring to everything in the world, he’s pointing specifically, to that current of sin and rebellion that has broken over the good world that God has created and in which most people in the world are content to drift. Verse 16 makes that clear.
“For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.” The world, in John’s vocabulary, is everything in created realm that does not originate with the father. Every thing that does not originate with the Father is part of the rebellion against him. It’s not “desire”, we all have desires for food, love, sleep, sex, those are all good, but the “cravings” of our sinful nature, the compulsion to use these good desires outside the channels or boundaries that God has set for them. It's not the eyes. We all have eyes to behold beauty and goodness and wonder in God’s creation. But with these eyes we can also go beyond wonder and awe and praise to lust. we can see beauty and think only of how we can make it ours. We can consider our blessings God has given us, home, car, church building, clothes, success, and be grateful and joyful or we can look at this stuff and say, look at what my hands have accomplished. Having stuff is not of the world, boasting about the stuff you have is. The craving of sinful flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of possession, these are the things John names “the world”
And (17) “The world and its desires” John says, “pass away.” They will end. The current is sweeping the world to its end, to the pit. And those who comfortably follow the current now will be swept along with it so do not love the world.
“but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” Children, young people, and fathers and mothers who stand up in the current do the will of God. The depth and difficulty of your struggle does nothing but reveal that you do not love the world, that you know the father, that your sins are forgiven, and that by the word of Christ dwelling in you, you have overcome the evil one and you will live forever.
Friday, March 27, 2009
AnglicanTV will be live video streaming this session of the Blueprint for the New Church Conference
Friday, March 27, 2009 - 4:15-5:15pm (EST)
You can view the Q&A session here or at AnglicanTV
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Well, as you can tell the Thursday notes are late today...I am packed out with stuff to do so I'll have to be as brief as possible.
Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Joe Barham is cooking. We're in chapter 2 of 1st Samuel. The study begins at 6:30am every Friday morning.
Systematic Theology: It looks like there is a lot of interest in a Saturday afternoon theology course beginning sometime after Easter. You'll be hearing more about it.
Women's Bible Study will meet on Saturday at 10:00am
Baptism: Don't forget, Matthias Boeker will be baptized on Palm Sunday.
Many have been asking for the Holy Week schedule, so here it is:
Palm Sunday (Sunday April 5th)
Palm Sunday is the first worship Service of Holy Week and it is one of the most important celebrations of the whole year. Holy Week is the week believers remember and celebrate the last week of Jesus’ life. That week began with Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. By this time, Jesus was famous. Everyone knew him and most people believed that he was the messiah, the coming savior of Israel. So when they heard he was coming they all rushed out waving palm branches and crying “Hosanna in Highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Five days later the very same people who greeted Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna” screamed for his death with cries of “Crucify Him!” Palm Sunday Services at Good Shepherd will be held at 8:00am and 10:30am as usual. They will begin with the blessing of the Palms. Then the blessed palms will be passed out to everyone in the congregation and we’ll process into the church like Jesus’ processed into Jerusalem (except for the donkey). During the service The Passion will be read and narrated.
Tenebrae (Wednesday April 8th)
Tenebrae means “shadows” in Latin. The worship service called “Tenebrae” is an ancient rite of the Church. It is a service of word, light and sound. When you arrive for worship you will see two groups of candles lit on the altar. As readings are read the candles on the altar will be gradually extinguished until the very end of the service when the last candle left lit is removed from the worship space and the whole sanctuary is left in darkness. At that point a loud crash will shatter the silence of the sanctuary. Then, after a moment, the last candle is returned to the sanctuary and the worshippers depart in silence. The gradual darkening of the sanctuary and the crashing noise symbolizes the apparent victory of death, darkness, and chaos over Jesus Christ on the cross. The final candle being removed and returned, symbolizes the truth that through Jesus' death, God gained victory over all the powers of evil. The Light was not overcome. The service of Tenebrae will be held at 7:00pm on Wednesday of Holy Week.
Maundy Thursday (April 9th)
There will be a covered dish (pot-luck) supper in the parish hall followed by the Maundy Thursday worship service which will include foot washing. Maundy Thursday is the last chance for communion until the Great Vigil. The service will begin at 7:00pm following the covered dish dinner that begins at 5:30pm
Good Friday: The Passion (April 10th)
Jesus died on a Friday. At about 3pm on Friday of Holy Week he lifted his eyes up to heaven from the cross and breathed out his last. “It is finished” he said. He was not only referring to his life, but he was also referring to the great battle between God and sin, death, and Satan. On the cross of Jesus Christ, God defeated the powers that corrupt and destroy his creation and his creatures. By and through Jesus’ death on the cross, everyone who believes is forgiven their sins and granted an eternal relationship with God. Good Friday Services will be held at noon (the Hours) and at 7:00pm. The 7:00pm service will include the Stations of the Cross, when we walk through and participate spiritually in the Passion of Christ Jesus.
The Easter Vigil (Saturday April 11th)
Along with Tenebrae, the Easter Vigil is one of the most ancient services of the Church. It is the most important service of the entire year and it is the first service of Easter. The service begins in total darkness--the lights of the sanctuary are out and not a candle is burning. Then a fire is lit in a firepot the center of the nave and from that flame all the candles in the sanctuary are lit and the hand-candles in the congregation. Then come readings and psalms, said and sung, by singers and by the whole congregation. The sermon follows and then the first Communion of Easter. The Great Vigil begins at 8:00pm in the sanctuary.
Easter Day: (Sunday April 12th)
This is the day Christians celebrate and proclaim the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. There will be flowers and smells and bells. And, possibly, an Easter Egg hunt afterwards. Service times are 8:00am and 10:30am Easter Morning.
The luncheon begins at 12 noon and lasts about an hour. All are invited and welcome to attend.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Good Shepherd is definitely larger than it has been in the past and growing, but we're still small enough that I eventually hear about most gossip, even gossip about me...which has at least been more interesting now that we live right next to the church.
In any case, gossip being a proverbial and chronic church issue, I found an article on gossip on a website and thought it rather encouraging, both because it shows that we are not alone and because its a good biblically sound explanation of the danger and destructiveness of gossip:
Our Community has many strong points, and many indications of real spiritual growth. But there are some practical areas to which we have all paid insufficient attention. One of these is the terrible human tendency to repeat rumour, to draw unsupported conclusions, and to get disaffected with others until we imagine untrue things about them which we then state to others. I am not innocent in this area. And neither are any of us (not that this fact in any way comforts me). Let's not pretend that any of us don't gossip. And let's admit that our ears love to hear gossip. " The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's innermost parts" (Prov. 18:8 NIV), i.e. we dwell on what we hear very deeply. This is one reason to interrupt a gossiping brother or sister before they go further; for the words of gossip will go deep down within us, and we will ruminate on them. Gossip in the church is, sadly, becoming a real sin amongst us. If a community becomes full of gossip, allegation and counter-claims, very soon we will destroy ourselves. A house divided will fall. And don’t think gossip is just words. Proverbs teaches that gossip stirs up dissension; but Prov. 6:12-14 parallels “a corrupt mouth” with winking with the eye, signalling with the feet, motioning with the fingers (NIV). Our body language is effectively gossip. A flick of the hands, the slight suggestion of a shrug of the shoulders, a certain glance in the corner of the eye...it all gives negative messages...
The author of this article provides one of the better definitions of gossip that I've seen:
"To repeat rumour(sp), to draw unsupported conclusions, and to get disaffected with others until we imagine untrue things about them which we then state to others."
Gossip is not simply speaking about someone when he or she is not around. Sometimes that is necessary and even good. Gossip is malicious. It deals in unsupported suspicions and unfair characterizations. It often involves a desire to take away another person's good reputation or good standing--and results in a sort of thievery. The gossiper, intentionally or unintentionally, steals the reputation of another person.
One of the most humorous bits of gossip I've ever heard surfaced during my first year at Good Shepherd. Someone got it into his or her head that I wanted to shut down a ladies group of the church and that in order to do it I'd hatched a plot to move their meeting to the third floor (of the old building) because I knew that few of them could make the climb.
By the time I finally heard this particular bit of "news", I was already in deep hot water with a number of ladies who unfortunately believed what they had heard. As ridiculous as the rumor is in hindsight, it caused a great deal of turmoil in the church because it capitalized on and seemed to confirm certain currents of anxiety circulating at the time. People were worried about the changes the new pastor would bring.
That's generally why and how gossip works and spreads. It plays on existing suspicions or fears or prejudices or dislikes.
In any case, its worth our time to read and think about the article linked above. We're in a new place and at the beginning of a fresh mission to the people of the south-side, its a good time to make a clean break and leave sinful patterns and habits in the past.
This sermon was preached by Good Shepherd's youth minister, Micah Towery, last Sunday as part of our ongoing series in the book of First John.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
This is a plea that all of you would build into your lives both personal devotions and purposeful study of God’s word.
Daily prayerful meditation seeking personal application of God’s word to your own heart and life.
Regular study in a class or with a book where the (living or dead) teacher has seen more than you have and can give you insight in 30 minutes that might otherwise take you ten years to see.
The reason I plead for both is that without a book or a class about what some part of the Bible means and a teacher who is ahead of you, your devotions will probably flatten out at a low level of insight.
Year after year you will go over the same biblical ground and find it as perplexing as before. There will be little advance in understanding. This will tend to take the heart out of devotional reading, because the lack of growth cannot sustain the joy.
Seek out preaching, books, and classes which take you further in grasping what various books and texts in the Bible mean.
hat tip Northwest Anglican
Monday, March 23, 2009
I've been looking for resources to help explain the Anglican way to evangelicals and all the while a really good resource has been sitting under my nose in the form of a book, Anne reminded me of it this morning, entitled "Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail". Here is a section of one of the reviews posted on Amazon:
My movement toward Anglicanism was prompted by the question of what St. Paul meant by "fear and trembling" and this book tells the stories of others who moved toward the liturgy, worship as defined by the Apostles who knew Christ personally and whose personal relationship with Christ was defined by the One Lord Himself. The authors also speak highly of their roots in Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism. Without rancor or bitterness they appreciate, as I do, the love and the truth of the Gospel expressed in those traditions. But they discovered something richer in the Liturgical Tradition of Anglicanism that didn't diminish what they believed before, but gave it context and depth. For fellow seekers from Evangelicalism I recommend this book.
And here's another
A line from Robert Webber's book that may startle both evangelicals and Anglicans alike reads, "As I meditate on my worship experience in the Episcopal tradition, I find I am drawn to it because it is so thoroughly evangelical." This book tells his story and the story of several others at Wheaton College who found themselves drawn to the Anglican tradition. For a time I lived in a foreign country and a city where the best choice for worship was the Anglican church; otherwise, as a good card-carrying evangelical, I may never have set foot in one. What I found was eye-opening to me, and I was thrilled to find that Robert Webber has written a book that puts this experience into words.
Liturgy is evangelical? Absolutely. As Webber points out, in the average Anglican service, more Scripture is read than at most community Bible churches. Responsive readings invite people to interact with the Word. The atmosphere of doctrinal litmus-testing that is so readily apparent in most evangelical churches takes a backseat, allowing honest study and inquiry-people can come to God first before they must seek approval from the congregation. The "point" of the service is worship and communion with God (not least because communion/Eucharist happens every week), and not entertainment by the worship team and pastor. The worship and activities of the church are tied to a rich historical tradition, thus freeing them from the mood of the moment, whatever the modern culture or a particular congregation feels comfortable with...
I think this book will be a great help those of you trying to figure out all what all this Anglican stuff means.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Romans 8:1-4 (from the daily lectionary for Sunday March 19th, 2006)
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1)
One of my favorite radio preachers often reminds his listeners that when you see a “therefore” in the bible you always need to ask yourself, “what is the therefore there for?” In this case, the “therefore” in Romans 8:1 refers to Paul’s description of his own personal struggle with besetting sin in chapter 7. “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…” (Romans 7:19)
There are some who contend that the struggle he recounts in chapter 7 is an experience pulled from his pre-conversion memory; that Christians cannot and do not experience such failure and heartbreak.
While I’m sympathetic to the argument, I think the majority view, that Paul is describing his Christian experience, corresponds more with the surrounding chapters which describe the process of Christian sanctification, of being cleansed and purified by God while struggling personally against the old sin nature. It would be odd, in my opinion, to use a pre-conversion memory as an illustration here.
But that’s not the only reason I think so. My own Christian experience both personally and as a pastor tells me that moral falls and failures are, unfortunately, a normative part of the believer’s life. I don’t necessarily mean egregious, notorious falls. I mean the daily private personal ones; the falls and failures nobody sees but God—those impulsive and ingrained habits of thought word, and sadly, deed, that daily darken the life of the believer.
Shouldn’t believers, new creations, be done with these?
Yes we should, but no we aren’t.
As I look back over my walk with Christ, I see a trail of divine victories. The most vile, vicious, and deadly behaviors that slowly devoured me before my conversion have been brought to heel. Christ has conquered.
And yet even as those have been nailed to the cross, I find myself clinging inwardly to their roots. And even as those roots are exposed and destroyed by the Spirit’s refining fire, deeper and stronger roots come to light.
I am brought to despair.
As the Spirit daily illumines the deeper recesses of my heart, I see myself as I am and cannot stand the sight.
But this despair is common. The true contemplation of God’s glory, said Calvin, brings man to a truthful contemplation of himself. It is the resulting recognition of utter personal unworthiness that leads nonbelievers to salvation and believers to repentance.
It is this holy despair that leads Paul to fall at Christ’s pierced feet and cry out, “What a wretched man I am! Who can rescue me from this body of death?”
And it is those same pierced feet that evoke the answer, “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Holy despair leads Paul again and again to the grace of God and the power of his Spirit and the foot of his cross.
And it is the cross that overshadows the first passages of Romans 8.
“There is now,” says Paul, “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. ” (Romans 8:1-4)
Sin is condemned in sinful man through the sin offering of Christ’s own body and blood on the cross. And because of that offering and sacrifice, those who believe, those who come to the point of holy despair, have access to a Power deeper, stronger, and more ancient than the rotted roots of sin entwined about our souls.
Surrendering our roots to that Power is the struggle that consumes our present life. But thanks be to God, it is a temporary struggle against a defeated foe.
Thanks be to God that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Happy Thursday, well looks like it will be another short Thursday Notes today...not that there aren't lots of things going on.
We had a great visit with Bishop Murdoch last Sunday. It was good to see, tangibly, that we are not alone--that the Anglican world is wide and broad and that we remain connected to it. He taught class, preached a powerful sermon (you can listen too it here) celebrated communion and Confirmed seven of our brothers and sisters.
Congratulations Confirmands: Charles, Ife, Matt, Doug, John, Christina, and Micah. Welcome to the Anglican Communion. Don't worry, we'll hold you to your promises ; )
The Last Court Hearing: I wrote the following to the congregation Tuesday:
The last phase of the lawsuit that the Diocese of filed against us will be heard this coming Friday at 11am at the Broome County Courthouse (same location as the first time)
This time, the Diocese is seeking to take the endowment a parishioner left to us in his will. The argument of the diocese is that we "no longer exist" as a church since we left the Episcopal Church.
You are all invited to come to show that, indeed, we do exist. The vestry will be there and so will I.
At the same time, I am fully aware--and we should all be aware--that God has and will take care of us no matter what happens to this endowment...
The endowment is not vital to the life of Good Shepherd.
Only Christ is vital to the life of Good Shepherd and he is with us wherever we go.
I am not the least bit worried about the outcome of this hearing. It would be a great blessing to win and it would be a great blessing to lose. Either way, God will be glorified and show himself to be good and faithful.
Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: George Zavos is scheduled to cook. We'll move into chapter 2 of first Samuel.
The Vestry voted: and we are now a member church of the Missionary District of New England. Bishop Murdoch is our bishop.
Thursday Night bible Study will meet tonight at 6:30pm in the Conklin Avenue gym after the Shepherd's Bowl
Baptism: Matthias Boeker will be baptized on Palm Sunday...which, incidentally, is only 3 weeks from now on April 5th. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and have yet to be baptized, please see Anne or me. Christ calls all his followers to be baptized as a public sign and declaration of your faith and in order to initiate you visibly into the visible Body of Christ, his church.
The Shack: If you are thinking about reading or have read The Shack, be sure to listen to this interview first.
Women's Bible Study: There will be Women's Bible Study this Sunday at 10am in the parish hall.
Acolytes: Now that things are sort of settling down, we really really need to have an acolyte practice to figure out how to move around on the altar area. The first practice will be Saturday the 29th of March at 11:00am. Please mark your calendars but I'll call you to be sure. If you are interested in being an acolyte please contact anne at email@example.com
John Piper on the Recession: If you did not get a chance to watch this sermon this week, try to...it's very good.
Christian Theology: At Good Shepherd we spend a lot of time delving into the depths of God's Word at bible study, in class and in the sermons...but in order to really process what we read in scripture and hear in sermons, it is important to have an established framework in your mind...a grounded understanding of Christianity from the very beginning--the nature and character of God--to the end, eschatology and the final consummation of God's purposes on earth.
To meet that need, a need felt not only at Good Shepherd, but throughout the city, I am planning to teach offer a "Systematic Theology" class that will meet Saturday afternoons beginning after easter. This class will include reading assignments and discussion that require you to work and study hard--to think hard and discuss openly ideas and concepts that can be very challenging. The class will be something to commit to. But I believe the commitment will pay off in a deepened relationship with Jesus Christ, a deepened love for his Word, and an increasingly transformed mind.
You will hear more about this class in the coming weeks, but think about it, pray about it, tell people about it and I pray that you will sign up when the opportunity comes.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
But this morning Micah sent me an interview with Mr. Young which is, unfortunately, pretty bad. Young rejects the doctrine of substitutionary atonement and seems to hold a rather skewed vision of God's character...but judge for yourself. Here's the interview...
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Date: Tuesday April 7, 2009
Time: 4:30-7:00 PM
Place: 42 Chenango Street, Binghamton, NY
(First Presbyterian Church)
Our Syracuse Food Services staff will prepare the food, but we will need 40 volunteers to help in other ways. People can get involved as greeters, seaters, servers, kitchen work, etc.
Could you please let people in your church know about this opportunity to serve? If anyone is interested in helping, they need to sign up by calling Lisa, our Director of Volunteer Services. She can be reached at 315-701-3841. If someone is interested, they should call A.S.A.P. Once she gets 40 people she will stop accepting volunteers.
If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me. Thanks so much for your interest in serving the needs of some of our less fortunate neighbors.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Text: John 2--the Cleansing of the Temple
Friday, March 13, 2009
Dr. Ferguson suggests that worship ought always to be sensitive to the seeker...it's just that many churches have forgotten the Seeker to whom we must be sensitive (John 4:23). Does that describe Good Shepherd?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
No time to write a long edition of the "Thursday Notes" this afternoon, so I'll just pass on the basics.
Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Brian and Tom are cooking...6:30am Friday morning. We're still in 1st Samuel 1...so its a great time to hop in if you've been wanting to attend.
Thursday Bible Study...is on for tonight at Conklin Avenue Baptist Church after the Shepherd's Bowl. I'll be there as soon as I can but it looks like I won't be there until 6:20pm and the bible study starts at 6:30pm...but I'll try to get there earlier. We're in Matthew 27.
Women's Bible Study is on for Saturday morning at 10:00am
Podcast: If you didn't get a chance to listen to Anne's sermon last week, here it is.
Knowing God's Will: here is an article I posted this week in case you didn't see it on Knowing God's will.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Very recently a parishioner asked about the practice of casting lots. It seems that a good friend was planning to make a relatively major life-decision by lot casting (after all, the friend said, "there are many examples of casting lots in the bible"). My parishioner, wisely, was concerned that this might not be the best way to determine God's will. I answered his question in the email posted below (with permission) and thought little of it until recently when I learned that a number of orthodox Anglican groups and apparently even congregations have also cast lots to make very significant corporate decisions. This practice is most prevalent, oddly--and you will see why I say that in a moment--among a few (not all) of those Christians who consider themselves "Spirit filled."
Thanks for your note. Casting lots is mentioned quite a bit in the Old Testament. In fact, the High Priest--with divine sanction--regularly used the "Umin and Thumin"(Exodus 28:30 etc...) to determine God's will which may have involved a form of lot casting (Some suggest that the "Umin and Thumin" were two stones of different colors--presumably one representing a "yes" and the other a "no")
In the New Testament casting lots is mentioned as well...but there is a little less clarity. The practice is mentioned most in the gospels. It is not, however, mentioned in a positive way. "The soldiers cast lots for his clothing...." I'm not so sure that your friend would want to emulate that example. This is, by the way, why it's so important to actually read the bible for yourself rather than taking someone else's word for what it says--that a practice is "mentioned" however many times in scripture does not mean necessarily that it is a "biblical" practice. I know you know that...but you might want to mention that in a gentle way to your friend.
The last New Testament mention of casting lots is found in Acts 1. Following the Ascension, the disciples met to decide who would take Judas Iscariot's place among the disciples. Matthias was selected by lot. There is no reason to assume that God did not act in and through lot casting in that instance.
But (I'll bet you knew that was coming) I think it telling that the very last mention of lot casting comes in Acts1...what happens in Acts 2? Pentecost. The Holy Spirit indwells the church in Acts 2 and from that moment on all those who believe receive the Spirit of God.
In the remainder of Acts, God directs the apostles directly through the Holy Spirit and the various prophetic "gifts" he brings--not through lots. In fact, the passage in Acts in which one would most expect, on the basis of the Acts 1 model, to find lot-casting--Acts 6: the choosing of the seven deacons--a passage that closely parallels the choosing of Matthias by lot--the practice is noticeably absent. Lots, it seems, are no longer necessary for a community indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
The possibility of casting lots to discern God's will is also absent from the epistles...particularly in those sections you would think it would be mentioned. For example, in 1 Cor 12-14 when Paul discusses the "gifts of the Spirit" (see also Romans 12) there are a number of gifts that are given precisely for the purpose of helping the church discern the will of God...prophesy, the interpretation of tongues, the word of knowledge..."lot casting" is never mentioned, discussed or considered.
In addition to its absence among the NT gifts explicitly mentioned in 1st Corinthians and Romans 12, there are some key texts that give us insight the ways God expected early believers (and by extension, present day believers) to be "led" by the Holy Spirit.
Look in particular at 1 Cor 2:11-15:For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Believers are indwelled by the Spirit and have, therefore, the "mind of Christ." We do not need to cast lots to determine the mind of Christ, we are indwelled by the Spirit of the Living God--we have his "mind" already. This fact undergirds Paul's constant prayer for the Philippians... "asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding..." (Phil 1:9). Paul assumes that the discernment of the will of God is a spiritual...not a mechanical matter.
You see a very similar assumption underlying Paul's exhortation in 1st Corinthians 6:1-5.When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers,
Here Paul tells the Corinthians not to take disputes to secular courts because even believers of "little account" have been equipped by virtue of their standing or status "in Christ" with the capacity, the wisdom, to "judge" between believers.
Does this mean that a Christian or a Christian community, with the "mind of Christ" earnestly employing the natural and spiritual gifts God provides to determine a future course will always make good decisions? Of course not but there seems to be, and I am less certain about this, an understanding on Paul's part that the decision of a community--and I think this would apply individual as well--may be "blessed" by God in so far as the "resolve" is "good"...in other words in so far as the decision represents a good faith attempt employing divinely given natural and spiritual resources to discern God's will and follow it. Here's Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians: "To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
I don't think you have to be a cessationist (and I am not one) to come to a relatively solid conclusion that believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit are not to "cast lots" to determine God's will. We have the mind of Christ.
The import of all of these considerations leads me to believe that in circumstances not governed by a biblical injunction or instruction, believers are (no shocker here) to use both their natural wisdom and spiritual gifts to make decisions. And in so far as we have sought to be consistent with God's purposes and to bring him glory, it is reasonable to assume that God can and will work through and bless even our mistakes.
Here are a few questions I think believers should ask themselves before making a decision.
1. Is there a biblical principle or instruction implied or expressed that governs this circumstance...if so, well, follow it.
2. Has the believing community to which I belong (in this case_____) committed to a corporate mission, decision, or direction? If so, is my personal decision consistent or inconsistent with it? God speaks through the Body of Christ
3. Have I prayed consistently about this decision?
4. Does one way seem more reasonable than the other...remember God gave us minds as well as spirits. Many Christians, far too often, hold plain reason suspect--indeed some seem to purposefully make decisions contrary to it in order to demonstrate that they are "walking in the Spirit"...which is simply foolishness.
5. Are circumstances narrowing the decision-making process...has God closed or opened any doors in one direction or another?
6. Will this decision hurt or harm or in any way negatively effect my Christian witness, my ability to contribute to the mission of the community of which I am a member, or any brother or sister who may hear about it?
7. Do I sense in my prayers that God is guiding me in a certain direction? This "sense" is, of course, quite subjective...which is why I have put it last...but there is often a strong sense of God's leading one way or the other. Two caveats: 1. God never leads us to act in ways contrary to scripture...2. Unless the believing community to which we belong is waaay off base, he rarely calls us to act in ways that conflict with its mission and call.
Hope this helps...please feel free to follow up with any questions, objections etc...
Please be sure to come support and celebrate with your brothers and sisters this Sunday at the 10:30am service. There will be a reception afterwards.
In addition to preaching and celebrating Communion and Confirmation, the bishop will also lead Adult Sunday School between classes beginning at 9:15
Monday, March 9, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
A question arose during confirmation class this evening. We were discussing Article 13 of the 39 Articles of Religion which states that the "good works" done by unbelievers are "not pleasant" to God. Someone asked about unbelievers who live lives and do works that are obviously good...often better than those of Christians. Gandhi's name came up in the discussion along with some other very noble non-Christians. Why would God be displeased with the obviously good things that these people have done? Here is my attempt to answer that question.You may want to refer to Article 13 of the 39 Articles, Romans 1:18-25, and Ephesians 2:1-4
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
by Matt Kennedy
We've been hitting “feelings” pretty hard lately in sermons and in the adult ed class...and for good reason. In so many ways ours is a culture that lives, dies, thrives and decides on the basis of how we feel at any given moment. The “I'm not 'in love' with my spouse anymore so I'm filing for divorce” syndrome is widespread. Work commitments, promises, friendships, and marriages end because people no longer “feel happy” doing the work these things require. Carried over into the Christian context the “I'm not 'in love' with my spouse anymore so I'm filing for divorce” syndrome easily becomes, “I'm not 'getting anything out of' church anymore so I'm leaving” or “Christianity isn't 'working for me' like it used to so I'm looking for something else” or “My God wouldn't want me to stay in a relationship that makes me unhappy”
Following Jesus often means not following our hearts. The prophet Jeremiah warned, “the heart is deceitful above all things”. We often feel pretty good about things we should be ashamed of and ashamed of things we should feel good about. So we can't rely on feelings to guide us in our decision making. That is as true for believers as it is for non-believers because even as God transforms believer's minds and hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit, we're often drawn toward things that displease him. Sin crouches at the door.
All of this being true, emotions are not bad things. God created feelings. The feeling of being “in love” is a good thing. The experience of God's presence in worship is to be relished and treasured. Satisfaction at a job well done is to be savored. Anger at injustice, sadness at the loss of a loved one, jealousy in marriage—all of these emotions, when they are rightly ordered, serve good and necessary purposes and often add beauty and poignancy to life.
Feelings are not to be killed off—Christians are not stoics—but rather channeled properly and enjoyed. They are not ends in themselves—we should not strive to evoke or generate a given emotion—but they are natural byproducts of a full and wholesome life rightly lived.
Marriage is a great illustration of this principle. We often marry someone because we fall in love. Being in love is deeply enjoyable emotion. But when you stand at the altar and make your vows, you do not promise to be “in love” with your spouse till death do you part. You promise, rather, to “agape” your spouse...to act with sacrificial, self-giving love in your marriage. It is certain that the feeling of “in love-ness” will fade but so long as you are committed to “agape” your spouse, it will not fade forever. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows over the course of your relationship. It is not a feeling that you can seek out or gin up. It's something that comes naturally in your relationship as you live out your commitment. Enjoy passion when it rises but don't chase after it. Let it come and let it go. Love—or “agape”--your husband or your wife and the feeling of being “in love” will follow.
The same could be said of your relationship with Jesus Christ. Agape Christ. Serve him and sacrifice yourself for his sake, study and pray and participate in his body and the feelings of rapture, love, zeal, exhilaration, will come naturally and go naturally. You will go through “dry periods” and you will experience emotional highs. Don't seek either one. When the “feeling” is gone it's not time to find another church, another retreat center, another motivational speaker to gin it up again. Seek Christ, agape the Lord, and your emotions will order themselves.
People often ask me how they can know God's will or purpose for their lives. Often this question is expressed with a great deal of frustration and confusion. The first question I'll ask in response is: have you been reading and studying your bible? Usually, the answer is no. Then I'll ask “How consistently do you pray?” And most often the person has not been praying daily. Finally, knowing the answer, I'll ask, “Do you consistently participate in the worship life of the Body of Christ?” and the answer, usually, is no. How can anyone expect to know God's will or purpose while consistently neglecting the means through which and by which he has promised to reveal himself? The more you know God as he reveals himself through scripture, prayer and the church, the easier it is to know his will not simply in a general sense but in a very specific and personal way.
I think the same principle is true for Christian “experience”. How can you expect to feel the “love” of Christ and the “joy” of being an adopted son or daughter of the Father if you ignore the very means through which and by which God has promised to breathe his life and grace and love into you? When you “love” or agape the Lord by daily spending time in his Word, daily spending time in prayer, and weekly worshiping him in the fellowship of other believers, then you've opened yourself to feelings of wonder, awe, devotion, and peace. Commitment and covenant keeping precede and set the foundation for the experience of God. If you chase religious experience apart from disciplined commitment, you will find yourself increasingly frustrated.
But if you seek Christ, serve Christ, agape Christ, all of these things will be added to you.
Read the rest of the Weekly Update here
Thursday, March 5, 2009
We've received some very good news this week that I'm still unable to post publicly, but be sure to check your email.
Sermons: This Sunday we'll continue our Lenten sermon series on 1st John. This week we take on 1:5-10
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
This is one of the best texts to turn to in order to understand the meaning of repentance and to see the love and faithfulness of God toward all who truly repent. To prepare for Sunday, read the passage, dwell on it, think about what John was trying to communicate to his readers, ask God to help you understand it and apply it to your life.
Podcasts: I've lost the podcast of last Sunday's sermon on the first 4 verses of 1st John. I'll re-record it tomorrow and post it up.
Tithes and Pledges: Just a reminder that we've finally set up our own bank account so all checks should be made out to The Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd.
Parish Constitution: I'll be posting the new parish constitution, article by article, over the next several weeks, so keep an eye on this site. I've already posted Article 1
Spring Forward: It's that time of the year again when you wake up feeling like its only 7am and discover, to your horror, that it's already 8. Great fun. Remember to turn your clocks forward one hour Saturday night before you go to bed.
The Bishop's Visit: Bishop Bill Murdoch will preach, teach and celebrate Communion and Confirmation at Good Shepherd on Sunday March 15th, 2009. This is a big thing, the first time Good Shepherd has hosted a bishop since 2005 so we're going to pull out the stops.
The bishop will meet with the vestry and the candidates for Confirmation on Saturday. The agenda for his entire visit is still being worked out so I'll publish more information as I get it. There are about six of our brothers and sisters being confirmed that day so please be sure to be there to support them and show your love for them.
Confirmation: If you're being confirmed or recieved during the bishop's visit please meet at the church this Saturday (the 7th) at 2:00pm in the parish hall for a discussion of Anglican Christianity. Please be sure to read through the 39 Articles of Religion before the meeting and come prepared to discuss. If you are not being confirmed or recieved but are interested in the discussion, you're more than welcome to join in.
Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Micah is Cooking tomorrow morning...everything gets started at 6:30am in the parish hall.
Thursday Bible Study: There will be bible study tonight at 6:30pm after the Shepherd's Bowl at Conklin Avenue Baptist Church...I won't be there until about 10 minutes till the bible study starts tonight since my car is at the mechanic's and I have to wait for Anne to come back from taking Emma to ballet.
Women's Bible Study will examine Psalm 22, a chapter of praise in the midst of suffering and a graphic depiction of the crucifixion. Women's Bible Study begins at 10:00am every Saturday in the parish hall. All women are welcome!
The (ACW) will he their monthly meeting followed by lunch on Tuesday, March 10 after the Class. Everyone is welcomed to the meeting and/or lunch. We will be discussing plans for the Reception for the Bishop and those will be confirmed or baptized on March 15.
Greeting Guests: I don't know if you've noticed, but God's blessed us with a great deal of numerical growth lately. Good Shepherd has always been a friendly place and I've heard very good feedback from people who visit...people feel welcome from the moment they walk in the door to the moment they leave.
I do think there are ways we can do even better. This list of Guest ministries from Crosspoint Baptist Church provides a pretty good way of organizing our thoughts about welcoming guests...admittedly the name of their program is probably not something we'd want to copy ("Touch Ministry" sounds a little scary).
Guest Services: Guest Services involves the transfer of information about church ministries and programs to Sunday morning participants. Development and administration of an information center is the primary responsibility of this ministry team.
➢ Parking/Shuttle Service: The Parking/Shuttle Team will be responsible for providing smiling faces, a warm greeting, and assistance to all who arrive at each campus on Sunday mornings. They will seek to make it easy to park and locate entrances for specific classes, age groups and activities. They drive golf carts and other shuttle vehicles on Sunday mornings and for special events.
➢ Greeters: Greeters will greet people at the doors and assist them in finding classes and/or the worship center at their campus. This ministry team will closely coordinate their work with the Guest Services team and the Hospitality Team.
➢ Ushers: Ushers assist CrossPoint in reaching “Just One More” by providing a warm welcome and personal assistance to worship service attendees. These ministers do such things as distribute worship guides, collect the offering, provide seating assistance, as well as greeting people as they enter the worship center.
➢ Hospitality: This team has a very flexible responsibility. The opportunities for unique approaches are endless. Food is important (remember, we are Baptists), but does not cover the entire scope of this ministry. They assist the Pastor in greeting guests following worship services and handle hospitality needs for special events.
➢ Follow-up: This team seeks to follow up on guests and provide opportunities for them to connect with a Bible Study group. They also assist in serving and welcoming people to the monthly D101 luncheons.
➢ Facilities: This team works to insure that our facilities are neat, clean, and comfortable for members and guests at CrossPoint. Individuals on this team open and close the buildings on Sundays, assist with emergency and routine maintenance needs, and help the staff identify and address facilities and grounds needs.
The "parking shuttle service" isn't something we have to be concerned about yet, but the others are all important. We have made a distinction between ushers who greet people at the door and hand out bulletins and greeters who make sure that guests feel welcome.
One area that has probably slacked a bit at Good Shepherd is "Follow Up". In the past every guest at Good Shepherd would recieve a follow up call or letter or email (depending on which box they marked on their guest card) the very next week after their visit.
Now we give every gift and guest bag, but we aren't as vigilant about handing out guest cards or getting follow up information and when we do, I've beens so busy lately, that I've dropped the ball on getting back to everyone who visits during the week.
One workable solution would be to form a hospitality team, a group of people in charge of coordinating greeters and ushers, being sure that all guests fill out a card, and then taking responsibility for making the follow up call.
In any case, over the next few weeks I'll be thinking and praying about ways to make Good Shepherd an even more welcoming place and I'm asking you to do the same. I hope to have a plan for addressing this question in a month's time.
Well, that's about it for the Thursday notes. Have a happy Thursday.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Meanwhile, please offer prayers of thanksgiving to God, asking him also to bless the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, Sts. Andrew and John Catholic Church and most especially Msgr. Meagher
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
On February 10th, 2009 the vestry and trustees of the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd adopted a Constitution that, by God's grace, will serve as a framework for community life. There are 6 articles in the constitution and I'll be posting one at a time for the next few days...please take the time to read them and if you have any questions or comments please feel free to send them forward or post them in the comments.
The Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd, being a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, confesses Jesus Christ to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one comes to the Father but by Him. Therefore, we profess the following eight articles and truths as characteristic of the Anglican Way, and essential to our fellowship:
We confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation, and to be the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.
We confess Baptism and the Supper of the Lord to be Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself in the Gospel, and thus to be ministered with unfailing use of His words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.
We confess the godly historic Episcopate as an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, and therefore as integral to the fullness and unity of the Body of Christ.
We confess as proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture the historic faith of the undivided church as declared in the three Catholic Creeds: the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian.
Concerning the seven Councils of the undivided Church, we affirm the teaching of the first four Councils and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth and seventh Councils, in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures.
We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.
We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.
We affirm the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Statement and Jerusalem Declaration issued 29 June 2008.
In all these things, the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd is determined by the help of God to hold and maintain the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ and to transmit the same, unimpaired, to our posterity.
We seek to be and remain in full communion with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacraments and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Leading up to the bishop's visit and perhaps continuing afterwards, there will be a series of discussion of Anglican Christianity, starting this coming Saturday at 2:00pm at the church for those who desire to be confirmed, recieved, etc.
If you are just interested in in general, you are more than welcome to sit in and join the discussion.
If you are part of the group to be confirmed or received, please read through the 39 Articles of Religion before Saturday's class and be ready to discuss.