Month: September, 2012

He’s Still Knocking At The Door…

(originally published on Blogger on September 4, 2012)

Pastor Barclay Mayo in Squamish, BC, touched on something close to my heart in his most recent blog post:

(Rev.3-4) I think that many, if not most, of what we call the “mainline” church today are bound by the sin of indifference. You might even call it laziness. We just don’t behave as if our faith is important enough to inform and impact every aspect of our lives…and in doing so, relegate Jesus to the sphere of “nice to have when we need him”
Lest we think that this is a new phenomena, one has only to look at the letters to the churches in Revelation chapter 3. The churches in Sardis and Laodicea treated Jesus with contempt. In one, Sardis, it was covered well. Jesus said, “you have the reputation of being alive, but are dead!”.(1) They were essentially playing at church without any commitment to the faith that was supposed to support and uphold it. There was a remnant, but even that was at risk unless there were some drastic changes.
There are many churches in our own society, like Sardis, just going through the motions. Jesus said, “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief and you will not know what hour I will come against you.” (3)…

(read the rest of PadreMayo’s blog post here)

My heart is moved deeply by the fact that so many churches out there now identify themselves as “Christian”, while simultaneously distancing themselves from God’s Word and trying to incorporate North American society trends into their list of beliefs.  Eternal truths are dismissed as “out of date” or “culturally irrelevant”, while the passing winds that sway modern society are embraced as if they were chiseled in stone.

Humans are odd.  Whatever “everyone says” today is accepted as THE final answer to everything, while what “everyone said” last year (or ten or a hundred years ago) is dismissed as “Oh, but we know better now!” – ignoring the fact that “we know better now!” is just what “everyone” thought last year (or ten or a hundred years ago).  And that’s what “everyone” will think next year (or ten or a hundred years from now) when this year’s “everyone says” is discarded in its turn.

In the world are many people who do not believe in Jesus, or even in any God.  Jesus continues to diligently seek them out and call them.  But what of those who think they know Him while actively denying what He says in Scriptures when it doesn’t agree with what “modern society” thinks?  How do you re-introduce people to Jesus when they think they already know Him (even though they deny Him)?

“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked… Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him…”  (Rev. 3:17, 19-20)

The Lord be with you!

The Anglican Sojourner Fellowship Website Is Live!

(Originally published on Blogger August 21, 2012)

The Anglican Sojourner Fellowship website is live!

Finally!  We (the Interim Steering Committee of the Anglican Sojourner Fellowship) have been working away at the ASF website:  trying to figure out what our focus is, trying to figure out what the sojourners out there will want, trying to discern what the Lord  wants of us.

At last, the first stage is complete!

Now you can come visit our website at http://anglicansojourners.ca.  Welcome!

So what is a Sojourner?

What is a Sojourner?  Initially we thought of sojourners strictly as Anglicans who have become disillusioned with the Anglican Church in Canada – Anglicans who are “faithful Christians attempting to live their lives as disciples of Jesus Christ in a wide variety of circumstances”, yet feel that their local Anglican church is not supporting them – in faith, in belief, or in discipleship.

We’ve come to realize, though, that there are other sojourners out there.  Here’s what our Convenor, Mark Larratt-Smith, says in the introduction to the website, “A Bridge Of Living Stones“:

“The essence of living as a sojourner is to be a stranger in a strange land. Peter calls us all “Exiles”. Change is our daily reality. We are all familiar with the upheaval in our own lives and those of our Christian friends and acquaintances.  Yet, this is a field for ministry which traditional churches can only partly address. How do you support those who are in transition, or who are moving from church to church trying to fill the hollow in their hearts? How do you reach out to the disillusioned Christian who has given up on church entirely? Who can do that if not those walking the same road?”

If you are a Christian who accepts the historic faith of the Christian Church over the centuries as it has recently been expressed in the Jerusalem Declaration of 2008, you may be interested in joining our Fellowship, either as a Friend (supplementing your other Christian involvements with the resources on the ASF website) or as an Active Member.  (By the way, we do not expect every Friend or Active Member to join an ANiC Anglican church).

Come and visit, ask questions, and if so moved, become a member of the ASF!

Light Of The World

(originally published on Blogger on August 21, 2012)

Every time a Christian does something sinful – something mean or evil – the non-Christian world will look on and say “See!  That’s what those lousy Christians are like!”

Whenever we do something un-Christian, the world will claim that we did it BECAUSE we are Christian.

We are the Body of Christ – we know it, we proclaim it.  What, then, can we say to the world when part of the Body of Christ does something un-Christ-like?

We can try to explain that we, like they, are sinful human beings, and although we are saved in Christ we’re not perfect yet –  but non-Christians tend to regard that as a cop-out.

When we sin, it doesn’t just affect the people directly involved; it doesn’t just affect us.  It is grabbed and used by the Enemy as a means to discredit Christ Himself.

O Lord, have mercy on us; open our eyes to our own sinfulness and bring us to repentence, that we may truly be Your light in the world.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:14-16)

Working With The Anglican Sojourner Fellowship

(originally published on Blogger June 20, 2012)

I’ve spent May and June working as part of the Interim Steering Committee of the Anglican Sojourners Fellowship (ASF), a ministry of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC).  I’m really excited about the way God is working – in the ASF, the ANiC, and other churches in North America!  There is a real move afoot for Christians to affirm the Gospel and stand boldly for the Good News as given us in God’s Word, the Bible.

“From orphans to sojourners:
This project started with “Orphan Anglicans” – isolated Christians who live where there are no biblically faithful Anglican churches. Our vision involves turning orphans into sojourners: disciples, living in the world, but belonging and connected to each other through Jesus Christ. In other words, to become “living stones … being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5)”

“Creating an online Church fellowship:
Many Christian groups are exploring the potential of the internet for ministry. Our challenge is not just to connect those who are isolated, but to build a fellowship that will reach out to seekers. Our aim is empowerment for ministry and outreach. In all this we see the “virtual” church as an extension of and support for the “physical” church. We are all part of a single house – the “spiritual house” of Jesus Christ.”

(from the Anglican SojournerFellowship page of the ANiC website)

As part of the ASF, I’ve been working to help get the new ASF website ready to go “live”.  We’re all praying that the ASF, through this website, will be an instrument in God’s hands to help other Sojourners on the way.  Our particular mission is to confessing Anglicans who feel orphaned by the drift of so many Anglican churches away from God’s word.

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Since I originally wrote this post, the ASF website has gone live!  If you feel yourself to be an Anglican “orphan”, you are welcome here – and we want to hear from you!

We also ask you to pray for the ASF as we seek to find and follow God’s will in this new ministry.

And if you feel in need of encouragement and fellowship, please consider joining the ASF.  If you need to talk to someone, you can email our Convenor, Mark Larratt-Smith, from the “Email Mark” link at the bottom right of any page of the website, or email me by filling in the “Contact Us” form on the bottom of any page.

And of course, you’re welcome to leave comments on any blog post.

Ashamed Of The Gospel?

(originally published on Blogger May 22, 2012)

“Ashamed of the Gospel” is actually the title of a Michael K.Reynolds blog from September 2011.

“If we believe Jesus is the King of Kings then why do we treat Him like the Thief of Galilee?
Okay. Maybe not you. But the rest of us weak-kneed Christians are willing to admit we’re afraid…
we tuck Jesus away in the lock box and only take Him out when we feel it’s safe…”

This one hit me pretty hard, because I have a real problem sharing the gospel with someone who didn’t specifically ask me about my faith, or my church, or some such related question.  And it bothers me all the more because I am not, at bottom, ashamed of the Gospel – I worry about my friends and relations (and complete strangers) who don’t know the Lord, and long to be able to influence them.

I think one of the additional factors at play here – which probably affects a lot of adult converts like me, who did not grow up in a Christian church – is training.  Not to put too fine a point on it, when I was growing up, I learned two particular things:  1) to despise Christians, and 2) to steer violently away from any conversation that involved talking about Jesus.

(And I have to say here that this is one sign of God’s infinite love and mercy – that He chased me down and captured my heart despite that upbringing!  Thank You, Lord!)

That upbringing means that I now have to fight the childhood-born fear that my Christian faith will be despised by others (something which has proved to be true more than once… *sigh*).  Not to mention that starting a conversation about my faith means overcoming that ingrained “avoidance” reaction.

This is something I’m struggling with right now, because it is becoming clear to me that this reluctance is NOT what the Lord requires of me!

Dear reader, I do ask your prayers for my own turnabout – that I won’t be ashamed of the Gospel any more.

Thinking About Sin, Part 2

(Originally published on Blogger May 1, 2012)

Mark Larratt-Smith (Convenor of the Anglican Sojourner Fellowship) sent me a really great email response to my “Thinking About Sin” post, and I’m re-printing it here with Mark’s permission.

 “I agree with you that defining sin as just broken connections is an inadequate statement, especially when speaking about our relationship with God. Our relationship with Him is all important. After all, He is our Creator – our origin! The marvellous thing about Jesus Christ is that while he told us that nothing less than sinless perfection is acceptable to God, he also, by his bearing our sins on the cross has made it possible for us to stand before his Father in his righteousness rather than in our sin. The message that our sins and failures need not be fatal is why the Gospel is such “Good News”.

“As you point out though, we cannot afford to take sin lightly if our freedom is purchased at such a cost. In understanding the nature and consequences of sin, I have found the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Christian pastor and theologian who was martyred by the Nazis, to be immensely helpful. Bonhoeffer argues that the heart of human sin is described in the story of the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve assert their right to the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In that assertion, Bonhoeffer argues: “Man knows good and evil, but, because he is not the origin, because he acquires this knowledge only at the price of estrangement from the origin, the good and evil that he knows are not the good and evil of God but good and evil against God. … In becoming like God man has become a god against God.” (Bonhoeffer, Ethics)

“It is that estrangement that we each struggle with every day of our lives as we attempt to assert our independence and our control over our own lives. We insist on sitting on the throne of our own heart even to the point of redefining God as a tame projection of the self interest that is our default morality.

“John Stott makes the same point when he states “The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.” (John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ)”

Thank you, Mark – said ever so much better than I could have said it!

Thinking About Sin

(Originally posted on Blogger March 28, 2012)

(I mean, of course, that I’m musing on the IDEA of sin – not that I’m thinking about committing one!)

One modern explanation of sin that I’ve heard (in more than one church, if I recall correctly) is that sin breaks connections – it breaks the communion between you and God, and also breaks the communion between you and other people.

That’s a pretty good definition as far as it goes, but I recently realized that there are a couple of problems with it.

For one thing, defining sin in terms of disconnectedness may lead us to think that sin “isn’t so bad”.  That’s a dangerously slippery slope to get onto, because if it isn’t so bad, there’s not much urgency about doing something about it.  And the longer you let a sin slide, the more it tends to gather buddies to itself – and the less you tend to feel the importance of fighting it.

For another thing, that definition of sin leaves unsaid the consequences of breaking the communion between yourself and God.  Now, if your relationship with other people is broken, that’s a bad thing, involving a lot of pain, anger, and misunderstanding.  But what about your relationship with God?  God isn’t just another acquaintance, another guy you happen to know.  God is the Creator, the Sustainer, the Lord and Giver of Life.  Being disconnected from God means being disconnected from the Source of all good – it means cutting off your own life support.

Being too focused on sin and our own sinful nature can, in itself, lead us too far the other way – away from God’s infinite love and mercy.  That is not a very common danger in today’s world, though.  With today’s emphasis on “it’s all valid”, on “self-esteem”, on – let us be honest – total selfishness, being too focused on sin is not the danger.  The danger lies in brushing off the idea of sin – and thus getting trapped in it.

I can’t leave this subject without looking at those incredible verses in Isaiah:

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. ”  (Isaiah 53:3-6, King James Version)

The Sojourn Begins

(Originally posted on Blogspot March 27, 2012)

What exactly is a “Sojourner”? An Anglican sojourner is an “orphan Anglican” – “isolated Christians who live where there are no biblically faithful Anglican churches” (Anglican Network in Canada:  Anglican Sojourner Fellowship).

As a Canadian sojourner, I’m a member of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). “Members of ANiC are committed to remaining faithful to Holy Scripture and established Anglican doctrine and practices.” Members “embrace Anglican orthodoxy – the biblically-faithful, authentically-Anglican way of following Jesus and being part of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”. This orthodoxy is defined by and centered on the classic formularies – or foundational principles of the Anglican tradition in Canada.”

As an orthodox Anglican Christian, I agree with ANiC’s “What We Believe” statement: “Anglican Network in Canada members believe in:

The supreme authority of the teaching of Holy Scripture as understood within the doctrinal formularies of historical Anglicanism, specifically, the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-nine Articles [the Articles of Religion], the Ordinal [ordaining bishops, priests and deacons] and the Solemn Declaration of 1893.

The triune nature of the one God, and the personal divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The sinfulness of each and every person and the universal need of salvation.

The sinless life, atoning death, bodily resurrection and ascension, heavenly reign and future return in glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The essential realities of salvation encompassing the forgiveness of sins through justification, regeneration and adoption into the Father’s family, union and communion with Jesus Christ and the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the practice of holiness, moral transformation into the image of Christ, and the future resurrection of the body for eternal life.

The preaching of the Word of God, the fellowship of the church, the ministry of the sacraments, and personal prayer – as the principal means of God’s grace.

So far, while there are typical Canadian Anglican churches in my area, there are no ANiC churches, and I don’t know of any other Sojourners. (If there are any out there in the West Kootenays, I’d be glad to hear from you!)  I have, thankfully, found Biblically-faithful local fellowship at Kinnaird Church of God in my home town, but I remain an Anglican in “flavour”.

Why am I a Sojourner? Because it seems to me that if – as in too many modern-day churches – you assume that you can discard anything in the Scriptures that doesn’t happen to agree with modern North American culture, well, you haven’t got anything left on which to base a claim of being a Christian.

ASF News: remember to pray for the upcoming ANiC Synod

Please remember to pray for the upcoming ANiC Synod!  (Synod 2012, November 14-16, Ottawa ON)

(From the September 17 ANiC Newsletter:)

Our synod in Ottawa will mark ANiC’s 5th anniversary as an ecclesial (Church) structure.  From two churches, two priest, two deacons and two bishops, we’ve grown to 67 congregations (including forming congregations) and 160 clergy – including six bishops, active and retired.

If you haven’t registered, you can do so now. See our website for full details.

Our moderator Bishop Don Harvey asks that you pray specifically and often for this important electoral synod which will elect our next moderator to take up the mantle of leadership when Bishop Don retires in mid-2014.  The Rev Garth Hunt has prepared the following prayer for us to use:

Prayer for ANiC synod 2012

Almighty God, You have demonstrated Your favour and covenant faithfulness to Your people, both in the accounts of Scripture and in the experience of the Church through the centuries. We thank You for Your tender care for ANiC and our local congregations over our brief history. 

Visit us, we pray, by Your Spirit with Wisdom and Power at our upcoming Electoral Synod. Preside as Lord and King over all that transpires. Grant discernment and unity to all delegates. Protect us from any snares of the evil one, and may all that is decided be in complete accordance with Your perfect will for ANiC. This we ask in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.  Amen