Tag Archives: God

Day 16: It’s All His

It’s Sunday morning. My church recently asked me to take over one of the support teams for the Sunday services: the Altar Guild. We make sure there’s bread, wine and juice for each service. We bake our own bread and have both a chalice and communion cups. We have around 800 to 1000 people between the two morning services, so it’s a few people to prep and clean as well as maintain the elements. It definitely uses my administrative gifts along with a little strategic thinking.  

We have a priest visiting who is in town to drop his daughter off at Wheaton College. He’s part of a small mission in Portland, Maine. It’s in the very heart of the most unchurched area in the United States. I had a chance to chat because he was using our spare vestments to get ready for the service. I think he used the word small at least twice to describe their mission/church plant. 

I then shared that we had not always been the size we are now. I wasn’t here for the growth to our current size, but I’ve heard the stories: we left the Episcopal Church because of their unfaithfulness to the faith once deposited. We wandered over the years. Some discord occurred, some infighting within leadership, another split. Then reconciliation, the building bridges between the faithful to God gifting us with the enormous former plastics factory for a building. 

I hope I encouraged him with a quick reference to Gideon. “But the Lord said to Gideon: “The people are yet too many.”

Our growth is the Lord’s. Our current numerical strength is the Lord’s. Our faithfulness is the Lord’s. The healings that occur here are the Lord’s. 

It’s. All. The. Lord’s. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 12: True Peace

The concept of posting a blog every day for 30 days is proving very difficult. My post yesterday really needed to be edited more. I may have wedded a couple of themes into one. 

So, I’m thinking I should write and think on the more serious ones and hold them until they are ready and then keep doing regular posts on simpler issues.

Some Reflection 

The events of the past few days in Charlottesville are illuminating. Like shining a light into the dark corner of a garage, we are finding some things we wanted. 

And other things we wish hadn’t seen:

  • We have white supremacist marching around with tiki torches and inciting violence. 
  • A feckless media who seem only too happy to pour gasoline on this fire and fan to flame more passion. 
  • Certain counter protesters inciting violence as well. 
  • A president who hems and haws about clearly condemning white nationalism and white supremacy. 

I’m sorry, but these tiki torch guys needed meme posts of them with bunny ears and pigs noses and the like, you know the snapchat filter stuff. I’m thinking in how to handle them strategically. They needed to be derided and made fun of, instead Antifa showed up and provoked them. Bullies like these white supremacists need to be starved of oxygen (a point I’ve made about Trump in the past) and be treated as the small minority they are. Their social media footprint appears to outweigh their numerical size. They should be called the white tweetbot supremacists. 
Then we have the morally repugnant man-child who used his car as a weapon to murder and maim. This is the temper tantrum of a boy who never became a man. A passion induced frenzy: a pounding on the floor and screaming like toddler, “This is mmmyyyyyy country!!!!”. 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Let Us Be Self-Controlled 

Let us react like grown ups. Punishment is both right and necessary for the man-child. We as Christians should pray for his tortured and twisted soul. And those involved carry tiki torches. And for the souls of those who think mob violence is the proper response to the white supremacists. 

Let us be champions of peace, not capitulation, but True Peace. The peace of Christ. Let us preach and proclaim the Good News: the debt of Sin has been paid, come and find Reconciliation in Christ. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 11: We still have a dream

The Big Picture 

These words are still revolutionary and instructive to us now:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. ” 

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let’s make it personal 

Said another way: Judge No One by the color of their skin. Judge them by what they do and say, not some external facet beyond their control: place of birth, into a rich or poor family, orphaned or not, ethnic background, religious background, southerner or northerner, westerner or easterner, hue of skin or birth defect, male or female or chromosomal defect, lack of limbs or whole, physically attractive or plain looking, short or tall, large frame or small frame, native language, etc. 

There’s something that many Americans have trouble with, and I say this as someone who has lived outside the country about 15 years ago for a period of six years. I worked and traveled in Central and South America working for a Hong Kong based textile machinery company. Additionally my wife is not an American, which she reminds me of from time to time. So here’s the concept: many Americans have been taught (overtly or by implication) to assume only whites can be racist or prejudiced.  I can bear witness to the fact that this is not true. Indigenous peoples all over the America’s are looked down upon. They are domestic help that are treated poorly and paid even worse. Many Spanish speaking countries use a whole list of pejoratives when speaking about blacks. Certain countries are extremely ethnically proud in a way that makes a lot of flag waving Americans look tepid. The Arab owners of textile factories had open disdain for the local workers. The rich oppressed the poor and the poor stole and abused other poor people who were weaker than they. 

Break the chains 

In my post yesterday I simply posted the two biggest set of verses that I thought were most relevant to race and other external differences. I wrote a the very list above for a reason: there are many subtle factors that work into our brains and souls and hearts over the years. We sin against others and they sin against us. These wounds build up and then resentment sets in. 

Psychologists refer to this as “baggage”. 

And that baggage needs to be dropped at the foot of the Cross of Christ. The perfect Son of God hung on a tree for all our sins. He came to his own people and they rejected Him. He suffered the greatest injustice. He was whipped and scourged for our transgressions. 

WE ARE ALL SINNERS. 

WE HAVE ALL SINNED AND FALLEN SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD. 

So leave the baggage. The King has forgiven us. We must forgive. See others as GOD sees them: made in the image of the Most Holy GOD. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 10: Say No To All Forms of Racism, Sexism, Ethnicism, Elitism, etc. 

Galatians 3:27-28

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

Collossians 3

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 8: On Pastor Ken Hall

Pastor Ken Hall

In my blog a couple of days ago I made mention of a Pastor Ken Hall. Ken was the interim pastor at a small independent formerly “bible baptist” church where my brother and I were both on the board. If you know the Midwest you’ll know what I’m about to describe: a formerly full and active church has slowly watched members die off and not be able to attract any new members, the building is getting old and it’s now surrounded by a completely different demographic and it can barely sustain itself but refuses to sell the land and start over. 

Ken took the time over several months to meet with us and teach us the fundamentals of grace.  That experience has kept my brother and I motivated in discipling others. I’ve run a Facebook community page and this blog for a number of years as my way of doing that. My brother was more involved in a new church after we both moved on from the small church so he has been more able to actually disciple people. 

I met with Ken a few more times a few years later when I was struggling as a supervisor. His wise counsel was very helpful. He asked probing questions, kept me thinking. Where had I given ground to Satan? Where did I need to seek forgiveness? Where did I need to give it? 

“Do the next right thing”, he would say. He went to be with Jesus in 2013. That time spent talking about the formative issues of the faith have stuck with me. They’ve impacted the books I read and my perspective on Church and it’s functions. It all drove me deeper into following Jesus, of chasing Him at times. Only to find out I was the one being pursued. 

As I consider going to seminary, this formative experience along with others similar to it has me thinking. What gifts has God given me? What experiences has He given me that point to His purpose with my life? What discipline do I feel led to study? Where do I see God calling me in ministry? 

I’m strongly leaning towards Nashotah House, because Anglo-Catholic seems to be my “tribe” as it were. This probably would not have surprised Ken, he knew how high Church I leaned. 

I would be honored if you would please pray for me as I consider these things. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 6: On Traditions

I’ve been posting every day for about a week now. I posted two posts immediately before I started my 30 day blogging “challenge”. This process of writing everyday has been stressful, but very rewarding. I am feeling a bit of an endorphin rush as I see people are actually reading what I’m writing. Please, please feel free to leave me a comment. I’m looking for feedback. 

So I had coffee with my brother this morning. Over the past couple of years our conversations have slowly moved from primarily political to nearly always theological. We share the same upbringing in all things western philosophy and American. We were both raised Episcopalian. 

As most siblings we disagree on a few things. We had a wide ranging discussion on practical aspects of church life: conversion, baptism, communion and discipleship. The discipleship aspect we are pretty much in agreement on because we were both mentored/discipled by the same man: Pastor Ken Hall. I think I’ve written on Ken before, but I will try to make a post about that in the coming days, I think it’s a story worth repeating. 

My brother and his family attends a non-denominational church. The founding pastor was essentially a Lutheran, so much of their doctrine is Lutheran. Evidently there’s a debate going on now that the founding pastor has departed as to where they sit doctrinally. 

I deeply sympathize with where they sit. The wholesale abdication of the Christian responsibility of teaching the Truths of the faith by the preceeding generations has landed us in this spot. We can look at American Roman Catholicism and see it’s failings: whole congregations of people who think by being baptized and taking communion and going to confession once a year means they are “good to go”, no changed life required. We can see the failure of independent churches that gave rise to Joel Osteens (love of money), Mark Driscols (abuse of authority, lack of humility), Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (I feel good about myself because I worship something once a week) as well as the distinct brands of guilt laden quasi-Christian practice (this one doesn’t seem to need an explanation). 

Which why I’m deeply indebted to those who came before me who saw the need to be faithful. Those who left the Episcopal Church to preserve Tradtional Anglicanism. I, as an Anglican, get to draw from the early church. The Anglican Church was founded well before the Roman Catholic Church decided The Pope was the head of the Church (rather than first among equals) after the fall of Rome. We slowly imbided the ideas coming from the European continent during the reformation. So we aren’t fully Protestant, but more “Reformed Catholic” in the ancient sense of the word catholic. We preach Christ and Him Crucified. We teach the ancient creeds. We preach the bible as the inspired word of GOD. We look to tradition to teach us: what were the practices of the earliest Christians? 

We in the United States have been too quick to change things. We adopted the Seeker Friendly™ model. We pitched the nearly two millennia of church tradition because modernity demanded it. In retrospect this hasn’t turned out well. They did not consider first what they were getting rid of and what the loss might be. 

Chesterton’s fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood. The quotation is from G. K. Chesterton’s 1929 book The Thing, in the chapter entitled “The Drift from Domesticity”:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it

Modernity threw the baby out with the bath water. The Ancient practices support the teachings of the Gospel and the Church herself. They aren’t fences like the analogy above, but more like strings around our fingers, reminding us of Him to whom we owe our devotion. They are, of course, insufficient flying all by themselves. And they are useless if the church doesn’t understand what they are for. But that’s not a case for getting rid of them. It means we need to lean into them: to be teachable. 

They are there if we will but listen: The Rhythm of the liturgy. The morning and evening prayers. The Lectionary. The Eucharist. Baptisms and confirmations.  May God give us the Grace to be humble enough to receive this gift from those faithful followers of Christ who proceeded us. 
Soli Deo Gloria 

PS: as providence would have it the Word and Table podcast (which is essentially Fr Stephen, the Canon Theologian of the ACNA Diocese of the Upper Midwest) posted today is about Anglicanism 

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Foundational Faith

DAY 5

To my most beloved sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus who lives and reigns for evermore:

I make myself breakfast every morning. Ever since my wife and I did the South Beach Diet (which didn’t “stick” by the way) I’ve made eggs for breakfast. I found my morning goes better because I feel fuller for longer. But I goofed a little this morning. I started heating the pan, cracked my eggs and plunked them in the pan to make fried eggs. I’d forgotten an important step though: making sure the pan was hot enough. Sure, I had coated it with a thin layer of oil, but but it just wasn’t hot enough. So what’s the big deal? Well, if you’ve never done it, it means the eggs will stick. A lot. I made what my father in law refers to as fried scrambled eggs. And it’s a pain to clean the pan, stuck and dried on egg. And the end product, the eggs, are not as good as when they are done correctly. Sure, I could eat them but in a restaurant the customer would have sent the food back. It’s similar, but not really the same end result. 

“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you”

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Who Have We Become?

Christians in America: Who are we? How do you first identify yourself? Is it by gender? Is it by place of birth? Some other modifier? Or by denomination? Does anything come before “Christian”? 

I realized in my own life, that I was more defined by my political viewpoints. I was defined by the western education that raised me. By the philosophies of the Greeks and the Romans and the English. None of which is bad, in and of itself in my opinion.

But I had missed the foundational layer: Christ. Christ in me, the Hope of Glory. 

I. Am. Christ’s. 

We cannot serve two masters, we are told in scripture. And the very tenets, the very roots of yourself need to be in Christ. I think this makes the command to “pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin” a little easier to grasp. 

Does some philosophy apart from Christ cause you to stumble? 

Does your self made image need constant care and maintenance? 

Then pluck it out. Tear it out. Burn it down. Dig it up and burn it. 

Whatever. It. Takes

“How?” you ask. The way the Church has for centuries counseled the penitent: With prayer. And fasting. And confession. And giving of alms. And meditation on God’s word. And tears. And supplications. And agonizing and pitiful sobs to the Holy Spirit. Because it’s the only way to dig away the sand to the rock that is Christ. Because your soul depends on it my sisters and my brothers.  And only GOD can give you the strength to do it. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 4 is it?

BIG PICTURE STUFF

Over the past year I’ve been earnestly seeking the Lord’s will for me. I have a job I’ve been in for going on 9 years. It has changed some, but essentially it’s the same. The biggest part was stepping out of a direct supervisory role. My innate tendencies are at odds with the agency I work for. I didn’t “grow up” in their environment and thus still see it from an outsiders perspective. I think this confuses my superiors. It may be more annoyance and frustration and I’m projecting.

One of the very surprising side effects of this little 30 day challenge is how my mood has improved. The cathartic work of putting my ideas down into words has been immensely gratifying. So much so that I spent some time at work yesterday writing and vetting the various tasks I needed to accomplish along with other work I’ve been thinking of doing and then working out priorities from there. Nice and orderly like. Oh, and some tasks at home that really need doing too, but I’ve been procrastinating on.

Yes, I realize I’m rambling, but it’s my party and I’ll ramble if I want to. 

WHERE I GET TO MY POINT 

In all seriousness, I sense I’m doing something I should have been doing. Eric Liddle, the missionary to China and Olympic athlete famously said: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” I don’t know yet if writing is my purpose. I’ve desired many things in my life that led to near ruin, so I will not be too quick to pronounce anything. 

I’ve wanted to write for years. I’ve picked it up off and on. In fact I remember wanting to write a book when I was in the 6th grade. Needless to say that didn’t happen. 

GK Chesterton once said “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” The link we help you understand what he meant by that, because it is quite profound. He was challenging the idea of the professional being preferred over the amateur. The amateur does something for the love of it, not necessarily because it makes money. Think of the role of a mom. Who is really the best to care for her children, the mom who is fully emotionally invested or a professional day care worker? See the dilemma? 

In fact part of the reason I changed this blog to “Amateur Anglican” was the effect of reading Os Guinnesses’s book The Call. Os quotes GK talking about the nature of work. If you love doing something, you need not be the best at it. And what you do to “earn money” can many times be comepletly disconnected from your vocation or calling. 

The other reason I changed it was to put myself in my room off the main hall as CS Lewis puts it. I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the Ancient Ways. To look to the Christians who came before us, the paths they trod and the stories they tell us. We are still in the Acts of the Apostles my friends: because we serve a God of the Living, not the dead. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 3

This is turning into an interesting challenge. What to post about EVERY SINGLE DAY?!

I could talk about catechism. I am a huge proponent of intense and sustained teaching. The church I am a member of didn’t really require much to be a member. It was more than previous churches. But really this culture has deeply eroded the faith. Too many think they are Christians when they haven’t a single clue what orthodoxy is. 

And then KLM inadvertently struck epic level self parody. Either that or it’s a viral lost in translation error. 

Either way it’s instructive. The image is like the beginning of Romans: nature attests to God. The error is so painfully obvious:

It. Doesn’t. Work. That. Way. 

Now, certain spiritual concepts can be counterintuitive. But the natural order of things has been clearly delineated because God designed it that way. The ingrained aspects of God’s creation are meant to be on display. Again, see the first few chapters of Romans. But there’s only one buckle that will function as designed and with its intended end result: securely holding you in your seat in case something bad happens. The other ways may seem creative or fun but it WILL NOT WORK. 

So what’s meant to sound “inclusive” ends up pointing to the inherent error. If we would have only eyes to see and ears to hear. 

God Have Mercy On Us. 

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Day 2! Wherein Richard visits a deconsecrated church…

Hello All!

So I’m at something called Naper Settlement here in Illinois, a mid-1800’s display of replica houses and stores. My daughter is here for summer homework for a US History class. 

So to my amazement there’s a church. I’m sorry, a Church! Not some replica. Built in 1864 it was an Episcopal Church. Amazingly it hasn’t been stripped of its artifacts. I only had a few minutes inside before I had to leave because there’s a wedding planned. 

It’s stunning, my pictures here don’t do it justice. It’s not the Sistine Chapel, but its surely isn’t a “modern American Church building.” An Altar up front that the priests would offer Eucharist facing away from the congregation. Ornate woodworking. Vibrant colors. Solemnity. 

And it has been reduced to essentially a historical curiosity. As I consider the crumbling theological structures of the Church of England it’s impossible to miss the parallels. 

Instead of Ancient traditions and solemn worship there’s capitulation to the modern times. In Europe the old churches are being torn down: here and here. The CofE thinks it can do the Theological legwork in short order to incorporate “gay weddings and transgender affirmations”. A hundred years ago I wouldn’t have to tell you this is wrong, we’d all know instinctively. 

I’m torn as to which is ultimately better when a local church community dies: demolition or historic talisman. The former is sad in the loss of majestic artistry but reflects reality; the later retains the physical beauty but is drained of any real life giving vitality. 

Fortunately, our life is in Christ and not any building. The Church, she is us, the body and bride of Christ. We Anglicans are just starting the process of rebuilding. In coffee houses, garages, borrowed spaces, the faithful’s houses, Elementary Schools and at Cathedral of the Diocese of the Upper Midwest in a renovated factory. 

The Church isn’t a building. We the followers of Christ are. She is us and we are She. Wherever we meet it is a church gathering. I’m not arguing against beauty here. I’d love some more at mine. But I’ll take orthodoxy over capitulation. We must rebuild. This new generation must be taught the Ancient ways. The way of humility. The way of submission to Christ Jesus. The way of the Cross. For in them is Life. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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