Tag Archives: Sin

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 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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Anglican 30 day blog life

So I was recently listening to the Always Forward podcast for ACNA Church Planters. The priest who runs the “Anglican Pastor”, Fr. Greg Goebel, was being interviewed and he encouraged church planters to try blogging for 30 days.

Well, I’m not currently a church planter nor do I have plans to be one (God may have other plans, but that goes without saying).

So, I will try this.

I’m a refugee from the Episcopalian Church essentially. I grew up in it until my early 20’s, but left it because I had never encountered the gospel there. A dear friend led me to grace and I started going to the Baptist church he attended. But low church never felt like home to me. I had a hard time vocalizing that, but I had encountered biblical instruction only in the low church setting. 

The next few years were wandering from church to church as my wife and I moved around the hemisphere. 

After desperately trying to engage in some Presbyterian churches we ended up in an ACNA church. It was a divine appointment type thing. I went with my wife and daughter a writer event being held at the church, which was being attended by a friend (whose discernment I trust) from a previous church in the area we live now. I also had a writer whose book I had recently read, who it turns out was a member of said church.

After that visit we thought we would try the Sunday service. My wife grew up in Roman Catholic satuarated Guatemala, so a lot of the elements are identical. By the end of the service she’s crying and I’m in shell shock. A liturgical service that had the life of the gospel in it. Dripping with it. Not dead ritual, living movements in a divine dance. 

We’ve been there coming up on three years. Coming up on two years as members. It’s good to be home. 

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ACNA Provincial Assembly 2017

The recent provincial assembly was a time well spent. My wife wasn’t that thrilled that I was spending all day at the event, but she appreciated some of the information I brought home. I would say the most impactful thing I encountered was the couple who are using their garage as a church. They deliberately moved to a low income neighborhood. They went intentionally knowing the lack of resources available to those who live there. It initially started as Sunday bible time with the smaller kids in the neighborhood who were making friends with their children. The husband is an ordained priest, but works bivocationally.Slowly a few other adults came, but it is still principally centered around the children. The other active adults were explaining how they’ve seen the kids start to mimic the words of the prayers and sacraments. Slowly, bit by bit the wisdom of scripture is filtering into their lives. Less hostility between siblings, slowly less one upsmanship between friends. I couldn’t help but think of Moses exhortation to the Hebrews after the giving of the law.:

Dueteronomy 11:19

“You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

The second big impression was the minute details of the life of the church. There are lots of people working in lots of places doing what God has put them there for. Big and small. Mostly small by our modern era’s standard. And there is a big lesson for us. As culturally soaked American Christian’s, smallness is not what we were brought up on. The usual trope is “Go big or go home”. [as a side note, I’ve tried to pick up the habit of “pray big or go home”]
I hadn’t thought about it until writing this. Assurance. We think of the word in connection with our final “saved” state, that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. But there is also the assurance of a final Judgement. Where all things hidden will be revealed. This who did evil in the dark will have it brought into the light. But those who labored for righteousness in the dark and cold places of this planet are assured of a revelation themselves. That no labor done for the Lord, no matter how trivial, menial or obscure by the eyes and judgements of this world will be kept from God’s eyes and from all the saints. There are names we know from history, apostles and early church fathers and the patriarchs and the prophets and the martyrs. But there are untold more from pre-Christ to the church era who are lost to us. But NOT to GOD. 

When I think of modern obscurity I nearly always think of North Korea. We know next to nothing of the people there. They must feel so isolated and so alone. Can you imagine coming to Christ and not having a church body to meet with regularly? That faith is a faith truly bathed in grace. So when I’m praying the psalms in my morning devotion, the words of David “protect me from my enemies” I think of them. 

Those saints, those humble beggars: we Americans will walk them to the front of line and take our place in the back. 

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Daily

So, here I am cruising at 35,00 feet, or whatever the cruising altitude is for this trip. I’ve been practicing daily morning prayer for over a year now. I am most acutely in need of it on work days. My tendency to over do it. My tendency to depend on myself at work, to drive myself and others, to use strong words and not grace filled ones is strong. I need the daily reminder of who I belong to. I am God’s. I am bought with a price. I was redeemed from the dead. Stolen back from Satan and his evil schemes. The world, wholly owned by Satan, is constantly trying to teach me something. And it’s never good. Time with scripture and the canticles and antiphons remind me I’m just me. I’m not GOD. There have been faithful followers of Christ before me and there will be after me. The prophet Ezekiel  dispaired that he was “the only one left”. GOD pointed out there were still 7000 who had not bent the knee to Baal. Seven thousand may be a depressingly small number, but it isn’t just one. 
When it comes to one and only, that’s Jesus the Lord and Messiah. 

So, I read and pray and remember my smallness. 

And that is is how I start my day, by remembering my smallness. I’m no big fish, big kahuna, no keeper of the gate. I’m a small fish in a very large ocean. 

I don’t say this out of a bleak outlook or a resignation to my fate. No, I say this in a triumphant shout against my enemy, the Father of lies. The path to life is through the narrow gate. The small gate. The path of humility. The path of obedience to our Saviour. 

<Just edited this, I thought I already had. Nope! But now it is.>

<I forgot to mention this was written on 7/19/17>

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Between Two Criminals 

Last Sunday our church had a dramatic reading of Luke’s account of the trial and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ (see scripture below). 

Maybe I’m a bit dull, but I never saw the simple choice that is presented in that recounting of the death of our Lord. Jesus, the God-man without stain or blemish, is raised on a cross between two criminals meeting their just end. 

One hurls insults and derision on Yeshua, (Jesus’s name in Hebrew.) He mocks him, in the same manner that the religious elite do, “save yourself”. Jesus is essentially mocked for claiming to be the person that He is. The Truth is mocked for claiming to be Truth. 

The other sees his own sin. He makes no excuses, no rationalizing of his actions. He sees his own inability to save himself. He sees the stark Truth, that Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, is being killed unjustly. And he asks Jesus to remember him, to look with pity upon him. 

So the choice stands before us all. Will we acknowledge our sin, our crimes against a Holy and Righteous GOD or hurl insults at the Chosen One of God? There is none righteous, no not one. 

God have mercy on us. 

________________________

Luke 23: 32-43 (ESV) 
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.  And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.  And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine  and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  There was also an inscription over him,“This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

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The Mysterious

I’m in the middle of a book on Eastern Orthodoxy. It’s a rather odd experience. It’s a lot like going to a new destination, a new place, a far off place. Rather like my first trip to visit Guatemala, my wife’s native country. I flew a red eye flight from LA to Guatemala city. It was 1992 and I deboarded the airplane down one of those stairways out of a 1950’s movie. Right onto the tarmac and then walked inside the building. It was still rather dark. When I arrived at the office to purchase a tourist visa, it was closed. We all had to stand around waiting for this little Guatemalan man to show up at 6 am. After paying my $10 he issued me what looked like a telephone message 4×4 inch piece of paper. It was almost comical if it weren’t for how exhausted I was. The airport itself felt tired. One part gritty, one part age and two parts just small. Leaving the airport I was hit with the scene of many small children asking for money. They were a pitiful sight: small, unwashed and obviously poor. The smell was of unwashed bodies and a tinge of smoke (I would learn later that all poor families use wood stoves to cook). The car ride to my, soon to be, wife’s parents house was full of sights, smells and sounds I was very unfamiliar with. It’s barely a 30 minute drive. Seemed much longer at the time. My wife has told me she wasn’t sure if I was about to just turn around and get on the next flight back to the states. I didn’t, in fact about 5 years later we would move there and make a home for 5 years. I learned a great deal about my wife and her culture and all its attendant facets. And I’m the richer for it.

The book (my apologies for no book name, it’s sitting on my nightstand at home whilst I type away here in a coffee shop) on Eastern Orthodoxy is written by a fellow who spent a number of years in Russia. He went over when it was still the Soviet state, but it collapsed about a year into his stay. He was there as the Russian Orthodox Church made its roaring comeback. I can nearly taste his experience. They not only speak another language, they think about things in a completely distinct way. The ways of Eastern Orthodoxy is also similarly distinct, odd and strange to the Western trained mind.

It’s a little like getting to know a long lost relative. They talk about some similar things, but with a very different twist. Those of the Eastern Orthodox faith have an amazing reverence for both the Mystery of GOD and the spiritual life, a looking to the Holy Spirit that makes Pentecostals look like babbling kindergarteners. The theological debates they engage in are related to this desire to be united to the Holy Spirit and the merging with the Divine. They are much more comfortable with the Transcendent nature of God. An infinite God is only understandable as He reveals Himself to us. All we know about Him is what He has chosen to reveal, leaving an Infinite amount of knowledge yet unknown to us, a mystery then. That our very frame and structure lack the wherewithal to grasp Him, that language and human thought are insufficient to the task of describing His magnificence. And, they are not very big fans of Logic. He recounted his students rather dismissive treatment of C.S. Lewis. He was “too logical” they said. The reliance on logic is an argument against it’s use for things of GOD.

Now, I will admit I find the western church’s  obsession with logic a tad frustrating at times. As if we could logically argue someone into Faith. God’s Love for us is so intense that He would send His only Begotten Son to live among us puny creations and then Die as a propitiation for our sins, our wrongs against a perfectly Holy and Righteous God is not logical. It’s an intense, burning love for us that defies clear explanation, seeming completely out of proportion. And yet He did. Because we bear His image.

He made us, women and men, in His image. Women, have men ever seemed mysterious (odd, strange, not right in the head) to you? Men, have women ever seemed mysterious to you? We are each made in the image of a mysterious, glorious and living GOD. Our Eastern Orthodox cousins tend to swim in the mysterious nature of God, not wanting or trying to understand it but to experience it. I humbly submit that our “Western Church” could use a healthy dose of this transcendent Truth.

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