Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It is Time for this Calvinist to Return to Geneva

In 2008 I decided to leave the Presbyterian Church in America and become a part of what was then the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). There were many antecedents leading up to that decision, some theological and some personal. For the last six years I have served as a minister of the Gospel in the Anglican Church, but for various reasons, I have decided I do not belong in Canterbury (Anglicanism), but rather, my theological home rests squarely in Geneva (Reformed Presbyterianism).  Make no mistake, my time in Canterbury has been an extremely beneficial part of my spiritual journey, but I will finish out my ministry in Geneva. Here are few things I've picked up while dwelling in Canterbury that I would like to briefly share.
  1. Anglicanism reminded me that very church is a liturgical church. Liturgy has to do with worship. The liturgy is either good (and teaches sound biblical truths about the nature and work of the God who both creates and redeems), or it is a poor teacher of those things. Anglican liturgy taught me that the most important things about God are His holiness and His covenant faithfulness. Everything else about Him follows from those things. Anglicanism has given me a real love for good liturgy.
  2. Anglicanism taught me the necessity of the people of God gathering weekly at the Table of God to renew our covenant with Him and to be spiritually nourished by the body and blood of our Lord. This has become such a part of my understanding of worship and my own piety that I do not believe I could ever be a part of a congregation that did not celebrate this precious event weekly.
  3. Anglicanism taught me that God loves beauty and precision of language in worship. I have come to appreciate the beauty and power a well written prayer. I love Anglican collects, the Creeds, the written confessions of sin. Anglicanism has taught me that there are people in the Kingdom who can say and pray things so much better than I. And by submitting myself to these written prayers I have learn how to pray more efficiently.
  4. Anglicanism reminded me that humans are not simply brains with legs. As I return to Geneva, I am keenly aware that this is a risk for us in the Reformed tradition, because we place such an emphasis on knowing the truth. And what exactly do I mean by this statement? I mean we run the risk of equating the increase of knowledge with growth in true sanctification. Don’t misunderstand, the way to the heart is through the mind, but knowledge without the work of the Spirit is useless. Anglicanism reminded me that spiritual growth is the work of the Spirit, but it is also intentional. Just like I eat (intentionally, on purpose) three times a day, I should approach my spiritual life intentionally (with discipline) every day. I have experienced this through Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and other spiritual disciplines, including the daily reading of the Psalms.
I was going to write about some things that trouble me about Canterbury, but I have decided against that. I do not wish to leave the impression that Geneva is the only city from which to seek the City of God (the New Jerusalem). It isn't. The only point I'm making by this announcement is that I am leaving Canterbury because I now know for certain, experientially, that I belong in Geneva. The signs have been there for some time and I have been ignoring them. I will miss my friends in Canterbury and I hope to maintain many of those relationships. I know I will see them in the New Jerusalem, the City we're all striving to arrive at safely!

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Useful Book for Those Struggling with Homosexual Urges

As a followup to my post Saturday regarding the impending attack on the Church by the radical homosexuals, I would like to suggest a book for followers of Christ who may be struggling with this sin. The book is written by Wesley Hill, an evangelical Anglican priest who shares his struggle with homosexual desires and his concomitant desire to please Christ. Rev. Hill is transparent about his struggle, but shares his hope in the Gospel even as he still battles with his flesh. The book is called, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.

In addition to the book I encourage you to get into an accountability relationship with someone who will walk with you, pray with and for you and not make excuses for you to give up.

Prayer Appointed for this Week

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what You promise, make us love what You command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  Book Of Common Prayer

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Homosexual Marriage: The Next Serious Threat to the Authority of Christ

So-called homosexual marriages will be the next issue that will challenge the Church's willingness to fully obey Christ. Homosexuals are not satisfied to be able to practice their deviant lifestyle in the privacy of their homes, they have succeeded, through legal efforts, in becoming a special privileged group and as such their next target is the Church. Deviant, by the way, is defined as "departing from the norm". Slice it anyway you wish, but homosexuality is not the norm by any mean of that term.

The purpose of going after the Church is to force the Church to redefine its view on this issue. If the Church can be forced to begin seeing homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, a human rights decision, then She will have to back away from the traditional understanding of this behavior as sin. And as such, people will be free to not only come as they are to Jesus, but remain as they are, because, after all, He made them that way. Thus homosexuality becomes one less thing the Gospel need concern itself with.

Make no mistake, the State will be aggressive with this. This has already begun. In the past few years we have seen a Christian baker and photographer punished for failing to provide service for homosexual couples on the grounds that it violates their faith. Christian ministries are being kicked off secular college campus' because they're by-laws do not allow practicing homosexuals to hold leadership positions. Christian ministers are currently under attack for refusing to perform so-called homosexual marriages. In the past year we have seen evangelical Christian ministries become confused on this issue and have begun to blur their stance in order to send a message to the public that there is a "third way" for the Church to view the biblical teaching regarding this act of sexual immorality. Several churches have publicized their new policy of accepting so-called loving homosexual couples into membership.

In Numbers 13:25-14:4, the twelves spies sent out by Moses to preview the land that God had given the people returned with a report that ignored the God behind the covenant promises. They had a clear word from YHWH and yet they chose, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, to believe what their eyes told them. I especially find 14:4 informative. It reads, "So they said to one another [the Israelites], 'Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt." What is ironic about that suggestion is that true leadership does not knowingly take people into slavery again! They are suggesting that they be allowed to elect someone who will violate their relationship with God by taking them back to the place they have fled! Churches, ministries, pastors who, in the coming years opt for relevancy of obedience may end up being popular and they may end up with large churches which are praised by the culture as cutting edge, but they will end up with an idol formed from their own imagination and they will end up with a bunch of happy self satisfied people who willingly turned their backs on the God of Scripture!

In the coming years the Church will need to decide whose report it will believe concerning homosexuality. Will it remain a sin because that is what Scripture calls it, or will we accept the world's view that it is merely a personal preference? Will we continue to offer hope to those trapped in its death grip, or will we sprinkle holy water on them and declare that all is well? Will we declare that which God has called evil good (Isaiah 6:20)? If so, all we will be doing is allowing prisoners to accessorize their cells while assuring that they are not actually incarcerated. Creating a "reality" that redefines truth does no one any good.

One final question. Where does it stop? Now that homosexuality is "normal", what about the person who believes he should be allowed to be intimate with a "consenting child"? What about the person who believes she should be allowed to have more than one husband at a time? What about the person who feels that he was designed for cross species intimacy? You're probably thinking that I'm the boy who is crying wolf when there is no wolf. I wish you were right, but you are not. It's already coming hard on the coat tails of homosexuality. This is just the beginning. Will we, the people of God, continue to believe the Bible's reality? If so, let us continue to preach the Gospel and walk with those struggling with sin. Any sin. But woe to us, if we, in an act of so-called compassion, move the boundary lines (Proverbs 22:28). We must stand firm for the sake of the world itself, and for the glory of God. The world doesn't know it, but it needs us to stay faithful. We are it's only hope.

The Priority of the Text for the Preacher

William H. Willimon, in Proclamation and Theology ,says this about the preacher and the sacred text, 
"As a preacher, I am not free to rummage about in other sources, texts, or authorities before I have first done business with Scripture. I am to presume, in my sermon preparation, that these ancient Jews know more about God than I, that the world described by them is more real, more relevant than any description of the world that I can come up with on my own or even with the help of the New York times. Which is to say, that biblical preaching is part of the church's tough theological task of taking the Bible as God's word more seriously and ourselves a little less so." ~ William H. Willimon in "Proclamation and Theology"