November 2008


The Chief Temptation of CHRIST’S CHURCH forsyth

It was what still makes, and always has made, the chief temptation of his Church — the reformation of society by every beneficent means except the evangelical (The Gospel); by amelioration, by reorganization, by programes, and policies, instead of by the soul’s new creation, and its total conversion from the passion for justice to the faith of grace, from what makes men just with each other to what makes them just with God.

It was the temptation to save men by rallying their goodness without routing their evil, by reorganizing virtue instead of redeeming guilt. …It is the error which leads men to think that we can have a new Church or Humanity upon any other condition than the renovation in the soul of the new covenant which Christ founded in his last hours, before the very Church was founded, and which is the Church’s one foundation in his most precious blood. — P.T. Forsyth

ESSAY on THE PRECISE PROBLEM TODAY , from The Work of Christ, an incredible contribution to celebrating the UNITY of The CHURCH.

A classic on PREACHING CHRIST, by Charles McIlvaine “Nothing in this world could I rejoice in so much as to be instrumental, under God’s grace, in promoting the spiritual excellency and efficacy of your work and your personal growth in the faith and love of Christ.” (Ohio 1863)

 

 

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FIRST SUNDAY of ADVENT

Around the world in many different traditions of faith, Christians this Sunday will all be worshipping in keeping with an accepted calender that designates it as the beginning of a new liturgical year. Literally millions of Christians will be “united” in spirit and that makes me very happy. Of course that does not include all Christians and by no means all traditions of the Christian Faith and no you won’t find this anywhere in the Bible. For instance the Orthodox Churches celebrate a different calender and then there are many non-liturgical churches that do not follow any christian calender.

LITURGY: What do I mean by the word?  liturgy

 Not infrequently in Christianity, a distinction is made between “liturgical” and “non-liturgical” churches based on the elaboration and/or antiquity of the worship, but this obscures the universality of public worship as a religious phenomenon. Thus, even the open or waiting worship of Quakers is liturgical, since the waiting itself until the spirit moves individuals to speak is a prescribed form of Quaker worship, sometimes referred to as “the liturgy of silence.” Typically in Christianity, however, the term “the liturgy” normally refers to a standardized order of events observed during a religious service, be it a sacramental service or a service of public prayer.

As a religious phenomenon, liturgy is a communal response to the sacred through activity reflecting praise, thanksgiving, supplication, or repentance.

I was not always aware of this reality simply because I was not brought up in a liturgical church. But over the years as I have become more and more aware of the other faith traditions, this one has greatly enriched my understanding of the universal christian family on earth. It’s a good thing; one of my sons is an ordained minister in a liturgical church and as a Chaplain in the military is recognized with a “liturgical” classification in contrast to non-liturgical Chaplains.

Most liturgical congregations also follow the Lectionary as a common source of prescribed Scripture readings for each Sunday of the Year insuring that there is a world-wide harmony on any given Sunday if not on the theme of the worship service, then at least in the Scriptures being considered.

As I looked at the orientations that are on the internet for the new Lectionary year and Advent Sundays, one especially caught my eye and I heartily recommend it to anyone who might want to join a large part of the Christian family in the season of celebrating in a special way, the Incarnation Event-the birth of Jesus, God’s anointed redeemer. The site is the worship page over at the United Methodist Church.

Worship well as you begin the New Year. adventseason

AN OPEN LETTER TO AMERICAN CHRISTIANS

I subscribe to a magazine called “ZION’s FIRE”. It is of the highest technical quality and the founding editor is a man I highly esteem and respect. I have followed at a distance his mission for a number of years. He is a tireless advocate for Jesus Christ and as a Jewish Christian has zealously promoted a very specific tradition within the Church. I know this tradition well. When I answered God’s call to prepare myself for the ministry, it was the tradition that I initially received my training in. I studied theology initially using Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology as our main text. zionshope

As you perhaps know by now, my passion is to advocate for the UNITY that we have in Christ as Christians, and to insist that we must treat oneanother with love and dignity. I choose to do this by the simple method of letting others tell us in their own words what living and practicing their faith tradition looks like to them. Usually I do not try to debate their position or criticize it. I honestly believe that we have much to learn from oneanother if we will take the pains to listen to what they see from their perspective. Yet,this is perhaps one of the most difficult traditions for me to be faithful to that practice for the simple reason that I am not neutral on so many interpretations of Scripture from this perspective. But I will demonstrate my love for Marv Rosenthal and many other personal friends also from this tradition by withholding any comments. Within the great diversity which is the Body of Christ, this too is a recognizable and definable contributing part. Although I do not consider myself of this tradition, I am convinced we can be greatly strengthened by paying close attention to their emphasis.

I do believe that Rosenthal’s letter, the position within American Christianity that it represents and the political influence on foreign policy that is greatly affecting world peace and the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ, justifies not only calling this to the attention of everyone I know but also highly recommending its reading by as many as possible. Thank you brother Marv for being so transparent.

FROM the HEART of MARV ROSENTHAL (a few excerpts)

During almost two thousand years of dispersion, one thing alone sustained the Jewish people. It was a small candle in a dark place. But it burned brightly in their hearts. They believed above all things that one day their Messiah would come. Who He would be and when He would come, they did not know. But the hope of His coming was an anchor of the soul, so strong that no storm of adversity which Satan could throw against them could make that anchor break.

In May of 1948 the impossible became the possible. What had never happened before in the annals of history came to pass as God had foretold in His Word. After nineteen hundred years of being buried among the nations of the world, Israel was reborn. They are a people with their own land and capital city. They lack only one thing to make their national resurrection complete. Their King, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Son of David, “the seed of the woman”, must return !

OPEN LETTER FROM MARV ROSENTHAL – Take time to get to know the ministry of Zion’s Hope including the beautiful music from the Jewish-Christian tradition. You will not find a more readable and precise statement of the theology that drives much of the “religious right” politics in America.

Hava Nagila Dance

THE BOOK of FAITH INITIATIVE of ELCA

In joining the Book of Faith Initiative, your congregation or organization is committing to becoming more fluent in the first language of faith, the language of Scripture, in order that we might live into our calling as a people renewed, enlivened, and empowered by the Word.

The UNITY that is advocated in this blog is one that already exists. It exists in Jesus Christ as He is witnessed to by God in the Bible. It just seems to be a no-brainer then that all Christians of every tradition would be empowered to understand and bible-2celebrate this unity before the watching world as they become more and more fluent in the “language of the Christian Faith”, which is the Bible itself.

Here in Madison County, Kentucky, there is only one Lutheran Faith Community. But I think this five-year initiative of their denomination, the ELCA, is one that could have great blessings for all of us as a necessary step towards greater practical unity. It was of course MARTIN LUTHER who provided one of the greatest contributions toward restoring the Christian Faith of the Bible. Others that went before him all shared a common conviction (such as John Wycliff) that the Bible must be put into the hands of every Christian in their mother tongue.

So I applaud what this initiative is doing for believers in the ELCA tradition and I heartily recommend it to every Christian as one of the necessary ways for all of us “to grow up into the fullness of Christ” for the great blessing of our world and for the glory of GOD.

“THE PURPOSE of The Book of Faith Initiative is to increase biblical literacy and fluency for the sake of the WORLD”. BOOK of FAITH SITE

ST.THOMAS LUTHERAN CHURCH  (Richmond,Kentucky)

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER on READING the BIBLE

THE CROWN JEWEL of PAUL’S GOSPEL

Let Paul speak for himself: ACTS 20

Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders

17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by [1] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

FULL Gospel in this post must be understood in the same sense as Paul’s words “The whole counsel of God” has in Holy Scripture. It does not mean what it means in that tradition which today is known by this phrase. See  FULL GOSPEL Fellowship    cma_logo

As often the case, the article in wikipedia leaves something to be desired. I was ordained in the C&MA having encountered the tradition not through any local representation of it, but through my exposure to the writings of A.W.Tozer and it’s Founder, Albert Benjamin Simpson. See my humble honoring of Dr.Simpson in Saint’s Gallery. I disagree with the identification of Simpson’s work as belonging to “the holiness” movement. I have found a number of folks down through the years that have done that, but I think they are mistaken and greatly miss the “hybrid” gift from God that he represented . Dr.Simpson did not come from the holiness camp but from the Reformed, the Scottish Covenanters. He probably fits best in what we call “the deeper life movement“(Simpson called it the Higher Christian Life) but that movement is also misunderstood by most American christians today.

I’m getting away from the CROWN JEWEL of the GOSPEL- but not really. It should be clear from the above text alone, that the Apostle Paul was deeply and emotionally involved with what he believed to be his life task given to him by the risen Christ. Fulfilling that task was a matter of being “innocent of the blood of all…” before Christ when he would meet Him at the Judgement. He describes that task here as faithfully delivering to others a message that had been entrusted to him. Sound familiar? That is how Jesus himself described his mission on more than one occasion :

My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work.

I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is righteous, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.

(see the entire discussion of Jesus with the Jews who were seeking to kill him-Chapter 5, St.John’s gospel)

The CROWN JEWEL of Saint Paul’s life task and his Gospel was of course JESUS himself, or as Paul says, Our Lord, Jesus Christ. He describes the message which testifies to this Christ in various ways in this passage thus calling our attention to the completeness or the fullness of this CROWN JEWEL in the redemptive work of God on planet earth:” repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”,  “the gospel of the grace of God”, “proclaiming the kingdom “.

For me this fulness, for example that shows up big time in the Ephesian letter (see Chapter 4), includes all that Christ is and has accomplished as God’s love gift to the ungodly and rebellious race of Adam. The CROWN JEWEL of Paul’s Gospel is nothing short of the perfect redemption we so desperately need in order to flee from the wrath to come. The four-fold Gospel Dr. Simpson saw with the eye of faith, he described as -JESUS as SAVIOR, SANCTIFIER, HEALER, and coming KING. It not only includes what God does for the sinner in the beginning, as he hears the Gospel and calls in faith on God to save him, repenting of not only his sins but of the entire life style of the sons of Adam living in rebellion, thereby repudiating the flesh and living according to the flesh; it includes also all that God begins to do in that believer both to will and to do His intended work of applying the full redemption which is in His Son, Jesus, and He will do this until the Day of Jesus Christ, the consumation of our salvation. He does all of this through His Son, the exalted King of Kings who is actively reigning TODAY.

I hope I haven’t lost anyone in the details-my apology to those reading this for example for whom english is not their mother tongue. You can see why I’m so excited about “The Year of Saint Paul” and the special opportunity this affords christians of every tradition to take another, serious look at this very special vessel of almighty God and the universal work of redemption that He launched in His Son Jesus Christ.

THIS YEAR, PLEASE BEGIN at THE BEGINNING

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 12, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

(From WIKIPEDIA)

This summer I had the incredible experience of going through the only official NATIONAL memorial in the United States dedicated to World War I, the Great War. I truly wish that every citizen of these United States could have that experience- especially NOW, at the point in history that we find ourselves. Most of us have been thrown into the MIDDLE of a great EPIC TALE. The subject of this tale just happens to be our National heritage. World War I just might be the event in this tale that we can still get an understanding of which in turn will help us immensely to understand just what it is we have of lately inherited and will help us to better understand what our part in the ongoing tale is and how to best prepare for the future.

Meet Joe, the Veteran. jo-the-veteran

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982, holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who had been killed in the Korean War.     

Did you happen to notice this phase in the original purpose of  the day? “A day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”   I believe that this original purpose has been kept in mind in every detail of the official Memorial to World War I in Kansas City, Missouri, and one of the main reasons why I believe every American should visit it. 

The Memorial has been “rebuilt” in recent years and an underground museum complex has been added. My congratulations to the citizens of Kansas City and to American Century Investments for under-taking this very ambitious project for the American people and their epic story.

Sample what you will see (slide show)

View the intro Video

  

ARCHBISHOP ELIAS CHACOUR of The Melkite Greek Catholic Church

chacour

The author of Blood Brothers- which is the unforgettable story of a Palestinian Christian who has been working for peace in Israel for as many years as he has been in the Priesthood, came to Berea College this week. He was the honored guest for the International Focus sponsored by the International Center of Berea College.

Besides speaking to the students at a campus wide convocation yesterday, he also spoke a number of other times as well. Imagine my great delight when I was able to attend a luncheon today for area ministers, watch a video showing the remarkable achievement God has allowed him to bring into existence in Israel, and then have the privilege of talking informally with him for over an hour. My special thanks to Richard Cahill, the Director of International Education, for the invitation extended to the Ministers.

I read the 1984 edition of Father Chacour’s book some years ago and was greatly encouraged to learn of his life work as another of God’s peacemakers working in the midst of conflict. In the foreword to the recent 2003 edition, former U.S.Secretary of State James Baker writes,

From my perspective, both as a believer and as a diplomat, I take hope and comfort in knowing that amid all the hatred, destruction and death, Father Chacour continues his patient work, softening one heart at a time.

There are many things we can learn from this humble man including that not all Palestinians are “terrorists”, many are christians and citizens of Israel. But for the “great hearts” around the world which are working for peace, he provides a model that will instruct and inspire all. The schools that he has founded are the only ones in Israel where Jews, Muslims, and Christians can study together. see Mar-Elias Schools

Read his profile on wikipedia 

Buy the book, Blood Brothers

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