Posted by Kendall Harmon

On the contrary, starting new churches first will probably help the existing churches in the same community. Pastor Tim Keller of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church notes: “studies have shown that if there is one church per ten thousand residents, approximately 1 percent of the population will be churchgoers. If this ratio goes to one church per one thousand residents, some 15 to 20 percent of the city’s population goes to church. If the number goes to one per five hundred residents, the number may approach 40 percent or more.”

In short, a rising tide lifts all ships. In Northern Virginia, I’ve long observed a flurry of successful church planting activity, even as the largest congregations – such as McLean Bible Church – continued to grow.

I would also take issue with [Jim] Naughton’s assertion that the resources freed up by church closures will enable more successful church starts. Studies on church plants show that, over the long-term, larger sums of money devoted to new church starts do not correlate with a substantially higher level of success. If you recruit entrepreneurial young church planters, it might even be to their benefit to be bi-vocational, where they may be more likely to interact with potential future parishioners.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

3 Comments
Posted July 16, 2014 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Shock and disbelief were the two immediate reactions Rev. Jim Lewis told the court he felt upon receiving an email in November 2012, under the name and seal of the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, calling for a convocation of Episcopal Clergy in Charleston.

That’s because as Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese of South Carolina, he knew the Diocese did not send it, he said.

After receiving another email under the same name and seal changing the venue, Lewis said he decided to attend the meeting.

“I decided to attend the meeting as an observer,” Lewis said. “Given the prior use of our seal, I felt there was reason to believe there would be further attempts by this group to assert itself as the Diocese of South Carolina.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: South Carolina* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* South Carolina* TheologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted July 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Bryan Giemza] recommends her recently released Prayer Journal and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” as good starting points for students. Her journal allows him to “point out the various prayer traditions she canvasses and how she shared in the aspirations and worries of someone their age, albeit someone with an incredible depth of field, spiritually speaking. She commands respect that way.” I like Giemza’s method in teaching her popular story. He tells students “things tend towards their ends, that we are creatures of habit, and that virtue has to be practiced. I give them a series of statements to respond to, like ‘I’m basically a good person.’ A majority of my students agree with that position, and aren’t aware that it flies in the face of orthodoxy, and certainly goes against Flannery O’Connor’s belief. They’re usually stunned to learn that no less an authority than Christ said that no man is good. And those who condemn the grandmother have to be shown their own warts, just like those who despise the mother in ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge,’ (pdf) with her patronizing coin, need to be reminded of the story of the widow’s mite.”

O’Connor is one of the best at peeling back our public covers and showing those warts. Like so many writers chided for their disturbing content, criticisms of her work are often less about the texts themselves, and more about our refusals as readers, students, and teachers to examine our own lives. Perhaps even more than her odd characters, it is the “stark racism” of O’Connor’s world that pushes away some of Giemza’s students. But Giemza doesn’t want them to blink; “the danger . . . is that students who (think they) live in a post-racial age must still contend with the sins of the fathers, and I am surprised by how many can blithely accept that those sins have been expiated. Perhaps they don’t see its urgency, but here in the region that helped the nation understand its first fall (i.e. the legacies of our foundation in slavery), we have a duty to try to come to grips with it. It remains the essence of the fallen-ness in her work, and its insistence that God is no respecter of persons or the hierarchies of the temporal order, which can be inverted at a stroke.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationHistoryPoetry & LiteratureRace/Race RelationsReligion & CultureTeens / YouthWomenYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted July 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I would guess that most blog readers know little about this remarkable Anglican. Please avail yourselves of the many resources here to learn more.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)Church of Nigeria* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryMissionsParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchRace/Race RelationsReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted July 1, 2014 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Crowther was the apostle of Nigeria and the inspiration of much more. He worked all over but especially in the South South (for the Nigerians here) or Niger Delta, in places like Nembe (which I have been to), Brass, Bonny. It is a hard place now, one can scarcely imagine what travel and health were like then. He was a linguist, a scholar, a translator of scripture, a person of prayer. Above all he loved Jesus Christ and held nothing back in his devotion and discipleship.

Those who opposed him were caught up in their own world. British society of the nineteenth century was overwhelmingly racist, deeply hierarchical. It resisted all sense that God saw things differently. In the India of the time the East India Company, ruling the land, forbade the singing of the Magnificat at evensong, lest phrases about putting down the mighty from their seats and exalting the humble and meek might be understood too well by the populations they ruled. The idea that an African was their equal was literally, unimaginable. Of course they forgot the list of Deacons in Acts 5, including Simeon Niger in Acts 13, or Augustine from North Africa, or the Ethiopian eunuch whom Philip baptised. They lived in an age of certainty in their own superiority. In their eyes not only the gospel, but even the Empire would be at risk if they conceded.

The issue was one of power, and it is power and its handling that so often deceives us into wickedness. Whether as politicians or Bishops, in business or in the family, the aim to dominate is sin. Our model is Christ, who washed feet when he could have ruled. Crowther's consecration reading was do not dominate, and it means just what it says. Each of us must lead by humility.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted July 1, 2014 at 5:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Declaring that the devil has departed from the Church of England’s baptism service, The Guardian reported on June 20 that “a simplified baptism which omits mention of the devil” is now favored by the clergy who have test-marketed it throughout the United Kingdom. Claiming that the traditional rejection of the devil and all rebellion against God “put off people who are offended to be addressed as sinners,” clergy claimed that they found it much easier to ask parents and godparents to make vows that do not mention Satan.

Responding to a population “which sees no pressing reason to spend Sunday mornings or any other time in Church,” the Guardian reports, the new and improved baptism service also deletes the instruction to the godparents that the child will keep God’s commandments, and learn what a Christian “ought to know and believe to his soul’s health” — promising only that the church “shall do all that we can to ensure that there is a welcoming place for you. We will play our part in helping you guide these children along the way of faith.”

The decision to delete the devil from the ritual reveals that the Church of England may be losing its sense of sin — and its need for salvation. More than 60 years ago, T.S. Eliot wrote about the sense of alienation that occurred when social regulators — like the church — began to splinter and the controlling moral authority of a society is no longer effective. He suggested that a “sense of sin” was beginning to disappear. In his play “The Cocktail Party,” a troubled young woman confides in her psychiatrist that she feels “sinful” because of her relationship with a married man. She is distressed not so much by the illicit relationship, but rather, by the strange sense of sin. Eliot writes that “having a sense of sin seems abnormal she believed that she had become ill.”

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* TheologyAnthropologySacramental TheologyBaptismSoteriology

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Posted June 27, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

War veterans return home from duty to the communities and families they left behind, but mental and emotional burdens often return with them. Decisions and experiences from the battlefield can lead to post traumatic stress and what is now being recognized as moral injury. The Department of Veterans Affairs is sharing its resources with faith groups to help those returning with deep moral wounds. “To rebuild a moral identity takes a community of support. It takes friends, and it takes a long time,” says Rita Nakashima Brock of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinty School. “There are no other institutions in our society that I know of except religious institutions that support people over their entire life course.”

Read or watch and listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHealth & MedicinePsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryIraq WarWar in Afghanistan* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is difficult to imagine a more brutal way for a teenager to be confronted by the reality of life and death.

But as an 18-year-old gap year student, the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, found himself having to cut down the body of a fellow teenager who had hanged himself.

A new biography of the Archbishop singles out the moment in the early summer of 1974, while he was volunteering as a teacher at a boys’ school in Kenya, as marking the beginning of an unlikely journey to becoming one of the world’s most influential spiritual leaders.

Within days of the tragedy, about which he is not believed to have spoken previously in public, the future leader of the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican Church told a close friend how he had begun to find faith in God.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyPsychologySuicideReligion & CultureYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryAfricaKenya* TheologyChristologyEschatologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted June 8, 2014 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Evangelism is the discipline of not keeping the good news to ourselves. There is no better news for anybody, anywhere, than who God is for us in Jesus Christ - in whom God has chosen to be for all people. In his life, his teaching, his death, and his resurrection, God has chosen to love, call, suffer, die, rise, and open the Kingdom of God for each person. God desires each one to live in the joy of this grace.

So many people are living with no knowledge of what God has done for them. And yet the difference would be transformative if this "took"; if this was effectual in human lives. The beauty of this gospel captivates our lives and sets us free.

Evangelism is not a recruitment drive. It is not done for fear that nobody will be in the Church in a generation's time, or as a solution to financing crumbling buildings or crumbling clergy. It is our response to what God has done.

This message is about the person of Jesus Christ: so it is always personal, always loving, always gracious, and always particular.

Read it all

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin WelbyAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologySoteriology

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Posted June 6, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

So often, when faced with their own limits, the young people I meet turn to music. They turn to the artists who can articulate (perhaps more clearly than they can) precisely what they’re feeling. So how do we engage?

It all starts with listening. It always starts with listening. Listening to young people, listening to their music and listening to the struggles and joys of their daily lives.

What comes next is the hard part: accompanying young people in the midst of the pains and struggles of everyday life, and welcoming them into the story we call our own: the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

I said earlier that this is hard. But it shouldn’t be. In fact, in my experience, it isn’t hard at all. Looking for companions when forced to confront the limits of human existence, young people constantly blow me away with their deep desire for some good news. We’re good-news people. We’ve got plenty to share.

And yet we need to start by listening.

Read it all from the Anglican Journal.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Canada* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryYouth Ministry* Culture-WatchMusicReligion & CultureTeens / Youth* International News & CommentaryCanada* TheologyAnthropologySoteriology

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Posted May 31, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Erin Stevens isn't that kind of evangelist who stands outside the strip club with her bullhorn, yelling at the customers to repent or face the flames.

She's inside the lobby with the strippers, feeding them a catered dinner twice a month, giving them Mary Kay Cosmetics gift sets and quietly slipping her cellphone number into their hands.

She brings no Bibles. No tracts. No lectures.

Just love and an unusual mission given to her by God two years ago, she says, after she spent 21 days fasting and praying for a building for nondenominational Friendship Community Church in Mt. Juliet. Friendship, launched by her husband, Todd Stevens, in 2006, has more than 1,000 members but still meets in Lakeview Elementary School's rented auditorium.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPastoral Care* Culture-WatchWomen* TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted May 31, 2014 at 3:39 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[Dallas] Willard's most central idea, perhaps, is this: God's existence and God's nature are central to all being, to all creation. Everything derives from God, and everything is sustained by God—and that's the only way any life exists. Jesus' kingdom theology reveals this reality. Kingdom, then, is the possibility of spiritual relationship to God.

Less typically, Willard contends that each of us "is" a kingdom, and we choose which kingdom we will serve: God's kingdom, where God rules, or our own kingdom, where we rule. That is, kingdom is about the range of a person's will. Willard's understanding of God's plan (making us Christlike) governs his understanding of Christ: Jesus as Master, as Physicist (he has mastery over the physical world), as Moralist (he tells us how to live righteously), as Teacher, and as Guide.

The same understanding of God's purpose in us governs Willard's understanding of the church: We are being transformed into Christlikeness, and the church is the hospital for those who are on this transformative journey.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* Culture-WatchBooks* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

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Posted May 28, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Over the years, there have been many attempts to assess the impact of Dr Graham's ministry - particularly that first crusade of 1954 - on the British Church and people. There is no doubt about its immediate effect.

A former Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Michael Baughen, was a theology student in 1954, and fondly remembers Underground trains crowded with hymn-singing passengers. He spoke for many when he recalled: "It was like divine adrenalin for a jaded Church."

As far as the nation was concerned, if the national press is to be any guide, initial hostility - "Yankee spellbinder", and "hot-gospeller" were two of the milder epithets, while one columnist suggested that the Home Secretary should refuse him entry - gave way to grudging, and in some cases warm-hearted, approval. For example, a Sunday Graphic columnist, whose initial reaction was "This Billy Graham line just won't do," 11 weeks later expressed thanks to Graham, saying: "You've done us a power of good."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and Issues* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyChristologySoteriology

2 Comments
Posted May 23, 2014 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We expect a certain level of theological sophistication from our preaching pastors. They must at least know church history, systematic theology, and hopefully some Greek and Hebrew so they can properly interpret and apply the biblical text. We're confident that when we approach them with questions about the canonization of Scripture, the implications of the incarnation, and the doctrine of the body and sexuality, their learning will aid us in responding faithfully to such pressing questions in our culture. If anything the world bears down with even greater ferocity on the fledging faith of Christian youth. So why should we expect less theological rigor from our youth pastors who serve them through teaching, counseling, and more? Every youth minister needs to be a theologian, whether formally or informally equipped to handle God's Word with integrity and care. This new 10-minute video feature insights from David Plant, director of youth ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City; Cameron Cole, director of youth ministries at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama; and Liz Edrington, who is pursuing her master's degree in counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.

Read and watch it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryYouth Ministry* TheologyChristologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted May 20, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is no doubt that the Bible teaches that faithful people who are wealthy have an important role in God’s plan. Some exemplary people in the Bible, like Abraham (Gen 13:2), Barzillai (2 Sam. 19:32), the Shunemite woman who helped Elisha (2 Kings 4:8), and Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57), were specifically described as being wealthy. After saying that the rich must not be haughty, Paul says that “God . . . richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Enjoying the things that money can buy is not necessarily wrong. At the same time it is significant that each of these four godly wealthy people mentioned were commended for their generosity.

Wealthy Christians can honor Christ especially by being humble, generous, and godly while being wealthy. Poor Christians can honor him especially by being contented, full of faith, generous, and godly while being poor. It is clear that in the Bible wealth is far less important than contentment, joy, peace, holiness, love, and generosity. People with these characteristics are, according to the Bible, truly prosperous whether they are economically rich or poor.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryStewardship* Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spending* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

0 Comments
Posted May 19, 2014 at 8:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We are a church that reflects God’s compassion for everyone wherever they find themselves in their journey towards God – for those who feel joy and wish to celebrate, to those who are weary and need rest, to those who wish to discover God’s will for their lives, for all who hurt and need healing, to those who pray and for those who struggle to pray, for all who want a community of fellow searchers for truth, we welcome in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Bible

As Anglicans committed to the Anglican formularies and worship, our life together is founded on reading, studying and applying the Holy Scriptures.

Read it all and see what you think.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican Identity* Christian Life / Church LifeMissionsParish Ministry* TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

1 Comments
Posted May 19, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I know that if she could, my mother would grab that pail and toss it out the window. She would forgive me; in fact, I believe she has forgiven me. But in a way, that makes it harder. Knowing of her unfailing love and grace makes me feel worse about my own failure. Of course, I am envisioning her at her very best, now in heaven knowing as she is known and seeing me with the eyes of God, and I am remembering myself at one of my lowest moments. What about God’s forgiveness? God is always in a best moment and ever aware of our worst. Does that divine forgiveness erase our regret or increase it?

Jesus’ first word to the disciples on the other side of the locked doors is peace. I imagine myself in that room, staring at his wounds and accepting the resurrection miracle. I imagine embracing the improbable, exciting mission commended to me in the words that follow. But peace? Peace is another story.

After Jesus called Peter to feed his sheep, did Peter ever think back on that day around the charcoal fire when he denied the one he dearly loved? Did Peter remember when Jesus yelled at him and called him a terrible name? When Peter stood to preach on Pente­cost and 3,000 were baptized in one day, did he go home and lie awake wishing he could take back his actions on another day? According to the psalm, our transgressions are removed “as far as the east is from the west.” If we accept that as true, then it seems that regret should not linger. But in my experience, forgiveness has not erased regret. Not yet anyway.

These post-Easter days, I am thinking that if my mind and heart are not yet in sync with what should be—with sin removed to a distance beyond my reach—perhaps mere inches matter.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsEasterParish MinistryPastoral Care* Culture-WatchAging / the ElderlyChildrenHealth & Medicine* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

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Posted May 19, 2014 at 7:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Even in our settled congregations--some of them of long standing--there occasionally occurs so much indifference to the sustaining of even the profession of religion, and the making of provision for the administration of its ordinances, as that while their neglect renders them subjects of censure, it ought also to he an excitement of our zeal. Even in such congregations, there are always at least a few persons, who are ready to "strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die." And even if there were none such, those of the contrary stamp are not out of the reach of that voice of the gospel which is raised, "not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." We have the satisfaction of knowing, that the call has been made with great effect, even in congregations of the description which has [7/8] been stated. And this, we hope, will serve as encouragement to those who are ready to do their part of the work of God, leaving the issue of their labour to the influences of his Holy Spirit.

It ought further to he taken into view, that even in neighbourhoods wherein provision is made for the exercise of the ministry, and congregations are duly organized, according to the venerable institutions of the Church; there are powerful incitements to zeal and labour, that we may call sinners to repentance; that we may direct the attention of professors beyond the forms, to the power of Godliness; that we may guard the imperfectly informed, against the errors engrafted by the weakness of men on the holy stock of Christian doctrine; that we may open all the branches of this in their integrity, as found in the Word of Truth; and that we may urge persons of all descriptions, to the attainment and the practice of whatever may contribute to the adorning of the doctrine of our rod and Saviour. It is not here forgotten, that for the accomplishing of these blessed ends, "although Paul plant and Apollos water," it is "God alone who giveth the increase." But he sees fit, as well in the influences of his grace as in the dealings of his providence, to produce his high ends by the instrumentality of human means. And in each of these departments, the duties of all of us are discernible from the relations and from the circumstances in which we severally stand.

While we thus hold out to all the members of our communion, the gospel work which we conceive to he laid on them by the divine Author of our religion; we are not backward to extend their attention to some articles of advice and exhortation, which we think especially worthy of notice, for the accomplishing of the ends which we have in view.

The first, and as essential to all the rest, is mutual incitement to the work; and this, in the Christian Spirit, which alone can either render it an object worthy of considerable exertion, or claim the promise of divine support. We read in one of the prophets, that when a general reformation was in prospect, "they who feared the Lord spake often one to another," it being evidently meant in mutual incitement, to the object of their common concern.

Read it all but no fair clicking the link until you guess the year it was written.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the LaityMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEcclesiologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

1 Comments
Posted May 19, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Work is a good in itself – and not simply (though importantly) a means of making money to support a family. St. John Paul II wrote in 1981: “Man was called to work even before original sin. Man is the image of God partly through the mandate received by the Creator to subdue. To dominate the earth. . .in other words man’s work is in some way a part in God’s creative power!”

We then are co-creators. This is both a privilege and a serious duty. The pope also discusses human work as a way of growing in holiness that prepares us for eternal happiness. After all, Our Lord constantly refers to workers in his preaching, and his greatest apostle was Paul, a tentmaker. You can be sure that St. Paul united his work with prayer so that it would not only contribute to earthly progress, but also extend the Kingdom of God.

This brings us to the second part of God’s plan for work that was highlighted by St. John Paul II in his encyclical on work, Laborem Exercens: that work becomes a place and means of sharing one’s faith not only by example, but also by words based on developing friendship in the context of the workplace.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyApologeticsSoteriology

0 Comments
Posted May 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...I hadn't been ready...Until the summer I was 12. One night, after a miserable, strange day spent wandering the grounds, wondering what it would mean if no God existed at all, I made my decision. A simple solo prayer on the steps of my cabin sealed the deal. My counselor gave me her NIV Student Study Bible, her name scrawled in pink and dotted with hearts inside the front flap. I use it to this day.

For the next dozen years, my faith rose and fell. Some years I felt close and connected to God. Other years I went through the motions.

Leaving Berkeley to complete my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Stanford University (less than an hour away, in Palo Alto), I was amazed at how the atmosphere of faith could feel so different so close to home. I found more fellowship in my early 20s, both in and out of church, than I had in my teenage years. Over the next few years, I continued my Christian walk, going to church, attending a small group Bible study, and teaching Sunday school.

But I still wasn't all in....

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeMissionsParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted May 8, 2014 at 6:04 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Clapham Sect’s commitment to personal spiritual formation helped to fuel the social activism that is commonly associated with Wilberforce and his contemporaries. The Clapham Sect is understandably most famous for its role in ending slavery, but it is important to understand that their anti-slavery motivations were grounded in their faith. Slavery was an abomination because every human being is created in God’s image. Aside from treating fellow humans as property, slavery promoted the worst sorts of vices: physical abuse, rape, separating families, malnourishment, etc. The crusade against slavery was a moral crusade born out of Clapham Spirituality.

In addition to combating slavery, the Clapham Sect was committed to pushing back against other social evils. The Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor was an effort by wealthy Anglican evangelicals to alleviate poverty among the lower classes. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which Wilberforce and other Clapham Sect members joined, championed animal rights two centuries before the cause became politically correct. The Society for the Discharge and Relief of Persons Imprisoned for Small Debt, originally an evangelical initiative, sought to reform the oppressive practice of placing debtors in prison, effectively ending their wage-earning potential. Clapham Sect members also championed prison reform, education reform, healthcare reform and (in the case of some members) the abolition of capital punishment. Clapham Spirituality recognized that, for evangelicals, cultural influence was a matter of moral stewardship.

Clapham Spirituality was not only committed to what we might today call matters of social justice; it was also zealous for the spread the gospel to all people.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted May 1, 2014 at 4:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Have you seen that new movie “Hell Is for Real?” Of course, you haven’t. Because it doesn’t exist. It’s heavenly counterpart, however, earned $21.5 million in ticket sales in its opening weekend.

Sixty-four percent of Americans believe in the survival of the soul after death, and a majority believes in both heaven and hell, according to a Harris Poll released in December 2013. But while most are comfortable discussing the afterlife and heaven, talk of hell can scatter the masses.

So why are Americans afraid to talk about hell?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyEschatologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

5 Comments
Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) today wrapped up its Leadership Summit about human sexuality. The atmosphere at the summit was frank and unsettling at times, occasionally punctuated with slightly nervous laughter.

Summit attendees heard sermons, panel discussions, speeches, and academic presentations, including a data-driven talk Tuesday by Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas. Regnerus reported younger Americans at large have rejected biblical sexual ethics, but all is not lost.

“Among the 18- to 39-year-old pack, you thought you were losing them all on the culture-wars issues,” Regnerus said. “I don’t think you really are.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyPsychologyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & PartnershipsYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesBaptists* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 24, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A colleague of mine who had two young adult children would often talk to me about their escapades. I’ll never forget how he referred to the two using distinctly different language. Of his son, he always used the passionately emphasized phrase, “my son,” without fail. Of his daughter, who had been somewhat of a disappointment to him, he loosely and almost apologetically called her, “our daughter,” as though he would’ve preferred to attribute her entirely to his wife, rather than claim her as his own.

In these genealogies in 1 Chronicles, God is counting those returned exiles (chapter 9) as the heirs of the spiritual promises that he made to their ancestors. By listing their names and tribes and parentage, God is claiming them as his own, even after their time of pronounced disobedience. God is saying, essentially, “you, too, are my people.”

For us, when we feel cut off from relationship with God and his people (now the church), whether because of blatant sin, spiritual apathy, or a dullness of belief, we need to hear again that we are spiritual descendants in a long line of believers. We are heirs of the promises of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, “for all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

God claims us as his own, saying to us, “you, too, through Jesus, are my people.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyPsychology* TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 23, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Jesus dies. His lifeless body is taken down from the cross. Painters and sculptors have strained their every nerve to portray the sorrow of Mary holding her lifeless son in her arms, as mothers today in Baghdad hold with the same anguish the bodies of their children. On Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, God is dead, entering into the nothingness of human dying. The source of all being, the One who framed the vastness and the microscopic patterning of the Universe, the delicacy of petals and the scent of thyme, the musician’s melodies and the lover’s heart, is one with us in our mortality. In Jesus, God knows our dying from the inside.

--–The Rt. Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Rowell, (recently retired) Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly WeekParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyEschatologySoteriology

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Posted April 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“[Hans Urs von] Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday is probably one of his most intriguing contributions since he interprets it as moving beyond the active self-surrender of Good Friday into the absolute helplessness of sin and the abandonment and lostness of death.

In the Old Testament one of the greatest threats of God’s wrath was His threat of abandonment, to leave His people desolate, to be utterly rejected of God. It is this that Jesus experienced upon the Cross and in His descent into the lifeless passivity and God-forsakenness of the grave. By His free entrance into the helplessness of sin, Christ was reduced to what Balthasar calls a “cadaver-obedience” revealing and experience the full horror of sin.

As Peter himself preached at Pentecost (Acts 2:23-24; 32-33):

‘[Jesus] being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you, by lawless hands, have crucified and put to death; who God raised up, having abolished the birth pangs of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it…This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, He pour out this which you now see and hear.’

We ought to pause and note the passivity that is expressed here. Christ experienced what God was doing through Him by His purpose and foreknowledge. Jesus was truly dead and fully encompassed within and held by the pains of death and needed God to abolish them. He was freed from death by God, not simply by God’s whim, but because for God it was impossible that death should hold Christ. Christ Himself receives the Holy Spirit from the Father in order that He might pour out that Spirit. Balthasar writes:
‘Jesus was truly dead, because he really became a man as we are, a son of Adam, and therefore, despite what one can sometimes read in certain theological works, he did not use the so-called “brief” time of his death for all manner of “activities” in the world beyond. In the same way that, upon earth, he was in solidarity with the living, so, in the tomb, he is in solidarity with the dead…Each human being lies in his own tomb. And with this condition Jesus is in complete solidarity.’

According to Balthasar, this death was also the experience, for a time, of utter God-forsakenness—that is hell. Hell, then, is a Christological concept which is defined in terms of Christ’s experience on the Cross. This is also the assurance that we never need fear rejection by the Father if we are in Christ, since Christ has experienced hell in our place.

–S. Joel Garver on Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) [emphasis mine]

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly Week* TheologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 19, 2014 at 12:44 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

…Suddenly all of them standing around the gallows know it: he is gone. Immeasurable emptiness (not solitude) streams forth from the hanging body. Nothing but this fantastic emptiness is any longer at work here. The world with its shape has perished; it tore like a curtain from top to bottom, without making a sound. It fainted away, turned to dust, burst like a bubble. There is nothing more but nothingness itself.

The world is dead.

Love is dead.

God is dead.

Everything that was, was a dream dreamt by no one. The present is all past. The future is nothing. The hand has disappeared from the clock’s face. No more struggle between love and hate, between life and death. Both have been equalized, and love’s emptying out has become the emptiness of hell. One has penetrated the other perfectly. The nadir has reached the zenith: nirvana.

Was that lightning?

Was the form of a Heart visible in the boundless void for a flash as the sky was rent, drifting in the whirlwind through the worldless chaos, driven like a leaf?

Or was it winged, propelled and directed by its own invisible wings, standing as lone survivor between the soulless heavens and the perished earth?

Chaos. Beyond heaven and hell. Shapeless nothingness behind the bounds of creation.

Is that God?

God died on the Cross.

Is that death?

No dead are to be seen.

Is it the end?

Nothing that ends is any longer there.

Is it the beginning?

The beginning of what? In the beginning was the Word. What kind of word? What incomprehensible, formless, meaningless word? But look: What is this light glimmer that wavers and begins to take form in the endless void? It has neither content nor contour.

A nameless thing, more solitary than God, it emerges out of pure emptiness. It is no one. It is anterior to everything. Is it the beginning? It is small and undefined as a drop. Perhaps it is water. But it does not flow. It is not water. It is thicker, more opaque, more viscous than water. It is also not blood, for blood is red, blood is alive, blood has a loud human speech. This is neither water nor blood. It is older than both, a chaotic drop.

Slowly, slowly, unbelievably slowly the drop begins to quicken. We do not know whether this movement is infinite fatigue at death’s extremity or the first beginning - of what?

Quiet, quiet! Hold the breath of your thoughts! It’s still much too early in the day to think of hope. The seed is still much too weak to start whispering about love. But look there: it is indeed moving, a weak, viscous flow. It’s still much too early to speak of a wellspring.

It trickles, lost in the chaos, directionless, without gravity. But more copiously now. A wellspring in the chaos. It leaps out of pure nothingness, it leaps out of itself.

It is not the beginning of God, who eternally and mightily brings himself into existence as Life and Love and triune Bliss.

It is not the beginning of creation, which gently and in slumber slips out of the Creator’s hands.

It is a beginning without parallel, as if Life were arising from Death, as if weariness (already such weariness as no amount of sleep could ever dispel) and the uttermost decay of power were melting at creation’s outer edge, were beginning to flow, because flowing is perhaps a sign and a likeness of weariness which can no longer contain itself, because everything that is strong and solid must in the end dissolve into water. But hadn’t it - in the beginning - also been born from water? And is this wellspring in the chaos, this trickling weariness, not the beginning of a new creation?

The magic of Holy Saturday.

The chaotic fountain remains directionless. Could this be the residue of the Son’s love which, poured out to the last when every vessel cracked and the old world perished, is now making a path for itself to the Father through the glooms of nought?

Or, in spite of it all, is this love trickling on in impotence, unconsciously, laboriously, towards a new creation that does not yet even exist, a creation which is still to be lifted up and given shape? Is it a protoplasm producing itself in the beginning, the first seed of the New Heaven and the New Earth?

The spring leaps up even more plenteously. To be sure, it flows out of a wound and is like the blossom and fruit of a wound; like a tree it sprouts up from this wound. But the wound no longer causes pain. The suffering has been left far behind as the past origin and previous source of today’s wellspring.

What is poured out here is no longer a present suffering, but a suffering that has been concluded–no longer now a sacrificing love, but a love sacrificed.

Only the wound is there: gaping, the great open gate, the chaos, the nothingness out of which the wellspring leaps forth. Never again will this gate be shut. Just as the first creation arose ever anew out of sheer nothingness, so, too, this second world - still unborn, still caught up in its first rising - will have its sole origin in this wound, which is never to close again.

In the future, all shape must arise out of this gaping void, all wholeness must draw its strength from the creating wound.

High-vaulted triumphal Gate of Life! Armored in gold, armies of graces stream out of you with fiery lances. Deep-dug Fountain of Life! Wave upon wave gushes out of you inexhaustible, ever-flowing, billows of water and blood baptizing the heathen hearts, comforting the yearning souls, rushing over the deserts of guilt, enriching over-abundantly, overflowing every heart that receives it, far surpassing every desire.

–Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly WeekParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyEschatologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 19, 2014 at 7:32 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The story of the salvation of the dying thief is a standing instance of the power of Christ to save, and of his abundant willingness to receive all that come to him, in whatever plight they may be. I cannot regard this act of grace as a solitary instance, any more than the salvation of Zacchaeus, the restoration of Peter, or the call of Saul, the persecutor. Every conversion is, in a sense, singular: no two are exactly alike, and yet any one conversion is a type of others. The case of the dying thief is much more similar to our conversion than it is dissimilar; in point of fact, his case may be regarded as typical, rather than as an extraordinary incident. So I shall use it at this time. May the Holy Spirit speak through it to the encouragement of those who are ready to despair!

Remember, beloved friends, that our Lord Jesus, at the time he saved this malefactor, was at his lowest. His glory had been ebbing out in Gethsemane, and before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate; but it had now reached the utmost low-water mark.

Stripped of his garments, and nailed to the cross, our Lord was mocked by a ribald crowd, and was dying in agony: then was he “numbered with the transgressors,” and made as the offscouring of all things. Yet, while in that condition, he achieved this marvellous deed of grace. Behold the wonder wrought by the Saviour when emptied of all his glory, and hanged up a spectacle of shame upon the brink of death! How certain is it it that he can do great wonders of mercy now, seeing that he has returned unto his glory, and sitteth upon the throne of light! “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is, that he can do even more now that he liveth and reigneth. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of his grace?

It is not only the weakness of our Lord which makes the salvation of the penitent thief memorable; it is the fact that the dying malefactor saw it before his very eyes. Can you put yourself into his place, and suppose yourself to be looking upon one who hangs in agony upon a cross? Could you readily believe him to be the Lord of glory, who would soon come to his kingdom? That was no mean faith which, at such a moment, could believe in Jesus as Lord and King. If the apostle Paul were here, and wanted to add a New Testament chapter to the eleventh of Hebrews, he might certainly commence his instances of remarkable faith with this thief, who believed in a crucified, derided, and dying Christ, and cried to him as to one whose kingdom would surely come. The thief’s faith was the more remarkable because he was himself in great pain, and bound to die. It is not easy to exercise confidence when you are tortured with deadly anguish. Our own rest of mind has at times been greatly hindered by pain of body. When we are the subjects of acute suffering it is not easy to exhibit that faith which we fancy we possess at other times. This man, suffering as he did, and seeing the Saviour in so sad a state, nevertheless believed unto life eternal. Herein was such faith as is seldom seen.

Recollect, also, that he was surrounded by scoffers. It is easy to swim with the current, and hard to go against the stream. This man heard the priests, in their pride, ridicule the Lord, and the great multitude of the common people, with one consent, joined in the scorning; his comrade caught the spirit of the hour, and mocked also, and perhaps he did the same for a while; but through the grace of God he was changed, and believed in the Lord Jesus in the teeth of all the scorn. His faith was not affected by his surroundings; but he, dying thief as he was, made sure his confidence. Like a jutting rock, standing out in the midst of a torrent, he declared the innocence of the Christ whom others blasphemed. His faith is worthy of our imitation in its fruits. He had no member that was free except his tongue, and he used that member wisely to rebuke his brother malefactor, and defend his Lord. His faith brought forth a brave testimony and a bold confession. I am not going to praise the thief, or his faith, but to extol the glory of that grace divine which gave the thief such faith, and then freely saved him by its means. I am anxious to show how glorious is the Saviour—that Saviour to the uttermost, who, at such a time, could save such a man, and give him so great a faith, and so perfectly and speedily prepare him for eternal bliss. Behold the power of that divine Spirit who could produce such faith on soil so unlikely, and in a climate so unpropitious.

–From a sermon of C.H. Spurgeon preached on April 7, 1889

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly WeekParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted April 18, 2014 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In recent years Luther's teaching on the atonement has been a subject of strong dispute. Some (mostly the Swedish interpreters) have stressed the ideas of "conflict" and "victory" in Luther's discussions of atonement, arguing for a discontinuity between the Reformer's own thinking and the "substitutionary" theory of later Protestant orthodoxy. Others have insisted that at this point Luther's teaching differs in no essentials from that of his successors. One is well advised to tread carefully on entering the field of controversy; nevertheless, I make bold to submit that the interpretation of atonement in both Luther and Calvin can be understood as turning on the central and pivotal conception of a "happy exchange," in which the believer's sins are laid upon Christ and Christ's own innocence is communicated to the believer. From this center, we may say, the Reformers' thinking moves outwards to the various other soteriological concepts, including the two about which modern opinion is chiefly divided, namely, "victory" and "substitution." First and foremost, the Christian is one who has been united with Christ so intimately that an exchange of qualities has somehow taken place.

Of course, this understanding of Luther's thought would not settle present-day controversies, for it is not incompatible with either of the two main rival theories, nor even with a combination of both. Neither is it incompatible with Calvin's threefold scheme of "Prophet, Priest, and King" (a scheme of which, in any case, he makes very little use), since Christ does not exercise these offices in any "private capacity," but rather communicates their benefits to believers. Perhaps we may say that the notion of "exchange" belongs to the presuppositions of atonement, as the Reformers understood it, whilst the detailed outworking of the doctrine demands the use of further categories.

That the notion is indeed fundamental to the Reformers' thinking could be demonstrated by many passages from the works of both.

Luther speaks explicitly of this "happy exchange" (fröhlich Wechsel) in the German version of the Treatise on Christian Liberty. The soul and Christ are united like bride and bridegroom. They become one flesh, and everything they possess is shared in common. "What Christ has is the property of the believing soul, what the soul has becomes the property of Christ." A similar passage occurs in the Larger Commentary on Galatians (though worded differently in Rörer's MS.): "So, making a happy exchange with us (feliciter commutans nobiscum) he [Christ] took upon him our sinful person, and gave us his own innocent and victorious person." These passages can readily be matched in Calvin's Institutes: "Who could do this [i.e., win salvation for men], unless the Son of God should become also the Son of Man, and so receive what is ours as to transfer to us what is his?" And again: "He was not unwilling to take upon him what was properly ours, that he might in turn (vicissim) extend to us what was properly his." The same pattern of thought recurs in both the Reformers when they speak of the Lord's Supper; as, for instance, in Luther's Treatise on the Blessed Sacrament, and the fourth book of Calvin's Institutes. What exactly it is that is "exchanged" is made perfectly clear in each of these passages: namely, Christ's righteousness is exchanged for the believer's sin.

--Brian A. Gerrish

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly Week* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted April 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Editor's note: Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University and Canon of Ely Cathedral, delivered the following meditations at Salisbury Cathedral over the course of Holy Week in March 2013. Last year, we published the final of those meditations on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This year, we are thrilled to publish these masterpieces of theological reflection in their entirety. Throughout Holy Week, this page will be updated with the meditation that corresponds to each day, reaching its climax on Easter Sunday.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly WeekParish Ministry* TheologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 15, 2014 at 11:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Do the work of an Evangelist!” charged Bishop Mark Lawrence in his sermon to the 75 clergy of the Diocese of South Carolina who attended the annual Renewal of Ordination Vows service, held April 1 at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston.

“The clock is ticking,” said the Bishop. “There are seven billion people in the world – three times as many as when I was born – Seven billion trying to eke out a living and experience a meaningful life. Can you digest a fact like that and not hear the clock ticking?”

Read it all and there is an audio link to the sermon also.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly WeekParish MinistryEvangelism and Church GrowthMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* TheologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 14, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Listen to it all should you wish to and also note that there is an option to download it there (using the button which says "download" underneath the link which says "listen").

Filed under: * By KendallSermons & Teachings* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly WeekParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted April 14, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Every one there is filled full of what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world. No one's eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people's eyes can see further than mine.
--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 12 ("Faith"; emphasis mine) [Hat tip:JH]

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyEschatologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)

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Posted April 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In 1803, in a house overlooking Plymouth harbor, a 14-year-old boy lay dangerously ill. Before this time, he'd never given much time to serious thought about the course his life would take. But during his year-long convalescence, he began to reflect on the possibility of future fame. Would he be a statesman, an orator, or a poet? An eminent minister of a large, wealthy church? Where did true greatness lie? He was shocked out of his reverie—and very nearly out of his bed—by a mysterious voice that uttered the words "Not unto us, not unto us, but to Thy name be the glory."

Adoniram Judson would remember that startling revelation for the rest of his life. With his strong academic training, keen intellect, and linguistic abilities, he might well have become a prominent theologian, scholar, or politician in 19th-century America. But his profound desire to do the will of God led him down a very different path.

"The motto for every missionary, whether preacher, printer, or schoolmaster, ought to be 'Devoted for Life.'"
Adoniram Judson

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryMissions* International News & CommentaryAsiaMyanmar/Burma* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted April 12, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: 'ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted April 9, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Let’s not fool ourselves. A lot of what gets called ministry is motivated by guilt. Peter was not reconciled to Jesus yet. So his efforts out on the lake that morning were driven by a desire to prove something, to compensate for a weakness in himself that he didn’t want to face. Peter was avoiding having that all important conversation with Jesus that thankfully he eventually did have. It is that conversation that will bring Peter back to his beginnings. Through that conversation he will relearn what we all need to learn that even if we’ve been Christians for a while, we never cease being sinners saved by Grace.

“Do you love me, Peter?” What a painful question that was. “You know that I love you, Lord.” “Feed my lambs.” Peter had to go back over his three denials of the Master and relive the agony of them. Three times Jesus asked him: Peter, do you love me? Peter do you love me? Peter do you love me? Only when Peter grasped that Jesus still accepted him, despite his huge failure, could his shame be absolved, and could he move on.

A failure to get this can affect whole churches....

Read it all or there is an audio link here if you want that instead.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* South Carolina* TheologyChristologyPastoral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted March 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Listen to it all if you so desire or download the MP3.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: AnalysisGlobal South Churches & PrimatesGAFCON I 2008* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryMissions* South Carolina* TheologyChristologyEschatologySoteriologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

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Posted March 18, 2014 at 11:21 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It was impossible not to notice a linebacker who would take a shower, dry off, wrap a towel around his waist, pick up his Bible, and ask those of us in the locker room, "Do you know Jesus?" I would think, Do you know you are half-naked?

I asked the veterans on the team about him. They said, "Don't pay attention to him. That's the Naked Preacher...."

As the Naked Preacher preached, God's love crushed me. I had achieved the American dream, only to realize it could not empower me to love my wife or forgive my father. My fame and money could not erase my sin, shame, guilt, fear, and insecurity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSports* TheologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted March 13, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the Orthodox tradition to which Lewis is so obviously indebted, Jesus Christ is the face of God, and thus the ultimate sacrament and icon of God. He is the image and likeness of the invisible God who remains at least partially invisible even in him. This in turn accounts for the utter centrality of icons for the life of Orthodoxy. An icon is not an image that one looks at in order to order to glimpse the meaning of things as depicted by an artist. It is, instead, an image that looks at us. It is meant to reveal, to our mundane sight, a vision of the invisible and eternal world that everywhere envelops and transcends us. An icon is image that we are not meant to master, but that instead is meant to master us.

This desire to divinize the human world means that realistic proportions and perspectives are abandoned. The size of a person in an icon is usually determined by their importance and significance. A figure standing in the background can thus be larger than one in the foreground. Heads and haloes often overlap, for depth is of no real importance. The Incarnation has overthrown all ordinary dimensions and perspectives. Indeed, everything in the icon takes place in the forefront. In an Eastern icon, the vanishing point it is situated in front of the icon in an inverse perspective. The focus point thus moves out away from the icon toward the beholder, as the iconic figure comes forth to meet the viewer. "The result is an opening," declares Michel Quenot, "a radiating forth, while the vanishing point in an ordinary painting results in a convergence that closes up"

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchBooks* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted February 20, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For much of the last century in the United States, Protestant Christianity’s relationship with beer was cold or even hostile at times. Protestant organizations such as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League led the campaign to make alcohol illegal.

Even after Prohibition ended, many evangelicals defined themselves by their abstention from alcohol, called “the beloved enemy” by televangelist Jack Van Impe.

Drinking was, and in many cases still is, outlawed on Christian college campuses and among leadership of many churches and denominations.

But in recent years, change has been fermenting. Taverns and beer halls, once dismissed as the domain of the “worldly” in need of reform, are today the meeting places for churches

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchAlcohol/DrinkingHistoryReligion & Culture* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted February 9, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Gospel tracts, sidewalk evangelism, street preachers with bullhorns—all of these things seem like evangelistic efforts of yesteryear. But if this seems true, where does that leave the state of evangelism today? Is faith-sharing a fading practice, or does it simply look different today? In all their innovative efforts to engage culture, have Christians left this ancient practice so integral to their faith behind?

Barna Group has charted evangelistic practices and attitudes for more than two decades, and the latest study sheds light on the gaps between evangelism in theory and practice, the social groups who are sharing their faith the most, and the surprising ways economics color one's outreach efforts.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & CultureSociology* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted February 3, 2014 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The remarkable thing about this confession is, it's true. It's not a moment of great self-esteem, or at which the lost son remembers how inherently worthy he is. By rights, he has no rights. And yet, what does he discover? Well, it is true that he receives no joy from his elder brother. But that is because the Father is irritatingly insistent on showering his tender mercy upon the returning son.

Many Christian churches open their services by inviting the congregation to confess its sins. It might seem as if this a dour reminder of our inadequacies and failings, and a rather grim thing to be doing on a Sunday, when you could be enjoying a late breakfast. But the Christian can confess with confidence - not simply because he or she will find in God a righteous judge, but because "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." To confess your sin is to express confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the one in whom God displayed both his justice and his mercy. And it is a gloriously counter-cultural testimony to the "admit nothing" world.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchHealth & MedicinePsychologyReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAustralia / NZ* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsSecularism* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted February 1, 2014 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Only one quarter of Anglicans who responded to a Church Times survey are in the habit of inviting people to church.

Just 27 per cent of laypeople responding to a questionnaire agreed with the proposition: "I often invite other people to come to my church"; 56 per cent disagreed. Six per cent agreed with the proposition: "I would never invite anyone to come to my church."

Despite this, lay people continue to be optimistic about church growth: 40 per cent believed that their church would grow in the next 12 months; 42 per cent were uncertain, and only 18 per cent said that it would not.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted January 31, 2014 at 5:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The story of William Taylor also points to a phenomenon that I term the “global reflex.” Missionaries not only shaped foreign contexts, but they themselves were shaped by their experiences abroad. In a Western context preoccupied with “civilizing” indigenous peoples, they saw examples of indigenous effectiveness and sought to emulate them. Missionaries not only adopted new methods, but also became convinced that ordinary, “uncivilized” Christians could build Methodism at home too.

This was an important point for Taylor as he bumped up against a modernizing United States and a gentrifying Methodism. He had little patience for a nation bent on bureaucratization, industrial growth, and technology. Even religious leaders in America, in Taylor’s estimation, had fallen prey to over-systematization. He resented bishops who tried to prescribe geographical boundaries for his evangelistic work and who tried to limit the use of laity in evangelism. He resented when they tried to control his activities through formal review processes. For much of his career, he tried to escape these systems, to work unencumbered by the bureaucracies of the Methodist Missionary Society and the Methodist Episcopal Church, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. Increasing numbers of Methodists were drawn to this critique and to Taylor’s missionary exploits.

These American Methodists, who opposed modernist systematization and sought to depend more fully on the supernatural, formed the backbone of a burgeoning holiness movement. Its adherents opposed the proliferation of rational planning and “church machinery and ritualism,” as a 1881 writer for the Advocate of Christian Holiness put it. In 1882 Taylor himself declared, “I believe in creating missions in foreign lands by the power of God, but do not believe in a fictitious creation of foreign missions in New York by the policy of men.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryMissions* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodist* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriology

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Posted January 17, 2014 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What is the difference between the General of the Salvation Army and the Pope? Less than I presumed a week ago. Both, of course, care about the poor, which has ever been a mark of the Church.
“Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life,” declared St John Chrysostom 1,600 years ago. “The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”
Until last week, I’d thought the Salvation Army was Calvinist. That is no crime. But the Army, I find, believes that the “saved” can backslide. “We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.” That is No 8 in the 11 succinct doctrines of the Salvation Army. As William Booth put it in 1879: “We are a salvation people – this is our speciality – getting saved and keeping saved, and then getting somebody else saved, and then getting saved ourselves more and more.” One hostile commentator on the internet characterises such a belief as “demonic works-salvation”.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

2 Comments
Posted January 11, 2014 at 10:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The text is currently being piloted in 450 parishes. It was developed by the Liturgical Commission after the Synod approved a motion from Liverpool diocese asking for an alternative text in "accessible language".

A note attached to the text, which was published on Sunday, says that "Clergy frequently find themselves conducting baptisms for families who have little contact with the Church. . . For the majority of those attending on such occasions, the existing provision can seem complex and inaccessible."

The note states that the Commission had sought to "express the primacy of God's welcoming grace, while retaining the solemnity of the promises to turn away from evil and towards Christ".

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* TheologyAnthropologySacramental TheologyBaptismSoteriology

11 Comments
Posted January 10, 2014 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

'God seized me by the scruff of the neck, slammed me against the nearest wall and shook me until my teeth rattled. I thought: 'Okay, what does God actually require of me?' '

--From an article in the Independent in 1993 (worth rereading in its entirety); also quoted by yours truly in yesterday's sermon.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted January 6, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At the end of December 1772, an Anglican priest in the poor parish of Olney worked by candlelight on his New Year’s Day sermon. He would preach on the text of 1 Chronicles 17, verses 16 and 17.

That passage was Davimod’s response to God after Nathan informed him that his descendants would be enthroned forever as kings of Israel. David, the once-poor shepherd boy, the man who had repented of adultery and murder, responded to the news by saying, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me thus far?”

That pastor was John Newton, and those words struck a deep chord in his heart.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchHistory* TheologySoteriology

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Posted January 2, 2014 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Listen to it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmasParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* South Carolina* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted December 31, 2013 at 11:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The message of Christmas for you from Christ this morning is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The coming of the eternal Son of God into the world as the God-Man, Jesus Christ, is a fact of history. But thousands of Americans fill out Gallup Poll religious surveys that they believe this fact but then live just like everybody else. They have the same anxieties that good things will be lost and the same frustrations that crummy things can't be changed. Evidently there is not much power in giving right answers on religious surveys about historical facts.

That's because the coming of the Son of God into the world is so much more than a historical fact. It was a message of hope sent by God to teenagers and single parents and crabby husbands and sullen wives and overweight women and impotent men and retarded neighbors, and homosexuals and preachers and lovers and you. And since the Son of God lived, died, rose, reigns and is coming again, God's message through him is more than a historical fact. It is a Christmas gift to you this morning, December 25, 1983, from the voice of the living God. Thus says the Lord: the meaning of Christmas is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The fears that the few good things that make you happy are slipping through your fingers, and the frustrations that the bad things you hate about yourself or your situation can't be changed -- these fears and these frustrations are what Christmas came to destroy. It is God's message of hope this morning that what is good need never be lost and what is bad can be changed.

There are many in our church family who because of age or sickness will inevitably ask themselves the question today: "Is this my last Christmas?" Life is good and precious and we don't want to lose it. We can talk all we want about the good things of life, but if we don't have life we don't have anything. "What does it profit if you gain the whole world and lose your life?" O, how precious is our life. If you don't feel it now, wait 'till you get very sick. Then you will know why Hezekiah wept bitterly with his terminal illness and pled for added years (2 Kings. 20:1-7). The message of Christmas to you who see your death on the horizon is that you need never lose your life. It is good to live. Your life is precious and can be saved.

Read it carefully and read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted December 31, 2013 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...[Jesus of Nazareth] was not a kind of demon pretending to be human; he was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”—he was God.

Now, this is not just a pious commonplace: it is not a commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he [God] had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.

--Creed or Chaos? (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company,1949), page 4 (with special thanks to blog reader and friend WW)

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted December 26, 2013 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God comes to our realm, howbeit he was not far from us Acts 17:27 before. For no part of Creation is left void of Him: He has filled all things everywhere, remaining present with His own Father. But He comes in condescension to show loving-kindness upon us, and to visit us. And seeing the race of rational creatures in the way to perish, and death reigning over them by corruption; seeing, too, that the threat against transgression gave a firm hold to the corruption which was upon us, and that it was monstrous that before the law was fulfilled it should fall through: seeing, once more, the unseemliness of what was come to pass: that the things whereof He Himself was Artificer were passing away: seeing, further, the exceeding wickedness of men, and how by little and little they had increased it to an intolerable pitch against themselves: and seeing, lastly, how all men were under penalty of death: He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear that death should have the mastery—lest the creature should perish, and His Father's handiwork in men be spent for nought—He takes unto Himself a body, and that of no different sort from ours. For He did not simply will to become embodied, or will merely to appear. For if He willed merely to appear, He was able to effect His divine appearance by some other and higher means as well. But He takes a body of our kind, and not merely so, but from a spotless and stainless virgin, knowing not a man, a body clean and in very truth pure from intercourse of men. For being Himself mighty, and Artificer of everything, He prepares the body in the Virgin as a temple unto Himself, and makes it His very own as an instrument, in it manifested, and in it dwelling. And thus taking from our bodies one of like nature, because all were under penalty of the corruption of death He gave it over to death in the stead of all, and offered it to the Father—doing this, moreover, of His loving-kindness, to the end that, firstly, all being held to have died in Him, the law involving the ruin of men might be undone (inasmuch as its power was fully spent in the Lord's body, and had no longer holding-ground against men, his peers), and that, secondly, whereas men had turned toward corruption, He might turn them again toward incorruption, and quicken them from death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of the Resurrection, banishing death from them like straw from the fire.

--Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

2 Comments
Posted December 24, 2013 at 10:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The distinctive mission of the Church of England, while based upon the principle of inculturation, cannot endorse uncritical acceptance of the totality of English culture. And yet it operates a territorial ‘church in community’ type of ecclesiology which works with the state to define its worship, and through dioceses, parishes and chaplaincies to effect its pastoral care and compassionate service. Establishment commits the Church of England to full involvement in civil society and to making a contribution to the public discussion of issues that have moral or spiritual implications.

By concerning itself with the pastoral dimensions of wholeness and healing, the mission of the Church of England accords with people’s quest for meaning and an assurance of identity which cannot be found without community, without fellowship. Its fundamental weaknesses, in common with many churches in Europe, is its tendency to demand that people do not merely acknowledge the Lordship of Christ but also abandon their former way of life in favour of that of a peculiar middle-class sub-culture. Notwithstanding some of the excellent work going on in some of the most impoverished parishes in the country, the public perception of the Church of England remains one of middle-class privilege and an élitism which has little relevance to a modern, pluralist, multi-ethnic society.

And it is also one which has very little relevance to most gays and lesbians, and therein lies the missiological challenge.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)Global South Churches & PrimatesSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings* Christian Life / Church LifeMissions* TheologyChristologySoteriology

3 Comments
Posted December 18, 2013 at 6:39 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The prayers are jarring because they are so personal and raw, clearly not written to "edify the saints" in a published manuscript. They are, well, just prayers.

Part of the rawness and authenticity of the prayers come with the way O'Connor refuses to sentimentalize her personal relationship with Jesus (thought it's clear she has one). She is here constantly aware of her own fallenness and of the seeming silence of the God to whom she pours out these little notes.

O'Connor notes that her attention is "fugitive" in prayer. She confesses that hell seems more "feasible" in her mind than heaven because, "I can fancy the tortures of the damned but I cannot imagine the disembodied souls hanging in a crystal for all eternity praising God."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchHistoryPoetry & LiteratureReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted December 16, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Aside from a pastor's personal weaknesses, what cultural forces make it harder for pastors to stay true in their calls?

We have a cultural tendency to elevate leaders. Maybe it's because they have an extraordinary education or a title or a position. Maybe it is because they have had a great deal of success in the growth of their church, or as an author or speaker. Whatever the reason, we're creating minigods in our minds and hearts. That creates expectations in leaders, and expectations are the foundations for disappointment.
What does that look like in a local church?

Maybe the pastor receives disproportionately large gifts compared to what's given to associates or other staff. Or the senior pastor is seen as the person that we all go to. It's people saying, "The pastor sat at my table," or, "The pastor was over at my house." As if the pastor is a movie star or sports figure.

I don't know how many times in Peacemakers' work, after coming in to help a church, I've heard elders say, "I wanted to say something, but I thought, Who am I?" We elevate pastors to a place where we feel they know so much more than we do, so we don't hold them accountable to some fundamental issues.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineMarriage & FamilyPsychology* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted December 8, 2013 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Maybe it's the waning light and earlier evenings as we head into winter. Or the book I just read on the effects of environmental toxins on fetal development and breast milk quality. Or the upcoming anniversary of the Newtown shootings. Whatever the reasons, as we enter Advent, I am increasingly aware of the darkness of this world into which I am bringing my child, due any day now.

It's a deeply disturbing realization. Welcome, little one, to a place where kids are shot in schools and on street corners, wars rage, and corporate interests often trump the common good. The things I see and hear about every day rattle my heart with worry.

Growing up with an overprotective mother, I told myself would never be that fearful and worried about my own children. Now, I realize it is only natural....

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsAdvent* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted December 8, 2013 at 6:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The law convicts us of sin. It shows us that we are, all of us, judged; that we are, all of us, found wanting.

But the law also convicts us by a second device. Law paints the lines on the savage playing field of our sin: what the law condemns, it first describes. Rules encapsulate sport: without ever having played a round or been on the ice, you know from their rulebooks the respective natures of golf and hockey.

Thus, our readings for today, readings from which the contemporary reader is apt to flee.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Laity* TheologyAnthropologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

0 Comments
Posted December 4, 2013 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What about what some call the greatest mission field, which is our own secularizing or secularized culture? What do we need to do to reach this increasingly pagan society? I think we need to say to one another that it’s not so secular as it looks. I believe that these so-called secular people are engaged in a quest for at least three things. The first is transcendence. It’s interesting in a so-called secular culture how many people are looking for something beyond. I find that a great challenge to the quality of our Christian worship. Does it offer people what they are instinctively looking for, which is transcendence, the reality of God?

The second is significance. Almost everybody is looking for his or her own personal identity. Who am I, where do I come from, where am I going to, what is it all about? That is a challenge to the quality of our Christian teaching. We need to teach people who they are. They don’t know who they are. We do. They are human beings made in the image of God, although that image has been defaced.

And third is their quest for community. Everywhere, people are looking for community, for relationships of love. This is a challenge to our fellowship. I’m very fond of 1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.” The invisibility of God is a great problem to people. The question is how has God solved the problem of his own invisibility? First, Christ has made the invisible God visible. That’s John’s Gospel 1:18: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

People say that’s wonderful, but it was 2,000 years ago. So in 1 John 4:12, he begins with exactly the same formula, nobody has ever seen God. But here John goes on, “If we love one another, God abides in us.” The same invisible God who once made himself visible in Jesus now makes himself visible in the Christian community, if we love one another. And all the verbal proclamation of the gospel is of little value unless it is made by a community of love.

These three things about our humanity are on our side in our evangelism, because people are looking for the very things we have to offer them.

You may find the whole article from which it comes there. I quoted this at the early morning service sermon this past Sunday--KSH.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish MinistryEvangelism and Church GrowthPastoral Care* Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

1 Comments
Posted November 27, 2013 at 4:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

You say in The Church for the World that Christian public witness has gone awry in the United States. How so?

The main problem is that Christian presence in public life tends to be triumphalistic. The purpose of Christian witness is to point to Jesus and the reign of God he embodies, but a triumphal presence actually contradicts Jesus’ way of being in the world as depicted in the Gospels.

The triumphal character of Christian witness has contributed a good deal to how polarized our society and churches have become. Christians so thoroughly disagree about war, sexuality, ecological care, immigration and other issues that we wind up on opposing sides of the political spectrum. This is cause for great concern, because partisan politics ends up defining what is Christian; it shapes the way we think and speak about public issues.

It is possible, though, for Christians to take a stand on specific social and political matters without binding the church to partisan politics. We have biblical and theological resources to help us reframe issues and offer something new—a third way.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* TheologyAnthropologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted November 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Facing crowded pews and heavy hearts, Dallas clergy took to the pulpits on Nov. 24, 1963 to try to make sense of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy just two days before.

“The ministers saw the assassination as an unwelcome opportunity for some serious, city-wide soul-searching,” said Tom Stone, an English professor at Southern Methodist University, who has studied the sermons delivered that day.

“Though Dallas could not be reasonably blamed for the killing, it needed to face up to its tolerance of extremism and its narrow, self-centered values,” Stone said.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheodicy

4 Comments
Posted November 23, 2013 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words “compelle intrare,” compel them to come in, have been so abused be wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.
--C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (Harcourt Brace, 1956), p.228

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted November 22, 2013 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In closing, permit me to highlight three areas of Simeon’s ministry which have greatly challenged me in my reflections and which, if we were to follow them, would have the potential to rejuvenate our ministry.

1 Giving priority to an effective devotional lifestyle, with a commitment to spending ‘quality’ time in Bible study and prayer.

2 A commitment to living a holy life, recognizing the need of the renewing and cleansing power of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

3 That, along with Simeon, our understanding of the purpose of our preaching would be: ‘Sir, we would see Jesus’ (John 12:21).

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* TheologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

0 Comments
Posted November 12, 2013 at 6:14 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The problem is that preachers and teachers of such messages are not telling us the whole truth. They are not giving us a full understanding of the Good News.

Proverbs is only half of wisdom. The other half is found in the Book of Job. And Ecclesiastes. And Jesus at Golgotha. The other part of wisdom—the deeper wisdom—centers on the folly of the Cross.

Not the Cross as a mere rest stop on the way to Resurrection. Not suffering as a means to an end. Not hardship that builds character and makes us better. That's more Proverbs wisdom and is true as far as it goes. That's the theology of glory—if we do this and that, and endure this and that with the right attitude, all will be well.

The theology of the Cross says that God is most deeply met in the suffering itself, not just on the other side of it. Forgiveness of sins is not found after the Cross, but in, with, and under the Cross. This is the "wisdom of the cross" (1 Cor. 1–2) that is folly to the world.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryAdult EducationMinistry of the LaityMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchPsychologyReligion & Culture* TheologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted November 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[I was listening to the speaker on 60 minutes and he said the following}...
:“I have – one teacher I remember was an elderly Jesuit at Xavier (high school in New York City) from Boston. He had a Boston accent. Father Tom Matthews, and he taught me a lesson that I’ve recounted in some of my speeches. He taught me what I refer to as the Shakespeare principle.

The class was reading one of the Shakespeare plays, ‘Hamlet’ or whatever, and one of my classmates or whatever, sort of smart aleck kid, John Antonelli, as I recall. It’s ridiculous I would remember his name. But [John] made some really smart aleck sophomoric criticism of the play, and Father Matthews looked down at him and he said, with his Boston accent, ‘Mister, when you read Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s not on trial. You are.’”
And so it was for me and Flannery O’Connor. As I read her work, Flannery O’Connor was not on trial. I was. Sheepishly, I have to admit that I had similarly grossly misjudged the great G.K. Chesterton in the past (see my previous post “Finding My Way to Orthodoxy” http://acatholicthinker.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/finding-my-way-to-orthodoxy/). The work of Flannery O’Connor could be harsh, violent and discomfiting. And yet it is also thick with truth, grace and redemption. To the superficial reader, a yarn filled with unattractive figures on ill-fated endeavors may be all that is perceived. But to those willing to consider her work more deeply, powerful themes of deeply religious truths become apparent. Perhaps the greatest and most pervasive of these truths in Flannery’s stories is the pain, suffering and “meanness” that often accompanies the beautiful grace of God.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryPoetry & LiteratureReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologySoteriology

1 Comments
Posted October 24, 2013 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What might Anglicans make of these conclusions? Cape Town is in the main consistent with a serious, plain-sense reading of The Catechism of the 1979 prayer book. Our evangelical neighbors show us not the face of “the Other” but rather that of our own forgotten selves. If to some readers Cape Town seems distant, it will be because of our own estrangement or amnesia. Traditional believers within Anglicanism, be they Catholic or evangelical, are not some outdated rump but rather the enfleshed memory of normative, ecumenical, global Christianity.

Here the question of what Cape Town is saying “No” to returns. What makes Cape Town appealing is its address of Christian practice as well as belief. It consciously compares itself to Pauline epistles, which move from proclamation (kerygma) to moral exhortation (paraenesis). Talking the talk must move on quickly to walking the walk. And on this score Cape Town does not let evangelicals off the hook. They have not always proclaimed the whole gospel, nor have they reined in their own leaders, nor consistently addressed the pressing social issues of their day. While the doctrinal part of Cape Town aims at the perennial, the ethical section seeks after pertinence to today’s context.

Here too is a message crucial for Anglicans to hear. Cape Town’s call to action asks: How are we addressing dramatic urbanization and constant migration on the global scene? How are we catechizing our young? How can be minister with honesty and charity to the postmodern era’s commodified and disordered sexuality? Has our theological education retained a heart for evangelism?

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: Analysis* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Evangelism & MissionTheology: Scripture

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Posted October 19, 2013 at 1:41 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Please read this carefully and follow the directions so as not to be confused. You can find the links to the lectures here, BUT, and this is a very important but, the top lecture is not yet available and so what you see when you go immediately to the page is a big black screen with white writing saying "Lost Signal." DO NOT LET THIS DISCOURAGE YOU. Look at the black bar directly underneath the words "Thomas Cranmer and Contemporary Anglican Worship with Ashley Null." On the lefthand side of this bar you will see the word "Livestream," and on the right you will see "login" and then further right you will see the word "join." Immediately to the right of the word "join" you will see an arrow up sign with a toggle bar underneath. If you move this togglebar down the page you will begin to see links to six of Dr. Null's lectures which are available as of this time. Below this description I will also post a link to the first of his lectures--KSH.



Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryLiturgy, Music, Worship* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologySacramental TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

1 Comments
Posted October 19, 2013 at 12:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* TheologyChristologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted October 15, 2013 at 11:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[This is the]...first in a series of annual events with Ashley Null, who is both the Theological Advisor for the Diocese of the Carolinas as well as the Senior Research Fellow for the Ridley Institute, the school of theology at St. Andrew’s.

The event begins Tuesday, October 15 at 8:30 a.m. with worship and concludes on October 16 at 5:00 p.m. Over the course of two days, Dr. Null will deliver eight lectures on Cranmer and Contemporary Anglican Worship. There will be ample time for discussion, questions, and networking over lunches and dinners (daily schedule).

The two-day seminar is also available via livestream....

Check it out courtesy of Saint Andrew's Mount Pleasant, S.C., and consider the livestream option..

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryLiturgy, Music, Worship--Book of Common Prayer* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted October 14, 2013 at 5:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Listen to it all if you so desire.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal* By Kendall* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church GrowthMinistry of the Ordained* TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted October 14, 2013 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Church as people who are Gossippers of the Gospel

[Evangelism] is telling the good news about Jesus, and doing it with honesty, urgency, and joy, using the Bible, living a life that backs it up, and praying, and doing it all for the glory of God.

--Mark Dever

Evangelism is not simply a matter if bringing individuals to personal faith, though of course that remains central to the whole enterprise. It is a matter of confronting the world with the good, but deeply disturbing, news of a different way of living…the way of love.

--Tom Wright

To evangelize is so to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Savior, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.

--William Temple

How do the definitions of evangelism above speak to you right now where you live and move and have your being? Think and pray over them.

Think of the word witness and the word eyewitness. What are the qualities of an effective witness to you? In a lawcourt? In an accident?

In the service of Baptism, the baptismal covenant includes the following Q and A:
Celebrant: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? People: I will, with God’s help.
Against the standard above how would you evaluate yourself as a witness? In word? In deed?

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). What is the role of prayer it witnessing? What is the role of prayer in your witnessing?

If you could name one person in your life for whom you had a particular burden for them to come to know Jesus as Savior and follow him as Lord who would that be? How have you been praying for that person? Is there a way your prayers could be changed going forward? If so,how?

Suppose you had to study Jesus as a witness to God’s kingdom in the gospels? What specific things does he have to teach us about how to witness?

What is the role of listening in witnessing? Of question asking? What are the ways this week God is calling you to listen and ask kingdom oriented questions?

Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ. How does this saying speak to you about witnessing? Are there ways for you to pay about your friends God is calling you to? Is there anyone in your life you may be missing who needs a friend?

--From this morning's Bulletin insert in our series on the Church, cited by yours truly in the sermon




Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* TheologyEcclesiologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

1 Comments
Posted October 13, 2013 at 12:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Most Rev Justin Welby advised churchgoers that it could be an “enormously powerful” experience to unburden themselves to a confessor, even if it was not always a “bunch of laughs”.

His comments came as he addressed the heads of other churches – including the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England Wales, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols – about divisions between Christians.

Although Archbishop Welby comes from the evangelical wing of Anglicanism, his personal spiritual director is a Swiss Roman Catholic priest, Fr Nicolas Buttet, and he is a strong advocate of Catholic worship styles.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySacramental TheologySoteriology

6 Comments
Posted October 11, 2013 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

At some point in their lives, one of every three Americans will leave Christianity, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Religion and Society. Called "leavers," "deconverts," or "ex-Christians," they are targets of fresh concern among church denominations watching their numbers shrink. Pollsters and bloggers tick off reasons why so many are leaving, such as intellectual hurdles to belief, immoral or intolerant church leaders, and profound suffering. But the leavers phenomenon is nothing new. It goes back at least to the parable of the Prodigal Son, told by Jesus and recorded in Luke 15:11–32.

What about the people whom the prodigals leave behind? The ones who love the leavers? The ones left to hold down the forts of remaining families and faith communities? Few theological and practical resources exist for the two out of every three Christians who remain with the Father while they watch their "younger brother" leave.

The biblical parable centers on the relationship between a father and his two sons. But the essence of the story remains the same, whether the prodigal is a child, sibling, spouse, parent, or friend. This is why P. C. Ennis Jr. argues in the Journal for Preachers that "it is crucial that periodically we preach on the Prodigal Son. . . . Like the Easter story and the Christmas story, it bears repeating, for the story of the Prodigal Son is the gospel in capsule."

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPastoral Care* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureTeens / YouthYoung Adults* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted September 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It happens at St. Paul's, Summerville, S.C., from 10:30 a.m. until 4:00.

Thank you.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: South Carolina* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church GrowthMinistry of the Ordained* TheologyEcclesiologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted September 12, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"Communication is evangelism...."

Ugh. Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchMediaReligion & Culture* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

1 Comments
Posted August 31, 2013 at 1:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

If preaching is central to Christian worship, what kind of preaching are we talking about? The sheer weightlessness of much contemporary preaching is a severe indictment of our superficial Christianity. When the pulpit ministry lacks substance, the church is severed from the word of God, and its health and faithfulness are immediately diminished.

Many evangelicals are seduced by the proponents of topical and narrative preaching. The declarative force of Scripture is blunted by a demand for story, and the textual shape of the Bible is supplanted by topical considerations. In many pulpits, the Bible, if referenced at all, becomes merely a source for pithy aphorisms or convenient narratives.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologySeminary / Theological EducationSoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted August 23, 2013 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"It was hard to know where to start after my last album. The song Blessings started as a diary entry and God blew us away by using it in the lives of so many around the world. And as I began to write for my new project "God of Every Story", I went back to that deep place of vulnerability before the Lord, and honesty -- with myself. The path God has led our family down is not one I would have chosen for myself. It has been much harder than I had envisioned, yet it has required deeper faith than I ever thought myself capable of. And that's what God of every story is really about: It’s trusting that the same God who orchestrates the rising and the setting of the sun each day pays the same attention to every detail of my life. It’s believing that at the end of the day, we will look back on this amazing God story that is my life and view it as a beautiful sunset, where the blues and reds, the laughter and tears, all meld together to show the faithfulness of God in a way that makes us stand in applause."

"God of Every Story" is a collection of songs about where God's love and grace intersect with our real life situations. It’s about God working all things together for good and love always winning. It’s a celebration of God's faithfulness, even when we don't always understand His plan this side of heaven. Yet we praise Him because He is the keeper of the stars, the One who holds all things together and always, always, deserves our worship.

Read it all (note there is an excerpt from one of her new songs if you wish to listen) and you can find a Godtube interview to watch there.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenHealth & MedicineMarriage & FamilyMusicReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* South Carolina* TheologyAnthropologyChristologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted August 21, 2013 at 11:02 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

One out of five non-Christians in North America doesn't know any Christians.

That's not in the fake-Gandhi-quote "I would become a Christian, if I ever met one" sense.

It's new research in Gordon-Conwell's Center for the Study of Global Christianity's Christianity in its Global Context, 1970-2020. Missiologist Todd M. Johnson and his team found that 20 percent of non-Christians in North America really do not "personally know" any Christians.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther Churches* TheologySoteriology

2 Comments
Posted August 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What is the image we have of God? Perhaps he appears to us as a severe judge, as someone who curtails our freedom and the way we live our lives. But the Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living One, the one who bestows life and points the way to fullness of life. I think of the beginning of the Book of Genesis: God fashions man out of the dust of the earth; he breathes in his nostrils the breath of life, and man becomes a living being (cf. 2:7). God is the source of life; thanks to his breath, man has life. God’s breath sustains the entire journey of our life on earth. I also think of the calling of Moses, where the Lord says that he is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of the living. When he sends Moses to Pharaoh to set his people free, he reveals his name: "I am who I am", the God who enters into our history, sets us free from slavery and death, and brings life to his people because he is the Living One. I also think of the gift of the Ten Commandments: a path God points out to us towards a life which is truly free and fulfilling. The commandments are not a litany of prohibitions – you must not do this, you must not do that, you must not do the other; on the contrary, they are a great "Yes!": a yes to God, to Love, to life. Dear friends, our lives are fulfilled in God alone, because only he is the Living One!....

Today’s Gospel brings us another step forward. Jesus allows a woman who was a sinner to approach him during a meal in the house of a Pharisee, scandalizing those present. Not only does he let the woman approach but he even forgives her sins, saying: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little" (Lk 7:47). Jesus is the incarnation of the Living God, the one who brings life amid so many deeds of death, amid sin, selfishness and self-absorption.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchLife Ethics* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Francis * TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted June 17, 2013 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We need to go deeper to the only lasting way to change our hearts—take them to the radical, costly grace of God in Christ on the cross. You show your heart the infinite depths to which he went so that you would be free from sin and its condemnation. This fills you with a sense not just of the danger or sin, but also of its grievousness. Think about how ungrateful it is, think of how your sin is not just against God’s law but also against his heart. Melt your heart with the knowledge of what he’s done for you. Tremble before the knowledge of what he is worth—he is worthy of all glory.

A second powerful thought from Newton is this: we sin not simply out of a rebellious desire to be our own masters, but also because we are looking to things besides God to satisfy and fulfill us. While Newton was good at pointing out the danger of having too low or light a view of one’s sin, he was also good at pointing out the opposite problem—too light a grasp of what Jesus has done for us.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted June 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The very thing that makes us feel trapped—God's omniscience—is the very thing that reveals the depth of God's grace. If we can muster the courage to allow God's omniscience to judge us, we will see that before and after the righteous judgment, there has been the omniscience of grace. Let me give an example of an early experience of this.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologySoteriologyThe Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

0 Comments
Posted June 13, 2013 at 11:12 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The term liberal most comprehensively relates to Enlightenment rationality, which posits an autonomous self which can arrive at a one-dimensional certitude. With regard to scripture study it refers to historical criticism, which seeks to locate each text in context and to contain it therein.

When applied to preaching, the liberal approach may take one of two extreme forms. The progressive option features a kind of naturalism that refuses the notion of revelation and the supernaturalism of miracles, along with the tradition that attested them. One can see how historical criticism helped to explain away what was unintelligible to this rationality: “It is the Sea of Reeds, not the Red Sea.” The second liberal approach, in response to such progressivism, is a conservative attempt to reduce unmanageable mystery to a set of propositions that can provide a reassuring certitude.

Both modes of liberal preaching are alive and well as the body of Christ is divided up, like Christ’s robe, into blue and red. The problem with such approaches is that they leave one with nothing to say: nothing for progressives to express except ethical admonitions, nothing for conservatives to convey except concepts, neither telling any gospel news that could be transformative. Progressives have been epistemologically embarrassed by the gospel, and conservatives are tempted to a reductionism that knows too much.
--Christian Century, June 12, 2013 edition

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted June 12, 2013 at 6:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Evangelism is a huge focus of Southern Baptist life and some non-Calvinists worry that the belief in predestination is incompatible with spreading the gospel.

"People involved will always say, 'If you believe in Calvinism, you don't believe in evangelism. If you believe everything is predetermined, why even bother to preach the gospel?" Kidd said. "But as it turns out, Calvinists have never acted that way in the Southern Baptist Convention."

On Friday, a special advisory committee to SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page issued a statement meant to bring the two sides together and chart a way forward.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesBaptists* TheologyAnthropologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted June 8, 2013 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When I first started in youth ministry, I did everything I could think of to attract and engage high school youth. I held monthly social events and service projects. My Sunday school classes and weekly youth group meetings included crazy games, youth-only worship with contemporary Christian music, and discussions of relevant topics.

I chose topics based on what I thought youth cared about, so we talked a lot about friendships, sex and alcohol. While I tied these topics to scripture, I rarely focused on Jesus. I assumed that the youth, who had grown up in the church, already knew the Jesus story well and were likely to be bored by it. Rather than help students cultivate a lifelong relationship with Christ, I focused on getting them to live a Christian lifestyle. I had zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior.

Only a handful of the youth I worked with in that year are attending church today. My extensive efforts at reaching them seem to have made little difference.

Research suggests that my approach to ministry was not unusual—nor was the outcome. According to research by the Fuller Youth Institute, 40 to 50 percent of kids who are part of a youth group in high school fail to stick with their faith in college. To find out why, researchers at FYI conducted a six-year, comprehensive and longitudinal study from 2004 to 2010 called the College Transition Project. The study’s findings are found in Sticky Faith: Practical Ideas to Nurture Long-Term Faith in Teenagers, a 2011 book by Kara E. Powell, Brad M. Griffin and Cheryl A. Crawford.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryYouth Ministry* Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyTeens / Youth* TheologyAnthropologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted June 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The biggest issue is, what does it mean to be obedient to Christ? Before any specific issue is really the posture of the heart toward Christ, and how we encourage a spirit of obedience among 18-year-olds who perhaps up until this point, their experience of faith has been youth group.

All of the language of serious, committed faith is obedience language—take up the cross and follow. It's the cost of discipleship. It's not pretty stuff that you can make nice. It's pretty rugged stuff, but that's the gospel. Theologically, how do we convey that truth in a graceful way and not water it down? Then that has implications for all the other issues.

Of course every Christian college president is worried about this, but homosexuality is a very real issue for campuses. We have gay and lesbian students here. I have met with them. I have talked with them. They are Christians and they are trying to figure out, "What does this mean? How do I live?"

The Scripture that I need to be obedient to leads me to the conclusion that marriage is a relationship between man and woman, and sexuality is to be used in that context.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureSexualityYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)Theology: Salvation (Soteriology)

0 Comments
Posted June 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Listen to the whole public lecture. You may see more about the speaker here.

Filed under: * TheologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted June 1, 2013 at 9:26 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

....the bridegroom rejoices to revisit the heart’s chamber when He finds it adorned with fruits and decked with flowers—that is, meditating on the mystery of His Passion or on the glory of His Resurrection.

The tokens of the Passion we recognize as the fruitage of the ages of the past, appearing in the fullness of time during the reign of sin and death (Gal. 4.4). But it is the glory of the Resurrection, in the new springtime of regenerating grace, that the fresh flowers of the later age come forth, whose fruit shall be given without measure at the general resurrection, when time shall be no more. And so it is written, ‘The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth’ (Cant. 2.11 f); signifying that summer has come back with Him who dissolves icy death into the spring of a new life and says, ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev. 21.5). His Body sown in the grave has blossomed in the Resurrection (I Cor. 15.42); and in like manner our valleys and fields which were barren or frozen, as if dead, glow with reviving life and warmth.

The Father of Christ who makes all things new, is well pleased with the freshness of those flowers and fruits, and the beauty of the field which breathes forth such heavenly fragrance; and He says in benediction, ‘See, the smell of My Son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed’ (Gen. 27.27). Blessed to overflowing, indeed, since of His fullness have all we received (John 1.16). But the Bride may come when she pleases and gather flowers and fruits therewith to adorn the inmost recesses of her conscience; that the Bridegroom when He cometh may find the chamber of her heart redolent with perfume.

So it behoves us, if we would have Christ for a frequent guest, to fill our hearts with faithful meditations on the mercy He showed in dying for us, and on His mighty power in rising again from the dead. To this David testified when he sang, ‘God spake once, and twice I have also heard the same; that power belongeth unto God; and that Thou, Lord, art merciful (Ps. 62.11f). And surely there is proof enough and to spare in that Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification, and ascended into heaven that He might protect us from on high, and sent the Holy Spirit for our comfort. Hereafter He will come again for the consummation of our bliss. In His Death He displayed His mercy, in His Resurrection His power; both combine to manifest His glory.

--Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), On Loving God, Chapter III

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistorySpirituality/Prayer* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted May 13, 2013 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Tony DeLLomo is on a mission from God.

In a hard-to-miss motor home covered with biblical passages, “Jesus is God” signs and an offer of a free Bible, DeLLomo has been spreading the Gospel by parking in high-traffic spots throughout central Florida.

“It’s all to glorify God,” DeLLomo said while wearing a sleeveless, white hooded sweatshirt with “Jesus is King” in red letters.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureTravel* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* TheologyChristologySoteriology

0 Comments
Posted May 4, 2013 at 2:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Small wonder, given the harrowing times recently, that news about a long-running property fight over a picturesque church in northern Virginia escaped most people’s notice. But the story of the struggle over the historic Falls Church is nonetheless worth a closer look. It’s one more telling example of a little-acknowledged truth: though religious traditionalism may be losing today’s political and legal battles, it remains poised to win the wider war over what Christianity will look like tomorrow.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: VirginiaGlobal South Churches & PrimatesSexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesLutheranMethodistPresbyterian* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Salvation (Soteriology)Theology: Scripture

0 Comments
Posted April 30, 2013 at 7:48 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon



Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducation* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

0 Comments
Posted April 30, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Is the Church in the UK as confident in the gospel as it should be?

It appears that while mission is clearly at the heart of what many churches are doing, talking about our faith as Christians is proving increasingly difficult.

Our desire is to see churches throughout the UK have a renewed confidence in the gospel and engaged in creative evangelism which is producing lasting results. This timely campaign is not about providing busy churches with more programmes; rather it is about looking at how we can make small changes that will nurture a gospel-confident culture within our churches.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* TheologyAnthropologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

0 Comments
Posted April 30, 2013 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This gospel is one of the most notable that a man can find in the New Testament, and worthy to be commended with all kinds of commendation. But as it is not possible that a man should sufficiently express this sermon of Christ by words ; first let us call unto God, that he will expound these words more plainly in our hearts, than we can by our words and interpretation, and that he will enkindle them, and make them so plain, that our conscience may receive comfort and peace thereby. Amen.

The pith of this excellent sermon is, that God so greatly loved the world, that he delivered his only begotten Son for it, that we men should not die, but have everlasting life. And first let us see who is the giver. He is the Giver, in respect of whom all princes and kings, with all their gifts, are nothing in comparison. And our hearts might worthily be lifted up and exalted with a godly pride, since we have such a giver, so that all who should come unto us by any other liberality, might be counted of no price in comparison of this. For what can be set before us that is more magnificent and excellent than God almighty. Here God, who is infinite and unspeakable, gives after such a manner as passes also all things. For that which he gives, he gives not as wages of desert, or for a recompense, but, as the words sound, of mere love. Wherefore this gift wholly proceeds of God's exceeding and divine benevolence and goodness, as he saith, God loved the world. There is no greater virtue than love, as it may hereby be well understood, that when we love anything, we will not hesitate to put our life in danger for it. Verily, great virtues are patience, chastity, sobriety, &c., but yet they are nothing to be compared with this virtue, which comprises and includes within itself all other virtues. A good man does no man wrong, he gives every man his own ; but by love, men give their own selves to others, and are ready with all their heart to do all that they can for them. So Christ saith here also, that God gives to us, not by right or merit, but by this great virtue, that is by love.

This ought to encourage our hearts, and to abolish all sorrow, when this exceeding love of God comes in mind, that we might trust thereto and believe steadfastly, that God is that bountiful and great Giver, and that this gift of his, proceeds of that great virtue of love. This sort of giving, which has its spring of love, makes this gift more excellent and precious. And the words of Christ are plain, that God loveth us. Wherefore for this love's sake ought we greatly to esteem all things that he gives us.

--Writings of the Rev. Thomas Becon (London, J. Nisbet), pp. 494-495

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* TheologyAnthropologyAtonementChristologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 28, 2013 at 5:50 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This is a very sobering time for ecclesiastically minded Americans. At a steadily growing rate, more and more Americans — especially the young — claim no religious affiliation. The figure has climbed from 15% to 20% of all Americans in the past five years. Pew researchers call the trend “nones on the rise.”

In reaction, Protestants and Roman Catholics are proving that the author of the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes had it right when he wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. In a classic attempt to turn adversity to advantage, Christian leaders who once assumed a cultural dominance (in the beginning of the baby-boom era, Christian identification among Americans was at least 91%; today it’s down to 77%) are now arguing for a double-down strategy. Rather than softening the Gospel message to make it more marketable to an America skeptical of institutions — a frequent reform point of view — what draws the real energy among the faithful is a renewed commitment to what Christians call the Great Commission, the words the resurrected Jesus spoke to his apostles at the end of Matthew: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

At the center of this strategy of unapologetic apologetics stands George Weigel, the papal biographer and prominent Catholic writer who has just published Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church, a handbook for Catholics seeking to keep the church out of the catacombs. “It’s a recovery of the basic dynamic of New Testament Christianity, but that passionate impulse to live the Great Commission and convert the world cooled during centuries when the ambient public culture helped do the church’s job,” says Weigel.

Read it all from a recent issue.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryAdult EducationEvangelism and Church GrowthMinistry of the LaityMinistry of the OrdainedPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicalsRoman Catholic* TheologyAnthropologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted April 22, 2013 at 3:46 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For many Christians, Brennan Manning and grace are synonymous. Therein lies the scandal, and the triumph.

Let’s start with the scandal. Richard Francis Xavier “Brennan” Manning was an alcoholic and an addict. He hurt those close to him by compulsive lying, mainly due to hide his drinking, or if not, as he put it, to “stay in practice.” He was a former Franciscan priest, who broke his vows to marry. He later divorced.

But then there’s the triumph. Manning was a powerful writer and speaker, beloved and respected for his passionate witness to the expansiveness of God’s mercy and forgiveness, the availability of intimacy and communion with “Abba, Father,” and the inexhaustible grace of Jesus Christ. And he would know.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchBooksReligion & Culture* TheologyAnthropologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted April 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Less than a month after sponsoring an event for Virginia Episcopal clergy featuring a speaker who denies both the afterlife and unique divinity of Christ, Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has presided over a service featuring a similarly controversial figure.

In a Good Friday service at historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, retired Bishop John Shelby Spong decried the Nicene Creed as “a radical distortion of the Gospel of John,” asserted that several of the apostles were “mythological” and declared that Jesus Christ did not die to redeem humanity from its sins.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly Week* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted April 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The story of the salvation of the dying thief is a standing instance of the power of Christ to save, and of his abundant willingness to receive all that come to him, in whatever plight they may be. I cannot regard this act of grace as a solitary instance, any more than the salvation of Zacchaeus, the restoration of Peter, or the call of Saul, the persecutor. Every conversion is, in a sense, singular: no two are exactly alike, and yet any one conversion is a type of others. The case of the dying thief is much more similar to our conversion than it is dissimilar; in point of fact, his case may be regarded as typical, rather than as an extraordinary incident. So I shall use it at this time. May the Holy Spirit speak through it to the encouragement of those who are ready to despair!

Remember, beloved friends, that our Lord Jesus, at the time he saved this malefactor, was at his lowest. His glory had been ebbing out in Gethsemane, and before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate; but it had now reached the utmost low-water mark.

Stripped of his garments, and nailed to the cross, our Lord was mocked by a ribald crowd, and was dying in agony: then was he “numbered with the transgressors,” and made as the offscouring of all things. Yet, while in that condition, he achieved this marvellous deed of grace. Behold the wonder wrought by the Saviour when emptied of all his glory, and hanged up a spectacle of shame upon the brink of death! How certain is it it that he can do great wonders of mercy now, seeing that he has returned unto his glory, and sitteth upon the throne of light! “He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is, that he can do even more now that he liveth and reigneth. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of his grace?

It is not only the weakness of our Lord which makes the salvation of the penitent thief memorable; it is the fact that the dying malefactor saw it before his very eyes. Can you put yourself into his place, and suppose yourself to be looking upon one who hangs in agony upon a cross? Could you readily believe him to be the Lord of glory, who would soon come to his kingdom? That was no mean faith which, at such a moment, could believe in Jesus as Lord and King. If the apostle Paul were here, and wanted to add a New Testament chapter to the eleventh of Hebrews, he might certainly commence his instances of remarkable faith with this thief, who believed in a crucified, derided, and dying Christ, and cried to him as to one whose kingdom would surely come. The thief’s faith was the more remarkable because he was himself in great pain, and bound to die. It is not easy to exercise confidence when you are tortured with deadly anguish. Our own rest of mind has at times been greatly hindered by pain of body. When we are the subjects of acute suffering it is not easy to exhibit that faith which we fancy we possess at other times. This man, suffering as he did, and seeing the Saviour in so sad a state, nevertheless believed unto life eternal. Herein was such faith as is seldom seen.

Recollect, also, that he was surrounded by scoffers. It is easy to swim with the current, and hard to go against the stream. This man heard the priests, in their pride, ridicule the Lord, and the great multitude of the common people, with one consent, joined in the scorning; his comrade caught the spirit of the hour, and mocked also, and perhaps he did the same for a while; but through the grace of God he was changed, and believed in the Lord Jesus in the teeth of all the scorn. His faith was not affected by his surroundings; but he, dying thief as he was, made sure his confidence. Like a jutting rock, standing out in the midst of a torrent, he declared the innocence of the Christ whom others blasphemed. His faith is worthy of our imitation in its fruits. He had no member that was free except his tongue, and he used that member wisely to rebuke his brother malefactor, and defend his Lord. His faith brought forth a brave testimony and a bold confession. I am not going to praise the thief, or his faith, but to extol the glory of that grace divine which gave the thief such faith, and then freely saved him by its means. I am anxious to show how glorious is the Saviour—that Saviour to the uttermost, who, at such a time, could save such a man, and give him so great a faith, and so perfectly and speedily prepare him for eternal bliss. Behold the power of that divine Spirit who could produce such faith on soil so unlikely, and in a climate so unpropitious.

–From a sermon of C.H. Spurgeon preached on April 7, 1889

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly Week* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted March 29, 2013 at 12:31 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In recent years Luther's teaching on the atonement has been a subject of strong dispute. Some (mostly the Swedish interpreters) have stressed the ideas of "conflict" and "victory" in Luther's discussions of atonement, arguing for a discontinuity between the Reformer's own thinking and the "substitutionary" theory of later Protestant orthodoxy. Others have insisted that at this point Luther's teaching differs in no essentials from that of his successors. One is well advised to tread carefully on entering the field of controversy; nevertheless, I make bold to submit that the interpretation of atonement in both Luther and Calvin can be understood as turning on the central and pivotal conception of a "happy exchange," in which the believer's sins are laid upon Christ and Christ's own innocence is communicated to the believer. From this center, we may say, the Reformers' thinking moves outwards to the various other soteriological concepts, including the two about which modern opinion is chiefly divided, namely, "victory" and "substitution." First and foremost, the Christian is one who has been united with Christ so intimately that an exchange of qualities has somehow taken place.

Of course, this understanding of Luther's thought would not settle present-day controversies, for it is not incompatible with either of the two main rival theories, nor even with a combination of both. Neither is it incompatible with Calvin's threefold scheme of "Prophet, Priest, and King" (a scheme of which, in any case, he makes very little use), since Christ does not exercise these offices in any "private capacity," but rather communicates their benefits to believers. Perhaps we may say that the notion of "exchange" belongs to the presuppositions of atonement, as the Reformers understood it, whilst the detailed outworking of the doctrine demands the use of further categories.

That the notion is indeed fundamental to the Reformers' thinking could be demonstrated by many passages from the works of both.

Luther speaks explicitly of this "happy exchange" (fröhlich Wechsel) in the German version of the Treatise on Christian Liberty. The soul and Christ are united like bride and bridegroom. They become one flesh, and everything they possess is shared in common. "What Christ has is the property of the believing soul, what the soul has becomes the property of Christ." A similar passage occurs in the Larger Commentary on Galatians (though worded differently in Rörer's MS.): "So, making a happy exchange with us (feliciter commutans nobiscum) he [Christ] took upon him our sinful person, and gave us his own innocent and victorious person." These passages can readily be matched in Calvin's Institutes: "Who could do this [i.e., win salvation for men], unless the Son of God should become also the Son of Man, and so receive what is ours as to transfer to us what is his?" And again: "He was not unwilling to take upon him what was properly ours, that he might in turn (vicissim) extend to us what was properly his." The same pattern of thought recurs in both the Reformers when they speak of the Lord's Supper; as, for instance, in Luther's Treatise on the Blessed Sacrament, and the fourth book of Calvin's Institutes. What exactly it is that is "exchanged" is made perfectly clear in each of these passages: namely, Christ's righteousness is exchanged for the believer's sin.

--Brian A. Gerrish

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsHoly Week* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted March 29, 2013 at 11:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the end, repentance, not love, has come to symbolise Cranmer himself, his life's work being interpreted by his last days. In the eyes of his critics, Cranmer's recantations prove that at best he was weak and vacillating. In the hearts of his admirers, however, Cranmer's last-minute renunciation of his recantations proved his true commitment to the Protestant faith. But what of Cranmer himself, how did he interpret his last days and the meaning they gave to his life? According to a contemporary account, having previously been distraught, Cranmer came to the stake with a cheerful countenance and willing mind.

Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right Hand, and thrust it into the Flame, and held it there a good space, before the Fire came to any other Part of his Body; where his Hand was seen of every Man sensibly burning, crying with a loud Voice, This Hand hath offended. As soon as the Fire got up, he was very soon Dead, never stirring or crying all the while.
His Catholic executioners surely thought Cranmer was making satisfaction to his Protestant God. Yet his doctrine of repentance would have taught him otherwise, for the God he served saved the unworthy.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* TheologyAnthropologyPastoral TheologySoteriology

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Posted March 21, 2013 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"On one occasion I was travelling with the late lamented Bishop Weeks, then a simple minister. I went with him on a visit to a friend in the country. While I was in the railway carriage with him, a gentleman attacked him, knowing that he was a friend of missions. The gentleman said, 'What are the missionaries doing abroad? We don't know anything about their movements. We pay them well, but we don't hear anything about them. I suppose they are sitting down quietly and making themselves comfortable.' Mr. Weeks did not say anything in reply, I having made a sign to him not to do so. After the gentleman had exhausted what he had to say, I said to him, 'Well, sir, I beg to present myself to you as a result of the labours of the missionaries which you have just been depreciating;' and I pointed to Mr. Weeks as the means of my having become a Christian, and having been brought to this country as a Christian minister. The gentleman was so startled that he had nothing more to say in the way of objection, and the subsequent conversation between him and Mr. Weeks turned upon missionary topics. On the banks of the Niger, where we have not been privileged to be ushered in by European missionaries, native teachers have maintained their footing among their own people. Their countrymen look upon them as very much superior to themselves in knowledge and in every other respect, and listen to them with very great attention when they preach to them the Gospel of our salvation."

On St. Peter's Day, 1864, perhaps the most important event of his life took place, when in Canterbury Cathedral Samuel Crowther was consecrated as the first Bishop of the Niger. The scene was a memorable one, and is not likely to be forgotten by those who stood in the vast crowd which filled every aisle of the grand cathedral that day. The license of Her Majesty had been duly promulgated in these terms:--

"We do by this our license under our royal signet and sign manual authorise and empower you the said Reverend Samuel Adjai Crowther to be Bishop of the United Church of England and Ireland in the said countries in Western Africa beyond the limits of our dominions."

When the service began it was an impressive sight to see the Archbishop of Canterbury, attended by live other Bishops, enter the choir; and following them the three Bishops to receive the solemn rite of consecration, viz: the new Bishop of Peterborough, the new Bishop of Tasmania, and the new Bishop of the Niger. Remembering, as doubtless many did, the touching history of his childhood and early struggles as a slave, not a, few in that vast building were moved to tears as [118/119] the African clergyman humbly knelt in God's glorious house to receive the seals of the high office of Shepherd in His earthly fold. Most of all must one heart have been affected, that of Airs. Weeks, the missionary's wife, at whose knee he received his first lessons in the way of the Lord.

No one could fail to see how God had called forth this native from the degradation of a boyhood of slavery, to become a chosen vessel in His service. He had proved himself as a true-hearted standard-bearer of the Cross in much toil and patient endurance, and it was meet that to him should be committed the spiritual interests of the district in which he had spent hitherto nearly the whole of his life since he became a Christian.

On his immediate return to the Niger, the work began afresh with renewed energy. Special attention was given to the Delta, for King Pepple, having been on a visit to England, made an application to the Bishop of London to send missionaries to his dominions. A more degraded district was not to be found in Africa. Although its trade was very flourishing, being one of the chief markets for palm oil, the people were sunk in the lowest vices and superstitions. At the time of which we speak, when Bishop Crowther was forming the Christian Church there, the shocking practice of cannibalism was not yet wholly given up, and the people were entirely under the power of the priests of the Juju or fetish worship. As in Dahomey, no regard for human life seems to have existed; men were sacrificed at every high festival, and at the burial of any of their chief men a number of poor creatures would be slaughtered. The ghastly spectacle of their temple, paved and elaborately decorated with human bones, showed the ferocity of their religion.

In the midst of this awful darkness came Bishop Crowther and his fellow-helpers, bearing the light of the Gospel, and in due time many believed and were saved. It was as in the early Church of the first centuries, the adherents of the new religion were mostly slaves, and to escape their persecutors had to meet for worship and counsel in retired places.

--Jesse Page, Samuel Crowther: The Slave Boy Who Became Bishop of the Niger (London, 1892), Chapter Ten (emphasis mine)

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE BishopsChurch of Nigeria* Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryMissionsParish MinistryEvangelism and Church Growth* TheologyAnthropologyChristologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted January 23, 2013 at 6:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It's interesting that our culture is rarely scandalized by this preaching of the Cross. That's probably because it is a rare theme of Christian preaching these days. Instead we have been smitten with practical preaching that helps people become successful in life and business, and with ethical preaching that tells people how to live better. This is done for the noblest of reasons—to show the gospel relevant to people's daily needs, but one can see where this has gotten us. When the Cross is preached, it is often preached in a way that falls on deaf ears. It's seen as a theme for theologians to wax eloquent about with strange words like propitiation and justification, or something comforting to guilt-ridden religious types—but meaningless to regular human beings.

Need-driven preaching—even of the highest order, that is, our search for significance—communicates that Jesus is just another way to solve our problems. It is no wonder that the culture looks at us, pats us on the head, and says, "But we've found other, equally valid ways to solve our problems, thank you." We tend to think that postmoderns have brought relativism down upon us, but it seems, we Christians have been the culprits the more we make our message about meeting people's needs.

The most needful and difficult task of the church today is to again preach the message of the Cross, and to do so in a way that alarms, surprises, scandalizes, challenges, invigorates, and inspires a 21st century world. What that would look like exactly is hard to say; our theologians and pastors need to help us here. In the most general terms, it has to be about Christ first and last. It has to be about the Christ who came into the world not to improve generally good people, but to resurrect the dead, not to bolster our self-esteem but to forgive us, not to make people successful but to make them loving, not to win the culture but to establish a kingdom without end.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryPreaching / Homiletics* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSexuality* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack Obama* TheologyChristologySoteriology

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Posted January 23, 2013 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just after World War II, Henry, then a young rising star in the Christian firmament, issued a jarring manifesto calling for a theologically-informed and socially-engaged evangelicalism. [Carl] Henry warned that American Christianity, on the Right and on the Left, was headed for irrelevance, toward being the equivalent of a wilderness cult. His agenda wasn’t simply an updating of style and presentation (although he had written a book on church publicity). The issues at root were about misguided views on the kingdom of God.

He was right. And he still is.

Henry was concerned about two fronts: detached fundamentalism and social gospel liberalism. The liberals, Henry insisted, had replaced the gospel with a political program. Instead of seeing the primary mission of the church in terms of God’s reconciling work in Christ to forgive sins, the liberals were busy grinding out policy papers on nuclear policy. Liberals saw the kingdom as a program for public righteousness, often enacted legislatively.

At the other extreme, though, Henry warned, conservatives over-reacted to the social gospel. They spoke of the kingdom of God, but acted as though it were wholly future.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologySoteriologyTheology: Scripture

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Posted January 22, 2013 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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