Archives For Empowered Living

The Ridley Institute at St. Andrew’s is pleased to announce a week-long, seven-lecture introductory seminar on The Person and Ongoing Work of the Holy Spirit to be held on campus at the end of this month.  This course is part of Andy Piercy’s year-long School of Worship, but has been opened up for participation by the public.

The seven lectures will be given by The Rev’d Rob Sturdy over four days, 28 April – 1 May.  The schedule for the lectures is listed below – note that most lectures occur in the morning. The registration cost is $30. Participants will be expected to bring a Bible and notepaper, and can register on our website.

A full course on The Person and Ongoing Work of the Holy Spirit, spread over ten weeks with expert guest lecturers, will be held next spring (2015), and will cover more ground in greater depth than these four days can afford us.  However, this seven-course introductory seminar is an excellent chance to begin laying a foundation for our understanding of, and relationship with, the Holy Spirit.

I hope you are able to take advantage of this latest offering from The Ridley Institute.

Monday, 28 April
12:30-1:00 Registration, Coffee

1:00-2 Lecture 1: “The Holy Spirit, a Biblical theology”

Tuesday, 29 April
9:00-9:30 Coffee

9:30-10:30 Lecture 2: “The Holy Spirit: A Systematic and Historical Approach” 

10:30-10:40 Break

10:40-11:40 Lecture 3: “The Holy Spirit and the Ministry of Jesus” 

Wednesday, 30 April
9:00-9:30 Coffee

9:30-10:30 Lecture 4: “The Holy Spirit and Regeneration”

10:30-10:40 Break

10:40-11:40 Lecture 5: “The Sealing of the Spirit” 

Thursday, 1 May
9:00-9:30 Coffee

9:30-10:30 Lecture 6: “The Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church” 

10:30-10:40 Break

10:40-11:40 Lecture 7: “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit”

Nice clip.  Of course, Donne is a favorite of mine.

Great lines:

“Begin with the text, not with a feeling” (very sound advice for reading Scripture as well).

“‘And death shall be no more, death thou shalt die.’  Nothing but a breath, a comma, separates life from life everlasting.  In this way, one learns something from the poem.  Life, death, soul, God, past, present, not insuperable barriers not semicolons – just a comma.”

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Jim Kelly Tough

April 1, 2014 — 1 Comment

From Peter King:

jim-kelly-daughter-hospitalNEW YORK — On a high floor of Lenox Hill Hospital Saturday afternoon, Jim Kelly, 54, lay propped up in a hospital bed, his head back, hair matted and tousled, a round of pain meds and antibiotics coursing through his veins. He looked tired. His daughter Erin, a freshman at Liberty University, held his hand as he ticked off what life has been like for him lately. Four Kelly brothers and father Joe ringed the room, along with younger daughter Camryn (pictured atop this story), and his wife, Jill, followed his every word from the foot of the bed.

“There is no way I’d be here without my faith,” Jim Kelly said. “It’s been such a roller coaster. So many things. The Super Bowl losses, the fabulous career, my son born sick, making the Hall of Fame, my son dying, two plates and 10 screws in my back after major surgery, one plate and six screws in my neck after another surgery, a double hernia, the cancer, surgery on my jaw, the cancer coming back, now what I’m facing. But …”

He looked at Erin.

“When you’re going through pain, you’re what?” he said.

Not even a millisecond elapsed.

“Kelly tough,” said the eldest daughter of Jim Kelly.

 Read it all.

Thought this was interesting.  From Salon:

Whatever you want to say about Christianity as a system of thought or a force in history, you’ll have to admit that it has a pretty impressive record as a source of inspiration for artists and writers. But when we use the buzzword “Christian” in contemporary American society, we’re talking about a distinctively modern cultural and demographic phenomenon that has almost no connection to the spiritual and intellectual tradition that fueled Dante and Milton and Leonardo and Bach.

This brief observation helps give context to what we seek to address when we create the discipleship and formation processes (Alpha Course -> Emmaus Course -> Ridley Institute) we create at St. Andrew’s.  Fundamentally, I ask what kind of Christians do I want to produce?  Then, what kind of church is necessary to produce this kind of Christian? And, lastly, what kind of leaders do we need to develop to create the kind of churches that produce the kind of Christian we wish to see?



From The Guardian – discussing a secular Lent verses a Christian Lent.

I am a b*****d. A complete s**t. And so too are you. Calvinists call it the doctrine of total depravity. And it is the existential driver of Lent. Of course, most Christians these days wouldn’t use my fruity language. Though this is, generally speaking, a modern squeamishness (Luther’s language, for instance, was perfectly foul). Rather, they would talk of sin – which I agree is a good and important word, but one that has come to be debased by the church’s obsession with the bedroom and the secular world’s appropriation of it to describe calories.

Which is why I rather despise the secular Lent of giving up chocolate and coffee, thus having a second go at the new year resolutions that ran into the sand somewhere in mid-January. This sort of Lent is such a pale imitation of the real thing that I prefer to have nothing to do with it whatsoever. This year, I am giving up giving things up. To be honest, I am not very good at it either. At least giving up giving up is something I reckon I will have a reasonable chance of achieving.

The irony of the secular Lent of giving up chocolate etc is that it turns a period of self-denial into one of self-regard. It makes it all about me, and most especially, the cultivation of my own beauty or sense of worth. This sits rather oddly with the message that most Christians received last Wednesday when they were marked with ash and told that they were going to die: “Know that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

It’s not the sort of encouraging cheery message one finds above the door of the gym or in the pages of those nauseatingly upbeat self-help manuals.

Yet, the language of sin and death – both, in Christian theology, the gift of Adam and thus a constituent part of the human condition – are, I think, much more compassionate ways of looking at human beings than the alternative doctrines of continual self-improvement.

This is counter-intuitive, I know. To use the language of sin sounds all terribly judgmental. But as the wonderful novelist Marilynne Robinson puts it in The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought: “The belief that we are all sinners gives us excellent grounds for forgiveness and self-forgiveness, and is kindlier than any expectation that we might be saints, even while it affirms that standards all of us fail to attain.”

What is crueller or more self-deluded than the idea that human beings might achieve some acceptable state of moral superiority? This is just setting us up to fail. And while it is the case that many of us do not share in the sort of venal practices of those who are lambasted in our tabloid newspapers for their moral failings – again, mostly sex-related – there is much wisdom in the “there but for the grace of God go I” philosophy.

Read it all.

Excellent article in Christianity Today from Kevin Miller, Associate Rector, at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, IL.  I, too, at one time found great encouragement in Brian, Rob and Don.

True, Brian, Rob, and Don, being creative souls who long for beauty and truth, flew too close to the sun. But evangelicalism fitted them with wings of wax.

As a movement, we treasure the individual getting right with God, the religious born-again experience, the innovative way to do mission. Sounds good, but when individual trumps communal, experience trumps received teaching, and innovation trumps the Great Tradition, you get exactly what we’ve all just lived through. It can go no other way.

How else can you explain Don Miller’s nostalgic delight in do-it-myself Communion: “I remember pulling over on the side of the road with friends, climbing into an old abandoned building that we thought looked interesting and doing communion on a loading dock using hot chocolate and cookies. … It was a fantastic bonding moment between us but also between us and God.”

The same soil that grows create-your-own sacraments feeds create-your-own moral teaching. This explains the recent PRRI/Brookings poll that shows (in the words of scholar Gerald McDermott): “While only 15 percent of white Evangelical seniors support gay marriage, 51 percent of white Evangelicals under thirty-five do.”

It turns out that we evangelicals need a loftier ecclesiology, where the words of St. Cyprian sound natural to our ears: “He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother; . . . he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ.”

Are we willing to grow in our love for Holy Church? To accept her teachings, her worship, her cultural rejection? Will we embrace not just the Head but the Body, and love not just the Groom but the Bride?

Let me get specific about what this will take . . . .

Read it all.

Words of wisdom from my Dad:

For a Reason

From Sinclair Ferguson:

heart on fireBehind the giants of church history stands the testimony of Scripture. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart (Deut. 6:5). That is why, in replacing Saul as king, God “sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), for “the Lord looks on the heart” (16:7). It is a truism to say that, in terms of our response to the gospel, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. But truism or not, it is true.

What this looks like, how it is developed, in what ways it can be threatened, and how it expresses itself will be explored little by little in this new column. But at this stage, perhaps it will help us if we map out some preliminary matters in the form of a catechism on the heart:

Q.1. What is the heart?
A. The heart is the central core and drive of my life intellectually (it involves my mind), affectionately (it shapes my soul), and totally (it provides the energy for my living).

Q.2. Is my heart healthy?
A. No. By nature I have a diseased heart. From birth, my heart is deformed and antagonistic to God. The intentions of its thoughts are evil continually.

Q.3. Can my diseased heart be healed?
A. Yes. God, in His grace, can give me a new heart to love Him and to desire to serve Him.

Q.4. How does God do this?
A. God does this through the work of the Lord Jesus for me and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in me. He illumines my mind through the truth of the gospel, frees my enslaved will from its bondage to sin, cleanses my affections by His grace, and motivates me inwardly to live for Him by rewriting His law into my heart so that I begin to love what He loves. The Bible calls this being “born from above.”

Q.5. Does this mean I will never sin again?
A. No. I will continue to struggle with sin until I am glorified. God has given me a new heart, but for the moment He wants me to keep living in a fallen world. So day by day I face the pressures to sin that come from the world, the flesh, and the Devil. But God’s Word promises that over all these enemies I can be “more than a conqueror through him who loved us.”

Read it all.

Well worth the read:

Many Christians struggle with their own testimonies. Our stories are boring, uninteresting, and mundane—or so it often seems to us. Who would listen to us even if we did share?

What often qualifies as “interesting” is the sort of thing someone would write (and read) a book about: ex-felons, ex-addicts, ex-something-or-others. We are all sinners saved by grace, and yet, as unclean and broken as we may be, many of us haven’t gone a day in our lives not knowing about God. Often we describe our testimonies in terms of reshaping or renewing our current faith: we are reminded of the sin we have, or convicted of the sin we didn’t see, and now we can return to the gospel we’ve known all our lives. It isn’t so much a 180° change as a couple of degrees at a time.

We’re suckers for big and loud stories—look at the film industry for evidence—and so we tend to write off anything that doesn’t fit that pattern. We don’t volunteer to tell people we grew up in the church and asked Jesus into our hearts as soon as we learned to speak. Who would find that story anything but boring?

The solution isn’t to seek a more powerful testimony—let’s not sin that grace may abound—but to expand our understanding of what constitutes a beautiful testimony. We can describe those who grew up in the church as spared from the horrors of the criminal life, but this story feels empty. The negation isn’t nearly so powerful as the positive expression: we are saved from the damnation we earned by the great grace of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Of course we desire to be remembered, to be seen as moving examples of the grace God can provide. The examples trumpeted stand out in the wide course of history, especially those saved through harrowing circumstances: Paul’s persecution of Christians, Augustine’s many sexual sins, right on up to the teenage-atheist-turned-30-something-Christian C. S. Lewis. We see that great Christians of the past have often come from broken places.

This emphasis on dramatic testimonies can be harmful, though, despite the intention to inspire us. While these testimonies can encourage us to look and see the greatness of God, we tend to only see God’s grace manifest in those who have been saved from what appears to be much. If we took for our role models “ordinary” Christians—local pastors and elders, our parents and professors, our peers—perhaps we’d be more capable of seeing God’s explicit and awesome grace in our “ordinary” lives.

Read the rest.

This past Sunday I spoke a bit about how I, personally, deal with doubt and those periods when my faith is dry and I “forget” that Christ is my treasure – that He is sufficient.  A number of folks have asked for the New Testament texts I mentioned – texts that I have returned to again and again over the years in such times.  Here they are:

Matthew 5, 6, 7

John 1, 10, 11, 14, 15, 17

Romans 8

1 Corinthians 12, 13, 15

2 Corinthians 4, 5

Ephesians 1, 2, 3

Philippians – all 4 chapters

Colossians 1

1 John – all 5 chapters