Archives For Empowered Living

From Christianity Today:

When was the last time you read a book? For almost 1 in 4 of us, it was more than a year ago, according to Pew Research. That’s three times the number who didn’t read a book in 1978. In America, we have a literacy problem. But more concerning to me, we have a biblical literacy problem. Americans, including churchgoers, aren’t reading much of any book, including the Good Book. 

Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word. We claim it’s God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren’t reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.

Because we don’t read God’s Word, it follows that we don’t know it. To understand the effects, we can look to statistics of another Western country: the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Bible Society surveyed British children and found many could not identify common Bible stories. When given a list of stories, almost 1 in 3 didn’t choose the Nativity as part of the Bible and over half (59 percent) didn’t know that Jonah being swallowed by the great fish is in the Bible.

British parents didn’t do much better. Around 30 percent of parents don’t know Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, or the Good Samaritan are in the Bible. To make matters worse, 27 percent think Superman is or might be a biblical story. More than 1 in 3 believes the same about Harry Potter. And more than half (54 percent) believe The Hunger Games is or might be a story from the Bible.

But it’s more than simply not knowing stories from Scripture. Our lack of biblical literacy has led to a lack of biblical doctrine. LifeWay Research found that while 67 percent of Americans believe heaven is a real place, 45 percent believe there are many ways to get there—including 1 in 5 evangelical Christians. More than half of evangelicals (59 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being—in contrast to the orthodox biblical teaching of the Trinity being three Persons in one God. As a whole, Americans, including many Christians, hold unbiblical views on hell, sin, salvation, Jesus, humanity, and the Bible itself.

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Excellent article over at First Things by Carl Trueman:

As the revolution in the understanding of human identity and its concomitant reordering of the hierarchy of moral goods proceeds apace, the challenge to the Christians in the wider world is obvious: That which has been historically normative in the West (Christianity’s cultural dominance) is being shown to have been theologically exceptional. We are being once more made conscious of what was obvious to first-century Christians: the fundamental difference that exists between the city of man and the city of God.

To borrow a phrase from Dean Acheson, we have lost an empire and have yet to find a role. The loss of status is sudden and deep, a shock no doubt to the naive who did not realize that, hey, the world does not like being told that man/woman/trans (delete where applicable) is not the measure of all things. The churchmen, the academics, the Presidents of Christian liberal arts colleges who thought their status would always give them a place at the cultural table are discovering to their horror that those who perhaps simply rolled their eyes at belief in the Resurrection are somewhat less indulgent when it comes to dissent over identity politics. In a public square dominated by emotive polarization of opinion, policed by the pitchfork wielding mobs of pop culture, and increasingly refereed by the law courts rather than the ballot box, places at the table are by invitation only. And guess what? Christians are no longer on the guest list.

So what is to be done? I would suggest simply this: That the Church is to continue to confess her faith and to do so faithfully. This is not a call for cultural capitulation, for the Church’s act of confession has always had a twofold aspect . . .

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AshleyNullA few weeks ago we (St. Andrew’s and the Diocese of the Carolinas) had the pleasure of hosting The Rev’d Dr Ashley Null, the theological advisor to the Diocese of the Carolinas, for two-days of teaching and ministry.  As a part of his time with us Ashley sat down with The Rev’d Claudia Dickson Greggs for a little chat about his life and work.  Claudia writes occasional papers for the Diocese entitled,Perspectives, in which she highlights some of the various people and ministries associated with the Diocese of the Carolinas.  Following is a snip of her article, the full article is linked below.

Grace and gratitude play a central role in The Rev’d Dr. Ashley Null’s life and work. Ashley is an authority on the English Reformation – particularly the theology of Thomas Cranmer, who was the author of the first Book of Common Prayer and the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of King Henry VIII and Edward VI.   Ashley also serves as a senior research fellow for The Ridley Institute and a theological consultant to the Diocese of the Carolinas, most recently giving a series of thought-provoking lectures to the clergy of the diocese. In those lectures, Ashley talked about how Cranmer’s understanding of God’s grace and mercy shaped the Communion service he composed for the first English Prayer Books (or the 1552 Book of Common Prayer).

A similar understanding – of how God’s grace, freely offered in love, sets the stage for us to acknowledge our sinfulness and repent – has shaped Ashley’s life. Although born in Birmingham, Alabama, (‘Ashley’ is a family name) he was reared in Salina, Kansas, and since his father was an Episcopalian, the Null family attended Christ Episcopal Cathedral, where the bishop of the Diocese of Western Kansas was in residence. His mother had been raised in the Baptist church (her great-great-grandfather was the first Secretary of the Southern Baptist Foreign Missions Board) but with Pentecostal influences– and all of these Christian traditions – Anglican, Evangelical and Pentecostal – played an important role in Ashley’s formation as a Christian. The Book of Common Prayer, with its liturgies and prayers rooted in Scripture, held a special appeal for him.

Read the rest.

Christianity’s Weirdness

February 18, 2015

Christians are by definition a ‘peculiar people.’  Peculiar is different than bizarre.  Sometimes we forget the distinction.  The author of this article uses ‘weirdness’ in the way I (and St. Peter) would use the word, ‘peculiar’.

Once we lose touch with the weirdness of Christian faith, it is inevitable that we end up with a form of Christianity that is virtually indistinguishable from the wider culture.

So what are some signs that we have lost touch with the strange Otherness of Christianity?

Here are some suggestions in no particular order – feel welcome to add your own:

Read it all.

 

Day of Healing Prayer

February 6, 2015

20150214Healing-PrayerWe (SAMP) are offering prayer ministry for all those who are seeking spiritual, physical, emotional, and mental healing and restoration. In this time we will seek to connect everyone with the power and presence of Jesus Christ in song and praise, teaching, and prayer ministry.  We would love to have you join us!

The details:

– Saturday, February 14
– 9.00am – 12:30pm
– Continental breakfast at 8:30am

There is no cost for the Day of Healing Prayer but we ask that you register. For more information, contact Nick Wood, NWood@WeAreStAndrews.com or 843.284.4316.

“[T]rue CScreen Shot 2014-12-22 at 7.01.38 PMhristian theology . . . does not present God to us in His majesty, as Moses and other teachings do, but Christ born of the Virgin as our Mediator and High Priest. Therefore when we are embattled against the Law, sin, and death in the presence of God, nothing is more dangerous than to stray into heaven with our idle speculations, there to investigate God in His incomprehensible power, wisdom, and majesty, to ask how He created the world and how He governs it. If you attempt to comprehend God this way and want to make atonement to Him apart from Christ the Mediator, making your works, fasts, cowl, and tonsure the mediation between Him and yourself, you will inevitably fall, as Lucifer did, and in horrible despair lose God and everything. For as in His own nature God is immense, incomprehensible, and infinite, so to man’s nature He is intolerable. Therefore if you want to be safe and out of danger to your conscience and your salvation, put a check on your speculative spirit. Take hold of God as Scripture instructs you: ‘Since, in wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ Therefore begin where Christ began — in the Virgin’s womb, in the manger, and at His mother’s breasts. For this purpose He came down, was born, lived among men, suffered, was crucified, and died, so that in every possible way He might present Himself to our sight. He wanted us to fix the gaze of our hearts upon Himself and thus to prevent us from clambering into heaven and speculating about the Divine Majesty. 

“Therefore when you consider the doctrine of justification and wonder how or where or in what condition to find a God who justifies or accepts sinners, then you must know that there is no other God than this Man Jesus Christ. Take hold of Him; cling to Him with all your heart, and spurn all speculation about the Divine Majesty; for whoever investigates the majesty of God will be consumed by His glory. I know from experience what I am talking about. . . . Christ Himself says: ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me.’ Outside Christ, the Way, therefore, you will find no other way to the Father; you will find only wandering, not truth, but hypocrisy and lies, not life, but eternal death. Take note, therefore, in the doctrine of justification or grace that when we all must struggle with the Law, sin, death, and the devil, we must look at no other God than this incarnate and human God.”

–Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians: Chapters 1-4, trans. Jaroslav Pelikan (Luther’s Works Vol. 26; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1963 [1535]), 29

The Source of Our Gratitude

November 26, 2014

“Every breath in your life is a gift of mercy.”

George Swinnock, 1627 – 1673

From Mollie Hemingway:

If you care about the poor, you need to start caring much more about marriage culture. The growing marriage divide is a major source of social and economic inequality, and is one largely unnoticed force eroding the American Dream. That’s the sobering message of a new report on economic success and marriage decline.

Americans with college degrees are doing pretty well on the marriage front. They get married and stay married. But the picture is very different for Americans with lower education levels. Lower income Americans are being hit hardest by changing social norms, the rise of the post-industrial economy and the retreat from civil society and its institutions. That’s creating a marriage divide among Americans that is leading to serious inequalities, say the Urban Institute’s Robert Lerman and the University of Virginia’s Bradford Wilcox.

Lower-income Americans have been steadily retreating from marriage and that move has played a key role in their declining economic fortunes, the scholars write in “For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success In America.” The duo estimate that median income growth of families with children would be 44 percent higher if people were marrying at 1980 levels. Further, at least 32 percent of family income inequality and 37 percent of the decline in men’s employment rates since 1979 can be linked to the decreasing number of Americans who form and maintain stable families.

“All the latest evidence confirms the ancient wisdom: the institution of marriage is a key to productive adulthood, the cornerstone of a stable family, and the basic unit of a healthy community,” says American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks of the new study.

Read the rest.

An excellent review from Christianity Today of an intriguing book:

ordinaryIf we are justified by faith in Christ alone, then we need not be anxious to show how Spirit-filled we are by living extraordinary, radical lives. Having already received the promise of the Spirit in baptism—God’s promise, which we can trust he will keep—we are free to serve our neighbors with ordinary good works. We are freed from establishing our credentials before God or our own consciences. And we are even free, Horton states, to enjoy our neighbors as gifts rather than making them into our own projects, as if it was our job to transform their lives.

Horton argues that the underlying theology behind oft-heard calls to be wild and crazy radical believers—as if Christianity were an extreme sport—is works righteousness in a new, consumerist mode. For some time, radical has been a favorite word of advertisers and ideologues alike. Every website with something to sell now routinely promises a transformative experience.

Instead of another call to be radical, extraordinary, or transformative, Horton would have us return to the ordinary means of grace, those practices of the church in which God has promised to make himself known: preaching the gospel, teaching the faith, administering the sacraments, and worshiping with a local congregation. Instead of advertising life-changing experiences or the next big thing, the aim is a sustainable faith for the long haul. The great strength of being ordinary, after all, is that you can do it for a lifetime.

Read it all.

The Bending of God’s Word

September 25, 2014

A good reminder from Francis Schaeffer:

“God’s Word will never pass away, but looking back to the Old Testament and since the time of Christ, with tears we must say that because of a lack of fortitude and faithfulness on the part of God’s people, God’s Word has many times been allowed to be bent, to conform to the surrounding, passing, changing culture of that moment rather than to stand as the inerrant Word of God judging the form of the world spirit and the surrounding culture of that moment. In the name of The Lord Jesus Christ, may our children and grandchildren not say that such can be said about us.”

The Great Evangelical Disaster (1984)