Thursday, December 18, 2008

What is Jesus Doing?


Unless you have been living on another planet for the past few years, you know that these letters mean: "What Would Jesus Do?"


I saw these letters a few weeks ago on a website. It was Christian gift shop website asking its customers to ask the question, "What Would Jesus Buy? (I looked at the kitsch they were selling, and I thought, "I don't think Jesus would buy any of that stuff!)

As Christians we are in the season of Advent—a time when we prepare our hearts to celebrate once again the first coming of Jesus, when the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal Son, became incarnate and was born in Bethlehem, lived as one of us, but without sin… died on the Cross for the sins of the world and rose bodily from the grave, "the firstfruits of them that sleep." That is the GOOD NEWS: because if Jesus is the "firstfruits," we will someday be raised in a resurrection body just as Jesus was raised.

We also prepare ourselves for that time when Jesus will come again in power and great glory, and so we get ready—-we "red up" (Bishop Duncan reminded us of that Pittsburgh colloquialism in his sermon in Wheaton the other night. We "red up," we get ready for that time when Jesus will come again. It is not just ourselves we get ready; we are to get the Church ready as a bride to receive her bridegroom. And if we are going to do that, there is another question we need to ask:


What Is Jesus Doing?

"What Would Jesus Do?" is a question to ask when we are confronted with choices, especially of a moral or ethical nature? "What Is Jesus Doing?" is a question to ask when we are concerned about mission priorities. Because if we know what Jesus is doing, we can perhaps get an idea of what we ought to be doing.

"What Is Jesus Doing?" is a challenging question to answer: Jesus is fully human and fully God, so he is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent—-that carries “multitasking” to a whole new level! He can do everything, know everything, and be everywhere—all at the same time!

But if we looked in Jesus’ DayTimer, or Outlook, or Blackberry for Tuesday, December 9, 9:00 a.m., Jesus’ "To Do List," would not say: "DO EVERYTHING." I believe Scripture gives us two things that would be at the top of Jesus’ To Do List:

Hebrews 7:23 [contrasting the priestly ministry of Jesus with the ministry of the priests his Jewish readers would have known, he says:] "The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." Jesus, now in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father intercedes for us, His people and for His Church.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Paul says, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

In these closing instructions to the Thessalonian believers, Paul is here simply laying on them the same ministry he says he has for them in his opening greeting:

1 Thessalonians 1:2 -- "We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul is telling them of his ministry of intercession for them.

Later this week, I am going to spend a few days at the International House of Prayer, in Kansas City. In case you aren’t familiar with IHOP, it arose out of a community of believers who began praying around the clock 24/7 in September of 1999—and they have been doing it continuously ever since. There are churches I know who have done something similar. I think of Bishop John Guernsey’s parish in Virginia—offering prayers around the clock, interceding for the Church and the world—and giving back to God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving that is rightly his.

In the nine years since the IHOP was formed, IHOPs have been formed in other major cities around the world. They have formed a school of ministry—a seminary. They are really doing what religious communities and religious orders have always done: perpetual adoration and devotion—and intercession. Religious communities have always been formed when the Church whole church ceased to do all that it should in a given area. A group of individuals, called by God, would form a community to do what needed to be done—preaching (Franciscans, Dominicans) missions (Jesuits) acts of mercy (done by many orders) contemplation and devotion (Cistercians and others). They are doing what the whole church ought to be doing but isn’t.

One of the things I believe God is doing among Anglicans who have been forced through circumstances to form closer ties with overseas provinces is that He is making the Communion what it ought to be. I believe that these circumstances have given us new insight into what the body of Christ is meant to be internationally. We have been given a fresh opportunity to take seriously the need to intercede and pray for our overseas brothers and sisters and to enjoy the life of the body as Christ meant it to be.

Now, if we were to look on Jesus’ calendar again and ask: "What Is Jesus Doing?" we would see a second thing. And we find it in a passage of Scripture that is familiar to us:

Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV) The second thing Jesus does is to be with His people, always, to the very end of this age in which we are living, empowering His Church for mission.

Another reason why I am studying the IHOP is that I am a student of revival. Numerous great movements of God have occurred throughout church history, when individuals were called out of society to follow God in devotion and service. The religious orders I have mentioned are examples. Celtic monks took Gospel across northern Europe. Benedictines planted the Church many places, including the See of Canterbury. Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits—their founding was just as much a God-sent revival as the First and Second Great Awakenings were among churches in America and the British Isles. As Archbishop Henry Orombi has stated on numerous occasions, the strength of Anglicanism in East Africa is largely due to the East African Revival, as missionaries who were themselves a product of earlier revivals in England and Australia came to East Africa, and revival broke out there that transformed entire nations such as Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania—and now, through these churches, the revival is coming full circle back to us in the West.

Many of us who are orthodox Anglicans are here because of a renewal movement that began in the Episcopal Church in the 1960’s. That was a genuine revival. How do I know that? Because it resulted in a flowering of interest in mission that led to the founding of Episcopal/Anglican mission societies in the 1970’s and 1980’s—agencies that are now part of the Anglican Global Mission Partners.

Every revival—every movement of God that was true and genuine—has resulted in an outpouring of interest in missions. Why is that? Because when the Church is truly renewed and revived, God’s priorities become the Church’s priorities.

When we ask the question "What Is Jesus Doing?" we see his burden for his people and for the world, and we begin to intercede, just as he ever lives to make intercession for us. When we ask, "What Is Jesus Doing?" we see his burden for the lost, both in our neighborhoods and cities and those around the world who have no way to hear the Gospel, and we go, and we give, and we send, and we pray.

As Bishop Duncan said last week, what better time for a new Anglican province to be born than the first week of Advent? It is time for us to get ready, to be the body of Christ in a new way—-a body that floods Heaven with our intercessions, even as Jesus intercedes for us—-and a church that hurts for the lost, as Jesus hurts for the lost, and reaches out in missions, according to Christ’s Great Commission, to wherever the Gospel needs to be heard. When our hearts connect with Jesus’ heart and his burdens and priorities become our burdens and priorities, then the Church will get ready for that day when Jesus will return and gather those who have come from every nation tribe and tongue to be a kingdom of priests for our God--to whom be glory and honor, majesty and dominion, now and forever. AMEN.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Eric Liddell's story to set Chinese hearts racing

(Hat-tip to Sarah Hey at Stand Firm for calling my attention to this wonderful story.)

From the London Telegraph:
Who knows how the Chariots of Fire story is likely to go down in communist China, but we are about to find out. Eric Liddell, or Li Airui as he was known in the Far East, was considered a godly, heroic figure in non-communist China, and now the modern-day Chinese authorities have agreed to let his story of Christian humanity and sporting excellence be told.

By Brendan Gallagher

John Keddie's acclaimed Running the Race, a biography that places Liddell's sporting life in the religious context in which it was lived, has been published in Mandarin and will be launched in China next month - the land where the 1924 Olympic 400 yards champion was born, worked as a missionary and died in a Japanese internment camp.

Getting such a 'western' book, containing so much religious and moral content, past the Communist party censors is rare indeed, but Liddell has always been held in the highest regard in China.

Indeed some of China's Olympic literature lists the Scotsman as China's first Olympic champion, while his part in protecting his 'flock' from the Japanese invasion in 1937 has always been acknowledged by the Chinese.

Following his death in 1945 - he died of a brain tumour - Liddell's remains were removed to the Mausoleum of Martyrs at Shih-Chia-Chuang, 150 miles south-west of Beijing, where China honours 700 selected individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice in the liberation of China from the Japanese.

"The publication of the book in Chinese is a remarkable development, but totally fitting," says Keddie, now a church minister in Skye and a fanatical former athlete and rugby player.

"Eric Liddell loved China. He was born there into a missionary family, spent his early years there and returned to China to serve as a missionary as soon as he had completed his university education in Scotland and won his Olympic gold medal in Paris.

"Long after Paris he ran in all the local races, and I fancy he could have challenged for Olympic gold again in 1928 and 1932.

"But his life was on a different track by then, and he helped build the Mingyuan Athletics Stadium in Tianjin; some claim he used Chelsea's old Stamford Bridge, his favourite running venue, as a rough plan.

"At all times he was a rallying point for the local community when the Japanese invaded. Right to the end he lived by selfless example and when he fell ill, and was offered repatriation by the Chinese, he insisted a pregnant woman take his place," Keddie continued.

"The book has been printed and bound in China and we have published 10,000 initially. Nothing has been altered or sub-edited in translation, though we have unearthed a couple more pictures of his time in China to illustrate those chapters.

"It is a remarkable story, from which ever standpoint Chinese readers choose to read it. There is plenty of sporting content, there is Liddell's Christian faith and life-long convictions and there is his love for China. China has 1.5?billion inhabitants of which we believe there could be as many as 50 million Christians."

For many, playwright and screen writer Colin Welland might actually have missed a trick in Chariots of Fire, with the 'real' story beginning where the film ends. The Scot, then 22, and already capped by Scotland on the wing in the Five Nations, seemingly retired into private life after his gold medal and world record in Paris, not to mention an oft forgotten bronze in the 200 yards. He, of course, did not compete in the 100 yards because the final was on the Sabbath.

After completing a low-key domestic season in 1925, he finished his religious studies and headed back to China the following year. He was only ever seen on these shores again when he returned on long-service leave, or furloughs as they were known.

As well as religious duties, he worked as a science and sports teacher at the Anglo/Chinese College in Tianjin. Liddell lived at 38 Chongqing Dao in Tianjin - formerly known as Cambridge Road - in Tianjin and a plaque still stands to commemorate this fact. He was still fit enough to compete against the visiting French and Japanese Olympic teams in 1928 - he won the 200 and 400 yards - and in 1929 he defeated the German 800 yards world-record holder Otto Peltzer in the 400.

During his first furlough in 1932, Liddell was ordained as a minister of religion. On his return to China he married Florence Mackenzie, the daughter of Canadian missionaries, in Tianjin. According to family legend Liddell courted his future wife by taking her for lunch to the famous Kessling restaurant, which is still open in Tianjin. The couple had three daughters, Patricia, Heather and Maureen.

After the Japanese invasion in 1937 Liddell felt the calling to work full-time as a field missionary in the harsh Siaochang Province, where his brother Robert was a doctor. They had to walk a delicate line diplomatically during a period of civil war between the Communist Red Army and the Nationalists, under Chiang Kai-shek, as well as dealing with escalation of the Sino-Japanese conflict.

In 1938 he heard of a wounded Chinese soldier lying helpless in a temple, 20 miles from the mission hospital. He cycled for 20 miles over rough terrain to get there and then found another injured soldier, who had survived a Japanese execution. He manufactured a makeshift cart to help push both men to the hospital.

In 1941 life in China had become so dangerous that the British Government advised British nationals to leave. Florence and the children left for Canada to stay with her family, while Liddell based himself full-time in Shaochang.

Undeterred, he continued his good works. When the fighting reached Shaochang, the Japanese took over the mission station. In 1943, he was interned at the Weihsien camp with the members of the China Inland Mission. Liddell quickly emerged as the leader at the camp. Food, medicines and other supplies ran dangerously short, but Liddell insisted that eggs and fresh food be smuggled into the camp by a clique of wealthy businessman. During this time he kept himself busy by helping the elderly, teaching Bible classes, arranging games and teaching the children science.

Sunday was the only 'free day' and, despite his famous stance against sport on Sundays, he refereed hockey matches, which had previously disintegrated into free-for-alls.

In his last letter to his wife he talked about suffering a nervous breakdown because of over-work. Winston Churchill negotiated an exchange of prisoners but, typically, Liddell refused to go, giving up his place to a pregnant woman. He died on Feb 21, 1945, five months before liberation.

A fellow internee, Stephen Metcalfe, later wrote of Liddell: "He gave me two things. One was his worn out running shoes, but the best thing he gave me was his baton of forgiveness. He taught me to love my enemies, the Japanese, and to pray for them."

Eric Liddell factfile Born: Jan 16 1902, died Feb 21 1945.
Education: Eltham College and Edinburgh University.
Rugby: Won seven caps for Scotland in the 1922 and 1923 Five Nations.
Athletics: 1924 won the AAA 100 yards in 9.7sec but, because event was scheduled for a Sunday final at the Paris Olympics, he opted for the 440 and 220 yards. Won a bronze in the 220, then took gold in the 440 in 47.6, a world record. 1925, his last domestic season, wins Scottish 440 in 49.2, his last run in Britain.
Career: 1925-45 works as a teacher and missionary in China. 1981 Ian Charleson stars as Liddell in Chariots of Fire, the film won seven Oscars.

(I have reproduced the entire article here just in case it disappears at its original location.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Laminin! Yeah, I had never heard of it either, until I heard a reference to it in a sermon this morning and decided to check it out. It is a protein that holds our bodies together at the molecular level, and it just happens to be in the shape of a Cross., the excellent resource for checking out internet hoaxes has an article on laminin. The article confirms that the protein is in the shape of a Cross, but offers the following points in an effort to dispel any notion that this has special significance. [Comments in brackets are my responses to each point.]
It is not uncommon for sermons and other Christian devotional/inspirational writings to cite this passage in comparison with some scientific concept: Just as gravity or atoms or molecules are the "glue" that holds the physical world together, so God or Jesus is the force that binds the spiritual world. The example involving laminin glycoprotein cited above is one example of this form, with the addition of a graphic meant to illustrate how God's design is evident (in the shape of a cross) in the molecular structure of laminin — what literally holds us together (in a biological sense) was clearly created by He who spiritually holds us together. This particular example is based on the work of Christian pastor/evangelist Louie Giglio, as seen in the following video clip:

Discussions about whether or not nature evinces signs of a purposeful (Christian) creator are theological/scientific debates that can (and do) fill volumes, so we'll just note a few items to consider:

  • The structure of laminin antedates by many thousands of years traditional Christian accounts of the life of Jesus. [Yes, but the God who knew before time began that He would redeem humankind by means of the Cross could have reflected that design in the creation of the human body.]

  • A cross-like shape is a very simple structure that is commonly found in elements created naturally or accidentally. [Yes, but it is still interesting that the protein that holds the human body together just naturally or "accidentally" happens to be in the shape of the Cross.]

  • It is uncertain whether the form of the original crucifixion device was a stake, a T-shape, or the familiar cross of modern Christian iconography. [Yes, but the pattern that Christians have used throughout history to represent the atoning death of Christ (and that God forknew would be the form that has been immortalized) just happens to be the shape found in the protein molecule.]

  • One could find the shape of laminin to be reminiscent of a variety of common symbols aside from the cross. Some viewers say it reminds them more of a caduceus... (or a sword). [Yes, but it most immediately resembles A CROSS!]

Watch the video and tell me what you think!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jesus in China--PBS documentary

A massive wave of Christianity has been sweeping across China in recent years, and the ruling Chinese party, officially atheist, has been struggling to figure out how to control it. In "Jesus in China," a joint project of PBS' Frontline/World and the Chicago Tribune, reporter Evan Osnos investigates one of the fastest growing Christian populations in the world, and how it could possibly transform China at this explosive moment in the country's history.

While I am always somewhat cautious about the coverage of Christian subjects by secular reporters, this program offered a very objective and revealing look into a powerful movement of God in the world's most populous nation.

This program, which originally aired on June 24, 2008, can be seen in its entirety on the website, here. The reporter's video diary, an interview with a Chinese pastor, and other background material can be found here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fulton Street Revival in the New York Marketplace

In 1857 there were 30,000 men idle on the streets of New York. Drunkenness was rampant, and the nation was divided by slavery. God raised up a praying businessman, Jeremiah Lanphier. On September 23, 1857 he began a noontime prayer meeting in an abandoned church on Fulton Street (six blocks north of Wall Street) in the Financial District of Manhattan. Out of a city of 1 million people, only six people showed up a half hour late.

The group decided to meet the next week and there were 14. The next week there were 23. The following week there were 40. Within weeks there were thousands of business leaders meeting daily. God moved so powerfully that the prayer meeting spread across the nation and touched cities and towns from coast to coast. It is estimated that nearly 1 million people were converted out of a national population of 35 million, including 10,000 weekly conversions in New York City for a season. The revival was a key part of the Third Great Awakening.

Between 1860 and 1920, as answers to prayer, many Christian welfare organizations were formed, including the Bowery Mission, the McCauley Street Mission, the American branch of The Salvation Army (begun in London), and the Student Volunteer Movement, as well as a great outpouring of interest in world missions.

September 2007 marked the 150th Anniversary of the Fulton Street Revival. This video explores the story of Jeremiah Lamphier's prayer movement and how the lessons of his passion for prayer can be applied today.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Gene Appel: King Saul - Standing Tall, Falling Hard

On my other blog, I wrote about Gene Appel, a teaching pastor who recently left the staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Gene's insightful and anointed ministry of teaching and preaching has blessed me very greatly over the past few years.

Gene's last message at Willow Creek was just posted to Digg this past week, and you can listen to it or download it here. From the life of Saul, Israel's first king who stood tall but fell hard, Gene teaches a lesson every believer needs to hear:

Partial obedience equals disobedience. Partial faithfulness equals unfaithfulness. This is a message we must understand as a prerequisite, if God is to send revival to his Church.

I hope you find this sermon as moving as I did.

A Word of Warning to the Saints

In this sermon, based on the life of Moses and the wanderings of the people of Israel in the desert, Lon Solomon, Senior Pastor of McLean Bible Church, in Virginia, reminds Christians that while God is faithful to forgive the sins of those who repent (I John 1:9), forgiveness does not always mean that God will remove the consequences of our sins. This sermon is a powerful reminder of the holiness of God and the necessity of repentance and holy living on the part of God's people.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"But now I have a river that carries me."

The year was 1871. Dwight Lyman Moody, who had arrived in Chicago in 1856, had gone from being a shoe salesman and Sunday School teacher at Plymouth Congregational Church to become the pastor of his own congregation. The Illinois Street Church quickly grew to be a great church. The building seated 2500; and, in those days when there was very little in the way of wholesome activities to occupy people in the evenings, the church held services that were filled almost every night.

Moody had gained an international reputation. Still in his thirties, he had been invited to preach in prestigious churches in New York City. He had met the great British pastor, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and had preached in England. His popularity was growing and invitations to preach all over the world were increasing. Many pastors would have been satisfied. They would have said it was enough.

But Moody was restless, feeling that there had to be something more. On top of that, he became increasingly dissatisfied with his own preaching, realizing that it was not as effective as it once had been.

God intervened in Moody's life through two women: Sarah Anne Cooke, a Free Methodist who had recently immigrated from England, and her friend, Mrs. Hawxhurst. Mrs. Cooke had attended a camp meeting in the summer of 1871 and reported that, "a burden came on me for Mr. Moody, that the Lord would baptise him with the Holy Spirit and with fire." She soon enlisted her friend, Mrs. Hawxhurst, and the two began to pray for Moody.

The two ladies began sitting on the front row every time Moody preached. At the conclusion of each service they would say, "Good night, Mr. Moody. We're praying for you." This began to bother Moody. One evening, he asked the two ladies, "Why are you praying for me? Why don't you pray for sinners to come to the Lord?" The ladies responded, "We're praying for you because you need the power of the Holy Spirit." Disgusted, Moody muttered through his beard, "I need the power?"

The two ladies continued to sit on the front row, and Moody became increasingly irritated. Finally he invited them to his home to talk with them. When they met, the women poured out their hearts in prayer, asking God to fill Moody with the power of the Holy Spirit. Unexpectedly, Moody's attitude changed and a great hunger formed in his soul. He asked the ladies to pray with him in his office each Friday afternoon. On Friday, October 6, 1871, as Mrs. Cooke later reported, "Mr. Moody's agony was so great that he rolled on the floor and in the midst of many tears and groans cried to God that he would be baptised with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

That Sunday evening, October 8, a capacity crowd filled the church. As Ira Sankey sang "Today the Savior Calls," the commotion of fire bells and the clattering of horse-drawn fire company wagons could be heard outside. Those who went outside saw a disturbing red glow in the southwestern sky. Inside, Moody dismissed the meeting and sent people to their homes. The winds picked up to a gale force and the red glow rapidly grew nearer. It was what is known today as "The Great Chicago Fire." The fire raged for two days and destroyed several square miles, encompassing all of downtown Chicago, including Moody's church, his home, and the dwellings of most of his members.

Moody could not look to his congregation for help in rebuilding the church. In a day when property insurance was rare, they had lost their homes as well. Moody was forced to travel to cities from coast to coast to solicit help from Christian leaders and philanthropists to aid his congregation and to rebuild their church.

One day, after calling on some Christian benefactors in New York City, Moody was walking down the street, tired and discouraged. Reflecting that he had certainly been "baptised with fire," he began to wonder about the Holy Spirit. Suddenly an overpowering sense of God's presence came upon him. Hailing a passing horse-drawn cab, he gave the driver the address of a family he knew lived nearby. Arriving at the house, he declined his friend's invitation to come in and share dinner, saying urgently, "I wish to be alone. Let me have a room where I can lock myself in."

His understanding friend quickly showed him to a room at the rear of the house and closed the door behind him. Moody stretched prostrate on the floor as wave after wave of God's love and power flooded his soul. More than two hours passed. Moody lay still, both unable and unwilling to move. Of this mountaintop experience, Moody would later write, "I can only say that God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of his love that, at last, I had to ask God to stay his hand or else I could not have stood it."

Friends later said of Moody that his resolute will and determination came under new management that day, as God remolded him and left him as gentle and tender as a baby. Moody wouldn't try to choose his own path any longer; he would leave everything up to God. Moody remarked thankfully, "I was all the time carrying water. But now I have a river that carries me."

Moody, who was considered by all who knew him to be a great man of God, became fully God's man that day. And Moody, who was already a great pastor, went on to be the evangelist who led over a million souls to Christ.

What can God do with us? What does God want to do with us? We will only know when listen to God like Sarah Anne Cooke and when we are as fully surrendered and filled with God's Holy Spirit as Dwight L. Moody was.

Additional References:
  • Dwight L. Moody (from Wholesome Words).

  • Ira D. Sankey (from Wholesome Words).

  • Duewel, Wesley L., "Dwight Lyman Moody," in Heroes of the Holy Life. Zondervan, 2002.

  • Harvey, Bonnie C., D.L. Moody, The American Evangelist. Barbour Publishing, 1997.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

John Wesley, Anglican Revivalist

This past week, in the Episcopal calendar, we celebrated the feast of John and Charles Wesley. Although John Wesley is probably best known as the founder of Methodism, both John and Charles remained Anglican priests throughout their lives. Their impact on world Christianity was tremendous--John as a preacher in what is now referred to as the First Great Awakening, and Charles as a writer and composer of hymns that continue to inspire the Church 250 years later.

In my sermon on Ash Wednesday, I mentioned being at Christ Church in Savannah, Georgia, the previous Sunday--the historic church where John Wesley was the third rector.

I may have mislead you with that reference to Wesley. Because, if that is the only information you have, you might imagine that Wesley had a glorious ministry there--preaching powerful and eloquent sermons, seeing multitudes converted, etc. But nothing could be further from the truth. At this point in his life, Wesley lacked assurance of his salvation, and his ministry reflected it.

On the trip from England to Savannah, the ship on which Wesley was sailing went through a series of storms, one so violent that the wind broke the ship’s mast. While Wesley and most of the others on board were terrified, one group of passengers calmly prayed and sang hymns. They were Moravian Christians. Wesley was so impressed by their faith that one of the first things he did when he arrived in Savannah was to go and see the Moravian bishop--Bishop Spangenberg. Spangenberg asked him, "Do you know Jesus Christ?" Wesley responded, "I know he is the savior of the world." Spangenberg pressed him, "But do you know he has saved you?" Wesley could only respond, "I hope that he has died to save me."

Returning home to England after less than three years in Savannah, Wesley became curate at the church of St. Mary-le-Strand, he was greatly moved by his rector’s sermon on Pentecost Sunday 1738, dealing with the power of the Holy Spirit. Recalling the only Christians he had known who had displayed that power, he was led to seek out the Moravians once again. Shortly thereafter, on May 24, 1738, Wesley attended a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street. Listening to a reading of the preface to Martin Luther’s Commentary on Romans, Wesley was enabled to trust Christ fully and to know that he had been saved by faith.

John Wesley's brother, Charles, was one of the most prolific hymn writers who ever lived. He wrote many powerful hymns of faith. My favorite is “And can it be that I should gain, an interest in the Savior’s blood? Died he for me who cause his pain, for me who him to death pursued?" These are rhetorical questions Wesley is asking, and each one demands an affirmative answer:

"And can it be that I should gain, an interest in the Savior’s blood?" Yes.
"Died he for me who cause his pain, for me who him to death pursued?" Yes.

Then the hymn continues:
"Amazing love, how can it be, that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"

When my daughter Laura was about 4 or 5, I took her to buy a Valentine’s Day present for my wife. Children are so cute in their innocence at that age. Laura had said she wanted to help buy her mother's present. So we got to the store and picked out a ring. And Laura helped pay for it. She put her 35 cents on the counter; and, well, I put about 500 times that amount on the counter, and we left with the ring.

Some of us think like this about salvation. We know that Jesus died, and that he did something to procure our salvation. But we think that it is up to us to "help." The only problem is that, when it comes to salvation, we don't even have 35 cents!

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

Titus 3:5 says, "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit."

As I did research for this sermon, I ran across one writer who stated boldly, "the Bible never explicitly declares Jesus to be our substitute nor declares Jesus to have died in our place." Apparently, this writer has never read 1 Peter 2:24, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might be dead to sins but alive to righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” And 1 Peter 3:18 says, "For Christ also died for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit."

The good news of Jesus Christ is that, when we were totally incapable of helping ourselves, Jesus died for our sins in order that, through faith in him, we might have eternal life.

When we read verses such as we did in our Old Testament lesson this morning from Isaiah 49:5, "[God] formed me in the womb to be his servant," or Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as a prophet to the nations," do we think that God only foreordained and called Isaiah and Jeremiah to serve him?

No less than Isaiah or Jeremiah--or John and Charles Wesley, God has a purpose for each of our lives and intends for us to live for him and serve him, and to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost world. But we can only do that, as John Wesley discovered, when we have the full assurance of our salvation by faith in the Savior who died for us.

"Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"

Saturday, March 1, 2008

God, give us the boldness of Polycarp!

Let us never relax our grasp on the Hope and Pledge of our righteousness; I mean Jesus Christ, "who bore our sins in His own body on the tree," "who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,1" who steadfastly endured all things for our sakes, that we might have life in Him. Let us then imitate His patient endurance; and if we suffer for His name's sake, let us give glory to Him. For that is the example He gave us in His own Person, and in which we have learned to put our faith.
~ Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians
1. I Peter 2:22,24.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Survey: US Religious Landscape in Flux

By ERIC GORSKI (AP)– 7 hours ago

The U.S. religious marketplace is extremely volatile, with nearly half of American adults leaving the faith tradition of their upbringing to either switch allegiances or abandon religious affiliation altogether, a new survey finds.

The study released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is unusual for it sheer scope, relying on interviews with more than 35,000 adults to document a diverse and dynamic U.S. religious population.

While much of the study confirms earlier findings — mainline Protestant churches are in decline, non-denominational churches are gaining and the ranks of the unaffiliated are growing — it also provides a deeper look behind those trends, and of smaller religious groups.

[Read the whole story here.]

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Cross Exemplifies Every Virtue

"Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

"It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

"If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.

"If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.

"If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

"If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

"If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.

"Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honours, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

— Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Canon Michael Green: "One + God = A Majority"

The Rev. Canon Michael Green, speaking at historic St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, reminds us of this important truth: "One plus God is a Majority."

Click here to listen by streaming audio.
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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Christianity in China (CBS News)

Christian Revival in China Despite Persecution

The Bible is undoubtedly the best-selling book in history, translated into about 3,000 languages worldwide. One of the most popular is Mandarin Chinese, due to the burgeoning number of Christians, most of whom meet in house churches.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Revival in Wales

The story of Evan Roberts and the Revival that began in Wales, in 1904, and touched every continent.

May God pour out his Holy Spirit on the nations once again!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

J. Edwin Orr - The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening

Dr. J. Edwin Orr was a visiting professor when I was in seminary. He held doctorates from universities on three continents, including the D.Phil. from Oxford. He was a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary from 1966 to 1981 and continued to lecture around the world until his death in 1987. He devoted his life to documenting great spiritual awakenings in Christian history.

This video has a peculiar phenomenon in that Prof. Orr is wearing a red suit coat and is standing in front of a mostly red background. Despite this distraction, the video, which runs 26 minutes, is well worth viewing for anyone who cares what God has done and wants to do in revival.

Other videos by Professor Orr may be found at

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


From Wikipedia:

Revival in a Christian context generally refers to a specific period of spiritual renewal in the life of the Church. While elements such as mass conversions and perceived beneficial effects on the moral climate of a given culture may be involved, the key factor in revival is the restoration of the Church to a vital and fervent relationship with God after a period of decline. The word "Church" here refers to the body of believers in Christ as a whole and not to any particular group or denomination among them.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A New Beginning

In December 2004, I began a blog called To All the World. The title was taken from Mark 16:15, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." The focus of that blog was to be on the Christian world mission.

Over time, the concerns I have as an Anglican clergyman and Dean and President of an Episcopal seminary began to intrude on the focus of that blog, with the result that posts have often been as much about the controversies in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion as on the Christian world mission. The intrusions were not altogether off-topic. Controversies over matters of faith and morality that are affecting the Anglican Communion inevitably impinge on the Church's ability to fulfill Christ's Great Commission to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and to make disciples of all nations.

All too often, however, blogs devoted to political battles succeed only in offering political solutions. However, the battles we face are spiritual battles as well.

  • Is Jesus uniquely the Son of God?

  • Is Jesus the only way to Heaven?

  • Is the Bible divinely inspired, and what authority does it have?

These are just a few of the questions that some contemporary western church bodies consider to be up for debate—debates that, in some cases, will be resolved by political means. However, the questions are theological and profoundly spiritual. What is at stake in these battles is the soul of western (and perhaps even world) Christianity.

But even if these battles did not exist, the Church would still stand in the midst of an immense spiritual need. Indeed, there would not be so many debates about God, if there were a greater knowledge of God.

What is needed, then, is for the Church to know God in the authority of his Word and in the power of his Holy Spirit—to be renewed in the knowledge of God in whatever ways she has departed from him—and to be revived in her love for God in whatever ways that love has grown cold. Because we who make up the Church are fallen sinners, prone to wander as long as we are mortal, the continual need of the Church is, and always will be, for revival!

The purpose of this blog, then, will be to offer reflections and point to resources that further the revival of Christ's Church. My own tradition is Anglican, hence the title "Anglican Revivalist." It is an ancient and venerable part of Christ's Church, though it is not a perfect church. (I do not believe that any part of Christ's Church, being comprised, as it is, of fallen sinners, will be perfect this side of heaven.) But I believe that, when all is said and done, it will have proven to be as good a boat from which to fish as any.

Revival is not limited to only part of Christ's Church any more than the Holy Spirit is for only one part of Christ's Church or the Bible is for only one part of Christ's Church. So the resources presented here will not come from only one tradition or be presented for the benefit of only one part of Christ's Body. Rather, they will reflect the fulness of the Christian tradition in order that the whole Church, obedient to God's Word, filled with his Holy Spirit, might proclaim the whole Gospel to the whole creation. Soli Deo Gloria!