‘There is no theology apart from experience; it is necessary to change, to become a new man.’ –Vladmir Lossky ‘If you are a theologian, you truly pray; if you truly pray you are a theologian.’—Evagrius Ponticus If you visit any seminary website, schools will speak about the importance of spiritual life for their students. They must do this. They are a seminary, after all. Most seminaries emphasize the importance of chapel services and spiritual formation groups, encouraging the devotional life of their students beyond their intellectual formation in the classroom. But does that mean seminaries produce young leaders with wise and discerning hearts, ready to serve the Church after graduation? It certainly didn’t for me. But that’s more an indictment on me than a massive failure of the seminaries I attended. Continue reading
Are we going to be raptured away someday? Is that an actual Christian belief? Hollywood says yes…or at least they think it might make a good action story.
Anglican Pastor writer Thomas McKenzie has addressed these questions in a movie review of Left Behind. Fr Thomas has reviewed movies for years and so he has the movie chops. But he also hits the theology, and steers us back to Christ and the Bible. Here is an excerpt and the the whole review is at www.thomasmckenzie.com.
By Thomas McKenzie
I could really go on and on about how bad this movie is. Worst film of the year! But the real problem is, of course, theological. There is a moment in that other film, “The Remaining.” in which a young woman opens a Bible, saying she’s looking for the Rapture. Then she exclaims “it’s not here!” She’s right.
Many people have said very strange things about what we should expect around the time of Christ’s return. However, the Rapture, at least as understood in these movies, is exceedingly odd, and entirely unbiblical. In this odd, and historically very late, theory of the End, Christ must return more than once, and the first of these returns is secret. No one sees him. At this return, he sucks up all Christians into heaven. Then, those who remain are in for a whole (demonic) host of really, really bad days. This allows Christians to be freed from all suffering, and all judgment. Something that the Bible categorically denies will happen.
The truth is that I could have attended 10 seminaries and never have been entirely prepared for ministry in the local church.
I attended two different seminaries in my Masters of Divinity degree—Asbury Theological Seminary and Duke Divinity School. Both were really good schools and I’m grateful I had experiences at both institutions. Historical theology was stronger at Duke, which caused me to transfer from Asbury, though I loved professors and the seminary community in Wilmore.
But on my second day of full-time ministry, I received a phone call while fixing dinner. A teenage boy I had never met suddenly lost his life. I did not know the family, but I was called to be present in a living room with a mother who lost her son. I introduced myself in the same moment I offered my condolences. I was 26 years old, having never known a personal tragedy in my life. The newly awarded letters ‘M.Div.’ by my name meant nothing in that moment. Could I ‘weep with those who weep?’ That was the test. No paper or exam could have prepared me for that moment. Continue reading
Leading a congregation in a time of war is a particular challenge. Passions and fears in the parish can run high and hot. People will worry about their children and other members of their family in service overseas. Political differences between members may roil across church meetings. Even prayers can be politically charged with partisan politics.
Politicians and military analysts may quibble with the term, but we are at war. Some would say it is the result of failed leadership or foresight. Some would say it is only the on-going effects of a war which began long ago…or under a different president…or after 9/11. It does not matter now. We are at war.
As pastors, we are called to lead our churches in times of war and peace. And we are at war whether we want to admit it or not.
Here are ten thoughts about what an Anglican pastor/priest can do to prepare and lead a church in a time of war. There are many other ideas that others could contribute but these are things that I am thinking about for the coming season.
“Intercessory prayer is exceedingly prevalent. What wonders it has wrought! The Word of God teems with its marvelous deeds. Believer, thou hast a mighty engine in thy hand, use it well, use it constantly, use it with faith, and thou shalt surely be a benefactor to thy brethren.” C.H. Spurgeon
What is intercessory prayer? According to Webster, intercede means simply, “to go or pass between; to act between parties with a view to reconcile those who differ or contend; to interpose; to mediate or make intercession; mediation.” Intercession basically means to stand between two extremes. It means to earnestly plead with a person on behalf of another. Intercessory prayer happens when we stand in the gap between God and others. Continue reading
“We have some idea, perhaps, what prayer is, but what is meditation? Well may we ask; for meditation is a lost art today, and Christian people suffer grievously from their ignorance of the practice. Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God.” J.I. Packer
In personal prayer we speak to God, but in meditative prayer we allow God to speak to us through His word and His Spirit. Never before has there been such a need to rediscover the quiet art of meditative prayer. If we are not careful, the many of distractions of this world will drown out the quiet voice of God within our hearts and make us numb to our spiritual needs. We need to find a quiet place to be with the God and hear His word. In stillness and solitude God speaks to our hearts and fills us with the refreshing presence of his Spirit.
What do we mean by meditative prayer? Is there such thing as Christian meditation? Isn’t meditation non-Christian? Continue reading
With the rise of persecution against Christians in the Middle East, we are reminded that we live in a world full of pain and suffering. In the midst of a bad economy, natural disasters, and the growing risk of international terrorism people are seeking real answers to tough questions. Many people feel alone and unable to handle the many problems that can come their way on a daily basis.
As a pastor, I am often asked questions like, “Where is God when bad things happen?” or “Why do bad things happen to good people?” These are real and legitimate questions to ask. Another question is, “Does the Bible have real answers to real problems?” The answer is yes, although they are not always easy. Therefore it is important that we have a Biblical understanding of suffering and pain to comfort people who are hurting. Continue reading
“While we ordinarily first bring our own needs to God in prayer, and then think of what belongs to God and his interests, the Master reverses the order. First Thy name, Thy kingdom, Thy will; then give us, forgive us, lead us, deliver us… In true worship the Father must be first, must be all.” -Andrew Murray
When the apostles said to Jesus, “Lord teach how to pray” It was because they knew that he was a man of profound devotion and prayer. They walked with him and talked with him, but perhaps more importantly for our study they saw that he was a true man of prayer. The gospels tell us that Jesus prayed at every major event in His life: His baptism (Luke 3:21); the choice of apostles (6:12-12); his transfiguration (9:29); before the cross at Gethsemane (22:39-40); and on the cross (23:46). The Bible tells us that He continues in prayer for us. Hebrews 7:27 says, “He always lives to make intercessions for them.” He sets the example for us to follow. Meditate on the following scriptures that talk about His personal prayer life. Continue reading