Monthly Archives: March 2012

NAME THAT FACE #3

Can you name this All-Saints member?

 

We invite All Saints Church members and regulars to email old pictures of yourself, friends, spouse, or family for a fun game on our blog and Facebook page called “Name that Face.” Email pictures to Brian Maiers (brianmaiers@gmail.com) with a brief explanation of names, dates and where you were and what you were doing in the photo. We hope this will be a fun activity that produces laughter and greater fellowship in our church body. FYI – You might want to get your loved one’s permission before you share embarrassing photos of them.

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Proper Placement of Judgment as Christians

Proper Placement of Judgment as Christians

 By the Reverend Eugene (Gene) W. Fort

                Certain people I have known, particularly those with evangelical backgrounds, prompt me to write based on their frequently recited justification or disclaimer: “I do not want to be judgmental but . . .” where the “but” can be followed by quite an assortment of observations. The observations that the individual wishes to comment on to the hearer might be interpreted as a judgment. By the preface “I don’t want to be judgmental but” the teller feels absolved from the possibility that their observation contains even a small judgmental finding.

Perhaps the impetus for this disclaiming or justifying phrase comes from Scripture: Matthew 7: 1 – “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (KJV) Somehow the thought must come that if judgment is withheld – there will be no judgment toward the one offering the comment, observation, or judgment. Since these are Jesus’ own words, it is of value to consider the teaching with care.

Matthew 7:1-5 – New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

Judging Others

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Based on the last thought in verse 5, the intent Jesus had in this teaching was NOT to have us suspend making judgments but rather to make judgments in the context of our own righteousness – without the “plank” in one’s own eye. To not judge does not forbid the practice of carefully discerning appropriate (and inappropriate) practices. Jesus does not forbid all evaluations, observations, or judgments of others, for ultimately the one who feels grieved and humbled over his own sin can help remove the “speck” from others.

Since the passage or teaching was delivered to the Disciples, the interpretation should factor in the context of the community, a merciful community, that compassionately corrects, not condemns members. The disciples do not exercise God’s right to determine one’s ultimate destiny – one’s salvation or condemnation. In this respect the teaching warns against the arrogance of pride where one views oneself as “better than others.” Self-examination and self-correction provide the context for merciful corrections of peers.

Recently I noted the following post by a friend on Facebook as I had already begun to evaluate the place of judgment in the life of a Christian.

[One select Facebook Post in response to my friend’s posting.] “If people realized that often what we judge, we become, they might not judge others so easily or often.”

The above sample response assists in building the case that people take this teaching as an excuse not to appropriately judge, to take perhaps the easy way out without judgment, rather than undertaking the hard work to search one’s own life, actions, and motives for corrective actions. As of this writing eighteen friends of the poster have clicked the Facebook Like button. In a small measure, these non-scientific results along with the select comment simply corroborate my initial evaluation that Jesus’ teaching is most commonly not followed.

At some level, judgment prompts some to respond in revenge. It must be learned that when the action or thought pushes the envelope toward revenge or toward avenging some wrong, the manner of judgment has been exceeded and usurps the place of God Himself, again an issue of pride. As the passage of Romans 12:19 reminds Christians: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” [English Standard Version, ESV]. Calling the Romans 12:19 passage a “recalling” or “reminder” results from the fact that Romans 12:19 quotes a passage from Deuteronomy (see Deuteronomy 32:35). By noticing this boundary line, vengeance, and realizing it as a limit not to be touched or approached, the upper perimeter of judgment is in place.

The other perimeter of judgment, as already pointed out, is total non-judgment. The goal would be then to operate within these limits in merciful community. What attributes are found in the proper placement of judgment for Christians?

To initialize Christian comprehension concerning the problem of judgment, we are given insight by the words of the “crafty serpent” speaking to Eve: “You will not surely die, For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5) The serpent’s statement did not point out that good and evil would be seen as the same. There was no promise of differentiation. In the fallen world, where Satan is the ruler, there is no seeing the contrast between good and evil, even substituting evil for good.

Next in considering the proper placement of judgment, Christians must traverse into redemptive history recalling the individual recorded and credited as the wisest, Solomon. When God offered to Solomon any gift he desired, Solomon stated and asked: “You have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” (I Kings 3:7-9) The importance of this gift, credited to Solomon as wisdom, marks a significant place in redemptive history.

Perhaps you respond saying “I’m not a King or ruler like Solomon appointed by God – so why concern myself with wisdom, ruling, or judging others, or even judging myself?” The New Testament Book of James, written as a letter to all Christians everywhere about A.D.48, instructs: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) Recalling from the teaching from Jesus our aim is to remove “planks” from our own eyes and in love to help brothers and sisters in removing the “speck” in their eye.

Another distinct way to comprehend the issues of judgment and proper placement for Christians is found in St. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians. “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11). So what is this discernment Paul prays for? Discernment is being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure – an act of perceiving something. A discerning individual is considered to possess wisdom and be of good judgment, especially in matters often overlooked by others. For Christians particularly, the word “discernment” may have several meanings. It can be used to describe the process of determining God’s desire or call in a situation for one’s life. Discernment used for one’s comprehension, with components of insight, wisdom, discrimination, and perception takes also a strong spiritual element.

Extending the thoughts concerning discernment, Christians must embrace digging past mere perceptions and superficial relationships to deep and detailed judgments. These judgments must be based on truth, on differentiation between good and evil, and honest encounter with God himself. In this relationship the fruits of righteousness bloom into abounding love.

The Gospel is truth from God. Christians have not invented the message of truth. Christians should not judge themselves or others with their own human speculations. Christians should rather be bearers of God’s Word — His revealed truth. Christians are trustees of God’s Gospel and stewards of God’s revealed secrets. Therefore, judgments must be rendered in truth, extensions of God’s word revealed.

Does making good judgments relieve a Christian from being concerned with having “skeletons” or “planks” of their own? The quick answer is no; however, the application of good judgment begins with one’s self-examination. Saint Augustine, as an example, is known in part for his extensive writing of confessions. In the Sacramental Church, the Sacrament of Penance, commonly called confession and absolution, is a process to assist in self-examination and removal of the “planks” or sins that beset one from God. Rather than not judging easily or not judging at any level, the process of self-examination is to be commended to all Christians as a means to fully experience Jesus’ teaching “to remove planks from our own eyes and to remove specks from our brothers.”

The Reverend Eugene (Gene) Fort worked as an Electrical Engineer for twenty-five years prior to entering full-time ministry. A Summa-Cum Laude graduate from St. Michael’s Seminary in San Clemente, CA, he was ordained in the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. Known as Pastor Gene to patients, he developed the clinical program and offered pastoral care in a holistic family practice, Three Streams Family Healthcare Center. He was captain of the Evangelism Consultants Team in the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina, and was chairman of the Diocesan Evangelism and Renewal Department under Bishop William Weinhauer. He continues to have keen interests in renewal ministries, Marriage Encounter, Cursillo, Kairos Prison Ministry, and Epiphany. Interest in contemporary music, particularly contemporary Christian Music, has influenced Gene’s involvement in worship leadership. Sometime catch Gene and ask him about the mantra “Rock for God!”

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Name That Face #2

Can you name this All-Saints-er?

 

 

We invite All Saints Church members and regulars to email old pictures of yourself, friends, spouse, or family for a fun game on our blog and Facebook page called “Name that Face.” Email pictures to Brian Maiers (brianmaiers@gmail.com) with a brief explanation of names, dates and where you were and what you were doing in the photo. We hope this will be a fun activity that produces laughter and greater fellowship in our church body. FYI – You might want to get your loved one’s permission before you share embarrassing photos of them

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An Invitation to Love and Support the Stillwell Family

Dear All Saints friends,

Denise Stillwell has been diagnosed with colon cancer and is having surgery on Friday. Please keep Denise and Andrew and their two son’s Liam and Aidan in your prayers this week and in the weeks to come.

The Stillwells will need some help with meals as well as a few other logistical aspects of daily life over the next few weeks.

Meals: They do have some dietary restrictions as follows:Only organic and whole grain where applicable and only fish or chicken.  No red meat, please.  Please sign up to bring a meal by accessing the The Care Calendar link that can be found below this message under the title “HELPER LOGIN”  Please contact Andrew at 919-291-5790 to schedule delivery of the meal.

They also have a request for help with carpooling: During Denise’s hospital stay, which should be 4-7 days, we will have family members staying, which will allow me to be at the hospital. However, carpooling will be a great help.  Liam gets picked up at dropped off at 8:00 am and picked up at 3:00pm from Five Oaks School, and Aidan gets dropped off at 8:45 am and picked up at 3:30 pm from WG Pearson. Our preference is that one person commit to this task, as we are trying to provide as much consistency for the boys as possible. However, we are flexible and, of course, immensely grateful for the help.

Please contact Andrew if you can help. Andrew’s email address: astillwell@nc.rr.com and cell number is 919 – 291 – 5790.

Another request is some assistance with finishing a home project: Last request. I am trying to finish the master bathroom. (A project I started before Denise’s diagnosis) and if there are any handy men out there to help for a couple hours. I have to install two lights, tile the shower, paint and put up crown molding.  Should be ready for next week, but I am cutting it close with other important responsibilities starting to demand attention.

Please contact Andrew if you can help. Andrew’s email address: astillwell@nc.rr.com and cell number is 919 – 291 – 5790.

===================================

HELPER LOGON

===================================

The HELPER logon is used by family and friends

that would like to sign-up to help a loved one.

To access Denise & Andrew Stillwell’s personal CareCalendar site,

visit http://www.carecalendar.org/logon/107392 and enter

the following information in the appropriate spaces:

CALENDAR ID      :  107392

SECURITY CODE :  2974

Thank you for your help! Please contact Thomas Kortus with any questions! (919) 619-5007.

Let us pray together for Denise 

Almighty God our heavenly Father, graciously comfort your servant Denise in her suffering, and bless the means made use of for her cure. Fill her heart with confidence that, though at times

she may be afraid, she yet may put her trust in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Jesus clothe Denise in your Spirit so powerfully that she would know your indwelling and all encompassing presence and love for her as your beloved daughter. In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

In Christ,

Thomas Kortus

 

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Desiring the Kingdom – Part 3

Desiring the Kingdom – Part 3

A couple of weeks ago Rev. Donnie McDaniel provided us with an overview of the first part of James K.A. Smith’s book “Desiring the Kingdom.” In the early chapters of his book, Smith sets out to present his view of human beings as lovers against what he perceives is the dominate view in western education- that people are essentially “thinking creatures.” Smith argues that formation is not simply instilling proper knowledge or beliefs, but shaping one’s desires. In terms of Christian formation this means that disciples of Christ are people whom “desire the kingdom.” People are formed mainly by the things they do: the habits and practices instill a particular vision of the “good life.” This means that formation is something that can happen anywhere. Because discipleship shapes our desires, we are constantly shaped by the “cultural liturgies” the surround us. Smith takes us to the mall, or the football game, or fraternity rush week to show us that religion is not something that takes place only with the walls of the church.

In part 2, Smith begins to discuss the implications of the anthropology that he describes at the beginning of the book. Remember by “anthropology,” he means our view of what a human person is. People are first and foremost lovers shaped by habits and practices that form and inform a vision of what it means to live well. In chapter 4, Smith refines his argument that Christians need to think of their faith as fundamentally “worship” rather than “worldview.” We as western Christians take much stock in attaining the correct cognitive information.  Lots of time is spent in Sunday school, sermons, Christian colleges, and seminaries presenting Christianity as a set of beliefs: the creeds, systematic theology, or some essentials derived from proper interpretation of scripture. Smith argues that this way of looking at things is misguided. Christians worshiped Jesus before they got into the business of “theorizing about it.” By this statement, he does not mean that we as Christians don’t believe some things, ultimately we must. He uses one of his best illustrations in the book to make this point, Smith compares Christian doctrine without worship to reading a script of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. If you have ever read a script to play for English class in school, you know that it leaves a lot to be desired.  The play is not meant to be read, but to be performed. So Christian doctrine is necessary, but can only be intelligible in the context of worship.  

Chapter five discusses the various practices of the church, and how they are counter cultural and form disciples. Smith points out liturgical practices that the church has passed down such as: the observance of the church calender, laws, baptism, confession,  and the Eucharist. The reader is invited to look at Christian liturgy through the eyes of a “Martian anthropologist” –  to look at Christian worshipers and ask the question “what do these people love? ” and “what sort of Kingdom do they desire?” Throughout this chapter, Smith attempts to “naturalize” Christian worship and make it more earthy in order to show that worship is not an otherworldly action of private devotion. The liturgical calender forces Christians to relate to time in a different way than the dominate culture  and things like singing, taking bread and wine, and baptism are very physical actions that involve our full bodies. By naturalizing Christian worship, Smith clarifies how cultural practices are really “secular liturgies” and that the secular and the religious are not easily separated. So, worship is also training in living differently in the world.  He states, “we are so prone to think of this (worship) as just a ‘religious’ exercise or something we do in connection with our ‘personal salvation,’ we can miss the fact that Christian worship has much broader application and aspiration…Implicit in Christian worship is a vision not just for spiritual flourishing but also for human flourishing; this is not just practice for eternal bliss; it is training for temporal, embodied human community” (174).  

In the final chapter of the book, Smith discusses some of the implications of his arguments for Christian education and specifically Christian universities. He asks, if the goal of Christian education is formation or discipleship which is something that happens primarily through worship, where does that leave institutions of Christian education that predominantly are adapted from the methods and purposes of secular institutions?  By the term “purposes” he means that universities exist and promote themselves as training their students to be able to fulfill certain tasks in preparation for a career that will make them “successful” and increase their earning potential. If Christian education exists not only to train the workforce, but is for the purpose of forming  disciples, how should Christian education incorporate different practices. Here he begins and simply offers a few possible options.

I really recommend Smith’s book. It is extremely well written and readable. Although there is a lot of modern social philosophy backing up his arguments, Smith makes his points accessible with references from pop culture and literary classics. He also engages the issues with a good sense of humor. The book forces us to ask some crucial questions of ourselves concerning our walk with Christ. For me questions arose such as: Do my beliefs line up with my “vision of the good life”? While I cognitively believe that Christianity is true, our goals and desires formed by Christ’s death and resurrection as described throughout the Old and New Testaments? There are a few of other books that go discuss further some of the ideas that Smith presents in his book. One great one is a book by N. T. Wright After You Believe in which he discusses a New Testament account of Christian virtue. For those that don’t want to read the book you can check out this lecture he gave on the topic at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. For those interested in going a bit deeper into some of the philosophical issues that Smith raises, Charles Taylor’s Modern Social Imaginaries.    

Questions to think about –

1. How does Smith’s argument about the importance of liturgy in Christian formation cause us to think about the distinction between proper belief and proper actions?

2.  Is Smith correct that discipleship begins with worship before it can be articulated as a system of beliefs? As Christians how does the authority of the Bible relate to our worship and practices? Is the Bible information to apply to our lives or is it better seen as vision of who God is and our place in world that informs how we are to live in the world?

3. If you recently have adopted liturgical practices such as following the church calender or regularly partaking of the Eucharist, how has this changed they way that your view your faith and how you look you place as a Christian in the world?

Next week I’ll post some of my thoughts about these questions.

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NAME THAT FACE – A fun game for us to play as a church!

We invite All Saints Church members and regulars to email old pictures of yourself, friends, spouse, or family for a fun game on our blog and Facebook page called “Name that Face.” Email pictures to Brian Maiers (brianmaiers@gmail.com) with a brief explanation of names, dates and where you were and what you were doing in the photo. We hope this will be a fun activity that produces laughter and greater fellowship in our church body. FYI – You might want to get your loved one’s permission before you share embarrassing photos of them. I HAVE LEARNED FROM EXPERIENCE… 🙂

Name that Face #1 – Who is it? Where? Why?

Post answers in the comment section.

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Welcoming the Stranger

All Saints is co-sponsoring an event put on World Relief on April 27th please read about it below and consider joining us!

(From the website for the event)

SYNOPSIS In a time when “the immigration problem” is becoming more divisive, Christians must cut through the rhetoric on all sides and listen clearly to what God teaches us through the Bible. How do we, today, listen and respond to God’s declaration of love for the immigrant?

God loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing. Therefore you are to love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt (Deut 10:18-19).

Instead of advocating for a particular stance on immigration reform, this event seeks to remind us that immigrants are people and not representatives of a problem. What does it mean to love our immigrant neighbors in the Triangle, including undocumented immigrants?

Love does not eradicate the many worthy questions of immigration policy—what about those who are here illegally?, what about the economic realities?—but it does require us to engage. Loving our immigrant neighbors starts with learning, and that’s the purpose of this event, Welcoming the Stranger. We hope you will join us. 

For more information see http://worldrelief.org/durham/welcomingthestranger

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