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I believe in the Communion of the Saints

We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses… (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)

This past Sunday morning I received a call from my mom telling me that my dear grandmother (her mother) had passed away. We are blessed to know that she was a believer.

Until Sunday my thoughts on the communion of the saints were rather academic, but as we worshiped at church that morning I knew that although I am separated in a sense from my grandma, we were together in another way as we joined in with the heavenly worship through the Divine Service.

It is hard to describe the way that was comforting for me, except to say I am so thankful for the hope and present reality we have in our communion with Jesus. As believers, we are all alive in him.

O God, the King of saints, we praise and magnify thy holy Name for all thy servants who have finished their course in thy faith and fear; for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all other thy righteous servants, known to us and unknown; and we beseech thee that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers, and strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. ~ 1979 BCP, p. 489

A Study Bible by the Church

J. Mark Bertrand has a typically comprehensive review of a fantastic new Bible design by the folks over at EvangelicalBible.com–one the best places to get high-quality editions of Holy Scripture. Their new Schuyler ESV Bible is clearly designed with care and precision, but it’s not just the goatskin cover and Jongbloed-printed text block that stand out with this edition.

This volume includes the great ecumenical creeds and confessions of Protestant Christianity bound under the same same cover as the Biblical text. You’ll find:

  • Apostles Creed
  • Nicene Creed
  • Chalcedonian Creed
  • Athanasian Creed
  • Augsburg  Confession
  • Articles of Religion
  • Westminster Standards
  • London Baptist Confession
What this amounts to a unique kind of study Bible I don’t think can be found anywhere else. I thought Bertrand’s take was insightful:
Including these documents accomplishes a similar goal to that of a study Bible, with one significant difference: the views summarized are not those of an individual, or even a committee of scholars, but of a confessing church. They represent a collective endorsement and exposition of the faith contained in Scripture. While there is a great deal of consensus among the confessions, there are differences, too – and I think that’s helpful, as well, to those of us who want to have an informed view of what our fellow believers actually confess (as opposed to what they’re accused of believing, if you see what I mean).
I absolutely love this idea. This also got me thinking about what a uniquely Anglican study Bible might look like–and I think it’d be similar, in that it would include the great creeds and the 39 Articles of Religion. I’d also like to see excerpts from the Church Fathers, the Book of Common Prayer, and the English Reformers.

It seems that if you’re looking for the kind of Bible that has non-intrusive study helps that have endured the test of time, you could do a lot worse than the Schuyler ESV.

Illusions of Influence

I think the Internet can give us a tremendous advantage when it comes to influencing people. We can reach so many with our ideas, thoughts, and motivations that we would have otherwise had no chance of approaching. And these dreams can spread like a virus, sometimes becoming reality. I don’t want to minimize the reality or importance of this power.

On the other hand…

I wonder if I look my Twitter followers, forum members, and Facebook friends and see more influence than I really have. I wonder if I think too much about expressing my next earth shattering idea, at the expense of sharing with those in my immediate physical vicinity.

Could I be missing out on sharing my best ideas with those that would benefit most? Do I really have more influence among my “tweeps” or with those with whom I come into daily physical contact? My wife, children, friends, coworkers, employers and employees? Am I so focused on the the Twitterverse that I’ve looked past the universe of interconnected relationships that I can reach out and touch?

What if, in addition to posting to my blog, I printed out a few copies of my idea, and handed them to a few close friends? Instead of waiting for the Facebook likes and retweets to roll in, what if I handed them a folded piece of paper, and said, “I’d really love your thoughts on this…want to have lunch tomorrow?”

Why wouldn’t I do that with this post?

Identity Crisis

I am twenty-eight years old, riddled with angst about the person I should be but I’m not, dreams dreamt and not acted on, talents wasted along with time, wondering if the next step will ever seem to take me closer a life embedded in almost subconscious assumptions. Values compromised, stubbornness still in a tenacious grip, and a rather disappointing self-pity often seem to surface in my thoughts.

Quarter life crisis is what they call it. I don’t want to sound self-absorbed, arrogant, or presumptuous…but I realize that’s what I often am.

For the love of God, I just realized I think of my Christianity like a hobby instead of the very fibers that are tying me to Jesus.

There’s this nagging truth that as a Christian, what my identity should be is quite simple (if crushingly difficult to attain). I’m supposed to seek the mind of Jesus. I’m supposed to share in his suffering. I’m supposed to love who he loves, act as he acts, and grieve when he grieves.

The church brings me to his table each week, re-presenting his all-sufficient sacrifice to me. I eat his body and drink his blood to be united to him. I remember Jesus poured out and broken for my sin and yours.

Yet I still have a wandering eye for defining who I am.

Christ, have mercy.

I just. Don’t. Get it.

I’m supposed to die, even if to be raised in him (thank God for grace).

My identity, more than anything, is meant to be caught up in his.

Salvation by Faith and Works

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2 ESV)

Paul is explicitly addressing behavior there.

James addresses those that give intellectual assent to the reality of Jesus, but don’t let that knowledge provoke a response. Yet faith could hardly be more important to James, because faith the is the catalyst for action.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18 ESV)

The problem many of us children of the Reformation have is that we de facto assume that “justification” and “salvation” are interchangeable words. However, I am not alone in suggesting that “salvation” is a word that–depending on context, of course–can mean any and all of the following vocabulary:

  • Justification - our "legal" standing before God
  • Sanctification - the very real work of being made perfect over time via the Holy Spirit
  • Glorification - our "final destination," resurrection bodies and full union with God (Bock, 1989, p. 90)

I think we should broaden our idea of salvation out from simply the moment of justification. God has much more in store for us, including being saved from not only eternal damnation, but from all the sin in our lives. We see this past (Eph. 2:8)/present (1 Cor. 1:18)/future (Rom 8:23) idea of salvation throughout Paul. If we understand salvation in this holistic sense, then the idea of works (being performed solely via the merits of Christ as a result of our justification) playing a role in our total salvation isn’t at all at odds with Ephesians 2:8-9, etc.

N. T. Wright (2009) says in his Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision,

' Salvation' is from death itself, and all that leads to it and shares its destructive character... 'Salvation' does not mean 'dying and going to heaven,' as so many Western Christians have supposed for so long...this great rescue operation, this great renewal of all things, has already been launched in Jesus Christ, and is already being put into operation through the Spirit" (p. 235).

References

Bock, Darrell L. (1989). Introducing New Testament Word Analysis. In S. McKnight (Ed.), Introducing New Testament Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. Buy on Amazon

Wright, N. T. (2009). Justification: God’s plan & Paul’s vision. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic. Buy on Amazon

The ESV Single Column Legacy

Many of you know that I’ve been on the quest for the perfect reading Bible. What I mean by “reading Bible” is a Bible I can sit down for long periods of time with, sans distractions, and simply soak up the text the way I would a good novel. Study Bibles and ultra compact editions are automatically out (although they have their purpose). Unfortunately editions suited for this kind of reading are relatively rare. So far my favorite candidates have been the ESV Personal Size Reference Bible, the KJV Clarion, and the NRSV Standard Bible. All are solid reading editions, but none were quite what I was looking for. In a perfect world, I’d have just the text of the Bible, in the English Standard Version, attractively presented with absolutely nothing else (no verses, chapters, headings, etc.).

The ESV Single Column Legacy from Crossway may be as close as I ever get to my ideal, and thanks to the generosity of my family, I was able to obtain one for my birthday!

The ESV Single Column Legacy truly is a Bible designed from the ground up for reading, and reading only. No cumbersome cross references, introductions, double columns, etc. This is simply the text of Holy Scripture, presented cleanly and with few distractions.

The text is set up in a single column, like, you know, every other book that’s meant to be read. Double columns are cool and all because you can pack more text on a page, but they’re just not as comfortable for lengthy reading sessions. the 9pt font is super comfortable to read. Additionally, the layout is proportioned according the Renaissance “perfect page” ideal, so there’s plenty of space for your eye to actually rest on the text. The paper is the most opaque Bible paper I’ve seen, and the “line matching” feature that ensures the print aligns on both sides of the page really works to reduce “ghosting” (show-through).

There’s the standard ESV Concordance in the back, and some maps. The top grain leather edition includes two ribbon markers (thank you, Crossway!), classic-looking raised bands on the spine, and it smells really nice. All editions have sewn binding.

The ESV Single Column Legacy Bible is hands-down the most readable ESV edition on the market. At $30 for the TruTone edition, you can get this beautiful Bible (guaranteed for life by Crossway) and you may never need to buy another reading Bible again.

Buy it on Amazon


More on this edition from the Bible Design Blog:

Religion with Room To Grow

One of the best things about classical Anglican Christianity is that it is a tradition where one feels they have room to grow.

I can be more or less Calvinistic, adopt a higher or lower view of the Sacrament, change my stance on icons, discover catholicity, embrace my Protestantism, and refuse to conclusively define “Real Presence.”

I don’t feel I have to stay exactly the same as my understanding of Scripture, tradition, and Church grows and deepens. Yet there are clear boundaries in our formularies (The Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Ordinal) that guide me on this path and keep me from falling of edges of extremes.

This is tremendously freeing and comforting.

Enough by Patrick Rhone

I’ve followed Patrick Rhone’s work for years now because he just keeps coming out with awesome. Also, he’s just a great human being.

Patrick is one of only a few writers out there speaking intelligently and thoughtfully on how real people interact with technology. Equal parts philosophical musing and practical advice, Rhone’s most recent book, Enough, explores what it means to find that balance between too little and too much in life. You’ll notice this work doesn’t just address social media and gadgets; Patrick brings unique insight on existing mindfully into multiple spheres of life. Enough is as useful and applicable as it is a pleasure to read.

Enough prompted me to pause and ponder the implications of what I have and what I need in new and fresh ways. I know it will do the same for you, too.

Buy the book and find out more here.

Lancelot Andrews Press BCP

Since we began worshiping with an Anglican church, I’ve been extremely interested in the history and various incarnations of the Anglican liturgical standard, the Book of Common Prayer. The definitive edition is the 1662 BCP, which also serves as the doctrinal standard for most orthodox Anglicans.

Based on some recommendations by some fellow Anglican friends, I picked up the Lancelot Andrews Press Book of Common Prayer for a mere $15 shipped.

This edition of the Book of Common Prayer is not authorized by any recognized Anglican body that I am aware of, but is an effort by the publisher to create a version of the 1662 BCP that is conformable to Orthodox theology. The target audience for an edition like this would be Orthodox parishes looking to worship with a Western liturgy, or Anglican congregations that find themselves leaning a little toward the East.

First, let’s talk about the physical book itself. For a $15-$30 volume, I think you get your money’s worth. The soft cover is a nice, red “leatherlike” substance with gold accents. About the size of most standard thinline Bibles, the Lancelot Andrews Press BCP text block is trimmed in red. It’s a good looking book, and my washed-out cell-phone photos below don’t do it justice. On the inside, the paper is sufficiently opaque and the type is clear and easy to read. Rubrics are in red, and–although they border on being too light–are not difficult to parse.

(EDIT: The book is now offered in hardback only)

I’ve only really spent time examining the liturgy for morning and evening prayer, so I can’t comment on all the theological tweaks and liturgical alterations, but I can say this: except for the Marian hymns and prayers that are added, Evening and Morning Prayer are virtually identical to the classical 1662 forms. Readers will also find that the Nicene Creed is printed without the filioque, and the date of Easter conforms to the understanding of the Orthodox church. This edition does not include the Articles of Religion.

This really seems like a great devotional resources for both Anglican and Orthodox Christians. The form factor makes sharing the book with someone else for prayers very easy. I also really like the simplified liturgies for family worship, and I find the Orthodox theological nuances educational, at the least, and edifying in many places.

You can get one here.

A Talk From Francis Chan

Yesterday I was present at a talk by famous author and pastor Francis Chan. His book Crazy Love changed the trajectory of my Christian life and ministry, so I was truly looking forward to hearing him speak. Here are some brief notes from the talk.

Right off the bat:

If you’ve come to hear from Francis Chan, and not God, you’re here for the wrong reasons. He is what we pursue.

Well, that was convicting because I’m pretty sure I went looking forward to a Francis Chan sermon, not expecting or asking for God to speak to me.

He spoke on the idea that the Holy Spirit comes and empowers in special ways primarily in times of crisis when Christians are on mission. Examples included the Spirit descending on the disciples in Acts as well as Elijah’s confrontation with the priests of Baal.

He talked about the experience of Korean missionaries imprisoned by the Taliban, who say it was a time of great closeness to Christ that they sometimes wish they could even return to.

Quote:

If you were a sheep, and Jesus was your shepherd (as in Psalm 23) wouldn't you sometimes want to go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death just to see what Jesus would do?"

As always, Francis comes across as incredibly sincere, and as someone who has a heart of obedience to Christ. He spoke the great importance of all Christians to be making disciples–if we are complaining about not being fed enough by our pastor, he says, it may be time to “man up,” feed yourself if you’ve been equipped to do so, and go to work making disciples. Otherwise you are keeping yourself in spiritual infancy.

Chan says the Holy Spirit in Acts is the same Holy Spirit today, and he calls us live out the mission of going into the world and making disciples. This will bring us into socially awkward situations and perhaps even physical danger, but this is where we see God, in obedience. If we don’t see parallels between our life and lives of the early Christians in Acts, something is wrong.

Very challenging, but his word on making disciples rings true. Am I being obedient to Christ, not just unto death, but even unto social awkwardness? Do I look at my relationships with friends, family, and my children as opportunities to make disciples? Am I willing to take an active role in seeking out the lost? Is something wrong if I don’t I have the time to search out God’s will via prayer and soaking in the Scriptures?

These are the questions I came away with.