Have you ever thought about who John the Baptist was, and what was his purpose and calling? A cursory look at the Gospels might give one the impression we don’t know much about him. But F.B. Meyer, an English Baptist pastor who lived and worked over a century ago, wrote a book titled John the Baptist that sheds a great deal of light on John’s role and ministry. John the Baptist is one of the most intriguing characters in Scripture, and if you want to know more about him, this is a great place to look – and it is free in Kindle format!
Since I have been thinking about baptism recently, I wanted to mention the book by the estimable Fr. Peter Toon of blessed memory, Mystical Washing & Spiritual Regeneration:Infant Baptism and the Renewal of the Anglican Way in America. The complete text of the book is available at the link, thanks to the New Scriptorium site. In Chapter One, Dr. Toon writes:
We all agree that the preaching of the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and with clarity and warmth, is absolutely necessary. So also is the vocation of the church to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” in American society and culture, and for devoted Christians to engage in good works, which bring glory to God and help mankind. Yet, sooner or later, we have to face the question of Baptism, which, by the institution of the Lord Jesus Christ, is the one and Only means of entry into the kingdom of God and the family of God, bringing with it the promise of everlasting life and the forgiveness of sins. In the Creed, said each day in the Daily Office, we declare: “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sin.”
Thus how we present, explain, and administer Baptism within fulfilling the Great Commission is crucial for it is God’s Sacrament and God’s Way of admitting (a) those who repent of sin and believe the Gospel, and (b) the infant children of baptized Christians, into his kingdom and family. Over the centuries the Church has not taught that Baptism is a human act or good work of dedication offered to God; but, rather that it is a gracious, Fatherly act of God upon and in a human being, who humbly receives it in trust and thankfulness. Therefore, if we neglect, dumb-down, or wrongly use this unique Sacrament, then we affect not only the full work of evangelization and catechesis, but also the beginnings and developing of the life of sanctification and service of Christians within the local church. And, if we make mistakes on a large scale, then attempting to renew the Anglican Way in the Americas will be severely disturbed and endangered.
If you agree with this thesis, the book is very much worth reading.
This talk by Dean Phillip Jensen comes from a series of talks on Genesis 1-12 sometime ago at a conference. The title of this video is “The Promise of Knowledge” and it is based on Genesis 3:1-24.
Readers will recall the situation recently where the Archbishop of Canterbury made the assertion that the Anglican Church in North America was not “Anglican”, to the surprise of many. Dr. Mark Thompson, now of Moore College in Sydney, has now published a response to this, titled Who or what defines the Anglican Communion? I think he makes an excellent case that ACNA is Anglican, and this excerpt sums up very well what really makes one “Anglican”:
We must deny categorically and in the strongest possible terms that communion with the see of Canterbury is the determining factor when it comes to Anglican identity. It is not and never can be. A church, diocese or national body does not have to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury in order to be a legitimate member of the Anglican Communion, especially if a majority of other Anglicans around the world recognise it as part of our fellowship. Anglican identity is fundamentally a matter of certain theological commitments, anchored ultimately in the authority of Scripture as God’s word written (Article 20), together with an agreement to operate with a common pattern of church government (the threefold order of bishops, priests and deacons). The Anglican Church has always been confessional in nature, as witnessed by the history of subscription to the Articles, which began in the time of Cranmer and continues around the world today. Ordination for Sydney Anglicans, for instance, still includes wholehearted assent to the 39 Articles of Religion.
This is very well said, and I hope it will be read by Anglicans everywhere.
From St. Helen’s Bishopsgate in London comes the next in a video series by the Rev. Jamie Child on the doctrine of the Word of God. In this installment he talks about the authority of Scripture.
Another article on the situation with Ebola that I have found to be helpful is Six Reasons to Panic by Jonathan V. Last, writing in the Weekly Standard. I have to admit the “R0″ (or reproduction number) of this virus has me concerned. Mr. Last writes:
General infection rates are terrifying, too. In epidemiology, you measure the “R0,” or “reproduction number” of a virus; that is, how many new infections each infected person causes. When R0 is greater than 1, the virus is spreading through a population. When it’s below 1, the contamination is receding. In September the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Team estimated the R0 to be at 1.71 in Guinea and 2.02 in Sierra Leone. Since then, it seems to have risen so that the average in West Africa is about 2.0. In September the WHO estimated that by October 20, there would be 3,000 total cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As of October 7, the count was 8,376.
In other words, rather than catching up with Ebola, we’re falling further behind. And we’re likely to continue falling behind, because physical and human resources do not scale virally. In order to stop the spread of Ebola, the reproduction number needs to be more than halved from its current rate. Yet reducing the reproduction number only gets harder as the total number of cases increases, because each case requires resources—facilities, beds, doctors, nurses, decontamination, and secure burials—which are already lagging well behind need. The latest WHO projections suggest that by December 1 we are likely to see 10,000 new cases in West Africa per week, at which point the virus could begin spreading geographically within the continent as it nears the border with Ivory Coast.
I hope the Administration does reconsider their stance on a temporary travel ban; it seems to me that limiting the number of new infection vectors coming into the U.S. would certainly help ensure that this is held within check in North America – and actually strengthen our hand in seeking to help West Africa.
From Fr. Bill Klock of Living Word REC in British Columbia comes this sermon on the account of Mary and Martha at Bethany, One Thing is Necessary, based on Luke 10:38-42. Fr. Bill makes some excellent points in this message, including this one about our desire to put our own agenda before that of others – even the Lord’s:
This is a story we need to hear, because you and I are prone to making the same sort of mistake that Martha made. It’s pretty obvious that Martha loved and respected Jesus. She wanted to provide the best for him. Her problem was that she was letting worldly priorities, worldly conventions, and worldly thinking drive her agenda. She was letting worry and anxiety and “busyness” shape what it meant to be a disciple. How often do we do the same sort of thing? Martha thought that to be a good disciple she had to meet the worldly standards of what it means to be the perfect hostess. But in focusing on those worldly standards and in her rush and hurry and worry she was missing what Jesus had come to offer her. How often do we get so bogged down in “things” that we miss the kingdom when it comes near? How often do we even think we’re doing the work of the kingdom—consider that Martha thought she was serving Jesus—but because we’ve got the wrong priorities and values, we actually wind up serving not the kingdom, not the Lord, but ourselves. That’s the more subtle danger. We can throw ourselves into things that look good—to us and to others—but all too often we’re being driven by our own agenda, not God’s. My biggest reason for joining the church choir was a girl. Martha’s biggest reason for being the “hostess with the mostess” was so that everyone would think well of her. Whom are we seeking to serve? Whose agenda are we seeking to meet?
That is one reason we need the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives – to help us search our hearts and ensure we are acting from the right motives. Fr Bill has a lot more to say in this message, and I hope you’ll read it all, or listen to it.
I wanted to mention a post by a nurse named Dustin Tolar titled Ebola, A Nurse’s Perspective. To me this is one of the best-written and most realistic essays I have read about Ebola and what humanity faces with this disease. His overview of viruses is really helpful for the layperson:
I feel the first thing we should examine is Ebola itself. It is foreign to the US, both literally and figuratively. What it does to people and how it harmonizes with nature are both things that most westerners have little concept of. It is a virus, not a bacteria. This means that it is not its own organism. It is actually much smaller and basic than you can imagine. It is nothing more than a few pieces of DNA/RNA and some proteins. No cell wall, no cytoplasm, no metabolic functions. This is both their advantage and their downfall. Viruses require a host. For this example I will use the HIV virus. HIV gets into the human body and invades the host’s white blood cells, T4 cells to be exact but I won’t get that involved. The proteins help get the virus into the cell and those few small sequences of DNA/RNA write themselves into the host DNA/RNA. Now instead of the white blood cell attacking invaders, it is nothing more than an HIV factory. All of its metabolic functions are redirected at producing more of the virus, which pours out of the white blood cell like a sieve until eventually the host cell dies. This is why HIV infected patients have poor immune systems. The virus re-writes the DNA of the host cells. This is not something we can stop. New viruses are pouring out of the white blood cells at a rate of millions a day. We cannot filter them out. We cannot “kill” a little chunk of DNA and we don’t know enough about the human genome to correct the DNA sequences. This is why a lot of viral infections like HIV, Herpes, and Hepatitis are life long infections. HIV invades the white blood cells, Herpes invade the nerve roots, and Hepatitis invades the liver.
As probably all of us realize this disease is a matter for much prayer, for what it is already doing in West Africa and what it could do elsewhere.
I was not familiar with Aaron Shust’s hymn My Hope Is In You, but this rendition of it by “Weapons of Hope” on piano and cello is quite pretty.
From Dr. Richard Trucks of Third Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, here is a message titled “I am a Royal Priest to My God and Father”. Although a continuation of his series on 1 Peter, this message is based on Revelation 1:4-8 as well as 1 Peter 2.