Ignorant Controversies


by Fr. Randy Messick

2 Timothy 2:23-25

Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.  And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,  correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

When I read these verses it’s clear to me that there is an irreconcilable difference between my wish to serve God and my compulsion to serve my ego.  Paul teaches me to avoid “ignorant controversies that breed quarrels” and yet, sometimes I find myself right in the middle of them believing that in some way I really am serving the Lord.  Paul knows that when I participate in such quarrels I do so not out of a desire to serve the Lord, but out of an egotistical desire to be right.  When I do this I drive a wedge between my will and God’s will and as a result I can drive a wedge between God and others.

Paul teaches me to be kind to everyone, to pursue love and peace, so that in doing so I may actually share with others knowledge and truth about God.  When others sense that I’m quarreling with them so that I can prove I’m right and they’re wrong, they are likely to reject anything I have to say.  But, when I approach people in true love, and peace, and gentleness, then I have a chance of sharing knowledge and truth about Jesus, whose gift of salvation is, after all, given out of His great love for us.

Fr. Randy ministers at Faith Anglican Church


Knowing God


by Fr. Stephen Veselsky

John 11:1-44

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”  John 11:5-7 

You think you know God.  One could mean that in two different senses.  The first one is to know that God exists, that He simply is, and the second sense is to know His actions, how God acts.  Here, we are dealing with the second sense.  We think know God, so we expect God to behave in particular ways.  So how do we respond when God doesn’t act like we know He should?  Often, with our limited human understanding, we question God’s actions.

Here is somebody who loves someone who is like family, and when one of his family is really ill, the one who is supposedly loving does nothing – no action, no explanation.  It appears that Jesus does not care. How is it possible to read that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” while there is no evidence of anything that would point to love.  Imagine, being in the place of Martha and her sister.  How would you feel?  What would be your experienced emotion in this situation?

Perhaps confusion and frustration come to mind, connected with amazement at inaction displayed by Jesus.  Anger would be a surprise, either.

Jesus knew what others did not and could not know. Otherwise, it is impossible to defend the claim that He is loving. From the start, He intended to raise Lazarus from dead and needed others to know for sure that Lazarus had died.  By remaining for two more days at the same place, he made sure people knew Lazarus was dead. About this passage, Chrysostom says that Jesus delayed “to give time for his death and burial, that they might say, he stinks, and none doubt that it was death, and not in a trance, from which he was raised.”

This passage is an excellent example that God cares about us, and that often it is beyond our limited human understanding to perceive that.  In the face of death, the Resurrection awaits us.  Glory to Him who came to us, sent by our Father.

Fr. Steve serves as a missionary in the Czech Republic

Facing Rejection


by Dcn. Skip Hill

John 10:22-42

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand* that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in him there.  John 10:37-42

What were the Jews of Jesus’ day looking for in a Messiah?  I would think that they would look for a person who lived a godly life, could do wonderful works, and who had no fault in Him.  They were looking for someone who lived a consistent godly life; who was bold, sure of Himself, and who could speak to them of God!  Why then did they try to arrest him when He demonstrated the very characteristics that they were looking for?

It appears as if they had faith in a Messiah who would be ideal, while simultaneously believing that anyone who ‘acted’ in ways that they anticipated the Messiah to behave would by ‘nature’ be a blasphemer!  So…they had an image of the ideal in their minds, while never expecting that this ideal could become a reality.

What wrong did Jesus do that deserved the reactions that he got from the Jewish leaders?  They did not challenge Him when He suggested “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.” Their reaction against Him came after He said, “But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand* that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 

The Jews did not take exception with either of Jesus’ statements!  They did not have any answer; all they had was a reaction!   In fact, it was the very ‘good things’ that Jesus was doing among them that caused them the difficulty!  It is strange that while going about doing good, Jesus was accused of being bad!

Do we expect to experience any other reaction from others as we live to bring Christ to the world?  Good is considered bad!   Godly living is considered ‘prudish’ and odd by those rejecting Christ.  When a Christian lets his or her light ‘shine’ all around, the believer is shown for what he or she is. A person hiding in the dark does not want the light shined upon them…..they want to remain as they are…..unseen and hidden.

When Jesus ‘went about doing good,’ those around Him were able to see the contrast of His life with theirs, and did not appreciate seeing the truth.  There is no darkness in light…none at all.  The light changes the nature of the dark.  The Goodness of God by its nature demonstrates the badness that is around.

So, Jesus left those behind who rejected Him, and brought His good news to people who received Him; who wanted what He had to share.  We cannot avoid everyone who disagrees with us!  Jesus didn’t either.  But, he demonstrated to us that, just as He did, we need to separate ourselves from those who would want to not only reject the good news we bring, but who would want to prevent us from sharing it with anyone else.  He left them and went to where He knew there would be people who were sincerely seeking God; at the place where John was baptizing people who were confessing their sins.  If Jesus was rejected while doing good, we can expect the same as we live to emulate him.  Let us examine ourselves and choose to do good, even if it brings about rejection from others.  Let us live unto Christ.

Dcn. Skip ministers at St. Luke’s Anglican Church

Shepherd and Lord

Lent IV

by Dcn. Greg Statezni

John 10:1-21

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.”  John 10:16-17

In this passage of John, Jesus takes us beyond Him being just our shepherd, but being our Lord. At times we must pause as His disciples did and reflect on who this Jesus is. Who is the One who claims our allegiance, and what is following Him all about? We sing His titles and proclaim His attributes, but do we allow His life and character to affect the daily routines of our lives? The people following Jesus during His earthly ministry had many reasons to follow Him. Some were after the show, some looked for the acceptance that Jesus offered, some sought miracles for themselves and or their friends, while some grasped for any excuse to validate their questions regarding the system of religious life in Israel.

Jesus continued to speak of the loving Father seeking after the lost sheep of Israel. He lived the expression of God’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness as He touched the lepers, the poor, the blind, the lame while encouraging the women and children to enter into fellowship as His disciples. He categorized His identity to John the Baptist by showering the outcasts of His society with the grace and love of God by the preaching the Good News of His Kingdom. His message was a sharp critique of the theologies of the Sadducees and Pharisees. His word was a word of discomfort for those whose lives were comfortable.

That is not where Jesus’ teaching ended, however. He went further in emphasizing the spiritual and eternal reality of life with God. He spoke of God’s reign as an active reality within every individual’s life. He categorized God’s reign as the only true spiritual reality while calling everyone to look beyond the material concerns of this world leaving the physical in its proper place by using its resources for the sake of God’s reign. Jesus exchanged the idea of “It’s all about me,” for “I am all about them.”

Jesus knew that His lifestyle and teachings were making the ruling parties uncomfortable, for their complicity in oppressing those who weren’t like them was becoming more apparent. Jesus prepared the disciples with the realization that these religious rulers would make Him the brunt of their anger, guilt, and desire to maintain their control. They would turn Jesus into what we understand a scapegoat to be. They would kill Jesus as though Jesus were to blame for all the unrest. This is not a good picture of what a scapegoat really was, but neither is our picture of Jesus’ personality always that clear. The scapegoat was featured in the Yom Kippur celebration—the Jewish Day of Atonement. The scapegoat was one of two goats used in approaching Yahweh, for purification and renewal. One goat was sacrificed to cleanse the sanctuary with its holiest items. The scapegoat, however, was not to be killed. The people’s guilt would be laid on its head, and this scapegoat would be taken out into the wilderness, bearing the nation’s guilt far away from the holy Temple.

Jesus made no attempt to escape any persecution. He brought the demands of the Gospel directly to them. He called them to show their hand by revealing their true allegiance. Would they follow a “What’s in it for me?” way of thinking, or would they live according to “It’s all about them.” Were they willing to lay down everything by living a faithful life of service in surrendering their lives and resources to serve God, or would they continue to serve themselves at the expense of others?

As we continue in this season of Lent, we need to ask ourselves some of these same questions. When was the last time we denied ourselves in order to serve God? When did we sacrifice our own comfort in order to live out the demands of the Gospel? When was the last time we took Jesus’ words about self-denial seriously? How long has it been since we spent more of our time and resources ministering God’s grace to people outside our walls instead of for our own enjoyment?

Dcn. Greg ministers with Trinity Anglican Church

Expectations of Jesus

Lent IV

by Fr. Jack Estes

John 8:31-end

“Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? And the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?        John 8:53

As we read through the Gospel of John, one of the things that pops up again and again is the inability of the Jews to recognize who Jesus is. Jesus himself seems perplexed by this phenomenon. In chapter eight he engages in a long running discussion with them, attempting to break through to their understanding.

He calls them to abide in his word and become his disciples. Then they will know the truth and the truth will set them free. When they respond arrogantly that they are already free, he rightly points out that they are in bondage to sin. Indeed, they are blind to their own sinful nature.  They refuse to accept his teachings, instead relying on Abraham for assurance of their position with God. Finally, Jesus in frustration declares, “Why can you not understand what I say?”  Indeed, that is the question:  why don’t they recognize him?

The Jews are unable to recognize Jesus for who he is even though they have seen him face to face. They heard his words. They saw miracles of healing and demonstrations of authority over both the natural and spiritual realms. He even opened the eyes of a man born blind. Even so they did not know him. Why? Because he is not who they expected. He is not what they wanted him to be. Perhaps most importantly, he is not what they were invested in.

The Jews that were in dispute with Jesus were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes: the religious leaders and rulers of society. As such, they were invested in politics and religion, wealth and status. If they had an expectation of a messiah, it was one of a conquering king, a king who would reward them handsomely for their support. Jesus offered no such promises. Jesus is not what they wanted personally. They were looking for affirmation of their positions. Someone who would certify their own agenda, rather than call them to repentance and surrender to the agenda of the kingdom of heaven.

We are quick to wag our heads at the Jews in the story for such unseemly behavior. It is hard to comprehend how they could miss the Son of God standing right in front of them. But wait! They are not the only ones. Even the disciples themselves were slow to understand the depths of who Jesus really was, for many of the same reasons. They had different expectations and agendas of their own which he did not fulfill. It was only after the resurrection that their eyes were finally opened.

What about you? What about me? Do we have our own expectations and hidden agendas that prevent us from recognizing and understanding who Jesus really is? In this season of Lent, let us ask for the assistance of the Holy Spirit in removing these obstacles from our hearts. Then we shall see clearly.  Then we shall hear plainly.  Then we shall know the truth, and the truth will set us free.

Lord I set aside my own expectations of who I think you should be.

I lay down my own personal agendas, so that I may recognize you more fully in my life.

Come Holy Spirit, guide and direct me so that I may know the truth. Amen.

Fr. Jack ministers at St. Luke’s Anglican Church

Sabbath Rest

Lent IV

by Dcn. Ron Christolear

Exodus 31

 “You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.”   Exodus 31:14–15

The Sabbath. Some see it as a great day to go golfing, watch sports, or spend time with the family.  And while all these activities have value in their proper place, they can never be allowed to supplant the time and relationship we are to cultivate with the Triune God. For the Israelite, the Sabbath was a day of rest from all physical labor.  The Jewish believer would spend six days working to gain God’s favor and approval. The idea of a Sabbath or day of rest was to give God’s people the opportunity to cease their work and to rest in Yahweh.  It should be understood that faith, not works, has always been the key word in one’s relationship to God.

For the disciple of Jesus, the idea of Sabbath has both a physical and spiritual meaning.  God still desires us to take a day of rest, but this day of rest is not intended to be merely a chance to catch up on missed sleep or watching T.V.  For the Christian, this day is intended to be an opportunity for both communal and private devotion to God.  That includes Bible study, prayer, worship, fellowship, and outreach. For the disciple of Jesus, however, Sabbath means more than just a specific day each week.  It is a way of life.  Jesus tells us that he is the Lord of the Sabbath. Both Matthew and Mark recount the confrontation Jesus had with the Pharisees when he picked heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath.  When questioned about his actions, Jesus replies, “For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:8 and Mark 2:27,28)

The writer of Hebrews tells us the good news of a future rest in Hebrews 4, that Jesus is not only the giver of rest, but he is our Sabbath rest.  While the writer of Hebrews had in mind a future rest brought about by the return of Christ, we have confidence that we can, even now, share in that rest in the present life.

Whereas the Sabbath day of rest comes only once a week, the rest Jesus gives us is seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.  It is a rest that never ends.  It is a rest that reminds us that we need not work ourselves to the bone trying to earn God’s favor and love.  In Christ, we are loved as much now as we will ever be.

So how do we enter into Christ’s rest?  We enter into this rest by recognizing the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross and Christ’s completed work of redeeming us from sin.  This season of Lent, let us rest fully knowing that God has completed this work in us.

Dcn. Ron ministers at Trinity Anglican Church

The Illusion of Control

Lent IV

by Fr. Mark Hall

John 7:25-end

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”   John 7:38

I love the idea of being organized; of knowing where everything is and easily being able to access it at a moment’s notice.  The notion of a clutter free life is so appealing, and yet always seems to be out of reach.  It seems such a desire has been rooted in the human heart for centuries.   Yet, even a seemingly innocent and apparently good desire can be twisted into a counterfeit that diminishes life.

You may be asking yourself, how can this be?  Could Real Simple magazine actually be a bad thing?  Honestly I believe it’s neutral, the issue is: What Does It Do To Our Hearts?  God reveals the worst route such a desire can take within us:

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

The issue is about control.  Who actually has it, and whether we’re willing to accept the answer?  Instead of waiting upon the pure, though unpredictable water source of a live spring, the Israelites tried to create storage containers for water.  This way they could see what they had and feel secure.  The problem was that the water stagnated and leaked into the ground.  So they were left with a fleeting illusion of security, because they had abandoned their trust in God.

I’m not saying being organized is wrong, nor that being disorganized, is saintly.  The bigger question is how do we respond internally (feelings) and externally (relationally) when things are out of their proper place?  Or why might the organizationally challenged obsess over Ikea catalogues?  What are we really thirsting after?

Jesus, in the midst of tremendous opposition, stood up and declared that he alone can quench our deepest thirst.  He can cleanse our desires and make them good again.  All that is required is that we let go of whatever we’re clinging to for a deep sense of security and peace.  John tells us that “the fountain of living waters” which represent God’s dynamic presence and power can flow out of the core of our being.  This good news has nothing to do with being organized or disorganized, but it does mean letting go of the illusion of control, and trusting in God’s competent care of our lives and the universe as a whole.

Fr. Mark ministers at All Saints’ Anglican Church