For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1 v7
We live in a culture that has turned its back on Christ and reembraced paganism. Our new gods, such as tolerance, diversity and inclusion, as much as they are worshipped are yet pasty thin and provide no substance.
When the spectre of fear comes calling they offer nothing.
And you can see it, watching people overreact to the latest crisis, whether that’s stripping the shelves bare of toilet paper in 2020, or running the pumps dry in 2021.
Can you imagine what would happen if a crisis hit us that was a little higher on the existential scale? The kind of threat that has plagued societies in the past, and in many places that are closer to the earth, still do.
If this life is all you have you’ll do anything to protect it. Anything at all.
I don’t say this to breed fear in turn. But so we would WAKE UP and see where we are. Where society turns and our place in it. In the times to come, we will be either one of the faceless masses
… tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.
Ephesians 4 v14
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Ephesians 4 v15
However, there is one fear that is the first step on the path of life – the fear of the Lord. The first step in orienting yourself the right way up and finding the one Place – the Rock, the Cornerstone who will be the fortress of your life. A Place that can never be overcome, because He has already overcome all.
The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.
This will not be any news to those who know me from the past, but for those new here I am, for my sins, a part of the Church known more widely as the Anglican Communion. Much like in other parts of the Church in the West, it continues to undergo a form of convulsion, warring internally.
In 2003, God directed us to leave our homeland and emigrate to Canada. We lived there 12 years, before being brought back home. Part of the reason for us being there was to live through and to chronicle the choice of the North American Anglican church, in particular the Anglican Church in Canada. In doing so, we got a close up view of the forces that were battling over the soul of the Church.
At the beginning of our sojourn there, I received a vision – Ichabod – that helped me to understand what was going on, and to direct our steps in the subsequent years. You may consider the vision provocative, but it was borne out, and continues to be so. Anglicans are typically very invested in structures, and so what was happening then and is happening now, was very difficult to navigate. To understand that we were beyond saving things ‘as they were’ and there was something new being born that would take all our effort and focus was very important to establish.
And so it proved, events came to a head and all had to make a decision as to what they would do. ANiC was formed, now a part of ACNA.
So much is made of the value of unity, Bible verses such as Ephesians 4:1-3 often being brought forward. And indeed, unity is as it should be, and divisions are a sign that all is far from well. However, we are also warned in 2 Corinthians 6:14 not to be yoked together unequally. And what is more unequal that when one wishes to serve the spirit of the age, and the other the Spirit of God? In such a situation, division is as inevitable as it is necessary.
And interestingly, this particular division was not so much a separation, but a rejoining. By that time, the the Anglican Churches in the Global South had largely broken communion with the Anglican Church of Canada. The realignment in Canada made possible a reestablishing of communion with the majority of faithful Anglicans.
Why the history lesson? Because the same forces and the same pressures are coming to a head in the nexus, the Church of England. This month, the Church in Wales bowed the knee to the spirit of the age, riven by the same apostasy. Perhaps worse, in that no faithful Bishops could be found in that church. Make no mistake, at some level they knew what they were doing, seeking to defend themselves from accusations that they did “sell-out to the secular spirit of the age”.
To be clear, this is not about same sex blessing, or same sex marriage. Those are merely the tip of the iceberg. It would be that, or it would be something else. Rather it is a matter simply of apostasy, of a turning away and following whatever the spirit of the age dictates. To bow the knee keeps you safe in the world as it turns to a darker course, and allows you to comfortably slide into irrelevancy. No persecution here thank you, rather the establishment of virtue signaling to take the place of genuine virtue. For these leaders, they would most likely prefer to skirt around John 15:18-25 and imagine themselves prophetic and courageous.
I am making no judgment here about individuals within the church, my judgment is about where the institution sits with principalities and powers. Such an institution, Ichabod, a branch cut off from the vine, becomes a rotting corpse rather than the body of Christ – and is no fit place for a Christian to be.
There is one more thing to say here, based on my experience in Canada. There are typically two responses from those who are the orthodox minority in such churches – the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’ strategy. To advocate for change from within, or to make a decision to separate. I have met many from both camps. This is what the experience of time has shown me. Those advocating for an inside strategy are often kind, thoughtful, persuasive … and ultimately wrong.
And this wrongness isn’t a small matter. For those advocating such a decision have often left congregations in the rotting corpse that they should have left for their own spiritual survival. There is always a time of decision – a Kairos moment – and once it is past very few will change the course they have set. There are so many ‘Federation’ churches in Canada, have they flourished in an organisation that bends the knee to and serves Baal? Internal resistance soon becomes internal acquiescence, orthodox priests move on, replaced with slightly less orthodox folk…and so it goes. These things matter – they are spiritual life and death!
So back to the Church of England. For those who say the same thing will not come to a head here, I respectfully disagree. It is as inevitable and necessary here as it was elsewhere. To quote Yeats:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Despite the very best efforts of those who wish to hold the institution together, the centre cannot hold when there are two gods being served. The division must happen, it is an inevitability, and it is a mercy.
When it will happen, I cannot tell you. What precisely it will look like, I cannot tell you either. And who will get the keys for the buildings and the nameplates is completely irrelevant. Though I wouldn’t be surprised that, as in Canada, a church of the world will get the worldly things to worship. All I can tell you is it will happen, and most likely soon.
Ichabod is still the cry, and for us to focus on the things being born, not what will decay and founder. There are much bigger things going on, of which Anglican matters are a very small part. God is raising a Church that will be ready for the times to come. This Church will not look like or operate in the same way. It will not have worldly prestige or power, and will be despised and hated – full of the marginalised and rejected. This Church will be ready for the two sides of the same coin – Persecution and Revival. This Church will be ready to walk the Golgotha Road. What is happening now is Gods mercy – so concentrate not on the birth pains, but in what is being born!
In the darkness, the Light still shines. And all the brighter by the contrast.
Sometimes you look at the Church, riven, stained, spiritually poor and destitute, and think – She is doomed to founder!
the Lord has said – the gates of hell will NOT prevail.
In this battle, this long defeat, there may be seasons where it looks like all is lost.
Many will be tempted to despair.
But those who hold firm to the end – once they have done everything – to just stand regardless of the raging of the princes of this world – will then come to see the Church, rather than being defeated, showing Her true raiment. Coming into the power and authority long subsumed, and entering into victory even in the midst of worldly defeat.
Saw this story on the BBC of all places, and it’s well worth the read. Amazing story of redemption. Seeing the source I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, but fair play to them, it’s a straight up story.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.
October last year I wrote about the Wreck of our culture, and where things are headed. In that, I said:
Do not be afraid, but also do not be deceived. Most people will, as was ever the case, do what they need to do to survive. Only a very small minority will have the courage and fortitude to do something better – to resist evil men and their strongholds. Only those who have anchored on to the Firm Foundation, when the rock of self is proven illusory. And those who stand will not be those whom you think. Many of the strong, the great, the mighty, will fall, seemingly overnight. And the army of the weak and the broken will rise.
Fear – currently the fear of Covid – still seems to have its claws lodged deep into us. For the culture in which we inhabit that is understandable, for what foundations is there than your own life and the immediate present? But for the Christian, we have a different foundation – one that gives peace even in the midst of trouble. But how much heed to we pay to the Anchor of our souls? And how much heed to every tide of fear? If it is this way for Covid, what will happen if a more serious threat emerges?
The point of this post is not about Covid. But rather that, in the times to come and now here – we are going to have to be courageous. No more, the going to Church. Now, the being Church. And in so doing, paying the cost. It’ll take courage, and it’ll take not looking at the wind and the waves of the world, but at Jesus.
There’s an interesting passage at the end of Revelation – perhaps you know it well:
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21 v 6-8
Notice that amongst the vile and the murderers are another category – ‘the cowardly’. Those who shrink back and fade away into the tapestry of the world. Those who don’t actively do anything, just stay silent and go along with the latest thing. They get a mention – in fact they get pole position of those consigned to the fiery lake and the second death.
Pretty strong stuff, right? But it should sober us to realise that doing nothing, that standing back and acquiescing, isn’t going to save you. There’s only One to save you – and He calls us to take up our Cross and follow Him.
Can we do that? In our own strength, of course not. We’re inadequate to the task. But knowing that Jesus is in the boat with us – and His strength is made perfect through our weakness.
This calls for knowing where we are – to see the signs of the times – and knowing Whose we are. He will never lose one that puts their whole life in His hands!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
Ephesians 4 v11-12
This often seems to me to be like a five cylindered engine, where the operation of all cylinders are necessary for proper functioning.
Like a faulty engine, the Church misfires when it tries to operate from only a few cylinders. Spluttering and smoking, we may get somewhere, inefficiently. While the going is good.
But what happens when the road begins to rise, into the foothills and then the mountains? Where the church has to go. A steep traverse, hairpin bends. That requires a fully functional engine, all cylinders operational and working together, supporting the whole. That is what we have to be in the times to come, the times right here – right in front of us.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
John 14 v12
That’s the Bible. The words of Jesus. The words of the Word, that will never pass away. Painfully difficult to read, because we so often fall so far short of them.
Where are these works in the church? You will do greater things than these! And so, what is it that we are doing?
Come to the foot of the cross. There is no other place. Repentance, abandonment, surrender. Emptying of self, of striving, of any ambition. Faith and trust, and most importantly love. None of these gifts are in our power, but only in Him.
Gone will be the time of “going to Church”, coming with be one of two things – being the Church – following our Lord on the Golgotha road, endued with power in the midst of powerlessness. Or mating with the dark nation, that turns its back in finality and walks away, a journey that ends in outer darkness.
This is the choice that lies before us, and this is His anguished cry, calling into the shadowlands for a people after His own heart, that will bear both His power and His stripes. Shining His love in a time of hate, bringing the Glory and beauty of the true Body of Christ.
This post is a bit of an aside from normal, but I wanted to briefly touch on something that keeps coming up lately, this phrase, ‘scientific consensus’. With reference to the blog title, the one thing that a scientific consensus is not, is scientific! Rather, the placement of this phrase indicates that the scientific method has been abandoned in favour of groupthink.
In our age without gods, science has been elevated to one of our golden calves. ‘Trust the science’ they say. The science…maybe sometimes…but the scientists, well that is a different story. It seems as if the popular culture is still captured by the illusion of a measured, thoughtful group of people in the ubiquitous white coats who are able to carefully consider all opinions and theories and dispassionately arrive at a wise conclusion. We know it’s not really true, but for the sake of our own comforts, it’s desirable to maintain the illusion.
I was dispossessed of that pretense many years ago, while reading a science subject at university! It didn’t take long to realise that scientists are no different from the rest of us, and in many cases even worse. More subjective, more prone to confirmation biases, more intolerant of any other opinion, maybe because they are somewhat shielded from accountability by the very illusions we erect to keep this particular god safe.
This is where the phrase ‘paradigm shift’ applies. When the weight of evidence becomes so overwhelming in a particular direction that it becomes impossible to continue to defend the indefensible, the scientific tribe has a tendency to suddenly flip and migrate en masse to camp around the new truth. It may still be wrong, but it becomes the new shibboleth.
Does this seem a bit cynical? Well, perhaps, I’m not denying that there are those willing to genuinely seek the truth and pave a new way when required. But the weight of the scientific establishment is institutionally inclined not so much to seek the truth, but to protect the current position.
We are perhaps blessed that there is still objective truth, even if we only occasionally catch glimpses of it. The strength of truth is that is needs nothing to prop it up, whereas something untrue requires constant effort to defend and maintain. Something we are conspicuously good at, nevertheless it can’t be continued for ever!
So we continue to widely gyrate around the pole of truth – in science as much as in any other area. Perhaps recent events regarding what is ‘acceptable’ to discuss, and the related whiplash paradigm shift might have one associated blessing – to weaken our fixation on the scientific idol and to be able to see that science and scientists are not gods, and worship of them is more than a little unwise.
Yet my people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient paths. They made them walk in byways, on roads not built up.
Jeremiah 18 v 15
I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
For some countries at least, the end of the coronavirus pandemic is in view and the restrictions that have so chafed us over the last year are beginning to be loosed. At last – we can get back to normal! The vaccines have saved us!
For a short time at least, we were shaken, and maybe started looking towards a security or reality greater than our own. But now, with the salvific power of the vaccine, we have an idol that will again comfort us, and allow us to go back to our slumber.
But it will not be that way. Events have begun that will culminate in the close of this age. The combined sins of the nations weigh down and require a response. Business as usual will not be on the menu.
Nevertheless, as I said here at the start of the year, it is not so important what will happen, or when, but where we individually and as communities are when it does. Because the next shaking is just on the horizon. We will be woken up one way or another.
When everything that can be shaken is, where will you be found? There is only one solid Rock, only one place that can never be shaken. This refuge is found in no earthly location. It can only be found in the abandonment of any worldly security, in order to reach out in faith to Him who is unseen.
To gain all, you must lose all. The only way to life is though the narrow gate, where all else is stripped away.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.
Ten years ago today my friend in the blogosphere, Joseph Walker, wrote this on what was then Holy Saturday:
“Are we there yet?” Any one who has spent time in a form of cultural character building exercise known as the family vacation will have experienced the ritual and almost liturgical repetition of this phrase.
We drove across the northwest USA in a 1974 station wagon. The kind that Chrysler used to make, with the engine that consumed gallons per minute and where the various parts of the rear seat belts were forever tucked under the living room sofa that was called a “back seat”. It was covered on the exterior with that charming 70’s wood paneling which was popular not only on certain brands of American automobile, but throughout numerous suburban basements. In retrospect it was probably a good idea, ahead of its time. If your wood panel station wagon got into an accident, you could repair it easily with supplies from your own family “rec room”.
And still the cry went up to the father: “Are we there yet?”
Father was always the one to drive. On we would drive, through towns and cities, wilderness and mountains. Leading us on with blazing headlights by night, and a pillar of exhaust and fumes by day; the kind that only an 8 cylinder Detroit horsepower factory can produce. We never questioned his ability to get us to where we needed to go; only his ability to get us there quicker.
The phrase rang out in our father’s ears for mile after mile (this was all before metric). During the day we passed the time in games, in counting things, and of course, in fighting among ourselves. The scenery was always new – that is what makes the journey exciting. It seems that even back then, we kids would always try to claim “our seats”. And heaven help you if you encroached even one finger’s width on someone else’s territory.
For a while the journey itself was interesting enough, with its stops and interruptions and breaks for this and that. But after a while one gets tired of merely journeying and actually wants to “get somewhere.”
I have discovered that what goes around comes around. There is a green hill far away, outside a city wall. It is located in the Monashee mountain range of British Columbia. The drive itself is measured in hours now. It is 12 hours, with at least 3 or 4 stops along the way. I first traveled it over 25 years ago. And these days I hear the voices carry on the great tradition, and I feel my sense of place in the great congregation who hands on that which it has received.
They have slowly come to know the place name signs along the highway, and the turnoff just past the small town, then finally onto the logging road, and then the place where that road ends as well. It is I alone who hike through the mountain to get the boat (where I am going you cannot come now!) – for they too must pass over water to get to their destination.
They think I should be hurrying. But to tell the truth when I have hiked to our destination, and launched the boat, and see them waiting on the far shore through the cabin’s binoculars, I stop hurrying. I sit on the dock, and I rest.
I am here.
Soon enough, I will come for you.
In June of the same year, Joseph was diagnosed with cancer and died a couple of months later. He was 47, and was survived by his wife and four children. His last post was deeply poignant, all things considered.
It’s a reminder to us as well. If we’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s the fact of our mortality. None of us are guaranteed anything; every day is a gift. For those of us in Christ, He is already at our destination, and in His good time He will come for us too.
The song the Lord brings to birth through us, the Song of the Redeemed, is majestic, sorrowful, joyful and beautiful beyond human understanding. It is is made up of so many parts intertwined. The sweet notes of new life, of joy, of hope, contentment and peace. The notes of pain, of loss, of sadness and loneliness, offered to Him. Even the evil that is done, the rebellion, the hatred, form a part of this song; the darkness that yet highlights light.
This is a song only possible because on this glorious Day of Days he set free us captives, bound to sin and death, and won for Himself a people that can make a home in Him. He weaves the tapestry of our lives into an audible portrait. Maybe we only see a thread or two, and we cannot understand what He is creating. But one day, when it is complete, we will. The day His Church fully reflects His image. That day, at the creation of the New Heavens and Earth, this song will be sung, to welcome into birth everything our Father has proposed for us.
So your life, maybe it seems small, maybe unimportant, your concerns trivial. However the truth is this – nothing that is done in Him will go to waste, or be forgotten. You are part of His great song, and every note of your life is essential to the final composition on that great and final day. We have a great Saviour, and marvelous are the things He is creating through His people. Alpha and Omega. Beginning and End. Everything that ever was, is or will be, is breathed to life through Him.