Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to All!

For me, this Christmas Hymn says it all!

Blessings to All!
Fr. John

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

A New Day Dawns: ACNA

From an article from Christianity Today...

"In a history-making gesture, conservative evangelical Anglicans, deeply alienated by the decline of the U.S. denomination, sounded a shofar to herald the creation of the Anglican Church of North America...

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, top leaders adopted a provisional constitution that will allow continued existence for current organizations, continued oversight by overseas archbishops from South America and Africa, the use of different prayer books, and the ordination of women.
It commits the leaders to involvement in a diocese, cluster of churches, or a church-based network within the new province. The constitution creates a provincial council, a tribunal, a joint operating budget, and the office of provincial archbishop."

A new branch of the Anglican Communion based upon relationships - with Jesus Christ and one another - WOW! This is truly something different!

Please read the whole article at:
And as always, your comments are welcome!

Blessings and Peace to All:
John Riebe+

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Eve of a New Anglican Province

"The reality, as much as I or anyone else may not like it, is that geographical boundaries are no longer functionally definitive of Episcopalian identity."

-- So writes the Rev. George Clifford of North Carolina.

In a surprisingly refreshing article from a usually hostile blog-site, Fr. Clifford offers very important points of view that need to be heard throughout the American Episcopal Church (TEC). I've made these points known many times in the past two years and it is very encouraging to hear others are beginning to see the wisdom behind them.

Here are some very thought provoking points Fr. Collins makes:

1. Geographic boundaries, I realized, are not as sacrosanct as we who value tradition might wish they were... Yet nowhere in Scripture can one find a God-given plan for the organization of parishes, dioceses, and provinces... The geographic model for parishes and dioceses emerged naturally because of physical proximity, administrative practicality, and political identity.

2. ... geographical boundaries are no longer functionally definitive of Episcopalian identity. Four dioceses have already voted to disassociate themselves from the Episcopal Church and to associate with another Province... In other words, the geographic model is irretrievably broken in the United States. Those who have left believe the divisions that were the catalyst for their move are too deep, too significant to permit dissidents to continue their Christian journeys within the Episcopal Church. One can no more coerce ecclesial unity than marital unity. Even as the Episcopal Church rightly recognizes its understanding of the Bible, theology, and ethics must change with the continuing unfolding of knowledge and moving of the Spirit, so should the Church be open to revising its thinking about ecclesial structures and polity.

3. Acknowledging the reality of multiple Anglican bodies within the geographic boundaries of the Episcopal Church would introduce refreshing notes of honesty and grace into the present turbulent controversy. This step might preserve Anglican unity by abandoning the dishonest hubris of insisting that the Episcopal Church is the only Anglican presence in the United States. Recognition of another Anglican province could provide an option for individuals, parishes, and dioceses to transfer, even as clergy now transfer from one province to another. A minority who wish to remain in the Episcopal Church but are part of a parish that wishes to transfer could establish a new parish or affiliate with an existing parish. Similarly, those in a diocese who wish who remain in the Episcopal Church after the diocese voted to realign could affiliate with an adjoining diocese that extends its borders or reconstitute the disassociated diocese.

-- Thank you for these thoughts Fr. Clifford!

On the eve of the creation of a new North American Anglican Province (by whatever name it comes to be called) the basic reality is this: the borders are broken. The time is come to lay aside the arguments and fighting and move on -- move on by focusing on the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

I highly commend this article and its comments to you. The full article may be found here:

Peace to All.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Thanksgiving to Jesus!

In anticipation of Thanksgiving Day and for all of the recent good news in the American Anglican Churches.

Praise be the Name of Jesus Christ!

Take 5 and enjoy!

Blessings to All!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hope is in the wind!

What an incredible last few days this has been!

On Monday, I was called up to Fresno for a meeting of the Rural Deans of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. Monday is usually my "day off" but I sacrificed it in lieu of yesterday being Veteran's Day - so yesterday I really took a day off - a day off from blogs, news, and anything work related. But Monday was a different story.

For those of you who might be wondering what a "Rural Deans Meeting" might entail, let me just say that the area Deans (as I am for Kern County) come together to meet with the Bishop as he shares concerns and inside news that may be of interest to us and our congregations.

Some of the topics we talk about are confidential in nature - and so I am bound to respect that; however, we did talk at length about the fact that Diocese Number 3 (Quincy) has now joined us (Pittsburgh and San Joaquin) in the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone as we await the formation of a new Anglican Province here in North America.

That Province appears to be taking form and shape much more quickly than one usually expects from the Church! I often joke about "moving at the speed of Church" when it comes to church work. All too often it seems that we talk and meet, talk and meet, talk and meet, and wait for the "next meeting" make a difference. Since 2003 (and the actions thereof) there has been considerable "talk" of a this "New Province" - one that orthodox conservatives have been thirsting for - and certainly one that the Episcopal Church is certainly going to dismay and disparage!

The fact is that when the new province happens (not if) the Episcopal Church will have to deal with the conservatives on an equal basis. They will have to recognize us as legitimate members of the Anglican Communion. The hope in all of this is that this will finally put a concerted end to the infighting that has plagued both branches of this Body for years! How all this plays out remains to be seen; nevertheless, with one fell swoop it may render all of the legal proceedings against congregations and clergy, done and over!

The primary complaint and charge against us is "Abandonment of Communion;" however, when the Anglican Communion recognizes those forming this new province as legitimate (and 2/3 of the world already does!) the wind will die in the sails of the Episcopal Church. But again, we will have to wait patiently for all this to happen.

Several "meetings" have yet to occur... BUT... my prediction? I suspect we will see this become reality within six-months! It may be sooner than that - but keep your weather-eye out for the Primates Meeting in Egypt in January! (Read about it here:

Certainly TEC's hope will be that "nothing will happen" as they hoped would come out of Lambeth - but rest assured - the GAFCON and Global South Primates won't let that happen - No, not this time.

Remember these words of Jesus: "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post Election Reflection

Won't Get Fooled Again! - The Who

We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that's all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
No, no!

I'll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I'll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There's nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again
No, no!


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Vote A Week Away!

In just 8 days our nation will be choosing a new President; a very important decision as you well know. Whomever you choose to vote for is for you to decide. I would urge you to vote - however you choose to - vote your conscience and vote for whomever you believe is right for our country - but vote!

Let me just say as a veteran who served our country and proudly defended our freedoms, I have always held in the back of my own conscience the many, many, who died to make sure we have that right. Believe it or not, our system of government is still the envy of the world and most of the world aches for the right to have a say in their government like we have. To have this right and not to exercise it - to me is as close to a deliberate sin as I can imagine even though there is no "biblical" mandate to vote.

That we will be choosing a new President you well know, as I said above. And I have my own personal reasons for voting my conscience; however, as a Priest and Pastor I will never ever publically endorse one candidate over another from the pulpit or otherwise. That being the case, as I have to say I will never publically endorse a candidate I DO feel obligated to speak out on moral issues - and there is a BIG one our ballot this time! Proposition 8.

Much has been written and said in the papers about Prop. 8 and I wouldn't presume to be able to summarize them all. Having read the actual text of the proposed new law - the ONLY thing this initiative does is to ensure the California State Constitution states (and I quote from the actual text of the Proposition):
SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Those in opposition to Proposition 8 want to "redefine" marriage to mean “between two people”. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Period. That's what it is. This is NOT an issue of civil rights as we are meant to believe. Gay and Lesbian Couples have every civil right available to them already. They cannot be denied legal rights of shared ownership, medical access to partners, and any other "benefit" a traditional "married couple" has. In terms of "civil rights" I do absolutely believe they have the "right" to live in "Domestic Partnerships" should they choose to do so; but they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us. I believe their choices unwise and unbiblical BUT they have that right. But don't call it a "marriage."

I do believe this is a moral issue because even as Jesus speaks on the issue of divorce (in Matthew 9:3-6) He speaks of us being created as male and female, and "what God has joined let no one separate." These are familiar words from the Marriage Service itself. For these reasons I believe we should vote Yes on Prop. 8.

My immediate apologies to those who believe a pastor or priest should never speak out on politics – this is my blog not the pulpit.

I have a high regard (as you know) for Pastor Rick Warren. Below you will find some comments that he sent me today with a link to a very short video clip. I commend them to you as I agree with him and could not have said what he says any better.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Feeling a bit like Luke Skywalker...

This just in from the rumor mill...

I understand that today the "Episcopal" Standing Committee is meeting today in Fresno to Inhibit all of us rogue clergy - yes, all of us in the "Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin" who are now part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. This "rumor" comes from +Jerry Lamb himself according to his webpage on the Episcopal San Joaquin Website. On it he says (dated 10/10/08):

"Friday of next week the Standing Committee meets in Fresno... The Standing Committee will also begin the canonical process of the Abandonment of Communion for those clergy who left the Episcopal Church and have aligned themselves with the Southern Cone or some other body. Clergy so charged will be inhibited, not allowed to function as an Episcopal Priest or be employed in an Episcopal Church. The clergy person has six months to recant and return to the Episcopal Church. At the end of the six months, the person will be removed from the ministry of this church. This action implies no moral judgment of an individual clergy person. It speaks only about the person’s relationship to the Episcopal Church. The person can of course function in another church that may recognize their ordination."

To be honest, this is something I expected would come much sooner than it has. Perhaps what is really driving all of this is that "inhibited clergy" don't count when it comes to achieving a quorum for Diocesan Convention in Hanford (of which they will be holding at the same time as our genuine Convention in Fresno next Friday and Saturday.

Be that as it may, I find it completely ironic that the Bishop who saw me through seminary, ordained me to both the Diaconate and Priesthood, and who watched me triple the size and assessment of my first parish in his diocese... will be the same Bishop to inhibit and eventually depose me for - of all things - Abandoning the Communion.

All of this reminds me of the confrontation between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back. Like Vader, +Lamb holds out his hand saying, "Join me... and together we can put an end to this destructive conflict!" Of course all of this happens while holding a charged lightsabre at Luke's chest. Regardless of the "relationship" between them, Luke won't be fooled in to forgetting the evil Vader really represents, as he says, "I'll never join you!"

Perhaps that comparison seems a bit harsh, but let's be honest. What the Episcopal leadership is doing is evil. They have denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, denied the necessity of the Atonement, denied the Holy Spirit inspiration of the Bible.... They have turned against and ignored their own Canon Laws to depose faithful Bishops, and are just pent on removing faithful orthodox believers from their parish churches through legal suits - even though TEC has never given any of them a dime to purchase or maintain their properties. Does any of that sound Gospel to you? It doesn't to me either.

Even more ironic is the fact that historically TEC has failed to deal with those who really denied the Christian Faith - like Bishops Pike, Spong, and Righter along with others. Yet, it is simply those who have and are standing fast on the tenets of Christian Faith who are now being inhibited and deposed.

So here's to feeling a bit like Luke Skywalker! TEC may think like Darth Vader, "You are beaten... it is useless to resist!" Yup. TEC is on the march denying the Gospel all the way around. Even so, the Episcopal Church today isn't the faith I grew up to know. Its not the church I was ordained in. And while TEC is quick to claim that those of us have broken our ordination vows by not acceding to the Canons of the Episcopal Church, that whole promise is nullified when a church abandons believing that the "Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and to contain everything necessary for salvation." I'll never (re)join you. I will remain a faithful Christian Anglican.

So... let me just say this to Bishop Lamb and TEC: Whatever your actions are today it doesn't mean a thing. I'm not under your authority. I am a priest in good standing within the Anglican Communion under a recognized Bishop (no, bishop, Bishop Schofield has not been deposed!) in a fully functional and viable diocese. Your time would be better spent dealing pastorally with those who agree with you.

May God Bless and Forgive You. May God Bless and Forgive Us All!!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Something Different???

I've been thinking today about what happened just yesterday with the supposed "deposing" of the Rt. Rev. Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh by the Episcopal House of Bishops. I've read enough of the Canons to know that what "occurred" yesterday, in fact, did not occur because the HOB and the Presiding Bishop didn't follow their own rules.

All of this was expected to happen. Why? Because the Presiding Bishop of TEC wanted it to be so. Bishop Duncan, like Bishops Schofield and Cox, was denied the "due process" that the Canons of the Church specifically spell out. At least Bishop Schofield had the courtesy of being "inhibited" and the 60 day grace period to recant his actions (clearly something that he wasn't ever going to do). Even so, like +Schofield, +Duncan was denied any opportunity to face the "charges" against him and to give defense. Does that sound anything like a Christian approach to you? It doesn't to me either, nor will it to other Christians around the world. But TEC seems not to care about that.

From various reports, there were several attempts made before the HOBs to draw attention to these realities and provide for the "intent of the Canons." All were summarily dismissed, but again that was no surprise.

To be certain, and this is good news to the faithful in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Bishop Duncan is STILL a Bishop! When you don't follow the rules, your actions don't stand! TEC will pretend and act like they are valid, but that doesn't make them so. Like Bishop Schofield, Bishop Duncan has been received unanimously into the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone by their House of Bishops and by Presiding Bishop Gregory Venables. When Pittsburgh votes on October 4th at its own Convention to depart from TEC (as with the Diocese of San Joaquin) Bishop Duncan will return again. I hope in the meantime, Bishop Bob has time for some rest!

All this plays out almost exactly like a Monty Python sketch - except that its not funny. Not funny at all. It's sad. Sad that the grand old Episcopal Church has become like this. In truth I was actually hoping and praying that "Something Different" would happen! That the TEC HOBs would stop and reflect upon what they were doing and ask, "Is this right? Is this godly? Is this charitable? Is this legal?" But THAT would be Something Different!

So what happens now? I certainly think the time to realistically consider that what TEC is doing will continue. Although the opportunity for the Church to repent of is ways is always possible - it's just not probable.

Recently, Steve Wood (and I'm assuming this is the Rev. Steve Wood) who identifies himself as the Senior Pastor (Rector) of St. Andrew's Church in Mt. Pleasant SC recently had dinner with the Presiding Bishop in New York. He was invited because the dinner gathered representatives of the largest Episcopal parishes in the country - of which St. Andrews qualifies. To make a long story short though.... on his own blog ( he predicts what's going to happen next:

What I think:

I think that the financial challenges facing the reorganization of the
National Church offices could be addressed with a return to creedal Christianity
and a cessation of the lawsuits.

I think that the conservative/re-asserting remnant will get their legislative
clocks cleaned at General Convention 2009.

I think that B033 is going to be repealed at General Convention 2009.

I think that the marriage (in States where the legislature or courts have
ruled this legal) or blessing of same-sex persons will be authorized at General
Convention 2009.

I think that the 2009 General Convention will modify the “Dennis Canon”,
giving the National Church property ownership (it’s hard to remember that until
1979 PARISHES “owned” their property - not the Diocese or National Church).

I think that many in leadership at the 2009 General Convention will be
content to walk apart from the Anglican Communion.

I think that based on the experience with women’s ordination the 2009 General
Convention will debate, and defeat, a “conscious clause” with regard to same-sex
ordinations and blessings/marriages.

I think that the above actions will render it impossible for anyone left from
“my side” to remain within TEC (though, of course, some will).

And so... I also hope and pray for Something Different to happen. But I think Steve is right on the money!
God bless Bishop Duncan, Bishop Schofield, Archbishop Venables... AND...
God Bless YOU!!

Friday, September 5, 2008

God loves what you love

A few weeks ago I was open and honest with my congregation. I was openly honest about a significant difference of opinion with my bishop.

Some people have criticized me that I go along with him on everything... but I don't! We have serious and significant differences of opinion, but there is real mutual respect.

My bishop likes opera! I like Led Zeppelin!

I respect that he likes opera and love him for it. When I'm in his house, I don't bewail and bemoan him to turn off his music and turn on mine. When he's at my house I respect him enough not to "crank up the jams!"

I know there are people who like both opera and classic rock. I love and respect you, too!

This morning I found myself in a strange reflection that 24 years ago, I came to what I believe is the greatest place to live on the planet. I've lived a number of places through moves in the church and in the military, so I know there are other great places to live... but... in my opinion I love THIS state!

24 Years ago I came to Mather AFB in Sacramento as a young Second Lieutenant. In 2006 I found my way back... not to Sacramento but Bakersfield. And years ago, I came in September!

God is so good! And God loves what I love... just as God loves what you love. If you love opera, God loves that you love it! And if I love Led Zeppelin, God loves that I love it! Anything that is not sin, God loves about you... and about me. Do I agree theologically with everything that Led Zeppelin sings about? Of course not! Would you agree with everything sung about in opera? I hope not, either!

But for those who perhaps only know what they "don't" like... and for those of you who share in loving what you do love... I offer you this video clip that I hope will brighten your day. It was the song, after all, 24 years ago, that brought me to the place I love... California.

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Timely Old Sermon

About a year and a half ago, I was asked to preach at the Service of Renewal of Ordination Vows for my Diocese. I ran accross my notes again today and found its message is just as timely as it was then. It was just what I needed to hear again. Hope so for you too... JR+

I speak to you in the name of the Living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

My brothers and sisters, I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here with you and to share with you what I believe God has placed upon my heart. In this very room, hundreds of years of experience in ministry, prayer, and faithful service come together to remember our own corporate calling as ordained ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To be honest, for me to be asked to preach today is a truly humbling moment; and there is one word that comes to mind: FEAR!

But that’s OK too! Fear is a big part of ministry, as we all know. Fear comes to us in many ways:

* Fear of our acceptance among peers,
* The real fear that next year YOU may be asked to preach on this occasion.
* Fear of wondering if our dreams and desires for the people we serve will be received,
* The fear in wondering if what we do in the service of Christ will make any difference (that’s called Gethsemane!)
* Fear in walking with our God and walking into places where He calls us to go… We know that as FAITH...

… And yet the fear that leads us to faith leads us also to courage – courage to face the unknown and to do the great things God has called each of us to do.

Nearly a year ago, when I began my ministry at All Saints’ in Bakersfield, I began with a well known passage of scripture “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” And that “Fear of the Lord” is all about “Awe” – not a sense being scared – but knowing the awesome power of the true God – the one God – who leads, guides, and inspires us to do great things in His holy name. And I am certain that each one of us in our ministry experiences have witnessed the great actions of God! Those moments when God was so real and present that you knew He was doing a “great thing.” (Holy is His Name!)

Think back to your own ordination day – the first one (perhaps your only one) – when all of us who are ordained began as deacons. Some of us were deacons for a seemingly short time; others of us were to find this as our life’s vocation. Still others of us are searching out our next calling. Yet, ALL of us began as servants – willing to go where God called us!

What were your dreams then? What were your fears then? Maybe there were dreams of wearing a “purple shirt” someday? (God forbid! At least for me.) Or maybe to have widely spread respect – or power? Or maybe if not these things, simply to serve Jesus Christ faithfully no matter what?

What was the good work that began in you to bring you to THIS very moment? And if you or I were to know then what we know now – would we still answer before a bishop and the people we serve the question: Do you believe God has called you … as a deacon… as a priest… as a bishop? And answer: “I believe I am so called”? I hope your answer is still YES! For, unfortunately we all know there is a difference between being a “so called” deacon, priest, or bishop – and being REAL! The difference of course is how the Kingdom of God is measured: not by power or position – but in abiding, obedience, and service. Whatever our dreams may once have been – God’s desire was first to make us servants – as He did his own Son – and as His servants we are his friends.

Perhaps even more importantly are the questions: What are your dreams now? What are your fears now? If there is one thing for sure, the culture we live in, the times we experience, the “world” (as St. Paul speaks of it) is a place that masters the art of fear! And St. Paul reminds us “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” Elsewhere, in Ephesians, in another very popular “ordination” proper, we are told:

Eph 4:14 - 15 (NRSV) We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Doctrine of course is something we are steeped in – from our seminary educations and our own personal journeys. But as we are also well aware, there are plenty of moments that happen – God moments – that our seminary educations didn’t prepare us for...

* Like when the wafer falls down the cleavage of the low-cut blouse.
* Like when an elderly woman’s denture slips out into the chalice – and she walks away!
* Or like the time when you are visiting another parish – and the rector intending to make a very important illustration regarding Good and Evil comes out wearing a black cape and a Darth Vader helmet – and someone from the congregation calls out, “It’s bishop Spong!”
(That by the way was one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard!)

But there are other moments too…
* Like when someone responds and gives their life to Christ, or
* When our presence at a hospital bed, or in a living room, brought comfort and healing.
* When we anoint the sick and they actually get better!

Or when through our preaching and teaching a new understanding of God is understood.
Or when we prayed for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit – and they received Him.
Or even new insights into the mystery of God – like the time when a father brought his child to me after Eucharist. And the six-year old asks, “When you break the bread I see sparks fly. How do you do that?”

These things happen not because we are good, but because God is good! It is in these moments when our priesthood – whether we are laity, Bishops, Priests, or Deacons – the priesthood of ALL believers – shines. Why? Because as Jesus says: “You did not choose me, but I chose you!”

It is clear in God’s Word that God desires of us both maturity and variety. God wants for ALL of His children to mature in faith; and by the power of the Holy Spirit to discover and mature in the variety of gifts He has created in and bestowed upon us:
* Prophecy in proportion to faith
* Ministry in ministering;
* The Teacher in teaching
* The exhorter, the giver, the leader, the compassionate… And the healer, the evangelist, the pastor, and even… the apostle.

So we come here today to renew our vows – to renew our various calls to ministry – as servants of the One True God – in His One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. This calling does not come to us because we earned it, or desired it, or chose it originally; but because Jesus chose us first.

None of us can do that alone – we were not meant to. To be made new means at least to make sure that we are nourished by the Source – the Vine – who is Jesus Christ. The “power word” in our Gospel is “abide. Jesus says “abide in my love” just as He abides in His Father’s love. What does that mean?

My Greek Lexicon defines “abide” as "meno": to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):—abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand…

Whichever, word works for you let that be your encouragement to stay and abide in Christ – and keep on, keepin’ on. Or as St. Paul would say (in the Message paraphrase translation):

I appeal to you brothers and sisters….
…. Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.[1]

[So] let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face. [2]

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply... Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.[3]

And by the Love of our Heavenly Father, the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, may THAT be true for us today and in the days to come.


[1] Rom 12:1 - 2 (TMSG)
[2] Rom 12:6 - 8 (TMSG)
[3] Rom 12:9 - 13 (TMSG)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Levels of Persecution

One of the things I’ve often heard about the Christian Faith is that God never promised us a "bed of roses.” Meaning, when you give your life to Christ one isn’t automatically protected from life’s difficulties. In fact, many new Christians often find that life gets “harder” rather than easier for a couple reasons:

1) Suddenly we are faced with making changes in our lives, like giving up self-destructive activities and patterns (yes, I’m talking about sin) as we allow Christ to reshape us; and as we take on new patterns of discipline: Church attendance, daily prayer, daily Bible reading, and service to others. All of this is hard work.

2) Satan is not happy about your giving your life to Christ and will do anything to thwart it. Suddenly we find out there is “Spiritual Warfare” going on – and we are the battlefield. When we “were safely in Satan’s camp” he could ignore us (for the most part), but now that we’ve infiltrated his territory (as a Child of God) he starts to step up the attack!

We need to understand that “persecution” is part of the Christian life experience – Jesus even tells us we are to expect it! He tells us that we will be called upon to witness our faith in various ways. In Mt. 24:9 Jesus tells us the world will hate us because of Him. In Mk. 13:9-13 Jesus tells us that we will be brought before “councils” as a testimony or witness of Him. We may even be betrayed by our own family members! (And there are numerous other passages, too.)

Yet, even so, Jesus promises to be with us, to send the Holy Spirit to speak for us, and most of all to bless us! From the Sermon on the Mount we hear:

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Mt. 5:11-12)

None of this is surprising to those of us who’ve been Christians for a while; however, the fact is that all of us are going to face persecution. So if we are to expect persecution what can we expect? As I see it there are four levels of persecution:

Level 1: Personal Witness:
When we proclaim Jesus we face the fact that there are those who won’t like it. At this level we can risk losing friends and relationships and even jobs when we stand up for Christ! We may be called “intolerant bigots” or religious fanatics. We risk being made fun of and isolated because of our beliefs. The risks here are real and personal. When they occur they indeed hurt our feelings, and can cost us financially (like being fired) – but rarely at this stage do we risk our personal safety.

Level 2: Judicial Persecution:
This next level turns from personal inconvenience to actual legal and official retribution. This is where we may be sued or taken to court because of our Christian convictions. The risks here are possible loss of personal freedoms. Gag-orders, jail time, loss of property, loss of professional reputation and the like are the next risks. Again, this is more serious and costly than Level 1, but rarely life-threatening.

Level 3: Life Risking Persecution:
This is the kind of persecution we begin to associate with the early church and in other countries even in our day and age. This level involves prison and torture. This is the kind of persecution where we might be beaten, deprived of food, and begin to really fear for our lives. Real suffering becomes reality – indeed we become “prisoners of war” in a Spiritual battle.

Level 4: Martyrdom:
This highest level means the loss of life as a testament of the Gospel. We remember those early Christians who were butchered in the forums of Rome; and we remember that even today in numerous places in the world, real people are killed on a daily basis (with or without due process of law). As this is the highest form of persecution, so too is it the highest form of witness to Christ. Martyrdom almost always backfires upon those responsible. Cases in point: the greatest time of growth in the Christian Church was when it was persecuted; and, examples like the Ugandan Martyrs who refused the sinful advances of the king, were put to death horribly, and yet influenced many to become a Christian testimony – whereas today the Christian Faith is incredibly strong there.

Most of us here in America – the land of freedom of speech and religion – know only of levels 1 and perhaps 2. That at least is good news – for the moment. But let’s be honest – we are undergoing persecution – yet, even so let’s not forget to pray for others in the world who have it worse off than we do! As we remember our own Christian witness may we all remember that persecution is indeed expected and part of our Christian lives. But also, let us remember that persecution finds us – the Holy Spirit will indeed place us in locations and situations where we may give our testimonies – nevertheless, we shouldn’t seek out persecution or tempt it in others. As St. Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15-16:

“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

How helpful do we find the (TEC) folks in Stockton?

Just when you though it was safe in church...

An New Blog... A New Day!

Well, hello everyone! Welcome to what I hope is a rich resource for you ... and some fun for me! If you've stumbled here by accident, well, welcome anyway.

To introduce myself (as I haven't done a profile yet) I'm Fr. John Riebe, an Anglican Priest and Rector of All Saints' Anglican Church in Bakersfield CA. And if you are wondering further, I'm also one of those "Anglican Hooligans" who've joined the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone!

I hope to say some more about that later for those who are interested. But from time to time I hope to add a bit of fun just to keep things as light as possible. If you're looking for news, well you should go over to my two favorite blogs (yes I read them too) BabyBlueOnline and Standfirm.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll come back again.

God Bless All!