When I was on InterVarsity staff, it was a huge privilege to help lead the Urbana Missions Conference every three years. And one of my favorite parts of that conference was the morning expositions given by gifted theologians from around the world. Yesterday, we heard an exposition of Ephesians 2 that was extraordinary. It was given by Kanishka Raffel, a Sri Lankan Anglican priest from Australia. He is the Rector of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church. It is very difficult to take a large chunk of Scripture and explain it clearly. It very quickly becomes unwieldy. Kanishka broke the chapter into 2 parts– our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationship with each other and then talked about the images of plight, power, and privilege that describe the new humanity that God is bringing through Christ. 45 minutes passed in a flash. I wish Australia was closer to the US so we could get him to preach at Restoration.
The Holy Spirit
The larger GAFCON conference broke into 9 mini conferences yesterday and today on topics like ‘re-evangelizing the west’, ‘the challenge of Islam’, ‘aid and development: building self-sustaining churches’, and ‘marriage and family’. Each of these ‘mini conferences’ contains 12 hours of teaching, discussion, and paper writing. They are like mini seminary courses! The challenge of Islam was particularly powerful because of the candor and courage of Africans for whom Muslim evangelization is not mere theory but a matter of life and death. There was a holy reverence as several men and women told stories of being on the fault line between Islam and Christianity in places like Nigeria, Kenya, and Southern Sudan.
I am taking the Holy Spirit mini conference. I loved our afternoon lecture by Ashley Null. He covered three centuries of Anglican history [16th, 17th, 18th] as a means to explain how we have our modern expression of 3 Anglican streams: evangelical, catholic, charismatic. It was FASCINATING. The best part is the Q&A that happens at the end of each session. I love hearing the PRACTICAL questions that my fellow pastors are asking– Why does the Holy Spirit give gifts to people who sin? How do I help people receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit? What’s going on with the baptism of John in Acts 18? Why does God seem to give the gift of tongues very often, but the gift of interpretation very rarely? These are really great pastoral conversations and I am learning a lot from my colleagues in Africa and Latin America.
Anglican Relief and Development Fund
Restoration has been a generous donor to the ARDF. One of our members, John Westbrook, serves on their board. The ARDF grew alongside the new ACNA province as a means for our churches to give generously to needs around the world. The ARDF takes initiative to seek out opportunities to serve and also receives grant requests for aid. Last night I attended a special dinner at the Muthaiga Country Club (did you see Out of Africa? that’s the club) for the family of folks who have helped ARDF launch. It was such a celebration! Over $7million dollars have been given through ARDF to projects around the world. Here is a quick video that tells the story of one project in the Congo. It is well worth the time to watch. I met Bishop Andy and he is a Godly, courageous, humble man.
Finally, this morning, my friend John Yates III preached through Ephesians 4. What a wonderful explanation of what it means to walk in the way of Christ. I particularly appreciated his distinction between sensuality and sensitivity.
Sensuality is the tireless pursuit of your own pleasure. Over time it de-sensitizes you to the needs of those around you. Sensitivity is the determined awareness of people and circumstances around you. It flows from a heart that is softened by the Gospel.
Day by day, I want to say no sensuality more and more. I see how the pursuit of my own comfort and pleasure makes me less aware of the people around me.
And day by day, I want to say yes to Jesus making me sensitive to the people and the circumstances around me. May I be quick to respond and generous to give and humble in gratitude.
May we all grow more and more to look like Jesus and to love the world wide expression of His church.