A Word from our Diocesan Bishop Steve Wood

Bishop Steve Wood, Diocesan Bishop

Setting Your Heart on Fire

“You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears!  You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!”

So said the first martyr of the church, Stephen, in Acts 7.

Have you thought about how you resist the Holy Spirit?  Sadly, all too many Christians create a false dichotomy pitting the Persons of the Trinity against one another: “Oh, we just need Jesus.”  Yes, we need Jesus. But who do you think it is that both reveals Jesus to us and then takes up residence within us, thus making Jesus known to us?  The Holy Spirit; the Counselor, the Comforter, the One who comes alongside us. Jesus had much to say about the person of the Holy Spirit and our relationship and response to Him.  A sampling from the Gospel of John:

John 14.15ff. “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. [jumping to v. 26] But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

John 16.5ff: “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’  Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

The Book of Acts and the letters of Paul capture and continue the instruction to be continually filled with the presence of the Person of the Holy Spirit.

In that deeply touching post-resurrection appearance by our Lord, He walked with those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, opening the Scriptures to them, causing their hearts to “burn” within them – the convicting, revealing work of the Spirit.

When was the last time you could honestly say that your heart burned within you – in love for God, with desire for his presence, in the pursuit of holiness, with hatred for the sins that cripple and maim you and those around you?  When was the last time your heart burned for God and for the spread of his Kingdom?

The opposite of the burning heart is, of course, the comfortable heart, the indifferent heart, the apathetic heart, the heart that isn’t moved, isn’t alive, and isn’t passionate.  The comfortable, indifferent, apathetic heart experiences God the way one experiences television or political gossip – just another diversion that leaves us cold and unaffected.

In 1746, Jonathan Edwards wrote one of the most important books in the history of Christianity titled Religious Affections.  In it, Edwards describes the affections as “the vigorous or intense inclination of our hearts toward or away from something.”

Edwards was keen to show that true Christianity had an intensity about it.  We are urged by the apostle Paul “to be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”  (Romans 12:11) According to Edwards, true faith is exactly opposite the “typical weak, dull and lifeless wishes” which characterize most indifferent churchgoers. Without a person’s affections being touched and ignited by the Holy Spirit, there is no salvation, nor is there any real desire to move away from sin and toward the pursuit of God.  By the affections, Edwards refers to the fear of the Lord, hatred of sin, hunger and thirst after righteousness, holy joy, godly sorrow, heart-felt pity, true thankfulness, zeal for God and love.

What is your heart condition this day?  Are you spiritually alive? Full of passion?  Eager and excited about your relationship with Jesus?  Or are you cold, lifeless, critical, unmotivated – a person with knowledge of God but with little real spirituality.

If you are cold, or at best lukewarm (Revelation 3:16), here are some things you can do restore a burning heart:

Repent – In Acts 3 Peter, speaking to his fellow Israelites, told them to “repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”  There is to be sure an once for all repentance when we turn to Jesus for salvation. But there is also the ongoing life of repentance when we return to the Lord again and again, our hearts having turned to someone or something other than Jesus. Repent, return to the Lord so that times of refreshing may come.

Pray – Ask the Lord to renew your love for him. Ask, and keep asking the Father to give you an increasing measure of the Holy Spirit.  Be encouraged by our Lord Himself who said in Luke 11.13, “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Praise – Sing to the Lord!  Privately praise the Lord. Publicly gather with brothers and sisters lifting your heart and your voice to him.  God is pleased to ignite the hearts of those who worship him.

Meditate – Focus your mind upon deep spiritual truths.  Meditate upon the cross and the wounds of Christ. Let the “eyes of your heart” gaze upon the hands, the feet, the side, and the face of the crucified Son of God. Meditate upon your future in your resurrected body upon a new earth free from the stain of sin. Thrilled yet?

Read – Read the Bible, of course, it contains the words of life.  But read the great classics of the faith as well.

Serve – Repentance, prayer, praise, mediation, and reading – all good things.  But if you are not led into service of those both within and without the Body of Christ you’re missing the point – and living a self-centered life which will always be cold and empty.  Jesus told us that “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20.28). Demonstrating His meaning, Jesus picked up a towel and washed the dirty grimy feet of His disciples and said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13.15-17).

Allow the Lord to set your heart on fire.

As ever, yours in Christ,


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St. Andrews #BeautyfromAshes

by Greg Shore

At 4:25 am on April 22, Bishop Steve Wood received a phone call from a parishioner who lives across the street from St. Andrew’s Church in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. “The Ministry Center is on fire.” He immediately went to the church to find the Ministry Center roof engulfed in flames. By 5:15 the congregation had been notified that there would be no services that day and by six o’clock, the local news outlets were reporting on the fire.

This was the largest fire that anybody in Mt Pleasant had ever seen. As units from neighboring cities sped across the Cooper and Wando Rivers, they could see the glow of the fire in the Old Village.

As Bishop Wood watched, he walked around the block to gain a different vantage point and to see the extent of the fire. Residents of Rose Lane, located behind the church, had been rousted from their beds by the noise and lights of the multiple fire engines. In the dark of early morning they recognized that Steve was the pastor of their neighborhood church. One family invited him to the second floor deck of their house so he had a better view. Later, somebody brought him a cup of coffee. As he made his way around the block and back out to the parking lot in front of the Ministry Center, some simply stood there with him in silence. The presence of the neighbors that day was a gift that will not soon be forgotten.

Throughout the morning, people gathered in the parking lot and stayed long after the flames were extinguished. Some arrived expecting to attend church that day. Some arrived in their pajamas. Members, neighbors, some who had just a fleeting association with St. Andrew’s came. And they began to tell the stories – stories of God’s goodness that had taken place within the four walls of the building. Families coming to church for the first time as a family when their child was enrolled in the Day School. People who had come to know Christ as a result of the Alpha course. Healings that had taken place. Marriages restored. Wayward sons and daughters returning home and returning to the Lord. Stories of weddings, baptisms, and funerals of much-loved saints.

Bishop Terrell Glenn, the rector of St. Andrew’s in 1996 when the Ministry Center was built, recounted a gathering the day before the building was consecrated. There had been an open house to give tours and give people the general layout of the building. After the open house, the vestry, staff, worship team, and prayer teams stayed behind and moved through the building and praying. Terrell said that at first the prayers were a bit vague. “Lord, please bless the people who attend church here.” As the evening went on the prayers became bolder and more specific. “Lord, will you heal people here? Please restore marriages here. Lord, bring people to know you here.” Those prayers spoken 22 years ago have been answered.

As word spread about the fire, word came back to St. Andrew’s that many congregations in Mt Pleasant and around the country, began their services with prayers for the church. Local pastors called and texted Steve Wood all day long. Immediately both members and non-members asked how they could help. The response to the fire has been a bit overwhelming for the rector, staff, and members. “We’re used to being on the giving end,” Steve said to his congregation. “I have to tell you. It’s a bit humbling to be on the receiving end.”

The church has continued to move forward. The staff had their regular staff meeting the morning after the fire, hosted by Whole Foods in their conference room. The third of three new members’ classes was hosted by one of the new members in their home the evening after the fire. Thursday Staff Bible study was held in the parking lot. The Historic Church hosted a wedding less than a week later. One week after the fire, St. Andrew’s had four services in the Historic Church and two services at Mt Pleasant Academy, a local public school. That evening, there was a New Members’ Service and a reception for the new members. The next day, the church hosted a two-part lecture by the Rev’d Dr. Ashley Null. The mission of the church – connecting people to the presence and power of Jesus Christ – continues on.

Mr. Greg Shore is the Communications Director at St. Andrews Church, Mt Pleasant, SC

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A Young & Growing Congregation – Redeemer Asheville

by The Reverend Gary Ball

As Bishop Bryan recently stood to lead the Eucharistic prayer at Redeemer, every child in our church simultaneously began to scream (only slightly exaggerating). I was a bit embarrassed and concerned for him having to talk over the commotion. As chaotic as it often feels in these situations, the sounds and shuffling of children is a blessing. I was asked to share about my experience thus far.

It is not uncommon to see headlines and statistics regarding decreasing church attendance, aging congregations and the epidemic regarding youth leaving the church. So occasionally we will pause to appreciate the sound of children ringing throughout our congregation—we thank God for these interruptions and acknowledge these moments as a gift. Recently we had a three year old dancing down the aisle as her family came forward for communion. It was angelic and we paused for a moment to catch this earthly glimpse into the heavenlies. On another occasion we had a two year belting out the liturgy just slightly behind everyone else—we stopped and laughed. We were encouraged by the participation by this young worshipper, and reminded that he was lending his voice to the choir of angels and archangels.

Perhaps these brief examples capture a few of the reasons young families are making their way to Redeemer. Asheville is a unique place where people coming to church either have no preconceived ideas of what church should be, or have in some way been put off by what church has become. In our context, traditional programming for children is not as much a priority for parents as it is to have their children loved, prayed for and blessed. It is important that our kids are recognized as full participants in the life of the church…screaming, dancing and clumsy liturgy included. This communicates something to our families, and reorients our thinking about such commotion—moving us from regarding them as a distraction, to receiving it with heartfelt gratitude.

I’ve heard it said that if you want to reach a culture for Christ you must capture their imagination. This is especially true for the younger generation and especially in Asheville (a location with an artistic identity). Our goal is not to lead worshippers to something imaginary, but to come to see things as they truly are. While many find the tradition of the church to be an obstacle, we embrace it as an opportunity—inviting questions, while igniting mystery, curiosity and anticipation. I believe this appeal to imagination will be key as we all seek to reach the next generation for Christ.

The Rev. Gary Ball is Rector of Redeemer Anglican Church in Asheville, NC

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Making the Most of Meanwhile

by Teresa D. Glenn

Don’t you love to hear a good story unfold? You know, the kind that has phrases like:

“and she had no idea that 2 weeks ago he…”
“no one knew that all along her boss had quietly initiated…”
“to everyone’s surprise, he had been planning this …”
“that single experience was the quiet catalyst that would eventually…”

In the beginning and middle of the story, ordinary circumstances unfold and conversations transpire. Then somewhere along the way segments that seemed to stand alone connect and an unpredictable story takes shape—to which we say, I did not see that coming!

Old Testament stories are like this, as they vividly reveal God’s sovereign plans played out over time. A while back I studied 1 and 2 Chronicles, and one word in a story held my focus:


In 2 Chronicles, Chapter 20, King Jehoshaphat learns that a tremendous army is coming to attack his kingdom, and he’s afraid. He “set his face to seek the LORD” and prayed, “For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (v.12)  King Jehoshaphat also called his people to seek the Lord: “Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. And the Spirit of the LORD came…”

The rest of the story amazes. The sovereignty of God – who knows all the moving parts, the condition of every heart, the impact of all words and circumstances, every decision that’s in process, and the timing of everything—powerfully displayed.

I don’t know how long this season was, but I can imagine their fear. Desperate, they grew dependent. Desperate, they grew faithful. In the “meanwhile” of their circumstance, they prayed—men, women, children, and moms “with their little ones”.

I thought about my life and each member of our family’s life.  I can never know all the moving parts—the condition of each heart, the impact of words or circumstance, every decision that’s in process, the timing of most things, or what any outcome will be.  Oh, but I have certainly tried! We analyze and re-analyze, and then perhaps invite someone to analyze with us.

Do you ever feel powerless? Overwhelmed? Uncertain?
Does your child?

Make the most of every MEANWHILE.  Pray.

Ask others to pray, to intercede to God on your behalf. No matter your child’s age, lead them toward prayer. Pray over them, gently and briefly. Offer to pray with them. Silently, pray for them. Encourage them to pray for others and their circumstance. Pray as a family. Pray aloud, so that your children hear and see how spontaneous, simple, and significant talking to God can be. Pray that your children will pray.

We have a lot of “meanwhiles” in life—waiting seasons, challenging relationships, difficult decisions, hard circumstances—and our children will, too. Our “meanwhiles” and our child’s “meanwhiles” can bear testimony to the faithfulness of God and how intimately He yearns for us to participate with Him in His larger-than-what-we-can-see plan.

Teresa Glenn speaks and writes to encourage and mentor women about partnering with God through the everyday circumstances of life. She is the author of Becoming A Peaceful Mom: Through Every Season of Raising Your Child She writes at celebratethefamily.org. For speaking requests contact Teresa at teresadglenn@gmail.com or complete the form on her website. She and her husband Terrell live in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

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Your “Unattached” Christian Friends

by The Reverend Rob Hartley

A Christian polling organization known as the Barna Research Group identifies a segment of the Christian population they call the “Unattached.”  The Unattached consider themselves to be Christian but without any personal interaction with a regularly-convening, mutually supportive faith community.   In other words, the Unattached are those Christians in our neighborhoods who have no church family.  It is likely that we all have friends who consider themselves Christian yet are not actively involved in any church family.

The reasons for being among the Unattached varies greatly, but a popular sentiment among them goes something like this: “Church wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for all those other Christians.”  Some of you reading this right now may hold this sentiment; hopefully not.  Others among the Unattached do not consider it worth the time and resources it takes to be part of a church, given the busyness of their lives and the worldly demands for their time and money.  To some, church is simply not important and does not matter, given the other foci of their lives.

Let us, however, look at this from God’s perspective and see if being part of the church matters to our Lord.  Let us start by considering why God created humanity in the first place. As Christians we know that we are created to be in a relationship with Him and, by extension, in a relationship with each other as the Family of God.   We also know that we were created out of God’s unbounded, unconditional love to be the objects of that love; thus, being in God’s image, we are to relate to one another with that same unbounded, sacrificial, unconditional love with which God first loved us (1 John 4:19).  But how and where do we learn to do that?

To better understand this, we can look at where all Creation is pointing- that is, the destination of all redeemed and yet to be redeemed humanity.  Our destiny as God’s people is to be gathered into the full presence of God, but not just with God- also with each other, into what we know as the Communion of Saints.   The Church on Earth (what the Church Fathers called The Church Militant) is the embryo of the Communion of Saints in Heaven (The Church Triumphant).  It is as if this life in the Church is our opportunity to learn to love one another again (i.e. un-learn the “Fall” of Genesis 3).  It is in Christian community that God teaches us to love others as He first loved us. In a way, to shun Christian community in this life is to miss the dress rehearsal for that great gathering of the saints in heaven.  The truth is that eternity (Heaven), and thus life as part of the Communion of Saints, begins in the here and now.

From all this, it would seem that stepping away from intentional fellowship with God’s people is not a Godly option.  As we have heard it said, “God did not create us to be Lone Ranger Christians.” We in this church family should be proactively inviting our unattached Christian friends to come enjoy this church family with you.  They will discover, as you most surely have, the blessings of Godly community, something we are designed and destined to enjoy forever.

The Reverend Rob Hartley is Rector of the Anglican Church of Holy Trinity in North Augusta, SC.

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