Monthly Archives: August 2014

Is the PC (USA) looking for the Way, the Truth and the Life?

 

PC (USA) leaders encourage those who are disaffected by the recent decisions of their General Assembly to stay with the denomination and try to effect change from within the system. But the system itself has become a forum for political debate instead of spiritual awakening.  One of the several points seemingly up for debate is how to obtain salvation.   Really? If that isn’t enough there are others – Israeli divestment issues, abortion, same sex marriage, and so much more.  To stay inside this PC (USA) under these circumstances communicates to the world that we are okay with creative non answers to basic questions of salvation that cater more to the culture than to Scripture.  They would have us to believe that pretty much anything “loving” is acceptable.  How sad!  Just an anything goes attitude is very definitely not acceptable.  Not just to some of us, but in the eyes of God.  Consider these verses, try different translations, or go back to the source material.  The implication that just about anything goes cannot be found here.

“This is the verdict:  Light has come into the world but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.            John 3:19-21

We need to be careful not to “conform to the pattern of this world” so that we may find “His good pleasing and perfect will”.      Romans 12:2.

People have always sinned.  Some ask for forgiveness out of repentant hearts, receive it and continue in grace.  Others look for excuses and choose to spin the Truth seeking justification for their acts done in the darkness. But there is only ONE justification for our sins:

“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”. (Romans 4:25)

“Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the Law of Moses”. (Acts 13:39)

There is no justification without Jesus, who said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really know me, you will know my Father as well”.  John 13:6-7a

And of course there is John 3:16 which is so crystal clear:  “For God so loved the world  that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him might be saved”.  Try something here, read it this way:  “For God so loved (insert your name) that He gave His only Son that (your name) might be saved”.  Pause now and take a moment to realize in your heart that He would have done this for you even if you were the only human on earth to rescue.

When you have been rescued and forgiven, God places a desire deep within you to serve God, to study His Word, pray, fellowship and serve with other believers.

Some would instead encourage us into useless debate.  Are you aware of a 2010 report published by the PC (USA) entitled “Religious and Demographic Profile of Presbyterians” which revealed that “less than half (of Presbyterians in the PC (USA))…believe Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation”?  Less than half? Only 35% of pastors and 45% percent of elders agree that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  This is an incredible report.  is this acceptable to you?  And do the rest of the people think they have just joined some kind of social club? What’s the point without the saving grace found only through Jesus Christ?  Why would God sacrifice His only Son if there was any other way to save us?  If there was another truth?

Additionally PC (USA) leaders have been asked for the Biblical justification for one of their recent decisions.  Their answer was a non-answer.  They referred to a couple of books written by non-seminarians with agendas to forward. There was no Light and no Truth, therefore, there is no Way that they gave an acceptable answer. Maybe they were doing their best to satisfy the requirements of their jobs. Call me naive but when you have found the Way, the Truth and the Life why would you willingly turn away? When you have been forgiven and freed from the guilt of your sins why would you want to throw that away in order to return to the deeds done in the darkness?

They point out that we can stay and continue our missions wherever we feel led and the decisions of the General Assembly should not be an undue burden to us.  But friends, one can only share the salvation story and introduce people to Jesus and His grace when the effort is soaked in the love of God and carried out under God’s direction.  I fear if we abandon sound Biblical teaching in favor of that which “itches the ears” perhaps God’s voice and leadership will not be heard among us at all.

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations”.  2 Timothy 4:3-5a

Further, we are asked to stay because they need conservative voices to contribute to the conversation.  Clearly The PC (USA) does not really want to hear or heed conservative voices.  Read today’s news to see that the world desperately needs to experience the Truth in action, not just in words.  We need to carry the truth to the world and to the neighbors in our back yard far more than the PC (USA) needs us to stay and debate. How is it that God’s truth is debatable anyway?   But Thanks Be to God! There is forgiveness – consider again the Sacred Scripture references previously mentioned, open your Bible, you will find forgiveness and so much more.  The Way, the Truth and the Life waits.  Don’t let it wait too long.

 

 

The Distraction of Second Best: Finding real treasure instead

Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.   I Samuel 7:15-17

The people of Israel were being oppressed by their enemies. God was disciplining his people so He allowed this oppression. Their disobedience and lack of faith brought judgment but they thought it was because they didn’t have a human king. Their enemies had human kings after all so why couldn’t they? They went to Samuel and asked for a king to lead them. Samuel was not pleased with this idea. Maybe he thought the people were rejecting his leadership. As he prayed to God about this new problem, God said “…it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king” (I Samuel 8:7b). Again. They were rejecting God again –as they had many times before.

I imagine God frowning and heaving a sigh as he told Samuel that He would give the people what they wanted. A human king. Second best. A distant second at that.

As a kid did you ever want something so badly that you could hardly wait until you got it? Maybe you saved your allowance for a month or two until you could go buy it. Maybe you worked odd jobs around the neighborhood, or sold lemonade in your front yard. You did this because you thought it was the best, it was going to be the most fun, the top of the line. Or maybe it was because everybody else had one. In any case it was the best – right up until 30 minutes after you got it. That’s about when you lost interest or it got broken.

As adults we pursue the next electronic gadget, whether hand held or hanging against the wall in the living room. We pursue the next rung up the ladder, the next accomplishment, the next raise, the next recognition, award or accolade. We pursue these things in the misguided belief that they make life better, more satisfying, more fulfilling. No they really don’t. Like the toy you wanted as a child, these things leave you disappointed, empty and unfulfilled. You settled for second best.

What is this fascination with second best? Why can’t we let God give us the BEST? Or maybe He already has. What about that incredibly talented daughter? Or the loving faithful spouse? How about the love shared by an extended family engaged in loving banter or playing games and sharing secrets and hugs? It’s not the stranger who might recognize something you accomplished that really matters in the scheme of things. It’s the relationship you have with God that matters most. It’s faith in God that gets you from here to eternity. The love you share with your family and those you choose as family are the sweetest blessings of this life. That’s the real treasure. Not the ones with dollar signs, or pretty gold seals, nor is it the sound of the applause of strangers. If you have ears that really hear and eyes that really see, you know this is true. Hug your family, pray for them and care for them. And may God always help you resist the distraction of second best.

Moving is not the end of the world; Watching Daddy

Moving around a lot can be hard because some of what you leave is not something you could take with you.  Those are things like your best friend, your favorite teacher, the creek where you learned to swim, the nice lady at the candy store down the street (she ALWAYS gave away candy and didn’t mind if the neighborhood kids played in the back of the store.  Monopoly games could go on for days.) There were trails through the woods down to the creek where you used to ride bikes or those little motor cycles – Honda 50s I think they were.

Our family moved around because of my daddy’s job.  I should say because of his “calling”.  Daddy was a preacher whose ministry seemed to be most effective in the smaller rural church setting.  He went where he felt God wanted him to go and he stayed until he felt God calling him somewhere else.  He was a happy man most of the time; my memories are mostly about his laughter, his sense of humor, his easy way with people and the way he let you know you were loved.  He seemed to feel at home wherever he was.  I think he must have been really fond of fried chicken too, because that is what everyone wanted to feed us when we were invited over for Sunday lunch.   He liked his tea “southern sweet” and his okra extra crispy – both preferences my mom tried to break him from but never quite succeeded.

He was a blessed man.  Why? He was blessed because he didn’t try to fight against God’s leadership to hold on to something or someone else.  He didn’t plead or beg for just a few more years in one place before we went to the next.  He didn’t cry himself to sleep at night when it became clear another move was coming. After all he did have me for that. (Hey, it was after my sophomore year in high school!) And though I kicked against the idea that time, I watched my daddy’s resolution and his steadiness and yes his happiness.  And I learned.

There are some good things about moving frequently.  Starting over with people who don’t know you can be to your advantage.  The people in the new town won’t know about the time you were two and your big brothers were supposed to be watching you and you ended up crying on the steps of the school house down the road.  They won’t know the book mobile lady rescued you and took you home to the intense embarrassment of your brothers and the wrath of the MOTHER.  They won’t know about all the times you went across the street to play with a friend all by yourself at the mature age of four and without the MOTHER knowing you had that in mind.  (I must say my mom learned fast.  If she looked around and I wasn’t’ there, she knew where to look.)  They won’t remember the time you and your friends got in big trouble for giggling in church while holding down the back pew.  WHY IS EVERYTHING SO MUCH FUNNIER WHEN YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO LAUGH?!!

I learned another very valuable lesson.  I learned Who is in control. I learned how it feels to be cared for even when no one else really knows me.  I learned (very deep sigh here) that I don’t always know what is best for me and that God does indeed have a plan.  Learning to always trust in that plan is a lifelong endeavor – especially since I can’t predict the future.  I don’t know how to let go very well.  I struggle with a constant desire to maintain control and have feelings of frustration when I can’t.   And so, I come before my heavenly Father to say this:

Gracious Father,

I don’t know where our church family will end up.  I don’t know who will go, who will stay and who will be drawn in for a fresh start in their lives.  I only know that you can be trusted and that I need to listen for your voice leading me as you have led so many before.  You have proven your love for us over and over!   As you led your children out of slavery into the Promised Land, as you led David to the throne, Ester to the palace, John to the wilderness and Jesus to the cross, Lord lead us now.  We are in this place for “such a time as this”.     Amen.

Note:  If you recognize some of these stories we might have known each other!  I’d love to hear from you.  (hints:  Hopewell, Flint Hill, Spring Creek)

So What do We have to lose? Part 2 of 2

(Continued from yesterday)
As you know if you’ve read previous posts I am not happy with the PC (USA) right now. My church has embarked on a course of action that cannot end well. This has saddened me, but also galvanized me to speak out in a way I never have before. I am much more comfortable sitting on the pew telling myself that someone with more knowledge than I will come forward and fix all that is broken. I can’t do that anymore. I am moving way out of my comfort zone in sharing my thoughts and convictions with you and I know not everyone agrees with what I have said and what I will say. It is not my intention to stir up controversy, but with God’s help to be ready with answers when called upon to account for my position. I am willing to enter into productive conversation on the topic that helps me explore my positions and helps you explore yours.

Onward.

The General Assembly of the PC (USA) would ask us how staying affiliated with them hurts our mission and ministry. The PC (USA) left us choosing instead to participate with the culture instead of offering the culture a better choice. This hampers our mission by distorting our message! It forces us to be associated with ideas and politics that are not in line with Biblical teaching. It makes the world look at us and identify us with questionable endorsements – and divestments.

I have some better questions.

Does the PC (USA) project an image to the world that makes us proud of its recent and not so recent decisions? Does it represent me (and many others) or my views on the world, the culture, politics and now finally and most glaring of all – in living out my faith? Is this an organization that we would want to welcome others to join?

Consider parents who want to find a church home in which to raise their children. Will they be drawn to a church that gives so much attention to political and cultural themes instead of Scriptural integrity? Or will they be drawn to a family of believers more concerned with teaching and maintaining sound Biblical principles if and when that stand is in opposition to the world around them? Would people with or without children be drawn to a family of believers that loves and supports each other and stands ready even with little notice to respond to a crisis?

I don’t want to be different for the sake of being different, but my friends we are called by God to be different! The debt of love we owe to God for His undying unconditional love and the sacrifice of His only Son for us can never be repaid no matter how good we try to be. The least we can do is to live out our redeemed lives in love
and obedience to Him! That may be the least we can do, but it is also enough. With God’s help, we can be the light that shines into the dark world around us and leads others through the deceptions of this world into the light and love of God.

That kind of witness is what we have to lose.

What are you looking for?

What do we have to lose? Part One of Two

question mark

The question has been posed:  What mission could we not do by staying in the PC (USA)?

In other words, how will the General Assembly of the PC (USA)’s decisions change what you do as a church? Does remaining affiliated with PC (USA) hurt your mission and ministry? How does it affect you and the life of your church on a day to day basis?

Excellent questions! Makes some stop and say “Hum, I should probably give that some thought.”That is what such questions are designed to do, make one stop and think through the answer and form an intelligent reply.

So here’s my stab at a response. It may not be the most intelligent, but it has been a long prayerful and thought-full process.

First I need to say that our church will continue to support missions both locally and internationally no matter our denominational affiliation. Leaving the PC (USA) does not limit our options; in fact it may provide an opportunity to broaden them. Have you seen the number of mission organizations that need help? Google is a good tool to find them. And if you have a favorite PC (USA) endorsed mission organization such as PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Relief) or MBF (Medical Benevolence Foundation) you can keep right on supporting them in any way you see fit. Habitat for Humanity will still look up to see various members of our congregation coming out to help, local underserved young people will still get school supplies, babies will get baby kits, neighborhood children will still get summer lunches, VBS and/or summer camp opportunities, and moms in underdeveloped countries will still receive mosquito netting to prevent malaria. I could go on, but you get the idea.

So what do we have to lose by remaining affiliated with PC (USA)? We lose integrity. We lose credibility with the world around us.  We may even lose souls for Christ. We lose direction by participating with a denomination that no longer supports Biblical truths but sways and bends with the cultural and political winds that blow. We lose the close fellowship of an obedient walk with Christ.  We lose things I haven’t even thought of yet.

We…lose…ourselves.

More tomorrow…