Monday, May 30, 2011

As a denomination we hate the Jews? Or will we correct the IPMN?

Sometimes one hopes that if they leave truth beside a stony path someone might trip over it instead of the stones. There would be healing in the tripping rather than bruises. Evil is in the world and we are afraid to acknowledge that it is connected to our own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

We have returned to the beginnings of the early twentieth century and its bent towards Jew hating, which in the end is a bent towards hating Jesus who came as a blessing from the Jews. God chose them as a people who would bless the world with a redeemer. But we have chosen as a denomination to side with those who want to demean and hurt the Jewish people.

And yes, once again I am writing about the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PC (U.S.A.), and James Wall, former editor of Christian Century and a leading anti-Semite of this present century. The FaceBook page of the IPMN has linked to one of Wall’s articles and he in his typical fashion has used writers who belong to the anti-Semitic Veterans Today to make his points.

In his article, Congress Becomes a Mob of Mindless, Cheering Sycophants, Wall uses writer Franklin Lamb’s analysis posted at My Catbird Seat. Both Lamb and My Catbird Seat’s owner, Debbie Menon are on staff for Veterans Today. Lamb as an International Correspondent, Menon as Middle East Issues editor.

On just this issue of VT one of their more vile anti-Semites has an article CIA Treachery in Texas »., While Campbell spews all kinds of nonsense, this article is nothing compared to earlier articles where he named Nazi Germany the good guys and in another article wanted to hang Rabbis.

The Southern Poverty Law blog “Hate Watch” has an article about Veterans Today. It is entitled Buyer Beware: Veterans Today and its Anti-Israel Agenda. Are we as a denomination so incompetent at peace making that using radical Jew hating organizations like Veterans Today, and its sister groups and people, James Wall, My Catbird Seat, Intifada Voice of Palestine (linked to by the IPMN several days ago, and is considered an acceptable way of addressing Middle East Issues?

I have to say the truth. If we keep allowing this kind of rhetoric to spew from the pages of the PC (U.S.A) we can no longer claim the Theological Declaration of Barmen as one of our Confessions. As a matter of fact we can no longer claim the text of any of our documents including the Holy Scripture, God’s word.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

For those far away

For Memorial Day and for all of those far from those they love:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Do not fret ...

For almost a year and a half I neglected my garden partly because of writing and renewal work. One of my granddaughters tried gardening here last summer. Because I did not explain the needs of my garden she had some problems with it. For instance my soil is very acid and it doesn’t grow leafy vegetables very well. But throw an overripe strawberry anywhere and you will soon have a strawberry plant.

Many spots are shady in the summer and in those places it is best to grow mostly peas, garlic and onions. All gardens have special needs; they are like people and churches. I am reminded of the first part of Psalms 37 when I think of gardens, people and churches.

Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrong doers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your ways to the Lord, trust also in him, and he will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.

When I think of the words “dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” I think of the call of every Christian. That word cultivate has so many shades of meaning, tend, grow, care, nurture. Faithfulness to Jesus is something we watch over by following him in so many ways. And it is there in the rest of the verses.

Delighting ourselves in him, we read his word, meditate on his great sacrifice for us. Committing our ways to him, we are obedient to his commandments, love each other and lift up those who are needy.

And the righteousness he brings forth in us is his righteousness that is why it comes forth like light. His judgment is for us and gives us noonday light because in him we are made holy. Sinners, yet in Jesus we are loved and forgiven.

This is for the church struggling and confused and for myself.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Banning books, burning books is there a difference?

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) thinks that an article about banning books printed in Israel is a great addition to their Facebook BDS movement links. The article Scotland: Glasgow districts boycott Israeli books is really a glimpse of the past, all the way back to Nazi Germany.

The article begins, “Several districts in southwest Scotland expands boycott on Israeli products, bar stores from carrying English translations of Israeli books.’A place that boycotts books isn't far from a place that burns them,' says Ambassador Ron Prosor.”

The article continues, “Two and a half years ago, shortly after Operation Cast Lead, the West Dunbartonshire Regional Council, located west of Glasgow, approved a bill that called to boycott goods produced in Israel.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sacramento Presbytery, Synod of the Pacific and trust-Update

Trust will always be one of the greatest, rarest, and happiest blessings of our life in community, though it can emerge only on the dark background of a necessary mistrust. We have learnt never to trust a scoundrel an inch, but to give ourselves to the trustworthy without reserve.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

Letters & Papers From Prison

Saturday, May 21, 2011, was the Sacramento Presbytery meeting in a small town, McCloud, in the beautiful Shasta Mountain area of California. The sermon, about the centrality of Jesus Christ, the hymn, In Christ Alone, and the reading of that part of the Declaration of Barmen which states that “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death,” were comforts for what would follow.

The Synod of the Pacific having taken over the cases against Roseville and Fair Oaks Church’s from the Sacramento presbytery had extracted 810, 000 from Roseville and 1.1million from Fair Oaks. The money was then given to Sacramento Presbytery. My pastor, Rev. Don Baird sent a motion to the Presbytery which we were to vote on at the meeting. The motion asked the Presbytery to “Receive from the Roseville Presbyterian Church their original gift of $160, 000 and Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church their original gift of 250, 000, gifts they offered and we accepted in 2007, and return all additional amounts they may have already sent to the Sacramento Presbytery as a result of their negotiations with the Synod of the Pacific as a gesture of our charity and oneness in Christ.”

Eight reasons were listed as to why the money should be returned. One of them was “Because Fair Oaks Presbyterian and Roseville Presbyterian churches have been in our community for over 50 years and we look forward to sharing ecumenical ministry with them each for many more years to come.”

An important technical reason was because: “the Sacramento Presbytery has the authority of trusteeship of all the congregational properties (G-8.0601) and responsibility for ecumenical relations within its boundaries (G-15.0101, .0102, .0103; 10.0102q; 11.0103u)”

A commissioner who has been a past Moderator of our Presbytery, sent an inquiry about the motion, without any Evangelical knowing, to a lawyer, Stephen L. Taber, who not only works for Meyers/Nave but is also connected, by profession to the Covenant Network. The lawyer's return letter was sandwiched in between a motion to table the first motion. I did not see it until just today because both were passed out by the lady during the second motion.

On the back of the motion to table and the letter from Taber, was a copied article from The Layman, which they had taken from the Sacramento Bee. It was about Fair Oaks accomplishment of raising the1.1 million to pay to the Synod. One can only suppose that the article was there to suggest that any church that can raise money that fast should not have their money returned to them. The second motion passed 41 to 38.

The worst part of this debate was a letter from the Synod of the Pacific read to the Presbytery. I will put that next, but what most of the commissioners do not know is that the Stated Clerk of the Synod sent this message to our Stated Clerk: (I am posting it as it appears in what was sent to me)

“Dear Carolyn,
Attached please find a letter from the Synod Coordinating=Council to the
Commissioners of your Sacramento Presbytery. Please r=ad prior to the vote on
the motion mentioned in the letter.
Thank you =or your assistance in this matter.
And please phone me when you receive =his, since you and I have had trouble with
our email in the past!
Ble=sings to you and the commissioners as you deliberate on the business at ha=d
this Saturday!
Rev. Wendy G. Warner
Stated Clerk
Syn=d of the Pacific”

Here is the letter from the Synod:
To the Presbytery of Sacramento
C/o Carolyn Knight, Stated Clerk

Dear Commissioners to the Sacramento Presbytery meeting of May 21, 2011,
It has come to the attention of the Coordinating Council of the Synod of the Pacific that there is a motion on your Presbytery docket stating:
That the Sacramento Presbytery receive from the Roseville Presbyterian Church their original gift of 160, 000 and Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church their original gift of 250, 000, gifts they offered and we accepted in 2007, and return all additional amounts they may have already sent to the Sacramento Presbytery as a result of their negotiations with the Synod of the Pacific as a gesture of our charity and oneness in Christ.

While we certainly encourage gestures of “charity and oneness in Christ”, this particular gesture, hence this motion, can only be seen as an attempted irregularity.

First, the motion quoted above does not mention the repayment of the legal costs incurred by the Presbytery and the Synod in the pursuit of settlement of the civil cases and the negotiations precipated by the Fair Oaks and Roseville churches in the filing of their civil cases. Over 200, 000 has been spent by these two governing bodies seeking resolution to these cases, and the governing bodies must be repaid.

Secondly, the Presbytery of Sacramento VOTED to request that the Synod assume original jurisdiction over these two cases, and the Synod VOTED to accept that request. These two actions were never rescinded by either body and are thus still in effect.

Finally, Chapter VII of the Book of Order states clearly that “all property by or for a particular church, a presbytery … is held in trust nevertheless for the use and benefit of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)” G-8.0201. Since both churches requested of the Presbytery of Sacramento that they be dismissed to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which is a denomination which has no relationship with the PC (U.S.A.), and both churches are in some stage of effecting that dismissal, it is clear that any monies given to either church would not benefit the PC (U.S.A.). Such a ‘gift’ which would come from property that is limited to the use and benefit of the PC (U.S.A.) and therefore would violate the provision of the Book of Order.

Dear friends in the Sacramento Presbytery, we are keenly aware that these are difficult days in the life of our denomination. We pray, as our brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may find our way together along the path which is before us. “(Bold mine, capitalized lettering of voted authors.)

This is signed Coordinating Council of the Synod of the Pacific by the Synod Executive, Rob Brink and by the Synod Stated Clerk Wendy Warner.

Here are some answers to the letter.

1. The legal fees have already been paid they are not a part of the money that is being written about in the first motion.

2. “From the time we asked that the synod appoint an Administrative Commission to deal with this issue, the synod decided to move forward without appointing an Administrative Commission and to deal with the issue as they deemed necessary. “Once the agreements and payments by the two churches [were made it] terminated the synods authority as to our original request.” (known source)

3. The PCUSA is in communion with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church according to the Book of OrderG-15.0201 (2).
“a. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is in full communion with those churches so recognized by ecumenical agreements approved by the General assembly.
b. The General Assembly is in correspondence with the highest governing body:
(2) of those churches that are members of the ecumenical bodies in which the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) holds membership”

Both the PC (U.S.A.) and the EPC belong to the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

One of the arguments for tabling the first motion was because God has given this to us as a gift, and although it may be hard we should receive it.

In the tabling motion it states that such money could be used for-“new church development, mission work, a viable resource center, specialized ministries (as Latino or other ethnic ministries.)”

Will our Lord honor the use of what is considered by some blood money for his work? Will he even see it as his work?

When all of the debate was over, and we were on to other issues, one very quiet pastor who rarely speaks took the floor to talk about a well known older pastor who had died and had been given a memorial service by the speaking pastor’s church. He mentioned that his church had been too small to hold the 500 people who came. But, he said, Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church generously allowed them to use their Church.

Update-"The two churches paid the total cost of all legal fees incurred by the Presbytery and Synod. The Sacramento Presbytery received $203,550.02."

Letter on file.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Words: beautiful or boring?

In a denomination which calls for diversity and the use of the imagination in ministry, it is sad that one hears little that lifts up the beautifulness of language. Just a few days ago I wrote about Sylvia Thorson-Smith writing and speaking on how patriarchy was the cause of most social ills. Her words included, “patriarchal sex bolsters patriarchal injustice. Compulsory heterosexuality – the social mandate that everyone be heterosexual – also requires that all men dominate all women, and the world. Lesbian, gay, …”

Almost a year ago, before General Assembly in June of 2010, I wrote about the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns placing their recommendations on all overtures that would have opened the Book of Order to include same gender marriage. They wrote:
The practice of excluding people who are gay and lesbian from marriage has its roots in the persistence of patriarchal standards for the lives of women and men. The notion that men and maleness is superior dictates that men and women behave in particular ways that abide by the rules their sex dictates. For this reason, same-gender loving women and men are perceived as a direct threat to the norms that patriarchy lays out, as they, in their loving, challenge the models of prescribed masculinity and femininity that patriarchy determines. Gay men are a threat as they are perceived as “too feminine,” and lesbian women are perceived as “too masculine.
I thought of how dead some words become when they are anchored in cultural and sociological narcissism. How empty of life words become when they come with the name Christian but do not lift up Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Words that defy the light of Scripture become idols and much like stone or wooden idols they have no wisdom or meaning. They are just lies and lies that sound and look like other lies- they are all boring, unimaginative and yes, even deadly.

When I first began writing of Thorson-Smith’s thoughts about patriarchy and LGBT ordination I kept turning to a small book of poetry that I love. I know why now. I was searching past the boring words of radical feminism.

The writer, Irina Ratushinskaya, who at one time was an activist in Russia, an Orthodox Christian and also a poet, spent seven years in prison for her poetry. Her words are beautiful; they do not ring with idol words but with reality. The book of poetry I am reading says of Ratushinskaya and her prison poems, “She copied her poems in a tiny hand onto strips of paper which were hidden and then smuggled out of the camp.”

‘We have learned’

We have learned, indeed, to throw time into tins
And have stirred in the condensed night at all times.
This century grows ever darker, and the next will not come soon,
To wipe clean the names off yesterday’s prison wall.

We loaded it with the voices of departing friends,
With the names of unborn children-for a new wall.
We equipped it so lovingly, but we ourselves
Do not row in it, we are not even allowed on board.

But covering the measured-out load with coarse matting
We still manage to broadcast the seed.
Our hands are torn but we still pluck out the dragon’s
Teeth from the crops, which are fated to stand after us.

These are words that are full of meaning, suffering and speak of preservation as well as despair. The unborn children, whose names the women prisoners write on the wall, will never come because the author and the other women after suffering extreme cold will not be able to conceive children. Hopefully, we who love Jesus and are moved by the Holy Spirit would not write ‘patriarchy’ on any wall or paper but instead passionate beautiful words that flow from faithfulness. Words that sing because the heart, the mind, the hand know Christ.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Loving Jesus and justice?

As I wrote the posting on patriarchy I started thinking about true activist. By that I mean people who care deeply about social issues that have to do with secular society but are nonetheless biblical. For example people like William Wilberforce who fought so long in Britain against slavery and the slave trade.

But mostly I was thinking of women since I was writing about radical feminist’s attempts to understand ethics by turning biblical mandates on their head. I wrote about Feminist’s ethics and biblical principles for my Master Thesis and so that holds some interest for me.[1]

One of the women I looked at in my thesis was Josephine Butler (1828-1907). She worked for reforms to aide prostitutes who were legally misused. Her work involved the fight against what was at the time called white slavery as it existed in England and then in several other countries. Another person who did some of the same work, an American doctor, who ministered in China, Katharine Bushnell (1856-1946), wrote Bible Studies for women. And both of these women were devout Christians who loved Jesus.

A more recent activist and historian, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, started the first women’s study department in a university, at Emory. Fox-Genoese’s conversion flowed from her concerns over abortion and the rise of those promoting euthanasia. Although Sylvia Thorson-Smith, who I wrote about in my last posting, referenced her in the book Body and Soul, Fox-Genovese was ignored and distained because of her stand against abortion and because of a book she wrote, Feminism is not the Story of My Life.

In Fox-Genoese’s statement about her conversion she wrote, “A Christian, by definition, is one who accepts Jesus Christ as his personal savior and, no less important, as Lord. Everything depends upon belief. “Her story can be read at First Things.

All of these women stood up in some way for the oppressed. One does not need to throw away the word of God in order to care about others. And a plus is that holding on to God’s unchanging words places the activist on a solid foundation; their roads will be straight, bordered by both the truth of God and the justice of God.

[1] The first chapter of my thesis can be read here, “Early Feminism: Equality, Ethical Theory and Religion.”

About patriarchy or about obeying the word of God?

Sylvia Thorson-Smith, a radical feminist and one of the writers of the rejected 1991 GA report, “Keeping Body and Soul Together” was also one of two editors of the book, Body and Soul: Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love. I wrote about the book at Amendment 10-A & the monstrosity that is coming .

Thorson-Smith made a statement to the press concerning the adoption of 10-A. The statement is posted at Presbyterian Voices for Justice. Part of Thorson-Smith’s statement is:
Twenty years ago, the Presbyterian Church soundly rejected a report I helped write -- that said that patriarchal sex bolsters patriarchal injustice. Compulsory heterosexuality – the social mandate that everyone be heterosexual – also requires that all men dominate all women, and the world. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons undermine the fundamental structures of domination because they proudly refuse to conform to these traditional norms.
The above statement is a mere summery of a larger statement in the book Body and Soul, where in the chapter “Becoming Possessed: Toward Sexual health and Well-Being,” she writes:
Evidence of the powerful grip that patriarchy and its sanctioned inequalities have on human sexuality is even more fully understood, I believe, in the decade since the report’s [Keeping Body and Soul Together] distribution. Patriarchy distorts sexuality and mitigates against sexual health, not only by structuring relations of gender inequality and social control, but by interlocking them with complex patterns of racism, heterosexism, ecological destruction, economic hierarchies, and myriad practices involving power, privilege, and injustice. We have only just begun to break the silence on all of the hierarchical orderings that prevent us from being fully “possessed” by sexual well-being.
One can expect a return to the pushing of radical feminist theologies with the passing of 10-A since most radical feminists subsume all social issues and problems under the heading ‘patriarchy.’ It is clear with these two quotes that the authority of scripture simply melts away before the need to overcome perceived oppression. What God’s word says about any social issue is ignored because the Bible, according to many radical feminists, is tainted with patriarchy and therefore tainted with heterosexism. So those who see victory will put up their banners and forge ahead.

But as I read the quotes and thought of the disregard for God’s word, which has nothing to do with so called, patriarchy, I thought of other women who have stood boldly for Christ in faithfulness and ministry.

Thorson-Smith mentions one such woman in the book Body and Soul. She writes about the beginnings of the committee that wrote the report “Keeping Body and Soul Together.” “We had hardly begun to delineate our task when two conservative members, Diogenes Allen of Princeton Theological Seminary and Roberta Hestenes of Eastern College, challenged the central objective of the committee and resigned in protest over its composition.” (5)

No woman who follows and loves Jesus will use the excuse of patriarchy to avoid being faithful to the Lord of the church. There are men who abuse, hurt and control women. There are women who abuse, hurt and control others, sometimes even men. That is shameful and certainly sin. It should be rebuked, corrected and censored by the church. And it must be corrected by secular society including imprisonment where crimes are committed. But that has nothing at all to do with obeying the word of God and the lord of the church.

The journey of God’s people, including women, often calls for courage. But in the biblical account as well as the history of Christianity one does not find women saints laying, with blame, all of their trials at the feet of men. The battle is against the flesh, our own, and the powers of darkness. The joy is obeying and following the Lord of the church.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

For you have need of endurance ...

This posting could have been about sexual sin, about abortion or even the PC(U.S.A)’s connection to organizations which lie and hate Jews. (That was what I first started to write about.) But I am watching in many areas the sickening downward spiral of the denomination. Unable to hold on to biblical ethics which include biblical sexual standards and respect for God’s gift of life, the denomination cares little about its connections to radical anti-Semitic groups who push multiple conspiracy theories. This is just one more rung on the downward fall. It is useless to write about it. God has allowed the demonic to trouble our waters.

This Sunday I taught the Hebrews class for one of our pastors. I was struck by Hebrews 10: 30. From verse 26 to 31 the author is writing about God’s judgment on apostates, those who reject Christ, count him as worth nothing, see the blood of Christ as unclean and refuse the grace of the Holy Spirit so that they can keep on in their habitual sin.

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. (26-27)

Verse thirty combines some verses from the Song of Moses which he sang before his death. “Vengeance is mine” and “The Lord will Judge his people.” The first part is about the enemies of the Church, but the second part is about God’s judgment within the Church. (Still enemies I am afraid.)

Judgment within the Church is God’s, not ours. It is not pleasant and yet it is reassuring. It happens when the church tolerates everything and brings about a separation that is out of everyone’s control. It is God’s work alone. Because God is always involved, he does not leave us alone. God redeems us, forgives us, transforms us, but he does judge those who misuse his gift and reject the eternal Son.

The scripture text from verse 26 to the end of the chapter was a startling text to be handed for study after the painful arrogant decision by a majority of the members of the PCUSA. The text not only covers God’s reactions to apostates [1], but the author also reminds the readers that there was a time when they stood firm in the midst of abuse, loss of property and even prison. He commends them because they were faithful to Christ and faithful to each other.

And he reminds the readers of the promise of Christ’s return and the faith God has given. The readers are reminded of their earlier love of Christ, they endured because of him. They are reminded of a better possession-Jesus.

[1]I am not suggesting that all of those who voted for 10-A are apostate. I am suggesting that a small group are rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ, are stomping on his grace which transforms and are led by some who have rejected everything. But God knows who and I do not. I just have confidence that it is in His hands.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life ...

The name of Christ Jesus is full of God’s glory. In him all the attributes of God dwell, including love, holiness, goodness, kindness, forgiveness, justice and yes wrath against sin and evil.

I have been writing on Philippians 3 & 4, this morning as a read from a book I read many years ago, Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand, I was reminded of Philippians 2:8-11. I was also reminded of the beginning of the new wording in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Book of Order which we have just adopted. That is, “standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000).

That name above all names calls the unredeemed to salvation and the redeemed to obedience. And Paul writes that “every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Phil. 210-11).

The book I am rereading is about Wurmbrand’s experiences in Romania after the Russians invaded the country toward the end of World War II. He writes of his prison experiences but he also writes of his witness to the Russians who had invaded his country. He wrote that to preach to the Russians was heaven on earth because they had "such thirsty souls."

Wurmbrand's small book is full of wonderful tales of his ministry. It was reading one of those stories which reminded me that it is no small thing that we are called to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I will quote from the book:
Once I saw a Russian lady officer on the street. I approached her and apologized, “I know that it is impolite to approach an unknown lady on the street, but I am a pastor and my intentions are earnest. I wish to speak to you about Christ.”

She asked me, “Do you love Jesus?” I said, “Yes! With all of my heart.” She fell into my arms and kissed me again and again. It was a very embarrassing situation for a pastor, so I kissed her back, hoping people would think we were relatives. She exclaimed to me, “I love Christ too!” I took her to our home and discovered to my amazement that she knew nothing about Christ—absolutely nothing—except the name. And yet she loved Him. She did not know that He is the Savior, nor what salvation means. She did not know where and how He lived and died. She did not know his teachings, His life or ministry. She was for me a psychological curiosity: how can you love someone if you know only his name?

When I inquired, she explained, “as a child, I was taught to read by pictures. For an ‘a’ there was an apple, for ‘b’ there was a bell, for ‘c’ a cat, and so on.

“When I went to high school, I was taught it was my holy duty to defend the communist fatherland. I was taught about communist morals. But I did not know what a ‘holy duty’ or a ‘moral’ looked like. I needed a picture for these. Now, I knew that our forefathers had a picture for everything beautiful, praiseworthy, and truthful in life. My grandmother always bowed before this picture, saying that it was the picture of one called Cristes (Christ). And I loved this name by itself. This name became so real to me! Just to say this name gave me such joy.”
Wurmbrand goes on to remind the reader of Philippians 2:10 and to say that the Russian lady received Christ as savior that day.

When we submit to Jesus as Lord, we submit to one who truly names what is beauty, praiseworthy and true. We cannot cling to sin, including sexual sin, and at the same time cling to Jesus. The truths of Scripture as well as our Confessions cannot be flaunted when we sincerely claim and submit to Jesus Christ as our Lord. We have solid ground to stand on in our churches, presbyteries and other high offices. There are no words in our Book of Order which say the word of God or the Confessions are wrong or irrelevant. If Jesus Christ is Lord we will submit. And if we submit we will obey.

---at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Looking toward the future through the words of Philippians 3 & 4 final

In a very real way, we, the orthodox have been set free to truly follow Christ:

Finally, brethren whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise , dwell on these things.

This is my final posting on Philippians and thoughts about the future regarding the orthodox in the PCUSA as the denomination has just now moved into greater disobedience. After looking at 4:8-9 I will summarize my thoughts about the future.

In verse eight Paul gives a list of virtues that Christians should meditate on. Several modern commentators point out that the list resembles ancient pagan lists of virtues, yet all of the virtues have to do with biblical virtue. Ralph Martin explains that all of them can be found in the Greek Old Testament.

But there is something far deeper than a set of virtues here. All that we as Christians know of each virtue flows out of God’s revelation of himself in Holy Scripture. We know from Psalms that the foundation of God's throne, his authority, is righteousness and justice. (See Psalm 89 & 97) Psalm 89 adds that loving kindness and truth go before God. Likewise, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. (John 14:16-17)

In Christ we are inhabited by the Holy Spirit and united to our Lord. Our very life, as believers, is connected to the God who reveals all of the virtues. Therefore, reading, meditating on Scripture and then walking in the light of the lamp that is God’s word is the right order for Christian faithfulness.

With verse nine Paul sets his own life and words as an example. “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” All Christians who come to faith after the closing of the canon of Scripture, who read Paul, can take this as an exhortation to follow Scripture, not just Paul but all apostolic teaching.

Additionally, as others of the faith have followed Christ and been faithful to Scriptures they too become examples of those we may follow, but always as they allow Scripture to speak to them and shape them.

But the beginning of the future occurred with the passing of amendment 10-A this afternoon. (5/10/11) And so it seems to me, In a very real way, we, the orthodox have been set free to truly follow Christ. What I mean by that is that while others are constraining themselves with rules that cover inclusivity, one of the definitions being “including many things or everything,” the orthodox are free to include nothing but what is in Jesus Christ.

What is true? The ultimate truth is the living Word of God and the written word of God. We are free to ignore what is not true or truthful. We do not have to agree that sin is not sin. In Jesus Christ we are freed from listening to lies. In fact, we are called to expose lies. (Eph 5:11)

What is honorable? Martin gives several definitions of this word from the text including elevated or dignified. We are free, to uphold the honorableness of marriage between a man and a woman and to lift up the dignified position of the single person who lives in chastity. Others are burdened with all kinds of crass positions on sex; they are not free to offer the freedom that is in Christ. They now, if in agreement with the majority, can only offer bondage. We are free to open our hearts and mouths with a holy proclamation that God has given us. We can call the burdened sinner, which includes ourselves, to the freedom of forgiveness and transformation.

What is pure? The innocent Lamb of God is pure and we are hid in him. In his righteousness we are freed from establishing our own righteousness and are now in a place where we know only the purity of Jesus Christ- all else is foreign and unnecessary baggage. While many must continually sink further and further downward in their redefinition of purity we are held in Christ - we need not descend into cultural decadence but stand on the established ground of Christ’s unchanging word.

What is of good repute? The holy universal Church is of good repute and no one can remove us from Christ’s Church. We are free as forgiven sinners to have sweet fellowship without hindrance. We are free to establish our reputation as those who love Jesus and follow him no matter how offensive we might seem to the prevailing culture.

What is excellent and worthy of praise? Martin gives one definition of excellence which is “’anything which calls down the approval of God’.” We are free to ignore the opinions of others about ourselves and seek to please only God-for in that seeking we will follow his word and strive to do his will.

Today, 5/10/11, with the passage of 10-A the One who suffered on the cross for the sins of humanity has drawn some in the PCUSA into the fellowship of his suffering which is a place of amazing freedom and joy.

The video about welcoming from Believe Out Loud-a false picture

This is not the post I promised- I am still writing on Philippians and the future of the orthodox in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). But this posting is not unrelated. The future for those of us who are orthodox, reformed and evangelical with be underlined with such perverse thoughts as found in the videos former PCUSA moderator, Bruce Reyes-Chow, has written about on his blog. His posting is My Mixed Reaction to the New Believe Out Loud Video.

The video from “Believe Out Loud” is here:

Reyes-Chow is objecting to the video because it makes the pastor more welcoming than the congregation. But my point and problem has nothing to do with that. Those of us who have family and friends who are LGBT and love and care about them as Christians know this is not a true picture at all. While we believe the practice of same gender sex is sin, we would gladly welcome them to church, and we would never put a book down beside us to keep any one from sitting beside us. The video is a false statement about Christians who do not believe that same gender sex is biblical.

But in other videos that Reyes-Chow posted, and likes, everyone who is Evangelical and conservative is simply mixed together with hate groups, as though all of our thoughts and attitudes are the same. They are not.

So this is part of the future for the orthodox members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Earlier in recent postings I wrote of Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians as they struggled against the culture of their day. Like our day that church in at least their region was afflicted with those (many) whose god was their belly (koilia, used of sexual organs as in 1Cor. 6:13, Bruce)[1] and who, because of this, were enemies of the cross of Christ. (Philippians 3:18-19)

The videos do speak of grace. However, it is cheap grace. God, instead, calls the church to costly grace. The grace that is given because of Jesus’ death on the cross is grace bought with blood. Such grace cost Jesus suffering and death. Christ calls us into the fellowship of his suffering.

We are called in Christ to care about, love, pray for, and proclaim the gift of forgiveness to the unrepentant sinner in our midst. We are called to proclaim that God changes and transforms. We are called as Paul puts it to “stand firm,” remembering that although we enter into the sufferings of Christ we also are given his presence and the promise that at his return we will be totally conformed to be like him (Philippians 3:20-21).

Those called to stay in the PCUSA must wear armor. Its description can be found in Eph. 6:10-18.

A good article that really clarifies how one can be loving to such a child as is in the video, one with same sex parents, can be found at Touchstone archives. The article is Distant Neighbors.

[1] See Ralph P. Martin, Philippians, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)

Friday, May 6, 2011

New York, New York-God's blessings go with you

This weekend, Sunday evening, my husband and the rest of the family except for those in Georgia are throwing a party. It’s a happy party but it is also sad. Our granddaughter, Melissa and her husband Spencer, who have lived in our down stairs apartment, with their two girls Molly and Adele, for over a year, are traveling to New York.

They are exploring the possibilities of acting, dancing, and art in one of the more important cities where all such crafts exist. Spencer is the actor/dancer who has performed in Sacramento and has already been accepted into an excellent dance school. Melissa is the artist who has hung and placed her beautiful pictures in Sacramento.

They have already picked out a great Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) but will undoubtedly be at Redeemer now and then. You can read about their travels and New York adventures here at A Freeform Life, Melissa’s new blog.

The sad part is we have grown so use to having Molly upstairs listening to us read, playing with the toys and saying “Nooo!” whenever we ask her a silly question (that is said sweetly not loudly) that we can hardly stand the thought of her going. And Adele is now smiling and cooing and almost crawling- Oh well, New York I think we may see you once in awhile.

And here is a picture of my daughter “Grandma Jennifer” holding Molly (with the curls) and Luna (with the red hair). Luna will now be living down stairs with her mom and dad, Liz and Frankie. So God’s blessings continue. Another great granddaughter is on her way.

So here is a song by a friend and his band to say goodby:

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Looking toward the future through the words of Philippians 3 & 4 #4

The fourth chapter of Philippians begins with a strong insistence to “stand firm.” From a negative point of view, because you are in the midst of a decadent society, because you are among others in a religious community who despise the cross and worship their own sexuality, do not follow them, “stand firm.” But better still from the positive side, because you are called into a deeper fellowship, because you are called into his sufferings, because you are called to participate in Christ’s death and resurrection, because Christ will return, “stand firm.”

Much of what follows consists of what it means to live, in Christ, while living in hard circumstances. Here there is concern about the temptations Christians constantly struggle against, as well as their need to be completely dependent on the Lord. Temptation in this particular text has a very post-modern ring to it- its easier to give in; the cross is hard.

Paul addresses a problem which is seemingly an aside but not really. Two faithful workers are in disagreement. Paul calls on leaders in the church to help them and he urges the women to “live in harmony” in the Lord. And that phrase “in the Lord” is important. John Calvin writes, “We must take notice, however, that, whenever he speaks of agreement, he adds also the bond of it—in the Lord. For every combination will inevitably be accursed, if apart from the Lord, and, on the other hand, nothing is so disjoined, but that it ought to be reunited in Christ.”

Unity has failed in the PCUSA because too much that is recommended is not in Christ, and too many are asking for agreement over issues that deny Christ and his word. Paul is undoubtedly addressing the kind of disagreement that he and Barnabas had about taking John Mark on another missionary journey. (Acts 15:36-40)

Theirs was the kind of disagreement that could and does hurt the church but it was not about essentials of the faith such as Christology or even Christian morality. It was the kind of disagreement where eventually there would be agreement. (2 timothy 4:11) Compromise between the two people would not lead the church into apostasy. In the midst of moral divisiveness it is important to make that distinction.

Next is Paul’s beautiful exhortation which flows like a benediction;

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard you and your minds in Christ Jesus.

John Calvin has some interesting thoughts on the above text. His translation of gentle (NASB) is moderate. And he sees Paul encouraging the Philippians to persevere in the midst of hostility without retaliating but notes that because of their gentleness their enemies will become “more emboldened to inflict injuries.” The thought is valid through all ages of the church including this one.

But Paul has an answer, “The Lord is near.” Calvin’s thoughts, “He [Paul] replies, I say, that the Lord is at hand, whose power can overcome their audacity, and whose goodness can conquer their malice. He promises that he will aid us, provided we obey his commandment. Now, who would not rather be protected by the hand of God alone, than have all the resources of the world at his command? Calvin goes on to write about the providence of God. He writes:
… we learn that this [God's providence] is the only remedy for tranquillizing our minds — when we repose unreservedly in his providential care, as knowing that we are not exposed either to the rashness of fortune, or to the caprice of the wicked, but are under the regulation of God’s fatherly care. In fine, the man that is in possession of this truth, that God is present with him, has what he may rest upon with security.
The beautiful end of this particular text is the privilege of believers to lay all their needs before the Lord. And the prayers and promise of God’s peace are both connected to the cross of Christ so that it is a full circle. We come before the Lord with our request with confidence because Jesus opened God’s ears to us on the cross. At the same time we have that peace because we have been reconciled because of the cross of Christ. As Ralph Martin puts it:
In New Testament terms we can only know his peace as we first receive his grace in reconciliation … The peace of God follows directly from peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1) who made that peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20).
So, still again, looking at the text and thinking of the orthodox who reside in the midst of a denomination which is moving further and further into disobedience to her Lord, there is one place of security and safety. That is in Jesus Christ the sufficient one.

In Jesus Christ we are called to prayer, given God’s peace which is a guard against all that would lure us away from the Lord. In Jesus Christ we are called to gentleness in the face of opposition. We are sometimes called to suffering but always to joy with rejoicing in the Lord. And wonderfully called to an expectation of the Lord's return and our resurrection.

In my next and final posting on the future and Philippians I will look at 4:8-9 and then attempt to make some practical suggestions.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An interlude before returning to Philippians

Sunday morning three of my grandchildren were with me in Church. They stayed with us while their parents went to a geography conference in bishop California. The youngest is 10, the oldest 16. They are such great kids. It was fun looking out of my window and seeing two of them setting on the front porch reading.

Sunday morning they all three sat to my left. The one at the end wrote something extra in the friendship book and I almost ruined it when I looked. I thought it was her name listed as going to Fremont, my church, I started to change it to Peace Presbyterian, where she goes, when I noticed the name of the last entry was Jesus Christ our Lord, and underneath for address it said everywhere.

Yes of course he is at Fremont. And then I found out she writes this in the friendship book at Peace also. And yes, Jesus is there too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Looking toward the future through the words of Philippians 3 & 4 #3

In the past two postings, Looking toward the future though the words of Philippians 3& 4 and Looking toward the future through the words of Philippians 3 & 4 #2 the focus is always the believer's relationship and dependence on Jesus Christ. Looking at the text I have tried to stress Paul’s insistence that Christians have no other hope, no other resource, no other sufficiency; Jesus Christ is everything.

Thus, the orthodox in the PCUSA, in the midst of denominational disobedience must possess this identity. They are those who only have confidence in Jesus Christ. Furthermore they are called into a deepening fellowship with Jesus that includes the fellowship of his suffering. They are called to attain the resurrection which means they are being conformed to Christ’s death. God is molding his people, forming them to the image of his Son.

Going on in the text the next few verses simply shouted at me as I prayed about writing this series. That is: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet [the resurrection from the dead and perfection]; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ (13-14).

There is an upward call, a goal for those who are in Jesus Christ. We need to be reminded here that our ultimate goal is not church renewal but as the Larger Catechism puts it, “loving God and enjoying him forever.” We are pressing on toward perfection which only comes in the resurrection and has to do with being remade in the image of our Lord. Nonetheless the believer in the midst of spiritual warfare, which does involves in some cases working for renewal, is on that road toward perfection.

With Paul, we press on. And here the Christian is involved in moral standards. Our righteousness is only Christ’s as we are united by the Holy Spirit to the resurrected Lord. And yet in the midst of God’s work of conforming believers to be like the eternal Son, there is a battle against sin. And here Paul sets himself as an example to follow. He writes, “Join in following my example. And observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” This is for us an apostolic witness to follow scripture.

And then Paul calls for discernment. He writes:

“For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite [belly], and whose glory is their shame.”

Scholar Ralph Martin believes those who Paul calls enemies of the cross of Christ” are church members who are attempting to use grace as a means of living a habitual sinful life. They are antinomians. Martin seeing such false teachers as those who would destroy both Paul’s emphasis on grace and his call for biblical moral standards writes:
If such ideas [that the body and morality doesn’t matter if one is redeemed] are here condemned it is easy to fit in the references to the enemies of the cross … their god is their stomach (koilia, used of sexual organs as in 1Cor. 6:13, Bruce), their glory is in their shame (i.e. immoral practices), their mind is on earthly things (i.e. sensual pursuits).
So here is a contemporary situation. And Paul’s command, in the face of a heretical movement that has divorced morality from grace, is to follow his example as he lays aside the past and presses toward a deeper relationship with Christ that includes fellowship with the sufferings of Christ. But Paul writes encouragement.

Paul reminds the reader that unlike those who are only mindful of earthly things (sensual pursuits) their citizenship is in heaven from where Jesus will return. He will transform their earthly bodies so that they conform to the body of Jesus’ glory. This is an amazing contrast. The heretical group seeks sinful bodily pleasure that can only end in judgment. The faithful Philippians seek conformity to the Lord sharing in his sufferings but end reflecting the glory of Christ.

There is one more thing to consider. Paul, when he writes of those who have made their sexuality their god, weeps as he writes. He has a desperate compassion for those who are so destructive to the church. However he undoubtedly weeps for the church they are destroying. And it must always be so. A continued future in a disobedient denomination includes weeping for the disobedient, refusing to acknowledge the disobedient in their disobedience and encouraging one another with the promises of Christ. It includes following the apostolic witness of the scriptures and a suffering that conforms to Christ’s suffering. It is and will be a deepening fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

I will write on chapter four with my next posting.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Looking toward the future through the words of Philippians 3 & 4 #2

Looking back over years of expecting that God would add to faithfulness a renewal and a steady building up of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), it might now seem laughable. What was all the hard labour about? Philippians 3:7-11 speaks to such feelings and allows faithfulness to find its proper place in Christ Jesus.

But whatever things were gain to me those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering , being conformed to his death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:7-11)

The apostle Paul, in this text, is not simply counting his ethnicity, religion and personal morality as loss, but all things. No other good or gain is any longer worth its privileges. As Ralph P. Martin in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries puts it:
The vigorous language and the widened scope of the apostle’s confession support Heinzelmann’s view that Paul has in mind here, not so much the decision of many years before at his conversion, but his ever present choice against a recurring temptation to rely on anything apart from Christ. So the tense passes from the perfect to the present. In the scales of his choice of privileges he could claim as a Jew (vv.5-7) and as a Christian (v.8) were offset by inestimable gain. … Knowing Christ Jesus my Lord is not only superior to the privileges of Judaism and ‘religion’: it excels them to such a degree, and so far outstrips them, that it must be considered in a class apart.
So faithfulness is all about knowing Jesus. And often while we go about our steady walk of doing the will of God, Jesus’ simply draws us into a closer, deeper relationship with him. His will sometimes seems like failure, but instead it is moving the faithful into a position they might not have gained otherwise, a position that is filled with a greater relationship. Our gain, as Paul writes of himself, is knowing Christ Jesus “and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death that we might attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

So breaking that into sections what does it mean to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. What does it mean to know Christ in the fellowship of his sufferings? What does it mean to be conformed to his death that we might attain the resurrection? And what does all of that have to do with a faithfulness which is seemingly lost in a disobedient denomination. Where does losing all place faithful believers in the midst of a decadent culture and within a denomination striving mightily to conform to that culture?

John Calvin gives one of the clearest understandings of what it means to know Christ and the power of his resurrection; it means not just to know with our mind but to experience all that Christ has given us because of his death and resurrection. “Christ therefore is rightly known, when we feel how powerful his death and resurrection are, and how efficacious they are in us. Now all things are there furnished to us — expiation and destruction of sin, freedom from condemnation, satisfaction, victory over death, the attainment of righteousness, and the hope of a blessed immortality.” All of these the believer knows most clearly in the midst of defeat while acknowledging Christ’s sufficiency.

But this leads to that other knowing which is also experienced, that is the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. Calvin here speaks of our need to die before we live and adds that this is also why resurrection is placed in the text. Knowing Christ in his sufferings occurs as we renounce sin and proclaim Christ. Laying aside both our righteousness and our sin we proclaim Christ; not a welcomed calling in either culture or denomination. But Christ has called us into the privilege of knowing his sufferings. So laying aside privilege we are privileged with the fellowship of Christ’s suffering.

So, in the place we have been set, we must let go of all gain to grow in our knowledge of Christ. Jesus spoke of the joy that was set before him-we also must speak of and know that Joy.

William Hendriksen in his Commentary gives some very practical advice on knowing Christ. “One gains such experiential knowledge by wide-awake attendance at public worship and proper use of the sacraments (Heb. 10:25; cf. Matt. 18:20, 28:19; Luke 22:14-20; 1Cor. 11:17-24); by showing kindness to all, practicing the forgiving spirit, above all love; by learning to be thankful; by studying the Word of Christ both devotionally and exegetically so that it dwells in the heart; by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the glory of God, and continuing steadfastly in prayer and thus by redeeming the time as a witness of Christ to all men. (Col. 3:12-17; 4:2-6).

God, for the orthodox, those longing for renewal and reformation, has opened up a future of knowing Christ more deeply, of sharing with him what we have not shared, suffering, and of still proclaiming faithfully, Jesus Christ, our living resurrected Lord.