The cross is folly to those who are perishing, and the power of God to those who are being saved (1 Cor.1:18); it is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks, but to Jewish and Greek believers in Christ it is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor.1:23-24). In the Gentile world of Athens, the proclamation of the resurrection of Christ led to some mocking, some inquiring, and some believing (Acts 17:32-34). The gospel as a whole is a matter of death to death for those who are perishing, and life to life for those who are regenerated by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor.2:15-16).
It is a startling and counter-intuitive thought that Christ Jesus came into the world to usher in hostility and trouble and controversy. Surely we have enough of that already. Yet He tells us clearly that we are not to think that He came to bring peace on earth, but, no, He came to bring division (Luke 12:51). Within the one family there will be divisions – father against son; mother against daughter; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law (Luke 12:52-53). The household will not always be the refuge of peace and harmony that we all desire.
What, then, about all those ‘peace’ verses? ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him’ (Prov.16:7). We are not to aim to be cantankerous and hard to get on with: ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all’ (Rom.12:18). Even where a Christian has an unbelieving spouse, God has called us to peace (1 Cor.7:15). In the civil sphere we are to pray for those in authority over us that we might lead a peaceful and quiet life (1 Tim.2:2).
Yet the proclamation of the true gospel is invariably divisive. At the birth of the Messiah, old Simeon foresaw that this child was appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel (Luke 2:34). As people began to understand something more of His claims, there was a division among the people over Him (John 7:43). He was not just a talking point in the pub; there were those who wanted to arrest Him (John 7:44).
After Jesus had healed a man born blind (John 9), and claimed to be the good Shepherd who would give His life for the sheep, and then rise again (John 10:11, 17-18), there was a similar response.
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How do We Encourage and Build Up the Church?By Stephen Kneale — 2 months ago
Hearing people singing the songs heartily, praying earnestly, sharing testimony of how the Lord has been at work in them, these will all encourage other believers. Nothing encourages your elders more than seeing you grow in maturity and Christ-likeness. This is the ultimate fruit of engaging with the Word, engaging with the church, engaging with the commands of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 exhorts us, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, to ‘encourage one another and build each other up’. But what are the key ways to encourage and build up other believers in the church? Here, in no particular order, are a few ways.
It’s hard to encourage people when you are never with them. In fact, if you are continually away from the meetings of the gathered body, far from encouraging and building up the body, you are actively discouraging it. It is so disappointing when the preacher stands up to share God’s Word and people aren’t there because they couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed or they had better things to do than worship the living God and meet with his people. These things are a major discouragement. One of the key ways you can build up and encourage the church is by showing up to things.
Showing up is absolutely vital, but engaging in what is going on when you are there is similarly encouraging. Of course, some of your engagement will depend on your particular church setup and liturgy. But in our church, we have participation from the congregation in the prayers, the songs and our time of testimony.
Yes, Pastor Weidenaar, It Is Ontology With Regard to Overture 15By Al Taglieri — 2 months ago
Culture and even the church, has been influenced (propagandized) through television, music, films, and public education by claiming that homosexuality is not sin and should be accepted. It’s now just another legitimate choice. Not only is it possible, but it is entirely likely, that candidates for church office may not even consider their views to be contrary to our Standards. The notion that homosexuality is to be considered sinful is no longer an issue, thus the wording of O29 would be satisfied nicely. Thus, O15, with its clarifying wording, is needed to ensure that candidates for church office must examine their character based on Scripture and not common cultural definitions.
In a recent article (https://www.semperref.org/articles/why-i-am-voting-against-overture-15), Pastor Jim Weidenaar gave his reasons for voting against Overture 15 on the grounds that it “is too general and undefined to offer constructive guidance here. Beyond this, the addition of Overture 15’s language [“Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”] to the Presbyterian Church in America Book of Church Order (BCO) would be destructive by wrongfully depriving the church of godly and qualified shepherds, by creating an atmosphere which stifles rather than guides biblical repentance and fellowship among those who experience this category of sinful temptation, and by encouraging the church’s ordained elders to model a heretical understanding of the gospel in which the spiritually mature have moved beyond the need to confess sin.”
He begins by asking four questions about another overture, specifically, Overture 29, since it deals with the same topic of qualifications for church office. He asks, “What does Overture 15 add to Overture 29 that makes it a necessary addition to the BCO?” His four questions, which are actually objections, are:
Is it the literal use of the term homosexual in his description of himself?
Is it the fact that the candidate tells anyone about this aspect of his sin/temptation/sanctification experience?
Is it to single out this sin (or, that someone has this sort of temptation experience as opposed to any other)?
Is it about ontology?
In his first objection, Pastor Weidenaar claims that Overture 29 (O29) covers what is required in the character of an elder. According to him, all Overture 15 (O15) adds is the word homosexual and a few other phrases. But his objection rests upon a like-minded culture shared by the church and the culture at large. That may have been generally true 40 years ago. But over all these years, there has been a shift in how homosexuality is defined and accepted. Culture and even the church, has been influenced (propagandized) through television, music, films, and public education by claiming that homosexuality is not sin and should be accepted. It’s now just another legitimate choice. Not only is it possible, but it is entirely likely, that candidates for church office may not even consider their views to be contrary to our Standards. The notion that homosexuality is to be considered sinful is no longer an issue, thus the wording of O29 would be satisfied nicely. Thus, O15, with its clarifying wording, is needed to ensure that candidates for church office must examine their character based on Scripture and not common cultural definitions.
In his second objection, Pastor Weidenaar claims that O15 is designed to silence individuals from confessing their specific sins. He claims that Paul’s example of calling himself the chief sinner is scriptural proof that we must do the same. Thus, with this understanding, not only is O15 wrong but it is heretical. My sense is that there is some exegetical sleight of hand in using this argument. Paul’s intent is not to mention his specific sins but to express his sinful nature, much like how expressed it here: “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (I Tim. 1:15, NASB).
One cannot prove the specific from the general. I did find Pastor Weidenaar’s summary conclusion concerning this point troubling. He states, “And by encouraging the church’s ordained elders to model a heretical understanding of the gospel in which the spiritually mature have moved beyond the need to confess sin.” Does this mean that those who support O15 are heretics? Is this a veiled charge that serves as a warning?
In the third objection, he asks whether O15 intent is singling out one sin as opposed to other sins. The simple answer is, Yes, it is. I take great comfort in the scriptural wisdom of the Westminster Divines. Consider these two questions from the Larger Catechism:
Q. 150. Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?A. All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?A. Sins receive their aggravations, (Reasons 1, 2, and 4 omitted here.)…3. From the nature and quality of the offense: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but breaks forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.
Homosexuality is an offense against the light of nature. It violates the creation ordinance concerning marriage, family, and filling the earth. It violates the seventh commandment (see Westminster Larger Catechism, question 139).
So, yes, Pastor Weidenaar, it is good and proper for the church to single out this sin, regardless of how it is accepted and defined by secular culture.
Pastor Weidenarr reserves the bulk of his article in question four. He states, “We are all familiar with the rhetoric of our culture which closely ties the personal experience of gender and sexuality to the essence of personhood.” The statement “I am,” can be a mediocre statement denoting a fact, such as “I am tired.” That has no bearing on who I am as a person. But it can be a powerful statement that communicates inner truths.
Jesus used the phrase to describe himself and to communicate deep truths about his person and work.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35).
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12).
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58).
So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7).
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
When I say I am an America, I’m not just saying that I was born in a certain country in North America. I’m saying that I am proud to live in this country and that I love life, liberty, and justice for all. When I say that I’m Italian, I am not saying that I was born and raised in Italy. I understand that I am proud of my ancestry; that my grandfather, as a young teen, made his way to the U.S. and made a life for his family.
Given all the lack of clarity on ethical issues in our society, a person who says, “I am gay’” or “I am a gay-Christian,” is communicating that he has chosen a certain way of life. Like Lot’s wife, who looked back to Sodom, he’s communicating where his true heart and allegiance are. To pretend otherwise is sophistry.
In his summary Pastor Weidenarr states that O15 “would be destructive by wrongfully depriving the church of godly and qualified shepherds.” This is a pragmatic rationale and must be rejected. Jesus Christ is the head of his Church and he will see to its care. I am indebted to Pastor Weidenaar for this article in that it highlighted for me how the church is losing its sense of biblical grounding. And it shows me how important it is for me as an elder to instruct the members of the church in the foundational truths of Scripture. If we fail to provide and act on this ethical grounding we will lose the next generation.
O15 is needed at this point in the history of the Church to provide clarity on biblical sexual ethics.
Al Taglieri is a Ruling Elder in the Providence Presbyterian Church (PCA) in York, Penn.
Problem GamblingBy Kit Swartz — 10 months ago
Gambling is thus idolatrous and immoral, but it is also simply foolish. The essence of gambling is its unpredictability and to invest resources in totally unpredictable events is irrational. Averages can be predicted but individual events cannot. One gambling win does not affect the probability of the next wager. The “gamblers fallacy” is that, if they are winning, they will continue to win and, if they are losing, their luck is about to turn. This is utter delusion.
Problem Gambling Awareness Month was observed in March with several items in our local media. This is an opportunity to consider what problem gambling is and how to prevent and recover from it.
A working definition of gambling is essential: gambling is putting resources at risk of loss for gain with no significant knowledge of or control over the outcome. Some consider gambling essentially immoral, others consider it only immoral if it is abused in some way and still others consider it simply foolish due to the sometimes catastrophic outcomes.
For the Christian, all questions of morality are answered by applying the moral law to an issue. The moral law is rooted in creation and valid as long as the creation endures. These creation ordinances are classically summarized in the ten commandments.
First, there are aspects of idolatry that are inherent in gambling. Lady Luck is another god, greed is an idol, and throwing the dice while calling on God for His blessing is taking His Name in vain. We take His Name in vain when we expect Him to bless us when we are not obeying a command and therefore have no promise of His blessing. “Throw the dice, God will make you win!” is eerily similar to the Devil’s command to Jesus, “Throw yourself from the Temple, God will preserve your life.”
Second, there are aspects of immorality inherent in gambling. God’s command is to earn wages not make wagers. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work.” “If you will not work, you will not eat.” God also commands prudent investment where you do have significant knowledge and control over the outcome. See the parable of the talents. Work to earn a wage and then make your money work for you. God also commands us to make money “the old-fashioned way”; that is, inherit it. Parents are commanded to save and invest for themselves and their children, to build wealth across the generations so that they can be a blessing to many in many ways. Finally, tithes and alms are to be given from wages, not wagers. Offerings and gifts are to be given from accumulated wealth, not accumulated winnings.