We will all die, eventually. Yet we have hope. We do not mourn without hope. And even though it is hard, the invitation is always open. “Come to me,” Jesus calls. Cast your burdens to him and he will work wonders in your life, even in the face of death.
Death is one of those things that we don’t prepare for. Sometimes we have tragic accidents that no one expected and other times we have incidents where someone was sick and they die. In both instances, death is painful. When I heard that one of my cousins was involved in a tragic accident and died, I was hurt by the news. I asked myself: “Why?” To be more specific, I asked God: “Why did this happen?” Mourning is inevitable in the face of death.
One thing that we cannot deny, is that death is a part of living. We are all going to die. Whether rich or poor, male or female, old or young, we will all eventually die. But sometimes we think we are going to live forever. So we’re surprised when we hear that someone we knew is dead. It’s shocking. Only it shouldn’t be. That being said, how should we face death? What does God say to those who mourn?
Mourn with Hope
When I attended the memorial service of my cousin who passed away, there were mixed feelings as to what should happen. Some insisted: ‘do not cry.’ Others urged tears. I was confused as to what I should do. Some cultures see crying as a sign of weakness. When death comes, they insist, we need to be strong.
Paul is helpful on this, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. As believers, we need to mourn rightly because we know who is in control. We don’t mourn as people without hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ who died and rose again. We can know that when we die, we will live again. This is the Christian hope.
The first thing I asked when I heard that my cousin died was: “why him?” We ask God why he did not do anything to prevent the accident. We want God to answer us because deep down we know that he knows all things. In such situations, we want answers.
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By Tom Hervey — 12 months ago
In your reaction against others in the denomination you have given yourselves to a form of organization and methods that are not acceptable, and now the only way that you can you remove the offense of your unjustified secret political machinations is by openly repenting of them. Write a letter and post it at A Faithful PCA, ByFaith, or some such suitable place.
Read Part 1
The Practical Consequences of Secrecy
In your activism you have been very zealous; but “desire without knowledge is not good” (Prov. 19:2), and the knowledge that you lack is the knowledge that forming a secret organization offends your brothers, causes scandal, and is not an acceptable way of achieving your desired ends. You wish to see the PCA make inroads into previously underrepresented areas and groups, but in so doing you approach the matter wrongly and offend those who are already your brothers for the sake of unbelievers who may never repent. One should “give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:32), but should labor carefully after the example of Paul (v. 32; comp. Acts 24:16) and others to “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Rom. 12:17) and to avoid giving offense insofar as it is possible (1 Tim. 3:15; 1Pet. 2:12-17).
This is not what you have done. You were under no obligation to form your organization at all, much less to do it in secret, and much less still to persist in this secrecy for years and in the face of much criticism. This is not striving to “live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18) or pursuing “what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (14:19). This is offending the brother and stirring up strife needlessly. Such secrecy gives a poor testimony: if one is right, it is cowardice and hiding one’s lamp (Matt. 5:14-16); and if others are wrong, it is failing to confront them appropriately in a suitably blunt, manful way.
A Further Objection Considered
Perhaps you will object and say that the reason for your secrecy is to avoid slander, because others are in the habit of publicly misrepresenting your character. In such a case you have two recourses. One, you can avail yourself of the process of reconciliation that our Lord has prescribed for us to deal with personal offenses (Matt. 18:15-20), appealing to the church courts if personal admonition proves insufficient. Two, you may elect to forbear the offense, knowing that the sufferance of slander is a mark of the believer’s life in this world, and that it is a gracious thing (1 Pet. 3:13-17) to endure it patiently. Scripture does not say that you are permitted to withdraw into secret enclaves to avoid slander, and as a practical question such secrecy rather gives more occasion to the suspicion of others than reduces it.
An Apology for this Letter
But perhaps all of this is too much. You little like such blunt public criticism of your secret doings. What offense has anyone done you in criticizing or opposing you? Have we not labored to faithfully reprove you for what we believe are your failings? Is such not our duty to you as fellow members of Christ’s church? Perhaps we are wrong to one degree or another, or as regards some matters, or in some of our methods. Perhaps some have even descended from just confrontation to something as heinous as slander, as you allege. I do not make excuses for that, if indeed it is true – I know nothing of such incidents to judge either way – but speak for the many who have disagreed with you whose intent and aims have been good. If you like not the plainness of our speech or its content may it be fairly asked whether the source of offense lies in the remonstrances or in the ones who receive them?
Test your hearts and consider whether there be any pride there that prejudices you in this matter and that closes your minds and hardens your hearts against reproof. You set yourselves up as the proponents of a ‘beautiful orthodoxy’ and ‘a faithful PCA,’ and you write public letters of disagreement defending yourselves, while at all levels of the church courts you work ceaselessly to fashion its polity as you will. Is it unthinkable this has made you blind to your own faults or to the justice of the criticisms that others level against you? It is hard, as a matter of practical human nature, to zealously work for a great scheme of reform without becoming proud, stubborn, and slow to listen. Have you considered whether this is the case with you? Have you tested yourselves and taken the logs out of your own eyes, or do you make haste in assailing others?
It is the latter. Your sincerity is not doubted, nor, for that matter, are some of your claims. The Presbyterian Church in America is a human institution, rife with weakness and sin. It has, as such, many grounds upon which it may be criticized and sundry points at which it needs to amend its deeds. It is not denied that we have often had a poor record in our dealings with various groups, nor that we are prone to complacency, pride, and sundry sins that involve how we conceive of ourselves and relate to others and to material things.
A Call to Repentance
But where some have fallen too far to the right into worldly respectability and have come perilously close to a dead orthodoxy that is but a veneer over a substance that is more of a piece with a WASP-ish country club than the church of Christ, your danger is to fall too far in the other direction. In your reaction against others in the denomination you have given yourselves to a form of organization and methods that are not acceptable, and now the only way that you can you remove the offense of your unjustified secret political machinations is by openly repenting of them. Write a letter and post it at A Faithful PCA, ByFaith, or some such suitable place. Sign it and declare yourselves openly, and as a part of it renounce secrecy and promise to surrender office forever if you are caught in it again and to faithfully reveal anyone whom you know that persists in or returns to it. Apologize also for the offense you have caused your brethren and extol others to not follow in the way of your wrongdoing. Such is the way of honor and honesty, and if you will not take it there are many who will think of you as guilty of impenitent contumacy against the peace and purity of the church.
It is not only your secretive tendencies that are an occasion for concern. To be blunt – not in an effort to be rude, mind you, but in the interests of speaking the truth faithfully – you come across as rather arrogant and hypocritical. You are rather snidely dismissive of others that disagree with you: The Aquila Report is just a “gossip outlet,” a mere handful of writers against your own robust multitude of elders, while the concerns of others are repeatedly brushed aside as just so much social media outrage. The Nashville Statement is, not a faithful summary of historic teachings about sexuality, but rather “simply the latest stick being used to whack away the unclean,” and it stretches the bounds of credulity to think that anyone regards it as anything “more than empty words.” Any notion of the PCA sliding into liberalism is just a “myth” that you regard as an inconvenience, as it requires you to justify your deeds to others, while in discussing homosexual lust you sarcastically ask whether those that experience such lust should not be “allowed in the fellowship of half-blind [donkeys] looking for the Glory of the Lord?”
There is little charity in such statements, casting aspersions upon the motives and character of others as they do. If The Aquila Report and other sites are just “gossip outlets” aren’t you implicitly accusing their proprietors and contributors of sin? And as for calling your fellow Presbyterians “half-blind [donkeys],” you seem to have forgotten the testimony of Scripture on this point, that “if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (Jas. 1:26), and, further, that you ought to “let your speech always be gracious” (Col. 4:6) and “let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up” (Eph. 4:29). It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks (Lk. 6:45), and so, by extension, that the fingers type.
But perhaps the best example of arrogance can be seen in a tweet by your founder, in which he retweeted a video of a sheep perpetually running into a ditch and becoming stuck each time it was freed, a video whose original comment was a bit of foul language unacceptable in the eyes of many unbelievers, and which received the further comment from your founder that this was “the pastoral care process, explained.” God says that you are to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you . . . not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:2-3) and that you are to “show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned” (Tit. 2:7-8). He does not commend that you use bad language and make light of your holy calling and arrogantly belittle the sheep in the process. By your words here you sound rather like the shepherds of Israel whom God condemned for arrogance and selfishness (Eze. 34), for you have fun at the expense of those whose slaves you are (Mk. 10:42-45).
As for your hypocrisy, you speak with much emotion of our common brotherhood, with many pious phrases decrying division and extolling unity and peace in both public (e.g., “The Open Letter” at A Faithful PCA) and in your own midst, yet by your deeds and other internal statements – such as those mentioned above – you draw all of this into suspicion. Again, you want the PCA to be a big tent that includes within its midst every substrata of American society, but you seem little concerned that in your desire for expansion according to your tastes you are actively alienating many of our own members and churches even now, and in some cases inducing them to leave.
At the 2019 General Assembly one of your number stated, in effect, that we should be greatly concerned that the world thinks our foremost trait is hatred of homosexuals and that we should work to rehabilitate our image; and yet when fellow PCA elders attempt to remonstrate with you over your perceived failings you dismiss them pretty much categorically as engaged in so much fear mongering and alarmist nonsense. Thus do you say that we should listen to the wicked who are blinded by the lies of Satan, and yet you would also close your ears to the reproofs of the faithful. Do you believe that you may pay lip service to unity while acting in a dismissive way that makes it impossible, or that you may leave your ears open to culture, even unbelieving and wholly immoral culture, and yet close them to your fellow presbyters and not come to a bad end?
Tom Hervey is a member of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, S.C.
By Tim Challies — 5 months ago
God’s promise is not that he will free us from what ails us—not yet, at least—, but that he will enable us to carry it for as long as he deems fit. God’s promise is not that he will remove that burden but that he will support us so that we have no need to fear that we will stumble or fall. With God’s support, we have no need to fear that we will undermine the work he intends to do or to fail to remain faithful to the end.
So much of what we experience in this life is so very heavy. So many of the burdens God calls us to carry are so tremendously weighty that they threaten to crush us to the dust. We bear the weight of our own sin and depravity, the shame of doing evil and the pain of failing to do good. We bear the weight of other people’s sin and depravity as they hurt and harm us, sometimes intentionally and sometimes purely inadvertently. We bear the weight of griefs and losses, of illnesses and sorrows, of unhealthy bodies and infirm minds, of broken relationships and shattered dreams. We all at times stagger under the weight of all we are made to bear upon our weak shoulders.
It is in such times that we turn to God for help, in such times that we call upon his precious promises to sustain and uplift us. Among the best of them is this: “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). When we are heavily burdened we are to take one specific action: cast. We are to throw or hurl or toss our burdens upon the Lord. We are to bring them to his attention and to plead with him for his help. And so we close our eyes and pray or we lift our eyes and cry out for his help, his assistance, his deliverance.
What we want, no doubt, is for God to take them from us.
By Miles Smith — 1 year ago
A church can display the flag of the magistrate in good conscience. As the history of the practice indicates, a national flag in a church is not a sign of idolatry, but a reminder to the faithful to remember the specific magistrate we pray for, and what we rightfully expect from him.
This summer, Christianity Today ran an article about Protestant pastors’ views on displaying national flags in sanctuaries and on church property. Many American evangelicals, especially white-collar evangelicals, increasingly view flags in churches as garish and idolatrous, signs of the benighted “Christian nationalism” they fear is sweeping through evangelicalism in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s presidency. At The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter has argued that “the symbols of the American nation don’t have a place in the embassy of the kingdom of God.” “Such veneration for our country within our churches detracts from the glory of the gospel,” he wrote. If “we pledge allegiance to a flag in the house of God, we should question whether we aren’t skirting the edges of idolatry.”
But according to the article in Christianity Today, global pastors disagree with the reflexive denunciation of flags as idolatrous. The piece included comments from pastors around the world. Arab ministers affirmed the presence of national flags in their churches. An Egyptian pastor said he agreed “with displaying the flag of my country in the church. The flag of my country only and not other countries, as it is a spiritual and not a political orientation.” The purpose of raising his flag, he argued, was to keep his heart united with his people in “prayer for the salvation of their souls. It’s to remember that I must stand in the gap for my people, that they may know the Lord and see the light of the gospel and to tell my country and my people how much I love them and pray for them.”
A Jordanian minister said he “strongly” believed “that each church building should post the flag on the building and in the sanctuary.” He and his elders made the decision to do so “in order to show our loyalty as citizens to the country of Jordan. We believe that by doing so, we are a good example and testimony to others and also following the teachings of the Bible.” An Indonesian minister said that “when we display the flag in our church, it is not to express idolatry. We want to honor our national identity. It reminds us of our responsibilities as Christian citizens. It’s also a sign of gratitude for living in Indonesia.” A pastor from Nigeria noted that a flag was a “symbol of a country and flying it indicates the importance of the country.”