Look up and look forward. The lonely time will soon be past and over, you will have company enough by and by. “When you wake up after your Lord’s likeness, you shall be satisfied.” (Psalm 17:15.) Yet in a little while and you shall see a congregation that shall never break up, and a Sabbath that shall never end.
Even in the midst of Christmas merriment, we cannot help remembering those who have passed away. The longer we live, the more we feel to stand alone. The old faces will rise before the eyes of our minds, and the old voices will sound in our ears, even in the midst of holiday mirth and laughter. People do not talk much about such things, but there are few who do not feel them. We need not intrude our inmost thoughts on others, and especially when all around us are bright and happy. But there are not many, I suspect, who reach middle age, who would not admit, if they spoke the truth, that there are sorrowful things inseparably mixed up with a Christmas party. In short, there is no unmixed pleasure about any earthly gathering.
Does Christmas bring with it sorrowful feelings and painful associations? Do tears rise unbidden in your eyes when you mark the empty places around the fireside?
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By T.M. Suffield — 8 months ago
Written by T. M. Suffield |
Monday, July 17, 2023
It’s vital that while we set our aims—whether to be a witness in the workplace, a pastor, raise a family to serve the Lord, or my own specific desires and calling that I’ve written about a bit—that they are godly (all those examples are), but that we think that success is being obedient to God. If it fails but we failed well, by which I mean obediently in holiness and repenting of our sin where it is to be found, then that is successful in the kingdom.
Well if God’s called you, it’ll work out.
I’ve been told this lots of times myself, I think I believe it half of the time. But it’s not true. Not in the way we mean it anyway.
What we’re saying is, you’re going to do this risky seeming thing on the basis of your faith that God wants you to do it, so the risky thing will work out, right? It follows, except it’s not my experience. I’ve followed God into several things in my life that’s it’s unclear why I was ‘called’ (assuming I’m right that I was, but let’s leave that question aside for now), and what I was attempting certainly wasn’t successful in any real sense that I could describe. Neither, in most instances, has it been the kind of abject failure that might make you decide you weren’t called after all, though I’ve certainly questioned these things many times.
The original statement is true in a sense, if God called you, the end for which he called you will definitely work out. The problem is that God does every action for a thousand ends, most of which are hidden from us, and it’s possible that none of them are the grand end that you’re thinking of.
To take an example that isn’t from my own life—imagine you moved to plant a church. Surely that means that the church will grow, even though it might be hard graft? I think most of us would realise that isn’t true objectively but would expect it to be true for us. Sometimes church plants fail. Does that mean that the planter wasn’t called by God? I don’t think that follows at all, the Lord is much more concerned with our character and with the individual person-to-person pastoring we do than in our institutions (though I believe he loves those too).
By Samuel D. James — 2 years ago
Written by Samuel D. James |
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
The problems of the present are real, but so were the blessings of the past. The passing of a particular moment in evangelical life is lamentable not because it was irreplaceable, but because it accomplished something real, and those who saw it are, in a very real sense, different people for having experienced it.
The needle that I tried to thread in my response to David Brooks’s essay on evangelicalism could be expressed this way: The dominant evangelical institutions from 2006-2016 were rocked by Donald Trump’s presidential victory, the reasons for this are multifaceted and complex, but when the smoke cleared it was a particular strain of Reformed evangelicalism that was most fractured by it. The chief division right now in evangelical life seems to be between people who rejoice at this fracturing and those who lament it, but everyone agrees that 1) it happened, and 2) the evangelical moment known as “young, restless, and Reformed” was the most spectacular casualty of it.
In a few weeks the final gathering of Together for the Gospel will take place in Louisville. It’s very easy to overstate the influence of a single conference for pastors. But if you were shaped at all by the Reformed theology, expositional preaching, and culture-engaging ethos that came from places like Southern Seminary, Ligonier, and Redeemer Presbyterian Church, you probably were influenced in some way by the conference. It mattered to a comparatively small but comparatively influential moment in time for complementarian Calvinists. The conference’s ending, of course, is part of the larger shift of the YRR moment. I haven’t talked to one person who believes the conference would be ending in 2022 if Donald Trump and Ferguson had never happened. The conference is ending because the coalition it represented has changed.
Very briefly, I want to make one point about this. The rending of the YRR fabric has been traumatic for many, and the damage it has caused to friendships, institutional partnerships, and the mental and spiritual health of many evangelical pastors and leaders has been terrible. It is very, very tempting to look into history and see this fate coming. It is tempting to look at the YRR moment and see how its flaws and blind spots presaged such a fracture. They are there if you want to see them: the development of a celebrity teacher culture, the reliance on pastors and ministry models who were “growing,” the tendency within the movement to rely on the backchannel instead of strong leadership. Yes, these flaws and more set the stage for the frustration we feel now. What I take away from this, however, is that the YRR movement was never enough, but it also wasn’t a mistake.
By Ryan Biese — 1 year ago
The HeGetsUs campaign aims not to get people to “go to church,” but rather invite people to “consider the story of a man who created a radical love movement that continues to impact the world thousands of years later”….While the goals of HeGetsUs may be to make Jesus palatable to sophisticated urbanite worldings frustrated with religion and society, the Jesus they present is not the Jesus of the Scripture. This campaign has turned the good news of Christ on its head with some sort of psycho-therapeutic-babble that obscures the truth of Christ.
“They are wanting to know more about a Jesus who is a false Jesus,” said the Reverend Tom Buck in reference to the new HeGetsUs campaign which ChristianityToday describes as a campaign to “make Jesus the ‘biggest brand in your city.”
The HeGetsUs campaign aims not to get people to “go to church,” but rather invite people to “consider the story of a man who created a radical love movement that continues to impact the world thousands of years later.”
As they explain on their website:
He Gets Us is a movement to reintroduce people to the Jesus of the Bible and his confounding love and forgiveness. We believe his words, example, and life have relevance in our lives today and offer hope for a better future.
They seem to believe the public “image” of Jesus needs to be rehabilitated for the 21st Century. They realized a problem according to Jason Vanderground: “how did the world’s greatest love story become known as a hate group…but we wanted to help them see that in Jesus there was somebody who had a lot of common experience just like they did.”
On their website they attempt to portray the Saviour as relatable and sharing many experiences, problems, feelings, and emotions endured by 21st Century people.
One of the videos asserts, “Jesus suffered anxiety, too.” The assertion the Saviour suffered “anxiety” is theologically dubious and comes very near to blasphemy.
Another video claims, “Jesus had to control his outrage, too.” But the outrage Jesus felt was never sinful, was always justified, and always perfect in its expression. The explanation goes on to say, “By telling this story, we reminded ourselves that even when we’re tested and trolled, we have the option of rising above.” But do we have the power to do so?
A major problem with this campaign is that it seems to present a Jesus that is too much like us.
To be clear, Jesus was more human than you or I; His humanity was untainted by original sin. But the campaign seems to present Jesus as merely a moral exemplar, that is Christ is simply an example for people to follow.
The Reverend Derrick Brite warns about this kind of messaging: “it’s a gospel without sin, without cross, without a god; it’s ridiculous, it’s blasphemous, and it needs to be killed.”
In another video HeGetsUs speaks of a man who wanted people to be “filled with compassion” and then they go on to explain, “The name of Jesus has been used to harm and divide, but if you look at how he lived…He was radically inclusive. What would our world look like if that were the norm? If strangers became friends over the dinner table as they did around Jesus?”
It seems the marketers of the HeGetsUs campaign are trying to make Jesus likable, palatable, and acceptable to the world. And to do that, they are obscuring the reality of what Jesus came to do: to glorify God by satisfying divine justice by becoming a curse and being hanged on a tree all after He had fulfilled the Law of God on behalf of His people.
The campaign seems devoid of the cross; it presents a Jesus without the cross, a Jesus who is just like us and who is inoffensive. But that is not the Jesus of the Bible.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor. 1:22–25).
The Apostle Paul did not hide the offense of Christ from the sophisticated urbanites of Corinth. In fact that is what he led with:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3–4).
Certainly, the way Jesus is portrayed in the HeGetsUs campaign will start conversations and raise questions, but they will not be conversations and questions about the biblical Jesus. Perhaps the organizers intend a “bait and switch” with this provocative campaign: Get people interested in a Jesus who went around talking about hope, love, compassion, and forgiveness and then get them connected with a church that proclaims the whole Christ, the truth about Christ.
In a statement, TE Byran Chapell noted there has not been a lot of “controversy” regarding this and only “one person in the whole PCA has brought up any concerns” related to the HeGetsUs campaign. If you have thoughts, questions, or concerns about the PCA involvement in HeGetsUs, you may contact the PCA Stated Clerk’s office:
Phone: 678-825-1000Email: [email protected]
Someone has started a petition urging the PCA not to take part in this campaign. TE Chapell indicated the Coordinators of PCA Agencies (e.g., RUF, CDM, MNA, MTW) might make a decision at a meeting next week on whether to join the site.