Serve others and not yourself. We saw this in the words and example of Jesus, and the letters remind us to honor others more than ourselves (Rom 12:10; Phil 2:3). Jesus washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:14–15) and died for us all on the cross (Matt 20:28). He serves as our High Priest (Heb 8:1) and will serve us in time to come (Luke 12:37). What an example we have in him. Humbles yourselves before God, and he will exalt you in time. Think on these things over and over and let them have their way.
Imagine telling a group of people that you had a month to live. Instead of comforting you, some of them ask for your most valuable possessions, angering the others because they didn’t ask first. Or, imagine that after your death, everyone started looking for your wallet or figuring out who would take your television. As a police chaplain, I’ve seen some interesting responses to the news of someone’s death.
Jesus experienced something like this once upon a time. For a third time in Matthew, he plainly told his disciples that he would be murdered and raised from the dead (Matt 20:17–19; cf. 16:21; 17:22–23). In response, James and John asked through their mother for special places in his kingdom, and Jesus promised them suffering instead (Matt 20:20–24). The ten were angry with the two brothers, prompting Jesus to teach them all that greatness to God is achieved through humble service, prizing the needs of others over self (Matt 20:25–27). The superlative example of such humility is the Son of Man. He gave his life as a ransom for many and now sits exalted with the Father on high (Matt 20:28; Phil 2:9).
In this story, the disciples show us how deeply sinful ambition roots itself in our souls. Jesus had recently taught the disciples to humble themselves like children (Matt 18:3–4) and to turn no one away from himself (Matt 19:13–14). Twice, Jesus taught that many who are first would be last and the last first when he sits on his throne (Matt 19:30; 20:16). He even promised the twelve prominent places in his kingdom (Matt 19:28). Yet still, James and John excluded the ten to ask for the first place next to Jesus on his throne.
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By Pete Hurst — 7 months ago
By the time we reached the shore, taxied to our cottage, and unpacked our bags, I was in a full-blown state of great anxiety; and though I was wishing hard for it to leave me, I knew it was going nowhere anytime soon. This was not the first time I had ever felt this way. It had been some years since it was this bad, and I was thankful for that; but right now, all I could think of was how to get rid of it. Before I came on the trip, life was good; now, on the trip, I wanted life to be good. But it wasn’t.
An Unexpected Journey
My wife and I had just returned from a most relaxing vacation when our Friend came by and engaged me in a conversation. You need to understand that He’s not your average friend. He’s the most special Friend we have ever had, and we have learned to trust Him completely, even when we have doubts about some of the things He says to us.
“Pete, we’re going on a trip.” He said.
“Okay,” I said, “whatever you say; let us get our things packed and we’ll be ready to go.”
“Your wife isn’t going,” He replied; “it’s just going to be me and you.”
It all seemed a little mysterious to me, but over the years I had learned to trust my Friend, and I knew He always had my best interests at heart; and my wife said that this was fine with her; she was happy for me and our Friend to have some alone time together.
“We’re going to an island,” He said; “I will pick you up late tomorrow afternoon. There’s an overnight ferry boat we will catch, and we’ll try to get what sleep we can on it, before we get there in the morning.”
An island, I thought; maybe it’s like one of those private islands the cruise lines own in the Bahamas. Sounds like fun. Swimming, fishing, lying out in the sun and soaking up all that good vitamin D. I was ready to roll.
Sleep wasn’t the greatest on our trip over to the island, but I eventually fell asleep around 2 am and woke up just as we were approaching the island at daybreak.
“What’s this island called?” I asked my Friend.
“This is Anxious Isle,” He replied.
The island was covered with a dark cloud that seemed to smother the place and showed no sign of lifting anytime soon. There was no hint of a breeze to blow it away.
“Boy, it sure looks depressing,” I said.
The truth was, it didn’t just look that way; it was starting to feel that way. As we got nearer to the shore, my feeling of depression only increased, and I could feel my blood pressure rising, as my anxiety seemed to explode within me in a matter of minutes.
By the time we reached the shore, taxied to our cottage, and unpacked our bags, I was in a full-blown state of great anxiety; and though I was wishing hard for it to leave me, I knew it was going nowhere anytime soon.
This was not the first time I had ever felt this way. It had been some years since it was this bad, and I was thankful for that; but right now, all I could think of was how to get rid of it. Before I came on the trip, life was good; now, on the trip, I wanted life to be good. But it wasn’t.
Another similarity between the anxiety I was having now with what I had experienced on previous occasions was that the anxiety was tied to some current crisis going on in my life, or else fear of something that might happen to me in the future, or even had happened in the past. It could concern my health, a legal matter, a financial concern, an employment issue, a regret for something I had done in the past, or something else. But here’s the weird part–looking over the past times when I had been overcome, the fear of what might happen relating to various things which brought on the anxiety– these things never materialized; or, at least, when there were unpleasant consequences, my mindset had been reprogrammed to overcome the anxiety, so I accepted any consequences with contentment.
My Friend and I sat in the living room staring at one another.
“We’ve been here before,” I said.
“We sure have,” He said.
“I guess there’s no chance we could go back home right now, is there?” I asked.
“Not a chance,” He responded.
“Okay,” I said. “I know the drill; I guess I’d best get started.”
The cottage was adequately furnished, so we were very comfortable. In my bedroom, the living room and the enclosed porch there was a copy of the Book. The Book was a collection of some of the things my Friend had said about all kinds of subjects. The Book informed about everything from the creation of the world to how to address personal problems in one’s life. Right now, it was the latter I needed; I had the personal problem of overwhelming anxiety, and the Book would be most important to get me straightened out, just like it had been so instrumental in the past.
The first two days, I studied everything the Book had to say about anxiety. There were commands about not worrying, and, while I could agree that was a good thing, the problem was, I couldn’t quit. There were directives to let my Friend have my anxieties, and direct instructions not to be anxious, because my Friend was going to be with me in all the messes of life, and therefore I should not be anxious. I agreed all this was good, but it just wasn’t getting through to me. I needed help.
So during the first couple of days, I approached my Friend and asked for help. If He was in the living room, I’d ask for help there. If it was in the middle of the night and the anxiety was keeping me awake, I would go where He was and ask for help. He was always available to me, and He always heard what I was saying; and He even had a compassionate expression when I begged for His help; but for those first two days, He had very little to say except to encourage me to keep studying the Book for what help I could get.
Besides directives about anxiety, the Book also gave me examples of other people who had gone through this before, and how they had not only survived, but came out much better people on the other side. I realized my experiences of overcoming anxiety episodes in the past were just like many of these I read about. And I knew that all the promises of help and the love of my Friend for me were true as well, but the problem remained; the anxiety wasn’t going away. I would have times of relief, and then something would trigger another anxiety attack, and the downward spiral was set in motion.
By the third and fourth day, it seemed like I might be starting to make a little progress, but it did not come as I had expected. My friend was ready to talk to me now, but the way He explained it was that now I was ready to listen. Two days of anxiety agony, night and day, had humbled me to where I was ready to listen and learn.
My Friend began, “You’ve been moving along in life like you have the world by the tail and now all of a sudden you realize you don’t.”
“Yes,” I timidly responded.
He continued, “There’s a story in the Book about a King David who grew overconfident in himself as well, and had to be brought down a notch or two.”
“I know,” I said; “I was reading that this morning, and I’m ready to receive whatever you have to say to correct me.”
“Good,” He said; “I’ve got a list here. We might as well get started on it.”
“First, I’ve given you some success in some areas of your life, and I think you could do a much better job of giving credit to where credit is due.”
“I agree, and I’m sorry; please forgive me. I want to definitely work on that.”
“Second, the root cause of your anxiety is your concern for yourself. You are concerned that nothing bad come of the situation you’re in right now, for your sake. There’s nothing wrong with trying to protect yourself, but you’ve blown it up to where you are what everything is about, and that’s no good.”
“I agree. I’m not thinking of You or others, and I am much too preoccupied with myself. Please forgive me and help me with this.”
“Third, you know the Book talks about particular sins in each of our lives to which we individually are more susceptible. Well, even though you have made a lot of progress, you aren’t working to overcome yours like you should. You need to get more brutal with these, because they are ugly and they horribly offend Me. Plus, I’ve got some stuff for you to do in the future, stuff that may bring far greater anxiety than you are experiencing now; so you can’t be carrying around this garbage with you; it has to go.”
“Done,” I said. “You know in my heart I agree, and by Your help I know I can put these particular sins to death. Thank You for confronting me. And I also know that once we get some progress in one area, another will arise. I’m in for every battle going forward, because I know You will be with me.”
“Guess you didn’t think you were in for a long list like this,” He continued, “but, fourth, unbelief. In some things it’s like you couldn’t have stronger faith, and in other things, you are so weak and wavering. You need to fully believe every promise of the Book, because the One who gives them can be believed totally. And that brings up another thing: sometimes, God blesses you in a spectacular way, and you don’t welcome and receive it. You can thank Him for things other people thank Him for, but then He gives you something that blows your socks off; and instead of being thankful, you start looking for something that will go wrong in what He has given. You need to get a grip. You need to understand that He loves you, and accept His gifts, whether they be small or big.”
“I could not agree more. Often I pray for help with my unbelief, and just being in the Book more these last few days has helped a lot with that. And You’re right about the big blessings too; it is so small of me not to see how big and generous God is, and how much I am loved.”
I accepted everything my Friend told me and spent time praying, reading the Book, and meditating on all I knew that was true, and trying to apply it to my situation.
By now, my time on Anxious Isle was getting a little better, or at least the anxiety episodes were farther apart by the fifth and sixth days. There were special parts of the Book that I would go to often; I spent a lot of time talking with my Friend and working through things and counseling myself with what I was reading and hearing.
The Sun Shines Brightly
The day finally arrived for us to leave Anxious Isle. But before we could leave, it was mandatory for My Friend and me to have a very important conversation. We sat in the living room, as we had on the first day of our trip. Running through my head were all the things I needed to hear and learn and be reminded of. I was genuinely thankful, and I was also more sensitive to others who find themselves on Anxious Isle and how I might help them.
My Friend looked at me and said, “You know, you have been really anxious about messing up something. You have been worried about consequences for yourself, about embarrassing Me and others. You need to realize that God loves you. He has given you all you have; in reality, you own nothing, and you are a steward, sort of an administrator over all He has given. This applies to your house, any possessions you have, and even your gifts and talents, your physical body, everything. Everything is His; you manage it for Him. Now, hear His truth to you: He says, “I love you; I have given you all you have, and all you have is mine. I want you to use what I have given you the best you can. Invest, take risks, use your intellect, your talents, whatever. If something doesn’t turn out okay, that’s fine. If you get in hot water, I will be right there with you. If something succeeds, great. Nothing will change My love for you. You don’t need to get yourself all tied up in anxious knots because you may screw up. Everything will be fine with Me. I love you.’”
I just sat there, silent. I was so overcome with God’s love to me that I just wanted to enjoy the sunshine as it poured into my soul.
The next day, we left Anxious Isle, and I was glad we took the day ferry. I stood on the side of the ship, enjoyed the breeze, and stared at the island we were leaving behind. I realized I’d probably have to come back another day; I hoped it would be later rather than sooner. However, because of the good it had been for me to visit, I could not argue with my Friend’s wisdom for taking me there. Truly, He loves me and has my best interest in mind. Because I’m not on the island doesn’t mean I never have anxious thoughts or episodes now and again; but they are not 24/7 like what I had gone through that week.
Yes, it was an unexpected journey, but it was a necessary journey and good one, and I’m glad My Friend took me on it.
If you find yourself on Anxious Isle, I trust you will seek the help of my Friend and His Book. My Friend is Jesus Christ and the Book is the Bible. God bless you.
Pete Hurst is a retired Minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and associate broker in real estate. He and his wife live in Yorktown, Virginia. He sometimes blogs at GodsFool.com.
By knotsbetter — 1 year ago
In so far as these amendments about church officers address homosexuality (and they simultaneously address by name financial folly, relational abusiveness and racial wickedness), they simply parallel the common grace observation of AA. The absence of alcohol or of sex truly is significant, but it is not inherently decisive in the discernment for ordination. Gay and celibate isn’t enough. These amendments fix firmly the immutable obligation of PCA courts to recognize dry drunks and moist homosexuals as believers ineligible for ordination.
It is to be expected that the following opinion piece will be criticized as homophobic, fundamentally at odds with the gospel, grossly callous and hurtful. It will surely be faulted for issues it does not address, and for forbidden diction as well as insufficient empathy.
Criticism of that kind will simply prove the point. Some matters are indubitable, no matter how they provoke offense. Some matters are judgement calls, no matter how much a motion to call the question disappoints. You can’t have this discussion without a messy omelette. You can’t have this discussion without wails and consternation.
Such shadow & gesture & implication assessment of my assertions and conclusions is purposefully invoked by this italicized introduction as a convenient demonstration of the whole. Earnest engagement with homosexuality in the PCA will bring friction, flack and slow moralistic pressure. Our Constitution and our vows must be fit for both our convictions and our weakness. Pass 23 and 37.
Our Setting and Circumstance
In the summer of 2021, overtures 23 and 37 were passed by large majorities at the PCA General Assembly. During the subsequent year, 88 presbyteries will vote on the corresponding amendments to the Book of Church Order, defeating them if more than 29 presbyteries reject them. If at least 59 presbyteries uphold them, a final vote will be cast at the 2022 General assembly. Yes, that is 90 votes. That is what it takes for a positive result, but essentially only 31 votes for a negative conclusion. These are the numbers of the process.
The most sympathetic and poignant reasons to reject the overtures are the possible negative impact for some who aspire to office in the PCA. Purportedly the amendments would become discriminatory tools in the hands of teaching and ruling elders shepherding men through the process of ordination. They would cause collateral grief and provoke understandable sins. In sum, the argument arises from distrust in the competence of PCA officers to act with wisdom. (See Part One).
Distrust is a common thread in discussion of homosexual persons– not just in the church. Over the last decade the cultural significance of homosexuality has changed, and such distrust has become less defensive and rather preemptive. Homosexuality has been transformed– not into a matter of individuality and public indifference, but rather into a benchmark of recognizable authenticity and public liberty. (See Part Two)
Ensconced in the framework of sexual minority status, that distrust anticipates and squares off with any diminution of homosexuality as an honored value in the attempted social equilibrium. Similar though not identical preemptive distrust has been articulated in the PCA; however, at times similarity seems to bend from being identical only by the difference of being congruent. It can be difficult to detect the difference. A discriminating disposition to detect determinative differences is the desideratum in presbyterian process. In a wholesome sense– even if the lexicon expunges it– the business of church courts is discrimination.
PCA Policy and Procedure
The policy and procedures of the PCA regarding homosexuality must reckon with the de facto status imputed to homosexual men and women. Contemporary admiration and protection afforded to homosexual persons is grounded in the axiom that same sex attraction is fixed and immutable; moreover, that static foundation is all the more virtuously embraced when combined with the commitment to celibacy. The virtuous estimation of homosexuality combined with a traditional rejection of illicit sexual activity waxes more fully, even to both praise for and vigilance on behalf of homosexual persons in the PCA.
The offered amendments do not curtail either the praise or the vigilance; however they provide a stipulated requirement for courts to persist in distinguishing members from officers, a credible profession of faith with all its entitlements in the PCA from an exemplary piety with all its authority in the PCA. Preemptive distrust discolors discriminating examination and analysis as inherently discriminatory, so long as gay (fixed and immutable) is combined with celibate (persevering and reliable). Gay and celibate should be enough, or 95%, to end the consideration of a man’s fitness for office so far as the seventh commandment is concerned.
Is celibacy the boundary of homosexual corruption? Such self-mastery, no– Spiritual fortitude, in a professing Christian calls for admiration and protection. Gay&Celibate can be mocked and discouraged by other homosexuals as obvious “wannabes and gonnabes”. Certainly that is the diction of the accuser of the brethren– declaring that Christ has not emancipated them from the flesh. Victory must be celebrated and faith vigilantly bolstered in the household of God. Such is true with all believers and all besetting sins. Still, the question stands: is unstinting celibacy the homosexual line between the general office of church member and the special offices of deacon and elder? Does gay celibacy only need to pass the requisite ordination exams?
The offered amendments address only the standards for discriminating which men are fit for special office. They assume that what falls short of ordination does not disqualify from membership. In regards to homosexuality, they do not rule out some notion of “fixed” (indwelling sin, anyone?); however, they are in no way controversial for compromising “immutable.” Gay&celibate has already championed a real index of change. The amendments go further in rejecting celibacy as the demarcation of exemplary piety requisite for office in the case of same sex attracted aspirants to office. The amendments do not establish a checklist, rather they call for examination of the man’s character and conduct in regards to his remaining sinfulness in the specific array and dynamic of homosexuality.
By Trevin Wax — 2 months ago
Protestant evangelicals, Catholics, Orthodox, and virtually every other church outside of a subset of shrinking churches in the West believe marriage touches foundational anthropological doctrines and will never be simply something we can “agree to disagree” on. Still, the press surrounding the progressive position can make orthodox Christians feel defeated, deflated, and doomed—as if they’re in the minority now as far as churchgoing Christians are concerned, as if there’s no stopping the runaway revisionist train. This narrative is powerful but false.
Earlier this year, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) surprised nearly everyone, not just outsiders. The denomination, which many believed had been drifting away from the authority of Scripture, corrected course and made clear the church’s conviction on sexual ethics.
The CRC’s clarification went even further than some observers expected. The group voted, as a clear majority, to make its position nonnegotiable. The traditional view of marriage and sexuality is the standard of the church’s teaching. There’s to be no deviation, which goes for institutions like Calvin University, even if some professors there seem to have moved toward the revisionist view of sexuality.
Trend in Institutions
The CRC is not the only denomination to tighten its doctrinal standards around sexuality rather than loosen them.
The Global Methodist Church is in the process of breaking up with the United Methodist Church and will provide a worldwide home for Wesleyans who wish to maintain a faithful witness to God’s Word in the days ahead.
The Anglican Communion is mired in conflict between a fast-shrinking, largely white, and increasingly elderly contingent that advocates for same-sex marriage and a fast-growing, largely black and brown, and increasingly young community of believers located in the global South that shuns the revisionist agenda. Several years ago, the Communion censured the American wing. Meanwhile, orthodox Anglicans around the world are finding new and creative ways of connection and partnership.
The Presbyterian Church of America recently released a lengthy, brilliantly crafted document that reaffirms a biblical view of sex and marriage, even going so far as to provide avenues for evangelists and apologists to make a case for this position in an era shaped by the sexual revolution.
It’s not just denominations. Organizations have been tightening up their standards and clarifying their adherence to the biblical position.
The CCCU (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities) added a statement about Christian distinctives and advocacy, which clarified their adherence to a biblical sexual ethic as a “core Christian commitment.”
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship conducted a four-year process of study and then reiterated the organization’s stance through a nine-part curriculum for all employees.
Fuller Seminary, Wheaton College, and Christianity Today have also, in recent years, reaffirmed their commitment to the historic view of marriage.