There is a sinister underlying message in the trend of “mommy humor.” My sweet friend, just under the surface of that humor is a lie. It whispers that motherhood should make us happy—eventually. But motherhood can never produce what we will only ever find in the Lord. Who Is Our True Enemy? Sweet sister, we are in a spiritual battle for the very souls of our children. There is an enemy that would have us fighting the wrong fight and looking to him for refreshment and refuge in the battle. Peter reminds us that the enemy “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
“But how do I find joy in the middle of the cracker crumbs and dirty diapers? When will it ever get better?” she asked. The woman asking the question had five children under the age of five, and four of them came two-by-two. Her circumstances were challenging, to say the least. Tired but eager to learn, she sat at a folding table in our small Bible study room among women of many generations and walks of life, who had all likely asked a similar question.
It Can’t Get Better; It’s Already Good
As we dug back into God’s Word, the discussion led us to conclude that it can’t really get any better. God has ordained or allowed every circumstance that we will face. And those circumstances? They are for our good and His glory. How could it get any better than that? Romans 11:36 tells us that all things are “from him and through him and to him.” And this compels Paul’s response—the one we can all echo— “To him be the glory forever. Amen.” Our frustration in the daily challenges of motherhood comes when we confuse the idea of things “getting better” with what we truly desire: joy. But how do we find joy in the Lord in a world that seems to call us in a different direction?
The Source of Our Joy
There is a trend in social media that makes it seem as though we are fighting our way through the torture of raising children, as if they are like an enemy. Culture tells us that their needs are a burden, their inexperience in life is something to make fun of, and their emotional meltdowns are viral content for entertainment. In many ways, the world would have us believe that challenging seasons of parenting are a bad thing that we have to trudge through until we get to the “better” thing. In the meantime, we can find temporary relief from these frustrations by enjoying the never-ending stream of humorous memes and video clips.
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By Mark Sanders — 4 months ago
How can I believe that my heavenly Father truly loves me when he won’t take away my insomnia or chronic pain? How can I trust God with my future when my whole world has exploded at the revelation of my spouse’s infidelity? How can I possibly believe that God knows what’s best for me when he calls me to turn from desires that feel completely natural? How can I entrust my child to the Lord when they’re about to inflict irreversible damage on their body?
Living by faith is difficult. We all struggle every day to remember, believe, and make choices based on God’s Word and his promises to us in Christ. Words on a page can feel meaningless when painful circumstances don’t change. What helps us nurture belief in these hard moments, days, and years?
Unbelief Is a Matter of the Heart
Our flesh looks at these situations and says that God hasn’t given us sufficient evidence that he’s worthy of our trust. But faith is not a matter of evidence. Scripture gives us testimony after testimony of people who had abundant evidence to trust God but still chose unbelief. The Israelites saw God perform over a dozen miracles rescuing them from Egypt, culminating in the parting of the Red Sea. And yet, in a matter of days, they doubted God’s ability or desire to keep them alive in the wilderness. Jesus fed over 5,000 men with nothing more than five loaves and two fish. But later, the crowd refused to believe his explanation of the miracle. His followers drastically decreased after this incredible display of his power and sustaining kindness.
Faith is a matter of the heart, not the eyes. Apart from God’s grace, all of us are born with dead hearts that cannot believe what is evident in all creation (Rom. 1:19–20). But in the new birth, God makes our hearts alive, and we believe. This is saving faith. And yet, this heart transplant does not guarantee an easy road of faith. We still struggle, and so much of our struggle with sexual sin comes down to unbelief.
Lies about God, ourselves, and others become powerful arguments for giving in to sin. After all, our heart says, God doesn’t care, God won’t deliver me, God can’t meet me in this moment—but sex can. Sex always delivers, sex has never let me down, and unlike God, sex doesn’t ask me to believe, just feel. Every time we give way to temptation, we’re believing those deceitful arguments and choosing to live in a world that’s fundamentally untrue.
By Staff — 1 year ago
Overture 15 from Westminster Presbytery asked the PCA General Assembly to amend BCO 7-4 by adding the following sentence: “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.” The GA approved this as wording on June 23, 2022, which will be sent to the PCA Presbyteries for ratification. During the debate Dr. Palmer Robertson made the following speech which many believe put the proposed amendment is a helpful context. Read the speech below and/or listen to the it here.
Mr. Moderator, Palmer Robertson, Piedmont Triad Presbytery.
We could quote a famous statement, “There is a tide in the affairs of men,” and say there is also “a tide in the affairs of churches.” And that tide rises when the culture demands a response.
Over the past 25 years I have had the privilege of serving in a country in Africa where the parliament passed the death penalty for homosexuality, which is somewhat an extreme. Coming back every five years over these last 25 years, I have seen the drift. First, all the sitcoms of one year were homosexually oriented. Not just many sins, not different kinds of sins, but specifically homosexual sin. Then there was laughter—the introduction of laughing over this matter. Not of any particular sin except homosexuality. And then I come five years later and now there’s a celebration of a marriage, here and there, of homosexuals. Specifically, that particular item.
And now we are moving toward a position in which it would become very difficult, and in some countries, in England (where I have visited on occasion) to even read the Apostle Paul, Romans Chapter 1, in public, and you can be arrested.
What is it in Romans Chapter 1 that is stressed so strongly here, as Paul is trying to establish the need of humanity? He says, “Therefore,” and he begins to specify; and what is it that he specifies? “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. Men exchanging their natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:26-27).
Mr. Moderator, you never hear the word “perversion” anymore. It used to be that you could speak of “sodomy” and “sodomites.” That is a specification of a sin in the Old Testament that is just as relevant for today. And though, with all love, and here, if we are to say those who are captured by this sin, then we must speak that wonderful word, the first word of salvation, which is “repent.” Repent of what? Repent of that specific sin that is the one that is pressing the wedge between truth and behavior and untruth in the totality of our culture today.
And so, Mr. Moderator, I would urge you to respond…you know, in history, you will see that there is this floating, this movement along in history. And then somewhere, something cuts the line and says, “this far and no further.” And then, everyone reads the history and says, “Why of course, that line should have been drawn right there.” And that’s where we are today. Somewhere we must draw the line about this specific item of homosexuality. And if we are to draw any line in the public eye, it would be with respect to the ordained minister of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore, Mr. Moderator, I would speak in favor of this amendment.
By Jared Nelson — 1 year ago
This year’s Overture 29 seeks to prompt questions in the examination, instruction, and discipline of officers and candidates for office. As theological debate about how best to apply the doctrine of sanctification to modern sexuality has arisen in the Church, one approach emphasizes the issue of language and self-identification. This is the attraction of this year’s Overture 15, which would likely just prompt one sort of question: Do you describe yourself as a homosexual? But this year’s Overture 29 commends a deeper exploration of the root issues, prompting further questions either in an examining committee or on the floor of a Presbytery. The virtue of this year’s Overture 29 is that the corresponding line of inquiry will address deeper issues than any one label, issues which are obvious to careful readers of the AIC Human Sexuality report, advocates for Side B Gay Christianity, or the latter’s most thorough critics who see the deeper root issues.
The 49th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) passed Overture 29 with over 90% of the Assembly voting for it: 1922 to 200. This Amendment now heads to the Presbyteries for consideration, and reads, as amended:
16-4. Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. While office bearers will see spiritual perfection only in glory, they will continue in this life to confess and to mortify remaining sins in light of God’s work of progressive sanctification. Therefore, to be qualified for office, they must affirm the sinfulness of fallen desires, the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, and be committed to the pursuit of Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions.
Overture 29 was in many ways a refinement and replacement for last year’s Overture 23 that narrowly failed to pass the Presbyteries (as Item 2) which read:
16-4. Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, “gay Christian,” “same sex attracted Christian,” “homosexual Christian,” or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same sex attraction), or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue Spirit empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions are not qualified for ordained office.
While the first section is identical, we can explore how the text has been updated and – given the General Assembly’s greater acceptance of this year’s Overture 29 – improved in the middle and last sections of the proposed amendment.
Middle Section Changes
First, the middle section of last year’s Overture 23 read: “Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, “gay Christian,” “same sex attracted Christian,” “homosexual Christian,” or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same sex attraction)…”
This verbiage can be confusing to read, perhaps due at least in part to the parenthetical statements. The concern of this section is to describe the relationship of an officer to his indwelling sin. Last year’s Overture 23 prohibited finding identity in our sins (i.e., sinful desires, thoughts, words, behaviors, etc.). Carl Trueman has recently (and notably) connected the concepts of “expressive individualism” with modern concepts of identity. Last year’s Overture 23 intended to clarify that our sense of meaning, purpose, worth, and personhood before God cannot be defined by our sinfulness or sinful desires, but rather with our position as new creations in Christ.
Over the course of the last year, the parentheticals, which contained particular sin identities to illustrate the broad categories, became a source of resistance and confusion for some presbyters. For instance, the example of a “Same-Sex Attracted Christian” has not been a source of cultural identity in the way “Gay Christian” has been connected with Gay Identity.
In its place, this year’s Overture 29 as amended, simplifies this confusing text and the debated particulars by simply stating the principle, “While office bearers will see spiritual perfection only in glory, they will continue in this life to confess and to mortify remaining sins in light of God’s work of progressive sanctification.” The relationship between an officer and his sin is stated, not with reference to “identity,” but with the confessional and biblical language of “confess” and “mortify.” The virtue of this year’s Overture 29 as an improvement over the language of last year’s Overture 23 is that the updated language is consistent with the Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality (2020) and the Westminster Standards in how they deal with these concepts. For instance, you can look at the similarities with Statement 3 on Original Sin in the AIC Report (p. 7), as well as the relevant chapters in the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) on Sin (6) and Sanctification (13). The language of “mortified” (WCF 6.5, 13.1) is found there as well as the teaching that there is “still some remnant of corruption in every part” (13.2), and yet “the regenerate part doth overcome” (13.3) .
The Confession is clear that sin – in its corrupting influence – persists in saints as they make their pilgrimage through life on this earth, even as the Spirit transforms them. As Thomas Watson put it: “Sanctification and glory differ only in degree: sanctification is glory in the seed, and glory is sanctification in the flower.” That is, Glorification is planted and starts to grow in Sanctification and our time on earth, but glorification is not perfected on earth.
Here, it is worth noting that the language of both last year’s Overture 23 and this year’s Overture 29 express this balance with either the vocabulary of “identity” (23) or the Confession’s language of “confess” and “mortify.” On the other hand, another overture passed by the Assembly this year, Overture 15, proposes to add to the Book of Church Order (BCO) the following statement on the office holder and their sin:
7-4. 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 (emphasis added).
The language of this year’s Overture 15 originally contained the same verb as last year’s Overture 23 (“identify”), but was changed to “describes themselves” in the minority report passed at the General Assembly. Comparing the three Overtures, this year’s Overture 29 employs the biblical and confessional categories of “confess” and “mortify” rather than a debated concept of “identify” from last year’s Overture 23, or the broad “describe themselves” of this year’s Overture 15, which is unclear as to whether or not concepts of identity or confession are implicated in the act of self-description. One must at least concede the virtue of this year’s Overture 29 using the less ambiguous concepts of confession and mortification, as they are clearly defined by their use in our Standards.
Final Section Changes
The other section of this year’s Overture 29 that has major revisions from last year’s Overture 23 is the final section which reads as follows:
Therefore, to be qualified for office, they must affirm the sinfulness of fallen desires, the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, and be committed to the pursuit of Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions.
This year’s Overture 29 carries over the concern to address the issue behind words of identity or self-description, namely the matter of sanctification. The language itself is cleaned up from last year’s Overture 23, replacing the prohibition of a “denial” in last year’s Overture 23 with seeking positive “affirmation” of three propositions in this year’s Overture 29.