What Do We Do with Our Freedom in Christ? (2 Kings 14)
We should ask how we can serve God with what we have been given. Sometimes we don’t have a lot of choice in our lives, we just need to work or study or raise small children or struggle with our health issues day by day. But when we do have a choice, when we have freedom, we have the freedom to love God and love other people with our time and resources.
If you had been freed from prison today after a long time inside, what do you think you would do with your freedom? I suspect all kinds of ordinary things would seem like luxuries. Eating when you want to, lying outside in the sun by yourself, and going where you want for as long as you want. And when it comes to the bigger issues like what to do with your life after this point, it would be great to have so many options.
What we do when we have time and space and freedom reveals a lot about our hearts. When we can choose our own agenda, what we decide to do shows our top priorities.
After a long time of external pressure, the kingdom of Judah had a period of relative peace in 2 Kings 14. King Amaziah didn’t have to spend all of his time defending himself from other nations. Egypt was in decline and the Assyrians had internal problems that made them withdraw from the eastern border. Syria was weaker than in previous generations and posed no threat. Amaziah easily defeated Edom to the south and found himself with options. He could have progressed a religious reform agenda for the high places, or done more to care for the poor and fix the corruption in his country.
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Overture 9 from Arizona Presbytery Asks the 50th PCA GA to Amend BCO 7 By Adding a New ParagraphBy Staff — 4 months ago
Arizona Presbytery approved an overture at its January 19,2023 meeting, asking the 50th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to “Amend BCO 7 to Codify the Biblical Standard for Church Officers Related to Human Sexuality”
In 2022, the 49th General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) , approved sending Overture 15 to the Presbyteries to consider ratifying wording for BCO 7-4. Amendments to the Book of Church Order (BCO) require that 2/3 of the Presbyteries give their assent to proposed overtures. Overture 15 failed to receive the necessary votes. This overture presents new wording for BCO 7-4 for the 50th GA to consider at its June meeting.
Overture 9 presents proposed wording to amend BCO 7 by adding a fourth paragraph on qualifications for church office. The overture presents some underlying reasons in its request to GA: It states that, “the preservation of chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior in oneself is an indispensable duty and qualification for office (1 Tim.3:2; Titus 1:5-9).”
It adds further, that “in the beginning God created them “male and female” after his own image and likeness and ordained the first marriage and family consisting of one man and one woman in sexual union, establishing the divine intention for human sexuality (Gen. 15 1:27-28; 2:24; 4:1).”
And furthermore, “any expression of sexual attraction or sexual intimacy that is not directed toward the fulfillment of a lifelong covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is contrary to nature and to nature’s God (Lev. 20:15-16; Rom. 1:26-27; Col. 3:5; 20 WLC28; WLC139; WLC148).”
The overture then proposes this wording to be added as BCO 7-4: “Men who deviate–whether by declared conviction, self-description, lifestyle decisions, or overt practice–from God’s creational intention for human sexuality are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”
An overture is a means by which a Presbytery can bring a matter to the GA for consideration. This overture will be considered by the 50th PCA General Assembly at its meeting in Memphis, Tenn., June 12-16, 2023.
OVERTURE 9 from Arizona PresbyteryTo 50th PCA GA“Amend BCO 7 to Codify the Biblical Standard for Church OfficersRelated to Human Sexuality”
Whereas, the sins of officers are more heinous by virtue of their office (2 Sam.12:7-9; Ezek. 6 8:11-12; Rom. 2:17-24; Gal. 2:11-14; Jas. 3:1; WLC 151); and
Whereas, the preservation of chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior in oneself is an indispensable duty and qualification for office (1 Tim.3:2; Titus 1:5-9); and
Whereas, in the beginning God created them “male and female” after his own image and likeness and ordained the first marriage and family consisting of one man and one woman in sexual union, establishing the divine intention for human sexuality (Gen. 15 1:27-28; 2:24; 4:1); and
Whereas, any expression of sexual attraction or sexual intimacy that is not directed toward the fulfillment of a lifelong covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is contrary to nature and to nature’s God (Lev. 20:15-16; Rom. 1:26-27; Col. 3:5; 20 WLC28; WLC139; WLC148):
Therefore, be it resolved that The Book of Church Order Chapter 7 be amended such that a new paragraph, BCO 7-4, be added, to read as follow: (new words underlined):
7-4. Men who deviate–whether by declared conviction, self-description, lifestyle decisions, or overt practice–from God’s creational intention for human sexuality are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.
Adopted by the Arizona Presbytery at its stated meeting January 19, 2023Attested by /s/ RE Richard Wolfe, stated clerk
The Embarrassment Reflex: Evangelicals and CultureBy John Ehrett — 2 years ago
Perhaps the price of elite evangelical respectability in the modern academy is adoption of the embarrassment reflex—understood as, in its deepest sense, a willingness to allow the idea of the “social” to displace that of the classically theological at the taproot of intellectual life. Such a displacement demands that evangelicals norm their theological claims against the conclusions of the social sciences, rather than vice versa—or else be tarred with the dreaded label of fundamentalist.
Nearly thirty years ago, Notre Dame historian Mark Noll fired a resounding shot across the bow of his own tradition, declaring boldly that “[t]he scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Ever since its publication, few books have loomed over evangelical intellectual life more powerfully than The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which laid out what Noll viewed as a devastating indictment of evangelicalism’s incapacity for meaningful engagement with disciplines beyond its boundaries.
Over the decades since, a much more comprehensive evangelical intellectual ecosystem has emerged, partially in response to Noll’s critique. New colleges and universities explicitly interested in cultivating the “life of the mind” have been founded. The catalogs of publishers like Crossway Academic and InterVarsity Press overflow with interdisciplinary efforts to place the evangelical tradition into conversation with topics of current interest. A complex of parachurch groups like the Gospel Coalition, with thoughtful evangelical content ranging from popular to scholarly, has sprung up online. And at the K-12 level, the classical education movement has promoted thoroughgoing engagement with the philosophical and spiritual wisdom of generations past. By virtually any metric, the landscape of evangelical intellectual thought is materially more developed than it was in 1994.
And over those years this matrix of institutions has incubated a new sort of public figure: the elite evangelical. The elite evangelical was educated at top-flight institutions and largely eschews the “culture war” language of Moral Majority forerunners like Jerry Falwell. He reads Christianity Today, listens to Tim Keller sermons, and tends to know far more about J.R.R. Tolkien than J. Gresham Machen. Above all, he is proficient in the use of the word “winsomeness.”
The rise of such a class, however, has not led to much of a rapprochement between America’s evangelicals and an increasingly secular mainstream. Nor has it seemingly engendered a healthier and more unified evangelicalism. Indeed, the recent 2021 General Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention exposed publicly what had already been obvious to many observers for some time: an ugly and deepening rift between these post-Scandal “elite evangelicals” and the rank-and-file members who fill evangelical church pews across the country.
The SBC presidential election victory of “moderate” Ed Litton over conservative hardliner Mike Stone (as well as longtime SBC fixture Al Mohler) was widely perceived as a referendum on the denomination’s alignment with ex-President Donald Trump, but the issues in play transcend any single figure. Many observers were caught off guard by the size and vehemence of the coalition backing Stone’s candidacy, a reflection of the fact that a large and growing faction of lay evangelicals are deeply concerned about their movement’s present trajectory. Chief among their targets is the group of elite evangelical figures—the pastors whose op-eds appear in the New York Times, the writers who pen Gospel Coalition columns, the seminary professors who urge greater interaction with secular academia, and so on—that they derisively describe as “Big Eva,” and view as steering evangelicalism away from theology and toward issues like immigration, racial justice, the environment, and so on.
For those firmly ensconced in the elite evangelical ecosystem, it is easy to write off much of this backlash as a result of escalating political partisanship. Kept out of view is the question of whether any of the alarm is warranted—whether perhaps there’s something in the elite evangelical water that actually does merit their concern. What if the worry that manifests—often inaptly—as complaints about “liberalism,” “cultural Marxism,” and “critical race theory”—has an intelligible root?
Over the last few decades, whenever the political right happens to hold power, there have tended to appear claims that conservative American Christians—particularly evangelicals—are closer than ever to establishing something like an American theocratic caliphate. The Bush years had Damon Linker’s The Theocons; the Trump years had Katherine Stewart’s The Power Worshipers and Jeff Sharlet’s The Family Netflix docuseries. Such commentary is downstream of the reality that American evangelicals often figure as the villains of modern academic historiography—characterized chiefly by their opposition to teaching evolution in schools, criticisms of various efforts at promoting civic equality, negativity toward environmental legislation, and so on.
For the elite evangelical who inevitably encounters such vilification within “mainstream academia,” the psychological response produced by all these allegations is likely to prove complex. Elite fears of an real-world Handmaid’s Tale are implausible on their face: at the time of this writing, Republican presidents have appointed twelve out of sixteen Supreme Court justices since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, and yet have never been able to marshal a majority to overturn that precedent, let alone revise the American constitutional order more dramatically. The most exaggerated versions of these claims don’t even attempt to persuade anyone not already adhering to preexisting secular assumptions.
Instead, for elite evangelicals, the critiques that cut deepest tend to be those that allege that American Christians have betrayed their own tradition in a fundamental way. Three recent books—all of which have sparked much discussion and controversy within evangelical circles—epitomize this sensibility. In Taking Back America for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States, sociologists Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry argue that American Christians have bred a toxic “Christian nationalism” committed more to acquiring and wielding political power than to living out Christian ideals. In Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair, theologians Gregory Thompson and Duke L. Kwon contend that the complicity of the American church in historical racism is so severe that “the language of White supremacy and reparations, now so unfamiliar and awkward, [should] one day become as fixed in the church’s imagination and fundamental to its vocation as the language of repentance and reconciliation is today.” And in Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, historian Kristin Kobes du Mez posits that twentieth-century American Christianity was colonized by a toxic nationalist-inflected masculinity, one that eventually culminated in the election of Donald Trump.
The crucial common feature of these texts is that all of them are, at least in a sense, addressed to evangelicals (or at least point in that direction): they are calls to action of a sort, urging evangelicals to adopt alternative interpretations of their American Christian tradition, without repudiating it altogether, in the name of progress. At the heart of all three books is the conviction that popular evangelicalism as such is on the wrong track—that it needs to be saved from itself through immediate course correction, or risk falling back into a fundamentalist morass.
3 Ways to Turn Against Your PastorBy Jared C. Wilson — 7 months ago
Written by Jared C. Wilson |
Thursday, November 3, 2022
Sometimes pastors have to make difficult decisions that are the result of much prayer and study. But in the moment of reception, those who have no clue how much “pastoral anxiety” was put into a decision immediately think the pastor is acting rashly or stupidly or just wrongly. Good pastors will work towards appropriate transparency and clarity of communication with their churches, not leaving them in the dark about their care for the flock.
But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.— Galatians 5:15
Most people don’t set out to dislike their pastors. Something just happens. Oh sure, there are generally disagreeable folks who seem to possess the spiritual gift of discouragement and are always looking to find faults, but most pastors I know who have congregants (or congregations) turn on them felt utterly ambushed. It takes time to trace the outworking of anger and even sometimes ousting to the root causes, and very often these causes are things that could’ve been headed off at the pass given communication, clarity, and charity.
Sometimes pastors preach heresy, engage in unrepentant sin, or unnecessarily stir up hostility or division, but a great number of pastors who’ve seen their share of congregational betrayal were, despite their flaws and failings, simply going about their ministry business when it blew up in their face.
So how does it happen? How do otherwise good Christians turn against otherwise good pastors? Here are three very common ways it happens.
1. Disappointment Turns into Disgruntlement
I have seen firsthand the weaponizing of disappointment in a congregation. Bonhoeffer was right that pastors must beware of the “wish-dream” when it comes to their congregations, but the danger works both ways — congregants often have wish-dream pastors. That is, they have an idealized version of what or who their pastor should be. They wish he was more academic or less so. They wish he was a better communicator, more like the guys they listen to on the Internet. They wish he was more extroverted or more studious or more something than he actually is.
The truth is that pastors will fail us, and this is not because they are necessarily bad pastors, but because they are human. They do not have infinite physical or emotional resources. They mess up. They make mistakes.
But when consider our pastors’ failures to live up to our idealizations of them, we must be careful we do not engage in idolatry — that we want from our pastor what we can only get from Jesus. I can think of a couple of significant disappointments I gave to church members once — both stemming from my apparent inability to “solve” counseling issues. It wasn’t my lack of availability or my lack of concern. I was engaged, I was gentle, I was pastoral. But I didn’t have a silver bullet and thus “failed.” These disappointments turned into severe critcism of me, became exaggerated into a wholesale attack on my qualifications and heart.
Remember that it’s not a sin to disappoint you. Sometimes pastors have to do that. Sometimes they don’t mean to do it, are just as disappointed as you are to be a disappointment to you. Don’t let your disappointments fester into disgruntlement. Consider Christ who never fails and let your pastor off the hook for not being him.
2. Disagreements Turn into Division
Maybe you disagree with a particular interpretation or application your pastor has made in his sermons.