Your future is not determined because of your past. You will become that which captures your attention. Is your attention set on the things of God, you will look like God. Is your attention captured by your family, you will probably love them well. Your attention is valuable and it is transformative. Don’t waste it. Where do you spend your attention? That is what you will become. The focus of your attention is transforming you.
We have a tendency to focus on all the things in life that happen or exist outside of our control. You can’t control the weather, you can’t control other people, you can’t even control when your hair turns gray or turns loose. You did not choose where you would be born or to whom. You had not part to play in your genetic make-up or your siblings or even your kindergarten teacher. You do not control the drivers in the other lane or the barista taking forever to make your black coffee.
But, it turns out, none of those things matter as much about who you become as you might think. The things outside of our control are more excuses than they are causes. The things I cannot control become perfect excuses for my bad behavior or my lack of commitment or initiative.
How do I know?
I am often tempted to blame my kids for my short temper or slow drivers for making me late or even others around me for distracting me from the task I need to accomplish.
I can be an expert excuse-maker.
But I have great news. The things outside of your control are not the most important things in your life. The things outside of your control do not have to be the most formative things in your life.
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By Michael Kelley — 8 months ago
Perhaps the simplicity of God’s design and direction is even an apologetic for the truth of the faith. It is, actually, the simplest way to live. The simplest way to think. The simplest way to be. It is when we begin to tinker with this design and direction that we find complexity after complexity added to life.
I remember the day many years ago when I was introduced to the universal remote.
Maybe you remember the days when, sitting down to watch a movie, you took your shoes off, kicked back, took a deep breath, ready to relax and then you’re suddenly barraged with remote after remote. One for the TV. One for the DVD player. One for the speakers. One for… well, you couldn’t remember what that one was for, but you had it nearby just in case. And then you went through a complicated system of button-pushing, hoping to remember all the codes and orders and settings and then, after 10 minutes, to finally start the movie.
And then the universal remote. One remote to rule them all. One thing that controlled everything else. It was like heaven opened and the beautiful light of simplicity shone through the darkness of complexity.
I’m sure there have been other moments like that for you, just as there have been for me. It’s the moment when you’re trying to sift through a myriad of issues or instructions or regulations and then you suddenly come upon a new way – a different way – that allows you to cut through all the bureaucracy and red tape and get straight to the point. And once again, it’s beautiful.
In an increasingly complex world, we look for moments like that. We will even pay for moments like that. To find a simpler way. A straight way.
And if you can keep that feeling of beautiful simplicity in your mind for a moment, consider this:
The way of sin is infinitely more complicated than the way of righteousness. Here are just a few examples:
By Gary Demar — 1 year ago
The Democratic Party has been pushing Planned Parenthood, abortion, and birth control. Big-name philanthropists are putting their money behind birth control efforts. Liberals have been pushing birth control and abortion for decades. While pro-abortion liberals are pushing the abortion and contraception wagon, Christian conservatives with their large families could dominate the culture in a generation or two if they believe and act in terms of “In God We Trust.”
You may have seen Megan Raponoe at the 2021 Met Gala celebrating “In America: A Lexicon Of Fashion” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art dressed in a red, white, and blue star-spangled suit. I take that back. You most likely did not see her. Just so you know, she was carrying a clutch purse that said: “In Gay We Trust” on the side. The blasphemous phrase is not unique to her, but it is indicative of the anti-Christian LGBTQ+ movement. Christians who support this lifestyle are equally blasphemous.
“In Gay We Trust” is a self-maledictory oath, a self-curse. A malediction is to speak (diction) a curse (mal = bad), and that’s what the LGBTQers are doing. They are cutting off their future. Some, like the former Ellen Page and now Elliot Page, are literally doing it.
The entire LGBTQ+ sexual/non-sexual alphabet soup worldview is a self-malediction. This is why the Alphabet People must recruit because they cannot reproduce if they are consistent with their homosexual and transgender principles.
Family 101: Getting Our House in Order
Family 101 is a much-needed course designed to help Christians understand covenant life. The student will learn not only about the family, but about the important role of education—both our own and that of our children. The videos, audios, and printed works found in Family 101 will provide the encouragement and the education necessary to live faithfully to both God and neighbor.
The religious leaders in Israel who worked overtime to have Jesus murdered pronounced a self-maledictory oath on themselves that had far-reaching implications for the nation.
When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” (Matt. 27:24–25).
And within a generation, the judgment came on them and their children. A Jewish woman named Mary ate part “of her child, whom she had killed and roasted. When the Romans besieged Jerusalem in AD 70, leading to a terrible famine, hunger had supposedly led to acts of desperation.” Jesus had warned about the possibility (Mt. 24:19). Even so, God was gracious by offering a way of escape (Matt. 24:15–20; Luke 21:20–24)
A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the birth rate in America hit an all-time low in 2011. “The 2011 preliminary number of U.S. births was 3,953,593, 1 percent less (or 45,793 fewer) births than in 2010; the general fertility rate (63.3 per 1,000 women age 15–44 years) declined to the lowest rate ever reported for the United States,” the report stated.
By Jared Nelson — 12 months ago
Whatever the motivations and intent behind secretive caucus groups, the reactions within the PCA follow a similar pattern: widening tribal differences, amplifying arguments between perceived camps, and breaking affinities into parties.
Every Christian ought to heed Paul’s warnings to “have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths” (1 Timothy 4:7) and not to be found in “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.” (2 Corinthians 12:20). Thus, we must be especially cautious when approaching a subject such as “Secret political caucuses” in the history of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
My aim in this post is to present a brief history of secret political caucuses in the PCA with only what can be sourced and deduced from information that is openly accessible. Because secret organizations are secret, this topic is difficult to study, and subject to vain speculation.
In the History of the PCA, we can be certain of the existence of three major organizations that have influenced the creation and the history of the PCA up to the present day. Here are the relevant criteria for evaluating whether or not an organization is a secret political caucus:
confidentiality in communication between participants,
confidentiality either over the group’s existence, its nature, its membership, and/or over the matters and strategy discussed to achieve its polity-related goals,
an ideological ethos or goal,
an agenda to accomplish its goals by staffing denominational agencies and committees, and
a strategy to accomplish those goals by coordination of votes in the courts and committees of the Church.
We begin our study with an organization that has influenced how people in the PCA have viewed such groups Though antedating the PCA itself, this organization was undeniably a catalyst for the creation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
The Fellowship of St. James
The Fellowship of St. James was a secret organization that functioned in the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS – the old Southern Presbyterian church that was the origin of the PCA) during the middle of the 20th Century. Most secondary sources relay the following basic details: The Fellowship was the brainchild of Ernest Trice Thompson, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. This organization was committed to broadening the theological tent of the PCUS, to working more ecumenically in the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, and to eventually merge with the more liberal Northern Presbyterian Church.
In 1963, the Fellowship was revealed and a group named the “Concerned Presbyterians” organized against it, publishing their first “Bulletin,” raising the alarm:
“Very few laymen are aware of the fact that over the last 15 years there has been a secret organization in our Church working quietly behind the scenes to gain control of the political machinery of our denomination. This group, composed mostly of ministers, called themselves the Fellowship of St. James. This relatively small but determined group influences and seeks to control the various agencies of the courts of our Church. In recent years they have succeeded in electing enough men of their choosing to enable them to control many of the important committees of the various Church courts and to have effective majorities on the governing bodies of many of the boards, agencies, and other institutions of the church.”
In his history of the PCA, Sean Lucas reproduces the counter conclusion of Dr. Peter Hobbie, a professor at Presbyterian College and defender of Dr. Thompson, that the Fellowship was a dinner party and “they were largely focused on the work of the Presbyterian of the South, which later became the PO [ed: Presbyterian Outlook]. That they discussed denomination politics there is little doubt. But their work was no secret – it was evident in the editorial policy of the PO.” PCA Historian Frank J. Smith received a correspondence from Ernest Trice Thompson himself insisting “We were all active churchmen, but we didn’t draw up goals or plans for the church courts.”
So was the Fellowship of St. James not a secret political caucus? Certainly, since we know about it today, the Fellowship of St. James did not remain secret about its existence. However, it undoubtedly began in secret, its membership was not public, the methods of the group were not publicized, and history only knows about it because it was revealed in 1963 and publicly recorded in the Bulletins of the Concerned Presbyterians. That a group called “The Fellowship of Concern” would form later with many of the same actors, to do what the Fellowship of St. James was said to do in private is also curious. And while they worked in and were largely in agreement with the “Presbyterian of the South,” which became the “Presbyterian Outlook,” the Fellowship was suggested as the means to accomplish goals in a confidential and organized way apart from the activities of the Presbyterian Outlook. Ultimately, Frank Smith notes: “Half a century from now when closed archives are opened the exact nature of the group will be more obvious.”
We see with the Fellowship of St. James another feature of such organizations in Presbyterian History, and that is the cross-pollination between the group and public faces. This cross-pollination becomes especially evident once the existence of the secret group has been made public. After the Fellowship of St. James was made public, soon a public face named the “Fellowship of Concern” enabled a measure of legitimacy for members who desired a public voice in addition to the private planning and coordination in the courts of the church.
The Concerned Presbyterians were in turn denounced as alarmist, and were condemned by PCUS presbyteries in Tennessee and Texas.  The Concerned Presbyterians were easier targets for formal critique, largely due to being public with their concerns. Meanwhile, while the Fellowship of St. James remained shrouded in much secrecy. This fact frustrated many conservatives who believed at certain points they were the majority, yet they did not control policy or the polity of the PCUS, and their protests against such machinations of a secret group were met with condemnations of their concerns rather than investigations into the secret group.
The Concerned Presbyterian response to an organized secret society was to organize and leave the PCUS on the belief that the administrative machinery of the denomination was hopelessly lost to a small but well-organized caucus. Eventually, Concerned Presbyterians would make up one of the four major groups founding the PCA
The Vision Caucus—“Partisanship in the PCA”
The first two decades of the PCA’s existence were not without strong disagreement between elders in the Church. There is little evidence of formal organized factions in the first fifteen years of the Church’s history. Soon, however, two competing visions for the PCA emerged. Some elders developed concerns that the denomination was not consistently living up to its confessional positions. Others believed the PCA’s original goal was to be a big tent of conservative and orthodox evangelical Christians who allow for a diversity of ministry approaches (and a certain latitude of theological conviction).
In 1987, Founding Fathers Paul Settle and Jim Baird invited fifty people in the PCA to spend time together to discuss and understand “genuine differences.” The event was not to be repeated, and instead many “big steeple people” formed a new Caucus that Frank Smith called “The Vision 2000 Caucus,” Paul Settle termed the “Vision Caucus,” and others have referred to it as the “Original Vision Caucus.” Participation was by “invitation only.”
Paul Settle was obviously distressed that the efforts at open discussion were rejected for secret politicking, as he remarked in his History of the PCA: “Partisanship reared its ugly head.” The level of direction and organization was not known until 1991, when the Presbyterian Advocate printed a copy of the Caucus’s slate of candidates for agencies and committees in the PCA. It became evident now that the Vision Caucus, in the words of Settle, “composed and circulated a list that identified some men on the Nominating Committee’s slate as undesirable. Then they arranged to have their own picks placed in opposition to those they deemed unfit.”
While many knew that the Vision Caucus existed, the methods, membership, and efforts were secret, giving it enough in common with the Fellowship of St. James to prompt conservative elders to form a public group in response. This group was conspicuously named “Concerned Presbyterians.” The name was obviously chosen to assert the parallel these men saw between the Fellowship of St. James and the Vision Caucus.