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August 11, 2018

Southern Baptist Convention distances itself from the GOP

 
J.D. Greear, new president
of Southern Baptist Convention

Out of a mix of "pragmatism and principle," the Southern Baptist Convention is distancing itself from the Republican Party and making serious efforts to reach out to minorities and women. Without a fresh infusion of members, it fears that its future is in jeopardy:

"For more than a decade, the denomination has been experiencing precipitous decline by almost every metric. Baptisms are at a 70-year low, and Sunday attendance is at a 20-year low," Jonathan Merritt reports for The Atlantic. "Southern Baptist churches lost almost 80,000 members from 2016 to 2017 and they have hemorrhaged a whopping 1 million members since 2003. For years, Southern Baptists have criticized more liberal denominations for their declines, but their own trends are now running parallel. The next crop of leaders knows something must be done."

In the last 30 years, SBC leaders have purged moderate cultural and political viewpoints from the denomination and become a powerful ally to the Republican Party. But two leaders of that movement have been shunned because of recent scandals: several men accused Paul Pressler of sexually abusing them or soliciting them for sex, and Paige Patterson was dismissed as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary after being accused of not properly reporting rape allegations (more than 3,000 Southern Baptist women signed a petition calling for his resignation). Patterson was also criticized for encouraging abused women to submit to their violent husbands, Merritt reports.

Patterson's ouster signaled a sea change in the SBC, as its membership continued shifting to younger Southern Baptists who think differently about culture and politics than older members. With the backing of such young members, 45-year-old megachurch pastor J.D. Greear of North Carolina won 69 percent of the vote in June to become the convention's new president. In a campaign video, Greear called for a "new culture and a new posture" in the SBC, and promised to listen to, honor, and include in top leadership roles women and minorities, Merritt reports.

The convention made some strides in that direction at this year's meeting. "This included resolutions that condemned the abuse of women, affirmed the importance of women’s contributions to churches, and offered a confession that Baptists have often “wronged women, abused women, silenced women, objectified women," Merritt reports. "The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is the denomination’s public-policy arm, hosted a packed #metoo panel discussion. And several leaders publicly suggested that women must be included in top levels of leadership. Multiple prominent leaders even insinuated that it may be time to elect a woman as SBC president, a notion that would have been considered unthinkable, if not heretical, even a decade ago.

The convention took steps to increase minorities' role as well: the SBC pastors' meeting was led by an African American, and half its speakers were people of color. That could be a step toward political change. "This predominately white denomination knows that it must reach out to Baptists of color, but if it takes Baptists of color’s concerns seriously, it is going to have to change in other ways, including politically," says Bill Leonard, a professor of Baptist studies and church history at Wake Forest University.

It's unclear how such a change would play out. Though many Southern Baptists believe endorsing President Trump puts their moral credibility at risk, most are still politically and culturally conservative. But, "this shift away from a more culturally strident and politically partisan stance is significant," Merritt reports. "In Trump’s America, where the religious right wields outsized influence, the shifts among Southern Baptists could be a harbinger of broader change among evangelicals."

August 4, 2018

Every Thought Captive, a weekly devotional from Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA)Every Thought Captive, a weekly devotional from Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA)

 

August 03, 2018

The Slow Work of God: The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds
by Austin Ariail 
 

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

“Take a chill pill.” It’s a phrase I repeated often in my childhood as way to rebuff the immediate and irksome demands of a sibling, friend, and occasionally a parent. The phrase has resurfaced some twenty years later. The context is pretty much the same, however the person making the demands has shifted from peers or parents to my three-year-old. I’ll often use the phrase in the middle of typical three-year-old demand generally culminating in a meltdown. In great parenting fashion I am trying to impress upon my daughter, despite her struggles, to wait and that I will help her soon. Usually, and unfortunately, the request does not work.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds is a fairly straightforward text. Jesus describes for the crowd and later interprets for His disciples what the world is like: a coexistence of good and bad until the day of judgement when the Sower, Jesus Christ, will sort things out. Eternal bliss for the good seed, or the sons of the kingdom, and damnation for the sons of the evil one, or the weeds. The sermon outlined comforts the sons and daughters of the kingdom can have in response to this coexistence. We acknowledge that God permits it to happen. The wheat and the weeds living side by side does not surprise God. We can acknowledge that God will use it. God will use this liminal time—from the sowing of the seed to the harvest—as a way to form and grow the good seed as He sees fit. Finally we can acknowledge that God will overcome it. The reality that good and evil coexist is not surprising to any of us either, and often it can feel as though good is always trampled underfoot by evil. However, we can rest assured that God will vindicate the sons and daughters of the kingdom and His own work on judgment day.

Patience seems to be in short supply these days, and yet from the text patience is the demonstrable attribute of the Sower. During this liminal time I think it bears upon us to think deeply about what it means as God’s people to live alongside the sons of the evil one. We should look no further than the Sower Himself in order to understand our responsibility.

As described in the sermon, the weed, or darnel, was a nuisance. This sort of weed was of no good or profitable use, and to sow it was a crime in the Roman Empire. The ability for a fungus to inhabit the grain rendered it toxic if consumed. Sowing the darnel among the good seed was an act of agricultural sabotage by, or understanding this in the grand scheme of Scripture, revenge by the Enemy. Regardless, the Sower’s reception to the bad news and his plan demonstrates patience. Two options lay before the Sower. He understands that with imprudence the good crop will be lost, so the weed must be left alone to coexist with the wheat. This means that the care of the good crop by the fieldworkers will profit the weed as well. Not only the attention, but the resources. Sunlight, good soil, and water are all things that make for a good crop, and the weed enjoys these things too. Since the wheat and the weed are intertwined, their immediate circumstances are as well. If the wheat receives “blessing” such as consistent rain or sunshine, then the weed receives the same blessing. This reminds us of Jesus’s earlier statement in Matthew’s Gospel account, “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). The Sower’s benevolence knows no bounds as both crops receive blessing.

The patience with the weed by the Sower, even attentiveness despite its inherent and evil nature, and in light of Matthew’s earlier statement given its full context, brings us to a critical point in how God’s people are to coexist with the weeds, or the sons of the evil one. God’s people by virtue of being sons and daughters of the kingdom, sown by the Sower, must demonstrate a patience with, and, to go further, love for the sons of the evil one. Earlier in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 7:15-20) Jesus warns that any tree which does not bear good fruit eventually is thrown into the fire. Taking this into account, to be God’s people, to demonstrate the legitimacy of being part of God’s kingdom, one must show the proper outworking of God’s love in our lives and that is none better demonstrated in patience with the sons of evil. Jesus displays this in His own life with His disciples. Among them is Judas, a son of the evil one, and Jesus shows forbearance with His betrayer. Jesus was able to use Judas for good, despite his evil nature and intentions, for the larger, greater good of redemption.

Why is it important to extrapolate the character of the Sower? Because it’s the nature and character of the Sower that determine the destiny of both seeds. If the Sower were lazy, the destiny of the crop is death. If the Sower is impatient, the crop will not give its full yield. And yet the nature and the character of the Sower in the parable is strikingly different. The Sower is good because He sows good seed; His crop is a reflection of Himself. His work mirrors His nature. But not only that the Sower’s patience and diligence save the good seed from ruin. To hastily remove the weed from the wheat would have ruined the wheat. The Sower was, and still is, patient. As for the weed, its malicious nature runs counter to the Sower’s and so its destiny is the raging inferno. The patience of the Sower serves both as the foil and launching pad for our world and for us.

Stanley Hauerwas notes in his commentary on Matthew that, “The parable of the wheat and the weeds is given to encourage Christians to endure in a world that will not acknowledge the kingdom that has come in Christ.” Hauerwas goes on to say this parable, which clearly gives us a picture of the End, also states the necessity with which the Church is to be patient with sons of the evil one.

The sons and daughters of the kingdom should not be in a hurry. Our world operates with rapid fire. We have a proclivity for the immediate. We are conditioned for it by our very nature, and our modern era plays to it. Simply put, we become quickly hostile when an electronic device or system stalls for more than a few milliseconds or when a stranger is driving slower than necessary in the farthest left-hand lane. Our reactions to any number of situations, with respect to patience, is that we quickly run in and do so violently. We rush to tear down a foe, eliminate a nuisance, or crush any opposition.

Patience places a pause on violence and waits lovingly and works diligently to demonstrate a different reality. This different reality is constructed entirely by God’s own forbearance with a wicked world, and then when the time was right God sent His Son to die for the ungodly (Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4). This reality, and our incorporation into it by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, serves as a launching pad for how God’s people should coexist with the sons of the evil one. Being patient demonstrates that God’s people have a different orientation to their way in the world and that God’s Kingdom is vastly different than anything else out there. What Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has to say is almost a prayer for God’s people as we wait, endure, love, and work between the time of sowing and reaping.

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability-
and that it may take a very long time.”


About the Author
Photograph of Austin AriailPhotograph of Austin Ariail
AUSTIN ARIAIL
DIRECTOR OF CHILDREN’S MINISTRY
PARK CITIES PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

Austin Ariail is Director of Children's Ministry at Park Cities Presbyterian Church. He has over 15 years of experience working with children and youth in churches in South Carolina and Texas. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two precious, little girls as well as following South Carolina Gamecock sports.

 
 

July 27, 2018

The True Good Samaritan

by Erin Golangco

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live."

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.

So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denariiA denarius was a day's wage for a laborer and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."

Luke 10:25-37 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=3799228d7f&e=82a9a8f891)

 

What makes it so difficult to ask for help? Yesterday I watched my 20-month old daughter pile five large stuffed animals into her armchair and drag the chair, animals overflowing, down the hallway with one arm while trying to push her stroller in front with her other arm. It was quite the sight. But ever-determined and strong-willed, she powered—i.e. fumbled and huffed—her way to the end of her hallway and into her room. I laughed but was simultaneously convicted by this tiny person clearly in need of help yet firmly resisting it. It was a portrait of myself—with other people and with the Lord. Why are we so resistant to acknowledge our weakness and need?

The parables are intriguing in that they readily invite us to self-identify with the characters in the story. Are we like the priest, distracted by personal agendas and comfort? Are we like the Levite, full of knowledge about God, but absent in personal application of His love and ways in everyday life? Or like the lawyer, sharp and proud, eager to justify ourselves rather than be open to change?

Some may most closely identify as the Good Samaritan, but we are not the hero of the story; only pride would lead us to believe that. We will daily embody aspects of each character in the parable, but those are not the primary place we should see ourselves.

There are many surprises in the story, the most of which is that we are most like the man who was helpless and near death. In fact, without Christ’s intervention, we were worse off—we weren’t in ICU on the side of the road, but dead in the ditch. Ephesians 2:1 tells us that we were all once dead in our sins and by nature children of wrath. Paul then goes on to say, but God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, made us alive even though we were dead. What did the Good Samaritan show the wounded man? He showed him extravagant mercy (Luke 10:37), lavish love at a great cost to himself. Jesus Christ is the True Good Samaritan.

What can this parable teach us about asking for help?

First, while we are no longer dead in the ditch and unable to save ourselves, we must not forget our stories of rescue. The Gospel has given us new and abundant life in Christ. Let us pray like the psalmist that God would restore to us the joy of His salvation (Psalm 51:12).

Second, we are daily in need of rescue. We have the Spirit of Christ, but we are not self-sufficient. Let us pray for His mercy to be tender-hearted toward Him that we may take our sin seriously and receive His grace worshipfully.

Third, let us practice saying words to Him and to others like, “I need help.” “Will you forgive me?” “I’m afraid.” “I’m hurting.” Lastly, let us find rest in Jesus, where we can lay down our pretensions and find mercy and grace in our time of need. The paradox of the gospel is that acknowledgement of our need and weakness opens a door to experiencing more of God’s grace, compassion, peace, confidence, security, and strength.

###

About the Author

Erin Golangco
Director of Small Groups
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Erin Golangco works at PCPC as the Director of Small Groups. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, and she will soon graduate from Covenant Theological Seminary. She is married to Paul, and they have one daughter, Olivia Maeve.

 

 

God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Nothing Else Matters!

    [Jesus said,] "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you — they are full of the Spirit and life."

    John 6:63 NIV

    Key Thought

    The apostle Paul said essentially the same thing as in today's verse when he wrote, "I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him..." (Philippians 3:8-9). Paul was saying that everything is nothing without Jesus. So much of what we pursue — what I have pursued — really counts for nothing. Economic meltdowns, which invariably happen, are reminders that the only investments that last, that are sure, are investments in Jesus and his kingdom. So we are called to turn our hearts to Jesus, to be shaped by his words, guided by his Spirit and conformed to his character. Jesus' words are lasting, eternal, and life-giving. Better yet, there is someone lasting and eternal and life-giving in his words — the Holy Spirit. That is why one of the ongoing works of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is to bring to our minds the words of Jesus (John 14:26). So read the Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But more than reading the words, ask the Holy Spirit to be alive as you read and are shaped and given life through the words of the Savior!

    Today's Prayer

    Holy God, I praise you! I thank you, Father, for sending the Son to die for our sins and for showing us the way home to you. I thank you, Jesus, as Son of God, for sending the Holy Spirit as my Advocate and Comforter, to be your presence within me and to bring me life through your words. I thank you, Holy Spirit, for living within me, and I ask that you conform me to Jesus and produce your holy fruit in me. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Must!

    [Jesus said,] "But the time is coming — indeed it's here now — when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NLT

    Key Thought

    "Must..."! That is a hard word when spoken by Jesus! So we should pay careful attention when the Lord uses it. Our actions must conform to his words. "Must..."! Yet this "must" is not one we can do on our own. The requirement to worship God acceptably cannot take place because of our effort — not because we do it right, say the right words, do it in the right place, or follow the right procedures. God is Spirit. We cannot worship God without the Holy Spirit! In other places, we are told that true worship is worship in the Spirit (Philippians 3:3; Ephesians 5:17-21 — notice "pray/praying in the Spirit" in Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20). More than engaging our minds and our bodies, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit to help us worship acceptably. We need the Spirit for at least two reasons. The first is that the Holy Spirit facilitates our communication with God by giving us access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18), interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27), and enabling us to cry Abba Father to God, spirit with Spirit to God (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:6). The second reason is that the Spirit is at work conforming us to be like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18), empowering us to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Romans 8:9-13) and to display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This influence of the Spirit is why being born of water and the Spirit is so important (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:3-7). Without the Spirit, true worship will not happen. We MUST have the Spirit to worship in spirit and truth!

    Today's Prayer

    Father, thank you for sending Jesus to reveal your truth and for sending the Spirit to make that truth come alive in me. May my life be a living and holy praise to you! In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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