Archive for May, 2011

The Lord Has Rejected You as Leader – P.C.U.S.A. Leadership

May 28, 2011

Title: The Lord Has Rejected You as Leader – P.C.U.S.A. Leadership

Text: 1 Samuel 15

Time: May 14th, 2011

By now I’m sure many of you have heard the terrible, awful news that the Presbyterians, the members of the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination, the PCUSA or Presbyterian Church United States America, just last week voted to ordain practicing homosexual clergy. Here’s a report on what happened:

Presbyterians clear way for gay clergy

NEW YORK – After decades of debate, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Tuesday struck down a barrier to ordaining gays, ratifying a proposal that removes the celibacy requirement for unmarried clergy, in the latest mainline Protestant move toward accepting gay relationships.

The change was endorsed last year by the Presbyterian national assembly, but required approval by a majority of the denomination’s 173 presbyteries, or regional church bodies.

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, based in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., cast the deciding 87th vote Tuesday night. Sixty-two presbyteries have voted against the measure and balloting will continue, but the majority needed for ratification was secured in Minnesota.

“It’s a thrilling day,” said Sylvia Thorson-Smith, an elder at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz., whose family advocates for gays and lesbians in the church. She invited 40 people to her house for a party after the vote was announced. “I can’t help but think of those who have worked and suffered and endured and hoped for this. Some have not lived to see it.” Differences over the Bible and homosexuality have split Protestant groups nationally and worldwide for years. Within the Presbyterian Church, about 100 of the 11,000 congregations had already broken away ahead of the vote, but a group of large theologically conservative congregations, which calls itself Fellowship, has decided to remain in the denomination for now.  Top Presbyterian executives issued a statement to the church acknowledging that “some will rejoice while others will weep,” at the decision.  “However, as Presbyterians, we believe that the only way we will find God’s will for the church is by seeking it together — worshipping, praying, thinking and serving alongside one another,” the executives wrote.  The measure approved Tuesday eliminates language in the church constitution requiring that clergy live “in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.” The new provision instead requires ministers to “submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”

Each regional body will decide who it should ordain, and some districts are expected to continue to reject gay and lesbian candidates.  Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas will send a letter to its nearly 5,000 members reaffirming the congregation’s commitment to traditional marriage and celibacy for unmarried clergy. The church has formed a task force to study the impact of the new policy.

“While this change is deeply troubling, it does not change (Highland Park church),” the Highland Park senior pastor and elders wrote in the letter. “We have the freedom and the responsibility to continue upholding biblical standards for church officers.”

The 2.1 million-member denomination, based in Louisville, Ky., is the latest mainline Protestant group to move toward accepting same-gender relationships.  In 2003, The Episcopal Church caused an uproar in the global Anglican fellowship by consecrating the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran group in the country, liberalized its policy toward gay clergy two years ago. The United Church of Christ started ordaining openly gay clergy in 1972, and more recently endorsed same-sex marriage.

The nation’s largest mainline group, the United Methodist Church, which has just under 8 million U.S. members, retains its celibacy mandate for unmarried clergy.  In the Presbyterian Church, regional bodies had rejected similar amendments in three previous votes on ordaining gays since 1998. In this latest round of balloting, 19 presbyteries switched their vote in favor of ordaining openly gay and lesbian candidates for ministry.

Among the reasons cited by activists on all sides of the issue: the change in broader American society toward accepting same-sex relationships, weariness of the debate, and the departure of some conservative churches from presbyteries, which changed the balance of votes in some regions.  The new policy will take effect on July 10, after all presbyteries complete their voting.

The much smaller Presbyterian Church in America, a separate denomination, bars ordination for women and openly gay clergy candidates.” (AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll, AP Religion Writer – Tue May 10, 9:55 pm ET Associated Press writer Tara Bannow in Minneapolis contributed to this report.)

Let me explain why this recent decision parallels the ancient fate of the first king of Israel, Saul. By pursuing this heretical and apostate course, PCUSA pastors, elders and denominational leaders forfeit their own leadership calling in the eyes of God Almighty. The denomination of churches they lead should begin to rapidly decline in numbers and influence because of this action. Let’s look at how the actions of Saul led God to remove him as leader of Israel and how the leaders of the PCUSA will follow a similar course. 1 Samuel 15 (read). (more…)

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After Easter — The Ascension and The Holy Spirit

May 20, 2011

Title: After Easter – The Ascension and The Holy Spirit

Text: Acts 1:6-11

Time: May 8th, 2011

Last week I spoke on the Ascension and the Purpose of the Church, but this week I’d like to speak on the Ascension and the Holy Spirit. After the resurrection, the Lord Jesus appeared, disappeared and reappeared over a length of forty days. Finally, he gathered his disciples together and explained to them some final, important things. We looked at some of those important things last week with the Great Commission. It’s the mission of the church, every church, and our church. We are commissioned by Christ to make disciples, which means helping people convert to salvation through the gospel, then help people grow up in the Christian faith through discipleship. The purpose of the church isn’t to grow or grow big, although by the grace of God we pray that will happen. The purpose of the church is to make solid Christian disciples, people who will bear witness faithfully to the glory and reality of God on earth, and then afterwards spend eternity with God in heaven. But there’s some more last minute directions that Jesus gave his disciples not mentioned in Matthew 28 that we find in Acts 1:6-11, “So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ he said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’”  So here we have a second description of Jesus’ ascension. Christ’s ascension sometimes gets overlooked in the church’s teachings because it comes after Easter, after the resurrection. We remember the suffering and death of Christ on Good Friday, and we remember the triumphant resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday, but sometimes we forget about the dramatic ascension of Jesus forty days later. How did he exit this earth? How did he leave? Picture Jesus standing, teaching his disciples, giving them final instructions – and then he slowly began to drift upward, away from them like a balloon would after you released it. Onward and upward Jesus moved until he became so high that he faded into the passing clouds out of sight. What an awesome sight that must have been. But even before they could gather their thoughts, two angels quietly appeared besides them and added that Christ would return the same way – that is, from the sky, from the clouds – when he came a second time in the end of days. They were encouraged by the angels to carry out Christ’s instructions, not just stand there looking into the sky. What were these extra instructions of Jesus to the disciples? How do these instructions relate to Christians today? That’s what I’d like to talk about this morning. (more…)

After Easter — The Ascension and The Purpose of The Church

May 20, 2011

Title: After Easter – The Ascension and The Purpose of The Church

Text: Matthew 28:16-20

Time: May 1st, 2011

We’ve just finished the Easter season for 2011. We had a meaningful Good Friday service and then we had a wonderful Easter Sunday church service. I feel good about how we remembered the season, because we certainly were bearing witness to the fact that Christ was crucified and then rose from the dead. But today I’d like to conclude the season by speaking a little about Christ’s ascension into heaven after 40 days, and then get into the Great Commission he left the disciples.  This commission Christ gave is essentially the point and purpose of the church. People often ask, “What’s the purpose of church?” And there is some confusion on this question. Why gather together on Sunday and at other times as Christians? Jesus in his Great Commission to his disciples gives us the point and purpose of church – what church is or should be about. He explains it all in Matthew 28:16-20 (read). What we see in this short passage is how Christ left the earth – and as we know from later passages, how Christ will come back again, in the same way. He proceeds up and away from them into the sky, just as he will come again in the future, down and towards the earth from the sky. But what’s interesting is that as the disciples gather, it says that some doubted. What does this mean? Doesn’t it mean that they could hardly believe their eyes? It means that although for some, one part of them believed but another part didn’t believe that here was the risen Christ before them. But notice the utter lack of concern Christ has for these doubts. In other words, doubting from time to time is no big deal for God. It doesn’t have to be a crisis of faith or anything else. Some people think, “Oh no, I have a doubt!” But God’s attitude is, “Don’t worry, it’s no big deal. Just carry on with the faith you do have. The doubts will come and go depending on the circumstances and your moods. Don’t let it trip you up.” Remember that. If you ever get to doubting some aspect of the faith or the Bible, don’t think you’re the first one. Don’t panic. Carry on as best you can and put the doubt on the shelf, then quietly, little-by-little address the doubt issue as best you can. Usually the doubts fade or we find answers to the questions we have. Usually, working through our questions, thinking deeper about them, actually strengthens our faith, as we find that God is trustworthy. But then Jesus leaves the disciples with their marching orders. He reminds them that he has the authority of heaven, so they can trust his instructions above anything else. As we examine Christ’s commission to the disciples and also to us Christians today, we don’t have to ever wonder if they lack authority or legitimacy. They come from the risen Christ and represent his last will and testament before leaving. He expects us to take his instructions seriously and not get sidetracked on other things, even other good things. In Christ’s instructions we see the point and purpose of the Christian church. What is the work we are supposed to do here at New Life Chapel? Here’s what our agenda is, according to the highest authority, Jesus. (more…)