Originally Posted July 16, 2021 - PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY AND LIBERAL CHRISTIANITY – PART 1 Recently in light of the increasing challenges by the persistent and penetrating movement of Progressive Christianity within the Evangelical Church in general and my own denomination—the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)—in particular, I made a book recommendation to the 20+ young men in my Pastoral Mentoring Group as well as to the Briarwood Session and Diaconate with whom I am honored to serve as Senior Pastor. The book recommendation was the recently published “Legacy Edition” of “Christianity and Liberalism” by the noted professor, educator, preacher, scholar and churchman J. Gresham Machen. Full disclosure. J. Gresham Machen is the founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, my alma mater. He was accompanied by an extraordinary faculty which followed him from Princeton Seminary in the days of the Princeton Seminary Downgrade which corresponded to the predictable apostasy of Theological Liberalism within the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) after its embrace of Liberal Christianity. The original publication of “Christianity and Liberalism” was designed to counter the burgeoning movement of Christian Liberalism in the 19th and 20th Century within the Protestant Church in general, yet the focus was the consequential theological apostasy within the PCUSA in particular. Furthermore, this volume was influential in the founding of the International Board of Missions, Westminster Theological Seminary and ultimately the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). The re-publication of this book in the “Legacy Edition” by Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) includes chapters by the present stellar WTS faculty aligned with the chapters originally written by Machen. Not surprisingly my recommendation was not only questioned by some outside the Briarwood fellowship when it was broadly shared but was actually challenged passionately by Progressive Teaching and Ruling Elders within my own denomination—the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The challenge was repetitive and unambiguous—“Machen wrote to confront Theological Liberalism produced by the Liberal Christianity movement initiated in the 19th Century. The Theological Liberalism produced by Liberal Christianity challenged the reliability of the Divinely revealed ‘fundamental and supernatural truths’ of Biblical Christianity.” The rejoinder continued, “Pastor Reeder, no one in the PCA is challenging these ‘fundamental and supernatural doctrines’ affirmed within our Confession as they did in the days of PCUSA (Northern Presbyterian Church) Theological Liberalism; and then, fifty years later in the PCUS (Southern Presbyterian Church). Machen confronted Theological Liberalism and its resulting adulteration of the Confession leading eventually to theological apostasy. Progressive Christianity is not mounting an assault upon the ‘fundamentals of the faith:’ nor has it proposed theological aberrations to the Westminster Confession.” In a word, while Progressive Christianity is not promoting the Liberal Theology of the 20th Century, it is and will produce an equally destructive Progressive Theology in the 21st Century which is why I not only maintain the relevance of Machen’s book but also its importance. The simple reason the Progressive Christianity of the 20th and 21st Century will produce a theological downgrade as did the Liberal Christianity of the 19th and 20th Century is because they both originate from the same Motivation and are committed to the same Mission. THE SIMPLE REASON Progressive Christianity and Liberal Christianity are “both cut from the same bolt of cloth.” The fabric of this bolt of cloth which is found in both Liberal and Progressive Christianity was identified by Machen as early as his 1912 presentation on “Christianity and Culture.” There as he addressed the Biblical Mission and Ministryof the Church within the culture, he also identified Liberal Christianity’s Motivation and Mission which of necessity led to the adulteration of the Christian Message/Confession and then ultimately theological apostasy. In that lecture, and even more precisely in “Christianity and Liberalism,” which he published almost two decades later, he exposed thefabric of Liberal Christianity that inevitably results in Theological Liberalism. Therefore, since Progressive Christianity is cut from the same bolt of cloth, meaning that it is made of the same fabric as Liberal Christianity, it will likewise inevitably produce, first, its own brand of Theological adulteration and then ultimately Theological apostasy. In other words, Liberal Christianity because of its originating Motivation and its newly adopted Mission of necessity produced an apostate Message—Liberal Theology. Therefore, since Progressive Christianity originates from the identical Motivation and adopts the identical Mission of Liberal Christianity it will likewise, of necessity produce, first, an adulterated Message, and then, an apostate Message—Progressive Theology. THE “FABRIC” OF LIBERAL AND PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY EXAMINED In my “deep dive” I was amazed at how obvious the Motivation and the Mission of Progressive Christianity aligned with the fabric of Liberal Christianity. Although they are separated by 100 years, Progressive Christianity in a real sense is Regressive Christianity as it reveals itself as Liberal Christianity 2.0. Why? Because it originates from Liberal Christianity’s same failed Motivation, and is committed to its same failed Mission, which insures an inevitable Progressive Christianity Theological downgrade of its Message—though not necessarily adulterating the same doctrines as did Liberal Theology. For the purpose of accuracy, it needs to be stated clearly that the theological apostasy of Progressive Christianity while inevitable will not necessarily be doctrinally identical to the theological apostasy of Liberal Christianity but it will be equally destructive. So, let’s take a closer look at the three elements that comprise the fabric of Liberal and Progressive Christianity—Motivation – Mission – Ministries. THE MOTIVATION By documentation Liberal and Progressive Christianity are movements which arise from an identical Motivation. The self-confessed Motivation of 19th and 20th Century Liberal Christianity was not to destroy Christianity but to save the Mainline Protestant Church from the burgeoning movement of “modernity” and the intimidating boasted sophistication of the “modern mind.” The Motivation talking points of Liberal Christianity were: “in light of modernity the church must be saved from cultural irrelevance” and “Christianity must be saved from the intellectual dustbin of history” and “if Christianity doesn’t change we will lose the next generation”—sound familiar? Likewise, the Progressive Christianity of the 20th and 21st Century does not originate from a desire to destroy Christianity but to save not the Protestant Mainline Church but this time, the Evangelical Church from “cultural irrelevance,” “the dustbin of history” and “the loss of the next generation.” There is no doubt in my mind that few Progressives are “wolves in sheep’s clothing” such as those Paul warned the Elders of the Church at Ephesus to alertly guard against in shepherding “the flock of God which He bought with His own blood.” In fact, I believe the vast majority are “sheep in wolves clothing.” But make no mistake as affirmed by its celebrated apologists and preachers, Progressive Christianity is “wolves clothing” in that it has the identical and dare I say in reality arrogant Motivation as Liberal Christianity—to save Christianity and the Church from cultural irrelevance. Also, interestingly, they have the same talking points and marketing slogans. But, do they have the same Mission? THE MISSION In Liberal Christianity the church is saved from “cultural irrelevance” to a new culturally approved Mission of “Cultural Transformation—human flourishing.” Mainline Protestant 20th Century Christianity was aspirationally committed to making the 20th Century The Christian Century. They even initiated new publications such as “The Christian Century.” Mainline Protestant Churches were now poised to unleash an updated and “culturally relevant” Christianity which would usher in a newly defined Post-Millennial Utopia. This optimistic hope was broadly proclaimed from the pulpits of Mainline Protestant Churches. Liberal Christianity promised to be the venue to bring “human flourishing” to a waiting world—“Cultural Transformation” was within our reach…sound familiar? Fast forward 100 years to the concluding 20th and newly inaugurated 21st Century. Interestingly and informatively, the Mainline Churches which embraced Liberal Christianity are actually in the “dustbin of history” and on a trajectory into oblivion having been eviscerated by Theological Liberalism. Yet, amazingly, previously self-identified “Evangelical churches” are now proclaiming their new—actually not so new—Mission of the “culturally relevant Evangelical church” committed to “cultural transformation.” The Evangelical Church now promises to secure “human flourishing” through “social justice” and a newly defined accommodating sexual ethic guided by a culturally sensitive informed initiative—to seek the welfare of the city. Yes, a Biblical quote, but a quote for cultural reasons taken out of Biblical context and therefore bereft of Biblical content. THE MESSAGE Liberal Christianity, Motivated to “save the church from cultural irrelevance” and position the church to be a primary player to achieve its newly discovered Mission of “cultural transformation” then had to edit the unacceptable Theology from its Message/Confession in order to be culturally acceptable in the age of “modernity.” The necessary casualty was the removal of any and all doctrines that offended the “sensibilities of the modern mind.” Why? Because the doctrines that affirmed the supernatural power of God, the Holiness of God and the sinfulness of man were no longer culturally acceptable. In other words, any and all of the “foundational, fundamental and supernatural doctrines of Christianity” (i.e. the Virgin Birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the necessity of Christ’s atoning death, the inerrancy of God’s Word, the recorded miracles etc.) were removed. Even more specifically, Liberal Christianity, to be “culturally relevant” and to obtain a seat at the table of the “culture shapers,” out of necessity, jettisoned the Reformation secured Doctrine of “Biblical magisterium”—Sola Scriptura. In its place Liberal Christianity embraced “Cultural magisterium” resulting in the formulation of a theological Message marked by “Cultural accommodation.” This cleared the way for proposed theological changes to the Confessions of the Protestant Churches introducing first theological adulteration and then demonic theological apostasy. Sound Familiar? Progressive Christianity (like Liberal Christianity) uses the glossary of theological terms from historic Biblical Christianity but does not use the same Dictionary to define those terms. Progressive Christianity, (like Liberal Christianity) in the pursuit of “cultural relevance” to achieve its new Mission of “cultural transformation,” willingly abdicates selected theological fidelity by also abandoning Biblical magisterium—Sola Scriptura—for Cultural magisterium (cultural accommodation). In summary, to redefine the Motivation and Mission of the Evangelical Church, “cultural magisterium” is introduced as the new rule of faith and practice under the guise of “contextualization” in order to fulfill its Motivation and to further its new Mission. Since Sola Scriptura is no longer the functional authoritative “rule of faith and practice,” the Evangelical Church is free to functionally canonize literature originating from anti-God, anti-Gospel and anti-Christian political and sociological philosophies. Thus, Social justice, replaces Biblical justice; penance replaces repentance; oppressors become the oppressed; racism replaced by a new racism with no redemption promise, no reconciliation offered but continued polarization and division assured. Further casualties, men and women in sins of addiction and specifically sexually unnatural besetting sins, now hear “another Gospel”—which is not “The Gospel.” This non-Gospel deceitfully offers the positional blessings of Justification and Adoption but effectively denies the transforming blessings of Regeneration and Sanctification. Regeneration and Sanctification are now replaced with culturally approved sociological and psychological categories and terms baptized with a redefined theology. The church’s new Message is no longer one of sinner transformation with a cultural impact but now it is a deceptive Message falsely promising cultural transformation through providing cosmetic behavior modification delivered through categories of sociological manipulation. THE MINISTRIES Liberal Christianity in its Motivation for cultural relevance in order to achieve its Mission of cultural transformation not only had to embrace cultural accommodation resulting in the apostasy of its Message/Confession, but also its Ministries had to be culturally approved and applauded. Rapidly, the historic Biblical ministries of God-centered worship, personal evangelism and intentional discipleship disappeared to be replaced by ritualism, social action, philanthropic initiatives, and psychologically defined therapy. Sound familiar? In Progressive Christianity, not only has personal evangelism with a Gospel Message that delivers men and women from both the penalty and power of sin been abandoned but also Gospel discipleship ministries that address the practice and effects of sin in the lives and relationships of men and women. The transforming power of the Gospel has now given way to psychologically defined categories, behavioral therapies, and verbal cosmetic solutions. Sins including addictive and deeply embedded sexual sins of thought, word and deed are now syndromes to be managed instead of sins to be mortified. The Gospel hope of victories over sin in thought, word and deed, by Regeneration—which breaks the power of sin; and Sanctification which progressively eradicates the practice of sins through discipleship are now dismissed statistically as unattainable and unreasonable. Yet, the Gospel blessings of Justification and Adoption are still assured. Destructively, Biblical justice is now replaced by social justice defined through extra Biblical literature produced from anti-God, anti-Gospel, anti-Christian social and political philosophies which deny not only the Supremacy and Inerrancy of Scripture but also the Sufficiency of Scripture. Furthermore, and astonishingly, the once sacred calling of a “Gospel Minister” is now suspended and superseded by the politically correct cultural calling of a “Community Organizer.” THREE TAKEAWAYS 1. Motivation and Mission inevitably control and define the Message and Ministries of a Church. An unbiblical Motivation and Mission no matter how well-meaning will infallibly insure an apostate Message/Confession of the Church and will also destroy the Ministries the Church. 2. Contextualization – When a church embraces an unbiblical Motivation (cultural relevance) and an unbiblical Mission (cultural transformation) it will produce an unbiblical Message (cultural accommodation) by redefining the Biblical doctrine of “contextualization”—to be in the world, but not of the world. Biblical contextualization actually is the call to speak in the culture to its people in terms they can understand. Unbiblical contextualization speaks in the culture to the people on the terms they demand. This inevitably produces the devasting consequences of “first order apostasy.” In Liberal Christianity it produced Liberal Theology. In Progressive Christianity it produces Progressive Theology, such as the loss of Biblical justice to now pursue politically defined social justice. The loss of the Biblical doctrine of one race (human) and multiple ethnicities for the Darwinian fabrication of multiple races with the unending chaos of attempting to remove sins such as racism with racist philosophies and tools—i.e. critical theory; critical race theory; critical law theory and the scorecard of intersectionality, all of which exchange repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation for unending penance, polarization and reverse oppression. The Gospel of Redemption that delivers us from sin’s power (regeneration); sin’s penalty (justification); sin’s position (adoption); increasingly from sin’s practice (sanctification); and ultimately from sin’s presence (glorification); is now abandoned for “another gospel” offering empty promises of self-forgiveness, self-esteem and psychologically defined terms and therapies to “manage sin as a syndrome instead of mortifying sin as an enemy.” Furthermore, our identity in “union with Christ” is now abdicated to hyphenated identities exalting our besetting sins which according to the Scripture are “not to be named among us,” but in Progressive Christianity are now being used to name, identify and define us. 3. Sola Scriptura – Liberal Christianity’s theological apostasy began with the abandonment of “Biblical magisterium” for “Cultural magisterium.” Sola Scriptura which declares the Supremacy of the Scripture was dismissed along with all of its culturally unacceptable doctrines including Biblical inerrancy in its cultural accommodating surrender. In Progressive Christianity, the theological downgrade also begins with the abandonment of Biblical magisterium—Sola Scriptura—the Supremacy of Scripture by abdicating the Sufficiency of Scripture, the Sufficiency of Christ and the Sufficiency of the Gospel to save men and women from sin’s penalty and power by the grace of God to the Glory of God. FINAL THOUGHT But the fact is, the Church must remain “the bulwark and the pillar of truth.” There is no “unity by love” if there is no “unity of truth.” There will be no ability to love the lost nor one another if we lose the truth out of a desire to gain the affirmation and the applause of the world instead of the affirmation and applause of God. We are stewards of the truth—Stewards must be found faithful. Since Progressive Christianity is Liberal Christianity 2.0 because it is cut from the same bolt of cloth—with the identical fabric of a wrong Motivation, wrong Mission, leading to the wrong Message, and the wrong Ministries—then, what is the right Motivation, right Mission, right Message, and right Ministries of Biblical Christianity displayed and deployed in Christ’s Church—so I invite you…
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
November 4, 2021 1:02 PM
Originally Posted May 22, 2021 - Dear Brother and Sisters, Grace and peace to you in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and Praise the Lord! As I am sure you know by now, our Session, in light of Governor Ivey’s Declaration, has approved the 2021 Summer Worship/Ministry Transition Plan. You will notice there is no longer any need to use Interim nor the need to put a letter from the alphabet behind Plan. The key word is “transition.” For the last 15 months our leadership has attempted to keep us intentionally, effectively and safely… On Mission, On Message and In Ministry. Some might ask,” Well Pastor, can’t we just go back to normal?” The simple answer is “Not yet” for a number of reasons. For instance, In the Providence of God as we have attempted to remain faithful as a Great Commission Church attempting by God’s grace to live within a Great Commandment culture where we “love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves.” The Lord has opened up a number of ministry strategies, venues and opportunities. For instance, our Lord’s Day media ministry footprint has been expanded, Today in Perspective Podcast as well as Fresh Bread devotionals have geometrically expanded and at one time were being heard in every State as well as on 6 continents. To God be the Glory! So, how can we continue to use this outreach tool while affirming the primacy of gathered worship? We have established communication instruments that are not substitutes for gathered fellowship, Bible Study and meetings but can supplement and enhance such efforts. We have and are finding means that allow us to love those who are medically vulnerable with intentional, effective and safe ministry while confidently trusting the Lord yet not carelessly tempting the Lord. So, it’s not simply “normal” that we are returning to in August but a “new normal” and hopefully even more effective “normal” to fulfill our Biblical Mission with our Biblical Message through our Biblical Ministries. Affirming and expanding the joy of gathered worship on the Lord’s Day, shepherding people with personal contact while taking advantage of new communication instruments will make us by God’s grace even more effective as… “For God’s glory Briarwood is committed to equipping Christians to worship God and to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ.” Brother and Sisters, the challenge from the world to the church is before us. The need to address the issues within the professing evangelical church is also before us. But the Word of God is inerrant and sufficient, the Spirit of God is powerfully present and the Glory of God is our greatest delight as we evangelize the lost, equip believers and edify one another. Our confidence is in our Savior who saves his people at the Cross and has promised us “I will “build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I want to thank the sacrificial, servant-hearted leadership of Briarwood Elders, Deacons, Pastoral staff as well as the Support Staff for your Christ-honoring labor over these last 16 months. I want to thank the fellowship and membership of the Briarwood family for your persistence, patience, intercessory prayers and commitment to “press on” in your commitment to honor the Lord, love one another well and be “the Salt of the Earth” and “the Light of the World“ during “this present distress” which soon God willing, will be in our rearview mirror. So let’s “press on” as we “rescue the perishing,” and proclaim Jesus “Who is merciful to save.” I say it often but I don’t say it enough! It is a privilege to serve the Lord with all of you! So one final request. Please join me in intercessory prayer that we will not only enjoy and take advantage of the “Summer Transition Plan” but anticipate with joy the opportunities which the Lord has, is and will open for us to serve Him as we “Lift High the Cross” …. On Mission, On Message and In Ministry. For Christ, The Gospel and His Church, Harry L. Reeder, III Pastor Teacher Matt 6:33
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
June 23, 2021 12:55 PM
Originally Posted April 16, 2021 - Pastoral Letter on Interim Worship/Ministry Plan F Dear Brothers and Sisters, Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Over a year ago the Covid19 pandemic necessitated our response as a church to address the challenges of the pandemic and the directives from the Federal and State Governmental agencies, while maintaining our prioritized commitment to fulfill our Christ-given, Great Commission defined ministry. It began with a Pastoral Letter introducing “Interim Worship/Ministry Plan A” and now, over a year later “Interim Worship/Ministry Plan F.” I am sure that almost all of you have heard of Gov Ivey’s new directive issued last week. In response to the current status of Covid19 she has replaced the previous directive for our State – “Safer at Home” with this new directive – “Safer Apart.” Basically, “Safer Apart” calls for the exercise of personal responsibility, respectful thoughtfulness and genuine concern for our fellow citizens. Mandates for medical and safety protocols are now by and large strong encouragements to be embraced with special considerations for those who are especially vulnerable to the Coronavirus. In response to this new “Safer Apart” directive, the Briarwood Session has now approved for implementation “Interim Worship/Ministry Plan F.” The development of Plan F was guided (as the previous worship/ministry plans) by three governing principles. Motivated by our love to Christ, the lost and one another our Leadership will develop plans that allow Briarwood to thoughtfully and respectfully stay On Mission, On Message and In Ministry. In obedience to Christ we will appropriately respond to our Governor’s directives and with thoughtful engagement the “Interim Worship/Ministry Plans” will incorporate the encouraged medical and safety protocols out of our respect and love for one another, our visitors and our immediate as well as extended families. We will intentionally provide a 360-degree proactive/reactive Shepherding Ministry for the Briarwood membership family throughout this pandemic. This Shepherding Ministry will also allow us to focus upon those who are acutely vulnerable to Covid19 along with extending our Ministries whenever possible by social media including the streaming of the AM and PM worship services. Knowing that such efforts cannot substitute for “gathered worship” and Bible Study, they can at least supplement and encourage those who are in categories of vulnerability or who are shut-in. May I encourage you to look closely at the guidelines of Plan F as they have been sent to you beginning with the introductory remarks by our Executive Pastor, Bruce Stallings. You will note that most of the changes are focused upon the Lord’s Day Worship services and the implementation of a transitional re-engagement of Sunday School for our Congregational Communities. The Children’s Worship Hour during the 9:30 and 11:00AM worship services will no longer do double duty as Worship and Sunday School but will now focus upon Worship since Plan F allows two provisions for Children’s Sunday School on Sunday morning. In addition, we have been able to significantly increase attendance opportunities in the Lord’s Day Worship services and still maintain the “Safer Apart” guidelines enhanced by staggering the pews that are being occupied in worship. Lord’s Day evening worship will continue. For those who are shut-in or in vulnerable categories we will maintain streaming for both AM and PM worship services. Congregational Communities will address how to best extend their Sunday School class contents technologically for those yet unable to attend in person. Cindy and I, for the sake of people flow are still unable to greet in the Lobby after the 8:00 and 9:30 Worship services but we are looking forward with great joy to being available to appropriately greet one another in the Lobby after the 11:00AM worship service. I cannot conclude this Pastoral Letter without Pastoral appreciation for the gracious demonstration of the Love of Christ by so many during “this present distress.” I am deeply grateful for the wisdom and demonstrated love for the Flock by our Elders and Deacons as well as the sacrificial and servant heart leadership of our Pastoral and Support Staff who have sought to implement these “Plans” out of love to Christ, His people and the desire to fulfill our Christ- given Mission at Briarwood. Most of all, I want to thank you for a Christ-honoring, Fruit of the Spirit-revealing “Love” and “Patience” undergirded by your commitment to persistent intercessory prayer. Not only is our Savior worthy but this world is in desperate need of Christ’s Church to embrace the Great Commission – Make disciples of all the nations – and to display a Great Commandment culture within Christ’s Church – a people who were not a people have become the people of God. Together we not only do the Great Commission but we live the Great Commandment – to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” To the Glory of God – On Mission – On Message – In Ministry, Harry L. Reeder III Pastor Teacher Matt 6:33
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
June 23, 2021 12:52 PM
Originally Posted August 19, 2020 - Dear Church Family, Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I feel certain that you are aware of our next Interim Worship/Ministry Plan D, but as with the other plans I wanted to take a moment to write a Pastoral Letter for three reasons. My first reason is to express my deep appreciation for your patience, your perseverance and your active support of Briarwood’s Leadership as they/we have attempted to shepherd us through this “present distress” in a way that would honor Christ, bear a clear witness for Christ, and further our commitment to the Briarwood Mission – Message – Ministry. “For God’s Glory, Briarwood is Committed to equipping Christians to worship God to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ…” Your encouragement has been expressed in multiple ways…notes, emails, even your countenance, and most of all your intercessory prayers not only for Briarwood but also for our Nation, which now in this “present distress” is experiencing multiple and even tumultuous physical, spiritual and social fractures. For me, the phrase “stress-fracture” has taken on new meaning. If there was ever a time this Nation was in need of Christ’s Church being unified and engaged with a Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, Bible-saturated testimony of God-centered Worship and Gospel-permeated Witness, it is in this day. My second reason is also one of gratitude. While we have attempted to honor the supremacy of Christ as Head of His Church and we simultaneously embrace His command to “honor those in authority over us” when they thoughtfully and faithfully pursue their responsibility for the general welfare of the citizens in our Nation/State—you have thoughtfully avoided unnecessarily politicizing or spiritualizing valid medical directives when universally applied to the citizenry—so I wholeheartedly praise the Lord for this discipline of grace and thank you as well. My third reason is to encourage you to take a close look at Plan D and familiarize yourself with its content. Realize as you read that you will be receiving even greater detailed information from the various ministries (i.e., Congregational Communities, Nursery, Youth Ministry, Men’s and Women’s ministries, etc.). Plan D affects accessibility for worship while maintaining the guidelines established by our State/Local Medical Directors for public gatherings in general and church worship services in particular. Those guidelines will be intentionally implemented with graciousness by the individual ministries as the new opportunities for assembly and ministry safely evolve. Please also remember we are going to continue to make available our various worship services and ministry opportunities through various technology for those who are in vulnerable categories and not yet able to safely participate. In addition to the Interim Worship/Ministry Plan D, we are also initiating this month a focused and intensive follow-up to the Shepherding Ministry which has been implemented these past six months in the life of our Congregation. As the Senior Pastor of Briarwood, I am overjoyed by the efforts throughout these months of our Pastors, Elders, Deacons and Shepherding Teams of the Congregational Communities, but we realize that this “present distress” can create and bring to the surface issues which need to be addressed in your life, so as you are contacted, please communicate to us any issues which we need to know and/or what you want us to know—so that we can intelligently respond as needed whether it be providing counseling, mentoring, or most importantly, praying for you according to your needs. It is our joy not only to serve Christ with you, but to be faithful shepherds in your life. Finally, I would like to thank the Briarwood Elders and Deacons and the Pastoral Staff for not only the work of establishing this plan while maintaining and even going beyond the medical protocols, but also for implementing it with intentionality and integrity. This past week, we had the opportunity to see our Student Ministry enjoy worship, teaching and fellowship with all of the protocols in place. The socially distanced and protected students were not only properly supervised, but also responsive to the leadership directives and requests in a way that honored the Lord. I have seen the same thing this week in the opening of Briarwood Christian School. So, please pray as other ministries move forward with the same Christ-honoring efforts. Praising the Lord as by His grace we live “sensibly, righteously and Godlyin this present age” for Christ our King. Blessings, Pastor Harry L. Reeder IIIMatt 6:33
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
January 7, 2021 3:31 PM
Originally Posted August 3, 2020 - Proverbs 26:4–5 tells us: “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” I have to confess that I love these verses. But let’s be honest. Many believers have stumbled over this text and even more have been challenged by unbelievers with this text. Don’t be intimidated. When they challenge you, they have actually opened wide a door for you to talk with them about the futility of unbelief and to talk about a life of purpose and meaning for any and all who come to Christ as their Lord and Savior. So, now let’s take on the inevitable challenges and blessings of this captivating text. Inevitably, some Christians will be confronted by unbelievers wielding this text and sporting a barely concealed confident smile. It usually arrives this way: “I thought you said God’s Word was inerrant and without contradiction. Well, here is an obvious contradiction found in what you identify as a book of wisdom.” You can then eagerly share with them that the book of Proverbs is a book of divinely ordained common sense. It is neither a book of promises nor a book of prophecies. Furthermore, it is written in the genre of Hebrew poetry, which makes judicious use of parallelism. Synthetic parallelism, for instance, consists of two or three statements addressing the same truth to enhance our understanding. In the case of Proverbs 26:4–5, we have antithetical parallelism, which sets forth a seeming contradiction but does so also for the purpose of enhancing and enlarging our understanding of the truth presented. So, in other words, the command to “answer not a fool according to his folly” (v. 4) is not a comprehensive or universal stand-alone axiom but is necessarily modified by the following statement to “answer a fool according to his folly” (v. 5). Start answering—according to God’s Word and by God’s Spirit. Share The Word of God is abundantly clear that foolishness is far reaching, but its foundation is a godless worldview—“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ ” (Ps. 14:1). Therefore, when in conversation with a “fool,” our reply to his questions (apologetics) is to be rooted and framed by God’s truth revealed in His Word and in nature—yet communicated reasonably and always with gentleness (1 Peter 3:15). That is how we answer a fool not according to his folly. Then we are ready to move from apologetics—defending the faith—to evangelism as you “answer the fool according to his folly” to win him. Specifically, we are seeking to win him from the foolishness and eternal ruin of his godless worldview (“lest he be wise in his own eyes”; v. 5), which he is presently convinced is unassailable wisdom, to a personal relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior who confounds the foolish “wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 3:19) and delivers us from its inevitable consequences of death now and for eternity. Let me restate it this way: when the fool comes as a skeptic with his questions, answer him from the truth of God’s Word, not from his faulty and irrational worldview. As you answer intentionally, seek both to dismantle his argument and to win his heart. I’m sure you have heard the attractive statement that I once made with unfeigned confidence—“Don’t try to win the argument; win the person.” This is wrong. You should actually seek to do both—with full resolve and reliance on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. In fact, for the sake of both the skeptic and watching young Christians who are easily intimidated by the foolish “wisdom of the world,” you must seek to do both. They must see and hear us not only “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) and destroy every “speculation . . . raised up” (NASB) against the Lord your God, but they must also see it done winsomely to rescue the perishing. Such an endeavor must be embraced with humility and bathed in prayer. “Contend for the faith,” but do not be contentious (Jude 3). “Defend” the faith, but do not be defensive. Win the debate with grace for God’s glory while you also seek to win the person to God’s grace and glory in Christ. I love this challenge. But sometimes I love it too much. The remedy to that self-absorbed trap is to love Jesus more. And when you love Jesus, you will love what and whom Jesus loves. And Jesus loves His Word and He loves His people and He loves the lost. So must we, and by His grace so can we. Start answering—according to God’s Word and by God’s Spirit.
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
January 7, 2021 3:30 PM
Originally Posted July 31, 2020 - It has become abundantly clear that the contemporary church is fully convinced that the effective church (and the effective Christian) is “timely” (That is, in step with the times). Obviously, this is true to a certain degree. Acts 13:36 declares, “David … served the purpose of God in his own generation.” Clearly, David’s life and ministry were “timely,” as they landed “in his own generation.” Our ministries should likewise be “timely” and land in our own generation. But it is equally true that the effective church (and Christian) must be “untimely” in two ways if we are to be faithful to “the purpose of God.” First, we are to be “untimely” because we are always “behind the times.” Second, we are always “ahead of the times.” Effectiveness is not in just being “timely” but also in being “untimely.” We must be timely, addressing the day’s needs and challenges in the day’s language and with the day’s technology. Yet, we must also be untimely, because the answer to the issues of the day was given yesterday — at Calvary. The answer is the gospel of grace “delivered to us” in the past. We must also be untimely for another reason. The same gospel delivered in the past, putting us “behind the times,” declares that we are “now” redeemed but have “not yet” received the fullness of our redemption. The gospel of the past points us to the future for our ultimate victory. Therefore, the effective Christian is also “ahead of the times.” We, today, anticipate a future day of glorious gospel fulfillment when Christ returns and brings an end to time, ushering us into eternity, where our joy will be complete. To be effective, we must land in our generation with timeliness while embracing the untimeliness of salvation secured in Christ historically, and with the anticipation of fulfillment in Christ, eschatologically, when our returning victorious Savior will bring us into a new heaven and new earth to be joyously sinless with Him forever. Until that glorious day of His return, we will suffer, succeed, falter, run, fail, triumph, confess, repent, obey, trust, and, at times, be untrustworthy. In a word, we will live as sinners, saved by grace yet “growing in grace” until Christ returns to consummate His grace. At that moment, we will be delivered into the unalterable glory of the perfections of Christ and, together, we will be with Christ forever. Therefore, the church and believers must neither dismiss the past nor live in the past. We must learn from the past yet avoid becoming a museum of the past. We are called to live in the present, not to accommodate the present by seeking to be “trendy.” Moreover, we are called by God’s grace to impact the future while anticipating the future but never passively waiting for the future. Peter affirms this dynamic with his call to live in a way that hastens “the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12). He means that in God’s sovereign plan, believers impact the future through our gospel faithfulness as we live the gospel in our own generation. Os Guinness, addressing this issue, made some comments that could be rephrased this way: “Harry, you are in danger of ‘setting the church back fifty years.’” The reply should be, “If that is true, I have failed.” Actually, we need to set the church back two thousand years to effectively meet the challenges of this year and impact the coming years. Let me rephrase yet another author’s commentary on the untimeliness of the effective Christian life. To sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” we first need to go “backward as Christian soldiers” — back to the gospel and the cross, the authority of God’s Word, the power of prevailing prayer, the priority of preaching and teaching, and the ever-present call “to make disciples of all the nations.” At the risk of being untimely, let’s look to the future and land in the present from the heights of the past — the heights of Calvary’s hill declaring Christ’s victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave. The timeliness of living in the present thoughtfully must be joined with the untimeliness of living in the present boldly by declaring the glorious truths of the past because our Savior is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). From the untimeliness of the past, exalting Jesus our Redeemer, and the untimeliness of the future, anticipating eagerly the return of Jesus our King, we impact the present and future so that God may say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). We want to be faithful servants, effectively and consistently serving our Lord from the untimely past while insistently pointing to the untimely future, thereby creating a timely ministry of the present. Our Savior is before time, above time, outside of time, beyond time, and is invading time, all the time, by the power of His Spirit through His children. The answer to relevance is not so much timeliness but Christ who delights in making us both timely and untimely.
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
January 7, 2021 3:29 PM
Originally Posted May 13, 2020 - Praise the Lord! In God’s kind Providence we are now able to resume meeting for gathered Lord’s Day worship. We will, of course, communicate and attempt to follow the Government guidelines on “strict social distancing” and the Health Department’s protocols. We do this for multiple reasons but primarily out of love for one another and to love our neighbors well. In fact, in a couple of areas for safety concerns we are expanding those Government guidelines (i.e. instead of every other pew we will be using every third pew). And while not mandating masks we certainly encourage you to feel free to wear your mask and we will also provide disposable masks for any who so desires to use one during worship. Pastorally, if you are wearing a mask, let me encourage you to feel free to use it in a way that allows you to participate and gives you comfort. The Health Department is concerned about those who are older than 65—if you fall into this category, please know you have the freedom to continue to worship by live streaming. Again, there is no mandate for those 65 or older to refrain from gathered worship—as you will fully note when you guess the age of your preaching pastor on Sunday—simply use wisdom as to your present health condition. For details do consult The Briarwood Interim Worship/Ministry Plan C which you have already received from our Executive Pastor, Bruce Stallings. Another Pastoral word would be how do we “greet one another.” May I ask you to consider two things? First, we are limiting our services to one hour in order to accommodate three worship services on Sunday morning and secure enough time to disinfect the Worship Center and restrooms as well as vacate the parking lot. So, may I ask the 8:00 and 9:30 service attendees to please move directly to your cars after the service? Secondly, what about greeting? My Pastoral encouragement is for you to learn the value of a gracious wave and the “socially distant” Christian hug/handshake. In other words, stay at least six feet away and do a “virtual” handshake/hug. But praise the Lord we will be able to see one another, worship with one another and verbally encourage one another! Adjusting to our new Interim Worship/Ministry Plan C will take some time and I am sure we will improve each week in what we do and how we do it. So, thanks for your patience. We will wait to resume our Sunday PM Worship and Sunday School Communities but we anticipate their return as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Sunday School Communities will continue their Zoom meetings and our Sunday 6:00 PM “Conversations with Harry and Bruce” will continue for the near future. Please feel free to send your Biblical, Doctrinal, or practical questions to us for our response. Our Community Pastors and Shepherding Teams will continue to reach out through all of the means available for contact as we move forward. By the way, weddings and funerals are now permissible but will be done with the same protocols as the worship services. I am so appreciative of your thoughtful encouragement, communications, intercessory prayers and faithful giving. I don’t know all the Lord is doing through this “present distress” but I do know He has multiple purposes and is at work. Finally, with the conclusion of our Interim Worship/Ministry Plan B we have also concluded the 7-part series, “Crisis and the Christian in Biblical Perspective.” As we move to Interim Worship/Ministry Plan C we are beginning a new interim topical expository series, The Apostles’ Creed in Biblical Perspective. The testimonies of personal, marital, and family spiritual renewal in the Lord have been inspiring. With the Session’s approval, I have been led to do this series for the summer to enable and encourage our grasp of the “Foundations of our Faith.” Each element of the Apostles’ Creed will be identified and the Biblical text that defines it. This ancient Creed has instructed, inspired and served as an instrument in the worship and witness of Christ’s church for almost 2000 years. Remember “sound lives” come from “sound doctrine” and The Apostles’ Creed is a sound distillation of essential truths believed by all true Christians from which a life that brings glory to God can be built with confidence. Anticipating this Lord’s Day and being with the Lord’s people…socially distanced, physically present and spiritually engaged. Blessings,Pastor Reeder
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
January 7, 2021 3:28 PM
Originally Posted April 30, 2020 - Dear Church Family, Grace and peace. Before I go any further, I would like to thank all of you for your kind encouragement, comments, sacrificial giving and patience as we work through this “present distress” together. I also praise the Lord for how you are taking advantage of this crisis to manifest the love of Christ, share the Gospel and connect people through the various electronic means we are using to proclaim the Gospel of Christ in both evangelism and discipleship. I know many of you listened to Governor Ivey’s latest Press Conference on April 28th addressing the State of Alabama as to how we will proceed in dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic under the Federal Guidelines which have been established as our framework by our elected officials. As you are aware a number of businesses are now being allowed to reopen and function within “social distancing” limitations. You are also likely aware that our Governor and her pastor, Dr. Wolf, spoke directly to the issue of churches. At the moment we are being directed to continue our present course of ministry by making use of either live-streaming or drive-up worship services enhanced by other electronic/technological ministry initiatives. Furthermore, we were also informed that the reason we are required to continue limiting our worship services to ten (10) or less is because our State has not yet met the ”Gating Criteria” required to move to Phase 1 of our President’s “Opening Up America Again” Plan which was announced last week. Specifically, our State has not yet established a 14-day statistical downturn of COVID-19 reported cases. It does seem as if we are on track and it may not be long until we can move into Phase I which would allow us to pursue enlarged worship attendance parameters under established strict “social distancing” guidelines. Phase I would also continue to encourage those who are vulnerable or health impaired to avoid large crowds. All of this means that we anticipate a worship/ministry change in the near future. So, under the leadership of our Session we are now working on “The Briarwood Worship/Ministry Interim Plan C” which we would be able to implement in a timely fashion as soon as our State goes into Phase I of the President’s Reopening Plan. In the meantime, we are making our case that within the guidelines of “social distancing” our Lord’s Church needs to be open for ministry as soon as possible for the well-being of our citizens. Let me say that I do believe our National, State and Local Guidelines in response to the Coronavirus situation needs to be examined for future beneficial refinement but for right now my/our focus is “to love our neighbors” well, follow Romans 13 with appropriate submission to the Civil Magistrates unless the Lord’s Church is intentionally hindered in its commitment to faithfully obey Christ. Furthermore, we must be engaged in fervent prayer for those in authority over us, our fellow citizens and for our Lord to Providentially use this “present distress” to do beyond what “we could imagine or think” for His Glory, the Salvation of the lost and our growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Finally, I would also again like to thank the Briarwood Pastoral Staff, Elders, Deacons and the entire Church Family for your patient, sacrificial and Christ-honoring response to this “present distress.” I do not want to fall into the sin of pride but I do believe there is room for “sanctified pride” that gives praise to God. Therefore, with praise to God I would like to say how proud I am of all of you in the Lord! It is a privilege to serve our Savior with each one of you. So, my educated guess is that another letter communicating our “Interim Worship/Ministry Plan C” will be coming soon. Pray for all who are working hard to know what to do and how to do it so we can accomplish our God-given Mission—”For God’s Glory, Briarwood is committed to equipping Christian to worship God to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ” unhindered and with effectiveness by His grace and for His Glory. Blessings,Pastor Reeder
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
January 7, 2021 3:26 PM
Originally Posted April 26, 2020 - It is safe to say I have been deluged with questions for pastoral counsel regarding how Christians should respond to the “Cares Act 2020” and with the recently increased resources provided to enlarge it, the questions have unsurprisingly intensified. But, by far the most asked question has been, “Should churches apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)?” We have been assured by members of the present Administration and by highly competent Christian lawyers that there is no legal reason not to apply nor are there any “hidden traps” if you do apply. So, should we or should we not apply? My counsel—No, do not apply. This begs the next question, “Why not?” I fully recognize that we need to give one another latitude and the judgment of charity as we work through this issue. But my counsel remains—“No, do not apply.” Here are seven reasons why. But to be clear that while these reasons are determinative for our Session the reality is Briarwood and its ministries likely would not qualify anyway. But, if we did, here are the seven reasons we would not apply. Ethical—More than one leader from different churches has said, “Pastor, this is ‘free money. It would be bad stewardship not to apply for it.” My answer is—There is no such thing as “free money” just like there is no such thing as a “free lunch.” The Bible clearly teaches that economic wealth has to be created and even wealth that is given was first created and like the proverbial “free lunch” ultimately comes with expectations. In this case the “money” being distributed has two sources of origin. The first is taxation. The money is being drawn from taxes that either have been paid or the anticipation of taxes which will be paid. The second source is money now being printed. In reality, it is being printed at a rate far beyond the “stimulus bill” passed by the previous Administration as a means to fund a “stimulus” initiative. Printed money is not “free money” either. It adds to our national debt which will be passed on to our children and our children’s children to be paid in the future. So how is this an ethical problem? The fact is churches do not pay taxes and that is for a specific reason. The reason churches are not taxed is not to provide a “government benefit” for churches but in recognition that the power to tax is the power to control. The Government is not Constitutionally allowed to control the Church. Therefore, the Government is not allowed to tax the Church nor does the Church tax the government. Furthermore, the Church is not to be underwritten or supported by the Government with the taxes of citizens paid to the government. This Reformation-initiated policy eventually codified in our Constitution is crucial to the well-being of the State and the Church which is why it is the “first” of the six affirmations identified in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Simply put the money offered in this “Act” is based upon taxes paid now or will be paid in the future by citizens or their children. Churches have not and God-willing will not be paying taxes. The Church does not support “Caesar” and therefore ethically should not seek or receive support from “Caesar.” If it does, the Bible is clear—what “Caesar” supports, “Caesar” will eventually own. Therefore, we do not look to “Caesar” for the support of Christ’s Church but to Christ who supports His Church through the sacrificial giving and loving stewardship of His people. Let me hasten to say that Christian Individuals and Christian business owners do and will pay taxes so I would simply say pastorally to them that they have the Christian liberty to seek the Lord’s “wisdom from above” and make wise and honest business decisions which honor the Lord, their families, employees and customers in determining whether or not they should take advantage of the provisions in the Cares Act. Theological and Functional—The “Cares Act” gives two ways for “small businesses” who qualify to apply for relief. But whichever path is chosen it will be administered by the Federal Government through the “Small Business Administration” (SBA). The Church is not a “Business.” We are the Church. Does the church overlap with a right use of business policies and practices? Yes. But we are not a business. I do not know any of my colleagues in ministry who would not strenuously proclaim the unique message, ministry and means of ministry which Christ Himself has designed and ordained for His Church. So simply put if we are not a “business,” why would we apply for relief as a “business,” especially in light of the fact that we proclaim from our pulpits and in our Confessions that we are not a “business”? Furthermore, why would we carelessly give the Government a mixed signal and in so doing set a precedent for a future Government/Administration to use our own actions to place us under SBA regulations specifically in the use of our facilities and Federal demands for compliance within our employment standards and policies? Wisdom—While it is true that this present Administration has written the “Cares Act” with assurance that there will be no loss of “religious liberty,” it must be remembered that this Administration will eventually be replaced. In fact, the next Presidential election is only months away. And elections have consequences. Furthermore, it has become abundantly clear that the present “sexual revolution” is not looking for toleration but for capitulation. It has and will use Government power and authority to achieve its objectives by curtailing the “religious liberty” of individual Christians, Christian ministries and Churches unless prevented by law. So, if the Church seeks or receives support from the SBA oversight of the “Cares Act” and the SBA is on record as assigning civil rights to “sexual behavior” then the eventual Governmental invasion of employment policies and practices is virtually assured and now invited. A Challenge and Opportunity—If the Lord’s Church appeals to the Government for support and relief then the Lord’s people will be “robbed” of an opportunity to be challenged in their stewardship to faithfully and sacrificially love and serve their Lord by giving to His Church for the fulfillment of its Mission/Purpose as His Church. This challenge/opportunity is not only one for giving but also one for budgetary evaluations. Perhaps there are various items that have crept into the life and therefore the budget of the church that not only can but perhaps should be removed. This “present distress” may be providing an occasion for such ministry and personnel auditing. Furthermore, this is an opportunity for those of us who receive “double honor” as pastors to willingly take reductions if necessary or become bi-vocational to assist in meeting the challenges and opportunities resulting from this “present distress”. Legacy Testimonies—When God supplies the needs of His Church Providentially through the sacrificial giving of His people then, not only will they have personal testimonies but our churches will also have “legacy testimonies” of God’s faithfulness to proclaim to a watching world and to our children and their children’s children. These blessed “legacy stories” of God’s faithfulness and the sacrificial love of His people for Him and His Church will be a treasury of rich encouragement to be told for the generations to come. Biblical Connectionalism—Not only does the Lord provide Providentially through the members and friends of a local church in moments like this but He also works through local churches ministering to one another. As He provides to one church, that church may be blessed with resources beyond its present needs and can then share with other churches. “Freely we have received…freely shall we give.” Limited Resources and Loving our Neighbors—The “Cares Act” has limited resources available to “small businesses.” If we as Christian churches and ministries draw from it then those resources are further reduced and small businesses will be turned down and possibly close resulting in further job losses for their employees and services for their customers all of whom are our neighbors. Our Lord has promised to meet “our needs” and He has the resources to do so. Let’s leave government resources for those who are struggling in light of government guidelines that affected their businesses as we call upon the Lord to meet our needs “in Christ Jesus.” As previously stated, I believe we need to be gracious with one another as we work our way through the decision of whether we should or should not participate in the “Cares Act” and this has been written in that spirit. But my final thought is simple. When our Savior gave the instruction to His Disciples “to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and the things that are God’s to God”, He provided an amazing principle that should be handled carefully in the richness of its multi-faceted implications and applications all of which are beyond the scope of this article. But one inescapable implication is that “Caesar” gives with expectations. Those who receive from Caesar will eventually be called upon to “render” back to Caesar. “I will build my Church” “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.”
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
January 7, 2021 3:24 PM
Originally Posted April 17, 2020 - Dear Brothers and Sisters, Grace and Peace. I wanted to take a moment in my fourth pastoral letter, in this “Present Distress” to address a few items. The first is to thank everyone who worked so hard out of love for Christ and His church that enabled us to livestream all of the Holy Week services and the various zoom Bible studies and ministry videos to our church family. Your servant-heart and sacrificial-spirit is not only noted and appreciated but honoring to Christ and as we receive feedback has proven to be effective in exalting our Risen Redeemer. Secondly, a number of you have contacted me concerning how worship and ministry will take place in the future in light of the President’s “Opening up America Again” plan and I have also received questions concerning whether Briarwood will be participating in the provision for churches through the “CARES ACT.” So, let me answer both of these questions. First of all, the “Opening up America Again” plan by our President leaves much room for discretion and direction to the Governors of each state. In my humble opinion, this is both Constitutional and wise. But we now have to wait for direction from our Governor who has been very thoughtful concerning the essential nature of the ministry of the church for the well-being of our citizens. From her initial directive, we created the “Briarwood Interim Worship/Ministry Plan-A”. With the subsequent changing metrics, we had to go to “Plan B” so now we will be working on “Plan C.” The Elders, Deacons and Pastoral Staff have already created about five different options of our next interim plan. But until we hear from the Governor we will not be able to make a final decision. Please know as soon as we do we will use all of our means of communication to inform you. Concerning Briarwood’s participation in the “Cares Act.” The Act provides an avenue to request financial relief for individuals, business owners and churches/non-profits. I have been asked if Briarwood will participate. The simple answer is “no” and there are multiple reasons why. The most obvious is technically we do not qualify according to the parameters of the Act. There are seven other reasons if we did qualify which would prohibit us from applying. I will not attempt to identify or explain these seven reasons in this letter, but it will in the next InPerpective blog to be published next week. I will do so to not only answer your question, but since I am continually getting phone calls with the same question from pastors and elders of other churches, this will enable us to provide one resource answer. It is a joy to serve Christ with you. This Lord’s Day we will return to the fourth sermon in the series, “The Crisis and the Christian in Biblical Perspective”. We will examine the personal and national crisis faced by Nehemiah in chapter one and from that we will focus upon a foundational Biblical lesson for any Christian and in particular, Christian leaders to employ when faced with a crisis. The Lord is doing something in our day. I do not know all that He is doing but I do know He is Sovereign and is “causing all things to work tougher for good” in this “present distress.” With confidence in Christ and gratefulness for you,Pastor Reeder
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
January 7, 2021 3:22 PM
Originally Posted April 2, 2020 - Dear Church family, Grace and peace. Well, whoever declared that responding to the Coronavirus would be a fluid and evolutionary experience has never spoken anything more true or accurate. There are so many changing dynamics. By the way, I know “this present distress” is surfacing many questions. Please feel free to send those questions to AskthePastor@briarwood.org and we will attempt to answer them on either the Sunday evening 6:00 pm program (Temporarily replacing the Sunday night service) “Conversations on this Present Distress with Harry and Bruce” or I will attempt to answer them on the 10 minute daily podcast “Today in Perspective.” I know one of your questions. What about the special week in the life and ministry of Briarwood for worship, fellowship and outreach – Holy Week? We are going to maintain our Holy Week schedule in conformity to governmental guidelines and make it available through streaming. By the time you receive this letter you will have either already or will soon receive this week’s Briarwood Weekly by mail or email. In it you will find the Worship Guides for Palm Sunday and also Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Please save them or print them out for preparation and participation. Now something very important. By Sessional direction the Communion element of Maundy Thursday is being postponed for two reasons. First, to maintain compliance with the governmental guidelines for safety purposes. Second is theological. Suffice it to say the Biblical and faithful administration of the Lord’s Supper cannot be done by “virtual communion” or “private administration.” The Scriptures are abundantly and repetitively clear that the sacraments of the Church especially the Lord’s Supper are to be observed, implemented and celebrated “when you come together” for a Divine service of gathered worship. Having said that, this service will focus on the events of Holy Week leading up to Maundy Thursday. In addition, we will display the Biblical Passover Supper with explanation of how the Lord fulfilled this last Passover and established the first Lord’s Supper in anticipation of the Lamb’s Supper in Revelation 19. Therefore, this service will be helpful for our preparation as we anticipate the celebrating the Lord’s Supper when we are again able to “come together” for gathered worship with one another. The Worship Guides for the Easter Sunrise Service and the Lord’s Day Resurrection Celebration Services of Divine Worship at 8:00 and 10:55 am through live streaming will arrive at your home in this week’s Briarwood Weekly. We are exploring opportunities to make this a special season of celebration. Praise the Lord for the resurrection of our Savior affirming His victory over all of His and our enemies “to save us from our sins” by His atoning death and resurrection. Thank you for your patience and assistance as we continue to make every effort to shepherd all of the flock. If there is any need we are not yet aware of or if you have a desire to contact us, please do not hesitate to call or email. The Reception Desk continues to be open during normal hours. Our Church phone number is 205.776.5200. Thank you for your prayers, perseverance and patience manifested through the many ways you are reaching out to one another and our surrounding community. I recently received two full pages outlining some of the things being done by so many of you which obviously I cannot list in this Pastoral letter. But please know they are enrolled in the annals of Praise to our great God as testimony to your love for Him, His people and the lost. To quote the apostle Paul “Your labor of love, steadfastness of hope and work of faith is not in vain”. Serving together under the Sovereign hand of God’s Providence,Pastor Reeder
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
January 7, 2021 3:21 PM
Originally Posted March 25, 2020 - Grace and peace. Well…praise the Lord this Pastoral Letter doesn’t contain any new adjustments to our Interim Worship/Ministry Plan which brings me to a moment of expressing to all of you my deep appreciation both personally and pastorally. Your thoughtful encouragement, intercessory prayers, proactive shepherding ministry, contacts with one another, full participation in the live-streaming of our Lord’s Day Worship services, and most of all your patience, perseverance and trust in the Lord has been a stellar witness to your love to Christ, the Gospel and His Church. In a word, you have embodied the Life Takeaways from our first sermon in the Interim sermon series—Crisis and the Christian in Biblical Perspective by embracing the call to “trust God but not tempt God, say yes to prudence but no to panic and live faithfully and thus fearlessly for Christ.” Now, allow me to pastorally share with you five important Pastoral Ministry Observations: FIVE MINISTRY OBSERVATIONS 1. We will continue to send the Lord’s Day worship folder for preparation and participation. But beginning this week we will do so through The Briarwood Weekly which many of you receive by mail and some of you by email. If you receive it by email, may I encourage you to print it out so that you and your family can use it for preparation and participation this Lord’s Day. 2. If you are having difficulty or trouble navigating the various technological means which we are using to enhance our ability to participate in Worship, Ministry, Shepherding and Stewardship/Giving during this “present distress” please contact us and we will assist you. 3. If you are facing any challenges or needs, or if you have not yet been contacted by one of your Congregational Community Shepherds, please let us know—do not hesitate. 4. Please seize this moment to re-calibrate and refresh your life with Biblical priorities. This is a wonderful opportunity to reestablish your daily quiet time with the Lord in His Word and prayer, family worship, family projects and activities, reading, as well as giving appropriate attention to your physical health regimen. 5. Please engage in intercessory prayer for the Lord to use this “present distress” in His good Providence not only for personal renewal, but also revival in our Lord’s Church as we press on with anticipation of worship renewal, intimate fellowship and ministry with one another. May the Spirit of God using the Word of God be at work in us to ignite a glorious Gospel Awakening. While being grateful for the technological remedies that we are using in this “present distress” to press on in worship, ministry and shepherding, I confess to looking forward with great anticipation to the first Lord’s Day we are able to fully gather for Divine worship to the Glory of God. It will be like a reunion…it will be glorious! In the meantime, please know that the 10 who gather on the Lord’s Day in our sanctuary to embrace all of the Biblical elements of Divine Worship are representing you and reaching out to you through the live streaming (Facebook, Roku, our Briarwood website, AppleTV, etc.) so that to some degree we can praise the Lord together. We are aware that even though we are separated physically we are united in the Spirit of God. Furthermore, we also know our God is present and at work within each one of us. So let us “live sensibly, righteously and Godly in this present age” by the Grace of God and for the Glory of God through Christ our Lord. For Christ, The Gospel, His Church and A Great Awakening,Pastor Reeder
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
January 7, 2021 3:20 PM
Dear Brothers and Sisters, As many of you know, this past week our State and County Health Directors instructed us to limit public gatherings to no more than 500. Therefore, we devised an Interim Worship/Ministry Plan to conform to those directives while maintaining accessibility to Lord’s Day gathered worship. Those who are most vulnerable to the Coronavirus such as the elderly, health impaired and any others who needed to be careful were and still are encouraged to access the worship services by our Website and Facebook live streaming sites. Not surprisingly, this past Monday we were instructed that the 500 number had been reduced to 50. We began to consider a new Interim Plan. While engaged in devising that plan we were informed that the number had been reduced by our President and the CDC to 10. That meant the issue needed to be addressed by the Briarwood Session to prayerfully provide us with wisdom and direction. Having received that direction from the Session we have now developed the new Interim Worship/Ministry Plan which accommodates the new governmental guidelines and yet maintains our God-given mission to “equip Christians to worship God to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ.” That plan has been sent to all of our members which you have now received. Let me share with you some Pastoral perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that will be produced in this “present distress.” I probably need to begin with a confession. As I received these new government guidelines I began to grieve (as did our Session) over the loss of unhindered Lord’s Day gathered worship. (I certainly don’t question the wisdom of these guidelines nor our need to embrace them.) But soon this grieving process gave way to an overwhelming desire to meet this challenge with confidence in the Lord and with an anticipation of what opportunities the Lord will create for us in this present situation. The reality is, we have not ceased Lord’s Day gathered worship. We are simply reduced to a gathered worship service of 10 people. We will make this service available through streaming via our Website, Facebook and other venues including WLJR. Here is the way I see it. On some Lord’s Days we have had overflow crowds and we have sent people to the Chapel to participate in worship via the large screen technology because of space limitations. In these days we have a different limitation and therefore we can only accommodate 10 people so we will allow others (our overflow) to participate in the context of their homes via screen technology while anticipating that glorious Lord’s Day when we can again assemble as a church family with friends and guests for the glory and majesty of Divine Worship—all together. Please know that we are also going to produce and send resources to help you as a family prepare for worship as well as your own worship folder which will be delivered to you by email, direct mail and Website. Pastor, what about Sunday evening worship? Our Session has approved a Sunday evening offering called “Conversations on this Present Distress with Harry & Bruce.” It will be about 20 to 30 minutes long. Bruce and I will respond to the questions that you send to us through the following email: email@example.com. Other ministry resources will be sent to you by various discipleship ministries including our Children and Youth. Don’t forget that our daily podcast, Today in Perspective, a ten-minute program Monday through Friday looking at issues from a Biblical world and life view with Gospel solutions continues. Also, our five-minute daily devotional podcast Fresh Bread would also be helpful. You can access both with the Briarwood App and from our Website. In addition, we are going to upscale our Shepherding Ministry for obvious reasons. To maintain social distancing guidelines and avoid infecting anyone this will be done by phone and electronic communication. Do know that at any time you have a need for a personal pastoral contact selected pastors will be available so do not hesitate to call upon us. We are also deeply concerned that in this time of isolation our older members may have special challenges. Our Deacons along with our younger Congregational Communities have already created plans to respond to such situations. But we do have to be made aware of the needs through our interaction with each other. So, please, as a church family, stay in contact as we pray for one another, our community and our Nation. Let me share another pastoral perspective. Many of us who are challenged with an overly busy life now do not have an overly busy life. So instead of filling the newly created spaces with binge TV or isolating computer games, why not read a book as a family—develop our personal quiet time—family worship—go to the park, the woods or open spaces for a family walk. In other words, take advantage of these days to recalibrate, refresh and renew by putting into the empty spaces what is really important…those habits of the heart—God’s Word and prayer and family relationships that need time and attention. Finally, my brothers and sisters, as we established last Lord’s Day, live with a “Biblical Perspective on Crisis as a Christian”—“sensibly, righteously and Godly in this present age.” Last week’s sermon is available and will be followed up in our topical expository series by examining case studies of how believers have responded to crisis and the Biblical lessons we need to embrace. This week our study will be on Joseph and his response to personal, family, national and global crisis (Gen 50:22-27). So, in this present distress, we trust God but we do not tempt God; we obey faithfully and therefore fearlessly; we live with prudence and not with panic. All of this allows us “to love God” and “love our neighbor.” I am fully convinced that these days will provide multiple opportunities for us to prayerfully embrace shepherding, evangelism and discipleship by the power of the Spirit of God, led by the Word of God, all to the Glory of God. Our God is sovereign and His Providences are at work in multiple ways and most of all we can be assured of His Divine Promise… “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Rom 8:28 For Christ, His Cross and His Crown, Harry L. Reeder IIIPastor/Teacher
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
March 23, 2020 12:55 PM
Dear Church Family, Grace and Peace. I hope that you have already read the communication from the Briarwood Leadership concerning our interim and modified Worship and Ministry schedule. This schedule provides an opportunity for us to enjoy the Worship of God and the means of grace with wisdom and prudence as we engage in the various elements of Worship. As we respond appropriately to this World Health Organization declared pandemic (which means the disease is multinational in its scope) we have been presented with an opportunity to manifest our Biblical theology in how we trust the Lord, love our neighbor, and seize the moment to further the Great Commission. Allow me to share a few thoughts as to how we can embrace ministry opportunities that will surface in the coming days from a Pastoral perspective. First, I want to thank our Elders, Deacons and Pastoral Staff for their prayer-saturated leadership wisdom as together we attempt to address the Coronavirus pandemic with not only wisdom but also a clear Gospel witness which is and will be manifested in how we minister to our families, to one another and to our community. Do take the time to fully digest the interim Worship/Ministry plan that has been sent to our church family and friends. This plan allows us to properly respond to the recommendations of our County and State Health Department, honor the Lord’s Day, minister to God’s gathered people and visitors with the means of grace- God’s Word, prayer and praise. This plan also enables us to continue fulfilling our God-given mission— “For God’s Glory Briarwood is committed to equipping Christians to worship God to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ.” This season of challenge is a significant opportunity for us to encourage, equip, show mercy and love as well as proclaim and share the Gospel of saving grace in Christ. We can model to the world God’s divine wisdom whereby we address our concerns yet not give way to fear. With confidence in the Providence of a sovereign God, we can live “sensibly, righteously and Godly in this present age.” Second, I would like to share with you a few Pastoral thoughts as to how our “present situation” provides to us specific ministry opportunities to fulfill both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Intercessory Prayer– May I strongly urge each of us to individually and as families renew our commitment to intercessory prayer for God’s Providence to bring this virus to an end, help us act with wisdom, minister to the needy, be delivered from fear while taking advantage of the inevitable opportunities to present the Gospel of saving grace as we live in a manner which manifests our trust in the sovereign God of grace and glory. Faithful– Live a faith informed fearless life while wisely taking precautions informed by prudence and Divine wisdom while seeking to model a life in Christ to the world and our covenant children found not only in our homes but throughout our church family who will be learning from us by watching us. Compassion – History is replete with national and social upheavals produced by plagues, wars and disasters. History also records how Christians led by pastors do not abandon the afflicted in such moments. But they/we seize these moments to minister with the grace of the Lord Jesus, a true sacrificial love that manifests the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus while still being prudent in their lifestyle decisions. The “Company of Pastors” led by John Calvin in Geneva records how the Pastors and the Christians responded to the needs of others with Gospel words and deeds throughout the devastating plagues of the 16th century which actually amplified the Reformation. In our own country the famous African American Pastor Rev. Richard Allen, the pastor of the first (now famous) “Mother Emmanuel Church” in Philadelphia led his parishioners to minister to the victims of the yellow fever plague while many exited the city. They ministered to the afflicted with the love of Christ. Let’s be prepared to also seize such moments in these days to manifest a Christ- confident sacrificial love to others. Evangelism – We are already hearing of many coming to Christ in areas that are being significantly affected such as in Iran, China and Northern Italy. While I pray God spares us from any devastating effects in our community, I do pray that this situation will be met by believers who bring not only the testimony of Gospel deeds in love but Gospel words whereby men and women may be saved. It is obvious in history that in moments of crisis God makes ready the hearts of men and women as well as boys and girls to receive the Gospel even as the idols of the age are being destroyed. Thank you for being patient with the length of this Pastoral letter, but honestly there is so much more I would like to share. Perhaps we will be able to do so these coming weeks in our interim sermon schedule. If you are health compromised or vulnerable please remember you can access the services by live streaming by our website or the Briarwood Facebook page. I am going to leave off the regular schedule of the AM Sermons—“Lifestyle Stewardship in Biblical perspective” and the PM Sermons “Eternity in Biblical Perspective.” We will resume those sermons when we return to our normal schedule. Please know during this time our Pastoral staff as well as the staff leadership is ready and willing to respond to any needs in your life which may occur in the context of this challenging season. Finally, do know that Cindy and I are as available as you need us to be. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good; to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28 With great admiration and appreciation in Christ, Pastor Harry
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
March 23, 2020 12:52 PM
“FOR WE DO NOT HAVE A HIGH PRIEST WHO IS UNABLE TO SYMPATHIZE WITH OUR WEAKNESSES, BUT ONE WHO IN EVERY RESPECT HAS BEEN TEMPTED AS WE ARE, YET WITHOUT SIN. LET US THEN WITH CONFIDENCE DRAW NEAR TO THE THRONE OF GRACE, THAT WE MAY RECEIVE MERCY AND FIND GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED.” HEBREWS 4:15-16 A THEOLOGICAL AND PASTORAL STATEMENT ON HOMOSEXUALITY Introduction by Dr. Harry L. Reeder III The Briarwood Statement (As unanimously approved by the Session of Briarwood Presbyterian Church at its stated meeting on June 18, 2019) A PASTORAL NOTE Dear Brothers and Sisters, Grace and peace. The Briarwood Statement is a prayerfully developed distillation of biblical truth focused upon equipping the Lord’s people to “speak the truth in love,” specifically and effectively to those who are in the seemingly unbreakable bondage of homosexuality and experiencing its inevitable consequences of shame, brokenness and hopelessness. The Briarwood Statement was produced through a patient and deliberative process which was saturated with prayer and dialogue under the oversight of the Briarwood Session and then they unanimously adopted it. The objective was in light of the present theological confusion and missed ministry opportunities to provide a discipleship tool whereby the Lord’s people would be equipped and enabled to “contend for the faith” without being contentious and “defend the faith” without being defensive. The desired outcome being a thoughtful and loving communication of the Gospel to those yet ensnared by this sin’s guilt and power, and also to believers who may be dealing with the entangling remnant of the sin of homosexuality from which Christ has redeemed them—some of whom, praise the Lord, are on this specific journey of grace within our own fellowship at Briarwood. We serve Christ together with a God-given Mission to evangelize everyone, everywhere, every day, in everyplace with the Gospel of grace in Christ and then disciple them patiently and persistently within the Body of Christ as they grow in the grace and knowledge of the Gospel of Christ. This Gospel first communicates the “bad news,” which informs us that we are sinners in need of salvation and we cannot save ourselves. Then the greatest words of the Bible… BUT GOD! The Good News is the God of Glory and Grace, who takes us right where we are by the Holy Spirit through Christ to the glory of the Father, promises to never leave us where we are. What is impossible with man is not only possible with God, but has been secured through Christ and by His Spirit. Therefore, together with theological clarity and ministry compassion, let us indiscriminately bring the Gospel to the lost and to each other so that those who hear by the power of the Spirit might leave the futility of trying to psychologically, cosmetically, and culturally remove the shame of their sin, including homosexuality, and come to Christ, who is the Friend of sinners but who is no Friend to sin, and who can save you from any and all of your sins— homosexuality being no exception. Praise God, His Grace in Christ is greater than all of our sins and any one of our sins. The same answer for any sin is found from the same Savior of sinners. For Christ, the Gospel and His Church, Harry L. Reeder, III THE BRIARWOOD STATEMENT The Briarwood Statement (As adopted by the Session of Briarwood Presbyterian Church at its stated meeting on June 18, 2019) A Theological Ministry Statement on Homosexuality with 10 Affirmations and Denials In a culture increasingly obsessed with sexuality, marked by rebellion against God’s design for the gift and enjoyment of sex as set out in His Word and the resulting sexual brokenness, our desire is to equip Christians to minister with clarity, conviction and compassion to those struggling with homosexual thoughts, desires and actions. For this purpose, we offer the following Theological Statement with the accompanying 10 Affirmations and Denials. We intend the Statement to serve as both a clear theological statement of truth amidst the unnecessarily confusing language prevalent in our culture and, at the same time, a practical ministry tool that communicates truth in love. This Statement is not meant as a full theological treatment of homosexuality generally nor is it focused on the related but separate issue of gender identity. Instead, the Statement is designed to acknowledge the deep struggle and sense of bondage that those in sexual sin can experience while affirming the authority, sufficiency and preeminence of Scripture through the power of the Holy Spirit as the only true and ultimate source of hope and deliverance. Our objective in this Statement is to address these issues faithfully and move people intentionally to Jesus Christ the Righteous, who is merciful and gracious. THE THEOLOGICAL GOVERNING PRINCIPLE Everyone is born with a sin nature1 which inevitably manifests itself in sinful thoughts,2 desires3 and actions,4 corrupting all aspects of human sexuality, none of which are beyond the transforming power of the Gospel.5 1Genesis 3:1-7; Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:18,23 (i.e., original sin) 2Genesis 6:5; Psalm 10:4; Mark 7:21 (i.e., indwelling sin) 3Genesis 3:1-7; James 1:14,15; Mark 7:21-23 (i.e., indwelling sin) 4Romans 1:24-32; Mark 7:21-23; Galatians 5:16,17 (i.e., actual sins) 5Romans 1:16 (i.e., Gospel transformation) AFFIRMATIONS AND DENIALS We affirm that each of us is born a sinner and this sin nature will manifest itself in actual sins including sinful heterosexual and/or homosexual thoughts, desires and actions. Gen. 3:1-7; Gen. 6:5; Ps. 51:5; Matt. 5:27,28; Mark 7:21-23; Rom. 3:9-18,23; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; James 1:14,15 We deny that any supposed genetic link to homosexuality would make homosexual thoughts, desires and actions morally acceptable or normative. Gen. 3:1-7; Gen. 6:5; Ps. 51:5; Matt. 5:27-28; Rom. 3:9-18, 23; I Cor. 6: 9-10; James 1:14,15 We affirm that all homosexual thoughts, desires and actions are sinful. Gen. 1:27-28; Gen. 2:24; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Tim. 1:8-11 We deny that homosexual thoughts, desires and actions are the worst possible sins, or the unpardonable sin, or beyond redemption, forgiveness, and transformation as with any other sin. Matt 12:31; I Cor. 6: 9-11 We affirm that a Christian’s identity is solely and exclusively in Christ alone. Acts 11:26; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 5:16,17; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 3:1 We deny that Christians should identify themselves by any sin in general, or by sexual sins in particular, including identifying as a “gay Christian.” Eph. 5:3; 2 Tim. 2:19 We affirm that, while the term Same Sex Attraction (SSA) is often used by Christians to explain their struggle with homosexuality, the use of this term should be addressed within the Biblical categories of language that distinguish between temptation on the one hand and sinful thoughts, desires and actions on the other hand. Mark 7:21; Rom. 7:15; Rom. 13:14; 2 Cor. 10:13; Gal. 5:16,17; James 1:14,15 We deny that the use or non-use of the term SSA should presumptively be a test of Biblical orthodoxy. 1 Tim. 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:14; 1 John 4:1-3 We affirm the need for clarity, intentionality, and community within the church and family as we minister and disciple in a culture that celebrates and promotes experimenting with sinful sexual behaviors in general and homosexuality in particular. Rom. 1:21-32; Rom. 12:1,2; I Cor. 10:8; I Cor. 12:12-23; Eph. 6:4 We deny that the gospel and the means of grace through the power of the Holy Spirit are incapable of progressively delivering Christians from a sexually obsessed lifestyle and culture. Rom. 1:16; I Cor. 6: 9-11; Eph. 1:15-20; Heb. 7:25 We affirm that any teaching that declares homosexual thoughts and desires are not sinful unless acted upon to be contrary to Scripture. Rom, 6:11,12; Rom. 7:5; Eph. 2:3; James 1:14,15; 1 Pet. 1:14; 1 Pet. 2:11 We deny that homosexual thoughts or desires are non-sinful impulses, sexual disabilities to be managed or indicative of a morally neutral sexual orientation. Mark 7:21; 1 Cor. 6:9-11,18 We affirm that many Christians who experience homosexual thoughts and desires sincerely identify such thoughts and desires as unwanted. Rom. 7:14-25; Gal.5:16-25 We deny that a Christian is not culpable or accountable even for unwanted sinful sexual thoughts and desires. Mark 7:21; Rom. 7:14-21; Gal. 3:22 We affirm that every Christian is called to flee temptation, repent of sin and mortify the sinful desires of the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit through the God-given means of grace. Matt. 26:41; Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Cor. 10:13,14; Col. 3:5,6; 1 Tim. 6:11,12; 2 Tim. 2:22 We deny that sexual sins in general and homosexual sins in particular are to be accepted, managed, redefined, redirected or reordered. Isaiah 5:20; Rom. 6:11-14; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5,6 We affirm that all Christians, including those who struggle with homosexual thoughts, desires and actions, are delivered from the penalty and power of sin and therefore are free from all condemnation. John 8:36; Rom. 8:1,31-39 We deny that Christians who struggle with homosexual thoughts, desires and actions should suffer in silence or retreat into a subculture rather than into the Body of Christ. John 13:34,35; Rom. 9:33; 1 Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 4:4; Heb. 10:19-25 We affirm that God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, completely delivers some Christians from particular sins— including homosexual thoughts, desires and actions— miraculously and instantaneously, while others He progressively delivers through the ordinary means of grace with varying and uneven degrees of progress until they are made perfect in heaven. Rom. 6:12-14; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 5:26,27; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 John 3:2,3 We deny that Christians will achieve sinless perfection in thoughts, desires or actions this side of eternity. Rom. 7:21; Phil. 3:12; 1 John 1:8
By: Dr. Harry L Reeder III
March 12, 2020 2:17 PM
So, why another book on leadership – Christian leadership in particular? 3D Leadership was written because of three convictions, two of which are rooted in the Scripture and one is derived from observation of today’s church in today’s world. Even more specifically 3D Leadership was written to accomplish what is identified in the book as an “Immodest Proposal.” Christ-centered, Gospel-saturated and Spirit-filled churches need to embrace the opportunity to once again become Christian Leadership Factories whereby the church defines Christian leadership, develops Christian leaders and deploys them into the world. In other words, while the church maintains its Mission – the Great Commission – to make disciples of all the nations; and maintains its Message – the whole counsel of God proclaimed through the primacy of the Gospel of saving grace in Christ; and embraces its Ministries through fidelity to the Great Commandment of loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves with Gospel words and deeds – an intentionally nurtured consequence will be the blessing of a church becoming a Leadership Factory. A church that defines leadership should not only develop Christian leaders for the church through Gospel evangelism and discipleship but also develop Christian leaders from the church who are then deployed into the world penetrating every sphere and institution of society. Defining, developing and deploying faithful and effective Christian leaders from the church and into the world. So what are these three reasons that undergird this “immodest proposal” of 3D Leadership – defining, developing and deploying Christian leaders from the church into the world? Three Reasons for 3D Leadership The first reason is because God Himself has ordained leadership as an appointed instrument through which He accomplishes His purposes. The simple fact taught in the Bible and affirmed in history is that whenever God initiated a significant movement He would always raise up a leader who would become a multiplication and mobilization leader with an unalterable commitment to their God-given mission and message. Here are a few affirmations of this Biblical principle. When God called His covenant people out of Egypt and brought judgment on Egypt He raised up Moses who multiplied himself and mobilized Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Caleb and the elders of the tribes. King David was called of the Lord with a clear mission and was surrounded by three chief men and thirty mighty men. Elijah had Elisha and those from “the school of the prophets.” Paul had Timothy, Titus, Luke, Aquila and Pricilla, “leading women” etc. The Biblical examples go on and on. There are also examples throughout church history. The Reformation began with pre-Reformation leaders followed by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, Knox and others. The Great Awakening was propelled by George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley along with multiple other leaders. The second reason that 3D Leadership was written is because of the Biblical principle that “leadership works.” Our Lord affirms this throughout the Scriptures by precept and also by documenting it with narratives that affirm how leadership affects the course of history. By the way, when the Bible affirms that leadership works it records examples of leadership working which are both good and bad. Good leaders produce good results and bad leaders produce bad results. Our Lord affirms this with clarity by stating the negative: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” So, it’s not simply producing leaders but it’s producing the right kind of leaders which is why 3D Leadership begins with Biblically defining leadership, followed by Biblically developing leaders. Then the church can begin deploying these leaders who have a clear Biblical concept and purpose of leadership which has been saturated by the Gospel as they are developed by competent Biblical leader-disciplers. Now those leaders who are being discipled can be deployed from the church into the world. The third reason is an observation. Not only has the church abandoned the 3D leadership paradigm, it actually has taken a step far more destructive. Instead of the church defining leadership Biblically, the church is conforming to the world’s concept of leadership. In other words, the world’s leaders are being imported into the church and the world’s definition of leadership is being embraced by the church. This imported worldly leadership is unsurprisingly having a negative impact upon the church. The church has not only abandoned its opportunity to define leadership but it now installs leaders from the world based on their worldly leadership successes and then promotes them into the church for others to follow. If a celebrated leader in the world gives any notion of embracing Christianity they are immediately promoted and marketed as Christian leaders when at best they have only been exposed to Christianity for a very short time. We then place them into positions of influence based upon their success in the world instead of their Gospel progress and maturity in Christ. By doing so, we not only position them to provide leadership for which they are not prepared but even worse we are positioning them for greater judgment since unprepared leadership will ultimately have negative consequences upon the Lord’s people, the church and our witness in the world. They, as well as those who place them prematurely into leadership, are accountable to the Lord for those negative consequences which inevitably accompany improperly prepared leaders. Therefore, instead of being a leadership factory, the church is a leadership consumer importing leaders from the world into the church and at best presuming six leadership training classes will turn them into an effective Christian leader. So what should we do? A Modest Request to Implement the “Immodest Proposal” The modest request is simple yet profound – that the church, by consequence of its faithfulness to the Great Commission and to a Great Commandment lifestyle, marked by surrender to the Spirit of God and an irrevocable commitment to the glory of God, intentionally embrace the opportunity of impacting the world, not only by worship, evangelism, Gospel deeds and discipleship but also through a subset of intentional discipleship. This would initiate 3D Leadership and create, within the church, a Leadership Factory by Defining, Developing and Deploying Christian leaders from the church into the world. Humbly, 3D Leadership is offered as an initiating instrument for Christian leaders and members in the church to reclaim the prioritized blessing of influencing the world by Biblically defining Christian leadership, developing Christian leaders and deploying these Christian leaders throughout the world into every valid institution and sphere of society. When Moses was called home to be with the Lord he had intentionally left leaders to carry the mission and message of the Lord for the glory of God into the next generation. When Paul was called to glory he didn’t leave a vacuum but left a diverse company of multiplication and mobilization leaders for the next generation and he had also planted as well as revitalized churches which became Leadership Factories. It is an inescapable fact that the Gospels also record leadership multiplication and mobilization as a salient feature in the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Stop and think for a moment. If you were about to initiate a movement that would be secured on the cross at Calvary, announced in the triumphant resurrection to be proclaimed throughout the world, what would you do strategically? Most of us would probably work on marketing and branding as well as scheduling large group events secured at premier locations to promote our initiative, etc. While there is nothing wrong with working on presentations, securing premier locations and having large group meetings, the Gospels clearly affirm that Jesus focused His time and energy on the 3, the 12 and the 70 leaders whom He matured, influenced, trained and deployed to become multiplication and mobilization leaders. How did He do it? How did they do it? The unmistakable dynamic is that Christ was committed to defining, developing and deploying leaders into the world who would be faithful to their Christ-given mission, message and ministry. The result was and is astounding. In less than 25 years after the Ascension of Christ a frustrated pagan adversary spat out 13 words from the continent of Europe recorded in Acts 17 – “These people who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Of course, we know whoturned the world upside down – the Holy Spirit through the people of God, His church. We know what turned the world upside down – the power of the Gospel. But, we also know how they turned the world upside down – through Gospel evangelism and discipleship, Gospel church planting and revitalization, Gospel deeds of love, mercy and justice and Gospel leaders defined, developed and deployed. It is no accident that the Apostle Paul always left multiplication and mobilization leaders of his team in the churches he planted if he didn’t have time to define, develop and deploy leaders before he left. Furthermore, it is no accident that Paul continually defined leadership and enumerated the characteristics of leadership throughout the Epistles as well as prioritized the development of leaders such as Timothy, Titus, Luke and leading women, etc. Interestingly in his last Epistle before his martyrdom he commanded Timothy to develop a Leadership Pyramid as a vital part of his ministry philosophy. “Finally my son be strong in the grace that is found in Christ Jesus and the things you have learned from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2Tim. 2:2) At the top of the Leadership Pyramid is the “principal leader” (i.e. Paul) who multiplies and mobilizes a plurality of “proven leaders” (i.e. Timothy, Titus, etc.) who are each to multiply and mobilize a plurality of “potential leaders” – (faithful men) who are each to multiply and mobilize “possible leaders” (i.e. others also). This Leadership Pyramid is foundational to establishing a leadership culture in the church that multiplies, matures and mobilizes leaders who not only benefit the church but are sent from the church into the world. Early in my life I fell in love with baseball. During the summer, I would get up every morning and walk two miles to spend the whole day playing baseball at Veterans Park in Charlotte, NC. On the way home in the afternoon I’d stop by the Charlotte East Branch Library and check out a book to take home and read that night. The next day I’d drop it off and check out another on the way home the next afternoon, etc. As you would suspect I consumed the section on sports novels first. As I wondered what to read next, in God’s providence, I began to check out books from the US History shelves, specifically focused upon the 18th and 19th century. Reading those books introduced me to another love in my life – History. That eventually led me to a double major in college of Theology and History – all of which led me to a third love in my life – seeking to learn about leaders from History who, in the midst of adversity, did not simply observe the trajectories of a culture to profit from them but they changed the trajectories of a culture even if it cost them personally to do so. Ultimately this included church history in general, Reformation history in particular and the Great Awakening history specifically. However, nowhere have I been more profoundly drawn to the pursuit of leadership, the study of leadership and the faltering yet intentional desire to multiply and mobilize leaders for Christ from His church into the world than when I am reading the Word of God. Later in my life a good friend, (who planted one of the first daughter churches of the church I pastored in Charlotte, Christ Covenant) who now leads a Church Planting Institute for RTS Charlotte, Tom Hawkes. He encouraged me (in the 1980’s) to do something that ultimately led to my writing this book two decades later – 3D Leadership. So what was it he encouraged me to do? As the MNA Assistant Coordinator of Church Planting for the PCA, Tom challenged me to teach a series of classes on leadership multiplication and mobilization. My answer was, “…well, I really don’t have any material.” His response, “I didn’t think so.” That naturally led to my question, “then why would you ask me to teach these classes?” His answer, “I believe you multiply and mobilize leaders intuitively and I want to see that you start doing it intentionally.” The result of that exchange and challenge was a life-altering change in my leadership priorities to embrace a commitment to do something I have enjoyed studying and doing for my entire life – Defining, Developing and Deploying leaders. This ministry lifestyle change also led me to write this book. I hope, by God’s grace it will be of value to those who read it. To our Leader triumphant, Christ the King, be glory, honor and praise in the lives of those whom He has called to lead His church and who do so with a desire to multiply and mobilize leaders not only in the church but from the church into the world. 3D Leadership was written because of three convictions, two of which are rooted in the Scripture and one is derived from observation of today’s church in today’s world. Even more specifically 3D Leadership was written to accomplish what is identified in the book as an “Immodest Proposal.” Christ-centered, Gospel-saturated and Spirit-filled churches need to embrace the opportunity to once again become Christian Leadership Factories whereby the church defines Christian leadership, develops Christian leaders and deploys them into the world. In other words, while the church maintains its Mission – the Great Commission – to make disciples of all the nations; and maintains its Message – the whole counsel of God proclaimed through the primacy of the Gospel of saving grace in Christ; and embraces its Ministries through fidelity to the Great Commandment of loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves with Gospel words and deeds – an intentionally nurtured consequence will be the blessing of a church becoming a Leadership Factory. A church that defines leadership should not only develop Christian leaders for the church through Gospel evangelism and discipleship but also develop Christian leaders from the church who are then deployed into the world penetrating every sphere and institution of society. Defining, developing and deploying faithful and effective Christian leaders from the church and into the world. So what are these three reasons that undergird this “immodest proposal” of 3D Leadership – defining, developing and deploying Christian leaders from the church into the world? Three Reasons for 3D Leadership The first reason is because God Himself has ordained leadership as an appointed instrument through which He accomplishes His purposes. The simple fact taught in the Bible and affirmed in history is that whenever God initiated a significant movement He would always raise up a leader who would become a multiplication and mobilization leader with an unalterable commitment to their God-given mission and message. Here are a few affirmations of this Biblical principle. When God called His covenant people out of Egypt and brought judgment on Egypt He raised up Moses who multiplied himself and mobilized Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Caleb and the elders of the tribes. King David was called of the Lord with a clear mission and was surrounded by three chief men and thirty mighty men. Elijah had Elisha and those from “the school of the prophets.” Paul had Timothy, Titus, Luke, Aquila and Pricilla, “leading women” etc. The Biblical examples go on and on. There are also examples throughout church history. The Reformation began with pre-Reformation leaders followed by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bullinger, Knox and others. The Great Awakening was propelled by George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley along with multiple other leaders. The second reason that 3D Leadership was written is because of the Biblical principle that “leadership works.” Our Lord affirms this throughout the Scriptures by precept and also by documenting it with narratives that affirm how leadership affects the course of history. By the way, when the Bible affirms that leadership works it records examples of leadership working which are both good and bad. Good leaders produce good results and bad leaders produce bad results. Our Lord affirms this with clarity by stating the negative: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” So, it’s not simply producing leaders but it’s producing the right kind of leaders which is why 3D Leadership begins with Biblically defining leadership, followed by Biblically developing leaders. Then the church can begin deploying these leaders who have a clear Biblical concept and purpose of leadership which has been saturated by the Gospel as they are developed by competent Biblical leader-disciplers. Now those leaders who are being discipled can be deployed from the church into the world. The third reason is an observation. Not only has the church abandoned the 3D leadership paradigm, it actually has taken a step far more destructive. Instead of the church defining leadership Biblically, the church is conforming to the world’s concept of leadership. In other words, the world’s leaders are being imported into the church and the world’s definition of leadership is being embraced by the church. This imported worldly leadership is unsurprisingly having a negative impact upon the church. The church has not only abandoned its opportunity to define leadership but it now installs leaders from the world based on their worldly leadership successes and then promotes them into the church for others to follow. If a celebrated leader in the world gives any notion of embracing Christianity they are immediately promoted and marketed as Christian leaders when at best they have only been exposed to Christianity for a very short time. We then place them into positions of influence based upon their success in the world instead of their Gospel progress and maturity in Christ. By doing so, we not only position them to provide leadership for which they are not prepared but even worse we are positioning them for greater judgment since unprepared leadership will ultimately have negative consequences upon the Lord’s people, the church and our witness in the world. They, as well as those who place them prematurely into leadership, are accountable to the Lord for those negative consequences which inevitably accompany improperly prepared leaders. Therefore, instead of being a leadership factory, the church is a leadership consumer importing leaders from the world into the church and at best presuming six leadership training classes will turn them into an effective Christian leader. So what should we do? A Modest Request to Implement the “Immodest Proposal” The modest request is simple yet profound – that the church, by consequence of its faithfulness to the Great Commission and to a Great Commandment lifestyle, marked by surrender to the Spirit of God and an irrevocable commitment to the glory of God, intentionally embrace the opportunity of impacting the world, not only by worship, evangelism, Gospel deeds and discipleship but also through a subset of intentional discipleship. This would initiate 3D Leadership and create, within the church, a Leadership Factory by Defining, Developing and Deploying Christian leaders from the church into the world. Humbly, 3D Leadership is offered as an initiating instrument for Christian leaders and members in the church to reclaim the prioritized blessing of influencing the world by Biblically defining Christian leadership, developing Christian leaders and deploying these Christian leaders throughout the world into every valid institution and sphere of society. When Moses was called home to be with the Lord he had intentionally left leaders to carry the mission and message of the Lord for the glory of God into the next generation. When Paul was called to glory he didn’t leave a vacuum but left a diverse company of multiplication and mobilization leaders for the next generation and he had also planted as well as revitalized churches which became Leadership Factories. It is an inescapable fact that the Gospels also record leadership multiplication and mobilization as a salient feature in the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Stop and think for a moment. If you were about to initiate a movement that would be secured on the cross at Calvary, announced in the triumphant resurrection to be proclaimed throughout the world, what would you do strategically? Most of us would probably work on marketing and branding as well as scheduling large group events secured at premier locations to promote our initiative, etc. While there is nothing wrong with working on presentations, securing premier locations and having large group meetings, the Gospels clearly affirm that Jesus focused His time and energy on the 3, the 12 and the 70 leaders whom He matured, influenced, trained and deployed to become multiplication and mobilization leaders. How did He do it? How did they do it? The unmistakable dynamic is that Christ was committed to defining, developing and deploying leaders into the world who would be faithful to their Christ-given mission, message and ministry. The result was and is astounding. In less than 25 years after the Ascension of Christ a frustrated pagan adversary spat out 13 words from the continent of Europe recorded in Acts 17 – “These people who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Of course, we know whoturned the world upside down – the Holy Spirit through the people of God, His church. We know what turned the world upside down – the power of the Gospel. But, we also know how they turned the world upside down – through Gospel evangelism and discipleship, Gospel church planting and revitalization, Gospel deeds of love, mercy and justice and Gospel leaders defined, developed and deployed. It is no accident that the Apostle Paul always left multiplication and mobilization leaders of his team in the churches he planted if he didn’t have time to define, develop and deploy leaders before he left. Furthermore, it is no accident that Paul continually defined leadership and enumerated the characteristics of leadership throughout the Epistles as well as prioritized the development of leaders such as Timothy, Titus, Luke and leading women, etc. Interestingly in his last Epistle before his martyrdom he commanded Timothy to develop a Leadership Pyramid as a vital part of his ministry philosophy. “Finally my son be strong in the grace that is found in Christ Jesus and the things you have learned from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2Tim. 2:2) At the top of the Leadership Pyramid is the “principal leader” (i.e. Paul) who multiplies and mobilizes a plurality of “proven leaders” (i.e. Timothy, Titus, etc.) who are each to multiply and mobilize a plurality of “potential leaders” – (faithful men) who are each to multiply and mobilize “possible leaders” (i.e. others also). This Leadership Pyramid is foundational to establishing a leadership culture in the church that multiplies, matures and mobilizes leaders who not only benefit the church but are sent from the church into the world. Early in my life I fell in love with baseball. During the summer, I would get up every morning and walk two miles to spend the whole day playing baseball at Veterans Park in Charlotte, NC. On the way home in the afternoon I’d stop by the Charlotte East Branch Library and check out a book to take home and read that night. The next day I’d drop it off and check out another on the way home the next afternoon, etc. As you would suspect I consumed the section on sports novels first. As I wondered what to read next, in God’s providence, I began to check out books from the US History shelves, specifically focused upon the 18th and 19th century. Reading those books introduced me to another love in my life – History. That eventually led me to a double major in college of Theology and History – all of which led me to a third love in my life – seeking to learn about leaders from History who, in the midst of adversity, did not simply observe the trajectories of a culture to profit from them but they changed the trajectories of a culture even if it cost them personally to do so. Ultimately this included church history in general, Reformation history in particular and the Great Awakening history specifically. However, nowhere have I been more profoundly drawn to the pursuit of leadership, the study of leadership and the faltering yet intentional desire to multiply and mobilize leaders for Christ from His church into the world than when I am reading the Word of God. Later in my life a good friend, (who planted one of the first daughter churches of the church I pastored in Charlotte, Christ Covenant) who now leads a Church Planting Institute for RTS Charlotte, Tom Hawkes. He encouraged me (in the 1980’s) to do something that ultimately led to my writing this book two decades later – 3D Leadership. So what was it he encouraged me to do? As the MNA Assistant Coordinator of Church Planting for the PCA, Tom challenged me to teach a series of classes on leadership multiplication and mobilization. My answer was, “…well, I really don’t have any material.” His response, “I didn’t think so.” That naturally led to my question, “then why would you ask me to teach these classes?” His answer, “I believe you multiply and mobilize leaders intuitively and I want to see that you start doing it intentionally.” The result of that exchange and challenge was a life-altering change in my leadership priorities to embrace a commitment to do something I have enjoyed studying and doing for my entire life – Defining, Developing and Deploying leaders. This ministry lifestyle change also led me to write this book. I hope, by God’s grace it will be of value to those who read it. To our Leader triumphant, Christ the King, be glory, honor and praise in the lives of those whom He has called to lead His church and who do so with a desire to multiply and mobilize leaders not only in the church but from the church into the world.
By: Dr. Harry L Reeder III
March 12, 2020 2:12 PM
A Pastor’s Perspective “Let marriage be held in honor among all…Heb. 11:4” Question? Why would the Holy Spirit inspired writer of Hebrews command Christians to honor the institution of marriage among themselves and promote it as honorable throughout society? The task seems daunting given the landscape of today’s culture which has intentionally embraced marital and familial anarchy in efforts to redefine marriage. In the challenge of “honoring” marriage in a society entangled in neo-pagan fabrications of marriage, the God-given definition of marriage is unmistakably communicated in the Biblical creation account; throughout Scripture; in the Decalogue; proclaimed by the prophets; expounded by the Apostles and affirmed by Christ Himself. The definition is repeatedly affirmed in Scripture as first encountered in Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Marriage is defined as a covenantal, heterosexual, monogamous and conjugal relationship. In short hand, marriage is one man united to one woman for life. Why should marriage be “honored by all?” Why are we commanded to promote a Biblical definition of marriage throughout human society? How can this be accomplished? Here are two foundational reasons (and there are more) as to why Biblical marriage should be honored and ten practical pastoral recommendations as to how we can promote its honor throughout society. Two Foundational Reasons Marriage is not simply a church ordinance or an inbred church sacrament. Marriage is a Creation mandate. It is a Divine decree foundational and necessary for human flourishing. If I love God I will embrace and promote marriage as a Biblically mandated institution because it is a Divine commandment – when you love Him you keep His commandments. Furthermore, since I love my neighbor and knowing that if we break God’s law (including the mandate of marriage) then God’s law will break you. So, since I love my neighbor and I desire to be “salt and light” as an instrument of redeeming grace which transforms sinners and an instrument of common grace that restrains the inevitable death spiral of sin, then I will endeavor to promote marriage as a Divine blessing of public policy for humanity. I will promote the Creation mandate of marriage “to all” because God designed and implemented it and He designed it for all of humanity. Marriage is intentionally used in Scripture as a metaphor for God’s unbreakable covenant of grace with His people. Note how the Bible describes Christ as “the bridegroom” and His church (those whom He has saved) as His “bride.” Foundationally, marriage is a blessing to humanity and its primary purpose is to reveal God’s redemptive covenantal relationship with His people. Marriage isn’t simply a helpful institution for God to conveniently adapt as an illustration of His covenantal saving relationship with His people. It was primarily designed to exist for this glorious purpose from the beginning. Two thousand years ago the Son of God “left His Father” to “cleave to His Bride” by purchasing Her with His redeeming atonement at the Cross. He purposed to dwell with His bride by His Spirit now and then with His glorified presence in the New Heavens and Earth. He has covenantally saved His Bride to lead Her as a servant through “the washing of the Word” and to love Her as a joint heir of the grace of life through His Word and by His Holy Spirit while preparing a place for Her. Then, He will return to bring Her to Himself for all eternity. Therefore, marriage is to be “held in honor among all,” as a blessing to humanity and continual Gospel witness of Christ’s covenantal relationship with His Bride and a glorious witness of the power of the Gospel for Christian marriages “in the Lord” demonstrating “God’s grace is greater than all of our sins.” How can Christ’s church engage in the public square to defend and promote the public policy of marriage as defined by God – one man, one woman, one life – and winsomely do so by contending without being contentious and defending without being defensive through demonstrating the blessing of marriages for the Lord and in the Lord? Ten Practical Suggestions In preaching, promote the public policy of a Biblically defined marriage and identify its benefits for society. Prepare, officiate and shepherd marriages that are “in the Lord” beginning with a credible profession of faith from those being united in the Holy and Sacred bonds of Christian marriage. Provide Elder approved comprehensive pre-marital counseling. Insist on worshipful marriage ceremonies that proclaim the Gospel to those in attendance as well as those being married. Follow up in the initial, formative months with intentional post-marital shepherding/discipleship. Establish a ministry to “singles” that gives both a Biblical view of marriage and singleness; prepare singles in transition to marriage and equip and enfold those who are providentially called to singleness. Develop a Titus 2 ministry of equipped older men ministering to young men and older women to young women. Confront the inevitable tendency of believers to take the blessings of God’s good gifts of God (i.e. food, drink, work, play, rest, marriage, family) and making them into idols by putting them before God, beside God or above God as the savior of their lives instead of enjoying them for His glory. Institute intercessory prayer throughout the congregation for the promotion of marriage in society as a beneficial public policy; for those not yet married; for those called to singleness and for existing marriages. Equip the people of God to enjoy and implement family worship while preparing for Lord’s Day Worship.
By: Dr. Harry L Reeder III
March 12, 2020 2:10 PM
The Revoice Conference is history. When first announced with its advertised purpose statement, sponsors, plenary sessions and speakers, my Session requested I pastorally address it for them and our congregation, especially since it was hosted by a PCA church in St. Louis and contained students, graduates and faculty from Covenant Theological Seminary, our denominational seminary. In compliance, I provided an initial analysis upon the purpose statement, each plenary session synopsis and the speaker’s publications as well as public positions. In the podcast/blog initially recorded on the Revoice Conference, I made a specific request that even though there were clear reasons to be concerned about the conference we ought to wait and see what each speaker would actually say in their assigned sessions. In addition, the speakers should not be critiqued simply because they are speaking at such a conference, but ultimately on the content of what they actually say in the conference. Through online access to the plenary session talks we now know the content of the conference. The overall verdict is in. Revoice was not and is not God’s voice. Except for a few notable exceptions – such as Dr. Sklar’s treatment of Leviticus 18, which was consistent with his overall excellent commentary on Leviticus – Revoice was not and is not God’s voice. While unable in this venue to address all of the issues which lead to this verdict, I will highlight five essential issues with necessary foundational thoughts as to why the plenary sessions were at best inconsistent and in many cases contradictory to God’s voice which is revealed in His Word. I am grateful for a number of colleagues from various seminaries, ministries, churches and, in particular, The Gospel Reformation Network, each of whom are pastorally and comprehensively addressing with Gospel faithfulness and theological accuracy the content of the Revoice conference. During the initial criticisms of the Revoice conference, multiple assurances were given by the conference organizers that everyone was overreacting. In fact, the conference founder, Nate Collins, declared that the organizers were committed to what the Bible teaches as “the traditional historic understanding of sexuality in marriage.” But the reality is that the conference actually confirmed the concerns surfaced by the conference purpose statement which is… The Revoice Conference is designed to support, encourage and empower gay, lesbian, same sex attracted and other LGBTQ+ Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality. So, in light of the heightened concerns evoked by the conference content and to comply with my Session’s request, here are five essential issues with a brief theological rationale as to why these specific Revoice propositions are not God’s voice. GAY CHRISTIAN IDENTITY The Revoice purpose statement clearly affirms that those who profess Christ from an LGBTQ+ lifestyle are to be welcomed into the church and identified as “gay Christians.” This Revoice identity proposal is not God’s voice. Without denying or diminishing the reality of the “old man”—the powerful remnant of sin which indwells every Christian until glorification; nor dismissing the challenges related to eradicating the practice of addictive sins, especially sins of sexual addictions intrinsic to natural or unnatural sexual immorality—it is abundantly clear that neither Scripture nor the Gospel affirms, allows or proposes that any believer is to be identified by their pre or post-conversion entangling sins no matter how notorious or addictive. On the contrary, the Gospel calls us by faith, as the elect of God, who repent of our sins and come to Christ by the Spirit of God with the Word of God to know that we have been delivered from the power of sin through regeneration, with a new heart; from the penalty of sin through justification, with a new record; from the place of sin through adoption to a new family; and increasingly, though unevenly, from the practice of sin through sanctification with a new life; and ultimately, from the presence of sin through glorification to a new home. Therefore, our sins (from which we have been, are being and will be delivered) are no longer our identity as they once were through the distortion of idolatry. Our identity is now Christ. In Him, by the saving power of the Gospel, we now confess we were created in the image of God and we also confess we are being conformed to the image of Christ. In a word, we are in Christ and He is in us. Therefore, to live is Christ. As for indwelling sin – it is an enemy to assassinate, not a distorted identity to embrace. It is not only inconsistent to use sin as an adjective to modify or define our profession of Christ to the world, it is also unsupported in the Scripture and the Gospel message. To my dear brothers and sisters who have come to Christ from such sexual immorality and anarchy—Praise God and hear God’s voice as you fight the good fight for Christ. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. AND “You have been set free from the Law of sin and death.” AND “Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies.” Please know you are in Christ and Christ is in you. Now through Christ and by the means of grace, join us as sinners saved by grace to confess Christ, who is our life to this world and until we meet him let us kill the sin that would kill us because Christ is our life and our identity. I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. SAME SEX ATTRACTION The Revoice Conference, as anticipated from the purpose statement and plenary session synopsis, consistently presented same sex attraction as an inconvenient desire beyond the power of the Gospel of grace to eradicate, and in fact, unnecessary to eradicate. It must simply be handled. The unmistakable proposal in Revoice is that same sex attraction is a syndrome to be strategically managed. That is not God’s voice. To be clear same sex attraction is not a syndrome to be managed. It is a sinful desire to be mortified. God’s voice is clear. His grace is greater than any and all of our sin. His grace not only provides an atonement to remove the guilt and shame of sin, but also empowers the forgiven believer to kill the practice and desire for sin before it kills you. While the Word of God affirms, commends and commands brotherly and sisterly love within the same gender, it does not affirm sexual, erotic, or romantic love within the same sex. On the contrary, same sex erotic love in the Bible either brings God’s judgment (Genesis 19, Leviticus 18) or its shameless practice and approval in the culture is the evidence of God’s present judgment. (“God gave them over to unnatural desires…” Romans 1) Yet, praise God such sins though worthy of judgment, are not beyond the grace of God. The grace of God does not treat such sinful lusts of the heart as inconvenient attractions to be controlled, but as sinful desires to be crucified. James 1 informs us that sin is the inevitable progeny when internal sinful desires (lusts of the heart) unite with external temptations. James is simply affirming our Savior’s warnings concerning the sinfulness of the lusts of the heart which render us culpable of guilt, even though the heinous deed has not been done which brings even greater guilt and consequences. The believer is called to not only avoid the deed of sin but to relentlessly kill the sinful desires from which the deeds of sin are birthed when united to the external temptations of the world. The call is clear and unmistakable. We are to mortify sin by fleeing temptation and killing sinful desires. When the parents are eradicated, the progeny cannot be conceived and birthed. The Gospel promises not only a sufficient atonement to remove the condemnation of such sins, but also the power to kill them. Yes, we have “sin living in us” but we do not “live in sin.” On the contrary, the dominion of sin has been broken; therefore, in humble reliance upon Divine grace and the power of the Holy Spirit we can flee temptation and kill sin. Some of us may enjoy the blessing of immediate deliverance from its practice in our life. Some may have to fight a lifelong battle with uneven success. But, all of us pursue holiness with full awareness that in Christ, we are “more than conquerors.” Therefore, we will not and cannot accommodate our sinful desires nor lay down the Sword of the Spirit and the power of prayer by signing peace treaties with our sinful desires. That is God’s voice. MARRIAGE AS A HISTORIC CHRISTIAN TRADITION The Revoice conference affirmed that the act of sex outside of marriage, whether natural or unnatural, heterosexual or homosexual, is sin. Such a statement, of course, is commendable and one for which I am grateful. Revoice also proposes that “LGBTQ+ Christians” honor the “historic Christian tradition of marriage.” Again, I’m grateful for such a position. Yet, some speakers declared that the teaching of a family consisting of one man and one woman for one life with their covenant children was idolatrous . To support this contention they proceeded to use Biblical accounts of God’s grace in dealing with broken marriages in a broken world and even accounts of brotherly love as the true Biblical teaching of family. While the Biblical definition of marriage and family like anything else can become an idol, the Christ-affirmed Biblical definition of marriage as foundational to family is not idolatrous and to propose such is not God’s voice. God’s voice is a ringing declaration that marriage is affirmed in general revelation and defined in special revelation. It is not simply a historic Christian tradition. It has become a historic Christian tradition because it is a Biblical mandate, “For this cause, a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one.” Genesis 2:24 as quoted by our Savior and New Testament writers. By doing so, Jesus defines marriage as a heterosexual, monogamous and conjugal covenantal relationship to be “held in honor by all.” Furthermore, Christ and Scripture affirm heterosexual intimacy within marriage as a Divine gift. Thus, the doctrine of marriage and sex within marriage to initiate the marriage and recreate, as well as procreate, is a historic Christian tradition because it is mandated in the Word of God which is our only rule of faith and practice. Specifically, the tradition exists because marriage and monogamous heterosexual intimacy within marriage is a Biblical ethic that is affirmed as a creation ordinance, embraced in the Decalogue and Biblically amplified by the impact of the Gospel upon marriage in the lives of husbands and wives. That is God’s voice. QUEER CULTURE One of the most astonishing plenary sessions, though consistent with the purpose statement of the Revoice conference, was the astounding proposal that the New Heavens and the New Earth would be “blessed by treasures from the queer culture.” This is not God’s voice. There is no doubt that God’s common grace which restrains men and women from being as sinful as they could or would be, secures, as a byproduct, remnants of virtue even within some of the most depraved cultures produced by humanity’s rebellion against God. I am sure that the queer culture, by God’s common grace, has such vestiges of virtue that echo what is good and beautiful and true. But such remnants of virtue are not preserved by the motivating sins of the culture but – in spite of them. The treasures of the New Heavens and the New Earth owe their presence only to Christ, to whom we also owe our assured presence in the New Heavens and the New Earth. All treasures of the New Heavens and the New Earth exist by the common or redeeming grace of God in Christ alone having been secured by the Spirit of God whom He sent for us and who preserves us for the glory of God the Father who sent the Son to make us His treasure. We have a treasured inheritance preserved for us in glory and we are preserved for that inheritance having been treasured by Christ who has made us His treasure and when we see Him we will declare that He is our treasure. “High King of Heaven, my treasure thou art.” That is God’s voice. SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIPS In order to “observe the historic Christian tradition of marriage” and manage same sex attraction, the Revoice Conference proposed the path of celibacy and the establishment of “spiritual friendships” for those with same sex attractions. “Spiritual friendships” were then declared as a means to manage same sex attractions in an aesthetic relationship. This is not God’s voice. While Biblically defined spiritual friendships—the communion of the saints and the fellowship of believers—is certainly an embraced virtue and dynamic within the Body of Christ, but this proposed quasi-covenantal relationship built around the erotic impulses of same sex attraction is more than a bad idea. It is an instrument of assured destruction for any and all who embrace it. The Church of Jesus Christ is called to welcome sinners to hear the Gospel of saving grace and then call upon them to believe in Christ and repent of their sins, all the while reflecting Christ who is a “friend to sinners” but no “friend to sin.” We are to Biblically, by the power of the Spirit, patiently love one another in the uneven and imperfect journey of sanctification by grace. Moreover, there are and should be discipleship groups designed to help believers grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Furthermore, at times, believers who are seeking to mortify sins they have in common gather for encouragement and accountability. But those relationships are not built around the sin but around God’s grace to eradicate the sin. Christ’s church is and must be a welcoming haven for sinners. But it is also a lethal death trap for sin. Our call to love one another in Christ is not a license nor a recommendation to develop a quasi-covenantal relationship configured around any sin and certainly not around sexually addictive sins. To paraphrase the commentary of another – same sex desire is not a pet cat to be tamed. It is a man-eating tiger who will devour its naïve owner if it is not killed. CONCLUDING THOUGHTS Though I have restricted myself to five issues and restrained the analysis of each one to some simple Biblical, foundational perspectives, I realize this is beyond blog length. But I ask you to patiently read a few more sentences. I was initially grateful to hear there was a conference addressing the LGBTQ+ agenda for two reasons. First, we are in the throes of a sexual revolution reflecting a tsunami-like wave of the neo-pagan world and life view of secular humanism with its insatiable sacramental pursuit of natural and unnatural sexual gratification. This revolution requires the normalization of sexual promiscuity and perversity. As one cultural analyst has said, “a cultural revolution is designed to celebrate what was once despicable and make despicable what was once celebrated.” Like all revolutions, those who do not surrender will be marginalized or eliminated. We are in such a revolution marked by sexual anarchy. Much is at stake. Therefore, a conference designed to help us with a Christian apologetic to defend the faith without being defensive and contend for the faith without being contentious is desperately needed—a conference faithful to God’s Voice revealed in Scripture. Secondly, we need a God’s Voice conference that equips believers to not only speak the truth in love in the public square but also to love others with the truth through Biblically effective personal evangelism and discipleship. The Revoice Conference was not the issue. The issue was the purpose and content of the conference. I am praying that the Revoice Conference will stimulate confessionally faithful Seminaries, ministries and churches to produce a conference and publications which proclaim God’s Voice and therefore, provide assets for a winsome apologetic and an effective Gospel ministry of evangelism and discipleship to both rescue those perishing in the idolatry of sexual anarchy and lovingly nurture them within the Body of Christ. I do not question the heart motives of the Revoice Conference organizers. I am neither inclined nor equipped to do so. However, I do question their proposals. Revoice was overwhelmingly not God’s voice found in God’s Word. But we do need to know God’s voice on these issues. There will be no place to hide in this sexual revolution and there are men and women being deceived into death by the LGBTQ+ agenda and message that we must reach with the Gospel. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, not swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. Corinthians 6: 9-11
By: Dr. Harry L Reeder III
March 12, 2020 2:07 PM
A few days ago I wrote a Blog in response to both the questions and the criticisms of my decision to speak at the Memorial Day in Montgomery. In it I attempted to communicate my talk which is appropriately represented by the thesis/title – “Voices From the Past Calling for Personal and Racial Reconciliation in the Present for the Future.” A REVIEW A brief summary is, beginning with historical facts and illustrations and attempting to build on commendable efforts at regional reconciliation, after a fratricidal war, I then challenged the audience to not simply remember history but to make history. And the only way to make a history that cannot be hijacked is to build a history which removes sin with repentance, forgiveness and filling it with the love of Christ. This kind of history can only be made when those who make it are first reconciled to God through the Gospel of salvation by grace in Christ, which is received by faith and repentance – as we trust in His atoning work on the cross – and are filled with His Spirit and who repent of their sins to follow Christ. Referencing II Cor 5 I also affirmed the Apostle Paul’s identification of the Gospel as “the ministry and message of reconciliation in Christ.” Furthermore, this Gospel places us under a mandate to reconcile with others through repentance and forgiveness. This Gospel culture of repentance and reconciliation must be intentionally nondiscriminatory and without partiality since all of this human race, no matter the ethnicity, are made in the image of God. The simple fact is, we, who are saved by grace, are called to treat others with grace, respect and dignity. This lifestyle was illustrated imperfectly but astonishingly through the post-Civil War efforts of an adopted son of Alabama, Booker T. Washington from whom I used three illustrations. The 20 minute talk concluded with an invitation to Christ and a call to follow Christ by hearing the voices from the past now challenging us in the present to pursue personal and racial reconciliation for the future and to labor for a Gospel Awakening in a deeply divided nation. The Blog concluded by my sharing my framing ministry philosophy from the Word of God – Where do I speak? – When do I speak? – What do I Speak? – along with the basic premise that even with my inadequacies I must compassionately but clearly speak the Gospel and be numbered with the company of God’s people who are identified as – “Everyone Evangelizing Everyone Everywhere Every day.” A REQUEST I have obviously received numerous responses. Many thoughtfully worked their way through the Blog taking the time to identify what they affirm and what they question. There were various comments and critiques. The vast majority were thoughtful, reflective and for me, instructive and insightful, for which I am grateful. I had planned on a Part 2 for next week but in light of some of the questions that have surfaced and after much prayer; I was convinced I need to respond now. First of all to those thoughtful comments – I repeat, thank you. Your focused responses both positive and negative have been very helpful. I am amazed and reaffirmed by the fact that learning is a lifelong experience. While I have responded to many individuals personally and continue to do so, there are others that still need to be addressed and therefore this Blog. For many, their first encounter of my speaking at this event was a carefully framed picture of me on the podium with battle flags flying in the breeze behind me. As one brother shared, “it was startling to see, not only a PCA pastor but YOU in that setting.” Furthermore he said, “I confess I embraced it as it was intended for me to embrace it…supposing you were there with an uncritical support of the battle flag and what it represents in today’s world.” As I said to this young man and to others but particularly to my African-American brothers please know that nothing could be further from the truth therefore I am deeply sorry for the offense and/or the confusion that picture has caused and my involvement in it. Please note, I am not saying “if you were offended forgive me.” What I am saying is, forgive me for offending you. Regardless of my intentions of the meeting the offense of that optic in your life pains me. But allow me to simply assure you, not in self-defense but for clarity, I went to the event for my speaking part and not the ceremonies and of course I spoke from my assigned position on the podium and had no input as to the ceremonial decorations. Perhaps for some context as I mentioned in my first Blog I have spoken at a number of LGBTQ events where the rainbow symbol was prominent, flags flew and placards surrounded me on the podium and in the audience containing statements I cannot repeat in this Blog. But I do remember seeing the picture of me on the podium when it was published. Again, in that setting I had no control over the optics. I could only trust that the people who know me would also know that I deeply wanted to love those in the audience by speaking the Gospel but I did not agree with the symbols or statements displayed. I have encountered multiple instances when I have been invited to speak where the optics were shattering including churches that had statues and images which made me cringe but I chose to go ahead and preach hoping no one would assume I was theologically in agreement with the display. Yet that doesn’t diminishes the pain I feel at the awareness of the pain, offense and confusion which that picture caused my brothers in the faith and most especially my African-American fathers and brothers. A REFLECTION Let me respond to another thoughtful question. – “Harry what is your opinion of “The Lost Cause” and the flag controversies?” Thankfully I have spoken specifically to these issues. I’ll be glad to provide links to the talks that I have done for various organizations, documentaries, as well as the daily Today In Perspective 10 minute podcast on current issues from a Christian world and life view (i.e. the podcast we did on South Carolina Governor Haley’s decision to move the flag to the museum etc.). I will also list a few of the talks I have done on these subjects from a Biblical world and life view that can be obtained through links. Five Southern Presbyterian Preachers Who Could Have Saved 700,000 Lives Valid Concerns Polluted By an Evil Cause The Spirituality of the Church – The Wrong Use of a Right Doctrine and Its Consequences Question: Where Was our William Wilberforce? Answer: Where Was our John Newton? 19th Century History and the Civil War – Learning from the Past to Live in the Present to Change the Future for Christ. PBS Broadcast – The Founding Fathers and Slavery The Founding Fathers and America’s Original Sin The Conversion and Discipleship of Abraham Lincoln Through Two Northern “Old School” Presbyterian Pastors and its Consequences (Meditations Upon the Divine Will – Emancipation Proclamation – Gettysburg Address – Reconstruction Policy – 14th Amendment) Thirdly, while I am particularly concerned of any offense to my African- American fathers and brothers I do want them to know that a partial reason for my speaking at such events to proclaim the Gospel and a call to personal racial reconciliation was to advance our denomination’s overture of promoting Gospel racial reconciliation throughout every demographic in our society as well as the church. While the response from this particular talk has not been overwhelming it has been significant. I actually have follow up meetings with individuals who want to speak with me about what it means to be reconciled to Christ and some who have asked for a meeting to discuss how they can be a part of a racial reconciliation movement in the state of Alabama. I have no idea where this will lead or the breadth of its impact. But I have some experiences in my life and ministry that inform me where it can lead and propel me to proclaim the Gospel and its call to repentance and forgiveness to everyone and praying for the effects multiplied. Let me share three of these personal experiences that transformed my life in the ministry of Gospel racial reconciliation. THREE SEMINAL LIFE CHANGING GOSPEL RACIAL RECONCILIATION EVENTS The first event that affected my desire to see Gospel based racial reconciliation occurred literally days after my conversion. As many who were raised in the South, racism was a way of life and existed in the air we breathed. When I was converted to Christ at age 21 I began to share the Gospel with all of my friends. Within days I had spoken with my best friend. He rejected my invitation for him to come to Christ. But having told me “no” he then proceeded to ask me a question – “Harry, now that you are a Christian what is your view of black people (as was the polite term in those days)?” I simply looked at him without an answer…he then said “Well, I’m not a Christian but if you are then it should change.” That was a transforming moment for me and I am forever glad for his boldness to challenge me even though there were reasons he should have been hesitant to say what he said. I praise the Lord he wasn’t. Not only did that become a transforming moment for me in a journey that not only led to a personal transformation in my relationships but it also became an ever present reminder of the transforming power of the Gospel to produce racial reconciliation and maturation in a moment. By the way, my best friend did become a Christian two years later and called me to tell me so we could celebrate together. O how I love the power of the Gospel In my second pastoral ministry we held our annual Missions Conference. Our guest speaker was a 40 year veteran missionary from India. Since I have not obtained permission I will not use their actual names…so I will call him Mr. Smith. One of our pastoral interns was a retired, African- American Army Colonel moving toward the Gospel ministry. Interestingly he had the same last name as this missionary. So, I purposely asked them to sit together at the Missions Banquet head table. The conversation between them went like this: “Well I guess you see we have the same last name.” “Yes, do you think we are brothers?” (laughter) “Probably not.” “Where are you from?” “Maryland” “Oh really? I’m from Maryland?” “Oh really? What part?” “The western part” “So am I!” Minutes later they were looking at each other in amazement realizing that the missionary’s Great Grandfather had owned the Colonel/Intern’s Great Grandfather as a slave on his plantation. After Emancipation, the Colonel/Intern’s Great Grandfather took the name of his slave owner thus these two men now had the same last name!During the testimony time the Missionary, instead of presenting his ministry, shared with the audience what had transpired in their conversation. With tears he shared his repentance of his family’s enslavement of the Colonel/Intern’s Great Grandfather and also the joy of his forgiveness. We then all watched as they embraced one another declaring, “We really are brothers!” There was not a dry eye in the congregation and with no embarrassment I was perhaps the most emotional. How glad I was in God’s providence we had sat them together. How glorious it was to see in them the power of Gospel transformation and reconciliation. The third event was the work of God’s providence in ways I would have never anticipated allowed me, in my first pastorate to serve a church that in three years amazingly grew mostly by conversions and developed a demographic that was almost 40% African American/Caribbean. It was life changing for me and for the church. After I was called from that church to plant a church in Charlotte I was eventually succeeded by an extraordinary African American pastor/preacher, Mike Campbell and then he was succeeded by another gifted African American pastor/preacher, Kevin Smith both becoming leaders in the PCA. But interestingly this experience providentially prepared me for another life changing event – of my 10 precious grandchildren, three are African American. I want to them to see and experience the power of the Gospel in their own lives and Gospel racial reconciliation in every demographic of our society. In the last two days one person has written to tell me that some viewed the Memorial Day event as a counter to the opening of the monument to Peace and Justice that was being dedicated to mark the place where the last known recorded lynching had occurred. Nothing was said to me about this and I certainly would not have countenanced such a thing. But I can assure you that I’m now looking forward to not only seeing this new museum but incorporating it as part of the Booker T. Washington/George Washington Carver 2-Day Tour I lead each year that begins in Birmingham with our extraordinary Civil Rights Museum proceeding to the Civil Rights Trail in Montgomery and concluding at the famed Tuskegee University. By the way, in response to my first Blog a number of people have asked a good resource to begin an acquaintance with the lives of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver illuminating the role of their relationship with Christ and their Christian world and life view. So I would highly recommend John Perry’s biographical study as a starter on their lives in tandem called “Unshakeable Faith.” FOUR SEMINAL LIFE CHANGING TEXTS ON GOSPEL MINISTRY There is so much more to say and so much more to learn. Again, for all who have thoughtfully made comments, thank you. Let me conclude by identifying four Biblical texts that challenge me in terms of being willing to proclaim Christ not only in the safe environs of the Briarwood sanctuary/pulpit and Christian conferences but in other less than welcoming environments. Mark 5:1-20 When Jesus sailed to the “other side of the sea” ( i.e. for orthodox Jews, they would not go to the paganized territory called “The Galilee of the Gentiles.”) to evangelize the demoniacs He provided a fourfold challenge for my life as a Gospel minister – there is no place He would not go to seek and save the lost; no person so lost He would not seek to save them; no power He would not overcome to seek and save the lost; and no person He saved that He would not use to seek and save others. Interestingly, when Jesus denied the saved demoniac’s request to go with him, He then told him to go home and “tell your family and friends what great things I have done for you.” Though Jesus was entreated to leave the region He came back months later. When He did, thousands thronged to hear Him. I believe that was the result of the saved demoniac’s witness to his family and friends which changed the landscape of the culture and those who at one time wanted Jesus to leave now couldn’t wait to hear Him. Matt 9: 9-13 Jesus declared He had come as the Physician to heal those who were sick. So He went to the culturally and religiously despised tax gatherers (i.e. traitors/thieves) and to the prostitutes (i.e. sexually immoral) and not only spoke the Good News to them but sat down at the table with them. The optics were not good. In fact, the Pharisee’s used the optics to slander Him with not only criticisms but with lightly- veiled accusations of immoral sexual motives… but He went. Gloriously, many were saved and became part of the company of believers and one was numbered with His Disciples. Acts 17 The Apostle Paul, provoked at the sin of idolatry in Athens, proclaimed Christ in the synagogues and marketplaces. He even accepted an invitation and spoke from the podium at Mars Hill likely filled with pagan philosophers. He actually used quotes from Stoic and Epicurean philosophers with the Parthenon and statues of idols in the background. Again, the optics were not good and I now wonder what he would have done if iphones had been present but I do know he preached the Gospel. The result, many ridiculed, slandered and rejected him. But praise the Lord, some believed and others asked him back to speak to them again. Matt 13/Mark 4/Luke 8 These texts contain the parable of the sower which has multiple lessons but two have drastically affected my life and ministry. The primary lesson of the parable is – the fate of the seed (Word of God) is determined by the condition of the soil (heart of the hearer). Another lesson is that the sower sows the good seed indiscriminately. He doesn’t just go to good soil or to what he thinks is good soil and he doesn’t avoid the bad soil. He sows the seed on rocky ground, thorny ground, good ground and even hard ground. He does this for multiple reasons. But one reason is that the sowing of the seed not only produces fruit from the good ground but the sowing of the seed is also used by the Spirit God to create good ground. So the next time the seed is sowed the heart will be prepared to receive it. “Some plant, some water, God gives the increase.” So with Biblical principles guiding, the Holy Spirit granting lessons from patient brothers and sisters such as those who have so thoughtfully responded to this situation, your forgiveness, which is not deserved but desired, and with God’s strength, power and wisdom, I’ll keep pressing on “growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ.” SDG
By: Dr. Harry L Reeder III
March 12, 2020 2:04 PM
About a year or so ago I was invited to speak to the State Memorial Holiday designed to honor the valor of the fallen citizen/soldiers of the South in Montgomery. I have been questioned and criticized for doing so. Therefore it would seem appropriate to answer the questions and in so doing address the issue of What? When? and Where? – would I agree to speak? My initial response to the request for multiple reasons was to say no. But in light of my denomination’s recent overture to pursue racial reconciliation in our church and nation, I agreed after being assured that I would be free to speak from a Gospel perspective while acknowledging the historical realities related to the state holiday. In fact the sponsoring organizations readily and graciously agreed. The reasons I was asked are because of the Civil War leadership battlefield tours I do for military units, police academies, student groups and non-profit leadership entities which again I only do if they will allow me to share not only Biblical principles of leadership but also the Gospel and its claims on these battlefield “staff rides.” For 40 years 18th and 19th Century history has been my bridge to various segments of the culture to which I would not normally have the opportunity to speak as a pastor but can as a historian. Also contributing to the reason for the request for me to speak were the PBS documentaries and various video productions on the Founding Fathers, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and Reconstruction where I have participated as a “talking head.” As to this particular talk which has been questioned I do not have a manuscript to publish since I do not use manuscripts. But I will share with you both the flow and essential content of my 20 minute talk from the written notes and outline I took to the podium. The title/thesis of my talk was “Voices from the Past Calling for Personal and Racial Reconciliation in the Present and for the Future.” I began with honoring the memorial purpose of the holiday by acknowledging the documented valor of both the Northern and Southern citizen/soldiers. I then moved to highlight some of the “voices from the past” who promoted reconciliation after a fratricidal war and the resulting success in what the historians now call the “Era of Reconciliation – 1880-1920.” I also used examples from the sponsoring organization who by decorating both Northern and Southern soldier’s gravesites at battlefield cemeteries after the Civil War prompted an admiring article in a Northern newspaper that contributed to the birth of our National Memorial Day in May. Other personal and historical efforts at regional reconciliation as “voices from the past” were further recounted after which I challenged the audience to not only “remember” history but to “make” history by intentionally making a present and a future commitment to go beyond regional reconciliation and intentionally pursue personal and racial reconciliation in order to overcome the present destructive divisions in our nation and from our national history. I also affirmed our nation’s present desperate need for a Gospel Awakening through a God-sent revival to His church. I was going to use the extraordinary example of First Presbyterian Church in Montgomery and their Statement of Repentance under the courageous leadership of their Pastor/Session which the Lord convicted them to do (which I understand is now available on line). I was familiar with it as it had been developed out of their thoughtful application of the Embers to a Flame strategy#2 on Corporate Repentance. But since I had not obtained their permission I substituted references from Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and his Second Inaugural Speech which was graciously received by those in attendance. I then shared the Gospel principle that authentic reconciliation only comes from men and women who are first reconciled to God through the atoning death of Jesus Christ by proceeding to II Corinthians 5 where the Apostle Paul identifies the Gospel as “the ministry and message of reconciliation.” Moving on I appealed to incidents from the lives of two adopted sons of Alabama, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver by first affirming their Christian foundations and then the impact of their lives in the limited but amazing progress of post-reconstruction racial reconciliation. I won’t take the time to give all that I said but I did dwell on the amazing fact that within three years of establishing Tuskegee in the Black Belt of Alabama, Booker T. Washington had the sons of slaves and the sons of slave owners working, eating and singing hymns together for workdays on the newly constructed buildings of the famed Tuskegee University. Some of the buildings are still standing and the fingerprints of those who worked on them can still be felt in the bricks to this day. In this brief response I won’t recount all of the illustrations used. But, I must note I was compelled to also recount Booker T. Washington’s courageous speech at what today is Piedmont Park in Atlanta for the segregated audience at the Cotton Exchange Expo where he manifested unbelievable courage while calling for racial reconciliation in the South. I confess to having stood on the spot where he made that speech with hatred directed at him from both sides of the segregated crowd, while also trying to imagine the personal fortitude it took to speak under the hateful glares from all sides and then his wonderful skill as an orator as he overcame his fears and their hatred to draw the entire crowd to his yes incomplete, but clear call to racial reconciliation – imploring them to come together illustrated by his clasped hands and “drop down your bucket.” I then shared a couple of other illustrations and used a quote from one of the sponsoring organization leaders who had passionately said, “we only want to remember our history and must not let hate groups hijack our history.” I affirmed her desire to “remember history” only adding that we should “learn from history – not to live in the past but to learn from the past in order to live in the present to change the future.” My personal plea was to hear the “voices from the past” calling us to now in the present move from commendable regional reconciliation to the imperative of personal and racial reconciliation -which can only be authentically done when those who have been reconciled by Christ through the Gospel of grace, graciously, intentionally and personally engage one another to listen, to learn, to repent, to forgive and to be reconciled. I concluded with two requests in the name of the Gospel – One – if you love Christ, then you must “love your neighbor as yourself” with no partiality and don’t just remember history from yesterday but make history today and let’s start in our own state of Alabama. Two – the only way to keep hate groups from hijacking history is to make a history filled with the love of Christ to others. I have left out a number of the comments but this is the essential flow and elements from my notes. I also hasten to add it was graciously received at the conclusion of my invitation to Christ, and my challenge not to wait for politics or programs but to intentionally pursue person to person reconciliation in the present culture to change our future. ————————————————————————————- Now, as to the framing issue of my philosophy of Gospel ministry which affects my decision on “Where, What and When to Speak,” I resolved a long time ago after I preached a sermon from Mark 5 on Jesus going to the paganized communities of the Decapolis in the evangelization of the demoniacs and when I preached on the criticisms as well as the not so veiled accusations of Jesus on the optics of Him being in the presence and pursuing tax gatherers and prostitutes – which was culturally and religiously unacceptable. Therefore, I have resolved that if I am free to preach the Gospel and advance its claims – then by God’s grace there is no place I will not go; no person so lost that I will not pursue, no power so threatening I will not face while believing there is no person saved who cannot change and be changed by God’s grace. So, if I am free to present the Gospel and its claims and the Gospel call to repentance, by God’s grace, strength and power I will go. The question for me therefore is not whether I will go but what will I say and how must I say it? Not too long ago, I went to a forum dominated by an LBGTQ agenda requiring proactive police protection. Again symbols and signs surrounded me at the event. But I went because I was free to share the Gospel and its claims and except for minor incidents was again graciously received. If I am invited by an organization focused on racial issues (of which there are many in our country) to do one of my talks on Booker T. Washington or George Washington Carver or to the talk I do on The Biblical Worldview in the Letters from the Birmingham Jail (Martin Luther King) and if I have the freedom to present the Gospel I’ll go to those events also. I believe the Lord can save and change anyone through the power of the Gospel and when He changes them He will bring them to repentance and reconcile them not only to the God of glory but to others while changing their relationships and everything around them. So, if He opens the doors I’ll go and ask Him for the strength, wisdom and power to proclaim the Gospel of saving grace to any and all of this fallen human race made in the image of God and anticipate with joy seeing men and women from every ethnicity now reconciled to God and with one another to exalt Christ their King. I long for my children and grandchildren including three precious African American grandchildren to know, believe and see this in their lifetime. Most of all I long to see it around the Throne of Grace in the New Heavens and the New Earth. In this particular instance, the response to this talk was gracious and receptive which in light of its content I was not necessarily expecting. I am grateful for the Lord’s strength to overcome my fears and inadequacies which are many. But more important to me is the fact that I have received calls from attendees thanking me and asking what their next steps in racial reconciliation could be. The Gospel opportunities presenting themselves more than compensate for the criticisms. Actual meetings are already being set up with those who are asking where and how do I/we start. Not an overwhelming response yet, but some response and I am praying for an ultimate harvest of Gospel fruit and the repentance that brings joy to the angels in heaven and a Gospel culture of repentance and reconciliation on earth through a revival in this nation. Another confession – I would love to hear again the words of bewilderment uttered by Benjamin Franklin during the Great Awakening – “It looked like the whole world was going to church.” What he didn’t understand is what his friend George Whitefield kept telling him – The reason the whole world is going to church is because the church is going into the whole world with Christ and for Christ. Everyone Evangelizing Everybody, Everywhere, Everyday by God’s grace and for His glory until He comes or until He brings me home is my humble answer to Where to Speak? What to Speak? and When to Speak?
By: Dr. Harry L Reeder III
March 12, 2020 1:34 PM
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg Cathedral door and, as they say, the rest is history. That act ignited what may be the most revolutionary movement in the history of Christianity since Pentecost. In 2017 we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of this landscape-changing event. But to be a kingdom people Christians cannot and must not live in the past, lest we become a museum. Still, we should learn from the past to live effectively in the present and impact the future. We move forward by first going backward. That’s why God called the Israelites to raise an Ebenezer—a stone of remembrance—and to recount to their kids all his marvelous acts. When we know what God has done and why, we can celebrate those great acts in worship and learn to implement biblical principles in our commitment to expand Christ’s kingdom to all nations. Over the years I have been privileged to lead a number of Reformation tours, taking fellow believers to sites in Europe where God brought about one of the most profound revivals in church history. Along the way, I’ve learned some helpful insights. Here are three, each with a “life takeaway”: 1.The Reformation was the result of divinely called, equipped, empowered, and sent leaders. The Reformation evoked a gospel awakening that spread through Europe and overflowed to North Africa, South America, and beyond. It was heaven-sent through the ministry of prayer and the Word from a Spirit-revived and Bible-renovated church. Without a doubt, the Reformation came from the Lord through imperfect but impassioned leaders marked by courage and compassion. The simple fact affirmed in both Scripture and history is that when God sovereignly moves, he raises up and sends out leaders with a calling that becomes their relentless passion. Life Takeaway: We need to pray for and intentionally cultivate godly leaders in the church, for the church, and from the church into the world. 2. When God calls, equips, and sends movement leaders, he calls, equips, and sends other leaders alongside them, creating a team of leaders. This is not an exhaustive analysis, but in following the steps of the Magisterial Reformation, history confirmed what I had always believed: To ensure the Reformers’ perseverance, effectiveness, and maturity, God called and deployed other leaders to work in tandem. This was true of Luther in Wittenberg, Bucer in Strasbourg, Zwingli in Zurich, Calvin in Geneva, and Knox in Edinburgh. I praise God for Luther, but I also praise God for Melanchthon, who complemented and enhanced Luther personally and ministerially. God gave us Zwingli, and he gave Zwingli the indefatigable Bullinger. He gave us Bucer, but he gave Calvin to Bucer at the right time and for the right season. He sent Calvin back to Geneva, the citadel of the Reformation, and gave him Theodore Beza. From the womb of Geneva and the mentorship of Calvin, he gave us John Knox. And he gave to Knox the ever-faithful Christopher Goodman. The magisterial Reformers were magisterial because the hand of God’s providence was manifest in multiple ways and for multiple reasons. One of those ways was the gift of competent leaders to complement them personally and ministerially. These Reformers were leaders with unbelievable passions, gifts, and devotion, but magisterial gifts and strengths inevitably come mixed with significant weaknesses and blind spots. God addresses these shortcomings by providing leadership plurality, resulting in a team of leaders who not only exercise complementary gifts but also forge relationships of personal accountability. Life Takeaway: Effective leaders reject solo leadership for the sake of increased effectiveness and accountability. They also reject leadership teams that ultimately serve the primary leader. Instead, they developed “teams of leaders” which the primary leaders serve in order to multiply, mobilize, and motivate leaders in the church and from the church into the world. 3. Christian education is a priority that will bless both church and community. In my study of the American colonial period I was struck by the consistent action of the colonists: on arrival they immediately built a church—a place for worship and thanksgiving. Then they built a home that would initially be sufficient for the bare necessities of family life. Then, before establishing a reliable community infrastructure or reliable food supply, they built a school. Not only did the school educate church members, it also provided an initiative to educate the entire community. It struck me that 17th-century colonists were doing what the 16th-century Reformers did while in exile. The Reformers established a robust gospel church for worship and discipleship as the first priority, one matched only by the need for a family home. Then Bucer, Zwingli, Calvin, Luther, and Knox established schools to educate both the covenant community and also the general population. They were committed to carrying out both the Great Commission (“teaching them to observe all I have commanded you”) and to the Great Commandment (“to love the Lord with all their mind . . . and to love their neighbors”) by providing public education from the church to the community. They launched a school to train leaders for the church and the family, and also to prepare leaders from the family and church to serve the community. Life Takeaway: Christian education is not just a parental commitment to our children, it’s also a gracious gift from the church to benefit the community. It should be designed to educate the public in general and mentor civic leaders as well from a biblical worldview. Toward a New Reformation These insights are selective but by no means exhaustive of the many valuable lessons embedded in the Reformation. In many ways the cultural climate for today’s gospel ministry is similar to that era, revealing the need for another gospel awakening. National gospel awakenings only come through robust God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, prayer-empowered, and gospel-saturated churches. This needed revival awaits a reformation among pastors—one that will provide the church with ministers committed to the mission, message, and means of ministry prayerfully focused on God’s unstoppable Word. As written for The Gospel Coalition and published originally on May 12, 2016
By: Dr. Harry L Reeder III
March 22, 2018 7:43 AM
INEVITABLE SIDE EFFECTS OF A CHURCH GROWTH MINISTRY MODEL Some athletes, fascinated with body growth, employ “biological steroid enhancement.” Why? Because they know that it works…at least for a while. They will get bigger, stronger and faster…for a while. But soon they discover injected steroids also bring the side effects inevitably leading to death. Interestingly, the Church is called “the body of Christ” in Scripture. When a church becomes preoccupied with “body growth” it becomes susceptible to a temptation to employ “cultural steroid enhancement.” But the inevitable side effects are soon manifested- worship becomes entertainment, discipleship becomes therapy, evangelism becomes self-esteem and the Gospel becomes a self-help prosperity message. Like biological steroids, cultural steroids work—for a while. The church grows numerically and is applauded culturally while dying spiritually. Though not growing statistically at the rate that it did in previous years, the numerical size of the professing evangelical church in the USA is significant. However, the waning witness of the contemporary church is painfully obvious. The documented decline of personal evangelism, life-changing discipleship and cultural influence reveals a spiritually impotent and Biblically illiterate church. So why is the church corporately—and professing Christians individually—failing in the God-given mission to be “salt and light”? Let me propose one reason with seven consequences and conclude with a single analysis. THE REASON For 40+ years the evangelical church in the USA has fully embraced the presuppositions of the “church growth” philosophy and dutifully implemented and mainstreamed its mandated practices in life and ministry. On the one hand, this has resulted in a glamorized, marketed yet culturally tamed church that is five miles wide and one inch deep. On the other hand, it has resulted in an inevitable reactionary, critical and cynical church that is at best one inch wide while claiming to be five miles deep. In addition to offering a multitude of unfulfilled promises, there are multiple observable consequences of this ministry model. Here are seven inevitable side effects of the “church growth” model that has infected the contemporary evangelical church in America: THE SEVEN CONSEQUENCES 1. Program and personality dependency in place of persistent intercessory prayer. Instead of programs designed to facilitate church growth, there is an insatiable search for programs promising to create church growth. The absence of persistent and protracted prayer in dependence upon God is the casualty. 2. Celebrity pastors with self-esteem therapy and/or success in life crowd-attracting “talks” in place of celebrated Biblical expository equipping and evangelistic preaching. In his 2011 Themelios article, “A Preacher’s Dialogue,” Sinclair Ferguson makes the following observation: “As an observer as well as a practitioner of preaching, I am troubled and perplexed by hearing men with wonderful equipment, humanly speaking (ability to speak, charismatic personality, and so on), who seem to be incapable of simply preaching the Scriptures. Somehow they have not first invaded and gripped them.” 3. Missional drift from “Making Disciples.” Personal evangelism is now replaced by event evangelism where there is a lot of event but little evangelism. Small group life on life transformational disciple making is lost to crowd attracting, life success and self-esteem therapy support groups. 4. The disastrous novelty of our (at best misguided and, at worst, arrogant) efforts to “re-invent or re-engineer” Christ’s “prevailing” Church that transcends all ages and cultures. While it is true that the Church must be contextualized into every situation, location and generation, it does not need to be reinvented. Whether Kansas or Kenya, 800 or 2100 AD, the Church rightly contextualized is singular in its Christ-designed and Biblically revealed mission, message, ministries and means. Christ called us to pray for laborers not architects. 5. The gravitas and density of the Lord’s Day “gathered” worship of the Triune God of Glory in “spirit and truth” has been exchanged for choreographed superficial entertainment events. Such events are designed to attract and manipulate the emotionally empty men and women of our age while promising to fulfill their self-assessed religious needs and preferences. Seeking to please the attending “worshipper” now supplants the true objective of Biblical worship—the adoration of the Triune God of Glory as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. One devastating result is the loss of the majesty of God that forfeits the blessing of God-centered “scattered” worship where God’s people present themselves as “living sacrifices” in all of life to the glory of God. What is lost is Trinitarian worship “in spirit and truth” by true worshippers in “gathered” worship which sets the thermostat of lifestyle “scattered” worship by which God is glorified “in whatsoever we do.” 6. The church, as an outpost of the Kingdom of God, inexplicably effective because of the presence and power of God has been refabricated into another “business enterprise.” This, in turn, has rendered the church as one more institution shaped by the culture in the name of relevance. Godly pastor-teachers are no longer sought to lead Christ’s church. In their place the church now seeks CEO’s profiled by personality evaluation instruments guaranteed to produce statistical growth, instead of God-gifted pastor-teachers who are marked by Gospel holiness. 7. The essential commitment to Holy Spirit-empowered and Biblically defined contextualization is now perverted. Rightly understood, contextualization is the necessary effort to speak to the culture in terms that the culture can understand and to the issues it needs to hear. True contextualization has been exchanged for cultural accommodation where the church speaks only on the terms the culture affirms and the issues it allows. This is profoundly obvious as today’s church—in the name of “social justice”—rightly addresses issues that the culture applauds (e.g. sex trafficking, misogyny, racism). Yet the same church is conspicuously silent on the blasphemous issues the culture promotes, namely, sexual perversion and promiscuity, gender autonomy, marital and familial anarchy and the industries of death through abortion, infanticide and assisted suicide. AN ANALYSIS Let’s be clear. The Bible in general and the book of Acts in particular records and affirms the expected and desired dynamic of statistical growth in and through Gospel healthy churches… and so do we. But whenever statistical growth becomes the focused objective of a church’s ministry (instead of a valued consequence of its ministry), it is simply a matter of time until church leaders exchange Biblically defined principled faithfulness for worldly defined pragmatic success. The former brings the applause of heaven. The latter is always numerically measured and prized thinking it will bring the applause and approval of the culture. In other words, if the world’s metrics become the ministry objective then the Biblical message we proclaim, the Biblical means we are to employ and the Biblical mission we are to engage will inevitably be compromised to gain what the culture accepts, applauds and attends. Church growth is a wonderful blessing from God but it cannot become our god. Rather, God-exalting faithfulness is the Biblical metric of divinely defined success. That metric is not the applause of the world leading to a Biblically illiterate and spiritually impotent Body of Christ but the applause of heaven. An applause that joyfully echoes into eternity whenever the lost are found, sinners saved and discipled throughout the world by a Gospel-healthy Body of Christ built up, equipped and growing by staying on mission, on message and in ministry.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
June 14, 2017 12:17 PM
The Advent is a work of God’s grace whereby God Himself has come to us, to be among us and become one of us in order to save us from our sins and will come again for us to be with us forever. Early in my pastoral ministry a thoughtful young man came with an interesting question while our congregation was in the midst of celebrating the Advent season. The question arose from a hymn sung during a Lord’s Day worship service. The hymn was the Isaac Watts classic “Joy to the World.” The question was, “Pastor, why are we singing a hymn during Christmas containing lyrics that refer to the 2nd coming of Christ?” My pastoral response was twofold. First, together we examined the hymn. It soon became obvious the hymn actually contained lyrics that referred to both the 1st Advent (i.e. His Incarnation and Birth) and lyrics to the 2nd Advent (His Second Coming). Furthermore, the hymn, verse by verse, traces the triumph of Christ as the Redeemer of His people from His 1st Advent to His 2nd Advent. Secondly, we noted there are multiple hymns sung during the Advent season which exalt the Lord for His redeeming work in both the 1st and 2nd Advents. Then, it was my turn to ask a question. “Why do you think so many Advent hymns sung at “Christmas” extol both Advents of Christ?” The answer though simple has been lost to many. But, if recaptured can lead us to a profound blessing. The reason so many hymns and confessions associated with the Christmas celebrations reference both the 1st and 2nd Advents is because the early church intentionally designed the Advent Season to celebrate both the 1st and 2nd Advents of Christ. Why? The Old Testament, through types, symbols, prophecies and Christophanies (pre-incarnate appearances of Christ) anticipated the coming of the Messiah – the Promised One – in whom “all of the Promises of God are yes and amen.” Those Messianic prophetic Promises can be summed up with two specific Promises. The first Promise was that the Messiah would “save His people from all of their sins” and deliver them from all of His and their enemies. The second Promise was that the Messiah would not only defeat these enemies but would ultimately destroy them and deliver His people into a glorious forever Kingdom. But when the Messiah came into the world to fulfill God’s promises He revealed a surprising yet Biblically consistent truth. The Epiphany of the Messiah was not one Advent to accomplish two Divine Promises but two Advents, each one designed to accomplish one of the two Promises. The 1st Advent or the Incarnation when the Son of God humbled Himself by taking upon Himself true humanity through the prophesied Virgin conception/birth was designed to fulfill the first Promise that God would “save His people from their sins” and defeat all of His and their enemies. The second Promise that He would receive His people to Himself and destroy His defeated enemies in His 1st Advent would be fulfilled by a 2nd Advent when He would “come again” in that same incarnate body now resurrected and transformed for all eternity – Two Epiphanies – Two Advents. For the grace of God has “appeared” (epiphanos – 1st Advent) bringing salvation to all men; disciplining us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age; looking for the blessed hope and “appearance” (epiphanos – 2nd Advent) of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:11-14 Gradually for multiple reasons the Advent season initiated by the celebration of His 1st Advent – Christmas – when He was born “to save His people from their sins” and to defeat His and our enemies at the Cross, became the singular focus of the Advent season. One reason is that the 1st Advent is the occasion of His humiliation which was accomplished, not by the subtraction of His deity but, by the addition of His humanity. Another reason is that the 1st Advent celebrates His Incarnation, a necessary act of God to save sinners – “by a man came death, by a man comes the resurrection of the dead.” Yet another reason is that the triumph of the 1st Advent assures the 2nd Advent and the 2nd Advent consummates the victory of the 1st Advent. A final reason is the 1st Advent is a fact of history while the 2nd Advent is a prophetic promise which makes it pre-written history. But pastorally, while not being enslaved or conscience-bound to observe a church calendar, I would suggest that if we intentionally returned to the historic emphasis of the Advent season which intentionally celebrates the 1st Advent while also anticipating the 2nd Advent we could add a theological focus which would enhance our pastoral ministries of both celebration/worship and discipleship/equipping. So, here is a pastoral recommendation. START RECLAIMING THE VIBRANCY OF THE ADVENT SEASON FROM SECULARIZATION BY ENHANCING OUR COMMITMENT TO THE GREAT COMMISSION OF MAKING DISCIPLES THROUGH EMPHASIZING THE INSEPARABLE DYNAMIC RELATIONSHIP OF BOTH ADVENTS OF CHRIST. In a word, let’s return to the historic objective of using the Advent season to affirm both the victory of Christ in His 1st Advent and our longing for the consummation of His victory in the 2nd Advent. In so doing we would not only minister to a heart-felt need in the lives of God’s people we would also more effectively disciple God’s people and more effectively proclaim the Gospel of Hope to the world. The Advent season, historically, was designed to minister to the grace-implanted and grace-nurtured heart of every Christian. A heart which both “rests” in the joy of our Savior’s victorious 1st Advent and yet a heart which is also “restless” in the anticipation of our Savior’s 2nd Advent to receive us to Himself that we might be with Him in a New Heavens and a New Earth forever. “I go away to prepare a place for you and if I go away to prepare a place of you I will come again so that where I am there you may be also… Even so come quickly Lord Jesus.”
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
June 14, 2017 12:14 PM
CHURCH REVITALIZATION-Pt.2 The Christ-designed Biblical Roadmap to Church Revitalization! The last post was an attempt to document three Biblical axioms concerning the ministry of church revitalization. Briefly let’s review them. Church revitalization was an Apostolic ministry strategy initiated by the Apostle Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-16:35). Then it was not only affirmed but also defined by the Ascended Christ as He addressed the Seven Churches in Revelation chapter two. The objective in church planting and church revitalization is not church growth, which inevitably leads to mission and message drift, but church health and vitality. Every local church, presbytery, and denomination ought to implement the Apostolic strategy which “turned the world upside down” as they sought to fulfill the Great Commission. This strategy was repeated in city after city as they extended the Kingdom of Christ through four Gospel ministry initiatives… #1. Evangelism and Discipleship #2. Church Planting and Church Revitalization #3. Deeds of love and mercy #4. Leadership multiplication and mobilization Since church revitalization and church planting are Apostolic strategies designed to fulfill the Great Commission after the Ascension of Christ and the blessing of Pentecost are revealed in God’s Word, the information as to how they are to be implemented will be found in the same place. Not only is a Gospel-driven, Spirit-empowered and Christ-exalting ministry of church revitalization found in the Word of God, even more impressive if possible, is the fact that Christ Himself reveals the three step church revitalization roadmap. Where? Revelation 2:1-7 REMEMBER – REPENT – RECOVER The book of Revelation is addressed in the immediate to seven churches. The first church mentioned is the Church of Ephesus that was likely the mother church of the other six, all of which would be located on a major trade route into Asia Minor. Unsurprisingly the same heart of the Great Shepherd who would leave the 99 to pursue one sheep who wandered from the flock is displayed as he pursues four wandering flocks of the seven churches who were in need of revitalization. He does not “write them off”, nor ignore them, nor does He simply focus on planting another church. What He does do is call them back to Gospel health and vitality and even identifies what the leadership of the church must do to implement a ministry of revitalization. He begins with the church at Ephesus. It is there that He reveals a three-step roadmap to implement the ministry of Gospel revitalization. So where does He reveal it? After identifying the commendable traits still resident in the life and ministry of the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-3, Christ incisively addresses the reason of their spiritual impotence in verse 4 – “you have left your first love.” After His diagnosis in verses 5-7, He gives the solution and then the stark prognosis if the solution is neglected – “I will come and remove the lampstand from you.” So what is the solution for the revitalization of the church at Ephesus so that they are once again a “first love” church? Christ’s answer is – “Remember, Repent and Recover the deeds you did at first.” Simply but profoundly the Savior “who purchased the church with His own blood” outlines the road map to spiritual health and Gospel vitality to produce a church that once again would be able to say “the love of Christ compels us.” So just how do you implement the revitalization roadmap “Remember, Repent and Recover”? The implementation answer is found not in Revelation 2 but in the Epistles of Paul in general and I Timothy and Titus in particular. The fact is this was not the first time that the church at Ephesus was in need of a ministry of revitalization. At the conclusion of Paul’s 3 year ministry he warned the elders of Ephesus in his farewell sermon (Acts 20) that Satan would attack the church by infiltrating the leadership with false leaders and false teachers. The leadership did not heed the warnings of Paul. The result was that when Paul who had spent years incarcerated first in Jerusalem, then Caeserea Maritima and ultimately in Rome, was released, he was informed of their decline. Paul like Christ does not “write them off”, nor does he simply ignore their plight and plant another church. What he does do is send them his best disciple – Timothy – with a handbook on Church revitalization – I Timothy. By the way he also gives another handbook on revitalization to Titus – note the overlap of content within I Timothy and Titus – who was also sent on a mission of church revitalization to Crete with instructions “to set in order what remains.” Obviously the Lord blessed Timothy’s ministry since the church was still viable five decades later as they receive another epistle – Revelation. But now they are in need of another ministry of revitalization – this time under the leadership of the Apostle John. So how does a church follow the three-step roadmap of “Remember, Repent and Recover the first things”? The answer is found in the Epistles of Paul, who had revitalized churches and who mentored both revitalization pastors Timothy and Titus. It is there that the ten strategies to implement the three-step roadmap of Remember, Repent and Recover are found. THE TEN STRATEGIES REMEMBER Strategy #1 – Connect to the past. Learn from the Past – to live in the Present – to change the Future REPENT Strategy #2 – Godly Repentance If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 RECOVER THE FIRST THINGS Strategy #3 – Recover: Gospel-Driven and Christ-centered Ministry The Gospel is the foundation, the formation and the motivation of a “first-love” Church where the Christ is the sum, the circumference, the substance and the center of all things. Strategy #4 – Recover: Personal Spiritual Formation Gospel healthy leaders influence others to effectively achieve a defined mission together. Strategies #5&6 – Recover: The Ministry of Prayer and the Word The Ministry of Prayer and the Word are the essential lifelines of Gospel health and vitality. Strategy #7 – Recover: Mission and Vision Mission is what God’s people are called to do while Vision is what they are to be as they fulfill the mission by the grace of God to the Glory of God. Strategy #8 – Recover: Leadership Multiplication and Mobilization A Gospel healthy church defines leaders, develops leaders and deploys leaders for the church and from the church into the world. Strategy #9 – Recover: Small Group Discipleship. A knowing and growing fellowship intentionally implements relational and informational small group disciple-making. Strategy #10 – Recover: The Great Commitment To live you have to give, therefore, the giving church is the living church. ON MESSAGE – ON MISSION – IN MINISTRY
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
June 14, 2017 12:09 PM
CHURCH REVITALIZATION- Part 1 Effective Strategy? Biblical Mandate? Both! In 1980 a young Pastor fresh from seminary arrived at his first pastorate encountering startling realities. Although thinking he was fully aware of the issues at hand, he soon learned how wrongly informed he was. When you get “onsite” you soon gain “insight.” Church attendance had diminished from over 1000 to an average of 55. There were no children’s Sunday School classes because there were no children. The average age in the congregation exceeded 70 and its past had become glorified nostalgia. On his first Sunday, the service ended at the expected 12:00 hour. As he and his wife made their way to the lobby, amazingly, in spite of the infirmities of age, the congregation had exited. They were rapidly emptying the parking lot. The box of church attendance for that week had been checked and they were ready to move on. There were no sounds of fellowship from lingering crowds only an empty sanctuary and parking lot within five minutes of the benediction. The pastor had gone outside to try and speak to the departing congregation before they left and found himself embarrassingly locked out of the church building by the equally rapid exit of the part-time church janitor. After breaking into his own church to obtain his Bible and car keys, along with his wife’s belongings, the pastor and his wife looked at each other with the a sudden realization of just how enormous this pastoral challenge would be. But, there was more to come. While all other churches in the area had monthly accounts at the local office supply store he soon learned his church was excluded and designated as “cash only” due to past payment delays. The first Session meeting revealed that not all of the elders had a personal saving relationship with Christ. They seemed to be well-meaning but did not “know the Lord.” Of the two who exhibited the most spiritual maturity, one was transferred within three months and the other died of leukemia. The church had not met its budget in years. Perhaps the most startling event was a phone call from one of the previous nine pastors revealing a tumultuous past. This pastor, while graciously welcoming the new pastor to his charge asked a strange and probing question. “Did you pray before you accepted this call?” After answering “yes” the obvious question was, “Why did you ask?” The answer was stunning. He informed the new pastor that he believed the church “had the mark of Satan upon it.” He then begin to share the “horror stories” of what had happened to the previous pastors. All of which was not encouraging for a new pastor in his first pastorate. So what do you do? While grateful for his seminary education he realized he was unprepared for this moment. But thankfully his seminary preparation had been framed by a pervasive commitment to the inerrancy and the sufficiency of God’s Word. So to his study and to the Scripture he went. I can verify all of the above since I was this young Pastor. So how would God’s sufficient Word which cannot be broken instruct me to respond? Here was a church in decline and its demise imminent. It could be said one flu season would put the church out of business. Even the Presbytery counseled us to sell the property and use the proceeds to plant another church. Yet the neighborhood was full of unreached people. The daily vandalization of the church revealed two factors. One, the neighborhood viewed the church as a derelict unused building. Two, the neighborhood knew of its presence. Could this church be revitalized? I knew that revival is God’s work and I could preach and pray for revival but only the Lord could bring one. I also found a Biblical pathway to lead a church back to spiritual vitality? Let me explain. As mentioned, this took place in 1980, a year which also witnessed the rise and proliferation of “church growth” publications. Clearly, these resources were of interest. I devoured them. In doing so a few things became obvious. First, the writers of these publications were intelligently insightful and well-meaning. Second, most of the proposed remedies were “best practices” drawn from psychological, sociological and demographic ministry analysis. Of course, all of the recommended practices were “checked out” against the Scripture to make sure that no Biblical truths were being violated. Yet, very few were actually derived from the Scripture. They were commended on the assurance that they would produce “statistical church growth.” That surfaced another concern. While the Bible, in the book of Acts, records “statistical growth” in the church there is no indication that the leadership focused their ministry philosophy upon statistical church growth. The clear evidence is that 1st century church leaders focused on the spiritual vitality and health of the church with statistical growth recorded as a consequence of the apostolic ministry, not the objective of their ministry. Furthermore, in my study, I was intrigued by the recorded expansion of the Kingdom of God through the church and the strategy employed by the Divinely-called and equipped leaders. First, the Gospel of the Kingdom proclaimed in Jerusalem by the Apostles established the church of Jerusalem (Acts 1-8). Then the Kingdom powerfully expanded as promised by the Lord to Judea and Samaria resulting in the church at Antioch (Acts 9-12). This eventually expanded the Kingdom to the world through another epicenter at Ephesus in Asia Minor (Acts 13-28). At each step of the ever-expanding Kingdom through vibrant and healthy churches, statistical growth was the result of Gospel vitality furthered through the effective ministry of Gospel-healthy leaders. In Acts 13 Saul (soon the Apostle Paul) along with Barnabas are sent by the Church at Antioch on the first missionary journey. They employed a four-fold Gospel ministry strategy expanding the Kingdom to city after city. This recorded strategy was: Gospel evangelism and discipleship Gospel Church planting Gospel deeds of love, mercy and justice Gospel leaders multiplied and mobilized (if prohibited they would leave behind leaders from their team knowing the importance of leadership for the church.) Later in Acts 15:36-16:5, after the conclusion of the first General Assembly of the New Testament Church in Jerusalem, Paul suggests to Barnabas that they take a second missionary journey. The narrative then records their “sharp disagreement” as to whether John Mark should go with them. The result was two mission teams instead of one. John Mark and Barnabas depart on their ministry while Paul takes Silas and later recruits Timothy departing upon his second missionary journey. Interestingly, Paul, on this extraordinary initiative, not only repeated the four-fold strategy of expanding the Gospel of the Kingdom but he intentionally added another – Gospel church revitalization to fulfill his repeatedly stated objective “let’s return and strengthen the churches” – the same churches they had planted on their first missionary journey. Interestingly while Paul’s strategy of church planting has been received and embraced with passion and energy his stated emphasis on a strategy of intentional church revitalization is not embraced by today’s denominations. For the most part struggling churches are left to fend for themselves and in some cases as I encountered they are encouraged to close the church while the denomination energetically pursues planting of churches. But Paul, in contrast, intentionally and strategically sought to “strengthen the churches” who were stalled, plateaued or declining by leading them to spiritual health and vitality. A CLOSING CHALLENGE In the book of Acts there are thirteen words uttered in frustrated anger from an enemy of the Gospel in Europe less than 25 years after the Ascension of Christ which I would love to hear once again – “these people who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” We know who turned the “world upside down” – the people of God empowered by the Spirit of God. We know what turned the “world upside down” – the power of the Gospel. We even know how they turned the “world upside down” – Gospel evangelism and discipleship; Gospel church planting AND revitalization; Gospel deeds of love and mercy; Gospel leaders multiplied and mobilized. We are not in need of new strategies we simply need to implement the Apostolic strategy to ‘turn the world upside down.” So let’s be specific. To reverse the two decade decline of the number of churches each year the evangelical church needs to do two things Focus upon the means of grace to produce Christ- exalting, Spirit-filled, prayer-saturated Bible-shaped, Gospel-healthy churches which are on mission, message and ministry. Every church, presbytery, association and denomination ought to be fully committed to a two-fold Gospel ministry of church planting AND revitalization. Not to do so is to embrace continued failure and more importantly not to do so is to at best ignore Christ and His Word and at worst to disobey Christ and His Word as well as the tried and true Apostolic strategy to fulfill the Great Commission. So Biblically what is church revitalization and how is it done? Glad you asked. In the next blog Jesus, who purchased the church with His own blood and is unalterably committed to church revitalization will reveal His church revitalization paradigm to us from God’s sufficient Word.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
June 14, 2017 11:10 AM
Five-fold Paradigm to Voting with Christian Wisdom I was going to wait and write this blog in the fall in preparation for the general election. But, in light of the multitude of questions concerning how to vote in our regional elections as well as the Presidential primaries, I’ve decided to post a distillation of my answer to these inquiries. When it comes to politics, the most frequently asked question is “who are you going to vote for?” As a pastor I seldom answer that question. I prefer answering another question which equips people to not simply know how to vote in one election but how to evaluate voting in any election. Therefore, the more crucial question is “how should I, as a Christian, prepare to vote with prayerful deliberation and wisdom?” Given the position I have taken (for multiple reasons) to not publicly endorse candidates, I feel it is important to pastorally share a Biblical process by which candidates for public office should be evaluated. So, in light of the multiple texts in God’s Word designed to guide us in evaluating leaders in general and civil magistrates (public officials) in particular, I thought it best to give a brief distillation consisting of a five-fold paradigm to prayerfully make a decision in exercising the providential blessing, duty and privilege to vote for elected officials. The Five-fold Paradigm Character: Who are they? In considering a candidate the prevailing issue is character. In God’s word when electing Elders multiple texts give us the qualifications that are essential. In I Timothy 3 there are 17 such qualifications. Of the 17, 15 of them deal with character and conduct. Who are they? In particular who are they when no one is looking or when adversity strikes? When under trial do they intentionally focus upon developing character that reveals to be a trustworthy leader? What is their track and what do they do in private to pursue character formation? “Circumstances do not determine your character; they reveal it and become the opportunity to refine it.” It is crucial that we never fall prey to the old canard that “perception is reality.” Perception is not reality. Perception is a part of reality but it is not reality. A crucial reminder – When electing public officials, we are not electing a Pastor. We are electing a President or state/local office bearer. Furthermore, it must be remembered that at times, God’s common grace produces leaders that though unsaved have a dependable and reliable character. Content: Do they know their stuff? While I fully understand the current climate manifested by a desire to elect an “outsider,” (which has proven effective at times in the past) the undeniable fact is that governing in the public square whether an “insider” or an “outsider” requires a clear and knowledgeable grasp of the issues and challenges attendant to the office being sought. I lament the loss of the “public servant” in our government but I also understand that men and women who serve as civil magistrates must know what needs to be done and how to get it done. It is imperative that they “know their stuff.” Have they demonstrated the ability to work with others while holding to principled positions? Competency: Are they effective leaders? Have they developed and displayed the skills to effectively lead others to achieve a noble mission together? In other words, can the proposed candidate produce unity when confronted by situations where a multiplicity of perspectives, a diversity of desires and a disparity of objectives are competing for supremacy? Convictions: What are their heart-felt beliefs? Attempting to ascertain a leader’s true convictions is a crucial component of deciding before the Lord if a candidate is worthy of our vote. Confessional convictions will ultimately be authenticated or exposed as superficial as a leader’s operational convictions are observed. For example, if you desire to know what a candidate truly believes, take note of where they invest their time, abilities and resources. Another instrument to determine a candidate’s true convictions is to note how he responds to adversity in life. Adversity is a test and a test reveals three things – what you know; what you don’t know; what you need to know. So when adversity comes, what does the candidate do – learn, or die in a pile of self-pity? When adversity tests a leader, their response will tell you what their deepest convictions are and give you an indicator of how they will respond to the “pressure cooker” of public service and the temptations of power. Core: The foundation and capstone of candidate assessment. So how do we assess the core of a candidate’s life and abilities and avoid being judgmental? The answer is simple, yet profound. A prayerful assessment of a candidate’s past provides clarity for interpreting a candidate’s promises in the present as well as anticipating how and what they will propose in the future. It is a truism because it is true. The best interpreter of the present and the best prognosticator of the future is a man’s past. Furthermore, by examining the history of a candidate to know their core you also obtain an effective instrument to assess the four preceding components of the paradigm. One’s history ultimately reveals the core of a candidate and in so doing brings light to determine the authenticity of their character, content, conviction, and competences. So, when assessing a candidate take the time to learn their past, to interpret their present and anticipate their future. But, it is also important to leave room for growth if the candidate’s history has revealed a patterned commitment to being a humble and intentional learner. A Final Exhortation – Prayer The simple fact is that the responsibility of selecting leaders for the public square is of such importance that they must never be made without focused seasons of intercessory prayer seeking guidance from God’s word and “wisdom from above.” In God’s Providence, many have died for us to have this privilege of voting. Use it wisely, and then, cast your vote under the eye of God.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
March 1, 2016 8:00 AM
On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the Wittenberg Cathedral door and as they say “the rest is history.” That act ignited what arguably might be considered the most revolutionary movement in the history of Christianity since Pentecost. In 2017 we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of this landscape changing event. In that same year I will have the opportunity to lead another Reformation I tour – Following in the Martin Luther Steps of the Reformers; Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Bucer. One of the reasons I enjoy taking people on historical tours is the experience of watching them “getting insight while they are onsite.” On previous Reformation Tours three “insights” while being “onsite” not only captured my attention but subsequently influenced my approach to ministry and have actually become even more influential in the challenge of doing Gospel ministry in today’s world. First I need to document five observations to frame these “insights” from yesterday to affirm their “onsite” importance for today. Five Observations Remember these Reformation ministry insights are selective and hopefully helpful but by no means exhaustive of the many valuable ministry lessons embedded in the Reformation. The cultural climate for today’s Gospel ministry is amazingly similar to that of the Reformation revealing the need for another Gospel Awakening. Rampant sexual immorality Pervasive lifestyle addictions and violence Widespread corruption and compromised self-serving leaders in both the church and state. It must be remembered and reaffirmed that a national Gospel Awakening only comes through a robust God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, prayer-empowered and Gospel-saturated Church. In contrast to the above, today’s church is Biblically illiterate, spiritually impotent and is in desperate need of a heaven-sent revival to be positioned as a Divinely-prepared instrument for a Gospel Awakening. The revival needed in the church awaits a Reformation among pastoral leaders. A Reformation that will provide the church with Gospel ministers who are personally and pastorally committing themselves to embrace the Biblical mission, message and prioritized means of ministry focused upon “prayer and the Word” as designed by the Triune God of glory and grace. Learn From the Past – To Live in the Present – To change the Future John Calvin To be a Kingdom movement Christians cannot and must not live in the past. If we do we become a museum. But we should intentionally learn from the past to live effectively in the present in order to change the future. In other words we move forward by first going backward. That’s why the Lord would have His people erect an “Ebenezer” and then instruct His people to bring their children back and “tell the next generation what great things the Lord has done.” Why? The answer is simple. When you know what He has done and why did it as well as how we can celebrate what He did in worship as well as prayerfully learn from what He did in order to implement Divinely revealed principles in our commitment to expand the Kingdom to all the nations – knowing that the Lord our God is the “same yesterday, today and forever” and as His people our best days are yet to come. Three Selected Reformation “Insights” From Being ‘Onsite” #1: The Reformation was the result of Divinely called, equipped, empowered and sent leaders. The Reformation evoked a Gospel Awakening which spread through Europe and overflowed to N. Africa, South America and beyond. The Reformation was Heaven-sent by the Sovereign grace of God through the ministry of Prayer and the Word from a Holy Spirit revived and Bible-renovated church. And without doubt it came from the Lord through imperfect but impassioned leaders who were marked by courage and compassion. The simple fact affirmed in Scripture and history is that when God sovereignly moves by His grace and for His glory He raises up and sends out leaders with a calling that becomes their relentless passion. Life Takeaway: We need to pray for and intentionally cultivate Godly leaders in the church, for the church and from the church into the world. #2: When God calls, equips and sends movement leaders He invariably calls, equips and sends other leaders alongside of them creating a “team of leaders.” Let me confess this is not an exhaustive analysis. But in following the steps of the magisterial Reformation leaders in the sites of their ministry efforts – i.e. Luther in Wittenberg; Bucer in Strasbourg; Zwingli in Zurich; Calvin in Geneva; Knox in Edinburgh – I realized something that confirmed what I had always believed but now rejoiced to see it once again documented in history. It is a simple but also profound fact. When God raises up a leader, that leader will attract, multiply and mobilize other leaders and to ensure their perseverance, effectiveness and maturity God will raise up and send other leaders to work in tandem with them. I praise God for Luther but I also praise God for Melanchthon who marvelously complemented and enhanced Luther personally and ministerially. God gave us Zwingli and He also gave Zwingli the incomparable Bullinger. He gave us Bucer but praise the Lord he gave Calvin to Bucer at the right time and for the right season. He then sent Calvin back for the second time to Geneva the citadel of the Reformation. He then gave Calvin the indomitable Theodore Beza. From the womb of Geneva and the mentorship of Calvin our Lord gave to the Reformation John Knox and He gave to Knox the ever faithful Christopher Goodman. Zwingli The magisterial Reformers were magisterial because of the Hand of God’s Providence manifested in multiple ways and for multiple reasons. But undoubtedly one of those ways was the gift of competent leaders to complement them personally and ministerially. And praise the Lord He gave the Reformers the ability to both see their need of leadership plurality and welcome the principle and the practice of leadership plurality. These Reformers were leaders of unbelievable passions, gifts and devotion but with magisterial gifts and strengths there will inevitably be significant blind spots and weaknesses. But the Lord addresses these blind spots and weaknesses by providing leadership plurality. The result is a “team of leaders” which not only delivers the necessary complementary gifts but also creates an interdependent relationship of personal accountability. Life Takeaway: Effective leaders not only reject solo leadership to pursue effective and accountable leadership, they also reject “leadership teams” which functionally serve the primary leader. Instead they employ “teams of leaders” that functionally serve to multiply, mobilize and motivate leaders in the church and from the church to the community. #3: The Priority of Christian Education to bless the Church and then bless the Community through the Church. In my study of the era of Colonization, I was struck by the consistent action of colonists who once they landed at their destination or in some cases what they thought was their destination but actually was not. When they arrived they built a “church” – a place for worship and thanksgiving. They would then build a “family home” which initially would be sufficient for the bare necessities of life. Then before a reliable community infrastructure was established or in some cases a reliable food supply they would build a school. A school erected to not only educate church members but also committed to providing an educational initiative for the indigenous population would be provided. Bucer It struck me that the 17th century colonists were doing what the 16th century Reformers in exile did. A robust Gospel church for worship and discipleship was always the first priority matched only by the need of a family home. But then with clear purpose the church would erect a school not only to educate the covenant community but also the general population. In a word they were committed to the Great Commission (teaching them to observe all I have commanded you) and to the Great Commandment (to love the Lord with all their mind… and to love their neighbors) by providing public education from the church to the community. Not only would they provide a school to prepare leaders for the church and the family but also leaders from the family and church for the community. Life Takeaway: Christian Education is not only a parental commitment to our Covenant children but can and should be a gracious gift from the church to benefit the community by being intentionally designed to educate the public and mentor civic leaders.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
February 17, 2016 8:49 AM
RESPONDING TO THE IMMORALITY, TRAGIC INSANITY AND IRRATIONAL ABSURDITY OF SENDING OUR WIVES AND DAUGHTERS INTO COMBAT AND THREE EGALITARIAN MYTHS My wife is Cindy and we are different. Praise the Lord! This is an obvious statement. In fact, it is more accurately an understatement. In legal terms and God-given unalienable rights, my wife and I, like other men and women, are absolutely equal. Furthermore, we are Gospel equal. Both of us are sinners and incapable of saving ourselves or inventing a religion that is able to save us. Most of all we are equal in that both of us have been gloriously, undeservedly and marvelously saved by the grace of God from the tomb of sin to the triumph of Christ by His Cross and His Resurrection. Yet these facts of equality do not mean that we are the same. EGALITARIAN MYTH #1: EQUALITY = SAMENESS! We are equal but not identical. Let me give some examples. The first one is academic ability. Cindy was in the Honor Society and graduated Cum Laude. I graduated. (It was reported that when I walked across the stage and received my diploma my dad shouted “laude how come!”) At times, Cindy and I are able to go to the gym for a “workout” together. We do not lift identical weights. In parenting, Cindy, as wonderful as she is, cannot give a father’s love to our children; nor can I give them the unique dynamic of a mother’s love. In a word, we are not the same. We are equal but not identical and our differences are glorious blessings for us and our children. Why? Because our children need us in the complementary yet distinctive roles of mother and father made possible because of our God-given gender differences. All of the above, which can be multiplied by similar illustrations, do not exist because of tradition-laden cultural oppressions. They exist simply, yet profoundly, because of our Divinely-designed differences. We are not the product of a series of cosmic accidents and mindless mutations. God made me and He made Cindy, just as He did each and every one of us. All of us are created equal but none of us are created the same individually nor are we afflicted with gender sameness. “Man” is created male and female and therefore, unique by gender as well as individually. But even more to the point of this particular blog, God made me as a man both able and responsible to protect my wife. Common sense and natural law not only support this claim, they punctuate it. This does not mean that in a moment of danger a woman’s motherly protective instincts will not rise to the occasion, but it does mean that I am the one who was designed and called to protect her, as well as our children. The conviction of this moral imperative embedded in the culture through Christian influence is why the sinking of the Titanic recorded the sacrificial deaths of hundreds of men, many of whom were multi-billionaires while hundreds of women and children were saved some of whom were domestics and indentured servants. Women and children first to the lifeboats! Interestingly, we recently witnessed the sinking of a cruise liner in the Mediterranean Sea, providing a vivid example of the rampant narcissism and gender chaos of today’s culture as everyone stampeded for the lifeboats only to be outdistanced by the captain. Our wives and daughters can and may have to assist in an extremity or crisis but men are called and equipped to intentionally protect and provide for their wives and daughters. Let me repeat, after experiencing and observing the bravery of women, I am fully aware and assured of their desire and readiness to assist in any emergency. Furthermore, men and women do not live in isolation of one another but interdependently with each other. But, men do not send their wives and daughters to protect them nor homes. So why would we by national mandate? EGALITARIAN MYTH #2: EQUALITY = INTERCHANGEABILITY. Men and women complement each other by their ontological equality and their existential diversity. Men and women are not interchangeable with only insignificant physical cosmetic differences. We are equal, yet different therefore, we are not interchangeable biologically, psychologically, physiologically, socially, relationally, etc. Simply consider some delightful everyday common experiences we have with each another by observing the unique ways men and women talk, relate, problem-solve, plan, perceive life, use words etc. The list is delightfully endless. We are equal but not identical; we are equal but not interchangeable. EGALITARIAN MYTH #3: GENDER DISTINCTIVENESS = GENDER INFERIORITY/SUPERIORITY Difference is not a declaration of superiority or inferiority, it is simply difference. In reality, the differences we enjoy are marvelous and ought to be celebrated instead of mocked, denied or circumvented. Why do we arrogantly and aggressively avoid our complementary gifts, skills and callings to descend into the myths of egalitarianism? At best it is the result of misguided policies; at worst it is the result of an agenda propagated by self-anointed social engineers who are fueled by atheistic Darwinian evolutionary views of origins, which are demonstrably more philosophical and religious than scientific. THE PRACTICAL REALITY Let me pose the question begging to be asked. In the full scope of a national military system, is there a place for women to participate by using their unique gifts to complement the combat role of men to properly protect our nation or, as it is called today, our Home(land)? Absolutely! One only has to read the history of how women, in complementary roles, contributed to a stunning 3-front victory of World War II as they supplied and enabled men to victoriously endure combat. Deborah’s and Jael’s inspirational bravery in the Bible instructs us. But is the place of women as complements in combat a rationale to replace the role of men who are created, designed and called to physically and, if necessary violently defend and protect their Home(land) and those who residing within it? The answer is no! It’s late at night. I hear the glass in the door downstairs breaking, the door opening and then footsteps. I turn to my wife and say “Honey, someone is breaking into our home downstairs and since I know you are willing, why don’t you go downstairs and see if you can overpower him? By the way if he maims you or kills you don’t worry! I have two daughters who are brave enough to follow you and risk their life to protect our home while I remain here safe.” This hypothetical scenario is patently and stunningly ridiculous. Yet interestingly, what we would be embarrassed to contemplate personally, much less do actually within our own home, is now mandated by policy nationally with either pathetic naiveté or intentional absurdity. THE UNBELIEVABLE REALITY The unbelievable reality is that the men of this nation now allow politically correct elected officials in general and a President in particular (along with the elite self-appointed culture-shapers pontificating while shielded in the media and the academy) to institute policies which send our wives and daughters, not into the military to use their unique skills and abilities to enhance our armed forces, but into combat units to protect our Home(land) while they (and we) remain safely tucked away in our rooms. Forget for the moment the obvious arguments of how ignoring gender differences will inevitably force the adoption of inadequate training regimens, lowered physical and combat readiness standards, the redefining of combat protocols, inevitable sexual mayhem and a loss of combat unit efficiency which will cost lives (documented by a Marine Corp. study- more on this in Pt.2). Yes, I am aware of the claim that combat zones are now defined differently. But hand to hand combat, dragging a 200+ lb. comrade to safety, carrying 85 lb. support equipment, etc. has not and will not change. Finally, it is simply and utterly staggering to hear the President of the United States question whether he would allow his son to play football because it is too dangerous while at the same time promote an irrational and mythical moral imperative to send the wives and daughters of our nation into harm’s way to possibly be killed and maimed on the front lines. I have heard the argument, “but it is a volunteer armed service.” It is at the moment until a war draft is necessary and given the present framework used to promote women-in-combat, the drafting of our wives and daughters would be inevitable and inevitably pursued legally. Now, consider how many fathers and husbands will be imprisoned before they allow such a travesty to be visited upon their marriages and families. This historically, unthinkable policy will not only degrade our military readiness and effectiveness, it will also ultimately demoralize an entire nation in the name and cause of an irrational and foolish definition of equality and the untenable notion that gender equality demands gender sameness and interchangeability. The juggernaut of social and cultural irrationality has now spread from the laughable and the ridiculous to the dangerous and the frightening, as a nation sacrifices its wives and daughters by sending them into combat at the inevitable expense of national security, combat integrity, military effectiveness and efficiency. Sane and courageous leadership is desperately needed. Unfortunately my generation, decade after decade, has proven itself incapable of providing such leaders and/or solving cultural problems. Yet, we do seem to be quite adept at creating them. In our narcissistic fascination we arrogantly promote cultural absurdity and insanity that is now supported and propagated in the halls of government and enabled by a Pentagon led with politically correct and politically ambitious Generals. We have clearly lost our way. My hope and prayer is that the patience of God will lead us to repentance (that’s correct, I believe this is sin) with a Gospel awakening through the next generation, bringing a flood of redeeming and transforming grace which will produce an outpouring and overflow of God’s common grace. I freely admit my desire and prayer that my children and grandchildren might inherit a nation of sanity and not the national ruins of absurdity which is the inevitable consequence of rebellion against the Triune God of glory. But such a Gospel Awakening awaits Christ’s Church to fulfill its calling to be “salt and light.” Yet our Lord’s church in general and the leadership in particular is paralyzed and silent with invented doctrines to mask its fear of being mocked or marginalized. So my prayer is simple. “Lord grant repentance that your Church may again be “salty” and again “shine the light.”
By: Pastor Harry Reeder
December 14, 2015 9:33 AM
“to you who to Jesus for Refuge have fled.” In the past few months I have been asked on numerous occasions, “Pastor how should we respond to this seemingly unprecedented refugee crisis?” We have all seen the multitudes fleeing from what I would identify as the 7th Fascist Islamic Caliphate originating from the same location as the previous six – the Middle East. Many of these refugees are professing Christians who have escaped the ISIS implemented efforts to exterminate them with crucifixions, beheadings, rape, sex-slave trafficking etc. Other refugees are non-compliant “moderate” Muslims who also were targeted for death or imprisonment. The answer would normally be obvious. Let’s open the doors of our nation by an orderly refugee resettlement plan as we have done on numerous crisis refugee challenges in the past. (European, Hutterite, Vietnamese, Korean etc.) Okay, sounds good and sounds right, so why not? The answer as to why not is simple though the solution is not. The reason why not is that the same movement that created this refugee crisis – ISIS – has boasted and has proven that they could embed terrorist agents within the refugee population. So what should we do as Christians in America? From a Christian world view I would pastorally propose the following. God’s Word reveals that our Lord has designed and established three spheres within which our lives are to be developed, lived and sustained – the Family (the institution from Creation), the Government (the institution from the Fall) and the Church (the institution from Redemption) – the answer is to create a policy and a plan that embraces the God-designed roles and responsibilities of each life sphere with “wisdom from above.” Here are three Pastoral perspectives and some action steps. LIFE SPHERES OF THE GOVERNMENT, CHURCH AND FAMILY The Government should implement a refugee policy that allows flexibility for the current refugee crisis with a focus upon its primary responsibility to protect its citizens, especially since the crisis is the result of a national movement that has declared war upon our nation and the proven threat of embedding terrorists within the refugee population. The Christian church should initiate a Biblically framed refugee ministry while encouraging and supporting a thoughtful and compassionate national refugee policy. The Christian family should prayerfully encourage and engage in a refugee outreach ministry through the church and exhort as well as support an appropriate and responsible national policy toward refugees under the authority of the government. ACTION STEPS GOVERNMENT ACTION STEPS Collaboration with other nations for equitable division of the refugee population. A refugee camp providing housing, food, water and medical care which would allow for their sustenance while a responsible vetting process in implemented. (i.e. Ellis Island during the European refugee movement during the early 20th century) A vetting process that… Prioritizes the refugee categories for processing (i.e. religious refugees, then political refugees, then economic refugees) Identify, vet and organize non-profit, private, religious and familial sponsors to match appropriately with vetted refugees. A commitment to fully vet any refugee for ties to any Jihadist movements no matter how much time and effort required. The dangers are too crucial not to make such an effort remembering that the priority responsibility of the government is to protect its citizens from evil doers. (Rom. 13) The Secretary of State and the Director of the Department of Homeland Security must personally sign off any and all refugees who are admitted into the nation as to the integrity of the vetting process of both the refugee and the sponsoring family or organization to whom they are being released for accountability and documentation of the process. A quarterly checkup process as to the status and activity of the refugee for three years or until a prescribed citizenship process is completed CHURCH ACTION STEPS Consider teaching on the Biblical material concerning our Lord’s prescribed ministries to the refugee (i.e. cities of refuge) love to your neighbor (i.e. Good Samaritan) believers suffering under persecution (i.e. Heb. 13:1-3). If refugee ministry capabilities are not resident within the local church, the church should consider how they can participate within their denominational structures and/or with a reputable para church organization that effectively ministers to international refugees. (If desired Briarwood could make its researched list available.) Create multiple entry levels for the congregation as a whole and the members individually to engage according to their gifts, calling and resources. Consider how responding to this crisis can become a foundational impetus to implement an ongoing ministry to both refugees and the persecuted church (an issue that is epidemic and growing throughout the world and could be coming to our own culture which while not presently engaged in persecuting Christians, is engaged in targeting specific Christians who are exercising their first amendment rights.) Promote a strategic plan for a congregation-wide intercessory prayer initiative for the current refugee crisis and the persecuted church. FAMILY ACTION STEPS Pray for the government, its policy implementation and the refugees. Use this crisis to teach your children how God’s people combine the Great Commandment and the Great Commission with compassion in such situations. Prayerfully consider how you and your family can engage in the ministry (i.e. hospitality, family sponsor, provide jobs, financial resources and offerings, etc.) Support and expect the Government to fulfill its responsibilities to protect its citizens while implementing a refugee policy marked by wisdom and compassion. Consider how you can personally support your church or the organization with which the church is working. Historically moments like this have become extraordinary opportunities for God’s people to ignite a winsome testimony for Christ and embrace the Great Commandment that more often than not opens wide the doors for fulfilling the Great Commission. But more than anything, it is the right thing to do for those who are beneficiaries of God’s grace. The God of Glory and grace sent His Son to provide a “refuge” for us at the Cross and sent the people of God in the power of the Spirit of God to bring us the Gospel of God. Then He sent that same Holy Spirit who brought us to Christ our Refuge. “What more can He say than to you He hath said, You, who to Jesus for refuge have fled?”
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
November 20, 2015 8:12 AM
“I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word.” The questions which have come to me personally and pastorally over the past week have been both insistent and incessant—is Kim Davis a criminal and/or an out of control Christian who should be the subject of church discipline? This post is my answer. Her name is Kim Davis. Politically she is an elected Democrat serving as County Clerk in Rowan Co., Kentucky. She also is a professing Christian, newly converted to Christ from a self-admitted lifestyle of rebellion against the Lord of glory and grace—including three failed marriages. Likely you already know this information from the vast publicity delivered through formal and social media, almost all with a definitively negative slant denigrating her conversion and questioning both her motivation and her church. What you may not know is that Mrs. Davis is in jail—perhaps the one where she has been regularly teaching a Bible study for inmates—with no bail, by court order. Even though the judge had a variety of options he decided they would be insufficient to achieve his purpose, which is to force Mrs. Davis to “sign” or “resign” and “teach her a lesson.” At best, this is a miscarriage of justice and at worst intentional judicial tyranny. Let’s be clear. This post is not specifically about Kim Davis, the authenticity of her conversion, the orthodoxy of her church or divining the motivations of her heart. It is about the issues of this case and its implications. It is about how we should respond to Mrs. Davis and this situation. It is also about the undeniable fact that Christians serving as public officials, military chaplains, as well as simple everyday citizens will soon find themselves in similar predicaments of conscience. Why? Because an increasingly fascist government through an aggressive Dept. of Justice buttressed by an arrogant judiciary armed with the mantra that “same-sex marriage” is the “law of the land” in light of the Obergefell 5/4 opinion from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will inevitably put all of us in the same situation—sign on or resign—it’s the “law of the land” isn’t it and you must obey it—or do you—will you? WHAT IS THE SITUATION? Mrs. Davis has declared as affirmed in the introductory quote that she cannot in good conscience affix her signature as ordered by the Governor of Kentucky to “same-sex marriage” certificates. Therefore she refuses to sign any and all marriage certificates until the Commonwealth returns to issuing marriage certificates consistent with its Constitution. In addition, she refuses to resign her elected office to ensure that the issues are addressed. She cites two reasons. One is that the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky define marriage as a legal covenant between one man and one woman. And the Obergefell SCOTUS opinion has no authority to overturn those laws established by the people through their elected legislators. Secondly, as a Christian she cannot submit to the laws of men if they contradict and cause her to disobey the Law of God. The long standing premise as to the supremacy of God’s Law over man’s law is repeatedly affirmed in the Old Testament (i.e., the Egyptian midwives disobedience of Pharaoh’s decree to kill the Hebrew children, etc.) continuing in the New Testament (i.e., John and Peter’s refusal to obey the public authorities command to be silent as to the Gospel of Christ with the salient statement, “We must obey God rather than man,” Acts 5:29), continuing throughout history as affirmed by the martyrs of the church and notably in the Reformation, with Martin Luther’s history-changing declaration before the Church and the Holy Roman Empire: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason—for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves—I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen. Kim Davis, in like manner, has determined that for conscience sake she will not participate in subverting the sanctity of marriage as a Divinely-designed heterosexual, monogamous, conjugal, covenantal relationship for life. So should she be incarcerated by the United States and/or should she be the subject of church discipline due to her lack of obedience to the professed laws of the United States? THE QUESTION – WHERE DO I STAND? While I have no idea as to the integrity of her profession of faith in Christ—although I deeply care—nor the orthodoxy of the church where she worships—of which I also deeply care—let me state emphatically, I stand with Mrs. Davis and all other public officials who humbly yet courageously oppose and refuse to participate in propagating the sinful charade of “same-sex marriage.” More pointedly, I would hope by God’s grace to respond with the same courageous humility as she has if I were in her place. Why? There are multiple reasons, but here are two. THE SUPREME COURT AND THE LAW OF THE LAND The first reason is to confront a legal fallacy. It is commonly believed that the opinions of the Supreme Court are the “law of the land.” This mantra is constantly trumpeted by the media, the pundits, the commentators and the administration of President Obama. Nine unelected, though elevated, justices do not “make the law of the land” in our system of government. The law of the land—the Constitution—is supreme in the United States, not the Supreme Court. And the Constitution can only be changed by the people through elected legislators at the local, state and federal levels, not the judiciary at any level. Governors and Presidents execute the law established through elected legislators. The Supreme Court renders “opinions” on cases it hears, but it does not create law. If this delegation of duties is not observed then the warnings of Thomas Jefferson concerning the inevitable tyranny of the judicial branch will be a reality, as even James Madison, the architect of the Constitution, eventually admitted could happen! In a word, SCOTUS is an arbiter of the law. To make this clearer, they are umpires. Umpires do not make the rules, they make ruling judgments, which may or may not be right. So it is with SCOTUS. And like any other umpire, they can, and have been wrong. Sometimes with catastrophic effects these nine justices have historically made rulings and issued opinions which were politically shaped, but legally and Constitutionally devastatingly wrong. Thankfully in some cases they were rightly challenged by citizens and elected officials in the history of our country. For brevity’s sake, here are just two politically and culturally shaped, but Constitutionally and devastatingly wrong opinions. Dred Scott – (Oct. 1857) a slave was less than a person without unalienable rights. Roe v. Wade – (Jan. 1973) Legalized homicide of a baby in the womb for any reason at any time. Mrs. Davis is right to challenge the Obergefell wrong ruling/opinion as others challenged such legal fabrications in the past. Many in the North and South as citizens and government officials challenged the Dred Scott opinion. If more had done so, there is a good possibility that 700,000 lives in a fratricidal Civil War might have been avoided, and racial hostilities still plaguing this nation might have been rightly addressed. Although Roe v. Wade eventually has been challenged with legislative, ministerial and civil disobedience initiatives, the fact is 57 million plus annihilated lives might have been saved, if citizens, including elected officials had challenged the Roe. V. Wade ruling/opinion from the outset. Kim Davis is right not to sign and affirm a so-called law affirming “same-sex marriage” with the devastations, sexual anarchy and relational carnage it will bring. Furthermore, she should be commended for not resigning to go quietly away which many would desire. Then admirably she is willing to suffer the persecution of judicial tyranny, thereby forcing a nation to address the Constitutionality of this issue and professing Christians to address it personally. The First Amendment protecting the free exercise of religion (not just the subset of worship), is not forfeited when you become an elected official. As an elected official, she took an oath to uphold the Constitutions of Kentucky and the United States. The Constitution of the United States does not determine marriage laws. Marriage laws are established by the states and the Constitution of Kentucky is clear and unchanged—marriage is between one man and woman. A FOCUSED CHRISTIAN HISTORY OF POLITICAL DISSIDENCE The second reason begins with acknowledging that one of the great assets to this nation has been the influence of a Christian world and life view affirming the Christian virtue of obedience to the “law of the land.” But Mrs. Davis is correct in affirming that when the professed “law of the land” demands that a believer as a citizen or as an elected official transgress the Law of God, then a Christian not only is right before God to disobey such laws, but actually has a duty to do so out of allegiance to Christ and love for others. I commend to you as an eloquent example of this the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,” defending the right and duty of professing Christians to disobey unjust laws that attack God’s Law and human flourishing. This is particularly true of “lesser magistrates” as prescribed by the Reformers, specifically John Calvin and Martin Luther. They not only affirmed the right and duty of such civil disobedience by Christian citizens to unjust and immoral laws, but especially those Christians who serve as lower magistrates under superior magistrates who decree immoral laws. It was such “lesser magistrates” who protected the lives of Calvin and Luther. It was such “lesser magistrates” who contended for God-given unalienable rights that led 13 colonies through its War for Independence, resulting in a nation that affirms the God-given liberties of its people—a nation of free people who give defined powers to the state, as opposed to the power of a state giving liberties to the people. It was such “lesser magistrates” alongside brave protestors who eventually eradicated oppressive “Jim Crow” approved but immoral laws. WHY THE VILIFICATION OF KIM DAVIS? So, given the history of Christian political dissidence and First Amendment affirmed rights, why have not only liberal progressives vilified Mrs. Davis, but also astoundingly, why have so many political conservatives and libertarians insisted she must “toe the line” or resign because a SCOTUS opinion is now the “law of the land”? Even more pointedly why have many Evangelical Christians and churches remained silent or in some cases chosen to demean her and her church while some have exhibited outright embarrassment that someone like her has taken a stand in the name of Christianity to uphold the Sanctity of Marriage? Why not stand with her in opposition to a destructive immoral law and the bully power of the culture in general and the State in particular, facilitated by a supportive media? I will suggest three reasons: Intimidation. Everyone wants approval. It seems that today’s Evangelical church is much more interested in the approval by the cultural elite of the academy, the media and political progressives than God. Therefore, the threat of being mocked or slandered as intolerant or bigoted is enough to silence many in the contemporary Evangelical church. Those who are so intimidated will distance themselves from Kim Davis as fast as the Palm Sunday crowd following Christ in Jerusalem disappeared on Good Friday. Emotional blackmail. Many evangelicals are convinced of the myth that sinners saved by grace must at best be silent about sin, and at worst accommodate sin culturally in order to love sinners not yet saved by the power of the Gospel. Interestingly, those who believe that to accept someone you must accept their behavior, not only are rejecting Christ’s Gospel ministry which identified sin and called for repentance, but in some cases have participated in the vilification of Kim Davis and her church so as to distance themselves from her and her stand. Isolationists. Some are convinced that Christians and the church are to be silent about the sanctity of marriage and other issues such as the Sanctity of Life, Sexuality, etc. in the public square, and simply address these matters within the church membership knowing that changed lives will change and influence culture. While undoubtedly the most effective apologetic for the Biblical doctrine of marriage are Gospel transformed marriages, the fact of the matter is that marriage is not a church ordinance. Christian marriage ( i.e. a marriage “in the Lord”) is a church ordinance, but not marriage itself. Marriage is a Creation ordinance, like the Sanctity of Life, and the ethical absolutes identified in the Second Tablet of the Law. If we love our neighbor and desire human flourishing we must not, we cannot be silent about Second Tablet and Creation ordinances. The Christian/Church must issue both Gospel streams of Redeeming grace and Common grace. “Let marriage be held in honor among all…” Heb. 13:4 THE FUTURE So Kim Davis, I do hope and pray you know Christ as Lord and Savior. And I do hope and pray you are in a solid Christian church, and by God’s grace your motivations are saturated by the love of Christ. But regardless, what you have done is right, and you have both the legal right to do what you have done as a citizen and the moral right as a professed Christ-follower. You should not be criminalized by the State nor should you be the subject of discipline or distance by the church. So for whatever it is worth, I am praying for you and standing with you. And in the future if our Lord does not intervene with a Gospel Awakening in the church and this nation, I pray you will graciously stand with me when the unchecked judicial tyranny of the secular state comes to the pulpit for me and for others, even those not standing with you now.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
September 8, 2015 2:52 PM
Upon returning to Birmingham from a refreshing study sabbatical I was greeted with a news flash, a warning and a probing question. The news flash informed me that there was a website devoted to providing a network for married people to pursue adultery – euphemistically identified today as an “affair.” This website predictably was not only easily accessed but also promised privacy to its 38+ million subscribers while attracting them with the catchy motto – “Life is short. Have an affair.” Furthermore the website had been hacked and the hackers had warned they were going to make public the names of its participants. The website’s name is Ashley Madison – then came the warning. The website had a large number of well-known, well-situated and prominent subscribers. But even more ominously I was warned the list included professing Christians and leaders from Evangelical churches and organizations – then came the probing question(s). Pastor how are you going to handle this? What are you going to do about the list? Are you going to search it? And more pointedly what will you do if there are church members on the list? These questions were not only probing but rightly demanded pastoral answers. So here is a brief distillation of my pastoral response. My heart and hopefully yours is deeply grieved. This website’s existence, popularity and purpose reveals a desperate emptiness in our narcissistic culture providing one more cesspool of death and despair camouflaged as a fulfilling well of life. Beyond that, this website represents millions of empty lives about to be destroyed along with their marriages and families including untold numbers of devastated children in the wake of inevitable relational carnage. My grief was geometrically extrapolated as I then contemplated the number of professing Christians and ministry leaders numbered among the subscribers and the devastation soon to be visited upon their ministries, churches and families when the names became public. But as evil as this website is in its intent and its impact, the fact is, it is also legal – though immoral. And because it is legal it is private property. By the way, when will the public realize social media is never private no matter what is promised? Therefore, whoever hacked into the website is a thief and what they obtained (including the subscribers list) is stolen property. Because it is stolen property I will not be searching the published lists of subscribers that are now being made available. Personally, and as a Pastor, I will not participate in pursuing stolen property. Let me illustrate. I really need a new pair of golf shoes. I would certainly enjoy a new pair. What if someone told me about a man who had a truck full of new, name brand golf shoes that he was selling for much less than retail pricing? My next questions would probably be, “Where did he get them?” “How is he able to sell them so cheap?” The answer – Pastor you don’t want to know where or how the seller got the golf shoes. My response? – I would not buy them. If I did, I would be complicit and supportive of his thievery. Although rationalizations to buy them would be numerous and inventive, the fact is, I would be participating and supporting larceny by receiving stolen property. Likewise, the Ashley Madison list is stolen property so I will not pursue it no matter the rationalizations offered to do so. The end does not justify the means. But what if someone else reads the list and comes to me? Good question-keep reading. If someone came to me and said, “Pastor I know someone who is a professing believer/Christian leader on the list. What should I do?” This one is easy. I would take them to Matthew 18:15-20 and explain their first and possibly next three steps. First, I would tell them to go to your brother/sister personally with two intentions – to clarify the accuracy of the information and to “win” them to Gospel motivated and directed repentance. Because there will be cases of false information and stolen identity/credit cards, clarification and verification is crucial. Remember, more importantly, you are trying to win them. You are not trying to punish them, unnecessarily expose them or “catch” them. If they repent and confess their sin then affirm their forgiveness in Christ and guide them to the next steps of “deeds appropriate to repentance.” In a word, shepherd them to restoration, restitution and reconciliation. If they are in positions of leadership, admonish them and hold them accountable to go to those who are in authority over them to confess and step aside from leadership in order to address the non-negotiable issues of Gospel sanctification essential to being a leader “above reproach.” But what if they don’t confess yet the information seems accurate? Matthew 18 anticipates such a situation. Secondly take “one or two witnesses with you.” Galatians 6:1-5 directs us in such ministries of reconciliation to make sure that these “witnesses” are spiritually mature. Remember you are still trying to win your brother/sister. But what if they still refuse to respond? In the case of those who do not respond to the first two steps, Matthew 18 directs us to “tell it to the church.” Now, this does not mean to stand up and announce it to the church at a Lord’s Day worship service; nor does it mean to publish it on the prayer list and circulate it to the members of the church. That, of course, is gossip even if accompanied by the Christian postscript – “bless his heart.” To “tell it to the church” means to bring the information to the elders who then have clear Biblically delineated steps as shepherds of the flock concerning the right way to redemptively pursue “wandering sheep” including elder repetition of Matthew 18. Ashley Madison is just another example of our intricate and exotic efforts to pursue sin now through technological inventions. In so doing, it affirms two facts. One – God’s Word is sufficient to direct us in how to love the lost under the bondage of sin and how to love one another when caught in the deceit of sin. The second is that men and women in rebellion against God, relentlessly pursuing every form of idolatry to exalt self, will do so even though the pursuit always brings death. “The wages of sin is death”- physical, relational, spiritual and ultimately (for the lost) eternal death. Therefore, the real problem is the “heart” – not the tempting website. “The heart of the problem is the problem with the heart.” But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.Jas.1:14, 15 The death of ministries, marriages, hopes and dreams now become nightmares. But in the midst of this “death march” we have good news. There is a Savior who, on the Cross, has won the victory over sin and removed the sting of death. By His amazing and transforming grace He can make roses of majesty out of the ash heap of sin. Ashley Madison? Ashley Madison is one more reason and one more opportunity to tell lost sinners and remind wandering saints that there is a Redeemer. His name is Jesus Christ.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
September 8, 2015 2:48 PM
WHAT ABOUT OUTRAGE? OUTRAGE: an extremely strong reaction of anger, shock or indignation. On June 26th, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in a legal fabrication affirmed the charade of same-sex marriage as a “foundational right to those who have chosen to use their personal liberty to self-identify as a homosexual” as articulated by Justice Anthony Kennedy. The absence of any legal support for this obviously politically motivated opinion was embarrassing but not prohibitive for the pre-determined agenda of the 5 judges providing a one justice margin to defeat the 4 opposing justices and unravel a God-given foundational institution which has stood the test of time for thousands of years. Since this is now being trumpeted as the “law of the land”, how should individual Christians and Christ’s church respond? This blog is the first of a series written primarily for the dear church I pastor and then others who might be interested. While following the posts of many in the wake of this opinion whom I admire and respect, I have been both instructed and encouraged by their exhortations and insights. But I confess there are two admonitions repeated consistently which I am unable to embrace or affirm. One admonition is that Christians must not respond to with “outrage” and the other is that the way evangelical churches do ministry should not be affected as we move forward in the lengthening shadow of this judicial opinion. Two blogs pointedly declared that the church should simply respond by staying the course and keep doing what we were doing prior the ruling. In a word, we should simply keep doing “business as usual.” So what is the response to these recommendations as to how we should or should not respond? This is mine. Recently a member of the church I am privileged to serve sent me a Resolution written in response to the SCOTUS opinion with a question as to why I had not signed it. What they did not know was not only had I read it and deeply desired to sign it but could not for one reason. The resolution overall was well done but it contained one admonition that I could not in good conscience support. The admonition was specific. “Outrage” was deemed to be inconsistent with confidence “in the promises of a reigning Christ.” To sign the resolution and be out of accord with what was clearly a crucial concern and confident assertion would have been both dishonest and dishonoring to the originator of the resolution and the signatories. In a word I found myself in a dilemma. I wanted to sign it for multiple reasons. It contains much that is extraordinarily helpful and insightful. Furthermore the author is a true Christian statesman whom I personally admire and the list of supporters is filled with the names of many whom I know and respect. Beyond that I firmly believe such a statement needs to be made. So why not sign? While the resolution clearly stated that Christians “confident in the promises of a reigning Christ” should not respond with “outrage,” I was and I continue to be “outraged.” So either I am not “confident in the promises of a reigning Christ” or the resolution is to some degree incorrect concerning whether or not Christians can be or even should be “outraged.” I actually think it is right to be outraged. In addition I actually think Christians at times ought to be outraged, not ashamed of being outraged, nor assume that outrage is inconsistent with the work of God’s grace in our life. As an example I recently listened to a Planned Parenthood video in which a leader calmly over lunch and sipping wine discussed how to kill a baby in the womb in a manner that allowed the abortionist to salvage body parts for sale. I was and I am outraged and believe I should be. Likewise I am also outraged by the SCOTUS opinion and the Kennedy “considered opinion.” Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked who forsake your law. Psalm 119:53 But having proposed that there is a place and even a necessity for Christian outrage in response to this ruling, I would also affirm the need for the concern and care expressed in the Biblical warnings against sinful outrage. There is a reason the Scripture calls us to be “slow to anger,” “not to let the sun go down upon your anger” and “be angry yet do not sin,” etc. Obviously there is a sinful outrage that must be shunned because of its faulty origin and/or its resulting sinful behavior. Therefore authentic Christian outrage will be and must be rightly directed. Outrage birthed from self-righteousness and arrogance inevitably leads to the destructive effects of the sinful “anger of man” and must be avoided at all costs. But there is an outrage affirmed in Scripture which rightly burns within the hearts of God’s people even as imperfect followers of Christ. When the God of glory and all that He holds dear is mocked with impunity and that which He has called holy is desecrated, the God-given emotion of outrage rightly directed is appropriate. So where would authentic Christian outrage lead? God-honoring and God-given outrage inevitably leads us first to grief and lament and then ultimately to repentance. I am fully aware that God needs neither me nor my outrage to secure His glory and honor. Furthermore I am also aware that Supreme Court decisions will not thwart God’s purposes nor ultimately diminish His glory and that in the final analysis this judicial travesty will be used in God’s sovereign purposes for His glory and our good. So…. I am not outraged because God needs me to be but because I need to be. It is increasingly obvious what this opinion reveals about our culture and even more what it reveals about the impotency of the contemporary evangelical church in this culture. It is equally obvious where this decision will lead unless God’s people repent and the God of grace sends a heaven-sent revival to His church in this nation and from that revived church another Gospel awakening. I am outraged that a nation claiming to be “under God” now legally, institutionally as well as culturally mocks the God of glory. Therefore, I lament that this ruling not only positions this nation under God’s judgment but reveals that we are already under the judgment of God. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die they not only do them they give approval to those who practice them. Therefore God gave them over. I am outraged that the sanctities of God’s creation ordinances, crucial to human flourishing are being mocked. The sanctity of life legally and culturally disregarded for decades is now accelerated by mocking the sanctity of marriage. The sanctity of sexuality is being mocked with the illusion of same-sex marriage. We now have a SCOTUS opinion which has nothing to do with marriage equality but everything to do with marriage redefinition in order to affirm as natural and normal the unnatural and abnormal acts of homosexuality. Therefore, I lament the cultural loss of a God designed blessing affirming a monogamous, heterosexual, conjugal, life-long covenant of marriage – God’s gift in creation and common grace foundational to the well-being of humanity. But even more importantly the prostitution of the Covenant of marriage distorts that which was designed by God to reveal the unbreakable love secured by redeeming grace which Christ enjoys with His covenant people having left his Father to cleave to His Bride, the Church. I lament what this unsustainable view of marriage will inevitably produce in the cultural carnage of marital anarchy as inevitably the Divinely-designed foundation block for society – the family — is destroyed. I lament the disastrous effects upon children raised in fatherless or motherless homes embracing as normal sexual anarchy. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother to cleave to his wife. Consequently they are no longer two but one. I am outraged at the mocking of the sanctity of sexuality – designed to affirm and bless the sacred covenant of marriage. This God-designed and God-delivered gift is now legally and culturally mocked not only by heterosexual promiscuity – the sinful practice of natural sex – but now also by the legal affirmation of homosexual perversion – the sinful practice of unnatural sex. Therefore, I lament we have distorted marriage to affirm distorted sexuality. Let the marriage bed be held in honor by all. Fornicators and adulterers God will judge. I am outraged by the undeniable fact that today’s self-absorbed church having succumbed to doctrinal deviancy, pastor celebrity-ism, church growth pragmatism compounded by the preaching of a muted gospel of dwarfed grace has trivialized the past blessings of Gospel Awakenings visited upon this country by the sovereign grace of God. I lament the response of isolation by some churches (we will simply do marriage right in the church thus making a creation ordinance a church ordinance to facilitate a retreat from the public square and loving their neighbor); and I lament accommodation by other churches (thinking that being silent about truth is the way you love people in the bondage of sin and it is permissible to treat as irrelevant the public, social and legal mocking of God and His creation ordinances). I lament this cultural and ecclesiastical apostasy has occurred during my watch as a Gospel minister. This is how one should regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Finally, I am outraged that there exists a legal judicial opinion affirming the cultural nonsense that men and women have the freedom and ability to create their own identity in life and that choices of sexual anarchy are valid declarations of life identity. Let’s be clear no Supreme Court ruling, academic myopia, philosophical pandering, or cosmetic surgery can ever remove the guilt and shame of denying who we are by virtue of creation even as we culturally sophisticate ourselves into imbecility to suppress the knowledge of God. Thus, I lament that moral relativism and unchallenged Darwinian evolution has so pervaded this culture that men and women no longer hear the truth proclaimed from pulpits that they are created in the image of God – imago Dei – with dignity. Furthermore I lament that the contemporary Church has not only been complicit by its silence but also by its accommodation of cultural idolatry which destroys human dignity. Even worse has been its proclamation of a one-dimensional Gospel, a therapeutic Gospel or the American made blasphemous prosperity gospel, instead of the robust multi-dimensional Gospel. A Gospel proclaiming to sinners come to Christ and be saved from sin’s guilt and power and find your identity in Him. It is this Christ-exalting, sinner-saving Gospel which by the power of the Holy Spirit steadily makes His church a life boat for sinners and a death trap for sin as one “grows in the grace and knowledge of Christ” that must be heard from the pulpits and in the streets again. But, not only must outrage lead to lament, it must also lead to repentance. There is no way we can respond to this moment by doing what we have been doing – “business as usual.” We must repent. It must begin with me. Yes, it is true and accurate that our God-given message, God-given means and God-given mission and ministry is unchanged and must not be compromised nor edited in response to the issues of the day. But there is no way we can continue to do “business as usual.” This cultural death spiral which is inevitable when Gospel rivers of redeeming grace and common grace no longer flow from Christ’s church into the culture is the result of the way which we are or are not “doing business.” The “salt” has lost its “saltiness” and the “light” is “shrouded.” Therefore we no longer speak “truth in love.” Christian outrage is crucial and right but must lead to lament and lament must lead to repentance. May the God of Glory and Grace be pleased to give Christ’s church a heaven-sent revival leading to a Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered, Bible-shaped, prayer-saturated Gospel Awakening flooding every corner of this nation again but like never before. O Lord again.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
September 8, 2015 2:46 PM
My last conversation with Dad over the phone ended the way they usually did; “Thanks Dad, I love you”. I often prayed that I could be with my Dad when the Lord called him home, but God in His wisdom Providentially decreed otherwise. He took him home quickly from a golf course as he approached the 18th green. I cannot think of a more appropriate place unless it had been with his family. But if I had been with him after saying “I love you, Dad and thanks” I would have mentioned many other things I was thankful for… here are a few of them… Thanks Dad for… being my best friend, being my Father and I never wanted another, being my coach not only in sports but in life, Thanks Dad for… making me so proud of you, always calling me Son, giving me Mom and three great Sisters, Thanks Dad for… teaching me how to hit a baseball, how to shoot a basketball and block out for a rebound, to make a wrap up tackle in football, and sharing the joy of a round of golf on a summer afternoon with my best friend – you. Thanks Dad for… teaching me the joy of reading, the excitement of history, the magic of stories and storytelling. Thanks Dad for… showing me how to love, honor and respect my parents, by the way you loved yours, taking me into your everyday life, sharing with me the places you grew up and the stories of your life in those same places. Thanks Dad for…. showing me the importance of family, and how to be a Dad, and how to both work hard and play hard. Thanks Dad for…. not sending me to church but taking me, giving me wisdom about how to live life and to enjoy life, explaining how I could have eternal life in Christ, reminding me that God’s grace is greater than my sin, returning to the Lord, finishing strong and seeking to bring others across the finish line with you. Thanks Dad for… being my Daddy, giving me your name to both bear and wear for life loving me and, for not only being my Dad but also for being my hero. And thank you Lord for… giving me not just any Dad but one who became my best friend and Hero. Mammy, that 8 year old grandson, who read the Bible for you after school every day because you couldn’t read and then prayed with you as you interceded for everyone in the Reeder family; he is now with you, along with all nine of your children and many other grandchildren. Thanks for praying Mammy. And thanks O Lord for answering so graciously and tenaciously Lord. So now Mammy, one more is home Mammy and more are coming. Not one day goes by that I don’t miss you (and Mom). Would love to one more time “play catch” or “tee it up” or a “Golden Gloves Friday night” or another late afternoon at Sunset Beach, just hear another Reeder family story. While that will not be happening on this side, I’ll see you and Mom soon Dad and because of our Lord’s faithfulness, Vicki, Amy and Beth and all of our families are coming home too. Tell Mom we won’t be late our Savior will see to it… A forever grateful Son
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
September 8, 2015 2:42 PM
At the Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly this past week I experienced an event that was an unbelievably bittersweet moment for me as a man, a Gospel minister and the Pastor of a church I love, Briarwood. The moment was when I had the privilege to read a Memorial that was received and adopted by the PCA Denomination to honor the life, legacy and ministry of Dr. Tom Cheely who served Briarwood for 31 years as perhaps the most faithful and effective Missions Pastor any church could ever hope to have. What Tom did to propel Briarwood forward in fulfilling the Great Commission as a local church and what he did for our denomination as well as for the Kingdom as he served so many wonderful parachurch missionary agencies is almost staggering. Many have asked to see the Memorial so, with permission of our leadership; I have included it in this blog. I think you will enjoy reading it and I invite you to spend some time as you walk through it and meet, at least to some degree, a man of God, by the grace of God, who served effectively for the glory of God. Whereas, on May 7, 2014 after he had “served the purpose of God in his own generation,” our Creator and Author of the destiny of all men, in His infinite wisdom has seen fit to call from our midst Teaching Elder, R. Thomas Cheely into His glorious presence, and; Whereas, in1969 Tom Cheely was ordained to preach the Gospel and has faithfully kept his ordination vows through continually affirming his belief that the Scriptures did not “become the Word of God” or “contain the word of God” but the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, are the inerrant Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and; Whereas, during his forty five years of serving the Lord he pastored several churches before accepting the call in 1983 to minister at Briarwood Presbyterian Church as its first Missions Pastor, and; Whereas, for thirty one years as Missions Pastor, he faithfully served the Lord at Briarwood Presbyterian Church by undertaking each and every responsibility with diligence, grace, and focus always seeking to honor Christ through leadership to reach the world for Christ through “tenacious and tender” leadership, and; Whereas, his leadership was blessed by the Lord through ministering to and supporting 500 foreign missionaries in 70 countries around the world through his visiting missionaries in all continents through personal encouragement and participation in the ministry work, and; Whereas, he also lead the Briarwood Ministry initiatives to plant and revitalize churches as well as send missionaries to evangelize and disciple locally, in Birmingham, regionally, in Alabama and nationally, throughout North America with extraordinary vision and effectiveness, and: Whereas, he faithfully provided leadership to Evangel Presbytery and the General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in America and was widely recognized for his denominational leadership and participation on numerous General Assembly and Evangel Presbytery committees, and; Whereas, he also faithfully and effectively provided visionary as well as strategic leadership for various para-church mission agencies, projects and endeavors, and; Whereas, Briarwood Presbyterian Church, it’s membership, fellowship, and leadership will miss greatly his presence yet knowing that the Lord “does all things well” and is grateful that Teaching Elder R. Thomas Cheely in his thirty one years of serving the Lord as Missions Pastor, the cause of Christ was advanced through Briarwood’s commitment to “equip Christians to worship God to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ.”, now: Therefore Be It Resolved, that Evangel Presbytery does note the death of our brother in the Lord, with a deep sense of loss and sorrow by acknowledging that a “prince in Israel” has fallen yet because of the Gospel a “prince in Israel” has been promoted, we offer the prayer of thanksgiving for the life of Teaching Elder, Reverend, Doctor R. Thomas Cheely as he lived among us and served the Lord so faithfully. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Evangel Presbytery rejoices in the full and certain assurance that our brother is in the presence of God to worship Him throughout eternity. To God be the glory, honor and power, both now and forevermore, Amen, and; Further Be It Resolved, that this Resolution be approved as a Memorial by Evangel Presbytery and that Evangel Presbytery likewise forwarded this memorial to the 43rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America and; Further Be It Resolved, that this Resolution be spread upon the minutes of the Evangel Presbytery and that a copy be furnished to his wife, Kathy, as an expression of Evangel Presbytery’s deep appreciation for the life, testimony, and forty-five years of ministry by Teaching Elder R. Thomas Cheely to the Kingdom of God. I do hope and pray this Memorial has been an encouragement. Now I would ask that you join me in prayer asking that our Lord might raise up, for the sake of the Kingdom, more Gospel servants who, like Tom, are unalterably committed to the Great Commission, the exaltation of Christ and the expansion of the Kingdom of God through the Gospel of the Kingdom for the Glory of the King. For Christ, the Gospel and His Kingdom, Harry
By: Dr. Hary Reeder
September 8, 2015 2:40 PM
The ISIS phenomena, Islamic terrorist attacks have occasioned an interesting response pattern from the administration of President Obama and even from him personally. There are doubtless multiple reasons as to why there is a hesitancy to identify the contemporary Jihadist movement as Islamic in both ideology and motivation. But whatever the reasons are, the fact is – our national leadership will, with both tortured rationalizations and inconsistencies, avoid labeling it as “Islamic” seemingly at all costs. ISIS (Islamic State In al-Shama) is arguably the 7th Caliphate of Islam, an Islamic brand of theocracy that is determined to impress Sharia law upon the entire world. This movement is now spawning a Jihadist, terrorist, genocidal initiative against non-compliant Muslims, non-Muslims and other religions but, in particular, Jews and Christians. The focus upon Jews and Christians has been painfully obvious in recent attacks. But equally obvious was the resolute Administration’s commitment to avoid identifying those targeted (Jews and Christians) or the terrorists (Islamic). In contrast the assailants publicly identified both themselves and the victims. Recently in Paris a Jewish, kosher delicatessen was attacked. Four Jews were killed, and the perpetrator called a journalist to celebrate “killing some Jews.” Yet, the President insisted on a veiled and incomplete assessment of the event as a “random act of despicable terror by an irrational religious death cult.” While it was certainly “irrational” and “despicable” and it was the work of a “religious death cult,” it was neither “random” nor was it just any “death cult.” It, by the terrorists own affirmation, targeted Jews and was fundamentally rooted in a consistent and cleric-approved interpretation of the Quran by Muslim adherents of Islam. More recently, ISIS Jihadists marched 21 Egyptian Christians, were in Libya to find work, onto a sandy Mediterranean beach. After verbally berating their captives and their Christianity, they ritually decapitated them because of their faith in Christ. Again, our President condemned the action by describing it as an “unspeakable act of barbarism upon Egyptian citizens.” This, at best, is an incomplete assessment, not only ignoring the explanatory words of the Islamic Jihadists but also insinuating that these men were killed because they were “citizens of Egypt.” Never mind the fact that all of these victims happened to be Christians on their knees calling upon Jesus to deliver them while being beheaded by self-identified Islamic Jihadists. Even still, our leaders would have us believe they were killed because they were Egyptian citizens at the hands of deranged cultists. These men were not only murdered because they were Christians. They were executed because they refused to recant their salvation, even though it might have saved them. Such disingenuous commentary upon their death dishonors them and makes the labeling of Maj. Nidal Hasan’s killing spree in the name of Allah that produced 13 causalities at Fort Hood as “work place violence” almost plausible. So why is our President doing this? Honestly, I don’t know for sure. I can only surmise five possibilities. He personally senses or feels a need to protect the Islamic religion from being identified with the contemporary Islamic Jihadist Caliphate because of either its influence on him personally or perhaps family loyalty since he was raised in a family of professing Muslims. In other words, because of his personal connection in the formative years of his live he has a desire to defend the religion he knew from being identified with embarrassing elements now identified with the religion. He is concerned that he will offend (what we are told are the majority of Muslims) who reject this Caliphate Jihadist movement or at least its strategy and tactics. He is concerned that Americans will be unable to discern between Jihadist Muslims and those Muslims who have rejected the current Caliphate or Holy War. He, like the vast majority of Washington and the cultural elite, cannot believe that the Islamic religion could actually be the motivating and defining factor of those who are engaged in this genocidal Jihad. It is inconceivable to them that any religion could possibly matter that much to anyone. The fact is, those culturally committed to secular humanism find it unfathomable that religion could ever be a life and death issue to anyone. My inclination is #4 but it could be none or some combination of any or all of them. SOME UNSOLICITED ADVICE Mr. President, my unsolicited advice is this: If you either sympathize or personally desire to honor the Muslim religion of your family, then simply tell us. But by the way, your recent apologetic on behalf of Islam to distance it from the self-identified Islamic Caliphate by illegitimately and inaccurately comparing it to the Crusades, may have been a brief but helpful insight as to your perspective on both Islam and Christianity. Or… If you are concerned that an intellectually honest assessment of the ISIS-affirmed Islamic Caliphate will offend “peace loving Muslims” – then say so. As you do, you can call upon all “peace loving Muslims” to theologically, organizationally and politically police themselves and their religion. Throughout your Presidency you have displayed no hesitancy in telling Americans and/or Christians our perceived faults and how we need to correct ourselves relationally and socially for which, when accurate, we thank you. And it is distinctly possible that as you provide similar admonitions for the Muslim community perhaps they will also be grateful. Or… If you are concerned that Americans will overreact and engage in wholesale persecution of all Muslims, then again say so and challenge us not to do so. Personally, given all that has happened since 9/11, I think you should be encouraged by the restraint of Americans and their overall consistently demonstrated desire to avoid overreaction and instead treat our Muslim neighbors with respect while affirming their First Amendment rights. Finally, Mr. President, first, as a Christian and second, as a grateful American, my unsolicited advice and appeal is simple. I don’t expect you to be an apologist for Islam. I am fully aware the Muslim religion has had an influential role in your life and you are adequately informed of its tenets and objectives. But you were not elected to evaluate whether a self-confessed Islamic Jihadist Caliphate is an authentic expression of their religion. You were elected to defend this country and its citizens “from all enemies foreign and domestic.” By the way, I do not expect you to be an apologist for Christianity either. You were not elected to be a Pastor or Imam but simply, yet profoundly, you were elected to be President of the United States and to fulfill your oath to protect us from avowed enemies. You need not evaluate the authenticity of the ideology or religion motivating those enemies – in this case whether their interpretation of Islam is valid or not. Simply protect the citizens of this nation – Christians, Jews, Muslims or atheists – who have been targeted in this state supported and religiously declared Holy War. AN OVERVIEW So exactly what is America facing? ISIS is the latest contemporary Muslim movement designed to impose Sharia Law through a world-wide Theocratic Fascist Islamic Caliphate. America is not faced with a “war on terror.” Terror is a tactic of an unjust war not an enemy to defeat with war. Therefore this war is not against terror but Islamic terrorists. Our President is correct when he says we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with an Islamic Fascist Theocratic Caliphate affirmed by Muslim clerics who believe the Quran which teaches that those who do not convert and submit to Sharia Law in the name of Allah can be executed in a Holy War. In the Quran this doctrine is called “Takfir.” But the result is whether we desire to acknowledge it or not they have embraced the practice of “takfiri” thereby declaring war on us. It is a Caliphate. Al-Qaeda was not. It desired a Caliphate but could not declare one. ISIS can since a Caliphate requires both clerical authorization and a true state with boundaries to be authentic. ISIS has both. In fact, it occupies a land mass larger than the nation of Great Britain. It is a Fascist movement. Fascism is a governmental system marked by centralization of authority employing governmental power to control and implement policies of suppression and marginalization of any opposition by coercion with economic, legal and if necessary, lethal power to achieve its objectives. Islam with its governmental enforcement of Sharia is Fascist. It is a Theocratic religious movement defined by a historically consistent Islamic interpretation of the Quran, with an objective of a world-wide Islamic Caliphate or Apocalypse. A FINAL WORD Finally, to my Christian brothers and sisters in America – It is both righteous and faithful to God’s Word for the President of the United States to use the power of the sword to protect us. Therefore, it is righteous and appropriate for our sons and daughters to give themselves to bear the sword of the State in a just defense of the country’s citizens. In fact, the government’s most important role, as defined by Scripture, is to serve as a minister of God to protect the lives of its citizens from any and all lethal aggression. The same text calls for us to both pray for our leaders and display respect for those who rule over us by God’s sovereign hand (Rom. 13:1-7). Furthermore, it is also right for us, as our Lord’s church, to send our sons and daughters with the Sword of the Spirit and the Gospel to encourage His people and to reach His enemies. While remembering we too, were enemies of Christ when the Gospel came to us through His people proclaiming Jesus who will redeem His enemies and bring them into His family by delivering us from sin’s deception and power as well as its guilt and shame. All of this is made possible because of His atoning death upon the Cross and His triumph over the grave. So, Mr. President, respectfully we are praying for you. And our sons and daughters are ready to protect and serve the citizens of this country with the Sword of the State in a just war. And, to our enemies, we are also sending our sons and daughters with the “Weapons of the Spirit” protected by the “Armor of Christ” as “sheep to be slaughtered.” They come with the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of Truth – so that you may be set free from sin and fear. We long for you to hear the Spirit of God say “Come,” and the Bride of Christ – His Church – say “Come.” As we heard Christ, we pray you will also. We go to you so that you might hear the Gospel, His glorious message of salvation by grace and “come to Christ” – the King who died and is risen so that we who were His enemies – helpless and hopeless – might have life forevermore – “Come.”
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
September 8, 2015 2:38 PM
It was both jarring and disheartening. I am referring to the surreptitious video of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers singing a “song of hate” filled with pejorative racist language as well as degrading epithets and threating statements referencing horrid acts of the past century designed to intimidate African-Americans. It was absolutely deflating and I confess that even though I have watched it three times, I have not been able to view it in its entirety. Before attempting to give some observations from a Biblical perspective I need to confess that my inability to process this with some level of objectivity is at least partially due to the fact that I am blessed to have 8 grandchildren and 3 are African-American. I cannot tell you how grateful I was that that none of my grandchildren were in the room when this video popped up on a news channel as a “tease” of what was coming up after the commercial. Therefore, I was given an opportunity to prepare them as to how, as believers, they need to view this (for what it is) and respond to it with the clarity of God’s Word, the fruit of the Spirit and the triumph of Christ. A brief overview… How could something like this exist in our country given what seems to be the significant “racial progress” over the last fifty years? The sing-along song displaying unvarnished racial animus was sung by supposedly accomplished college students during the same week that the moving and emotional events memorializing the extraordinary courage of the participants of the Selma march 50 years ago were being observed and experienced. Not to mention the still raw emotions swirling around the challenging events of the past year as our nation attempts to navigate the relational and legal dynamics of local police departments and the African-American community. A few observations… 1. Progress – I am grateful that the overwhelming response throughout our country is one of horror, incredulity and disciplinary action. One of the reasons for this reaction of gratification is because it was not many years ago this video would have had a mixed response of anger by some and callous amusement by others. 2. Law – I am also grateful for the right use of good law for establishing beneficial public policy relating to the protection of the Constitutional rights of each and every citizen. While not all civil rights legislation has been good and/or necessary, it is undeniable that some laws were necessary to protect the unalienable rights of African-Americans and restrain those who would attempt to deny (i.e. alienate) their rights because they are African-Americans. The response to this event by the University of Oklahoma, in particular, and the culture in general, is a testimony to the blessing of good laws which not only protect and restrain but also, by their existence, declare the ideals and values of a country. Laws designed to protect the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution and restrain those who would deny them are absolutely right, appropriate and necessary. But legal initiatives restraining the objectives of racism in the culture and also displaying the values and ideals of a culture are incapable of changing the hearts of racists and therefore incapable of eradicating racism. The heart of the problem with all sin (including racism) is the problem with the heart. Laws in a society protect people, establish cherished ideals in the culture of the society and restrain evil doers. But laws cannot remove sin because they cannot change hearts. The revulsion that this video has produced and the rapid responses reveal the benefits of good law. But, the song in content and the universal, frivolous participation of those who sang it tells us that while racism has been shamed in the public arena by good laws it has not (and cannot) erase it from the heart. Therefore, while such racist sing-alongs are no longer in the public square, racist hearts will still be revealed by what comes out of the heart and will seek new venues to revel in sinful and sophisticated stupidity – even in a frat party sing along. 3. Biblically faithful theology and a Bible-shaped world view are crucial. The present theological battle in the church to maintain the Biblical doctrine of creation and the historicity of Adam and Eve is important for multiple reasons. One reason is they provide an effective and God honoring foundation to confront racism by rejecting the Darwinian mythology of multiple races. A Biblical world view, when embraced in a “renewed mind,” will agree with the Scripture in general and the Apostle Paul in particular. In Acts 17, Paul is defending the faith in the intellectual capital of the world – Athens – and in the heart of its worship center – the Areopagus. “That God who made the world and everything in it….. and He made from one man (Adam) every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.” Acts 17: 24 ff. In one distillation and declaration of Biblical truth he affirms the God-established presence of the nations of the world as well as the reality that all humanity, while found in multiple cultures and nations, is actually one race – the human race – with one father (Adam) – the historical Adam and Eve. Racism is not only sinful but is also an act of stupidity because… There is only one race. Therefore to be a racist is at best an act of sinful ignorance and at worst, an act of willing sinful ignorance. A racist must embrace the multiple lies of Darwinian evolutionary claims concerning origins, which is both bad science and by definition non-science. Affirming the importance of intentionally developing a Bible-shaped world and life view through a “renewed mind” leading to a “transformed life,” instead of a life “conformed to this world is absolutely crucial.” 4. The Gospel – The Gospel alone – the “message of reconciliation” delivered by a “ministry of reconciliation” – is the only answer to heart-sins. Law restrains, declares values and reveals how helpless we are apart from the Gospel of Grace in Christ to save us from the penalty of sin and the power of sin. Remember the heart of the problem is the problem with the heart and the Gospel alone has the power to change the hearts of men and women thereby eradicating the heart of the problem. The sins of bigotry can be forgiven and the heart of bigotry can by God’s grace be transformed. Exhibit one – the Apostle Paul. Not only was Paul, once the killer of Christians, forgiven, he also was transformed and became one of the greatest evangelists whom the Lord used to multiply Christians. He was a persecutor of the church but was forgiven and became the greatest church planter in the history of the church. He was a relentless Gentile hater as a Jewish Pharisee but became the Apostle to the Gentiles, taking a Gentile name and embracing Timothy, a Gentile from a Gentile father as his “adopted son” in the Lord. 5. Leadership works – Good leadership produces good results and bad leadership produces bad results. If you look closely at the video you will see “a leader” and the followers. This observation does not absolve those who were led into participating but simply affirms that leadership matters. Interestingly, some who participated have already stepped out to apologize and confess. What if another leader had stepped up at that moment to challenge the song, its content and intent? Perhaps, those who were on the edge but ended up “going along” would have been moved in the direction of what is good, right, excellent and virtuous. So, the question to my brothers and sisters but most of all to me is – Would I have been “strong and courageous” by God’s grace, for God’s glory and displayed as well as persuaded others to pursue “a more excellent way?” 6. Character – Finally, while realizing many are debating the legal issues of the President of the University of Oklahoma, I personally believe standards of conduct must be maintained even in a state university. But there remains a question that must be asked of the SAE fraternity and the University – including the President, Board and Administration. I know to enter into the University and/or the fraternity you must have means (money) and you must have displayed academic competency and achievement. But what about character? Lest you think I am out of touch with reality, I challenge you to go and research the entrance requirements to Colleges and fraternities just 75 years ago. See the depth and penetrating nature of the questions concerning character and demonstrated habits of life which saturated the entrance examination process. This is a character issue as well as a heart issue – not just a violation of politically correct speech. Summation… We thank the Lord that in His Providence we have seen (since the mid-19th century) laws that confront the racism and prejudice that attempts to deny the “unalienable rights” of all citizens in general and the confrontation of systemic racism against African-Americans in particular. And while thanking the Lord for laws that set virtuous cultural ideals which protect the equality of each and every citizen we also know these Laws cannot change hearts. But the Gospel does. But hearts are only changed through Gospel evangelism and discipleship focused upon a Christ-centered and Bible-shaped Life-view, leading to a Christ-centered and Bible-shaped Life-style, motivated by a Christ-centered and Bible-informed Life-love -the love of Christ compels us. This Gospel of Grace gloriously liberates us from the penalty of our sins (including bigotry and racism); it definitively liberates us from the power of our sins (including bigotry and racism); it increasingly liberates us from the practice of our sins (including bigotry and racism). And it must be displayed in the covenant community of the King, our Lord and Savior – His Church. This is what I long for my three African-American grandchildren to see and hear. More than that this is what I long for the world to see and hear – from us who know Christ as Lord and Savior – most importantly from me.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
September 8, 2015 2:37 PM
In Romans chapter one the Apostle Paul begins his exposition of the Gospel with a brief statement about the Gospel (1:16-17) – which he will soon expand and expound in the letter – and then moves to a tightly constructed declaration of Divine judgment now revealed “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18-34)In this theological narrative Paul explains the inevitable course of Spiritual Entropy by Divine design whenever a culture/society is devoid of a cogent, courageous and compassionate Gospel witness of redeeming grace and its companion common grace. Our culture reflects this profile even as others have throughout the ages. In fact, as the three exchanges of sinful rebellion and the three Divine acts of “giving over” are observed in the text, it is clear our nation is in the third downgrade which is socially and legally approved “sexual anarchy” leading to a shameless culture of depravity. How did a nation, society, and culture so providentially blessed by the Gospel arrive at a point where righteousness is not only suppressed but “evil called good” and “good called evil?” Beyond that, how has that which was once affirmed as sacred and foundational (i.e. freedom of religion, the sanctity of life, marriage and family) now mocked and any who might raise their voice to call us back to sanity ridiculed? More than ridiculed, those who would speak for ethical sanity are dismissed as intolerant bigots by a new culture which lives by intolerance and bigotry. If Paul is right, and he is, the reason for this is the absence of a humble yet courageous, thoughtful yet convicting verbal and visual Gospel witness. In other words, the problem is not that the world/culture has lost its way. On the contrary, the world/culture has found and returned to its way. It is the Church and the individual Christian who have lost their way. We are the ones who, from pew and pulpit, are to send the flowing rivers of a Gospel defined and empowered redeeming grace and common grace into the public arena as we minister to people one by one and speak to the society issue by issue. This means the “first responders” to our Lord’s call and this present distress must be Christ’s church and authentic Christians. This would lead us to obey our Lord’s directive – “judgment begins with the household of God.” We must repent of our idolatry of cultural affirmation and applause in the name of contextualization and relevance. We must abandon our functional rejection of the binding and invigorating sanctity, supremacy and sufficiency of God’s Word which is the Truth. We must have pastors who repent of believing the church exists to give us work instead of the reality that we exist to do the Lord’s work in His Church – “the people have become like their teachers.” This blog cannot possibly contain all that we need to confess, repent of and pursue with a new obedience. So, in light of this week’s remembrance of the Reformation, I would propose the following Biblical remedy. GOSPEL AWAKENING – REVIVAL – NEW REFORMATION We are in need of a Gospel Awakening in this nation. Yes, this nation. A heart to take the Gospel to “all the nations” does not preclude a priority of reaching your own nation. On the contrary, integrity demands it. The Reformers understood this and modeled it. The prayer of Knox, whose ministry ultimately blessed the world, was “Give me Scotland or I die.” As the English Reformers Latimer and Ridley literally embraced the fire for Christ in Oxford the word to Ridley from Latimer was “Be of good courage Mr. Ridley for today we shall light a candle for Christ that shall not be put out in all of England.” We, throughout the world, still gain light and heat from that candle for Christ in England. Calvin, who would send missionaries throughout the world from Geneva, even to Brazil, prioritized his own country, France, with over 1300 missionaries and letters accompanied by dangerous visits to pastors and churches. To have a Gospel Awakening the church must receive a Heaven-sent Gospel-saturated, Holy Spirit-delivered, God-glorifying and Bible-shaped revival. Today’s church, impotent and illiterate, opting to be either a museum of past religion or an accommodating cultural participant in the name of relevance, is in desperate need of revival prayer and preaching. To have revival prayer and preaching we are in need of a New Reformation. The preachers, elders and leaders of our Lord’s church must be moved upon by the Lord of glory and grace. Then we will be done with “lesser things” and that means we will be done with ourselves and become consumed with Christ and fully committed to proclaiming the preeminence and prominence of Christ. When God begins a life-changing and world-shaking Gospel movement it is clear from both history and Scripture that He works through His church and that means He intentionally raises up preachers and leaders who relentlessly love Him “who first loved” them and passionately love to tell the world of Him – the Lord of grace and glory. But all of this means one more thing. If we are in need of a Gospel Awakening delivered through our Lord’s church… and if that means His Church is in need of Revival… and if that means we need a new Reformation providing leaders and preachers who will connect His church to the life lines of protracted intercessory prayer and Gospel preaching… then that means… It must begin with me – and how about you? Then we will again proclaim Christ, King of Kings over all the nations to our nation. Not a tribal God for this nation but the God of Glory and Grace to our nation. Beginning with me the cry of the Reformers and their spiritual offspring must again arise – “For Christ’s Cross and Crown.” A nation descending into the abyss as a consequence of our sin and an impotent professing church as well as the Divine design of sin’s judgment awaits us to awaken to Christ. Even knowing that, those who are in rebellion against the Lord God need to be given eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to receive. It seems as if they are more willing to speak with us than we seem willing to speak to them.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
November 21, 2014 11:23 AM
What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Westminster Shorter Catechism Question #1 The Westminster “Divines” (i.e. those called of God, sent by the Holy Spirit and affirmed by His church) gathered each day by edict of Parliament to compile first The Westminster Confession of Faith to unify the church of the Reformation in England with a distillation of essential Biblical truth and eventually two teaching tools. One teaching tool was the Larger Catechism designed for pastors to use in discipling the ordained officers of the church. The second was the Shorter Catechism designed for fathers to use in discipling their families. The very first question they composed to initiate the Catechisms was framed to explain Biblically God’s purpose in making man (Creation), male and female; saving man (Redemption) and sustaining man (Providence). Yet the question has what seems to be either a grammatical oddity or a carefully phrased precept. Let’s look closer. First let’s examine the question. What is the chief end of man? (note that “end” is singular). Now let’s look at the answer. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (note that “end” is repeated as a singular but “end” though singular is defined as two-fold and therefore plural – “to glorify God forever” and “to enjoy God forever.” So did they make a grammatical error, were they sloppy or is something else of significance being communicating to us? Perhaps some would argue they made a grammatical error but I know of no one who would call them sloppy. These men began every day by re-affirming the vow they took on the first day as Dr. David Calhoun reminds us in his research on the Westminster Assembly. “to maintain nothing in point of doctrine but what I believe to be most agreeable to the Word of God; nor in point of discipline, but what may make most for God’s glory and the peace and good of his Church.” Furthermore, the careful wording of the Confession and the Catechisms would manifestly reveal the care they took in the formulation of Biblical truth which they desired to be taught in both the family and in the church. That then means they were being thoughtfully engaging. So what were they saying to us beyond the obvious fact that we are created, saved and sustained “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever?” What the “Divines” were saying is that God’s design in creation, redemption and providence is to make, save and sustain man (male and female) with a two-fold purpose. Therefore it could be re-written or understood more clearly in this way – “What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever” (as others have noted such as the beneficial expositions of Jonathan Edwards and in our day John Piper). But I would suggest that is not all they are saying by expounding a singular purpose as defined by a two-fold fulfillment. They are also saying that “the chief end of man is to enjoy God BY glorifying Him forever.” In other words we exist “to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever” and we “enjoy God BY glorifying Him forever.” To be more precise they are saying when we are embracing our created, redeemed and sustained ‘responsibility’ “to glorify God” we will “enjoy God” and when we “enjoy God” we will instinctively and increasingly “glorify Him.” To attempt to be even more specific, the more you “glorify Him” the more you will “enjoy Him” AND the more you “enjoy Him” the more you will “glorify Him.” To “glorify God” (our sacred responsibility) and “to enjoy God” (our sacred relationship) are two sides of one coin and therefore mutually dependent upon each other and inseparable from each other. You inevitably will display one when you intentionally embrace the other. How many times in my life has the joy of Christ as my Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer caused me to both intentionally and spontaneously glorify God in worship and witness? But how many times in my life have I been momentarily empty of joy yet obediently embrace God’s call to glorify Him in worship and witness and the result was the joy of the Lord filling my heart and soul to overflowing? The answer to both of these questions is – many times. To conclude a short blog, while knowing there is no conclusion to our grace secured forever lives, – The Triune God of glory has made you, saved you and sustains you for one purpose or “end” – to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Your responsibility is to glorify Him and your relationship is to enjoy Him. The more you enjoy Him (your grace-given and God-secured relationship) the more you will glorify Him and the more you glorify Him (your grace-enabled and God–defined responsibility) the more you will enjoy Him.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
November 21, 2014 11:22 AM
Gospel? Blessing? Guilt? Is it not a contradiction to put those words together in a title? How can “guilt” possibly be a “blessing” much less a “Gospel Blessing?” The answer is no. The title is not a contradiction. There is a guilt which is a Gospel blessing and by the way there is also a guilt that is an anti-Gospel curse. But I will acknowledge the title is counter-cultural in much of today’s contemporary grace preaching which treats guilt as the unwanted stranger to a Gospel-driven Christian life. So let’s briefly examine guilt as a Gospel blessing. We can start by first describing the onset of a guilt moment in a Christian’s life. A Lord’s Day has arrived. Somehow you have navigated getting everyone in the family up, fed, dressed, out the door, into the car and headed to church. Beyond that, amazingly the entire family is in a reasonable state of relational neutrality as the brief trip to the Lord’s Day morning worship service is achieved in record time. In fact, this Sunday you have arrived in time to actually look at the worship folder, prayerfully peruse the printed meditation while the prelude wonderfully provides an environment for worship preparation. Starting with the Call to Worship you are guided with focused simplicity throughout the worship service upon both the majesty of God and the blessings of the Gospel by Confessions, Psalms, Hymns, Songs and Scripture Readings along with various prayers of intercession, thanksgiving, illumination and consecration. Then came the preaching of God’s Word and by God’s grace came also the convicting and convincing work of the Holy Spirit. God’s Word owned by God’s Spirit had exposed both your sin and God’s solution in Christ to both forgive you of its guilt and free you from its power. In those moments the bittersweet Gospel work of grace arrived in the depths of your heart and soul. Bitter was the reality of how you had sinned and assassinated God’s glory in your disobedience to His glorious Law. Yet sweet was the patience and power of His grace reminding you of the gifts of forgiveness and of the power that enables you to assassinate besetting sins. All of these redeeming and life-changing promised blessings of grace had begun to flow experientially at the moment the Gospel gift of guilt arrived in the preaching of God’s Word and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. And when the Gospel blessing of guilt arrives there are five Biblical affirmations identifying it as a Gospel blessing. The first affirmation of the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin is the fact of its felt presence. Not everyone who “feels guilt” over the reality of personal sin is saved by grace but no one who is saved by grace can develop a lifestyle that dismisses guilt and sign ongoing peace treaties with sin in their lives. In contrast there are those who are lost in their sin and rebellion and are so calloused in their sin that they “feel no guilt.” The second affirmation of the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin in the life of an authentic Christian is that while bitter is its taste at the point of conviction it sends us to the sweetness of the patient and powerful Savior who has promised that His grace to forgive us is greater than our sin. And His Word declares “if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Thirdly, the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin in the life of an authentic Christian awakens within us a heart-hatred of sin and at the same time a heart-gratefulness for salvation. Why? Because the Gospel promises not only an unfailing forgiveness united to the gift of His righteousness but also the power and desire to kill sin and pursue holiness in and for Christ. Fourthly, the Gospel blessing of guilt over personal sin in the life of an authentic Christian is an awakened and renewed awareness of the majesty, patience, power and undeserved blessings of God’s love for us to save us from the persuasion, power, penalty, position, practice and one day presence of sin for His glory and our joy. Fifthly and finally, at least for this blog is the Gospel blessing of guilt that is differentiated from “false guilt”. Specifically the false guilt that is produced because I think that I am not doing enough to enable God to save me or assist God to save me or the false guilt that is produced by not measuring up to the “traditions” of men. Traditions have their beneficial place in life but they are not the standard to define sin. Sin is defined only as the transgression of God’s Law by omission or commission in thought, word and deed. The Gospel blessing of guilt is used to remind us that God’s grace is greater than either sin’s penalty or power when by faith and repentance we flee to Christ alone for salvation. In summation, the Gospel blessing of guilt is experienced in two contexts. First, it is experienced in the conversion of the elect as the preaching of the Gospel exposes our sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and exalts Christ as our Savior to whom we flee as He removes sin’s guilt and shame. Secondly, it is experienced in the sanctification of the elect by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit as the Lord exposes our sin to remind us of not only our positional blessings in Christ but also our relational blessings with Christ as we grow by grace to “put off the old man” and to “put on the new man” in order “to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.” While false guilt is to be abhorred, guilt itself in the life of a Christian is not necessarily a false guilt nor should it be avoided. On the contrary, true guilt should be welcomed as a Gospel blessing as the Lord uses it to bring us to Christ, remind us of the joy of our salvation and grow us to become more like our Savior and increasing consistency in exalting our Savior.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
November 21, 2014 11:21 AM
Friends, Grace and peace. It has been my joy to participate in a growing fraternal fellowship of Reformed and Evangelical pastors identified as The Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) for the past three years. The GRN is committed to addressing some of the issues of Gospel preaching in today’s setting which has been influenced by what we have called a “contemporary grace movement.” The problem with this movement is not hyper-grace or too much grace. The problem is a dwarfed grace that rejects the right use of God’s law in sanctification and declares any preaching of Gospel imperatives and call to human endeavor in the life of a believer as at best moralism and at worst legalism. Therefore, our fellowship has given specific focus upon the Biblical and historically Reformed understanding of the Gospel privilege and imperative of sanctification. In doing so the GRN also desires to highlight the multi-dimensional motivations that believers experience propelling them to obey our Lord’s call to “pursue sanctification.” The GRN joyfully affirms the monergistic Gospel blessings of Effectual Calling, Regeneration, Justification, Adoption, Definitive Sanctification and Glorification while also vigorously, yet carefully, affirming the synergistic endeavor of progressive Gospel Sanctification. This requires Gospel preaching that communicates the foundational Gospel blessings of the elect in Christ and the Gospel responsibilities of the elect to “put off the old man and put on the new man” for Christ. It also seeks to preach with the same care that the Apostle Paul displays in his Epistles as he intentionally lays a Gospel foundation of our positional blessings “in Christ” before calling the professing believer to the Gospel commands to “follow Christ.” This thoughtful and intentional Gospel of grace ministry is sometimes displayed in one verse such as “walk in manner worthy of our calling.” (NOTE – not in manner worthy to be called or stay called but in a manner that honors the sacredness, richness and regality of our calling) or “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (worship language) for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (NOTE – our responsibility to “work out” but we are only able to “work out” because of God’s grace and power which is sovereignly “working in.” Furthermore we are not working “for” our own salvation but working out an already grace-secured salvation and even more you are working out “your own” salvation, not someone else’s salvation. Not only does Paul consistently do this but the other human authors of Scripture do so as well. For instance, Peter calls believers “to grow IN the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.” (NOTE – the imperative of human endeavor – “grow.” Also note the careful wording. You do not grow FOR grace but IN grace and it is only because of the presence of God’s grace and the indwelling power of Holy Spirit that the believer is enabled to “grow.”) This is why we labor together with our fellow Gospel preachers to affirm the “whole Gospel to the whole man.” The contemporary grace movement’s penchant to either careless wording of the relationship and distinctives of Justification/Adoption (revealing our deliverance from sin’s guilt) and Regeneration/Sanctification (revealing our deliverance from sin’s power or purposed wording promoting antinomianism in order to attack legalism) must be lovingly but clearly addressed and rejected. The preaching of the whole gospel to the whole man means that we must not reduce the Gospel to one element of the “ordo salutis.” The Gospel is not simply regeneration (born again)… nor Justification… nor Adoption.. nor Sanctification .. nor Glorification. Anytime the Church makes the Gospel one element of the Ordo Salutis it ensures a reaction toward another element in the next generation. Anytime the Gospel preachers attack the error of Quietism by promoting Pietism it assures the error of Quietism in the next generation. And obviously the reverse is equally true. Anytime the Gospel preachers attack the error of Legalism by promoting Antinomianism either with thoughtless zeal or with a purposed strategy they assure the error of Legalism for their children’s church. And again, clearly the reverse is equally true. The intentional pursuit of holiness and the mortification of sin in the life of a believer resting in Christ alone for salvation and who is empowered by Holy Spirit is neither legalism nor moralism but the necessary evidence of love to Christ, His Word, His people, the lost and His glory. The fact is, progressive Gospel-saturated Sanctification is set in motion by the monergistic work of God in Christ and through Holy Spirit with Effectual Calling, Regeneration, Justification and Adoption. And then it is effected in life with a supernatural synergistic work of God’s grace in the life of an engaged believer who is 100% dependent upon the power of God’s grace delivered by the indwelling Spirit of God and 100% devoted to the means of grace in pursuit of obedience to Christ out of love to Him who first freely loved us. The Gospel reveals that God’s grace in Christ HAS delivered us from the persuasion of sin (effectual calling), the power of sin (regeneration), the penalty of sin (justification) and the position of sin (adoption) and furthermore, it IS delivering us from the practice of sin (sanctification) and gloriously one day it WILL deliver us from the presence of sin (glorification) through the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession and second coming of Christ. This progressive sanctification is the expression of our love to Christ by the power of Holy Spirit in that we, who once in sin lived to assassinate the glory of God now, by grace, desire and pursue the exaltation of the glory of God which is the joy of our new life in Christ. With these thoughts, as one grateful participant in the fellowship of the GRN, I, without reservation commend to you (for reading) the Affirmations and Denials of the Gospel Reformation Network (below) which we have adopted and if so led, for your adoption and subscription. But more than that, with thoughtful passion let’s unite to preach the Gospel of Christ – “the whole Gospel to the whole man.” By God’s grace, I would humbly yet boldly ask the Lord that together we might know the Gospel, love the Gospel, be gripped by the Gospel and proclaim the Gospel to the glory of our Triune God revealed in the preeminence of Christ our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Our nation, this world needs preachers of the whole Gospel to the whole man. My brothers, get up on a high mountain and proclaim Good News! Our God reigns! The Gospel is not an appeal from an impotent God through fearful people. It is a regal proclamation and a commanding invitation from the King who has sent us. He has won the victory over sin, death, hell and the grave and Our King reigns! Come to Him and reign with Him. This is the Gospel of reigning grace…greater than all our sin! The Gospel Reformation Network Affirmations & Denials on the Gospel & Sanctification We affirm that legalism is a dangerous problem that the church must always address. We deny that legalism is the primary enemy of the gospel to the exclusion of spiritual bondage, moral rebellion and a love for sin. We affirm that unregenerate man, being totally depraved, is unable to obey or please God unto salvation. We deny that the believer, being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, remains unable to obey and please God, by grace and in Christ. We affirm that the gospel provides salvation for the whole man, including man’s need for both imputed and imparted righteousness. We deny that the gospel is provides freedom from the guilt of sin in justification without deliverance from the power of sin in regeneration and liberation from the practice of sin in sanctification. We affirm that both justification and sanctification are distinct, necessary, inseparable and simultaneous graces of union with Christ though faith. We deny that sanctification flows directly from justification, or that the transformative elements of salvation are mere consequences of the forensic elements. We affirm that gratitude for justification is a powerful motivation for growth in holiness. We deny that gratitude for justification is the only valid motivation for holiness, making all other motivations illegitimate or legalistic. We affirm that believers are not under the Law as a covenant of works, where the believer is required to merit his or her own righteousness before God. We deny that Christ has freed the Christian from the moral Law as the standard of Christian living. We affirm that through the finished work of Christ believers are adopted by God as sons and now relate to God as their loving heavenly Father. We deny that our adoption precludes God’s fatherly displeasure when His children rebel, or that God’s Fatherly love prevents Him from disciplining Christians who stray from the path of righteousness. We affirm that God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-empowered effort to put off sin and put on righteousness is necessary for Christian growth in grace. We deny that all practical effort in sanctification is moralistic, legalistic or that the only effort required for growth is that Christians remember, revisit and rediscover their justification. We affirm that growth in the Christian life comes through faith, which believes and acts on the promises of God in the Scriptures. We deny that faith is wholly passive in sanctification or separated from good works in the same sense that justification is by faith alone. We affirm that faithful preaching of the Law for use in the Christian life must always be done in the context of God’s provision through the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit. We deny that preaching the Scripture’s indicatives without the imperatives is a healthy model for Christian ministry because such preaching fails to conform to the pattern seen in Scripture and is dangerous to the life and ministry of the church. We affirm that Christians gain assurance of salvation by cherishing the promise of the gospel and by the fruit of the Spirit’s work in the believer’s life. We deny that assurance gained through growth in godliness amounts to a performance-based religion or necessitates an unwholesome spiritual pride. We affirm that Christians can and should experience victories over sin, however limited and partial, and that these victories bring glory to God and bear testimony to the power of His grace. We deny that rejoicing in victories over sin amounts to spiritual pride or performance religion, although Christians may and sometimes do sin in this way.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
June 16, 2014 11:47 AM
In 1980 a young Pastor fresh from seminary arrived at his first pastorate encountering startling realities. Although thinking he was fully aware of the issues at hand, he soon learned this was not the case. When you get “onsite” you soon gain “insight.” Church attendance had diminished from more than 1,000 to an average of 55. There were no children’s Sunday School classes because there were no children. The average age in the congregation exceeded 70 and its past had become glorified nostalgia. On his first Sunday, the service ended at the expected 12:00 hour. As he and his wife made their way to the lobby, amazingly, in spite of the infirmities of age, the congregation had exited and were rapidly emptying the parking lot. The box of church attendance had been checked and they were ready to move on. There were no sounds of fellowship from lingering crowds…only an empty sanctuary and parking lot within five minutes of the benediction. The pastor, who had gone outside to speak to the departing congregation, was embarrassingly locked out of the church building by the equally rapid exit of the part-time church janitor. After breaking into his own church to obtain his Bible and car keys, along with his wife’s belongings, they looked at each other with an increasing realization of how enormous this challenge would be. But, there was more to come. While all other churches in the area had monthly accounts at the local office supply store, the pastor soon learned his church was excluded and designated as “cash only” due to past payment delays. The first Session meeting revealed the likelihood that of five elders, only two had a personal saving relationship with Christ. The other three, while well-meaning, did not savingly “know the Lord.” Of the two who exhibited spiritual maturity, one was transferred within three months and the other died of leukemia. The church had not met its budget in seven years. Perhaps the most startling event was a phone call from one of the previous nine pastors revealing a tumultuous past. This pastor, while graciously welcoming the new pastor to his charge, asked a strange and probing question. “Did you pray before you accepted this call?” After answering “yes” the obvious question was, “Why do you ask?” The answer was stunning. He informed the new pastor that he believed the church “had the mark of Satan upon it.” He then revealed his reasoning. One pastor had been attacked publicly with a knife by his wife after she discovered his marital unfaithfulness with a church member. Another pastor had demitted the ministry due to prescription drug addiction. Yet another pastor had left the ministry because of his wife’s alcoholism. The caller declined to describe his own experience except to say, “you really don’t want to know what happened to me.” This information, along with other “horror stories,” obviously was not encouraging for a new pastor in his first pastorate. So what do you do? While grateful for his seminary education he realized he had not been prepared for this moment. But thankfully his seminary preparation had been framed by a pervasive commitment to the inerrancy and the sufficiency of God’s Word. So to his study and the Scripture he went. I can verify all of the above since I was this young Pastor. Only space limitation prevents an even more astounding profile. So how would God’s sufficient Word instruct me to respond? Here was a church in decline and its demise imminent. It could be said one flu season would put the church out of business. Even the Presbytery counseled us to sell the property and use the proceeds to plant another church. Yet the neighborhood was full of unreached people. The daily vandalization of the church revealed two factors. One, the neighborhood viewed the church as a derelict unused building. Two, the neighborhood knew of its presence. Could this church be revitalized? Knowing that revival is God’s work and I could preach and pray for revival but only the Lord could bring one. I also found a Biblical pathway to lead a church back to spiritual vitality? Let me explain. As mentioned, this took place in 1980 which also witnessed the rise and proliferation of “church growth” publications. Clearly, these resources were of interest. I devoured them. In doing so a few things became obvious. First, the writers of these publications were well-meaning. Second, most of the proposed remedies were “best practices” drawn from psychological, sociological and demographic analysis. Of course, all of the recommended practices were “checked out” against the Scripture to make sure that no Biblical truths were violated. Yet, very few were actually derived from Scripture. They were commended on the assurance that they would produce “statistical church growth.” That surfaced another concern. While the Bible, in the book of Acts, records “statistical growth” in the church, there is no indication that the leadership focused their ministry philosophy upon statistical church growth. But, the leadership did focus on the spiritual vitality and health of the church with statistical growth recorded as a consequence of the apostolic ministry, not their objective. Furthermore, in my study, I was intrigued by the recorded expansion of the Kingdom of God through the church and the strategy employed by the Divinely-called and equipped leaders. First, the Gospel of the Kingdom proclaimed in Jerusalem by the apostles established the church of Jerusalem (Acts 1-8). Then the Kingdom powerfully expanded as promised by the Lord to Judea and Samaria resulting in the church at Antioch (Acts 9-12). This eventually expanded the Kingdom to the world through another epicenter at Ephesus in Asia Minor (Acts 13-28). At each step of the ever-expanding Kingdom through vibrant and healthy churches, statistical growth was the result of Gospel vitality furthered through the effective ministry of Gospel-healthy leaders. Closer examination not only verifies this observation but actually reinforces it. In Acts 13 Saul (soon the Apostle Paul) along with Barnabas are sent by the Church at Antioch on the first missionary journey. They employed a four-fold Gospel ministry strategy expanding the Kingdom to city after city. This recorded strategy was: Gospel evangelism and discipleship Gospel Church planting Gospel deeds of love, mercy and justice Gospel leaders multiplied and mobilized (if prohibited they would leave behind leaders from their team knowing the importance of leadership for the church.) Later in Acts 15:36-16:5, after the conclusion of the first General Assembly of the New Testament Church, Paul suggests to Barnabas that they take a second missionary journey. The narrative then records their “sharp disagreement” as to whether John Mark should go with them. The result is two mission teams instead of one. John Mark and Barnabas depart on their ministry while Paul takes Silas and later recruits Timothy departing upon his second missionary journey. Interestingly, Paul, on this extraordinary initiative, not only repeated the four-fold strategy of expanding the Gospel of the Kingdom but he intentionally added another – Gospel church revitalization – fulfilling his repeatedly stated objective “to return and strengthen the churches.” Paul’s strategy of church revitalization is clearly not embraced by today’s denominations who for the most part leave struggling churches to fend for themselves or superintend their closing while pursuing the planting of other churches. Paul, in contrast, intentionally and strategically sought to “strengthen the churches” who were stalled, plateaued or declining by leading them to spiritual health and vitality. Furthermore, my study uncovered an intriguing case study of church revitalization by focusing upon the checkered history of the Church at Ephesus. Paul, at the conclusion of his three year ministry, warned the Ephesian Church leaders that Satan would attack the flock by infiltrating the church leadership with false teachers and leaders (Acts 20:17-35). Paul’s warning went unheeded and in the coming years the church found itself in rapid decline propelled toward extinction by the prophesied false teachers and leaders. Upon Paul’s release from the first Roman imprisonment, when informed of the predicament in the Ephesian church, did not ignore the problem or leave the church to its soon demise but instead sent his best disciple/pastor,Timothy. He also gave him a handbook on church revitalization identified in the Bible as I Timothy. Interestingly, he also sends Titus on an identical ministry of church revitalization with similar instructions found in the book bearing his name. Timothy’s ministry obviously met with success as Ephesus regained its noteworthy and statistically verified effective ministry even producing multiple churches throughout Asia Minor some later numbered with the churches under the charge of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation 50+ years later. Yet, as Revelation 2:1-7 reveals, the church at Ephesus is in need of revitalization again. Our Lord informs John, by the Holy Spirit, that Ephesus still has the forms of faithfulness but is now missing the passion of its “first love.” In fact, four of the seven churches listed are in need of church revitalization. Christ, the Great Shepherd, who would leave a flock to search for one wondering sheep now shows that He will pursue a wondering flock as well. While sitting in my study facing the challenge of a dying church, the Biblical roadmap to revitalization given by the Head of the Church Himself, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit and a pillar of the church, the Apostle John, seemed to leap off of the pages of Scripture. There in Christ’s passionate call of revitalization to the Ephesus Church, a three-fold paradigm (roadmap) for leaders is delineated. Remember – Repent – Recover. Remember from where you have fallen. Repent of your sin. Recover the first things. Interestingly, this Divinely-designed three-fold revitalization paradigm consistently reflects the Divinely-designed three-fold emphasis in the Covenant Meals of Renewal. From the Old Covenant, the Passover meal called God’s Covenant people to “remember” the Lord who delivered them from bondage, “repent” (cleaning out the leaven) and “recover” the first things by taking up their staff to follow the Lord of Glory. Likewise, the New Covenant meal, the Lord’s Supper, commands His people, “remember” our Lord’s atoning sacrifice, “repent” through self-examination and “recover” the first things through the vitality of a Gospel proclaiming life until He returns. How does a Pastor lead a church to embrace this Biblical paradigm of church revitalization? Again, the sufficiency of God’s Word manifested itself readily. Christ who had promised – “I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” and had prescribed how He would build His church and how the leaders whom He had called could lead His church back to the foundations of Gospel health and vitality also profiled how this three-fold paradigm of “Remember, Repent and Recover the first things could be implemented. The ten Biblical strategies employed by Paul, John, Timothy and Titus affirm how the three-fold paradigm of church revitalization was to be implemented. REMEMBER Strategy #1 – Learn from the Past to live in the present and lead the change to the future. REPENT Strategy #2 – Godly repentance modeled by leaders and penetrating the congregation. Almost always when churches are in decline there is “sin in the camp” that is being covered up that needs to be confessed up. RECOVER THE FIRST THINGS Strategy #3 – Christ-centered and Gospel-driven – the First of the First things (I Cor. 15:1-5) Strategy #4 – Personal Gospel-saturated spiritual formation of the leaders and the leadership Strategy #5 – The ministry of persistent intercessory and protracted revival prayer Strategy #6 – The ministry of the Word preached Strategy #7 – The Biblical mission and vision Strategy #8 – Leadership multiplication and mobilization Strategy #9 – Small group disciple-making Strategy #10 – The Great Commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment – to live you have to give. In summary let’s establish three church revitalization maxims distilled from God’s Word and discovered in the crucible of life while facing the leadership challenge of a dying church. Church revitalization is not simply a good idea – it is a Biblical mandate affirmed by Christ and demonstrated by the Apostles as a ministry strategy which was used to “shake the world” with the Gospel of the Kingdom. The evangelical has a net loss of 3500 churches in North America over the last 20+ years with 88 to 91% of the churches demonstrably in decline, stagnant or dying. While church planting is crucial to the strategy of fulfilling the Great Commission so also is church revitalization. Instead of closing more churches than we are planting why not close less which then allows us to plant more because there are more healthy churches to reproduce new ones. The objective is not church growth. It is church health. The church is called the Body of Christ in Scripture. To illustrate, think of your children. You know God has put within their body a DNA which determines their measured bodily growth. Your responsibility is not to alter their DNA but to lead them to health and vitality through a three-fold parental paradigm of nourishment, rest and exercise. Churches like people can become fascinated with bodily growth. Note how athletes obsessed with growth use steroids to increase their size and strength. As they inject the steroids they are ultimately injecting death. In contrast, some churches will say “no” to the church growth mantra that “big is good and small is bad” by believing the inverse, “small is good and big is bad.” When we do that with our physical bodies this results in hospitals containing entire wings caring for those who believe that smallness is desirable and consequentially are dying with eating disorders which eventually lead to their body actually eating itself to death, organ by organ. If church growth becomes the objective it will eventually leads to the pragmatic decisions of injecting “cultural steroids” into the church body. So worship becomes entertainment. Membership becomes customer service. The salvation message becomes the prosperity Gospel or the self-esteem Gospel. This will likely result in a statistical increase initially but a compromised message and methods for growth will eventually destroy the church body. Churches that react to such compromised pragmatism by taking pride in their smallness will soon turn upon themselves and be destroyed by implosion. The answer is not a church that is five miles wide and one inch deep nor a church which is one inch wide and five miles deep. The answer is a Christ-centered, Gospel-driven, Spirit-filled, Bible-shaped, God-glorifying church contextually growing five miles wide and five miles deep. Statistical growth is a normal affirmation of the Biblical priority of spiritual vitality leading to functional effectiveness. “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7) The Spiritual vitality described as the Word of the Lord grew” leads to the functional growth of the church in worship, evangelism and discipleship which consequentially leads to statistical growth – “the numbers increased.” The objective of the Biblical paradigm of church revitalization is simply yet profoundly a God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Holy-Spirit empowered, Gospel-driven and Bible-shaped church expanding not by a slavish faith in marketing plans but an intentional commitment to a disciplemaking spiritual fitness plan as described in the healthy vital church of Jerusalem. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any h ad need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number cay by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47) Here is the profile of the Jerusalem Gospel healthy church distilled: Worship – Our ministry of UpReach to God – praising God in the Temple Evangelism – Our ministry of OutReach to the world – the Lord added to their number daily Loving with purpose – Our ministry of InReach to one another – they were together, selling their property and possessions giving to any who was in need. Learning with disciple-making – Our ministry of DownReach to ourselves – they were devoted to the Apostles teaching. While we rightly value the highly acclaimed and pioneering ministries of church planters should we not also intentionally acclaim and equip those like Timothy, Titus and John who are called to the ministry of church revitalization which is not injecting the death of cultural steroids with a compromised message and thoughtless pragmatic methods but an intentional employment of the Christ-given church revitalization paradigm employed with the Ten Biblical Strategies that returns Gospel health and vitality to stagnant churches. Remember – Repent – Recover the first things.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
June 16, 2014 11:46 AM
Some Obvious Yet Drastic Implications of the Current Campaign to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage with the Complicity and Coercion of the Federal Court System of the United States Government The rapid cultural transformation to mainstream the practice of homosexuality now being accelerated by the Federal Court initiative to redefine marriage affirming homosexuality is on the one hand startling but on the other predictable. The decision of the Supreme Court to strike down the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has predictably opened the flood gates for the same-sex marriage movement designed to legitimize homosexuality. This tsunami wave to moralize the immoral has now engulfed 17 states and has been assisted by nine separate federal court rulings against targeted states that had previously passed constitutional affirmations of the historic definition of marriage as a covenantal, monogamous, heterosexual, and conjugal relationship. The implications are incalculable and almost enumerable but here are 7 to consider. They are selected in light of the undeniable fact that each will now become a thread woven into the social and cultural fabric of the United States. All of them will be applauded by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) agenda proponents and will be affirmed by the secular progressives as a necessary cultural evolution. I am convinced if unchallenged these predictable consequences will soon signal the demise of what was once an imperfect but significantly blessed national heritage. The Seven Implications The sexual choices of citizens in the US will now be legally defined as a civil right to be affirmed and protected. Furthermore, these sexual choices will also become the controlling identity factor of an individual’s existence. In other words, one’s sexual behavior will now be considered a civil right. Initially this effort was designed to promote the acceptability of homosexuality but the rejection of the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic (sexual activity belongs in the context of a heterosexual marriage) required to accomplish the normalization of homosexuality removes the framework necessary to prevent other sexual aberrations as protected civil rights. Presently, the only legal restraint to sexual practices outside of marriage is adult consent. But without a doubt even this restraint will soon be declared immoral and illegal. Previously immoral sexual acts will now be declared not only moral but also a Civil right to be constitutionally protected. Furthermore, the idea of defining your essential identity by your sexual behavior would have been considered nonsense but now we have established a predominately sexualized culture where one’s existence is signified and defined by their sexual behavior – (I am homosexual, or I am transsexual, or I am heterosexual, etc.). The identity list now becomes endless as indicated by Facebook’s recent creation of 56 sexually defined identity choices. I’m not sure how or why they would stop at 56 but I will predict that they can’t and won’t. Of course, the sanity of the Biblical world and life view declaring our identity in life as having been created in the image of God as male and female will be a faint echo of a voice from the past. Therefore, the insanity of a national culture of sexual chaos, promiscuity, and aberration will be embraced as normal and a civil right securing the new human sexually defined identity to be legally promoted and protected by the Federal Courts of the United States. This irrational plunge into the abyss of a depraved sexualized culture will soon bring to believers legal challenges determining whether we will “obey God or man.” We will purposefully dismiss all reputable social science studies universally affirming the obvious fact that children need a two-parent, two-gender, male father and female mother environment for a beneficial and normal process of maturity through adolescence. The family unit as the irreplaceable environment to promote the spiritual, physical, psychological, educational, and economic development of children revealed in God’s Word and affirmed by observable evidences will, of necessity, be relegated to at best, an option. These studies unsurprisingly affirm that the same God who created us in His image also created marriage as a one man and one woman for one life institution. This divinely-designed family structure singularly provides the optimum environment for the well-being of children. This means a healthy culture must embrace and establish as normative families who have both a father and mother committed first to each other as a husband and wife and then to their children for life. In the name of thoughtless societal experimentation designed to moralize the immoral in a manufactured chaotic culture we will now consign children in this generation and the coming generations to the likelihood of either a fatherless or motherless home. Of course, the secular progressive authors of this mindless agenda will quickly assure us that this is best for everyone including the children in spite of all the documented evidence to the contrary. The cultural landscape will increasingly be dominated (to the demise of children) by same sex and soon to come, poly-amorous marriages with multiple gender combinations resulting in irrational and destructive family configurations as a consequence. We will officially dismiss the historic definition and declaration of marriage pronounced at the conclusion of a sacred wedding ceremony – “upon the consummation of this union before God I pronounce you husband and wife” – Obviously the dismissal of this benedictory valediction will be necessary since we will have redefined marriage in a manner which precludes the act of consummation. In a same-sex marriage it is biologically impossible to have a true husband and true wife and therefore a conjugal relationship. The religious and historically legal “sign and seal” of marriage by sexual consummation will be rendered meaningless and impossible. The marriage bed consisting of one man and one woman for one life will be replaced by inventive and vacuous sexuality in a likely soon-to-be crowded marriage bed of multiple sexually aberrant participants – same sex or otherwise. We will have dismissed the singular essential foundational block of a society and culture – the monogamous, heterosexual, conjugal covenantal marriage – which provides the necessary environment for human flourishing and the development of future generations. The tried and true creation ordinance of marriage will now become at best, a possible option and at worst, a rejected relic of the past. This previously unimaginable phenomena is the future present even though the historic definition of marriage has provided a culture which has more than doubled our lifespans while advancing living standards and providing a stable social order, all of which has produced an unprecedented era of beneficial human flourishing. We will have intentionally returned to the sexual and familial anarchy of our pagan barbarian forbearers. In other words, we are not entering into a Brave New World but re-entering a Cowardly Old World. This Old World of paganism from which Christianity had rescued our ancestors and progressively transformed their existence (and thus ours) from disorder to order has now become the new objective for today’s cultural elite – back to the future. In other words, the Biblical framework which, by consensus, had guided the moral direction of the culture in general and marriage/family in particular will be rejected for the familial anarchy of our pagan ancestors in order to promote sexual aberrancy as normal. This illogical agenda is now called a cultural progressive evolution although, in reality, it is a cultural regressive devolution. Finally and ominously, we will arrogantly position ourselves under the inevitable righteous judgment of God as previous nations and city states such as “Sodom,” “Gomorrah,” the “cities of the plains” and Empires who have long since disappeared. That judgment if not by Divine edict is inevitable by Divinely ordained consequences for those who engage in high-handed rebellion against God’s law. Those nations who knowingly break God’s law will inevitably be broken by God’s law. “What a man (nation) sows he (we) will also reap.” Is there a way out? There is one, but only one. It is not a political movement although it would affect politics. The answer is simply, but profoundly found only in a Gospel awakening – a Gospel awakening which produces not only the life changing and culture enhancing blessings of redeeming and transforming grace through the saving work of Jesus Christ in the lives of men and women but also the work of common grace through the witness of God’s people “growing in grace.” But there will be no Gospel awakening until Christ’s church determines that to be “in the world” does not require us to be “of the world.” There will be no Gospel awakening without a loving, compassionate yet clear and distinctive witness of the redeeming and transforming grace of God in the lives of His people which alone will return the Church to its calling of being both “salt and light” in an “evil and adulterous generation.” Finally, no such revival will be found in the Church to ignite a Gospel awakening until there is a Reformation within the leadership of Christ’s church. Specifically, a Reformation producing Pastors who in life and from their pulpits faithfully proclaim “the whole counsel of God.” Our great need is the movement of God’s grace providing persistent prayer and Christ-consumed, Bible-filled, Holy Spirit-empowered, Gospel-saturated preaching from the pulpits of local churches. O Lord, please begin with me.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
April 10, 2014 8:26 AM
In light of the determination of the 41st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) to refer back to the Ad Interim Study Committee the matter of the Insider Movement without action to adopt the excellent, well thought out study report, and while many decisions of PCA churches have been placed on hold pending this report and action of the General Assembly, looking to the General Assembly and Mission to the World to lead us in this issue; and Having received requests for assistance for understanding and guidance from a number of congregations in the (PCA) and from others outside of the PCA concerning the Insider Movement in general and its theology and philosophy of ministry in particular as it relates to discipleship and evangelism among the people of the religions of the world; and Realizing that certain aspects of the Insider Movement have fostered an apostate Christology by presenting Jesus Christ as something less than the eternal Son of God and have encouraged Muslims who have professed conversion to Christ to retain their religious identity thereby becoming “secret believers or followers of Jesus” which results in producing professing converts framed more by their existing cultural/religious surroundings than the inerrant Word of God; and Because Islam as well as all other religions of this world are inventions of man to save himself by his religious endeavors and realizing the absolute necessity to reject and repent of these delusional religions which not only are inadequate to save men and women from their sins and be made right with God but are also blasphemous and deceptive in their false promises and assurances; therefore the Session of the Briarwood Presbyterian Church does accept the majority study report of the Ad Interim Study Committee as a well thought-out theological, exegetical, and practical resource of use by PCA churches and members; and furthermore to respond with assistance to those who have requested are would desire assistance in the future both within and without the PCA; the Briarwood Session summarizes the analysis, teaching and recommendations found in the Report with the following statements: All religious spiritual belief systems other than Christianity are ultimately and definitively false as well as deceptive and therefore of no value as it relates to forgiveness of sin and salvation from the lost-fallen estate of mankind. While recognizing that in God’s common grace there may be technically accurate statements within any religion there is no ultimate redeeming value within the religion. Therefore these systems do not need to be reformed, but forsaken; and all followers within these religions must repent and forsake them and must put their faith in the substitutionary redeeming work of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Son of Man ALONE to be saved from both the guilt and power of sin; and People who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, second member of the Trinitarian Godhead, should continue to live among the people of their former religious belief system as a faithful witness to the truth of the Gospel and the saving-cleansing power of the Lord Jesus Christ, resolved in humble reliance upon God’s grace not to be conformed to the world in which they live but to be transformed by the renewing of their mind and; People who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, second member of the Trinitarian Godhead, should not continue to live out non-biblical religious practices, rituals and practices that are a part of their family, community and former religious belief system, such as praying for the dead, animal sacrifice, or pilgrimages for holiness, etc; and People who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, second member of the Trinitarian Godhead, are permitted to utilize biblical forms and practices even though those forms and practices are a part of their former religious community, such as prayer, alms giving, and assembling with other believers, etc; and People who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, second member of the Trinitarian Godhead, are expected by men and required by God to live by God’s standards for His people, such as ethics, morality, witness, love, compassion as revealed in His inerrant Word and enabled by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit; and Bible translations that remove from the text references to God as “Father” or Jesus as “Son”, thereby compromising the Biblically revealed economy and relationships within the Trinity and therefore the divinity of Jesus, the doctrines concerning the person and work of Christ, and the doctrine of Scripture, are unfaithful to God’s revealed Word. Based upon the work that the Global Ministry Team at Briarwood has done, Briarwood would offer these practical suggestions as well as cautions to local PCA Church Mission Committees as they evaluate their present ministry involvements and as they move forward we would share the following observations: We found it necessary to make a clear distinction between the philosophical, methodological, and theological position of field personnel who are doing the work of ministry and the philosophical, methodological, and theological policies of the organization under which they serve. It was discovered that in some circumstances it was either the official position of the organization which was incompatible with our position and at other times it was the actions of the field personnel that was unacceptable. We came to the position that supporting the ministry being done by personnel who had no Insider tendencies, if they serve under an organization that encourages or permits such tendencies, still put us in the position of supporting “Insider” philosophy, methodology and theology, or being identified with and endorsing such unacceptable philosophy and theology. We asked to see the organization’s official statement on the contextualization of the Gospel. If there was not a written statement, we urged them to put in write the principles by which ministry were being done. Then we evaluated the official position statement of each organization against the statement / position of Briarwood. We asked the heads of all the organizations, under which we supported ministry, if any of their field personnel functioned in ministry among peoples of other religions at a C-5 level on the contextualization scale or beyond. We asked how personnel was handled who functioned in ministry outside the official position statement of the organization. The hard decision was made to suspend all financial support to all ministry personnel serving under any organization with an unacceptable position statement, a statement incompatible with the Briarwood position. We gave a full explanation to each organization involved, seeking to be very clear as to what issues within their official statements was unacceptable; and we offered alternative wording to improve the statements and to make their statements theological biblical. In some instances official changes were made, Praise the Lord, and we were able to re-engage in ministry partnership with the reinstatement of support; however, in some instances no changes were made and we disassociated ourselves and discontinued support completely and in some cases wording was changed but practice remained in violation of the Briarwood position statement. This has been a health, ministry-strengthening, painful process. But we have a better understanding of the Word of God as well as God’s purposes and plans for world evangelization. The Session of the Briarwood would gladly make available the work of our Global Ministry Team and provide any assistance to whoever might request it.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
January 7, 2014 8:27 AM
Merry Christmas! This is the Christmas greeting each Advent season when the Gospel-confessing church and Christians pause in the yearly calendar to focus with celebration and proclamation upon the birth of Christ – the Incarnation. This Christmas greeting is no act of human ingenuity. Christians are simply following the model laid before us by the Angels on that first Christmas who declared the proclamation the Savior is born and who celebrated with a Doxology of praise to the Triune God of Glory. “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:14 This Christmas greeting by which we address one another and the world and which in our culture has historically been embraced although now attacked, is a message proclaiming a unique, one-of-a-kind event in history where our greatest hope and need is realized and answered – sinners can be right with God and amazingly reconciled to God as a gift of grace flowing from the unmerited love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – the Triune God of glory. How? In history the Son of God “came down” and “took upon Himself” a true human body, soul, and mind for one express purpose: “to save His people from their sins” to the glory of God the Father and through the power of God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Angel instructed Joseph and through Joseph commands us to “call His Name Jesus” – meaning Yahweh (Jehovah) saves! So… Merry Christmas! God has made a “way” when there was no “way” to save sinners who are rightly under His eternal and Holy judgment and who are incapable of saving themselves by resolution, ritual, or religion. That “way” which He has made is His Son, Jesus Christ who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life and no man can come to the Father but through Him.” Yet, the corollary to that truth is another Biblical promise that all who “come to Him” will be saved from their sins and reconciled to the Father for all eternity. Why? Merry Christmas! Because in Christ we have, by the gift of God’s grace and love, the only One qualified to save sinners. The Son of God, fully God, has humbled Himself to become the Son of Man, fully man. Therefore, we now have a new Adam. “By a man comes death (Adam); by a Man comes the resurrection of the dead (the Second Adam – Christ).” In other words, Christ, the One who always has been (Son of God), has become what He never was (Son of Man) in order to save sinners for God’s glory and now is what He always will be (fully God – fully Man) for all eternity. This means that those who trust Him alone as Lord and Savior will one day be able to behold Him and see Him in eternity and for all eternity. Merry Christmas! Why? Because the One who alone is qualified to save us did qualify us to be saved. Christ who was born to die for us has won the victory at the cross. His death was not a martyr’s death on a cross but an atoning death on The Cross. This One would be unstoppable as He “set His face to Jerusalem” to be “put to death” of His own will under the crushing blow of God the Father’s righteous judgment in our place. This glorious redemption of sinners was not because we wanted it or deserved it but because of His great love for us which sent Him on a love-driven, relentless journey to the cross. Not only do the Gospel biographies record this righteous journey for our redemption, but they also record informative birth narratives which all contain this glorious message of Christ born to die for our sins. In other words, the Manger is explained at the Cross and the Cross is meaningless without the Manger. “Emmanuel. God with us.” So… Merry Christmas! The birth narratives record the reply from earth to the Heaven-sent Redeemer as they each contain the message of celebrating His birth and anticipating His atoning death. The Angels, in announcing His birth to shepherds, affirm the Divine sign at the Manger of the Christ being “wrapped in swaddling cloths.” These linen cloths that wrapped Him are cast aside as His Body grows in this stone trough. In 33 years His body will again be wrapped in linen cloths only to be cast aside as His now resurrected Body leaves the stone tomb. See the shepherds in response to the Angelic announcement coming to the Manger to celebrate the birth of a Savior. These who raise and tend in the valleys of Bethlehem, the sheep and lambs, which will be sacrificed on the Mountains of Zion in Jerusalem will, at the Manger, behold – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Furthermore, these shepherds who care for their flocks in the same fields as their forbearer David, now behold the prophesied Son of David, the Great Shepherd, who “lays down His life for His sheep” and will save them as the Good Shepherd, who on the Mountain of death – Calvary, will lay down His life for his Sheep so that they will only pass through “the shadow of the Valley of death.” See the Wise Men who, in fulfillment of prophesy, bring gifts of gold (affirming His Royalty), frankincense (affirming His Deity), and Myrrh which anticipates the day when this death-spice will vainly encase the Body of our Savior as He “descends to Hades” – the grave, and in three days will rise in victory as our Triumphant Redeemer. Merry Christmas! A greeting declaring the Savior is Born! We have a message of a sure Hope. Not the vanity of absurd idolatry, repetitive ritual, self-reliant resolutions nor the arrogance of man’s religion. A glorious Hope. God has “come down,” born in a manger, truly God and truly man, to be crucified on the Cross, to be buried in a Tomb and to rise in triumph, ascend to glory and is coming again as Lord of all and Savior for all who by faith and repentance turn to Him and trust in Him by surrendering unto Him. Rejoice! The Lord has come! From our sins and fears He releases us! Joy to the World! This is why we greet each other and the world with a greeting that is both a celebration and an invitation. Merry Christmas!
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
January 7, 2014 8:22 AM
The State Of New Jersey And Governor Chris Christie Have Now Declared War On The First Amendment, The Family And The Church While Blaspheming The God Of Glory Okay, I will acknowledge that the title of this blog is too long and will be critiqued as provocative. But, more to the point, I am convinced it is true and if anything, understated in its content. Let’s begin with two things; the essence of the recent New Jersey Law and Gov. Christie’s statement upon signing, endorsing and promoting it, followed by an observation. 1. The law prohibits any and all efforts at heterosexual behavioral transformation for self-identified homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered minors or in other words attempts at changing professed sexual orientation by professional counsellors is now illegal. 2. Recognizing the obvious, that this state law is ulitmately an aggressive invasion of parental rights, church sovereignty and religious liberty, Gov. Christie responded by first pontificating as true, the popular but non-scientific and anti-Biblical mantra, that homosexuality is a sexual practice genetically determined. After propounding the mythological “born that way” talking point designed to culturally normalize homosexual behavior, he simultaneously acknowledged that both he and the law were in conflict with the doctrinal position of his church (Roman Catholic) as to the sinfulness of homosexual practice. To remedy this problem he then proclaimed that in effect God has lied in both His Word and through His church as he assured his constituents that “homosexuality is not a sin.” While acknowledging the difficulties of faithfully, compassionately and graciously ministering the Gospel to those entangled in sexual addictions and the challenge of addressing the culturally promoted and encouraged confusion about sexual orientation, the ramifications and implications of this latest expansion of government intrusion into the sanctity of the family, the sovereignty of the Church and an all-out and anti-constitutional assault upon the First Amendment must be considered. Beyond that, what does the Christian and the church do in addition to prayer to rightly respond to this intrusion? This challenge is compounded in that such initiatives have been defended by the arrogant and unconscionable blasphemy of a state legislature and a state Governor declaring the consistent doctrine of sexuality as good and right only within the context of a monogamous heterosexual marital relationship and sexuality practiced outside of such a relationship as sinful and destructive is now pronounced as at best, an error and in reality, a lie. This position is found in all of the major religions in the world. In other words the position on sexuality demonstrably foundational to society, consistently taught in God’s Word and even affirmed beyond Christianity in the major religions of the world has now been exposed as a multi-century blunder of bigotry, according to the Governor of the State of New Jersey. Therefore, if a New Jersey parent is confronted by the ever increasingly culturally encouraged and predictable adolescent enhanced sexual confusion of their child they may do a number of things but there are some specific things they might have done in the past that they now can no longer do in the present. They will not be able to tell their child that homosexuality is wrong and sinful since such statements will inevitably be considered a charge of child abuse. This also means they cannot tell them, from God’s Word, that homosexuality is a sin and seek Gospel tranformational therapy. That of course means they cannot, in the context of addressing the issue, share the Gospel of saving grace which promises to all who believe and repent both the blessing of forgiveness of sin as well as the transforming power of God’s grace bringing victory over the practice of sin. This comprehensive Gospel promise includes sexual sins, whether mono-sexual, heterosexual, homosexual or poly-sexual. Both of the above mentioned Gospel promises of pardon and transformation in God’s Word are repeatedly offered and affirmed. Here is just one instance. Or do you not know that the unrighteouswill not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I. Corinthians 6:9ff Note clearly, along with eight other representative lifestyle sins, homosexuality is declared as an act of transgressing the Law of God or in a word – sin. The Bible also warns that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But also note that God has loved sinners to provide a way of salvation from both the guilt and practice of sin. In other words, the One who cannot embrace sin has embraced sinners by sending His Son to the Cross to die for our sins (including sexual sins) so that we can be forgiven – “but you were washed you were SANCTIFIED, you were JUSTIFIED in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And amazingly, this same God of grace and glory also sends the Holy Spirit to sinners so they are not only delivered from the penalty and position of sin by redeeming grace but also delivered from the power and practice of sin by transforming grace – “such WERE some of you.” New Jersey, in opposition, has now declared acceptable what God has declared unacceptable. They, the State and Governor Christie, have pronounced God a liar, the Word of God errant, deceptive and destructive and the church complicit. Furthermore, Jesus dying for the sin of homosexuality and homosexuals (in fact for all the sins of all of His people) is at best an act of Divine ignorance and the promise of transformation and liberation from sexual addictions not only false but an evil delusion. And if parents announce such Biblical truths they are soon likely to be found culpable for discrimination, hate speech, etc. What are the ramifications? The sanctity of the family and the sovereignty of the church have simultaneously been violated. In addition, the First Amendment, guaranteeing to individuals, families and the church “the free exercise of religion,” has been trampled by a blasphemous defaming of God and His Word through the religion of State-ism and its secular, politically correct morality, enforced by the ever increasing, invasive, powerful and arrogant expansion of the State. So, what will churches and, even more pointedly, preachers of the Word of God in New Jersey now do? And what do we do as it inevitably spreads to other states with the predictable threats and charges of hate speech and criminality to those who affirm heterosexual, monogamous marriage as the singular sphere of virtuous sexuality? What will they/we do when teaching Gospel-blessed Biblical sexuality to our parishioners in general and our covenant children in particular results in being our being “dragged to the court?” What will they/we do with our Christian Counseling ministries? As of now in New Jersey if you, from the pulpit, in discipleship or a Counseling Center identify homosexuality a sin and offer forgiveness and transforming discipleship to teenagers you can and likely will be prosecuted. So will you/we compromise by “adjusted teaching” thus denying the authority of Christ, His Word and the Gospel or will you/we succumb to the less obvious sin of a strategic but guilty silence. Satan has brought the battle to us as he has done, buttressed by the power of the State, for 2,000 years. We, in the west have, in God’s kind Providence, been living in a cultural bubble that, without a Gospel Awakening, is about to burst. Our forbearers met the test of Rome with the courage and humility of grace. They refused to compromise and instead proclaimed “the whole counsel of God.” Even upon the penalty of death they would not say “Caesar is lord.” On the contrary, they established the earliest confession of the church and the Christian by proclaiming “Jesus is Lord.” So now the question has been put to us. Is New Jersey lord? Is Gov. Christie lord? Since a state legislature and Governor (please note the one Democratic-controlled and the other Republican- an arena for bi-partisanship has finally been found) have now, with unadorned blasphemy and the unconstitutional dismissal of the First Amendment and therefore, the “free exercise of religion,” declared themselves as the definers of sin and righteousness in opposition to God and His Word – not to mention the givers of a new law above the Law of the nation, i.e. the Constitution. We now must decide as those who have gone before us did…is Jesus Lord or is the State lord? To unashamedly paraphrase Martin Luther – wherever Satan brings the battle to bear upon the Church if we do not meet it with a courageous humility of grace and truth, everything else we do is in reality cowardice.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
October 28, 2013 9:29 AM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Briarwood Presbyterian Church has been placed in an unsought position of responding to the change of Troop membership standards established by a consensus majority vote of the BSA national Council. A key element of the change is contained in the following approved statement from the Resolution. …no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone. This issue was addressed by our Session at the June 25 meeting in response to a recommendation from the youth and adult leadership teams from Troop 254 at Briarwood whereby they unanimously recommended that BPC through the Session consider severing its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. After due diligence, prayer and discussion the Session unanimously voted to sever the 52 year old BPC relationship with the BSA through Troop 254 by the end of this year and that its Resolution be recorded with their rationale and then spread upon the minutes of the Session as well as announced to the congregation and publicly. THE BRIARWOOD PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH SESSIONAL RESOLUTION WITH RATIONALE CONCERNING SEVERING ITS CHARTERED RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA RATIONALE Whereas, the actions of the BSA concerning its change of membership standards effectively and functionally alters its affirmation of the historic Judeo-Christian ethic affirming sexuality as a gift from God reserved for its Divinely designed blessing within the bounds of a heterosexual, monogamous marital relationship and, Whereas, the Word of God requires Briarwood Presbyterian Church to oppose all sin including all forms of sexual immorality including homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender-ism and, Whereas, the Scout Oath affirming a Scouts “duty to God” has now been compromised by abandoning the revealed Law of God affirming sexuality as a relationship of intimacy reserved for a heterosexual, marital monogamous relationship and, Whereas, the Scout Oath affirming a Scouts commitment to be “morally straight” has also been compromised for the reasons stated above and furthermore, this element of the Scout Oath has now been redefined and rendered meaningless in terms of sexual morality and, Whereas, the BSA has now in principle and practice placed homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender-ism as normative by requiring those affirming such “orientations” and behavioral “preference” as qualified for membership within the BSA thereby creating conflict for the ministry of Briarwood Presbyterian Church since all other ministries of BPC oppose such sexual behavior as immoral, calling for repentance of such sexual behavior through the forgiving and transforming power of the Gospel; a position and practice which would now be effectively prohibited in the BSA by the changed membership standards and, Whereas, the BSA has rendered its commitment to produce young men of virtue and principled leadership unattainable by its embracing sexually immoral and abnormal behaviors as normative and therefore calling good and acceptable what God calls evil and destructive and, Whereas, the BSA has, in effect, betrayed the model of principled leadership by practicing compromised leadership through succumbing to financial threats of already compromised corporate leaders and, Whereas, it is obvious that the compromise of accepting as normative sexually immoral and abnormal behavior for membership in the BSA will inevitably and necessarily lead to the same compromise concerning BSA Troop adult leadership standards as it is now logically and legally untenable to accept sexually immoral and abnormal behavior as normative for Troop membership but reject it when the Scout grows to adulthood and desires to participate in the leadership; as well as the inevitable pressure to provide homosexual, bisexual and transgender leaders for the Scouts who claim to have such “orientations” and “preferences” and, Whereas, the BSA in effect by its membership change has embraced the untenable, unbiblical, unscientific contemporary myth and proposition that sexually immoral behavior is genetically-determined and, Whereas, Briarwood’s ministry to boys and young men who are struggling with issues of sexuality does not and for the sake of these boys and young men must not require affirming as acceptable what is not only unacceptable but destructive and, Whereas, to love and accept people in general and those dealing with sexually immoral and abnormal confusion, tendencies, or questions is not enhanced and in fact is hindered by the deceitful myth that one must accept or affirm their sexually immoral or aberrant behavior in order to minister to them effectively (for instance; to love, accept and affirm a young man struggling with sexual immorality exhibited by practicing heterosexual promiscuity does not require BPC to affirm and/or accept heterosexual promiscuity as normative no matter how much the young man might insist he cannot help himself); and furthermore, since homosexuality is ultimately sexually immoral, destructive and aberrant; and since it cannot be treated as normative or genetically determined with integrity; and furthermore, it would be cruel and deceitful to treat sexually immoral behavior as acceptable in the name of love; therefore, it is the responsibility of Christians and the Christian church in every ministry and in every relationship to “speak the truth in love” since “to speak truth without love is cruelty and to love without truth is barbarity.” Whereas, Christians and Christian ministry must also intentionally reject another popular myth which is the notion that tolerance is a virtue; when in fact tolerance is the last refuge of the cowardly, arrogant, bigoted and self-righteous since it is fundamentally patronizing and demeaning; instead BPC must embrace our Lord’s command to love others intentionally and personally with courage, compassion and humility; in other words we do not choose to tolerate people, we must choose to love them intentionally, relentlessly and personally; and we must not tolerate sin since it kills and destroys; and furthermore, we must not tolerate people since such toleration is demeaning; therefore, as sinners saved by grace we must love as we have been loved, as we are loved and even more specifically as Christ loves us and with Christ’s love to others by exposing sin and by exalting Christ who is Lord and Savior as revealed in the Good News of God’s grace which announces that Christ freely forgives sinners who come to Him by faith and repentance because He has paid for their sins on the Cross and also because He will transform sinners by the power of His marvelous grace; in other words, Christ “takes away our sins” and Christ takes us away from our sins; and even more gloriously Christ delights to save any and all sinners including homosexuals who, like all of us, are so easily seduced by the deceptive idolatry of sin and its addictions in general and by addictive sexual sins in particular and, Whereas, the ministry of Briarwood Presbyterian Church to youth is multi-faceted and must be ethically consistent and since Biblical sexual ethics are consistently implemented in the multiple venues of its youth ministries (i.e. Briarwood High School, BYG high school youth ministry, 56 Club, Raiders junior high ministry, Pioneer Clubs, Sunday School, Children’s worship, etc.) it would be unbiblical, illogical and deceitful to compromise by continuing Troop 254 under the new untenable and ultimately life-destroying membership standards and its inevitable future compromises and, Whereas, there are other ministries which are existing or in process of development that would allow Briarwood to provide or consider providing a ministry to boys and young men using the historic BSA profile of camping, manhood, practical training, etc. and, Whereas, there is a desire to seek, explore and implement a scouting ministry for boys with a fully uncompromised commitment to manly and virtuous character including the BSA historic oath affirming an unreserved vow to be “morally straight” affirming the Judeo-Christian ethic of sexuality as a gift of God to be enjoyed in the context of a monogamous, heterosexual marital relationship. Therefore be it resolved, that the Briarwood Session for the sake of Gospel faithfulness and the ministry of grace and truth with heart-felt remorse in light of our historic and mutually beneficial relationship with BSA, yet constrained and motivated by the love of Christ, a desire to be faithful to God’s Word and the full confidence of God’s good and never failing Providence will sever its chartered relationship with the Boy Scouts of America and will also commit to continue to pray for our Lord to do a work of grace allowing the National Leadership of the Boy Scouts of America to repent of their recent and pending actions embracing sexual anarchy and leadership compromise under duress thereby returning to their historic commitment to do their “duty to God” and train young men to be “morally straight” and, Furthermore be it resolved, that the Briarwood Session will continue its Gospel ministry of saving grace to boys and young men no matter what issues they are addressing in life including the issues of sexuality by “speaking the truth in love” through a Gospel message of grace and truth marked by clarity and conviction as well as a Gospel ministry of love and mercy manifested with compassion and courage and, Furthermore be it resolved, the Briarwood Session will not only continue its multi-faceted Gospel ministry to youth in general and young men and boys in particular but will also continue to prayerfully and diligently consider future options for a consistent and effective ministry to boys and young men through a Christ-centered, Gospel-consistent and Holy Spirit-honoring scouting ministry and, Furthermore be it resolved, that the ultimate desire of the Session of Briarwood Presbyterian Church is that the Triune God of Glory will be glorified and the Kingdom of God advanced and expanded through all of the ministries of Briarwood Presbyterian Church thereby remaining faithful to its Biblical mission and ministries…. “For God’s glory Briarwood is committed to equipping Christians to worship God and to reach Birmingham to reach the world for Christ.” We do so affirm on this date, June 25, in the year of our Lord, 2013AD, the Session of Briarwood Presbyterian Church. Harry L. Reeder, III Moderator and Senior Pastor of the Briarwood Presbyterian Session and Church Matthew R. Moore Stated Clerk of the Briarwood Presbyterian Church Session
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
July 29, 2013 11:14 AM
How are pastors and church leaders called? Well, it is clear that we ought to teach one of the great principles of the Reformation – Vocation or “calling” is a universal experience to every Christian. We have been “called” from darkness to light. We are “called” to serve the Lord. We are “called” to evangelize. We are “called” to worship. We are “called” to live for the Lord in every area of life. We are “called” to “work heartily as unto the Lord.” We are “called” to make all of life a worship statement as well as being “called” to gather with the Lord’s people for worship. The people of God are a “called out” – “called together” – “called to life for Christ” – beyond that, all have been gifted by the Lord and “called” by the Lord to minister in the body of Christ. There are some whose “calling” is to leadership. There are some whose “calling” positions them to be “worthy of double honor.” In other words, the Lord’s tithe is used to support them to work hard, not only at leadership but even more pointedly, at preaching and teaching. “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor; especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” I Tim 5:17 When I speak to pastors about their “calling,” I think Spurgeon was on to something when he said, “if there is anything else you can do joyfully in the Lord for the rest of your life apart from the pastoral/preaching ministry then go and do it.” In other words, do not go into the pastoral ministry if you do not truly sense “woe be unto me if I do not preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” And also, that you know God has called you by the Holy Spirit through His church to the public ministry of pastor and preacher. So how do you know if you have been called by the Lord? Now, I am going to say something somewhat controversial. Do not go into the ministry “to be fulfilled.” I am fully aware that those who have been “called” to the ministry have moments and seasons of fulfillment. I also know they have moments and seasons of despair and absolute devastation and utter discouragement. If you go into the ministry to be fulfilled you will not “finish the course.” Then why go into the ministry? Because God has “called” you internally by the Holy Spirit and externally through His Church which means you go into the ministry having been “called” by the Lord to “fulfill the ministry” to which God has “called” you. Again, do not go into the ministry to be fulfilled. This is why Paul said at the conclusion of his ministry in II Timothy 4 – “I have been poured out as a drink offering.” Note that he does not say a “burnt offering.” Burnt offerings have ashes left but a drink offering has nothing left since it is fully poured out. Paul continues saying, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” Then Paul gave his concluding charge to Timothy. “Timothy fulfill your ministry.” He did not say for Timothy to be fulfilled in the ministry but he unequivocally challenged him in the faith to fulfill his ministry. In a word, the church does not exist to provide me a job as a pastor. I have been “called” of the Lord to do a job for Jesus in His church and from His church into the world. I am not in the ministry to be fulfilled. Yes, there are fulfillments in it, but I’m in the ministry to fulfill my calling but it is only by being focused on Christ, the Gospel and His grace that you can stay the course, finish the race and fight the good fight. You are not in it for fulfillment in this life. You are in it for the wreathe and the life to come that He awards in that day when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Again, there are moments of fulfillment being that I love what I do. But, there are many moments when I ask myself, “Why are you taking this abuse?” and “Why are you in this?” It is because Christ “called me “to fulfill the ministry, not to be fulfilled. How does a Pastor’s theological competence relate to his leadership in a church? When we talk about Pastors there are all kinds of hyphens we have to put beside them, and rightly so because you have a Pastor-Teacher, Pastor- Preacher, Pastor- Evangelist, Pastor- Leader, Pastor- Shepherd. You are multiplying teachers, evangelists, preachers, and shepherds, but to some degree you embody all of those things. One important role would be that of a Pastor- Scholar. I tell people that almost all of the books on my shelf are written by guys named “John.” There is John Bunyan, John Calvin, John Brown, John Flavell, and Jonathon Edwards. It is amazing the John’s and Jonathon’s used by the Lord. They were not only authors but they were primarily Pastors. As pastors, their study produced sermons worthy of publication which is why we have got to reclaim the Pastor’s study and jettison the Pastor’s office. Pastors have to lead, but our primary calling is prayer and the Word and to properly handle the Word, perform the sacraments, and lead in prayer requires us to be theologians. To be theologians requires us to “study to show yourself approved as workman who do not need to be ashamed handling accurately the word of truth.” II Tim 2:15 Leaders must be formed and framed by three elements: theological formation, character formation, and skill formation. Most leadership courses focus on skills. I know churches where the Pastors are extraordinary theologians, and extraordinary communicators, but they split and destroy churches because they have a character problem. They are not living their theology. But, I also know that my people need a Pastor who theologically knows the Word of God to be able to convey the majesty of God that they may see the Glory of God, who now dwells within them by grace. Pastors must be equipped to deal with the ever intensifying assault of the dying “evil empire” against the church. So, we should be inquiring, “How do you do that theologically?” instead of asking, “What’s the next program that everybody is talking about?” The bane of the church is its continual pursuit of “the next big thing” and therefore it loses its moorings by abandoning the Biblical message, the Biblical methods and the Biblical means in order to do the next “cool” thing. I think part of the challenge is our churches are shallow because our pulpits are shallow. You have got to find a way to communicate popularly, but communicate profoundly theologically. Communicate so everyone can understand, not just PhD Christians. Yet communicate solid theology, so that people know how to live life based upon God’s Word, not just checking it out and making sure they are not going against it.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
July 16, 2013 10:51 AM
Dr. Harry Reeder was asked to write the following for the Birmingham News Opinions/Editorials page by Mr. Joey Kennedy. It has been published on al.com. http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/07/a_supremely_assured_devolution.html The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)! Did they? The answer is both yes and no. The answer is no “factually.” SCOTUS left DOMA intact and even stated (disingenuously) that the Federal government has no Constitutional interest in defining marriage since it is a matter of state law. But the DOMA provision denying Federal benefits to same-sex couples living in states not recognizing same-sex marriage was declared unconstitutional. So how is it yes “actually?” Why were the “progressively cultural elites” high-fiving and cheering if it was not a “factual victory?” They knew the decision secured an inevitable “actual victory,” establishing a relentless trajectory to redefine marriage to accommodate so called same-sex marriage, driven by the desire to culturally affirm homosexuality as normative with its attendants of bi-sexuality and transgender-ism. So, where will this journey backward to the pagan practices of marital and sexual anarchy from which our barbarian forbearers were rescued centuries ago by the beneficial effects of Christianity lead us? Furthermore, how do those who desire to affirm and maintain the foundational institution of covenantal, conjugal, heterosexual, monogamous marriage respond to this marital and cultural devolution? First, let’s identify the inevitable consequences of this irrational and unconstitutional decision rivaled only by the devastating Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade rulings. Consequence #1 All of the major religions of the world and the centuries of cultural progress and stability that the historic institution of marriage has provided is now framed by Justice Kennedy as “inhumane,” “stigmatizing,” “intolerant” and “bigoted.” So, who is actually “stigmatizing,” “intolerant” and “bigoted?” This, at best thoughtless and at worst, absurd language in the majority opinion was clearly designed not only to frame the opposition but also to intimidate. Consequence #2 The “historic” view affirming marriage as essential to establishing families as the foundational building block of culture is now abandoned for a redefined view of marriage. Historically marriage was a covenantal (assent), conjugal (sexually consummated), monogamous (i.e. Utah was not allowed into the Union until they affirmed monogamy outlawing polygamy) and child-focused, protecting and nurturing the next generation. The “new” definition of marriage is an agreed partnership for personal fulfillment accommodating and affirming as normative any sexual behavior agreed upon by “consenting” adults. Therefore, marriage is no longer exclusively heterosexual. Monogamy cannot logically or legally be maintained since the identical arguments to abandon the “historic” view will also eventually affirm poly-amorous, bigamous, and polygamous “marriages.” Furthermore, marriage will no longer be conjugal as sexual consummation is biologically impossible in same-sex marriages. Finally, the flourishing of the next generation will no longer be the primal focus of marriage for two reasons. One, same-sex marriage cannot biologically reproduce children apart from technological intrusion and intervention. Two, by law and definition SCOTUS has now sentenced a segment of the next generation to either a “fatherless” or “motherless” family. A father’s love and guidance is overlapping yet distinct from a mother’s love and guidance and the reverse is also true. Both are necessary for a child’s well-being. While you can be a man or a woman and not give a father’s or mother’s love you cannot give a father’s love without being a man nor a mother’s love without being a woman. Men and women are equal but not interchangeable. In a broken world with disease, death and divorce single parenting is a reality which must be thoughtfully addressed with compassion by responsive communities, extended families and churches. But same-sex marriage and its future mutations intentionally assigns children to the disaster of either a fatherless or motherless childhood out of our self-absorbed pursuit of sexual anarchy now accommodated by sexual, marital and family chaos. Consequence #3 Enshrining Four Mythologies: Myth #1: The untenable notion Biblically or scientifically that the practice of homosexuality is a genetically-determined sexual behavior. Myth #2: To love and accept someone you must affirm and accept their behavior. As a sinner, saved by grace, I am called to love and accept others humbly and intentionally. But doing so does not require affirming and accepting their behavior. In fact, it may require challenging their behavior. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” To love a heterosexually promiscuous person, for instance, does not require me to accept and affirm their sexually immoral behavior even if they insist they cannot help themselves. I can share the forgiving grace of God in Christ who paid for our sins on the cross and the transforming power of God’s grace in Christ who not only “takes away our sins” but “takes us away from our sins”. Myth #3: Tolerance as a virtue. Tolerance is actually the last refuge of the arrogant, bigoted and self-righteous. God calls Christians not to patronizingly tolerate others but to actively love them. Sin is not tolerated because it kills. People are not tolerated because it demeans. Homosexuals are no different than any of us caught in the deceptive, idolatry of any addictive sin. They, like us, are to be loved compassionately and courageously. Myth #4: Sexually immoral behavior has amazingly become a civil right. This is an absolute affront to those who have experienced discrimination due to their God-given skin color. Response? As a citizen, thoughtfully be engaged. Public policy is locally driven and the result of cultural engagement. As a Christian, first pray that the Lord would not “give us over” and instead send another Gospel Awakening like the one that gave birth to this nation in the 18th century. Second, commit “to speak the truth in love.” “Truth without love is barbarity and love without truth is cruelty.” Christ warned us that men and women, unrestrained by God’s grace, will call good, evil and evil, good. But in reality, while we may call what is immoral, legal, we cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Finally remember that, in a sense, the SCOTUS decision has not changed a thing. The issues are still the same. “The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” This message saves sinners with redeeming grace and blesses a nation with common grace.
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
July 16, 2013 10:49 AM
“A Blog from an Interview at Westminster Theological Seminary – part I” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlZ3qNwUjQM&list=UUquovPPE8bMQsdI6RZXiDYg&index=3 Above is the actual interview that can be listened to by clicking on the link. The first thing I would say to seminary graduates is, more than likely when you enter into ministry as a solo or Senior Pastor, you will be faced with the challenge of church revitalization. The reason for this assertion is the fact that 85 to 92% of the churches in North America are stagnant or declining. More than likely your call will come from one of these churches. So, you need to know: “What is the Biblical paradigm of church revitalization?” This is the reason I wrote the book years ago and we began the ministry of church revitalization both called: Embers To A Flame. I have had the privilege in three different settings to do the ministry of church revitalization and in each of them I and our leadership followed this Biblical paradigm. The second thing that I would say is that you need to understand Biblical leadership is absolutely crucial. It is important to know that whenever we talk about leadership and revitalization, there is a distinction, although an overlap, of revitalization and revival. No leader can bring revival. We can preach for revival, we can pray for revival, we can call upon the Lord for revival, but we cannot bring revival. Revival is the Lord’s work – “revive thy work in the midst of the years O Lord.” But, revitalization is directly attached to God’s ordained means of bringing revival to His Church. Revitalization is a commitment by the church leadership to Biblically lead the church back to spiritual health and vitality. Let’s use an appropriate analogy. The health of the church is in the Hands of the Sovereign Lord just like the health of my children is in His Hands. But, as a parent, while I rest in God’s sovereign will for the health of my children, I also engage in those means that God has ordained for me as a parent to effect the health of my children. As a means of accomplishing this I make sure they are fed, I make sure they are exercised and I make sure that they get appropriate rest. Now, let’s apply the analogy to Pastors. Paul says in the book of Thessalonians that he was like a “nurturing mother” and a “faithful father.” So, we too are to parent the church to spiritual health and vitality. Statistical growth is not our objective; statistical growth, (i.e. the enlargement of the Body of Christ) is like the growth of my child’s body. It is a consequence of fulfilling our objective which is to faithfully nurture the spiritual health of the congregation. Therefore, when a church has gone through a period of time in which it is no longer healthy, and the matrix of church life indicates that it has plateaued or is dying or perhaps stagnant, then you, as the Pastor must commit to the priority of leading the church back to spiritual health and vitality. The book of Revelation given through John by the Holy Spirit provides for us the paradigm of Church Revitalization from the very words of Christ, the Savior, Lord and Head of the church. When Jesus tells the church at Ephesus (which had already been revitalized 50 years prior through Timothy’s ministry, having initially been planted by Paul) that the church must “remember from where they have fallen,” “repent,” and “recover the things you did at first.” In these words Christ Himself has given us a Biblical paradigm of Church Revitalization, from which a Pastor can guide the church through a three-fold process of renewal – “Remember, Repent and Recover the first things.” To “remember” is to celebrate the past, to learn from the past, but not to live in the past. In other words, the call to “remember” is a call to use the past as an instrument to move the church into the future the way the Lord used Ebenezers in the Old Testament. God would say, “when I have done something, pile up some stones – raise up an Ebenezer – then bring your children back here and tell them what I have done…” Why? Because, “I am the same yesterday, today and forever.” So, you lead the church to “remember,” not to be a museum or a monument, but to reignite the movement by celebrating what God has done, contemplating how He did it, and then investigating how that applies today. This leads to the second step in the paradigm – “repentance.” Almost always when a church has plateaued or stagnated it is because the disease of unconfessed sin has been “covered up” and now needs to be “confessed up” with Gospel-driven repentance. Then, repentance positions the church to “recover the first things.” Obviously this has to start with the leadership of the church since leaders cannot lead a church where they have not yet gone. The “first things” of the church are actually the life lines of the church: Christ-centered, Gospel-driven ministry, personal spiritual formation, the ministry of prayer, the ministry of the Word, Biblical mission and vision, leadership multiplication and mobilization, small group disciplemaking and a great commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. In an attempt to assist this endeavor I wrote the book: The Leadership Dynamic with the immodest proposal that the church become a Leadership Factory defining, developing and deploying leaders from the church into the world instead of our present practice of letting the world define, develop and deploy leaders even into the church. The Church of Jesus Christ will be built. Christ has promised it and has established it from the victory of the Cross and the empty tomb. The only question is, “Will our local church which we are pastorally leading, participate in this promise as a healthy and vital testimony of the Body of Christ?”
By: Dr. Harry Reeder
July 16, 2013 10:21 AM
On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. As a child my love was baseball. In addition to my mad dash to the baseball diamond after school each day, there was also the 2 shoeboxes filled with baseball cards of my heroes to further substantiate my passion for “America’s Pastime.” One of those cards was the famous perennial All-Star catcher of the even more famous New York Yankees – Yogi Berra. Yogi was not only a great baseball player he was a prized and sought out interview for sports reporters. His quotes were insightful and always contained aphorisms that consisted of sensible statement stated in a non-sensible formula which would leave everyone scratching their heads, nodding in agreement and laughing uncontrollably all at the same time. These quotes became “Berra-isms.” One of the all-time favorites was Yogi’s observation as to the nature of baseball – “Baseball is 90% mental but the other half is physical.” Perhaps his best known quote came when a reporter asked him about his decision making process in relationship to his expected retirement – His reply was “When you come to a fork in the road, you have to take it.” The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have arrived at a “fork in the road” and they have “to take it.” The Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian and Transgender Movement (GBLT) movement having failed to force the BSA to normalize homosexuality as an affirmed practice of sexual behavior by demanding the acceptance of homosexual troop leaders through lawsuits and the court system – all the way to the Supreme Court – has now moved to outright intimidation through already compromised corporate financial supporters who are threatening to remove their sizable donations if the BSA does not change its policy to accept troop leaders and scouts who are avowed homosexuals. To meet this new strategy the BSA Executive Council has proposed a new policy which leaves in place the prohibition of homosexual leaders, at least for the time being, while removing the prohibition of homosexuality for scouts. The result is the BSA has come to a “fork in the road” and will have to “take it” in a vote by its General Council this week. One path calls for a vote to reject the proposal and affirm the historic position of BSA that maintains sexuality is appropriate only in a heterosexual, monogamous marriage. The other path is to accept and therefore affirm candidates for scout membership who claim to be homosexual in their sexual orientation. In all honesty if the BSA takes a principled position to remain faithful to its historic position already supported by the court system of the United States, it likely will lead to further and increasingly aggressive intimidation along with renewed litigation. But the unassailable fact is that if the BSA takes the present recommendation pursuing the path of pragmatism and compromise it will lead to the same scenario. Why? Because it is absolutely inconceivable that the GBLT is going to accept and be satisfied with the current proposal that excludes the acceptance of homosexual troop leaders while affirming homosexuality as a valid choice for scouts themselves. Such a decision will soon if not immediately, be met by re-igniting the legal strategy, the corporate support intimidation strategy or both. And in reality once the BSA has affirmed homosexuality as an accepted lifestyle for scouts there is no possible way that it will be able to legally thwart the logical conclusion that homosexuality cannot be declared as unacceptable behavior for Scout leaders. Beyond that the compromised corporate sponsors will not be allowed by the GBLT to accept the compromise either. The truth is that in the course of life’s events the BSA Executive Council and the General Council have an opportunity to model what they have been striving to teach young men for decades – Principled Leadership. The alternative is “philanthropic prostitution.” In other words, the historic and undeniably effective philanthropic endeavor and beliefs of the Boy Scouts of America is now up for negotiation if the donor’s gift is large enough to gain its attention. Then it becomes a matter of discussion as to how much money and what size donation will determine what the BSA now believes is a “morally straight” policy. The question before the BSA is really simple. Has the principled position of all the primary religions of the world and eons of human cultural history affirming the ethical parameters of monogamous, heterosexual, marital sex been misguided at best and bigoted at worse? Or is this the time to once again say no to the age-old rebellion of humanity against the Law of God whether apodictic Law-revealed in the Ten Commandments- or natural Law revealed in Creation. The leadership of the BSA must make clear that what is “morally straight” will not be determined by so-called philanthropic donors or dictated by the pressure tactics and intimidation of the “cultural elite.” It is simply an unswerving commitment to what is right. The question many have asked is what do we do then with the applicant for scouting who is grappling with homosexuality. That answer is simple. Scout leaders attempt to assist them toward what is a “morally straight” perspective and practice of sexuality between a man and a woman in the context of marriage, just as they would with an applicant who is grappling with heterosexual promiscuity. You don’t accept people by accepting unacceptable behavior. The BSA must say no to those who would take advantage of their right motivations to affirm people by using emotional blackmail to insist that you must affirm someone’s destructive behavior in order to affirm them. But the simple fact is if homosexuality is affirmed and therefore deemed acceptable, then then there is no logical reason to declare either homosexuality or even heterosexual promiscuity as inappropriate or wrong for scouts or scout leaders. But in reality the objective of the GBLT has nothing to do with opening the ranks of the BSA to homosexual scouts or even scout leaders. It has everything to do with the relentless attempt to infiltrate every arena and institution of society to make the once unthinkable, first thinkable, then do-able and finally acceptable. The full unfettered acceptance of homosexual practice as affirmed and appropriate behavior in every aspect of society is the true objective of the GBLT and the BSA is about to determine whether it will remain principled or become a pawn to further the death spiral of contemporary sexual anarchy by participating in it to appease already compromised donors. To the GBLT movement and members and to those who are dealing with the issue of sexuality, homosexuality is not addressed by re-writing sexual ethics. It is dealt with by the power of the Gospel that both freely forgives any and all the sins of any and all who put their trust in Christ because of His atoning death and triumphant resurrection and furthermore transforms sinners into Christ-followers who imperfectly but increasingly are “growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ our Lord” in every aspect of life including sexuality. This is why the Apostle Paul in the midst of a culture at a place called Corinth so sexually aberrant that it was a slur even among the pagans to be called a “Corinthian.” But when the Gospel of power came nothing would be the same again and neither would sinners saved by His grace… Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, not idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6:9-11 Let me conclude with two thoughts. First of all as is obvious in the above quote; to all of those who are dealing with the attractions and seductions of homosexuality. The same Gospel that forgives and transforms any and all sins and sinners will also forgive and transform you. Social approval manipulated through intimidation will never make what is wrong right nor can it remove shame and guilt. But Christ can and will and furthermore He loves and delights to receive and to save sinners, which is why He died for us. So come to Him who came “to seek and to save the lost.” You cannot break God’s Law without it breaking you. But there is One who came to save law-breakers and that is the Law-giver Himself Jesus Christ. He took our place on the cross under the righteous judgment of God the Father to bear our sins and their judgment so that we might truly live by coming to Him with faith and repentance. Secondly, to the BSA leadership, the leadership position(s) of almost every institution in our society is filled with those who have benefitted from your creed, competency building and character-based training regimen. Please do not lose the heart, soul and content of your historic movement. While I did not have the blessing of participating personally in the Boy Scouts, I have long admired its reputation and have enjoyed the privilege of observing its positive impact in the three churches I have pastored who benefited significantly by overseeing stellar Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops and troop leaders. Obviously if you choose to take the path of compromise affirming sexual aberration instead of principled leadership you will put our church leadership in a place of facing “a fork in the road” and we will “take it.” Your choice to accept the unacceptable will then become our Providential opportunity to remain faithful to what is true and right while remembering that to love and accept people does not mean that we are required to accept unacceptable behavior in fact selfless love requires the identification of unacceptable and therefore destructive behavior. But at the moment it is the BSA which is at a “fork in the road” and you must “take it.” The path of “principled leadership” promises not only to maintain a marvelous legacy but actually build on it with that glorious leadership attribute of moral courage even in the face of an assured response of future adversity. The other path of “philanthropic prostitution” promises an inevitable journey into the oblivion of compromised irrelevance and ultimate dissolution.
By: Harry Reeder
July 16, 2013 10:15 AM
…I have set before you life and death…now choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life…Deut 30:20ff Having passed the 40th year commemoration of the unconstitutional, illegal and utterly devastating Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision producing legislation and now public funding for the unprecedented assault upon the unborn child in the womb, I think it is proper to reflect on its devastating effect as a key event in the death spiral of western culture. We have moved from being a culture that imperfectly yet intentionally affirms, appreciates and celebrates life and liberty to one that now allows, funds and applauds a fabricated right to put to death the most helpless individuals in society who reside in what ought to be the safest place in society – the womb of their mother. Christ-followers, saved by grace, are called in no uncertain terms to “choose life” in the midst of the onslaught of death in a culture of unbridled self-absorption and self-aggrandizement. In response to the mounting tide of depravity in a society aggressively and militantly opposed to the Word of God, believers must “choose life.” The moment demands the choice. Will the people of God, who are redeemed by the grace of God, surrender to the culture of death and despair? Or will we choose to promote and proclaim a culture of life and hope? The dilemma and the moment are neither new nor unique. God’s covenant people have always been surrounded by cultures of death and despair in a fallen world. In Egypt during the captivity, the governmental assault upon children was met by Hebrew midwives who “chose life.” In Rome, during the beginning of the New Testament church, Christians were surrounded by a death culture where widows were left to die, unwanted children were thrown into rivers and trash heaps, and the helpless were virtually eliminated. But believers cared for the widows; they fished children out of rivers and rescued them from trash heaps; they helped the helpless while refusing, under the penalty of death, to say “Caesar is lord” in order to confess that “Jesus is Lord.” Considering the horror of pagan cultures living in death and despair provokes within us an emotional tide of revulsion, yet today’s evangelical church does not need to look back to the corridors of history, we can simply survey our current neo-pagan culture. We live in an America that is addicted to sexual promiscuity, perversion, and violence; all the while drowning in a culture of death that is propagated by media fascination, entertainment profits and by an academic community which promotes ethical chaos in the pursuit of personal ascendancy. The result? Children, who survived as targets for death in the womb, are now making other children the targets of death while blithely going on their own personal journey into an adulthood of unrestrained narcissism that was initiated by the generation that raised them. NEWTOWN, CONNECTICUT Many were rightly horrified when the December 14, 2012 Newtown, Connecticut massacre began to fill the news cycle, not only in America, but throughout the world. Twenty children and six adults were killed. It was an onslaught of death and mayhem in of all places, the pre-supposed safe haven of an elementary school. But not announced by the news media, on the very same day in Connecticut seventy other children were assaulted and put to death in what ought to be the safest haven in all of God’s creation—the womb. Furthermore, on December 15, 2012, seventy more were put to death; on December 16, 2012, seventy more; on December 17, 18 and on, and on, and on. On that horrific day we observed elected leaders shed tears over those twenty students. And rightly so! But it should also be noted that many of these same leaders, just weeks before, applauded and cheered as the votes were cast and counted for a platform plank consigning an untold number of children in the womb to death by an adopted policy of unfettered abortion (soon to be publicly funded). For this astonishing phenomenon simply view the re-runs of the Democratic Party National Convention while listening to the carefully worded policies announced and approved to affirm the unrestrained promotion of abortion while promising public funding, all with the attendant applause and cheers of a pep rally. 9/11/2001 AND ROE v WADE Allow an attempt to try and put the horror of abortion and our death culture in perspective. On September 11, 2001, we all heard and saw how religious terrorists using airplanes took the lives of 3000 innocent Americans. On that same day another three thousand plus innocent Americans came under the terrorist assault of the abortionist’s needle or knife. Another three thousand were assaulted the next day. Then the next. Then the next, and on to this very day and every day since. Yet no one except those performing the acts of terror upon these children saw or heard the horror of their death and few tears—if any—were shed for them. Since the Roe v Wade decision 40 years ago, 60 plus million human lives have been aborted, and therefore destroyed. Less than 2% of those abortions occurred to save the life of the mother. We live in a culture that unhesitatingly and arrogantly celebrates its autonomy against the law of God – “Thou shalt not murder.” Then, when the culture of death we have initiated strikes a school yard, we fumble around for solutions which are politically correct but inherently thoughtless, superficial and illogical. Why? Because we refuse to see evil for what it is, lest we see ourselves in the mirror of depravity and have to own our responsibility for what it is: complicity. So instead of thoughtfully investigating the root of our society’s problems and recognizing the horror of death and despair that engulfs our culture, our leaders actually promote a surrender to the death culture with solutions that turn our schools into miniature prisons, complete with barricades, barbed wire, armed guards and locked doors. If the womb isn’t safe, why would we assume a locked-down school would be safe in the American death culture? A LESSON FROM NOSTALGIA Is it possible that someone might simply raise the question in public discourse, “Oh my goodness, fifty years ago children, as a matter of course, walked to school and then came home?” I doubt they would. Because that would lead to the next question: “Why can’t they do so today?” Fifty years ago, our children did not need armed guards to protect them at school. They walked to school, walked home and then played outside. Who today would allow their children to walk to school or play unsupervised in the neighborhood? No, today we must guard them and imprison them in order to protect them from the death culture we have produced. Guns? There were plenty of guns 50 years ago. Did guns suddenly develop a mind of their own or spontaneously become aggressive? Obviously not! The true question is what kind of culture produces people who use guns, not for protection but rather for murder, mayhem and massacre in order to create a moment of personal significance. We have enlarged our culture of death from targeting children in the womb to targeting children in the classroom. The politically correct response is to legislate gun control and ban firearms. The thoughtful will immediately recognize that the evil of death by the use of guns will never be stopped by outlawing guns any more than outlawing spoons will solve the problem of morbid obesity. We desperately need leaders who do not put Band-Aids on our cultural cancer. We need leaders who will do surgery and we need a revived church to bring a Gospel stem-cell transplant to a society on its deathbed. TWO REASONS FOR OUR CULTURE OF DEATH So how did we get here? Risking the criticism of being overly simplistic, I would suggest we have arrived in a culture of death via two watershed events. The first is the unchallenged predominance of an atheistic Darwinism – the evolutionary view of origins that is relentlessly taught and promoted without allowing debate in the academy, the media and the public square. Its religious faith-premise is that all of creation and humanity is somehow the result of a chance explosion of bits, pieces, molecules and atoms (of course we have no idea of their origin as freely admitted by even its proponents). All of this somehow “explosively” produced life, laws, beauty and order further developed by mutation and “the survival of the fittest” as the necessary violent mechanism propelling the evolution of life to present day humanity. The unchallenged irrationality of Darwinian evolution married to the religion of atheism logically paves the way to the targeting of the vulnerable and the inconvenient in our culture of death. It is the “powerful” and “the fittest surviving” by bringing the weapons of death upon the unfit, the weak and the unwanted. To be even more precise: the most vulnerable and inconvenient targets for death will be children. First, the children in the womb where we can’t see or hear them die; then, the children in the schoolroom where, at least for the moment, we are thankfully still horrified by seeing and hearing them die. Yet even as I write this, I hear an L.A. news station report that two 5th graders with a hit list, a gun, and a knife were caught planning to start a killing spree beginning with a 5th grade girl who had annoyed them. Secondly, as Dr. Frances Schaeffer warned us years ago in his prescient production, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, abortion would only be the beginning of a publicly affirmed and applauded culture of death. Roe v Wade has devolved into state approved – now state funded and politically cheered – abortion with no ethical or even emotional restraints. Have you noticed that you no longer hear people say, “let’s keep abortion but make it safe and rare?” Of course, the statement is obviously nonsensical. If, in fact, that which is in the womb is nothing more than an inconvenient piece of valueless tissue or a choice, then why should abortion be “safe and rare?” You don’t hear politicians or doctors advocating for “safe and rare” tonsillectomies, appendectomies or elective surgeries. The reason we used to hear, “keep it safe and rare,” is because deep down we knew it was not a tissue; it was not a choice; it is simply not an “it”. It is a child and therefore a life. That’s why the abortion debate will not silently go away even after 40 years. We all know in our hearts that what resides in a womb is a life. That’s why husbands say, “My wife is with child.” That is why mothers say, “I’m pregnant with a child.” They don’t say, “We are with fetus.” All of us know, biologically and in our hearts, that what resides in the womb is a person complete with its Divinely-designed DNA for life. It is a life. It is a child. Roe v Wade was just as imbecilic and self-contradictory—both logically and constitutionally—as the Supreme Court cases used to uphold slavery a century ago by declaring human beings as 3/5th of a person. Just as the church, beginning with the pulpit, should have spoken then, we must speak now. We know, no matter what the government says, a life in the womb is a living child. As Christ-followers we cannot keep silent. Yet according to a reputable survey, 76% of the members of Protestant churches believe Roe v Wade should be untouched and 64% of Roman Catholics believe the same. At the moment, the only religious entity that has a majority who say something should be done about Roe v Wade is the Evangelical church, and that only by a tenuous majority of 54%. Abortion and its inevitable offspring of infanticide are soon to be followed by the requirement of the elderly to die in a rationed health care society—active euthanasia. We are drowning in a culture of death and despair. As grateful as I am that people are horrified with massacres like Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and Columbine, the reality is that we ought to be asking ourselves other questions: “Why is it that we have a dominant, dark, gothic culture of death where the biggest movie attractions are saturated with graphic and gratuitous death and destruction? Why is it that our most popular video games train children and youth to keep score by the senseless slaughter of others in order to ‘win?’” Why? Why are we so entranced by death? THE THIRD RAIL I would suggest, though, that there is a third reason for the culture of death and despair. The culture is often unchallenged by professing believers because the church and the culture are consistently unchallenged by silent pulpits. To my preaching colleagues – we cannot therefore we must not be silent. Your voice for life may initially cost attendance and applause. It may lead to persecution. But silence is not an option. What would have happened if our preacher forbearers had spoken from the pulpits in the 19th century with Biblical clarity on the insane practice of chattel slavery (man stealing), as William Wilberforce and John Newton did in England? Perhaps 700,000 lives lost in the Civil War might have been spared and an entire race of people affirmed with freedom and dignity. Silence was wrong then and silence is wrong now. If we choose to be silent then in reality we have chosen to affirm and accelerate the culture of death and despair. Furthermore, our people will neither be awakened nor equipped to “set life” before a broken and fallen world. Remarkably, many of us as pastors will speak eloquently from our pulpits on the moral issues applauded by our contemporary culture. Issues such as racism and sex-trafficking will permeate our discourse, and well they should! But why do our members have to make an office appointment with us to find out where we stand on the Sanctity of Life and abortion? Could it be because our selective pulpit ministry only embraces the moral and social issues of justice approved by our culture, while we avoid those issues of which it disapproves? Are we fearfully hiding behind the veil of ministry contextualization to avoid “speaking the truth in love”? Contextualization in ministry rightly understood means for us to speak in terms the culture understands. But today contextualization means speaking only on the terms the culture approves. Contextualization then becomes an excuse for our pulpit silence on the issues which our culture forbids us to address yet we readily speak to the issues the culture dictates and approves. Recently I read excerpts from journals written by confessing evangelical pastors in Germany after WWII. With broken hearts, these pastors acknowledged, “We saw the Nazis taking the Jewish people to slaughter and we closed our eyes and shut out ears to save ourselves and our ministries.” One pastor said, “The Jewish prisoners, jammed in railroad cars crying for help passed behind our church each Sunday. Our response was to turn up the organ louder so we could not hear them.” The only difference between our German predecessors and us today is that we cannot hear the silent screams uttered from the womb. But we know they are screaming as they are taken to slaughter. We turn up the volume in our worship services and turn down the volume in our pulpits on the issue of a child’s life in the womb. Is it possible that we could, beginning with the pulpit, “choose life” and therefore regain the ability and authority to “set life” before our culture appropriately, thoughtfully, compassionately, and courageously. If we do not, then we have, by default, chosen death. We have said “no” to life which, in turn, makes us complicit in the prevailing culture of death. Today, you and I live in a nation where 35 to 40% of all children conceived this year will be murdered by the abortionist’s knife or needle. This phenomenon is cascading into a flood of death, from abortion to infanticide; not only in the hospital nursery with signs that say, “Do not feed” but also in our homes. Of the children ages 5 and under who are murdered each year, one out of three will be killed by their parents. WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? As stated earlier, I believe we are in this situation because of the devastating and unscientific view of origins (atheistic Darwinian evolution) and because of the 40 year Roe v Wade journey into death and despair (with its affirmation and public funding of a politically enforced unrestrained right to kill the most defenseless life in God’s creation, a child in the womb), and because of the silence in our pulpits resulting in the deafening silence of Christians. But there is a solution! God’s people can, in contrast to this culture, as urged in Deuteronomy 30:20 “choose life” and “set life” before a dying world. We can call our culture to “choose life” by modeling a culture of life in the church. How? When believers “choose life” it means first and foremost to choose God, to surrender to His saving grace in Christ and then worship Him in all of life. Imagine what would happen if we, as believers, worshiped the Triune God of glory, not only when we gather on Sundays but also with our lives. Inevitably the culture of death would be faced with a flourishing culture of life reveling in the glory of God as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer? What would happen to the American culture of death if, in God’s Providence, those of us not blessed biologically with children would say to the world: “Give us your unwanted children. Don’t kill them. Give them to us. We will place them in our foster homes. We will adopt them into our own families.” God’s people must choose life and hope and then offer it to those drowning in the culture of death and despair by giving them a choice of life and hope for them and their children. When God is worshipped because God’s grace in Christ has set us free to live life with courage, conviction and compassion, then God’s people can “set life” before those who are the purveyors of death and who are the targets of death in the culture. PERSONALLY CHOOSE LIFE I know some reading this, while influenced by the culture of death and despair, which married to a relentless pursuit of self-love and the idolatry of happiness as defined by the world inevitably leads to wrong decisions. Perhaps in that moment you chose death for an unborn or perhaps you encouraged, funded or pressured a woman to choose death for an unborn. I long for you to know that the Gospel of grace will bring you life and forgiveness today if you will “choose life” in Christ! David took the life of Uriah, but by God’s grace he repented and was forgiven. Moses took the life of an Egyptian. He repented and was forgiven. Paul, previously Saul, was a religious terrorist. He repented and was forgiven. There is a Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who will forgive you if, by repentance and faith, you will turn to him. Come to Him—Jesus saves. Don’t travel the dead-end road of behavior modification. Don’t play the victim. Don’t live in denial. Simply yet profoundly say, “Lord, I have sinned, but in you I have a Risen Savior who died on the cross for my sins. Forgive me—save me. As for those of us who have been guilty of silence or who have disengaged from the culture: we can also repent and “choose life”. Then, together, we can and will commit to setting life before the culture death. Our first step is to proclaim the life-redeeming Gospel of Jesus Christ to lost men and women who have embraced the deceitfulness of the father of lies, Satan, who “was a murderer from the beginning.” If we will persistently and passionately bring the Gospel of saving grace and life to others by announcing that Jesus Christ freely saves sinners, and if we would disciple Christ-followers so that they develop Christ-centered LifeStyles, then they will be propelled by a Christ-centered LifeLove, informed by a Christ-centered LifeView, and we, with compassion, humility, courage and conviction, will propagate life and hope to a culture of death and despair. Intentionally, we would embrace Gospel deeds of love, mercy, and justice. We would also engage in intentional Gospel-evangelism and disciple-making and others would see Christ in us and hear Christ from us. Christ, the Lord of glory—Christ, the Word of life—Christ, the Lord of life. Finally, we must engage the culture in multiple venues, undergirded first and foremost by intercessory prayer. The battle is the Lord’s. So let’s pray to the Victor of the battle that He will use us and empower us. We know the culture of death is rooted in the financial industry of death and its multi-billion dollar profits and will not be defeated without an enormous struggle. When we “choose life” and assault death, we will inevitably become a target of the death culture because of its financial investments, its gods of mammon and its self-absorption are threatened. The evil empire of darkness will assuredly strike back. In that day only the Lord can give us the victory and He gives the victories through praying people. Engage prayerfully in Gospel evangelism and discipleship. Then thoughtfully engage the issues of the day. The opportunities are limitless. Perhaps you will be involved at the point of legislation, restraining the death spiral of the culture. Perhaps you can engage by ministering to women in crisis situations through Save-A-Life Ministries or by opening your home to foster care or adoption. Perhaps you can encourage and support the single mom who chooses life with your love, fellowship and hospitality. Investigate every avenue and prayerfully seek how the Lord might lead you and use you. But don’t sit on the sidelines and don’t be silent. Contrary to atheistic Darwin evolution, life is not a cosmic accident developed by chance through mindless mutations. You are not here bearing the image of God by virtue of the “survival of the fittest.” Life is Divinely designed and created. Life is sacred from conception until death. The Lord gives life and the Lord takes away life. The assault on children in the womb, in the classroom, in the hospital nursery and in the nursing homes targeting the unproductive and the unwanted will consume us or we will challenge it. It must be challenged with the “weapons of the Spirit” and the “power of the Gospel.” OUR COMMITTMENT You ask, “What can I do? I am just an ordinary everyday person. Do you really believe I can make a difference?” How I wish I could eradicate that thought from your mind! Many, just like you, are making a monumental difference –with organizations like Save-A-Life, tutoring programs, marriage counseling and ministries of mercy. One preacher said it this way: “to make a difference you simply have to be FIT—Faithful, Intentional, and Teachable.” Here am I Lord. I will not be silent nor watch from the sidelines. I will “choose life” out of love to You who brought life to me in Christ. By the grace of God, I will set before this culture life through Gospel evangelism, discipleship, ministries of mercy and justice while engaging the public square. But do know this: God loves to take ordinary people and do extraordinary things. One such man was named Telemachus, a fourth century, pastor and monk. At the conclusion of his life and knowing he didn’t have long to live, Telemachus decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome. When he arrived, he was swept up with the crowd into the Coliseum. Suddenly, in front of his eyes, he saw what he had heard about but dared not believe was true. Muscled, trained men for the entertainment of others were engaged in mortal combat – The Gladiators. With horror Telemachus saw them kill each other while spectators cheered and laughed at the gory, frenzied spectacle. But on that day in the Coliseum Telemachus “chose life” and “set life” before Rome. From his seat he cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop! In the name of Christ, stop!” No one was listening so he moved to the edge of wall, stood on it and said “In the name of Christ, stop! In the name of Christ, stop.” No one paid any attention except some nearby who mocked and jeered him. Still not content he jumped into the arena. Standing between the Gladiators he said “In the name of Christ, stop!” One agitated Gladiator pushed him aside but he returned. Then Telemachus pushed his way between the armed Gladiators and held his hands before them and said “In the name of Christ, stop!” The Gladiator now, clearly annoyed and irritated, took his weapon and ran it through Telemachus. He lifted him up and impaled him in the ground. As his life blood drained out, with his last breath Telemachus said, “Please, in the name of Christ, stop.” The Gladiator who killed him stopped, looked, and laid down his weapon. The other Gladiators, who were thought to be accustomed to death, looked at the dying monk and ceased their combat and laid down their weapons. The crowd that had been mocking, laughing, and cheering became eerily silent. Then as if someone had given a signal to all of them, the Gladiators and the crowd, walked out of the Coliseum in utter silence. The profitable governmental entertainment pacifier of the culture of death on that day ceased to exist. That was the last day Gladiator battles were conducted in the Roman Coliseum. I don’t know how God will lead you but, like Telemachus, you can “choose life” and “set life” before our culture of death. Proclaim the Gospel and, in the midst of death, with your last breath say, “In the name of Christ, stop!” The point is not so much that you or I can make a difference for Christ but, like Telemachus, we will not make a difference simply with our voice or from the stands. Those whom the Lord uses to make a difference, in the Name of Christ, must go into the arena and be willing to die.
By: Dr. Harry L. Reeder III
April 16, 2013 3:40 PM