The Intentionality of Love

March 3, 2015

If we want to grow in love, we might need to plot and meditate on how we want to love those we encounter. It has struck me recently that the hardest area of growth for me is showing love when I’m surprised by an opportunity or encounter. Even though we love someone from a volitional and intellectual standpoint and want to bring wholeness to a person’s life, our response emotionally to an unexpected situation can look like criticism, indifference or even rejection.

So, how do we learn to show love to those we truly love?

For starters, we have to develop patterns of behavior that come from a strategic and rehearsed place of consciousness. The idea that we will naturally give or receive love is not likely or is, perhaps, naïve. I had this reality come crashing in on me recently.

I returned home one day after a meeting and some errands and my son asked me to come to the garage to see how he had put away the case of bottled water that he purchases each month. When he proudly showed me his work, I responded by pointing out that he had put all of the bottles on one side of the refrigerators_freezers_general_use_3763shelf in the refrigerator, which pulled the shelf loose on one side and was pressing on the drawer below. His face saddened and he was crest fallen saying, “I just wanted to show you that I had put them all away.” He was looking for a “well done” and I gave him a “poorly done.”

My heart sank, too. I tried to recover with words of praise and explaining my comments, but the damage was done. I had wounded him. And I had learned a valuable lesson. Of course, this was not the first time that I had done this. But it was the first time that I had grasped the gravity of what I had done. And I also shared the story with my wife.

Later that day, my son invited me to the garage, again. This time I was prepared. And he was, too. Perhaps even more proudly this time, he opened the refrigerator door and showed the perfectly balanced shelf of bottled water. “Twelve on each side and the grease jars in the middle,” he said.

I smiled, and said, “Great job!” We fist bumped and then hugged. It was a sweet moment. We savored the experience and went back inside the house. He smilingly shared with his Mom the “twelve and twelve” good deed he had done.

We discussed later how God had given us a “do-over.” We don’t always get a second chance to restore love and acceptance. In fact, it is rare. But, it allowed me to rehearse how I should’ve responded initially and how I’d like to act in the future. I have often shared the principle that solitude is the furnace of transformation. And the corollary is that we need to prepare in advance to do the right thing.

The more we practice love and the more our hearts are connected to our actions, the more likely we are to do the deeds of Jesus.

“For God’s Glory…”

One of the ways that we often end our prayers or conversations in a church-related meeting is with the phrase that we want to do everything to God’s glory and not our own. It seems like a selfless and humble thing to say. It is an acceptable platitude, but what does it mean? If we examine our intent or search out our motives, how can we ever know if we are succeeding in what we say is one of our deepest desires?

First, let’s remind ourselves that we ARE the glory of God. In Genesis 2:7 we read, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” With that singular act, we were given the very essence of God’s glory, the breath of G5049161418940014od. We live because of God’s actions. This changes the question from, “how do I live for the glory of God?” to “how do I live who I am and who I was created as?”

 

We are told this in our post-gospel readings in the New Testament, too, when we are told that we are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. As such, we are restored to our created state of living as the glory of God. Our calling is to make a space for God to dwell. God has chosen to reside in us and to be the indwelling glory to shine through our lives.

So, what does it mean to live who you are? This should be a cause for meditation and for the reading of God’s Word with a slightly different perspective. Perhaps we can ask God to reveal to us how he means for us to show the glory he has put in us. Can you accept this? You are God’s place (topos tou theou). You are the place where God has chosen to live. You might want to meditate on the thought: I am the glory of God. And see what that does to the concerns of your life. Might this change how we live, what we think about and how we battle against the thoughts that would rob us of this reality.

In his last days on earth before his arrest, Jesus said that he was going to prepare a home for us so that we could be with him forever. In the meantime, he promised us that he would be with us through the Holy Spirit. Using the most basic of metaphors, Jesus assured us of his oneness with us. We are his dwelling place and he is our dwelling place. We can deny this (Peter), but Jesus will come back to us (Peter) and restore us and remind us what we are.

So, I remind you today, brothers and sisters, that You Are the Glory of God.

Light and Dark

February 2, 2015

The past few days have been full of images: paintings, stories and conversations about light and darkness. In the final scene of the TV series True Detective that I watched on Saturday there was a lengthy discussion of light and dark that summarized themes that had been referenced throughout the 8-episode story. Also, in a Sunday morning class discussion on the idea of painful self-probing and the attributes of God, there was a vivid contrast. Then, during the sermon teaching on grace there was a reference to the Vacquez painting of the crucifixion of Jesus, which was the dark day in human history.

In our visual culture where most of us are learning through pictures and images, the contrast of dark and light always gives us an undeniable truth concerning the world in which we live.

Rust Kohle, one of the two central characters in True Detective, said that he had been thinking about what this investigation had been about. That it had been part of a bigger story. What he called, “The oldest story.” When asked what that was, he replied, “The story of light versus darkness.”

In the final scene of season one of the HBO series True Detective, there is a lengthy conversation [NSFW-language] in the parking lot of a hospital in Louisiana between detectives Rust Kohle and Marty Hart. Kohle in a wheelchair has been convalescing after surviving a horrific stabbing by the serial killer they had spent 15 years trying to find. As they gaze up at a cloudless night sky, Rust says that while healing in bed he had been musing as to what their investigation was really about. He said that the investigation had drawn them into a bigger story – a story about light versus dark.

In the simplest of terms, this is the story of all of our lives. Are we moving toward the light? Or, are we moving toward darkness? There is a trajectory to our lives, perhaps like the stars in the dark Louisiana sky. The darkness seems massive and the stars are tiny in comparison. Are we letting the light creep in or are we being overcome by the darkness?

In the painting by the Spanish artist Diego Velazquez depicting the crucifixion of Jesus, there is darkness all around, too. The light in the painting is reserved for and focused in Jesus who is overcoming the darkness with the light of a ransom-paying sacrifice. He is rescuing all of humanity from the darkness.

The Crucifixion of Christ by Diego Velazquez
The Crucifixion of Christ by Diego Velazquez

In the same way the final words of True Detective reveal a truth, Rust said, “If you ask me, the light’s winning.”

We make choices from time to time that move us closer to the light or deeper into the darkness. Clarity and purity are experienced as we move into the light and confusion and contamination as we shift toward the darkness.

So, in humility and ascent, we surrender our hearts to the Light of creation. For we hope that as we move toward the light we will experience transformation. We become new creations shedding the layers of darkness and becoming, as it were, our greatest selves: all that for which we were created and the journey for which we were equipped through the magic of substitutionary grace given to us by the death (dark) and resurrection (light) of Jesus.

 

 

Excluding or Including

I’ve been reading, from time to time, a diary that Henri Nouwen kept while he spent several months living in a monastery in upstate New York. The book is titled “The Genesee Diary” and it is not unlike other journals and diaries that Henri published or that were published after his passing on to glory. Like many of us, our deepest questions are sometimes answered in the most common of readings and experiences. It seems that the Holy Spirit enlightens our hearts and minds when we are not expecting it. That is, if we have trained our hearts to listen or are open to hearing.

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So, this was on an ordinary Tuesday that the Spirit spoke to Henri as he had been reflecting on the writings of the desert fathers from the 4th Century and, no doubt, examining his temporary life in a monastic order. His insight or “revelation received” gave me an answer to a larger practical, yet theological question this morning. Perhaps it will provide some guidance to you as well.

“In the writings of the desert fathers there is much emphasis on renunciation and detachment. we have to renounce the world, detach ourselves from our possessions, family, friends, own will, and any form of self-content so that all our thoughts and feelings may become free for the Lord. I find this very hard to realize. I keep thinking about distracting things and wonder if I ever will be “empty for God.” Yesterday and today the idea occurred to me that instead of excluding I could include all my thoughts, ideas, plans, projects, worries, and concerns and make them into prayer. Instead of directing my attention only to God, I might direct my attention to all my attachments and lead them into the all-embracing arms of God. When this idea grew in me, I experienced a new freedom and felt a great open space where I could invite all those I love and pray that God touch them with his love.”

Praying for you today that God would touch you with his love.

What do you expect God to do? Part 1: Respond

If you are a person of faith or a person of prayer, you must’ve asked that question in your conscious or unconscious mind at some point. And if you are a person who reads the Bible or listens to others read it in a house of worship or in your own house, you may wonder what should you expect to happen after you read a few or several sentences in one of the books of the Bible.

Just this morning I read Psalm 106:1-5 in the October 21st liturgy entry in “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” (Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove & Okoro) and I was struck by what I was reading. Even more, I was thinking that these verses were a prayer or song directed to God when they were originally written, and that I had a choice in my own heart as to whether this was my prayer, my spoken words to the Holy Spirit. Or, I could just mindlessly and heartlessly read them and go ahead and finish the whole liturgy for the day. Do you ever do that: Read something of profound value without any engagement whatsoever? Do we expect that through some mystical operation we will derive some benefit from silently mouthing the words of Scripture? Thus, the bigger question: What do we expect God to do?

First and foremost, we should expect God to respond. At the most basic level, it is fair to expect engagement from God if we have engaged with the words we are saying/thinking that are addressed to our Creator. Now, do you wait for a response?

Let’s look at the prayers that I read today. This is verse 4: Lord, remember me when you show favor to your people. Help me when you save them.

So, if you said that to a friend, a parent or a sibling what would you expect in response? Maybe a quick, “OK,” or perhaps a “got you covered!” would be fine or perhaps a more in-depth, “You are one of mine, so, yes I’m going to save you when I save all of my children.”

Would that be a fair expectation? Does that seem too casual for God?

Jesus and Thomas by Caravaggio (1602)
Jesus and Thomas by Caravaggio (1602)

Or would any of those sound like the resurrected Jesus when he said, “Put your finger here (in my side),” to Thomas in response to his indirect request for concrete evidence that the same Jesus who was crucified was now alive.

Don’t you think it is fair to expect that statements, conversations and requests that are recorded for our benefit in the Bible should be actionable for us today?

And Thomas wasn’t even in the same place with Jesus when he made his request. And it was a random request that didn’t follow any liturgical framework or Jewish tradition. [the painting was by Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio whose works I have used before]

And Thomas’ response to Jesus’ response was worship. Not surprising either. So, I would suggest to you to try expecting God to respond when your words are heartfelt and expressive of your true desires. Listen for his reply. Give some time to the conversation as you would anyone else in your life. Expect God to do something. I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Look for “Part 2: Offer a new idea” at this same site next week.

Going to the temple at the hour of prayer: Who does that?

It seems crazy, but I’ve recently been thinking about the concept of having a regular hour to pray. When it comes to exercise, reflection, quiet time or personal study time, most of us establish a pattern. Many of us like routines, habits and schedules. And those of us who don’t like schedules realize that with our busy or over crowded lives we have to schedule some things in order to meet the expectations of others.

I’ve come to see prayer as a conversation with the triune God: Father, Son or Jesus and the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God who lives in our hearts. Unfortunately, I have too often felt or believed that there is a fixed distance between God and me, so I’ve often felt that I was speaking to someone “up there.” You know, “the Man upstairs” or the “King who sits on a throne high and lifted up.” It makes it hard to feel any intimacy with God with those images. But I’ve more recently come to see God as a real father and Jesus as the one that so many people – especially the weak – approached when he walked the streets of Israel’s cities and villages and the Spirit as actually, truly residing in my heart. I’ve come to take the teachings about God in the Bible as actionable. Our re-born bodies are even described as the “temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Needless to say, that has improved my relationship with God in some amazing ways. With the Spirit living with me, I can have an ongoing dialogue instead of always talking to myself like I used to do. I’ve turned the monologue into a dialogue. With the closeness of God being a reality, I now realize that I don’t have to talk ABOUT God when I could be talking to him. I don’t have to try to impress others with my theological depth or saying things in a certain sequence (Jesus called that “piling up empty phrases” in Matthew 6:7), but I can be real and speak directly to God. It’s amazing, but it’s been God’s approach from the very beginning. Like when he used to walk through the garden in the cool of the evening to check in with Adam and Eve. Our relationship was broken, but then Jesus paid the price for our restoration.

Certainly there are enough illustrations in the Bible that would lead us to accept that we can pray most any time and most all the time. Is there also a place for a scheduled time to pray? Do we want to make sure that we not only pray in the quietness of our own souls, but also in community or family?

Although I don’t know how the tradition came about, in first century religious practice there was a “Jewish” or faith community habit of a daily hour of prayer. We first see this in Acts 3 when Peter and John went to the Temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour or 3:00 PM.  This seems like the perfect time to pray, especially as a community. It is usually a time when we are looking for a second wind for the day. This is a coffee break time for many. It is the break from an after lunch siesta or a short nap in some cultures.

If you try to work at your vocation until 5:00, 5:30 or 6:00 and you are a knowledge worker or even a physical worker, this is a critical time to decide if you’re going to accomplish anything else during today’s work segment. If you are a fulltime parent or caregiver, you may have a different routine. But it is pivotal. It can be a time of temptation or it can be a time of miraculous healing. For Peter and John it was a common activity based upon a desire to connect with each other and with God. But for those who were crippled, it was a time of deep longing for wholeness, for help.

Here’s the story,

Acts 3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple.  Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.  But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (ESV)

But for those who were crippled, it was a time of deep longing for wholeness, for help. In some way that applies to all of us. This man was not even expecting healing – perhaps he had given up – but God heard his deepest longing.

Have you given up on the healing of your deepest brokenness? Have you given up on praying at all, but you can still muster a cry for help to people who will listen and help? Even if you can’t bring yourself to pray, ask somebody to pray for you. And if you pray, think about setting a time each day to go with others to the temple.

 

 

The Other Love Chapter

Too often we label things for convenience and it ends up undermining impact. I think that is true of different books and chapters in our English Language Bibles. We categorize I Cor. 13 as the love chapter and Rom. 12:1-2 as the commitment verses when just the opposite could be true.

While 1 Corinthians 13 is more like an argumentative essay convincing us that love is the best approach in matters of faith and community. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

I can’t remember if I’ve ever tried to decide between love and speaking in tongues or prophesying, but I’m sure I’ve chosen selfishness over loving many times. Upon closer examination, I’m surprised at how much play chapter 13 has received over the years as the headline on godly love. Truly, it uses such “insider” language about technical church business that I would’ve thought it a distraction to non-church folk. I guess those simple adjectives in verse 4 are a strong enough catch phrase that they carried the rest of the chapter into their wake.

Meanwhile, Romans 12 is much more about how we actually “do love” and put it into practice once we decide it’s a good idea. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve memorized verses 1-2 of this chapter and thought there was nothing else important in this chapter. I thought it was about “renewing my mind” and thinking more “Christianly” about social, political and marketplace issues. I’m embarrassed, as I’ve realized that I’ve been missing such practical and life-giving teaching available for the Holy Spirit and I’ve been skipping right over it. It’s about the transformation that occurs as the Spirit transforms our minds AND hearts. I’m not saying that chapter titles are evil, but they’re not inspired. And it is not surprising that the new Bibliotheca project looks like a success. It reminded me of doing manuscript Bible study where there were no chapter and verse delineations. And certainly there were no book or chapter titles!

Read these words from Romans 12, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (ESV)

I’m just thankful that on a recent morning when I had nothing to read during a coffee break that I pulled out my iPhone version of the Bible and read Romans 12 and was captivated by the words of truth that I could live by today. “Weep with those who weep…, Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.” Sound like Jesus. Sounds like love.

 

Emotions and Our Spiritual Life

jpegSome of our most common questions are about emotions. As we share in small groups or one-to-one, on some of the daily struggles we face as we live “in the Spirit” or attempt to “walk in the Spirit,” we often struggle with feeling up or down or sideways! We start our days well, but a word or a glance or smirk can turn us around or throw us into chaos and essentially, “ruin my day.” What is that? Why does that happen? I’m not a psychologist or professional counselor. And I’m not pretending to be here. I do know that we often, in the words of the title of Dr. John Townsend’s book: “Hiding From Love – How to change the withdrawal patterns that isolate and imprison you”, cover up what we are feeling and how we are responding to the people and situations in our domains or life settings. Instead of engaging, we often withdraw and in so doing we ignore or repress things that are true about ourselves and how God made us. And we cover up some of the ways sin and fallenness have broken and short-circuited us.

This has come up in a couple of conversations that I’ve had recently and it’s been on my mind. So, I was struck this morning when I read this from my friend, priest and psychologist Henri Nouwen (this is from “Bread for the Journey” from Henri Nouwen Society):

The Dynamics of the Spiritual Life

“Our emotional lives and our spiritual lives have different dynamics. The ups and downs of our emotional life depend a great deal on our past or present surroundings. We are happy, sad, angry, bored, excited, depressed, loving, caring, hateful, or vengeful because of what happened long ago or what is happening now.

The ups and downs of our spiritual lives depend on our obedience – that is, our attentive listening – to the movements of the Spirit of God within us. Without this listening our spiritual life eventually becomes subject to the windswept waves of our emotions.”

Of course, this is not the complete answer to my question above, but it does give us a key. We can not expect to be be stable and balanced (in our brokenness; while still on earth) if we are not “listening” to the Spirit’s voice. A.W. Tozer says that we must go to scripture as a story, not as an encyclopedia. And to God as a person not as an abstract entity. That all becomes a part of our listening.

Hiding from Separateness

Both Nouwen and Townsend talk a lot about how we look to others to be something that is impossible –> being God for us. This shows up in a number of ways. Townsend wrote, “Our second major developmental need is to become a person with will, boundaries, and an accurate sense of responsibility. This is our need for separateness. Our need for separateness can be damaged by relational experiences where either we say no to taking biblical responsibility for ourselves or we say yes to taking unbiblical responsibility for another person.” Townsend goes on to say that the fear we have in separateness deficits is that being separate will cause abandonment and isolation. The prospect of setting boundaries strikes terror that we will be forever alone. And it is that fear that Jesus wants us to bring to him. He can and will be God for us. He can be our home and protection.

In the title track of her latest album “Desire Like Dynamite”, Sandra McCracken sings: “Sweeping it all inside with dynamite…” Our desires, our emotions are very powerful. They can control us. As we understand and take ownership of the person God is making us into, we learn to live in community with our identities from the creative hand and voice of God. We receive the voices of those with whom we journey as what they are: fellow travelers. No more and no less. Brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Yet, there is one voice that we listen for above all the rest. It is the voice of the Spirit who stirs within us a life of freedom and joy in the midst of whatever challenge life might bring us.

So, I remind us to cultivate a listening ear and a listening heart that receives God’s words that he has “crowned us with honor and glory.” He is the only one who can give us all that we need.

Testing My Heart of Faith

There are times when I (we?) feel good about how I’m doing in my walk with God. I feel as though I’m listening to God’s voice and making sincere effort to follow His commandments. It is a comparison game that my own self-centered hearts get’s me into. You know, I haven’t yelled at anyone in the last week. I’ve been listening well and being fully present with those I’ve encountered. And I’ve tried to be honest and not deceptive in my work.I’ve been friendly to my neighbors.
Comparison in our own minds is a dangerous endeavor.
It distracts me from doing what I need to be doing. I’m in essence patting myself on the back for having received some measure of grace, but somehow thought that it was of my own doing. How self-diluted of me. What’s the corrective in these situations when I’m giving myself of good grade? Reading any word from God’s Word. The Spirit has a way of using a word of truth to break down our walls of self-centeredness. I’m not talking about the times when we hear the voice of the Father say, “Well done.” Or an echo of God from my fellow travelers who appreciate me and the acts of kindness I do. I’m talking about when I’m operating from the false self, not the true me. The I’ve got it all together false pride from some kind of score keeping that I do.
That’s what I was doing this morning when I was reading the June 26 entry in “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” that was put together by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove a few years ago. And the Spirit took Psalm 119: 136 and pierced my gut with it. Here are the words the Psalmist wrote:

My eyes shed streams of tears,
because people do not keep your law.

“When have you done this? “ the Spirit asked. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that, I thought. 
That’s the kind of testing of my heart that God had for me today. It was eye-opening and heart-awakening.

Putting a bow on my 2014 General Assembly experience – Part Deux

Upon returning to the ballroom where the assembly was meeting, I looked for a seat closer to the front so that I might be able to occasionally look at the real 3-D person than the video facsimile on one of the two large screens on either side of the stage. If I have one regret from the week, it is that I didn’t take more pictures. I haven’t gotten immersed in the “selfie” world yet, but I hope to get better at it as time goes on. A few minutes after sitting down, I turned to find myself sitting next to Justin Clement, RUF minister at the University of Georgia. I had just seen Justin for the first time at the wedding of Nathan Terrell and Joy Glaze Terrell last Saturday. I introduced myself and told him he had done a great job in officiating the wedding. He asked about how things were at Intown (BTW, that was a common question, not surprisingly). We had a good chat and talked from time to time about the various overtures as they were introduced over the next couple of hours.

In every GA, there is an overture or two that requires extended discussion and debate. This year it was Overture 43. The Overtures Committee had voted to answer in the “negative” which is not to affirm the overture by a tally of 45-28. That was by far the closest vote of any of the overtures. So, the 28 committee members put forth a substitute motion on the assembly floor. Here’s a link to the original overture: http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Overture-43-Sav-R-Sanctity-of-Life-Marriage.pdf It was the opinion of the majority of the committee that the overture was not needed because “there is no lack of clarity regarding the PCA’s stand for the sanctity of marriage or the sanctity of life, biblically or constitutionally (WCF 24.1). Furthermore, we do not need an overture such as this to pray for, or encourage, those who suffer unjustly.” The committee gave three additional reasons, but this was the primary reason. After approximately an hour of debate (an agreed upon timeframe) on the assembly floor, there was a vote to make the substitute motion the main motion for Overture 43. It passed by an approximately 60%-40% vote. I didn’t write down the numbers, but it was a clear majority. The so-called minority report reads as follows:

Be it resolved that the Presbyterian Church in America expresses its gratitude to the Lord for sustaining by His grace ministers of the gospel, chaplains, and Christians serving in the public sphere who are experiencing ostracism, penalties, and persecution for taking a Biblically faithful stand for the sanctity of human life and declining to participate in the cultural redefinition of marriage; and

Be it further resolved that the General Assembly pause and offer prayer to the Lord on behalf of such ministers of the gospel, chaplains, and Christians.

And after the vote, my friend Jim Wert gave a passionate and heartfelt prayer as implementation of this resolution.

It was Overture 6 that received, both over the past year and this week, the grandest support. It was concerning Child Protection in the PCA and there was prayer for all of our children and children worldwide pleading for their protection and thanking God for His special care and love for them. You can read Overture 6 here: http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Overture-6-GA-Foothills-Child-Protection-in-the-PCA.pdf

That pretty much ended the business for the assembly. There was a thank you letter or resolution that was read. Then the moderator said that we were going to take a one-hour recess and move the evening’s worship service up to 4:30 PM instead of 7:30 PM. Since the musicians, worship leaders and preacher were all present we proceeded with that plan. Someone must’ve given some heads-up earlier in the day for all of those folks to be on deck.

I took another foray into the exhibitors’ hall. Many of you with connections to Intown know Laura Rodriguez. I talked to Laura when I saw her in a book publisher’s booth. Turns out her father owns a publishing company and publishes an eclectic line of previously out-of-print theology and political books, along with the works of authors in the PCA and his own books. Laura was sent out from Intown with the Mosaic Fellowship and is now seeking wisdom on what to do next since Mosaic is no longer a church plant.

I next visited with Rev. Matt Cadora again and he said what I was beginning to hear from others that this was the best GA he had ever attended. I said that Ray Cortese’s sermon on Tuesday had been one of the best I’d ever heard and he interrupted me before I could finish and said that it was THE best he had ever heard. [I do have a CD of Rev. Cortese’s sermon and will be happy to loan it to you after I’ve listened to it or put it on my iTunes.]

Again, the worship service was a mix of ancient and future that the Tuesday service had been. Eventually, I figured out that the influence of Indelible Grace had come through the RUF community at Belmont University in Nashville. No surprise there. Rev. Bill Sim preached the sermon. He is organizing and senior pastor of New Church of Atlanta, a Korean church started in 1997. He is the stated clerk of the Korean Southeastern Presbytery. A presbytery, by the way, that meets twice a year for about 3-4 days. He invited other presbyteries to consider doing that whenever they can. He said that they work together, play together, pray together, weep together and confess their sins together. He said that there are over 500 Korean teaching elders in the PCA. Again, I would recommend you listen to this sermon online or to download it at some point. You can download here. There are two stories that he told – one from his own life about coming to America 35 years ago and the other about missionaries to Korea who were martyred for their work about 90 years ago – that are priceless. He preached from Acts 20:17-38 and I’m sure had three points. I believe the points were about commitments and convictions, but his stories were the most powerful. And these were his exhortations:

We should cry more in the pulpit.

May the Lord soften our hearts.

May our commitment to orthodoxy lead us to love sinners.

May we let our commitment to the need for confession begin in the house of the Lord.

Our grace-filled convictions will bring us together.

It was an amazing sermon.

The PCA constitution states that we conclude our general assemblies by singing Psalm 103. So, we did.

It was a very satisfying and vision-enhancing gathering. Grateful to have participated.