Wednesday, July 23, 2014
So what's next for churches declaring to be a part of the remnant in the PCUSA?
As my favorite Special Olympics world golf champion responds when I ask if I'll ever sink a putt of any consequence, "Who knows?"
All I know for sure is this ain't no time for fainthearts.
Whether you are a PCUSAer or a member of any other of the mainliners irretrievably apostate under current management, this is no time to hide, run away, or quit! That's no longer an option unless, of course, you'd like to be a part of some kinda supposed/theoretical/fanciful "silent majority" continuing to enable darkness or join some other denomination that pretends not to stink as badly as... Or maybe you missed the lessons of Genesis 11 and Matthew 28 and Acts 1. Yeah, I always loved going to my favorite monastery in Ava, Missouri - a Trappist one called Assumption Abbey; but that was for rest, renewal, and reconnection with you know who. And He never called us to be safe! Retreat? For sure! Then charge again! Absolutely!
It's like ships.
They are safe in the harbor.
But that's not why ships are built.
While we're in the nascent moments of declaring remnant, some things are clear for now.
2. Network with other parts of the remnant.
3. Begin to "flesh out" what it means to remain faithfully.
4. Be proactive in an Actsual kinda way.
For starters, refer back to "Remnant" (go to the right column and click it on).
Take a look at recent columns related to "Remnant" in www.layman.org, www.churchandworld.com, and www.BelvidereDailyRepublican.net.
When you declare, let us know; so we can begin to network.
Now a page from history related to the preceding and suggested starters in "Remnant."
When PUBC and CFP were getting together to form PFR - the names are irrelevant except to those who remember 'em as slowing but not stalling the drift away from Jesus by the book in the PCUSA but relevant as we must look up, stand up, speak up, and act up for Jesus without any deference to dances with the devil - two high steeple preachers more than pastors of fabulously well-to-do churches in the South were asked to fork over 50K apiece to start it; but then, after the checks were cashed, they were excluded from the original board because they were too outspoken about the increasing apostasies as they urged "redirecting" resources as essential to honoring Jesus by the book and not enabling those increasing apostasies.
Even today, after the abominations of Detroit's GA just weeks ago, some of the children of that miscalculation in the 80s are urging everyone to continue the SOSO way of seeking to reverse the apostasies through parliamentary motions and political maneuvers that will never amount to anything for Christ's sake because the unfaithful majority increases daily as the supposedly faithful minority decreases daily.
In other words, there has to be a new, uh, wineskin approach; which I believe is remnant: remaining faithfully.
But as Tug McGraw said for those Amazin' Mets in 1968, "Ya gotta believe!"
Begin the remnant network!
And for starters...
Blessings and Love!
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Paul Eugene Swedlund
Entered Life - July 31, 1946
Entered New Life - August 17, 1994
I'll never forget Rod, a pastor with me in Kansas City, calling me on August 17, 1994 while I was teaching a Bible study in New Kensington, Pennsylvania: "Bob, Paul is dead."
Twenty years have passed since Paul fell off a mountain in Colorado on his way back to Jesus; and because his spirit lives on with Him, a day has not passed that I have not felt his eternal affections. While I'd prefer to have him around in time, he is as alive to me now as he was over two decades ago.
Along with another Paul, he was one of my two closest friends in seminary; and I still recall saying simultaneously with the other Paul as we recollected over coffee only moments before co-presiding at his memorial service at Kansas City's Colonial Presbyterian Church, "I wonder who will preside at the next service."
I remember so much: stories of his captaining a riverboat in Vietnam, working for Mobil for a while after that before he yielded to the irresistible call to pastoral ministry, riding with the other Paul and me on our motorcycles on Friday afternoons to New Hope, Pennsylvania for a mental bath after Greek, playing on the best seminary softball team that ever hit the diamond in central New Jersey, skipping the second hour of Dr. Metzger's Christology class with about ten others in our last year to pick up lunch at Hoagie Haven on our way to watch coeds from the university rowing team as we joked that his children proved the virgin birth of Jesus, working together at Mathematica and in prison ministry as seminary interns, convincing him to return to the PCUSA from the UCC because the UCC's apostasies were accelerating even faster than the PCUSA's back then, and hearing him say this after convincing him to run the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach in 1978, "How I ever let you talk me into this is beyond me!"
Four other significant snapshots come to mind.
First, we survived his hatred of the Yankees.
Second, he called me about 11:00 p.m. on the night before my Hebrew final and asked me to join him to search bars in New York City for someone who had broken parole. I told him that I had an A going into the final and he said, "So what do you think is more important to Jesus? An A in Hebrew or helping a man to get his life back together?"
BTW, he never apologized for or even acknowledged my angst over more graduate studies as a result of going from an A to B- in less than 12 hours.
Third, while he switched back to the PCUSA from the UCC and seemed rather happy about it for almost 15 years, he would always tell me to "stay where you've been planted" and often warned me about playing to the ideological mobs for vocational advantages and personal perks; so I've sensed his affirmation during these days declaring "remnant" as our family of faith's decision at FPC in Belvidere, Illinois to remain faithfully in a denomination irretrievably apostate under current management has irritated the elated left, confused center, and outraged right because we don't agree and won't cooperate with the left, have convictions unlike the center, and ain't gonna hide, run away, or quit like the right.
Fourth, only rivaled by Dr. William Reed's conversion to becoming a fierce advocate for the sanctity of all human life after realizing the horrific hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty, and spiritual depravity of Kansas City's St. Luke's Hospital as he operated on newborn hearts on one floor while other doctors murderously ripped the unborn limb from limb on another floor, Paul's words while pastor of that city's Northminster Presbyterian Church continue to drive my personal passion for urging confession and repentance for a country and too many so-called "Christian" churches that confuse abortion with contraception: "I know you love to see our children during their time of the worship service; and you must remember that, to God, there is no difference between the children that you see on Sunday mornings that bring so much joy to you and the children in the womb that you don't see but God does."
Paul is in heaven now - where he belongs.
He is eternal.
I know that because I feel him every day.
He has been rewarded; because he was a part of the faithful remnant.
No matter what the pressures from an ungrateful and increasingly unfaithful country or church, Paul remained faithfully.
He looked up, stood up, spoke up, and acted up for Jesus by the book.
I hope you have friends like Paul E. Swedlund.
I'm more concerned about you and me.
Blessings and Love!
Saturday, July 12, 2014
"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
Let all that you do be done in love."
"At the present time," Paul wrote, "there is a remnant, chosen by God."
He was encouraging Christians back then and now to remember God always elects/chooses/calls a remnant to remain faithful to Him even as the increasingly unfaithful majority distances itself from Him as perfectly patterned by Jesus and prescribed in Holy Scripture.
Dipping back into history, he cites one of many examples of God's people being outnumbered by those who have abandoned Him: "God has not and will not abandon His covenant people...Don't you remember the story of what happens when Elijah pleads with God?...'Lord, they have murdered your prophets, they have demolished Your altars, and I alone am left faithful to You; now they are seeking to kill me.'"
Using that same example of a decreasingly faithful minority being assaulted by an increasingly unfaithful majority, Paul describes the character of people who remain faithfully even when outnumbered by an increasingly unfaithful majority that is increasingly hostile to the decreasingly faithful minority: "How does God answer Elijah's pleas for help? He says, 'I have held back a remnant who are faithful to Me. The remnant has not and will not bow a knee to worship or serve Baal.'"
Contextually, the Bible tells us that God's people will win with Him in the end; or as Jesus promised, "You will be hated because of your loyalty to Me. But whoever endures to the end will be saved."
Simply, God's people, often a remnant in times of increasing national and ecclesiastical apostasy, will catch a lot of hell on the way to heaven; yet triumph in the end because the remnant is cut from the King of kings' cloth and "every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord" in the end.
Again, remnant is reality now as well as then; or as Paul encouraged the Christians praying and laboring to be faithful while living in a hostile Roman culture, "The same thing is happening now. God has preserved a remnant, elected by grace."
I think of God's promise through David, "I was young and now I am old; but I have never seen faithful people abandoned by God."
It helps to remember that/Him when you're trying to honor Jesus by the book in American churches these days; because any connection between them and Jesus by the book is increasingly coincidental as they revise God's truth as enfleshed in Jesus and explained in Holy Scripture to accommodate instincts remaining from the garden.
For those of us who have decided to remain faithfully within American churches "irretrievably apostate under current management" as part of a remnant praying and laboring to honor Jesus by the book, it helps to remember what's left after the process of unfaithful eliminations of fidelity in nations and churches will not be abandoned by God.
What's left of Jesus-loving-Bible-esteeming people after assaults by apostates will be saved by God in the end and supernaturally buoyed in the meantime.
Though living like exiles in neo-Babylonian captivity, people who still pray and labor to honor Jesus by the book will understand the 8th beatitude: "Blessed/fortunate/happy are all of you when people persecute you or denigrate you or despise you or tell lies about you on My account. When this happens, rejoice. Be glad. Remember that God's prophets have been persecuted in the past. And know that in heaven, you have a great reward."
Being a part of God's faithful remnant means absolute allegiance to and affection for Jesus alone as Lord and Savior and esteeming Holy Scripture as the manual without parallel for expressing allegiance to and affection for Jesus alone as Lord and Savior.
In short, being a part of God's faithful remnant means praying and laboring to follow Jesus by the book with enthusiasm and without equivocation; looking up, standing up, speaking up, and acting up for Him akin to the assurances of His presence and power that never abandon His people: "Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Being a part of our Lord's remnant will require more specifics than those general guidelines; and while particular circumstances will prompt precisely proactive priorities, plans, proceedings, and programs, here are some starters:
1. Do not feed the beast! Do not take the offerings of God's faithful and hand them over to apostates who use resources to promote anyone or anything obviously antithetical to Jesus by the book.
2. Honor God by feeding God's people as guided by Matthew 25.
3. Because Jesus ignored socioeconomics and only cared about allegiance to and affection for Him, invite, welcome, include, and agape without any respect to culture, color, or class.
4. Don't leave one stinking denomination for another stinking denomination but stay in the one with the familiar stench as you pray and labor to save the willing by pointing to Jesus by the book.
5. Remembering unfaithful denominationalism, nationalism, and other tribals are idolatries and inconsistent with the red letters like Matthew 15 and 23 as notable exclamations, network with anyone anywhere who has declared allegiance to and affection for Jesus by the book.
6. Remembering Jesus by the book recognizes diversity of expressing belief with behaviors consistent with Jesus by the book, acknowledge ritual, ceremonial, liturgical, musical, and other idolatries as sins to be overcome to enable peace, unity, and purity.
7. Salt and shine with Jesus as the pattern and the Bible as having the prescriptions.
Finally, don't hide, quit, or run away!
It is better to be thrown out like Luther, Bonhoeffer, and other remnant heroes than forsake the call to "go out into the world" as His.
I recall a conversation with Hans Evans of Coatesville, Pennsylvania back in the 70s just before he went home to Jesus. I said, "Dr. Evans, I think I made a mistake by being ordained in our denomination. I see it moving farther and farther and farther away from Jesus, the Bible, and its own constitution and confessions." He said, "Stay in our denomination. It's the best mission field open to us today."
Of course, I know some people, especially the apostates who want to rationalize their shameless infidelities by claiming "more light" than what's been graced upon us in Biblical revelation supported by two thousand years of confessional Christianity which is akin to two feet planted firmly in the air, will claim that declaring to be a part of the faithful remnant is arrogant or something like that.
Don't fall for it!
It is damnably arrogant to claim revelation apart from Jesus by the book: "I know that's what Jesus and the Bible say; but I think..."
Talk about arrogance and its consequences a la Revelation 22:18-19.
One more personal/parochial word.
I will remain faithfully in the PCUSA because I was introduced to Jesus in it, nurtured in Him in it, ordained to serve Him in it, and graced by those in it even after sinning so grievously.
For me to leave with such indebtedness would be, for me, like saying, "To hell with everyone in it!"
I also recognize my continuing sins; and if anyone convinces me by the example of Jesus and explanations of Holy Scripture that I am wrong about anything including the preceding, I will confess and repent publicly while begging forgiveness from those who have been offended by me.
To quote one of my heroes on the night before he was assassinated, "Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will...And I'm happy...I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei!!!!!!!
"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."
Blessings and Love!
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Jeff Foxworthy observed, "Your family is a pack of idiots whom you have to love. We exist on earth to love each other, and our family is the test."
I'm not sure but I think he's talking about America, her churches, and every family but the one in Nazareth about 2K years ago.
It's in our DNA.
Long before/since praying/trying to be Christians, we were/remain the Adamsons.
My wife and I were talking about dysfunctional families not too long ago - sparked, as I recall, by dysfunction in ours.
"While I may be wrong," I started...[an important admission in most especially marital conversations]..., I think most families go through three stages in terms of family reality: naive, cynical, and mature."
Naive: "My family is pure and perfect in every way."
Cynical: "My family is the most messed up family in the universe."
Mature: "All families are messed up."
My wife nodded in agreement.
Families need Jesus.
Only Jesus can save 'em; providing a pattern for healing and redemptive behaviors in time while assuring an eternity devoid of earthly disappointments which is why it's called paradise.
Only through Jesus can dysfunctional families overcome their irregularities, irascibilities, and irreconcilable DNA.
Come to think of it, Jeff Foxworthy's right.
I guess there's hope for America, her churches, and our families.
Blessings and Love!
Thursday, July 3, 2014
Are you a liberal or conservative?
The labels have changed.
Are you a progressive or traditionalist?
Oh, yeah, there's a third label: centrist/moderate; as in, "I walk down the middle of the road on things so people from all sides will like me and not draw me into their debates because, you know, I'm just, uh, moderately, uh, committed to things like faith, marriage, parenting, patriotism, and..."
People who feel caught in the middle are...
Getting back to liberals aka progressives and conservatives aka traditionalists, my daddy says, "Conservatives hate to see anything happen for the first time; and when you look into the faces of liberals, you can't tell if they're having a vision of God or didn't make it to the potty in time."
Liberals wanna be called progressives because it sounds better than being labeled liberals.
Conservatives wanna be called traditionalists because it sounds better than being labeled conservatives.
It kinda makes me think of that football team in D.C.
Anyway, "progressive" is a good label for people who like to make up stuff in keeping with whatever's good, right, just, and moral for them at the time. They've, uh, progressed from old values, truths, and standards. They're open to "more light" on things.
The "German Church" that didn't go with guys like Bonhoeffer, Niemoller, and other Jesus-loving-Bible-thumping guys comes to mind. That's why it was so open and embracing to...
Progressions are not always positive.
Not all "change" is bad; and, uh, not all "change" is good.
I think of...
"Traditional" is a good label for people who long for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more.
Though neither will admit it, traditionalists have a lot in common with progressives because they both make up stuff to bolster their beliefs that seem to change more with their gonads than God.
This is just for Christians.
Did you know Jesus wasn't a traditionalist? Read the red letters. Start with Matthew 15 and 23. Read the reactions of civil and ecclesiastical traditionalists to Him.
Traditionalists are often like progressives in that they pick and choose what they want to, uh, "conserve" to the liking of their, uh, traditions.
O.K., all of that is imprecise; and I'm not really interested in debating those labels because I don't like being labeled and I'm totally convinced until proven otherwise that Christianity is a lot bigger and better and more faithful than those myopically, prejudicially, and superficially distinguishing labels.
For example, every now and then, somebody asks, "What are you?"
I say, "I'm trying to be a Christian."
"No," they go on, "I mean, what are you? Are you a Presbyterian or Methodist or Catholic or Pentecostal or Baptist or...a liberal or conservative or...?"
"No," I continue, "I'm trying to be a Christian."
Then I say being a Christian, to me not to mention 2K years of salvific history, means believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior and trying to honor Him as such with behaviors by the book.
BTW, if you read those red letters in the book, you'll discover Christians don't fit neatly into those other labels that much; because Christians are really liberal about some things like social responsibilities and really conservative about some things like faith and morality.
BTW(2), considering Jesus is God, I prefer to be labeled as His rather than theirs or mine or Presbyterian or Methodist or Catholic or Pentecostal or Baptist or...
If I have to explain that to you, you probably need to start reading those red letters again.
Really, when you think about it, the labels that we accept for ourselves are closely related to our loyalties.
Are we loyal to Jesus by the book or loyal to labels that are often only coincidentally loyal to Jesus by the book?
Dr. Macleod always told me not to end with an interrogative.
Christianity isn't about labels.
It's about loyalty to Jesus by the book.
Blessings and Love!