September 6, 2018

Dear Friends,

 Last week, I shared with you about my decision to endorse the Nashville Statement – a new statement drafted and circulated to address issues related to gender and sexuality in our culture.  And I shared with you why I signed the statement and why I believe this is an important issue for Christians in our day.

 I agree.  This is what I think is the most serious omission from the statement.  And it’s this omission that gave me the greatest pause as I thought about whether to sign it or not.

 But whenever we stand up to confront or correct our brothers or sisters, there is a necessary prerequisite.  If I read Matthew 7 correctly  (check the log in your own eye), or Galatians 6 (restore a fallen brother with meekness after you’ve first examined your own heart), before we declare what is true, we must search our own hearts and humbly acknowledge of our own sins.

 And that is missing from the Nashville Statement. 

 I told you that John Majors and I spent months working on proposed statement relating to homosexuality and gay marriage back in 2013.  Here is how we began our statement:

 We acknowledge that the church, in an effort to respond to the cultural momentum toward full approval of homosexual behavior, has neglected to display the love of Christ to those experiencing same sex attraction. We must openly apologize, repent, and long to demonstrate the love of Christ to all men and women.

 We deny that the proper response to the Church’s sins is to grant full approval and acceptance of efforts to redefine marriage. Past errors do not nullify our convictions, beliefs and values and do not require that the church now remain silent on this issue.

 We affirm that the Church must use great wisdom and care in communicating with a culture that has become calloused to its message. We must not lose hope that there is interest in the healing power of the gospel, nor should we “grow weary of doing good.” (Galatians 6:9)

 As much as I believe we need theological clarity on many of the issues addressed in the Nashville Statement, I also believe we need to be fully committed to a heart of humility and grace and genuine repentance for how we have mistreated men and women created in the image of God. 

 And we need to be ready to own up to our own sexual brokenness.  Like the men in John 8 who had to drop the stones they had aimed at the woman caught in adultery, we must be honest about our own struggles with sexual sins.

 I think it’s important for us to remember that most people have no interest in what we think is true if what they see is an absence of love and concern from us for the real people involved in very real struggles with their sexuality. 

 And let’s be honest – showing compassion and grace toward people ensnared in sexual sin has not been the hallmark of the evangelical church in America. 

 But compassion that is untethered from truth quickly becomes sentimentality.  God is not honored when His word is minimized or obscured or disregarded, or when the passages about love are emphasized while the passages about sin are dismissed.  People who try to relieve real suffering with solutions that are full of supposed grace but lacking in a rooted truth will find themselves ultimately dispensing nothing more than spiritual band aids to the suffering – offering short term relief but no real long term help.

 On the other hand, let’s acknowledge that many of us are content to declare truth and then move on, with no concern for the hurting people in our paths.  And truth without compassion is not really truth at all.  It’s a weapon, a club.  It’s not like Jesus at all.

 So I see the Nashville Statement as an important first step.  It reaffirms what the Bible teaches and what Christians who have gone before us have always believed about certain issues relating to gender and sexuality.

 But there are many other areas related to gender and sexuality that the church needs to reaffirm.  There is more truth that needs to be spoken.  And a whole lot more love that needs to be lived out.

 I watched a short film this week that I found powerful, convicting and helpful.  It was created by Preston Sprinkle.  Preston earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from Aberdeen University in Scotland, and he’s been a professor of theology at Cedarville University (OH), Nottingham University (England), and Eternity Bible College (CA and ID).

Preston’s film is called Dear Church:  I’m Gay.  I hope you’ll watch it. 

https://vimeo.com/231166638

I believe that the right response to the Nashville Statement is for all of us to think carefully about how as individuals and as a church we can care for the hurting and broken people in our world – including those broken by sexual sins of all sorts.  With our loins now girded with truth we can begin the hard work of pouring out grace and compassion and love to the people around us who struggle with sinful desires of all kinds. 

 I hope the Nashville Statement is the beginning of a larger discussion on how all of us are to faithfully live out God’s design for gender and sexuality. 

 This is not the final word on the subject.  Not by a long shot.

 And I would hope that everyone in our church would know that if you are facing an ongoing sin issue in your life – sexual or otherwise – we want Redeemer to be a safe place for you to share what you’re going through.  I trust we will continue to be a church where broken people (that’s all of us) can stand for the truth of God’s word while we are honest about our own brokenness.  I hope we can be people who are full of gospel grace for fellow sinners, always pointing one another in the direction of redemption, healing and wholeness.

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Redeemer Small Groups start up this week!  Here’s the info about this fall:

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Speaking of small groups, our kids ages 0-12 will have their own small group happening this fall on the first and third Thursday nights each month, starting September 21.  You can drop off your children at 5:45 on Thursdays at church and pick them up by 8:00.  That way parents can have a date night or attend one of the Thursday small groups.  Free babysitting.  Woo hoo!  What’s not to like?

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The Women’s Bible Study starts up this coming Sunday night.  This fall, the study will be a Precept study of the book of Exodus.  The study takes place at church on Monday nights, from 7:00 – 8:30 and will go 11 weeks, ending on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

 Contact Terry Morledge (mhmfamily@att.net) to get your workbook ordered. Or text her at 501-517-1566. Cost is $12.  And click here if you’d like to get a sneak peek inside the first chapter of the Exodus workbook.

 And don’t forget the upcoming first ever RCC women’s retreat.  It’s all set for the weekend of October 6-8.

 You can reserve your spot today by emailing Laura White (laurawhite811@gmail.com) or Jen Gurney (jengiles1@yahoo.com) and letting them know you’re in.  Cost is $100.  Don’t let the cost keep you from coming!  We have some scholarship funds available.

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How would you like to be involved in helping to reach the world with the gospel without ever leaving Little Rock?

 Here’s a great way to do just that.  Become a Friendship Partner through the International Friendship Organization (IFO). 

 International students at UALR are very interested in American culture.  And sadly, many international students never step foot in an American home.  

 We can help remedy this by being matched with a student as a friendship partner. It can be as formal or informal as you both make have the time to make it. The international students WANT relationships with Americans and are waiting to be matched.

 Here’s one example of how Redeemer families have participated as friendship partners.  John and Julie Majors were matched eight years ago with a Rwandan, who became part of the family while he studied in America.  Then two years ago, they asked for a Muslim student and were matched with a married couple from Iran. During that year, the wife became a believer!  And a year later, her husband has joined her in the Kingdom of Light!

 Being a friendship partner is as simple as connecting once a week – email, text, or Facebook messages work, but it’s even better if you’re able to connect in person for a meal or trip to Starbucks.  If you have children, it’s easy to simply involve the international students in what your family is already doing. Invite the students to join you at birthday parties, soccer games, recitals, etc. Many of them are unfamiliar with the everyday things we take for granted, like going Trick-or-Treating or even better, celebrating Easter and Christmas!

 If you have questions, contact Julie Majors at luvmyhub@gmail.com.  Or if you’re ready to sign up, contact Anisha Gohain Hoekman to be matched. Her email is kenishaifo@gmail.com

 And if you’re matched up with someone, let Cathy Crowell know (cvcrowell.rcc@gmail.com.  We’d love to be praying regularly for all who are opening their hearts and homes as friendship partners this fall.

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Finally, thanks so much for your generosity this week.  We’re sending a total of $5325 to help with flooding relief in Texas this week.  And pray for friends in Florida.  We may need to rally again soon!

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Pastor and Bible teacher Derek Thomas says that Romans 8 is the greatest chapter in the Bible.  He’s not alone in that opinion.  And this Sunday, we’ll begin to see why people hold this portion of scripture in such high regard.

 And we’ll join with parents, as eight new babies are dedicated to the Lord in our service.

 See you in church!

 Soli Deo Gloria!

Bob Lepine

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