2023 Good Friday Gathering

Join us for a Good Friday Gathering of Songs and Readings, Friday April 7, 2023 at 6:00 pm on the grounds of the Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.   We will gather outside around the bonfire for food, fellowship, and a time of songs and readings to observe Good Friday. Bring your favorite finger food or dessert. Click here to get the Readings and Hymns. We look forward to seeing you.


The surest way to get rained on is to set up a tent.  It is one of the infallible tenets of the Camper’s Creed.  Not far behind it is “A Clean Camp is a Happy Camp.”  Keeping your campsite and your tent clean demands planning, constant reinforcement, and work.  But it is worth it.   Soggy, muddy, dusty life is a joyless life in camp.  Camping teaches you that, while cleanliness may not be next to godliness, it is very close.

But this is true for more than camping.   Clutter and crud negatively affect familial joy, household appliances, and health.   Two sure-fire ways to ruin a house and a home are through messy living or the neglect of cleanliness.   Both the house and the home need to be cared for.  While this does not mean spotlessness, it does require diligence.   It takes work, planning, and constant reinforcement.

Our physical, relational, and moral lives require this same concern for purity.  The Bible speaks of this many times.  The Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount exhort purity of life.  And the Letters of Paul are filled with encouragements to holiness.  We are told.

To put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:24

[That] God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 1 Thessalonians 4:7

[And to] strive for peace with everyone, and for holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  Hebrews 12:14

Like the people of Israel at the foot of Sinai, we are commanded that “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:15-16

English has a special word for a clean, holy life.  The word is ‘chastity.’   While we often narrow the definition to emphasize only sexual purity, it extends to every dimension of our thoughts, words, and deeds.   Our culture hates the word ‘chastity.’   Like the word, ‘Puritanic,’ chastity has become a derogatory term for prudishness and repression.   And as the word is despised, so is its practice.   Chastity as sexual purity and has holiness of life has become virtually extinct in our culture.  And even worse, in the Church.

True chastity, however, has nothing to do with prudishness.   Prudishness despises God’s good gifts and the liberty to enjoy them.  The ascetic Gnostics of Ephesians and Colossians, and the Judaizers of Galatians were prudes.   They said, “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch.”  They are the ones Paul spoke against whose “consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”   God is not a prude.  He made life to be enjoyed.  But he also gave instructions about how to enjoy and not ruin the good gifts he gave.

To embrace life on your own terms is to fill it with clutter and crud.  God calls us to chastity, to holiness.  A life that imitates his holiness as we embrace the gifts he gives along with the instructions for their use.   And the core expression of this principle is found in the Seventh Commandment, “never commit adultery.”   Like the Sixth, this command contains only two words in Hebrew.  Yet they are emphatic words.  Like murder, adultery was considered by the ancient world as ‘the great sin.’  But only among God’s people was it an offense against both God and the community.   And more than that, like each of the Ten Commandments, the simplicity of this command is paradigmatic for a larger demand.    The Westminster Shorter Catechism expresses this well.

71. What is required in the seventh commandment? The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior. 

72. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment? The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 71-72

Chastity means more than adultery.  It encompasses the larger realm of holiness in our thought, word, and deed.   Adultery is merely the most heinous example of unchaste action.   It is the apex of unfaithfulness and wickedness.   While all other sexual sin is condemned throughout the scripture, violators of the Seventh Commandment are condemned to death.   Adultery is so utterly repugnant to God and to the community that it is equivalent to murder.  

Perhaps you find this a bit shocking.  That fact itself reveals how corrupt our society has become.  And how callous Christians have become to this sin.   But as one theologian noted, “Certainly an adulterer is worthy of death; a man who will betray his wife will betray anyone and anything.  Adultery is treason against the family and God hates it.” 

Adultery is the apex of sexual sin.   We have gotten so comfortable with it, that it no longer even ranks with the other sexual sins which grab today’s headlines.   But it is so serious that virtually all the Old Testament prophets use it as an illustration of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  Adultery is the paradigmatic worst-case-scenario of impurity and unholiness.  Yet it is often simply the last step in a long march of impurity in our minds, our speech, and our actions.    Jesus pointed this out in the Sermon on the Mount when he remarked.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

He emphasizes the seriousness of adultery by following up with an extreme response.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

How important is chastity to you?  Is holiness something you strive for?   Have you learned to guard your eyes, your heart, your words?   The adulterer is not the only one addressed by the Seventh Commandment. It addresses every thought, word, and deed which if unchecked is a step that leads to ruin, misery and death.  

Join us as we examine the Seventh Commandment in Exodus 20:14 and consider the importance of chastity. We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube

03/19/2023 | “Looks that Kill” | Exodus 20:13

Are you a murderer? Is there blood on your hands? Hatred in your heart? Have you had thoughts, words, or looks that could kill? The Sixth Commandment is the shortest of the Ten, only two words in Hebrew, but its implications are deep and wide.   Join us as we examine Exodus 20:13 and consider its implications of the Sixth Commandment for our thoughts, words, and deeds.

03/12/2023 | “Showing Honor” | Exodus 20:1-21

The 5th commandment calls us to honor our parents.  But what does ‘honor’ include?  How do we do it?  Who deserves it?  How far does it go?  What difference does it make?  These are all questions we ask.  Questions the commandment addresses.   Join us as we examine Exodus 20:12 and consider all that it means to ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ 

03/05/2023 | “A Day Like No Other” | Exodus 20:8-11

Is the Lord’s Day a feast day? A Market Day for your Soul? A day unlike any other? Or is it just another day? Is it distinguished by the pursuit of the things that will last forever?  Or only more of what will quickly fade away?  Join us as we examine Exodus 20:8-11 and consider the Lord’s Day – a day like no other.

02/19/2023 | “Worship: Reformed According to Scripture” | Exodus 20:1-21

When God gave the law to Israel, he used sound, not sights – words, not pictures.  He spoke but did not show himself. It is by His Word that we understand, worship, and follow him. Not through sanctified imagination or imagery. God’s word is enough.  Join us as we examine Exodus 20:4-6 and consider what the second commandment requires, what it forbids, why it is given, and what it promises. 

Looks that Kill

Ninety percent of all communication is non-verbal.  No matter what you say, others hear what you convey.  And while non-verbal communication includes facial expressions, posture, gestures, and use of space, eye-contact is the most powerful.  For most people, the visual sense is dominant.  Consequently, the way you look at someone will communicate interest, affection, and even hostility.  We are all familiar with the expression, “if looks could kill.”

Every small child understands this phrase well.   As children when we were not walking in prompt and total obedience, we could feel our mothers’ laser like gaze burning holes in our tiny consciences.  And even though we never saw the ‘eyes in the back of mama’s head,’ we knew she had them.   Like an answer in the children’s catechism, “we could not see them, but they always saw us.”   Just when we thought we were under the radar and outside maternal surveillance, we were called to account.  Mama definitely had “looks that could kill.”

And while we understand the phrase as a metaphor for intensity, it makes an interesting point.  Murder is no mere work of our hands.  It begins in the heart.  It expresses itself in thought and word before it moves to deed.   And biblically, speaking murder does not strictly require the actual taking of a life.   It includes both the failure to protect and preserve life as well as any thought or word which tends to the unjust “taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor.”

Jesus equated anger and hatred of our brother with murder.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5:21-22

 Matthew 5:21-22

And Jesus’ beloved disciple John wrote, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15)

Murder rankles around in our hearts, minds, and souls long before it finds its way into our hands.  Jesus noted this clearly. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Matthew 15:19

Perhaps you have never murdered anyone. But have you had thoughts, words, or looks that could kill?   The Sixth Commandment, “Do not murder” seems the easiest to keep.  That is, until we consider all the Bible says about obeying with our thoughts, words, and deeds.  The Heidelberg Catechism expresses nicely the dos and don’ts of the Sixth Commandment.

What doth God require in the sixth commandment? That neither in thoughts, nor words, nor gestures, much less in deeds, I dishonor, hate, wound, or kill my neighbor, by myself or by another; but that I lay aside all desire of revenge; also, that I hurt not myself, nor willfully expose myself to any danger. Wherefore also the magistrate is armed with the sword to prevent murder.

But this commandment seems only to speak of murder? In forbidding murder, God teaches us that He abhors the causes thereof, such as envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge; and that He accounts all these as murder.

But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner mentioned above? No, for when God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, He commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies.

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 40

Are you a murderer?  Is there blood on your hands? Or hatred in your heart?  Do you avoid and abhor things that lead to murder?  Envy, hatred, anger, and a desire for revenge?  Is it your desire, as our Shorter Catechism says, to “use all lawful means to preserve our lives and the lives of others?”   Do we “love our neighbor as ourselves; show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and do good, even to our enemies?”

The Sixth Commandment is the shortest of the Ten, only two words in Hebrew, but its implications are deep and wide.   Join us as we examine Exodus 20:13 and consider its implications of the Sixth Commandment for our thoughts, words, and deeds. We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube

01/29/2023 | “Front Matter” | Exodus 20:1-17

Few read a book’s preface, acknowledgements, or table of contents. But without them much is lost. They are the authors keys to unlock a book’s perspective and purpose.  Join us as we examine Exodus 20:1-2 and consider the ‘front matter’ God gives us to understand the attributes, uses, categories and grace of the moral law as summarily revealed in the Ten Commandments. 

Showing Honor

I was ‘that kid’ in school.  The one who never missed a day of school.  Who studied more, not less, than required.  Who worried about a maximum page count, never the minimum.   I loved short answer and hated multiple choice.  I assumed ‘softball’ multiple choice questions were all nefarious tricks.  So, I added asterisks and sidebars – just to clarify.  I truly loved to read and study.  As a side gig, my father sold World Book encyclopedias.  I read them habitually and thoroughly.  Academics were my interest, my passion.  And so ‘Honor’s Day’ at school was for me like a sporting event.

Our school ‘Honor’s Day’ recognized virtually everything.   Perfect attendance, number of consecutive days a whole class participated in the lunch program, and academic achievement.  I loved the certificates, pins, and medals – not out of hubris, but because I delighted in the pomp and circumstance.  It was a time to recognize things that matter, things that were of value to me.  Not what the rest of culture valued, honored, and idolized the rest of the year.   Of course, I am still a little salty about being blackballed for the ‘safety patrol’ but I am working through it.

Showing honor is important.  But honoring goes further than certificates, pins, and medals.  Much deeper than what may be observed.  In fact, honor by way of eye-service is not real honor at all.  Rather honor recognizes the weightiness of someone’s place in our lives and values their impact.   We live in a world of participation trophies and egalitarian values. Distinctions in value, authority, gifts, and graces are vilified, not honored.  But this aberrant view is just an outgrowth of our totally depraved self-centeredness.  We are skilled at virtue signaling to serve our interests, but not honoring what is worthy of honor.  

We think of honor as a currency in a closed economy.  As though any honor given diminishes honor we may receive.  But the duty to be honorable and to honor others is built into the fabric of our being and encoded into God’s moral law.   It is not a closed system but a reflection of God’s holy character and thus limitless.   Honoring others is fundamental to what it means to be truly human.  And so, we come to the Fifth of the Ten Commandments.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

Exodus 20:12

Anyone who was raised in a family knows that even on the surface, this command is daunting.   Even if our parents are praiseworthy, they are sinners and so are we.   We can think of a thousand reasons to deny them honor, obedience, care, and duty.   Yet the command remains as a bulwark against sinful hearts that hate any authority but our own.  

While the command speaks of both father and mother, its implications go much further.   The Bible declares that the family is the genesis of every sphere of authority on earth including the state and the church.   While it holds no implicit primacy, it does inform us about the nature of those other sovereign spheres, their boundaries, and their duties.

Consequently, the Westminster Larger Catechism asks and answers this question of scope regarding the Fifth Commandment.

WLC 124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment? By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents, but all superiors in age and gifts; and especially such as, by God’s ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family, church, or commonwealth.

Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 124

The Catechism then proceeds to a remarkable exposition of all the relational duties of those who are both equal and unequal in regard to authority, age, and gifts.   While our modern sensibilities are offended by the language of ‘superiors and inferiors,’ this is merely the language of Providence.   A recognition that while all men possess equal dignity, our age, gifts, and authority have not made us equals in many respects.

The Fifth Commandment calls us to show honor, not perfunctory obedience or mere ‘meeting expectations,’ but honor.   What does this mean?  How do we show it?  Who deserves it?   How far does it go?   What difference does it make?   These are all questions we routinely ask but which the Fifth Commandment addresses.  

Join us as we examine Exodus 20:12 and consider what it means to ‘Honor your father and your mother.’  We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:30 am for worship.  Get directions here or contact us for more info.  Or join us on Facebook Live @PottsvilleARP or YouTube

01/01/2023 | “So Walk in Him” | Matthew 2:13-23

Is there life after Christmas or only bleak midwinter? Like the magi, Joseph’s faith adventure does not end with Jesus’ birth. It is just beginning.  What about you? Is your faith more than a decision?  Or has the incarnation changed everyday life? Join us as we examine Matthew 2:13-23 and consider life after Christmas.