07/18/2021 | “Missing Out” | Revelation 15:1-8

Sometimes it is better to miss something than make it.    Robert Corrigan of Clam Point, Massachusetts discovered this when he overslept and missed his flight to LA.   He arrived at the departure gate just as his plane was pushing back.   An hour later, he was still at the airport, waiting for a standby flight, when he saw the news that his flight, United #175, had crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  Missing that flight saved his life. 

Revelation 15 unfolds the final chapter of the drama of redemption.  The saved and sealed sing of the mercy and grace of God, even as a righteous and holy God sets the stage for His wrath to be poured out against a warned world.   Scripture says that we are all, by nature, children of wrath.   But only through faith in Christ, will we become children of the King and escape the wrath to come.   What about you?  Are you still a child of wrath?  Are seven bowls in your future?  Or will you miss out – miss out on unrepentance, on wrath, on judgement, and on eternal death.    Some things are better to miss than to make.   Join us as we examine Revelation 15:1-8 and consider the great joy of missing out on the righteous and holy judgement of God.

Family Resemblance

Long before social media took up the mantle as spokesman for cliché Christianity, the church sign attempted to carry the torch.  Church signs are notorious haunts for heretical theology, inflammatory rhetoric, and worn-out puns.   Like the writer’s empty page, church signs are literary tyrants, always demanding concise, profound, and engaging posts.  Rarely does one hit this mark.  Often, they do not even hit the target.   But not too long ago, I saw a church sign that resonated with me.   “If God is our Father, then shouldn’t there be a family resemblance?”

While not a novel thought, it is a powerful word.   The scripture reminds us that it is God’s will for us to be conformed to the image of Christ, the only begotten and beloved Son.  We are also called to be “imitators of God as dearly loved children.”  And in John 8, Jesus calls out the Pharisees when he points out that the testimony of their lives contradicts their claim to be children of Abraham and Sons of God.  Like a skillful prosecutor, Jesus builds the case that they resemble Satan more than God and then makes a stunning summation.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44

How well do we resemble our Heavenly Father?  As others examine our lives what conclusion will they draw about our Father’s identity?  While imitating someone does not make us their child, being someone’s child will inevitably lead to imitation.   Imitation goes deeper than mere appearance, it reflects the reality of relationship.   And while it is important for others to observe a family resemblance, it is even more important for us to see it in ourselves.  

John’s first letter was written to refute an early heresy that Jesus was not a real man, but only appeared to be so.  This heresy, if true, would not only destroy any possibility of salvation for believers, but also any assurance believers might have as to their condition before God.   As John assures us of Christ’s true humanity, he also reveals where we are to find assurance of our faith – assurance demonstrated most clearly through a family resemblance to Jesus.  

Most Christians struggle with assurance.    The Psalmist aptly noted, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”   Grace is hard to believe, especially when applied to our own lives.   Assurance can be elusive.  We look for it in mountain-top experiences or powerful feelings.  But it is found in the common places of the Christian life; avoiding sin, pursuing righteousness, practicing fellowship and loving one another.  All things that are the fruit of grace, not it’s root.  Grace produces gratitude.  Gratitude fuels sanctification.  And sanctification brings conformity to the image of Christ.  And this family resemblance forms the foundation of solid assurance.  F. F. Bruce’s comments on 1 John 3 express this well.

The words used to denote relationship to God carry with them also the connotation of likeness to God; the two ideas are inseparable, for likeness is proof of relationship….  John makes it clear that membership in the family of God is to be recognized by the family likeness; since the Father of the family is righteous, the children will practice righteousness….   In Genesis, God declares His intention of bringing into existence beings like Himself, as like Himself as it is possible for creatures to be like their Creator.   But Genesis 3 tells how man, not content with true likeness to God which was his by creation, grasped at the counterfeit likeness held out as the tempter’s bait.  In consequence, things most unlike God manifested themselves in human life: hatred, darkness and death in the place of live, light and life.  The children of God, who enter His family through faith in His son, display their Father’s likeness, because of their conformity to Him who is the perfect image of the invisible God.   

FF. Bruce, The Gospel and Epistles of John

Are you struggling with assurance?  Where will you find it?  John warns us against morbid introspection, encouraging us instead to look to the reality of Christ and the mundane realities of the Christian life – walking in fellowship, fleeing from sin, practicing righteousness, and loving one another.   Join us this week as we examine 1 John 2:28-3:10 and consider how a family resemblance to Jesus gives us much needed assurance of faith.

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

Missing Out

“What did I miss?”   We scarcely need ask this anymore.   Modern life comes with a pause button.   In a digital world can put all our stories on hold while we attend to the tyranny of the urgent.    But ‘back in the day,’ you only had one shot to catch the latest episode of your favorite story.   If you missed it, you missed it.  

Such was my lament over Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.   It aired only once a year – the first Sunday of December at 8 pm.    There were no video tapes, no streaming video, no second chances.  If you missed it, you missed it.   And while my father was not completely opposed to me watching it on a Sunday evening, the problem was – we were never home.   Sunday evening was a time for “Training Union” (i.e. discipleship) and evening worship.   The service ended at 7:00 pm, the church was 32 minutes from home. 

Allowing for modest post worship conversation, getting home in time was always technically doable, but we never made it.   Invariably, my father would have deacon’s meeting, or a visitor would appear and my parents would engage in lengthy ‘get-to-know-you’ conversation. Of course, my parents had chosen the ‘better things.’  Looking back, the claymation of Rudolf was sub-par, the story’s ideology reprehensible, and the once-venerable Santa recast as a selfish, unrepentant bigot.   But at the time, watching Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman were required to fulfill all righteousness at the festive season.   I was an adult before I saw the opening sequences.   

Perhaps, in retrospect, it is better that I missed Rudolf and got to see my father’s service and hospitality!   Sometimes it is better to miss something than make it.    Robert Corrigan of Clam Point, Massachusetts discovered this when he overslept and missed his flight to LA.   He arrived at the departure gate just as his plane was pushing back.   An hour later, he was still at the airport, waiting for a standby flight, when he saw the news that his flight, United #175, had crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  Missing that flight saved his life. 

Revelation 15 unfolds the final chapter of the drama of redemption.  Seals have revealed God’s judgements and Trumpets have announced them.   All men deserve these judgements.   But a great and marvelous sign appears, a woman from whom would come a redeemer, a Lamb, slain, who saves and seals his own with the seal of the living God, the Holy Spirit.   Every last sealed saint is brought safely to salvation.   Despite the fury of the dragon and his beasts, nothing overcomes them.   They are the overcomers.  The final judgements of God are about to be poured out.  With them, the wrath of God is finished.  But like the Israelites of Goshen, those who belong to the Lamb miss these terrible plagues.

Revelation 15 begins with a great contrast.  The saved and sealed sing of the mercy and grace of God, even as a righteous and holy God sets the stage for His wrath to be poured out against a warned world.   Scripture says that we are all, by nature, children of wrath.   But only through faith in Christ, will we become children of the King and escape from the wrath to come.   What about you?  Are you still a child of wrath?  Are these terrible bowls in your future?  Or will you miss out – miss out on unrepentance, on wrath, on judgement, and on eternal death.    Some things are better to miss.   Join us this Lord’s Day as we examine Revelation 15:1-8 and consider the great joy of missing out on the righteous and holy judgement of God.

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

Homeward Bound

Animals have an uncanny ability to find their way home.   Pet lore is replete with Homeward-Bound-like tales of Chance, Sassy, and Shadow overcoming perilous journeys against unbelievable odds to return to their people.   We don’t know how they do it — how they sense direction, how they navigate the way home.   Especially since we, their masters, are so easily disoriented and often profess, ‘you can’t go home again.’

The journey of the salmon is a dramatic illustration of an animal’s ability to find its home.   Salmon spawn upstream, in freshwater pools.   As they grow, they migrate to the sea.  They travel thousands of miles through open ocean to feed.    But when it is time to become parents, they travel back to the spot where they were born.  This amazing journey is much observed, but little understood.  Scientists theorize that salmon are guided by sense of direction and smell.  

As the salmon makes its initial trip to the sea, it somehow ‘records’ the chemical signatures, as well as celestial, barometric, and geomagnetic details of the waterways through which it passes.   This enables the salmon to geotag its birthplace.   Capable of discerning the chemical signature of its birth-pond to parts per billion, the salmon literally follows its nose home.

The ability of the salmon to find its way home is beyond belief, but it pales in comparison to the promise of Scripture that the Lord ‘knows his own’ (2 Timothy 2:19) and will not lose any that belong to him.   Nothing can keep him from finding us.  No one can snatch us from his hand.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus.   We know this intellectually, but it is easy to feel lost sometimes.   Our sin and circumstance often seem to obscure his love, his promises, and his mercy.    While scripture exhorts us to assurance, we all struggle to feel that our calling and election are sure.   When the day comes for us to stand before him, will He recognize us?   When the Lord comes again in glory will we be obscured among the tares?  

Any child, lost in a crowd, knows this fear.   They cry out for their parents, but the voices and bodies of the crowd swallow them up, threatening to prevent their reunion.   Have you every felt that way spiritually?  Lost and afraid you would never be found?  Fortunately, the scripture promises us that the Lord is perfectly able to find us, rescue us, and bring us to himself.  

At the beginning of Revelation 14, the true Lamb appears with those where were sealed by the living God with the Holy Spirit.  God’s own, there pictured as ‘the 144,000.’   The church militant has become the church triumphant.   In his fury, the Dragon made war against them, but there were no casualties.  Their number is not diminished.   Every one sealed is saved.  Not one is lost.   Despite the ravages of the enemy, the people of God stand victorious and sing victory songs before the throne. 

And as Revelation 14 unfolds even further, the scene moves from the first-fruits, to the finished harvest.   At the end of the age, the Lord returns in glory to collect all of his own and to carefully distinguish the wheat from the tares, the sons of light from the sons of darkness. None are confused.  None are mixed.   None end up in the wrong basket.  God loses none he purposed to save.  None are lost who trusted in grace.   But all are lost who trusted in their works or wits.   Do you have this kind of assurance?   If not, where is your hope? 

Are you trusting in God’s grace in Jesus, or in your own works or wits?  Final judgement before a Holy God is a certainty.  Scripture is unequivocal in this truth.   But it is equally adamant that “all who come to [Jesus] will never be cast out.”   Join us this Lord’s Day as we consider Revelation 14:14-20 and consider the assurance of God’s promise that he is coming again and when he does, he will take us – all of us that are his – to himself.   No child of his will be left behind.

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

Tunnel Vision

Chickens are not the smartest creatures on God’s green earth.   When they actually fly, they invariably land in danger.   Despite an acute ability to spot food on the ground in front of them, they prefer to chase each other to the point of exhaustion when one finds a grub.  Though provided with spacious, clean, inviting nest boxes, they pile up two or three deep in some cramped spot to lay eggs.  And they mindlessly pursue any spot of red anywhere and on anything.    Their tiny brains are remarkable only for the remarkably dumb things they do.

But for all the shortcomings, the chicken’s vision is truly amazing.   Having eyes on each side of their head gives the chicken a 300° field of vision.  The left eye is far-sighted to keep an eye to the sky, while the right is near-sighted to provide microscopic vision of the ground in front of them.   With more cones than humans, they see a larger spectrum of color and more subtle contrasts.   This makes them sensitive to the most minute movement in their environment.   And even if a chicken is blind, it has a special gland in the top of its head that distinguishes daytime from nighttime.   The chicken’s vision is truly remarkable.   While their brains are small, their perception is enormous.

Human perception, by contrast, is more limited.   Our field of vision is only 180°, assuming our peripheral vision is perfect.   But peripheral vision is easily reduced by injury or trauma.   Extreme stress can limit our sight to just what is in front of us; a condition we call ‘tunnel vision.’    Tunnel vision is dangerous because it removes visual context.  And visual context is critical in order to understand what we see.     High stress encounters by soldiers and law enforcement have documented the tragic consequences of tunnel vision.   Unintentional victims have been wounded or killed, because combatants simply did not see them in the field of vision.    Tunnel vision can be dangerous, and even deadly.

But tunnel vision is not only a danger for our physical eyesight.    We can develop tunnel vision in our spiritual perspective, assessing our circumstance without the context faith peripherally provides.   The enemy of our soul, the ancient Serpent, Satan, wants to blind us to the truths of God’s power and promises.   He creates drama and trauma in our lives, then voices a new possibility.  “Did God really say?”   Perhaps God did not mean it?  Perhaps God cannot be trusted?   Perhaps we must look elsewhere for truth?  Satan is forever working to foster suspicion of God.  And accusation against you.   To give us tunnel vision.  His relentless assaults on God’s promises wear us down, destroy hope, and fill us with despair.    Satan wants us to see only the insurmountable crisis and unsolvable brokenness right in front of us.  But not the promises of God which surround us.

We see this unfold in Revelation 13.   Satan’s rage against God is focused on God’s people, the church.   Two beasts arise, making war against the saints, conquering them through crushing power and relentless propaganda.   The picture seems hopeless.   But that is not the end of the story.   In this book of comfort, God restores peripheral vision, revealing the rest of the story.   Satan’s conquest is short lived.   The true Lamb appears with those where were sealed by the living God with the Holy Spirit.   Their number is not diminished.   Every one sealed is saved.  Not one is lost.   Despite the ravages of the enemy, the people of God stand victorious and sing victory songs before the throne.   The lies of the Dragon were just that.  His boasts, his threats, his accusations, his propaganda all come to nothing.   The Lamb is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  And the saints, who did not love their lives unto death have conquered the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb and the testimony of Jesus.

Have you developed tunnel vision in your spiritual life?   Has hopelessness gripped you, chipping away at your faith?   In Revelation 14, God corrects our vision.   He restores the periphery of faith and heals us of tunnel vision.   The attacks of the enemy are powerful, but they cannot snatch one single saint from the hand of their God, nor separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Join us this Lord’s Day as we consider Revelation 14 and learn to avoid spiritual tunnel vision.

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

Propaganda

‘Propaganda’ is an ugly word.   It conjures images of the Third Reich, Tokyo Rose, and the Soviet-era news agency, TASS.   The dictionary defines it as:

Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

As a boy, I pitied the Soviet people –oppressed by their own government and media through a systematic campaign of selective reporting, misinformation, and outright manipulation.   I was glad to live in a free society with a free press where government and media trafficked only in facts.   Propaganda was the tool of tyrants. Or so I thought.

But propaganda has a long and varied place in the history of communication.   Words have power even swords cannot wield.   Men are more easily compelled to yield freedoms and convictions to words, ideas, and slogans than brute force.   Especially when they believe these words, ideas, and slogans are unadulterated with bias or ulterior motives.

We pity those under the thumb of propaganda as we scroll mindlessly through highly curated social media, censored news feeds, Instagram influencers, and clairvoyant popup ads.   We decry media bias and quickly fall in line with whatever our feed feeds us to think.    The hubris that tells us ‘we are invulnerable to propaganda’ is what makes us even more vulnerable.  

What is worse, the more our lives are mediated by our devices, the more propagandized we become.    John Stonestreet recently noted in an interview on The World and Everything In It, “we have been catechized by our devices – to react and not think.”   He explains.

Think of how many times a story makes everyone breathlessly angry. And just a few hours or days later, the larger context comes out, either through more video being released, and suddenly realize the entire story is wrong. Or the entire story that you reacted to was wrong. Now, I don’t know any way around that other than have better habits than everybody else. Don’t feel like you have to tweet about something because somebody, you know, says, anybody who doesn’t speak up is complicit. That’s bogus language, based on a society that is addicted to quick takes an outrage instead of the truth. 

Words are powerful.   Ideas have consequences.    Satan’s war against God, against Truth, and against the Church began in the Garden of Eden as a war of words.   As Adam and Eve stood gazing at the forbidden fruit, Satan voices a new possibility.  “Did God really say?”   Perhaps God did not mean it?  Perhaps God cannot be trusted?   Perhaps we must look elsewhere for truth? 

Satan’s tactics have not changed.  He is a liar and the father of lies.  Lying is his native speech.  He is not merely trying to win us to his position or gain our support by his propaganda, he wants us dead.   He hates us because we bear God’s image.   His repeated failure to secure God’s throne has not wearied him.   On the contrary, he is more enraged than ever.  

Revelation 13 unfolds this rage.   Two beasts emerge.  One from the sea and one from the earth.  An unholy Trinity of counterfeits to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit emerge in the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth.   They are poor counterfeits but they lead the world astray to make war against the Church.

The first beast is a wild brute.  He unleashes Satan’s fury by a frontal assault against the church — pursuing, crushing, and destroying.  But Satan also has a more subtle strategy.  A second beast arises from the earth.  He appears as a lamb with two small horns, but speaks with the voice of a dragon.  While he looks gentle, harmless, and trustworthy, his words are anything but.  Through this beast, Satan assaults the Church in the realm of ideas and words, forever working to foster suspicion of God.  

How careful are you to test the spirits of this age?   To view your world, not through your devices, but through the Word of God?   Join us this week as we examine Revelation 13:11-18 and consider the call to resist Satan’s ministry of propaganda.

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

Luminescence

We can’t resist it.   It draws us without fail.   Light was the first element of creation — the first thing spoken by God into the visible world.   Though sinful men love darkness, we were made for light.   We may scoff at the foolish moth, incapable of resisting it.   But we are the same.   Light draws us.  We can’t resist it.

Light reveals what the darkness conceals.   When we are afraid, we turn on the light.   When we are lost, we look for lights.   When we need safety, we find a well-lighted place.  All life on planet earth depends upon light.   And we are comforted by the fact that with God, even the darkness is light.   We are counseled to walk in the light as He is in the light.   Jesus described himself as the ‘light of the world.’  “If any man follows me,” he said, “he will never walk in darkness.”   And the Bible describes heaven as a place where, “night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.”

Light brings life, comfort, clarity, truth.   But it sometimes brings danger as well.   For there are counterfeit lights, lights that are not what they seem.    When someone says they finally see the “light at the end of the tunnel” the pessimist opines, “I hope it is not a train.”   The Bible warns us of counterfeit lights when it tells us that the devil “masquerades as an angel of light.”   Ironically, the name Lucifer means ‘light-bearer.’   But the light he bears brings darkness and death to everyone who approaches.   He is like the deep-sea anglerfish.

The Deep-Sea Anglerfish is a deceiver.  In the deep dark places of the ocean, it attracts both prey and mates with a bioluminescent lure.   Unsuspecting victims are drawn to its light and beauty in a place where darkness makes all else invisible.   Yet this light is not a place of beauty or refuge, but a place of death.   Enormous teeth and a cavernous maw make this ‘Black Sea-devil’ a grotesque and lethal light post.    

Through trickery and deception, they lure and devour their prey.   Like many things in the physical world, the devilfish mirrors the spiritual world.   Satan is like the devilfish.   He appears as an angel of light only to devours us.   He draws us with subtlety and rationale.   Consuming us with his lies.   And when temptation and deceit falter, he tries despair.

The devil, tries repeatedly to overthrow God’s redemptive plan.  He fails at every turn.   Yet his failure never wearies his fury.   Revelation 12:17 warns us of his attacks.

Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

Revelation 13 then unfolds what this fury looks like.   Two beasts emerge.  One from the sea and one from the earth.  An unholy Trinity of counterfeits to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit emerge in the persons of the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the Beast from the earth.   They are poor counterfeits indeed, but they lead the world astray and mobilize the cultures to make war against the Church.

In this well-known narrative, the Lord Jesus calls us to endurance and faith.   Conquest belongs to the Church, but it comes at a cost.   Satan’s fury is intense.  His warfare unrelenting.  When we face his rage, it is easy to despair.   Revelation 13 drives this home, but makes it clear that this counterfeit trinity will never conquer.  Martin Luther put it well.

And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us
We will not fear for God hath willed, His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, for lo his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him

That Word above all earthly pow’r, no thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever!

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

We are all afraid of the dark, but sometimes what appears to be light is even darker.  Join us this week as we examine Revelation 13:1-10 and unpack God’s comfort for trying times.

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

Gospel Faithfulness

The Apostle Paul is often referred to as the greatest missionary in the history of the church.  It is also clear from the Scriptures that Paul was a loving pastor.  There were many churches with whom Paul had a close pastoral relationship, and the church in Thessalonica was one of these churches.  In chapter one of 1 Thessalonians, we see that Paul was possessed a gospel thankfulness, and in chapter 2 we see something of Paul’s gospel faithfulness. 

As Paul proclaimed his message to the Thessalonian Christians, he recognized that he was not ultimately bringing his own words to them, but God’s Word (see verse 13).  Faithfulness to God and His Word drove his ministry to them.  And, as noted in chapter one, this was effective because God’s Word is indeed powerful, and because the Spirit of God worked through the preaching of the Word to awaken the Thessalonians unto the grace and mercy of God.  We see this even more clearly displayed as Paul recounts not only his ministry to them, but also the fruit of that ministry among them.  The Thessalonian Christians had received Paul’s message and lived according to it.

But as is regularly the case with faithful ministry, there were those who sought to oppose the Gospel.  The Gospel message will see many responses—there are those who respond in faith.  There are also those who respond with apathy.  And there are those who respond with hostility.  It is in the context of great opposition to the gospel that Paul writes this letter, to encourage the Thessalonian Christians to remember his faithful ministry.  But again, it is not ultimately because it is his ministry that Paul writes this, but because he comes as an Apostle set apart by God, given a true message from the living God. 

As we consider this context of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-20, consider your own response to the Gospel message.  Consider what role that message plays in your life.  The Bible is the very Word of God.  Have you believed it, and have you seen the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in it?  And do you rest on Him as your eternal hope? 

Join us this Sunday June 13 as we gather for worship this Lord’s Day,  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.  Click here for the Order of Service.

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash.

Gospel Thankfulness

The Apostle Paul was known as a thankful person.  This is undoubtedly due to the fact that he was aware of the grace of God shown to him in Christ Jesus.  He had been a persecutor of the church of Jesus Christ and an enemy of the Gospel, and yet by grace God had opened his eyes and his heart and made him an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s attitude of thankfulness flows through many of his letters and especially his greetings and introductions.  Paul and Silvanus and Timothy send greetings and write, “Grace to you and peace.”  (1 Thessalonians 1:1, English Standard Version)  The grace and peace of which they speak is that which is found in Christ Jesus.  Jesus Christ, the gracious Savior, has given His people peace with God by His work on their behalf.  It is by knowing the Person of Christ who has done this work that the people of God have grace and peace. 

The introduction to the letter goes on to commend the Thessalonians, with Paul noting his thankfulness.  While Paul is thankful for these believers themselves, we may note that the thanks he expresses is ultimately based upon what God has done in the lives of the Thessalonians.  This is a Gospel thankfulness, a thankfulness based on the Good News of Jesus Christ and the ways in which God Himself has transformed these believers.  Paul writes in verse 4, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you…”  Paul is thankful for what God has done.  The Thessalonians are faithful and an encouragement to the Apostle Paul because God has chosen them.  This is the same choosing grace that Paul himself knew well. 

As Paul had at one time been opposed to Christ, God chose him and drew him unto himself.  Paul next references the way in which God has specifically saved and worked in the Thessalonian Christians in verses 5-7, writing, “because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”  When the Thessalonian Christians heard the Gospel preached by this Pauline company, the Lord called them irresistibly to Himself, changing them from the inside out.  Paul rejoices at their conversion that God wrought and also at their continued growth in grace. 

Are we marked by Gospel thankfulness?  Are we thankful for the work God has done in our lives and also in the lives of fellow believers?  Do we long, as did Paul, to see the lost converted?  Join us this Sunday June 6 as we gather for worship this Lord’s Day,

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

Here Be Dragons!

I confess! I am not adventurous.   I like things predictable, manageable, consistent.   I see no reason to add colors to my wardrobe.  Blue and khaki always coordinate.   And while menus have options, the ‘old favorites’ are favorites for a reason.  Sure, mystery might be exciting, but I am not a huge fan.   Especially when it comes to travel.  

The internet is a boon for the non-adventurous traveler.  Every detail can be examined, anticipated, and planned.   Not only can I plot every course — and every alternate route — but with GoogleEarth, I can view the landscape and landmarks as well.   Travel should be like a Swiss watch — smooth and accurate.  No broken cogs or gears, no unexpected cancellations, no alternate routes, no field retrofits.  And certainly, no uncharted territory.

I completely understand the anxiety of ancient mariners whose maps ended short of their destination.   No comfort comes from drawings of beasties labeled, “here be dragons!”   As if the prospect of sailing off the edge of the world was not enough.   Thankfully, most places we travel are now mapped.  And despite the History Channel’s best attempts, no dragons have been found.   Or have they?

Some journeys do, indeed, boast dragons.   The Bible, the map that guides our spiritual journey through this life, does indeed warn of a dragon.   A vile beast who appears as an angel of light.  Jesus described as “a murderer from the beginning, [who] does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” 

He is no mere abstract idea.  He is described as real and personal.    He prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  He longs to enslave us with a lifelong fear of death.  He plots our ruin.  He seeks to lead us to sin, then accuses us before God’s justice.   He is the enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy.   He hates anything that gives glory to God, and everything made in God’s image.  He is at enmity with all mankind and at war with the people of God.

Revelation portrays him as an enormous dragon, with seven crowned heads.   He is the Great Pretender to the throne of the universe, a vicious tyrant who hates all his subjects.   He is a defeated foe, but his defeat has only made him more malevolent.  Revelation 12:7-12 describes his current condition.

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

He is defeated, but not to be ignored.   The futility of his conflict has not led him to surrender.  He is the enemy of the church and is at war with her.  We read that “the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” 

Revelation is a book of comfort, not discomfort, but “forewarned is forearmed.”   Christ has broken the power of the Devil.   Satan cannot triumph, but he is carrying out a war of terror.   Revelation 12 paints this picture with vivid colors and bold brush strokes.   Using a palate from Exodus, Daniel, and Zechariah, the Holy Spirit creates a stunning spiritual view of the persecuted church.   Satan tries to destroy both Christ and His Church.   But fails at every turn.  

God’s word tells us that our journey is marked with “here be dragons!” But that is not the last word. The Bible tells us that, “the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) and that God “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Christ].” (Colossians 2:15) Join us this week as we examine Revelation 12:1-18 and consider a call to vigilant, yet victorious life in Christ.

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 For the Order of Service, click here.