Bumper Rails

Where were bumper rails when we were young?  Bowling was much harder than we imagined and gutter-balls were the mainstay of our early forays into the sport.  Children today, however, can experience the euphoria of crushing pins without the disappointment of gutter-dwelling, due to a truly marvelous modern invention – the bumper rail.  Throw in an adaptive bowling ramp and your average adult league bowler will be hard-pressed to beat a three year old without a sizeable handicap.

Older children may argue that this is an unfair advantage and bowling purists may complain that youngsters need to develop the character that comes from a single-digit score, but bowling alleys have learned that bumper rails and adaptive bowling ramps make the game more fun and significantly reduce crying among its fledgling bowlers.

In a similar way, the Lord graciously protects us when we struggle in our journey of faith.  Despite our struggles with unbelief, disobedience and conflict, the Lord, through His gracious providence keeps us out of many gutters and directs our paths when we are too weak to do so.   This great truth of God’s kindness in providence does not makes us apathetic or callous toward the demands of obedience or holiness, but rather increases our desire to grow in these areas out of gratitude for Him.  How has the Lord guarded and directed your path in the midst of a difficult faith journey?

Join us for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church  this Lord’s Day, February 18, we examine Genesis 26 and consider how God graciously protects us when are struggling with unbelief, disobedience, and conflict in our journey of faith. For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

No Shadow of Turning

In the great preamble of Ecclesiastes, Solomon laments how quickly we forget significant events which have only recently occurred when he declares,

“There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be, among those who come after.” Ecclesiastes 1:11.

As one theologian remarked, commenting on this verse, “the only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.”

It seems hard to imagine that only a few months ago, we participated in a mass migration to the “path of totality” to witness a total eclipse of the sun.   So much of the business of living has happened since then, that this absolutely stunning witness to the glory of our God, his faithfulness and reliability, has quickly given way to the uncertainty of new crises du jour.   Indeed we learn from history that we do not learn from history.

Because of advancements in astronomy and mathematics over the millennia of human history, the ability to predict with certainty the exact trajectory, time and duration of something as remarkable as a solar eclipse is a testimony to the power, wisdom and faithfulness of God to create certainties in the midst of what appears to be a very uncertain world.

For the ancient world, however, the unexpectedness of a solar eclipse brought terror.  It seemed to confirm the latent fear of darkened pagan hearts and minds that their gods were capricious and angry – unpredictable and bent on judgment and destruction.   Yet we read of the God of the Bible that,

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  James 1:17

The word translated shadow is an ancient word which means “eclipse.”   The Lord is a God who is constant and kind.   He never changes.  He is as good as His Word.  Consider what the scripture says about God’s promises.

Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:45

For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ Jesus]. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9. 

Join us for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church  this Lord’s Day, January 14, as we examine the story of Isaac’s birth in Genesis 21 and consider the trustworthiness of a God who makes and keeps promises.  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Unbreakable

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
but a faithful man who can find?  Proverbs 20:6

Lovers are always looking for a way to declare their unbreakable, steadfast love for one another.  One contemporary trend is for couples to place a padlock on a bridge railing and throw the key into the water, symbolizing an unbreakable, permanent commitment.  These “love-locks” can be seen on the Junction Bridge in downtown Little Rock.  But, the most famous locale for love-locks is the Pont des Arts in Paris.

Lovers have been placing locks there for over a decade to memorialize their unbreakable commitment to one another.   But there is a problem.  Forty-five tons of locks have accumulated on the historic bridge threatening its safety.  With great poetic irony, the City Fathers of Paris have decided to cut off all the locks, utterly destroying the intended symbol.

It is hard to find unbreakable love.   Man’s fickleness and self-concern always get in the way.  Sin seems always to cut away at the love that was declared to be unbreakable.  Yet, the Scripture speaks of a love that is unbreakable.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

Nothing can separate us from this love, including our own stubborn sin and inconsistency of faith.   The life of Abraham reveals a shining example of this.  The man of faith, who is given so many remarkable promises, fails to trust in God’s Word and His Love, time and time again.  We see this vividly in Genesis 20 as Abraham allows his wife to be taken again into the harem of a petty tyrant.  We might expect God to have had enough, but instead we find quite the opposite.

One commentator rightly noted.

Abraham did but illustrate what is all too sadly common among the Lord’s people — that which might be termed the inconsistency of faith. How often those who are not afraid to trust God with their souls, are afraid to trust Him with regard to their bodies! How often those who have the full assurance of faith in regard to eternal things, are full of unbelief and fear when it comes to temporal things! And how did God act? Did He lose patience with Abraham, and cast off one so fickle and inconsistent? Manifestly Abraham had dishonored the Lord in acting as he did, in setting such an evil example before [unbelievers]. Yet, behold the grace of Him with whom we have to do. Instead of casting him off, God interposed and delivered Abraham and his wife from the peril which menaced them.    Arthur Pink, Gleanings in Genesis.

Where will you find unbreakable, steadfast love?  Join us for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church this Lord’s Day, January 7, as we examine the sordid story of Abraham and Abimelech in Genesis 20 and consider the unbreakable love God offers us. For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Lessons and Carols, 2017

Gather ’round, ye children, come
Listen to the old, old story
Of the pow’r of Death undone
By an infant born of glory
Son of God, Son of Man!   Andrew Peterson

Join us at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on December 24, 2017 @ 7:00pm as we trace the story of redemption through the Bible and share in joyful songs together through a service of Nine Lessons and Carols.

Here’s The Church

Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people…

There was a day when we could recognize a building as a church by its distinctive features, but now the architecture of sacred spaces runs the gamut.   Churches are designed to identify with a thousand different subtly secularized ideas about their mission, vision and community.  Some look like schools, others like shopping malls, while some resemble professional office parks and are called campuses.  Church buildings come in every conceivable shape and size, each with a corresponding and yet, competing vision of why it exists.

But the church is not the building, and its mission, vision and community, while flavored by the soil in which it is planted, is not as variable as the edifices that house it.   The church pictured in the New Testament is not an innovation or departure from the Old Testament covenanted community.  In fact, it is explicitly described as “the Israel of God.”  On the day of Pentecost, the church is not born as some assert, but new branches are radically engrafted.  The essence of the ekklesia, the “called ones” is reasserted, not reinvented, but now with the “dividing wall of hostility removed.”

Acts 2:36-47 reveals a glimpse of this as the picture of the church, its identity, and its impact is reaffirmed in light of Pentecost.   In our day, when the mission, vision and community of the church is as diverse as the buildings in which it meets, it is important to return to the exemplar.

What is a Church?   What is the Pottsville Associate Reformed Church? Join us for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church this Lord’s Day, November 12, as we examine Acts 2 and consider our identity and impact as a Church. For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

The Art of Neighboring

Elizabeth Bennett’s father in Pride and Prejudice was notoriously disengaged from the world in which he lived.  He loved the quiet of his study and accepted the society of his neighbors only as a sort of entertaining study in human folly.  He famously quipped, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

For most of us, our neighbors are people we view from a distance and love only  metaphorically.  We see them come and go, we view them from the window or through the privacy fence.  We speculate about their lives, but often don’t know their names.  Yet, Jesus taught that our love for our neighbor is cut out of the same cloth as our love for God.

In their book, The Art of Neighboring, authors Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon make an eminently practical observation.

Jesus said to love our neighbors.  Sure, the teaching extends to our metaphoric neighbors – people everywhere in need.  This extends to the people we work with, the parent on our kid’s soccer team, and even the person on the other side of the world who is in need of a meal.  But it also means our actual neighbors – the people who live next door.

Jesus’ command takes us much deeper than most of us are willing to go.   This was the case with a lawyer who came forward to test Jesus in Luke 10, asking ‘and who is my neighbor?’   After declaring that the law calls us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, the lawyer no doubt feels he in over his head and seeks to narrow the field to a manageable and comfortable size.  Jesus “takes up” the lawyer’s question with a story about a merciful Samaritan and turns the question on its head from “who is my neighbor” to “who became a neighbor?”

“To whom are you a neighbor” is a very different question than “and who is my neighbor?” To whom are you a neighbor?  God is already working in your neighborhood.  Are you willing to find out how, simply by being a neighbor?  Join us for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church this Lord’s Day, November 5, as we consider our calling to be a neighbor from the story of the Good Samaritan. For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Handel’s Messiah

The Arkansas Choral Society in conjunction with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and the University of Arkansas-Monticello will present their 87th Annual performance of Handel’s Messiah Friday, December 1, 2017 at Calvary Baptist Church in Little Rock.

Silent auction begins at 6:30 pm and the concert begins at 7:30 pm. For more info, call 870-820-9645 or go to the Arkansas Choral Society’s website or facebook event page.