Warp and Woof

Mathematics has axioms – presuppositions, accepted without proof — which form the basis for all subsequent mathematical proofs.   Likewise, Christianity demands certain presuppositions.  As a revealed religion, Christianity’s presuppositions, its axioms, must be accepted on faith.   But this often seems to be an intellectual cop-out.

An appeal to faith in a recent conversation with a friend and skeptic brought charges of “philosophical laziness.”  “No so,” I answered, but I also had to admit that the exercise of faith is not binary. Faith is not either on or off, absolute or absent, and not black and white.   Faith has contours.  It has a warp and woof which creates contours in quality, character, and shading.  Faith has axioms, but it also demands proofs.  It has doubts but it asks questions.  It waxes and wanes, but does not fail.  It is a gift, but it must be exercised and grow directed by the Spirit through a process of sanctification.

Abraham is the paradigmatic man of faith in Scripture and Genesis 15:6 is the core profession of his faith.  But even in this passage we see the contours of Abraham’s faith as it is received and exercised.

Join us this Lord’s Day, August 20, for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine the faith of Abraham from Genesis 15 and consider the contours of our own faith.  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Rescue Operation

Jesus said that He “came to seek and to save that which is lost.”   He came to proclaim liberty to the captives.  He rescues for His Father, those of his own who have been enslaved by their rebellion against God and their own self-destructive identity and choices.   As Jesus’ followers, we are to go and do likewise. What are you doing to be used by Jesus to seek and to save those in your sphere of influence who are lost?  Beware, it is a messy calling.

Abram and Lot had a complicated relationship.  It was marked by disagreement and discord.  When Abram sought to bring harmony, Lot acted self-centeredly and disrespectfully.   It would have been easy for Abram to turn Lot over to all the consequences of his actions and attitudes, but that is not what we see.  Abram is characterized by interceding for Lot, for seeking his good and God’s grace in his life.    Like his Savior, Abram is a man committed to rescuing his own from the effects of his ungodly choices.

Join us this Lord’s Day, August 13, for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine the account of Abraham and Lot from Genesis 14 and consider how we are to “seek and to save that which is lost.” For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Slippery Slope

Pragmatism is the slipperiest of slopes.  Machiavelli’s maxim, “the end justifies the means” is perhaps the quintessential expression of pragmatism.   When it comes to decision making, Christians often wrestle with call of faith to act from principle rather than pragmatism.  Pragmatism subtly mocks faith in God’s promises and precepts as either naïveté or presumption.  Or Pragmatism dismisses the promptings of the Holy Spirit as a lack of common sense or sheer imprudence.

When Abraham left Ur of the Chaldeans, he conspired with his wife to follow a course of pragmatism.  Because of her great beauty and the immorality of the people they would encounter, they agreed to hazard their marriage covenant for the sake of physical safety.   But the Lord unmasked their plan and humbled Abraham before Pharaoh and the court of Egypt.  From this Abraham began to learn how to walk by faith and not by sight.  Lot, Abraham’s nephew, did not learn from observing his uncles mistake however.  By choosing the way of pragmatism, Lot led his family deeper and deeper into compromise and catastrophe and placed them firmly on a spiritually slippery slope.

Join us this Lord’s Day, August 6, for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine the account of Abraham and Lot from Genesis 13 and consider how we are to “walk by faith and not by sight.”.  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

In the Trenches

The year 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I.  For most of us, WWI is a war shrouded in obscurity.  While even the most casual student of World War II can name a few pivotal battles or events only the most savvy historian can discuss WWI with any confidence.  Unlike previous wars, its battlefields were not formed around strategic landmarks so much as vast nameless labyrinths of trenches separated only by scorched earth and barbed wire.

Conflict in the trenches is close combat with a mortal enemy.  And it is warfare waged in obscurity.   So it is with spiritual warfare in our lives.   The glorious calling to Christ is so often immediately followed by times of testing.   This was true of the Lord, himself.  In the gospel of Mark we read that moments following His baptism,

“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  And he was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan.”  Mark 1:12-13

As his followers we are instructed that “as you have received Christ Jesus, the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.”  Our faith is not an event or mere declaration, it is a gift that grows through following Christ in testing and in trials.  Much of the life of faith is lived in the trenches.  It includes failure and forgiveness, vigilance and victory, perseverance and peace.

The Bible is not a sanitized book of mythologized heroes.  It’s most faithful men are sinners who are reconciled to God and with their loved ones only through the gospel.  We see their failures and their brokenness in living color, but we also see the kindness of God which leads them to repentance.  We see their faith grow large, but only in the trenches.

Abraham is a good example of this.   In Genesis 12, God graciously calls Abraham and promises to bless him and be with him.   Abraham obeys God’s call and establishes faith and worship as a pattern in his family’s life, yet before the chapter is exhausted, he cowers before a petty tyrant and swaps his beloved wife with a pagan to save his own skin.    Though God graciously thwarts Abraham’s faithless act, can you imagine how this might plague his relationship with Sarah and seem to jeopardize God’s means of blessing the families of the earth?   Yet this is not what we find.   Sin is not the last word.  God’s promises have not failed.  Though Abraham behaves faithlessly in this situation, God remains faithful to hold him in grace and grows him in his faith.  The scripture paints a vivid picture of Abraham’s walk with God, yes sometimes on the high places, but often in the trenches.

Join us this Lord’s Day, July 30, for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine this troubling account of Abraham and Sarah from Genesis 12:10-20 and consider God grows our faith in the trenches.  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Ad Fontes

Ad Fontes, “to the fountains,” was the motto of the Christian Humanists, whose discovery of the preaching of the early church fathers sparked the Reformation with its emphasis on “sola fide” or salvation “by faith alone.”  The gospel was unshackled from legalistic tradition and extrabiblical rites as men went back to the fountains of God’s Word and gospel preaching to proclaim a salvation that was utterly gracious and a faith that was the free gift of God.

But as soon as we say salvation is by faith alone, some will ask,  where does this faith come from?   In the Bible, the Old Testament patriarch Abraham is held up as the paradigmatic man of faith.   From where did his faith spring?   Was it a moral code?  An inherent goodness?  Some intrinsic spark in his heart fanned into flame by piety?

We meet Abraham in Genesis 11, the youngest son in a family of moon worshipers.  God had not spoken to men for hundreds of years.  But suddenly God breaks his silence and speaks to Abraham, renewing His covenant with him.   God called upon Abraham, before Abraham called upon God.  God chose Abraham, not the other way around.  The Bible calls this “election”  — a precious doctrine which frightens many, but is inescapably pervasive in the Scriptures.

Join us this Lord’s Day, July 23, for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine God’s call to Abraham from Genesis 11:26-12:9 and the doctrine of election that forms the spring from which faith flows.  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Sidetracked

What does it take to get you sidetracked from your calling?  Roadblocks, distractions, sloth, competing desires, discouragement or even perhaps a rebellious attitude?  It can be difficult to avoid being sidetracked, especially in our spiritual lives.  In Christianity, the word discipleship is rooted in discipline, which is what is indispensable in following Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:7-8,

…train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

No one has a more vested interested in seeing you sidetracked in your spiritual life than the enemy of your soul, the Devil.  He comes often with distraction after distraction, often presenting them in a way that makes them seem to be noble or praiseworthy activities.  You get so busy with these respectable activities that you forget the discipline of following Christ.   Such is the picture painted in the story of the Tower of Babel.   Portrayed as a symbol of unity, the Tower was really a monument to rebellion against God’s prescribed will.

Join us this Lord’s Day, July 16, for worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we examine the remarkable story of the Tower of Babel and consider the dangers of being sidetracked from our commission to fill the earth and replenish it with the message of the gospel.  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.

Entropy

Sometimes a second chance just isn’t enough.  As children when a game devolved into chaos someone would cry out “do over!”  Yet it was only a matter of time until the “do over” led to further chaos.   The waters of a world-wide flood were insufficient to wash away the inhumanity that lurks in all humanity due to the consequences of Adam’s first sin.   Second chances are not enough where a Savior is needed.

The world is fresh and new after the flood but the greatness of man is once again measured by his rebellious spirit.   This would seem like a hopeless downward spiral except that God has promised someone who will break the cycle of sin, violence, tyranny and sorrow.

This week as we continue our conversations from the Book of Beginnings in Genesis 10, we see clearly that it takes more than water to wash away the stain and effects of man’s rebellion against his Creator.  Something more will be needed to redeem the world from the entropy of sin. Come and join us this week as we consider this together.

Join us this Lord’s Day, July 9 in worship at Pottsville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as we look at the unfolding of Noah’s family history. Worship begins at 10:45 am.  For directions click here. We look forward to seeing you.