Below is our archive of public news and announcements.
From the desk of Joshua Creel
Perhaps the recent headlines that people are dying as they attempt to scale Mount Everest haven't been too surprising. After all, summiting the tallest peak on earth is filled with all kinds of peril. But it has been surprising to read that large crowds and long lines have contributed to the many fatalities on Everest this year. All the experts seem to agree that most of the climbers trying to scale the mountain are far too inexperienced for the task and should never have been allowed to make the attempt. In other words, Everest was meant for the elite few, not for the many.
In some ways the news from Everest reminds one of the myth of Icarus. Icarus, with his wings of feathers and wax constructed by his father, was warned against hubris: if he flew too close to the sun, it would be to his peril. Tragically, Icarus ignored the warning of his father and fell to his death. The point: men have no business ascending to such great heights!
David once asked the question, "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?" (Psalm 24.3) Many in Israel would have replied "no one." It should have been impressed upon them that God was too holy for them to approach (Exodus 19). Surely man had no business trying to ascend to such lofty heights! But David answered his own query: "He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully." (Psalm 24.4) David continued, saying that those who "seek Him" would receive "righteousness from the God of his salvation" (Psalm 24.5-6).
Both myth (Icarus) and human experience (Everest) warn us against trying to climb too high. But not God! He not only beckons us to ascend His holy hill, He is the one that makes the climb possible!
From the desk of Steve Patton
"...but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church." (Acts 12.5)
Herod was on a rampage against the church. James had been beheaded. Peter was sitting in prison waiting his execution. Most would have felt all alone and fearful. Maybe Peter felt some of that. Even if he was apprehensive about his impending death, there were two things he knew: This was in God’s hands, and his brethren were pouring out their hearts in earnest prayer for him.
There is great comfort in the prayers of the saints. Revelation says they rise before God like sweet incense (Rev. 5.8; 8.4) The prayers of the righteous have “great power as it is working" (Jas. 5.16). Peter knew this and was even quietly sleeping the night before his execution. He did not fear what man could do to him. In this case God provided a miraculous release from prison and the sparing of Peter’s life. Peter would have been fine if that had not happened. But God wanted Peter to live and intervened to thwart wicked Herod’s plan.
When we face great trial we need the prayers of the saints. We need to know they are truly concerned about us and our trials. When needs are shared we should respond with great comfort and prayer.
I honestly feel we do not offer concerted prayer enough. Some Sundays the total time we spend in prayer together all day is less than ten minutes. I suspect the early church would be shocked at that. Prayer was at the center of their worship. The apostles thought it was one of the two most important parts of their work (Acts 6.4). However much time we spend together in prayer it should include fervent pleas to God on the behalf of those suffering through sickness, sorrow, and the pain of their trials. Pray fervently every day for each other. That is not just what God wants; it is what He expects. Thank God for this tremendous blessing of prayer. And let those suffering know you are praying for them.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt. 7:21-23)
Here Jesus describes the tragic fate of those who will be cast out of his presence. There are a few things we should notice about these individuals. First, in saying “Lord, Lord” they are addressing Jesus in a respectful and fervent manner. Second, they’ve done a lot of good throughout their lives. Third, the repeated phrase “in your name” shows that they gave Jesus full credit and praise for the good they did.
All of these things are admirable. These people are respectful and fervent doers of good, who credit Jesus for the good works they accomplish. So, what's the problem? Jesus says these people failed to do “the will of my Father who is in heaven.” These individuals went about their lives with little concern for God’s laws. Therefore, Jesus calls them “workers of lawlessness.”
Many things can give us a false sense of spiritual comfort: Doing good deeds, speaking often of Jesus, attending worship services, refraining from wicked activities in which the world engages. But are we looking at God’s will and actually following it? We need to have the maturity to see past any pretense or false hope so that we can be the faithful servants God desires.
From the desk of Steve Patton
"By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10)
Every time we move I think about this passage. Perhaps not for the obvious and better reason. Rather, I think about Abraham packing up everything he owned and moving every few months. How in the world did he manage? Having hundreds of servants helped I am sure (Gen. 14.14). But still, the idea of being constantly on the move - it is hard for me to fathom. I can certainly understand why Abraham looked for that eternal permanent dwelling, though I am sure it had more to do with his spiritual goals than about the bother of a nomadic life.
Pam and I have recently had occasion to go through our house and clean out all the “stuff” we no longer use or need. It was unbelievable. I am pretty sure the trash pickup guys have gone home with sore backs from dozens of big bags of “stuff” we left for them. I know I got tired of dragging them to the road. But we had sooo much “stuff” of which neither we nor anyone else had need.
When it comes to possessions, where is your focus? Paul said, “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:8). I haven’t gotten down to that point yet, but are we setting our goals on the right “stuff"? Paul also said, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). I still have a ways to go. How about you?
From the desk of Joshua Creel
71%. That's the percentage of young Americans who, according to 2017 Pentagon data, are ineligible to join the military. 71% are ineligible due to three main factors: obesity, lack of a high school diploma, or they have a criminal record. And this isn't only a problem for the military, but as Rear Admiral Thomas Wilson relates, "It's an issue for businesses as well because the vast majority of that age group isn't eligible for many jobs either." According to one report, 52% of employers in Pennsylvania "find it challenging to hire people with adequate skills, training or education."
And this is probably no surprise, but the military (along with many employers) is placing the blame on poor education. Not just poor education in elementary, middle and high schools, but the lack of education very early in a child's life. In their opinion, most young people are not being prepared early in their lives, thus they are failing to be productive members of society later.
The Lord declared that the Law was for the good of His people (Deuteronomy 10.13). That was primarily true because following the Law would allow the people to be holy and thus in a relationship with God (cf. Leviticus 11.45) The Israelites were to instruct their children in the Law so that they too could be in a relationship with their Lord (Deuteronomy 6.4-9). But there were "secondary goods" found in the Law. Following the Law would teach young Israelites the importance of respecting authority (Exodus 20.12), the value of hard work (Exodus 20.9), and the necessity of caring for those less fortunate (Leviticus 25.35). In short, the Law equipped people with the skills to be fully profitable members of society.
God's laws remain for our good, both eternally and for the present.
From the desk of Taylor Pickup
The chief priests wanted to kill Lazarus. Their reason was simple. Lazarus’ resurrection was causing people to believe in Jesus. He had been raised from the dead, which was serving as a testimony to the power and authority of Jesus (John 12:10-11).
The fact that someone returned from death is amazing, but so is the effect that this miracle had on others. It pointed people toward their Savior, their King. Jesus knew this would happen. Before Lazarus had even died, Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Jesus knew that giving life back to Lazarus would cause others to seek the Life-giver Himself. This was why the enemies of Jesus targeted Lazarus. He was an enormous obstacle for those who wanted to refute and destroy Jesus.
We are very similar to Lazarus. When we turned our lives to Christ, we died in the water of baptism and God resurrected us out of the water as a new person. This also points toward our future literal resurrection (Rom. 6:1-14).
However, this new life God promises us can cause others to hate us. Like Lazarus, the glory that our resurrection brings to Jesus goes against what many people believe and want. Jesus told His apostles, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John15:20)
But if through Jesus we have conquered sin and death, then there’s nothing to fear from men who become our enemies. If we become a target of mockery, hatred, or violence, then we’re experiencing what Jesus Himself experienced. We can even boldly die for the sake of Christ because God raised Him from the dead and therefore has the power to raise us too.
2017 Bible Reading Plan
Commit to spending some time each week in 2017 paying attention to the message of the prophets! Download the Bible reading schedule here. This week's reading is Lamentations 1-5.
From the desk of Joshua Creel
It's Not A Sin If You Don't Act?
Being tempted isn't a sin. I've said that many times to many people. I've said it to people who were struggling with sin, seeking to encourage them that not acting on the temptation is itself a victory. And this is true... in part. After all, we know our Savior was "tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4.15). Being tempted isn't a sin.
However, we might have mistakenly lumped temptation in with desire. Temptation arises from an external stimulus and seeks to arouse our desire. And when our desire is sufficiently enticed, we sin (James 1.14-15). So, it's not just the actions that are wrong, but the condition of our heart which make those actions possible. This was Jesus' point in the sermon on the mount when He emphasized that true righteousness warns against more than the actions of murder and adultery, but must govern the hatred and lust within (Matthew 5.21-28). It is why He said our sinful actions proceed from the heart (Matthew 15.19).
We cannot prevent temptation from coming our way; the world is filled with them. But our aim is to condition our hearts so that not only do we refrain from acting on temptation, our hearts don't even desire to act! Then we will truly be "pure in heart" and have the hope of seeing God (Matthew 5.8).