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20
Jul

Attracting Others to the Gospel

By Chris DiVietro

On Monday we recalled the God of Jacob is our fortress not so we can retreat from the battle, but so we can be equipped for the battle. To fully see how that bears true for us as the New Testament church today, we need to back up a little bit.

In the Old Testament, when Israel worshipped the Lord faithfully other nations took notice. God intended for foreign nations to see Israel’s devotion to the Lord and His greatness, and subsequently be drawn to Him. That is the main thrust of Deuteronomy 4:5-8:

See, I have taught you statutes and rules as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statues and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today.

In the context of Deuteronomy 4, Israel is told the ethical quality of their lives – obedience to the law—would attract the nations to the living God. If Israel would live as God intended them to, the nations would notice—the content and quality of the Israelites’ lives would attract the nations to Israel because of its nearness to the living God. Lives lived in worship of and devotion to God—by their very nature—attract others to observe, learn, and even understand. An attractive community is one that obeys faithfully, lives faithfully, worship unceasingly, and relies on “missional magnetism” to attract others to the Gospel.

The church is in some sense an attractive community, it seeks to attract nonbelievers to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christopher Wright says, “God’s people are to live in such a way that they become attractors—not attractors to themselves, but to the God they worship.” Elmer Towns and Ed Stetzer define attractional churches today as those that have established buildings and staffs, gather at prescheduled times, promote programs, and function as institutionalized organizations. The attractional church—a redemptive community that exists as an established institution to which others are attracted—has its origins in the Old Testament and in God’s purposes for Israel, seen in Isaiah 49:6, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach the end of the earth.”

However, churches must not be attractional alone. Attracting others to worship God is only one half of the equation. Next week we’ll unpack more theology behind the attractional emphasis in ministry before seeing how it has shifted now that Jesus has come to earth and sent the church out.

19
Jul

Identify & Empathize

By Pastor Rick Hampton

(Continued from last month’s post)

Because of the fears we have we arm ourselves with life insurance, health insurance, car insurance, and fire insurance. Because of the atmosphere of fear we lock our doors at night and we take our keys out of the car and lock the car doors when we come to church.

In the eighth chapter of Romans Paul makes a statement about the environment of fear in which we live. He tells us that, as Christians, We have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear. (Romans 8:15a) AdobeStock_83925211

Paul told Timothy God has not given to us a spirit of fear (I Timothy 1:7). John says, There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love (I John 4:18).

I like to share the ten things Paul tells us in Romans 8 that will free us from our fears. Read these ten things from time to time to reassure yourself that the issue of fears can be overcome. Paul gives us the way. There is no fear in judgment because we are in Christ. The weakness of the flesh has no fear for us because we are in Christ.

No knowing the way to go, not knowing what to do presents no fear because we are led by the Spirit of God The accusations of Satan hold no fear for us because the Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God.

There is no fear in that which hurts the flesh because we are sharing the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no fear in the troubles of now because they will not be worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. There is no fear in prayer because the Spirit helps our infirmities. There is no fear produced by changes that we don’t understand because we know that all things work together for good for them who loves God, who are called according to His purpose. There is no fear of the past, present or future because we have been set aside as the Lord’s from all eternity. There is no fear of anything or anyone because the Lord because the Lord is for us.

There is no fear of lack because with Christ we have the gift of all things necessary. There is no fear of defeat because we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Keep in mind God was not content to visit His people periodically. He went several steps further and sent His Son to live with us: “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” John 1:14. In Jesus Christ the transcendent God became man and one with us. The purpose of the incarnation was not so that God could condemn or censure the human family, but that He could save it unto Himself. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:17.

Perhaps nothing more characterizes the life and ministry of Jesus than His identification and empathy with people, including and especially those whom society condemned as sinners. Jesus often visited people in their homes where he listened to them, ate with them and generally met their needs.

The benefits of pastoral visitation as well as visitation of the laity can hardly be overemphasized or belabored. To be effective, pastors cannot afford to remain apart from their members. We must meet people where they are. Sometimes it requires a layman who has walked the same walk to bring insight and guidance. It cannot be accomplished by the pastor alone. When visiting is done by a pastor or laymen it helps to build warm and caring relationships.

I encourage you to make our staff or me personally aware of those who are suffering, have a long term illness, preparing to undergo surgery and shut-ins. I am thankful for members of the congregation who are doing visiting on their own. When I talk to those you’ve visited, I hear expressions of joy and encouragement from them.

Reach out from your own spiritual experiences and uplift others who suffer.

22
Jun

Live Unafraid

By Pastor Rick Hampton

The words “fear,” “anxious,” “afraid” and “troubled” often formed an important part of the conversation of Christ. Why did our Lord say so much on the subject of fear? It must have been because he found so much of it everywhere he went.

It’s not any different today. The world in which we live is heavily overcast with fear. We are afraid of our friends and we are afraid of our enemies. We are afraid of others and we are afraid of ourselves. We are afraid of youth and we are afraid of old age. We are afraid of sickness and we are afraid of health.

We are afraid of sorrow and we are afraid of joy. We are afraid to cry and we are afraid to laugh. We are afraid of mistakes and we are afraid of perfection. We are afraid of loss and we are afraid of gain. We are afraid of things as they are and we are afraid of change. We are afraid to be silent and we are afraid to speak up.

We are afraid of poverty and we are afraid of wealth. Hope Loading We are afraid to buy and we are afraid to sell. We are afraid to borrow and we are afraid to lend. We are afraid of evil and we are afraid of good. We are afraid of slavery and we are afraid of freedom. We are afraid of war and we are afraid of peace. We are afraid of hate and we are afraid of love. We are afraid of what we don’t know and we are afraid of what we do know.
We are afraid of our weakness and we are afraid of our strength. We are afraid of the old and we are afraid of the new. We are afraid of the present and we afraid of the future. We are afraid of life and we are afraid of death. We are afraid of hell and we are afraid of heaven. We are afraid of everything and everybody.

Because of this fear we arm ourselves with life insurance, health insurance, car insurance, and fire insurance. Because of this atmosphere of fear we lock our doors at night and we take our keys out of the car when we come to church.

In the eighth chapter of Romans Paul addressed himself to this environment of fear in which we live. He tells us that, as Christians, we have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear (Romans 8:15a). Paul told young Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear (I Timothy 1:7). John says, There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear hath torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love (I John 4:18). Next issue I will give you some more insight into what Paul says in Romans 8. Paul tells us ten things that will free us from our fears. God bless you as you live unafraid in Christ.
Pastor Rick

19
Feb

Marie Monville at FPC

What would you do if the person you loved committed the most heinous of crimes? How do you pick up the pieces and go on? In October of 2006, Marie’s then husband, walked into an Amish School House in Nickle Mines, Pennsylvania and held it hostage, forever changing life as she knew it.

“When all other lights go out, He still shines!”

Monville_New_Closeup

This became the anthem of Marie’s life. On her darkest day, Marie simply chose to believe that HE IS. This act of faith radically propelled her into a future she could not have hoped for or imagined.

Marie will be speaking here at FPC on Sunday, March 13 at 6:30 PM. This is a free event, with plenty of free parking. This will be a powerful witness to faith and the healing power of God, so invite your friends and neighbors.

11
Jan

Fruit of the Spirit

By Dr. Mel Sensenig, Pastor in Residence

In our Young Adult Bible Study, we have been going through the book of James. James works with loving rigor, probing to the very depths of our professed Christian spirituality. This past week, we looked at James 1:19-21:

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” (New Living Translation)

Fruit-of-the-SpiritTake a look at how James connects “knowing” and “doing” in verse 19. There is something that we need to know, and that knowledge also must actually come about in our living. In other words, the real test of Christian knowledge is how much of its fruit appears in our lives. On the other hand, there cannot be any fruit without genuine spiritual knowledge. Attempts at Christian discipleship apart from the truth are simply self-made righteousness, and have no value in the sight of God. On the other hand, truth which has not produced any fruit is evidence of a lack of spiritual life. Note that verse 21 describes the word as “implanted” – implying that is a living thing that necessarily produces fruit. We would ordinarily conclude that a tree with no fruit is dead, and we can ask the same question of ourselves as professing Christians. In fact, from the previous verses, James says that sin conceives death, while God conceives life. There is a continual growing process going on inside us: either we are growing in our knowledge of God, or sin is producing its fruit within us. We are never standing still!

Many times, the practical test of these truths is conflict. In the midst of conflict, we find out how much the gospel has truly gripped us. How often in personal conflict do we lose sight of God’s goal in it – His personal discipleship of us, which we forget in the desire for revenge. It is in these situations that God gives us an opportunity to learn how to be swift to do some things and slow to do others, and especially to experience the fruit of the Spirit because it is the exact opposite of what our normal tendency (the flesh) would be. Apart from these difficult situations, we would have no opportunity for God to disciple us and to grow in our faith. Therefore, even these difficult times of troubled relationships are part of God’s discipling us in His character.

So, what is our response to this? Do we simply become a Home Depot Christian, immediately turning to “more doing”? In a letter like James’s, our human self-righteous religiosity quickly leads us to the question, “What should I do?” James gives the answer in a passive verb: humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts. The “word” that James refers to hear is the Christian gospel, the affirmation found summarized in The Apostles Creed or any number of summary statements in the New Testament. Here James asks us to pray that God would take what we have affirmed with our mouths and cause it to grow in our hearts. One of the proofs of the growth of the gospel in our lives will be that we are slower to get angry, quicker to listen, and slower to try to tell others how to do it. What would the world think of us if the gospel truly brought about its transforming work in our lives in this way?

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First Presbyterian Church
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37 S. Fifth Street
Reading, PA 19602

610-375-3389
info@fpcreading.org

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