ONE MORE THING:  HE WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR   

 BLOG BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER  

The current sermon series on the Parable of the Sower being taught by various young men in the church is important for a variety of reasons.  As Pastor Raphael has noted each week, this activity is giving very, very valuable experience in raising up future leaders for our church.  The choice of the parable is also significant, because Jesus is emphasizing a critically important truth for us as Christians — without ‘hearing’ there is no ‘growing.’  

In the parable in Matthew 13, the sower or farmer tosses his seeds as broadly as possible, and some falls on a path and is snatched away by birds, some lands on stony ground but never takes root and dies, some seeds get strangled by weeds and thorns and dies, and some falls on good soil and grows very well. 

Jesus was an expert in his ability to present profound truths in everyday metaphors, like farming.  In Jesus’ day, a gardener would be one who carefully prepares the soil and then plants each seed individually in place.  A farmer, on the other hand, chooses a field and then tosses his seeds about and knows that some will grow and some will not.  

In farming terminology, this was known as “broadcasting” because the farmer was casting his seeds as broadly as possible.  In the early days of radio, the promoters were seeking to find an appropriate term to describe the principle behind radio.  The signal from the station went out based on the power of the output range.  Theoretically, everyone could ‘hear’ it.  However, the signal needed the appropriate receiver and tuned to the right frequency n order to pick up that signal.  They borrowed the agricultural term “broadcast” to describe what the radio signal was doing. 

There is a lot of similarity to “broadcasting” in radio terms and what Jesus is describing here in the Parable of the Sower.  If I do not have a radio or if it is not turned on, then the sounds in the air are lost to me.  The gospel is a universal message, it is in the air all about us so to speak, but Paul said in Romans 10:14, “ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”  This is yet another important reason why we should invite our friends, relatives, and neighbors to attend church.  They need to get the signal!  

Then, they need to get it tuned to the right station.  This is the gospel, pure and simple.  The ‘seed’ in the story is the imperishable living and abiding word of God that causes us to be repent and be born again (1 Peter 1:23).  We should never think of the seed without thinking of the one who is giving us that seed, the wonderfully good, great, gracious, and glorious sower in the story - Jesus Christ himself.  Christ died for sinners (that’s all of us) so that they might be saved by receiving and resting on Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the scriptures.  This good news - the gospel - is a gracious offering of salvation to all people (Titus 2:11), a “great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3), not only displaying His glory but even sharing it with us (2 Thessalonians 2:14)!  

In keeping with the radio metaphor, there are some folks who unfortunately do not receive that message clearly because of some “static” in this signal.  This would be receiving a gospel that emphasizes health and wealth rather than salvation from sin, or implying some righteous works or efforts on our part rather than freely receiving the offer of the gift of grace through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  At Citychurch, we believe we must jealously guard the truth of the gospel and preach it as Scripture proclaims it because to do otherwise is not only in error, it is dangerous.  Paul called those who falsely proclaim the gospel “accursed” (Galatians 1:8,9)! 

So, listen up, everybody!  Or as Jesus said it so often, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

ONE MORE THING: WHY WE SHOULD NOT JUDGE    

 BLOG BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER  

This past Sunday Pastor Raphael shared on the subject of hospitality last Sunday, based on Romans 15:7 that says “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”  The principle that he was emphasizing was that we as a church should be demonstrating a culture of hospitality to all who visit the church because of the work of grace shown to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

There are other implications that can be seen by this principle, for example, the importance of not judging another Christian.   There are two uses of the word used in Scripture.  One has the sense of “discernment” — being able to distinguish one thing from another.  I can ‘judge’ that a fruit is rotten by the taste and texture.  In 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, Paul writes, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’”

In this passage, Paul is emphasizing that a person who is claiming to be a believer in Christ but their lifestyle is contrary to the life of faith — the church has the right to call them out and remove them from the fellowship of faith.  This is rarely practiced in the church, but that is the subject for another day.  This act has a redemptive purpose in that it confronts the individual with their hypocrisy to the faith, and also protects the church family itself.  

But the ultimate “judge” is God himself.  Jesus said in John 12:48, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”  The book of Revelation describes the Great Judgment Seat where we will all stand, and we are all condemned in our sins.  We are all guilty!  It is only those who sins are covered by the blood of Christ who will be judged as forgiven and accepted into eternal life with God.  Those who refuse to accept the free gift of salvation will be judged as guilty in their own iniquities and will suffer eternal condemnation.  

It is in this context that we are told by Jesus to not judge others.  To take the place of a judge, determining if a person belongs to Christ or not, is to put yourself in an authority position that you do not have.  God and God alone is the judge.  

Which brings us back to the sense of hospitality mentioned by Paul in Romans 14 and 15.  The exact opposite of judging others would be accepting them.  The essence of the gospel is that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  As those who have received this grace, we should thus extend that same grace to others.  The reason is the reason we do everything — to give glory to God! 

Larry W. Stout, Ph.D., MBA, is an elder at City Church. Larry is a former missionary in the republic of Latvia.  He helped start several churches and was a founder and first director of the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga. Larry is an author of three books on leadership and human resource management and two novels.  He also is currently a weekly columnist for Lycoming County’s largest circulation newspaper, the Webb Weekly, a Clinton Township Supervisor and a Leadership Consultant & Trainer. 

ONE MORE THING: THE BATTLE WE FIGHT 

BLOG BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER  

In the message on faith this past week, we looked at is known as the Battle of Kings in Genesis 14.  In this story, there is an alliance of five kings who go up against another alliance of four kings.  It so happens that Abram’s nephew Lot, who is living in Sodom, gets caught in the crossfire, and as a result is taken captive. Interestingly, Abram appears ready for this development.  He has 318 mini-Rambo’s that are “born in his house” who are ready to go on a commando raid with Abram to rescue his captured nephew, which he does.  

This is the first time in the Bible that the words “war” and “fight” occur, but it will certainly not be the last.  There will be almost a hundred different battles described in the Old Testament.  The narrative of the New Testament is one of peacetime, however, there is still “warfare” imagery used throughout and a climatic War in Heaven in Revelation chapter 12. 

From the Battle of the Kings in Genesis to the War in Heaven in Revelation, we recognize that the Bible is brutally frank about the reality of conflict and that these struggles have a Satanic origin.  In Genesis 3:15, God declares to Satan who deceived Eve and caused sin to enter the world, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Thus it is not surprising that the Apostle Paul will use these “warfare” metaphors to describe what a walk of faith looks like.  Here are just a few of many examples: 

— Ephesians 6:11,16-17, “Put on the whole armor of Godthat you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” / “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” 

— 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

 — 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of the faith.” 

 — 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 

Our faith in the gospel is accepting and living in the acknowledgment that Jesus Christ paid an atonement for our sins through his death and resurrection and that we can live in freedom from sin and thus have fellowship with Almighty God.  All of this is called in Romans 1:16 the “power of God.”  It is a power from within, continually renewing our hearts to follow the divine pathway given to us for abundant living, but it is also a power to deal with an evil and fallen world, fueled by the “enmity” that Satan has for God and His people.  

And this is the battle of faith that we all face.  In Hebrews 11, where the great heroes of faith are being listed and described, there is an overall picture given later in the chapter that includes in v. 33-34, “who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.”   Notice that in almost the same breath, the author describes the faith that can “enforce justice” and “obtain promises” also “conquered kingdoms” and be “mighty in war” and “put foreign armies to flight.” 

Many non-believers find the prevalence of military imagery in the Bible very disturbing.  It appears to go against the message of love and forgiveness.  But what the unbelieving world does not accept is the cosmic battle that Satan is fighting and God’s people must engage.  1 Peter 4:12 tells us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange was happening to you.”   

No, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the norm.  Our enemy, the devil, will throw everything at us with the singular purpose of bringing down our faith.  Through church history, some great men of God have written on this.  Pastor Raphael alluded to the classic Puritan book by Thomas Brooks, “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices,” is almost a tool book on fighting this fight of faith.  John Bunyan’s classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress” has an amazing story of spiritual warfare when Christian confronts Apollyon, symbolic of the devil.  Similar to Brooks, Bunyan shows Satan’s devices by trying to make sin look promising, pointing to the trials and hardships of following Christ, pointing out to Christian his own failings and sin, and finally attacking Christian’s motives for following Christ. 

Faith in the gospel is what defeats every attack of our Enemy, and he knows it.  Satan has no answer for the gospel.  Our faith brings us hope and victory, and in living it we have peace and joy.  Hold on to this promise, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) 

ONE MORE THING:  ONE OR DONE  

BLOG BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER

In Pastor Raphael’s message on faith as it related to Abraham and Lot in Genesis 13, he cited numerous times that “who we are” should be more important to us than “what we have.”   Abraham pointed this out so beautifully when he confronted his nephew Lot by telling him, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.” (Genesis 13:8, all refs are from the ESV)  

In the same way, we should recognize that our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ should guard us against getting hung up on the “stuff” (as Pastor Raphael loves to call it) that we gain from our relationship with the Lord.  This unity is emphasized as a point of major importance in Scripture.  Look at these passages:

— Psalms 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” 

— Philippians 2:2, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

— Ephesians 4:3-4, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call…” 

— Romans 14:19, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify one another.”  

— Colossians 3:14, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  

Pastor Raphael noted that the most messed up New Testament church was undoubtedly the church at Corinth.  They had issues over baptism, relationships, marriage, communion, forms of worship, the list goes on and on.  Yet, when Paul sat down to write them a letter, what was the first issue he confronted them on?  Unity!  “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)   

Why is unity so important in the church?  Because quite simply, the church is in the disciple-making business, and the very process of keeping the unity of the church is part of being a disciple!  When we are divided, it demonstrates that we have something other than Jesus as our heart and core.  This singular focus is what Jesus is praying for us John 17:20-21, “My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

It is simple, really.  If we are truly His disciples, then we would have the same attitude of humility as Jesus.  Philippians 2:1-8, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  

When the world sees the church, they should be seeing Jesus, because we all are to resemble Him. They should see individuals who are empowered by the Holy Spirit by their faith in the gospel, and thus are striving to put others first, and putting other’s interests above their own - just like Jesus.  But when the church is made up of self-interested individuals who are seeking their own agendas, or their own desires or think their “stuff” is more valuable than others, it is showing how unlike Jesus they are.  In fact, it even calls into question when they truly are part of Christ’s body at all!   

As the Bible points out from the first book to the last, we live in covenant with God through faith - He is our God, and we are His people - and the evidence of this reality is how we love one another in a community of faith.  When we can love as Christ loves, even to those who do not deserve it, it is the confirmation that our hearts truly belong to Him.  

Larry W. Stout, Ph.D., MBA, is an elder at City Church. Larry is a former missionary in the republic of Latvia.  He helped start several churches and was a founder and first director for the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga. Larry is an author of three books on leadership and human resource management and two novels.  He also is currently a weekly columnist for Lycoming County’s largest circulation newspaper, the Webb Weekly, a Clinton Township Supervisor and a Leadership Consultant & Trainer. 

ONE MORE THING:  CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD  

BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER  

In the series on faith featuring Abraham, Pastor Raphael has noted in Genesis 12 about the path of obedience that Abraham followed.  There are many examples for us as well.  Abraham’s responding to God’s call to leave his homeland parallels the call of Jesus to his disciples.  As Abraham was obedient to this call, he went from hearing God to seeing God appear to him.  He was finding that every trial provided an opportunity to find a meeting place with God. 

When Abraham did find these meeting places, he erected an altar to the Lord.  This symbolized that he wanted to ‘mark’ these events - he did not want to forget these significant moments of growth that resulted from faith.  Indeed, because these were lasting monuments, they also could be used to teach future generations of these very valuable lessons.  

In Genesis 12:7 we read that it was at the second place where Abraham built an altar, at a place called Bethel (later to become known as Bethlehem), that Abraham “called upon the name of the Lord.”   This is a very powerful statement.  It is used at least 22 times in the Old Testament.   J. Gary Millar in his book, Calling on the Name of the Lord: A Biblical Theology of Prayer states that this expression is how the Bible describes the ‘post-Eden conversation’ between God and man.   Millar develops this idea through the entire Scriptures and argues that this represents true Biblical prayer.  

Think of it — prayer as a conversation with God.  But, wait a minute, how can that be?  After all, Adam and Eve’s sin destroyed the fellowship that they had with God.  There was no “undoing” what they had done.  Instead, they needed their sin to be removed — and the only way that could happen would be through a sacrifice.  But it could not be any sacrifice, but one that would bring God and man back into fellowship together, which meant it would have to a God-substituting-for-man sacrifice.  

This is exactly what was promised in Genesis 3:15. when God told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”   This is what Jesus accomplished at the cross.  In Romans 16:20, Paul states, "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

It is worth noting that at the future site of Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Christ-child, Jesus, that Abraham by faith “calls upon the Lord.”  Calling on the name of the Lord is praying to Him on the basis of the gospel, on the basis of finished work of Jesus Christ.  We do not earn the right to pray - nor do we deserve the right to pray.  No, we call upon His name because He invites us to because He made a way for us to do so, because of His great love.  As Revelation 3:20 puts it, he is knocking at the door and wants us to invite him in so we can fellowship together.  Call on His name today. 

Larry W. Stout, Ph.D., MBA, is an elder at City Church. Larry is a former missionary in the republic of Latvia.  He helped start several churches and was a founder and first director for the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga. Larry is an author of three books on leadership and human resource management and two novels.  He also is currently a weekly columnist for Lycoming County’s largest circulation newspaper, the Webb Weekly, a Clinton Township Supervisor and a Leadership Consultant & Trainer. 

ONE MORE THING:  BY FAITH ALONE 

BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER  

The importance of the current series of sermons on FAITH cannot be emphasized enough.  There are many verses in the Bible that verify this, but probably none clearer than Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”  Do you get that?  Without faith, it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God.  

This year there is a celebration of 500 years of the Reformation, which is generally marked by Martin Luther’s act in October of 1517 of nailing his 95 Thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  His main point was asserting that salvation was by faith alone.  It was not dependent on any works of a believer to merit this salvation.  Salvation is a gift which is given to us by faith.  

This is the essence of what we term, the gospel.  It appears all over the Bible.  The most common is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”   The necessity of eternal life is expressed well by Paul in Galatians 1:3-4, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”  

These two verses echo an amazing promise!  The gospel states that our sins, which is our rebellion against God which fully deserves eternal punishment, is completely forgiven as a free gift given to us by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross through the will of the Father.  

How do we know this is true?  How do we actually come to believe this fact as true?  Here is the kicker.  We do not get there through trying to figure it out logically.  The great early Christian theologian, Augustine of Hippo, made the argument that it is not reason that brings us to faith but the other way around.  He states, “faith is to believe what you do not see, the reward of this faith to see what you believe.” 

So, this would imply that not only is salvation is a gift from God, but the faith to believe itself is a gift from God.  Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Note this closely — the grace for salvation comes through faith and even this faith is not your own doing, it too is a gift of God.  

John Calvin emphasized this point as a way to insure us of our salvation.  The fact that we believe itself is a testament to God’s work in our lives!  Logic will never get us there.  In fact, the Bible notes that the gospel is “foolishness” - against reason.  But, as Augustine notes, once we believe it makes perfect sense!  

So, as you hear these messages on faith every week, remember that they are meant to kindle the faith that is in your heart.  Feed that faith by acting on it.  And you will be pleasing God as well! 

Larry W. Stout, Ph.D., MBA, is an elder at City Church. Larry is a former missionary in the republic of Latvia.  He helped start several churches and was a founder and first director for the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga. Larry is an author of three books on leadership and human resource management and two novels.  He also is currently a weekly columnist for Lycoming County’s largest circulation newspaper, the Webb Weekly, a Clinton Township Supervisor and a Leadership Consultant & Trainer.

ONE MORE THING: justified by faith

BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER

Pastor Raphael quoted Romans 5:1 during his message on February 5, 2017, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”   He was so excited about this passage that before he read it, he told the congregation they all should memorize it!

It is an incredible promise , because it reiterates again the unbelievable blessing that comes to us through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Solely on the basis of Christ’s willing and obedient sacrifice on the cross, the shedding of his very own blood on our behalf, we have been “justified” with God through faith.   

Justification is a big word, and whole books have been written to unpack it, but very simply, it essentially means “to pardon.”  It is a legal term.  If I have committed a crime and I am convicted in a court of law, I deserve to be punished for that crime.  That is justice.  Now, there is in the United States a place where a governor of a state or president of the United States can rectify injustices by declaring a pardon to the accused.  Suppose that I did not commit the crime, and it has been proven to be so but after I am already been convicted.  This authority can now make that right and pardon me.  This is meant to be a form of justice as well.  

But, if the person is guilty, they should not be pardoned.  That might be considered merciful, but it does not satisfy justice.  For justice to be served, the punishment must fit the crime.  Which brings us back to our problem — we are sinners!  Not a single person who has ever lived can claim to have never once failed to live up to God’s standards as he has outlined them in his law.  The book of Romans even shows that even by basic human standards, no one can make the claim to be blameless.  “All have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23) .  And further in the book of Romans it tells us the consequences, “For the wages of sin is death…” (6:23) 

What this means is we are actually at war with God in our sinful state.  We are condemned to death, and rightfully so!  We have broken God’s law, the only laws that really matter, and for justice to be served, we should have to pay for our sins. 

We would be forever doomed, if it were not for the love and mercy of God shown to us through the giving of His Son.  The rest of Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  It is not completely true to say that every single person who has ever lived has never once failed to live up to God’s standards, because there was one.  That was the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.  He perfectly and absolutely lived by God’s standards.  He was blameless. 

So, Jesus was capable of offering up his life in place of our own.  Which brings us back to Romans 5:1 and that wonderful, beautiful promise, ““Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  We receive this “pardon” from God, not because we are sinless, but because the punishment for the crime (our sins) has been fully paid for by Jesus Christ!  God no longer looks at us as His enemies at war with him - quite the opposite - we are now his friends!  We have been adopted as his sons and daughters.  We are welcomed into his presence with open arms.  How is this possible?  Because of faith.  We acknowledge this wonderful act of grace done on our part, and now live our lives out of the gratitude to Him for what has been given to us.  The best way to sum all that up?  Peace with God.  

-- 

Larry W. Stout, Ph.D., MBA, is an elder at City Church. Larry is a former missionary in the republic of Latvia.  He helped start several churches and was a founder and first director for the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga. Larry is an author of three books on leadership and human resource management and two novels.  He also is currently a weekly columnist for Lycoming County’s largest circulation newspaper, the Webb Weekly, a Clinton Township Supervisor and a Leadership Consultant & Trainer. 

Faith series: Reasons For Faith

This week at City Church we began a series examining the life of Abraham. Here are some of the reasons why we believe this series on faith will be significant and helpful for us as a church

1] Salvation is by grace through faith

The gospel is the Good News that leads to salvation and is accessed through faith. Jesus has done all the work; he has satisfied the payment of our sins and given us his righteousness. All we are required to do is believe. Read Romans 1:16-17. 4:20-5:1-2

2] We please and glorify God through faith

 Faith is an integral part of the Christian life, that is why It is being counterfeited more in our world today. The writer of Hebrews in chapter 11 begins from Creation to Christ and shows how everyone who has pleased God has done it by faith.  This passage culminates with chapter 12 where we as Christians realize that we also have a race to run that will need faith. In order to be sustained we have to look to Jesus, the promise. Read Heb 11- 12:1-3

3] Abraham’s faith story tells of our beginnings.

My wife and I have heard this request countless times “Tell us about how you met.” Genesis is the book of beginnings, and when people ask about the story of our faith, Abraham is included. God initially made a rescue promise in Genesis 3:15, but in Abraham we see it materialized. The picture of God pursuing us begins here and culminates in Jesus. As we study Abraham’s faith, we come to a deep sense of appreciation for our gospel story. Read Luke 24:44-47

  4] We have common ground with the original audience

 We must never read Genesis and forget who it was written to. Genesis was first heard by Israelites who were stuck in the desert on route between their rescue in Egypt and future possession of the land of promise.  They needed encouragement, so Abraham was an example to follow and a warning to avoid sin. Just like the Israelites, Abraham was in between where God had called him from and the promises God had made to him. His story was also an encouragement to avoid sin because after it God charges Abraham to walk before him. Sodom and Gomorrah are an illustration of the consequences of not placing faith in God. Israel itself was always learning from their father Abraham.(Isaiah 51:1-2)

Abraham, more than other figures in the bible knew what it meant to live by faith in the middle of overwhelming circumstances. In Abraham, we find the faith and failures of a man like us who lived in a gap between promise and reality. Like Abraham, we also live in the gap between the promise and reality in the personal promises (the grace we need to remain vigilant) and ultimately in waiting for him (perpetual expectation of his glorious appearing).  We live in the already (where we are rescued but yet still face difficult circumstances) not yet(New Heaven New Earth). We live in the reality gap, we are saved from the penalty of sin, are being saved from the power of sin and eagerly wait for the fulfillment of being saved from the presence of sin. Read: Heb 3:13- 4:3

5] Abraham’s faith story points us to the gospel

Abraham was a forerunner to Christ. After bringing up all people who lived by faith in Heb 11 We are encouraged now to look to Christ In Heb 12. Christ in Luke 24:43 says all the scriptures spoke of Him. Jesus is the promise.  Our salvation as Christians does not rest in trying to do what Abraham did but by putting faith in what Christ has done.[i]  Like Tim Keller says, “Jesus is the true and better Abraham, who answers the call of God, who leaves all the familiar comforts of the world into the void, not knowing where He went.”[ii]

In Christ we see an example of ultimate trust in God, he trusted God even with his own death because he knew that God would not abandon him(Acts 2:27) In Christ, we are indeed introduced to the God-Man. As God, he is faithful to us and as a man he is faithful to God. Our Faith is not in faith but in Christ who lives in us. Faith is trusting that Christ will be faithful even in the times when we’re not faithful to Him.  God’s commitment to us is also revealed at the cross. God’s love doesn’t waver even when our faith does. Christ will be faithful in us and faithful for us. Indeed Christ in us is the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)Faith is trusting Christ instead of trusting in ourselves to trust Christ. There is a huge difference between the two. One looks upward; the other looks inward.  [iii]

What other reasons can you come up with for learning about the faith of Abraham? 

[i] Duguid, Iain M. Living in the gap between promise and reality: the Gospel according to Abraham. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 1999.

[ii] Tim Keller, “What Is Gospel-Centered Ministry?,” message delivered May 23, 2007, The Gospel Coalition Conference, Chicago, https://vimeo.com/115986929

[iii] Lee, Zach. "John Calvin on Faith and Assurance." The Village Church. October 09, 2012. Accessed February 08, 2017. http://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/articles/john-calvin-on-faith-and-assurance?nav=m-44609&wildcard=%2Fthe-village-blog%2Fjohn-calvin-on-faith-and-assurance%2F.

 

 

 

Prayer Nights at City Church

21 DAYS OF FASTING AND PRAYER 

 "FOR NOTHING WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD" LUKE 1:37

Join us the next two Wednesdays 6.pm as we come together to pray for our church.

The psalmist opens us to the privilege of prayer when he says, "I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!" (Ps 116:1-2 NLT).

John Calvin defines prayer as

"an emotion of the heart within, which is poured out and laid open before God. In prayer we both communicate and commune with our Father in heaven, feeling our transparency in His presence. Like Christ in Gethsemane, we cast our desires, sighs, anxieties, fears, hopes, and joys into the lap of God. Through prayer, a Christian puts his worries bit by bit on God. We are permitted to pour into God’s bosom the difficulties which torment us, in order that He may loosen the knots which we cannot untie. Prayer is the outpouring of the soul, the deepest root of piety, the bedrock of assurance. Prayer is the most important part of the Christian life; it is the lifeblood of every true believer "[1] 
 

Oh! That we could come with confidence before him on behalf of our church and cry out to him. 

See You Tomm Night!!

[1] Joel Beeke and Brian Najapfour, Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer, 29.

This year at City Church

Here are a few things to join in on at City Church to grow with us. 

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Fasting is a spiritual discipline designed to better connect us with God. It is designed to channel and express our desire for God and our holy discontent in a fallen world. It is for those not satisfied with the status quo. For those who want more of God’s grace. For those who feel truly desperate for God. As a church, we are fasting together to deepen our relationship with God as well as get in step with His plan and purpose for us this coming year. Join us in praying for God's purposes to be fulfilled in and through us in 2017. We will be letting you know the days when we will gather to pray as a church. Download the fasting calendar and other related resources on our http://citychurchpa.org/prayer-and-fasting/

We are excited to utilize New City Catechism as a discipleship tool. A catechism is a tool to teach the church a rich theology, centering on the Good News of the Gospel. New City Catechism is comprised of only 52 questions and answers. There is one question and answer for each week of the year, making it simple to fit into calendars and achievable even for people with demanding schedules. There is also an accompanying verse each week. It is a joint adult and children's catechism. In other words, the same questions are asked of both children and adults, and the children's answer is always part of the adult answer. Lastly, other tools are included with the catechism such as corresponding prayers, videos and commentaries for adults, and songs for children

TO DOWNLOAD THE APP FOR YOUR IPAD OR GET THE CATECHISM ONLINE, GO TO:  WWW.NEWCITYCATECHISM.COM

Join us this year in reading God's Word which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Ps 119:105) We have a plan we'll be following as a church in 2017. Get your copy of The 2016 Bible Reading any Sunday morning. You can also download a pdf to print at home.

Join us this year in reading God's Word which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (Ps 119:105) We have a plan we'll be following as a church in 2017. Get your copy of The 2016 Bible Reading any Sunday morning. You can also download a pdf to print at home.

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For the next year, we are joining in with Desiring God’s Fighter Verses and memorizing a verse per week. Here are ways you can get the weekly verses:

 THE FIGHTER VERSE APP. You can also download the Fighter Verses App. We’ll be memorizing the 2017 ESV Set of verses. 

THE FIGHTER VERSE WEBSITE. You can also go to the fighter verse website for weekly devotions on the verses we’re memorizing. 

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We believe that this is a year of making disciples that will make disciples. Be on the lookout for our new One on One discipleship that we will be officially launching in the next few weeks. 

Coming Soon! We are excited to begin a series on the life of Abraham and his faith in the next few weeks. 

This February we are excited to host another Marriage Simulcast conference. Please watch the video above to learn more about it. 

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We are Introducing a New way to Pray at City Church. We pray because God invites us to come to him and enjoy him as our Father, delighting in all that he is for us because of Jesus. But we also pray because we believe he is our Father in heaven with all power and authority. He is omnipotent and with him, all things are possible (Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37). As we look out at the brokenness around us and even inside of us, we are forced to face our need for the grace and renewing power of God. Prayer is how we express that need. That is why we are launching Pray 30/20/10. We are encouraging the people of City Church to commit to creating three slots of time in your day to give 30 minutes, 20 minutes, and 10 minutes to the Lord in his Word and prayer. If you are a night owl, make the 30 minute slot in your evening. If you are an early riser, schedule your 30 minute slot in the morning. The goal is to keep your hearts tethered to God throughout the day, listening to him in his Word and speaking to him in prayer.