The Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) continues the search process for our next pastor. They’re now meeting weekly and continue to narrow the pool of over 60 applicants from all over the world. They’re working diligently to review resumes, call candidates, contact references, and listen to and watch sermons. The application process is confidential and the PNC is bound to confidentiality as to specific details.
The committee prays for God’s guidance and asks that you will pray for them as they move through the process of finding our next senior pastor. They ask for your prayers to keep the committee strong, faithful, and energized. They know it’s God’s timing and not their own and they’ve surrendered the entire process to Him.
If you have any questions regarding the Pulpit Nominating Committee, please contact elder Larry Armstrong.
Dear Murrysville Community Church Family -
I wanted to provide you with a brief update regarding our possible move to Winter Springs, FL in early 2013.
This past Sunday night, the congregation of Willow Creek Presbyterian Church voted to call me as their next senior pastor. With that now clear, I am anticipating a transfer exam with the Central Florida Presbytery sometime in October or November and a January 1, 2013 start date for this new position, as the Lord wills.
For the remaining three months or so, I will be working with the Murrysville Community Church leadership and staff to position your next pastor for a smooth and successful transition. I will also continue preaching and ministering as normal, but with an attentive eye especially toward preparing the church for its next season of ministry. Finally, the Session of Murrysville Community Church will communicate with you shortly regarding next steps for the congregation.
Additionally, while I am calm and confident regarding the Lord's call in our lives, I love you, individually and collectively. Our family loves you. You have supported and sustained us with exemplary compassion and care, even through some very dark times. For that, I will always remain thankful to God for his grace through you.
As promised, we will keep you posted, every step of the way.
We love you in Christ - so much.
Pastor Kevin and Molly
There are several theories regarding the particular nature of the false teaching countered by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians. One writer identifies 44 different opinions on the identities of these opponents discussed among 19th and 20th century scholars (1). However, the most prevalent scholarship seems to indicate that it was a nascent form of Gnosticism, a belief in the centrality of special knowledge (Greek: gnosis) for salvation.
This creates another challenge for our understanding in that Gnosticism was widely varied set of religious beliefs and practices, not a rigid system of established dogma. In fact, the Catholic Encyclopedia concedes that any scholarly attempt to provide a uniform definition is a “labor lost” (2).
Nevertheless, the book of Colossians includes some clues suggesting that Paul was confronting a form of Gnostic teaching involving a radical dualism in which the material world as an obstacle to overcome, not a domain to redeem. To the Gnostic, the spiritual realm was good, but matter lesser, perhaps even evil. As such, the Colossian believers seem to have been pushed to a harsh form of spiritual asceticism, disregarding and even degrading their flesh for the advancement of their spirits.
There were several problems inherent in this Gnostic tendency. For one, it emphasized what people must do to merit or accomplish their redemption. This emphasis on works was an outright denial of the doctrines of grace taught throughout Scripture by the prophets, Christ, and his apostles. Paul fought against this strenuously in all of his epistles. Consider these words written by Paul to the young pastor, Timothy, as but one of many Pauline counters to the foolishness of salvation by works:
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:8-9a).
Secondly, and more germane to the point of this article, this Gnostic tendency argued that redemption was a wholly spiritual matter. Against this, Paul presented the Colossian believers with an all-sufficient savior, a redeemer for every dimension of our humanity: heart, soul, mind, and strength. Furthermore, Paul argued that the reconciliation wrought in the world through Christ is not simply for individual souls, but for the entire cosmos. Through Christ, God is reconciling all things to himself.
Now, we might not struggle with first century Gnostics today. However, we as Americans are certainly bid to a functionally similar, though inverted, kind of dualism in our culture. Our culture increasingly holds to materialistic assumptions about the nature of the universe and of humanity. Darwinian theories about our origins; Lyellian geological assumptions about the age and origin of the earth; and so on all seem to undermine American and Western confidence in the existence of the supernatural and therefore the existence of God.
As a result, the public sphere is no longer defined by the assumptions of the Christian faith. It is widely acknowledged that there is now a strong secularist push against theists in general, and Christians in particular, to the margins of society.
More than one philosopher has likened our culture’s treatment of theists in general and Christians in particular to the treatment afforded children in a home. We are free to live according to the dictates of our conscience as informed by our faith while upstairs away from the adults – that is, in the private spheres of life - but when we’re among the adults downstairs (in the public sphere) – we must functionally adopt the values of secular humanism and materialism (3). Obviously, the associated pressures are quite strong.
- For instance, consider the case of Crystal Dixon of the University of Toledo. When she expressed her sincerely held religious convictions regarding the nature of homosexuality in the Toledo Free Press, she was promptly fired for, in the words of university president Lloyd Jacobs, the “public position you have taken” (4). The tenets of her faith were fine within the private sphere. When brought to light in the increasingly secular public square, she was severely punished.
- Or consider the cases of pharmacists, Luke Vander Bleek and Glenn Kosirog, who own three pharmacies in Illinois. They had to fight a state mandate that they stock and sell the “morning-after pill” against their consciences since 2005 (5). They finally prevailed this month, after an exhausting seven-year legal battle.
- Or consider our military chaplains, those presently pressured to perform marriages against their personal and ecclesiastical convictions. U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced the Military Religious Freedom Act (S.3525) earlier this week. From the American Family Association: “The Wicker-Inhofe legislation explicitly outlines how the Defense of Marriage Act should be applied to the Department of Defense....Specifically, the bill would (1) prevent military chaplains from being forced to perform a marriage ceremony if the chaplain objects for reasons of conscience and (2) prohibit marriage or marriage-like ceremonies at military facilities that are of a union between one man and one woman” (6).
In each instance, Christians are expected to compartmentalize their spirituality, seeking to honor Christ in some areas of their lives, some of the time, and in some places. But is that the kind of limited lordship that Christ envisioned for us?
No! A thousand times no! As Paul argued throughout his letter to the Colossians, Christ envisions something all surpassing and all pervasive for his Church and his cosmos, a faith with implications for everything.
Join us this Sunday for more in our treatment of this wonderful letter to the church then and now. We will see how Christ is truly enough to reconcile not only us, but all things to himself.
(1) From House, H. Wayne. Heresies in the Colossian Church, Part I. Bibliotheca Sacra 149 (Jan.-Mar. 1992) pg. 45. Retrieved 9/2012 from http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/NTeSources/NTArticles/BSac-NT/House-ColossiansPt1-BS.pdf He states: “Morna Hooker has disputed the existence of a heresy in the Colossian church. Instead she believes Paul was warning his addressees not to be influenced by the pressures of the contemporary culture, in the way a preacher might do today, rather than addressing a particular group in the congregation (Morna D. Hooker, 'Were There False Teachers in Colossae?" in Christ and Spirit in the New Testament, ed. B. Lindars and S. S. Smalley [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 19731, 315-31).
(2) Arendzen, J. (1909). Gnosticism. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 25, 2012 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06592a.htm
(3) I believe that Nancy Pearcey is one of those employing this metaphor - masterfully, I might add.
(4) ‘Anti-Christian Bigotry’ to Preserve ‘Diversity’ by Bob Unruh. Retrieved 9/2012 from http://www.wnd.com/2012/04/university-anti-christian-bigotry-targeted-in-court/
(5) Retrieved 9/2012 from http://aclj.org/pharmacists-victory-illinois-seven-year-fight-conscience-rights
(6) Retrieved 9/2012 from https://www.votervoice.net/AFA/Campaigns/29614/Respond
Dear Friends, Family, and Friends Who Are Family –
Just a quick update about our exploration of a possible call to Willow Creek Presbyterian Church in Winter Springs, FL. As many of you know, we visited with the members and friends of Willow Creek Presbyterian Church this past weekend. From our perspective, it was, from first to last, a wonderful and confirming visit.
We are now waiting to see how the Lord leads the Willow family. On Sunday, September 23, 2012, they will hold a congregational meeting concerning the possibility of extending a call for me to serve as one of their pastors. For now, Molly and I are devoted to prayer and seeking the Lord’s will.
Should the Lord lead us from Murrysville Community Church to Winter Springs, FL, it will be a bittersweet process and one accompanied by tears. Nevertheless, as Nate Keisel so wonderfully preached to Murrysville Community Church on Sunday, we have full confidence of God’s grace to help her “stay the course.”
In that regard, if God is calling us away from Murrysville, we are supremely confident that he is also calling others to it. As promised, we will keep you posted, every step of the way.
We love you in Christ - so much.
Kevin and Molly
I have a favorite saying. I didn’t make it up. I just heard it. Maybe you’ve heard me say it before. It’s brilliant and goes like this:
“If you have the joy of the Lord, please inform your face.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve met some Christians before who are downright angry, belligerent, and hyper-critical people. They’re consistently mean.
Sadly, and despite how much I want to do so, I can’t judge them too harshly, for I can be all of those things as well - and have been, maybe even toward you. If so, I hope that I’ve apologized. What’s the deal? What makes these presumed saints so restless and cranky? What causes me to turn from joyful into a jerk?
Here’s at least one reason: many Christians today don’t really understand their faith. They don’t understand the gospel. They think that Christianity is primarily a religion of rules, and that Jesus is the Great Rule Keeper. In their mind, Christianity is a set of right beliefs and right practices and Jesus is the right example to emulate. When they think that they’re keeping step with Jesus, they’re pretty satisfied with themselves maybe even to the point of obvious arrogance. When they think that you’re keeping pace with them, they’re happy with you. However, when they fall out of step, they’re disillusioned and despair and get grumpy; all seems lost. When you fall out of step with them, they might feel and act like they’re superior to you and become hyper-critical.
This religion of rules is exactly what Paul preached against.
When we rightly understand and live the gospel, we realize that God loves us despite us. Furthermore, we realize that this grace transforms us into people whose ultimate source of peace and contentment rests in Christ - not in others, and not in the things of this world.
Christ gives us a new identity; he promises to provide all that we need; he promises that we are forever secure. What could we gain in this world and from others that we do not already have in Christ? Nothing! And, once we realize the depth and breadth of God’s love and care, we have little to be anxious about, little to prove, and little to demand impatiently from and strive to manipulate in others. We can live for God and others in selfless joy because we are no longer feverishly living for self. And, perhaps as our first expression of joy everyday, we can inform our face of the good news!
C.S. Lewis famously declared, “Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in His great campaign of sabotage.”
I like that definition. It emphasizes some aspects of our faith that, for a variety of reasons, have been overlooked in the church for quite a while – and, in my opinion, to our detriment.
For one, it emphasizes that Christianity is inherently militant. The Bible likens Christians to soldiers, openly and repeatedly. It talks about them waging war and taking captives (2 Corinthians 10:14ff; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:1-13; etc.). Now, of course, that isn’t the only metaphor used to describe Christ’s followers and we must look carefully to the context of Scripture to rightfully understand the often paradoxical way in which the metaphor is used, but – make no mistake – it’s there, and for good reason.
Secondly, Lewis’ definition also emphasizes that Christianity is a cosmic counterrevolution. The world is not presently as it should be. It’s fallen under the domain of an evil tyrant, a usurper – a saboteur. It bears the marks of his abuse. And while all humanity was at one time spiritually blinded and in service to the devil, Christ is presently liberating countless souls, calling them to defect from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Christ.
Thirdly, Lewis rightly portrays Christianity as a movement of many, each following the one true King, Jesus Christ. Too many envision Christianity as an individual choice, a deeply private matter (no church; no accountability; no shared ministry). However, while it is a personal choice, it is not a private matter. The liberating message of the gospel has implications for every sphere of life – family, community, church, state, etc. Nothing is untouched by the gospel pronouncement that Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Finally, Jesus – quite contrary to what many suggest - intended to start a paradoxical movement of forceful grace. Sabotage to the Christian is the destruction of the devil’s work in the world, not through physical weapons and coercion but through spiritual weapons and conversion. Through love and grace, Christians aim toward the healing, reconciliation, and renewal of all things.
Viva la resistance!
Christians hold a diversity of opinions regarding the implications of the gospel message for political and economic liberty. Yesterday, in the wake of a Supreme Court decision affirming key components of so-called “Obamacare,” some American Christians rejoiced while others mourned. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. American evangelicals are increasingly divided on issues pertaining to the intersection of the gospel and politics. So, if we’re not careful, this recent decision concerning health care could polarize us as believers in Christ even further.
Perhaps for this reason, I cannot escape praying today for our nation and, more importantly, the church in our nation. Where do we go from here? What is our agenda as we move forward together? How can we maintain the bonds of peace and unity among the saints, when our various convictions on political and economic matters lead us to opposing and possibly even antagonistic conclusions? A few thoughts:
God is sovereign.
Job 38-42:6; Acts 4:24; Romans 8:28; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 6:10
Let us remember that nothing happens outside the providence of God. Nothing. Some Christians might consider recent decisions concerning healthcare in America an offense to God, while others regard it a national expression of obedience to his will. What we should all agree on is that God allowed it; that he ultimately oversees it; and that he will use it ultimately for his glory and our good. He can and he will.
God is faithful to his covenant – and us.
Deuteronomy 7:9; 31:36-38; Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 61:8; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5
Let us also remember that whether we consider this legislation an expression of God’s sustaining love and care for America or a harbinger of his just and wrathful doom, one thing is certain: God is always caring for us, his people – his church. That never changes. Nations rise and nations fall, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. And the words of his covenant are sure: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Since God is sovereign and faithful, we need not be anxious.
Isaiah 35:4; Matthew 6:25-34; John 16:33; Philippians 4:6ff
Let us remember that Jesus taught his disciples to not worry about anything. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul reminded us to be anxious about nothing. Whether you’re fearful that President Barack Obama won’t have another term or concerned to death that he will, be at peace. As believers, we must continually trust that the mightier and steadier hand of providence ultimately steers the course of men and of nations. He delights to work in us and through us, but reserves the right to even work despite us to achieve his good, pleasing, and perfect will. Do not let your heart be troubled; he is in control. Remember: Christ has overcome the world.
Since God is sovereign and faithful, we can be peaceful toward others.
Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 3:15;
Let us remember though that true trust in God’s sovereignty does not produce fatalistic resignation. Quite the contrary! The assurance of God's sovereignty is the ground of boldness and courageous action, even and especially in the face of incalculable odds. Praise the Lord that former generations of Christians didn't justify inaction with some slothful reference to God's sovereignty, but found in it the confidence to fight against every form of injustice and tyranny over the heart, soul, mind, and strength of man.
In that regard, and whether you support or loathe the Supreme Court’s recent decision, you should definitely keep striving to know, apply, and advance biblical truth in every sphere of life according to the light of your understanding and conscience, even with great zeal. However, in your zeal, don’t forget that we do not wage war as the world does. Don’t lose sight that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual. Don’t lose sight of our Lord’s command to speak the truth in love, not vitriol. Likewise, don’t underestimate the all-surpassing power of praying for one’s opposition in the Spirit; the authenticating force of arguments offered in gentleness and respect; and that the gospel is a message of spiritual conversion, not coercion. In short, hold tenaciously to your convictions, but advance them in peace.
Our citizenship is ultimately in heaven.
Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 2:9
Finally, let us remember that our ultimate trust is not in the princes of earth, but in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace - seated in heaven, but one day returning. Yes, the gospel changes lives in the here and now. Yes, transformed lives transform every sphere those lives touch: families, churches, communities, cultures, and so on. Yes, it was exhilarating to see the gospel so affect the birth and maturation of a nation that it became a relatively peaceful and even encouraging home for Christians and their churches. And, yes, it is depressing to see the gospel’s influence seem to wane in our culture on so many fronts – political, economic, and otherwise. However, the ground of our hope was not, is not, and will never be here. If we find ourselves despairing or rejoicing over the ebbs and flows of our earthly nation more than rejoicing over the security of our place in the Kingdom of Heaven, something is wrong. We’re gazing in the wrong direction.
No, these aren’t the only thoughts a pastor could offer on such a weighty and significant matter. However, I hope that they are comforting ones as we all move forward for the glory of Christ, and the good of our families, communities, and culture. If the glory of God remains our shared and highest aim, what unites us is always greater than what might threaten to divide us. Let’s not forget that.
Keep fighting, but strive in the Spirit and power of the Lord – not the spirit of the age.
Blessings in Christ,
We're excited to announce the inaugural "Ultimate Goal" Soccer Camp!
This August 6-10, 2012 (6:00-8:30PM), we're planning a soccer camp for area kids, specifically those entering Kindergarten through those entering 8th grade this fall. Held at the Bushy Run Fields in Penn Township, skilled and experienced player-coaches will impart a love of the game, the skills necessary to play it with excellence, and lessons about playing soccer to the glory of God!
We're solidifying details now, but look for more information in our church bulletin, on this site, and some print materials that we'll distribute later this month.
As a final note, this camp is open to all, but we hope to especially reach out to the kids of Jeannette, PA as we look to start a new congregation there over the next few years! Whether you're a soccer lover or not, we'd love your help. Contact the church office to volunteer!
This Sunday, I will begin a new summer Sunday School class entitled, "Gospel Transformation." This is a module of our officer training class, but is open to all. Everyone is encouraged to attend!
Loosely based on the World Harvest Mission Bible study of the same name, this study describes our vision as a Christ-centered, gospel-driven, and Spirit-led church. We will review the process of gospel transformation that God makes possible for individuals, families, churches, institutions, communities, and cultures. We will also review our church’s commitment to a unique plan of ministry emphasizing our desire to make the invisible Kingdom visible in every sphere of life.
Please consider joining us for this class or for another led by one of our elders in the Gospel of Matthew!
In June, we'll have our "The King is Coming!" Vacation Bible School for the kids!
In July, we'll offer our annual "Summer Slam" recreation ministry for kids, K-5th grade. Summer Slam will meet on scheduled Tuesdays and Thursdays for six sessions, from 9:30AM - noon.
Tuesday - July 10th
Thursday - July 12th
Tuesday - July 17th
Thursday - July 19th
Tuesday - July 24th
Thursday - July 26th
Please note: your child does not need to attend all sessions! Attend when you can! You can register here!