Here's a look into the future

Posted by Stephen Witmer on May 12th, 2017

Several years ago, our son Samuel was watching a children’s video. As I walked past, he looked up and told me that his little sister was afraid of this episode and that he used to be afraid of it, but wasn’t afraid anymore. I asked him what changed – why he was no longer frightened. He said, ‘Because I’ve watched the whole thing already, so I know what’s going to happen. I’m not afraid.’

Christian, here’s a God-given view of our future. This view can steady and strengthen us today. We’ve watched the whole thing already, and we know what’s going to happen. We don’t need to be afraid:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever’ (Revelation 22.1-5).

PCF Recommends: Summer reading edition (line those books up now!)

Posted by Stephen Witmer on April 24th, 2017

Now that it’s Spring, and the trees are budding, and Summer is coming, it’s time to start thinking about which Christian books you’ll read this summer. Reading is a great way to grow as a Christian. Even if you’re not a reader by nature, set yourself a goal to read a little bit each day. Perhaps choose just one of these books and make it your summer project. Or, read them all!

There are lots and lots of great options out there — these are just a few. I’ve chosen some for all ages, and I’ve linked in each case to the Westminster Bookstore, which often has phenomenal prices, and is a great place to browse books. Sometimes I go there just to get good reading ideas.

Tolle lege! (take up and read)

PCF Recommends: Summer Reading edition

Redemption Accomplished and Applied, by John Murray. Reading this book is a great way to more fully understand and celebrate your salvation.

Listen Up! by Christopher Ash. Do want to get more out of sermons? This short booklet will help you a lot.

You Are What You Love, by James K.A. Smith. Pastor Stephen is currently reading this rich and thought-provoking book. Consider what it means for life and worship that we are embodied human beings formed not just by information, but what we do and what we love.

The Pleasures of God, by John Piper. This book will take you deep into the character of God.

Alive in Him, by Gloria Fuhrman. An exciting exploration of the themes of Ephesians, by a popular author.

Everything A Child Should Know about God, by Kenneth Taylor. A systematic theology for three-year-olds! Colorful illustrations and wonderful, simple teaching.

Married For God, by Christopher Ash. Everything Christopher Ash writes is helpful. Let him guide you in growing your view of marriage, whether you’re single, dating, engaged, or married.

You are welcome here

Posted by Stephen Witmer on April 11th, 2017

We’ve been thinking recently about how God might have us become a more welcoming church. And we mean ‘welcoming’ in the fullest, deepest, richest, most biblical sense of that word. Not just a friendly smile, but an acceptance of others as family. In the weeks and months to come, we’ll be aiming to orient our ministries and church culture in a way that expresses the beautiful welcome of the gospel. I have some thoughts over on the Desiring God website about what this biblical welcome is, where it comes from, and what it achieves. You can read my article here.

Parents, take your children to an Easter sunrise service this Sunday

Posted by Stephen Witmer on April 10th, 2017

Parents, here are four reasons to take your kids to an Easter sunrise service this coming Sunday.

(1) It marks Easter morning as different. I grew up going with my parents and brothers to Easter sunrise services on a hill in north central Maine. Those experiences are vividly etched in my memory. When else would we get up before dawn and gather, shivering on a hilltop with 20-30 other people? Um, never. Easter morning was different. And it should be experienced as different from every other day in the year by our kids! It’s the high point of our lives as believers in our resurrected Lord.

(2) It helps our kids imagine the events of the first Easter. We’re all embodied creatures. And there’s something about dragging your body out of bed early, while it’s still dark, and heading to the sunrise service in the pre-dawn hours, that gets you a little closer to the experience of the first disciples, who came to the tomb ‘while it was still dark’ (John 20.1). You hear the birds twittering, you see the sun rising. Our church meets for our sunrise service in a graveyard – and what a powerful visual aid, to look around at all those graves, imagine Jesus coming out of his tomb, and realize that the enormous power unleashed by Jesus’ resurrection will result in the resurrection to eternal life of all who trust in him. Doing something so out of the norm captures the imaginations of kids.

(3) It’s fun for kids. Of course it’s not fun initially, when you’re dragged out of bed by your parents. But once you’re up, and driving to a place you don’t normally go, and seeing people you don’t normally see at 6am, and singing songs as the sun rises, it’s fun. I loved the sunrise services when I was a little kid. Easter should be fun.

(4) It makes Easter even more of a family celebration. Hopefully, your church has breakfast together after your sunrise service. Families eat together, and on the highest day of the Christian calendar, it is good for the Christian family to begin the day by eating together. Each year, as our church family trundles over to the church after the service, and kids run around, and breakfast casseroles are consumed, it feels like a family celebration.

So, give it a try this year. Set the alarm, and explain to your kids why you’ll all rise early this Easter. They’ll remember it the rest of their lives.

Our PCF sunrise service is at 6am at the Park Street cemetery, followed by a breakfast afterward at the church. I hope to see you there – with your kids!

Reading the Bible one-to-one

Posted by Stephen Witmer on April 4th, 2017

Have you ever considered reading the Bible one-to-one with another person? It’s been a rich source of spiritual growth for me. Ben Ruhl has put together a great video featuring the thoughts of six people at Pepperell Christian Fellowship who have been reading the Bible together over the past few years. Watch and be inspired!

If you’d like some simple instruction for reading the Bible one-to-one, check out David Helm’s excellent little book on the subject, called (very aptly) One to One Bible Reading.