Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15

About Me

I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Women in Ministry and 1 Timothy 2:8-15

Should a woman be licensed and ordained as a pastor of a church? How about a woman preaching? Or teaching? Some denominations and churches say yes. Others argue no. What roles has God designed for women to play in His household, the church?

Currently we are studying the book of 1 Timothy in our Wednesday night Bible Study. Last night we came to the last few verses of chapter 2; the ones that deal with the proper role of men and women in the church. I think that this passage, verses 11-15 in particular, provides a clear answer to the questions posed above. I believe that we can put the debate to rest with this passage understood in the light of the full complete revelation of God's Word. Allow me to show you. (Grab your Bible and consider my argument. At least give it a hearing before wanting to argue against it.)

The context of this instruction pertaining to women appears to be that of the church assembly. Why do I say that? Because right before he discusses the conduct of women, Paul speaks of his desire for the men in every place to pray without anger or quarreling (v. 8). This best would be understood as the men gathering together for a time of prayer as a congregation. It would not make much sense to be a private practice of prayer of individuals. For there to be discord and fighting, it must be referring to a public gathering of the church for prayer. Also, right after talking about the women, Paul moves on to speak of the characteristics of the leaders of a congregation, the elders and deacons (3:1-13). And if that is not enough to show that the issue concerns how women are presenting themselves and being instructed in the church itself, just look at the apostle's statement in 3:14-15; "I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth." What precedes deal with the proper "behavior" in the church.

So, what does Paul say is the proper "behavior" of women in the church? First, they must be more concerned about godliness instead of their personal appearance (vv. 9-10). Second, they are to "learn quietly with all submissiveness" (v. 11). Now this cannot mean that they cannot talk at all in a worship service. We have to keep in mind what else Paul has written in his other letters. He speaks of women praying and prophesying in a worship service in 1 Corinthians 11:5 so we should not take this as a blanket statement. In fact, Paul clarifies what he means with them learning in silence submissively in the very next verse. It is them not teaching or exercising leadership over men but listening to their teaching and submitting to their leadership. Obviously one of the problems in the church at Ephesus where Timothy is serving when Paul writes this letter was that some of the ladies wanted to be leaders of the congregation. Paul is clear that that is not permitted.

And why does Paul not permit it? Not because he was sexist or against women in any way. But because God has designed it this way. He goes on to point out that "Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor" (v. 13). He directs us back to God's very creation of man. How He intended man to be the leader of the wife that He had given him. The Fall did not change God's intention. Just look at 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:22-33. God has called men to take the lead. To take the lead in their homes and also in His household, the church. And we see this demonstrated throughout Scripture. Who did Jesus Christ choose to be the first leaders of the Church He gave His life for? Twelve men (Matthew 10:1-4/Mark 3:13-19/Luke 6:12-16). Who did the apostles instruct the early church to pick for the task of taking care of the neglected widows? "Seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom" (Acts 6:3). Even in the Old Testament case of Deborah, a man was called to take the lead, but that man, Barak, like too many men today, failed to step up to the plate (Judges 4:4-9).

This means that we cannot simply dismiss this passage in 1 Timothy as something that only applied temporarily to the situation at Ephesus. While certainly Paul is addressing an issue in that church, they were guilty of breaking a principle that applied to all churches. After all, he bases it upon Scripture. Furthermore, Paul says something very similar to the church in Corinth and makes sure to specify that it applies to women "in all the churches," not just that congregation (1 Corinthians 14:34). In the original Greek of that verse, the very first words are "the women in all the churches," clearly indicating that this is God's design for women everywhere. His mention of "the Law" very well could be referring back to the Genesis account of creation, which is part of what the Jews would call "the Law," the first five books of our Bible. The same place Paul went in 1 Timothy.

In light of such teaching, I cannot support a woman serving as a pastor; a position that by its very nature would require someone to teach and have authority over a man. But let me be clear! I think that we need more women in various areas of ministry. Not every role in the congregation entails teaching or having authority over men. There are many other places that a lady can serve in a church than behind the pulpit as a shepherd. We need you women!!! Titus 2:3-5 talks about older women teaching younger women. As I mentioned to the group gathered at the study last night, there are far better ways that a woman can disciple another woman than I can as pastor. And that is true in any congregation. We also can use more women involved in children's ministries. And the list of the ways that a woman can appropriately serve goes on and on. No one, gentleman or lady alike, has an excuse not to participate in the work of a local congregation. God has called all and will equip all to serve in some capacity.

Why is it that we have denominations and congregations today with women as pastors or other major areas of leadership when Scripture indicates that God has designed man to lead? I think that it is a case where our culture, which shuns gender roles and even gender itself now, has become a greater influence than the Word of God. The gender equality promoted today has blinded some to the beauty of the perfect way that the sexes are to compliment each other with their differing roles. This is true both in the home and in the church. I have come to a greater realization as I continue to preach God's Word just how counterculture it is. It goes against just about everything that the world encourages. So it really shouldn't surprise us that men leading in their homes and the church with women submitting to their leadership is so unpopular. Instead, what is surprising are churches going along with culture rather than the Word of God. The very opposite of what should be.

Love in Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Often Neglected Part of Jesus' Great Commission

            In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gave what we often call “The Great Commission” to His Church. What really serves as the Church’s job description. The very reason that He has left the Church here until His return. Here it is to remind you of it once again: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” 

            Now we talk a lot about the practice of the Church “making disciplesand the need to “baptize” new believers and to make sure that we “teachthose within the congregation the Lord’s commands preserved for us in His Word. However, it appears that we forget the very first component that Jesus gave in relation to this command to “make disciples,” the fact that we need to “go.”

            “Go” is an action word. It requires us to do something. You can’t be faithful to the call to disciple-making without some intentionality about it. I get the impression today that there are some who think that we must wait for unbelievers to just come to a worship service where they will hear the gospel and possibly get saved. (Which absolutely can, and sometimes does, happen. God certainly has brought many through the doors of a church building on a Sunday morning who had never graced such before where His Spirit did a work in their life leading them to come to Him in repentance and faith.) Or, that we need to change things in the worship service to make it more appealing for unbelievers and entice them to come. But, neither concerns us really “going” out to make disciples as the Lord says we should. And the latter actually would be an attempt to make the church more like the world. Unless God brings about a change of heart in an unbeliever’s life, they will not find biblical teaching and preaching interesting and it will seem to them to be a waste of their time.

            Some implications from an illustration that Jesus Himself gives regarding this call to make disciples also communicates to us the need to “go” out and share the gospel to get someone to disciple. He told the first disciples that He called that they were to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). Think about the image of a fisherman. He doesn’t sit at the table in his house with the plate in front of him waiting and hoping for a fish to jump up out of the water onto the land and flip flop all the way into the door of the house and onto the plate. No. He gets his fishing pole and heads out to the lake or pond to cast bait into the water in order to catch one. Likewise, we need to go out into the world with the bait of the gospel message and seek to catch some disciples. We can’t just sit in the congregation hoping and waiting for them to arrive.

            How do we do this? Again, it comes down to us being more intentional with telling others about Who Jesus is, what He has done, and calling them to repent of their sins and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. I’m sure that each of us have those in our families and among our friends who have yet to be saved. Pray for an opportunity to work Jesus and the gospel into a conversation with them. Part of friendship is sharing with one another what is important to you. If you are in Christ, then Jesus is the most important person in your life. So, naturally you will talk about Him and His Word as part of your daily conversation with others. Make sure to explain why He is so important to you and the reason you submit to Him as Lord over all of your life. That should bring you right to the gospel. 

If you really are struggling with this (and to be fair I think all of us at times do struggle with this), then pray and ask God to give you the boldness needed to bring the gospel up with your unsaved loved ones. That’s what the apostles did when they were facing persecution for their faith and they desired to be obedient to Jesus’ word about being His witnesses to all the world. You can read their prayer in Acts 4:23-30. And guess what happened after they made such a prayer? God answered, giving them the boldness they needed and they went out to spread the gospel throughout the known world in light of the hostility that they faced. God has the ability to take care of any fear that you might have or to give you the right words that you need. Just look to Him and seek to be faithful.

God’s plan for growing His Church is through sending out His people to communicate the life-saving and life-transforming message of the gospel. If we want to see our congregation grow, we need to be participants in that plan. We need to “go” out with the message to bring in people to disciple. Let’s not neglect the first step of our Master’s “Great Commission.”

Laboring With You in Sharing the Gospel,
Pastor Lee

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Lessons For The Church From the Book of Acts

Today I took some much needed time to go through the book of Acts. There is so much confusion over what the church is and does today that I wanted to go back to its start and be reminded of how God designed it. While the culture around us may be changing, the role and work of the Church does not. That is simply because God Himself does not change nor does His Word. While we do need to be careful in taking a historical account that documents God's work in a specific time and place to not make it prescriptive (telling us what we need to do) instead of descriptive (informing us of what has been done), that doesn't mean that there still aren't things that remain the same with the Lord's design and work. I'll just share with you three specific things that jumped out at me in the book of Acts and the lessons from them for the church today.

God Is The One Who Ultimately Does the Work
The book of Acts is actually inaccurately titled. It shouldn't be called "The Acts of the Apostles" but really "The Acts of God the Holy Spirit" as it is His work and not any man's. In fact, Luke seems to go out of his way to emphasize that every major occurrence is a result of the action of God. He is the One indicated who pierces the hearts of the crowd listening to Peter's sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:37). The Greek word for "pierce" indicates that this is something that happens to the people from outside of them. It clearly was the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and not something that originated from them internally. Luke credits the growth of the Church with God and not the apostles or members of it (2:47; 5:14; 9:31; 11:21, 24; 16:5). "And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (2:47). Jesus Himself met Saul also known as Paul on the road to Damascus dramatically turning his life around and changing his course (9:1-9). Paul didn't have a chance to refuse the Lord of glory when confronted with His presence! The Gentiles who believed were those whom God had already appointed to have eternal life (13:48). Lydia didn't open up her own heart to respond to the gospel message that Paul shared but the Lord did (16:14) and God made sure that Paul knew that there were many people in the city of Corinth whom He had sovereignly chosen to be His people (18:9-10).

Throughout the entire movement of the early church, God's Spirit directed, guided, and protected all that happened. The Spirit sent out Barnabas and Saul/Paul (13:2) as well as guided the decision of the Jerusalem Council (15:28), determined Paul, Silas, and Timothy to go to Macedonia to minister as He shut the door to the other directions in which they were heading (16:6-10), and called the ones He desired to serve as elders in the church at Ephesus (20:28). God also worked to remove every stumbling block that Satan tried to mount against the Church. He took care of Ananias and Sapphira's tampering with the truth before the church (5:1-11), released Peter and others from prison (5:17-20); insured that Saul would be received by Ananias (9:10-16) and that Peter would witness to the Gentiles (10:13-16) in light of both of their apprehension, released Peter from prison again (12:6-17), struck down King Herod (12:18-23), and protected Paul in order to bring him to Rome where he could further spread the gospel message (27:1-28:10).

I am certain that there are many more that could be shared that I have missed but as you can see everything that took place all was a work of God. No man could take the credit for what transpired in the life of this church as it was growing and expanding. I think the same is still just as true today. Any work that ever is accomplished in any congregation can only be explained as it being a work of God's Holy Spirit. We could never bring about the same results that God can. So, does that mean that we can sit back and expect God to just take care of everything? Nope. Because we do also see in the book of Acts an important role that the Lord has called His redeemed church to play in His marvelous plan of salvation.

The Means God Uses To Accomplish This Work of Growing His Church is The Church's Prayer and Proclamation
God, in His infinite wisdom, has determined to do this great work of expanding and growing His church through the means of the church itself. Specifically through the church's praying and proclamation. We don't find these new believers lazy by any means. They are busy for the Lord!

First, they are a praying church. And I am not talking about each member simply saying grace before a meal or saying a few words to the Lord as they go to bed. They spent time praying together as a church. The discipline served as part of the regular routine of their gathering together (2:42). Just about everything that they did was preceded in prayer whether it was seeking the Lord's will for the replacement of Judas (1:23-26), commissioning leaders (6:3-6; 13:3; 14:23), and asking for the sending of the Spirit for new believers (8:14-17). God honored their prayers as well. After they prayed for boldness in 4:23-30, we are told that "the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness" (v. 31). Such boldness can be seen with the scattering of the apostles to spread that gospel message as well as with Stephen preaching the gospel unto his death. Also, their earnest prayer for Peter in prison (12:5) resulted with his release, much to the surprise of the church (vv. 12-17). Paul and Silas' praying and praise brought about an earthquake freeing them as well as leading to the conversion of the jailer himself (16:25-34).

This is quite a contrast to the activity of most American churches today. If the congregation has a prayer meeting, and that is a big IF, very few people come out for it or take it seriously. They claim to not have time to come before the Lord with their brothers and sisters, admit their utter dependency upon Him, and request Him to do the work that only He can do. No wonder we don't see God do as much in our congregations today. We aren't petitioning Him to do anything. I am convinced that we could see the same mighty works of God moving today as that church in Acts if we would just follow their lead and get on our knees together.

Second, this church was a proclaiming church. Their main work in addition to praying was proclaiming the gospel of God's grace to those who needed to hear it which is everyone. Luke records not only the church's actions in this (6:7; 8:4-6; 14:1; 16:13; 17:2-3, 13, 17; 18:4, 28) but also even some of their evangelistic encounters or sermons in detail (2:14-36; 3:11-26; 7:1-53; 8:26-40; 9:19-22; 10:34-43; 13:16-41; 17:22-31). The narrative ends with Paul "proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance" (28:31). Without any question this was the church's main goal . . . and of course it should have been as their Lord and Master commanded them to do so (Matthew 28:19-20) and stated that this was His purpose for them (Acts 1:8). Above all else, they were committed to tell others about Jesus and the salvation that can only be found in Him.

If prayer and the proclamation of the Word of God serve as the two means that God uses to bring about His intended purpose in the church, then why would the contemporary church neglect them or attempt to do anything else? Could this be why many congregations today are not seeing much spiritual growth (which is different from just filling the pews with people whose hearts remain far from God)? They have abandoned the only two means that God has ordained for Himself to work through. In fact, in light of this we can refine the proper title of Acts, "The Acts of God the Holy Spirit Through the Prayer and Proclamation of the Apostles."

The Work That the Church Does Is Empowered By the Holy Spirit
One final thing I want to point out to you concerning what we can learn from the book of Acts. You will notice that as you read through this historical account that even this proclamation of the gospel that the church labored at to serve as the means of God's drawing men and women to Himself was not done in their own strength. They did it relying on the power that God provided for them in His Holy Spirit. Many times before someone shared the gospel or had God do a mighty work through them, we read that they were "filled with the Spirit" (4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9-11). Those who were mature in the faith are also deemed to be "filled with the Spirit" (6:3, 5; 11:24). I think the point communicated with this phrase is that these men operated by the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish their appointed task.

Believers today are no more stronger than these weak ones we read about in this book. Remember that many of these apostles were the timid, confused, stubborn disciples who cowered in fear behind locked doors after Jesus' arrest. The only explanation for the courage we witness in Acts is that they were relying on the power of the Holy Spirit that the Lord had graciously given them to do the means which God worked through to bring about His plan to grow His church. How much more could those in the church accomplish today if they just would rely on the Holy Spirit that dwells within them? To step out in faith and in Him find the confidence to face the uncomfortable? David Platt hit the nail on the head when he said, “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to the spread of the Gospel today is the people of God trying to do the work of God apart from the power and presence of God.”

Putting all of this together we could say that a better name for the book of Acts would be "The Acts of God the Holy Spirit Through the Means of the Praying and Proclamation of the Apostles Empowered By That Spirit." Of course, that would be a rather long title but more substantial in capturing the essence of the book. However, I think the bigger issue is whether what you see in your congregation could be described as "The Acts of God the Holy Spirit Through the Means of the Praying and Proclamation of His People Empowered By His Spirit" or "The Acts of Man Through the Worldly Means of Themselves Relying on Themselves." May God mold us into the model of the church provided for us in the book of Acts instead of allowing us to be molded by the model of the world.

Love in Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Jesus' Cry of Forgiveness

You can learn a lot about someone by looking at their last words. Have you ever done a study of the last words of famous people in history before their death? In someone’s last words you can find out what was important to them as well as key insights into their character. This is certainly true concerning the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We receive a marvelous glimpse into His heart when we explore the seven last sayings He uttered with His final breaths while hanging on the cross.

The first of these statements was Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. Take a moment and let this sink in. Jesus here is asking God to forgive the ones who hated Him. Those who mocked Him. Who flogged His back. Who spit upon Him. Who placed the crown of thorns forcefully on His head. Those who nailed Him to the cross. Who were responsible for the agonizing pain that He is experiencing.

The Lord of glory is asking God to do for the greatest act of sin in all of history what we struggle to do for small offenses towards us. We have a hard time letting go of the hurts caused to us by others, don’t we? To forgive those who wrong us. Yet, that is exactly what Jesus prays that God the Father would do for His tormentors here. Jesus is doing what He has called us to do when He instructed us in the Sermon on the Mount to forgive those who wrong us and to pray for our enemies. This should serve as an encouragement for us to follow His leading.

Notice that Jesus states they do not know what they are doing. He is not saying that they were completely ignorant that what they were doing was wrong. Just that they did not understand how great of a crime they were guilty of. That they were murdering the very Son of God. A sinner needs the Holy Spirit to open their blind eyes to recognize the enormity of their sins against God.

At this very moment on the cross, Jesus is ensuring that God will answer this prayer for forgiveness as He experiences the full weight of God’s wrath for the sins of those who will look to Him alone for their salvation. That the holy God will be able to forgive them as Jesus takes the punishment for their sins. He will no longer hold their sins against them as Jesus has turned away God’s wrath their sins brought upon them.

We find Jesus’ prayer answered with the thief on the cross as well as the Roman Centurion I believe that Brother Bob will be speaking about later as both received the forgiveness that Jesus requests here. We see the prayer answered in the book of Acts in the great number who have God’s forgiveness on the day of Pentecost as they respond in repentance to Peter’s sermon. Many among that crowd were held responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. Who may have called for Him to be crucified. Who joined in the taunts and ridicule that day.

And let me point out to you that this is a limited prayer. It is only for those who are in Christ by God’s grace alone through faith alone. It is not for those who remain in their sins without repentance. We learn in John 17 that Jesus only prays for the ones that the Father gives to Him. Not for those of the world. This is the great High Priest praying for His people as He is offering Himself up as their sacrifice. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 who poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

If you are a sinner who is looking to Jesus alone to reconcile you to God, take heart. You have forgiveness because of Jesus’ prayer for you based on His sacrificial death. It doesn’t matter how great of a sinner you are or what type of a sinner you are. As the hymn rightly says, “Jesus is merciful. Jesus will save.” And if you don’t know Jesus personally as your Lord and Savior, why not come to Him today to experience the forgiveness that He prays for and that He laid down His life for. This prayer can be for you if you just look to Him.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!