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.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Four Things That Will Not Change on November 9th

            Are you worried about the upcoming election? Anxious over what might happen if a certain candidate wins and takes office? Thinking that the world as we know it may just come to an end? The kind of changes that he or she will bring that might prove detrimental to our society. The type of future this will bring for our children. Certainly there will be changes when the next president takes office and not all of them necessarily good. But I think as Christians, we need to find comfort in those things that will not change on November 9th, the day after the election. To look beyond this tumultuous election season and what it promises to the much bigger and better picture. To find our hope and comfort there instead of in some corrupt politician.

            One thing that will not change after the election is that God will still be sovereign and on His throne. That has been true for all eternity and will remain so. His sovereignty does not depend on what the American people decide at the polls. No human can usurp His authority and reign. We all have tried in our own lives and we each have failed. I think back to the book of Daniel where God’s people are in a foreign land living under wicked rulers. (Hmm . . . Sound familiar? That’s exactly where we as Christians find ourselves now. Having our true citizenship in heaven with earthly rulers here below who are more concerned about themselves rather than honoring God.) In the case of each of those leaders, God reminded them that He called the shots and that He determines them to have such a position and how long they will be in it. “That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets it over the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17). He even brings the boastful arrogant pagan King Nebuchadnezzar to say that “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ” (Daniel 4:35). I find great comfort in the truth of Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” No need to lose sleep about what will happen following election day. God will still be reigning over whoever is president and we can rest in that!

            Another thing that will not change after the election is that we still have a greater eternal kingdom to which we belong. This is a kingdom that cannot be shaken by the events of earth (Hebrews 12:28). The policies of any president, no matter how awful, will not affect or damage that kingdom in any way, shape, or form. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a statue that represented four different kingdoms in history and a rock not of man that destroyed all of them. The rock being God’s kingdom that Jesus will consummate when He makes His grand return (Daniel 2:31-45). When, as John records, “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). America, as well as every other kingdom in this world, will not last. It all will come to an end when Christ returns. As those who are part of this eternal kingdom because of Christ’s obedient life and sacrificial death, let’s make sure that our greater concern is found in preparing ourselves and others for that kingdom instead of this kingdom which WILL sink by the time that the better kingdom sails in.

            Also, Jesus will continue to build His church on November 9th and following as He has done up to this point (Matthew 16:18). The affairs of this earth will not hinder it. The future of the church does not hang in the balance with whatever the results of the election turn out to be. If Jesus can build His Church under a Herod and Emperor Nero who both tried to destroy the Church in their day, He can certainly do so under a President Trump or President Hillary, regardless of what they may do in an attempt to stop it. As Jesus said, “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

            And the results of November 9th will not change our mission. We will still be expected just as much to “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 [Jesus] commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). You see, we have a much greater mission than winning an election. We are to be about winning souls! People will still be just as lost and heading to hell after the votes have been cast as they are now. We are the ones that He has sent out to warn them and offer them the salvation that can only be found in Christ Jesus. Let’s be careful not to get so caught up promoting a certain candidate as if he or she is our only hope but instead spend more time promoting Jesus Christ as the true hope for a lost people.

The next time you find yourself upset or anxious about the results of this upcoming election, take a moment to reflect on these four truths. Whenever you look at the big picture, it helps put things into their proper perspective. Regardless of who will be our next president, God will remain sovereign, His kingdom will still be coming unshaken, Jesus will continue to build His Church, and we still have a mission to be faithful in. Take heart and, by His grace, continue to press forward for the sake of Christ and the gospel.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Fighting Forgetfulness

I think that often a Christian’s problems come from one thing. Forgetfulness. Now, I’m not talking about forgetting where you placed your keys, an anniversary date, or the reason you walked into the room you are in. This forgetfulness is much worse and can have even greater consequences in your daily life. It is the forgetfulness of some important truths that we find taught to us in the Word of God.

            One of these truths concerns who we are. Basically forgetting our identity. That we are sinners in daily need of God’s rescuing grace. We cannot get through a day on our own in our strength and power. We are impotent. We are dependent. We are in need. When we forget this, we don’t see the necessity of prayer and spend far too little time on our knees. We fail to look to God for His all sufficient grace. Like Adam and Eve before us, we will buy into the lie that we can be self-sufficient like God (Genesis 3:5). And also like Adam and Eve, the results will be disastrous! We can never do one thing to add to our salvation but find the salvation we need already accomplished by the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, through His perfect sinless life and substitutionary death on the cross. The moment we are no longer mindful of that blessed truth, we will become so weary focusing on our many, many, many daily failures rather than resting in the grace that has been provided and holding that as our comfort.

            Another truth we have a tendency to forget is whose we are. That, as the Heidelberg Catechism so beautifully put it, “I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” This means that Christians do not have a right to live as they please. They are not in charge of their lives. Christ rules over them and His Words direct how they are to live and what they are to do with their bodies. What happens when we forget this? Well, it will result in some sin. Just look at the church in Corinth as an example. They thought that they could do whatever they wanted with their bodies so they gave themselves over to sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). Such is the very reason Paul wrote, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (vv. 19-20). How many sins would be avoided if we kept in mind more often that we have given up all the rights to ourselves to the One who purchased our lives through the blood that He shed on the cross?

            We also wind up forgetting where we live. How many times do we get shocked at the things that are occurring in our world? Finding ourselves gasping at the violence, deceit, or hatred that feeds the news cycle? Or confused when our lives are disrupted by an illness, job loss, death, or another major difficulty? Shouldn’t we actually expect such in a broken fallen world under the curse of sin? Things are not right in this world. They are not the way that they should be. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it” (Romans 8:20). The only reason we can experience anything going right in this world comes from God’s grace in sending His Son to redeem us from under the curse and in the promise of His return to restore this world back to where it was before the curse.

            And we continually forget where our home is. As worked up as we can get about our material possessions or about the election of the president of an earthly nation, you would think that this earth is our home. That we plan to be here for all eternity. The things of this temporary world appear to mean the most to us. We can never seem to have enough and always want something bigger and better. But, doesn’t Scripture tell us that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20)? That we are not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth which will be destroyed but instead treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20)? Isn’t our example the Old Testament Patriarchs who saw themselves as “strangers and exiles on the earth” looking for a better heavenly city (Hebrews 11:13-16) instead of the rich fool who planned to build bigger barns to store his excess in order to, in a sense, “retire early” (Luke 12:13-21)? Our affluent extravagant lifestyles reveal to us just how much we have forgotten this truth.

            So, what is the remedy to this forgetfulness? To immerse ourselves in the Word of God and allow the Spirit to shape and mold us according to it’s truths; the very ones that we are so prone to forget. Popular author Randy Alcorn has said, “During the days when I neglect to spend time in God’s Word, I see a very real difference in my eternal perspective (and my lack of perspective).” We see a real difference with how much we are mindful of these truths in our thoughts and actions with how much we intake of God’s Word. Guard against the natural tendency to forget who you are, whose you are, where you live, and where your home is by reminding yourself of the truth through reading and studying the Bible.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Pondering the Practicality of Predestination

There are many accusations that are often hurled at those who hold to what I would describe as the biblical understanding of the doctrine of predestination; that God, in eternity past, chose those for whom He would save through the perfect sinless life and sacrificial death of His Son in their place and who the Holy Spirit would work saving faith into their hearts to receive the salvation that He granted them. Of course one of these accusations is that such an understanding of what the Bible teaches pertaining to predestination is wrong. Another claim is that the doctrine is not practical in regards to ministry and evangelism. My goal in this blogpost is to address the latter. Perhaps I'll take some time one day and deal with the former. Suffice it to say now that I see no better way to understand passages such as John 6:44, 65; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-30; 9:1-29; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:3-6; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 1:1-5; and Revelation 13:8; 17:8.

The doctrine of predestination has actually brought me to a much greater reliance upon God in my ministry. The longer I serve, the more confirmation I find of the hardness of human hearts that only God can break. I realize more and more that the only hope that I have for any fruit to result from what I do has to come from Him. I can't bring anyone to repentance. I can't take someone who has little concern for God and His Word and give him or her a strong desire for Him. Unfortunately, there are times when I think that I have tried. But all I can do is be faithful to preach and teach the Word as God has called me to do and then pray, pray, and pray that His Spirit would make it effective. Knowing that salvation is completely of the Lord and not solely of human will leads me to pray that God would open up hearts to receive His Word like He did with Lydia (Acts 16:14) and move people to respond positively to His Word. In fact, the more I ponder the implications of the doctrine of predestination leads me to spend even more time in prayer. I can't but He can! And He wants me to plead with Him to do so. I can certainly relate to John Alexander who once said, "At the beginning of my missionary career I said that if predestination were true I could not be a missionary. Now after twenty some years of struggling with the hardness of the human heart, I say I could never be a missionary unless I believed in the doctrine of predestination." Thankfully, in God's great mercy, it hasn't taken me twenty years to get to that point thought I confess that I still often need the reminder.

Also, it is the doctrine of predestination that has sustained me to continue in ministry. There have been discouragements along the way in my service as will be true with any pastor and his ministry. (If it hasn't come yet, trust me, it will.) I think every pastor goes through that time or, in some cases, those times, when they wonder if the Lord is using them where He has placed them. Where they are bothered because they may not be seeing many converts or the Word taking root in the congregation's lives. Of course, we have an enemy who just loves to take advantage of this to work to bring God's servant down and cause him to be unfaithful. But the best way to combat this I have found to be is by reflecting on the doctrine of predestination. That God has already chosen those whom His Spirit will work in to receive His Son as their sufficient substitute. That He will grow those He has predestined to through the preaching and teaching of His Word. I come back to Acts 18:10 where God tells Paul to keep ministering in Corinth despite the challenges the apostle faced, because "I have many in this city who are My people." God is saying that Paul shouldn't quit because He has people already set apart to be brought to Him through Paul's gospel work there. Think about that the next time you find yourself questioning what you are doing at the church you are serving at. When it seems like everything you do is all for nought. That you are getting nowhere with the people in the congregation. No conversions or growth. God is still growing His Church that His Son died for! There may be many in the city or town in which you serve that He has chosen to be His people. Many of those currently bearing little to no fruit within your congregation that He has chosen to be His people. Don't give up but keep going, holding fast to such a thought! To help me out with this when that dreaded discouragement comes, I have written down the following on a piece of paper that now lays on my desk, "God will convert and sanctify His elect here at Mt. Joy as He has promised. I just need to pray, preach, pastor, and wait to rejoice in seeing that be accomplished." Perhaps someone reading this right now might need to write down something similar in respect to where they serve as an encouragement for them to persevere through a difficult season in ministry.

So, don't dismiss the doctrine of predestination as not being practical for life and ministry. I certainly have not found that to be true as I am sure is also true of many others. In fact, I can think of two Reformers who found it very comforting and sustaining to their ministries. It's not just to puff our head up to win arguments but necessary for our perseverance. May the Lord use this blessed truth to press His weary servants forward in faithfulness through their rough times. I know that He has for this often weary one. I pray that He will for you as well.

Love in Christ,

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