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.

Friday, August 14, 2020

A Precious Promise or a Sober Warning


            One of the most well-known and beloved proverbs in the Bible would probably have to be that of Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (ESV). Many a parent has held to this verse as a precious promise that if they do their job right in raising their children that they then have no need to fear them ever going astray from what they were taught. However, a number of parents can also testify to them seeking to do their very best at this training to have the heartbreak of watching their son or daughter walk away from it, leaving it all behind. In such a case, what went wrong? How could the child grow up to depart from it when it says here that they will not? I think part of the problem lies in us having the wrong view of what this verse actually is saying. In fact, the more that I study it, the more I am convinced that rather than being a precious promise for parents to hold fast to, it instead serves as a sober warning of what can happen if we prove negligent in our duty to discipline our children. 

            The misunderstanding of this verse begins with a mistranslation of the Hebrew that it was originally written in. The phrase should go is absent in the Hebrew. Literally, it reads, Train a child according to his way, even when he grows old, he will not turn aside from it. The training spoken of here then is not according to the way that the child ought to go but rather to his way. Furthermore, the word for “train” actually means to “start” or “begin.” (You will notice that the NIV captures this with their translation.) If you start a child out according to his own way, then you can expect him never to depart from it when he grows up. This changes everything, doesn’t it? What we have here is no encouragement as to what we are to do with our kids but what we must be careful not to do with them.

            Now, why is it that hardly any English translation actually carries this meaning? We don’t know for sure but it may have something to do with the fact that the King James Version added the should go, perhaps giving their interpretation of the according to his way, and it has become so familiar of a translation that other modern versions have been hesitant to veer from translating it any other way. In fact, it is hard to find a translation that doesn’t include these two words or some variation of them. (The New American Standard Bible, NASB, at least contains a footnote to indicate the literal translation of it.) However, one of the newest of the English translations currently available, the Christian Standard Bible (CSB), does provide the closest reading of the text that I have found. It translates it as follows: Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.

          So, what does it mean for a parent to start a youth out on his way? What kind of way is it? According to the book of Proverbs, there is only two ways in which you can walk; the way of wisdom or the way of foolishness. The author seems to imply that the way of foolishness is the natural way for us to walk. He tells us that the way that appears right to a man has at its end the way of death (14:12; 16:25) and that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, which is why discipline is necessary to remove it from him (22:15). This would mean that the way that the child would want to go would be the way of foolishness. And to allow him to go his way without any correction would be enable him to get to the place where he will not, apart from the supernatural work of God, depart from such foolishness. 

            When it comes to child rearing, the emphasis throughout the book of Proverbs is on discipline. We see this with every other proverb that addresses the issue (13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:17). In light of that, we should realize that this proverb isn’t an exception. It also deals with the issue of discipline. In this case, what happens should the parent fail to discipline their son or daughter. Should they do so, their children will get to the point where the parents will not be able to do anything with him or her. The child will become so ingrained in their foolish disobedience that there is no way to break them of it.

And is this not what we are witnessing today? A generation of those who, by and at large, have not been disciplined and taught to go the way of wisdom, but rather who had parents who basically let them do whatever they wanted, allowing them to call the shots. Such has resulted in them desiring to have their way and not being able to be bridled. How many of a parent has wound up with a teenager who they can do nothing with who they failed to discipline at a young age? We see this warning left unheeded played out again and again. 

For those of us with children still in our home, let’s be careful not to cave into their demands and allow them to get their way but to discipline them as God has prescribed, in hopes that their foolish bent will be curbed and they will learn to walk wisely. Of course, as with everything that God has called us to, this is not something that we can do on our own effectively without Him. We must rely on Him and seek to be faithful. Remember that “discipline” is related to “discipling.”

Love in Christ,

Pastor Lee

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Regarding Racism

            The recent horrific unjustifiable killing of Mr. George Floyd has erupted quite a discussion over the state of racism and race relations currently in our country. Now, to be fair, we do not know whether his murder was racially motivated or not. Just that it was a “white” cop who had his knee on the neck of a “black” man. (I personally have not read of any evidence that indicates that it was and it would be wrong of any of us to assume motive without knowing such.) Regardless though, it has got us focused on this issue with the many responses that we witness in light of it, from the protests and rioting to talk of defunding the police and the removal of anything that could be perceived to have some connection with slavery. With there being so many voices out there seeking to influence us in how we ought to see the matters of racism in the nation right now, we need to be sure that we always go back to the Bible itself to find the proper understanding of these things. And like any other matter that we may face in life, we find that Scripture is sufficient to help us to frame the issue and direct us in how to respond to it.
           
            The first thing that we need to realize in talking about “racism” is that the Bible is clear that there really is only one race and that is the human race. According to Acts 17:26, And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place. We all have the same ancestry in Noah and, through him, ultimately Adam. There is less than 0.2 genetic difference between any of us. All of us, regardless of the color of our skin, are part of a common humanity, and in racism, when someone is treated differently due to the shade of their skin, we forget just that. There are different ethnicities but only one race. Actually, it is wrong of us to even speak of being different colors. The truth of the matter is that we all are of the same color. We are just different shades of the color brown (not merely “black” or “white”). Some of us have darker skin tones and others of us lighter due to the amount of a thing called melanin in our skin. So, we really are not that different after all and all of us could be said to be “a person of color” then. This of course does not diminish any important and unique differences among us, but I don’t see those being necessarily related to the color of one’s skin. Every person is an individual designed and created by our all-wise God and of great worth and value since he or she bears His image and should be treated as such. The shade of one’s skin doesn’t make a difference in that.

            The issue with racism is the sin of partiality that James addresses in chapter 2 verses 1-7 of his letter where we are called to show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory (v. 1). The Greek word used here literally means “to judge according to face” and it prohibits treating anyone differently due to any external feature of theirs, whether that would be how they dress, their social status, or the color of their skin. Whenever we have made a presumption about someone on the basis of the shade of their skin and treat them differently than others, we have fallen prey to this sin. And it must be stressed that none of us are immune to this. We should not think that we ourselves cannot be guilty of racism (and that is true regardless of how light or dark your skin may be). Keep in mind that it is believers that James writes this to. He addresses them as my brothers indicating their kinship in Christ. That they are all part of His family. Just as easy it can be to give someone preferable treatment due to their social status because they appear to be better off than another, we can do the same thing on account of the shade of their skin. We must keep our hearts in check in regard to this and seek to love our neighbor, no matter what he or she may look like.

             And finally, we need to realize that the answer to the sin of racism is the same answer for each and every sin that plagues mankind; the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. No amount of protesting and rioting can bring us together. No new laws that would be legislated can do so. Joining a movement ultimately will not make any lasting difference. God alone has the power to break down any barriers that divide us and He has done so for those in the church through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only through Jesus Christ that reconciliation between two warring parties can ever happen. When someone is reconciled to God through receiving Christ’s salvific work on the cross in repentance and through faith in Him, they are also reconciled to those who, by grace, are their brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of who they are and what they look like. This is Paul’s point in Ephesians 2:11-22 when he talks about how, through the means of the cross reconciling believing Gentiles and Jews to God, they are brought together into one body where those who once were hostile to one another now are one in Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in the ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility (vv. 14-16).

So, if we want to see an end to the hostility between different ethnicities today, then we need to direct people back to the cross where we find ourselves all standing on level ground, all of us regardless of ethnicity or skin color being in the same boat of being a sinner in need of a Savior. And to Christ who through His death on the cross reconciles the believing repentant sinner to God and then in turn to those in Christ as part of His Church. It is only in Him do have any hope to bring about an end to the things that currently divide us. Are we telling people the gospel and calling them to be reconciled to God which will lead to their reconciliation with others? May God grant us the grace to do so even more!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Three Things to Remember in the Midst of a Global Pandemic


            As I write this, we are in the midst of what has been called a global pandemic. Something to the extent of which none of us have seen before in our lifetime. Many businesses and organizations have been shut down, dining rooms in restaurants closed, kids out of school for weeks, professional sporting events cancelled, and even we have had to suspend our gathering together in person for worship all as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19, now a household name. Our lives have been turned upside down and our routines redirected. Television and social media dominated by ongoing reports of the climbing of the numbers of those infected and the death toll. It is a lot to take in at times and can easily breed confusion and even fear if we are not careful. My goal in this month’s article is to direct us to three things that we should be sure to remember about God during a time like this. Truths that are sure to help the believer maintain his or her sanity and find comfort and security in not just these current times and situation but in all times and in every situation.

            One thing that we need to remember is God’s providence; His governing of everything in the world. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus “upholds the universe by the word of His power” (1:3). There is not a tiny sparrow that falls apart from the Father (Matthew 10:29). It is God who “changes times and seasons” and “removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21). No earthly authority holds any power without Him (John 19:11; Romans 13:1). The storm clouds and the wind move at His command (Psalm 135:7) and are stilled by His command (Mark 4:39). He at certain times sends disease (2 Chronicles 26:19-20) and heals of disease (2 Kings 20:5). Satan himself cannot act without God’s permission (Job 1:12; 2:6; Luke 22:31).

            Even in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, God is still in control. He has not and will not abdicate His throne. The world and all things in it are still being sustained and directed by His all-powerful hand. This serves as a great comfort to us because there is no one as good and wonderful to rule over everything as our great God. And we know that He is One who never makes a mistake. When things may seem like they are spiraling out of control, always remind yourself that they are in more than capable hands and therefore we have no need to fear or worry. In fact, I shudder to think about what it would look like if things like this virus were outside of God’s providence. If He were not guiding and directing everything. Thankfully, we never have to experience a world as such.

            Another thing to remember is God’s preservation of His people. One of the most comforting passages in all of Scripture is found at the end of Romans 8 where Paul unequivocally states that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can separate the believer from God’s love for them in Christ (vv. 31-37). The worst that this sickness can do for the believer is to send him or her home to heaven. It will have no effect on their eternal inheritance except to better prepare them for it. This certainly does not mean that we should presume upon God and not take the necessary precautions to prevent ourselves from contracting this virus or irresponsibly spread it to others. The Scripture “do not test the Lord your God” comes to mind here (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7). Just that we do not need to fear this virus and what it could do to us. We are forever secure in Christ and, as the Getty’s have taught us to sing, “No power of hell, no scheme of man, / Can ever pluck me from His hand / Till He returns or calls me home / Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.” We can add “no new virus or contagious sickness” to that as well.

            And finally, let’s remember God’s purpose. God does not directly cause or divinely permit anything to occur arbitrarily. As Paul points out in Ephesians 1:11, “He works all things according to the counsel of His will.” God always has a good, all wise, perfect purpose in all that He ordains and we can trust Him in that. We ought to be careful though in speculating the specifics of His purpose with things such as this virus. I have already read the different suggestions people have made of what God might be intending to do with this pandemic. The fact of the matter is that we really don’t know what all God has in mind unless He would directly reveal that to us, which He has not done. His Word is clear that we are to leave the secret things (those which the Lord has not revealed to us) in the Lord’s hands and concern ourselves with that which He has revealed to us in His Word (Deuteronomy 29:29).

            However, with all that said, we do know based on the assurance of His Word that He will use this sickness for His people’s good and to bring glory to His name. That’s the precious promise of Romans 8:28 that we have looked at together before. COVID-19 fits into this category of “all things.” Not that this sickness is itself good of course. It is a product of the Fall and evidence of the world being under a curse due to man’s sin. But what God does with it for the believer ultimately will be for his or her good. And vv. 29-30 inform us that the “good” which Paul refers is to become further conformed to the image of Jesus (v. 29) and eventually to be glorified where we will fully and completely be like Jesus in character (v. 30). Already, there has been so many various ways that the Lord has been working in our lives with this illness and the effect the preventive measures are having on us that we may not even be aware of. It is not random or purposeless but serves to prepare for a glory beyond any comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17).

            In keeping these things in mind, we can remain calm in this time of calamity. It will prevent us from giving way to fear and panic and above all else encourage us to trust in the One who providentially governs all things, preserves His people, and has a purpose for our good and His glory. Christian, be sure to rest in such truths in this time. Let it be the pillow that you can lay your head on. CNN and Fox News will not tell you this. The President and his task force more likely will not say it in any of the press briefings. But it is found in His Word and let’s be sure that we are turning to it more in these trying times.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Privilege and Responsibility of Parenting


            Parenting is hard work that entails much sacrifice. Anyone with children can attest to the truth of such a statement. For the first several years of a child’s life, they are completely dependent upon their parents for their survival. They cannot feed themselves, clothe themselves, or bathe themselves. And even as they grow to more independence throughout the years, they still need mom and dad’s help (although the stubborn teenager may not acknowledge this that often). The sleepless nights don’t go away after the child has progressed from the newborn stage but continue for different reasons as one lies awake concerned over their adult children at times.

            Yet the greatest responsibility of parenting is not found solely with taking care of our children’s physical needs, as important as that is, but in addressing their spiritual one. God’s ultimate purpose for parenting is for Him and His Word to be introduced to the next generation. “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4). He even states that His desire is for godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). It has been rightly pointed out that Jesus’ Great Commission for the Church to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20) really serves as an expansion of God’s original creation mandate for mankind “to be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). A parent’s concern should not be just to produce physical children but to disciple the children that God has given them in hopes that they will become His spiritual children by grace through faith in Christ. If we are successful in every area of our children’s lives but this one, what good is that for eternity? We could wind up having upstanding moral well-behaved kids but if they do not know about Jesus and the salvation that He has accomplished, we have ultimately failed where it matters most.

            To properly parent as God would have us to requires us to be continually teaching our kids the things of Christ and the gospel. Moses told the people in relation to God’s commandments that “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9). In everything we do, we should seek to connect it to the gospel and the teaching of Scripture. To be on the lookout for opportunities to give our children good gospel lessons. (And if we have our eyes open, they really are not that hard to find.)  Work to apply Scripture to what they are both witnessing going on around them and experiencing in their own life. Be intentional about discussing how we are to understand in light of Scripture the current headlines and hot topics. I remember a number of years back seeing a commercial of a man going around basically giving a walking commentary of everything that he saw. As he went past a store, he explained what kind of store it was and what it sold. He mentioned that he was eating a hot dog as he put it into his mouth and began chewing. It appeared as if he was just speaking to himself this whole time but when the camera zoomed out, you could see a toddler in the stroller that he was pushing. He was seeking to educate his child about the world around him as they encountered it together. Exactly what we are called to do as parents in regards to God’s Word and the gospel as we go through the experiences of life together with our kids.

            Of course, much of parenting is caught more than it is taught. You know this well when you witness your young son or daughter doing something that you had never told them to do but that they evidently picked up from observing you do it yourself. (Often times this can be that bad habit of ours that we didn’t want them to do as us!) Knowing this, one of the best things that we can do for our kids is to continue to nurture our own relationship with Christ through regular time in the Word and in prayer. Oh, what a powerful example it sets for our kids when they witness mom and dad on their knees with their Bibles open!

            And a practical way to teach our kids the Lord and His Word is to incorporate into your daily and weekly routine a time of family worship. It can be simple and doesn’t have to take a lot of time, especially if your kids are really little. Just read a passage of Scripture together, discuss what it says, and pray. It’s kind of like having a small worship service with your family. Perhaps sing a hymn together as well. (Don’t worry about your ability to sing. The point is not to perform but to worship God and encourage each other in song.) I have friends who make it their goal to teach a different hymn to their children each month. It is a great way of helping them learn the deep rich truths about God and his great salvation that He has accomplished. And as many of you know, kids learn well by singing.  

            Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day in doing this or struggle to get a routine started. We’ve been trying to begin such but I must confess that it is unfortunately more sporadic than as regularly as we would like it to be at the moment. Yet, we will strive to still do so as we would like to have this a normal part of our week that John and any other children that the Lord might give us will become accustomed to. The rewards are too great not to work to establish such in our own family. I encourage you to try it and see what the Lord might do through it, not only in your children’s lives but in yours as well. It is a wonderful way to ensure that we are teaching the next generation about the Lord and the salvation that can only be found in Christ.

            None of this will guarantee salvation for our kids of course. We know that God is sovereign and ultimately responsible for the conversation of any sinner. Yet, it is also true that the Lord does not save in a vacuum. Oftentimes, He uses the means of faithful Christian parents teaching their children the Word of God and the gospel to draw them to Him. And if you are a grandparent now whose time has passed to do this with your children, don’t neglect the important influence that the Lord has given you with your grandkids. They are part of the newest generation who need to become familiar with the Lord, His work, and His Word. May He bless our efforts to commend Him to the next generation!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee