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.

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

Monday, January 27, 2020

Why Church Cannot Be Optional For the Christian

            I’ve heard it said before and I am sure that you have too. Something to the effect of: “I don’t need the church to be a Christian. I can just as much worship God on my own each Sunday in the woods or watching a TV preacher. The church is not necessary.” Now it is absolutely true that no one is saved by either attending the church’s worship services or by joining a church. (The church as we know is not a building or a service but a people; the redeemed people of God.) Our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone with nothing that we do at all contributing to it. As you have heard me quote before, “The only thing that we can contribute to our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.” However, that does not mean that the church is irrelevant to the Christian or not needed for his or her faithful walk with the Lord and spiritual growth. In fact, just a cursory look at how the New Testament speaks of the very nature of the church and the Christian’s relationship with it makes this clear.

            The Church is Christ’s Body for Whom He Died.  If you look at all of the descriptions of the Church given to us in Scripture, you can’t help but notice just how closely connected Christ is to His Church. It is portrayed to be a flock of sheep with Jesus as the Shepherd (John 10:7-16; Hebrews 13:20), a building of bricks with Jesus being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-21), a body composed of different members with Jesus serving as the Head (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 5:23), a bride with Jesus as her groom (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:6-8), and a family with God as Father and Jesus as the elder brother (Mark 3:31-35, and take note throughout the New Testament of all the many times that believers are referred to as being “brothers and sisters”). All of this indicates that Jesus and the Church are a package deal. You really can’t have one without the other. To claim to have Jesus but want nothing to do with His Church would be to attempt to actually sever His head from His body. It would be like telling someone that you loved and cared for them but want nothing to do with their family. I would be greatly offended if someone wanted to spend time with me but continued to snub my wife. Yet, that is exactly what is done with those who seek to want to be with Jesus but not the rest of His flock. Keep in mind as well that when He confronted Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus that He identified with the Church that the terrorist at the time was persecuting. It was not “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting My Church?” but “why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). In whatever way we treat the Church, Jesus sees us as treating Him the same way!

            Believers Belong to the Church. Paul states that believers have been all baptized into one body. The image here being that of having been immersed into the Church. God never saves any believer without the intention of them being a part of the church. There is no indication given that He has any desire for anyone being what could be called a “lone ranger Christian.” In being saved, one has been placed into Christ’s church. Hence why we understand water baptism to serve as the front door of church membership. It is displaying the reality that is now true of the believer. In becoming united to Christ, the believer has also become united to Christ’s family. Should not the Christian want to demonstrate this new reality by officially joining a local fellowship and living out their faith among its members?

            Each Believer Has Been Given Gifts to Serve in the Church. Scripture is clear that each believer has a gift or gifts from the Holy Spirit to use in service to others within the Church. Paul literally devotes an entire chapter to this (1 Corinthians 12)! And we are told that these gifts are for the common good of the body (v.7).  For a believer not to be an active part of the Church would be to neglect using the gift or gifts that God has given them. God has given each of us a place in the body and something to do within it. What a privilege that is! Why would we not want to utilize what He has given us for the good of others within the church and the glory of His name?

            Believers Need the Encouragement of the Church. The temptation to become lax in our Sunday morning attendance evidently is not a new thing as the author of Hebrews addressed it concerning the believers that he wrote to in Hebrews 10:24-25. And you’ll notice that in that passage that he contrasts the failure to meet together with the need for encouraging each other. We live in dark days of a weary world. Life is not easy. We face challenges and discouragements to our faith at every turn. We need the encouragement of each other to keep looking to Jesus. An encouragement that we both have and can give in the body of Christ.

            The Christian Life Can Only Be Lived Out in the Context of the Church. Finally, consider the fact that there are 52 one-another commands in Scripture relating to things that we are to do to and for other believers, love being one of the primary ones. These cannot be practiced sitting at home each Sunday morning or unless you have taken the time to get to know a distinct group of people through living in community with them. And since the Christian with the new nature that the Holy Spirit has given him desires to be obedient to Christ, ignoring these commands cannot be an option for him or her.

            Hopefully, you can see why I say that the church cannot be optional for a Christian. But even more so, I hope that it is apparent to you just how much YOU need the church and the church needs you. Don’t neglect being a more active part of Christ’s body at a Bible-believing and gospel preaching local congregation near you. Jesus expects such and died for such.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee