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.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Becoming Too Comfortable With An Uncomfortable God



I fear that we each, more often than not, have a far too comfortable view of God. We speak of Him so casually at times, like He is more of our best buddy than the very Creator and Lord of the universe. Our approach of Him lacks the reverence which He so much deserves. We treat corporate worship so routinely as if it is just something that we do rather than the very reason for which we were made and the awesome privilege of being in His holy presence with His holy people to proclaim His wonderful beautiful name.

When we look at God’s holy nature revealed to us in His Word, we do not find a God who we should be comfortable with. Who we can just carelessly approach or think that we can control. But One who should place us in constant amazement and in awe. Who should move us to continually exclaim, “Who is like this God? How marvelous He is.” Who very well may make us scratch our heads at times trying to figure Him out. A God who really cannot be figured out by our small human minds since He is so much unlike us.

After all, this is the God who told Moses to take off his sandals because due to His presence there, the man currently stood on holy ground, leading Moses to hide his face in fear to look at the apparition (Exodus 3:5-6). Who thundered with peals of lightning from the top of Mt. Sinai warning the Israelites not to get near Him (Exodus 19:16-25). The thrice holy God who caused the prophet Isaiah to shake far more than the thresholds of the temple when He appeared before him there. And when the prophet finally gains enough composure to speak, all he can utter is “Woe is me. I am undone!” and recognize his great sinfulness (Isaiah 6:1-5). Likewise Peter, after a miraculous catch of fish orchestrated by Jesus, falls down before Him and exclaims, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” being astonished at this with his companions (Luke 5:8-9). The disciples later actually wind up becoming more fearful of the One who calms the storm than they were of the storm itself, prompting them to ask, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:35-41). Even the soldiers who come to arrest Jesus find that they cannot stand in His holy presence when He utters the divine “I Am” (John 18:6). 

In light of all this, how can we treat such a God so casually? To not be wowed at Who He is every time we think of Him? He cannot in any sense of the word be considered “boring.” Not a God which we could ever tire of if we keep in mind Who He actually is. That in essence has to be our problem. We have forgotten His greatness and His might. We have grown too comfortable with an uncomfortable God.

This is not a God to be taken lightly. He did not take too kindly to Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, offering up the type of fire they desired for the altar of incense in exchange for that which He commanded them (Leviticus 10:1-3). Who refused to let Moses enter the promised land on account of his disobedience (Numbers 20:10-13), struck down Uzzah for just touching the ark of the covenant which symbolized for the Israelites His holy presence (2 Samuel 6:5-7), ensured that Ananias and Sapphira’s lie to Him was their very last (Acts 5:1-11), and, in love, showing grace and mercy crushed His own Son for the salvation of the sins of those who place their trust only in Him (Isaiah 53). 

And yet how often do we think or act as if we can bend this God to agree with our wills rather than submit our will to His? To treat Him as some sort of cosmic bell hop who will deliver our every whim or wish. I cringe whenever I hear someone order Him to do something in Jesus’ name as if they control Him. (There is a difference between humbly asking something being resolved ultimately to accept His will whatever that may be and making demands upon Him as if He answers to us rather than us answering to Him.)

It is because we are so prone to forget God’s holiness leading us to think, speak, and approach Him so casually and imagine that we can control Him at times as to why I believe that it is so essential to be in the Word every day throughout this new year. Why once again we will be printing out a Bible reading plan that will take you from the first verse in Genesis all the way to the last line of Revelation in a year’s time. (Some of you may already be working your way through and if the plan we provide isn’t helpful for you, there are other plans out there. The main thing is that you are experiencing our great God through His inspired Word each day.) I do want to encourage you in your reading though to really pay attention to the God you encounter through it’s pages. You will probably be surprised at times. Astonished. Amazed at Who He is and what He has done. Let His holy character move and shape you. And may each of us take Him far more seriously and much less casually as a result.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

What I Appreciated About Dr. R. C. Sproul

I was first introduced to the ministry of Dr. R. C. Sproul while in college by my pastor/mentor. His book, "Chosen by God," was very helpful for me as I struggled to understand the Bible's teaching on the doctrine of election and figuring how it all fit together. Later I read his "The Holiness of God" and was so encouraged with the biblical picture of the greatness of God that often has been watered down so much today. It very well could be part of what the Lord has used to spark a passion in my own life and ministry for the proclamation of God's holiness. I have benefited from many of his other books, commentaries, teaching series, and sermons as well. He has been helpful in forming my theological understanding in various ways.

While there are many things that I appreciate about Dr. Sproul, the one thing that I would have to say that I appreciate the most was the fact that he never talked down to anyone in his teaching and preaching. What I mean by that is that he never shied away from using big theological terms or teaching difficult doctrines because they might be over people's heads. He labored instead to explain them in such a way that just about anyone could understand them. Like Martin Luther, he aimed at communicating in such a way that the simple maid in the congregation could understand as well as the learned scholar. He often would mention the Latin or Greek terms used in relation to a specific doctrine and explain the meaning of the word by the etymology of it. He appeared to delight in doing so. He certainly had a gift from God to make the complex comprehensible. This struck me in a day and age when pastors and teachers are even told not to use such theological language or go that deep in doctrine because the people in the pew won't be able to understand it. I hear many pastors claim that they themselves avoid ever using such theological terminology on account of the same reason. Then interestingly enough, have the same ones complain at how much their congregations don't understand of doctrine. (And then I think in my head, that kind of makes sense if you are not teaching them these things because you think that they can't handle it. But it appears that they never make such a connection themselves.)

Dr. Sproul thought that every Christian should have a foundational and growing understanding of doctrine, theology, and philosophy so he labored to bring seminary to the lay person. This is what led to his founding of the Ligonier Valley Ministry Center which would eventually become Ligonier Ministries. His Systematic Theology which he released a few years ago is entitled, "Everyone's a Theologian." He wanted to be sure that people's theology was right and that they correctly understood who God is as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

This is something that I strive to do as well though I have much work yet to do on it and am nowhere near as gifted as Dr. Sproul. I am thankful for his modeling of this and pray that more would not be afraid to go a little deeper in their teaching of theology but be sure to seek to communicate the deep truths of God in a way that people can understand. May God continue to use the teachings of R. C. Sproul beyond the grave. To borrow the words of the author of Hebrews in regards to Abel, "though dead, may he still speak."

In Christ,
Lee Smith

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Why A Church Should Practice Discipline

One thing that is missing in many congregations today is the practice of church discipline. Some wouldn't dare think of enacting discipline on a member in sin. The very suggestion makes them feel so uncomfortable. As if to do so would be unloving or judgmental. After all, aren't we all sinners? Is what they are doing my business? However, historically it was thought that a church could not rightly be considered a church if did not discipline its members. As I continue to reflect on it, I wonder if a lot of problems in the visible church today stem from a failure to practice godly discipline of its members. While I have previously unpacked Jesus' specific step-by-step instructions pertaining to discipline, I want to look with you this time at a few reasons why a church SHOULD practice discipline, especially since many currently do not.

Jesus Commands Us To
Perhaps the most basic and simplest reason that a church should practice discipline is because Jesus commands us to. This is not something that He says is optional. He doesn't say reprove the brother if you are comfortable with it, if you feel like it, or unless you as a congregation decide differently. But if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private (Matthew 18:15). That's a command with the condition that your brother is continuing in a certain sin without any repentance.

Jesus serves as the head of the Church so that means His word is binding. If Jesus says to do something, the church that wants to be obedient to His teachings will seek to do it. Regardless of how countercultural it may be though we should never be surprised that much of what Jesus calls us to be and do goes against the culture. It certainly will not be in agreement with the world's way of thinking. A major problem today is that the visible church has allowed itself to be more influenced by the world rather than the Word. The neglect of the practice of discipline is just one of several examples of this.

It is Loving
We need to remember too that discipline is an act of love. This is true for parents with their children. If you did something wrong as a kid or disobeyed your parents, you were disciplined, weren't you? That wasn't because our parents hated us but because they loved us and wanted our well-being. In fact, the book of Proverbs teaches that the parents who refuse to discipline their children HATE their children. He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently (Proverbs 13:24).

Practicing church discipline on someone who is in ongoing unrepentant sin as Jesus has prescribed is one of the most loving things that a church can do for its members. If we care about them walking rightly before the Lord and growing in holiness, we cannot keep quiet about their sin and the damage that it does for their witness. We would want to confront them and plead with them to repent for their own spiritual well-being.

Furthermore, we should desire to be disciplined ourselves as well in the case where we wind up in sin and need to repent. We all have our blindspots; areas in which we cannot see our sin. If we were aware of them, they would not be blindspots. At times, we each need someone to be as Nathan was to King David (2 Samuel 12). Yes, due to our sinful pride, we first may not be as accepting of a brother or sister's much needed confrontation and correction. We all have, as Paul David Tripp has called it, an inner lawyer that wants to try to justify us before God and others. But if we know the person loves and cares for us, then we should be more apt to listen to them, knowing that they have our best interests in mind. I for one am glad that God has given me brothers and sisters who will help me stay on track.

It Reflects God's Character
When the church practices discipline upon its members, it also reflects God's character. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12:3-11's commentary on it shows us that, as a loving Father, God Himself disciplines His children. The author of Hebrews goes so far as to say that if you are not experiencing God's discipline, than it indicates that you are not an actual child of His (v. 8). You are illegitimate. You don't belong to Him. And what is His purpose in such discipline? We find that in v. 10, that we may share in His holiness.

So if discipline is something that God does to His children, why should His church shy away from carrying it out as well? Do we not reflect God's character to a watching unbelieving world? What does it say about God's loving character displayed in discipline if the church fails to practice it? Or about God's holiness if the church doesn't confront any unholiness in its midst?

It is Protective
As we learn in 1 Corinthians 5, practicing discipline is protective of the church and her purity. That is one of the reasons why Paul gives such a harsh rebuke of that congregation for doing nothing about the man sleeping with his stepmother. He tells them to cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened (v. 7). A little leaven leavens the whole lump (v. 6). A member who is in ongoing unrepentant sin left unchecked is like a cancer to the body. If not dealt with, it will infect the whole. So, for the good of the holiness of the body, discipline must be practiced. And I have heard of cases where open continual sin was ignored and other members within the congregation also fell into gross heinous sins as well. Then the entire congregation could be described as anything but holy.

These are just a few of the reasons, gleaned from God's Word, why a church should practice discipline. I am sure that many more could be given and perhaps I will come back and add to this list at a later time. But for now, these should suffice. For a congregation to neglect disciplining her members is to be disobedient to Jesus' teachings, unloving, reflecting the world more than God, and dangerous for the spiritual good of the whole community. In keeping these reasons in mind, let's follow our Lord's wisdom and both be willing to practice such discipline as well as undergo such ourselves if necessary.

Love in Christ,
Lee
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Praising in the Pain

One thing that I often encourage people to do after a loss is to come to worship the Sunday following it. That's because I firmly believe that one of the best ways to heal and work through your time of grief is to be with your faith family where you are called to take your eyes off of yourself and the situations that you are facing and place them on the God of all comfort who loves you so much that He sent His very own Son to live, die, and rise again for your salvation. I don't ever pressure anyone to do this of course and I certainly understand that some are not able to emotionally at the time, especially if the death of the loved one occurred just a few short days before Sunday. It can be very difficult for some people. But I do try to encourage it. And after this past Sunday, when my wife and I personally put my advice into practice, I can even more so attest to the need of being in corporate worship on the Sunday following a loss. On the need of being in corporate worship any week really, but especially when you are facing some sort of pain. And in this fallen world under the curse of sin, really who isn't?

Friday a week ago, we found out the surprising news that we were expecting. Then certain issues arose late last week leading us to the Emergency Room to discover that Laura had lost the baby. This is not the first time that we have had to walk down this road. Back in April, we experienced our first miscarriage. And anyone who has ever gone through this knows that it is a different type of grief. You are not just grieving the loss of a life but the loss of a life that you never knew. A life that you had anticipated to come to know and share so many special memories with. A life that you looked forward to seeing develop and who he or she would become. A life that you never got the chance to hold, kiss, read stories to, bandage wounds, give advice to, teach to drive, or walk down the aisle. I honestly don't know how anyone could make it through such grief without firm confidence in the sovereignty of God; that He is in control of all things and absolutely everything occurs according to His all wise divine plan. I know that we wouldn't!

Laura and I discussed whether or not to attend worship this past Sunday morning. (God certainly has a way of testing us pastors for us to see if we will listen to our own advice and follow our own teaching. I believe that this was one of many moments that the Lord has given me to do this.) The emotions of this loss were more raw than the last one. We found out about the first miscarriage the Tuesday before whereas this one was just two days prior. Along with the shock and disappointment still being processed, we had the painful weight of experiencing two miscarriages now within six months time. That's pretty heavy but not as heavy as some others have been called to bear. However, we followed my advice and we both were glad that we did. God used corporate worship that morning to help our hearts begin to heal and strengthen our faith in His goodness to us in spite of what we were experiencing.

Singing through "Oh, He's a Wonderful Savior" was so needed for me. While our status in a sense changed within a week, Jesus Christ remains our wonderful Savior. That hasn't changed with either one of these two great losses! He still went "to dark Calvary, dying our death on the tree," still "never leaves us alone" and "gently cares for His own." With an uncharacteristic quivering and almost breaking of my voice, I belted out the beautiful truth of "what a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear." All because of God's great grace, Jesus was still my friend and elder brother. We still had Him and He is enough to comfort us in our lowest moments; moments such as we were going through at the time. The message that morning reminded us that God loves us, not because of who we are or anything that we have done but because of Who He is. Oh, how I needed such a reminder that morning! God's giving and taking away was not a sign of the absence of His love for us but of His love for us. While I certainly don't understand or pretend to understand why God chose to allow us to get pregnant twice only to bear each child for about 5-7 weeks, I know that all that He does is in love for those He has both chosen and purchased to be His children in His Son.

You see, what I experienced in worship that morning was a blessed reminder of the very character of the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). I said in a sermon not too terribly long ago that we need to not focus on our trials so much but instead focus more on the God of our trials if we want to handle them well. If we are to "let endurance have it's perfect work" as James commands us in light of the various types of trials God ordains for us to go through (1:4), then we need to think about God's character, His goodness, and mediate on the promises that He has given us in His Word. As the Casting Crowns' song puts it, "If your eyes are on the storm, you'll wonder if I love you still. But if your eyes are on the cross, you'll know that I always have and I always will." Had Laura and I stayed home that morning to grieve, we would have more likely kept our focus mostly on the loss and pain that we were experiencing but everything in the worship service would not let us do that. Instead, it moved us to "turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full into His wonderful face" and that's what helped us begin our healing. Being directed to Him constantly and consistently in corporate worship. Paul David Tripp has said it so well, "Corporate worship is designed to take your eyes off you and have them filled with the beauty of the grace and glory of God" and "Corporate worship is meant to take your eyes off the ugliness of the fallen world and open your eyes to the awesome beauty of your Redeemer."

Oh, and I can't close without mentioning another crucial element in corporate worship that morning that the Lord used to minister to our broken hearts. The love and support of our church family! The hugs, kind words, "I love yous," and prayers of those who really are brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers to us! Those whose lives we have been blessed to be a part of. Who we knew were grieving with us. That itself was a great encouragement which we would have missed had we just remained at home. We need each other far more than we realize and God has been so wise to place us into the body of His Son, the church. I'll never understand (trust me, I have heard the excuses) how many can neglect one of God's greatest means of grace and growth.

Let me encourage you, the next time that you are tempted to skip out on corporate worship on account of pain that you are going through (whether physical or emotional), to still come. You may not realize just how much you may need that time with God's people praising Him in the midst of your pain. How comforting it is to be directed away from the trial to the Savior. We needed that this past Sunday morning and will need it again next Sunday morning and the one following that and so on. Thank God for our weekly time together with the saints to worship Him. May we not take it for granted but participate fully each and every week!

Love in Christ,
Lee
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Remembering the Reformation

Next month marks a significant anniversary of a crucial turning point in the church’s history. Five hundred years ago, the Protestant Reformation began. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses or arguments to the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany. Disturbed by the false teachings that had crept their way into the church of that day and several superstitious practices which were present, he called the church back to the Word of God to be reformed. Unfortunately, the church had lost sight of many biblical truths, especially ones that involved our salvation. They had added teachings that were not found in the Bible. They even were selling something called an indulgence which claimed to grant the forgiveness of sins and entrance into heaven for those who purchased it. Luther and the other Reformers that followed him sought to recover the truths of the gospel that were lost and expose the additions for what they were; falsehoods that distorted the truth. Their teaching to combat such falsehood can be summarized with five “sola” (latin for “alone”) statements. With this being such a milestone anniversary and such biblical truths just as necessary for us to be careful not to lose today as well, I thought it might be beneficial to look at each of them briefly.

The first of these “sola” statements is known as sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”). It is the teaching that Scripture ALONE serves as our sole authority for all matters of faith and practice. The Catholic Church at the time had claimed that the teachings of the Pope and the tradition of the Church were on par with Scripture. What the Pope said had equal binding authority as God’s word. The Reformers rightly pointed out that everyone, including the Pope, and the entire church itself, are all under the highest authority of Scripture since it alone can rightly claim to be God’s final word on all matters that it addresses. Being the very words “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) recorded by men “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), they serve as determinative for what we are to believe and how we are to live our lives. There is no one or nothing else we need to look to for finding out what God has said to us.

Sola gratia (“Grace alone”) serves as another one of these “sola” statements which summarize the biblical teachings of the reformers. “Grace” by definition is a gift given that one does not deserve. It has often been described as “unmerited favor.” While the Catholic Church taught that salvation is of grace, they also said that one must work in cooperation with the grace that God supposedly infused in them at their baptism as infants in order to merit or earn salvation. It wasn’t fully of grace but only partially. But according to Scripture, which alone serves as our authority on these matters, our salvation is ALL a result of God’s grace. It is a gift that He has given that cannot be earned by us in any way. The apostle Paul is crystal clear that “He saved us, NOT BECAUSE OF WORKS DONE BY US IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, but according to His own mercy” (Titus 3:5). There is nothing at all we must do to earn our salvation because there is nothing that we CAN DO to earn our salvation. All that we have earned from God is judgment, not favor. We are not righteous in and of ourselves and, as Isaiah reminds us, even the righteous deeds that we think that we do are tainted by our sin (Isaiah 64:6). If it wasn’t a gift of God’s grace, then none of us would be saved.

Along with our salvation being “by grace alone,” it is also “through faith alone,” which leads us to the next of these statements, sola fide (Faith alone). How do we receive the grace that God has shown us in the sacrifice of His Son? Only through placing our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and that what He has done is enough to reconcile us to God in light of our sins which separate us from Him. The only place that a person’s works have in their justification (being declared righteous before God) is serving as evidence that they have been justified by their faith. If you would like to demonstrate that in a mathematical equation, it would look like this: “faith + nothing = justification → works.” Though the Catholic Church did not deny that faith played an important role in one’s salvation, they also taught that there were certain works that must be done in order to achieve a righteous standing before God. To also put it in the form of an equation, it would be “faith + works = justification.” The position of "works" in such an equation makes all the difference. However, Romans 3:21-4:25 argues that our righteous standing before God cannot in any way be based on our works but only through faith in what God has done for us in the perfect sinless life and substitutionary sacrifice of His Son. Any deeds that we may attempt to do just won’t cut it or can add anything to it. Instead, it has to be looking away from ourselves to what Christ has done.

Whereas the Bible makes clear that there is only “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5), the Catholic Church at the time added His mother Mary as another mediator. In fact, they began to treat her as if she was an additional person of the Trinity. Eventually, they claimed that she was born sinless herself, had a special ascension to heaven, and should be prayed to in order to get to Jesus. This was the reason for the fourth sola, solus Christus, that “Christ alone” is who we are to look to in order to bring us to God. That He is the only “way” to God and that “no one comes to the Father except through” Him (John 14:6). Furthermore, no priest is needed for us to go to because Jesus Himself serves as our Great High Priest interceding on our behalf before the Father (Hebrews 4:14-5:10). We have direct access to God through Christ and Him alone. No other mediator in addition is necessary.

Since all of our salvation is a complete work of God and, as it has been so well put, “we contribute nothing to it except for the sin which makes it necessary,” all glory for salvation must be given to God. There is no glory that we ourselves can share because we cannot take credit for any part of it. We cannot pat ourselves on the back that we have been saved because it has not been on account of us. It is a great gift of God’s amazing grace alone through our faith alone in His Son alone and what He has accomplished on the cross all according to His Word alone. This is why the final “sola” is soli Deo gloria (“to God alone be the glory”). Something that cannot be claimed with the Catholic view since it adds so much of the effort and will of man with it.

The church during the Middle Ages came to where it was all on account that it had forgotten these precious important truths. We would do well to make sure that the same doesn’t happen to us today. Woody Allen once said, “History repeats itself. It has to-nobody listens the first time around.” However, in many ways these five truth statements need to be heralded just as loudly now as ever before as far too many seem to have forgotten them, thinking that salvation somehow does depend on us, at least a little bit instead of being fully and completely a sovereign work of God Himself. So let’s not forget the Reformation but pray that God would continue to reform His Church until we all come to share and rejoice in these truths. As R. C. Sproul has said, “The Reformation is not over. It cannot be over and must not be over until all who call themselves Christians have one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. The cause of sola Scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria remains the cause of and for biblical truth.”

In Christ,
Lee Smith

Friday, September 1, 2017

Trekking Through Translations

A question that I often get asked is “what translation should I use?” We live in a day and age where translations of the Bible abound. When you enter a Christian bookstore, you could find up to 15 or more of them. You want to be sure that you are reading and studying the right one. How do you go about mining through all of the translations that are available to ensure that you have the “right one” for you? That will be our focus in this month’s newsletter as I hope to help you “trek through all those translations.”

The reason for these numerous English translations is that, for one thing, none of us speak the languages that the Scriptures were originally written in. (Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic for the Old Testament and Koine Greek in the New.) In fact, those languages are not currently found to be spoken anywhere today. So, if we want to be able to read and understand God’s Word, then we need to have it in the language that we know and use. A Bible in a language that we do not speak will not do us any good. God wants us to know Him and that’s why He has revealed Himself to us in His Word. Men like John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale realized this when they each risked their lives in order to translate the Bible into the language of the people so that they could read about our great God and His wonderful work of salvation through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. In their cases, the only translation available at the time was in Latin which only the priests knew. We, in particular, owe a great deal of gratitude for the Lord’s work through Tyndale as it is on account of him that we have the Bible translated in English today. It was his life’s passion and work to enable each individual to be able to study the Scriptures so that the plowboy would know more of the Scriptures than the corrupted priests of his day. Much of the King James Bible actually uses Tyndale’s English translation word for word. (76% of Tyndale’s translation of the Old Testament can be found in the King James and 84% of his New Testament translation.)

While all of this explains why we have English translations, it doesn’t address why there are so many of them floating around at the present. Why isn’t just one sufficient? Why didn’t Bible publishers stop with the 1611 Kings James Version? We have to realize that words are constantly changing their meaning throughout history. Take the word “gay” for instance. What it meant in the theme song of the old Flintstones cartoon is not how it is understood today. No longer does it refer to a “state of happiness” but a “sexual preference.” The word has changed its meaning. Though the King James Version is a good and fine translation, several words can be found in its pages that don’t have the same meaning today as they did back in 1611 England. Like “gay,” their meaning has evolved into something else over time. Psalm 47:2 and 66:3 in the King James Version describe God and His works as being “terrible.” A teenager reading those passages today would not view this as a good thing. That’s because the word “terrible” in our modern English conveys a negative idea whereas in the 1500s (much of the English of the King James originates years before from the other English translations in existence previously), “terrible” meant “full of awe,” the equivalent to our word “awesome” which is what can be found used in many modern day translations. Do you see now why the development of modern translations are necessary? Just as the Old and New Testaments were written in the language that was commonly spoken in their day, we want to be sure that we have the Bible in the common language spoken today. Also, through more research, we have discovered older Greek manuscripts and how better to understand some words of ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek, making modern updates necessary in order to have a more accurate translation.

When it comes to modern translations, there are predominantly two different philosophies. What is called “formal equivalent” or “word-for-word” translations and “dynamic equivalent” or “thought-for-thought” translations. “Word-for-word” translations seek to find the English word that specifically corresponds to the original Hebrew or Greek and place them in the same order that they are found in the original. Of course, for some words, a precise equivalent can be very hard to find. The King James (KJV), New King James (NKJV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and English Standard Version (ESV) are examples of this kind of translation. The “thought-for-thought” translations, on the other hand, seek to convey the thought of the original without necessarily using the exact same words in the same way as the original. This type includes the New Living Translation (NLT), Today’s English Version (TEV), Contemporary English Version (CEV), and the New Century Version (NCV). Then there are some translations that attempt to do a little bit of both in order to be accurate and more readable. The New International Version (NIV), Holman Christian Standard Version (HCSB), the New English Translation (NET), and perhaps the newest translation on the market today, the Christian Standard Version (CSB), all fall into this camp.

What ultimately matters in choosing a translation to read and study is that it is just that; a translation. I would caution to stay away from paraphrases like Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” because they are not as accurate to the original. What you want is a translation that is accurate which you can understand. My personal preference is a formal equivalent or one that seeks to be a balance of both types. Translations such as the NASB, ESV, NIV, KJV, and NKJV. It has often been suggested that much benefit can be found in your personal study in consulting more than one translation to find out how different ones have rendered the text.

One final thing. Don’t stop when you find the translation that you can understand. Make sure to open it up daily and read it! The right translation for you will not profit you siting on the shelf or remaining unopened on the coffee table. The transforming power can be found in the words themselves as they are the living word of God which brings life and growth as we discussed last month. Happy reading!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Monday, July 31, 2017

Don't Starve Yourself Spiritually

In Deuteronomy 8:3, Moses told the Israelites, “And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Part of the purpose of the Lord providing the manna for His people in the wilderness and giving them strict instructions pertaining to it (such as collecting only enough for the day with the one exception being the day before the Sabbath where they were able to collect enough for two days) was to teach them that not only does their life depend on physical food but also knowing and obeying God’s Word. Just as physical food is necessary for our life, so is the knowledge and practice of God’s Word.

What happens if you go an entire day without eating anything physically? You will be hungry and probably feel weak. And if you skip a whole week of meals, even more so. If God’s Word is compared to physical food, what does that say about what happens to our spiritual lives if we go a day, or even worse, an entire week, without ever opening up the Bible to read and study more about the God who made and saved us? Far too many Christians today are starving themselves spiritually by neglecting to set aside time each day to study God’s Word. This explains why so many are weak spiritually. They are not daily getting nourished by God’s Word that brings life. Why several give into temptation so easily. They aren’t being reminded each day of how much more precious the Lord Jesus Christ is compared to sin. Why some struggle to make decisions. They are not continually having their mind renewed by God’s Word to grow to think their thoughts after His.

Waiting until Sunday morning for Sunday School and to hear the preaching of God’s Word is not enough! That’s like eating a huge breakfast on Sunday morning and then not eating anything again until the next Sunday morning. You would practically be destroying your body and lacking what you need to function fully through the week. Many would never dream of doing that yet that is exactly what they do to themselves spiritually. We need to know God’s Word more than we realize. It is essential for our spiritual walk with the Lord, serving as the water to grow and mature us spiritually.

We need to understand that God’s Word is food for our souls. For those who claim that they are just too busy to actually sit down and really look at what the Lord is saying, recognize that you obviously aren’t too busy to stop and eat each day. Why is that? You know you need food and crave it. Take this as a reminder of just how much you need God. Maybe the reason you are not craving Him so much is due to the lack of time that you spend in His Word daily. If you have been born again, then the Holy Spirit has given you a new nature that desires to know God more. God is the ultimate delight of your soul. The reason you should long to read and study His Word is because you love and want to know Him more. If such a desire is not present, you need to examine your heart and it may indicate that you have yet to be born again.

I often have people ask me for good and trusted Bible preachers and teachers that they can read or listen to in order to help them with their daily intake of God’s Word. I am always happy to direct them in hopes that the Lord will use it for their sanctification (their growth in grace). Allow me to share some of the names that have greatly benefited me personally in my own growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. A simple Google search can help you locate their websites and books. They are, in no particular order, John MacArthur, John Piper, Alistair Begg, R. C. Sproul, Mark Dever, David Platt, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, Paul David Tripp, Paul Washer, and Steve Lawson just to name a few. For the ladies, Jen Wilkin, Nancy Leigh Demoss Wolgemuth, Elizabeth Eliot, Nancy Guthrie, and Gloria Furman are some good ones to help you both study the Bible more and understand what you are studying.

Allow me to end this article with the following quote by Ray Comfort: "One day I asked a congregation if they without fail read the Word every day, and was horrified that no one (not even the pastor) raised a hand. So I made a habit of asking congregations and individuals “Do you read your Bible every day without fail?” When professing Christians offered their sad and pathetic excuses, I would ask them if they fed their stomachs daily. Then I would ask, “Which comes first—your Bible or your belly?” and let their conscience do its duty. How about you? Do you love God enough to give Him a few minutes each day to speak to you?"

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee