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, January 30, 2015

Questions To Ask Of The Bible Passage You Are Studying

Have you ever been reading your Bible and been left scratching your head? Trying to figure out what the point of the passage is that you were studying? Or wanting to know what you should take away from it? I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all have had times like this. Whether it would be trudging through those hard to pronounce seemingly endless genealogies in Genesis or Jesus’ puzzling parables in Matthew. Here are a few questions that very well might help you get more out of your Bible reading this upcoming year. Take the time to ask these questions about whatever passage you may be reading.

What Does This Passage Teach Us About God? The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us. “Revelation” means “to make known.” It is through God’s Word that He makes Himself known to us. So, we learn the specifics about Who God is and what He does from the Bible. Ask yourself what characteristics about God do you see displayed in this passage. Does it say something about His love, His grace, His mercy, His wrath, His justice, or His holiness? Or do we see something that He does?

What Does This Passage Teach Us About Sinful Humanity? The Bible presents to us God’s commentary on mankind. We learn that God made man in His image. That this image became marred on account of the Fall in Genesis 3 and as a result of that act of disobedience, all men are born slaves to sin in need of salvation. Ask yourself what this says about our condition. Is there a certain sin that plagues mankind that is illustrated? For instance, the constructing of the golden bull calf by the people of Israel in Exodus 32 not too long after God’s redemption of them from their slavery in Egypt serves as a reminder of how prone to idolatry we sinful humans are and how much we need to constantly guard against such idols (which of course are not limited to statues). Or how does the passage point to our need of salvation that can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ?

What Does This Passage Teach Us About Jesus? We must realize when we come to Scripture that we are not the point. The main character of the Bible is God’s beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His story, not ours. We are blessed that God has chosen to make us a part of the story in having Jesus save us in His death, burial, and resurrection and accepting us to become His people as He views us as righteous through our faith in Jesus alone. This means we need to be mindful of how the passage points us to Jesus. And this is just as true for the Old Testament as it is for the New. Those genealogies in Genesis begin to make sense when we realize that they are connecting us to Jesus. Moses is tracing the seed God promised who would come to defeat the sinister serpent, Satan (Genesis 3:15). He wants us to see that He will be the son of Adam, the son of Seth, the son of Enosh . . . the son of Noah, the son of Shem, the son of Abraham, the son of Isaac, the son of Jacob, and the son of Judah. Those difficult names actually serve a grand purpose in God’s ultimate plan of salvation! Also, much of what God has ordained to occur throughout Old Testament history somehow foreshadows the coming of Jesus. A good example can be found in Genesis 22 when the young boy Isaac, Abraham’s one and only son whom he loves, carries wood up the mountain for what originally appears to be for him to be offered up as a sacrifice. A couple thousand years later, God’s one and only son whom He loves, will carry a cross of wood up a mountain for Him to be offered up as a sacrifice. Where a ram served as the substitute for Isaac, Jesus served as the substitute for God’s people. Pay attention to what we can learn about Jesus from the text.

What Part Does The Passage Play in God’s Plan of Salvation?. We must keep in mind as we read through the Bible that it is all one story. There is the grand narrative of God’s salvation of sinners through the death and resurrection of His Son. Every passage serves as a puzzle piece that together forms the full picture. It is helpful for us to figure out how the passage we are reading contributes to God’s overall plan. Perhaps it might be helpful to divide this plan up into four parts: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. “Creation” is found in Genesis 1-2 where God created everything good and perfect. The “Fall” is described in Genesis 3 when man disobeyed God in the garden. “Redemption” is the work of Christ to save fallen humanity and “Restoration” serves as the end of God’s plan when Jesus returns and restores everything back to the paradise it was when God originally created it. Where does the passage fit in this overarching plan?

What Does This Passage Direct Me to Do? Are there any commands in this passage that call us to some sort of action? Anything it explicitly states that I should be doing in my walk with the Lord which I am not? Anything specific I need to go to the Lord in prayer about, requesting Him to work in my life? Asking these questions will help you discover what to take away from your reading.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Importance of the Word of God

Did you ever realize that the longest love poem in the Bible is not directed to a wife from a husband but to God’s Word itself? Psalm 119 is the largest of the psalms and bigger than 30 entire books in the Bible. This poem is an acrostic, which means that it is organized according to the alphabet. Broken down into 22 stanzas consisting of 8 verses, each stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The first eight lines each start with the first letter of the alphabet (aleph), the second eight lines with the second letter (beth), and so forth.

And this poem is all about the Word of God. In fact, the author of the psalm finds himself so enamored with God’s Word that he basically refers to it in every single one of the lines of the poem. One word itself does not suffice for how he chooses to reference God’s Word. Instead, he needs to use nine different terms. He speaks of God’s “law,” “testimonies,” “ways,” “precepts,” “statutes,” “commandments,” “judgments,” “word,” and “ordinances.” He cannot speak enough about the Word of God.

Several times the psalmist mentions how he delights in God’s Word (vv. 16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 174). For him, Scripture is more desirable than any material treasure. “I have rejoiced in the way of your testimonies, as much as in all riches” (v. 14). “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver” (v. 72). “Therefore I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold” (v. 127). He certainly could sing that he “would rather have Jesus than silver or gold.” His love for God leads him to have a love for His Word that He has spoken to us. Such should be the desire for every Christian. Since God’s written Word points us to the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we love, we should have a similar attitude as that of the psalmist. Treasuring His Word far more than any earthly riches we may ever hold.

This delight in God’s Word greatly impacts how this man approaches the Word. He doesn’t just look at it once a week or a few minutes each day. It is constantly on his mind. He talks of meditating on the Word (vv. 15, 23, 48, 78, 148). “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97). He ponders the Word as he goes about the chores and tasks of his day. He states that he has “stored up Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (v. 11). In order for him to do this, he must have been striving to become very familiar with God’s Word; both what it says and what it means. There seems to be the idea of him working to have it memorized here. How else can one “store” something in their heart?

The author of this grand poem even is thankful that he suffered because it caused him to learn more about God’s Word. “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (v. 71). He recognized that the trial or tribulation that he had to go through, which he never identifies anywhere in this psalm, had a silver lining as it produced a greater understanding of what God has said. Rather than complaining concerning his difficult experience, he rejoices. He recognizes that he would not have known God’s Word as much had he not gone through whatever the situation might have been. Do we ever think about how God may use hard situations to help us understand His Word better? To move us to trust Him more by taking Him at His Word? Or better yet, do we rejoice in our trials, knowing that in God’s purpose, we will come to know Him better in the revelation of Himself in His Word?

One thing this psalm certainly shows us is just how important the Word of God must be in a Christian’s life. So significant that we can’t just leave our Bibles sit on the shelf. Or substitute a daily Bible reading with a short quick devotion that tells a nice little story but only briefly mentions a verse of Scripture. I want to encourage you this upcoming year to make time to really read and study God’s Word. To set aside time each day to commune with God by reading a few chapters of Scripture. R. C. Sproul has stated that the real problem why so many of us are lax in our Bible study habits is not because we don’t understand the Bible or lack a desire to read it, but it stems from us being lazy. Reading and studying the Bible daily indeed is work and does take discipline. To help the congregation in which I serve in getting better at developing a necessary habit of Bible reading, I have invited them to join with me in following a Bible reading plan for the upcoming year that will take us through the entire Bible. I encourage those few who might happen to read this blog to find a good Bible plan and seek to read through the entire Bible this upcoming year as well. (If you would like some Bible plans to consider, or to join with the Mt. Joy congregation in the plan we will be following, please let me know.) Let’s pray that God would use our time in the Word each day to create in us the same passion and desire we witness in the 119th Psalm and further conform us into the image of His beloved Son.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Evidence of a True Believer-Part 3

The past few months we have been looking at the characteristics of a true believer in Christ. The evidence in one’s life that demonstrates them to have been born again by God’s Holy Spirit and having been made into a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). The difference that a saving encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ makes in one’s life. What actions and affections show one to be a true possessor of Christ and not a mere professor of Him. The deeds that demonstrate a living faith.

We have turned to the book of 1 John to examine some of this evidence as he provides concrete examples of what the heart of a genuine Christian should resemble. So far in our study we have seen that a true believer desires to be obedient to Jesus’ commands, has a genuine love for other believers, denies the world, and remains in Christ. Such should be noticed, in some capacity, in the life of one who has repented of their sins and trusted in Christ alone for their salvation.

The apostle gives even more evidence than these in his letter. He also states that a true believer in Christ will practice righteousness. He says, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29). In the original Greek that this verse was written in, it says “everyone also who practices righteousness HAS BEEN BORN OF HIM.” In other words, the one who practices righteousness reveals that they have already been born of God. The practice of righteousness serves as an indication that they have been saved. It is a necessary fruit of their faith.

The word for “practice” basically means “do.” The one who has been born again in turn “does” righteousness. And this is in the present tense, conveying a continuous action. Righteousness should be a habit we see in the believer’s life. Now, does this mean that a true Christian will never sin? Of course not! John would be contradicting himself if that was what he intended to say here because earlier he acknowledged that no believer can deny their sin and points to Christ’s work on the cross as the only hope he has when he does sin (1 John 1:8-2:2). What he is saying here is that a Christian will be striving and growing in righteousness. Like Paul, he recognizes that he has not “already become perfect” or “laid hold” of this goal but continues to press forward to achieve it (Philippians 3:12-14). When he fails, which he will, it grieves him and, with the grace that God gives, he picks himself up to practice righteousness again. The Christian continues to grow in this area as they mature though sometimes it may seem as if they are taking three steps forward and two steps back.

The very reason why a righteous life must characterize a Christian is because it characterizes God Himself. Notice that John states that the reason why we can “know” that “everyone also who practices righteousness has been born of [God]” is because we “know that He is righteous.” Sons resemble their fathers in various ways. Not only in their appearance but also in their actions. They will often pick up the habits of their dads. Likewise, there should be an expectation that the one who has been adopted as a child of God through their faith in His Son will resemble the One they can rightfully call Father. They will practice righteousness just as He Himself is righteous.

This serves as a distinguishing mark of a Christian. Later in the letter John even says, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10). The one who does not continually practice righteousness but maintains an ongoing practice of unrepentant sin in their life we are told does not belong to God. Instead, he or she would be classified as a child of the devil, the one who “has sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:7-8). There is a reason why Paul can confidently state that those who remain characterized by certain sins have no place in the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Because if one has been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified,” they would leave such sins behind and strive to practice righteousness instead (v. 11).

Do you see such characteristics in your life? A desire to be obedient to Jesus’ commands. A genuine love for other believers. A denial of the world and its philosophy. Continuing in the faith and remaining in Christ. Practicing righteousness. According to John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they should be there if you have been born again and are a Christian. While these will not be perfect in any believer’s life, they should be present in every believer’s life. Are they in yours?

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Reformation Day!

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. ~Romans 3:28

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the work of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9

This doctrine [Justification by Faith] is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour. ~Martin Luther

Wherever the knowledge of it [the doctrine of "Justification by Faith"] is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown. ~John Calvin

Tonight many will spend their evening "trick or treating," celebrating a so-called holiday called Halloween and not realize an event that transpired 497 years ago on this day that marked a major turning point in the history of the church. October 31, 1517 marks the day the German monk named Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, an event most scholars identify as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. These "theses" called the authority of the Pope in matters of salvation into question and sought to expose how the "treats" of the indulgences that were sold were actually "tricks" with no real significance except for making the pope and those who sold them very wealthy. An indulgence was a letter the Catholic church sold that promised forgiveness of sin and an early release from purgatory (a place the Catholic church conceived of where one would stay after death but before heaven which length of stay was based on the number of sins one committed in their earthly life). Luther's posting of his theses on "All Hallow's Eve" was instrumental. The next day the church would celebrate "All Saints Day" so they would see these as they walked in. Luther's students actually took the list and made copies with the aid of the new printing press creating quite a stir. The first ripple of Reformation fervor had been struck and would gain in momentum as God enlisted others such as Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin to join the cause. Several current protestant denominations are products of God's work through them.

Many may question why such an event is a big deal. Why would a man complaining about certain teachings in the church be something to celebrate? People do this all the time. However, I think the celebration really is about God and how He used this man with his many, many, many flaws (he clearly had an anger problem and appeared to promote some wayward morals) to call His Church back to the truth. The Catholic church had repudiated the Bible's teachings on salvation by creating a synergistic economy of grace where man cooperated with God for his salvation. The selling of indulgences was a form of works-righteousness where the church taught that one could earn their salvation by paying a certain price for an indulgence. The sacraments became viewed as works that one must do in order to receive God's grace. In the Pope claiming the authority to grant the remission of sins based on a sale of an indulgence, he placed himself above both God's Word and Christ Himself. Many were blinded by such teaching (and some still are today) thinking that they could earn their own salvation.

The Reformers combated such views and practices. They claimed sola scriptura, that Scripture alone was the only authority for the believer. This led Luther to translate the Bible into German so people at the time could have a personal Bible and be able to study it on their own instead of relying on the false teachings of the priests who were the only ones who could own and read one. The Reformers called the people back to the truth taught in Scripture that one was justified (declared righteous in God's sight by God Himself) through their faith in Christ and not by any works that they could do. They rightly stated that salvation was by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (sola Christa) for the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria) as Scripture taught. Paul explicitly states For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is a gracious gift given by God and received through the means of placing one's faith in Christ. The Lord used Luther as well as the other Reformers to call the church back to this truth, a truth foundational to the gospel.

Let's celebrate God using such men with their numerous flaws (much like we each have) to call the church back to the truth of His Word, especially with the central doctrine of "Justification by Faith," as well as pray that God would continue to raise people up with a passion for His Word and boldness for His truth to continue to reform His Church as to where He would have it to be.

Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Evidence of a True Believer - Part 2

In last month’s newsletter, we began to look at the characteristics that should be seen in the life of a true believer in Christ. In someone who has been born again by the Holy Spirit and has been made into a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). One of the biggest scandals today are those who claim to be a Christian but demonstrate no fruit of having an actual faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who, as Paul warned Titus about, “profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:16). So, we would do well to look at the characteristics that God gives us in His Word that we should expect to find in the life of one who has been saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

1 John is a great book to turn to for this since his specific purpose in writing his letter is to give assurance to believers that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13). He does this by pointing out the characteristics of one who has been given a new life in Christ. We have already examined two of these characteristics: being obedient to Jesus’ commands and having a genuine love for other believers. Now, we will look at three more characteristics that John points out to us.

John tells us that a true believer can be seen in their denial of the world. He states, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). Now what does it mean to love the world? Steven Lawson describes it well when he states, “To love the world is to seek the world’s applause, adopt its values, crave its pleasures, and follow its philosophies.” The true believer should not buy into the world’s system. They should be more concerned about the things of God than the things of the world. More concerned about seeing God’s kingdom built instead of establishing their own kingdom. Seeking to store up treasures in heaven instead of those on earth (Matthew 6:19-20). Actually, whether the treasures that one desires are on earth or in heaven demonstrate where one’s heart truly lies. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). In fact, John goes so far to say that if one does love the world, that it is evidence that they do not possess the love of God. One cannot love both. As James puts it, “do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). It should be found in a Christian a heavenly mindset instead of a worldly mindset.

Another evidence that John provides in his letter of one who has been born again and is a true believer in Christ is that they remain in Christ. In describing the group of those who had left the church and began to teach false doctrine, he says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). Read this carefully. John tells us that the group that left the church never really belonged to the church. The reason he knows that they actually were not part of the body of Christ through faith is because they left. In fact, it was their leaving that demonstrated the truth that they were never truly a part of the church in the first place. In other words, those who are in Christ will remain in Christ. They are the one in whom the seed of the gospel has been sown upon good soil and who do not fall away when the affliction or persecution for their faith comes (Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23). John presents a nice contrast in his second letter where he says, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9). This means that those that we know who have left the church and renounced the faith, according to Scripture, never actually had faith in the first place. Their leaving revealed that they lacked true saving faith and hence never truly were a part of the church. As the saying goes, “Faith that fizzles before the finish was flawed at the first.” A true believer in Christ will remain in Christ through thick and thin because God will be working in them to keep them (John 6:39; Philippians 2:12-13). A fair-weather Christian, one who is a Christian in fair weather only, proves themselves to not be a Christian at all. But a Christian which perseveres in the faith shows the reality of their conversion and of the ongoing work of God in their life.

So here we have two other characteristics that should be expected to be present in a believer’s life. Not perfect but present. In fact, we will fall short of these every day in our lives but we should at least notice them there. Along with a desire to be obedient to Jesus’ commands and having a genuine love for other believers, do you see in yourself a love for God or a love for the world? Are you continuing in the faith and growing in your walk with Christ? Rejoice if you are and give God the glory for His ongoing work. Keep relying on Him to continue such a work in your life. We’ll come back next month and look at a few more evidences of God’s work in a believer’s life in order to provide assurance to those who have truly repented and trusted in Christ that they indeed have a new life in Him.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Evidence of a True Believer-Part 1

The Bible could not be any clearer that those who have truly repented and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation are not the same person that they once were. Things which once characterized them should characterize them no more (Ephesians 2:1-3). They have been given new spiritual life by the Holy Spirit with a new will, new desires, and a new purpose (Ezekiel 36:25-27). What Jesus refers to as being “born again” (John 3:1-8). As Paul stated, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A saving encounter with God’s Holy Spirit changes one’s life from the inside out.

The question is then, what does this new life look like? What should one expect to see in their lives if they are truly a Christian? The Apostle John helps us out with this in his first letter. He gives the characteristics of those who are “the children of God,” “born of God,” “have come to know Jesus,” “have passed out of death into life,” are “in Jesus,” and “know the truth” and of those who are “the children of the devil,” “liars” (false professors), and deceived. He seems to be dealing with a case in a church where a group from within them left, began teaching false views of Jesus, and claimed that they were in the truth while the remaining ones could be found to be in error. John pens this letter to comfort the remaining believers that they can be assured that they have eternal life through their faith in Jesus Christ while the others would be outside of the truth. He shows how such faith inevitably is demonstrated from the new life that the Spirit gives. I think that it would be helpful to look at some of the evidences that John provides of someone who has been born again and truly trusted in Christ for their salvation. The following are just two of several that are given in this letter. We will look at a few more next month.

One evidence is a desire to be obedient to Jesus’ commands. “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (I John 2:3-6). The word “keep” conveys the idea of “keep in view,” “take note,” and “watch over.” Jesus also pointed out that obedience to His teaching proved one to be a true disciple of His (John 8:31) and that those who love Him WILL keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21-24). A true believer will not just throw Christ’s commandments under the rug or ignore them but seek to be obedient to them, putting them into practice in their life. This flows from their love of Him that results out of the new birth.

Another evidence is genuine love for other believers. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (I John 3:14-18). Notice the contrast that John makes here? One can know that they have spiritual life imparted by the Holy Spirit by their love for other brothers and sisters in Christ. The one who fails to show love to others within the church are still spiritually dead and do not have eternal life. And this love for the brethren is demonstrated in action. They will give of themselves for the needs of others, just as Christ laid His own life down for the benefit of His followers. Hatred of a brother or sister in Christ is not a characteristic of a true believer who has been born again. Jesus also stated that this serves as proof that one truly is a disciple of His. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Now these characteristics that John gives will not be perfect in a believer’s life but they should be present and something that one continues to see growth in. Do you notice them in your life? Is there evidence that the Holy Spirit has been working with you in these areas; taking Jesus’ commandments seriously and loving your brothers and sisters in the church? If so, rejoice in the reality of God’s grace in your life. Praise Him and ask Him to continue to work in you to become even more obedient and loving as each believer still has a way to go. More of these characteristics will be discussed next month.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lessons From September 11

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
~Luke 13:1-5

Today thousands in the nation take time out of their busy schedules to commemorate and remember those who lost their lives in the horrible tragedy which occurred the morning of this day thirteen years ago.  Many of us remember how that day changed the way we thought about the country, our loved ones, and even our lives.  Many still are struggling with what they have seen, or with those they have lost in the tragedy.  Some lives may never be the same again.  While not belittling the victims of the tragedy, I want to look at what those who are still living can learn from this event.

The days following the 9/11 attacks brought several questions.  Several of these questions concerned God and His role in the event.  People struggled with trying to grasp any reasons God may have allowed or permitted this to happen.  Some wondered if the people who went for what they thought would have been a normal day at work deserved to play the victims of such a horrible scenario.

Clearly God was in control of that day and is still in control of our world today.  Scripture tells us that God works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).  Through Amos God communicates, If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it? (Amos 3:6) and Jesus says that a sparrow does not fall to the ground apart from your Father (Matthew 10:29).  Even Satan himself is under the sovereignty of God.  Jesus acknowledged to Peter that Satan could not test the disciples' faith without God's allowance.  Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat (Luke 22:31).  Likewise, Satan could not tamper with Job without God's permission and He set clear boundaries where Satan would not be able to trend.  In the first meeting with Satan, God agreed to let him test Job but would not allow him to put forth your hand on him (Job 1:12) and the second time God gave Job into his control but would not permit him to kill His righteous servant.  Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life (Job 2:6).  This is a very comforting truth.  Our lives may seem like they are spirling out of control, but the truth is that we are still in God's hands and He is working to bring things to His ultimate purpose.  You may be down at your lowest, but we have hope that God IS in control and causing all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  Even in the worst of times, we have comfort knowing there is a loving and good God in control who has a purpose in the suffering.  God was there that day on 9/11 and, even amist the sorrow, several testimonies to His goodness have been proclaimed.  His sovereign hand never left the situation!

The second major question the World Trade Center attacks spawned is one which is a common response to every huge natural disaster or catastrophe:  "What did this group do to deserve this?"  This was seen after the tsunami in India as well as New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina.  In fact, Jesus was asked a similar question about 2000 years ago.  While speaking to a large crowd, a group informs Jesus about an atrocity which Pilate had committed.  The exact situation is unknown to us today but we can infer that it had something to do with a slaughter of Jews during their sacrifices.  Not only was this a terrible occurrence, but it took place during worship which made it even more horrendous.  Jesus realized right away the question that they had concerning this issue.  They thought that this plight was the result of them being greater sinners than all others.  However, Jesus sought to turn their perspective completely around.

Instead of agreeing with their assumption, Jesus took the focus off the victims and placed it on the questioners.  The reason this group was slaughtered was not because they were greater sinners.  The ones who were killed were no more sinners than the ones commenting concerning them.  (Note: This does not necessarily mean that the events God permits to occur are punishment for specific sins.  John 9 makes it clear that, while a result of the curse of sin, not all infirmities and incidents are due to specific sins.)  Those who died in the tsunami, in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and with Hurricane Katrina were no more sinners than those of you reading this note as well as the one writing it.  We deserved the same!  I will never forget a powerful sermon my pastor preached right after the tsunami a few years ago.  He told us that the question is not "why them?" but should be "why not us?"  We didn't deserve God's mercy to not have the tsunami happen in America, or to not have been in the Pentagon or World Trade Center on that day, as well as having the hurricane wreck havoc on the NorthEast or MidWest.  As Scripture tells us, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  We get so used to God's mercy we have problems when He shows us His wrath.

Jesus actually warns the crowd of an even greater fate, much worse than what happened with Pilate and the later example of the falling of the tower of Siloam.  Unless they repent of their sins, they will perish (Luke 13:3,5).  This is Jesus' urgent plea to those who are lost in sin.  Repentance means a turning from sin.  It is the flip side of faith.  One turns from sin in repentance and then turns toward Christ by placing their faith in Him.  The likewise may refer to the sudden and unexpected death of those in the Temple and at Siloam.  Those who went to the Temple that day to offer their sacrifices did not realize that they would not be returning home.  The possibility of the tower falling on the group in Siloam probably never occurred to them.  Likewise, if the crowd does not turn from their sins and turn to Christ they will suddenly and unexpectedly (to them) experience the punishment for their sins.  The author of Hebrews tells us that it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

No one is guaranteed of their next heartbeat or breath.  If we should learn something from modern headlines, it is that death is no respecter of age.  If you have not turned from your sins and placed your faith in the Lord Jesus, then Jesus' plea for repentance is for you.  Like those in the Temple and at Siloam, you do not know when the day will come and it will be too late.   Many who left for work that morning of 9/11 did not know that they would not leave the building.  Several wives did not know that they would not see their husbands again.  I am not attempting to scare anyone, I just want to point out reality.   For us who are Christians, this is a reminder that life is too short to waste!  Let us give out Jesus' plea to those who need to hear it in our families, schools, and at our places of employment!

Praying for those involved with the attacks in any way as well as us who can learn from God's mercy,
Lee Smith
Soli Deo Gloria!