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 26, 2016

The Importance of Holiness In The Life of a Pastor

Scottish Pastor Robert Murray McCheyne once said that "My people's greatest need is my personal holiness." Additionally, "It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likenesses to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hands of God." McCheyne liked to emphasize the importance of holiness in the life of a minister of the gospel. Over gifts, style or manner of preaching, and leadership experience, he stressed that holiness seen in becoming more Christlike should be the key characteristic of a man called into the ministry. In fact, everything else will unravel if the pastor faults on their personal holiness.

Several months ago, a prominent pastor who has gained notoriety due to his family background and through his preaching and writing attacked this statement by McCheyne, strongly disagreeing with it. That man has now lost his position as pastor due to admitting being in an inappropriate relationship. Perhaps his personal holiness was more important than he thought for his ministry and the people he served. (I share this not to in any way criticize and call out this individual but to illustrate the point about the importance of holiness in the life of a minister. This is why I intentionally decide not to mention his name in this blogpost. Also, I realize that I am no better than he is and could easily fall into the same temptation should I let my guard down and not be as concerned about my personal holiness.)

God Himself views personal holiness as a key characteristic for those called into the ministry. Just look at the qualifications He has Paul lay out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. Have you ever noticed that all of these really are character traits? The only exception would be "able to teach" in v. 2. And not only are these character traits, but they are ones that reflect the personal holiness of the one called to be a pastor. They address how the minister deals with personal matters. His faithfulness to his wife ("a one woman man" or "the husband of one wife"). The discipline of his children ("keeping his children submissive"). The management of his entire household. His personal life in contrast to his public persona. It is crucial that we recognize this. A pastor who makes a complete failure in his personal holiness can very much disqualify himself for the ministry. (I shudder as I type this realizing how susceptible I can be if I am not careful. I am just as weak as those who have fallen and in desperate need of God's grace and His Holy Spirit to further make me more like Christ through my involvement in spiritual disciplines and the means of grace.)

What concerns me though is how much the personal holiness of a pastor is often neglected today. How many search committees of congregations looking for a new pastor take into consideration the personal holiness of their candidates? Are they more concerned with how powerful of a sermon he can deliver than they are with whether he strives to love his wife as Christ loves the Church? Or whether his children are well-behaved and obedient to him? Does that even come into consideration? Are they willing to overlook the personal holiness of a candidate that God lays out in order to get the leader that they desire?

Now it is quite possible to have a successful ministry in the world's eyes but be an utter failure at home. Church history is filled with powerful preachers and missionaries who were horrible husbands and faulty fathers. Who wound up sacrificing family on the altar of ministry. Whose public ministry got in the way of their personal ministry at home. Allow me to share just a few examples of some well known names who sadly neglected their personal affairs on account of their public ministry. John Wesley, who greatly promoted holiness, would not be seen as holy in the treatment of his wife. He even stated once when leaving the house that he hoped to never see her horrible face again. Or take his preaching colleague, George Whitefield, who would leave his wife for long preaching trips and considered his marriage a hindrance at times when the care of her would take him away from his preaching. Then there is William Carey, known as the "father of modern missions," whose wife was driven to experience depression, psychological issues, and eventual insanity due to his lack of care for her and the rigors of missionary life. And theological giant, A. W. Tozer, who neglected his wife for ministry and personal study. She even stated after his death with her second marriage that she was the happiest she had ever been. That "Aiden Wilson Tozer loved Jesus Christ but Lawrence Oden [her second and current husband at the time] loves me." Such successful ministers who skirted their God-given responsibilities at home. Something the Lord certainly would have frowned on and that their commitment to their public ministry did not excuse in His eyes.

So what is the point of all this? What am I seeking to do here? I want to encourage those blessed with the privilege to serve as undershepherds of God's flock not to neglect your own personal holiness. It may derail your ministry if you do as the case with the unnamed individual shared above and even if it doesn't, know that the Lord will not be pleased in how you conduct yourself with your family. Personally, I take this as a warning to myself to make my own personal holiness and growth in Christlikeness a major priority. It really is the best thing for the congregation I serve as well as my family. (I think the longer that I serve in ministry that what I preach, teach, and write is more for myself than anyone else.) And if you have not been called as a pastor, when you pray for your pastor (and as a pastor, I really hope that you regularly pray for those God has called to lead you spiritually), make sure to ask the Lord to work in his life to become more like Christ. It really is the best thing that he can do for both his physical family and his spiritual one.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Power of the Word of God

            Have you ever considered how the Bible describes itself? What God says concerning His very own Word? There is no stronger testimony of Scripture than God’s testimony. It is really hard to argue with the author of a book himself when he tells you what he thinks about it. That certainly is true when we are talking about God’s Word. Let’s take a look at just a few things He states concerning His Word. 

            In Hebrews 4:12, God tells us that His Word “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” It confronts us in areas that we can easily keep hidden from others, revealing the deepest sinful thoughts that are present inside of us. In fact, it cuts so deep that it can uncover wickedness that we are not even aware of ourselves. The Bible is a more powerful weapon than anything that man could ever create and gets to the heart of the matter unlike any other weapon known to us. In Jeremiah 23:29, God says, “Is not My word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” God’s Word can break our stubborn hearts and wills like nothing else can.

            God also tells us that His Word is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Those who have been born again by the work of the Holy Spirit, have been born “not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). The Spirit of God works through the Word of God to cut through how we falsely see ourselves as righteous and reveal to us our unrighteousness before a holy God thus showing that we deserve His wrath. He then uses it to break our stubborn wills that refuse to submit to Him and transform our hearts to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as our only hope to ever be able to stand before such a holy God because of what He has done on the cross. That all comes from the Word of God! In fact, even the ability to spiritually comprehend the message in order to have faith in Christ stems from God’s Word. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). And not only does the Word of God serve to bring one to salvation, but to continue their growth in the Lord. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

            Do you not see and sense here the power of God’s Word? What else and who else has the ability to take someone deadset on sin living for themselves and transform them to seek to put sin to death in their life and live for the Lord Jesus Christ instead? No one is able to change someone’s heart or mind but God can, and does, through His Holy Word! We witness this with every major revival in history that has been recorded for us. In each case, the spiritual revival stemmed from the preaching and teaching of the Bible. For instance, what brought the people of Israel back to the proper worship of the Lord when they had fallen into idolatry was the discovery of God’s Word that had been lost under the reign of wicked kings (2 Kings 22:8-23:27). An entire wicked city is brought to repentance through the preaching of God’s Word even when the messenger himself is reluctant (Jonah 3:1-9). When the visible church fell into darkness during the Middle Ages and the leaders moved away from the Word of God as their sole authority for all matters, teaching many superstitions and a false gospel based upon the works of man instead of the grace of God, it was the faithful preaching of the Word of God by men such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin as well as the Bible being made available in the language that the people of the day actual spoke that brought about a massive reformation as people came to know the truth of who God is and what He has done to save them in Christ alone. Worship also began to return to how God has designed it to be from the perversion that man had made it. Martin Luther recognized that the Word of God was responsible for all of this transformation: “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing . . . The Word did it all.”

            Know that when you hold the Bible in your hands that you are holding a mighty and powerful weapon that very well can change your life. However, it does no good setting on your shelf or only being opened on Sunday morning and perhaps also Wednesday night. How sad it is that professing Christians neglect the very Words of the One they claim to love. Or they wonder why they do not grow in their faith as they spend very little time exploring what God says. I write this not to make anyone feel guilty but to encourage you to get into the Word daily. As we begin a new year, I challenge you to make it a habit to pick up this powerful Word and soak it in every day. If you have fallen out of the habit, pray that God helps you start it up again. We can’t avoid the wonderful words of life that are found in Scripture!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Real St. Nick

I am just going to come out and say it at the outset: I am not a fan of what our culture has done with Santa Claus. No, I don't have any issues with large men with white long beards who dress in red. (For all I know that very well could be a description of me in about 40 years!) My problem is with how he has become the center of the celebration of this time of year and in essence has pushed out the very reason underlying all the festivities, the incarnation; God becoming man in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to save repentant sinners from their sins. It saddens me to see children taught to be so excited about a fictional character that supposedly comes just once a year but not about the very Savior born on that silent night we often sing about who is always present with us. A very unlikely theologian has said well that Jesus Gets Jealous of Santa Claus. Sinclair Ferguson has described what CHRISTmas actually looks like today for many of us: "Santa is worshiped, not the Savior; pilgrims go to the stores with credit cards, not to the manger with gifts. It is the feast of indulgence, not of the incarnation." Now, I am not planning to spend a lot of time attacking a man who doesn't exist. I have far too much more important things to do than that. Besides, I would like to direct your attention to the real St. Nicholas of history who is much more valuable than a mythical creature who flies around in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer and whom the church historian in me would like everyone to know about.

Long before "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," there was a man named Nicholas who served as bishop of Myra in Modern Day Turkey. He was a staunch defender of orthodoxy, especially against the Arian heresy which promoted the unbiblical notion that Jesus was a creature and thus not the eternal God. He guarded the people of the region he served in from following such errant doctrine. It has even been reported that Nicholas actually went to Nicea and slapped the leader of this heresy, Arius, in the face. He certainly wasn't "jolly" when it came to false teaching! He also was known as a generous gift giver and probably gave away the vast inheritance he received from his parents.

This is the St. Nick that I want people to know. One who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and was unwavering on the truth of Who He is as revealed in His Word. Who ensured that the people he was charged with leading were not led astray by falsehood. Who followed his Master's generosity in giving of himself to benefit others. And most importantly, who directed us to the real One to get excited about and celebrate, the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps we would be wise to give more attention to the real St. Nick this season instead of the sensational legend that often serves to point away from Jesus and the wonder of His birth.

In Christ,
Solus Christus
Soli Deo Gloria

P. S. Concerning how to handle Santa Claus in your CHRISTmas celebrations, I believe that John Piper has addressed this so well that I will direct you to him concerning that: My favorite quote from that podcast: "If being Jesus-focused is a kill joy for Christmas, you don't know Him well."

Friday, November 20, 2015

How To Handle A Brother Or Sister Who Has Wronged You

What do you do when you have an issue with a brother or sister in Christ or when someone in the church has wronged you? Are there any guidelines of how we are to deal with them? Since we all are sinners and not fully sanctified yet (but if truly in Christ in the process of sanctification or being made holy), we should not expect others to be perfect. This is especially true of believers within the church. A key trait of a Christian is not that they are sinless (see 1 John 1:8-10), but that they recognize their sinfulness and are constantly relying on God’s grace because of it. So, coming back to the original question of how to handle a brother or sister who sinned against you, we just need to practice the steps that Jesus has laid out as recorded for us in Matthew 18:15-17. 

            You will notice that the very first thing that Jesus instructs us to do when “your brother sins against you” is to “go and show him his fault in private” (v. 15). We are to go to the person who has caused the offense directly and point out the sin to him or her. Not call up all your friends and talk about it. Not go to someone else and ask them to talk to the individual you have a rift with. But to go to them yourself. We can attest to Jesus’ wisdom here as things will only become messier if you involve someone in the middle plus it very well may make it harder to solve the problem.

            Now this must be done in love of course with a desire to reconcile with the person who caused the offense and to have the relationship restored. Keep in mind that what Jesus says here immediately follows the parable of the shepherd leaving 99 of his flock in order to search and bring back the one who has gone astray (Matthew 18:12-14). The goal must be to bring the straying member of the church back. If that is not your goal, then you need to first go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to change your heart in this matter to be obedient to Him.

            Notice that this one-on-one confrontation is to be had “in private.” Not publicly in front of others for all to see. So, don’t grab the person by the arm on a Sunday morning and confront them when others are around to overhear what you are saying to them. Actually, no one should be aware of the meeting except for you and the other person (and God Himself of course). This all is step one and is the only step necessary “if he listens to you” and “you have won your brother.” If the person doesn’t listen to you and repent, then Jesus gives us another step in this process.

            Step two is to “take one or two more with you” (v. 16). Another meeting should be arranged and this time one or two other people must be included. What is the purpose of including more people in the situation? According to Jesus, they are to serve as witnesses to the conversation. He goes on to say “so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be confirmed.” This follows the principle laid out in Deuteronomy 19:15. The purpose of these two additions are not to gang up on the person but to join the original individual in lovingly reaching out to them. Again, the hope is for the one to repent and be restored. However, should the person refuse to repent and instead hold fast to his or her sin, then Jesus provides a third step in this process.

            At this point, the entire church is to get involved. He says, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (v. 17). Now this is not to embarrass the unrepentant sinner or for the sake of encouraging gossip. Rather, it is for the entire congregation to reach out to the brother or sister in order to plead with him or her to get right with the offended individual before God and repent of their ongoing sin. I like how David Platt has put it, “God loves us so much that if we are caught in sin, He will send an entire army of believers to us as a demonstration of His love and mercy” (Exalting Jesus in Matthew (Christ-Centered Exposition; Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2013) 244).

            The last and final step that Jesus states is one that no congregation ever wants to have to execute but if we are to be faithful to Jesus and His teachings, then we absolutely cannot ignore it. If after the individual confrontation, the small group consultation, and the church’s compassionate outreach, the individual continues to refuse to reconcile with the brother or is deadset to remain in the sin, then they should be treated “as a Gentile and a tax collector,” two categories of people who were viewed at the time to not be a part of the community of believers. Instead of being seen as a brother or sister to fellowship with, they are to be treated as an unbeliever to be evangelized. God cares about the holiness of His church, His people (1 Corinthians 5:5-6). And perhaps, if the person is truly a born again believer, this severe action might be used by God to bring them to their senses and lead them to the repentance that they have been refusing. That at least should be our prayer for the glory of God.

            So, the next time that someone sins against you, you should know how to go about addressing it. Jesus has clearly told us what to do. We have no excuse not to follow what Jesus has said. While this may be a difficult process that goes against our natural inclinations, we must trust that Jesus knows what is best, and, with the aid of God’s grace, follow through accordingly.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Thursday, October 29, 2015

To Those Who Are "Too Busy"

Hello “Too Busy,”

            Yeah, I know. I’ve heard it before. You would read your Bible more but you are just “too busy.” You have been meaning to come back to church but you “can’t find the time.” You have thought about agreeing to serve in that specific ministry but you have so much going on with all those other activities that there is simply no way you could devote yourself to it.

            I hear what you are saying but I’m not sure that actually is the case. Perhaps the issue here is not that you are “too busy” at all but maybe it goes a little deeper than that. Could the reason for your neglect of these things actually stem from the fact that you don’t want to do them? That it is not on account of how much time you have. We all have been given the same amount when you think about it. There are 24 hours in a day for each of us. It is what we do with that time that counts.

            You see, here is how we human beings operate. We always seem to make time for the things that we love and enjoy. We’ll even sacrifice certain activities to make way for such things and not ever think about it as being a sacrifice. This is why in the midst of a hectic schedule, you can be sure not to miss your favorite TV show or sports team play. Why there is always time to devote to your hobby, whatever it may be. And why if you are given free tickets to go to the concert of that singer you like or to be in the stadium to root your team on (say the Steelers for instance since I live in what is known as "Steelers' Country" in Southwestern PA), you will rearrange your chores and obligations in order to be there. In fact, you may even be surprised that your busy schedule cleared up just enough of a block of time to work this in! So, is the issue then that you are “too busy?” Or could it be that you really do not want to? Because if you had a desire for them, then you would be doing them; even if that meant saying “no” to some other things and changing your schedule. Please be honest with yourself with what is actually going on instead of using “busyness” as an excuse.

            If your neglect of your Bible reading, regular church attendance, and active involvement in ministry can be traced to you not having a desire to do them, then perhaps you should be concerned about your relationship with the Lord, or even if you have a relationship with Him at all. (Please know that I write this out of love for you and in having a concern for your soul! I want you to have the joy of truly knowing Christ and walking in a growing relationship with Him.) Here is why I say this. Take a husband and wife for example. If a husband never spends time with his wife and always puts other things before her, you probably would question his commitment to her. There clearly is a problem in the relationship.  The same could be said for someone who professes to love Jesus but He is not important enough to them to make time to commune with Him through reading His Word, being with His people, and doing His work. He is basically being pushed aside for other things.

            Should this letter apply to you, I encourage you to repent of your neglect of God Himself and passionately seek Him above all else. Grace and mercy can always be found at the cross! Pursue Him for your ultimate joy. Set aside time to read His Word and be with His people. You will not regret it! As the Lord Himself says, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee