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, February 26, 2019

The Power of the Word of God


            Perhaps the greatest miracle that God has ever performed is the conversion of a lost sinner. The taking of someone who was dead spiritually and giving them new life. The changing of a heart from loving sin and wanting nothing to do with God to loving God and wanting nothing to do with sin. What Jesus refers to as being born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-7).

            We are given a striking picture of this miracle with something that God called the prophet Ezekiel to do. In chapter 37 of the book which bears his name, God takes the prophet to a valley of dry bones. Serving as a living parable of God’s restoration of His people Israel (and by implication I believe the conversion of a repentant sinner), God does the impossible. He has Ezekiel speak to these dry bones telling them of God’s plan to bring them back to life. Then the most amazing thing happens. I’ll let Ezekiel describe it for us so that we get the full effect of it. “And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them” (vv. 7-8). The bones actually came together with flesh developing on them. Then God has Ezekiel speak to the breath and command it to come into these dead bodies (v. 9). And sure enough, breath did come into them and they became living men (v. 10). God brought life to that which had been dead.

            Now what I want to direct your attention to is the very instrument that God chose to use to bring this new life about. As we see in the text, such new life came from the delivering of God’s words out of the mouth of the imperfect prophet. It was after Ezekiel prophesied to them and spoke the prophecy that the action of these dead bones being brought together and coming alive took place. And this is nothing new. God’s Spirit always uses God’s Word to bring new life. Let me provide you with some examples of this so that you can clearly see this important truth.
           
            How did God create and bring life into the universe? Through the means of His word. Genesis tells us that He said “Let there be” and it was so. What brought an entire city of people to repentance? The preaching of God’s Word from a very reluctant prophet! I’m speaking of the conversion of the people of Nineveh as a result of Jonah’s preaching of God’s judgment upon them on account of their sins (Jonah 3). It was the discovery of the book of the Law and the reading of it that led to King Josiah and the people reforming their worship of God (2 Kings 22-23). The public reading of the law by the priest Ezra and the Levites to the returned exiles which resulted in mourning and repentance over the people’s sins (Nehemiah 8-9). God brought 3,000 to faith in Christ right after they heard Peter preach His Word on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-41). Throughout the book of Acts, we witness the Lord adding to the number of those who belong to the church as a result of the apostles’ preaching of the Word. I could also add the central role that preaching played in the reformation of the church in the 1500s with men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox or “The Great Awakening” in our own nation associated with the preaching of John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards. Martin Luther even stated in evaluating all of the changes that God brought about during the Protestant Reformation that “I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing . . . the Word did it all.” Whenever we see a mighty work of God to bring new life to dead sinners, we see the proclamation of His Word preceding it. In fact, where the Word of God is absent, no spiritual life is given. (Which is why we ought to be concerned about those people groups who do not have a copy of the Bible in their own language yet. They cannot be saved without it!) God’s Spirit obviously does not operate apart from God’s Word to bring spiritual life to those chosen to be His people.
            What does this mean for us as a church? Well, if we want to see spiritual life in our congregation, we must not veer away from the centrality of the teaching and preaching of the Word of God. In any of our evangelistic endeavors, it cannot be neglected since it serves as the very means that God has chosen to use to bring people to repentance and draw them to saving faith in His Son. If we want to be sure that we as a congregation do not become dry spiritually, we need to have a daily intake of His Word. This is where the power of our evangelism and personal growth lies. Not in our craftiness or cleverness but in the Word of God. Let’s be sure to keep it the main thing in our lives and practice.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Thursday, January 31, 2019

What God Thinks of Abortion

While abortion has been a matter of legal debate in our country for well over the past 46 years, a few recent events have really elevated it. The signing of a new abortion bill in New York allowing for the procedure to be practiced up until the moment of birth. A similar bill has been proposed in Virginia seeking to remove current state restrictions for an infant to be aborted. Other state legislatures have also indicated that they plan to follow suit. States such as Alabama and Iowa recently have passed laws banning an abortion after the detection of the infant's heartbeat which can occur as early as six weeks of a pregnancy. Unfortunately though I have read that a state court has already struck down Iowa's law as being "unconstitutional." On top of all of this, VA's governor, Ralph Northam, in an interview discussing the bill referenced above, indicated the possibility of an infant in certain circumstances being killed shortly after birth!

What matters though is not what any governor might think, how any president may view it, or even how a judge might rule concerning it, but what the God of the universe thinks of abortion. And He doesn't leave us guessing as to His perspective on it. He lays it out clearly in His Word.

Part of the debate concerning abortion centers around whether or not a fetus can be described as a person. Is it just a glob of cells or is s/he a living human being? The answer to this question often will determine one's view on abortion.

All of the evidence that we are provided with in Scripture would lead us to conclude that the fetus is nothing less than an actual human being created by God with a purpose that He has designed for him or her. In Psalm 139:13, David acknowledged that he was knit together in his mother's womb. God declared to Jeremiah that He had a purpose for the prophet before He formed him in the womb (Jeremiah 1:9). The unborn infant John the Baptist who jumped for joy at the coming of Mary in light of the news that she was bearing the Lord is referred to as being a "baby" (Luke 1:41). And I think what takes the cake is that according to the Old Testament law, if a pregnant woman is hit and it harms the unborn baby, the situation is treated like it was the harm of a person (Exodus 21:22-25). The same law of retaliation ("life for a life," "eye for an eye," "tooth for a tooth," etc.) applies to the baby injured or killed who was inside the womb when his or her mother has been hit as it does to those outside the womb. God seems quite clear that a fetus is certainly much more than a "glob of cells." 

With this being the case, when it comes to abortion, God clearly sees it as a violation of the sixth commandment, "thou shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13); the intentional, deliberate taking of a human life. In each of the Ten Commandments, we find that every negative has a positive side to it. So, if the expressed negative here is not to take a life, the implied positive part of the command would be to preserve life. And since an unborn infant is a human life, this command calls for the preservation and protection of that life rather than its premature death by abortion. As God's law reveals a lot about Himself to us, this specific command shows us the value that God places on each individual human life.

All human life is so valuable and precious to God that He instituted the death penalty for those who take it. "And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image" (Genesis 9:5-6). God didn't say that man's blood should be required if he sheds the blood of any animal but if his sheds the blood of another man. In fact, He even requires a reckoning from "every beast" that would kill a man. As His specific creation and a bearer of His image, God values the life of man so much that any man who takes another man's life actually forfeits his own. My point here is not to call for capital punishment for abortion but to demonstrate just how precious God deems life.

And God has a special place in His heart for those who are vulnerable and defenseless. This is seen in regards to His continual care of widows and orphans; those who could not care for themselves in ancient times and were left often without any earthly support and protection (Exodus 22:21-24; Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5; 146:9; Jeremiah 49:11). He also commanded His people to look after such and chastised them for neglecting them (Psalm 82:3; Ezekiel 22:7; Zechariah 7:10; James 1:27). Surely the unborn also fit the category of being vulnerable and unable to defend themselves.

For further evidence of what God thinks about abortion, we only need to read His commentary on an ancient similar practice of the pagans. They would literally sacrifice their children in the fire to their false god known as Molech (Leviticus 18:21). We are told that this is an "abominable thing that the LORD hates" (Deuteronomy 12:31). When you come down to it, abortion is basically the sacrifice of a child to the god of "choice" or "self." Isn't that exactly what those who justify the murder of tiny babies in the womb claim to be the reason it should be permitted? That a woman has a "choice" of what to do with what (in this case "who) is in her body. That she is in charge of this living separate organism that is being housed inside of her and therefore she has the right to decide whether to carry him or her full term. It is all about her ("self") and what she wants depending on the circumstances that she faces. That trumps any rights that the child could be said to have. It really is not that much different when you think about it.

God certainly was not cheering along with the New York legislators when Governor Cuomo signed into law less restrictions on what God deems an abominable thing that He hates-the murderous sacrifice of a vulnerable, defenseless precious child knit together by Him bearing His image to the pagan god of "choice" or "self." He does not view the protection of caterpillars as being more important than the protection of a child in his or her mother's womb. (Delegate Tran from VA who presented the controversial bill in the VA House of Representatives also on the same day proposed a bill that would prevent the spraying of certain insecticides during certain months to preserve the life of the fall cankerworm.) While politicians, courts, and others may debate the issue of abortion, God is clear where He stands. And with Him being the Judge of the universe, His view is the only one that actually matters. Unless these government leaders and judges repent and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation that He offers, they will face this Judge and have to answer for the blood on their hands. Oh, may they heed the call of the gospel and experience the change that only Jesus can bring in their lives before they have to meet this Judge and give an account!

Love in Christ,
Lee

Friday, September 28, 2018

Why I Preach the Way I Do

I have a certain style of preaching that I am committed to on a regular basis. It is my manner and custom to take a passage of Scripture, focus on it, and attempt to communicate to the congregation what it means and how it applies to our lives. This form of preaching is known as “expository preaching,” where the main points of the passage become the main points of the message itself. The preacher labors to seek to understand the reason for the original author’s writing of the passage and his purpose in what he is saying. To, in a sense, bring what the author says into our contemporary culture today so that the Holy Spirit may use the words of Scripture to convict the listeners, convert sinners, and conform saints into the likeness of Christ. The opposite of this type of preaching is what could be called “topical preaching,” where the preacher begins with a topic and connects togoether various different passages throughout the Bible which deal with that topic. At its basic level, we could say that “expository sermons” are driven by the passage of Scripture; what it says as well as its purpose and goal in being written, and “topical sermons” by the topic that the preacher has chosen. 

In preaching in such a way, I am not unique or doing something new. Many much more popular and well-known preachers today are also committed to expository preaching. This serves as the predominant method of John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, David Jeremiah, Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, and John Piper as well as the late R. C. Sproul and James Montgomery Boice. It was how the Reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther preached and later the Puritans. We see a picture of this style of preaching with Ezra the scribe and the Levites in Nehemiah 8 when all the people who had returned from exile gathered together to hear the book of the Law being read. We are told that “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (v. 8). They read from the Word, explained the Word, all so the people could understand the Word and put it into practice.

Not only am I committed to expository preaching but also to preach expositionally through entire books of the Bible verse-by-verse. Consecutive expository preaching. This is not on account of comfort but of conviction. I am convinced that the most helpful thing for the spiritual growth of a congregation is a steady diet of consecutive expository preaching. The following are just a few of the reasons which contribute to this conviction.

Expository Preaching Keeps God in the Driver’s Seat. As pointed out earlier, the passage the preacher preaches on determines the topic he will be covering as well as the very points he will be making in the message itself. When preaching through a book expositionally, God in essence chooses the topic for the day; not the preacher. The preacher is just covering the very next passage as God inspired it to be written and whatever topic it is about. I believe so strongly that God’s Word serves as the sole authority for our lives that it not only must determine what we believe, our understanding of the world, and how we are to live but also what we are to hear from God and center on each Sunday morning when we gather together for corporate worship.

Expository Preaching Guards Against “Hobby Horses.” Every preacher has certain topics that they are the most passionate about or that they really enjoy preaching on. The temptation for him then is to continually go back to keep covering such a topic. However, sequential expository preaching will not allow this as he must preach on the topic of the next passage. In fact, a congregation should not be able to discern such “hobby horses” if the preacher consistently preaches in this manner.

Expository Preaching Gives the Congregation a Proper Balance. Paul told the Ephesian elders that in the three years that he was with them that he “did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Consecutive expository preaching better ensures that the “whole counsel of God” will be covered, especially when one alternates from preaching through a New Testament book to an Old Testament one. The gospel will be proclaimed from the prophecies pointing forward to Jesus, the revelation of His first coming, and the accomplishing of the work of redemption as well as His upcoming return to consummate God’s plan. The various parts of the puzzle which contribute to the overall picture are less likely to be neglected.

Expository Preaching Solves the Spurgeon Saturday Syndrome. Charles Spurgeon was the pinnacle of preachers during the 18th century. In fact, he is forever known as the “prince of preachers.” But he confessed to have agonized every Saturday night over what text of Scripture to preach on. He would actually begin an outline on one passage only to crumble the paper up, throw it away, and start again with a different one. I know of pastors who spend up to Saturday praying and pleading with God for what text He would have them preach on only to have their stress level grow as they discerned no clear direction from God at all. With consecutive expository preaching, such a syndrome is cured. Early in the week the preacher already knows what passage he will be preaching on; the next section following the one he finished the Sunday before. He may not yet know exactly what he will be saying as that will come with the study of that passage throughout that week. He also will have more time to devote to studying and preparing to preach it, which will better profit the congregation.

Expository Preaching Models and Teaches How to Study the Word. There is a sense where in expository preaching, the preacher takes the congregation into his study and leads them to how he comes to his conclusions as to what the text is saying and means. This will in turn help them in how to study the Bible for themselves. It wasn’t too long ago that a lady in my congregation told me that she was getting more out of her personal Bible reading. As she reflected asi to the reason for this, she realized that it was because of sitting under my preaching. She had been learning from the questions that I asked to bring out the meaning of the texts the kind of questions she needed to ask of the passage in her own study.

Expository Preaching Prevents Avoiding Controversy. Some topics are difficult for a preacher to address due to the very nature of them. But if the preacher is committed to preach through an entire book of the Bible verse-by-verse, they cannot be avoided. I still remember having to deal with the issue of divorce and remarriage when preaching through the Gospel of Mark. I confess to have been a little nervous knowing that there were those in the congregation who have been divorced and remarried and several who may not share my view on it. But if I am going to preach every passage and verse of the book, I couldn’t just skip over chapter 10. Honestly, I more likely would never have chosen that topic myself due to fear of how it would go over. 

Expository Preaching Keeps Things in Context. How many verses have been misunderstood and misapplied due to someone taking them out of context and claiming that they say something that they really don’t? For example, Matthew 18:20 concerning “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” being used often as an encouragement for the few amount of people who managed to show up for the prayer meeting. When connected to the preceding verses in that passage, you come to realize that Jesus is talking about Him being present in the decision of a congregation to discipline a member living in ongoing unrepentant sin. Something that should not be happening at every prayer meeting. One is better able to see how such an application cannot fit if the verse is preached in its context which an expositional sermon would seek to do.

Expository Preaching Sustains a Long Term Ministry. Those who preach topically will find that in a few years they will run out of topics to cover without seeming to be repetitive. But the one who preaches expositionally never will lack material and even though they will be covering several topics over and over again, it will be from different angles or dealing with different aspects of it all based on the context of the passage. Of course, God's Word is inexhaustible as well so even another look at a passage that has been preached may bring out some additional insights that were missed before. And if you need an example of how such preaching can sustain one in the pulpit for a while, we can just look at Dr. John MacArthur who know has been preaching at the same church for almost 50 years! He also has accomplished a task most preachers have not even come close to. Preaching through every verse of the entire New Testament. And after this, he is still preaching. He has yet to run out of things to preach on.

These are the reasons which underlie my commitment to expository preaching. I encourage other pastors to preach expositionally as well. The congregation more than anything else needs to hear what God has said in His Word. They need to understand what it means. They need to be taught how to study the Word for themselves so that they can benefit from God's Word daily. May God continue to raise up expositors who take His Word seriously and rightly divide it!

Love in Christ,
Lee