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.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Necessity of Preaching the Gospel to Yourself


I believe that one of our biggest problems as Christians is that we do not do enough preaching. Now, I don’t mean behind a pulpit every Sunday or even on the street corner throughout the week. And I’m not thinking here about preaching to your unsaved loved one or neighbor, though certainly you should be sharing the gospel with them whenever you are provided the opportunity. I am talking about personally preaching to ourselves every single day. Specifically preaching the gospel message to ourselves. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was right, “most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself” (Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986; 20). Let me explain what I mean by this.

Every morning we wake up with thoughts going through our head. Perhaps they remind us of sins we committed yesterday; an ugly thought that we had, that unkind and hurtful word which we said to our spouse, the wrong way we responded to our children, or the jealousy we had for what someone else had been given instead of us. These thoughts condemn us wearing us down. We can either listen to these thoughts and allow them to defeat us or we can battle them by preaching to ourselves the truth of the gospel message. Telling ourselves that Jesus Christ died for all of those sins 2,000 years ago experiencing the punishment for them that we deserve and if we are united to Him through faith, God no longer sees those sins when He looks at us. We have been forgiven of all of them through the shed blood of our Savior. Nothing that we do can separate us from the love that He has for us in Christ (Romans 8:35-39). When our thoughts point out that we can’t do enough or will fall short of the next task, we need to preach to ourselves that Jesus did all that was necessary for us to be in a right standing before God and our acceptance before Him is not based on our imperfect deeds but Christ’s perfect righteousness. Also, we remind ourselves that we have His Holy Spirit dwelling inside us whom we can rely on to give us the ability to do whatever it is that He has called. Or the thoughts tell us some negative things about ourselves after looking in the mirror or being given the pink slip at our job. Preaching the gospel to ourselves is saying to ourselves that in light of that, our real identity is still found in being a chosen, loved, predestined, adopted, redeemed, forgiven child of God in Christ (Ephesians 1). When we look at our circumstances and our thoughts conclude that God has abandoned us, preaching the gospel to ourselves is telling ourselves that God uses such times to strengthen our faith and to increase our trust in Him as we are made more aware of how good He is to us (Job 42:5-6; 2 Corinthians 1:8-10; James 1:2-4). That He is forever for us and working all things for the good of our ultimate redemption (Romans 8:28-32). Preaching the gospel to ourselves is basically taking the truths of Scripture and telling them to ourselves to combat these thoughts in our minds.

This practice is exactly what the author of Psalm 42 does in battling his depression. As he goes through and recounts his longing to be back in God’s presence at the temple and the tears that he has been shedding day and night as well as the taunts of his enemies as to where his God is, he stops and begins to talk to himself. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (v. 5). He encourages himself in the midst of the pain and woe that he needs to find his hope in God, not in anyone or anything else. That in God is found his salvation from whatever it is he may be experiencing. That God is still his God regardless of it all. We see that he ends the Psalm on the exact same note (v. 11). That is the method which he employed to pull himself out of the pit of despair and depression; preaching the gospel to himself. We would do well to follow his lead. 

It appears that Jeremiah also, in a sense, preached the gospel to himself in the midst of his lamenting over how bad things had gotten with the Babylonians ransacking of Jerusalem. Roughly halfway through the book of Lamentations, he states, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’ ” (3:21-24). He preaches to himself the character of God to bring him back to the hope that he has only in Him. A hope that he obviously was losing sight of in the thick of the circumstances he found himself in.

So the next time those thoughts come into your head, don’t listen to them. Preach the truth of the gospel to yourself instead. And keep preaching until you stop giving heed to such thoughts but embrace the truth. When the thought returns, then begin preaching again. Continue to preach the gospel to yourself everyday.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Encouraging, Convicting, and Helpful Books Which Have Shaped My Life and Ministry

Recently, I had a friend of mine ask me for a list of books that I have found to be encouraging, convicting, and helpful. I am indebted to the wisdom that has been handed down to me through books. The books that I have read in the past several years have had a profound impact on my life and really have shaped my ministry. I am fully convinced that I would not be who I am today and would not be serving the Lord in the manner in which I do were it not for the wonderful life changing knowledge that I have encountered. Realizing that not only might my friend benefit with such a list but others for their own personal Christian growth or development in ministry could as well, I have decided to put together the list in this blogpost. While it may seem to be, it certainly is not exhaustive, and many more could actually be added to these lists. However, I tried to limit myself to the ones which I found MOST encouraging, convicting, and helpful. Ones whose impact continue to be felt in my life and ministry today and/or which I run back to for advice or reread for the much needed refreshers. So without any further ado, here are my selective lists organized by category:

For preaching, the books that I have found most encouraging, helpful, and convicting are as follows (in no particular order):
"Spirit-Empowered Preaching: Involving the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry" ~Arturo G. Azurdia III

"The Supremacy of God in Preaching" ~John Piper

"Preaching for God's Glory" ~Alistair Begg

"Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism" ~Timothy Keller

"God's Message, Your Sermon: Discover, Develop, and Deliver What God Meant by What He Said" ~H. Wayne House & Daniel G. Garland

"How to Preach & Teach the Old Testament for All It's Worth" ~Christopher J. H. Wright

"Preaching & Preachers" ~D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

"Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scriptures" ~Trevin Wax 
 
"Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call for Expository Preaching" ~Steven J. Lawson (This book I come back to read anytime I start to question the importance and effectiveness of expository preaching.)


As for ministry in general, the following are some that come to mind:
"Pastor to Pastor: Tackling Problems of the Pulpit" ~Erwin W. Lutzer

"Confident Pastoral Leadership: Practical Solutions to Perplexing Problems" ~Howard F. Sugden and Warren W. Wiersbe (This one as well as Lutzer's book were so very beneficial to me in the first two years of my ministry. I found myself looking to them for advice with how to handle several issues that I were encountering for the very first time.)
 
"Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome" ~Kent & Barbara Hughes (A very dear brother in ministry got this book for me a couple of years ago when I was experiencing a discouraging time and discovered that I had bought into the "success syndrome," needing the reminder that God is most concerned with our faithfulness in ministry with Him being in charge of the fruitfullness.)

"Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry" ~John Piper

"Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice" ~Christopher Ash

"Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry" ~Paul David Tripp (Reading this book was like undergoing heart surgery for me! God used it to expose so many sinful attitudes that had been welling up within me. Ones that would have done so much damage to my ministry if left unchecked. I am so thankful that God placed it in my hands about five years ago at such an early time in my ministry. I like to think that it saved me from me-though I still know I am my own greatest problem. In fact, it might not be a bad idea for me to pick it up off the shelf and read it again.)

"On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work" ~Derek Prime & Alistair Begg

"Lectures to My Students" ~Charles Spurgeon

"The Pastor's Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry" ~R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O'Donnell (This has become my "go to" ministry manual. Before any type of service, I always like to glean the wisdom of these two seasoned pastors. It is much more thorough and helpful than my denomination's manual and other ones that I have come across.)

Regarding Those Which Have Aided in the Development of My Theological Framework
"The Holiness of God" ~R. C. Sproul

"Chosen by God" ~R. C. Sproul

"Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology" ~R. C. Sproul

"The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His Word" ~R. C. Sproul

"Desiring God" ~John Piper

"Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments" ~Geerhardus Vos

"A History of the Work of Redemption" ~Jonathan Edwards

"The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments" ~Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

"Counterfiet Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters" ~Timothy Keller

"9 Marks of a Healthy Church" ~Mark Dever

"The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel" ~Mark Dever and Paul Alexander

"Putting Amazing Back Into Grace" ~Michael Horton

"Christless Christianity" ~Michael Horton
 
"The Mystery of Providence" ~John Flavel

"The Gospel According to" Series by John MacArthur ("The Gospel According to Jesus," "The Gospel According to the Apostles," "The Gospel According to Paul," and "The Gospel According to God.")

"Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God" ~J. I. Packer

"Radical" ~David Platt

"Let the Nations Be Glad" ~John Piper

"Sing: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church" ~Keith and Kristyn Getty

"The Bondage of the Will" ~Martin Luther

"The Freedom of the Will" ~Jonathan Edwards

"The Institutes of the Christian Religion" ~John Calvin

"The Death of Death in the Death of Christ" ~John Owen

"The Cost of Discipleship" ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Holiness" and basically anything else that I have read by J. C. Ryle.


Wow! I listed far more than I had intended! I certainly am a theology nerd who loves to read. And the sad thing is that I could probably add so many more but I will stop here for now. I am thankful to God for, in His providence, exposing me to these works and using them to mold and shape me for His glory. I trust that this list will continue to grow as newer books continue to be written and as I dust off the covers of some of the old classics which will continue to have an impact on our lives well into the future. My list of what I want to read continues to grow much sooner than I can check any of these off. Anyway, hope that some of you might find some of these helpful as they have been for me. God bless!

In Christ,
Lee
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Great Concern for the Church


God's desire is to have a holy church which glorifies Him. He chose each of the members of the church to "be holy and blameless before Him" (Ephesians 1:4). Jesus died for the church so that He would one day be able to present her to Himself as "holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:26). God has predestined each member of the church to be "conformed to the image of His Son" which is the image of holiness (Romans 8:29).

This means that the church itself must be concerned with the growth in holiness of its members. Not simply with growing the numbers but whether the number that God has sovereignly given it is growing in holiness. (As the book of Acts makes clear for us, it is the Lord who adds to the number of the church through the church’s faithful work of sharing the gospel and praying for conversions.) Each individual believer in the fellowship is called to be holy as God is holy (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16). If a brother or sister in the fellowship continues on in unrepentant sin, they are to be lovingly confronted on it and called to repent (Matthew 18:15-20; Galatians 6:1). Paul chastises the church in Corinth for failing to do anything about the member in open ongoing sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1-2). He actually calls them to kick the man out of the fellowship (1 Corinthians 5:3-5). The reason for this is the concern that his ongoing unrepentant sin will corrupt the holiness of the church. To use his imagery, that the little bit of leaven of the man’s sinful wickedness will cause the whole dough of the congregation to be affected (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Holiness MUST be a major concern for the church.  

Now does such a concern for growth in holiness distract the church from its mission to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19)? Obviously not because the same One who desires for us and calls us to be holy is the same One who gave the church this commission through His Son. We have to understand that holiness itself is an important and necessary part of the church’s witness. It actually aids and adorns the church’s mission.

It is the holiness of the church that makes the church attractive to the unbelieving world. That shows it to be distinct. Unless unbelievers notice a difference in how the church lives and worships, they will see no reason to take any interest in the gospel the church proclaims to have transformed them. They will not see the reflection of the church's Savior and Lord. They will instead see themselves and no reason to pay the church any attention whatsoever.

As Mark Dever said at a recent conference, “your most important contribution to others is your knowing God in a way that makes you different from others. That's the whole nature of the contribution you have to give them. This is how we will bring other people in. With a compelling holiness.” When people notice our different set of priorities, see us spend time each Sunday morning (and throughout the week) with those we really have nothing in common with other than our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, love those that they find hard to love, or give of ourselves without any immediate reward from it, it will make them question what is different about us. And we can explain to them that it is not because we are any better than anybody else. But in light of the amazing grace that God has shown us in Christ, how else can we respond but to give our own poor version of that love we have experienced to others? That it is only because of Who He is and what He has done for us. He is Who makes that difference. I remember in high school a major act of kindness a college student did for a group of us. When we thanked him, he was quick to point out that he only shared a little bit of what God had done for Him in Christ.

One of the greatest concerns for the church today ought to be its holiness. That they are genuinely set apart by God to glorify Him in both their profession and their practice. That the church’s members are continuing to grow in the holiness of their living. Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of the visible church in America today is the lack of concern for holiness. Let’s be sure that that is not a tragedy for us here at Mt. Joy but let us strive, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit within us, to be holy as God is holy. May that attract the unbelieving world to wonder what, or better put, Who, serves as responsible for such a distinction.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee