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, May 31, 2009

The Ministry of the Word of God for the Man of God

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
~2 Timothy 4:1-5

As I have been working through a text for Sunday's sermon, the Lord has renewed a sense of importance of being true to what the Lord inspired the text to be saying and the necessity of effectively communicating His message. At the same time I have been reading John MacArthur and the Master's Seminary's book entitled Preaching: How to Preach Biblically which has also reminded me the importance of taking my personal study and exegesis of the text seriously. The last thing I ever want to do is to misinterpret God's meaning or miscommunicate a crucial truth He has inspired the authors of Scripture to record.

Unfortunately, the current state of the pulpit is a sad state indeed. Several pastors are not being true to the teaching of the Word. They are not taking time to sufficiently study to personally understand what God is saying in the text. Instead of studying to figure out the original intent of what the authors were inspired to write, they place their own agenda on the text and become the master over it instead of allowing the Scripture to be their master with their job being careful not to overstep the boundaries of what the text is saying. My heart has been broken several times as I have had the privilege to travel to different churches and preach and see how hungry some congregations are because their pastor is not doing their best to truly feed them the Word of God. He may be giving them crumbs when they are starving for a meal.

The importance of God's Word to the ministry of the pastor is apparent in Scripture. It is something which cannot be easily neglected. In fact, the Apostles were so committed to the teaching of the Word of God that they would not allow trivial matters to hinder this ministry. When a dispute arose from the Hellenistic Jews due to their feelings that their widows have been overlooked in the provision of food, the Apostles make the powerful statement, It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables (Acts 6:2). This is not to say that the care for the widows was not important, because the apostles still took care of the problem by having the believers choose seven men of godly character to handle the problem. They just realized that they were responsible to minister the Word of God and that they needed sufficient time to do this effectively. This is a reason the office of deacon probably developed, to aid the pastor in service matters so that he can devote more time to the ministry of the Word.

Paul's second letter to the young pastor, Timothy, is filled with the importance of the Word of God in his ministry. Early in the letter, Paul encourages Timothy to not be ashamed of Christ but to join him in his suffering for the gospel (1:8). He urges him to Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2:15). Scripture is able to ground the young minister and keep him from being led astray by the deception of evil men and impostors and lead to salvation (3:14-15). It is also his sole handbook for his ministry and fully sufficient for his every work (3:16-17) (for a fuller exposition of these two verses, please see my previous note entitled: The Reliability and Sufficiency of Scripture).

Right after showing Timothy how important and fully sufficient Scripture is for the ministry of the man of God, he gives the young pastor this charge: preach the word (4:2). This is a charge for ministers everywhere which should not be taken lightly. After all, this charge is given with two of the most important witnesses, God and Jesus who clearly has authority. This is a charge which is for all time. It is not just for Sunday morning or Wednesday night. The pastor must so saturate himself in God's Word that he is prepared in season and out of season to proclaim and teach it. There is no such thing as an inappropriate time to teach the Word of God. The world may make such claims, but Scripture is clear that the pastor should always be ready to live out this charge. Also apart of this charge is to reprove, rebuke, exhort. These resemble the list given in 3:16 concerning what Scripture is profitable for. In fact, the Greek verb for reprove, "elegcho," is very similar to the noun, reproof, "elegchos". This must be done with great patience and instruction and not in anger. One reason Paul charges Timothy to be ready at all times and to make sure it is done with patience is that a time is coming when men will no longer listen to sound doctrine but instead seek to be comforted with what they want to hear in contrasts to what they need to hear. We are seeing this warning lived out today with many who have problems with sound biblical teaching leaving certain churches to form their own where they teach what they want regardless of what Scripture has to say or they flock to hear pastors which preach what they desire Scripture to say instead of conforming their lives to Scripture. Too many are flocking to hear a message of "health, wealth, and prosperity" and neglecting the fact that Scripture states that God chooses to use suffering to purify His children's faith and work to conform them into the image of Christ. Several are buying into a message of how to have "your best life now." (Side note: if you are able to describe this life as your best then what does that say about your eternal destination?) Other examples exist and are too numerous to mention but Paul's point is clear. Instead, Paul urges Timothy to keep his head and stay the course of his ministry, which is not always an easy job. Paul could be instructing Timothy to do the work of an evangelist for those who are following myths and not the truth. The role could be to tell them the truth of the Word of God in hopes that the Lord will lead them to the saving knowledge of the truth. Overall, the necessity of the commitment of the man of God to the Word of God is evident.

I would like to close this note and exposition with a statement from an anonymous member of one congregation concerning the importance of the Word of God for the man of God. It is lengthy but powerful and well worth the read. I read this last night and was strongly encouraged. If you are a pastor, may this be an encouragement to you to saturate yourself in the Word of God and be faithful in your studying, teaching, and living it out. If you are not a pastor, may this be an encouragement to you to hold your pastor or pastors accountable and demand them to uphold the truth of God's Word.

Fling him [the pastor] into his office. Tear the "Office" sign from the door and nail on the sign, "Study." Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the flock of lives of a superficial flock and a holy God.

Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God. Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through. And let him come out only when he's bruised and beaten into being a blessing.

Shut his mouth forever spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever tripping lightly over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence. Bend his knees in the lonesome valley. Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God. Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets.

Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God! Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day—"Sir, we would see Jesus."

When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day's superficial problems, and manage the community's weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can. Command him not to come back until he's read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, "Thus saith the Lord."

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he's back against the wall of the Word. And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left—God's Word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.

And when he's burned out by the flaming Word, when he's consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he's privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God.

In Christ,
Lee Smith
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Reliability and Sufficiency of Scripture

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
~2 Timothy 3:16-17

Last summer I was blessed to have a conversation with a faculty member of my alma mater, Bridgewater College, concerning our views on the Old Testament's place in Scripture. While I have great appreciation and respect for this man, his position, and all that he has done for the students and the college, his view on the Old Testament left me uneasy and greatly concerned. I fear that many others possibly hold similar viewpoints. He told me that he was taught and still currently holds to the understanding that the Old Testament is just the history of the Jewish people and has no bearing on Christians today because we are a New Testament Church. He also does not believe that many events (such as the Flood and the crossing of the Red Sea or Reed Sea) actually occurred. The major problem with such a view is that it places one at odds with the witness of the New Testament itself which unanimously affirms the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament. Holding such a view basically casts doubts on the reliability of the New Testament and the authority it should have in our lives.

The authors of the New Testament clearly held to the view that the Old Testament was more than just a history book. They saw it as God's very Word. Peter recognizes the origin of the writing of the Old Testament as being the Holy Spirit Himself. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21). The author of Hebrews in quoting Psalm 95 does not even credit David as writing the poem but the Holy Spirit. In introducing a quote from the psalm, he states: Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says (Hebrews 3:7). He recognized that though David penned the words, the origin of them came from the Holy Spirit of God. Even Jesus identified the Old Testament as God's Word. He stated that David "in the Spirit" wrote about Him in Psalm 110 (Matthew 22:43-44). Also, keep in mind that the Scriptures Jesus studied, quoted, and lived by were the Old Testament (The Law (Torah), Writings, and the Prophets). He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-18). He did not throw it away but was the culmination of it since the entire Old Testament pointed to His coming and the redemption God had planned through Him before the foundation of the world. Surely Jesus and the writers of the New Testament can't be wrong on this issue. If they are, then how are we to fully trust them with their other testimonies? If they were wrong about one issue, then there is a great possibility they were wrong about others.

One of the strongest portraits of the reliability and sufficiency of Scripture is found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The all Scripture Paul refers to is the compilation of both the Old and New Testaments. The sacred writings (vs. 15) that Timothy knew from childhood was the Old Testament. In fact, the Greek word, graphe (Scripture) typically refers to written words. Paul consistently uses the word to refer to the Old Testament writings (Romans 1:2; 4:3; 9:17; 10:11; 11:2; 15:4; 16:26; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4; Galatians 3:8, 22; 4:30; 1 Timothy 5:18). However, the New Testament authors themselves include each others' writings as the category of Scripture as well. For instance, Paul quotes a statement of Jesus' recorded by the author Luke and calls it Scripture in I Timothy 5:18. The quote is alongside one from Deuteronomy. Both the verse from Deuteronomy and the one from Luke's gospel are preceeded by the statement For the Scripture says. With the two quotes connected by a kai (and in English), Paul appears to identify both Deuteronomy and the Gospel of Luke as being Scripture. Luke's writing is deemed authoritative by Paul in teaching that elders should be paid for their service. Also, Peter explicitly labels Paul's letters as Scripture. He states that the untaught and unstable distort his writings as they do the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). So, according to Peter, Paul's letters are a part of Scripture. Furthermore, these letters were intended to be read aloud to the congregations and admonish them (Colossians 4:16).

Paul acknowledges that these Scriptures are God's very words. He describes them as God-breathed. The underlying Greek word, theopneustos, is a compound word consisting of God (theos) and breath (pnein). It communicates God breathing out the Scriptures. Thus, the origin of Scripture is God who breathed them out and not man. Peter affirms Paul's point when he says knowing that first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). God chose to use fallible men to write the infallible Word of God. This gives Scripture a greater weight and authority as what is written (in the original manuscripts) is what God Himself intended to be written. The Old Testament may contain historical records of events but the Holy Spirit inspired how the authors should record those events.

Paul does not view any part of Scripture as useless but profitable. Notice, it is all Scripture that fits under this description. Not just certain books, passages, or verses. Not just what fits with our presuppositions or our theology. Paul does not give us the luxury to choose what part or parts of God's Word are profitable and which are not. They all are. What is Scripture profitable for? Paul gives us a list:

1) Teaching
Scripture teaches us about who God is and His character. Without the Bible we could never know Who God is. It teaches about salvation as Paul points out in the preceding verse that Scripture is able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. God's Word is the means He uses to bring people to faith (Romans 1:16; 10:17). We can learn a lot from the lives and decisions of the patriarchs, judges, kings, and prophets. In fact, the author of Hebrews points out how the examples of the Old Testament saints teach us "persevering faith" in Hebrews 11. In God's Word we find instruction for how to live a life which is pleasing to God and what glorifies Him.

2) Reproof
Scripture reveals our sin to us, showing us where we are wrong or in error. In reading about God's holiness, it is hard to not see the areas in our lives where we are in sin and falling short of that holiness. It was upon the reading of the book of the law that King Josiah recognized the sinful rebellion and disobedience of his ancestors (2 Kings 22:11-13) and which led the Jews to weep over their sins upon the return from exile (Nehemiah 8:9).

3) Correction
Not only does Scripture point out where we are wrong, but it also shows us how to correct our errors and walk aright.

4) Training in Righteousness
The Bible is our manual or "playbook" on how to live the righteous life which the Lord has called and enabled us to live. The Greek word used, paideian, connotes the training of a child. God's Word is food for the growth of the Christian. man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD (Deuteronomy 8:3). We need to daily read God's Word on how we must live life to glorify God. Like a little kid needs training and instruction on how to live, the Christian needs training as well and Scripture is where we can find that training.

The end result of what Scripture does is to fully equip the minister (as man of God normally refers to in Scripture) in everything that he needs to do. This is great encouragement for young Timothy as Paul reminds him that he has all that he needs to perform what he is called to do with the very Scriptures he has internalized since his childhood. Likewise, these Scriptures provide us with all that we need to live a life of godliness. We do not need the latest self-help book which attempts to tell us how to "live our best life now" or the latest fad. The Lord has already provided for us in His Word. May you use this provision in whatever you may be facing or with whatever the Lord has brought you to.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dr. Oz on the Effectiveness of Adult Stem Cell Research

I really wish more people would realize how much more can be done with adult stem cell research compared to the use of embryonic stem cells which destroys a life. I like the guys point at the end that "it is never okay to destroy life to better someone's else."

Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Preach the Gospel and Use Deeds if Necessary

I have always had mixed feelings toward the oft-quoted saying, "Preach the gospel, use words if necessary," as it is typically used to overemphasize "right living" over the teaching of sound doctrine when the Bible teaches both as important for the Christian. Paul instructed Timothy to Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:16). Both deeds and words go together. It was Ezra's practice in ministry to study God's law or instruction and practice it before he taught it to Israel (Ezra 7:10). Even in Jesus' teaching, when He did a miracle (a deed), it often was used as a teaching tool for either His disciples or those in the crowd. I think this article makes a great point that the "message" of the gospel cannot be made devoid of words as it is a "message." May we always "speak the gospel" and make sure that our deeds mirror our teaching.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria

Angels and Demons Website

Much like its predecessor, the new film, "Angels and Demons," based on Dan Brown's book, promises not only to tell a good story but also to raise several questions pertaining to Christianity, the Bible, and church history. Westminster Theological Seminary has put together a nice website dealing with such questions. The articles are worth a look and the website is great to share after one has read the book or watched the movie. I do respectfully disagree with Dr. Poythress' view of "the Big Bang" theory but believe the other articles are well done.

"Soli Deo Gloria!"

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Just for Fun

I found this bobblehead doll of John Calvin on Dan Phillip's Biblical Christianity blog as a part of his weekly "hither and thither" feature and had a good laugh. I then googled to find out if any of the other Reformers had been "bobble-headed" and discovered that there was also one of Martin Luther and his wife. Thankfully, the Reformers left more of a legacy than just their images in bobbleheads.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

While We Wait

One of the hardest four letter words for us to comprehend and live out is the word "wait". We struggle with this while driving or shopping. We always want to be in the fastest lane or shortest line. We can't stand hearing that it'll be just "five more minutes" till we can be seated or seeing a traffic jam up ahead. We just don't like to wait. Yet several places in Scripture, we are called to wait. In fact, the word is found 142 times throughout the entire Bible. Several times we are even commanded to "wait upon the LORD" (Psalm 27:14; 37:7, 34). This is not easy for us who do not like to wait. Often we feel like David when he says, I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; / My eyes fail while I wait for my God (Psalm 69:3). This song is a great reminder that just because God may have us in a place of waiting, does not mean that we should lie dormant and do nothing. May God help us to "take every step in obedience," "serve Him," and "worship Him," even while we wait.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!