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, June 23, 2009

Missions is About God

God be gracious to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us-
That Your way may be known on the earth,
Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
For You will judge the peoples with uprightness
And guide the nations on the earth.
Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You.
The earth has yielded its produce;
God, our God, blesses us.
God blesses us.
That all the ends of the earth may fear Him.

~Psalm 67

Many Christians have the wrong attitude towards evangelism and missions. Though many mean well, their approach becomes very man-centered. Some view new converts as notches in their belt instead of celebrating the work of redemption that God has done in the sinner's life in giving him eyes to see and the desire to embrace the truth of the gospel. In fact, evangelism and missions is not about people but about God. The impetus for missions should be to make God's name great throughout the earth. Mission activity should spawn out of an intense desire to share God's great name with others and the wonderful and marvelous work He has done, part of that work being His sending of His Son in the place of sinners to appease God's great wrath and the providing of eternal life through faith in Him. Psalm 67 does well in communicating such a desire which all Christians should have in approaching mission work.

The psalmist opens up the poem with an appeal to God to be gracious and to bestow His blessing. The wording is almost identical to the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24-26: The LORD bless you, and keep you; / The LORD make His face shine on you, / And be gracious to you; / The LORD lift up His countenance on you, / And give you peace. This was a blessing which God instructed Aaron and his sons to say to pronounce upon the people of Israel. So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them (Numbers 6:27). In using some of the familiar language of this blessing, the psalmist is requesting God to show His favor upon His people. But note the reason the psalmist desires God to show His favor. It is not so that they can live a life of health, wealth, and prosperity. It is not so that they can be comfortable. He is not making the request on their behalf at all but God's! His desire is that God would get the glory and make His name known to the other nations. The hope is that other people will view God's work and realize that God is good and is the One who brings ultimate satisfaction. He states the reason as That Your way may be known on the earth, / Your salvation among all nations. In fact, this is God's very reason for the things which He does, to glorify Himself and to make His name known. One of the reasons that God chose to reveal His power through the ten plagues upon the nation of Egypt and Pharaoh instead of striking them dead right away was to glorify Himself through proclaiming His great name. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth (Exodus 9:15-16). In missions we play a part of God's desire of glorifying His great name in proclaiming the gospel which He uses to bring people to saving faith in Him (Romans 1:16-17; 10:17; 1 Peter 23). In spreading the gospel, we proclaim God's way and salvation among the nations just as the psalmist invites God to use His blessings and favor upon His people to do so.

The psalmist next moves to call all to praise God. He not only calls peoples, but specifically all the peoples. God is so good and due to our own delight in Him, we should desire that all would have that same fulfillment of delight. Because He is worthy of all of our praise, we should desire that others would give Him the glory He rightfully deserves. The peace that we experience with God through Jesus Christ should prompt us to share Christ so that God may work in others for them to encounter the same peace. Our goal in missions should be to call people to rejoice in everything Christ is and all that He has done as part of God's perfect, divine plan. John Stott put it well when he stated: "The highest of missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that incentive is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God . . .), but rather zeal-burning and passionate zeal-for the glory of Jesus Christ."

The psalmist calls the nations to be glad and sing for joy. The reason the nations should be ecstatic is due to God's reign. Judgment and guidance are aspects of the role of a ruler. The psalmist may well have in mind the millennial kingdom where the Messiah will rule over Israel and the nations. This is the culmination of the kingdom He has promised.

The poem closes in much the same way it starts. The psalmist shares a specific material blessing of the produce of crops and then once again reiterates that the reason for the blessing is so that the ends of the earth may be in awe of God for who He is and what He has done for His people. God blesses us so that the world may see Him and reverence or fear Him.

May God send us out to proclaim His great name among the nations and bring Him glory. If we are serious about God's glory, we will be serious about missions!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Wonderful Website to Aid in Missions

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."
~Matthew 9:35-38

I spent some time pondering yesterday the importance that missions must play in the life of the Christian. God's heart clearly is to glorify His name throughout all the earth (Exodus 9:16; Psalm 67; Ezekiel 38:23) and having His children bring the gospel to every tribe and tongue and people group is the means He has graciously chosen to do so. This website is a nice aid in helping us be faithful to the "Great Commission" (Matthew 28:19-20) as it provides information on the unreached people groups in the world. I would encourage you to look over this for any opportunity the Lord may be providing you with and to commit to pray for some of these groups that God would send feet of those who bring good news of good things (Romans 10:15) so that through the proclamation of the gospel, Satan's hold upon them may collapse and God may penetrate hard hearts with His transforming power. As Jesus told His disciples: The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). Who knows, like the disciples who prayed that prayer, God's answer might be to send you to work in that harvest. Right after Jesus exhorted His followers to pray for workers, He sent them out to do the work (Matthew 10:1-42).

Seeking to glorify God and make His name famous throughout the peoples of the earth,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Most Dangerous and Necessary Prayer

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done." Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!"
~Matthew 26:36-46

Jesus has just left with His disciples from the Passover meal and was heading into the Garden of Gethesemane to pray. Luke informs us that this was a common place where He regularly communed with God in prayer, as was His custom (Luke 22:39). Like many of us, He came to prayer with much anxiety weighing upon Him. Matthew records Him as saying that His soul was deeply grieved while Luke describes Him as being in agony. In fact, He was in so much agony that He was sweating blood (Luke 22:44)! The reason for this anxiety was the nearness He was to the cup God had prepared for Him to drink in the sinners place. In the Old Testament the prophets referred to the "cup of God's wrath" which He pours out in His anger. Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem, / You who have drunk from the LORD's hand the cup of His anger; / The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs (Isaiah 51:17). Jesus knew the hour was at hand for Him to experience this cup.

We witness Jesus' emotions in His prayer. I cannot imagine what must have been going through His mind knowing what was ahead. For all eternity God the Son had experienced complete fellowship with God the Father and was about to be crushed by the Father's good pleasure (Isaiah 53:10) and be separated from Him due to the bearing of man's sins. On the cross, when the sky became black and Jesus cried out, My God, my God, why have your forsaken me? He was experiencing the separation from God that all mankind was due to experience for all eternity (and which those who refuse to repent and trust Christ may still experience). Though only for a moment, compared to an eternity with God, the pain must have been wrenching. Although led by the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), Jesus still had to deal with these emotions.

The first part of Jesus' prayer is a plea. Much like Paul who would later ask Jesus to take away his "thorn," Jesus asks if possible, if God could take away the cup of suffering awaiting Him. This is not an indication of a lack of trust in God but a struggle with the intense pain which had never been experienced before. It is similar to a man or woman who is nearing the operating room and dreading the pain that the procedure will cause, though they know that the pain is necessary to settle their affliction. Only, Jesus' pain could not compare to the pain of any medical procedure ever experienced on earth!

The next part of Jesus' prayer is key. Though He made a plea for God to take away the cup, He surrenders to His sovereignty and gives Him full control of His life. It is not about what He desires in light of what is to come but what God desires to do. Again, knowing God's plan in the matter, He states that He will do what God will have Him. if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done. This is the picture of one who humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). This prayer captures one of the points of the model prayer Jesus earlier taught His disciples: Your will be done, / On earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

This is both a dangerous and necessary prayer for us to mimic. It is dangerous because we give God full control and authority in our lives to do as He pleases for His purposes. This may result in suffering God chooses to bring upon us or in Him taking away something we hold dear. However, this is also a necessary prayer because God uses such things to weed out sin, strengthen our faith, and work to conform us into Christ's image. We normally experience our greatest amount of growth spiritually in those "valley" experiences instead of when we are in the "peaks" of life. We may not be asking for things we want, but things which are necessary to be holy.

I have recently read an interview with John Piper where Piper shares a prayer he prays which resembles the point, yet not as I will, but as You will:

When I get on my knees and think about my struggles with pride or fear or greed or complacency or lack of love, what I say to God is, "Lord" (this is a really dangerous prayer, I think), "whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to break me of pride, of the fear of man, of greed, of cancer . . . if it takes loss of family, ministry-do it. I want to be holy. I want to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Do whatever it takes."
*John Piper and Justin Taylor. Eds. Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006) 224.

yet not as I will, but as You will
What about you? Have you prayed this prayer? Maybe you have said it but did you really mean it? Are you willing to submit to God and take whatever He gives you, knowing that it is ultimately for our good and His glory? I pray that we would all follow Jesus' example and humbly submit our wills to God's and give Him full control and authority to do what He pleases in order to bring us to where He wants us!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Joy of the Word of God

The law of the LORD is perfect,
restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true;
they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold,
yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the
drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is
In keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors? Acquit
me of hidden faults.
Also keep back Your servant from
presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great
Let the words of my mouth and the
meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.

~Psalm 19:7-14

Without any intention of my own, I have been writing on the theme of the Word of God and what it means for Christians who desire to live and base their lives on it. My past two notes and blogs dealt with the foundational importance of God's Word for the minister (The Word of God for the Man of God) and the "Reliability and Sufficiency of the Word of God". Today I am going to talk about "The Joy of the Word of God."

This psalm attributed to David clearly reveals the heart of one who loves the Word of God. After rejoicing over the work of God in creation (vs. 1-6), David moves on to rejoice over God's Word. He uses five synonyms for God's Word (law, testimony, precepts, commandment, and judgments) and then proceeds to speak of its result. The effects of God's Word which should bring us joy are that it brings us encouragement in restoring our soul, teaching by making wise the simple, giving us joy, rejoicing the heart, as well as revealing truths to us by enlightening the eyes all because God's words are righteous altogether. While the fear of the LORD mentioned in vs 9 does not appear to be a synonym for God's Word, it does describe a proper response to it. One thing God's Word does in the heart of a Christian is inspire him to worship. In his wonderful work, Desiring God, John Piper makes a strong point that the natural response to reading God's Word is worship (while I remember reading it, unfortunately I have failed to find the exact quote in over 334 pages in his book.) I can recall several times personally studying Scripture when the Holy Spirit has revealed something to me or aided me in understanding something I had been struggling with and having to stop and take time to praise and worship God, to have that fear or awe of God David may be referring to.

Continuing in his joy of God's Word, David goes on to describe it as more desirable than gold, even fine gold. While many spend their lives searching for treasure, David has already found it in the Word of God. He would rather have God's Word than "silver and gold". Money cannot buy the joy the Word of God brings to the serious student. Material things are fleeting but the Word of God is eternal. As Isaiah points out comparing the temporal physical human life to God's messages: The grass withers, the flower fades, / But the word of our God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). It grieves my heart to know of too many who are wasting their time seeking false joy from what they mistakenly believe material wealth will bring when true joy and treasure is found in Scripture. The treasures in God's Word will make an eternal difference in one's life, much more than "bigger barns" full of stuff one accumulates on this earth which receive no eternal value (Luke 12:13-21).

In addition to viewing God's Word as "greater treasure", David describes it as "greater food". He compares it to honey and finds it sweeter. It is hard to find anything sweeter than honey, especially when it is fresh from the honeycomb itself. Yet, as sweet as it is, David finds the treasure of God's commands and judgments to be better. David must have realized what Moses had taught in Deuteronomy 8:3: man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. While it is important to partake daily of physical food for the nourishment of our bodies which are temporal, how much more important to partake of our spiritual food of God's Word for the nourishment of our souls which are eternal?

Another reason David rejoices over God's Word is the great reward of heeding to the warnings it gives concerning sin (vs. 11). Another psalmist later states that a young man can keep his way pure . . . By keeping it according to Your word, (Psalm 119:9) and Your word I have treasured in my heart, / That I may not sin against You (Psalm 119:11). The remedy for not falling into sin is to heed the warnings in God's Word and treasuring that word over all other things, which would include the pleasures of sin. 19th century evangelist Dwight L. Moody made a strong point when he held up his Bible in one of his revival meetings and stated: "This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book." In reading the words which are true and righteous altogether, one will see how unrighteous he or she is. It is God's Word which leads one to confess and repent of both sins of omission (hidden faults) and sins of commission (presumptuous sins). David ends his psalm with a prayer resulting from the reforming power of God's Word in pointing out sin in one's life. Instead of living in sin which is displeasing in God's sight, he wants everything he does to be acceptable in His sight.

David's love and joy in God's Word is undeniable. The question then is what about you? Do you find your joy in God's Word or are their material things in your life which are sweeter and valued as a greater treasure? Would you rather watch a movie or read the latest fiction novel than spend an hour with God in His Word? I pray that the passion and joy David exudes concerning God's Word would flow in our lives out to others who witness us studying and living out Scripture. May God receive glory by us satisfying ourselves in Him through His Word.

In Christ,
Lee Smith
Soli Deo Gloria!!!