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.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Wonderful Prayer to Pray

O our God, will You judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.
~2 Chronicles 20:12

King Jehoshaphat did not know what to do and was afraid. He had just received word that A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi) (2 Chronicles 20:2). A coalition of the Moabites, Ammonites, and the Meunites were moving in fast to attack the nation of Judah. They had just come around the south of the Dead Sea and were in perfect range to head North to Jerusalem for a straight forward attack. Since the armies of the three of these nations banded together, the multitude might have been fairly large. Anyone of us in a similar situation as Jehoshaphat might have been fearful as well. I'm not sure how large these armies were but clearly Judah was outnumbered. However, in light of the size notice the king's response.

Jehoshaphat didn't let his fear drive him to run away or admit defeat in the face of what looked to be an insurmountable challenge ahead. Instead, he set his face (the literal Hebrew) to seek the LORD (2 Chronicles 20:3). He then called all the people of Judah to fast so the nation as a whole would seek God in this massive time of distress. He went to the LORD for help. He didn't seek to come up with a foolproof strategy of how his smaller army might beat the odds. He knew better. He knew that God served as the people's only hope. This is a good example of someone who modeled Proverbs 3:5-6. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. So often when we are surrounded by a multitude of problems or burdens, we allow our fear to direct us to flee or we try to handle the challenges ourselves when instead the fear should drive us to our knees like it did Jehoshaphat. While on his knees, Jehoshaphat delivers a powerful prayer that could serve as a great guide for us when we find ourselves in a similar situation and are afraid of a multitude that may be plaguing us.

He starts the prayer recognizing that God is sovereign and omnipotent (v 6). You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. One of the greatest confidences we have is that God is in full control of everything that happens in the universe. There is not one stray molecule outside His sovereign will. In fact, Jesus tells us that not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from your Father (Matthew 10:29). No matter what happens, God is in charge and knows what He is doing. The situation that Jehoshaphat faced was not a mystery to God or out of His control, just as any situation you may find yourself in is not either. Also, Jehosphaphat recognized that God is omnipotent, meaning that He is "all powerful." In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. There is nothing too hard for God. Jehoshaphat rested in the fact that He was addressing One who could handle the threat that he faced. No burden can be described as heavier than God. Likewise, never forget that you are talking to the Almighty and All Powerful God when you pray. He is in control and omnipotent and should be addressed as such.

Jehoshaphat then recounts God's faithfulness in the past as part of His covenant He made with the nation and His ongoing promise to them that they would have an inheritance in the land of Canaan (vv 7-9). Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham Your friend? (v. 7). Just as God has helped the people before, he is certain He will again. He also knows that the Lord will keep all His promises, including the one that He had made with them. God had been faithful in the past and he recognized that God would be faithful concerning their present situation. No matter what you are going through, think back about how God has been faithful to aid you in the past and be encouraged that the same faithful God can work in current situation as well. This is what we see Jehoshaphat do when facing this fierce multitude.

The king then requests God's help to protect the people from the threat (vv 10-12a). He calls for God's judgment on the people's behalf. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? (v. 12a).

He reports his dependence upon God (v. 12b). The king acknowledges how much they needed God and could not handle the situation on their own and in their own strength. The heart of the reason for the prayer was because we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us (v 12). Jehoshaphat knew that the people did not stand a chance on their own without God. He also realized that he had no clue how to handle the situation. nor do we know what to do. The one thing he did do was to focus on God; but our eyes are on You. He knew the only one who could help him in this time of trouble was the Almighty God who had looked out for them all this time. The essence of prayer is confessing to God our helplessness and desperate need of Him. This glorifies God as He enjoys aiding His people and displaying His majesty to demonstrate His goodness and mercy.

God was gracious and answered Jehoshaphat's prayer. God fought the battle for the people. The Lord spoke through a man named Jahaziel and said, Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's (v 15). He actually confused the opposing armies and had them take care of each other! The Israelites did not even have to lift a sword!

This is a wonderful prayer that many of us would do well to pray. We often find ourselves "powerless" facing the multitude of things that come our way. Maybe not necessarily a physical army like King Jehoshaphat faced but a multitude of problems and burdens that we feel we just can't bear. We find ourselves in a place where we don't know what to do. Thus, we need to ask God to handle the matter just as Jehoshaphat did upon the threat of the coalition of armies moving closer to Jerusalem. While we are lost concerning the right direction to go, we need to keep our eyes on Him. It is when we seek the Lord and admit that we are powerless that He takes over the battle for us and insures the victory. Then we can say the battle is not yours but God's and praise God for the victory that He will bring.

If you are facing such a multitude, maybe its time for you to follow Jehoshaphat's example and seek God, admit your helplessness, and give the battle to Him. I know I will be spending some time seeking Him for help with some of my multitudes!

In Christ,

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Conversation Between a Pastor and a Postmodern

The following conversation is completely fictional but is based on several claims that someone with a postmodern worldview typically holds (not necessarily everyone who accepts the label "postmodern"). The intent of the following is twofold. With this dialogue I hope to show the weaknesses of the postmodern mindset as well as how to answer someone who espouses such claims. Many times we are confronted with these arguments and fail to know how to respond. The following is just one example of how one may respond in a similar situation.

Postmodern: Pastor, I regret to inform you that I am leaving your church.

Pastor: Why? You are an important part of the congregation. What has prompted you to leave? Is it one of the other members? Is it me?

Postmodern: Don't get me wrong, pastor. You are a nice guy and you really care about your flock but I just get so tired of your absolute statements in your sermons. It is like you consider no other position as valid with the exception of your own.

Pastor: What do you mean? Do you feel that I am too dogmatic on certain problem passages or controversial doctrines?

Postmodern: No. It is more than that. You speak as if the Bible is the only truth and that Jesus is the only way to salvation. You don't even consider the other views and how they might also be true. You are very intolerant!

Pastor: During my time in college I was on a quest to discover the truth and God has opened my eyes to see that the Bible is true. I have weighed out all the evidence and thoroughly examined it and have yet to find it false. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit has convicted me of its truth.

Postmodern: I have no problem that you believe the Bible to be true. My issue lies with your claim that Muslims are wrong in their understanding of the Koran as truth and that everyone is wrong who does not believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation. What right do you have to make these claims?

Pastor: Well if the Bible is true, as I am convinced it is, then it must be God's Word as it claims. This means that God is the one who makes these claims and He clearly has the right to determine what is right and wrong. The Bible explicitly states and affirms Jesus as saying that He is the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to God but through Him. Therefore, God has declared that Jesus is the only way to salvation.

Postmodern: Based on the presupposition that the Bible is true, that is correct. But my issue is the validity of that presupposition itself. Why can't there be many ways to heaven instead of just one?

Pastor: Do you realize that every religion claims to be right? Islam claims the Koran is the only holy book without any perversions and thus is fully true. Islam views Jesus as not being the Son of God and never having died which are complete contradictions to the Bible. The Bible's teaching and those of the Koran cannot both be true. Jesus either is the Son of God or He is not. Is Jesus the only way as the Bible states or the Five Pillars of Islam according to the Koran? They both cannot be the only way as they each claim. One is either right or they both are wrong. They both cannot be right because they contradict. In fact, every religion presents their set way as the only way. Buddhism has the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment and Hinduism has several rituals and washings. Even the Roman Catholics have historically held to the position that there is no salvation outside the Catholic church. They each have their own and only way to heaven and apart from that way, no one may enter their conception of heaven (which also is contradictory of each other). So, basically all religions are intolerant of each other. The question boils down to which one of these ways are the true one since they all cannot be.

Postmodern: I understand your point but I can't understand how anyone can be sure of the truth. I don't believe anyone can be certain of anything.

Pastor: So then how can you be so certain of the impossibility of knowing the truth?

Postmodern: What do you mean?

Pastor: You seem awfully certain that you cannot be certain of anything.

Postmodern: I believe that truth is relevant. There is no absolute truth. Each individual decides what is true for him or herself but it is not absolute.

Pastor: Here is another problem with this thinking. For your statement that "there is no absolute truth" to be valid, it would have to be an absolute truth which would then invalidate such a claim. I also don't think you fully believe what you say.

Postmodern: What makes you say that?

Pastor: You claim that everyone determines their own truth so that it is true only for the individual, right?

Postmodern: That is correct.

Pastor: So, in your perspective, there is no universal morality all men subscribe to?

Postmodern: No. What they believe to be morally right or wrong is relevant only to them.

Pastor: So does that mean that a man could take your wife out tonight and do whatever he desires with her?

Postmodern: Absolutely not! That would be a violation of . . .

Pastor: But what if he viewed that as right in his own eyes? You certainly could not tell him it was wrong. After all, it was deemed right to him.

Postmodern: I have to admit Pastor, you are pretty good with logic. It becomes wrong with one imposes his or her beliefs or understandings onto someone else. This would be wrong because he would be imposing his belief (not necessarily a wrong belief for him) on me when I don't agree with his perspective. This in essence is my problem with your teaching and preaching.

Pastor: So you do not hold to any kind of objective, authoritative, universal standard such as the Bible?

Postmodern: Nope. I believe what matters is that one sincerely believes in something, whether that would be Jesus or Buddha or that no such higher being exists, and that he or she does not impose that belief onto anyone else.

Pastor: But to sincerely believe in something does not necessarily make it true. If I sincerely believed that I could fly and I in turn jumped off the roof of an 18 story building, it does not change the fact that I am not able to fly, does it? Even if I believed with all my heart that I had the ability to fly it would not alter the laws of gravity and my inability.

Postmodern: You've got a point. But we all know the truth that one cannot fly because of the experience of the laws of gravity and any attempts to fly. How have we experienced the truth of God?

Pastor: Oh you have seen His handiwork but still failed to recognize Him! The Bible says that God has revealed His power, characteristics, and divine nature through the creation. You cannot sit through a thunderstorm without witnessing this power or gaze upon a sunset without being in awe of His majesty. You just don't acknowledge the Creator behind the creation. In fact, the Bible points out that one day all of us will stand before God in judgment. It has been "appointed a man once to die and then the judgment." Because of the evidence of Who God is in the works that He has created, you will have no excuse for your rebellion against glorifying and praising Him. However, creation does not tell the whole story of who God is and His great work of redemption that is necessary because of the sin that currently separates you from God. He has specifically revealed all of this in His written Word, the Bible.

Postmodern: Alright Pastor. You have made some powerful points but you have yet to convince me of the truth of Scripture. I will continue to study the Bible and come to you with any further questions I may have.

Pastor: Postmodern, I would never be able to convince you the truth of the Bible being God's Word because only God's Holy Spirit can do that. However, I strongly encourage you to consider what I have said, both in this current conversation as well as what I have taught from God's Word on Wednesdays and Sundays. I will continue to be praying for you that God will open your eyes to the truth and draw you into a relationship with Him. Thank you for the conversation.

Postmodern: No. Thank you Pastor!