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.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Birthday of a King?

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
~Luke 2:6-7

When you think of a king, what typically comes to mind? Do you envision a grand throne surrounded by people who pay homage to the one who sits upon it? Or long purple robes that dazzle with splendor? Perhaps you see a sparkling and golden crown.

The Bible describes and portrays Jesus as a king. When Pilate questioned Jesus as to whether He was the King of the Jews, Jesus responds that My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:33-36). The prophet Isaiah predicted that the government will rest on His shoulders and There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace (Isaiah 9:6,7). However, for a king, Jesus did not have much of a royal birth.

Instead of being born in a palace, Jesus began His earthly life laid in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. They could not even find enough room for the king in the inn. His first clothing was not purple or majestic but strips of cloth. The first visitors for the king were not important dignitaries or high court officials but simple and dirty shepherds. Such a birth was not fit for a king but more so resembled that of a lamb.

While Jesus is our king, it is also important to remember that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). This king was born to die in the place of sinners who would trust in Him just as the sacrificial lamb was sacrificed to cover man’s sins in the Old Testament. Jesus stated that He came to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). In fact, Jesus’ death occurred the exact hour the Passover Lamb was being sacrificed. His bones were not broken in the crucifixion like the Passover Lamb’s bones were not to be broken with their sacrifice (John 19:31-36; Exodus 12:46).

It is important that as was we celebrate Christ’s birth this Christmas that we do not forget the very purpose that this child was born. If it wasn’t for the purpose of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, we would not have a Christmas to celebrate. Let us not forget the cross in our celebration of the manger!

Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that we no more may die,
Born to raise us from the earth,
Born to give us second birth.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up"
~Daniel 3:16-18

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were three of the young men who were taken into captivity by King Nebuchanezzar of Babylon's forces when he laid siege to Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:10-17; Daniel 1:2-4). This capture of the capital of the nation of Judah was part of God's purpose to punish His people for their sins of disobedience and idolatry (2 Kings 23:26-27). Daniel recognizes this by describing this capture as being ordained by God. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God (1:2).

These young men that were captured could be described as the "best of the best" and the "brightest of the bright." The group would consist of youths probably around the ages of 14 or 15. They had to be physically fit (without blemish, of good appearance) and intellectual (skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning) (v.4). The goal of the Babylonians was to eradicate any evidence of their former life of Judaism and make them into full-fledged Babylonians. They were taught the literature and language of the Babylonians and even were given new names. Though we know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, their given Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. In the Hebrew culture, names were important because they usually revealed something about the person's character, circumstance of their birth, or were in praise to God. In fact, each of these three young men's name said something about the one true God, Yahwah. Hananiah's name meant Yahwah is gracious, Mishael's was Who is what God is?, and Azariah's was Yahweh is a helper. The new Babylonian names they were given replaced the reference to Yahweh in their names with the names of Babylonian gods. Hananiah became Shadrach, meaning command of Aku. Mishael would become known as Meshach, Who is like Aku?. Azariah then was given the name Abed-nego, servant of Nebo (v. 7). While the Babylonians sought to eradicate every trace of their past, they could never take away the faith of these young men.

When King Nebuchadnezzar built a golden statue and commanded everyone to bow down and worship it at the playing of the instruments, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to bow. The king even stated that any who would be defiant of his command would face the fiery furnace (3:6).

Due to some certain Chaldeans who reported their refusal, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego find themselves called in to stand before the king (vv. 8-13). After inquiring for himself if the accusation against them proved true (v. 14), King Nebuchadnezzar gave them another chance and reminded them of the consequence of their actions (v. 15). They reply with one of the most powerful statements of faith found throughout all of Scripture.

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up (vv. 17-18). These three young men refused to bow down to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar made inspite of the consequences of being thrown into the fiery furnace. They refused to bow down to any other god than the one true God, regardless whether God would save them or not. The verb able in this verse appears to refer to God's willingness instead of actual literal ability. These men would have certainly not denied God's omnipotence. There is a contrast here between the if God is able and the but if not. The point they were making to the king was that if God decided to deliver them then He would but even if He chose not to, they still would not bow down to the idol that the king had set up. The He will deliver us out of your hand is dependent on the condition of this willing ability. (The and before the He will deliver can also be translated then as a waw in Hebrew carries several different meanings in a narrative to connect and move the story along. It can be translated and, next, then, but and several other choices.) Their worship and commitment to God must have been based on Who He is and not what He would or would not do for them. They refused to turn from God even if He, in His divine providence, decided not to deliver them from the threat that awaited them. They would trust God no matter what the result He planned for them to be.

So often, we base our trust and worship of God on what He might give us or how He might respond to our prayer. This means that we are worshipping not for Who He is but instead based on how He might benefit us. He would not be the end that our worship is centered on but merely the means to an end being what we want. Also, in face of persecution like what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego faced, could we say with them that we would be steadfast in our faith and refuse to bow to any other god (which does not have to be a statue but is anything we give adoration and devotion to that only belongs to God)? Do we waver in our faith and worship of God when God does not answer our prayers the way we want Him to? Or do we worship Him regardless? Could we say with Job that Though He slay me, I will hope in Him (Job 13:15)? May God give us the unwavering faith that refuses to bow to anyone or anything else, the faith that will trust and worship Him when life doesn't make sense and when we may not understand what He is doing.

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Real Question in Our Suffering

“I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
~Job 42:2-3

Job was a man who experienced much suffering. In an instant everything he had was taken away from him. One by one, a messenger came to the man to report the loss of his livestock, servants, and even all of his children (Job 1:13-19). The only thing that Job had left was his wife and she did not prove to be much of a comfort during this difficult time. Her counsel to him was to Curse God and die! (2:9). In addition to these great losses, Job was afflicted with dreadful boils that covered his entire body (2:7). The pain became so severe that he used pieces of pottery to scratch himself for relief (2:8).

Most of the book of Job contains the man’s quest to figure out the reason that lay behind his suffering. His desire was to know “why” God brought this intense bout of suffering upon him. He knew that God was in control and just (16:11; 19:5-6) but did not understand the purpose that God had with this specific pain in his life (9:17; 10:2; 13:24). His friends were convinced that the suffering was in response to some sin that Job must have done (4:7-11; 15:17-35; 18:5-21; 20:4-29; 22:5-11). However, Job knew that he had been a man of integrity so that could not be the case (10:7; 12:4; 13:18; 23:11-12; 27:2-6).

God eventually responds to Job’s inquiry, complaints, and pleas but He does not answer Job’s main question (38:1-41:34). Instead, God asks him a series of questions that served to humble Job and remind him that God is God and he is not. Questions such as: Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? (38:4) and Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place (38:12). Job cannot claim to know God’s infinite wisdom and ways in regards to the reason God had tried him. He responds to God’s questions by recognizing that God is indeed in control (42:2) and that God was right in His accusation that he was attempting to understand what he did not have knowledge of (42:3) as God had stated when He began addressing Job (38:2). Job was speaking of things he did not know and what surpassed his understanding.

The issue should not have been the “why” for Job’s suffering but instead whether or not Job would still trust God in the midst of the suffering that he did not understand. In fact, unbeknownst to Job, this was the very purpose for his suffering. Satan had challenged God that Job would curse God to His face if God took away His hedge of protection upon him and struck him with physical affliction (1:9-11; 2:4-5). To prove that this would not be the case, God gave Job over into Satan’s hand, while setting the boundaries to what the devil could not do to him (1:12; 2:6). God was shown to be right when Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God (1:22) and In all this Job did not sin with his lips (2:10). He remained faithful throughout the storm without having an explanation for it.

Like Job, we often spend a great amount of time pondering the reason for our sufferings and trials. We know that God is sovereign and in control but demand to know the “why” the pain is present. Job never received an answer for the reason he suffered but he trusted God regardless. We may never understand some of the things we go through but the real issue should not be the “why” but our faith. Perhaps we should not ask “why am I suffering?” but instead “am I trusting God through my suffering?”

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee