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, June 20, 2011

Just For Fun: "If You Give A Pastor A Pulpit"

A few weeks ago after Prayer Meeting, several of the group noticed the popular children's books, "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" displayed in the widow of the church library. This started a conversation as to what the title would be in reference to a pastor. One man looked at me and suggested that it would read "If You Give a Pastor A Fork" since pastors are known to eat alot (and since supposedly I wind up eating something at just about every widow's home that I visited in). I then suggested that it should be "If You Give A Pastor A Pulpit." Well, my creative mind went to work and later on that week, I put together my own little story based on that title. It has sat on my desk for weeks now and I had forgotten it until I cleaned it. Perhaps this might bring a smile and laugh today.

If you give a pastor a pulpit . . .

He will want an hour to go with it.

He will need his Bible.

He will then take time to study to seek to understand what God has said.

After working a while, he may need to take a break and get a snack.

He will probably wind up talking to someone in the congregation longer than he planned.

He will then remember his sermon and get back to work.

After working on this week’s sermon, he will probably find ideas for next week’s.

He will then need the pulpit again . . .

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Independence or Complete Dependence

We all have been born believing a lie. By default we think that we can do things on our own and that we do not need God's enablement. In a sense this was part of the temptation that led to the Fall. The serpent promised Eve that if she ate of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then she would be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). She would no longer need to rely on God to determine what was good or evil for her. She would be like Him and know it herself. One of the biggest sins in the church today is that of self-sufficiency; the idea that we can do things on our own without God. We struggle with this sin even after we are saved. Well meaning pastors have stated that "God helps those who help themselves" or "you need to put forth some effort so that God has something to work with." The problem with these statements are that they both are unbiblical. The Bible consistently shows that we cannot be as independent as we think we should be but instead must constantly be dependent upon God and His grace.

Jesus told His disciples that apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5). No one can bear spiritual fruit unless they abide in Christ. Jesus did not say that apart from Me you can do a little or some. Instead, He said nothing. In fact, the Greek uses a double negative to communicate this. Literally Jesus says that apart from Me you cannot do nothing. We need to be fully dependent on Christ in order for any fruit to bear in our lives. It is not up to us but we need Him.

The Apostle Paul recognized that all of the ministry that he did was not a result of his work but God's instead. He tells the church at Corinth that But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me (1 Corinthians 15:10). He points out that it was not he who labored but the grace of God. Paul knew that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (Romans 7:18). The very reason that he could labor more than all of the others was due to God's grace and not any intrinsic effort that he exerted. I think Paul indicates here that his labor was fully dependent on God's grace to be effective. In fact, after giving us a list of instructions on how to live the Christian life in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22, Paul then prays that Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 23). The ability to be obedient to these commands that he gave must come from God. If we had the ability to "sanctify" ourselves and live out these commands to please God, then Paul would not have needed to pray that God Himself would sanctify you entirely. He recognized that we need God to bring us every step of the way in our salvation, from our initial justification through our progressive sanctification to our future glorification. We cannot make it on our own but must be utterly dependent upon Him.

Any work that we do to progress in our sanctification cannot be done without God's divine work through us. Paul commands us in Philippians 2:12 to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Then in the next verse he informs us that it is really God who works through us so that we can live out this command: for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (v. 13). We can only work because God is working. Verse 12 cannot be a reality in our lives unless verse 13 is a reality. We are fully dependent upon God for our growth in grace and righteousness. We are not self-sufficient but utterly dependent. Augustine realized this when he wrote the following prayer in his autobiography: "Command what you will and give what you command." He asked God to command for him to do whatever He wished but also that He would give what is necessary to be obedient to that command. He realized that he could not be obedient to any of God's commands without God's grace. He knew that he was utterly dependent upon God.

What about you? Are you trying to live your life independently or relying on God every step of the way. The old hymn is true that "we need thee every hour." In fact, we need thee every second. Perhaps some of your problems and struggles right now are due to the fact that you are trying to handle something on your own instead of seeking God for His strength and grace to do whatever it may be. We cannot live this life on our own. We were made dependent creatures and must remain dependent upon our Creator. Let's quit believing the age old lie that we can do it ourselves and instead be completely dependent upon God for everything!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Word to Those Attending the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail letter that I sent to our two delegates heading to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in a few weeks. It has been burdened on my heart to put something like this together to encourage them and prepare them for what they may face. This Annual Conference may well prove to be one of the most controversial and heated in recent history as the homosexual issue continues to cause a stir and two business items that address the issue are going to be discussed and voted on. Perhaps there are some others who are reading this blog who are going to the Church of the Brethren Annual Conference this summer or know of someone(s) in their church who are that might benefit from this as well. I may write an upcoming blog post or two to discuss more of this homosexual issue going on in the denomination as I have been getting several questions concerning it from those in my congregation as well as others within the denomination. May God use this as He sees fit.

As I have been pondering conference and all that it might entail, I want to remind you of some things as you head out to Grand Rapids in a few weeks. Most of these you are probably aware of, but a quick reminder never hurts.

Watch Out for the Emotional Appeal
One thing those who promote the homosexual agenda like to do is to appeal to the emotions to get people to agree with their position. They often will talk about someone in their family who has been ostracized from the church because of their lifestyle or of a lesbian relationship that has appeared to work together so well. These are actually "red herrings;" something brought into the argument that is not really relevant to the actual discussion at hand. The issue is over the wording used in the 1983 Paper, "Human Sexuality From A Christian Perspective," concerning so-called "same-sex convenantal relationships" and whether the official stance in the paper that "Covenantal relationships between homosexual persons is an additional lifestyle option but, in the church's search for a Christian understanding of human sexuality, this alternative is not acceptable" should remain the position of the denomination today. The goal of the 1983 paper was to examine the "Christian perspective" of human sexuality. To find the "Christian perspective" for anything, one must go back to the Word of God and look at what it says. What the Word of God teaches IS the Christian perspective since a Christian is defined by God's Word and instructed solely by it. This is why the paper went into much detail over certain Scripture passages concerning sexuality. The issue being discussed and debated at the moment, is not how those practicing homosexuality have been treated or whether there have been couples who make it appear that the relationship can work but instead what the Christian perspective concerning homosexuality is and thus in essence then what the Bible teaches about it. Be careful when someone comes to the mic to make a point and uses the emotional appeal tactic. Remember what the discussion truly concerns and the real issue at hand, the authority of Scripture.

Remember the Real Battle
We are in a battle. In 1978, Harold Lindsell wrote a book entitled "The Battle for the Bible" in which he discussed how several denominations and Christian institutions were moving away from holding to the trustworthiness and inerrancy of Scripture (the teaching that the Bible is without error in its original autographs). The same "battle for the Bible" wages currently in our denomination as evidenced with the homosexual issue. The fact that there even is a question over whether homosexuality should be acceptable as a lifestyle proves this as the Bible is certainly clear that God views the lifestyle as a sin. If we hold to the Bible being God's Word as it claims that it is, then we cannot deny the sinfulness of homosexual relationships no more than divorce, living together before marriage, adultery, and having a child out of wedlock. This is a spiritual battle. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Our enemy is not those who support the homosexual issue but Satan himself. Keeping this in mind helps us to maintain the proper perspective.

Pray, Pray, and Pray
Since this is a spiritual battle, we need to use spiritual armor in our fight. Paul calls this the armor of God. It is only by wearing this spiritual armor of truth, righteousness, preparation of the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the sword of the Spirit that we may resist the evil day and be able to stand firm. We need to fight this battle on our knees, constantly petitioning God to work as He sees fit this summer for conference and to give courage to stand for Him and His Word. We cannot face this struggle on our own. We need His grace and strength every step of the way. I encourage you to be in prayer for conference and all that transpires as we at the church pray for you and conference as well.

May the Lord be with you as you travel to conference and stand for God's Word for His glory and namesake!

Love In Christ,
Pastor Lee