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.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Lessons From September 11

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
~Luke 13:1-5

Today thousands in the nation take time out of their busy schedules to commemorate and remember those who lost their lives in the horrible tragedy which occurred the morning of this day fourteen years ago.  Many of us remember how that day changed the way we thought about the country, our loved ones, and even our lives.  Many still are struggling with what they have seen, or with those they have lost in the tragedy.  Some lives may never be the same again.  While not belittling the victims of the tragedy, I want to look at what those who are still living can learn from this event.

The days following the 9/11 attacks brought several questions.  Several of these questions concerned God and His role in the event.  People struggled with trying to grasp any reasons God may have allowed or permitted this to happen.  Some wondered if the people who went for what they thought would have been a normal day at work deserved to play the victims of such a horrible scenario.

Clearly God was in control of that day and is still in control of our world today.  Scripture tells us that God works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).  Through Amos God communicates, If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it? (Amos 3:6) and Jesus says that a sparrow does not fall to the ground apart from your Father (Matthew 10:29).  Even Satan himself is under the sovereignty of God.  Jesus acknowledged to Peter that Satan could not test the disciples' faith without God's allowance.  Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat (Luke 22:31).  Likewise, Satan could not tamper with Job without God's permission and He set clear boundaries where Satan would not be able to trend.  In the first meeting with Satan, God agreed to let him test Job but would not allow him to put forth your hand on him (Job 1:12) and the second time God gave Job into his control but would not permit him to kill His righteous servant.  Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life (Job 2:6).  This is a very comforting truth.  Our lives may seem like they are spirling out of control, but the truth is that we are still in God's hands and He is working to bring things to His ultimate purpose.  You may be down at your lowest, but we have hope that God IS in control and causing all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).  Even in the worst of times, we have comfort knowing there is a loving and good God in control who has a purpose in the suffering.  God was there that day on 9/11 and, even amist the sorrow, several testimonies to His goodness have been proclaimed.  His sovereign hand never left the situation!

The second major question the World Trade Center attacks spawned is one which is a common response to every huge natural disaster or catastrophe:  "What did this group do to deserve this?"  This was seen after the tsunami in India as well as New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina.  In fact, Jesus was asked a similar question about 2000 years ago.  While speaking to a large crowd, a group informs Jesus about an atrocity which Pilate had committed.  The exact situation is unknown to us today but we can infer that it had something to do with a slaughter of Jews during their sacrifices.  Not only was this a terrible occurrence, but it took place during worship which made it even more horrendous.  Jesus realized right away the question that they had concerning this issue.  They thought that this plight was the result of them being greater sinners than all others.  However, Jesus sought to turn their perspective completely around.

Instead of agreeing with their assumption, Jesus took the focus off the victims and placed it on the questioners.  The reason this group was slaughtered was not because they were greater sinners.  The ones who were killed were no more sinners than the ones commenting concerning them.  (Note: This does not necessarily mean that the events God permits to occur are punishment for specific sins.  John 9 makes it clear that, while a result of the curse of sin, not all infirmities and incidents are due to specific sins.)  Those who died in the tsunami, in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and with Hurricane Katrina were no more sinners than those of you reading this note as well as the one writing it.  We deserved the same!  I will never forget a powerful sermon my pastor preached right after the tsunami a few years ago.  He told us that the question is not "why them?" but should be "why not us?"  We didn't deserve God's mercy to not have the tsunami happen in America, or to not have been in the Pentagon or World Trade Center on that day, as well as having the hurricane wreck havoc on the NorthEast or MidWest.  As Scripture tells us, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  We get so used to God's mercy we have problems when He shows us His wrath.

Jesus actually warns the crowd of an even greater fate, much worse than what happened with Pilate and the later example of the falling of the tower of Siloam.  Unless they repent of their sins, they will perish (Luke 13:3,5).  This is Jesus' urgent plea to those who are lost in sin.  Repentance means a turning from sin.  It is the flip side of faith.  One turns from sin in repentance and then turns toward Christ by placing their faith in Him.  The likewise may refer to the sudden and unexpected death of those in the Temple and at Siloam.  Those who went to the Temple that day to offer their sacrifices did not realize that they would not be returning home.  The possibility of the tower falling on the group in Siloam probably never occurred to them.  Likewise, if the crowd does not turn from their sins and turn to Christ they will suddenly and unexpectedly (to them) experience the punishment for their sins.  The author of Hebrews tells us that it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

No one is guaranteed of their next heartbeat or breath.  If we should learn something from modern headlines, it is that death is no respecter of age.  If you have not turned from your sins and placed your faith in the Lord Jesus, then Jesus' plea for repentance is for you.  Like those in the Temple and at Siloam, you do not know when the day will come and it will be too late.   Many who left for work that morning of 9/11 did not know that they would not leave the building.  Several wives did not know that they would not see their husbands again.  I am not attempting to scare anyone, I just want to point out reality.   For us who are Christians, this is a reminder that life is too short to waste!  Let us give out Jesus' plea to those who need to hear it in our families, schools, and at our places of employment!

Praying for those involved with the attacks in any way as well as us who can learn from God's mercy,
Lee Smith
Soli Deo Gloria!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

True Love For Christ

An essential characteristic of a true Christian is that they have a love for the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, the Apostle Paul goes so far as to state that “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). The Greek word here for “accursed” conveys the idea of being “devoted to destruction.” So, if someone has no genuine love for the Lord Jesus Christ, he or she has no right to even call themselves a Christian. Having a love for Jesus is something that is not natural for any one of us as Scripture states we are all born hating Him. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20). We by default have a hatred towards Jesus but a love for our sin. That hatred may be masked as indifference but it is there. It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts to give us a hatred for our sin and a genuine love for Christ. Without being born again, we will not have a true love for Christ. We will remain desiring our sin over and above Him.

Now, how do we know whether we actually love Christ or if we just think that we do when really we don’t? Keep in mind that the Bible tells us that our hearts are very deceptive and it is quite possible for us to be deceived into thinking that we have a love for Jesus when in reality we do not. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). This means that we need to examine how Jesus Himself defines what love for Him looks like for us to see whether we can honestly say that we love Him.

According to Jesus, love for Him is displayed through obedience to His commands. He stated, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). And again, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). So, what does it indicate about someone’s love for Jesus if they have no concern in being obedient to His teachings and commandments? If they desire to live their own way and do whatever they want, regardless of what Scripture says? If the times where they are disobedient to what He has said never bothers them? Clearly, it shows that they don’t really love Him, no matter how much they may claim to.
In fact, Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words” (John 14:24). Jesus defines love for Himself in terms of obedience.

He also defines love for Himself in terms of priority. Having a genuine love for Christ is to have Him as the greatest treasure in one’s life. Placing Him first and at the center of their life. Jesus actually states that “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). His point here is that He must be greater in the Christian’s life than their family and themselves. Anything and anyone else that they love must be loved less than Him. He serves as the top priority. And when it is pointed out to someone that they have placed something or someone above Him, the person who has a true love for Jesus will grieve this news and desire to have Him again as their number one.

What are some other things that reveal a person’s love for someone that should be expected to be seen in the man or woman who really loves Jesus in action not just in word? J. C. Ryle provides a helpful list in his book, Holiness: It’s Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014) 328-332. If we love someone, “we like to think about him,” “we like to hear about him,” “we like to read about him,” “we like to please him,” “we like his friends,” “we are jealous about his name and honour,” “we like to talk to him,” and “we like to be always with him.” Are these true about you in regard to Jesus? It certainly should be if you really love Him. This is more than a mere reference to Him in a small prayer before a meal. It is looking to Him and having Him in your mind throughout the day. It is spending quality time with Him that develops from quantity time in His Word and in communion with Him in prayer.

While no one can say that they have a perfect love for Jesus, can you say that you are falling more in love with Him the more you come to know about Him? The more that you read His Word and spend time with Him in prayer? (And if you are not doing these two disciplines on a daily basis, you need to ask yourself why. Why is it that you don’t want to spend time with Him? What has taken His place in your life that you would rather make time for instead? Or to put it another way; what is robbing you of the joy that can ultimately be found only in Him?) And if you are really struggling with loving Him, just take time to meditate on His great love for you demonstrated at the cross. That itself should motivate you to love Him more!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee