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, October 31, 2016

Happy Reformation Day!

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. ~Romans 3:28

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the work of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9

This doctrine [Justification by Faith] is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour. ~Martin Luther

Wherever the knowledge of it [the doctrine of "Justification by Faith"] is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown. ~John Calvin

Tonight many will spend their evening "trick or treating," celebrating a so-called holiday called Halloween and not realize an event that transpired 499 years ago on this day that marked a major turning point in the history of the church. October 31, 1517 marks the day the German monk named Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, an event most scholars identify as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. These "theses" called the authority of the Pope in matters of salvation into question and sought to expose how the "treats" of the indulgences that were sold were actually "tricks" with no real significance except for making the pope and those who sold them very wealthy. An indulgence was a letter the Catholic church sold that promised forgiveness of sin and an early release from purgatory (a place the Catholic church conceived of where one would stay after death but before heaven which length of stay was based on the number of sins one committed in their earthly life). Luther's posting of his theses on "All Hallow's Eve" was instrumental. The next day the church would celebrate "All Saints Day" so they would see these as they walked in. Luther's students actually took the list and made copies with the aid of the new printing press creating quite a stir. The first ripple of Reformation fervor had been struck and would gain in momentum as God enlisted others such as Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin to join the cause. Several current protestant denominations are products of God's work through them.

Many may question why such an event is a big deal. Why would a man complaining about certain teachings in the church be something to celebrate? People do this all the time. However, I think the celebration really is about God and how He used this man with his many, many, many flaws (he clearly had an anger problem and appeared to promote some wayward morals) to call His Church back to the truth. The Catholic church had repudiated the Bible's teachings on salvation by creating a synergistic economy of grace where man cooperated with God for his salvation. The selling of indulgences was a form of works-righteousness where the church taught that one could earn their salvation by paying a certain price for an indulgence. The sacraments became viewed as works that one must do in order to receive God's grace. In the Pope claiming the authority to grant the remission of sins based on a sale of an indulgence, he placed himself above both God's Word and Christ Himself. Many were blinded by such teaching (and some still are today) thinking that they could earn their own salvation.

The Reformers combated such views and practices. They claimed sola scriptura, that Scripture alone was the only authority for the believer. This led Luther to translate the Bible into German so people at the time could have a personal Bible and be able to study it on their own instead of relying on the false teachings of the priests who were the only ones who could own and read one. The Reformers called the people back to the truth taught in Scripture that one was justified (declared righteous in God's sight by God Himself) through their faith in Christ and not by any works that they could do. They rightly stated that salvation was by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (sola Christa) for the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria) as Scripture taught. Paul explicitly states For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is a gracious gift given by God and received through the means of placing one's faith in Christ. The Lord used Luther as well as the other Reformers to call the church back to this truth, a truth foundational to the gospel.

Let's celebrate God using such men with their numerous flaws (much like we each have) to call the church back to the truth of His Word, especially with the central doctrine of "Justification by Faith," as well as pray that God would continue to raise people up with a passion for His Word and boldness for His truth to continue to reform His Church as to where He would have it to be.

Soli Deo Gloria!!!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Four Things That Will Not Change on November 9th

            Are you worried about the upcoming election? Anxious over what might happen if a certain candidate wins and takes office? Thinking that the world as we know it may just come to an end? The kind of changes that he or she will bring that might prove detrimental to our society. The type of future this will bring for our children. Certainly there will be changes when the next president takes office and not all of them necessarily good. But I think as Christians, we need to find comfort in those things that will not change on November 9th, the day after the election. To look beyond this tumultuous election season and what it promises to the much bigger and better picture. To find our hope and comfort there instead of in some corrupt politician.

            One thing that will not change after the election is that God will still be sovereign and on His throne. That has been true for all eternity and will remain so. His sovereignty does not depend on what the American people decide at the polls. No human can usurp His authority and reign. We all have tried in our own lives and we each have failed. I think back to the book of Daniel where God’s people are in a foreign land living under wicked rulers. (Hmm . . . Sound familiar? That’s exactly where we as Christians find ourselves now. Having our true citizenship in heaven with earthly rulers here below who are more concerned about themselves rather than honoring God.) In the case of each of those leaders, God reminded them that He called the shots and that He determines them to have such a position and how long they will be in it. “That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets it over the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17). He even brings the boastful arrogant pagan King Nebuchadnezzar to say that “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ” (Daniel 4:35). I find great comfort in the truth of Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” No need to lose sleep about what will happen following election day. God will still be reigning over whoever is president and we can rest in that!

            Another thing that will not change after the election is that we still have a greater eternal kingdom to which we belong. This is a kingdom that cannot be shaken by the events of earth (Hebrews 12:28). The policies of any president, no matter how awful, will not affect or damage that kingdom in any way, shape, or form. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a statue that represented four different kingdoms in history and a rock not of man that destroyed all of them. The rock being God’s kingdom that Jesus will consummate when He makes His grand return (Daniel 2:31-45). When, as John records, “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). America, as well as every other kingdom in this world, will not last. It all will come to an end when Christ returns. As those who are part of this eternal kingdom because of Christ’s obedient life and sacrificial death, let’s make sure that our greater concern is found in preparing ourselves and others for that kingdom instead of this kingdom which WILL sink by the time that the better kingdom sails in.

            Also, Jesus will continue to build His church on November 9th and following as He has done up to this point (Matthew 16:18). The affairs of this earth will not hinder it. The future of the church does not hang in the balance with whatever the results of the election turn out to be. If Jesus can build His Church under a Herod and Emperor Nero who both tried to destroy the Church in their day, He can certainly do so under a President Trump or President Hillary, regardless of what they may do in an attempt to stop it. As Jesus said, “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

            And the results of November 9th will not change our mission. We will still be expected just as much to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). You see, we have a much greater mission than winning an election. We are to be about winning souls! People will still be just as lost and heading to hell after the votes have been cast as they are now. We are the ones that He has sent out to warn them and offer them the salvation that can only be found in Christ Jesus. Let’s be careful not to get so caught up promoting a certain candidate as if he or she is our only hope but instead spend more time promoting Jesus Christ as the true hope for a lost people.

The next time you find yourself upset or anxious about the results of this upcoming election, take a moment to reflect on these four truths. Whenever you look at the big picture, it helps put things into their proper perspective. Regardless of who will be our next president, God will remain sovereign, His kingdom will still be coming unshaken, Jesus will continue to build His Church, and we still have a mission to be faithful in. Take heart and, by His grace, continue to press forward for the sake of Christ and the gospel.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Fighting Forgetfulness

I think that often a Christian’s problems come from one thing. Forgetfulness. Now, I’m not talking about forgetting where you placed your keys, an anniversary date, or the reason you walked into the room you are in. This forgetfulness is much worse and can have even greater consequences in your daily life. It is the forgetfulness of some important truths that we find taught to us in the Word of God.

            One of these truths concerns who we are. Basically forgetting our identity. That we are sinners in daily need of God’s rescuing grace. We cannot get through a day on our own in our strength and power. We are impotent. We are dependent. We are in need. When we forget this, we don’t see the necessity of prayer and spend far too little time on our knees. We fail to look to God for His all sufficient grace. Like Adam and Eve before us, we will buy into the lie that we can be self-sufficient like God (Genesis 3:5). And also like Adam and Eve, the results will be disastrous! We can never do one thing to add to our salvation but find the salvation we need already accomplished by the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, through His perfect sinless life and substitutionary death on the cross. The moment we are no longer mindful of that blessed truth, we will become so weary focusing on our many, many, many daily failures rather than resting in the grace that has been provided and holding that as our comfort.

            Another truth we have a tendency to forget is whose we are. That, as the Heidelberg Catechism so beautifully put it, “I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” This means that Christians do not have a right to live as they please. They are not in charge of their lives. Christ rules over them and His Words direct how they are to live and what they are to do with their bodies. What happens when we forget this? Well, it will result in some sin. Just look at the church in Corinth as an example. They thought that they could do whatever they wanted with their bodies so they gave themselves over to sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). Such is the very reason Paul wrote, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (vv. 19-20). How many sins would be avoided if we kept in mind more often that we have given up all the rights to ourselves to the One who purchased our lives through the blood that He shed on the cross?

            We also wind up forgetting where we live. How many times do we get shocked at the things that are occurring in our world? Finding ourselves gasping at the violence, deceit, or hatred that feeds the news cycle? Or confused when our lives are disrupted by an illness, job loss, death, or another major difficulty? Shouldn’t we actually expect such in a broken fallen world under the curse of sin? Things are not right in this world. They are not the way that they should be. “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it” (Romans 8:20). The only reason we can experience anything going right in this world comes from God’s grace in sending His Son to redeem us from under the curse and in the promise of His return to restore this world back to where it was before the curse.

            And we continually forget where our home is. As worked up as we can get about our material possessions or about the election of the president of an earthly nation, you would think that this earth is our home. That we plan to be here for all eternity. The things of this temporary world appear to mean the most to us. We can never seem to have enough and always want something bigger and better. But, doesn’t Scripture tell us that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20)? That we are not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth which will be destroyed but instead treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20)? Isn’t our example the Old Testament Patriarchs who saw themselves as “strangers and exiles on the earth” looking for a better heavenly city (Hebrews 11:13-16) instead of the rich fool who planned to build bigger barns to store his excess in order to, in a sense, “retire early” (Luke 12:13-21)? Our affluent extravagant lifestyles reveal to us just how much we have forgotten this truth.

            So, what is the remedy to this forgetfulness? To immerse ourselves in the Word of God and allow the Spirit to shape and mold us according to it’s truths; the very ones that we are so prone to forget. Popular author Randy Alcorn has said, “During the days when I neglect to spend time in God’s Word, I see a very real difference in my eternal perspective (and my lack of perspective).” We see a real difference with how much we are mindful of these truths in our thoughts and actions with how much we intake of God’s Word. Guard against the natural tendency to forget who you are, whose you are, where you live, and where your home is by reminding yourself of the truth through reading and studying the Bible.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Pondering the Practicality of Predestination

There are many accusations that are often hurled at those who hold to what I would describe as the biblical understanding of the doctrine of predestination; that God, in eternity past, chose those for whom He would save through the perfect sinless life and sacrificial death of His Son in their place and who the Holy Spirit would work saving faith into their hearts to receive the salvation that He granted them. Of course one of these accusations is that such an understanding of what the Bible teaches pertaining to predestination is wrong. Another claim is that the doctrine is not practical in regards to ministry and evangelism. My goal in this blogpost is to address the latter. Perhaps I'll take some time one day and deal with the former. Suffice it to say now that I see no better way to understand passages such as John 6:44, 65; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-30; 9:1-29; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 1:3-6; Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 1:1-5; and Revelation 13:8; 17:8.

The doctrine of predestination has actually brought me to a much greater reliance upon God in my ministry. The longer I serve, the more confirmation I find of the hardness of human hearts that only God can break. I realize more and more that the only hope that I have for any fruit to result from what I do has to come from Him. I can't bring anyone to repentance. I can't take someone who has little concern for God and His Word and give him or her a strong desire for Him. Unfortunately, there are times when I think that I have tried. But all I can do is be faithful to preach and teach the Word as God has called me to do and then pray, pray, and pray that His Spirit would make it effective. Knowing that salvation is completely of the Lord and not solely of human will leads me to pray that God would open up hearts to receive His Word like He did with Lydia (Acts 16:14) and move people to respond positively to His Word. In fact, the more I ponder the implications of the doctrine of predestination leads me to spend even more time in prayer. I can't but He can! And He wants me to plead with Him to do so. I can certainly relate to John Alexander who once said, "At the beginning of my missionary career I said that if predestination were true I could not be a missionary. Now after twenty some years of struggling with the hardness of the human heart, I say I could never be a missionary unless I believed in the doctrine of predestination." Thankfully, in God's great mercy, it hasn't taken me twenty years to get to that point thought I confess that I still often need the reminder.

Also, it is the doctrine of predestination that has sustained me to continue in ministry. There have been discouragements along the way in my service as will be true with any pastor and his ministry. (If it hasn't come yet, trust me, it will.) I think every pastor goes through that time or, in some cases, those times, when they wonder if the Lord is using them where He has placed them. Where they are bothered because they may not be seeing many converts or the Word taking root in the congregation's lives. Of course, we have an enemy who just loves to take advantage of this to work to bring God's servant down and cause him to be unfaithful. But the best way to combat this I have found to be is by reflecting on the doctrine of predestination. That God has already chosen those whom His Spirit will work in to receive His Son as their sufficient substitute. That He will grow those He has predestined to through the preaching and teaching of His Word. I come back to Acts 18:10 where God tells Paul to keep ministering in Corinth despite the challenges the apostle faced, because "I have many in this city who are My people." God is saying that Paul shouldn't quit because He has people already set apart to be brought to Him through Paul's gospel work there. Think about that the next time you find yourself questioning what you are doing at the church you are serving at. When it seems like everything you do is all for nought. That you are getting nowhere with the people in the congregation. No conversions or growth. God is still growing His Church that His Son died for! There may be many in the city or town in which you serve that He has chosen to be His people. Many of those currently bearing little to no fruit within your congregation that He has chosen to be His people. Don't give up but keep going, holding fast to such a thought! To help me out with this when that dreaded discouragement comes, I have written down the following on a piece of paper that now lays on my desk, "God will convert and sanctify His elect here at Mt. Joy as He has promised. I just need to pray, preach, pastor, and wait to rejoice in seeing that be accomplished." Perhaps someone reading this right now might need to write down something similar in respect to where they serve as an encouragement for them to persevere through a difficult season in ministry.

So, don't dismiss the doctrine of predestination as not being practical for life and ministry. I certainly have not found that to be true as I am sure is also true of many others. In fact, I can think of two Reformers who found it very comforting and sustaining to their ministries. It's not just to puff our head up to win arguments but necessary for our perseverance. May the Lord use this blessed truth to press His weary servants forward in faithfulness through their rough times. I know that He has for this often weary one. I pray that He will for you as well.

Love in Christ,