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.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Why I Preach the Way I Do

I have a certain style of preaching that I am committed to on a regular basis. It is my manner and custom to take a passage of Scripture, focus on it, and attempt to communicate to the congregation what it means and how it applies to our lives. This form of preaching is known as “expository preaching,” where the main points of the passage become the main points of the message itself. The preacher labors to seek to understand the reason for the original author’s writing of the passage and his purpose in what he is saying. To, in a sense, bring what the author says into our contemporary culture today so that the Holy Spirit may use the words of Scripture to convict the listeners, convert sinners, and conform saints into the likeness of Christ. The opposite of this type of preaching is what could be called “topical preaching,” where the preacher begins with a topic and connects togoether various different passages throughout the Bible which deal with that topic. At its basic level, we could say that “expository sermons” are driven by the passage of Scripture; what it says as well as its purpose and goal in being written, and “topical sermons” by the topic that the preacher has chosen. 

In preaching in such a way, I am not unique or doing something new. Many much more popular and well-known preachers today are also committed to expository preaching. This serves as the predominant method of John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, David Jeremiah, Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, and John Piper as well as the late R. C. Sproul and James Montgomery Boice. It was how the Reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther preached and later the Puritans. We see a picture of this style of preaching with Ezra the scribe and the Levites in Nehemiah 8 when all the people who had returned from exile gathered together to hear the book of the Law being read. We are told that “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (v. 8). They read from the Word, explained the Word, all so the people could understand the Word and put it into practice.

Not only am I committed to expository preaching but also to preach expositionally through entire books of the Bible verse-by-verse. Consecutive expository preaching. This is not on account of comfort but of conviction. I am convinced that the most helpful thing for the spiritual growth of a congregation is a steady diet of consecutive expository preaching. The following are just a few of the reasons which contribute to this conviction.

Expository Preaching Keeps God in the Driver’s Seat. As pointed out earlier, the passage the preacher preaches on determines the topic he will be covering as well as the very points he will be making in the message itself. When preaching through a book expositionally, God in essence chooses the topic for the day; not the preacher. The preacher is just covering the very next passage as God inspired it to be written and whatever topic it is about. I believe so strongly that God’s Word serves as the sole authority for our lives that it not only must determine what we believe, our understanding of the world, and how we are to live but also what we are to hear from God and center on each Sunday morning when we gather together for corporate worship.

Expository Preaching Guards Against “Hobby Horses.” Every preacher has certain topics that they are the most passionate about or that they really enjoy preaching on. The temptation for him then is to continually go back to keep covering such a topic. However, sequential expository preaching will not allow this as he must preach on the topic of the next passage. In fact, a congregation should not be able to discern such “hobby horses” if the preacher consistently preaches in this manner.

Expository Preaching Gives the Congregation a Proper Balance. Paul told the Ephesian elders that in the three years that he was with them that he “did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Consecutive expository preaching better ensures that the “whole counsel of God” will be covered, especially when one alternates from preaching through a New Testament book to an Old Testament one. The gospel will be proclaimed from the prophecies pointing forward to Jesus, the revelation of His first coming, and the accomplishing of the work of redemption as well as His upcoming return to consummate God’s plan. The various parts of the puzzle which contribute to the overall picture are less likely to be neglected.

Expository Preaching Solves the Spurgeon Saturday Syndrome. Charles Spurgeon was the pinnacle of preachers during the 18th century. In fact, he is forever known as the “prince of preachers.” But he confessed to have agonized every Saturday night over what text of Scripture to preach on. He would actually begin an outline on one passage only to crumble the paper up, throw it away, and start again with a different one. I know of pastors who spend up to Saturday praying and pleading with God for what text He would have them preach on only to have their stress level grow as they discerned no clear direction from God at all. With consecutive expository preaching, such a syndrome is cured. Early in the week the preacher already knows what passage he will be preaching on; the next section following the one he finished the Sunday before. He may not yet know exactly what he will be saying as that will come with the study of that passage throughout that week. He also will have more time to devote to studying and preparing to preach it, which will better profit the congregation.

Expository Preaching Models and Teaches How to Study the Word. There is a sense where in expository preaching, the preacher takes the congregation into his study and leads them to how he comes to his conclusions as to what the text is saying and means. This will in turn help them in how to study the Bible for themselves. It wasn’t too long ago that a lady in my congregation told me that she was getting more out of her personal Bible reading. As she reflected asi to the reason for this, she realized that it was because of sitting under my preaching. She had been learning from the questions that I asked to bring out the meaning of the texts the kind of questions she needed to ask of the passage in her own study.

Expository Preaching Prevents Avoiding Controversy. Some topics are difficult for a preacher to address due to the very nature of them. But if the preacher is committed to preach through an entire book of the Bible verse-by-verse, they cannot be avoided. I still remember having to deal with the issue of divorce and remarriage when preaching through the Gospel of Mark. I confess to have been a little nervous knowing that there were those in the congregation who have been divorced and remarried and several who may not share my view on it. But if I am going to preach every passage and verse of the book, I couldn’t just skip over chapter 10. Honestly, I more likely would never have chosen that topic myself due to fear of how it would go over. 

Expository Preaching Keeps Things in Context. How many verses have been misunderstood and misapplied due to someone taking them out of context and claiming that they say something that they really don’t? For example, Matthew 18:20 concerning “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” being used often as an encouragement for the few amount of people who managed to show up for the prayer meeting. When connected to the preceding verses in that passage, you come to realize that Jesus is talking about Him being present in the decision of a congregation to discipline a member living in ongoing unrepentant sin. Something that should not be happening at every prayer meeting. One is better able to see how such an application cannot fit if the verse is preached in its context which an expositional sermon would seek to do.

Expository Preaching Sustains a Long Term Ministry. Those who preach topically will find that in a few years they will run out of topics to cover without seeming to be repetitive. But the one who preaches expositionally never will lack material and even though they will be covering several topics over and over again, it will be from different angles or dealing with different aspects of it all based on the context of the passage. Of course, God's Word is inexhaustible as well so even another look at a passage that has been preached may bring out some additional insights that were missed before. And if you need an example of how such preaching can sustain one in the pulpit for a while, we can just look at Dr. John MacArthur who know has been preaching at the same church for almost 50 years! He also has accomplished a task most preachers have not even come close to. Preaching through every verse of the entire New Testament. And after this, he is still preaching. He has yet to run out of things to preach on.

These are the reasons which underlie my commitment to expository preaching. I encourage other pastors to preach expositionally as well. The congregation more than anything else needs to hear what God has said in His Word. They need to understand what it means. They need to be taught how to study the Word for themselves so that they can benefit from God's Word daily. May God continue to raise up expositors who take His Word seriously and rightly divide it!

Love in Christ,

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Importance of Having Children in the Worship Service

When I was preaching through Ephesians 5:22-6:4 on the family a few months ago, something really jumped out at me when I got to 6:1. I noticed that Paul addressed children specifically and directly in this section. Since these letters were originally intended to be read to the whole church gathered together for worship on a Sunday morning, he obviously expected the children to be sitting there with their parents as it is being read. He doesn’t say, “Parents, be sure to tell your children when you see them later that they are to obey you in the Lord.” No, he points the finger right at the children. He is hoping that their ears will perk up as they are listening to the letter being read. That they would have been listening to all of the letter up to this point. They would have been in the assembly with their families.

Today in several churches many people are quick to desire to drop their children off in some room and then come to worship without having to worry with them. They want the children to be “out of sight” and “out of mind” in the worship service. That’s sad really. We shouldn’t want to deprive children of the blessing of being a part of the worship service where they are exposed to the rich truths of the hymns that we sing. Where they can witness the adults worshiping. Where they can hear what God is saying to them from His Word during the sermon.

Now don’t get me wrong. The nursery and Jr. Church are good things and both have a place. For the littlest ones among us, sometimes they get fussy and need to be carried out into the nursery. That’s part of what it is there for. But the reason why we decided at Mt. Joy to only have Jr. Church twice a month is so that the children can benefit from being a part of the full worship service. I absolutely love what Al Mohler has said about the importance of having children in the worship service. “We should, in church, welcome the wiggling and the squirming. And we should hope that what is happening is that the Word of God is reaching those hearts in ways those children do not even recognize. They are speaking as children. They are thinking as children. They are reasoning as children. But the Word of God can reach where we cannot go.” 

            Yes, I know that when they are really little, they are not going to be able to understand it all. But that is not a reason to not bring them to be a part of the worship service. An infant doesn’t make sense of everything you say to them either. But you still speak real words to them because you know that they will grow to understand what you are saying. If God be merciful, they will grow eventually to not only understand the gospel truths that we sing and that are being proclaimed from the pulpit each week but to treasure them as well. And parents, if you are doing your job at home to teach them the Word and to model for your children what it looks like to follow Jesus, what they come to experience at worship on a Sunday morning will only reinforce that.

            One thing I have learned and am still learning is not to underestimate children. Many of you can attest to the fact that they can often appear as if they are not paying attention at all, their mind is elsewhere, maybe drawing a picture or looking at a book or something. But then later that day, they ask you a question about something that was said or they repeat words from the preacher. The Word very well may be getting to them. We should be happy to have those sitting among us whose feet do not touch the floor and pray that the Spirit impacts them through the Word of God which they may not be aware of until much later.

            One thing parents can do today to encourage their kids in worship is to communicate to them in both words and actions how important such a time is. If you tell your kids that they will not understand the preacher and that the worship service will be boring for them, it will turn out to be a self-defeating prophecy. They will more likely not come to see this time as special and significant for them. If all a child ever hears is that Chuck-E-Cheeses is the last place you would want to be and is no fun whatsoever, they are not going to want to go to Chuck-E-Cheeses. Likewise, if you tell them something similar about the worship service, don’t be surprised when they don’t want to go. (Of course, there will not be a natural desire for them to hear God’s Word and be a part of the service as that results from the new birth. You can’t change their heart but you can instill in them the significance of corporate worship.) Do they see an excitement and enjoyment in you to be with God’s people and to worship Him through the singing of songs, prayers, and attentiveness to the Word? Never forget moms and dads that your children are always watching. And they can tell whether you are being genuine or not. Let’s be sure not to neglect having them in worship each Sunday morning to help develop in them an understanding of the gospel and the transformative power of the Lord Jesus Christ in hopes that the Spirit might use that, along with your faithful instruction at home, to bring them to faith in Him.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Monday, July 30, 2018

God's Perfect Purposeful Timing

We are an impatient people living in a microwave society. Through the advancement of modern technology and drive-through fast food restaurants, we have become accustomed to receiving everything at our fingertips within a matter of minutes. All of that leads us to never wanting to wait for anything and always desiring immediate results. We want to have what we are praying for right now and not a minute later. We want to see something right away in response to our evangelistic efforts. We want quick spiritual progress in our own lives and in the lives of those we are ministering to. (I am talking to myself here now as well.) But God very often chooses not to operate on our own time table . . . and this is a good thing.

Throughout history, God has kept His people waiting. For Abraham and Sarah, it was 25 years before the child that God had promised them finally arrived. Job waited in the midst of the pain and poor counsel of his so-called friends to hear from the Lord. Joseph found himself waiting through the pit, Potiphar’s house, and prison before coming to the palace where the dream that God had given him finally became a reality (Genesis 37-42:9). Hannah had to wait in tears for a son (1 Samuel 1:1-20). The people of Israel waited 4,000 years for their promised Messiah to deliver His people. In more modern times, missionaries William Carey and Adoniram Judson waited while faithfully ministering respectively in India and Burma before each saw even one convert! Jesus Himself continually waited until His time had come to be glorified by giving His life as a ransom for many (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23; 13:1). And numerous Scriptures call us to “wait upon the Lord.”

Now why is this hard task of waiting such a good thing? Because as Mary and Martha discovered when they waited for Jesus to arrive to heal their sick brother Lazarus, He always has a perfect purpose when He causes us to wait on Him (John 11). In that case, they thought that Jesus was four days late; waiting to come to them after Lazarus had already died. They knew that He could have easily healed him had He come sooner. But as the old Southern Gospel song rightfully put it, “When He’s four days late, He’s still on time.” Jesus had a greater purpose in keeping them waiting. That purpose was to glorify God in Himself being glorified (v. 4) in providing for them a visible demonstration of what it meant for Him to be “the resurrection and the life” (v. 25). Something that they would not have experienced had Jesus not waited and arrived those four days earlier when they thought that He should. They would have missed coming to a greater understanding of who Jesus is and seeing God’s glory on display.

God’s expressed purpose for His children is to make them more like His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 8:29 states, “For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” One of the ways that God brings about this conformation is through the times of waiting He has for us to go through. When you may think that God is doing nothing in your life at the moment as you’re waiting on Him to do something, He actually may be using the waiting itself to change you. God often does some of His greatest work in our lives while we are in a waiting season or period. It is in such times that He stretches our faith and teaches us what it really means to trust Him and to rely on the promises that He has given us in His Word. In such times, He seeks to help us “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Keep in mind as well that one of the fruit of the Spirit is “patience” (Galatians 5:22-23). And all of the fruit of the Spirit are characteristics of Jesus. We are most like Jesus when we are patient with God’s timing and patient with others. How can such a fruit be produced in our lives unless we are put in a position where it can be developed? We learn patience the best when having to wait. We become more like Jesus through having to wait. Through our waiting, we experience the goodness of God to bring us to a point to look to Him in trusted anticipation of what He will do, not only in delivering in what we may be waiting for from Him but even more so in the time of waiting itself.

            So, don’t despair of the time of waiting you might find yourself in at the moment. Whatever you may be waiting on from the Lord. Instead, take a moment this minute to thank God for the work He is doing in your life right now through the waiting period. Even if you see no evidence of it. Ask Him to keep using it to make you more like Jesus.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee