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, November 8, 2019

Lessons From a Funeral Parlor

As I write this, I am preparing for two funerals. One for a lady that I have never met and the other for my granddad who I was very much close to. In my relatively short time in ministry, I have officiated or had some sort of participation in a total of 87 funerals or memorial services. So I have spent a lot of time with those who mourn. In light of such, I continue to find myself coming back to Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 7:2, It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.

Now all of us would much rather go to a festive party than the funeral parlor. I think that it is safe to say that none of us enjoy going to funerals. With each and every funeral that I continue to do as part of my calling as pastor, I look forward more and more to that day when our Lord returns and brings about the new heaven and new earth as consummation of God’s grand plan of redemption. Where there will no longer be any funerals for the redeemed since death shall be no more (Revelation 21:4). Oh, come Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

Yet Solomon realizes that there is much more wisdom to be gained at the funeral than at the festival. Because it is at the funeral that we are brought face to face with the reality of death. A reality that we typically do not think about or focus on when we are enjoying ourselves at the party. But one we cannot afford to forget as death gives us a much greater perspective on life. The truth is that it is only when we come to grips with the fact that we will each one day die that we can rightly live. Solomon knows that we live best in light of death. Which is why he continually highlights that future reality throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. As David Gibson has said, “It is the destination that makes sense of the journey. If we know for sure where we are heading, then we can know for sure what we need to do before we get there.” Nothing helps you keep your priorities in order like being mindful that death is eventually on the horizon.

So what difference does keeping your coming death in view make in your daily life? Well, for one thing, it forces you to consider eternity and where you will spend it. At a funeral, one comes face to face with the fact that one day it will be them in the casket that others will be coming to look at. And it causes them to ponder just where will their soul be at the time. This serves as one of the main reasons why I am sure to share the gospel at every funeral that I do. It is the one time that people cannot deny that death is coming and are brought to think about what comes next. They might be more apt to hear about God's coming judgment for sin and the only escape from that judgment that God Himself has graciously provided through the sinless obedient life, sacrificial substitutionary death, and victorious conquering resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The reality of death really serves as the antidote to greed and an encouragement for generosity. Knowing that we will not be on this present earth for all eternity to maintain our hold on our material possessions causes us to release our too often tight grip on them and be more willing to share them with others. After all, we can’t take any of it with us when we are gone. Someone else is going to get our stuff anyway. We might as well travel light and not be so much afraid of handing it over. Don’t forget about the case Jesus shared about the man who built bigger barns (Luke 12:16-21)!

Living our life in light of death also reminds us not to take things for granted and to treasure the gifts that God has graciously given us. A few weeks ago after conducting the funeral of a young man in his twenties who died of cancer, I went home and hugged my little John extra tight. I was more mindful of the precious gift that he is and that I have no guarantee that in God’s good plan just how long we may have him. I can’t assume that he will be with us to enjoy for the rest of our lives and to be around after our passing. And the same is true for my wife as I have done the funerals of several spouses of various ages. Isn’t it true that we have the tendency to take the most important things in our lives for granted? We would do well to heed these lessons from the funeral parlor.

Recognizing that death is coming keeps us from wasting our days but teaches us to make our days count. We really are only here for a little while and we don’t know how long of a little while we have been given. So we don’t want to put off until tomorrow what we can do today. And of course we know as believers that the way to truly make our days count is in service to the Lord. Investing in eternal matters and not allowing ourselves to get sidetracked with trivial ones. As that little poem goes, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” I believe that it was D. L. Moody who once said that “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter.” We don’t want to get to the end of our lives to find out that we were successful at things that didn’t really matter in light of eternity. And the way to guard against that from happening is to keep our future death in focus.

As much as we may not like spending time in the funeral parlor, we can see the need for the reminder of the reality of death that we would be wise not to forget. Let’s pray with David, O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! (Psalm 39:4) and see the difference such a mindset makes in how we live our lives today.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee

Thursday, October 31, 2019

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 502 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, August 19, 2019

Ordinary Significant Ministry

            I write this following a week of significant ministry. Now you may be expecting me to go on to talk about the number of visits that I have made both in homes and in hospitals, the amount of people that I counseled, the Bible studies I taught, and the sermons I preached. While all of those certainly are significant ministry tasks, last week I actually did none of them. Instead, my week consisted of helping my wife with things around the house as she recovered from delivery such as doing the dishes and the laundry, feeding my newborn son, changing his diapers, and calming him when fussy.

            We often think significant ministry is only that which is done in an official capacity for the church. That if we are not serving on a specific board or committee, being a deacon, teaching a Sunday School class, delivering a sermon, or traveling overseas for missionary work, then we are not actually doing significant ministry. But that is far from the truth. For the Christian, everything that he or she does ought to be viewed as significant ministry for the kingdom of God (including but not limited to the things in that list). Even ordinary mundane tasks such as changing diapers or washing the dishes. This is because everything that the Christian does should no longer be for himself and his own gain but for the glory of God and our neighbor’s good. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” and in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Such an attitude transforms the ordinary tasks of everyday life into extraordinary ministry opportunities by which to bring glory to God as we seek to do them in excellence to please and honor Him. It changes our very perspective. These are not simply things that have to be done and so I need to hurry up and do them but ways that I can serve the One who loves me so much that He gave His very life for me. He is pleased when I do every ordinary thing in gratitude to Him and in accordance with His Word. And that makes the smallest deed done on this earth significant.

In a sense, nothing really should be seen as “secular” for the Christian in his or her life but “sacred” since all of life is viewed as being set apart for and devoted to God. (That’s the meaning of “sacred” by the way. Something being set apart for and devoted to God.) You may think that you work at a “secular” job but in essence it is a “sacred” job for you because you realize that your ultimate boss is not the one you report to on Monday morning but the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who will reward us with a far greater treasure than any financial reimbursement, the inheritance of heaven itself (Colossians 3:23-24). You will want to do a good job in light of such a truth. Ordinary tasks in marriage such as washing the dishes and doing the laundry become sacred tasks when we keep in mind that they are ways of serving our spouse and in so doing painting the picture of the greater gospel relationship that the marriage union points to, that of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). With such small tasks, we also can demonstrate the great love which Christ has shown us in giving fully of Himself for our benefit. These little everyday things can be big ways to love our husbands and wives like Jesus as we give of ourselves for their benefit. As we take up our cross and deny ourselves for their sake. Parenting transforms into a sacred task with the mindset that our goal as parents is so much more than preparing our children to be a polite respectful outstanding citizen or to find a good mate but ultimately to know the Lord Jesus Christ and to live for Him. That each day provides so many opportunities to both teach and present the gospel to them (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). What a holy privilege to prepare these little ones for eternity! Brother Lawrence was right in a sense that in most cases, “Sanctification does not involve changing what we do, but in doing our normal activities for God’s sake.”

            Martin Luther and the reformers really emphasized this, that even the seemingly most mundane task, done in faith for Christ and the glory of God is significant in God's eyes. Here is him talking about it in his characteristic way: "Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason . . . , takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, ‘Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves?’

"What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight. God, with all his angels and creatures is smiling—not because the father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.”

So as you go about your day today facing some of those ordinary mundane tasks, be sure to give it your best effort because you are not doing them for yourself but for your Lord. Don’t stick up your nose at them thinking that your time could better be spent doing something greater. Seek to do such ordinary chores in gratitude to God for all that He has done for you in Christ and to bring Him glory and praise. Well, I have a little baby who needs to be fed. Another significant ministry task for God’s glory!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Lee