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.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

A Complete Celebration

            Well, the holiday season is already upon us again. Christmas music is playing in the stores. Christmas trees are lit up and on full display. And manger scenes are starting to show up all over the place. The beautiful nativity in town is up and will be all aglow soon. Several will be found in many yards and on mantles in people’s homes. And while I am so thankful for all of the emphasis on the manger this time of year, I think that we need to be careful not to limit our focus to just the picture of the baby sleeping on the straw surrounded by the animals. If we do, there is a danger that our celebration of Christmas will be incomplete. Because we should not celebrate the manger without the cross. Not divorce the joy of the birth of the baby from Who He is and what He came to do.

One thing we notice in Scripture is that the nativity is never presented to us as an isolated event but is always connected to the cross. It is never just about the birth of the Messiah. For instance, in her song following the announcement that she had been chosen to bear the Christ child, Mary exclaims that God "has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy" according to the promise that God made to their ancestors (Luke 1:54-55). That "help" ultimately being in the sense of salvation. Zacharias, right after the birth of his son, John the Baptist, acknowledges that with the coming of the One whom his son had been designed to point to, God "has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant" (Luke 1:68-69). The name "Jesus" itself speaks of the reason for the child's birth which finds its fulfillment in His death on the cross. As the angel Gabriel told Joseph in the dream, "you shall call His name Jesus, FOR HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS" (Matthew 1:21). The shepherds were specifically told that the One who had been born that very night was "a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). And the old man, Simeon, who sees the baby Jesus in the temple, recognizes that in laying his eyes upon Him that he is looking at the very One who will accomplish salvation for God's people (Luke 2:30). An accomplishment we know that will occur through His death and resurrection which Simeon indicates with him prophetically telling Mary that "a sword will pierce her own soul to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (v. 35). What greater sword could pierce a mother's soul than watching her son being brutally and painfully crucified? Interestingly enough, one of the gifts of the Magi was myrrh which was often used in embalming and symbolized bitterness, suffering, and affliction. Again, connecting us to His crucifixion where He would suffer and die for the salvation of His people.

            We must always remember that the very reason God the Son came to earth and was born as a baby was to serve as our substitute. To live the perfect obedient life that we have failed to live and to die the death that we deserved for our sins on the cross in our place. He took on flesh so that He could live for us and die for us. He needed hands and feet for them to be pierced through. A back to be whipped. A head for a crown of thorns to be placed upon it. Breath so that He could breathe His last. As the author of Hebrews puts it, "Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (2:17). There is a real sense where we could say with John Piper that Christmas was preparation for Good Friday. Jesus' lowly birth in that manger was necessary for His later agonizing death on the cross. Without it, He could never have died to experience God's wrath in our place. And we would do well to keep that in mind every time we see a nativity scene. The song by the Southern Gospel group, The Ball Brothers, conveys this so well. "It's not just about the manger / Where the baby lay / It's not all about the angels / Who sing for him that day / It's not all about the shepherds / Or the bright and shining star / It's not all about the wise men / Who travelled from afar / It's about the cross / It's about my sin / It's about how Jesus came to be born once / So that we could be born again / It's about the stone / That was rolled away / So that you and I could have real life someday / It's about the cross."

            So, be sure to have a complete celebration of Christmas this year. To view the manger in light of the cross, never losing sight as to the significant reason as to why this baby was born. As the Ball Brothers sing in their song, "The beginning of the story / Is wonderful and great / But it's the ending that can save you / And that's why we celebrate."

Love in Christ,

Pastor Lee

Monday, November 8, 2021

Fearful Christians

             Several times throughout Scripture we find the command, “Do not fear.” Now, it has been said that it is repeated a total of 365 times. While I don’t think that it occurs that much, it probably is true that it could rightly be called the most frequent command given in the Bible. (I tried to count it myself but gave up. It certainly is said a lot of times but more likely not the 365 often claimed.) This does not mean that Christians are to be fearless however. Actually, the Bible calls us to be fearful. We are repeatedly commanded to “fear God” and told that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). We are to be fearful of God and not of anything or anyone else.


This fear of God is not a cowering in a corner afraid that God is going to somehow strike you down for something that you have done or didn’t do. That He is in some way out to get you. Rather, it is being in awe of God. In awe of who He is. Of His majesty and worth. Being in awe of His great love for you and the mercy that He has shown you in Christ. An awe that leaves you amazed and trembling at the same time. Think back to a major storm that you have witnessed. Where you saw the strength of the wind and the destruction that it brought about. Didn't it leave you with a feeling of dread and amazement at the same time? That it could pack such a punch making strong sturdy trees bend over like straws and moving things that you could only dream to pick up. Part of you feared for your life and the other part just couldn't get over the strength of such a storm. It was not something that you would ever want to tangle with or be on the opposing side of but you marveled at it. (Such is the reason why the one who has this type of fear of God runs to Christ in order to be reconciled to God and marvels at the forgiveness he or she finds in Him where he or she is so undeserving of it.) This is the kind of awe and amazement the disciples had of Jesus when they witnessed His power and authority over the wind and the waves. When they exclaimed, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41). The kind of awe and wonder which John Newton wrote about that we sing today. ''Twas grace that taught my heart TO FEAR and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed." It is the respectful fear that a child has towards his father. Wanting to honor and please him. Not wanting to cause him to frown.


Our problem then typically is not found in being fearful but in the fact that our fear is misplaced. When it comes down to it, we frequently fear man more than we do God. We find ourselves more concerned about what others may think or say about us than we are about what God does. We become more afraid of offending others by not agreeing with them than we are of offending God by sinning against Him. People appear to be so much bigger to us with God seeming to be so small. The reason why Abraham wound up lying, not once but twice, concerning his relationship to Sarah, was because he clearly was more fearful of what the people might do to him should they find out that she was his wife rather than being fearful of dishonoring God by failing to tell the truth (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18). King Saul even states that his disobedience to the Lord resulted from his being afraid of the people (1 Samuel 15:24). 


The only way for us to overcome our fear of man is to fear the Lord instead. It is the fear of the Lord that casts out all our other fears. I’ve heard it compared to the staff of Aaron gobbling up the staffs of the Egyptian magicians when they were turned into snakes (Exodus 7:12). The fear of God “gobbles” up every other fear that we may have. We see this once again illustrated for us with the disciples’ witnessing of Jesus calming the storm. At that moment, they were no longer afraid of the wind and the waves starting up again but of the One who had power and authority over such. They wind up being more afraid of Jesus than they had been of the storm itself. Their fear of Jesus was greater than their fear of anything else. Their fear of the one who is Lord over the storm trumped their fear of the storm. The Hebrew midwives could courageously defy the orders of the Pharaoh when it came to his command to murder all the male Hebrew children born due to their fear of God (Exodus 1:17). They did not fear the king and the consequences of disobeying him because of their fear of the much greater King and of going against what He would have them to do. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego clearly must have feared God more than the fiery furnace when they chose to disobey Nebuchadnezzar's order to bow down to the statue rather than disobey God in worshiping it (Daniel 3). And the same must have been true of Daniel. For him to continue in obedience to the Lord in prayer knowing what would be awaiting him could only have been on account of him fearing the Lord more than he did the den of lions (Daniel 6). William Gurnall put it well when he wrote, “We fear men so much, because we fear God so little. One fear cures another. When man’s terror scares you, turn your thoughts to the wrath of God.” If we want to be free from the crippling and paralyzing fear of man, we need to cultivate the fear of God in our lives.


            And when you think about it, it only makes sense to be fearful of God and not man. After all, we will not be standing before man one day to give an account for our actions but God and the worst that any man can do to us on this earth is take our physical life. They cannot harm or destroy our soul at all. As Jesus reminds us, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). And if the Lord is on our side, as the Psalmist says, we have no need to fear anyone else because “what can man do to me?” (118:6). 


            If we want to grow in this fear of God, we need to continually fix our thoughts on God and learn more about Him in His Word. This will also keep how much greater and more powerful He is than anything in His creation before our eyes. God had the Israelites assemble at the foot of the mountain for them to hear His words “so that they may learn to fear” Him “all the days that they live on the earth” (Deuteronomy 4:10) and the king was to read God’s law all his days “so that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes” (17:19). May God increase our fear of Him and decrease our fear of others as we come to know Him more from His Holy Word.


Love in Christ,

Pastor Lee