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.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

How Now Shall We Live?

            Back in 1999, Charles Colson wrote a book entitled, “How Now Shall We Live?” It’s a good question and one which many of us may find ourselves asking at this very moment as well. We live in a society that is growing more and more antagonistic towards Christians. One which is tolerant of just about everything except for anything relating to Christianity and the Bible. A culture that goes actively out of its way to promote the very things God hates. A world where in many ways we are not accepted and respected for our beliefs and everything appears to be topsy-turvy from the way it should be. How now shall we live in such a world? What is the Christian's role and responsibility here? Thankfully, God has not left us on our own to figure this out but tells us in His Word how we are to view ourselves and our citizenship here.


            One thing we need to keep in mind in our living down here is that as believers we have a dual citizenship. Not only are we citizens of this earthly kingdom in the locality of Westmoreland or Fayette County, PA or wherever you may be as you read this but also Christ has made us citizens of His heavenly kingdom. Paul reminds the Philippians that "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by His working through which He is able to even subject all things to Himself" (Philippians 3:20-21). The way that Scripture describes us is as being "aliens and strangers" in this world (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11; Hebrews 11:13). We are no different than the Israelites in the Old Testament in their wilderness wanderings not being able to truly call any place they pitch their tents home, waiting for the day when they would actually arrive home to the Promised Land which would be their permanent possession. As the old Gospel song put it, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' thru." We shouldn't "feel at home in this world anymore." We do not belong here and are no more than a pilgrim who has set up his tent in this place temporarily. So we should guard against getting too comfortable here and living as if we are going to remain for eternity. One day our earthly citizenship is going to end and all we will have is the greater heavenly citizenship. When I was in seminary, I actually had two different addresses in two different places. There was the address of my school where I stayed for classes in Lanham, MD and the address of my parents. I had no intention of being there in MD more than the three years necessary to finish my degree but was planning to go back home to my parents in Harrisonburg, VA as soon as I was done there. This impacted how I lived in Lanham as I was careful not to settle down, always remembering that it would not be my permanent address. Knowing that our permanent residence is in God's heavenly kingdom should likewise impact what we do in our temporary residence here on earth. Are we living as if heaven is our real home and permanent citizenship or as if this is? Does it appear to others that we are seeking to stay here forever and ever or that we are those pilgrims just passing through here on route to the Promised Land to come?


            And as citizens of God's heavenly kingdom while here on earth, we have a mission. Jesus could not have been much clearer in articulating it. His marching orders to His church right before leaving earth was to "Go 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 keep all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). Notice that He did not say that we are "Christianize" the nations, making it our effort to transform them into a Christian society with Christian laws but to make Christians out of the nations. To go out and evangelize and disciple those from every tribe, tongue, and nation that God will draw to His Son through the gospel message. All our focus and energy cannot be directed to electing the right politician to the White House, Governor's Mansion, or hall of Congress or to ensure that the proper laws are passed. Such would take us away from proclaiming the gospel which alone can save repentant sinners and serves as the sole means to accomplish the mission Jesus has called us to. Alistair Begg says it well when he warns, "Whenever that which is central—namely, the gospel—becomes peripheral, then that which is peripheral inevitably becomes central—whatever you want to use as the issue."


            When you look at the church in Acts, we do not find them doing everything they can to take over the Roman Empire at the time and turn it into a "holy Roman Empire." (Later Christians did indeed attempt to do so and the results were disastrous. The Roman Empire was Christian "in name only" and a lot of very "unchristian" things were done in the name of Christ which was horrendous.). Instead, we see their focus and aim being the preaching of the gospel so that more souls could be added to the number of the church by God's sovereign work through the Word. However, as a by-product of their faithful gospel witness, society was changed by more and more people becoming Christians. They could be described as turning the world "upside down" (Acts 17:6). Idol makers and fortune tellers were going out of business due to people no longer going to them on account of their new faith in Christ and the new heart they have been given by the Holy Spirit which did not desire such anymore (Acts 16:16-21; 19:24-27). If we really want to have a more "Christian" society, that will only come by producing more Christians in the society. In fact, I wonder if the reason secularism is on the rise today and there are more of those now who identify as being a "none" on surveys when it comes to any religious or church affiliation is due to many churches today becoming so preoccupied with political involvement and transforming the state where the gospel has been sidelined for such a cause. The result being less believers in the upcoming generations in our nation. We have lost them because we have failed to reach them with the gospel due to being too busy with other things. (I confess that this is speculation on my part but we do have to ask if the church's preoccupation with impacting the society other than with the gospel has any role to play in this.)


            Now, does all this mean that we should disengage ourselves completely from the world and not be concerned with voting for the next president or governor or support the passing of certain laws which would be in accord with God's law revealed in His Word? Absolutely not! In his letter to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah instructs them to "Seek the peace of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its peace you will have peace" (Jeremiah 29:7). Here is a model for us in our exile in this modern day Babylon. We are to do what we can to "seek the peace" or welfare of the city and nation we live in and pray for it and its leaders, especially for their salvation (1 Timothy 2:1-6). That will entail us voting for the lesser of two evils (which is pretty much our choices anymore) who would better benefit or do less harm to the nation and support those laws that would protect the people in the city and promote righteousness. But to do all this with the mindset that it is all for a temporary kingdom with the greater need being what comes afterwards. To not make any of it be the all and end all, treating the next election as being of any greater consequence than just for the here and now whereas those who don't know Christ will suffer God's righteous wrath in hell for all eternity if they do not repent and place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Clearly, that must always take precedence for us and be the main thing we are about.


            So, how are we now to live? Primarily by proclaiming the gospel and making sure everyone we rub shoulders with knows of what God has done for Christ for all who believe in Him and secondarily by doing what we can to "promote the peace or welfare of the city" and pray for it. The day is coming when we will not "need this house no longer, we will not need this house no more" and we must always live with that in mind.


Love in Christ,

Pastor Lee

Thursday, September 7, 2023

The Importance of Having Children in the Worship Service

One of the greatest noises we hear on a Sunday morning currently at Mt. Joy is the sound of the children who are with us each week in the arms of their parents or squirming in the pews. I never tire of hearing the cries, coos, fusses, and occasional little chatter of the littlest ones among us. And I am becoming more and more convinced as time goes on that the best place for children on a Sunday morning is in the worship service with their parents. They will gain far more from that and learn the rhythm and patterns of worship than they would if they are taken out of the service into a separate place away from what all is taking place. I have noticed the kids we are blessed to have in our congregation hold the hymnal while we are singing (and in some cases sing along with their own words), hear a hearty “amen” from one of them after the prayers, and even have another give a prayer request! They are learning to worship by participating in the service with their parents. And while much of what they hear may go over their heads, they will grow into these truths and come to understand them the more that they are exposed to them. In fact, they will learn these truths quicker due to the earlier familiarity with them. I am amazed when my wife will tell me that our oldest perks up during the sermon occasionally and excitedly tells her something he recognizes from the sermon or knows, especially when it appears that he is not paying attention at all. Our oldest not too long ago, turned and looked at my wife excitedly saying, “Daddy is talking about ‘David and Goliath’!” when I had referenced this story in the message as an example.


And, trust me, I know that it is hard to get and keep a small child sitting in the pew for the entirety of a worship service, especially if you might have one that is hyperactive and struggles with sitting still in general no matter where you may be or take him. There are some days we are just happy to get our oldest to stay in the pew! (And my kids have it the worst because they have to sit through daddy’s preaching. They probably feel that they hear enough of that at home!) But just as we need to work and teach our kids to behave and sit in a restaurant or a grocery store, we can and should do the same in church. The rewards and dividends are too great to neglect this. And I do believe that God will bless us in our efforts as well.


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. This is one reason I no longer am in favor of having a Jr. Church for the kids while the service is going on. It would rob them of what they would learn from both what they hear and see taking place. It also will make it more difficult to acclimate them to sitting through the entire service later when they outgrow the children’s church. But if all they have ever known is being in the pew for the duration of the time of worship, it will, eventually, become second nature to them each week. Much more so the earlier a child has to do this. Of course, the nursery is available should the smallest of the kids get really fussy and need to be taken out. 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.” 


            There is evidence in Scripture that God has intended children not to be separated from their families in the regular worship service as well. Have you ever noticed that Paul addresses children specifically and directly in Ephesians 6:1 regarding their obedience to the fifth commandment? 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. Likewise, Moses commanded in the Old Testament that at the end of every seven years at the feast of tabernacles, all of the nation of Israel were to gather together to hear the words of the law being read (Deuteronomy 31:10-11). He specifies that that includes "the men and the women and little ones and the sojourner who is within your gates" (v. 12). The young children weren't relegated to another place for a lesson of their own but were to be there with the rest of the community to benefit from listening to God's Word as well "so that they may hear and so that they may learn and fear Yahweh your God and be careful to do all the words of this law" (v. 12).   

         I, myself, am a product of being brought to church at a very young age, carried as a babe in arms. We pretty much were there whenever the church doors were open for something. Some of my earliest memories was hearing my pastor preach, standing to sing with the congregation, and putting my dollar in the offering plate when it came around. And while much of what I heard I did not understand at first, around nine I began to pay more attention to the sermons and something started to stir in my soul as the Holy Spirit was using that to instill saving faith in me. I still remember my dad pulling me down the aisle, sitting me on the sink in the bathroom, and giving me a stern talking to (a few times even more than just a talk) for misbehaving in church. And now I never want to leave the church building! In fact, I pretty much live there! Things might have been very different for me had I not had that foundation of church attendance every Lord's Day morning from before I can even remember. It was an indispensable part of my spiritual shaping and development.

            Something 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