Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord; who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into hell. The third day he arose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen

              The Apostles’ Creed is the most ancient and widely accepted summary statement of the Christian faith. It’s almost 2000 years old and records for us the basic teachings of the Bible. As Jude 3 states, “The faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” We walk in ancient paths and believe eternal things. Yet our belief in Jesus does not grow old because His living reality does not change. He is the beginning and the end of all things (Revelation 1:8), and His years will have no end (Hebrews 1:10-12).

              We believe what the Apostles believed. We don’t believe in our personal emotional experiences, we believe in actual historical realities that were witnessed first-hand by the apostles. They spread out after the ascension of Jesus and became witnesses to all the world, that Christ was indeed crucified, dead, and buried – but on the third day raised from the dead. Albert Mohler is right in saying, “All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.”

This creed is a basic confession of what the Bible teaches about the person of God and His saving work. It’s the basics of what every true Christian believes. In these beliefs all Christians must stand firm and stand together. I am going to work through each line of this Creed over the coming months in our newsletter helping you have a better grasp of basic Christian doctrine.

              “I believe in God …” Do you believe in God? It’s the first question we must all ask ourselves. The actual answer to this question will completely redirect your life. It’s a question that can be pushed to the back of your mind, but never pushed out. It’s a question you will have to face, in this life or the next. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:6, “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists …” The starting point of Christianity is the belief in a real, actual, self-existing, non-created God. This God is self-revealing, meaning He makes Himself known to us according to His will and His purposes. If God did not choose to reveal Himself, He would not be known by us. The Bible is revelation from God. If you want to know who God is and know His will for your life today, read the Bible. In the Bible we learn who we are in light of who God is. We begin to understand ourselves in relationship to the Almighty power of God.

              “The Father Almighty …” Jesus taught the apostles to address God as Father (Matthew 6:9). This is an amazingly personal way to address God. It demonstrates His personal love for us and that our relationship with God is not through a religious system, but according to the nearness of what father/child relationship should be. Through the love, goodness, patience, and gentleness of the self-sacrificing Christian God, we learn what fatherhood should be. Our human relationships are modeled after God’s love for us, not the other way around. However, the love of God as a Father includes absolute, almighty, authority. This absolute authority would be terrifying, as it is in false religions, if it were not paired with God’s goodness. But Fatherly love paired with absolute authority produces security and direction for our lives.

              Do you believe these things? I urge you to consider who God is and how He has revealed Himself in the Bible. If you would like to read more about these things, get a copy of “The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits” by Albert Mohler.

May God the Father Almighty strengthen our faith today,

Pastor Vic

Fishers of Men

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4:18-19

In this passage (Matthew 4:18-22) Jesus calls out three of His nearest disciples: Peter, James, and John. He calls them away from their life work of fishing, and instead calls them to be “fishers of men.” Jesus calls them to take up a new work and direct their energies toward a different end. He calls for them to leave behind business as usual. I’m not a great fisherman by any stretch, but I’ve done enough to understand why Jesus compares the seeking of lost souls to fishing. 

First, fishing requires patience and dedication. Catching good fish isn’t easy. It takes time. Often, it involves waking up early or staying up late into the night. It’s not about what time is convenient for the fisherman, but what time the fish are active. Sometimes your line gets stuck in the tree. Sometimes it gets stuck on the bottom. Many times you’ll do everything you know how to do, stay out for hours and hours, and come home with nothing.

Second, fishing requires skill and lures. There’s a fishing store I go past every summer on the way to the beach. It’s a huge place with every lure imaginable. There are salt water lures, fresh water lures, trolling lures, and deep water lures. They’re all employed in different ways for different fish in different places, but the fisherman must have the knowledge and skill to select and use the right lure. Some fly fishermen will make their own lures out of available material appropriate to the situation.

Third, is the thrill of the catch! After all the preparation and patience, there are few things as thrilling as pulling in a big fish. Getting a fish on the hook only begins the fight to get it in the boat! Pulling in a big fish that you know will result in a delicious meal is ultimately why people spend all the time and effort to go fishing.

It’s not an accident or coincidence that Jesus compared fishing to the labor of seeking after the souls of lost people. Seeking after the lost requires dedication and patience. It will require early mornings and late nights. Patience to care and listen to people’s struggles, dedication to continue intentionally engaging people with the gospel, and late nights counseling and answering tough questions. But all this is done from a motivation, not of duty, but of love for the lost.

Seeking lost souls is also a process that requires skill. Sincerity is vital, but not enough by itself. We need knowledge and skill to answer real and deeply meaningful questions about God. We need wisdom to discern right from wrong. We need clarity of speech to explain difficult spiritual realities with plain simplicity. 

Lastly, there is unmatched joy of being a part of seeing someone come to believe in Jesus as their Savior! There is absolutely nothing more thrilling than seeing the work of God upon someone’s heart to bring life out of death! There’s joy in seeing despair changed to hope, addiction broken, and the desires of the flesh transformed. This does not usually happen with just a few conversations. It can take years of engaging someone with Gospel conversations before the Lord opens their heart and by mercy causes them to be born again (1 Peter 1:3).

Have you obeyed the call of Jesus to be a fisher of men? Do you seek after the souls of lost people like a skilled and persevering fisherman? When was the last time you directly spoke with someone about the state of their soul? Have you ever experienced the immense joy of leading another person to salvation? Let’s take seriously the call of Jesus and make disciples of all nations. Let’s be fishers of men!

May Jesus burden us for lost souls,

Pastor Vic

Present Darkness

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:12

Ephesians chapter six speaks of a standing against a “present darkness” and an “evil day.” Since the founding of this country, Christians have enjoyed a degree of religious freedom unprecedented in world history. I am alarmed that this long precedent is soon to change. It seems that the storm clouds have moved from the horizon to directly overhead. The country has progressively slid into a state of deep moral rebellion. We now live in a majority non-Christian country. The discussion has fundamentally changed. Talk is no longer about rebellious people doing sinful things, but sinful people holding the seats of power and attempting to force Christian people to give up their fundamental beliefs. I have long felt that the decisive strike against the church would come from the lesbian gay bi-sexual transgender queer (LGBTQ) community. This is fair to project because of biblical precedent. Homosexuality first comes on the scene in the Bible (Genesis 19) in a radically militant way. This community continues in its militancy today.

The LGBTQ community is not satisfied with being allowed to live as they choose in a free society. Their various passionate advocacy groups now see an open door of sympathy and opportunity in the Biden administration and the Democrat congressional majorities. They are pressing their case as far as they can. You should be aware of what is happening:

  1. The Equality Act: This act would add people identifying as LGBTQ to the Civil Rights Act as an additional protected class. This means that any person or organization that “discriminates” against an LGBTQ person would be open to criminal prosecution. This would mean that Christian churches, schools, camps, and hospitals would be forced to hire, accommodate, and not speak against homosexual or transgender issues in any way. This act has already passed the house with NO religious exemptions of any sort.
  2. Christian Colleges: An anti-religious exemption advocacy group filed a massive lawsuit last week against Christian Colleges and Universities nationwide. The suit is now being considered by the Biden controlled Department of Education. The purpose of the suit is to force the Department of Education to remove ALL federal funding from Colleges and Universities that do not fully approve of and promote LGBTQ lifestyles. These schools, as Christian schools, all have codes of conduct forbidding what the Bible forbids – homosexual and transgender sexual acts. If the lawsuit is successful all federal student aid and grants would be shut off. Certain business publications project that this could instantly close the doors of almost half the Christian Universities in the country that have become dependent on such funding.
  3. The US Military: The US military has fully reversed course on all things related to LGBTQ. In a powerful show of support to the transgender military community, transgender people were recently applauded and encouraged to become “more visible.” They have entered into a specially protected and promoted class. It is now being publicized as a recruiting tool that the military will pay for sex-reassignment surgery and subsequent hormone therapy to those who enlist.
  4. College Sports: Nationally the advancement of Oral Roberts University and Baylor University in the NCAA men’s college basketball national tournament has been passionately condemned by sports writers of major news outlets. They have been condemned because both Christian schools have codes of conduct that forbid homosexuality and transgender lifestyles on biblical grounds. The sports writers have begun publically campaigning to have all schools that hold anti-LGBTQ stances to be removed from NCAA sporting events. 

These things are happening now, and if the Equality Act is passed, and opposition to homosexuality and transgender issues becomes criminal, other effects similar to these will immediately follow. Almost certainly, colleges and universities that lose all federal funding and their sports programs for “discrimination” will also lose their accreditation. Then finally, it’s hard to believe that churches will continue to receive favorable tax status if it is considered a criminal place of “discrimination” for practicing biblical Christianity. If financial penalties are first used to starve out colleges and universities, they will be used against churches next.

Don’t be deceived, these measures of financial coercion and constant public shaming are being brought to bear in an attempt to force Christian people to abandon a biblical Christian sexual ethic. As Albert Mohler states, a great “sorting” is about to happen. The sorting will be between those who will hold to a biblical sexual ethic that is willing to name sexual sin, and those who fully place sexuality in the free expression category.

As a church I want to focus on a few issues. First, the very first freedom enshrined in the Bill of Rights is the free practice of religion. Practice means that we get to act on our religion. We get to live out what we believe in the public square. You do not have freedom of religion if you are only allowed to act a certain way within the four walls of your church. This right was not created by the authors of the Bill of Rights, but recognized as a right from God. Human government does not have the authority to dictate moral mandates to God.

Second, know what the Bible teaches about sexual ethics. Learn clearly what the Bible says about how we should conduct ourselves sexually. This is not a small or secondary matter in the Bible. The idea that gender is assigned by God, and reserving sex for marriage between one man and one woman is basic to walking in obedience to God’s will.

Third, we must stand together as a church. We will greatly need each other in prayer, encouragement, wise counsel, and financial help in the coming days. These issues are not far off. They are in our face and in our midst. We cannot whisper in the corners about these things when they affect our families, our children, and our neighbors. We must help each other where help is needed and pray where prayer is needed. We must also be prepared to make sacrifices for obeying God. I am convinced that sooner than later someone in our church will lose their job because of an unwillingness to accept and participate in the LGBTQ militant agenda. We must stand together at that time and help.

Fourth, we must not fear. The true Christian church, those who believe in Jesus and follow His commands, will never fail. Persecution has come in various waves and forms throughout church history. Each time the church spreads and grows stronger, even through the fire of trial and hardship. Jesus is the Good Shepherd; He will always provide for those that are not ashamed of His name.

Fifth, we must never stop preaching the gospel to a lost and dying world. We must love the lost and speak to them the commands of Christ with sincere hope that they will come to repentance and faith. We must truly welcome LGBTQ people into our congregation. We welcome them to hear the preaching of God’s word, not to approve of their sin. And when the Lord brings them to salvation, we must help them unwind the complicated consequences of such deception.

May Jesus strengthen us, make us wise, and fill us with the Holy Spirit to effectively live for Jesus in our time and seek the lost for Christ.

Stand firm in Jesus our Lord,

Pastor Vic

Easter

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” Acts 2:22-24

Peter preached these words to the international crowd that was gathered by the will of God at the day of Pentecost. This was the day that God the Father chose to pour out His Holy Spirit on the newly formed church, and the day Peter first preached to the world with great boldness. He preached Christ crucified and raised from the dead. This was, and is now, the most amazing news anyone can proclaim. There was a man named Jesus, the very Son of God, miraculously born of a virgin. He lived a perfect, exemplary life, preached God’s truth with authority and power, and performed countless miracles and wondrous signs. But in the end, he threatened the Jewish religious establishment, and those religious enemies falsely accused Him and brought Him before a Roman court. In that court they stirred up the mob to press the Roman judge, Pontius Pilate, to crucify a man he declared to be innocent. The Scriptures tell us that Satan was directly involved with these events, pressing hard to destroy Jesus and His coming kingdom.

Jesus was crucified by Roman soldiers between two criminals. He had a crown of thorns upon His precious head, and a sign nailed to his cross to undermine His claim to be a king. He was spat upon, mocked, and forsaken by His disciples who claimed they would stand with Him through anything. In His agony he was offered vinegar to quench His thirst. The sky grew dark. The veil of the temple, dividing the presence of God from those outside, was torn in two from top to bottom by God Himself. And Jesus, in His infinite mercy, called out that God might forgive those who had done this to Him, because they didn’t know what they were doing. Then He bowed His head and died.

The Jews that opposed Jesus thought they had won a great victory. Satan, our great adversary, thought he had won the defining victory, at long last. But in actuality, the real actions of evil men that were meant for evil accomplished the perfect will of God. From before the foundations of the world, God had a definite plan to glorify Himself through saving sinful men and women. Not by works, so that none of us can boast, but by the magnificent grace and mercy of God. Upon the cross, Jesus satisfied the justice of God so that we might be rightly and truly forgiven. But none of this means anything if Jesus had remained dead. It would be a wonderful story from history – not a transformational message for you and me 2000 years later.

It was not possible that the Creator and Author of Life remain dead. God raised up Jesus from the dead! The “pangs of death were loosed” from Him, never to die again. He is the “first born from the dead.” This is not figurative language. This is not symbolic language. This is a new reality. This is what Jesus offers to those who believe in Him – eternal life. A whole new existence comes to those who believe in this risen Jesus. He will give us His life. When we die, we will not cease to exist. On the last day, our bodies will be raised like His, and we will reign with Him forever in new life. This hope of eternal life changes everything. It changes our future and our present. By the grace of the risen Jesus, we are forgiven our sins and pass from death to eternal life.

This is what Easter is all about. Lift up your face. Look to the heavens. Look up from your struggles today, and seek the risen Savior. Join us Sunday for worship. Bring a friend who needs to hear this good news. Make much of Jesus. He has risen from the dead!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Vic

Murder

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement …” Matthew 5:21-22a

Over the past two weeks the nation has been saddened by news of two separate murderous shooting rampages. Sixteen people were murdered – six by the hand of a man claiming to be a Christian, ten by the hand of a man claiming to be Muslim. Both were evil in their actions. In our day and age it seems necessary to keep reminding ourselves of fundamental Christian truths. These two shooting sprees are examples of murder, or the unjustified killing of another person. The Lord God chose thousands of years ago to point out on Mount Sinai when writing ten moral commands into stone, with His own finger, that murder is wrong. Murder is one of the basic moral lines we must never cross. 

However, murder is also one of the first sins recorded in the Bible. Cain, out of the jealous hatred in his heart, murdered his brother Abel. Anger turned to hatred in Cain’s heart. Cain was warned by God to get his heart under control (Genesis 4:7), or it would destroy him. He did not, but instead gave vent to his hatred and satisfied it through killing his brother. As with all murder, there are terrible and painful consequences for all involved. For his evil, Cain faced the judgment of God.

When one person murders other people, we always ask the question of, “Why?” “Why” questions probe the heart of a person and are very difficult to answer in any situation. What is most helpful is not unraveling the heart of an evil person, but causing the evil of others to turn us toward self-examination. The Bible is clear that murder begins in the heart. Murderous actions flow from murderous thoughts. In Matthew 5:21, Jesus clearly speaks to the reality that murderous thoughts are also evil. It’s not morally permissible, or good, to ruminate in your mind in anger toward another person. This treadmill of mental anger can take you down the same path as Cain. No matter the ultimate motive, the two recent shootings began with a plan in the mind of the shooters.  

In our day, many people are angry about many different things. As Christians – followers of Jesus Christ – our lives must not be defined by anger. We must never approve of, or seek to accomplish, the will of Jesus by violent means. The righteous ends of God are also accomplished by righteous means. Murder is forbidden by God, therefore we must also forsake the roots of murder which are anger. Instead, let us pursue peace. Let us be peacemakers and find the blessing of God, instead of the judgment of God, upon our lives. Being a peacemaker does not mean that we compromise our moral standards in living for Jesus, but it does mean that we believe James 1:20, “For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” We cannot accomplish righteous ends through anger and murderous violence. If we cannot see how God will bring good out of evil times, then we must wait and pray. We must work toward righteous ends through righteous means. 

Let us mourn the recent senseless deaths of fellow human beings, let us guard our own hearts against evil, and let us be aware of those around us that struggle with hearts full of anger and trouble. Do not shy away from speaking about the good ways of Jesus Christ in our troubled time. The salvation of Jesus is the hope of the world. Only Jesus can truly and fully calm the troubled soul. Only Jesus can change our hearts that we might love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal our land. Let’s pray toward that end and live as joyful followers of Jesus Christ this week. 

May Jesus grant us peace, 

Pastor Vic

Authentic Christian Love

We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19
 

Authentic Christian love is unique.  It exists in a heart that celebrates the new life found only through faith in Jesus Christ.  Authentic Christian love is supernatural.  It is completely the work of God’s grace and is fueled by the Holy Spirit living inside of us.  This love does not seek to earn God’s favor by what we do, but instead longs to magnify God’s goodness in all that he has made us to be.  God’s love for us is beyond compare and is the catalyst for everything good in our lives.  Authentic Christian love is radical.  
 

As I am typing this message, I cannot help but think of specific families in our church who are modeling this type of authentic Christian love in their care for orphaned children.  I am so thankful for God’s grace in their lives.  Here are just a few (of many!) examples: 
 
One couple, despite a crazy season of life with busy jobs, graduate school and two small kids, became certified last year as foster parents.  Not because they needed more to do, but because they love Christ and long to serve him by loving those in need.  I found out today (3/9) that Social Services placed them with a two-week old infant this afternoon.  They didn’t know the call would come.  They don’t know what will happen with this child tomorrow or next week.  They probably will not sleep much tonight.  Yet, God’s love compels them to act.  Christian love is unique. 

Another couple in our church, with little information and on short notice, recently adopted a Liberian boy who was facing dire circumstances.  They had no idea how he would adjust to their family or receive them as parents.  Yet, because of their love for Christ, they willingly opened their hearts and lives to him no matter what the outcome.  In the months since arriving in their home, God’s grace in this situation has been profound.  This young boy recently placed his faith in Christ and was baptized last week! Christian love is supernatural. 

Lastly, another couple from our church was required to move out of state last year for work.  However, with their move came an unexpected work bonus.  Rather than spend the money on themselves, they gave over $15,000 to pay for the adoption I mentioned above.  Not for lack of their own financial needs or for personal recognition.  Instead, they gave out of an overflow of love for Jesus Christ and a desire to exalt his name through adoption.  Christian love is radical. 
 
At Redeemer Bible Church we long to model the sacrificial love of Christ in everything we do.  While caring for orphans is just one of many biblical ways to express this love, I would urge you to consider how you might become involved.  This Sunday after the 11:00 service, we will have a meeting to talk about our church’s Orphan Care Ministry.  Whether you are new to this ministry or are already plugged in, we invite you to come and hear from others, share your own story, and deepen our fellowship in the fulfillment of this biblical mandate.
 
We love because He first loved us.
 
In Christ,
 
Justin Woodruff

Marriage Conference

“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Matthew 19:5-6

Redeemer Marriage Conference

April 9-10

Friday (6:30 PM to 9:00 PM)

to Saturday (9:30 AM to 2:30 PM)

at the church

I am excited to announce our first annual Redeemer Bible Church marriage conference! Marriage is not a construct of western civilization. Marriage was designed by God as a part of creation from before sin entered the world. Marriage was designed to glorify God and bless humanity. It has been twisted and perverted in all sorts of ways through the ages, but remains with us, and remains a basic desire of the heart and foundation to society. We should not assume that we know what the Bible says about marriage, and every marriage needs to be examined and strengthened on a regular basis to remain healthy.

More than ever, Christian marriage is fighting to survive. Unlike many past marriage conferences, we will now have to begin with even defining what marriage is. However, God’s design of one-man and one-woman committed to loving each other for a lifetime will never cease to be blessed by God for those who pursue it. We must never give up on God’s good designs and plans, but instead seek to understand them and pursue God’s will by faith.

               This conference will be different by design. Many marriage conferences fly in an “expert” to speak to the church. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it bothers me that I have never been to a church that puts on its own conference. We don’t need to import in a specialist, that we don’t know, to understand how to have a Christ honoring and happy marriage. Always hiring a professional gives the impression that no one in the church has a healthy or joyful enough marriage to speak to the subject. That’s not true.

For this year’s conference, the elders have divided up the various chapters of Wayne Mack’s Strengthen Your Marriage. I’ll start us off, and the subject of each following chapter will be taught by a different church elder. The conference will close out with an elder husband/wife panel for questions gathered from the conference group.

              As an elder group we don’t claim to have it all together, but we do claim that through seeking and following God’s plan for marriage – as best we can – has led to years of happiness and joy. As a fun fact – the RBC elder group has the combined experience of 157 years of marriage and working to raise 19 kids! We want you to see that everyday people can have enduring and joyful marriages. We want you to be able to ask every day questions. We want to still be around after the conference to answer your questions and do what we can to help you to strengthen your marriage. The elders want to stress the enduring opportunity to walk with you after this conference. We want to help encourage and admonish each other from the Scriptures, so that together the people of Redeemer Bible Church might press for a church culture of healthy marriage.

              Mark your calendars for April 9-10, Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon. Sign up at the welcome desk, click here, or email  info@redeemerVA.org.

$30 per couple covers one book and lunch on Saturday. Limited childcare is available. Registration is open to any married couple, engaged couple, or a young couple with marriage on the horizon.

May Jesus be glorified through the happiness of our marriages,

Pastor Vic

“Equality Act”

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Romans 1:26-28

              This is one of the clearest passages in all scripture that declares homosexuality and transgenderism to be sinful, and of a “debased mind.” These are not easy things to write about or discuss, but they are the moral battleground of our day.

              You need to be aware of the “Equality Act.” President Biden campaigned on, was elected on, and promised to press this legislation into law within the first 100 days of his presidency. He is serious about it, and it could pass the house within the coming weeks. The equality act (known as HR5) expands the language of the 1964 Civil Rights act to include “sexual orientation” as a protected category. If passed, the Equality Act would elevate gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, and queer people into a federal legally protected class of people. The act also includes the +, on LGBTQ+, in the language of the law. The plus is a now an unknown category. This leaves open the door to protect in the future any other, now inconceivable, sexual perversion that could be invented. The + is a catch-all category of any sexual perversion that could possibly be dreamed up in the future that is beyond the depths that we have already reached.

              If this legislation is passed in any form that is close to its current language, it will be the greatest restriction to religious liberty in the US that we have ever known. What this means in reality is that a Christian hospital could not refuse to perform a sex change operation, because it would be discrimination. A Christian college or private school could not refuse admission to an openly gay student. That same school could not refuse to hire a transgender teacher. A Christian event coordinator could not refuse to coordinate the wedding of a lesbian couple. A church could not refuse to hire a queer man as an administrator, or possibly even for a ministry position! The examples could be multiplied forever.

The bottom line is that the president, with the help of a democratic senate and democratic house, are seeking to reverse the moral order when it comes to sexual morality. They are attempting to mandate, under the penalty of criminal law, that all things homosexual and transgender, are in fact, good – even though the Bible tells us clearly that they are wrong. Advocates of the Equality Act constantly use the word “discrimination,” and work to place themselves on the moral high ground by putting all homosexuals and transgender people in the place of victims. The discussion is framed that to not hire a person, or to refuse service or access, because of one’s sexual orientation is to discriminate against them. We need to stop here and talk about the difference between discrimination, and declaring something to be morally wrong.

It is not discrimination to declare something to be wrong that is, in fact, wrong. The Bible, as revelation from God, clearly declares that sex before marriage, adultery, homosexuality, and transgenderism are sinful. These acts are sinful because they are counter to God’s expressed will and counter to His design in creation. The Bible has a clear, and constantly proclaimed, sexual ethic. The Bible is anything but silent when it comes to the morality of sex and the boundary of one-man and one-woman marriage. To agree with God concerning what is right and wrong is not discrimination.

To declare that a person is acting in a sinful way, does not mean that I hate that person or that I am “phobic” of that person. The word “homophobic” is thrown around often these days concerning Christians that condemn homosexual acts. The basis of this is the idea that “backward” people are afraid of what they do not understand. But Christian people are not uninformed about homosexuality. They object to it on moral grounds. Informed Christians understand exactly what LGBTQ+ people are doing sexually, and they understand that God has declared their chosen course of living to be sinful. No Christian has the authority to declare something as morally right that God has declared morally wrong, just because the sin involves a friend, coworker, or child. And so Christians everywhere, if they are to be faithful the teachings of the Bible, must declare that people who live LGBTQ+ lives to be morally wrong.

How this is said is extremely important. We pray that this confrontation of sin will lead to confession and repentance. We pray that they will believe in Jesus as Savior and forsake their sin. Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, all people can be made new and live lives of sexual purity. But this gospel (good news!) cannot be preached if Christians affirm sinners in their sin because of cultural pressure. The Christian church does not hate homosexuals and transgender people, but we do state plainly that they are living in sin.

Two things should be noted, regardless of what happens with this legislation. First, the local Christian church will never stop proclaiming right from wrong. The local church will not cast aside the Bible and its teachings to please ungodly politicians. Jesus Himself, the head of the Church, will sustain and strengthen His people no matter what the government does, or does not do. A lack of religious liberty will not stop true Christian churches from meeting, but will cause them to become more intentional in their devotion to Jesus and His holiness.

Second, this legislation must not cause us to hate those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer. We must constantly remind ourselves that the way of Jesus is to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). We must desire to see these people come to know Jesus in a real and saving way. We must truly love them. We must not have our desire to see favorable legislation pass cause us to lose sight of the overall message of the gospel. If we lose sight of what it means to call the lost world to repentance and salvation, then the meeting of the church becomes pointless.

May the Holy Spirit help us to never deny right from wrong, help us to love the lost, and always provide a way for us to meet together as the local church. Let’s pray for our governing leaders, and may righteousness prevail.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. Only He knows what is ahead,

Pastor Vic

Bold & Wise

“Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” Matthew 22:16b

              These words were spoken by the disciples of the Pharisees. The description of Jesus was spoken in flattery to draw him in, and yet it was also accurate in its own way. The Pharisees did not believe that Jesus spoke the truth, but they were wrangled by Him because Jesus certainly did not care about anyone’s opinion. Jesus did not speak to please people and become popular. In one sense, you could say that Jesus did not care what people thought. In this sense, he did not seek to please the unbelieving majority. Jesus came to speak the truth, and He did so with boldness and wisdom. However, in another sense, Jesus cared very much. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He loved those called by His name, and preached the truth of God so they might believe.

              However, this section in Matthew is interesting. Jesus speaks boldly and truthfully, but does not allow His opponents to control the narrative, or draw Him in. After giving a very wise response to a question about paying taxes, Jesus’ opponents come back at Him again. This time they frame up a ridiculous situation that has no possible right answer. Jesus’ response is terrific! He tells them they are wrong all the way around and don’t know what they are talking about, because they don’t know the Scriptures! He then goes on to school them in what to expect in the future. He does not hold back because of their high social standing or their distaste of His message.

              We should follow Jesus’ example in this passage in at least three ways. First, we should expect opposition as disciples of Jesus. As we live openly for Jesus, expect that certain people will plan how to oppose you. In the same way that you consider and plan how to speak with someone about the gospel, others are planning how they can trip you up and embarrass you as a Christian. Expect it. However, don’t be afraid! Remember Jesus’ wonderful promise from Luke 12:11-12, and know that as you diligently study the Scriptures the right words will be given to you by the Holy Spirit in the moment. We must resolve to be bold like Jesus before we enter these situations.

              Second, when a person asks the wrong question, whether from false motive or true, we should follow Jesus’s example to re-cast the question. The unbelieving world is lost in their soul and mind. They don’t know what to think about God and are deceived in their unbelief. When someone comes to you with a completely wrong question or assumption, don’t feel an obligation to address the wrong-headed idea. Instead, with appropriate boldness, re-cast the conversation to move it in a true and biblical direction. Often when speaking with non-Christians, they will want to talk about all kinds of distractions and intentionally move away from the main points of the gospel. There is a tug-of-war happening over who will control the direction of the conversation. Jesus was masterfully perfect at always having the conversation turn back toward Scripture truth.

              Third, Jesus tells these men they are wrong because they don’t understand the Scriptures. They had developed volumes of their own laws and traditions, but did not understand God’s word. What we need in every situation, is a clear word from the Lord. If you would be wise and know the true nature of things, be a constant student of the Bible. If you want to be able to give the right answer in the right moment, prompted by the Holy Spirit – be a constant student of the Bible. God’s word is truth and has a final authority that this world cannot answer. The wisdom of this world cannot confound the wisdom of God.

May you be bold and wise in Christ Jesus,

Pastor Vic

Gambling

“But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” 1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12

As a part of the rise of materialism, a diminishing work ethic, and the continued expansion of professional sports – gambling is significantly on the rise all across America. Gambling and speculation are counter to a Christian ethic for many reasons. In the Bible we constantly see work being tied to reward, and steady work blessed by the Lord leads to the meeting of needs. All along the way the working person is prayerful and dependent upon the Lord. Their efforts result in needs being met and giving thanks.

Work leads to prayerfulness. Work and dependence upon the Lord leads to thankfulness. Work and thankfulness lead to a contentment with what has come through work and God’s provision. Work and contentment lead to extra (“I don’t need to spend this on me.”), and some should be given to those in need. This is a basic Christian outlook on work and money.

The opposite of this is the rising acceptance of income through gambling and speculation. Gambling is based on the idea of chance, and that possibly through your own cleverness, you can beat the odds and win a large sum of money. This is a self-feeding cycle. If you win some money, then perhaps you can win more. This fire is fed by greed and a lust to get rich quick apart from work. It is based on a discontent with one’s present situation and a wrong-headed idea that the way to financial stability is through games of chance. The most serious deception is that none of it is actually based on chance. First, there is nothing left to chance under the sovereign hand of God. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs16:33). Second, the house always wins. These “games” are put together for the profit of the company that hosts them. Gambling is expanding rapidly throughout America because it is incredibly profitable for the house.

As Christians, we should hear the words of the apostle Paul stated above to the Thessalonian church. May we be content with simple lives, work with our hands (earn your own income through work God has gifted you to do), and by honest contentment live upright lives before a watching world. A part of this steady Christian living is saving and trying to make provision for the future. “Go to the ant, o sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, o sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11). The picture here is of the industry of the ant to gather in summer to have enough to make it through the winter.

We save for the future by work. As we earn, we pray for seasons of life where we do not have to spend all our income on the needs of the day. When there is extra, we set it aside for a difficult day that surely will come. I would like to speak here another word of warning. I argue that using your savings to enter into speculative stock trading is no different than gambling.

True investment of any sort is buying something, or a share of something, that has real inherent value. You purchase this item, or share, at the current actual value with good reason that over time the thing will increase in actual value. The thing can then be sold in the future for a profit during times of need. This is investment.

Speculation, is purchasing an item, or stock, that has little inherent value, but believing that through some chance or manipulation that item, or stock, will become very valuable over time. This is a game of “chance” played in the arena of the stock exchange, instead of on the casino floor. Again, the house wins every time. The companies that have created easy on-line platforms for this form of speculation even attempt to make trading stocks an exciting game similar to gambling. These sites profit tremendously off the cost of trading even if every person involved loses money.

Finally, it is disappointing to see state governments getting more and more involved in gambling. State governments known that gambling will produce tremendous tax revenues, resulting in new states permitting gambling every year. In this, the state is abusing the weak and vulnerable of society that do not have the self-control to stay away from these schemes. The state should be protecting the weak and vulnerable from economic predators, not encouraging them and profiting from their actions. Who would have thought just a few years ago that the two hottest new sources of state tax revenue would be gambling and selling marijuana?

I urge you brothers and sisters in Christ, stay away from casinos, gambling, and stock speculation. Work hard daily, give your work to the Lord in prayer, give thanks as your needs are met, be content with what the Lord has provided, give to the needy, and save for the future. Desire to live a righteous life, not to get rich. “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).

May the Lord bless the work of your hands,

Pastor Vic

Love One Another

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

These are central verses to the life of our church. In these verses, Jesus commands us to love one another. We must strive to keep and teach all the commands of Jesus, but some teachings take on greater importance than others. This command is specifically related to “one another,” or how we treat each other as fellow Christians in the church. Jesus then directly relates this to how the outside watching world will perceive us as the church.

The world will know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ not primarily by arguments we give for the truthfulness of Christianity, the political stances we take, or the structural appearance of our church programs – but by the way we love each other. Why is this? I believe this is true because we cannot love each other without the authentic work of the Holy Spirit. We are all naturally selfish, greedy, and oriented toward our own personal enrichment. Only by the salvation of Jesus are our hearts changed to first love God and then love those around us authentically and sacrificially. It is by the work of God in our hearts that we are changed, and every person that is born again will bear the fruit of love.

Below are some practical ways I want to urge you to love the other people in Redeemer Bible Church. The more we grow in these ways toward each other, the more the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst will burn brightly. The more we love each other in these ways, the more our love will constantly spill over to the lost world outside our church.

First, value the differences of various people in the church. God has made us different for a purpose. Together, in Christ, we are like a body with many different parts. In Redeemer we have people that are bold, quiet, funny, serious, musical, practical, visionary, artistic, organized, gifted with their hands, gifted with speech, academic, and adventurous. It is vital that in loving each other we value the personality differences of other people in the church. You must not see your personality type and your gifts as most important, but understand that each of you play a part in the life of the church body. By the Holy Spirit, we work to encourage each other’s gifts and see no lack in the church. We love each other the way we are, we do not work to fundamentally change someone from the way they have been made by God.

Second, we must love each other enough to forgive each other. We are all sinners and as Christians, have been forgiven a debt we could never pay. Jesus has forgiven this debt by His great mercy and love. By forgiving this debt He is glorified! We must pray for great love toward each other – love that freely forgives offenses. Love is not resentful, and does not keep a tally of wrongdoing (1 Cor 13:5). As we freely forgive each other by love, Jesus is glorified in the church.

Third, if we love each other we will pray for each other. I strongly encourage you to keep notes on your phone or a small notebook as to how you can pray for those in the church. As you talk to people note their needs so you can pray for them. I also encourage you to take the member directory, and pray through it one page at a time. As you begin or end your day, open the directory and pray for a family in the church. Pray for marriages, teenagers, kids, work, spiritual growth, and health. The Holy Spirit will use this like nothing else to bear love in your heart toward others.

Fourth, respect one another. By this I am specifically referring to listening to others and not interrupting them. If we love one another we will truly listen to each other and not interrupt with our own thoughts. When we interrupt we are not listening. When we interrupt we are saying loud and clear, “What I have to say is more important than what you have to say.” We teach children not to interrupt because it’s rude. It’s still rude to interrupt others as an adult. It’s a direct act of disrespect and shows a lack of love and patience.

Fifth, use your words to bless and encourage. In the work world we are surrounded by words that are profane, proud, critical, lying, angry, and selfish. As Christians our words must be different because they come from a new heart. Jesus speaks about this like water from a well. You cannot draw bad water from a good well, or good water from a bad well. The mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. When we overflow with words of blessing toward each other it displays the work of the Spirit in our hearts.

Sixth, help one another in practical ways. Let us observe those that Jesus brings into our lives each week. Though we must be ready to help any person that is providentially brought into our life, we must be particularly mindful of our brothers and sisters in the church. When practical needs arise, we must not turn away and ignore what is before us. If the need can be met by you personally, then do what needs to be done in love and sacrificial joy. If the need is too big, please let a deacon know so we can work together to meet the need, and so bear one another’s burdens.

Seventh, we show love by not having cliques in the church. Though it is good and valuable to have deep friendships, there must always be room in the circle for one more. Always an open seat for the new and lonely person. As we enjoy those we love, we must always look up and see the person sitting by themselves. The love of Christ will move your heart to go and reach out in friendship.

Eighth, we must give each other the benefit of the doubt. By this I mean that when offenses arise we must not default to thinking that our fellow Christian is against us. I strongly encourage you to default in your mind that there must be some misunderstanding. Practically, I urge you to not attempt to clear up misunderstandings by text or email. Text and email do not allow for the interpersonal exchange necessary to clear up misunderstandings. Often they can make the situation worse. Also, love does not allow misunderstandings to turn into gossip. When struggles arise pray for the courage to speak directly with the person in an attempt to resolve the problem. The Spirit will use a heart of prayer, love, and direct personal communication to resolve many struggles and bind us together, instead of driving us apart.

Lastly, enjoy one another! I urge you as brothers and sisters in Christ to open your houses in hospitality, have coffee together, call for no reason than to just talk, and be a good friend! Friendship is one of the great blessings of the church. Be a good friend that you might have good friends. Reach out in the love of Christ first, that Jesus might be glorified.

May the Holy Spirit of the Lord bear His fruit of love in Redeemer. May the fruit of love abound and overflow, and as our love for each other burns brightly may the world know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ!

The love of Christ to you,

Pastor Vic

Discernment

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14

One of our church members asked me a very interesting question this week, “What is discernment, and how would you define it.” Great question. Discernment can be defined in a number of different ways. It is the ability to determine right from wrong. To determine good from evil. It is the ability to accurately access the true nature of a thing, and to know which course of action is the most wise or righteous.

Often moral and circumstantial choices we have to make are not black and white, instead they are various shades of grey. This does not mean that the moral mandates of the Lord are unclear, but life is complicated and most significant situations have many complicating layers. It can be difficult to determine right from wrong, and very hard to know the right action to take. Having discernment is very important.

The Bible tells us that the Lord knows all our actions, and can discern our thoughts “from afar” (Psalm 139:2). Sometimes we can be overwhelmed by our circumstances and confused in our own thinking. But from His throne on high, the Lord knows even the secret thoughts and desires of our hearts. The Lord knows the end from the beginning, and will one day separate the righteous from the wicked, the sheep from the goats. It is by following after the Lord that we will grow wise and not lose our perspective on the issues of life. It is by studying Scripture, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, that we not only are able to discern right from wrong, but are strengthened in our will to act in a righteous way.

The Scripture above, from Hebrews 5, uses the analogy of growing up to help us understand the role that learning the Bible plays in developing discernment. Babies start out being fed milk, a simple diet that is easy to digest and nutritious. But babies grow into children and then adults. Adults eat a broad range of food that children cannot handle, but is necessary to sustain adult living.

It would be alarming and lead to malnourishment if an adult only drank milk, like a baby. In a similar way, the Bible contains very straightforward and simple teaching, and much more complex doctrine. The basic teachings are compared to the milk diet of a child, or a new Christian. The new Christian is just beginning to learn the ways of Jesus and is “unskilled in the word of righteousness.”

But the person who drinks deeply from the well of Scripture and constantly considers and grows in their understanding of the Lord’s character and actions, is like an adult who enjoys sustaining meat. By a deep and growing understanding of the Bible (“constant practice”) a person is able to discern right from wrong. By having the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and thinking the way Christ would think, we are able to make wise life choices. Discernment ultimately comes from the Lord. True righteousness and wisdom are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14), and the will of God cannot be grasped, or seen as good, by those who live dead in their trespasses and sins.

Every analogy of salvation points to this. The dead cannot know how to live. Those in bondage cannot run free. The blind cannot see to make their way. Those who are deceived cannot grasp the truth. But by the grace of God, and new spiritual life wrought in us by Jesus, we are made alive, given sight, and set free from sin and death to begin to see the true nature of the world around us. As we keep seeking Jesus, and we keep growing in our understanding of the Bible we will grow in wisdom and discernment.

Do you feel like you’re way behind in this area, and that the decisions you must make every day are beyond your discernment? Keep reading the Bible daily and pray for wisdom. James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” The Lord will give you the discernment you seek. He will light your path and guide your way. Keep seeking the wisdom of God in the word of God!

May the Lord Jesus give us discernment in these troubling days,

Pastor Vic