“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

Morality and Ethics

“Behold, the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it … They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.” Jeremiah 6:10b, 14-15a

The above quotation is from the prophet Jeremiah. He lived and ministered in the late days of the southern kingdom of Israel (Judah), and prophesied in and around the capital city of Jerusalem. He spoke powerfully for the Lord, and spoke against multiple false prophets. The false prophets went about speaking “peace” and “God’s blessing” over the people, while Jeremiah reminded the people that they had strayed far from God’s will and stood in eminent danger of judgment. Repentance and change were the answer, not proclamations of peace that further affirmed the degraded moral and cultural situation. There cannot be peace when a country lives in open rebellion against the moral will of the Lord.

I am writing to you today to help bring into focus a number of things that will be important for us this year as a church. Yesterday, our new president made repeated calls for unity and peace in our country. As followers of Jesus Christ, we should lead the way in love, humility, and being peacemakers. The world will know that we are true followers of Jesus by how we love one another (John 13:35). But there can be no unity between light and darkness (Eph 5:8), there can be no peace between good and evil.

We must keep clearly before us that the central figures of this new administration have run, and come to power, seeking a “new” morality. This is not politics, this is ethics. Ethics is the study of what is morally right and wrong. As Christians, we do not form our ethic (understanding of right and wrong) by majority popular opinion, we look to the Bible as God’s word. This is where the rubber hits the road of biblical authority, and we must truly decide who and what we believe.

We need to examine one precursor issue before looking at the main issues at stake. The leaders of this administration are passionately committed to evolution. They believe, and often speak about, new morals and new realities. They believe that humanity came about through progressive change, and that we are still progressively moving toward a higher state of existence. This, by default, means that an ancient religion like biblical Christianity is out of date and needs to be replaced. That is exactly what we should expect on many ethical fronts this year.

Contrary to evolutionary thinking, biblical Christians believe that the Lord created this world with purpose and specific ordained moral boundaries. We also believe that God does not change (Heb 13:8) and human nature does not change. The issues outlined are not new. They have been with humanity since ancient times. The ethical decisions of this administration are not “new,” but the opposite moral direction of God’s will. They call good evil, and evil good. They call light darkness, and darkness light (Isaiah 5:20). Similar to the time of the prophet Isaiah, we are in the midst of a reversal of the moral order.

I am asking you to consider the following issues. You must study the Bible and research the facts until you have come to a settled biblical perspective on these issues.

They are not going to go away, and the pressure to accept them is going to go up dramatically.

  • Abortion: This administration is pressing for abortion to be accepted as a female healthcare “right.” They are openly and passionately pressing for abortion for any woman, under any circumstance, and paid for by government (taxpayer) funding. This is the systematic taxpayer funded killing of the unborn. This is a central pillar in their struggle to fundamentally change sexual ethics.
  • Sexual Ethics: This administration fully embraces and celebrates open sexual relations of any sort between any combination of consenting adults. This is spoken of as “freedom.” The idea of biblical one man / one woman marriage is far in the past. This administration is pressing to change legal precedent across the board to make all forms of sexual expression a non-moral issue. When the Lord has determined that our sexuality is a major moral issue, these two paths are in direct conflict.
  • Gender Identity: This administration is fully committed to the understanding that gender is self-determined (you decide where you are on a sliding gender scale), instead of the gender of each person being predetermined (decided by God). This administration is pressing hard for gender “equality.” This means the forced full acceptance of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, and any other variant of these gender categories that can be developed. Again, gender identity is being forcibly moved into the non-moral category, as if God has nothing meaningful to say about these things.
  • Religious Liberty: This administration clearly places religious liberty secondary to abortion rights, sexual ethics, and issues of gender identity. This means that the free practice of religion is fine as long as it accepts these new ethical norms. If you notice, each category is specifically presented with positive language of “rights, freedom, and equality.” Biblical Christians will be painted as backward, hateful, repressive, un-American, and bigoted for preaching a biblical ethic. As this new morality is forced on churches and all sorts of Christian businesses (schools, hospitals, adoption agencies, etc.) our resolve will be tested. This is the same way Isaiah and Jeremiah were treated, and it must not surprise us.

To come full-circle, there can be no peace and unity over such serious issues of moral divide. These issues are of such significance, that to give them up is to give up biblical Christianity. Don’t be deceived, the destruction and canceling of biblical Christianity is exactly what is on the agenda.

However, take heart, the word of the Lord is true, pure, right, and stands forever (Psalm 12:6). The purposes of the Lord will prevail. Let’s be determined now to not give up this important moral ground, but in our standing, stand with the evangelical love of Jesus Christ. May the world see in us not only that these ways are right, but also that they are good.

May the Lord strengthen our discernment and devotion in these days,

Pastor Vic

Top Ten Reads of 2020

For 2021 I recommend to you the top ten best books I read last year. These are not all new books, in fact some are very old, but they represent the gold nuggets of my reading last year. You may ask why I would not write about something more relevant during this chaotic time. I believe that a major part of why we are in this situation is that too many people have stopped reading and thinking critically. We need to cultivate our ability to think clearly and discern right from wrong. This begins with scripture and continues through the study of history and theology, ending with a look at current events. I hope these books will be helpful to you. Each of these books are available in the church library.

Christian Contentment

Christian Contentment – Andrew Davis. We live in a time consumed by discontent and ungratefulness. From a very early age people are trained by advertising and consumer culture to be discontent with what they have and their situation in life. In this life-changing book, Davis explains how discontent destroys a heart of thankfulness to God, displays a lack of trust in the good providence of God, and ultimately undermines true worship because of our doubts about the goodness of God.

This book is a powerful antidote to abundant false teaching in our day related to “the power of positive thinking.” Instead of teaching you how to change yourself through positive thinking, Davis rightly teaches us how to live a content life that rests in the good providential actions of God.

Faithfulness and Holiness

Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of JC Ryle – JI Packer / JC Ryle. This outstanding work is a double feature on one of the ministers that has most influenced my life. The first section is a biography overview of JC Ryle written by JI Packer. The second half of the book is a full re-print of Ryle’s work entitled Holiness first published in 1877.

The volume is entitled Faithfulness and Holiness referring to the faithful life and ministry of JC Ryle and his constant calling for holiness in the life of his parishioners. Ryle is a little known, clear speaking, pastoral, giant of the faith. I highly recommend this work for your biographical inspiration and theological learning.

We Cannot Be Silent

We Cannot Be Silent – R. Albert Mohler. Albert Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a leading voice in our day helping Christians make sense of changes in society. In this important book Mohler walks the reader through how American society has so radically changed in its moral nature from just a few decades ago. He rightly interprets what has happened, how a new sexual ethic has been formed, and how biblical Christians should respond to being radically out of step with the current flow of our culture.

I highly recommend this book to every parent and college student. It’s very hard to speak directly to issues of sexual ethics from the pulpit because of having children in the audience, but these issues cannot remain unaddressed or unclear in your thinking.

Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer – Eric Metaxas. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an influential and brilliant theologian, pastor, and Christian leader during World War II. Bonhoeffer was a central leader in training pastors and organizing German churches that refused to submit to the evil ways of the Third Reich. Bonhoeffer spent much time in prison for these efforts and was eventually executed by the Nazi’s for his Christian faith.

This book is not only an inspiring biography, but paints a sobering picture of what it means for the ground to quickly shift under the feet of the established church. By many small decisions, the church can die by a 1,000 cuts, or brave Christians will resist the overreach of government and maintain the biblical Christian local church.

Sermons on 2 Peter

Sermons on 2 Peter – Martin Lloyd Jones. I love reading the excellent sermons of careful preachers. Martin Lloyd-Jones is one of my favorite. This is a book of expository sermons which also serves as a running commentary on the epistle of 2 Peter. Outstanding balance of theological insight and practical application.

Adopted for Life

Adopted for Life – Russell Moore. This excellent and challenging book is both a theological and practical look at adoption. Moore speaks to his own adoption experience and explains why adoption should be central to every church and every Christian.

Adoption is a picture of God’s acceptance of us into His eternal kingdom. Whether you feel led to adopt, are a family member or friend of someone who has adopted, or just don’t understand why we make such a big deal about adoption at Redeemer, this book is for you!

Strengthen Your Marriage

Strengthen Your Marriage – Wayne Mack. Christian marriage, between one man and one woman, is the normal design of God for the most important human relationship. It was designed by God to be a blessing and source of happiness. The powerful destruction of sin works particularly to destroy marriage, and all the downstream heartache that comes from divorce.

I encourage every married couple to work through this very practical workbook. May the Lord strengthen marriages and form new marriages in Redeemer in 2021! Stay tuned for more details on our spring marriage conference.

Isaiah

Isaiah – Andrew Davis. The book of Isaiah is one of the most important prophetic books of the Old Testament, but remains a closed mystery to most Christians. I highly encourage you to get a copy of this commentary by Pastor Andrew Davis and use it for your devotions over a few months. I suggest you read a chapter of Isaiah followed by the few pages of commentary written by Davis on that chapter. You will be amazed and greatly encouraged by Davis’s theological insight and practical applications to your life.

Sing: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church

Sing: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church – Keith & Kristyn Getty. This book speaks to what we strive for in the musical worship at Redeemer. The music at most churches today is a performance for an audience of people. The people in the audience receive that performance like they would any other show, and “enjoy” the performance or dislike it. This is not what musical worship is supposed to be in the local church.

Our musical worship on Sunday morning is for the Lord, and is supposed to be many Christians together lifting up their voices to honor Jesus as Savior. This is congregational singing. All of us together singing theologically correct and meaningful songs to the glory of God. If these concepts are foreign to you, then you need to read this book.

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace Of Lament – Mark Vroegop. This book is for those whose hearts are broken and do not know how to express this to the Lord. This book is deeply personal, applicable, and life-changing. It is partly biographical and partly theological. It tells a story of deep personal grief, and then teaches you how to rightly express your grief to God using the many Psalms of lament in the Bible. There is a time to grieve and there is a right way to grieve without becoming bitter.

May the Lord Jesus give us an abundance of His Spirit in these days,

Pastor Vic

Anger

“The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:20

The last twenty-four hours have been very difficult and alarming for our nation. If you are like me, many of you tossed and turned last night considering the implications of a protest mob over-taking the national capitol building. There are no easy or simple answers to the multi-layered conflict our nation faces, and we as a church cannot help but be swept up into this struggle. When facing complex problems, it is right to look again to fundamentals. We must firmly remember and strive to believe and practice the basic things taught to us by Jesus. If we, by faith, live out the fundamentals, the Lord Jesus will bring about a good end.

Let’s consider the negative fundamentals – things we must not do.

First, we must avoid the “anger of man.” James 1:20 is very clear that our sinful anger will never produce the righteousness of God. When you’re motivated by anger and hatred, your actions will only produce division, more anger, and death. No good thing ever comes from outbursts of anger, a clearly identified product of our sinful nature (Galatians 5:20). Jesus lived in a day with as much, or more, political unrest and struggle as our day, but He never grew angry over politics.

Second, never take part in cycles of vengeance. The cycle of vengeance means that if you hurt me, I’ll be satisfied only when I hurt you more. This is an unending cycle that leads to destruction and death. We are clearly warned in Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”  It is not our role to avenge evil. Only God sits in the final seat of judgment, and He will judge justly. By faith we believe that the wicked will not go unpunished, but if we take judgment into our own hands, it immediately quenches our gospel zeal. We will never authentically share the good news of forgiveness and new life in Christ with someone we hate and want to hurt. This cycle of vengeance can only be broken by the love and mercy of Jesus at work in our hearts.

Next, let’s consider a few positive fundamentals – things we must do.

In Christ we are called to love and pray for our enemies. The same verse about vengeance quoted above, does not leave us in a neutral place. Romans 12:20-21 goes on, “To the contrary, ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We are commanded as Christians to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). If you find yourself enraged against your enemies and want to do them harm, you do not have the mind of Christ. By working to bless those against us and praying for them, we are seeking their salvation and the permanent heart change that only Jesus can bring. We do not overcome evil by force, but by the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We must keep clearly focused in our minds and in the passions of our hearts, that the great commission of Jesus Christ has everything to do with the salvation and discipleship of souls. Doing the will of God is about making disciples, not winning arguments. Jesus relentlessly pointed people toward a different way of living, spoke against their sinful ways, and told them that if they persisted in their sins they would perish. But He did these things to teach them the new and living way of Jesus Christ. We must keep focus here. The fundamental command left to us by Jesus is to make disciples (followers) in His name.

This leads us to the third positive fundamental of the local church. When we become disciples of Jesus Christ, we come out of the community of the world into the community of the local church. This community must be distinctly different from the world. Churches divide or become no different than the world for many reasons – including politics. At this time, as a local church, we must be doubly diligent and passionate to love and honor each other (Romans 12:10). We must be passionate and struggle against the evil of our age to keep priority in the church.

Our first priority is not social activism. Our first priority is the worship and exaltation of Jesus Christ our Savior. At church each Sunday, we must each commit to leave our struggles at the door and turn our hearts toward heaven. We weekly renew our faith and hope in Jesus by worshipping Him as Lord.

Second, we hear His living Word from the Bible. We must come with a heart prepared as best we can to receive the instructions, exhortations, and commands of Scripture. We want to focus our minds so we can draw closer to Jesus in understanding and obedience.

Third, we confess our sins, lay down our pride, and rejoice in the grace of Jesus toward us personally.

Fourth, we authentically love each other. We must not divide against each other in factions. We must not gossip against each other. We must strive to speak with each other in well-meaning conversations to resolve differences and encourage each other. We must give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s be guided by Ephesians 4:29, speaking no corrupt (evil) words, building each other up, using words that are appropriate for the occasion (well timed), and full of grace. I warn you that it is nearly impossible to accomplish this type of speech on any social media platform. These days require significant and time-consuming conversations. We need to hear each other’s real voices and see each other’s nonverbal expressions so that we can truly make progress. Take more meaningful time with less people, rather than throwing out provocative statements to many people in a vain attempt to “influence” them. Be prayerful and very thoughtful before you broadcast your thoughts to the world.

I urge you to keep these fundamentals in view as we move forward.

May the Lord Jesus give us an abundance of His Spirit in these days,

Pastor Vic

Bible Reading Resolution

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than fine gold, Even much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honey comb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:7-11

As we come to the beginning of a new year, I encourage you to consider resolutions for 2021. Resolutions are often a joking matter, but the lives of many great people in the past have been marked by making serious resolutions. Resolutions show a planned determination for the future, a determination to put away past bad habits or begin new good habits. In our own strength, these plans often fail, but when our resolutions are led by the Lord for the sanctification of your soul, they can be life-changing.

These kinds of resolutions are strengthened by the Holy Spirit and become an important source of life change.

I encourage you this year to make a resolution related to Bible reading in 2021. I encourage you to do this prayerfully, intentionally, and with a plan. If daily Bible reading is a new discipline for you, I suggest that you start modestly. When you first determine to get in shape, you must work up to running miles by first walking miles! To read chapters of the Bible regularly, you must first learn to read verses of the Bible daily.

I have included a section of Psalm 19 to remind you of the treasure that we have in God’s Word. The revelation that we have of God to us is the most important thing we could possibly consider each day. Reading God’s Word daily will teach you truth, remind you of truth you have forgotten, make you wise, teach you right from wrong (discernment), encourage your soul, give you perspective, and draw you near to the presence of the Holy Spirit.

To help you in this endeavor, we have added a page of Bible reading plans to the church website. You can access the various plans we have by clicking here (https://redeemerva.org/bible-reading-plan/) . I challenge you to choose one that interests you and makes sense for how much you have been reading the Bible in the past. If you have not been in the habit of reading the Bible – this is the year to start! If you have fallen out of the habit, now is the time to pick back up this essential spiritual discipline.

Make this resolution a matter of prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to give you the personal discipline to act and the insight daily to understand what you are reading. As you draw near to the Lord, He will draw near to you. Your personal relationship with the Lord will deepen, and this habit will become an essential part of your day.

May the Lord watch over you in 2021, and nourish your soul from His eternal Word,

Pastor Vic

Prayer

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who ask receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:9-13

This passage follows the Lord’s Prayer in Luke, and extends Jesus’ teaching on prayer. After teaching the disciples the foundational format for how they ought to speak to God, Jesus goes on to teach a surprising parable. The story is one we can all relate to. A person shows up at his friend’s house at midnight to borrow something. Jesus says that the friend in the house will not get up to give the person what they need just because of kindness, but because the friend knocking at the door persists, and will not go away. This seems like rudeness, but Jesus goes on to expound in a number of different ways, that this is a model for how we ought to persist in prayer.

Similar to the friend that came at midnight, we should come to God the Father in prayer and ask for the things we need, pray for the wisdom we need, give our anxieties to the Lord, pray for people in need, and unburden our heart to God (Hebrews 4:16). We are told that we should persist. We should keep asking, and keep seeking. It is as though we are knocking on heaven’s door until the Father answers. For the one who persists will be answered! If you do not ask, you will not receive. If you do not seek answers, they will not be found. God would have us be in the needy place. Like children, we are always in a dependent place before God the Father, and He is glorified by providing.

By persisting in prayer, it is driven home to us and those around us, that we are not able to work out our own situation. Whatever the issue is, it’s too big for us and out of our reach. God help me! God if you don’t help me, there is no one else who can. When we get to this place of dependence and need, God is most glorified to answer and we are most aware of His action in our life. We know for certain the answer to prayer is not happenstance, but the action of a personal, loving God in response to our asking.

These answers to prayer are life-changing. I once had a person ask me, “How do you know when God answers your prayers?” The question in itself reveals much about the person’s prayer life and its lack of persistence. We know when God answers our prayers … because they are answered! In answer to God-honoring, persistent prayer our children come to salvation, a new job is provided, a friend is healed of disease, a marriage is restored, a church is unified and strengthened, sin is forgiven, and the Holy Spirit is poured out (v. 13b). Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not like our thoughts. The ways of God are not just different, but “higher,” or better than our ways and thoughts. When God does not answer our prayers immediately, it is always for a good purpose.

The last section of these verses work to remind us that God is good. These verses ring especially true at Christmas time. Every parent is strategizing for how they can buy good gifts for their children. Do you know that as a Christian, God the Father loves you? He loves you like a good Father and will give you good things as you persist in prayer. But like all good parents, this does not mean that God will give us everything we ask for.

Let’s not miss the last phrase of this beautiful passage. What God the Father will always give to those who ask, is more of His own dear presence. Above all in your prayers, pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the abiding presence of God to be near you today. Just like it is better for a father to be with a child than to give the child “things,” it is better that we have the presence of God than any other thing He can give us.

Let us persist in prayer,

Pastor Vic

Grace and Peace

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2 Peter 1:2-4

It is through knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ that grace and peace are multiplied in your life. As you learn who Jesus is and what He has done for you on the cross, by this knowledge a door is open to faith. Only after learning about the immense and unconditional love Jesus has for you, and the power He has to conform all things to the purposes of His will, can you then believe these truths. Once we know these things, it is possible then to believe these truths. Without knowledge there is no foundation for faith. But when knowledge and faith grow together, grace and peace are multiplied.

This glorious passage tells us that by God’s “divine power” He has granted to us all we need to make it through this life – all we need physically and spiritually. We can give thanks in all occasions as we seek Jesus in faith, because His purposes are perfect. His plan for the life of His beloved children is never late, never early, never lacking resources – but right on time and sufficiently supplied in every way to accomplish Jesus’ purposes in our life. As the Lord works to redeem His “called” people, he accomplishes the process of saving rebellious, guilty, and ruined sinners by transforming them into obedient, justified, and glorified saints. This work is to “His own glory and excellence.” Jesus is glorified in the salvation of sinners!

In this process of saving those who believe, Jesus makes to us “precious and very great promises.” A promise is only as good as the person who makes it. The hope of the promise relates to the ability of the person to make good on the promise and the dependability of the promise-maker to follow through on his word. The Lord Jesus is both able to fulfill His promises and is faithful to do so, in His time.

The promises of God to save those who believe in Him are promises that ultimately result in our being born again (being given a new nature that loves Jesus), being justified before God (declared not guilty), being sanctified (made more like Jesus in our attitude and actions) over the years of our life, and finally, being glorified (resurrected in glory and our nature of sin fully removed). Peter tells us that the fulfillment of these saving promises in your life allows you to partake in the “divine nature.” By this promised, and progressively accomplished work of God, we move from being those on the outside looking at the work of God, to those indwelt by the Holy Spirit living in, and being a part, of the work of God. This is a relationship and participation that will grow and endure for all eternity. It is a work that begins now, in this life, as soon as a person repents of their sins and believes in Jesus as Savior! By this we “escape from the corruption that is in the world.”

This is the way of Jesus. This is the way of life.

This past week the tragic death of Tony Hsieh made the news. Hsieh was the brilliant, Harvard educated, businessman and entrepreneur that founded Zappos.com, the first major on-line shoe seller. Only a few years after its immense success he sold the company to Amazon for more than one billion dollars. Mr. Hsieh had all the world could offer, but not the great and precious promises of salvation. Instead of sharing in the divine nature of Jesus, he sought all the world had to offer, and was well known for his partying and excesses. Last week, after a long downward spiral of alcoholism and drug abuse, he died in a house fire that he started himself. A tragic end to a brilliant life. What is gained if a person achieves all the world has to offer but loses their own soul?

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Pastor Vic

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” (Matthew 5:19a)

Each year the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention gather for a national meeting. At that meeting, representatives from the various member churches gather for business and to pass “resolutions.” Resolutions are official public statements agreed upon by the vote of the representatives that express the official position of the denomination. One such resolution that has been widely published this week relates to the SBC statement that Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Intersectionality are incompatible with the teaching of the Bible.

CRT, as defined by the UCLA School of Law, states: “Racism is ingrained in the fabric and system of American society. This system of white privilege and white supremacy perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.” I agree with the SBC, that the problem of racism is not first ingrained in the fabric of our society, but ingrained in the hearts of all sinful human beings. Racism is not an exclusively American problem, but is a human sin problem. Racism grows from pride, envy, and hate and is truly ingrained in the heart of every person that rejects the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Of the developed nations of the world, America is among the best at creating a system of government that fosters equality of opportunity (not equality of possessions) based on a system of merit and hard work. For generations this system of government has created such a sense of hope in people around the world that tens of millions of people have immigrated to America from every nation on earth. They have flocked to America because it does NOT have an inherently racist form of government. America has long stood as a land of constitutional government, not open to the whims of despotic rule.

The original, unamended, constitution has proven to be a durable system of government allowing for the freedom and happiness of its citizens. But the constitution was also a flawed product of its time by allowing for the existence of chattel slavery. However, over time, by war, by amendment and the moral growth of the country, substantial improvements have been made to our form of government. But these improvements have come by seeking justice, not social justice. Social justice is the idea of having favored groups under the law, instead of pursuing equal justice under the law for all people.

The Bible reveals to us that God Almighty operates by justice, not the social justice of preferred categories. Under the perfect law of God, ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Under this terrible condemnation every man, woman, and child on earth – of every nation and race – are in need of the grace and forgiveness extended to us by the cross of Christ. There is no favored race or favored nation that stands on its own without the grace of God. Because of this, Jesus charged His disciples to go “make disciples of all nations.” He sent a group of Jews to places and people they had never met – people that spoke different languages, had different skin tones, ate different food, and wore different clothes. But they were sent to these people because they were under the condemnation of God for their sin and false worship. They bore a message of grace by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ – a name they had never heard.

CRT will only further divide our nation by picking favored classes singled out for favored treatment, and intersectionality will result in further normalizing the sexual sins of homosexuality and transgenderism.  The SBC is right to affirm that these currently popular movements are not compatible with the teaching of the Bible or our confession of faith in the Baptist Faith & Message. Choosing to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations is inherently racially inclusive. Seeking equal justice is a Christian mandate, and not an issue that belongs to either the right or the left. May we as Christians, be a light to the world by how we love each other in truth!

Pastor Vic