Taliban

“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:2-8

This Psalm is about the Lord watching over and delivering His people in times of great trouble. I want to bring your attention to the Christian population in Afghanistan. They are our persecuted brothers and sisters. Afghanistan is estimated to have around 150,000 Christians (.3% of the population). These Christians were already a tiny minority in the midst of a traditionally Muslim nation. Now, they are a tiny minority in the midst of the Taliban, a radical Sunni Islamic sect waging jihad on the nation to fully implement sharia law. These Christians are in grave danger and need our prayers.

Reports are coming out of the country from many different sources reporting direct physical threats to Christians. Christians being trapped in their homes in dire need. People’s phones being searched for Bible apps under threat of being shot on the spot if a Bible is found. (Death for owning a Bible is the same penalty enforced in North Korea.) In the end, to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord is to apostatize (forsake) Islam. The sharia law penalty for apostacy is death. Those found believing in Jesus are given three days to decide their fate. To maintain belief in Jesus, means death. Our brothers and sisters are facing a terrible situation.

We saw this gruesome reality work its way out in Iraq under the Islamic State.  Unknown masses of Christians were put to death, or driven out of their homes as refugees, for believing in Jesus as Lord. This Islamic effort was successful in nearly eradicating Christianity from Iraq, one of Christianity’s ancient homes. It’s been some time since this tragedy unfolded, and the reality of radical Islam has been pushed to the back of our minds. It’s now back with a vengeance. Many of those being subjected to these ways have never known this form of oppression. Youths in Kabul have enjoyed American style freedom and prosperity for twenty years and have only heard about the Taliban. Those same youths are now facing the armed reality of the Taliban.

Not only Christians, but women in general are feeling the full force of Islam as they are reduced to property status. Under radical (meaning fully applied) Islam women are enslaved to their possessing husband. They are not allowed to show any part of their body (including their face) which powerfully works to dehumanize them. They are not allowed to go to school, drive, or hold any position of influence. Instead, they are put to labor, as if an animal.

We must truly pray for our Christian brothers, and especially sisters, caught up in this terrifying situation. God knows their names and their needs. The Lord is on their side and will spare them according to His purposes. Let’s pray for:

  • Protection against death, physical abuse, and imprisonment
  • Escape
  • Provision
  • Mercy
  • Wisdom and courage

Let us, in general, pray against the spread of Islam in the world. Pray for the efforts of Christian missionaries amidst Islamic people. May the Lord work in supernatural ways to bring Islamic people to salvation. May the Holy Spirit give them an extra measure of courage to believe in the face of persecution and being cut off from family and friends.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,

Pastor Vic

New Church Plant

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” –Acts 2:46-47

I want to update you on some exciting developments in our church family that have been prayed about for months but are now beginning to take shape. We ourselves are a church planted by another church – Spotswood Baptist Church. We believe that the multiplication of local churches is the foundation of how the great commission will be accomplished. It is in the local church context that new believers grow in their faith, use the spiritual gifts given to them, partake in the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and grow in relationship to each other. This has been the plan and purpose of God since the ascension of Jesus Christ. We believe that the multiplication of local churches happens best through churches planting new churches, instead of denominational structures planting churches or one famous preacher’s words being broadcast to many campuses.

Planting a local church begins with an able spiritual leader that feels called of God to lead a new church. Since early on in the life of Redeemer we have had a group of passionate Christians driving nearly an hour one-way from north Stafford (through weekend I-95 traffic) to be a part of what the Lord has been doing at Redeemer. I rejoice in the devotion and friendship of these dear brothers and sisters, but I have long felt that at some point in the future the Lord would call one of the spiritual men in this group to lead and form this group into a new church. That time has arrived.

I’m excited to announce that Justin Woodruff feels called of the Lord to begin forming up our first new church plant in northern Stafford, VA. Please be praying for Justin and Molly and their amazing family. Forming and planting a church is not like launching a business. A healthy church is formed around relationships, not marketing techniques. Relationships take time to grow and form in healthy ways. At this point, Justin has simply raised his hand and said “Yes!” to God’s call to lead. The current Redeemer elder board is working with Justin to establish a starting elder board for the new church. We are together in an exploration phase of determining where they will meet, what needs they will have, and who will fill key positions. When we were at this stage with Redeemer, it was a year before we launched our first service at Ni River Middle School. There is no set timeline, only steady and intentional progress forward.

Our goal is for Redeemer Stafford to become it’s own autonomous (self-governing) church. By creating new self-governing churches, there is a greater multiplication of Christian leaders and teachers. There is a greater focus on Jesus being the head of the church, than any one personality. There is also a greater accessibility to pastoral care. We talk often about not wanting Redeemer to become so large that we lose meaningful personal relationship. The answer to this is not to close the doors, but to expand the mission outward. My prayer is to create over years, a cooperating group of Redeemer churches that intentionally share doctrinal agreement, a commitment to expository Bible preaching, elder led / congregationally ruled church governance, and meaningful church membership.

Our vision is a group of churches that are organically related through shared discipleship and planting, but functioning under the SBC denominational umbrella. This will allow for much more personal encouragement and cooperation, but retain the benefits of national affiliation. We’ll see how this goes as the Lord leads! At this point, the elders ask you to pray for Justin and Molly, pray for the initial elder group, and consider whether you may want to join them in this effort. We strongly believe north Stafford needs a church like Redeemer! If you feel like you may want to be a part of this new church, please let Justin know.

One of the hardest things about sending out strong leaders on mission is…sending out strong leaders on mission. There’s a reason why so many of the New Testament letters are filled with emotion about missing beloved friends. Separation is hard. We would all prefer to stay together and just enjoy those we already know, but this is not what Jesus would have us to do now. This rejoicing and rest will be fully enjoyed in heaven. We must now have a great love for the lost, like Jesus did. We must go out and seek them in Jesus’ name. We must be fishers of men. But for every leader that goes out, another must stand up and grow into their vacant place. As some of our strong leaders go out, I will be calling on others of you to fill their places.

My prayer is that this will be the first of many new churches planted out of Redeemer. Together let us live on mission for our Redeemer Jesus Christ.

What a joy to serve Jesus with you,

Pastor Vic

Cross, Death, Burial

“God shows His love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

The 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

It is an incredible truth that Jesus Christ died upon a cross for the ungodly! During his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter makes clear (Acts 2:23) that Jesus was delivered up “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” The death of Jesus Christ was not an accident, or happenstance. Jesus knew throughout His ministry that it was God’s will that He be delivered over to wicked men, mocked, shamefully treated, spat upon, flogged, and crucified (Luke 18:32-34). Each one of the Gospels record this event which is essential to our salvation.

The crucifixion of Jesus accomplished atonement for the sins of God’s people. As defined by Wayne Grudem, the atonement is “the work that Christ did in His life and death to earn our salvation.” We did not earn our salvation; Jesus did what was necessary by grace alone. It’s right to ask why Jesus had to die upon a cross. The answer to this question has to do with the holiness of God, the justice of God, and the love of God. In His holiness, God is perfect in all His character and all His actions. He is perfectly righteous and without sin. His command from the beginning with Adam and Eve still stands – if we rebel against the perfect ways of the Lord, we will surely die (Romans 6:23). The perfect justice of God requires a satisfaction be made for our sins.

The Bible calls this satisfaction of sin a propitiation. A propitiation is a sacrifice that bears punishment, or wrath, so that a just judge might be satisfied. Romans 3:23-26 speaks to this situation very specifically. We are justified (or made right) before God by the gracious substitution of Jesus Christ. God the Father sent His Son Jesus to be the substitutionary atonement for our sins (John 3:26). Through the cross of Christ the justice of God is met, and the overflowing gracious love of God is open to us in Jesus. For us, God is both just and the Justifier. This is good news!

Many people are offended by the cross, but a denial of the cross is a denial of the gospel. Those who would call the cross a form of “child abuse” wrongly isolate the crucifixion event from the broader Biblical narrative. It is clear in the New Testament that God the Father loves the Son (Matthew 3:17) and that through the saving work of Jesus on the cross, the Father will exalt the Son and bestow on Him a “name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus willingly gave up His life for His chosen people. He laid down His life for the sheep. But unbelieving non-Christians will never recognize these spiritual realities. They do not recognize their own sins, and they do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God (2 Corinthians 2:7-10). Without discerning these two basic spiritual realities, the cross just doesn’t make sense.

Jesus was crucified and died. Jesus called out from the cross, “It is finished,” then He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit (John 19:30). All the will of God the Father for Jesus to accomplish the atonement and salvation of His people – was finished. Jesus had accomplished this glorious atonement for which He had come into the world. There was no other way. He had drunk the cup of God’s wrath to the bottom and had born the penalty of our sins in His own body on the cross. It was finished! When He died, the gravity of this spiritual reality spilled out into the physical world with an earthquake, darkness, and the veil of the temple being torn from top to bottom.

Jesus was crucified and was buried. His burial was not just a matter of course. Jesus’s body was buried with honor and with love. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had watched Jesus’s ministry from afar, but in the end came out of the shadows and, by faith, honored the body of Jesus in burial. His death should have been our death. His grave should have been our grave. Jesus died in your stead, so that you might live.

May we never lose sight of the cross of Jesus,

Pastor Vic

< This is part six in a series of articles on the Apostles’ Creed. If you have missed previous articles, they can be found on the church blog. To learn more about the Apostles’ Creed read: “The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits” by Albert Mohler. >