“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13

I read this verse in my devotions this past week and it immediately made me think of our church! I thank God for our church and it’s love for God’s word. It’s one of the constant remarks that visitors make about our church, “I’m so thankful to have found a church that teaches and loves the Bible.” You cherish reading the precious words of Scripture aloud. This is another way in which we strive to be like the early churches of the New Testament (Col 4:16, 1 Thes 5:27, 1 Tim 4:13, Rev 1:3). We read Scripture to begin and end every service – giving the Lord the first and the last word of all our gatherings. I rejoice that you want to hear sermons that are preached from the Bible to help you better understand God’s Word. I rejoice that you have embraced the idea of memorizing passages of the Bible as a congregation. I rejoice that our small groups are studying various books of the Bible, and our youth and children’s ministry are devoted to bringing God’s word to the next generation! 

I encourage you toward daily personal reading of the Bible. I encourage you to make time every day to quiet your heart in prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to minister to your weary soul from His word. If you struggle to understand the Bible, you can check out a study Bible from our church library. I encourage you to get and use an actual paper copy of the Bible. I’m not against using Bible apps, but I am against distractions interrupting your time with the Lord. Our phones are nothing but distraction – texts, notifications, news, games, etc. Intentionally putting away technology to spend time with the Lord shows respect and intention toward building a real and personal relationship Jesus. Let’s give even more respect to our risen Lord than we would to other personal relationships. 

I also rejoice that you are receiving this word! As your pastor I see much fruit of the Holy Spirit in you! I see a growing desire to obey God’s commands, a growing desire to love our neighbors and walk in holiness of character, and a willingness to forgive each other in Jesus name and not bear bitter grudges. I see a growing love for family, children, orphans, widows, and Christian marriage. I see sacrificial generosity and humble service, which indicates a love for eternal things over a love for this world. God’s words are living and active and are at work in us right now to convict, bring faith, and change our actions for the good.  

I encourage you to continue in this love of God’s Word! I urge you to excel even more in seeking to know, understand, memorize, love, and obey God’s Word (1 Thess 4:1, 10). May our church be a light to our area, not because we offer many programs and much entertainment, but because people can come through our doors and hear the glorious truth of God. They can hear the Bible read, taught, loved, and obeyed as our source of life and joy. 

Concerning memorization, we have completed our time in Psalm 37 and are going to move now to Romans 6:1-14. I invite you to join me in memorizing one verse per week for the next fourteen weeks. 

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Vic

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25

As of the writing of this post, no one has been declared a clear winner as the President of the United States for the next four years. Whoever is declared the winner will have a profoundly different effect on our lives. This is why we care so much about this election. This is why record numbers of people from both sides have come out to vote. My mind is full of so many thoughts related to this week. I’ll share with you a few I hope are encouraging:

First, our God is sovereign over all this world, and His purposes will be accomplished for His own glory. This is the great and final hope for all who believe in Jesus. Our foot is set upon the rock of Jesus Christ our Lord (Isaiah 26:3-4). God’s sovereignty is the greatest comfort to those who love Jesus and look for His coming. The shepherding of God is the greatest encouragement to those who love and obey His voice. However, for those who hate and rebel against the perfect ways of the Lord, and those who reject His salvation, this sovereignty is also a rock. Yet, it is not a rock of sure footing, but a rock against which they will destroy themselves as they rage against Jesus and His will (Psalm 2).

Second, each person will one day be held accountable for their actions and words. Our actions matter. The stances we take and the things we work toward matter. We will all one day give an account to God for what we have spoken and done. Apart from the grace of Jesus Christ, none of us could stand. Jesus is for us both just and the justifier (Romans 3:26). However, the third part of the great commission of Jesus (Matthew 28:18) is that His followers must be taught to obey what He has commanded. We must obey and live according to God’s will – a will that is clearly defined in Scripture. We do not have liberty to name the name of Jesus and then go and live in opposition to His will. We do not have the authority to pick and choose our own morality. The Lord God has declared right from wrong, and His will shall stand. Nations that reject His will come to ruin in due time.

Third, we are called by Jesus to love our enemies. One of the hard things about our form of government is that our leaders are chosen by vote. The moral and ideological views of candidates on a ballet can be very far apart. The idea that the vote of your neighbor caused a passionately ungodly person to be placed in office gets personal quickly. We can even begin to view our neighbors and differing family members as enemies. But Jesus calls for us to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us. As Christians, we are never to cut off, hate, or stop lovingly sharing the gospel with those who are against us. Knowing Christ as Savior is the starting point of all change. We should never expect those who do not love Jesus to honor His commands.

Fourth, we are in the middle of a real struggle of good against evil. Good and evil are never directly represented by one human being, but there is such a thing as good and there is such a thing as real evil. The opposite is to believe that there are just personal opinions that work or don’t work in a utilitarian sense. That is not how the Bible defines our choices. Our life choices have a strong moral component that is defined by God’s character. We are either living in accordance with God’s will and character (obedience), or we are living counter to God’s will and character (rebellion). We all start out in the rebellion category, and once we pass from death to life by grace through faith, our heart changes and we increasingly obey God’s will. People who call themselves followers of Jesus, but refuse to obey His moral commands must re-examine their souls. “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) 

Albert Mohler speaks of America as a “cut flower” society. Many parts of our society still look beautiful from Christian influence in the past. But the flower is fading as the Christian influence wanes because there is no root. May the Lord give revival to our land! What we need more than anything is the outpouring of God’s Spirit to bring many to salvation. 

May we live in a way that honors and pleases Jesus every day,

Pastor Vic

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murders and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” Revelation 22:14-16

This past week Pope Francis endorsed same-sex civil unions, the first step toward the Roman Catholic Church fully endorsing homosexuality, and the news continues to be filled with affirmation of transgender ideology, even for those in elementary school. There is far more that could be said, and should be said, than I can possibly fit here, but I want to open the door to conversation and make a few major points.

First, it is not new for the world to call evil good and reverse the moral order. From the fall of Adam and Eve, humanity has listened to our adversary and believed his tempting words, “Did God actually say…You will not surely die!” (Genesis 3:1-4) It is ingrained into our inherited fallen nature to rebel against God and reject His perfect will. Only by salvation in Jesus Christ, can any one of us be forgiven our sins and be given a new heart, new affections, a new perspective, and instead believe God and live according to His will. That said, we must be aware that we are neck-deep in a day where false religious leaders, political leaders, and media outlets on every side are declaring evil to be good as loudly and militantly as possible. However, we must take heart that countless false prophets and past leaders have raged against the ways of the Lord, against His prophets, and against Jesus Himself – yet the moral order has not been overturned. The second verse quoted above is from the final chapter of the Bible, and makes clear, by the words of the risen glorified Jesus himself, that the wicked (specifically including the sexually immoral) will not enter the kingdom of God. 

Second, sexuality is, and will always continue to be, a moral category. What do I mean by this? Our American culture has almost completely pressed sexuality into the area of taste and out of the category of morality. Taste is a category of non-moral preference. For example, what type of food you like to eat, what style of clothes you wear, and what genre of music you enjoy listening to are all non-moral choices of preference that the Lord Jesus has left to personal freedom. However, who you have sex with is most definitely spoken to clearly, from Genesis to Revelation, as a moral matter. One man and one woman for a lifetime is the plan for sexuality that the Lord God laid down at creation. This is His design from before sin entered the world. After the rebellion of men and women, human sexuality began to be twisted and perverted in every possible way. Yet, one man/ one woman for a lifetime remains God’s will and an ideal that we know is right in our conscience. I urge you to not rationalize away the countless verses of scripture that speak to living with sexual purity (perhaps the most clear in the New Testament: 1 Thessalonians 4:2-8 / Romans 1:18-32), but instead see God’s goodness in disclosing His will. The positive side of these commands is seeking and building life-long relationships and family within Christian marriage. Christian marriage is worth defining and defending!

Third, transgender thinking is the greatest possible rejection of God’s will for the life of a person. God determines our gender. The biological make-up of our person as men or women serve the end toward which God would have us to live. Men are biologically given greater physical strength to primarily provide for, protect, and lead a family. Women are biologically given the ability to bear children and feed them, and a biological desire to make a home in which to foster the raising of children and the goodness of family. We are each born, by the will of God, into one gender or the other. Each person is not a blank slate. When a person chooses to reject the gender God has given them, they are rejecting the entire plan that God has for their lives. They are seeking not to live according to the will of God (Ephesians 2:10), but to re-make themselves completely according to their own path of rebellion. It will not lead to the happiness they think it will. It is a path of deception, and the greater the rebellion against God, the greater the consequence in the end. Lastly, let me state what should be obvious, but isn’t anymore, that we as Christian parents must be about instructing our children in the gospel and God’s will. It is not our role to affirm them in their young rebellion, but to teach them how in Christ they might come to salvation and live fully for Jesus.

I realize that some will have questions about these things, some will affirm them, and others will passionately disagree. I encourage you in two ways. First, remember that above all we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ! People change through coming to salvation by grace alone through Christ alone. Second, ask your questions – any and all questions. My email address is victor@redeemerva.org, or meet me down front after a Sunday service. I look forward to engaging you on these very important issues. 

May we keep our eyes on Jesus,

Pastor Vic

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:14-16

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

We have before us today two verses about holiness. The importance of holiness cannot be overstated in the Christian life. Peter quotes from Leviticus 11 where the Lord God lays down regulations for the nation of Israel to follow that will separate them from other nations. They must be a holy people because the Lord is a holy God. At its core holiness relates to separation, something, or someone, set apart for a sacred purpose. The Lord Himself is set apart (holy) in His essence and being, as well as in His perfection. In His being, Almighty God is our Creator and we are His creation. He is infinite, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is dependent on no one, and we are fully dependent upon Him. He is holy. The Lord is also holy in His moral perfection. He is light and righteousness, and in Him is no darkness or evil. Righteousness is defined by His perfect character. He is a holy God.

The call of God for us to follow after Him in holiness of life, is the call of a good father to a child. As obedient children, we are called to not be conformed to the corruption of this world. The sinfulness of the world is active and every single day temptation is relentless. Satan is an active enemy in the world. He is our adversary, always working to destroy the work of the Lord. Our own hearts are corrupt and divided. To not be conformed to the pattern of this world requires us to hear the command of the Lord, recognize His goodness, and actively pursue the holiness of God. 

It’s important every so often to examine yourself and ask: Do I live a holy and separated life? Do the people around me every day know that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ? Can they see it in my life and attitude? Can they hear it in my words? Do I stand for the things that Jesus stood for? Are the fruits of the Holy Spirit clearly evident in my life? Is the holy separation of my life a thing of pride, or is it attractive like the beautiful life of Jesus Christ?

I have included here a verse from Philippians about the mind, because the actions of your life begin with the direction of your thoughts. The apostle Paul gives us a beautiful and virtuous list of things to set our mind upon. Without intentional direction the mind drifts on its own toward anger, lust, jealousy, pride, and covetousness. By the transforming power of the Holy Spirit we are strengthened to take hold of our thoughts and direct them toward a righteous end. This process begins with the precious word of God in Scripture. The most powerful way to shift your thinking is to fill your mind with Scripture and a clear understanding of the goodness of God. 

Your actions matter. Today spend time reading the Bible. Set your mind on Christ, and be determined to live a holy life that is set apart from the normal ways of this world. May you be known as a joyful, humble, and righteous Christian. This is the only way that the Gospel message makes any sense. It is a message that comes to the ears of the lost from a person living a different life. It is a call to come away from the dead and empty ways of this world, and come to the way of Christ – a righteous way of life and peace. Let us be holy, as our Heavenly Father is holy.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Vic

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water…Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water I will give him will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:10, 13-14

This passage of Scripture comes from a conversation Jesus had with a woman weary of the struggles and hardships of life. She had been married five times, and was at the time of the conversation, in a relationship with a sixth man. This is a history of sinful, broken relationships and painful rejection that had deteriorated into her just trying to survive one day after the next, moving forward with an empty and hopeless heart. Into this woman’s life Jesus – as He always does – speaks exactly what is needed.

She had come to the ancient well to draw water needed to live another day. She came every day, because the water always ran out. It was a necessary, daily drudgery. Jesus asked her for a drink of the well water, but then began to reveal to her who He really was. Jesus tells her that if she understood who he really was, she would ask Him for a drink – but a drink of living water. Jesus tells her what He can give her will quench her thirst forever, and will become a spring in her soul, over-flowing her heart, and leading to eternal life!

Jesus was speaking of the time soon to come, when He would send His Holy Spirit to indwell the hearts of every person that believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior (Matthew 28:20b, Acts 2). When we confess our sins and express our faith in Jesus Christ, we are “asking for a drink of living water.” We are calling out to Jesus that we do not have the strength to handle the struggles of this life. We are admitting that we have ruined our lives through sin, selfishness, and rebellion. We believe that only Jesus has what we know we need.

This analogy is lived out every day all across America. People work hard every day: waking early to get the kids ready, dropping them at school or daycare, fighting traffic to work, working through the ups and downs of the work day, reversing the process, helping kids with school work, paying the bills, etc, etc. Often at the end of the day, whatever was in the tank at the beginning of the day is spent. There is an intense feeling of emptiness, a sense of not being able to face the next day, because you have nothing left to give. This despair often leads to alcoholism, drug abuse, anger, abandonment of family, and other futile attempts to relieve the pressure of life and find meaning in the struggle. It’s more than busyness; this is choosing to live life your own way in rebellion against Jesus Christ. This is not a struggle unique to modern humanity. This is the same struggle as the woman at the well.

Jesus beaks into this daily struggle, into this woman’s life, and tells her that if she will come to Him, she will never thirst again. When we stop striving on our own, and instead humble ourselves before Jesus our Savior, He will fill our hearts with His Spirit. As a believer in Jesus Christ the power of God Himself rises up to fill our hearts to overflowing every day. In a supernatural way, when we have no more patience, patience is supplied. When we have no more love, love rises up. When we step toward despair, the light of hope shines in our hearts. When we feel things are about to spin out of control, God’s Spirit will strengthen your hand to hold tight the reigns of life. This is elsewhere (Galatians 5:22-24) called the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is the life of Jesus Christ welling up in your heart, to over-flowing, until it pours out and is evident to all. This life giving strength will never stop. Jesus will continue His saving work until eternity. I urge you today, in the midst of the struggle, call out to Jesus for living water!

May our souls be satisfied in Jesus,

Pastor Vic

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

Our God is a God of justice. He holds every man and woman perfectly accountable for their sins. He discerns thoughts, motives, and knows every hidden action. All things are laid bare before Him. Even our actions that appear righteous are corrupt in various ways. They are compared to filthy garments (Isaiah 64:6). Yet in all this, God the Father is merciful and has sent His Son Jesus to be the Savior of the world. In Christ, by faith alone, we can be forgiven. By the grace of God in Jesus Christ we do not receive what we justly deserve: death (Genesis 2:16-17, Romans 6:23), but instead receive life and peace and adoption into God’s kingdom as sons and daughters.

Apart from the salvation of God, we cannot know justice (Proverbs 28:5). Apart from the salvation of God, our efforts at justice are always shaded by favoritism, corrupted by wealth and bribery, and turned away from those that have nothing to give us in return for our help. 

Even though we begin in corruption, as we believe in and follow Christ, He begins to conform us into His image. He begins to teach us to care about justice and carry it out in the world. The prophet Micah writes in the Old Testament that “doing justice” is both good and required of us. Jesus clearly rebukes those who care very much about less important issues, but neglect “weightier” issues of justice and the love of God (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42). Finally, Isaiah is very clear that justice will be a foundational virtue of the coming kingdom of God (Isaiah 9:6-7). 

In courthouses across our land, justice is often portrayed as a woman, blindfolded, holding out a scale. This symbol represents the correct notion that justice is supposed to weigh the facts relevant to the law and make a decision apart from personal favoritism, political activism, or predetermined prejudice. If the facts of the matter point to guilt, then there is guilt. If the facts of the case point to innocence, then there is innocence. Justice does not ask whether the defendant is male or female, white or black, rich or poor, young or old.

The Bible teaches unqualified justice. God does not have various versions of justice. Biblical justice, as defined above, is not the same thing as “social justice.” Social justice is a political movement clothed in biblical language. Social justice involves picking certain favored groups – certain races, certain subcultures, certain slivers of society – and singling them out for favoritism and special treatment. True justice is equal justice for ALL under the law. After the pattern of the Lord, no group is protected from penalty and no group is rewarded without true merit. 

Social justice has Lady Justice take off her blindfold to see if the person before her is from a favored group. If so, then the facts at hand become less relevant – or irrelevant – because the driving force is supporting or undermining the favored, or unfavored, person. In this way, social justice is the opposite of biblical justice. 

Christians should reject this choosing of favorites – which changes constantly. We must instead continue to seek after biblical justice, true justice, that works to make sure the privileged and powerful do not abuse the poor and needy (Nehemiah 5:1-13). We must look to represent the interests of the widow, the elderly, the poor, the orphan, the ignorant, the disabled, and the unborn – regardless of their race or national origin. 

This is the good justice of God. Justice which brings peace and accountability. Justice motivated by love, not hate. 

Grace and peace to you,

Pastor Vic

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16-18

The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news! It’s good news that by grace alone, through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross any person can be saved. Saved from what, you might ask? Saved from the just, or righteous, condemnation of God for our sins. We are, each one, guilty before God. We each live our lives in relation to God. God is our creator and stands in righteous authority over our lives. We all are born into rebellion and with a nature that wants to reject God’s will. We want to go our own way, to do our own thing, and the consequences of this is a broken relationship with God. 

However, God the Father sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be born miraculously of a virgin. To live among us full of grace and truth. To live among us in perfection. Jesus fulfilled all of the Father’s will during His life, most importantly, to die upon the cross as a substitution for you and for me. In Christ the righteous justice of God is met, and with this demand for justice met, by grace your sins can be washed away. Though you were covered over and corrupted by anger, lust, fear, jealousy, envy, addiction, and covetousness, you can be forgiven and washed clean!

It can be intimidating to talk to people about the state of their soul. Sometimes we don’t know where to begin or what to say, but all Christians have a responsibility to tell others (be witnesses) about the way of salvation in Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be an evangelist! There are no magic words, but there is truth that must be shared. When sharing Christ with others, I encourage you to begin with the Scripture. Nothing brings clarity and conviction, and nothing speaks to the soul like God’s word. Begin there. Often times people have heard various reasoned arguments, but have never encountered God through His living word. Next, work through the basic steps used by evangelist Billy Graham. Every person that comes to salvation must:

  1. Admit your need: I am a sinner
  2. Be willing to turn away from your sins: Repent
  3. Believe that Jesus Christ died for you and rose again from the grave: Right understanding
  4. Through prayer, believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord: Make it personal

None of these steps can be skipped in authentic conversion, but seldom are all these steps covered at one time, or on one occasion. Belief is a process that involves learning and heart change, but it’s a process that culminates in a point of decision: a moment of belief where a person believes that “Jesus is Lord,” where they did not believe before. 

Most Christians struggle with sharing their faith, but I encourage you to remember who had the courage to share Christ with you, and how that blessed good news has transformed your life. I encourage you to visit our website (RedeemerVA.org) and click on the “Next Steps” tab. Under this tab select “Jesus.” Here you’ll find an extended video presentation from me on the Gospel. I hope it will be helpful to you in sharing and talking with non-Christians about Jesus. 

Be faithful to tell the good news – then watch as the Lord does the work that only He can do to change hearts. Angels in heaven rejoice when one soul comes to salvation. Let us be faithful, at home with our children and abroad, to seek the lost in love!

Jesus Christ is Lord,

Pastor Vic

Question: Is it permissible for a Christian to be a Freemason?

The answer to this question begins by asking, “What type of organization is Freemasonry?” Is it simply a service organization dedicated to philanthropy, or is it a secret religion? Freemasonry was developed in the 17thcentury and its first Grand Lodge was formed in London, England in 1717. Freemasonry is an all-male organization of brotherhood dedicated to public service and the good of humanity. But unlike other organizations dedicated to serving the poor, needy, and sick (such as Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, Samaritans Purse), Freemasons operate is a secret manner. Masons have temples, secret rites and rituals (that include burial of the dead), orders of rank (the highest of which in each lodge is the “Worshipful Master”), and a system of morality guided by “Great Light.” All these aspects of Freemasonry take it well beyond a service organization into a quasi-religion. 

Freemasonry emphasizes the need to recognize and serve the “Great Architect of the Universe,” or the “Great Light.” However, Freemasonry doctrine does not define who God is or declare any book as a sacred text. Instead, every mason is his own thinker, and the primary source of truth is the individual and his own interpretation of his religious experience. This open religious stance is similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous declaration that all people must recognize a “Higher Power,” but that power is open to the definition of the individual. Because of this, Masonic Temples / Lodges often reflect the religious culture within which they exist. This open and undefined concept of God fits conveniently with our post-modern day which rejects the notion of humanity being conformed to the reality of God. Instead, “god” is determined by the imagination and character of the Mason himself. Within this model, Masons hold up service as a great good, and memorialize their good works as a means of promoting their souls to God. This is the foundation of salvation by works, “Because of my service and goodness, I will be accepted by God.” This is a false gospel.

The problem with the Freemasonry organization is not its laudable philanthropic work, but the way its secret pledges, rites, and doctrines conflict in an incompatible way with biblical Christian belief. Paul is very clear in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 that Christians should not be “yoked” together with the unbelieving. The yoke is an analogy of being bound together in work and duty with a non-Christian. This should not happen because we do not believe the same things about the most important aspects of the world: the nature of God, what is morally right and wrong, or where our highest allegiance lies. The yoke also is an instrument of binding. The oxen cannot separate once bound together. It is wrong for a Christian, in any instance, to enter into binding vows or promises to form a long-term relationship with an unbeliever. The brotherhood rites and rituals of Masons are prized and strongly held by their membership, but are in conflict with the truth and call of Christ Jesus our Lord. 

I understand that many men enter into these commitments seeking brotherhood. Every person desires a sense of community, belonging, and authentic friendship in our increasingly lonely and isolated world. But God’s design for this is marriage, family, and the local church. When people choose to reject, or neglect, God’s design in these areas, they will find them unsatisfying. It’s not then permissible to reject them and pledge yourself to a non-Christian organization in search of community. This also creates an inherent conflict of interest. When the will of God expressed in the Bible comes in conflict with Masonic doctrine or practice, which will take the upper hand? In my experience, those who join the Masons do so because of a weak Christian faith, and as such, Masonic doctrine and practice win out. 

Some Americans give Masons a pass on these issues because certain well-loved American founding fathers (George Washington and others) were Masons and also expressed Christian faith. Since Freemasonry is fluid and largely reflects the culture which it functions within, it is possible that Freemasonry of the past was more Christian. However, the foundations of conflicting doctrine and conflicting final loyalties remain. It should also be noted that though certain political founding fathers were Masons, Christian ministers of that same period, used of God to usher in the Great Awakening, did not see Masonic membership as compatible with Christianity. For further reading on this subject I suggest; World Religions and Cults: Counterfeits of Christianity, Volume 1, edited by Hodge and Patterson, chapter 14.

In conclusion, any part of your life as a Christian that stands in conflict with the will of God must be changed. As Christians we must strive always to be in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Intentionally living counter to God’s will is sin. As such, if you are a Mason, you should renounce this allegiance and membership to serve Christ and His church with a full and undivided heart (Matthew 22:36-39). It is the first tenant of Christianity that no other God, idol, or allegiance (Exodus 20:3) should take the first place of the affections of our heart. If you have found marriage, family, and the local church unsatisfying personal relationships, it is partly because you have had divided affections and loyalty toward these institutions created by the will of God. If you have found service to the poor and needy unsatisfying and less productive outside of the Masonic setting, that is in part true because you have committed the efforts of your life to Masonic service. If committed with equal or greater passion elsewhere, equal or greater charitable works could be accomplished. 

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; no person comes to God the Father accept through Jesus (John 14:6). Believe in Him without reservation. Love His church and serve Him with an undivided heart.

May the local Christian church thrive in strength, joy, and service,

Pastor Vic

The Hebrew Roots (HR) movement is hard to nail down. There is no central leadership, no clear statement of faith, and various groups all over the place doing different things in a similar vein. The common themes seem to be:

1) Referring to Jesus by a Hebrew translated name, and that any other language translation for His name is somehow heretical.

2) Strict observation of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath.

3) Observance of Torah law in our current day.

4) Observing various versions of Old Testament festivals.

5) A desire for a deeper and more passionate spiritual life that HR followers are not finding in the modern American church. 

In response to these basics, I can only agree with the fifth point. However, the search for a deeper and more passionate spiritual life should not take us back to the old covenant of the Old Testament (OT).

I will answer the question about HR by asking questions that I would ask of any person that has become involved in this movement. These essential questions shed light on why HR followers are going in the wrong direction with their understanding of the Bible and the Gospel. 

1) How can you claim to follow Torah law when you are not a part of national Israel and the temple no longer exists?

Law expressed in the first five books of the OT is Torah law. These laws fall into three different categories: (1) Ceremonial Law: law that dictated how the worship of God and the temple sacrificial system should be conducted. (2) Civil Law: law that dictated how the nation of Israel should be organized, function, set apart (including dietary laws), and disciplined. (3) Moral Law: law that speaks to God’s will concerning moral right and wrong for all people.

It is impossible for a person to claim that they are following Torah law in our current day. (1) Ceremonial law cannot be followed since the temple does not exist. The second temple was destroyed in AD 70. It was destroyed and never rebuilt, as a part of the providence of God since it is no longer needed under the new covenant. The old covenant was based on a sacrificial / temple system that was symbolic of a final Savior to come. Jesus was that Messiah. Jesus was the final and perfect sacrifice for our sins. The entire book of Hebrews is dedicated to arguing this point. We are now under the new covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25-26) and a temple dedicated to sacrifices is not needed. The only ordinances of the new covenant church are believer baptism and the Lord’s supper. (2) Civil law cannot be followed in modern-day America because they are laws meant to govern a nation (example: cities of refuge, systems of justice and punishment, rules for dealing with conquered people, dietary laws for distinguishing Jew from Gentile, etc.). If these were to be applied anywhere today, it would be in modern national Israel, but national Israel functions by a modern rule of civil law.

The only Torah law that remains is the moral law. The moral law of God remains because the nature of God does not change and the nature of humanity does not change. The holiness and justice of God remain the same from eternity past to eternity future, even though His method of relating to humanity has changed from the old to New Covenant. The Ten Commandments written by the hand of God in stone are the clearest representations of moral law still applicable today.

Conclusion: Those who claim to follow OT civil and ceremonial law, either don’t know what they are talking about, or have no problem arbitrarily picking and choosing which laws they think are important, and follow only those select laws. Either position is not faithful to the whole teaching of the Bible.

2) Why do Christians worship on Sunday? If they followed the OT moral law correctly, they would worship on the OT Sabbath – the final day of the week.

Christians transitioned to worshiping on Sunday because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. In the book of Acts, the apostles nowhere lay on new believers the necessity of keeping the Sabbath on the last day of the week. The Sabbath moral principle (focus on worship and physical rest one day per week) can be applied to the first day of the week just as easily as the last day of the week. All this relates to how the calendar is set up on paper, as to which day is considered first or last in the week. The moral principle, which should be followed, is consistently setting aside one day in seven for worship and physical rest.

3) Who, or what, do HR followers trust in for their salvation from the penalty of sin?

Do they believe that Jesus is the Son of God, crucified, buried, and raised from the dead? If they trust in the finished work of Jesus on the cross (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) then why are they interested in re-instituting an unnecessary temple sacrificial system? Why are they interested in celebrating feasts whose purpose was to look for the Messiah to come? If they do not believe in Jesus as Savior, to what they turning for the forgiveness of sins?

4) Why are they interested in recreating OT feasts and festivals?

If they truly believe in Christ as their Savior they would reject the recreating of key OT feasts. The most important OT feast was the Passover. This feast reminded the people of the exodus, but more importantly, pointed forward to the Messiah to come – the true Passover Lamb. It makes no sense to celebrate a feast whose purpose is to hope for a Messiah to come. The Messiah has already come, this is why none of the apostles press for the continued celebrating of the Passover. We celebrate instead the birth and resurrection of the Savior who has come already. 

5) What do you do with Acts 10:9-16, which is the threefold vision given to Peter declaring all animals clean to eat?

Some HR followers adhere to Torah kosher dietary laws. This passage in Acts is explicitly clear (x3) that Torah kosher dietary laws passed away with the old covenant. This vision is given to Peter just before welcoming gentile people into the church with the blessing and seal of the Holy Spirit. The entire point of this passage, and others to follow, is that the people of God in the new covenant are NOT those who follow Torah civil laws, but those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. To enforce Torah civil dietary laws during the new covenant period is to go directly against this clear vision from the Lord.

6) What do you do with Acts 15?

This entire chapter is directly related to the HR movement. The scene is a debate between those who argue that new gentile Christians should be ordered to keep the laws of Moses (Acts 15:5), but Paul and Barnabas argue that keeping these laws are no longer relevant. There is much vigorous debate over the issue until the apostle Peter stands up, filled with the Holy Spirit, and clarifies that the law of Moses was a burden impossible to keep (verse 10). Christians are not saved by law-keeping, but by the grace of Jesus Christ (verse 11). Therefore, the burden of keeping the law should not be laid on gentile believers or new converts to the faith. James delivers the final declaration of what is to be expected from new Christians. What is expected is a truncated version of the ten commandments (moral law of God): abstain from things related to idolatry, abstinence from sexual sin, and turning away from things related to pagan rituals (strangled animals and blood). This decision is then formally written up and circulated to the churches. This is not just a section of church history. This council is recorded for us in scripture so that we might have the confidence to make a clean break with the keeping of Torah (Mosaic) civil and ceremonial law. This decision was greeted by the church with rejoicing (verse 31)! We should also rejoice in the grace of Jesus Christ, never turning back to old ways.

7) Why would you call people back to becoming Jews, or to follow in the ways of the Jews, when Paul instructs us specifically to follow in the new way of Jesus Christ?

Romans 2:25-29 is one of many passages that points those who live after the incarnation of Jesus Christ to trust in Him, not the regulations of Judaism. The way of salvation in the old covenant was to become a Jew, or join the people of God in the belief and worship of God. In the new covenant period, the people of God are those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. People from all nations become followers of Christ, not Jews. When they become followers of Christ they are set apart in holiness by following the moral commands of God. This does not mean that Christians of other cultures must give up non-moral aspects of their culture to become Jewish. On the contrary, we are told that in Heaven there will be Christians from all nations, tribes, and languages (Revelation 7:9-17). The assumption from this passage is that looking out over the vast audience of Christians in Heaven, national differences will be visible. We are never told that all Christians should become Jewish in their living after becoming followers of Christ. There will be Jewish Christians present, who have believed in Jesus, but those will be truly Jewish in heritage and family origin. 

8) Why do you think that Jesus’ name can only be spoken as translated into Hebrew?

This argument is basically the same as those who argue that the Bible is only the word of God when it exists in the King James English. It’s a ridiculous argument that only points to the ignorance of those who do not know or speak foreign languages. The original manuscripts of the New Testament were written in Greek and Aramaic. In those manuscripts the name of Jesus was written in Greek. There is no prohibition in the Scriptures to translating the Bible into other languages. 

At the end of the day, the Hebrew Roots movement is only a variation on the same argument the apostles already settled in the book of Acts and Hebrews. Those who struggle with the teachings of this movement would do well to study those two books and come to better grasp what it means that we now live under the new covenant and that Jesus is our new and final High Priest. 

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8 

I hope this is helpful,

Pastor Vic

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

This past week, Ravi Zacharias passed away, and is now with our Lord Jesus in glory. He held fast his confession of faith and lived a virtuous life in Christ – to his last day. This is worth celebrating and noting, in a day when news is so often dominated by those who are falling away from the faith. 

Ravi Zacharias was born and raised in India, under a completely non-Christian worldview. Once Ravi came to salvation, the Lord called him to use his tremendous God-given intellect and eloquence to help the lost world understand how the salvation of Jesus Christ is the answer to their heart struggles and separation from God. Ravi lectured all over the world for decades at top universities and large conferences, inspiring people from many cultures to consider the claims of Christ as truth. 

Ravi was not only a brilliant intellect, but a godly and faithful man in his personal character. The two must be joined together for a complete Christian life. It is the passionate mind and the virtuous life together that God blesses and uses most for His kingdom and glory.

If you have never listened to any of Ravi’s talks, or read any of his books, I strongly recommend them to you. Two of my favorites are Jesus Among Other God’s and Deliver Us From Evil. May his life be an inspiration to us all.

He who has promised is faithful,

Pastor Vic

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

In 1984 President Ronald Regan proclaimed January 22 as “Sanctity of Human Life Day.” This day was the eleventh anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States. Reagan was urging our country to remember that God ultimately decides right from wrong, not the Supreme Court of the United States. In this case, the Supreme Court got it wrong, and we are still living with the consequences. Abortion continues at an alarming rate, with approximately 800,000 abortions performed in the US during 2018. But those of us who oppose abortion – the killing of the unborn – remember at this time of year to focus on this terrible evil and pray for its end. 

As medical science has advanced it has brought us to a clear moral crossroad. Medical technology makes abortion possible, but medical technology also makes it possible to see the fully formed bodies of unborn children in 3-D detail. Medical technology makes it possible for significantly pre-maturely born babies to thrive and grow into healthy adults. It has created an entire medical discipline (NIC – neonatal intensive care) of amazingly talented nurses and doctors to care for these tiny infant children – even performing surgery on children in the womb! Yet many still argue that these tiny children are not human until the mother decides they are. This is a moral conflict to which the Bible speaks clearly.

Psalm 139 beautifully writes of the miraculous formation of a living child inside of its mother’s womb. This formation is a creative work designed by God and infused with purpose and meaning. The Psalm speaks to how each unborn child has a potential life before them – a life known only by God. It is a powerful Christian doctrine that life is never an accident. Each life is caused by God, has purpose, and should be protected and cherished. At the beginning of the book of Jeremiah we are given insight into how God has purpose for our lives from before we were born, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). 

Abortion is a human rights issue. Fighting to end abortion is the righteous work of striving to protect the most helpless of all people, the unborn. Those who truly have no voice. Christians, above all people, must care about the issues of defending the weak and helpless. We should be passionate about caring for the disabled, the elderly, the enslaved, and the unborn. Jesus had constant compassion toward “the least of these,” and so should we. 

As a church, we must be involved with this issue. First, we extend the forgiveness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have been a part of the abortion process. The gospel is about the forgiveness of sin, and by the grace of God, you can be forgiven. Second, we must labor to help those with unexpected pregnancies to choose life – through counseling and practical help. Third, we must be willing to open our homes to long and short-term foster care/adoption, to take into our homes those children who are born but orphaned. Forth, we must be unashamed to speak against this sin, but to speak against it with love. We must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). 

If you want more information on how to be practically involved with helping end abortion in our area through counseling those in need, speak with Maria Carpenter. If you would like more information on how to be involved with short and long-term orphan care, please speak with Justin Woodruff. 

May the Lord grant an end to legal abortion in the United States,

Pastor Vic

Jesus Is King

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-10  

“Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess,
Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Lord!
Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess,
Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Lord!” – Kanye West

These lines are from one of the songs on the latest album of Kanye West entitled “Jesus is King.” Yes…Kanye West – the same Kanye that was known for everything that is opposite of Jesus. The same Kanye who – for decades – has embodied what it means to live a wicked and worldly life. But some months ago Kanye became a follower of Jesus Christ! He has been made new by turning away from his old ways and putting his faith in King Jesus. From all accounts, he is now living for Jesus and making radically different music. Praise the Lord!

How did this happen? It started with a courageous person inviting Kanye to church. Not a flashy megachurch, but a church very similar to ours. He came once, heard the gospel, and kept coming back. As the Lord convicted him of his sin and emptiness, Kanye was reminded of the Christian home he was raised in and came to salvation. This is exciting news. I pray that he will be like Johnny Cash, leaving behind permanently all the drugs, women, and pride of the world, producing a new heritage of Christ-honoring music that will stand as a testament that Jesus can save ANYONE.

My challenge to you: be courageous! I would love to shake the hand of the person who had the evangelistic zeal and personal boldness to effectively invite Kanye West to church. Every one of us has people in our lives who are larger-than-life! And they need Jesus. I challenge each of you to love lost people enough to not be afraid of them and have a big enough faith to believe that Jesus can change ANY heart. 

Start thinking and praying and have the boldness to get to know, and then invite to church the most lost and worldly person you know. Through prayer and genuine concern for their soul, you will be amazed at what Jesus does.

May the gospel go forth in power,