Storm Damage

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”–1 John 3:18

              This has been another week of struggle for many of our church members. The newsletter almost did not go out this week, because Christine just got power restored today! We have various forms of sickness, power outage (yes church members still lack power!), and storm damage all over the church. It’s very important during times like this that we draw together to help each other in actual hands-on service. When a physical need is present that we have the power to meet – let’s ACT in true Christian love.

              The first step to meeting a physical need is the person with the need expressing that need and being open to help. If you need help cutting up downed trees and branches, repairing storm damage, or just a place to take a hot shower as you wait for power to come back – please express this need. Please call a deacon, call an elder, call a small group leader, call someone! As you express your need church leadership will begin to consolidate the needs we have and start working the various needs. We have a long list of people who have already raised their hands to help meet physical service needs in the church. We want you to experience the love of Christ through the real service of friends helping friends in the local church.

              If you have a chainsaw, a trailer, and/or are willing to help others dig out from this mess, please let a deacon know.

              Also, we continue to have many sick in various way across the congregation. Please pray for healing, for wise treatment options, for patient caretakers, and for full recoveries. Please call those you know are sick and encourage them. Pray with them over the phone. Write encouraging notes. Consider bringing by a meal.

              It’s a blessing to serve others! It’s an antidote to selfishness. Let’s not forget the words of Jesus, that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

May every need be met! See you Sunday,

Pastor Vic

Bible Reading

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”–Psalm 119:105

“The grass withers, and the flower fails, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”–1 Peter 1:24-25

I want to encourage our church in three ways this week. First, please pray for the sick and struggling in our church, and in the community. We have many people in the church and in our community that are sick right now. After extended times of need we all run the danger of feeling “compassion fatigue.” This is when we have reached the end of any natural compassion or desire to help and pray for those in need. However, the compassion of Jesus Christ is never ending because His compassion flows from His love. When we feel our compassion for others running dry, it’s important that we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to fill us again with love and concern for others. This is especially necessary for our fellow brothers and sisters in the church. As needs arise, let’s draw together praying for each other, filling needed meal trains, and meeting every need. May the world know that we are Christians by the way we love one another.

              Second, I want to press our church to focus in on the theme of Christian love in the new year. The world speaks often of love but does not have a true definition of this essential virtue. I’m asking for the church to focus on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as a memory passage for the month of January. These verses are familiar to us, but so often not applied. As we memorize these verses, the Holy Spirit will bring them to mind in our daily living with each other. We’ll be reminded to be patient, to turn away from irritability, to not insist on our own way, and to endure in hope. We’ll take this one verse per week. As you learn a verse, come see me or another elder at church and quote the verses you have learned. I would like to make a series of voice recordings each week to put out with the newsletter to encourage us toward memorizing this entire passage. May the Lord be at work in our midst to teach us to love one another as Jesus would have for us to.

              Third, we are almost to the new year. Your devotional study of the Bible, chapter by chapter and verse by verse, will be essential to your spiritual health in 2022. I want to press you to choose a Bible reading plan that will structure and guide your reading next year. Go to the RedeemerVA.org website, click on the “Resources” tab, then choose “Bible Reading Plan.” There you’ll find some direction and encouragement on how to read your Bible every day. There are several plans available. The goal is not to check a box each day, but to systematically read the Bible. Following a plan will guide you to read through entire books of the Bible and to read parts of the Bible you would not normally read. Marking off one passage at a time from a printed plan will also allow you to not lose your place. When you miss a few days for whatever reason, just pull your plan out and keep plowing forward.

              It takes months to develop new habits and acquire new tastes. I very much remember what it was like to be new to the gym. I didn’t know how to use any of the weights or machines. I didn’t know any of the exercise movements. I was out of place and out of shape, but I had a written plan that a fit friend had given me. By determining to alter the routines of my life to make personal fitness a priority, new habits were developed.

Sadly, reading as a habit is being wiped out by technology. As Christians we cannot allow this to happen in our lives. God has recorded His revelation and action as a book for a reason. Writing is the most specific form of human communication. Particular words are carefully and intentionally chosen to convey specific meaning. Important written documents are examined and approved before being released for others to read. The careful author works to make sure the written words conveys their meaning. This is more true with the Bible than any other document in the world. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is God’s perfect word to us.

Reading is an active mental activity. You cannot zone out and read. You cannot be distracted and read. To rightly comprehend what you are reading, you must intentionally shut out other distractions and intentionally focus on understanding the written word. This is very different from an audio book or watching a video. Listening and watching are passive activities. Yes, you can actively listen and watch, but when you lose concentration (which happens often) the audio and video keep playing. As you fade in and out of concentration you miss much of what is being conveyed. When you’re listening to a novel or watching a movie, it doesn’t matter if you catch the details. But the details of the Bible are too important to speed past. Missing the details will lead to wrong conclusions and wrong doctrine. Reading is an exercise of the mind. We are commanded by Jesus (Luke 10:27) to love the Lord our God with all our mind.

If a passion for entertainment has grown up in your life and choked out your habit of Bible reading, then it’s time to start reading the Bible again. If you have never read large passages of the Bible with regularity, this is the year to start. If your life has gotten so busy that you only occasionally listen to the Bible while rushing from one place to the other, it’s time to give priority to meaningful Bible reading. Lastly, if reading the Bible is “boring” to you, it’s time to recognize that that the Bible was not written to entertain you. It was written to reveal to you the nature of God and His salvation. As you read the Bible you will find that God does not exist to entertain you. Instead, you exist to glorify Him! May we each devote ourselves to the study of God’s word this year.

May you grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ this year,

Pastor Vic

Manna

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” John 6:35

              The Lord has many themes that He uses to teach humanity about His person and His work. One of those wonderful themes is manna.

              We first see manna appear in Exodus 16, not long after the Lord brings the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. They have passed through the Red Sea on dry ground and have been but a short time in the wilderness, when the people begin to grumble and complain against Moses, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (v. 3). How quickly the people forgot their many prayers for deliverance from slavery where their boys were being put to death and their lives made bitter through hard labor (Exodus 1, 2:23-24). The people of that generation were continually complaining and hard-hearted; nonetheless, the Lord supplied their needs.

              Each day the Lord sent “bread from heaven” (16:4). Israel called it manna. Each morning in the desert wilderness it appeared like frost on the ground. Each day there was enough for everyone, and it tasted like a wafer made with honey (16:32). The manna was provision for food and the powerful beginning of an enduring object lesson on faith. The manna, by God’s providential working, only lasted one day. The people were instructed to gather what they needed for one day. If they gathered more than needed, the manna would stink and be full of worms the following day. However, on the day before the sabbath day of rest and worship, the people were to gather a double portion and that portion would last two days. This providential process went on for forty years while Israel wandered in the desert under judgment (16:35).

              The daily manna was a powerfully real way for Israel to learn daily dependance on the Lord. The Lord always desires for His people to be dependent upon Him day by day. We naturally want independence and long-term predictable stability, but these things lead us away from the Lord to self-reliance. Not long after the manna began to fall daily, the Lord instructed Moses to set aside a jar of manna to be kept through the generations as a reminder of the Lord’s miraculous daily provision. Hebrews 9:4 speaks to how this jar of manna was one of three objects placed inside the Ark of the Covenant to never be forgotten by Israel. This jar was a physical reminder of how the Lord had provided in the past, day by day, and would continue to provide, day by day, into the future.

              When we turn to the New Testament, manna is again intentionally engrained in the ministry of Jesus. In Matthew 6 when Jesus teaches the people to pray, part of His instruction on prayer is for them to pray for provision from God for “daily bread” (v. 11). This is the exact same picture of manna carried over from the Old Testament. It was a picture that the Jewish people would absolutely have understood. Part of our pattern of prayer should be going to the Lord daily with our real physical needs, believing by faith that He will provide those needs day by day.     

              However, in the New Testament, Jesus extends the picture of manna to His own person. In John 6:22-71, the day after Jesus had fed over 5,000 people with just a few loaves and fishes, the people come again to Jesus for food. Jesus rebukes them for coming to Him for physical food when they should be coming to Him for spiritual food. But the people want a miraculous sign from Jesus, stating that in the past the Lord showed His reality through the provision of manna. Jesus states, “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world … I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” In the past, Israel ate the daily bread of God from heaven (manna) but died in rebellion and discipline. However, those who look to Christ Jesus and believe in Him, will share in His everlasting life. Those who daily look by faith to Jesus Christ will have their sins forgiven and find in Jesus nourishment and hope for their soul that will never end. Jesus is the living bread come down from heaven to nourish our souls (John 6:51). But in keeping with the manna example, Jesus would have us come to Him every day with our weakness and struggles. He would have us confess our sins every day, and every day find fresh mercy and provision. He is the living Bread of Life that will sustain us far beyond the forty years of Israel. The resurrected life of Jesus will sustain you every day of this life and for all eternity.

              There is one last extension to this powerful theme. One that will carry the church until Jesus comes again. In the later part of John 6, after Jesus proclaims that He is the Bread of Life come down from heaven, he extends this metaphor and tells the people they must “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood.” This was a hard saying that caused many to turn away from following Jesus (v. 66), but at the time of the last supper and following the resurrection of Jesus it became clear what Jesus spoke of. In Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus makes clear that the elements of the Lord’s Supper are to symbolize His body and His blood. As we regularly partake of the elements of bread and juice, we both remember the cross of Christ and symbolically partake of the Bread of Life. We acknowledge that apart from the life of Christ we would have no life. Jesus Christ is our life. He is our daily, sustaining bread.

              May you pray this week in daily dependence on Jesus. May you go to Him for the strength your soul needs to carry on one more day. You will find that what you need will be supplied, and for this you should give thanks!

The righteous will live by faith,

Pastor Vic

I Am the Lord

I Am the Lord

“And you shall know that I am the LORD …

Then they will know that I am the LORD.”

Ezekiel 6:13-14

              I recently read back through the book of Ezekiel and was struck by how many times these two phrases are repeated. One phrase or the other is spoken by the Lord at least fifty-five times in the book! It’s clearly the major drive of Ezekiel’s ministry to awaken the people of Israel, again, to the reality of the LORD.

              The warnings have a definite pattern and progression. They begin with the sobering declarations that the people will come face to face with the reality of the Lord when He brings crushing judgment upon them for their sin and rebellion, “Forge a chain! For the land is full of bloody crimes and the city is full of violence. I will bring the worst of the nations to take possession of their houses. I will put an end to the pride of the strong, and their holy places shall be profaned … and they shall know that I am the LORD(7:23-24, 27c). The Scriptures speak often of sin and judgment because God is holy and will not forebear forever His righteous judgment toward rebellion. There always comes a time when the patience of the Lord has been poured out, and unbelief results in the wicked recognizing the reality of the Lord too late – after final judgment has fallen.

              Next there is the purifying and separating work of the Lord. The Lord is Himself at work saving and restoring His people, as we will see, for His glory among the nations. Ezekiel speaks of all the people being like dross, an impure mixture of metals. To this the Lord speaks, “I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst of it. As silver is melted in a furnace, so you shall be melted in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the LORD; I have poured out my wrath upon you” 22:21-22. The people will come face to face with the reality of the Lord as He brings holy discipline into their lives to curb their sin and turn them away from rebellion. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but in the end yields the fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:3-11). The Lord always disciplines those He loves, treating them as true children.

              Next, the Lord goes beyond discipline, speaking of the New Covenant of grace He will one day establish with this rebellious people. “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules … Then they will know that I am the Lord” (36:26-27, 38b). The unconditional love of the Lord is astounding. These beautiful words are spoken to a nation of people that are idolatrous, sexually immoral, violent, greedy, and proud. But in all their sin, the Lord has chosen them and loves them. Because the Lord lives and is sovereign over the affairs of humanity, He is able to change hearts and make them new. Even while they were enemies toward the Lord, He had a plan to redeem them!

              Last, there is the glory of the name of the Lord. The Lord will not allow His name to be blasphemed and dishonored forever. “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel” (39:7). The redemption action of the Lord radically and totally changes our lives, but the redemption is not ultimately about us, it is for the glory of the Lord! When the world sees a people restored that should be wiped out, it reflects on what they hope in. Our hope must be in the Lord our God.

              Where are you in your heart today? Do you believe the Lord of the Bible is real? What will it take for you to believe? Will you die in your unbelief? Will you be separated out from the dross by the fire of the Lord, but instead of being set aside as silver, be burned up with the dross? Or will you turn from your sins and be spared the discipline of the Lord? Will you believe in the reality of the Lord and rejoice over His promise of grace and mercy? May you be a person that goes out to proclaim the glory of Jesus as Lord to the nations!

May you know that the Lord is God,

Pastor Vic

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

              I have recently been inspired and encouraged reading the short biographical accounts of US immigrants written by former president George W. Bush. In his book, Out of Many One – Portraits of America’s Immigrants, Bush recounts story after amazing story of people coming to the hope of America from every country imaginable. The stories have common themes of tenacious hard work, help from friends and family, faith in the Lord God for a better future, and deep thankfulness for the opportunity to live in the United States of America. On Thanksgiving Day, I offer to you this excerpt about the life of Thear Suzuki. May we each be reminded of the goodness of God and that it is His will that we be a thankful and content people.

              Thear was born in Sokunthear Sy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in either 1972 or 1973—she doesn’t know. “The first eight years of my life were spent in war and refugee camps,” she explains. “Upon their victory of the civil war, the Khmer Rouge, a Communist regime led by Pol Pot, drove millions of people out of cities and into the countryside, where men, women, and children were forced into labor camps.” The crazed, craven dictator tried to reset time to “Year Zero” when he seized power. By year four, he had presided over the deaths of two million of his people. “The Khmer Rouge wanted to turn the country backward into a socialist, agrarian society where all citizens were expected to work for the common good, living arrangements were communal, and meals were rationed,” Thear says. “They persecuted the educated, outlawed schools, and targeted Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims.”

              Thear’s family of seven managed to survive the genocide, which took place on sites across Cambodia now known as the Killing Fields. They worked in forced labor camps and lived in the jungle for years before escaping to a Thailand refugee camp in 1979. After two years bouncing from camp to camp, they found support from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Service, which sponsored their move to the United States. “They helped us find housing, secure food stamps, find jobs for my parents, and register us into school in Dallas.”

              Thear’s family only needed the food stamps for three months before becoming independent. “My father and mother worked minimum wage jobs to support our family,” she remembers. Her dad spent twenty-five years working as a janitor at Bradfield Elementary. Her mom took jobs at a local restaurant, Highland Park Cafeteria, and as a maid at the Mansion Hotel. She learned English by watching The Price is Right. The five kids pitched in by rooting through trash and redeeming cans for a nickel and bottles for a dime. They wore clothing donated by Bradfield Elementary families and dresses sewn by their mother.

              Like so many immigrants, Thear struggled with the new language and the strangeness of the food. She remembers repeating a grade to get a better grip on English and scrapping the toppings off her pizza. Eventually, she mastered the language and even took a liking to fried chicken.

              The family initially lived in housing projects in West Dallas, where they feared for their safety. “We often received phone calls telling us to go back to our country,” she says. “We moved out as quickly as possible.” Others in the new community were more welcoming. Thear’s parents had “heard the Good News” in a Thailand refugee camp and converted to Christianity. In Dallas they found a church that embraced and supported them. When Thear was a teenager, Ron Cowart, a police officer who patrolled their neighborhood, got her involved with a scouting group he had started for Southeast Asian students. The program, Exploring, taught Thear about community service and helped her study for her citizenship exam. She aced it and became an American on June 16, 1992.

              Thear credits her third-grade teacher, John Gallagher, as another inspiration. “He helped me through my formative years and helped my family rebuild our lives. Through his kindness and advocacy for my education, my life was completely transformed.” When Thear graduated from Skyline High School in 1992, after serving as student body president, Mr. Gallagher nominated her for a scholarship to Southern Methodist University. “I have been able to achieve some level of success because so many have helped and took a chance on me,” Thear says.

              With her degree, Thear went on to work as a technology consultant at Accenture for sixteen years. She’s currently a principle and talent leader at Earnst & Young. She serves with more community organizations than there’s room to list. She and her husband, Eric, are raising their four boys. Thear says, “We have come full circle, from receiving help from others when we were in need, to now serving others in need. My father has dedicated his life to sharing God’s Word and building disciples. He led the efforts to translate the first Cambodian study Bible. My mother has built water wells and churches in Cambodia, and at age eighty-one, she still goes on mission trips.”

              “Being an American means I am free,” she concludes. “I have rights. I can believe what I want and make choices for my family. I can use my skills and resources to help others improve their lives.”

Ascension

Ascension

“… as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:9-11

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. He descended into hell. The third day he arose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

              After the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, He appeared to His disciples and hundreds of eyewitnesses on a limited number of special occasions. During this final segment of Jesus’ ministry, he tied up some loose ends and made very clear to His followers that He had risen from the dead into a new and glorified state. These scenes are recorded at the ends of the Gospels and the beginning of the book of Acts. After this brief period, Jesus ascended into heaven never to die again.

              We don’t spend enough time thinking about heaven and contemplating its existence and importance. Heaven is spoken about constantly in the Bible and especially in the New Testament. Heaven is the perfect and mysterious dwelling place of God Almighty. In a number of places in the New Testament a window is opened between heaven and this world, causing the glory of heaven to spill over into our fallen and corrupt world (Luke 2:8-14, Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Acts 7:54-60, 9:3-6). Heaven is a real place, but also a spiritual place. Heaven is where the triune God dwells with those angels who serve Him and those souls that have preceded us in salvation.

Spiritual things are not visible and tangible in the same way as physical objects, but they are no less real. You cannot reach out and touch or see the soul of another person, but that does not mean that their soul is not real. The soul is, in fact, what animates the physical person. The Bible seems to indicate that the spiritual and physical worlds coexist, with the spiritual only being revealed at specific times according to God’s purposes.

              In John 14 Jesus speaks to encourage and comfort His disciples by telling them about heaven. Jesus says that He will one day take those who believe in His salvation into heaven. Jesus says that a heavenly place is being prepared for them because Jesus wants us to be where He is! That is an incredible statement that we should spend time thinking about. What would it take for us as sinners to enter into the perfection of heaven? It would require our sins being forgiven and taken away (John 1:29). It would require a salvation that only Jesus could accomplish.

But the reality that Jesus wants us to be near Him eternally is shocking. We know who we want in our house and who we don’t want in our personal space. It’s special to have someone invite you into their home for dinner, but something else entirely to have someone prepare a place for you to move into their house. But this is exactly what Jesus calls heaven, “my father’s house” (John 14:2). Jesus laid down His own life on the cross and rose from the dead to accomplish our salvation. He has now ascended into heaven and will accomplish our salvation by bringing us one day to dwell with Him in glory. Eternal life with Jesus in glory is the end of the gospel. Through our salvation Jesus is glorified now and forever.

               Lastly, I would mention that the Bible states that in heaven Jesus serves as our great high priest and advocate. This means that within the mystery of the trinity, the Holy Spirit has been sent to be with us in this life while Jesus is our mediator in heaven. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy2:5). One of the main focal points of the book of Hebrews is the explanation of how Jesus is the “high priest” and mediator of the new covenant of grace (Hebrews 8:1-6). Jesus, in His sinless perfection, offered Himself to God – in substitution for us – so that we might be recognized before God through the righteousness of Jesus. As we confess our sins, from heaven, Jesus forgives our sins by His grace and assures our salvation before God the Father.

              We have a great salvation that we should not neglect! I encourage you to spend more time examining heaven in the Bible. It will turn your heart toward our eternal salvation in Jesus and lift your mind’s eye off the corruption and struggle of this world.

Lord Jesus we look for your coming!

Pastor Vic

< This is part eight 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. >

Veteran’s Day

Veteran’s Day

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you.”–Colossians 1:3

              On Veterans Day, I want to thank all those in our congregation who, past and present, serve in the US armed forces. There are many veterans in the Redeemer Bible Church family. I thank you for your courage, patriotism, and sacrifice to voluntarily put yourself in harm’s way to protect and defend the freedoms of our beloved country. I also want to thank the supportive military spouses, who held down the home front during long deployments where loneliness and need were often present. Without your support and love, there is no home to defend or come home to.

              On this day I also pray for those family members and friends who still grieve the loss of loved ones on the battlefield. May the Lord encourage your heart and give you hope, as you remember those who have gone on before us to eternity.

I pray for those who returned from the battlefield wounded in body, mind, or soul from the violence and hardships of war. May the Lord Jesus do the saving work that only he can do, to take old hearts and make them new. May the Holy Spirit be at work taking away addiction, giving peace where there is anger, and hope where there is despair.

I pray for each soldier still on active duty. I pray for their courage in body and in soul: courage to enter battle when called upon, and courage to stand up for Jesus at a time where Christian morals are actively being removed from our military ranks. May our Christian soldiers not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.

I pray for Christian military chaplains that are increasingly hemmed in by secular regulations. May they find a way to faithfully minister God’s word to the souls of our soldiers that so badly need to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

              Lastly, I pray for a great spiritual awakening in the souls of our governing military leaders. May they turn away from politically correct and godless agendas and turn back to the Christian moral base upon which our freedoms were built. May this awakening happen one soldier and one veteran at a time. May they stand as Americans and stand as genuine Christians.

              Lord, we humble ourselves, confess our sins, and ask that you hear these prayers.

Thank you, Veterans, and may God shed His grace on these United States of America,

Pastor Vic

Good for Evil

Good for Evil

“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! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And shrewd in their own sight!” The prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 5:20-21)

There continues to be wide-spread intentional confusion over the issue of what is political and what is religious. The increasingly secular narrative of our country pushes that politics relates to public matters and religion relates to very personal matters. It’s appropriate to discuss public matters in public, but we should all keep personal matters personal. This powerfully works to keep all “religious” matters out of the public square, out of conversation at work and school, and generally out of polite social conversation. The problem is that Jesus did not have these same distinctions. Jesus and all His apostles went about constantly and publicly proclaiming and loudly preaching about religious matters in intentionally public places.

The political and moral worlds do not divide along the lines that our culture currently divides them. Jesus was clear that we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). However, what things belong to government and what things belong to God? The most basic way to divide these worlds is that what is moral (right and wrong) belongs to God, because moral goodness is defined by God’s character, then revealed to us as human beings. Moral evil is counter to God’s character, is at odds with God’s purposes in the world, and will one day be judged by Him and will not stand. In this vitally important area of discernment, we do not have the right to reverse the moral order. We have no authority to “call evil good and good evil”, yet it happens every day.

Political matters are most purely matters of civil government. These most basically relate to creating an orderly, secure, free, and just society. Political matters relate in part to commerce, national security, transportation, police and fire departments, and a justice system of courts. However, it doesn’t take much thinking to immediately see how these two spheres overlap in an inseparable way. The moral informs the conscience which drives and defines the political. If the moral compass is off because a person lives in rebellion against God, the way they live in the world will reflect this. When millions of people turn away from the revealed moral will of God, it surely will affect the political direction of the entire country.

A few points of clarification on where we find ourselves in the day God has appointed that we live our lives. First, Jesus is abundantly clear that we should not keep secret His teaching, the truth of His resurrection from the dead, or the hope of His salvation and second coming. We are sent to proclaim these things publicly to the nations, just like Jesus did.

Second, Jesus’ message cannot, and should not, be separated from His ethic. It’s a growing position to hear people say they love Jesus but reject His ethic. This means they love the idea of salvation and know they have a soul, but they reject what the Bible says about right and wrong (especially sexual ethics). This will not work.

The Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ is not to affirm people in their sin and from there help to improve them. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of repentance and faith. The good news stems from the bad news. The bad news is that we are ruined sinners (morally, then physically), beyond all hope of being made right by our own efforts. We are truly under the condemnation of a holy God. The good news is that Jesus was sent as Savior, to bear the just penalty of our sins. He comes not to make us better, but to give us a new nature that loves the things that God loves and desires to put to death evil ways. And this salvation begins now but will extend into eternal life. This is not a private matter, but life altering good news.

However, the narrative of our time is powerful, relentless, and persuasive, especially for our young people. It’s important that we have this conversation with our young people. A new study was released this week further showing the disconnect between younger generations and churches in America. It indicates that more than half of all young adults and teens don’t think that religious institutions care about what matters to them. As the survey unfolds, it becomes clear that the main issue being addressed is distance between generations on sexual ethics (LGBTQ matters).

Language related to LGBTQ people has intentionally and continuously been weaponized over the past decade to reverse the moral order. What used to be clearly understood as sinful sexual behavior, is now loudly celebrated as a right of personal expression. Those that speak against this behavior as morally sinful are said to discriminate, to be full of hate, to be inflicting mental harm, and creating physically unsafe environments. In this area, we have a major issue that has passed from moral to political in the public narrative. This language is winning the day and largely persuading the next generation.

God declares that sexual sin should be stopped, repented of, and can be forgiven in Christ. This is good news! The world today says that every form of sexual expression should be celebrated, indulged in to the fullest, and all who disagree should be loudly condemned. This survey quotes young people saying commonly heard phrases today, “The church doesn’t care about the rights of LGBTQ people. I’m spiritual, but not connected to the church. I want the church to fully embrace them for who they are. The church discriminates against people that are different.” When you go down the line with these statements in a church like ours, it’s important to speak to these comments: Jesus does care about LGBTQ people. Like all other sinners He bore their sins in His own body on the cross, but not so they could abuse that grace and continue in sin (Romans 6).

The Bible has no category for spiritual people that are outside the community of the church. Individual spirituality is not a biblical concept. God, and by extension the church, will never embrace sin as good. To tell someone their sin is good, is to lie to them and say something we do not have authority to say.  The church does separate good from evil according to what God has said is good and evil. The church must teach sin and call for repentance, but this is done out of love, not hate. It is the offense of the gospel. Everywhere the gospel is preached, many will not believe and hearing their sin exposed will provoke anger.

In closing, we must not stop declaring what God has said to be evil as evil, and what God has said to be good to be good. We must not be silent in the public square about these things. We must help the younger generations understand why we are saying what we are saying. We must first do the work of evangelists loving the lost, not affirming them in sin, but calling them to the merciful grace of God by repentance and faith. In all this, we live in our community being active salt and light.

Let us preach the Gospel in our time,

Pastor Vic

False Gospel

False Gospel

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel …” Galatians 1:3-6

From the time of Paul to our present day, many have spoken of the gospel and the way of Jesus. Some preach truth, but many teach lies, partial truths, and “different gospels” intended to steer the heart in a different direction. The Gospel means good news, but lies about Jesus are not good news. Telling only part of the story and leaving out essential truth to fill in with what false teachers think is an improvement, is not good news. Paul labored to separate truth from falsehood. He trained the elders of the new missionary churches to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing (Jesus, Matthew 7:15, Paul, Acts 20:29) who would intentionally work to come in and destroy the church by false teaching.

How are we to discern truth from error in a world over-filled with well packaged and endless information? Whom do we trust? Can we trust anyone? Can we know truth? Take heart that this is not a new problem or a new question. As Pilate questioned Jesus at His trial, he asked the same question, “What is truth?” Jesus gave Pilate the answer, but he would not accept it, “I have come into the world to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37-38). The Bible is revelation from God. If you would know the truth, look first to this ancient and divine document. It is the most precious thing you possess. Its words are true, living, active, sharp, will divide truth from error, and will tell you the truth about God, the world, and yourself.

But, briefly, let’s examine some false gospels that we all hear expressed regularly in our daily conversations. First, “All religions are basically the same. There’s a God out there, but you can get to Him pretty much any way you want.” This is like saying all Indian people look the same. Only a person who has never visited India, has no friends of Indian descent, and doesn’t care to even look closely at pictures of Indian people – would ever make such an ignorant statement. Even a cursory examination of the religions of the world reveals irreconcilable differences of worldview. The religions of the world are not the same. They do not have the same understanding of the nature of God or the nature of humanity. They express different moral codes and different understandings of existence after death. Anyone that really cares about their soul will press through this assumption and look more closely. This is a false gospel.

Second, “Jesus is my supreme moral example.” Yes, Jesus is our supreme moral example, but this understanding of Jesus cannot stand alone. People who begin and end with this understanding of Jesus do not accept Jesus as divine and do not see themselves as ruined sinners. They see Jesus like an inspiring figure from a biography. They look to Jesus for direction and inspiration for how they can take hold of their current life and improve it. This is moralism. This is self-improvement, not salvation. This makes the totally incorrect assumption that you have the ability in yourself to live like Jesus. You might pray periodically when you get stuck and ask for some help, but this is not the dependent life of biblical Christianity. This is an assisted life, that still largely succeeds because of your goodness and talent, and you still get most of the glory when you succeed. This is a false gospel.

Third, “I’ll preach the gospel with my good actions, and only use words when necessary.” This common saying confuses general revelation (the general sense from nature, ethics, and ordered beauty that there is a God) and special revelation (clear teaching about who God is and what He has done to accomplish salvation through the cross of Christ). Hear me clearly – general revelation is not sufficient for anyone to come to salvation. You cannot walk in the mountains and come to an understanding of substitutionary atonement. You cannot hold a baby and finally have a clear grasp of Justification by faith alone. These things must be taught. Those who bring clear teaching of the divinity and salvation of Jesus Christ, bring good news. Those who call for repentance from sin and belief in Jesus as Savior, proclaim a true gospel. Those who just live a moral life and leave people with the impression that salvation comes through being more moral like you, preach a false gospel of moralism.

Fourth, “I had an amazing spiritual experience that brought me close to God.” This one needs a little more explaining but is of vital importance in our entertainment, ultra-experience saturated modern world. People have emotional experiences every day and for many different reasons. All these emotional experiences are not from God. The most important thing that God desires from us is our heartfelt worship motivated by love and joy. Authentic gospel is always a very emotional and passionate experience, but Bible truth must precede authentic experience. Our worship must be according to truth and full of the Holy Spirit. If the ground of a religious experience is not biblical, then it is not of God. We can have very powerful emotional experiences that are of this world and lead to death. They are experiences void of the Holy Spirit, and instead of satisfying, they leave us seeking an ever more radical experience to outdo the last one. We must measure our experiences by truth, not truth by experience. Otherwise, it is a false gospel.

“As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:9

Jesus, give us ears to hear and believe Your word,

Pastor Vic

Thoughts on Evangelism

Thoughts on Evangelism

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:24


This week, a friend asked for help in sharing the gospel with a dear person in their life. The following is a conversational guide I put together for how to turn a conversation toward a gospel conversation. I hope it’s helpful.

Transition: “Would it be ok if I changed the subject, and we spent some time talking about Jesus and the soul?”

Soul: “Can we start really basic?

  • Do you believe you have a soul?  
  • That is the spiritual part of you that relates to and is aware of God.”

Sin: “We know from personal experience and the Bible that we are all sinners.

  • Do you think you have done wrong things?”  

Death:“The wrong things that we have done produce guilt, separation, and death in our life. Sin separates/breaks our relationships with people and with God.”

Jesus:“The Gospel (means Good News!) is the message that God is willing to forgive our sins.

  • Jesus is the Savior.
  • He accomplished our salvation on the cross.”

Cross:“On the cross Jesus met the justice of God by bearing the punishment for our sins in His own body.

  • He was a substitute for us.
  • He did this from a motivation of love.”
  • (Romans 6:23, John 3:16)

Resurrection: “Jesus is not still dead. He rose from the dead and lives eternally. He is able to forgive your sins and also give you life that will never end. Jesus is the Savior, body and soul.”

Our Action:“I am inviting you to confess your sins and believe in Jesus as Savior.

  • In His ministry Jesus called for people to believe that He was the Son of God and to follow Him with their lives.
  • He still calls for us to believe in Him and obey Him in this same way.”

Invitation: “Will you confess your sins and believe in Jesus today?

  • The work of salvation was accomplished by Jesus.
  • This glorious forgiveness and life is available to you by grace through faith alone, not by your religious works.” 

If “Yes”: Ask the person to confess their sins in prayer, but out loud, by theirown words.

  • Next, ask the person to express their belief in Jesus as Savior by prayer, but out loud, in their own words.
  • Now, you give thanks to Jesus for forgiving your sins by prayer, in your own words.

If “No”:“You need to understand that you are actively rejecting the grace of God to forgive your sins.

  • Unbelief will not be forgiven by God, but judged.
  • You will face all the just penalty of your sins. There will be judgment.”

A few additional notes on sharing Christ with others:

  • When you feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to speak to a person about Jesus – SPEAK! Pray for courage and love, then go for it. Forget about formulas and scripts. Speak the truth and God will help you.
  • Pray for the patience and love of Christ as you speak.
  • Really listen to the person’s responses and engage them where they are.
  • Never assume what a person’s answers will be to these questions and statements. People will shock you. The Lord will amaze you in the ways that He is working in a person’s heart, before you arrive, to prepare their heart for your conversation.
  • Refer directly to specific Bible verses as they are applicable.
  • Call for decision. If people are not ready to believe, ask if you can reengage them at a later time to continue the conversation.
  • If a person is not ready to believe at the time of your conversation, make sure they know they can express their confession and belief to Jesus at any time.
  • Never hesitate to tell people about your salvation testimony.
  • Actively seek to turn every conversation with a lost person into a gospel conversation!

May the Lord use your conversations today to lead others to salvation in Jesus,
Pastor Vic