All biblical Christians believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ. It is one of the most constant themes of the New Testament. Just as Old Testament believers looked forward to the coming of the Messiah (the first coming), New Testament believers look forward to the second coming of Jesus. “And while 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 1:10-11).

First, the Bible teaches that the second coming of Jesus Christ will be expected, in-body, but unpredictable. It is expected, in that Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46) and the apostles (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10) regularly spoke of the second coming of Jesus as the consummation of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom has begun (been inaugurated) with the first coming of Jesus, but will be made complete when Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead. It will be a bodily coming, in that Jesus will physically be present as He was present in His first coming. However, the second coming of Jesus will be with power and glory (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), resurrection, and judgement (Revelation 22:6-21). The Bible never speaks of a secret or unknown second coming of Jesus. Last, the second coming of Jesus will be unpredictable (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6). No one will be able to name the day or season of Christ’s return. All three of these marks are the same as the first coming of Christ, and therefore, should not be surprising.

We should especially pay attention to the last mark of unpredictability. Even those disciples who lived through the personal ministry of Jesus were not clear about what was happening until after the resurrection. So it will be with His second coming. Though many prophetic words exist, and should be studied, none will be able to predict His coming or perfectly interpret the signs of the times.

Second, the Bible teaches one return (second coming) of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:29-31, 1 Corinthians 1:7-8, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, 4:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, 1 Timothy 6:13-15). None of the New Testament scriptures indicate that Jesus will return twice, but that Jesus will return bodily, with a great multitude of angels, resurrecting the believing dead, calling to himself those believing who are still alive, will then judge the wicked, destroy the earth by fire (2 Peter 3:1-13), and re-create a new earth to be ruled by the redeemed (Revelation 21).

The idea that Jesus will secretly return and “rapture” out believing Christians prior to a period of tribulation was first taught by John Darby in 1850. For almost two millennia of orthodox Christianity the idea of a two-part return of Jesus Christ was never taught. Darby was a theologian that left the Anglican Church for the Brethren movement, and further splintered from that movement when its key leaders did not agree with his theological system now known as dispensationalism. This system broke up the redeeming work of Christ into a very specific series of events, prominently featuring national Israel in the later part of history.

Third, the Bible does not teach that Christians will be absent from the world during the period of the tribulation. In Matthew 24:1-31 Jesus speaks extensively about how the world will decline into greater and greater ungodliness until it will enter a period of “tribulation” (v.21). This will be a terrible time of struggle in the world and judgment from the Lord upon the ungodly for their wickedness. However, Jesus says that those days will be cut short “for the sake of the elect” (v.22), and that immediately after the period of tribulation Jesus will return in power and glory and with a loud trumpet call (same description as 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) to gather to Himself all His elect people (v.29-31).

This is consistent with Paul’s writings in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-2:17, where he encourages the saints to hold firm in their faith during a coming time of great tribulation. Again, the world will descend into a state of great satanic wickedness, unlike anything before experienced on earth, and Paul writes to encourage Christians to not lose faith during this foretold period – but to await the coming of the Lord (2:1-3).

One scripture regularly appealed to by those who teach a two-part return of the Jesus is 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The argument is that God would not allow Christians to go through the difficult period of the tribulation, but will instead take them to heaven before that period. However, most dispensationalists then argue that a certain appointed number of Jews will come to salvation during that period, meaning that God will allow believers to undergo hardship, just not gentile believers. This entire thinking is inconsistent with the Bible and church history, where God has always allowed His people to go through hardship. However, in the midst of this hardship, God always provides special mercy to Christians (Psalm 37:19) that they might be preserved and provided for.

Much more could be said about each of these points, but the strongest argument for a single return of Christ and that Christians will be present on earth for the final period of tribulation is a plain reading of the biblical text. Only when a pre-conceived system of theology is laid over the biblical text do readers reach these conclusions. This system was seriously promoted in no small part by the multi-volume fiction series and movie, Left Behind. Sadly, Christians are often told that prophetic things are too shrouded in mystery to be known. In some cases this is true, but where clear teaching is given, it should not be intentionally obfuscated by systems of men. Let the scripture speak for itself.

There is much more to be explored in the Bible about each of these subjects. For further reading, I suggest any biblical theologian that wrote prior to 1850, or more recently “The Bible and the Future” by Anthony A. Hoekema.

“And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Luke 18:1

May 7 (today) is the National Day of Prayer. This is a day set aside each year to turn our hearts to God in prayer. I strongly encourage you to take intentional time today to pray specifically for our nation. We pray about many personal things on a regular basis, but seldom pray for national issues or leaders. I encourage you to pray along these lines:

  1. Pray for repentance and an awareness of sin (Romans 1:18-32, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 1 John 1:9, Matthew 6:12-13). God will not bless our nation until we, individually, come to a place of repentance and belief that we need a Savior.
  2. Pray for the strength and growth of churches that will boldly preach the Bible and the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Timothy 3:16-4:4, Titus 2:1).
  3. Pray for the formation of new faithful Christian churches across America and the revitalization of those that have grown cold and dead in their faith (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, Revelation 2:4-5)
  4. Pray for our national leaders: President, Vice President, Senators, Representatives, Governor, etc.. (2 Timothy 2:1-6). Pray for their salvation, wisdom, courage to do what is right before God, and to allow freedom of worship in this land.
  5. Pray for an end to abortion in our land (Exodus 20:13). Pray for the strength of organizations that counsel women toward life, and those who counsel women and men that are crushed by the guilt of their actions – may they find peace through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
  6. Pray for all who have been affected by COVID-19. Pray for those who have lost loved ones and for the healing of all who have contracted the virus. Pray for protection and stamina of those serving on the front lines in the medical field. Pray, as well, for God’s provision for those who have been affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic.
  7. Pray for a spiritual awakening across our land. Pray that the Holy Spirit would answer the prayers above and that God would be pleased to bring many to salvation in our time (Romans 10:1-3)!

May we pray in faith and with persistence. Lord, hear our prayers!

Pastor Vic

Blog written by Paul Sok, Spotswood West Elder over Finance

 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21

At Easter, we were reminded of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We were directed towards our Savior who fulfilled the Mosaic law by living a perfect life as a pivotal aspect of the overall divine plan. Jesus Christ established a new covenant by which we could be saved and modeled a life that we as His followers should emulate. Through the examples and lessons that He presents in Scripture, we can see the heart of Jesus, and as a result, the type of heart that we should possess through His grace. The Lord tells us that our hearts will drift towards what we treasure in our lives. 

He also speaks to the importance of sacrificial giving, which conveys a heart that treasures obedience to our Savior more than our value of money. In Scripture, Jesus exemplifies the giving of two copper coins by a poor widow in the temple in Jerusalem as being a greater offering than those given by the rich, because the widow gave all that she had while the latter gave from their abundance (Mark 12:43-44). The poor widow sought to serve God with all of her heart while those who were more financially blessed portrayed a divided heart of service to the Lord. The Apostle Paul also instructs us to give “without reluctance or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” so that we may “reap bountifully” in terms of bearing fruit for God’s kingdom (2 Corinthians 9:7).

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has reached members in our congregation and may continue to affect us for an undetermined amount of time. I encourage us all to calibrate our intentions and hearts with the Lord Jesus Christ’s examples above during these trying times. As we press forward together as the body of Christ and the Holy Spirit moves you all to give, there are a couple of ways to contribute to the Spotswood West Benevolence Account.  

The first option is to visit SpotswoodWest.org/Give and click “Give Online.” Select “Spotswood West Benevolence” from the Giving Type dropdown.  

The second option is to use the Spotswood Baptist Church app. 

Once you select “Give” in the app, enter the amount you want to give and once again choose “Spotswood West Benevolence” from the Giving Type dropdown menu.

The third way to give is via a check made payable to “Spotswood Baptist Church.” Please be sure to write “Spotswood West Benevolence” in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to Spotswood Baptist Church at 4009 Lafayette Blvd., Fredericksburg, VA 22408.

May we be known as a church that lives out our love for our Savior by caring for each other in the body in all manners. And let us be witnesses to the rest of this community of what it looks like to have hearts that are undivided and completely devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ through the guidance of the Holy Spirit by His grace!

Paul

“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” – 1 Corinthians 15:50-53

A central doctrine (belief) of the Christian church is the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Last weekend we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Jesus is called the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). This means that Jesus is the first to overcome death – never to die again. The good news of the message of Jesus Christ is that by faith through the grace of Jesus Christ, our sins might be forgiven, and we might pass from death into life. The promise made by Jesus is that those who believe in His name will have eternal life (John 3:16). What does it mean to have eternal life? Most people are so focused on this life, they think little of any life to come. However, the life to come was the central hope and clear end goal for the authors of Scripture (Hebrews 11:13-16, John 14:1-6). 

Paul writes clearly that when a Christian dies, their soul goes to be with the Lord (Philippians 1:21-24, 2 Corinthians 5:8). But in accord with the resurrection body of Christ, Scripture tells us that in our eternal state we will also have resurrection/glorified bodies similar to Jesus. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21). 

This passage points out a few very important things. First, we will enter eternal life by the power of our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, by His power, He will transform our lowly (earthly and dying) body to be like His resurrection body. Paul says “like” because it will be similar, but not the same. In what ways it will be similar, we are not told. Third, “transformation” implies something new and better being made from something old. Similar to the risen Jesus, Scripture implies that our resurrection bodies, though different, will be recognizable as “you.” The disciples knew the risen Jesus was different, but they knew it was Him (Luke 24:36-43). When Peter, James, and John saw Moses and Elijah with the glorified Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elijah were not disembodied spirits. They were radiant and glorified, but recognizable as the men they were in life. 

For the believer in Jesus, death is a passage to eternal life – the putting off of the perishable and the taking up of the imperishable. At the second coming of Jesus, every Christian will be “changed” – they will be transformed to have a resurrected body that will never die. Paul speaks at length comparing the earthly body to the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49. Our current earthly bodies will die, are perishable, are dishonored by sin, are weak, and made of the “dust” of the earth in the image of mankind. In contrast, our heavenly resurrected body will be eternal (never dying), imperishable, glorious, powerful, heavenly, spiritual (not of this world), and in the likeness of Jesus. 

In summary, theologian Wayne Grudem states, “Christ will return and raise from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunites them with their souls, and changes the bodies of all believers who remain alive, thereby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like His own.” 

Let us serve Jesus faithfully until the last trumpet sounds!

Pastor Vic 

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Luke 24:5b

“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of dead and hades.’” Revelation 1:17-18

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a real event. To fulfill the perfect righteousness of God the Father, and the legal demands of the Old Covenant, Jesus allowed Himself to be put to death at the hands of His enemies. It was done by the scheming wickedness of men who hated Jesus, but it was also done exactly according to the prophesied and foreordained will of God. Jesus, the Lamb of God, suffered and died in humiliation upon a Roman cross that a way of final forgiveness and salvation might be opened. He died for you and for me. 

Jesus, in His perfection, bore no malice toward His disciples who all but one (John) fled when He was captured and crucified. He bore no hatred toward those who physically whipped him, pounded thorns into his brow, and nailed Him to the cross. To make sure those watching knew this, He called out before His death, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Even as His life was ebbing away, Jesus continued His ministry of mercifully calling people to Himself – as a justly crucified man saw how Jesus suffered and believed in Jesus just before His death (Luke 23:39-43). 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a real event. To be our Savior from death, Jesus must be a living Savior – the Living One. After three days, Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God the Father and lives never to die again! He lives now to glorify Himself by saving sinners that they might experience the joy, freedom from sin and death, might worship His glorious name, and reign with Him forever on high! But the resurrection of Jesus was similar to the first coming of Jesus. Similar to His first coming, Jesus did not loudly announce what He was doing in the world. Instead, He first announced the glory of His new life to a simple woman, Mary Magdalene, then to His disciples, and then to the greater crowds. As with the first coming, Jesus revealed what He was doing in the world to those who loved His name and sought His appearing. 

He is the First and the Last – He existed before us and will exist when the world has seen its last day. He is the Living One – Jesus is the one who gives us life. He gives eternal life to those who believe in Him – a life that begins in the here and now, setting us free from the bondage of sin and addiction. That life expands from now into eternal life, from now into His glorious presence forever. He holds the keys of death – death can no longer hold those who are followers of Jesus Christ. Death is the greatest enemy, the final enemy, but it has been overcome by Jesus!

This time of year is a time to focus on these glorious realities. It is a time to turn our attention away from the troubling things of our time and realize that Jesus continues to work out His glorious final plan of salvation in this world! He continues to work out His glorious plan of salvation in your life! It is a time to look to those around us that may not understand what I have written about here. A time to study the Scriptures that speak to the crucifixion and resurrection – that we might worship with a full heart and grow in our understanding of what Jesus has done to accomplish our salvation!

May the Lord bless you this Easter as we seek to exalt Jesus,

– Pastor Vic

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:5b-7 

This beautiful and comforting passage reminds us that the Lord is near. This is an important truth to keep before us in these troubled days. As the virus spreads and economic trouble worsens, it will be vital to come back to what Paul teaches here often. 

Paul teaches us that since the Lord our God is near, we should not be anxious about anything. Why? Because God our Father is sovereign, good, and loves us more than we can understand. He knows our troubles and has a plan for our lives. That plan is to bless us, but the primary blessing is to conform us to the likeness of Jesus in our character and in the affections of our hearts. He uses struggle and hardship to bring us to the end of ourselves and cause us to turn to Him. 

In these verses, we are commanded to bring all our struggles and anxieties – everything – to the Lord in prayer. We must stop our normal pattern of struggle, go to a quiet place, humble ourselves before the Lord who loves us – and tell him what is on our heart. Speak to the Lord, who cares for you, what you are anxious about. However, the tone of this prayer must be “with thanksgiving.” We must not be like Israel of the Old Testament, who brought their requests to the Lord, but with bitter complaining and anger. 

Instead, we must look always to what we have to be thankful for from the Lord, then make our request. It may be hard to find something to be thankful for in very difficult circumstances. In times like this, we actually have to turn our minds toward considering, “What can I be thankful for?” This is a good frame of mind to be in – and quickly the Holy Spirit will bring to mind how you have been blessed by the Lord.

When you offer your requests to the Lord in this thankful and hopeful way, your prayers are heard. Regardless of how the Lord chooses to answer your prayer, when you pray in this way the Holy Spirit will bless your soul with peace from God. This peace is not from yourself, but from the Lord and will truly change your outlook on the difficult circumstance which you were in prayer about. The peace that God gives truly calms the soul, and is beyond our understanding. God’s perfect peace will allow you to be still in the midst of great trouble and sorrow. This peace will guard your heart and mind against the trouble that had worked to crush you. 

I don’t know what trouble is upon you now – but God does. You don’t know what trouble will come tomorrow – but God does. I urge you to follow this pattern from Scripture during these troubled days. May we humbly, and with thanksgiving, make our anxieties and struggles known to God! 

The perfect peace of Christ to you, 

Pastor Vic

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” Mark 3:24-25

We are all spending a lot more time at home than we normally do as a result of social distancing and business closures. Our kids are going to be home until the fall because of statewide school closures. I encourage you to be intentional in honoring the Lord over the next few months and accept this season as a blessing. 

Jesus is right to say that a house divided cannot stand. When we are around each other at home for long periods, familiarity can breed contempt. If we do not exert good spiritual leadership in our homes they will quickly become toxic, full of bitterness, anger, and isolation. I encourage you to focus on certain Christian virtues and wise patterns during this extended time together that our homes may be unified, filled with joy, and productive for the glory of the Lord.

First, let’s give greater focus in prayer and application to being the loving father, mother, or child that we can be in Christ. Each day, think of those in your household as empty vessels. As you spend time with the Lord in His word, pray that the Holy Spirit will fill you with His love. With your heart full of God’s love, be intentional throughout the day through words of blessing, physical affection, and acts of service to fill up each person in your home with Christian love. By the end of the day may their empty cup be overflowing! 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” 1 Corinthians 13:4

“Above all keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Second, freely ask for and grant forgiveness. We will offend and sin against each other as we live together in close quarters. Be quick to ask for forgiveness when you feel conviction. Do not let pride keep you from taking that step of humility. Be quick to fully forgive – without holding a grudge – when forgiveness is necessary. 

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

Third, establish healthy routines that will foster spiritual growth, education, exercise, and adequate sleep. As a part of these routines, I encourage you to make family devotions a high priority. This does not have to be complicated. I suggest choosing one meal a day. After eating, keep the entire family around the table. Choose a book of the Bible to work your way through – open to the family what book they would like to read. If an entire Old Testament book is too much, then just read about the events of one character’s life. Once per day, after your meal, pass the Bible around the table and have each person at the table read a portion of the chapter for that day. When you are finished discuss the chapter. Parents, have one or two questions prepared to spark conversation. After discussion pray for the day and needs that are on your prayer list. I suggest having different members of your family offer the opening and closing prayers. This is a good opportunity to coach them, and help them understand how they should pray in a non-threatening environment. 

May the Lord continue to watch over us, and unify our families at this difficult time.

The love of Christ to you,

Pastor Vic

“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 1:15-16

We serve a holy God.

In his first epistle, Peter quotes from the Old Testament book of Leviticus (11:44), where repeatedly Moses writes about the holy, separated, and consecrated nature of the Lord our God (Leviticus 11:44, 19:2, 20:7, 20:26, 21:8). The Lord tells Moses that because He is holy, the people of Israel – His people – must also be holy. Holiness is similar to consecration, which means to set something apart for a sacred purpose. Something that is holy is separated from sinful and evil things, and unstained by them. 

The Lord God is holy in all His ways. He is seated upon His throne in heaven, in perfection and power (Isaiah 6). Because of His holiness, all sinful humanity is separated from God, and under condemnation because of our rebellion against His will. But by grace and according to His mercy, God sent His only Son, Jesus, to bear the punishment for our sins. By faith in Jesus Christ, the free pardon of guilt is open to all who believe. We are not saved by works, but by the grace of God alone.

However, once we are forgiven for our sins, we are called to follow in the ways of Jesus – to live for Him in a separated way motivated by our love for Jesus (1 John 5:3-5). This is the holiness of the Christian life. We must be holy because Jesus was holy. When we read of His life, it is clear that Jesus did not speak the same way as those around Him. Jesus treated all people with a respect and a love that was distinct. Jesus did not love or indulge in the corrupt pleasures of this world. Jesus was humble, not proud; patient, not angry; pure, not lustful; full of love, not selfishness. He was a peacemaker, not a gossip; He loved God His Father, not the passing things of this world. 

Jesus lived a holy and separated life, but he did this while still living amidst the world. In John 17:15-17, Jesus prays for you and me, that God the Father would guard us against evil and set us apart (sanctify us) by His truth. It is God’s will that we remain a part of this corrupt world after putting our faith in Jesus Christ so that we might go and bear witness to others about who Jesus is. God would have us live morally pure lives in the midst of the world so that we might shine like light in darkness. We must live amongst the world, as Jesus did so that we can daily speak to and affect those around us with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

As we live for Jesus, we will daily fail and sin. Holiness will progressively increase as a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but we must pray for and strive after it. The Bible calls this sanctification – becoming progressively set apart over time. Daily sin does not destroy our relationship with God, but does break our fellowship with Him. 

Keep short accounts with God this week. When conviction comes upon you, do not wait until the end of the day to confess your sins. Be immediate. Confess your sin to Jesus as soon as you know you have sinned. Jesus is faithful and just and will cleanse your heart of all shame and guilt (1 John 1:9). 

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs 28:13

This week, let us strive by the strength and grace of our Savior Jesus Christ to be holy as He is holy.

“And when it was day, He departed and went into a desolate place.” Luke 4:42 

After a full day of teaching and ministering individually, person-to-person, laying His hands on the sick, Jesus rises early and seeks out a desolate place. In doing this, Jesus is intentionally getting away from other people to focus on prayer and being near to God the Father. If being alone with God was important for Jesus, to strengthen His soul and inner resolve to continue doing the Father’s will, it is infinitely more important for us. In His perfect strength and divinity, but full humanity, Jesus often went away to desolate places to quiet His mind before engaging the crowds again. 

We all need such disengagement in our lives, but this separation needs to be intentional. Even non-Christians know that people need quiet space in their lives, but the non-Christian does not know where to turn for the rejuvenation of soul that they seek. As Christians, we get alone and quiet so that we can set our hearts and minds again on things of Jesus Christ and His eternal perspective (Colossians 3:1-4). This is accomplished first through the careful reading of Scripture and next through prayer. 

I suggest a brief time of prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to quiet the noise of your heart, to open your heart to understand, believe, and receive what you read in the Bible that day. Next, spend what time you have reading a passage from the Bible. I suggest you keep a marker in your Bible and keep moving it. Section by section, at your own pace, read through entire books of the Bible – New and Old Testament. However, read small sections at a time that you can thoughtfully consider. Reading the Bible is not an accomplishment to check off, but a life-time discipline that will change your entire worldview. 

Once you have read a passage of Scripture, pray about the things that have come to mind as you read. Taking notes of any sort in a journal while you read can help to focus your thoughts. In prayer, worship Jesus for His perfect goodness, give thanks, confess sins, ask Jesus questions you have, pray about your anxieties, pray for others in need. Reading Scripture is a time of listening to Jesus as God. Prayer is a time to respond in faith. 

Like many, you may agree with the above, but still not practice getting alone with God, because life is just too busy. Let me encourage you that your “desolate place” need not be a remote mountainside. Millions and millions of Christians, both now and in the past, have lived in metropolitan cities where there is no quiet garden to find silence. This does not mean that a devotional life is impossible unless you live in the country. From busy moms to those of us that work two jobs, the daily need is to find someplace where you can shut out the noise and hear the quiet voice of Jesus through the Bible – and then be able to turn your heart to Him in prayer. This could take place in your car, a closet in your home, early morning or late at night at your kitchen table, but it must happen. If not, your soul will run empty and you’ll begin to do life in your way and by your own strength. 

Lastly, sometimes the desolate place really needs to be a desolate place. When you come to major crossroads in life (major job changes, moving, getting married) I suggest you take a vacation day, find some actual remote place, take your Bible and a journal (no phone, no music), fast (completely or to bread and water) and get alone with the Lord Jesus. Seeking the Lord in such a significant way demonstrates to the Lord that you really want to know and do His will. Try it and see how the Lord answers your prayer! 

Let’s get alone with our Savior this week.

May the Lord fill our hearts from His abundant goodness, 

Pastor Vic

By Mike Patterson
Spotswood West Elder (Prayer)

Admittedly, one of the areas of my Christian faith where I’ve struggled the most has been with prayer. It’s hard to get into a good rhythm. It’s easy to get distracted. My mind wanders all over the place. It’s even easy to fall asleep. I’ve tried several different methods to help with developing a good habit of prayer. But one of the best ways is one I was introduced to while reading the book, Praying the Bible

Author, Don Whitney, maintains that the reason so many Christians get bored or discouraged when they pray is not because there is something wrong with them, but because there is something wrong with their method. We tend to pray the most about the important things in our lives, such as our family, future, finances, work, our church or ministry involvement, and current crises in our lives. That is normal and good; we are called to pray about our lives, and our lives are made up of those things. The problem is not that we pray for the same things, but that we pray for the same things in the same old way. We pray the same things over and over, leaving us bored, frustrated, and feeling like there is something wrong. 

The solution to praying the same prayers over and over is to instead pray through the Bible. You choose a passage of Scripture and simply go through the passage line by line, talking to God about whatever comes to mind as you read the text. If you don’t understand a particular verse, or nothing comes to mind when you read it, you simply move on to the next one. As you read the Word, you talk to God about everything and anything that comes to mind. This works particularly well with the Psalms, which were designed to be prayed, but it can work with any passage of Scripture.

The author describes this method and then teaches it with very practical instructions. The book’s tone is that of a wise, older Christian coming alongside a young one and saying, “Let me teach you what I have learned. Let me teach you how to pray.” If you read the book, you will walk away knowing and being able to practice his method. I also think you will walk away excited to try it out and confident that it will bring new life to your prayers.

After reading the book, I tried a 5-7 minute time of prayer using Psalm 23. I went through this passage, bringing before God so many things I had never seen, never thought about and never prayed about before. And once my time was up, I found I had more prayer than time! More and more, things to pray about came to mind as I went through each verse of the psalm. And my mind didn’t wander nearly as much. Most importantly, I found that, as I prayed, my prayers were more naturally conformed to Scripture—they were more biblical than those I pray when I’m just making things up. This is perhaps the greatest benefit of the method.

One of the other benefits of this approach is that it fosters meditation on Scripture and guides our thinking. For example, if we are praying Psalm 34:19 (“A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.”) we may think of those we know who are in the midst of affliction as well as praising God for the reality that he delivers from our afflictions. Anything to get us to slow down and think about Scripture is a good thing!

Praying the Bible is a small, 106-page book easily digested over a short read. It’s very specific focus means the reader can put it into practice right away. If you have never read this book, I urge you to do so. Make the Lord make us a people of constant and scriptural prayer!

May our hearts be turned toward heaven,

Mike Patterson 

Church Membership

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25 

Friday night, from 6 to 8 pm at the Encounter Building on main campus, we will have our second new member interest meeting. At Spotswood West, membership is understood as intentional commitment to the local church. Going to a local church is not supposed to be a consumer event, it’s supposed to be many Christians living together in community as the body of Christ. In this community we set aside time each week specifically for worship, preaching of Scripture, and prayer. We labor to love each other genuinely and live in harmony. We love each other sacrificially as Christ loves us. We serve each other. We lift each other up in encouragement and forgive each other as needed – for Jesus’ sake. 

At Spotswood West, we encourage intentional commitment (membership) because of the many competing priorities of our day. It is important that you and your family put the highest priority on things of eternal importance. Relationships are the most important part of life, and our most important relationship is with Christ Jesus our Lord. But by God’s design, our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is strengthened and grown through the constant encouragement, accountability, and prayer of other Christian friends in the church. 

The reality of friendships is that they take many years to develop deeply. When you plant a new fruit tree it does not bear fruit the following season. From the time you plant a new fruit tree, it can take three to five years before a harvest of fruit comes in. Human relationships are very similar. It takes years and years of cultivation before true trust and companionship are developed. At Spotswood West we strive for intentional, long-term Christian discipleship through intentional commitment to the local church. 

Coming to the interest meeting tomorrow night will give you an overview about how the church is governed, what our goals are, where we are going as a church, what is your place of service in the church, what is the SBC, and an open time to ask questions you may have about our new church plant. I hope to see you there! 


Church Library 

I want to remind you of the tremendous resource we have in our church library. The library is set up each week in the lobby and is there for you to check out quality Christian resources. We have a great line-up of Children’s Illustrated Bible’s, children’s books, and even some audio theater (a favorite of our kids). If you need some fresh reading material for the kids, take a look! 

Other references and Bible study materials are there for adults to check out, consider, and then purchase to build up your own Christian library. If you have questions Karen can assist you in the checkout process. 

Thankful for you all, 

Pastor Vic

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:16-18

The Apostle Paul here instructs the Roman church to “Live in harmony with one another.” When I think of harmony, I first think of the different musical parts of a choir. Each part is sung in a different key, but the various parts come together to make a full, strong, complex, and beautiful song. In a similar way, the church should live in harmony. 

The Lord Jesus intends for us to live in community – life together – and in living together in the church there should be great diversity. Our church is made up of different backgrounds, talents, ages, races, cultures, jobs, economic status, styles, and personalities. But within all this diversity we have one driving purpose, which is to worship and live for Christ Jesus our risen Savior. We must all be striving to love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as our self. 

A call to harmony is not a call to sameness. Harmony, by definition, requires difference, but that difference complements and makes the whole better and fuller. The boundaries of sameness come in worshipping the Lord Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible and obeying his moral commands. But the moral commands of Christ are not racially or culturally specific. It is clear from John’s Revelation 7:9-10 that by the saving work of Jesus Christ people from every language, tribe, and nation will one day gather before the throne of Jesus to worship. I do not believe that this will be a group conformed to sameness, but a beautiful harmony of cultures, language and races unified for the single purpose of worshipping our Savior, Jesus. 

In Romans 15:5-6 Paul clearly states the goal of diverse harmony in the church; “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Regardless of your age, race, style, job, background, or talents may you join with others in our church to glorify the Lord Jesus with one voice! This harmony will be more powerful and more beautiful to a watching world than your witness alone. Let us be grateful for the sense of harmony that the Holy Spirit has brought to our church, but I pray for it to grow even stronger. 

As we approach another Lord’s Supper Sunday, let us confess and forgive any division that may be between us. Let’s speak authentically with each other, not holding back speaking of our needs and struggles out of pride. Let’s talk together much during the week and be in each other’s homes. And then, let’s come together on Sunday to lift our voices to the Lord and hear the preaching of His word. Let’s do everything possible, on our behalf, to live in peace with others. Let’s live in harmony together!

May nothing divide us against each other,

Pastor Vic