Authentic Christian Love

We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19
 

Authentic Christian love is unique.  It exists in a heart that celebrates the new life found only through faith in Jesus Christ.  Authentic Christian love is supernatural.  It is completely the work of God’s grace and is fueled by the Holy Spirit living inside of us.  This love does not seek to earn God’s favor by what we do, but instead longs to magnify God’s goodness in all that he has made us to be.  God’s love for us is beyond compare and is the catalyst for everything good in our lives.  Authentic Christian love is radical.  
 

As I am typing this message, I cannot help but think of specific families in our church who are modeling this type of authentic Christian love in their care for orphaned children.  I am so thankful for God’s grace in their lives.  Here are just a few (of many!) examples: 
 
One couple, despite a crazy season of life with busy jobs, graduate school and two small kids, became certified last year as foster parents.  Not because they needed more to do, but because they love Christ and long to serve him by loving those in need.  I found out today (3/9) that Social Services placed them with a two-week old infant this afternoon.  They didn’t know the call would come.  They don’t know what will happen with this child tomorrow or next week.  They probably will not sleep much tonight.  Yet, God’s love compels them to act.  Christian love is unique. 

Another couple in our church, with little information and on short notice, recently adopted a Liberian boy who was facing dire circumstances.  They had no idea how he would adjust to their family or receive them as parents.  Yet, because of their love for Christ, they willingly opened their hearts and lives to him no matter what the outcome.  In the months since arriving in their home, God’s grace in this situation has been profound.  This young boy recently placed his faith in Christ and was baptized last week! Christian love is supernatural. 

Lastly, another couple from our church was required to move out of state last year for work.  However, with their move came an unexpected work bonus.  Rather than spend the money on themselves, they gave over $15,000 to pay for the adoption I mentioned above.  Not for lack of their own financial needs or for personal recognition.  Instead, they gave out of an overflow of love for Jesus Christ and a desire to exalt his name through adoption.  Christian love is radical. 
 
At Redeemer Bible Church we long to model the sacrificial love of Christ in everything we do.  While caring for orphans is just one of many biblical ways to express this love, I would urge you to consider how you might become involved.  This Sunday after the 11:00 service, we will have a meeting to talk about our church’s Orphan Care Ministry.  Whether you are new to this ministry or are already plugged in, we invite you to come and hear from others, share your own story, and deepen our fellowship in the fulfillment of this biblical mandate.
 
We love because He first loved us.
 
In Christ,
 
Justin Woodruff

Marriage Conference

“Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Matthew 19:5-6

Redeemer Marriage Conference

April 9-10

Friday (6:30 PM to 9:00 PM)

to Saturday (9:30 AM to 2:30 PM)

at the church

I am excited to announce our first annual Redeemer Bible Church marriage conference! Marriage is not a construct of western civilization. Marriage was designed by God as a part of creation from before sin entered the world. Marriage was designed to glorify God and bless humanity. It has been twisted and perverted in all sorts of ways through the ages, but remains with us, and remains a basic desire of the heart and foundation to society. We should not assume that we know what the Bible says about marriage, and every marriage needs to be examined and strengthened on a regular basis to remain healthy.

More than ever, Christian marriage is fighting to survive. Unlike many past marriage conferences, we will now have to begin with even defining what marriage is. However, God’s design of one-man and one-woman committed to loving each other for a lifetime will never cease to be blessed by God for those who pursue it. We must never give up on God’s good designs and plans, but instead seek to understand them and pursue God’s will by faith.

               This conference will be different by design. Many marriage conferences fly in an “expert” to speak to the church. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it bothers me that I have never been to a church that puts on its own conference. We don’t need to import in a specialist, that we don’t know, to understand how to have a Christ honoring and happy marriage. Always hiring a professional gives the impression that no one in the church has a healthy or joyful enough marriage to speak to the subject. That’s not true.

For this year’s conference, the elders have divided up the various chapters of Wayne Mack’s Strengthen Your Marriage. I’ll start us off, and the subject of each following chapter will be taught by a different church elder. The conference will close out with an elder husband/wife panel for questions gathered from the conference group.

              As an elder group we don’t claim to have it all together, but we do claim that through seeking and following God’s plan for marriage – as best we can – has led to years of happiness and joy. As a fun fact – the RBC elder group has the combined experience of 157 years of marriage and working to raise 19 kids! We want you to see that everyday people can have enduring and joyful marriages. We want you to be able to ask every day questions. We want to still be around after the conference to answer your questions and do what we can to help you to strengthen your marriage. The elders want to stress the enduring opportunity to walk with you after this conference. We want to help encourage and admonish each other from the Scriptures, so that together the people of Redeemer Bible Church might press for a church culture of healthy marriage.

              Mark your calendars for April 9-10, Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon. Sign up at the welcome desk, click here, or email  info@redeemerVA.org.

$30 per couple covers one book and lunch on Saturday. Limited childcare is available. Registration is open to any married couple, engaged couple, or a young couple with marriage on the horizon.

May Jesus be glorified through the happiness of our marriages,

Pastor Vic

“Equality Act”

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Romans 1:26-28

              This is one of the clearest passages in all scripture that declares homosexuality and transgenderism to be sinful, and of a “debased mind.” These are not easy things to write about or discuss, but they are the moral battleground of our day.

              You need to be aware of the “Equality Act.” President Biden campaigned on, was elected on, and promised to press this legislation into law within the first 100 days of his presidency. He is serious about it, and it could pass the house within the coming weeks. The equality act (known as HR5) expands the language of the 1964 Civil Rights act to include “sexual orientation” as a protected category. If passed, the Equality Act would elevate gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, and queer people into a federal legally protected class of people. The act also includes the +, on LGBTQ+, in the language of the law. The plus is a now an unknown category. This leaves open the door to protect in the future any other, now inconceivable, sexual perversion that could be invented. The + is a catch-all category of any sexual perversion that could possibly be dreamed up in the future that is beyond the depths that we have already reached.

              If this legislation is passed in any form that is close to its current language, it will be the greatest restriction to religious liberty in the US that we have ever known. What this means in reality is that a Christian hospital could not refuse to perform a sex change operation, because it would be discrimination. A Christian college or private school could not refuse admission to an openly gay student. That same school could not refuse to hire a transgender teacher. A Christian event coordinator could not refuse to coordinate the wedding of a lesbian couple. A church could not refuse to hire a queer man as an administrator, or possibly even for a ministry position! The examples could be multiplied forever.

The bottom line is that the president, with the help of a democratic senate and democratic house, are seeking to reverse the moral order when it comes to sexual morality. They are attempting to mandate, under the penalty of criminal law, that all things homosexual and transgender, are in fact, good – even though the Bible tells us clearly that they are wrong. Advocates of the Equality Act constantly use the word “discrimination,” and work to place themselves on the moral high ground by putting all homosexuals and transgender people in the place of victims. The discussion is framed that to not hire a person, or to refuse service or access, because of one’s sexual orientation is to discriminate against them. We need to stop here and talk about the difference between discrimination, and declaring something to be morally wrong.

It is not discrimination to declare something to be wrong that is, in fact, wrong. The Bible, as revelation from God, clearly declares that sex before marriage, adultery, homosexuality, and transgenderism are sinful. These acts are sinful because they are counter to God’s expressed will and counter to His design in creation. The Bible has a clear, and constantly proclaimed, sexual ethic. The Bible is anything but silent when it comes to the morality of sex and the boundary of one-man and one-woman marriage. To agree with God concerning what is right and wrong is not discrimination.

To declare that a person is acting in a sinful way, does not mean that I hate that person or that I am “phobic” of that person. The word “homophobic” is thrown around often these days concerning Christians that condemn homosexual acts. The basis of this is the idea that “backward” people are afraid of what they do not understand. But Christian people are not uninformed about homosexuality. They object to it on moral grounds. Informed Christians understand exactly what LGBTQ+ people are doing sexually, and they understand that God has declared their chosen course of living to be sinful. No Christian has the authority to declare something as morally right that God has declared morally wrong, just because the sin involves a friend, coworker, or child. And so Christians everywhere, if they are to be faithful the teachings of the Bible, must declare that people who live LGBTQ+ lives to be morally wrong.

How this is said is extremely important. We pray that this confrontation of sin will lead to confession and repentance. We pray that they will believe in Jesus as Savior and forsake their sin. Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, all people can be made new and live lives of sexual purity. But this gospel (good news!) cannot be preached if Christians affirm sinners in their sin because of cultural pressure. The Christian church does not hate homosexuals and transgender people, but we do state plainly that they are living in sin.

Two things should be noted, regardless of what happens with this legislation. First, the local Christian church will never stop proclaiming right from wrong. The local church will not cast aside the Bible and its teachings to please ungodly politicians. Jesus Himself, the head of the Church, will sustain and strengthen His people no matter what the government does, or does not do. A lack of religious liberty will not stop true Christian churches from meeting, but will cause them to become more intentional in their devotion to Jesus and His holiness.

Second, this legislation must not cause us to hate those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer. We must constantly remind ourselves that the way of Jesus is to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). We must desire to see these people come to know Jesus in a real and saving way. We must truly love them. We must not have our desire to see favorable legislation pass cause us to lose sight of the overall message of the gospel. If we lose sight of what it means to call the lost world to repentance and salvation, then the meeting of the church becomes pointless.

May the Holy Spirit help us to never deny right from wrong, help us to love the lost, and always provide a way for us to meet together as the local church. Let’s pray for our governing leaders, and may righteousness prevail.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. Only He knows what is ahead,

Pastor Vic

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” Psalm 42:1-2

Some readers mistakenly think these verses precede a Psalm of rejoicing. They do not. Psalm 42 is a psalm of lament and deep struggle, a psalm where the writer has been weeping day and night (v.3), is pouring out his soul to God (v.4), and whose soul is bound up in depression and turmoil (v.5). But from this low place the psalmist knows that he must turn to the Lord. He longs for a fresh and clear word from the Lord. He longs for the near relational presence of God that fills the heart with joy and peace, as nothing else can.

Our day continues to be filled with the same struggles, but few understand that only a word from the Lord will satisfy the longing and sad emptiness of their heart. Owen Strachan writes, “So many wish to hear the voice of God; so few read the Bible, His declared revelation. If we want to hear the Lord’s voice, then we need to open the pages of Scripture and listen.”

People are searching for satisfaction and meaning. They are searching for joy and belonging. They have always been searching, but what they are searching for cannot be supplied by the things of this world. The world stumbles about in all directions, in spiritual blindness, looking for something from this world that only God can give. The turmoil of your soul will never be satisfied by accumulating the possessions of this world. The deep-seated depression of your soul will never be turned to gladness by the empty wisdom of humanity or work based religions. Running away from these things will only take you further into the darkness. Calling out to an unknown god, or an idol with ears that cannot hear, will not do. We need to hear from the living God (v.2)!

Often as we search, as we all do, we begin to realize that what is missing is relationship. People often come to our church feeling that emptiness, and hope that they can find community in the church that will fill that void. But there is an ordering of relationships. The chief, or primary, life-giving relationship is the personal relationship that we can experience with God the Father through Jesus Christ. If you have not believed in Jesus Christ, and sought forgiveness for your sins, then you have no relationship with God. Without relationship with God, all of your human relationships will be chaotic and self-destruct. Apart from a near and growing relationship with Jesus Christ, none of the other relationships of your life will provide the satisfaction you hope they will. Without the redeeming transformation that only Jesus can bring to your heart, YOU will be the problem with all your relationships.

However, when we listen to the word of the Lord, learn His ways, and follow Him, all of our other relationships begin to heal, grow, and strengthen. We first must focus, quiet our hearts, and make time to prayerfully read and consider the Bible. Scripture is a living word which the Holy Spirit will apply to our hearts in a personal way. When you feel like the psalmist, and know that your heart is empty and everything has gotten out of order, seek first a word from the Lord. Open your Bible and prayerfully ask God for what you need. Walk by faith. Believe what you read there and act on it.

The psalmist is very personal in his plea, because God is personal in His relationship with you. The Bible teaches the “priesthood of believers,” which means that through the work of Jesus Christ to forgive your sins, you can go directly to God in relationship. You do not need to go through the middle-man of a priest. This is cause for rejoicing! Make time to read and consider the Bible today. By those precious words your heart will be lifted up.

The word of the Lord will stand forever,

Pastor Vic

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.