Aug 16

Mind Management God’s Way

Here is a blog from a guest blogger, Linda.  She is our director of missions at Westlake Baptist.  I pray this devotion will encourage you today.

I wanted to share something that spoke to me in devotions today from the book “Faith Dare” by Debbie Alsdorf.    My favorite verse is Phil. 4:8

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable , if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things.”

Thinking on good things from God is the best way to get rid of bad thoughts. Replace bad thoughts with whatever is good according to the Scriptures.  If there is any good, CHOOSE to dwell there.  It is a treasure hunt so look for the treasure; anything good, anything beautiful in whatever situation you are in.   When you find it, stay right there with it.

When negative thoughts come at you like flies – and they will come and will come back – swat them, shoo them away and get back to the business of living IN CHRIST.   He is the powerful one who gives you life, love and mercy in all things.

Godly management of your mind, begins with these actions:

  1. Recognize negative thoughts –  AND determine how regularly you entertain them. This will take some thoughtful work on your part. (ask God to show you these)  Knowing your negative thoughts is most important.
  2. Practice putting a positive where a negative might be.

NOT – I have no money,   but – I have a roof over my head and food to eat.

NOT  – I hate my hair but –  I can find new ways to work with that.

NOT – I feel terrible   but – it could always be worse.

Put barriers of truth in your mind (Scripture!) so that when negative thoughts come, you have something to combat them with.    This is Godly managing what you think.

MY challenge today is to stop and thank God for something every hour on the hour.  What about you?

Linda

Posted in Linda Leedy | 2 Comments
Aug 14

The Desire of All Nations

As usual, I wasn’t able to highlight everything in the text in the sermon yesterday.  That is one of the amazing aspects of God’s Word, you never run out of glorious truths to mine from it.  One that I wanted to hit a little more than I did yesterday was the phrase, “and the desire of all nations shall come” in Haggai 2:7.  As with several other phrases and verses, this particular phrase has been at times difficult to rightly interpret.  There are two specific ways that this phrase has been interpreted.  Lord willing, we will understand it and rightly interpret that phrase here.  Before we discuss the two views, it is worth noting that a phrase or a verse cannot properly be understood apart from its context.  Each phrase or each verse is part of a larger context in that particular chapter and that particular book of the Bible.  It is also part of a larger narrative of Scripture, namely God’s plan to save those who trust Him.  Therefore, we want to look at this phrase within the larger Gospel story as well as the larger context of the book of Haggai.

The first way some interpret this phrase is that it is speaking of actual treasure being brought into the Temple.  In direct support of this is the following verse where God says, “The silver is mind, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.”  While this may be possible, I believe there are a few reasons to argue against this interpretation.  While God is specifically talking to Israel in the book of Haggai, God is also revealing His future plans for the rest of the world.  The other reason that I would argue against this interpretation is the larger theme of verse 2 and the Gospel story of the whole Bible seem to point to a person, not possessions.  Which leads to the second possible interpretation.

The second way the phrase “the desire of all nations shall come” can be understood is that it is referencing Jesus.  The first argument in support of this is the fact that the word “desire” is singular.  Second would be the fact that the end of the verse says “shall come.”  Inanimate objects to do come to people, rather people go and get them.  Looking at the larger narrative of the Gospel story we can use two other verses to support a Messianic interpretation of this phrase.  First is Malachi 3:1 which says, “Behold, I will send My messenger, and He shall prepared the way before Me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His Temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.”  This verse is speaking of two specific, separate people.  The first part of the verse that talks about a messenger being sent to prepare the way, is the forerunner of the Messiah.  The New Testament reveals this to be John the Baptist.  We see this in Matthew 3:1-3 which says, “In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  For this he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias (Isaiah), saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.'”  The second person that Malachi 3:1 is talking about is identified in the text.  It is speaking of the Lord who is Jesus.  It says that He will suddenly come to His Temple.  That is important because Haggai chapter 2 is speaking of the Temple.  Another verse that supports a Messianic interpretation is Genesis 49:10 which says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.”  This verse shows us that the ultimate ruler will come to Israel and rule from Israel.  Specifically this will happen in the Temple.  It says that this ruler will be known as “Shiloh” which means peace.  If we look at Haggai 2:9 it says that God will “in this place (the Temple) give peace.”  Therefore, the one who comes to the Temple to rule and reign will be the One that God uses to bring peace to the world.  This can only speak of the Messiah, because money surely doesn’t bring peace to this world.

Therefore, it is my understanding that the “desire of all nations” is a Messianic title.  That is, it is referring to Jesus.  Applying this interpretation we see that Jesus has already partially fulfilled this promise when as a little boy, and even during His ministry He went into the Temple.  Literally, at those moments the glory of the Lord was in that place, because as John the Baptist said in John 1:14, “And the Word (John the apostle’s title for Jesus) was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”  So while it was partially fulfilled in Jesus’s ministry, the ultimate fulfillment will be when Jesus comes in power and glory at the end of the age to set up His messianic kingdom on earth as given in Revelation 20.  The Temple during Jesus’ earthly ministry was the site of many showdowns between Jesus and the religious leaders.  However, when He returns to the earth the Temple will be the source of peace, because the Prince of Peace will have returned.  This is why God says that “glory of the latter will be greater than of the former.” What an amazing promise for us that while this life is full of turmoil, trials, and troubles; there is  coming a day when Jesus will bring peace to earth.  And the even better news is that you can experience some of that peace now.  We can experience that peace by surrendering to God’s grace in faith that Jesus died on the cross and on the third day rose from dead.  He did this to pay for our sins, and He is the only was that we can be saved.  When we come into a relationship with Jesus based on these facts, Jesus gives us His peace to know that whatever happens to us in this life, our eternal life is secured by His blood.  There is nothing that can take that peace away from us!

Do you have that peace?  The peace with God that only comes from God?  If not, would you like to have it?  If so, reach out to us at westlakebc@gmail.com.  We would love to tell you how you can experience God’s peace and presence today, tomorrow, and forever.

Pastor Justin

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Aug 13

God Cares About The Box

A humorous thing happened in the Sunday school class that I attend with my wife yesterday.  Our teacher was talking about God loving and caring for us.  He asked us to share a time in which something happened that we were confused about, that we didn’t know why God was allowing it, but now that we reflect on it we can see what God was doing.  So as stories were being shared, one lady who had gone through a particularly difficult time recently started to share her story.  She talked about how she had thrown a box away not realizing that her cat loved that box.  Since she threw it away, the cat was not acting the same, and it dawned on this lady why the cat was acting this way.  However, she didn’t have a new box for the cat.  As she was working and praying one day, she heard something fall in her closet.  When she went to the closet, she noticed something fell, but even more important, up on the shelf there was a box she could give to her cat.  She told us that she just sat down and wept, overcome with emotion, and she said, “God you even care about the box.”  She like many of us had forgotten that God cares about our life, including the small, seemingly insignificant details of our life.  Our teacher then reminded us of something we heard J.D. Greear say the previous week in our online Bible study.  Greear said, “we trust God to meet our greatest need in life, the need to be saved from our sin.  Why is it that we don’t trust Him with the other details of our life?”  I have to admit that was a powerful quote from J.D. Greear, and a great reminder from our teacher.

Maybe you find yourself in a tough place today.  Life isn’t going the way that you hoped it would, or things are happening that you never thought you would go through.  You feel like you are at or rapidly reaching the end of your rope.  I hope to encourage you through two passages of Scripture.  The first one is found in Matthew 10.  Jesus is talking about how the disciples would experience difficult times in their life as they took a stand for Him.  In Matthew 10:29-31 Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?  And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” A sparrow was a small, seemingly insignificant bird; however, Jesus said that God even knows when one of those sparrows dies.  And Jesus says that we are even more valuable than the sparrows.  Therefore, if God cares enough about the sparrows to know when one dies, how much more does He care for you and I in what we are going through?  The second passage is found in Matthew 6.  In Matthew 6:24-34, Jesus is talking about the futility of worrying.  He tells us not to worry about food, clothing, or shelter.  Jesus says that we should think about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.  Neither of those work to produce what they need, yet God makes sure they have everything they need.  Jesus then tells us not to worry, because God already knows what we need.  Implied in that statement is that not only does He know what we need, but He already has a plan to provide what we need.  That frees us up to do as He says in Matthew 6:33, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

The point is simply this, God loves you and cares about you.  You are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27).  God loves you so much that He died in your place (Rom. 5:8).  If God provided the remedy for your biggest problem, sin, then you can trust that He will provide for your needs, even the ones that you don’t think are a big deal.  Is something weighing heavy on your heart?  Is there a decision you need to make?  Is there something you are worrying about?  Take it to God in prayer.  We often sing a hymn at Westlake Baptist that has these lyrics, “Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer” (“What A Friend We Have in Jesus-Joseph Scriven).  It’s true that God already knows that what we need, and He already has a plan to provide for us.  But we take it to Him in prayer as a demonstration of our faith and trust in Him, that He has the answer and the provision we need.  The next time you find yourself worried, stressed out, and strung out about something just remember, God cares about the box (and every little detail of your life as well)!

Pastor Justin

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Aug 08

House of God

This past Sunday at Westlake, we began a new sermon series.  For four weeks we are going to study and glean God’s eternal truths from the Old Testament book of Haggai.  Chapter 1 is God taking Israel to task for the disobedience in not rebuilding the Temple since being released from their 70 year captivity.  Since we were talking about the Temple and Israel’s disobedience, I thought this would give me an opportunity to address a very common misunderstanding that occurs in many churches today.  The misunderstanding comes from the phrase “the house of God.”

Many people still use the phrase “the house of God” when speaking of the physical church building.  While it is true that God’s presence used to dwell in the Temple during the Old Testament, that has changed as part of the new covenant. The “house of God” today is not a physical building, rather it is the body of each and every believer.  There are a few Scriptures we can look at to show this.  The first would be Acts 17:24 where the apostle Paul is speaking in Athens in the Areopagus and says, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwellers not in temples made with hands.”  It is true that in the Old Testament, in the tabernacle and the Temple that God’s presence was there.  God’s shekinah glory being over the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant was proof for Israel that God was with them.  Subsequently, when the glory of the Lord departed from the Temple, Israel knew she was in trouble.  However, again it should be stated that this is not the case today as Paul said there in Acts.  Then we can go to another writing of Paul’s that says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God, and ye are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19).  When a person surrenders to God’s grace through faith and is saved, they are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell them.  The Holy Spirit leads a believer, convicts a believer of sin, and helps a believer grow in their faith to name a few things.  Paul later adds in Ephesians 1:14 that the Holy Spirit is an earnest, or down payment, of our inheritance that we will receive when we die.  We get to experience the presence of God now while we wait until we get into the presence of God for all of eternity.  One final verse that shows us that the “house of God” is each believer is found in 1 Peter 2.  There in 1 Peter 2, Peter says that believers are living stones that are being built into a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:5).  Each believer is a living stone, and God is taking those living stones and building a spiritual house.  That spiritual house is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 16 when He said, “I will build My church and the gates of hell shall not prevail.” That is why we say that as Christians we don’t go to church, we are the church.

There is nothing super spiritual about the buildings that we gather in every week.  That doesn’t mean that they are not important or that we should not take care of the place God gives us to meet in and worship together as the church.  How we take care of the building we meet in for corporate worship, prayer, and Bible study is a matter of stewardship.  That building is a gift from God, and we are expected to take care of, and use it in a way that glorifies Him.  The building is set aside as Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us as a place where we regularly assemble ourselves together for worship and to provoke one another to do the good works that God has preordained we should do.  Taking care of the building we meet in reflects our spiritual priorities and our love for Him.

So let us remember as we plan for worship this weekend, that the building we go to is the place where the local church gathers to worship our Lord and Savior, to proclaim His eternal truths to sinners and saints.  We want to take care of that building because it gives us a central place to meet for fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer, and worship.  But if that building was gone tomorrow, the church would still carry on and the Gospel would still go forward.

Pastor Justin

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Jul 31

Forgiving Spirit

At Westlake, we try to make it part of our mission to allow people to use their spiritual gifts in service to God for His glory and for our good.  One way that we can do that, is to have from time to time a guest blogger.  Today is one such day.  I want to take a moment and introduce you to Pastor Harry.  I have known Harry and his family for many years, actually pre-dating my time here at Westlake.  He and I share a common mentor.  Harry is married to Pam, and they have two boys, Mike and Ben.  Both of the boys are strong in their faith, and it is a privilege to know them.  Westlake had the privilege of ordaining Harry several years ago.  He has served at some churches in Virginia and outside of Virginia.  He currently is part of a jail ministry here locally.  Without further ado, here is a devotion from Pastor Harry that I hope will challenge you and encourage you.

Take a moment and think about a time or times when a person said or did something against you.  How did you feel and what did you do about it?  Maybe the person intentionally did it or maybe you just took it wrong. Whatever the reason, there was tension. Have you forgiven that person or are you still holding a grudge?  When someone wrongs us, should we forgive him?

Jesus tells a parable, in Matthew 18, about an Unforgiving and an Unmerciful servant.  A king, of a certain kingdom, demands to be repaid by this servant.  If he didn’t repay the great debt he owed, the servant, his wife, children, and all that he had would be sold.  There was no way for the servant to pay the debt back but he begged the king to be merciful on him.  The king had compassion on him and forgave him the debt he owed.

Later, the servant went out and demanded, from another servant, to be paid in full.  The amount owed to him was significantly less than what he owed the king.  The other servant asked for mercy from the first servant but he refused to give mercy and he cast his fellow servant into prison.

When the king found out about what the servant did, he was wroth with the servant and cast him into prison until he paid all that was due the king.

We are like the first servant.  We owe a debt that we cannot pay.  Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned come short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death….”

We have sinned against God and we will have to pay for our sins.  The problem is, there is nothing we can do to erase our sins and come clean before a Holy, Perfect, and Just God.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

We cannot earn our way to heaven.  No matter how good we try to be, our good will never outweigh our bad. So, what is the solution?  If you look at the middle part of Ephesians 2:8-9, God says He has a gift for us.  The gift is His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus took our place on the cross.  He hung on the cross, shed His blood, died, was buried, and rose again the third day. He is the way and the only way to heaven.  We can’t earn our way to Heaven but God provided the way.  It is free for us.  All we need to do is trust Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection for us.

When we trust in what Jesus did for us, our sin debt is washed away. Like the servant in the parable, we couldn’t pay our debt but it is forgiven.

As you and I reflect on what God has done for us, let us realize no matter what someone does to us here on earth, it pales in comparison to what we owed God.  We need to forgive one another because God forgave us.

Pastor Harry

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Jul 27

S.T.A.Y.

What if I was to tell you that there is a fairly simple answer to problems in your marriage, family, job, church, and even our country?  Would you believe me?  I don’t even know if I believe that entire statement.  The word I would change is the word “simple.”  That is because anytime there are problems in our lives, seldom is the answer to the problem simple to fix.  However, there is something that can help us learn to better navigate through problems in marriage, family, church, and our country.  I would love to take credit for this, but I can’t.  The credit for this one goes to a pastor who I am blessed to call a friend.  The answer is the title of this blog, S.T.A.Y.  You probably have noticed that the word “stay” is going to be used as an acronym.  S.T.A.Y. stands for, Stop Thinking About Yourself.  That’s it, that’s the answer to navigating and working through many the problems we face.  It is just that simple, yet also that complicated.

How do we know that is the answer?  We know it is because most of the problems we face we want to play the victim and blame others.  We often convince ourselves that if people would do things our way, then everything would work out just fine.  We convince ourselves that everyone else injures us, and we seldom see how we have injured others.  Those things come natural, because they are rooted in our sin nature.  They are physical manifestations of our pride.  However, if I choose to not see myself as a victim and I choose not to blame others; rather, I do some introspection and ask, what is my role in this, things can be changed for the better.  How do we know this?  We know it from what Scripture says in Philippians 2:5-8, “Let this mind be in your, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made i the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”  There are three words in this passage that are important.  They are the words: humble, servant, and obedient.  So let’s ask the question that we ask towards the end of every sermon at WBC.  How do we do this?  So what?

How Can We S.T.A.Y:

  • It is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.  If we are going to have the mind of Christ, then we must belong to Christ.  As a child of God, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell us for the purposes of conviction, teaching, and helping us walk with Christ.  Blaming others and playing the victim are evidence of our sin nature.  Choosing to put others first is a work of God.
  • We must be humble.  Humility is choosing to put others first.  It is intentionally putting their needs, wants, and wishes ahead of yours.
  • We must see ourself as a servant.  Scripture is full of verses and passages that remind us that we are stewards or managers, not owners.  James 1:17 tells us that “every good gift and perfect gift comes from above.”  Jesus, God Himself as we see in Philippians 2 and many other passages, the One who deserves to be served said in Mark 10:45, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  If Jesus, while in human form, saw Himself as a servant, how much more should we see ourselves as a servant?  Instead of asking, how can this help me or how can others help me accomplish what I want; we need to ask, how can I serve you?
  • We must be obedient.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  It is one thing to know what to do, it is another thing entirely to actually do it.  Yet James 1:22 tells us, “Be doers of the world, not hearers only deceiving ourselves.” Too often we become spiritually constipated, that is we listen to preaching, we read Scripture, but then it just stays in our minds.  It never affects how we live.  And satan convinces us that we have somehow worshipped and we are doing what God wants us to when all we do is passively listen or agree with Scripture.  Yet Scripture tells us that blessings from God come when we read it, heed it, and do it.

Let’s be honest, this isn’t easy.  It hasn’t been easy and it won’t be easy.  But if we want to see God move in our hearts, heal our marriages, strengthen our families, strengthen and use our churches, and change our country; this is what we must do.  So the word for today and the next time we feel hurt, used, or neglected, choose instead to S.T.A.Y.  Love God, love others, and serve everyone for the glory of God!

Pastor Justin

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Jul 04

Reflections on the Fourth

Happy birthday America.  Today we turn 242 years old.  It has been an interesting experiment brought about by certain ideals and beliefs that have been put into writing in our most famous documents, The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.  I will unapologetically say that I believe that God has shed His grace on our nation, and He has blessed us many times over.  He has done so in spite of the fact that more times than not, we have rebelled against Him or flat our rejected Him.  I believe God still strives and desires the souls of those who call America home to repent of their sin and trust in the Gospel as the only way to be saved and in a right relationship with Him.  I believe God still desires this not only for America, but also for the rest of the world.  I believe we should be proud to be an American, while also acknowledging that we have some serious problems, flaws, and challenges that need to be addressed.  The one thing I would caution all American Christians against is this, don’t confuse patriotism with Christianity.  While we can and should be proud to be an American, our supreme loyalty, love, and affection should be to the kingdom of God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  God does not simply desire that Americans only should be saved.  Rather, God desires that all men should be saved (2 Pet. 3:9).  Which means as Christians, we are to love our neighbor as well as our enemy.  We are to pray for our elected officials, regardless of whether we voted for them or not.  We are to pray, seek, and share the Gospel with the lost regardless of race, sex, country of origin, or legal status.  To do less than any of this, is to defame the Gospel which saved us and the Gospel that we are called to spread in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  So today, as we celebrate and thank God for His blessings and the freedoms He has provided to us; let us seek not to think of ourselves as American Christians, but rather as Christians who happen to live in America.

As has been said earlier, America is a wonderful nation which has, as every other nation, flaws that need to not only be addressed but dealt with properly.  Yet, I would submit to you that these flaws cannot first be dealt with at the White House, court house, or Congress.  Our flaws must first be dealt with in God’s house, for Scripture has declared that judgment must begin in the house of God (1 Pet. 4:17).  A verse that is often used today is 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pay, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  This is a great verse, but we cannot divorce it from it’s original meaning and context.  This verse was not given to America.  It is a promise from God to the nation of Israel.  Therefore, we must be careful not to read something into this verse that isn’t there.  However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t learn from and apply the principles taught in the verse.  With that being said, I want to suggest a few things that we as individual Christians as well as corporately as churches can do on this holiday.

First, we must realize that this is a conditional promise.  We know this by the first word of the verse, “if.”  This means we have a human responsibility to carry out if we expect God to carry out His promises found in this verse. Second, God is speaking to a specific group, “my people.”  In our context, this refers to Christians.  As a side note I want to say this, dear Christian, please stop expecting a lost person to act like they are saved.  Don’t be surprised when a lost person, acts like they are lost!  However, we certainly should expect the saved to live like they are saved, or maybe their supposed profession isn’t genuine.  Again, judgment must begin in our own lives and our own houses of worship.  God then calls on us to humble ourselves and pray.  Prayer is the acknowledgment that we don’t have all of the answers, we don’t know all of the facts, and we don’t have the power to fix our issues personally or nationally.  Humility not only acknowledges that we can’t fix the problems, but it also means that we admit that we are part of the problem.  Humility acknowledges that we are prideful and that we often think of ourselves more and before we think of others, and that it is wrong to do this.  To “seek My face” is more than to ask God to give us stuff, answer our prayers, or bless us.  Seeking God’s face means that we want to be in fellowship and communion with Him.  That we love Him for who He is, not just what He can give us or do for us.  The result of humbling ourselves, praying, and seeking God’s face is we will turn from our wicked ways.  To look into who God is, is to look into holiness, and to see the perfection of God in His will and His ways.  When I see His holiness, it magnifies my sinfulness.  We can think of it this way, have you heard of the tissue test?  If you want to know if your teeth are white, hold up a tissue beside them when you look in a mirror.  The tissue won’t lie.  When I evaluate my thoughts, words, and actions against the holiness of God, instead of comparing myself to other Christians, it will reveal the true ugliness that lies within me.  This will evoke confession and repentance with a broken and weeping heart if we are truly God’s children.  As we come to God as He is and on His terms, we have glorious promises.  The promises are that God will hear our prayer and He will forgive our sin.  For God to hear my prayer and to forgive my sin means that He has done what I could never do on my own.  He died in my place, paying my price, so that I could have fellowship and a relationship with Him.  I can’t think of a more glorious promise than to know that God hears us when we pray, and that He has forgiven not some, not most, but all of our sins.  And as we live in this right relationship with God, and as we function as the church is called to, God can heal the land through revival.

Happy birthday America.  May we never forget or take advantage of the grace that God has shed on us.  And may we, who belong to Jesus, never cease to share the Gospel until the whole world hears the sound and the promise, Jesus saves!

Pastor Justin

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Jun 30

Changing With The Wind

Have you ever had one of those “aha”, “light bulb” moments when something clicks or you see something that you hadn’t seen before in something you have looked at hundreds of times?  I had one such moment earlier this week, and it got me to thinking about our present day society.

On the day Jesus was being tried by the religious leaders before being crucified, there was an interesting exchange between the religious leaders and the Roman governor, Pilate.  It is found in John 19.  Pilate has examined Jesus and said that he can find no fault in Him.  However, the religious leaders wanted to be rid of Jesus and so they say to Pilate, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend” (John 19:12).  Pilate had Jesus flogged and after that he brought Jesus out in front of the crowd again.  Most likely, Pilate was trying to satisfy the crowd without actually crucifying Jesus.  However, it didn’t satisfy their blood-thirstiness.  So Pilate says, “Here is your king.”  To which the religious leaders replied, “We have no king but Caesar” (v. 15).  So what is it that struck me?  It was the fact that the Israelites were looking for the Messiah, because the Messiah is going to alleviate the oppression that the Israelites have suffered under.  The Romans were certainly harsh to the Israelites.  Yet here, the religious leaders are willingly placing themselves under the authority of Caesar.  A proper understanding of Scripture will remind us that Jesus was both man and God.  Therefore, Israel’s rejection of Jesus is the second time the nation of Israel had rejected God’s will and authority over their lives and nation.  The other time is found in the book of 1 Samuel, when Israel wanted to be like other nations and have a king ruling over them (see 1 Samuel 8).  Again, why does this matter today?

We are like Israel, especially in our current culture because we too have chosen in many ways to reject God.  We do this in a number of ways.  One way we do it is when we try to take control of our lives and make life about us, we are rejecting God.  Another way we reject God is by rejecting His Word.  This is where this story fits in.  God has given us His Word, which is truth.  And when we reject His Word, we are rejecting Him.  But here is the danger; when we change, apply, or ignore parts of Scripture while changing, applying, or ignoring other parts of Scripture.  This is what Israel did.  They didn’t want anyone to rule over them when they could call the shots.  But when it became advantageous to have a king over them, they jumped at it.  We must learn that God’s Word is not up to us to decipher or choose what it means.  God has given us His Word in clear enough terms that as we depend on the Holy Spirit, He will guide us into the meaning and application of the text.  Another important thing for us to remember is this, the Bible is either all true or none of it is true.  We cannot pick and choose what parts we like, and which parts we want to ignore.  When we do that, we are no longer worshipping God, we are worshipping ourselves.  Instead of learning more about God and walking in faith with Him, we are simply elevating ourselves and our opinion.  This is dangerous and it can be very deadly if we aren’t careful.

The question really becomes this, do I trust God?  Do I believe that He is an all-knowing God?  Do I believe He truly knows what is best for me?  Do I want to do His will or do I want God to bless my plans? Truth doesn’t change, but the truth will change us.  Truth is immutable just as God is.

Pastor Justin

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Jun 28

A Vital Yet Often Missing Word

I hate that this is the first time I’ve been able to post on the blog this week, but with VBS it has been a crazy week.  But what an amazing week.  I love Vacation Bible School for so many reasons.  But the one that means the most is remembering that it was at VBS at my home church, 31 years ago that I gave my life to Christ.  Tonight will wrap up VBS 2018, but I want to challenge myself as well as our church to remember that just because VBS is over, the work isn’t over. In fact, the work is just beginning.  Which leads right into the purpose of this blog.

If you go to church, hopefully you have heard of the Great Commission before.  I say hopefully, because a recent report revealed that less than 50% of people had heard of it.  So in case you are part of that large percentage who hasn’t, let me give it to you.  The Great Commission is the marching order Jesus gave for the church.  Although various forms of it appear in all four Gospels and the book of Acts; most people are the most familiar with Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20, “All power is given to Me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and make disciples (teach all nations), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”  That is what Jesus said, in fact, making disciples is the one thing that Jesus commissioned the church to do.  So what is this one word that is often omitted?  It is found in verse 20 where Jesus says, “Teaching them to observe all things…”(bold mine).  Most of the time people just say, “teaching them all things I have commanded.”  You might be wondering, what is the big deal?  The big deal is this, the word “observe” means to obey.  So Jesus in telling us how to make disciples that make disciples, said we are to go (evangelism), but we are also to teach people to obey what Jesus taught.  Being a disciple who makes disciples is about more than merely transferring information.  It is calling them to obey Jesus’ words.  I love the way one pastor put it on a podcast I recently listened to.  Pastor Gallaty said, “if we focus only on evangelism and not teaching then we will have a church that is a mile wide, but only an inch deep.  However, if we focus only on teaching and not evangelism, then we will have a church that is an inch wide and a mile deep.”  Neither of these are what Jesus intends for His church to become.  So how can we teach people to observe/obey what Jesus has taught?  I want to suggest three ways, which are the same three ways that I preached about this past Sunday.

Three Needed Ways to Teach People To Obey:

  • Teach it.  It is time that the church returns to a simpler model of church.  Thom Rainer wrote a book several years ago called, Simple Church.  To this day it is one of the most vital books I have ever read.  Churches often hop from program to program trying to be all things to all people.  Our calendars are full of things to do, but not many disciples are being made and not much spiritual transformation is taking place in our churches.  We must peel back the over-complicated, bloated church calendar and return to simple models of ministry.  I pastor a normal-sized Southern Baptist Church in SW/Central Virginia.  We are located on one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Virginia.  However, being a lake community means that we will have a transient membership.  Summers for us see a lot of guests, while fall and the winter see our core residency.  That means, the church has to adjust to its community a couple of times a year.  On top of this, we are strategically positioned between three large churches.  I’m grateful for each of those ministries, but I also realize that we can’t nor are we called to try and compete with them.  Rather, we seek to cooperate in ways that we can to do Gospel ministry for the SML area.  Again, this is what we are called to do biblically.  Therefore, we must teach it.  But it can’t stop at simply teaching it.
  • Model it.  Simply put, you cannot teach what you do not know.  And you cannot call people to do, what you yourself do not do.  As the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians, “follow me, as I follow Christ.”
  • Give opportunities.  Once people have heard it and they have seen it, they need the opportunity to put it into practice.  This is where I preached this past Sunday as we closed out our Mark series.  We need to actively be a part of three gatherings.  First, we need to be a part of the corporate gathering of the church each week (Heb. 10:25).  Second, we need to be a part of a Sunday school or small group study that consists of 8-12 people.  This is where fellowship, life, and biblical teaching has a lot of impact.  However, there is a third gathering which is often neglected.  The third gathering we need to prioritize is a discipleship group that consists of 2-4, same sex people.  So if you are a man, you need a d-group of 2-4 men.  If you are a woman, you need a d-group of 2-4 women.  You should meet every week.  During this meeting you will pray together, study Scripture together, and you will hold each other accountable for how you live.  This means you will encourage one another, but also if necessary call out sin in one another’s lives.  All three of these groups are vital to your walk with God, and the church living out the command to “teach them to observe all things I have commanded you.”

I pray this post will help you, encourage you, and challenge you.  If you need to know a good place to start, leave a comment or contact us at westlakebc@gmail.com.  We would love to help you in any way we possibly can either start a walk with Christ, or grow in your walk with Christ.

Pastor Justin

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Jun 24

Is Baptism Necessary?

Today in our worship services we concluded our study in the Gospel of Mark.  If you weren’t there, I would encourage you to go to iTunes-podcasts-search Westlake Baptist Church and click on the microphone, and you can listen to the message for free.  We were in Mark 16 and the theme for the sermon was that Jesus, the Servant of God, sends us.  However, there is a verse in Mark 16 that often causes some confusion and brings up questions.  Actually, there are two passages there in Mark 16.  There is one about handing snakes and drinking poison and not being hurt. However, that’s not the one I am going to deal with in this post.  Though I might deal with that in another post, we will see.  The controversial verse I’m speaking of in Mark 16:16 which says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”  So the question that is brought up is this, is Jesus teaching that baptism is necessary for salvation?  In something that is a little different, I want to present the two main arguments on this topic.  One argument says it is necessary.  The other argument says it isn’t necessary.  Then I will share where I fall theologically on it, and finish this post up with why this matters to us today.

Theological Belief 1: Baptism is necessary for salvation. Proponents of this view simply say, “read the text.”  The text clearly says, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” That seems pretty straightforward.  Of course they would also point to other passages such as Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 where he says, “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38).  They will also point to James 2 where James says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 26).  They say that baptism is the first work that we do.  Then finally they will point to 1 Peter 3 where Peter says ,”Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.  The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21).  Again they will say, read the read and it makes is pretty clear.  So that is view one.

Theological View 2: Baptism is not necessary for salvation. Proponents of this view say that baptism is an outward symbol of the inward work done in our heart by Jesus when we surrendered to God’s grace through faith and were saved.  They will point to Romans 6:3-4 where Paul says, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore, we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in the newness of life.”  Here Paul is saying that baptism is a symbol of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. That as we go into the water we are dying to ourselves, and we bury the old us, and God raises us into this new life given to us by His grace through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Proponents of view 2 will also say that is baptism is necessary for salvation then there are two indisputable conclusions in Scripture.  First, the thief on the cross was not saved, because he was not baptized. Second, if baptism is necessary for salvation, then that means salvation is by works.  However, we know that Scripture clearly teaches the opposite, especially in Ephesians 2:8-9 which says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”  So there are the two views on baptism.  Now to the next section of this post.

My personal theological conviction.  I, personally, come down on the second view side of this argument. I do not believe that baptism is necessary for salvation for the previous reasons mentioned.  While I do understand that the previously stated passages including there in Mark 16 can be confusing, I believe as we understand the context of the passages we can get to the true meaning of them.  First, we must understand that baptism was a given in those days.  If a person placed their faith in Jesus Christ, the way that they would demonstrate that would be that they would be baptized. They wanted people to know that they had been saved by grace through the blood of Jesus.  They wanted to demonstrate to people that God has washed away their sins, and that they were now a child of God.  Jesus, certainly would have believed that any true follower of His would follow in His example of being baptized.  Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus says if you confess Me before men, I will confess you before My Father.  But if you don’t confess Me before men, then I will deny you before My Father” (Mt. 10:32).  One of the ways that a believer confesses Jesus as Lord is by public baptism. If a person says they believe in Jesus and claims to be a Christian, yet will not publicly follow through with baptism, one should wonder why they won’t do that. This understanding of baptism was the natural result of confessing faith in Jesus helps explain Mark 13 and Acts 2. But what about 1 Peter 3?  Again, context is important here.  Peter in this passage is talking about how a Christian should live in a fallen world.  Peter uses Noah and the flood as a symbol.  What did the water represent in the flood of Genesis 6-9?  It represented God’s judgment and death because of sin. Peter even says that baptism doesn’t wash off the external filth, but rather is a sign of a good conscience towards God.  In other words, I am baptized as a public declaration that I have been inwardly washed of my sins by the blood of Jesus Christ.  I also fall on the side of the second view point because Jesus Himself was baptized (Mt. 3).  Certainly Jesus wasn’t being baptized because He needed to be saved.  He was and is the Savior, the one who is saving sinners like me. However, in understand that baptism is a symbol of having a right relationship with God because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection; Jesus’ baptism then gives us the example of what we should do because of what He has done for us.  So while I believe that baptism is a symbol, I also believe that it is more important than that as well.  If it is just a symbol, then we can downplay the need for baptism and I believe that is a mistake.  I believe baptism is important for two reasons.  First, Jesus was baptized.  If I call myself a Christian, which means “little Christ”, then I am going to strive to emulate the one I claim to follow.  Second, baptism is commanded by Jesus Christ in the Great Commission passage of Matthew 28, “Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizingthem in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19, bold is mine for emphasis).  Now what?  I want to close this with a few practical items.

 

  • Baptism doesn’t save you, but it is important.Hopefully, this has come through clearly in this post.  If you profess to be a Christian, unless there is something physical or mental that prevents you from being baptized; I believe Scripture commands us to be baptized.
  • Context is king. This passage and the others hopefully show that reading a verse in its appropriate context can give clarification to the meaning.  If we just isolate one verse or a portion of a verse apart from its context, we can change the meaning, and we would fail to “rightly divide the word of truth” as we are told to in 2 Timothy 2:15.

 

Pastor Justin

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