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


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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Jun 19

Think on These Things

One blessing we have at Westlake Baptist is this, we have several men and women who are gifted at teaching.  Therefore, from time to time we are going to post a devotion that they have written to hopefully encourage you as well as expose our readers to different styles of writing.  This blog was written by our Director of Missions, Linda.

Think on these things:

Phil 4: 8

How many times have you awakened in the night and are absolutely frightened or worried or consumed by something you are facing – or think you will be facing?   Many times, right?  And did it turn out as bad as you imagined?   Probably not.

This verse in Philippians is the way to quiet those worries.   Claim it!

When you are bombarded by those thoughts – and you know those thoughts in the dark are so much more scary than they are in the daylight, repeat this verse –  “Think on those things that are true,“  Find those things that you know are true!    So, when you are worried about tomorrow and a new job, or a Dr. appointment, or a new schedule for instance. Think on the things you know are true:  I have transportation.   I will have my lunch.   I am intelligent, after all I got myself hired: or I can handle this, one step at a time.  All those things that are true.   And the most important true thing, God will be right there with you guiding you through anything you will have to face.  PRAY for His peace to enfold you.

Director of Missions-Westlake Baptist Church

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Jun 18

Why I Don’t Preach Moms or Dads on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day

As I right this, it is Father’s Day evening.  It has been a special day with my family and of getting to preach in the pulpit of Westlake Baptist Church.  One thing that those who regularly worship with us at WBC are familiar with now is the fact that I don’t preach the typical holiday messages.  The two “holiday” messages that I preach are  Christmas and Easter.  Is there anything wrong with preaching a special Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, or 4th of July message?  I would say no.  In fact, I can remember growing up and going to church and hearing those special messages on those days.  One question I have been asked for the past several years is why I do not preach such messages.  While claiming no moral authority or superiority over those who choose to preach such messages, I want to present the three reasons why I don’t.

  • No other name.  There is no other name given under heaven by which men must be saved we are told in Acts 4:12.  Of course that name Peter is speaking of is the name of Jesus.  He is the Savior of the world, and the only hope for the world.  Therefore, I want to make sure that every week I get the privilege of preaching, I exalt the name of Jesus and point others to Him.  Can you do that while preaching about moms and dads?  Yes, but I have often found in the times I have tried, that the sermons were a struggle for me to preach.  Trying to find the right balance between exalting Jesus and praising moms and dads became very difficult for me.
  • The purpose of the corporate gathering.  When we gather weekly for worship, it is to honor, glorify, and praise the name of God.  When we spend an entire service or at least a sermon speaking about moms or dads, we pull people’s focus away from God.  And while we may be able to make mom or dad feel good, we are not fulfilling the purpose of the corporate worship service.  Another aspect of this is that not everyone had a good relationship with their mother or father.  While praising godly moms or dads, we may increase the guilt of those moms and dads who feel like they are failing at being a godly parent.  We may create hard feelings in those who didn’t grow up with a godly mom or dad.  In either case, again it is pulling our mind, heart, and focus off the real reason we have gathered in the church building that day.  This doesn’t mean that we should acknowledge moms and dads.  Rather, it means that we need to keep the main thing, the main thing.  We need to encourage moms and dads to have their identity in Christ, not in being the best parent.  And we need to point those who have had a difficult upbringing to look to Christ, and not their earthly parents who are fallen and sinful.
  • Leading from God through prayer. It’s not that I don’t want to preach about moms and dads.  I like to be able to encourage people.  But my calling as a pastor is to pray and see what God says the people need to hear, not what would make me popular with them.  Should call ever impress on me that I need to preach on one of the non-biblical holidays, I pray that I will listen and be lead of the Spirit and be obedient to the prompting.  But week after week, I seek to glorify God in my life and in my preaching.  For those preachers who preach the special holiday messages, as long as God leads you to do it, be faithful to Him.  But for those who do it because that is what the people expect, let us remember that we will give an account for how we shepherded the souls of those under our care (Heb. 10:38).

I want to close this blog by saying that I thank God for godly moms and dads.  When you focus your life on pleasing and living for God, and being obedient to Him; you will teach a better sermon with your life than I could ever preach.  To those who are struggling under guilt and frustration because they are living up to the standard that God calls you to; confess it to God and seek His direction.  We are all fallen sinners in need of a Savior.  Rest and trust in Him, and seek to be obedient to Him in all you do, and God will be pleased.  To those who didn’t have a great relationship with a parent growing up; allow your pain and their imperfections as a parent to point you to the all-sufficient, perfect God.  Your earthly parents may let you down, but our Heavenly Father never will!

God bless you, happy Father’s day to all the dads.

Pastor Justin

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Jun 11

Praying in Faith

In yesterday’s message from our series in the Gospel of Mark, we spoke about praying in faith and what exactly does that mean?  Since yesterday, several people have reached out because that part wasn’t included completely in the sermon notes provided.  Therefore, I have decided to simply post that point specifically from yesterday’s message here.  I hope that it is a help.

The text we studied yesterday was Mark 11:12-26.  This was an application point of the text.  Below is the text from yesterday on praying in faith:

  • Praying in faith means: We want to be careful when we talk about praying in faith. We don’t want to give the idea that if we just believe in something enough that God will give it to us.  So what does praying in faith mean?  First, it means having a relationship with God.  For God to hear and act on our prayers, we must have a relationship with Him that is based on His grace and faith.  To pray “Our Father”, God must be our spiritual father.  And regardless of what some people say, not everyone is a child of God.  It is only those who have confessed their sin, trusted in God’s grace through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to save them, that are truly God’s children.  Second, praying in faith means we are praying the Word of God.  Many people say, I don’t know what the will of God for me is, while never opening their Bible.  The Bible is the mind, heart, and will of God.  Every time we open the Word, we should be praying through what we are reading. How do you do that?  To pray the Word of God when you read simply ask yourself a few questions.  First, what do I learn about God from reading this verse of this passage.  Praise Him for who He is.  Second, is there any sin that God is pointing out in my life through this verse or passage?  Is there something that you should be doing that you aren’t?  Is there something you are doing that you shouldn’t be?  Confess it.  Finally, ask for God to help you be obedient to His Word.  What is that passage telling you to do in order to glorify God and point others to Him?  Let me demonstrate it for you very quickly using our passage.  In this passage we learn that Jesus understands what we go through, because He went through it in that He was hungry.  We learn that God takes sin seriously, He is a Judge, but He also offers grace and forgiveness to those who seek it.  Are we guilty of living a life that doesn’t honor God, are we not intentional about our spiritual growth?  Finally, ask the Lord to help you grow in your faith and for our church to be a place known for prayer, forgiveness, and a place where people can find hope.  Finally, praying in faith means praying according to the will of God.  This again is connected to the previous point.  To pray according to God’s will means we must be in God’s Word.  We must ask God, how are you asking me to apply this text to my life?  Praying in faith doesn’t mean that God will give us everything we ask Him for.  But when we pray in faith, we are trusting not only in His power to give us what we are asking for, but we are also trusting in His wisdom to give us what we need.


Pastor Justin

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Jun 07

But I Didn’t Mean To

Has anyone ever said the phrase, “but I didn’t mean to” to you after they hurt you or did something that had unintended consequences?  I believe every parent has probably heard that on at least one occasion from their child.  Of course it doesn’t change the fact that it did happen, and now it has to be dealt with.  But what if there was a way, where we could be diligent and prudent about the actions we take or the words that we speak?  How much pain could we spare others and ourselves?

These were just some of the thoughts that ran through my head as I read Proverbs 7 this morning.  Solomon here is writing to his children and encouraging them to listen to his words of instruction, keep them in their mind, and watch how they live.  In verse 4-5 Solomon says, “Say unto wisdom, ‘Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman’: that they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.”  Solomon is telling his children, “listen to what I am telling you and understand what I am teaching you.”  Solomon as any parent should do, was trying to keep his children from making the same mistakes he had made in his life.  Solomon is known as the wisest person to ever live.  People came from other countries just to hear Solomon’s wisdom.  Yet Solomon is also known for, “Solomon loved many foreign women” (1 Kings 11:1).  Now understand what that verse means.  It isn’t talking about not loving people other different races or nationalities.  Rather, it is the recording of Solomon’s downfall because he ignored God’s instructions.  God had told the Israelites not to marry outside of the Jewish race, because the other nations didn’t know God or worship God.  God knew that if they married outside of the faith, the Israelites would have their heart pulled away from God, and they would worship false gods.  For the record, they didn’t listen and God was proven right as Israel forsook the one, true God and chased after many idols.  The same instruction is given to Christians in the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 6:14 when it says, “do not be unequally yoked.”  Again this is not saying you can only marry your race as sadly many have misapplied this verse.  It is Paul saying exactly what God had said to Israel.  If you are a believer, you should only marry another believer.  The reason is the same as God told Israel, if you marry outside of the faith, instead of you influencing them, there is a greater chance of them influencing you and pulling you away from God.  Solomon knew this all too well, and so in Proverbs 7 he is telling his children, “please learn from my mistakes.  Listen to me and save yourself a lot of heart ache.”  Unfortunately, Solomon’s sons followed what Solomon did rather than listening to what he said.  And by the way, so do our children.  They are more likely to repeat what they see than they are to simply do what we say.  But that is a whole other topic.  How does all of this apply to us?

This really starts to come into focus in verses 7-8 which say, “And (I) beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house.”  Whether Solomon is recounting his personal history or just telling a story to illustrate his point can be debated, but the point is the same.  There was a man who went out for a walk.  We don’t know why he went out for a walk.  Maybe he just needed to clear his head, or maybe he couldn’t sleep, or maybe he just wanted to go for a walk.  It doesn’t matter why he went out for the walk, what matters is because he didn’t exercise wisdom and possess understanding, he fell into sin.  I’m sure when it was all over he thought to himself, “how did this happen?  But I didn’t mean for this to happen.”  But what was done is done.  There is no going back, there is no changing it. Now all that is left is to deal with the consequences.  We can identify with this story can’t we?  I’m not saying you went out for a walk and just happened to find your way into a prostitute’s house.  I’m saying, you were going about your business of life, and all of the sudden you found yourself in a compromising position.  You found yourself saying and doing things that you never intended to do.  You have regrets, you feel ashamed, and you are wondering to yourself how did this happen?  How do we deal with this when we find ourself doing something sinful, even though we didn’t have the intention to do so?

Remember the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of the cure”?  That certainly applies here.  The best way to avoid unintentionally falling into sin, is to be wise about what you are doing.  In Proverbs 4 it tells us to guard our heart, because out of it flow the issues of life.  Solomon is saying, guard what goes into your heart, because what goes into your heart will eventually come out through your mouth or your life.  In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the devil and his schemes.  In Galatians 6, we are told to bear and share one another’s burdens.  This speaks of having accountability.  If we guard our heart, are intentional about putting on the whole armor of God each day, and we have relationships with people who will hold us accountable for our words and our actions; then we are less likely to fall into sin unintentionally.  That doesn’t mean you will be perfect.  We will always sin, but we can certainly through dependence on God lessen how often we fall into sin.  But what if you don’t have those things or didn’t do them and you find yourself in a potentially compromising position?  Here is the good news, God did not leave you alone.  When you were saved, He gave you the Holy Spirit to live inside of you to help you.  And in  1 Corinthians 10:13 it says, “There is no temptation taken you but such as common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  I can’t go any further than this; the Bible does not say “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”  Rather it says, “you will not be tempted above what you can handle; and when you are tempted, God will make a way of escape so that you don’t have to give in to that sin.”  If you find yourself in a compromising place, stop and pray asking God, how do I get out of this without sinning?  And when He reveals it to you, take it!  But what if you didn’t take preventative steps and you didn’t take God’s way out?  What if you fell into sin, even though you didn’t intend to?  It’s simple, confess it and repent of it!  Don’t act like it didn’t happen.  Don’t act like it isn’t a big deal.  Confess the sin to God, praise Him for His blood that gives forgiveness of sin, and ask Him to help you learn from this and not to repeat it.

Sin is going to happen.  It is a fact of life ever since the Garden of Eden.  We can’t pretend that we live in a perfect world or that we are never tempted to sin.  But God has given us ways that we can manage it and not give in to our temptations as we depend on Him.  And that is what it really comes down to, the answer isn’t you, your effort, or your actions.  The answer is resting and trusting in the power and the grace of God.

Pastor Justin

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