“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

In 1984 President Ronald Regan proclaimed January 22 as “Sanctity of Human Life Day.” This day was the eleventh anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States. Reagan was urging our country to remember that God ultimately decides right from wrong, not the Supreme Court of the United States. In this case, the Supreme Court got it wrong, and we are still living with the consequences. Abortion continues at an alarming rate, with approximately 800,000 abortions performed in the US during 2018. But those of us who oppose abortion – the killing of the unborn – remember at this time of year to focus on this terrible evil and pray for its end. 

As medical science has advanced it has brought us to a clear moral crossroad. Medical technology makes abortion possible, but medical technology also makes it possible to see the fully formed bodies of unborn children in 3-D detail. Medical technology makes it possible for significantly pre-maturely born babies to thrive and grow into healthy adults. It has created an entire medical discipline (NIC – neonatal intensive care) of amazingly talented nurses and doctors to care for these tiny infant children – even performing surgery on children in the womb! Yet many still argue that these tiny children are not human until the mother decides they are. This is a moral conflict to which the Bible speaks clearly.

Psalm 139 beautifully writes of the miraculous formation of a living child inside of its mother’s womb. This formation is a creative work designed by God and infused with purpose and meaning. The Psalm speaks to how each unborn child has a potential life before them – a life known only by God. It is a powerful Christian doctrine that life is never an accident. Each life is caused by God, has purpose, and should be protected and cherished. At the beginning of the book of Jeremiah we are given insight into how God has purpose for our lives from before we were born, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). 

Abortion is a human rights issue. Fighting to end abortion is the righteous work of striving to protect the most helpless of all people, the unborn. Those who truly have no voice. Christians, above all people, must care about the issues of defending the weak and helpless. We should be passionate about caring for the disabled, the elderly, the enslaved, and the unborn. Jesus had constant compassion toward “the least of these,” and so should we. 

As a church, we must be involved with this issue. First, we extend the forgiveness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have been a part of the abortion process. The gospel is about the forgiveness of sin, and by the grace of God, you can be forgiven. Second, we must labor to help those with unexpected pregnancies to choose life – through counseling and practical help. Third, we must be willing to open our homes to long and short-term foster care/adoption, to take into our homes those children who are born but orphaned. Forth, we must be unashamed to speak against this sin, but to speak against it with love. We must overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). 

If you want more information on how to be practically involved with helping end abortion in our area through counseling those in need, speak with Maria Carpenter. If you would like more information on how to be involved with short and long-term orphan care, please speak with Justin Woodruff. 

May the Lord grant an end to legal abortion in the United States,

Pastor Vic

Prepare Your Hearts for Worship

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.” – Psalm 24:1-4

Psalm 24 is a Psalm of ascent, one used in worship as the people approached the temple. It is supposed that David penned this Psalm as a part of the procession to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the Temple. For us, it is should be used in the same way – to prepare our hearts for worship. The words of the psalmist remind us that God is our creator and that “ascending” into His presence cannot be taken lightly, and that sinfulness will not be allowed in His presence. The person that will be allowed into the presence of God to worship is the person with clean hands (righteous deeds) and a pure heart. But NONE of us fit this lofty standard of perfection! Only by the grace and forgiveness of Jesus are we purified and made “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51).

My question for you is, “How do you prepare your heart for gathered church worship each week?” Gathering as a church, with the prayerful expectation that the Holy Spirit will minister to our hearts, is a special occasion and should be approached with heart preparation. I encourage you to consider and practice a few steps in your family:

(1) Rise early enough to spend some time in prayer and confession before engaging your family and coming to church. Take some time to pray and ask for the blessing and direction of the Holy Spirit on the gathering of our church. It will change your mindset. Confessing your sins will allow you to enter the congregation with a pure heart, ready to hear the preaching of the Word and to encourage friends and strangers around you as we meet.

(2) Play Christian music in your home while you are getting ready for the day – not on head headphones, but a speaker so music honoring Jesus fills your home! For Sunday morning, I really enjoy Fernando Ortega: The Shadow of Your Wings (Hymns and Sacred Songs); Chris Rice: Peace Like a River (The Hymns Project); and (if you like bluegrass) Claire Holley: Sanctuary.

(3) Lastly, come to church with expectation! When people walked miles and miles, stayed late with no food, and strained through the windows of packed houses to hear Jesus – they came with expectation. They expected to hear a word from the Lord and get answers to their questions. They sought healing in body, mind, and soul. They came not even knowing why they came but knowing that something special was going to happen in the presence of Jesus Christ. I feel the same way every time we gather!

I urge you to spend some time preparing your heart, and the heart of your family, for worship this Sunday. May the Lord bless us with His presence.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Vic

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3

Happy New Year friends! In beginning a new year, I have begun again to read through the Bible. It’s always an important part of the new year to be reminded that God is our Creator. It’s important to be reminded in the midst of busy days, traffic, demanding job situations, crying kids, and many other competing priorities – that God created this world and continues to uphold it by His power (Colossians 1:16-17). This reality must not be ignored by us, and should dramatically shape our priorities:

  • God created us for relationship. God does not need anything from us, but created us for His own pleasure and glory. He created us in His image – meaning that we share enough similarities with God that we can have a real and personal relationship with Him, while at the same time, He is beyond us in ways we can never fully understand. 
  • God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible for the purpose of right relationship. I hope you will make it a priority this year to constantly study the Bible, but that your study of the Bible will be for the purpose of gaining a deeper personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We must have truth for authentic relationships. We can never have a meaningful relationship with anyone that we don’t know truly, but knowledge does not equal relationship. I know much about George Washington through reading about his life, but I do not have a relationship with him. God created this world, you personally, and has disclosed Himself to us and recorded that disclosure in the Bible – so that we might know Him personally.
  • God created a structure of time for us to live within: 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 365 days in a year, a set number of years for your life. God is infinite and unbound by time. We, by design, are bound by time. God did not create our lives to be bound by time so that we might frantically fill it with every possible event. God created us to need sleep, Sabbath rest (one day in seven), and relaxation in the midst of regular hard work. As you pursue the work God has for you this year, be careful to remember the unhurried life of Jesus. He accomplished all of the Lord’s will – in an unhurried, simple, relationally rich life. He cut out everything that was not necessary. I encourage you to remember that if you cannot fit your planned activities into the time God has given you – then your life choices have gone beyond God’s design for your life and something needs to change.

This year, let us together remember that God is our Creator, and let us focus on knowing Jesus Christ and those around us with much love and authenticity – by re-structuring our lives to live within the good boundaries God has set for us. 

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Vic 

Psalm 145

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. 

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 

The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. 

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

The Visit of the Wise Men

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

This is a sober passage of Scripture. It means that if you assume you understand the will of God, without studying Scripture, you are wrong. Our way of thinking, our way of planning, and figuring things out is not like the Lord’s way. We are wrong to assume that our way of living life is right or wise because we are all sinners and corrupt in our ways. God’s ways are not only different but higher – meaning better in every degree. The ways of the Lord are pure, just, gracious, merciful, and establish rather than tear down. My encouragement to you is to read and study the Bible – God’s revelation to us. Studying the Scriptures, chapter-by-chapter, and day-by-day will transform your pattern of thinking (Romans 12:2) to be like the higher ways of the Lord. When your thinking changes, your actions will follow. 

I want to challenge you this Christmas to be more intentional about reading and studying the Bible in the new year. Consider some of these patterns in making your plan over the next few weeks:

  • Always quiet your heart and pray before reading God’s word. Whether you’re in a coffee shop, the office on lunch break, at home with loud kids, or in a quiet place – always pray and ask the Holy Spirit to illumine (bring understanding to) the words of Scripture (John 14:15-31). Without the Spirit of God giving us understanding, we will not understand, believe, or be impacted to obey the Word of God.
  • Strive after a pattern that may seem overwhelming – seek the Lord by reading Scripture morning and evening. You must make time somewhere in your day to meaningfully read the Scriptures, but I also encourage you to read a few verses at the opposing time of day. If you study the Scriptures in the morning, read a Psalm or Proverb before bed. If you study the Scriptures at night, read a Psalm or Proverb over breakfast. In this way, the Word of the Lord is always before you. 
  • Do not only study specific passages but take time to read full chapters and books of the Bible. It is vital to understand how God has been working in history over time, to rightly understand how He continues to work in our day. As a follower of Christ, it is sinful to have access to the Bible, but remain ignorant of its contents because you just don’t really care what is there. Set a new course! Pray for discipline, wisdom, and illumination. Read long passages of Scripture. Read continually. Soon you will make up for lost time and understanding, and find the joy of understanding the high and glorious knowledge of God.
  • The journey of learning never ends, because the Lord is infinite and we can never master Him. Seeking the Lord is a relationship that will never grow old – but only sweeter and more rewarding (Colossians 2:3). There is always another facet to the beauty of the Lord – wisdom to which there is always another degree – truth to which there is always another precept. 
  • When possible, do not read the Bible on a digital device. I’m not anti-technology. I’m pro-concentration. Digital devices are full of non-stop distractions. When we take even ten minutes to read the Scriptures, it should be prayerfully and with minimized distraction.

In closing, I offer you a powerful word from German pastor and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 

“The Lord stands above the new day, for God has made it. All the darkness and confusion of the night with its dreams gives way to the clear light of Jesus Christ and his awakening Word. All restlessness, all impurity, all worry and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, in the early morning hours of the day may our many thoughts and our many idle words be silent, and may the first thought and the first word belong to the one to whom our whole life belongs. “Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:4)…There is such a thing as rising early for the love of God. That was the practice of the men of Holy Scripture.” 

May Christ be praised this Christmas,

Pastor Vic 

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

I want to express my joy and thankfulness over being a part of such a tremendously generous congregation! God loves a cheerful giver because it demonstrates that your heart loves God and people instead of the things of this world. It shows that you value people over things – as Jesus did.

Over this past month, you have given close to $9,000 to help Ben and Trisha Pennington toward their goal of adopting siblings from India! You have given all that was necessary to purchase a reliable car for Jen and Sophia! You have purchased gifts for all the needy students presented to our church by principal Bartoszek! You donated a huge amount of clothing to the Salem Elementary School clothing drive! This is an amazing amount of generosity, for which I praise the Lord. It tangibly demonstrates our love for orphans, our love for our own church brethren, and our love for the needy in our community. It demonstrates the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst to bear in our hearts the fruit of sacrificial love.

One of the beautiful things about sacrificial congregational giving is how the Lord works it all out proportionally and intentionally. Each need was presented, I asked you to pray about giving, you prayed and obeyed to give what was laid on your heart. Through the joint obedience of us all, the needs were met! God puts the pieces together in His perfection and grace. You only need to be concerned with obeying what God has laid on your heart. When we all obey, the Lord Jesus brings about wonderful things, for His glory. May the Lord bless you for your generosity this Christmas!

ESV Bible App

I would like to recommend to you the ESV Bible App (available for Apple or Android). This Bible app is simple, free of ads, has a readable layout, has a very functional cross-reference system, and an excellent search function. We all read the Bible on our devices at some time during the day. It is important to get an app that is free of ads and distractions so you can focus on understanding God’s word and hear His voice of guidance and conviction. It’s important to have an easy search system, so you can find verses that you can’t remember the reference for. It’s also very important to have a good cross-reference system that works in a digital format. Give it a try!

Merry Christmas,

Pastor Vic