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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get alone with our Savior this week.

May the Lord fill our hearts from His abundant goodness, 

Pastor Vic

By Mike Patterson
Spotswood West Elder (Prayer)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May our hearts be turned toward heaven,

Mike Patterson 

The Marks of a True Christian

Church Membership

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

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

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

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

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

Church Library 

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

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

Thankful for you all, 

Pastor Vic

Fickle Humanity • Luke 4:14-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

May nothing divide us against each other,

Pastor Vic

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

This beautiful passage begins with the command to rejoice always and in all things. This reminds us that joy in our life does not come from the circumstances of our life, but from our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Joy is one of the fruits that the Holy Spirit bears in our hearts when we draw near to Him in devotion. Through this, it is possible to choose to rejoice, instead of dwelling on anger or fear. Why – because “the Lord is at hand” (v.5b). Let us remember as we go through our week, the Lord is present with us in a real way. This is the imminent presence of God with us, indwelling our hearts by the Holy Spirit. You are not alone or forgotten. The Lord is at hand, to guide your life toward His good purposes.

Therefore, “do not be anxious about anything.” As a caring Father, the Lord Jesus is ready to hear the anxieties of your heart. Life is crazy and full, from youth to old age, with anxiety upon anxiety. Your only hope for peace is to learn the discipline of prayerfully giving your anxieties to the Lord. In a very literal way, when you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, get alone (in your car, your office, bedroom, etc.) and pour out your fears to Jesus who is at-hand and cares for you. Let your requests be made known to God, but temper these prayers always with thanksgiving. You may not see it until you get on your knees, but there is always much to give thanks for. By giving focus to thanksgiving, it helps remind us where Jesus is at work. 

By praying in this way, you are consciously giving over to Jesus the temptation to be crippled by anxiety. There are only two options in your thinking: (1) the biblical teaching that God is sovereign, God is good, and God is working out a good plan in your life. Or, (2) God doesn’t really exist, the world is a series of random events shaped only by your efforts, and success is up to you. The first perspective leads to life, the second to pride and self-destruction. 

If you struggle much with anxiety, this process of recognizing God’s near love for you and giving all anxiety over to Him in prayer may happen 100 times a day for a while. However, eventually, this habit of always coming to Jesus with your fears will keep you near to Jesus and constantly in prayer. This is known as abiding in Jesus (John 15:1-8) and walking by faith (Romans 1:17). This is the way Jesus would have us live. By this, the peace of God will “guard” your heart in a way that surpasses your understanding. As you grow in faith, thanksgiving, and joy you will begin to face trails with a peace that surpasses understanding – because you walk by faith – knowing that your heavenly Father loves you and is working out His purposes in your life. 

Dear brothers and sisters – this week choose to be anxious for nothing – keep on giving your anxieties to the Lord!

May the peace of God guard your heart,

Pastor Vic 

“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