Skinny Jeans, Side Parts, and the Savior

Over the past week, a viral post has made its rounds through social media. The video is an indictment from Generation Z (born from 1997-2012) on the fashion and style of Millennials (born from 1981-1996). Gen Z has made it known that the fashion trend of skinny jeans and styling your hair with a side part is no longer cool. As a Millennial myself, any jeans I wore would never be classified as skinny, and I also have no hair left to part. Millennials are growing old and approaching middle-age. What was cool for the Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials have already faded. Also, for any Gen Z’r reading this post, your fashion trends and style will fade too, and Generation Alpha (born from 2013 –mid-2020s) will one day think you are lame and out of date.

Well, what does any of this have to do with Jesus, the church, ministry, and the gospel? What we realize is too often churches are enthralled and allured with results. Therefore, they will take pragmatic approaches to ministry and some will sacrifice core doctrine and beliefs for the zeitgeist. Pragmatism places methodology over theology which will inevitably lead to gospel compromise. It will lead a church, a pastor, or an individual to eschew the sufficiency and authority of God’s word.

Churches will offer pragmatic solutions, human ingenuity, and ride the wave of current trends all in the name of “reaching the next generation.” Now, we do need to reach the next generation, but we do not reach them with TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, or having trendy pastors. Every trend and fad will pass. Fashion, trends and all that is deemed cool today will look antiquated in just a matter of a few years (at most). By relying upon human wisdom, we communicate that the gospel is not powerful or sufficient to save sinners. What every generation needs, those that have all passed and those that will come, need a Savior. Why? Because all men and women have the same fundamental problem. The problem is that we stand as sinners before a Holy God. We have rebelled against him, and we deserve an eternity in hell under a righteous God’s fury and anger. The church is armed with the most powerful weapon, the gospel, the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). Out of God’s love, He commissioned His Son into the world to save us from our sins. Yet, the way we “do ministry” seems like we are ashamed of the gospel or don’t believe its power to save sinners to the uttermost. At the end of the day, what you win people with is what you win them to. If we “win” the next generation with passing trends, they are still in their sins. There is but one mediator because God and man, and that is the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5)

The church is called to preach the gospel. May we not be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Eph 4:14).” Everything fades. As Isaiah 40:8 states, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” It is the Lord who stands forever. He is the one that will remain. Jesus Christ stands transcendent over time, culture, and trends. He is the only sufficient savior for all generations. When everything in this world is nothing more than an asterisk in the history books, Jesus Christ stands as the Sovereign Lord. On the last day, the one who stands will be the Savior – – Jesus Christ. He will stand as judge over the wicked. Yet, there is a way of escape, and it is trusting in His sufficient sacrifice on the cross for sins and his resurrection from the grave. It is through Jesus Christ that we can be saved and know God. As the church, may we stand upon what transcends the test of time, Jesus Christ, His Scripture, and His gospel!

Higher Degree

Hey everyone! Welcome to my blog (Pastor Lee) and thank you for taking the time to read the very first blog post. I wanted to share with you a few reasons why we started this blog.

First, let’s start with the purpose of the blog. If you look at the name, it is called “Higher Degree.” In the Christian life, we endeavor to love God supremely. My prayer is that each post causes you to love God to a higher degree. As we look at a variety of topics from a biblical perspective, we want to look at life through a gospel lens. By doing so, we will hopefully understand more fully the work and person of Christ. As we dig deeper into doctrine the higher our worship will ascend.

Also, we want you to love others to a higher degree. God has called us to love Him and others. Matthew 22:37-39 reads, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” My hope is not only that we would love God to a higher degree but also learn to love the brethren to a higher degree too.

Second, we want to fulfill God’s call to make disciples. Jesus says in Matthew 28:18-20, “18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Part and parcel of loving God and loving others is to obey God and proclaim His good news to the world.

Reading biblically faithful articles and blogs is one way which we can learn more about God and His character while simultaneously applying the Scripture to life. We know the Word of God is profitable for us. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The Spirit of God, applying the Word of God, will train Christ’s disciples to grow in love, devotion and holiness. These posts are another avenue in which we can be discipled.

Third, with keeping the profitability of Scripture in view, we want to take theological and ethical questions you may have and answer those questions from a Christian worldview. By disseminating these answers in a digital format, it allows for answers to be concise and clear. We face a myriad of questions that we want answer and various situations in which we want to be faithful.

Therefore, I want to ask for your help with the Higher Degree blog. I would love for you to submit your questions. I have provided an anonymous form below that you can fill out. When you fill out this form it will send your questions directly to my inbox. I cannot promise you that every question will be answered, however, I do promise every question I do answer will be my best attempt at biblical fidelity. I am sure with many questions there will be some gray areas, and you may not agree with all my conclusions. Yet, I hope at the end of it all, each and every post will help you love God and love others to a higher degree!

Immersed in the Word

Woman of Grace, Immerse Yourself in the Word!

Do you frequently wonder how to respond biblically to what’s happening in your life—whether it’s an unexpected occurrence, a crisis event, or part of your day-to-day routine? Do you find yourself asking, “What’s the ‘how-to’ for the situation I’m in?”

Do you know and trust that the Bible has the answers?

God’s Word is truth (John 17:17); and it equips us to handle every situation in a manner that glorifies Him. From Genesis to Revelation, we have the teaching, instruction, warnings, and encouragement we need to put off the old self and to put on godly thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Ephesians 4:22-24). Just think: We have within our grasp the complete and sufficient words of God, written down for us and for all generations!

To faithfully apply the Word of God to our lives, we must know it. (You can’t apply what you don’t know!) In his New Testament commentary on Romans, John Macarthur states, “The transformed and renewed mind is the mind saturated with and controlled by the Word of God.” To put it in terms of the “I” in our IDEALS, we must immerse ourselves in the Word.

Being immersed in the Word means living with reliance upon it for wisdom, trusting that it provides both help and hope. Not only that, being immersed in the Word involves thinking on the precepts of the Bible moment by moment throughout the day, not just when we find ourselves in trouble, or sit down to read it, or gather with the local church body. Being immersed in the Word involves looking at every aspect of life through the lens of Scripture.

Psalm 119 beautifully portrays the need for the Word—and the God of the Word—in our everyday lives. For example, the psalmist says:

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” – Ps 119:11

“Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you.” – Ps. 119:89-91

“Oh, how I love your law. It is my meditation all the day.” – Ps. 119:97

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Ps. 119:105

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” – Ps. 119:114

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” – Ps. 119:130

God’s Word is as essential (arguably, more essential) than the air we breathe or the food we eat. Jeremiah, who served as prophet and priest to the kingdom of Judah, regarded God’s word as daily bread for his soul in Jeremiah 15:16:

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”

By now, you may be thinking that a Word-consuming life requires work (and a stomach of iron). Yes, it does! Being immersed in the Word is a 24-7 commitment, but it’s not one we can do alone. The Holy Spirit residing in us brings the truths of Scripture to bear on our hearts and minds, and it is by His enabling power that we can apply these truths to our lives (Luke 24:45).

The Apostle Paul, who tirelessly proclaimed Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins, delivered this exhortation concerning the Christian walk in Philippians 2:12-16 (emphasis mine):

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

Whether you have twenty minutes or two hours to regularly read, study and memorize Scripture, I encourage you to redeem every moment the Lord has given you (2 Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 5:16). Over time, your knowledge of the Word will grow and grow. A fruit of that diligent work will be an increased ability to see circumstances and trials in your life through the lens of God’s Word and to respond according to His wisdom and instruction.

Pray that the Holy Spirit calls to mind what you are learning and helps you apply it to the situations in your life. Teach it to your children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Seek out like-minded ladies in order to encourage and sharpen one another in light of the Word (Proverbs 27:17).

In love and obedience to our great God, let us be known as women of the Word!

Helpful resources to aid in studying and applying the Word:

Prepare Him Room

Ugly sweater parties. Dirty Santa. Gift shopping. Decking the halls. Family gatherings. Our calendars are certainly full this time of year, but does busyness on the calendar equate to fullness in our heart? I am not condemning any of these activities, but if Christmas turns into this vague, commercialized holiday, we can easily lose sight of why we should rejoice during the Christmas season.  The irony of Christmas is that we have intentions to reflect upon Christ’s birth but may have the least amount of time to do so. If we are not careful, those events that we participate in can rob us of the very reason for our rejoicing.

We find the story of Jesus’ birth, the reason to rejoice, in Luke 2:1-7. Caesar Augustus declared a census to be taken. This meant Mary and Joseph would have to travel back to Bethlehem to register for the census. As Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, Jesus would be born (v. 6). Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths and put in a manger (v. 7).  This section of Luke describes to us the fulfillment of prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). This prophecy uttered centuries before was fulfilled, and Jesus Christ would be born to save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21). The timing of Caesar’s decree and Jesus’ birth were all within the purview of God’s providence. Not only is God over history, but he is over the particular events that take place.

We try to replicate this event with our nativity scenes that often look so peaceful with a nicely swept floor and perfect square bales of hay, in a roomy stable, but let us not lose sight of the fact that this was a real birth. A real birth with real pain and tears, all amidst the smell of animals and their manure. As the Son of God came in the lowliest and humble of estates, we are reminded that “Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor 8:9).” As we sing in the famous Christmas song Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate deity…Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die.” The Son of God in human form, humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8).

The birth of Christ is not a story to produce sentiment. It tells us about God executing his plan of redemption by sending His Son into the world to live a perfectly righteous life, to die in the place of sinners, and resurrect from the grave. The babe born with his arms restricted in swaddling cloth and laid in a lowly manger of wood would soon have his arms stretched out and nailed to a piece of wood, dying a criminal’s death on the cross so all who would trust in Him alone could be reconciled to God and forgiven of their sin.

Yet the question remains, “Why was Jesus in a manger?” Luke tells us in verse 7, “because there was no place for them in the inn.”  Bethlehem was busy during this time because of the census. The busyness of Bethlehem crowded out Jesus.

In our culture, the most wonderful time of the year can also become the most stressful time of the year. We can become so busy in our hearts, that just like Bethlehem, we cannot make room for Jesus. As the innkeeper of your own heart, you should ask yourself the question, “Am I making room for Christ?”

Oh, our hearts, as busy as Bethlehem
Hear Him knock, don’t say there’s no room in the inn
Through the cradle, cross, and grave
See the love of God displayed
Now He’s risen and He reigns
Praise the Name above all names![1]

As you prepare for Christmas around the house and under the tree, would you also slow down and prepare your heart to make room for Jesus?

Even when the lights, wreaths, and the mistletoe are put away, once the trees are taken down, the festive music stops playing, and seasonal candy ceases, the church of Jesus Christ still has something to celebrate! For when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal 4:4). We have all the reason to rejoice because the King has come and entered the world. Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Receive your King and let every heart prepare Him room!

Enjoy and worship along with our music team as they sing “Prepare Him Room.”

[1] “Prepare Him Room.” Sovereign Grace Music, 2014.

*This article was originally published in the 2019 Chatham News and Record Christmas Editorial

When You Fear Your Faith May Fail

One of my favorite hymns to sing is “He Will Hold Me Fast.”[1] The first lyrics are:

When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast

Do you ever feel like your faith may fail? Does life ever seem like a fearful path? Do you feel like you are not strong enough to continue to hold onto Christ? Does your love for Jesus grow cold?

Yes, we all certainly walk through seasons where our love is cold, our faith is weak, and our strength wanes. As a Christian, we are weak and in desperate need for Christ (John 15:5). There exists in our life dark, trying, and depressing times that seem to rise as frequent as crashing waves upon the ocean’s shore. In those days, we may wonder about our ability to persevere and to keep hold of Christ by faith.

In the book of Jude, Jude writes, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy (verse 24).”

God keeps us from stumbling. God keeps us from falling away. God secures us. Our surety is not in our strength to keep hold of Christ, but in Christ’s strength to keep hold of us. We will fail to hold on to Christ. Yet, God “who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).

Jude 24 doesn’t say that God might keep you from falling. God isn’t going to try really, super-duper hard to keep you from falling. No, He is able to keep you from stumbling. God is able to save to the uttermost (Heb 7:25). Christ Jesus has made you his own (Phil 3:2). God is mighty with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:12).

As found in Jude 24, God also keeps his people with great joy. He does not begrudgingly hold onto you. A verse that is a constant reminder of this truth is Psalm 149:4, “The Lord takes pleasure in His people.” It pleases God to save. It pleases God to keep his people saved. In verse 2 of “He Will Hold Me Fast,” the opening line is “Those He saves are His delight.” God the Father is delighted to save those He has promised to His Son (John 6:37). We do not have to complete tasks for God to delight in us, but we look to Christ’s life, death, and resurrection to understand that the task has been completed. God takes pleasure in us because of His Son. Christian, God takes pleasure in you and holds you fast.

It is in God’s promise and pleasure the Christian presses on, pursues God, and perseveres in the faith. It is from the safety of our heavenly Father’s compassionate love that we keep ourselves in that love (Jude 21). We operate out of God’s sovereign grace toward us which makes us eager to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). He has supplied all we need and continues to supply all we need in Christ His Son. It is in Christ, we see God’s unfailing love and eternal pleasure that rests upon His people.

Your faith may fail, but God doesn’t. It is not the intensity of our faith in which we find security but the object of our faith – – Jesus Christ. God is able, and He alone is able. God keeps those that are his from falling away solely by his grace and because of His good pleasure. We have a promise to cling to! For those in Christ, He will hold us fast!


Listen to “He Will Hold Me Fast”

[1] vv. 1-2 Ada Habershon (1861-1918), Public Domain. Alt. words, new words (v.3), and music: Matthew Merker