The Road to Jerusalem

Decisions-714972The road to Jerusalem that was used by the Jews to celebrate the Passover was well worn by the time Jesus navigated that trail for the final time in His life. Since the Passover was an annual feast celebrated by the Jews, we may assume that Jesus could have walked that road approximately 20x before His final journey on it. The Gospels specifically mention 3 or 4 Passovers that Jesus may have experienced before His final celebration of the Passover with His disciples in the upper room.

Over the span of Jesus’ life, when He celebrated the Passover, I wonder how He sang the Psalms that were traditional song by the pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate it? Did His voice convey the joy of the Lord as the pilgrims would reflect upon God’s great deliverance of the nation? Did His voice hint at the depth God went to provide for that deliverance? Beyond the journey to Jerusalem, once Jesus arrived at the Temple, I further wonder what He was thinking during the actual Passover celebration as the lambs were sacrificed, the blood applied to the alter, the priest singing and praise God and the people giving thanks?

The road we travel to celebrate Easter is a similar road as the one Jesus traveled to celebrate the Passover. May our journey on the road to celebrate Easter be filled with joy as we contemplate our great salvation in Christ and all the spiritual blessings we posses through Him. May we also reflect upon, during our celebration of Chris’t resurrection from the grave, the depth of God’s love as He provided for us the perfect lamb, whose blood has cleansed us from all our sin. Finally, may our celebration of Easter lead us into a deeper devotion of Christ that would manifest itself in a passionate service for Christ.

Abiding in Him,

Pastor Chris



The Cries of Jesus

As we approach the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, I have been thinking about the life of our Lord while He walked on this earth. Specifically, I have been thinking about those times in His life when He cried.  Several such instances come to my mind.

First, though the text does not comment on Jesus crying at His birth, I have never heard of a baby who did not cry at birth. The sweet, innocent cry of new life. In the simplicity of that cry of Jesus I hear the depth of God’s love for us. His beloved Son would adorn Himself with our flesh so that He could love us with an everlasting love. How sweet the sound of that cry when baby Jesus entered this world.

The next cry of Jesus I hear is when Jesus was in the temple celebrating the Feast of Booths (sometimes called “Tabernacles”) or Succoth in Hebrew. This feast celebrated the harvest of grapes and olives as well as the end of the harvest season in general. The feast, which lasted seven days, was a time of great celebration. “Postexilic observances included the lighting of giant menorahs in the temple courtyard, all-night dancing to flutes by torchlight, dawn processions ending with libations of water and wine at the bronze altar…”.* The water libations were offered with prayer for future rains, so that their physical needs would continue to be met. Jesus’ cry at that particular part of the celebration turned an appeal to God to a cry from God’s Son that He alone can satisfy the spiritual thirst of man. It must have been a cry many would not have forgotten. In the midst of joyous celebration, His voice rose above all others to offer lasting satisfaction. I wonder if their celebration continued after He spoke…..

Another cry I hear from Jesus was when He wept over Jerusalem just prior to His crucifixion. He came to the nation Israel as their promised Messiah, but the nation turned away in unbelief. Jesus’ heart was broken. The city of God would have to wait in desolation until that day when the Jewish people turn in repentance to receive their Messiah. And so, they still wait today…..

The final cry I hear from Jesus was at Calvary. He was being sacrificed for our sins on the cross and with His final breath of life He simply said….”It is finished”. In that final cry, theology intersected history and the world was changed forever. The empty tomb of Jesus reminds us of His grace, our hope and the mission to sow the precious seed of the Gospel in this world.

As I contemplate those various cries of Jesus, I react to them in a number of ways. My first reaction is one of humility. I am humbled that through the incarnation, God would provide for my salvation. My next reaction is that I am grateful that Jesus does satisfy my soul. The restless yearn when I was without Christ has been replaced with a satisfaction that can only come from Christ. Another reaction is compassion for those who do not know Christ. May my life reflect the grace in the Gospel as I have opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus. Finally may I not only understand God’s plan for the ages, but may my life realize that plan as I live with Him and among His people.

As you prepare to celebrate Easter, I hope you too will take some time to reflect upon the life of Jesus. May that reflection remind you how He has radically and relentlessly changed your life.

Abiding in Him,

Pastor Chris

 

* Eerdmans Bible Dictionary



The Cost of the Cross

The cost of following Christ is great through out the world. Believers live with the real threat that they might be beaten or killed for identifying with Christ. We in America face increased opposition to our faith, but not out rite physical hostility to it. We sense in America that our views are dismissed, but we are not in fear of our physical safety.

Below is a link to an article that recounts an attack on Christians who gathered to worship Christ on a Sunday. Their worship was interrupted by gunfire and death. Please pray for these and other believers around the world who pay the cost of the cross. Pray as well for us (BBC specifically and American Christians generally)that our lives would have enough faith the pay the cost of the cross.

 

Attack on Church in Kenya



“All You Need is Love…”

 

The smash hit “All You Need is Love” was first recorded in 1967 on the Beatles album “Magical Mystery Tour”.  It was written by John Lennon as a simple, yet powerful way to unite people who were diverse in background and culture. Love is all you need, he thought. Unfortunately for Lennon, he did not understand that catchy slogans can never transform the human heart. Humanity may be able to be manipulated by such tactics, but it can never be  fundamentally transformed by  those tactics.

Only the Gospel can change the human heart. Jesus said that He is the way, the truth and the life….. Through His death and resurrection, salvation is available for humanity. When we come to Jesus by faith through grace we are fundamentally changed. As the Apostle Paul would later write, we are a new creature created in Christ Jesus. The evidence of this new life is obvious by the defining characteristic of it. Love

This love however is not merely a part of a catchy phrase or a token adjective used to superficially gloss over our differences. Instead, this love which we are to evidence was defined by our God, when He gave His only Son to and for us. Jesus not only provided us with a definition for love, but He embodied that definition for all to see.  Soon we will be celebrating Easter once again. I pray it will be our reminder as Christians that all we really do need is love.

Pastor Chris

images

 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son

to be the propitiation for our sins. 

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”



Moral Courage

According to Wikipedia, moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal or discouragement. As a Christian living in the world, but not of the world, that definition resonates within me. In a recent post in Slice of Infinity, Stuart McAllister echoed the moral courage Christians need today.

 
“To be a follower of Christ demands independent and courageous thinking and acting. It is often to go against the flow, to stand in an opposing manner, to resist what is the wisdom of the crowd. Paul’s reminder of the basis upon which God chooses should disabuse us of our self-elevation. For God’s choosing is not based on our credentials or qualifications but solely and centrally on Christ’s.  Hence, as Francis Schaeffer used to say, “There are no little people” in God’s eyes. We are all sinners saved by and dependent on grace.  Thus, we must constantly lay hold of what has been done for us and learn to rest in God’s provision, wisdom, and care. We can also rejoice that even today God deliberately, with full knowledge, and real intention, chooses the unlikely, the outcast, and the least, overturning titles of power, success, and wisdom in a world with very different scales.”

 



To Be or Not to Be: The issue of membership in a local church

Weekly I receive emails from a man who has been in ministry for over 50 years. Those writings have been a source of encouragement, admonishment and learning in my Christian and ministry life. Sometimes in those writings he cites or shares material from other sources. Recently he shared some thoughts written by some one else on the topic of Church Membership. May your faith be stimulated and stretched as you read his thought provoking post.

 

“IS CHURCH MEMBERSHIP ALL THAT IMPORTANT?
     Larry Huffhand and I don’t agree on quite a few things (although I am quite sure we agree far more than we disagree), but we both are convinced that disagreement shouldn’t affect such things as friendship, respect, and even citation. 
     It doesn’t seem so bad lately, but there has been a distinct, if unorganized, tendency against church membership (many have had something of a “cafeteria syndrome” – go to the church with the best whatever and to another one for something else – regarding the church, and it is not just young people involved).  Larry has written what I think is an excellent article on the subject of church membership, and I think it worth sharing.  (This is his “original” Article; he has since revised it a bit, but I couldn’t copy it).
“What does it mean when the Bible says in Acts 2: ‘then they that gladly received his word were baptized and the same day there were added unto them about 3000 souls.’  What does that mean?  Why did the Apostle Paul go around establishing churches?  Why did he instruct Titus to stay in Crete and ‘ordain elders’ in all the churches?  What does church discipline imply?  These and other questions go right to the heart of Church Membership.  And if Church Membership is so important, what should be the procedure of bringing people into the membership of a local church? 
    Except for the four personal letters Paul wrote to Titus, Timothy, and Philemon, all the other books Paul wrote, were written specifically to churches, and the reason he wrote them was to give them inspired, Biblical instruction and encouragement.  When I taught Seminary classes, I really discouraged ‘auditing’ the class.  It was like getting something for nothing.  So it is with just attending a church.  It’s getting something for nothing.  An attender has no obligations of any kind.  He is not obligated to tithe.  He’s not obligated to attend.  He’s not obligated to serve, [and can’t in many cases because of legal implications] and he’s not even obligated to pray for the spiritual welfare of the church.  He’s just an attender.  So what’s wrong with that, if anything?  I guess what I’m asking is this, in the light of ‘To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin,’ can a person be right with God and simply be an attender, and not a member of a church? 
    Personally, I believe the most important organization a Christian can belong to is the Local Church.  We look down upon illegal aliens in our country and so we encourage them to go thru the process and become a citizen.  To be under the watch care and protection of a government is a very important feature of being a citizen.  We frown on couples shacking up and living together without due process of marriage.  We believe it is a sin.  These are two of the three institutions established by God and there is a recognized process to belong to either of them.  But what about the Church, and its membership.  Shouldn’t it be every bit as important as these other two?  It’s the one organization God ordained to implement the truths laid out in the Bible.  That being said, joining a church ought to be a significant step in a Christian’s life, having a serious degree of formality to it, along with a personal welcome into the membership before the congregation, as well as an opportunity for other members to welcome them in.  It is a procedure recognized and practiced, not only by Baptist churches, but by all churches.  That’s my take on the subject for what it’s worth.
A reader adds some thoughts to Larry’s excellent post on church membership. What he suggests is not a popular theme or practice today, but I think the church suffers credibility from the lack of a Biblical approach to what he suggests: “Another issue that…wasn’t mentioned in the article on the importance of church membership (with which I completely agree), is that of not only responsibility/obligation (which was the focus), but also the accountability it gives to a spiritual authority.  Even though unpleasant and rarely exercised anymore, church discipline requires membership because without it, the leadership, and the congregation as a whole, have no formal authority and thus no sort of leverage to ‘pressure’ those in publicly known sin to correct course. They aren’t ‘in fellowship’ in any sort of formal way, and so can’t be ‘out of fellowship’ in any meaningful way.  I realize that the concept of having such leverage to pressure someone runs completely against the grain of our free-wheeling, no-accountability culture, but it seems that Biblically this is a specific and prescribed component of the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in the context of a fellowship of believers.””


A New Journey

Welcome to our new website. We hope it will assist all our members as we continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. In addition, we want to use this site as another way to provide our fellowship with information concerning the ministries of BBC. If you have suggestions or ideas that would enhance this site, please contact us.

Specifically we would like to use the Growing in Grace blog in other ways as well. Our desire would be to use this blog to equip our members with His Truth so that Christ is glorified in our lives. We would also want to use this blog to encourage our members in their ongoing ministry of edifying one another. Finally we hope this blog could be used to further equip us as we testify of the grace of God in Christ to those who need Him. Periodically we will write or provide links to articles or websites that would be beneficial to the saints who gather at Bethany.

The section of Scripture below is the biblical vision for our fellowship. It is our earnest prayer for the members of our fellowship that until Christ returns for His bride, we with joy fulfill His desire for us. May the Lord richly bless us with His grace as we faithfully follow Him.

“He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work,working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. 

No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.”

Eph 4:11-16 Message



Do Not Lean on Your Own Understanding

Read part 1 first, Trust In The Lord.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

 

Don’t Lean on Your Understanding

The verse involves a positive–something you must do. But it also involves a negative–something you must not do. Don’t lean on your own understanding. Basically, the verse is telling us that we ought not to be self-reliant. We cannot pursue a course of action, a financial decision, a business move, a relationship, or an educational choice, simply based on our own understanding. It must be founded in our trust in God.

Self-reliance is such a deceptive trap. We begin to pride ourselves in something–our savvy, our looks, our intellect, our spirituality, our family, whatever. And when we do, it takes away our trust in the Lord. It has become trust in self. The result is a dangerous compromise that will lead to destruction.

 

Instead, Acknowledge God. In Everything.

The antidote to this self-reliance is found in the first command of the verse. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Which is developed in the next verse: “In all your ways acknowledge him.” The word “acknowledge” isn’t merely a polite tip of the hat to the Man Upstairs, or a few words of grace over your meal, or even perfunctory attendance at church to let Him know we’re still cool with what He’s doing. It’s way more. It’s allowing Him access, control, command, and involvement in all your ways.

What’s the result of this? Will God ruin your life? Will he be a Sovereign Killjoy? Will He rob you of fun? The verse ends on a promise. What is it?

 

He will make your paths straight.

The promise is put in the form of a metaphor. What does it mean to have straight paths? Several things. First, paths lead toward an end–a destination, a goal. Thus, trusting God wholeheartedly in every area of life gives your life a sense of purpose and priority. Second, it indicates that there will be a clear understanding of where you are going and what you are doing. It makes daily decision-making an easier and less painful task. You realize you are trusting Him. He, in turn, is making your paths straight. Thus, the way ahead is more apparent. Third, “straight paths” suggests moral purity. It suggests a life that has less of sinful compromise and more of wholesome attitudes, actions, and behavior.

That’s the kind of life that God promises. It’s the kind of life that you can have. It begins with trust. It involves acknowledging God in every way.