Thank You

The Lord has clearly communicated to Christians that we are to be a thankful people. In all of the teaching in the Bible, we do not find conditions on His desire that we be a people overflowing in and with gratitude. The following is a small sample of Biblical teaching on being thankful:
 
“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”  1Chron.16:34
 
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him. Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good. ” Psa.54:6
  
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” 2Cor.2:14
  
“always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” Eph.5:20
 
These verses as just a few of the many that teach Christians to be thankful. So in the spirit of these Biblical exhortations I would like to offer my gratitude to God for the blessing of the saints at Bethany. The following is reprinted with permission from Karl Vaters.

“Thank you for staying in a church whose

  • Music
  • Clothes
  • Liturgy
  • Building
  • Service order
  • Preaching style
  • Sanctuary
  • or something else

has changed into something you don’t recognize any more.

Thank you for the heritage you passed on to us that gives us the courage to try new, even stupid things to see if they work.

Thank you for how much you pray for us.

Thank you for reminding us that the methods can change as long as the message doesn’t.

Thank you for keeping the ship steady when people like me want to rock the boat.

Thank you for the times you want to speak up, but decide it might be best to pray about it for now.

Thank you for the times you need to speak up and do.

Thank you for the times you express your concerns in private, so you can stand with us in public.

Thank you for forgiving us when we blow it.

Thank you for letting us reach higher, because we’re standing on your shoulders.

Thank you for letting us reach higher, because we’re standing on your shoulders.

Thank you for catching us when we fall.

Thank you for doing all of this without getting anything close to the credit you deserve.

For these, and so many other blessings that no blog post will ever be long enough for, we thank you.

We can’t do it without you.”
 
AMEN!
 
With a heart filled with gratitude,
Pastor Chris


Easter 2015

As we look forward to celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would like to make available to you the various songs we will be singing as a congregation on that Sunday. The titles of the songs below are linked to youtube videos of the songs to assist you in your preparations for our gathering on Easter. Please continue to pray with us that Christ be lifted high as we sing to testify of His saving grace.


Church-Killing Gossip

Gossip is one of the most destructive forces in the local church. The article below, entitled “How to Stop Church-Killing Gossip,” has many helpful suggestions for how we ought to address gossip when we hear it. (This article was originally published on the blog of the Gospel Coalition).

Kent Hughes:

Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face.

Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.

Here are some wise words from Dan Phillips for when you hear gossip from someone:

  1. Ask, “Why are you telling me this?” Often, that in itself is such a focusing question that it can bring an end to the whole unpleasant chapter. It has the added benefit that it can help a person whose intentions are as good as his/her judgment is bad.
  2. Ask, “What’s the difference between what you’re telling me and gossip?” See above; same effect, same potential benefits.
  3. Ask, “How is your telling me that thought, that complaint, that information going to help you and me love God and our brothers better, and knit us closer together as a church in Christ’s love?” Isn’t that the goal we should share, every one of us? Won’t it take the working of each individual member (Eph. 4:16)? Isn’t the watch-out for harmful influences an every-member ministry (Heb. 3:12-1310:2413:12-15)?
  4. Ask, “Now that you’ve told me about that, what are you going to do about it?” While the previous two are subjective, this is not. If neither of the previous two questions succeeded in identifying gossip/whispering/sowing-dissension for what they are, the answer to this question will do so. Tip: if the answer is “Pray,” a good response might be “Then why didn’t you do that and leave it there in the first place?”
  5. Say, “Now that you’ve told me about that, you’ve morally obligated me to make sure you talk to ____ about it. How long do you think you need, so I can know when this becomes a sin that I will need to confront in you?” The least that this will accomplish is that you’ll fall off the list of gossips’/whisperers’ favorite venting-spots. The most is that you may head off a church split, division, harmed souls, sidelined Gospel ministry, and waylaid discipleship. Isn’t that worth it?

You can read the whole thing here.

Ray Ortlund explains what gossip is and why it is sinfully enticing:

Gossip is our dark moral fervor eagerly seeking gratification.

Gossip makes us feel important and needed as we declare our judgments.

It makes us feel included to know the inside scoop.

It makes us feel powerful to cut someone else down to size, especially someone we are jealous of.

It makes us feel righteous, even responsible, to pronounce someone else guilty.

Gossip can feel good in multiple ways. But it is of the flesh, not of the Spirit.

. . . Gossip is a sin rarely disciplined but often more socially destructive than the sensational sins.

Gossip leaves a wide trail of devastation wherever and however it goes – word of mouth, email, blogging, YouTube.

It erodes trust and destroys morale.

It creates a social environment of suspicion where everyone must wonder what is being said behind their backs and whether appearances of friendship are sincere.

It ruins hard-won reputations with cowardly but effective weapons of misrepresentation.

It manipulates people into taking sides when no such action is necessary or beneficial.

It unleashes the dark powers of psychological transference, doing violence to the gossiper, to the one receiving the gossip and to the person being spoken against.

It makes the Body of Christ look like the Body of Antichrist – destroyers rather than healers.

It exhausts the energies we would otherwise devote to positive witness.

It robs our Lord of the Church he deserves.

It exposes the hostility in our hearts and discredits the gospel in the eyes of the world. Then we wonder why we don’t see more conversions, why “the ground is so hard.”

Read the whole thing, including his own counsel on what you should do when you start to hear gossip.



Preparations

Easter is the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin. He offered Himself as the final sacrifice for sin, forever. Christ’s life and ministry prepared Him for Calvary. His birth, youth and ministry were leading Him to that eventful moment in human history when the blood of the lamb would take away the sin of the world. As Christians, we have nothing greater to celebrate, then Christ crucified and risen.
Below is a link to a 30 day devotional that you can use to prepare your heart for our celebration of Easter. The devotional guide will provide you with Scripture passages and questions to assist you in meditating on the life of Jesus. May the time you spend meditating on Jesus through your study adequately prepare you to lift up and exalt Jesus on Easter Sunday.


Food for Thought

Below is a post from Charles Wood regarding daily Bible reading. I hope it will encourage you to send time in the Word each day.

WHY YOU’LL NEVER REGRET FEEDING ON GOD’S WORD EVERY DAY

…”let’s be brutally honest for a moment : do we really feel a need for the Bible? Between Twitter, Oprah, our accountant and Sunday morning sermons, there’s already a flood of counsel washing into our lives.  What’s the Point?  So why read the Bible? And why every day? Dozens of reasons could be mentioned. Here are a few of the most important: Daily Bible reading is how we calm down, tank up, get wisdom, go deep, get busy and commune with God.
1. Calm down.  Each day we roll out of bed and, as C.S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity, ‘all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.’ One reason we read the Bible is so that we are not subject to living the day out of haste but rather out of calm. We remember the shortness of life, the eternality of heaven and the abundance of a gospel from which no sin or failure is excluded. The promises of Scripture are like an asthmatic’s inhaler, enabling us to slow down and take a deep breath.
2. Tank up.  Reading Scripture is like eating food. We have to do it regularly, it tastes good to taste buds that are alive, and it nourishes us for the day. Bible reading is stored energy, stockpiled emotional and psychological capital. We stay afloat throughout the day by making moment-by-moment withdrawals from that vast reservoir.
3. Get wisdom.  By nature, we are fools. Over time we can shed folly and become wise. We will not do it on our own. And we will not do it by downloading all the cleverness of the world’s best self-help gurus into our minds. We need a word from heaven, from beyond. The Bible is the world’s great self-corrective. Each day it tweaks our lives and prompts fresh mid-course corrections. Wisdom flourishes.
4. Go deep.  Daily Bible reading deepens us theologically. On the one hand, the demons are excellent theologians (James 2:19). They would ace our seminaries’ doctrine exams. So it isn’t enough to have right doctrine. But it is certainly necessary. Defective doctrine means a defective view of God, and to the degree our view of God is defective, to that degree the ceiling lowers on our potential for joy, comfort and above all enjoying the gospel of grace. One reason we read the Bible is to deepen our minds. To sharpen the contours of our vision of God. To think more accurately about all that matters most.
5. Get busy.  We also read the Bible to be told what to do. It’s not the main thing we read the Bible for. But we do find ourselves stirred to take action in concrete ways. Sometimes the text commands action directly. Other times it doesn’t, but at the least, indirectly, a text will mess with us, change us a little bit, alter our outlook and thus impel us forward in some new step of practical obedience externally because we have been changed a tiny bit internally.
6. Commune With God.  This is the umbrella category that includes all the rest. This is the point. Reading the Bible is a personal experience—“person-al,” one person to another. What other book do we read, conscious of the author interacting with us as we do so? Daily Bible reading requires routine and structure, but it is not mechanical—just as a body requires a bony skeleton, but it is not the skeleton that gives it life. We do with the Bible what the Psalms guide us in doing—adore God, thank him, complain to him, wrestle with him, express perplexity to him and all the rest.
“Getting Practical:  So what might this actually look like?  To be sure, it would be simplistic to conceive of every person’s time in Scripture as looking the same. Just as there are different but equally valid ways to exercise, so too there are different but equally valid ways to read the Bible. But what is nonnegotiable is that we must be doing so with faithful regularity in order to be healthy.  I have found morning time, first thing, to be best for reading the Bible. The house is quiet. A day’s worth of activity and anxiety has not built up. My mind is as blank as it will be all day and my body is as lethargic as it will be all day, making me well suited for unhurried reflection on the text. At times in the past, I’ve tried spending time in the Word in the evening, but my mind is racing from the day’s events, and I find it extremely difficult to slow down and chew on the text in a meditative way. Coffee and Scripture first thing in the morning has become a daily ritual that I dearly love and need. Experiment with what works best for you. Reading through the Bible in a year may be a good idea, especially if you are newer to Christianity. For myself, I’ve found slower, unhurried reflection and meditation on very small portions of Scripture to be best at this stage, with four young kids in the house and a small window of time for quiet solitude each morning….”  Charles Wood



Spiritual Evaluation

When the calendar year changes, we often make resolutions for the coming year. Sometimes we keep those resolutions and sometimes they fade like the year that has passed. This year I would like to encourage our church family to take some time to look back, so that they can look ahead to the new year with a confident expectation that God would change us in some specific areas of our Christian life.
LifeWay has developed an excellent tool that we can use to evaluate our life in Christ. It is called a “Spiritual Growth Assessment Process”. The link below will take you to it. I hope this tool will help you as the Lord continues His good work in you.  Pastor Chris


“Your wait time is….”

It is possible that when you call a business, you might hear a computerized message which informs you of how long you must wait for a customer representative. Often when we hear that message we have to face how impatient we are. Recently I read an article that contained words of wisdom regrading the virtue of patience. The author of the article is Charles Wood. I am grateful for such godly and wise counsel.

Pastor Chris

“Most people don’t like to wait.  What an understatement for me!  Usually quite patient, I have been known to drive several blocks to get around a slowing moving or stopped train, a traffic light that will take at least three changes to get through, but I have stopped short of knocking down older people in order to get to the front of the line faster.   But while most of us are in a hurry, it seems God is usually not in a hurry.  The Scriptures say He is slow at going about things.  It seems He always has a plan and a purpose for everything.  The problem with waiting is not having all the details.  From our perspective, we have everything figured out, and we want God to move within our time-frame. 
    Waiting is a part of life and one of God’s tools for developing people.  But God rarely does things according to our time-frame, and because of this we can easily get discouraged or even begin to ask questions about God.  God always has good reasons for making us wait.  Waiting is a part of life and one of God’s tools for developing people.  An article I found in my files pointed out the following five reasons why God so often makes us wait:
1. Waiting Reveals Our True Motives:  Waiting has a way of bringing out the best and worst in people.  People who don’t have good motives won’t wait long because they’re not interested in the commitment it takes to see something through.  They’re too interested in short-term gains or success.
2. Waiting Builds Patience In Our Lives: Patience in waiting for small things leads to having patience in the bigger things.  Our problem is our perspective is usually wrong.  We tend to think the bigger things in life are finances and possessions, while God thinks influencing and changing people is more important.
3. Waiting Builds Anticipation:  Why do children get so excited around Christmas?  Because the wait has produced anticipation.  We tend to appreciate things the longer we have to wait for them.  Because of having to wait so long, we tend to cherish and take care of it more than others might.  People tend to treasure the things they have to wait for.
4. Waiting Transforms Our Character:  Waiting has a way of rubbing off the rough edges of our lives.  Few sermons talk about Moses having to wait in the desert 40 years before God came to him.  God used this time of waiting to transform his character.
5. Waiting Builds Intimacy With and Dependency Upon God: Think of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Jesus, Paul, etc.  Waiting during the difficult times developed their relationship with God.  Some of the most intimate relationships we have in our lives are because a friend stood in the trenches with us during the heat of the battle.  I’ve always believed God is just as interested in the journey as he is the destination.  If not, all the biblical accounts would only include the feel good parts and not the good, the bad and the ugly of the times of waiting.  We may not always understand why we have to wait, but the good news is that God never asks to wait without Him.
We discussed this in our small group Sunday evening as some in the group are going through serious times of waiting.  They added several more reasons:
6.  God Knows That We Are Not Yet Ready for What We Want: we may need more maturity, a different setting, some step of action on our part, etc., before we are really ready for any action on His part.
7.  He Just Shows Us Who Is In Control: we know that intellectually, but we sometimes tend to wander into His area.  Waiting may well be His “push-back.”
8.  There Is A Web of Humanity Involved: It is possible that other people and circumstances are involved in that for which we wait.  We are waiting because there are those other things that must be cared for first before our request can be granted.
9.  There Is the Possibility That We Are Not Ready For What We Are Waiting For: There is nothing more tragic that watching someone get an almost immediate answer to prayer and then squander what has been granted on trivialities or minutia.
10.  God May Be Making Us Wait So We Can See Why What We Wanted Would Not Have Been Good For Us To Have At The Time We Were Asking: some of the things I have had to wait for have become matters of indifference during my time of waiting.  Had He given them to me just when I asked for them, I would have squandered them in the sense that I really didn’t need them or even want them, something that I could only learn through the time of Waiting.”
 


Mother’s Day

We thank the Lord for godly women, who are called “mom”. A mother’s willingness to sacrifice her live is a true display of the love of God in Christ. The link below is a clever way to remind us of a mom’s sacrificial life. Enjoy the laugh, the tear and I hope you have a blessed mother’s day.

Pastor Chris

Mother’s Day



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