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



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