Bethany Church news
Several years ago, we watched God's and Generals on TV. This is a GREAT movie. It re-emphasized for me how very little involved our country seems to be with God today compared to what it used to be. We have a politician now and then that is open about their belief and faith in God, but it is a rare thing indeed. At the time of the civil war, virtually ALL of the leaders, on both sides of that horrid war, were openly believers.
Several days after watching that movie, I learned this sad little tidbit of history that was not within the time frame of that picture. The last battle of the American Revolution was the Battle of Blue Licks, fought at the stream that bears that name. It was a battle that should never have been fought, for it was fought after the war was over! News traveled slowly in those days. Blue Licks is in Kentucky, and there was no means of quick communication over the Appalachian mountains. No one knew the war was over.
That bit of history has a Christian meaning too, because it is a fact that Jesus Christ won the victory over Satan at Calvary. But the lines of communication are slow to some people, and they continue to fight battle after battle when the victory is already theirs.
The Word of God tells us who does the fighting for us:
Deuteronomy 20:4 (KJV);
"For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you."
Jesus tells us that he has overcome:
John 16:33 (KJV);
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
We are told that the victory is ours:
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (KJV);
"So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
In the Battle of Waterloo, the French under the command of Napoleon were fighting the Allies (British, Dutch, and Germans) under the command of Wellington. The people of England depended on a system of semaphore signals to find out how the battle was going; they didn’t have TV or Radio in those eays. One of these signal stations was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral.
Late in the day it flashed the signal: "W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N---D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D- -." Just at that moment one of those sudden English fog clouds made it impossible to read the message. The news of defeat quickly spread throughout the city. The whole countryside was sad and gloomy when they heard the news that their country had lost the war. Suddenly the fog lifted, and the remainder of the message could be read. The message had four words, not two: "W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N- - -DE-F-E-A- T-E-D- - -T-H-E- - -E-N- E-M-Y!" Sorrow was turned into joy, defeat was turned into victory!
So it was when Jesus was laid in the tomb on the first Good Friday afternoon. Hope had died even in the hearts of Jesus' most loyal friends. After the frightful crucifixion, the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding had crept in on the friends of Jesus. They had "read" only part of the divine message. "Christ defeated" was all that they knew. But then on the third day--Easter Sunday--the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding lifted, and the world received the complete message: "Christ defeated death!" Defeat was turned into victory; death was turned to life!
As Christians, we can never loose the battle! There is only one possible way for us to be defeated, and that is if we desert. With Christ, and for Christ, victory is certain. We can loose the victory by flight but never by fight.
Romans 8:28 (KJV);
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
"No one's behavior is entirely his or her own business. Even slight departures from health have their unseen eventual consequences. In our day of prized individuality and "it's nobody's business but mine" attitude, we trip each other up in more ways than we recognize. But when I set my mood tuned to joy, I create far-reaching results in health that I may never see."
Lloyd H. Ahlem wrote that in "The Covenant Companion" in Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 2. Setting my mood to joy is something which I strive to always do, and almost always succeed in it. When someone asks me that commonplace and almost rhetorical question, "How you doin'?", my normal response is "Fantastic!", and I mean it. I consider any time I can be out and about and able to meet people a fantastic time. I have been so ill at times that I could not leave the house, and therefore I feel great when I can get out. I have spent seven years in Smithville, away from my wife, family and friends. Any time I am in my chosen area, with my wife, friends and family, I feel I am doing 'fantastic' indeed! I have seen times when I was suffering from physical hunger, such as the flood in Fairbanks in 1967. Anytime I am not suffering from hunger, I believe I am doing great! I have seen times when we were first married when we had bad apartment living conditions, no transportation, and very little money. Anytime I have a permanent mailing address is a good time. Anytime I don't have to hitch-hike to work is a good time. Anytime I can open my wallet and find at least $20 inside is a good time.
You can have this attitude: stop dwelling on what you do not have, and think instead of what you do have.
Philippians 1:27 (KJV);
"Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;"
1 John 2:10-11 (KJV);
"He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."
The Dover Area School district in Pennsylvania passed a rule that required biology teachers to read a statement at the beginning of the school year to each of their 9th grade classes. The statement was four short paragraphs, and took about one minute to read. It simply stated that Evolution is a theory, not a fact. It also pointed out that evolution should be approached with an open mind, understanding that there were areas in biology for which it did not have an answer. The statement also said that ID (Intelligent Design) was a competing theory that would NOT be taught, but a book on it was available in the school library. Classes would continue to teach evolution, and evolution is what would be tested for in the tests.
The NCSE got in the act, and had eight teachers sign a form letter objecting, saying they would not read the statement. A lawsuit against the school district was mounted, and was successful.
Another school district placed small stickers on the inside cover of their Biology textbooks stating that Evolution was a theory, not a fact. A subsequent lawsuit by the NCSE forced them to peel the stickers out of all the textbooks.
What is the big problem here? Every HONEST scientist, whether or not they believe in Evolution, recognizes that there are areas of trouble for it, for which there ARE no answers.
In a poll reported in National & International Religion Report, it was found that, while 50 percent of those polled were troubled about the influence of religious fundamentalism, only 36 percent expressed concern about secular humanism's influence.
Houston, we have a problem!
The Word of God tells us:
1 Corinthians 15:34 (KJV);
"Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame."
1 Timothy 6:20-21 (KJV);
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.
I deal often with atheists who openly attack God. One of the common complaints they have against Him is the fact that he is not always smiling and happy, he is not a Pollyanna ; there are times when he is wrathful. They cannot accept a God of wrath, they say.
I once read this from Christianity Today, and I think it holds their answer. It’s an actual conversation between an atheist school teacher named Kate and a friend of hers who was Jewish:
Kate said: "There were a dozen different religions among the children at my school. We seemed always to be celebrating some kind of feast or ceremony. Usually it required making a noise and dressing up. The official line was that all religions were equally important. I must say that the result was to leave me with the conviction that they were equally unimportant. I suppose if you don't teach religion with conviction it becomes just one more boring subject. Perhaps I'm a natural pagan. I don't go in for all this emphasis on sin, suffering and judgment. If I had a God I'd like Him to be intelligent, cheerful and amusing."
Her friend responded: "I doubt whether you'd find him much of a comfort when they herded you into the gas chambers. You might prefer a god of vengeance."
Deuteronomy 32:35-38 (NCV);
"I will punish those who do wrong; I will repay them. Soon their foot will slip, because their day of trouble is near, and their punishment will come quickly." The LORD will defend his people and have mercy on his servants. He will see that their strength is gone, that nobody is left, slaves or free. Then he will say, "Where are their gods? Where is the rock they trusted? Who ate the fat from their sacrifices, and who drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let those gods come to help you! Let them protect you!"
John 3:36 (KJV);
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
Thinking back to the days of my youth, I am forced to contemplate the effect that the laws had upon my behavior. It was not legal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol in IL at that time. Did I taste alcohol before I reached that age? Yes I did. It was illegal to drive faster than the posted speed limits. Did I ever exceed those limits? Yes I did. Drag racing on public roads was illegal. Did I ever do it? Yes I did. Interfering with television and radio broadcasts by unlicensed transmissions was illegal. Did I ever do that? Yes I did.
Now, if I apply the philosophy of today to those laws, I would conclude that, since people break them anyway, the laws are useless and should be removed from the books. Although that may sound logical, it is not. The reason it is not logical is that many of the laws DID prevent me from certain activity; Recreational drugs were illegal, and I never tried them. Robbery was illegal, and I never robbed anyone. Even when I DID break a law, it was done discreetly; the law itself prevented my drinking in public, drag racing in traffic, or speeding in areas where people would see me. This is no small contribution. When a society abandons its ideals just because most people don't live up to them, behavior gets very ugly indeed.
Compare it to the laws of God. Does anyone obey God in all matters, never sinning? Of course not. Is that sufficient reason to just drop the whole thing and stop trying? Not at all! For it is in the trying that we improve ourselves. We will not always win, but we must always try.
The Word of God tells us:
1 Corinthians 15:34 (KJV);
"Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame."
2 Timothy 3:1-2 (KJV);
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,"
Romans 1:18 (KJV);
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;"
Newsweek carried this several years ago:
The effects of virtue-free social policy have been devastating--but we don't seem quite ready to accept the alternative. Few politicians are comfortable about using words like "right" and "wrong," especially when the subject is sexual irresponsibility (which remains the surest predictor of criminality, ill health and welfare dependency among the poor). ... In fact, it isn't easy. It requires the fortitude to sometimes cast people into the outer darkness. ...
That Newsweek article makes a good point. It has become near impossible for a people as rights-conscious and tolerant as ours to admit that some people who behave badly, if not quite criminally, aren't worthy of our support--to kick them off welfare, or out of schools and housing projects. But it is inescapable; the system can't work without sanctions--even if they require the sort of stiff, humorless, un-American propriety that gave morality such a bad name.
How can we be in this mess in this country? It is because we, as a nation, are contradictory in our own beliefs! We hold two opposing viewpoints at the same time, and refuse to admit either might be wrong! Consider, for instance, a poll that was published in U.S. News and World Report:
Percentage of Americans who believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God: 80. Percentage who believe there is no one set of values that is right: 48.
We must get it together, folks. We must return to our core values, to the Word of God, and STUDY it, BELIEVE it, and FOLLOW it!
We are directed in scripture:
Habakkuk 1:13 (NCV);
"Your eyes are too good to look at evil; you cannot stand to see those who do wrong. So how can you put up with those evil people? How can you be quiet when the wicked swallow up people who are better than they are?"
We must stand up, and speak out, and do battle against the evil in this world, even when such views are politically incorrect and unpopular with those around us.
A happy couple had always raised cucumbers and made sweet pickles together. The husband loved to watch things grow. He spent his winters studying the seed catalogues to get the best possible cucumbers. The whole family enjoyed preparing the soil, planting and caring for the plants.
His wife loved to make sweet pickles. She studied the best recipes and the best methods of preparing and preserving them. They were such a happy family, and all their visitors went home with a jar of their famous pickles. The church always had a good supply of their pickles as well. People marveled at this family that worked so well on common interests.
Finally, the man died. The next spring all the children returned home. They said to their mother, "We know how much you love making pickles, so we are going to prepare the garden and plant them for you."
The mother smiled and said, "Thanks a lot children, but you don't have to do any planting for I really don't enjoy pickle making. I only did that because your father loved to grow the cucumbers so much." The children were all amazed, because the father had confided to each one over the years that he really didn't like growing cucumbers, but only did it to please the mother!
Now tell me; is that a happy or a sad story? To be honest, I am simply not sure myself. In many ways it is happy. They were happy doing for each other. People enjoyed being with them. But why is it also sad? Primarily, because they were not able to communicate their true feelings with each other. Instead of growing, they stagnated in the performance of what they thought were their duties to each other.
The Word of God tells us Christ is to be the example we are to follow, and it also tells us of his selflessness:
II Corinthians 8:9 (KJV);
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
So it is important to be generous with our time toward those we love -
But we must be sure we are giving them what they REALLY want from us, and not just what we THINK they want. I am glad that neither Judy nor I is ambiguous about such things, but both READILY speak our minds!
No nation has ever made any progress in a downward direction. No people ever became great by lowering their standards. No people ever became good by adopting a looser morality. It is not progress when the moral tone is lower than it was. It is not progress when purity is not as sweet. It is not progress when womanhood has lost its fragrance. Whatever else it is, it is not progress!
That was said by Peter Marshall, who lived from 1902-1949, and it remains true for us today. Daily, we see some new assault upon morality, with this group or that group who choose to live in an immoral manner crying for protection from those who still retain morality. Those who are living in sin desire laws to stop anyone from speaking those plain words of God that directly condemn their sin.
But it is better than it ONCE was, at least. Listen to this, from Christian History No. 5, on "The Radical Reformation":
“A 16th century man who did not drink to excess, curse, or abuse his workmen or family could be suspected of being an Anabaptist and thus persecuted.”
So, although we have all seen a moral decline in our own lifetimes, we can draw some small comfort from the fact that there was a time in the past when it was much worse than today. We should not, however, allow that to cause us to stop fighting that decline. Scripture is clear on the fact that righteous people will be persecuted:
Matthew 5:10 (KJV);
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
2 Timothy 3:12 (KJV);
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
While we may not glory in this persecution, we certainly should not despair in it. It is, after all, an indication that we are doing what we should be doing: Running cross-grain to the world when the world is wrong.
A major Philanthropist of the 19th century, Daniel Drew founded Drew Seminary and headed several religious committees in New York.
But what did that mean, REALLY? Consider the following before you decide:
In 1815 Drew, then chief drover of Ohio cattle herds, mixed salt with the feed and did not allow the cattle to drink water for three days. Upon arrival at Henry Astor's station the cows drank their fill, and then were weighed. "That's the finest-looking herd of cattle I've seen," remarked Mr. Astor. Drew collected and departed.
Years of shady dealings made Drew a tycoon. In 1867 he, with Jay Gould and James Fiske, bilked Cornelius Vanderbilt out of $7 million. Drew controlled the Erie Railroad, which Vanderbilt craved to add to his New York Central line. As Vanderbilt snapped up huge chunks of Erie stock, Drew again "watered stock" by printing thousands of extra shares on a small press. The value of Erie stock had reached $57 million when a broker noticed that the certificates smeared easily--Drew was printing stock so fast the ink was still wet! The market crashed, Vanderbilt lost millions.
Drew went on to net about $20 million in an 1869 attempt to corner the gold market.
So, what did it benefit Drew to found a religious seminary? Spiritually, nothing, because God is not fooled by such. In his case, it seems the world was not fooled by his actions either. Former "partners" of Drew, Fiske and Gould, tricked him out of part of his fortune; soon after, in 1873, a selling panic ruined his empire. By 1876 Daniel Drew was bankrupt.
The Word of God speaks to us of the lack of true value of riches.
Proverbs 16:8 (KJV);
"Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right."
"Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field. He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity."
We would all find more serenity in life if we could simply do away with comparisons and envy. God made us diverse, and, in God's eyes at least, our diversity lacks hierarchy. As it says in the song "Some Children," God makes of us a blend of differences: different people thinking in harmony. Each one is vital, but only if they follow their calling and aren't fighting against the others for control. We in the church make better music when we treasure our diversity, rather than stifle it.
1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (GWT);
"For example, the body is one unit and yet has many parts. As all the parts form one body, so it is with Christ. By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether we are Jewish or Greek, slave or free, God gave all of us one Spirit to drink.
“As you know, the human body is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. Suppose a foot says, "I'm not a hand, so I'm not part of the body!" Would that mean it's no longer part of the body? Or suppose an ear says, "I'm not an eye, so I'm not a part of the body!" Would that mean it's no longer part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? So God put each and every part of the body together as he wanted it. How could it be a body if it only had one part? So there are many parts but one body.
“An eye can't say to a hand, "I don't need you!" Or again, the head can't say to the feet, "I don't need you!" The opposite is true. The parts of the body that we think are weaker are the ones we really need. The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we give special honor. So our unpresentable parts are made more presentable. However, our presentable parts don't need this kind of treatment. God has put the body together and given special honor to the part that doesn't have it. God's purpose was that the body should not be divided but rather that all of its parts should feel the same concern for each other. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts share its suffering. If one part is praised, all the others share in its happiness.”
Everyone is VITAL! You may think your little toe is un-important – but if you drop a brick on it, you will find out exactly how much a part of your body it is, and how much it’s well-being means to the rest of you!
Following Basic Training in TX, I was sent to Denver CO to attend electronics school. I was young, and unprepared for the numerous panhandlers I encountered on the streets of Denver. I will never forget the first one I encountered; it was my first Saturday off base, and this middle aged bearded man accosted me. His story was that he had located a job, but had no means to clean himself up for his interview the following Monday. He said he was five dollars short of the price of a hotel room where he could get presentable, and from then on he would be OK. He even went into detail about the written and telephone interviews he had gone through, how he had answered the various questions, and what the job involved. Oddly, it was in Electronics, the exact field which my ID badge showed I was in. I believed him, and handed him a five dollar bill.
The next Saturday, I was again downtown in Denver, and on the same street corner, I encountered the same man. He immediately came over to me and told me the IDENTICAL same story again, right down to the amount he was short for his room. I pointed out that he had handed me that same line a week previously, and he looked scared and quickly walked away down the street. He, like most of those who hold up those signs claiming they "will work for food", was attempting to present himself as something he was not.
Such tricks may work for a while, but God will judge those that play on the sympathy of others for their own gain in the end.
The Word of God tells us:
Luke 18:10-14 (KJV);
"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
I once read a story which was told by a pastor in Haiti, which I thought made an excellent point:
A certain man wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man wanted very badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn't afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.
After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So the original owner went out and found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.
The moral of this story? If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ's habitation.
We come to Jesus “just as I am”, for we cannot cleanse ourselves and make ourselves worthy of his love. But once we HAVE come to him, once we HAVE accepted him, we must set to work at once ferreting out every trace of worldly sin that is in us, lest we leave a nail for Satan to base his claim for our souls on.
The Word of God addresses this in several places:
2 Chronicles 20:33 (KJV);
"Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers."
2 Corinthians 6:14 (GWT);
"Stop forming inappropriate relationships with unbelievers. Can right and wrong be partners? Can light have anything in common with darkness?"
2 Kings 10:31(NCV);
"But Jehu was not careful to follow the teachings of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not stop doing the same sins Jeroboam had done, by which he had led Israel to sin."
There is an image in my mind from my youth that will never depart, although the details of it have become sketchy with time:
In the house of one of our relatives, there sat in the middle of the dining room table a bowl of the most delicious looking fruit! Apples, oranges, grapes and bananas. The image is very clear in my mind, and I know it was VERY long ago, because the surface of the dining room table was eye level with me when I stood on tip-toe and grasped the edge of it.
On several of our visits, I asked if I could have one of those delicious pieces of fruit, but was always refused. There was always some explanation of why, but it never became part of my understanding. Finally, after my request was repeated for the umpteenth time, I was asked which one I would like. I pointed to one of the perfect yellow bananas, and it was taken from the bowl and handed to me. I worked for some time trying to remove the peeling, and failing this I just bit into the end of it. It was hard, and the taste told me this was no banana, so I spit it out - I can remember several adults laughing as I spit out the end of the wax banana.
I came to the very correct conclusion that, no matter what these items looked like, they were NOT fruit. Even if the fakes had later been exchanged for real fruit, I would have declined to eat them. In my mind this bowl contained foul tasting items, no matter what they looked like.
Over the years, I have frequently thought of this story. We find people of this sort even in our own churches, looking extremely like what they should be, yet having no real substance to them. If, even accidentally, one happens to taste of their nature, the falsity of the images will be revealed.
The Word of God speaks of people like this, and how we should avoid being taken in by their appearace:
2 Timothy 3:5-7 (KJV);
"Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."
You cannot judge the fruit by the appearance, the book by it’s cover, nor the person by what they seem to be.
I prefer to get my news unbiased. To some, that might mean I use CNN. Others might say that would be MSNBC. Others, FOX. Someone else might think that means CBS, ABC, or the Drudge Report on the internet. All of these would be wrong. In the mass-media age, journalism is more than the transmission of neutral information: It traffics in the kind of information and spectacle calculated to embarrass Western leaders. But the media don't confine themselves to embarrassing politicians: They also work to create shame about Western history, traditions, and institutions. Have you ever wondered how many important news stories were left on the cutting room floor when everyone decided to air the spectacle of OJ's parole hearing? Not only our vices but our virtues and values are eligible for assault. Old sexual mores come under fire as much as segregation laws. Christianity is represented as dogmatic, obtuse, repressive: The Pope too is convicted of "gaffes." Bizarre phenomena like lesbian nuns are treated not as screwballs but as legitimate protesters against harsh restrictions. Every malcontent, no matter how wrong, is represented to us as a victim. Isaiah 59:14-15 (KJV); "And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment." I solve the news issue this way: I get my news from every source I can possibly find, then I discard that which is sensationalist in nature. I determine this by checking up on some of the “facts” presented, and thus can eliminate such stories as the claim made by ALL media of a rash of black church burnings a few years ago. In checking the statistics, I found that there was no difference, per capita, between the number of black church fires and white church fires. I also discovered that the rate had NOT increased at the time of the sensationalist reporting. what little bit remains after such discarding is, in all likelihood, legitimate news.